W hich canoe should I buy? There is a wide array of materials used to make canoes. Once you have chosen a canoe design that suits your needs, your choice of material will be based on durability, cost, weight, and aesthetics.

Canoe materials

different canoe materials layed out including wood, carbon, fiberglass and kevlar
The almost endless options of canoe materials when buying a canoe. | Photo: Canoeroots Magazine

When determining which canoe to buy, you will have to look through a lot of boats before landing on the one that suits you best. What do you want your canoe to look like? What do you want your canoe to be made of? Do your research when choosing the best canoe material for your paddling purposes.

Wooden canoes

E.g. Cedar strip, canvas, birch-bark
PROS: Beautiful craftsmanship and organic authenticity.
CONS: Higher maintenance and more expensive.
WHO? Canoeists who are willing to put in more time for maintenance and sacrifice durability and weight for beauty.

Carbon and Kevlar canoes

E.g. Kevlar, carbon/graphite blends
PROS: Lightweight and tough.
CONS: Kevlar and carbon can be quite expensive. Fiberglass less so.
WHO? Trippers and racers.

Royalex canoes

PROS: Durable.
CONS: Heavy.
WHO? Whitewater paddlers.

Aluminum, polyethylene, and fiberglass canoes

PROS: Less expensive. Durable.
CONS: Often heavy.
WHO? Recreational and sport canoeists.

Which canoe should I buy?

There are so many options out there, so which canoe is for you? Determine what type of canoe is going to best suit your paddling style. Before wandering into your local outdoor retailer or canoe manufacturer, take time to determine what type of canoeing you would like to do.

Choosing a canoe type

Can you picture yourself taking your grandchildren fishing at the cottage? Recreational canoes will be right up your ally. Perhaps a solo canoe will be perfect as you embark through the wilds of the Boundary Waters? Perhaps you have the idea of traveling with your family into La Vérendrye on a weekend vacation? Stuff a lakewater and touring canoe full of barrels and fun. Whitewater canoes are for the adventurer looking to get a little wet and wild. Each activity requires a very different canoe so it’s important to know what you want.

Be wary of the “a canoe is a canoe” sales pitch or the “does it all” model. Numerous retailers and manufacturers offer test paddles, so try before you buy.

Take a look at the options available to 
you. Some trim options, such as molded, adjustable seats and sculpted yokes, affect the performance and handling of the boat. Others, such as wooden gunwales, wicker seats and cherry deck plates, serve the same function as aluminum or vinyl but improve the elegance of the canoe.

It’s important to identify which performance characteristics are important to you before taking the plunge. If you take your time and do it right you’ll be thanking yourself for a lifetime.

Now that you’ve got the basics, shop in the 2019 Paddling Buyer’s Guide and find your perfect canoe.

The almost endless options of canoe materials when buying a canoe. | Feature Photo: Alex Traynor


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