Best Wooden & Cedar Strip Canoes For 2023

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Few images are as evocative as that of a classic wooden canoe. It’s such a timeless symbol of wilderness travel that photos of these canoes adorn walls of houses and cabins miles away from the nearest portage trail. Still popular despite the availability of space age boat materials, the wooden canoe represents something elemental about our desire to travel quietly while in tune with the land.

Images aside, owning and paddling a wooden canoe is an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s more than just a boat to get you from one point to another; the maintenance demands that the owner be fully attentive to the details of the canoe. Many owners appreciate the ritual that comes with yearly touch-ups, or large-scale refinishing.

In this guide, we cover cedarstrip canoes, which are made out of parallel strips of cedar, roughly an inch wide and a quarter-inch thick. These lightweight hulls are often encased in an inner and outer layer of transparent fibreglass, lending significant increases in durability, and also weight. Wood-canvas canoes are made out of thin and wide but irregular cedar planks shaped around ribs, and have a waterproof canvas cloth stretched over the hull.

If you are thinking about buying a cedarstrip or wood-canvas canoe, you’ve come to the right place. Here you will find links to wooden canoes built by some of the most respected makers, as well as tips for buying used canoes.

Whether you’re looking for a showpiece to cruise around the lake in, or a gratifying project to keep you busy through the winter, read on to learn more about wooden canoes.

Top picks: Best wood-canvas & cedarstrip canoes

The following wooden canoes have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all wood-canvas & cedarstrip canoes here.

Best Wood and Cedar Strip Canoes

1
Canoes: Bradley Nyborg - Scout by Sanborn Canoe Co. - Image 2747
Sanborn Canoe Co.

Bradley Nyborg - Scout

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2
Canoes: Vuntut 12 by Otto Vallinga Yacht Design - Image 4432
Otto Vallinga Yacht Design

Vuntut 12

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3
Canoes: Freedom 15 by Bear Mountain - Image 2090
Bear Mountain

Freedom 15

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4
Canoes: Solo Day Tripper 17 by Bear Mountain - Image 2084
Bear Mountain

Solo Day Tripper 17

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5
Canoes: Redbird 17'6" by Bear Mountain - Image 2081
Bear Mountain

Redbird 17'6"

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6
Canoes: Prospector Ranger 15 by Bear Mountain - Image 2101
Bear Mountain

Prospector Ranger 15

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7
Canoes: Chestnut Prospector 16 by Bear Mountain - Image 2093
Bear Mountain

Chestnut Prospector 16

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8
Canoes: Nomad 17 by Bear Mountain - Image 2203
Bear Mountain

Nomad 17

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9
Canoes: Vuntut 14 by Otto Vallinga Yacht Design - Image 2687
Otto Vallinga Yacht Design

Vuntut 14

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10
Canoes: Tay 15 by Otto Vallinga Yacht Design - Image 2903
Otto Vallinga Yacht Design

Tay 15

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Shop for wood canvas & cedarstrip canoes

If you already have an idea of what you are looking for, or you’re set on buying a wooden canoe, start shopping here. The links below are filtered by type of canoe, brand, material and size. Each of the links will take you to our Paddling Buyer’s Guide, where you can see the choices. Within the guide are also important details—canoe specs, prices, reviews and information on where to buy them.





Shop kits and plans

Shopping for a used wooden canoe?

There are two vastly different reasons to buy a wooden canoe, although both have the same end goal. The first is to get a canoe that will look great and paddle well. The second reason may also be to eventually have a canoe that paddles well, but not until after applying some elbow grease.

Restoring a canoe is a rewarding experience and a major part of the journey for some—but don’t feel like you have to enjoy that stuff to own a wooden canoe. You can also just buy a ready-to-go used boat.

Get to know the seller

Proceed with caution when looking for a used wooden canoe for sale. Many that you find on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or Kijiji have been pulled out from under someone’s deck. Remember that wooden canoes need regular maintenance; many of these canoes are going to need a bit of work. If you’re willing to take it on as a project, go for it.

Consult the community

While the wooden canoe is a classic craft, there is a modern community of enthusiasts. Wooden canoes appeal to boat nerds, woodworkers and paddlers alike. As such, there is lots of information on restoring old canoes. Forums may help with specific questions you have, and there are videos that walk you through the process of restoring the boat.

Take it to the pros

If all else fails, or you are short on time and patience, take it to the pros. Find a woodworker near you who specializes in restoring wooden canoes and let them work their magic. If the company that originally made the canoe is still in business, this is a neat opportunity to learn some history about the boat.

Restorers are another great place to look for canoes. Buying one from them saves you the trouble of sourcing a rundown canoe, and a restored canoe will be less expensive than a brand new model.

For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used canoe, read our article How To Buy A Used Canoe.

Wooden canoe buying guide

Decide if a wooden canoe is for you

Do you want to buy a wooden canoe? Is a wooden canoe right for you? They are not small investments, and there’s more maintenance required than for canoes from more modern materials. The payoff is a beautiful craft that will score you points among the traditional paddling crowd. Channel your inner Bill Mason as you venture out into the boreal forest with your cherry-red wood-canvas canoe, or cruise around the lake with your morning cup of coffee.

Are you the type of person who is willing to carry a bit of extra weight? Wooden canoes are not as light as Kevlar or other composite materials. They are less durable than plastic boats and not meant for intense or shallow and rocky whitewater.

Build it, or buy it?

There are different types of wooden canoes. For a learning experience, you can buy a kit and build the canoe yourself. These are most often cedarstrip canoes, but you can undertake a cedar canvas if you’d like. Search for workshops where mentors will guide you through the process.

If you’re just looking to paddle, ready-made wooden canoes are also available for purchase from a range of builders.

Decide on the shape

Wooden canoes are available in nearly any canoe design you can imagine. Use standard canoe buying knowledge here. Shorter boats will turn more easily, while longer canoes track straight. The classic Prospector shape is ideal for tripping on rivers and lakes, while shallow “cruiser” canoes paddle exceptionally well when empty.

Try it out

You can read everything ever written about a canoe, but you won’t really know how you like it until you get it on the water. If you have a chance to try paddling different canoes, jump on the option. You’ll start to get a sense of what styles of boats work for you, and which ones don’t.

Hang on to the manual

It seems repetitive, but wooden canoes do require work. It would be a shame for your beautiful craft to fall into disrepair. Read the maintenance instructions thoroughly and don’t be afraid to call the shop if you have any questions down the road.

  • Are wooden canoes good?

    Wooden canoes are good for paddlers who appreciate the warm aesthetic of natural materials. They must be willing to sacrifice some durability, and wood canvas canoes weigh more than canoes made with modern materials.

  • Are cedarstrip canoes good?

    Cedarstrip canoes look beautiful and paddle well. They cannot withstand the same impacts as some other canoes, but many are actually quite light, helping them ride high in the water.

  • What are wooden canoes made of?

    Wooden canoes are typically made from cedar, although other wood can be used. Cedar is a preferred material because it resists rot and is fairly lightweight. The gunwales of wooden canoes are often ash or other stiff hardwoods to help hold the shape. As the name suggests, cedar canvas canoes also have a canvas cloth stretched over the hull. This is then painted with marine-grade paint or fillers.

  • Who makes wooden canoes?

    Many companies make wooden canoes like Bear Mountain, Langford and Sanborn.

  • Types of wooden canoes

    The two main types of wooden canoes are cedarstrip and wood-canvas canoes. Cedarstrips are more popular as DIY projects and can be very lightweight. Wood-canvas canoes were some of the first commercially-produced canoes and have been long used for wilderness travel. These canoes are heavy and hardy.

  • How much does a wooden canoe cost?

    How much is a wooden canoe? Pre-built cedarstrip canoes start at $2,000, and cedar canvas canoes start at $3,000. Many are handmade by skilled craftspeople. Wooden canoe kits cost a little less, starting closer to $1,500. The length, design, and finish will all affect the price of wooden canoes.

  • Cedarstrip canoe cost

    Cedarstrip canoe costs vary depending on the brand, length and finishes. Expect to pay at least $2,000 for built canoes, and $1,500 for kits.

  • How much does a wooden canoe weigh?

    The construction of a wooden canoe affects the weight. Cedarstrip canoes are lighter than cedar canvas canoes. The type of wood used for gunwales can add up to five pounds of extra weight as well.

  • How much does a cedarstrip canoe weigh?

    Non-fiberglassed cedarstrip canoes can weigh as little as 30 pounds. The thickness of the strips, length of canoe and choice of gunwale material all influence a wooden canoe’s weight. Weight, durability and waterproofness all increase significantly with the addition of layers of transparent fiberglass.

    Non-fiberglassed cedarstrip canoes can weigh as little as 30 pounds. The thickness of the strips, length of canoe and choice of gunwale material all influence a wooden canoe’s weight. Weight, durability and waterproofness all increase significantly with the addition of layers of transparent fiberglass.

  • How long does a wooden canoe last?

    With proper maintenance and storage, a wooden canoe can last more than 15 years. Proper storage is key. Wooden canoes should be kept away from direct sunlight, ideally in a covered garage. It may be tempting to store the canoe in a heated space, but heat can dry the wood out, leading to brittleness.

  • How strong are cedarstrip canoes?

    Well-built cedarstrip canoes are strong enough to hold their shape in the water, but you won’t want to drag them onshore or send them down whitewater.

  • Types of cedarstrip canoes

    Cedarstrip canoes can come in many different styles like cruisers, Prospectors or solo pack boats. Each is suited to a different style of paddling.

  • Cedarstrip canoes vs Kevlar

    Kevlar canoes are renowned for their durability and lightness. They are very abrasion-resistant, and a preferred option for canoe trippers who want a boat that is easy to carry, but strong enough to withstand the odd bump and grind.

    Non-fibreglassed cedarstrip canoes need to be paddled a bit more carefully, but have a very unique look and feel to them. They may be a comparable weight to a Kevlar canoe as well, depending on the construction.

Wooden canoe reviews

A good way to learn more about specific cedarstrip canoes is to read reviews. Reviews provide insights from paddlers that go beyond what you’ll gain from looking at specs and reading product descriptions.

Coming soon

 

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