Canoe Review: Old Town Saranac 146

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Designed for affordable family fun on calm waters, the Old Town Saranac 146 is a great choice if you are looking for a beginner- and budget-friendly recreational canoe that can easily seat two or three paddlers. The Saranac 146 comes equipped with two contoured seats with comfortable seat backs and a center bench seat that is perfect for smaller passengers. Its flat hull shape and slightly lowered seats make it easy to maneuver while still feeling stable on the water. A convenient hatch-accessed storage compartment, plus molded-in rod and cup holders, make this a versatile option for families, anglers or casual canoeists who want a recreational canoe that performs well on sheltered lakes, ponds and slow-moving rivers.

Fans of the Old Town Saranac 146 say it is rugged, durable, easy to paddle and comfortable—and the inexpensive price makes it affordable for most paddlers. But is it the right boat for you? Read our Old Town Saranac 146 review below to find out.

Old Town Saranac 146 performance

Old Town Saranac 146 Specs
Length: 14’6” / 4.45 m
Width: 36” / 91.4 cm”
Weight: 79 lbs / 35.8 kg
Capacity: 750 lbs / 340 kg
Material: Thermoform polyethylene
MSRP: $899.99 USD

On the water

Old Town’s Saranac canoes prioritize stability and comfort, making the series a superb choice for families, beginners, anglers or casual canoeists looking for a recreational canoe that is easy to paddle. At 14.5 feet long, the Old Town Saranac 14’6” is compact and nimble for a two- to three-person canoe, but offers less speed and carrying capacity than its larger sibling, the Saranac 160. For growing families and those paddling with large dog breeds, a 14-foot canoe can quickly become crowded. If you think you’ll need more volume for longer trips or larger paddlers, consider sizing up to the Saranac 160.

How stable is the Old Town Saranac 146?

Wide, flat bottoms offering exceptional primary stability are the signature of recreational canoes, and the Saranac 146 by Old Town is no exception. Along with hull shape, the Saranac 146’s lower seat positions and generous 36-inch width make this a very stable canoe when paddled on the calm waters for which it is intended. Old Town designed the Saranac 146 to be stable enough for families with young children or pets, as well as anglers focused more on fighting fish than balancing delicately in their canoe. An added bonus of the lower seat position is that the Saranac 146 can easily be paddled with a kayak paddle, increasing its versatility in windy conditions or for those paddling solo or with small children.

Old Town Saranac 146
Feature photo: Courtesy Old Town Canoes and Kayaks

Market and demographics

The Saranac 146 by Old Town is suited to entry-level paddlers who want a durable and affordable canoe that performs well on a variety of sheltered waters. Like many sub-15-foot recreational canoes, it is at home on smaller lakes, shallow waters and smooth-flowing rivers. Unlike canoes with just two seats, however, the Saranac 146 comfortably sits a third paddler on its middle seat. And where many cheaper recreational canoes can be uncomfortable due to rudimentary outfitting and a pain to paddle due to poor tracking, the Old Town Saranac 146 features comfortable and supportive seats and tracks well, meaning you can be out on the water as long as you like.

Old Town added fishing-friendly features to the Saranac 146, including rod holders, storage options and tackle trays, giving anglers plenty of options to wet a line. The boat’s nimble size ensures easy access to hidden fishing holes in shallow or confined areas. Keep in mind that the directional seats mean the bow paddler is unable to turn around to face the stern paddler to assist with landing your catch. A canoe with traditional bench seats might be a better option if you want the flexibility of both paddlers being able to face the center of the boat.

That said, the Saranac 146 does have some other limitations to consider. For starters, the center seat replaces the carrying yoke found on many tandem canoes, meaning you won’t be able to solo carry on portages. If you’re looking for a lake-to-lake canoe that can eat miles with ease and carry camping gear for an extended journey, a dedicated tripping canoe would be a better choice. Look to Old Town’s Penobscot canoe for proven tripping performance on rougher waters.

Likewise, if you want to run rivers and expand your whitewater paddling skills, a whitewater canoe with appropriate outfitting—and enrolling in a whitewater paddling course to learn critical river safety skills—is the way to go.

About the Old Town Saranac 146

Old Town designs their canoes with an emphasis on primary stability, making them ideal for new paddlers, anglers or families who want the reassurance of a steady canoe. The priority here is stability and comfort over speed or rough-water performance. Old Town canoes have wide, flat hulls that feel remarkably steady in flat water, making them exceptionally kid- and dog-friendly, even when the canoe is paddled near its 750-pound maximum capacity. The relatively short length of this Old Town 3 person canoe makes it easy to maneuver around river bends or obstructions, so you’ll have no trouble getting to your favorite fishing spots.

Dress For Immersion, Not Air Temperature
  • Your body loses heat much faster when immersed in cold water than it does when dry.
  • Avoid cotton clothing like t-shirts and jeans; they retain water and accelerate cooling when wet. Synthetic fabrics, or wool, are generally a better choice. If the water is very cold (60° fahrenheit or less), you should wear a wetsuit or drysuit.

Material & construction

Old Town is one of America’s original canoe manufacturers. Their Maine factory has shipped tens of thousands of boats out of its doors. The Old Town Canoe Company’s history began in 1898 with wood-canvas canoes; today, they’ve shifted to exclusively building polyethylene plastic canoes. If you’re okay with the extra weight of this material—the Old Town Saranac 146 canoe weighs 79 pounds, for example—it’s a durable option that requires very little maintenance and can withstand repeated impacts.

The Saranac canoes are the single-layer polyethylene iteration of Old Town’s Guide series, which is made from three-layer polyethylene. The Saranacs are about 25 percent cheaper than the three-layer set ups, but are not as stiff as the triple-layer material, making the canoes less responsive on the water. Single-layer polyethylene is also slightly lighter, and while less durable than triple-layer, it’s still fairly resilient.

One final consideration of single-layer versus triple-layer construction is buoyancy. A three-layer Old Town canoe has foam sandwiched between layers of polyethylene, adding some degree of flotation. However, like any canoe, if it is filled with water, it will ride uselessly low in the water. Single-layer polyethylene canoes will float even lower when swamped. For this reason, Saranac 146 paddlers should stick to more sheltered waters with frequent, easy access to shore landings.

Buying a used Old Town Saranac 146

Old Town canoes are inexpensive, making them attractive to folks who don’t yet know if paddling is for them. As they fall in love with the activity, they may sell their heavy polyethylene canoe and upgrade to a lighter composite one. Or, they may decide that canoeing isn’t for them, and the canoe goes up for sale.

Either way, the rugged durability of these canoes makes them a solid bet for buying used. Here are some tips on where to find a second-hand Old Town Saranac 146, and what to look out for when you find one on the used market.

If you’re looking at an Old Town canoe built pre-2014, check if it is Royalex or polyethylene. It’s usually indicated on the registration plate or with an “RX” in the model name. Royalex is lighter and more durable than polyethylene and resists sun damage better. In 2013, the company that made Royalex sheets ceased production, and Old Town shifted to making canoes exclusively with polyethylene.

All Old Town Saranac canoes made from 2014 to the present are polyethylene. Polyethylene is also a rugged plastic material that can withstand repeated impacts. Damage to these canoes is more likely to happen off the water from improper storage. Leaving the canoe upright on the ground, or hanging from its thwarts, can stretch the hull shape and stress the gunwales.

Ask the seller how the canoe was stored—inside, out of the elements and away from UV rays is best. If you see any significant discoloration or deformities, you may want to steer clear of that canoe. Also, give the outfitting a thorough once-over, ensuring all seats and accessories are in good working condition. Some sellers may “sweeten the deal” with accessories like PFDs (life jackets) or paddles; it’s critical to ensure that these accessories fit properly.

For more tips on buying used, read Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Used Canoe.

Saranac accessories & outfitting

The seats are the first thing you’ll likely notice about the Old Town Saranac 146 three-person canoe outfitting. Old Town’s Saranac seating system extends beyond traditional canoe bench seats, offering lumbar support with comfortable backrests and a molded center seat with integrated storage.

The lower positioning of the Saranac seats means users can opt to use a canoe or kayak blade. However, one downside noted by some users is that the design of the Saranac’s molded plastic seats does not permit kneeling on the bottom of the canoe—a technique preferred by more advanced paddlers to lower their center of gravity and enhance stability in bumpier waters.

Old Town’s Saranac 146 also includes accessories for fishing from your canoe. Flush-mounted rod holders allow for easy rod placement while you paddle. There’s also dedicated storage space for gear and tackle, including tool trays and a six-inch screw-top hatch. If you’re buying a canoe for fishing as well as family fun, this is an excellent option.

Paddle Sober And Smart
  • Never mix alcohol and paddling. Coast Guard and state BUI (boating under the influence) laws apply to all vessels. This includes canoes, kayaks, SUPs and rafts.


The Old Town Saranac 146 recreational canoe comes with a limited lifetime warranty for the original owner, covering manufacturing and material defects to the hull and decks.

Old Town Saranac Q&A

  • How long is the Saranac 146 canoe?

    The Old Town Saranac 146 canoe measures 14 feet, six inches in length.

  • How wide is an Old Town Saranac 146?

    The Saranac 146 canoe measures 36 inches across at its widest point.

  • How much does the Old Town Saranac 146 weigh?

    The Old Town Saranac 146 weight is 79 pounds, which is on the heavier side for a canoe of this length. The extra heft of this canoe means it is durable enough to withstand repeated impacts.

  • What is the Old Town Saranac 146 weight limit?

    The Saranac 146 canoe has a maximum carrying capacity of 750 pounds, including paddlers and gear. For three full-size adult paddlers, consider the Old Town Saranac 160 instead, with a weight limit of 850 pounds.

  • What is the Old Town Saranac 146 price?

    The MSRP of the Saranac 146 is $899.99 USD.

How the Saranac 146 compares

  • Old Town Saranac 146 vs Old Town Saranac 160

    The Old Town Saranac 146 is the smaller sibling of the Saranac 160, at 14 feet, six inches in length versus 16 feet, respectively. Look to the Saranac 146 if you primarily want a tandem canoe that will occasionally carry an extra person or pet, or you have a young child and a smaller, lighter-weight canoe is a priority. With its greater speed and carrying capacity, the Saranac 160 is a better option for growing families, three full-size adults and those paddling with large dog breeds. Keep in mind a 14-foot canoe can quickly become crowded with three people onboard; if you think you’ll need more volume for longer trips or larger paddlers, consider sizing up to the Saranac 160.

  • Old Town Saranac 146 vs 146 DLX

    The Old Town Saranac 146 DLX is Old Town’s premium, angler-focused version of the Saranac 146 for paddlers serious about their fishing. The DLX package adds a stern thwart with two additional flush mount rod holders, and a bow thwart with recessed accessory track for holding rod holders, camera, fish finder, and more. You can also expect upgraded seating with enhanced cushioning and flashy orange color accents. But, at $1,049 USD versus the O.G. Saranac 146’s $899 price tag, the added cost is probably only worth it for the keenest anglers.

  • Old Town Saranac 146 vs 146 XT

    Over the years, the Old Town Saranac has been available as both the 146 and 146 XT; both models feature identical outfitting, materials and hull shape. The only model currently offered on the Old Town website is the Saranac 146, but if you are shopping the used market, consider these canoes interchangeable.

  • Old Town Saranac 146 vs Old Town Discovery 160

    Old Town’s Discovery line embodies the wide, flat and exceptionally stable hull shape of all their recreational canoes, available in a range of lengths. However, this is where the similarities end.

    First, the Discovery 158 is outfitted with a carrying yoke and two standard bench seats, while the Saranac 146 has three molded plastic seats that fit flush with the hull of the canoe. Bench seats offer more versatility for kneeling and paddling solo or tandem, as well as more storage space for longer trips. Along with the carrying yoke and an additional 400 pounds of carrying capacity, this makes the Discovery 158 a much better choice for extended paddle-and-portage trips. Furthermore, the Discovery series is built with Old Town’s supremely rugged three-layer polyethylene—versus the Saranac’s single-layer construction—making the Discovery 158 more responsive, durable, buoyant and, yes, expensive than the Saranac 146.

    At $899 USD for the Saranac 146 versus $1,349 USD for the Discovery 158, the former is a great option if you are looking for an inexpensive canoe for paddling and fishing calm waters. The Saranac 146 is also the clear choice if you need a compact canoe that can easily seat three people.

Where to buy the Saranac

Search “Old Town Saranac 146 REI” or “Old Town Saranac 146 Dick’s Sporting Goods” in your browser and you’ll quickly discover this popular canoe is widely available from outdoor retailers across the country. Your local paddling shop is a great place to shop for the Old Town Saranac 146, or purchase directly from Johnson Outdoors’ website.

Old Town Canoes and Kayaks

Saranac 146

The Saranac 146 canoe packs in a ton of features at a great price. The Saranac 146 features rod holders, storage options and storage trays as well as two contoured seats with comfortable seat backs and a center bench seat (perfect for smaller passengers). From bow to stern the Saranac 146 provides versatility while delivering on fun. A great option for families, anglers or casual canoeists looking for a recreational canoe that performs well on the water.

Pros & cons


  • Affordably priced
  • Stable and versatile, can be used for family paddling, fishing, or canoeing with your pet
  • Great size for most casual canoeists—can be paddled solo, tandem or with a third smaller paddler
  • Contoured seat backs provide all-day comfort


  • Molded seats offer less sitting positions than traditional bench seats
  • No carry yoke for portaging
  • Single-layer polyethylene material is prone to warping or denting if stored improperly
  • Heavy compared to composite canoes

Related articles

Old Town canoe reviews

Family canoe reviews

Tandem canoe reviews

Feature photo: Courtesy Old Town Canoes and Kayaks


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