ho needs a solo canoe? Some may argue that a high-quality single person canoe is an essential item for canoeists. Paddling partners may not always be available, and it can be heartbreaking to be stuck on shore on a perfect day just because someone else bailed.
And while socializing and time spent with other canoeists may be a central motivation for the majority of canoeists, the minority who prefer to canoe alone know just how relaxing true solitude on the water can be. A solo canoe allows you to get onto the water however you want, whenever you want.
Top picks: Best solo canoes for 2023
Best Solo Canoes
Shop solo canoes
If you’re wondering how to choose a solo canoe, a good place to start is by familiarizing yourself with the different types. See what is on the market by following the links below. Each boat listing includes specs, prices and places to buy them, as well as reviews from other boat users. View them all in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide.
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Shopping for a used solo canoe?
Finding a used solo canoe is about searching in the right place. On a site like Craigslist, solo canoe postings may be under the “boats” or “sporting” category so be sure to search both. Setting up email alerts on other classifieds boards like Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace will give early notice when new postings are up. As paddlesport participation has exploded over the past two years, any entry-price used solo canoes will sell quickly. Used canoes priced above $2,000 are easier to find online, and with a keen eye, great deals can be found on these higher-end boats.
Like any canoe purchase, be conscious of the type of paddling you intend to do. Will you always be paddling solo, or do you want the option to have a partner? Symmetrical tandem canoes can usually be paddled solo as well. Consider the tips below for more information on hull design and length for your solo canoe.
Read our article How To Buy A Used Canoe for helpful information about boat conditions and other essential things to look for when considering a used solo canoe.
Solo canoe buying guide
So, you’ve decided to go solo, now what? How do you find the best solo canoe?
The first step is to decide what type of solo canoe you need. Different boat designs are tailored to paddling styles, with some canoes excelling on whitewater rivers and others being more suited to calm waterways.
The next thing is to set a budget, which will likely determine the canoe’s material. Ultralight canoes are more expensive, but if easy carrying is a priority, the extra cost is worth it.
Always be sure to try and paddle the canoe before you commit to buying it. Just because a solo canoe gets rave reviews doesn’t mean that it is the perfect one for you. The only way to know is to test the canoe. If you are planning to paddle it on trips, bring some gear to see how it fits and how the canoe performs while loaded. Also, be sure that you feel comfortable carrying the canoe and loading it on your own.
What is a 1-person canoe called?
A one-person canoe will also be referred to as a solo canoe. Tandem canoes can be paddled solo by sitting backwards in the bow seat, but two people cannot paddle solo canoes. Like tandem canoes, solo canoes can be tailored for specific types of paddling, such as whitewater or fishing.
What is a solo canoe?
A solo canoe is a canoe that is designed to be paddled by one person. It only has one seat in it. Pack boats are often included in the solo canoe category, although they have some unique features distinguishing them from traditional canoes.
Solo canoe vs kayak
A solo canoe requires a bit more technique to handle than a kayak, but opportunities open up once the canoeist masters the J stroke. Solo canoes are the better option for experienced canoeists who plan to portage, as the yoke of the canoe makes for easy carrying. Storing gear is more accessible in a canoe as well, due to the open deck. A kayak may be more suitable for someone who wants something intuitive to paddle, and does not need the storage capacity that a canoe offers. Recreational kayaks will feel much more stable than a solo canoe.
Solo canoe vs pack boat
Pack boats may come up when searching for solo canoes. While they resemble canoes externally, a pack boat has a seat lower to the boat’s floor, allowing it to be paddled with a double-bladed kayak paddle. These specialty boats were initially designed for the small ponds of the Adirondacks, where paddlers had to carry the boat for long distances. They are small, lightweight craft typically less than 14 feet and lighter than 30 pounds. Pack boats are more flat-bottomed and stable than canoes, trading speed and paddling performance for stability.
Consider a pack boat if you are looking for a lightweight solo craft that is easier than a kayak to enter and exit for day trips on small bodies of water. For touring on bigger lakes, the extra length of a solo canoe will have more storage capacity and help the boat track better.
Solo canoe length
In the simplest terms, think about length as a determining factor in how easily the canoe turns. Design features like rocker and hull shape affect the boat, but generally, the shorter the boat, the easier it turns. Longer boats travel in straight lines more readily and have a greater storage capacity but are heavier and more difficult to portage.
For solo tripping canoes, 14-15 feet is a good length. Canoeists can fit enough gear for a short trip and the canoe will perform well in various conditions. Shorter solo canoes and pack canoes for day trips are 10-14 feet. Whitewater canoes are 8-14 feet and distinguishable by the airbags, foam saddle in place of a seat, rockered hull and durable construction.
Solo canoe size
The size of a solo canoe is dependent on its length, width, and depth. A deeper solo canoe has a higher volume, and subsequently, a higher weight capacity. Note the depth at the centre of the boat, especially on pack canoes, as these will affect how easy it is to paddle with a double blade.
Choose a deeper canoe if you are planning to paddle the boat loaded while on trips. On windy days an empty tripping canoe will catch more wind and get blown around, so a shallow one would be preferable for day trips.
Solo canoe price
A solo canoe’s price will depend on its size and construction. Ultralight one-person canoes built from aramid composite blends will be the most expensive, and the return is a canoe that most people can lift with one arm.
The best solo canoe for you may be an ultralight one, but be prepared to pay upwards of $3,000. If you don’t mind a bit of weight, a new solo canoe can cost as little as $1,300.
Solo canoe reviews
Read other canoeist’s reviews of solo canoes here. This will guide your search in finding one that suits you.
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