As a toddler Otto Vallinga would take his toy boats down to the nearby St. Clair River for impromptu buoyancy testing. Thanks to his boat designer father there was always a canoe around. Vallinga’s own canoeing career began to germinate at just twelve years of age when he and a pal embarked on their very first weekend canoe trip. Now a prolific boat designer himself, Vallinga releases the Vuntut 10 pack canoe.

The Vuntut 10 is a labor of love

Following a short stint as a foreman for one of the chemical plants near his home in Sarnia, Ontario, closures led him to pursue his real passion imprinted on him so long ago—watercraft.

After studying design at the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, Vallinga went on to work for a commercial powerboat manufacturer. After more than ten years designing and building custom sail and powerboats, Vallinga reverted to his labor of love designing canoes and kayaks.

Vallinga has an impressive boat designing record under his gunwale, with three dozen documented designs and numerous others under contract, not including standup paddleboards.

A dream to paddle and portage

Close-up of the Vuntut 10 pack canoe
You can get the entire kit for $919, including all of the cedar needed to complete this intricate little pack boat. Have some fun with patterns, as Vallinga urges in his book. | Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

The Vuntut 10 is an impressively short and sweet boat for all the right reasons. It’s the newest and smallest in Vallinga’s popular Vuntut series of solo pack canoes that also includes 12-foot and 14-foot versions. He specifically designed the 10-foot for ease of just about everything.

Portaging? Nailed it. Pack canoes were born in the Adirondacks where early explorers and today’s adventurers need lightweight crafts they can effortlessly carry from small lake to small lake, ideally in one trip. Our epoxied cedar Vuntut 10 weighs just 26 pounds and is easily carried. As soon as I flipped the boat onto my shoulder, I realized I was eternally ruined for portaging. This is just too easy.

Paddling? Admirable. The boat’s maneuverability is that of a bicycle. You can essentially tilt to steer and if you didn’t need forward motion, your thoughts could practically propel this boat.

Transporting? Check. My first experience with loading the Vuntut 10 caught me with no canoe racks on my newly capped truck. So what did I do? All 10 feet of it fit on an angle in my six-foot, six-inch truck bed with only the bow laying on top of my closed tailgate. Less than a foot was overhanging—no red flag required. Try that with a 16-footer.

Go with the flow

The key to enjoying this 10-foot canoe, we learned, is minimizing all but the subtlest movements.

Typical solo canoeing strokes cause the Vuntut 10 to be squirrelly—like overcorrecting a vehicle that’s been sucked onto a soft gravel shoulder. Slow everything down and enjoy the view. Small strokes generate more than enough correction. I told you once already, thought control would almost work best.

Close-up of the stern on the Vuntut 10 pack canoe
The stern allows for ample space for a solo backcountry night or lightly packed weekend trip. | Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

Best of both worlds

Those used to kneeling for solo paddling will find the sitting position in the Vuntut 10 foreign and awkward, like in a kayak. Pack canoes can also be paddled with both a canoe paddle and a kayak paddle.

Why design a canoe that is best paddled like a kayak miles from the region where it’s normal to do so? Vallinga wanted to accommodate those who have mulled over the idea of a kayak only to realize they would rather not get in and out of a cockpit. The Vuntut 10 is a great compromise between the two. Kayaks are great at many things but portaging is not one of them. The Vuntut 10 is a win for those of us always trying to convert kayakers into backcountry canoeists.

Choose your own adventure

Building the Vuntut 10 Pack Canoe book by Otto Vallinga
Vallinga created an entire series of books, not just of designs, but details to help you every step of the way throughout your canoe-building journey. | Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

So far you’ve been reading about the Vuntut 10 as if it comes like any other pack canoe. But this clever designer has made his canoe and kayak designs available in their own publications. Building the Vuntut 10 written by Otto Vallinga is 192 pages detailing the construction of this wood strip and epoxy canoe so that you can build your own. Want to build a pack canoe but don’t have the time to source all the materials yourself? The Vuntut 10, and 12 and 14 for that matter, are available as a complete kit requiring only tools and time.

If you feel less inclined to channel your inner Otto Vallinga, you can get the Vuntut 10 by ordering the finished boat directly from Vallinga himself, like we did.

The Vuntut 10 is small but mighty

No matter how you get one, don’t be distracted by the novelty of such a small canoe. The Vuntut 10 pack canoe is no gimmick. It will allow you to access more places by being so light and nimble adding versatility to your solo adventures that you never dreamed possible.


v16-iss2-Canoeroots-.jpgThis article originally appeared in Canoeroots
Early Summer 2017 issue.

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