Choosing your next canoe can begin with deciding on a brand. Whether this is your first canoe or you’re looking to add another one to a growing collection, picking a brand can help guide your purchase. The choices are varied. Excellent canoes can come from brands with storied reputations for building reliable canoes over decades, or else be from newer start-ups that have breathed fresh life into the industry with innovative materials.
With so many brand options, you’re likely to find one that aligns with your paddling style and aesthetic or practical preferences. For some folks, a company’s location, environmental practices or community track record will determine whether they choose to support the brand.
On this page, you’ll find information about choosing a canoe brand, along with links to learn more about some of the most popular canoe brands.
Shop canoe brands
If you’re ready to jump in, follow the links below to see what each brand has to offer. We’ve compiled all the best canoe brands in our comprehensive Paddling Buyer’s Guide, so you can compare specs, read reviews and discover where to buy—all in one easy place.
Mad River Canoe
Nova Craft Canoe
Old Town Canoes and Kayaks
Otto Vallinga Yacht Design
Explore canoe brands
Different brands create canoes for various activities or use specific materials. Some brands like Esquif exclusively make plastic canoes, which are rugged and durable for whitewater paddling. Others like Wenonah choose to focus on building lightweight composite canoes.
Further, some canoe brands like Old Town feature a comprehensive range of recreational canoes for solo or tandem paddlers. Start exploring under the headers below.
Whitewater canoe brands
Canoe brands Canada
Aluminum canoe brands
Fiberglass canoe brands
Kevlar canoe brands
Recreational canoe brands
Best canoe brands
Here you’ll find our in-depth articles about some popular canoe brands and the best canoes they make. Each of these brands makes canoes for different paddlers within different price ranges.
Follow the links below to find information about each of these brands, including the types of canoes they build, buying advice for new and used canoes, as well as links to find them and more.
- Best Coleman Canoes For 2023
- Best Esquif Canoes For 2023
- Best Grumman Canoes For 2023
- Best Mad River Canoes For 2023
- Best Nova Craft Canoes For 2023
- Best Old Town Canoes For 2023
- Best Pelican Canoes For 2023
- Best Wenonah Canoes For 2023
How to choose a canoe brand
When should you buy by the brand?
If you’ve seen a canoe that you love but it doesn’t quite match your needs, it’s helpful to check if that company makes boats that do. For example, you may have rented a 16-foot Kevlar canoe that’s just about perfect, but you’d like to have more storage capacity. There’s a good chance you can find that same model in a slightly longer 17-foot version.
Paddlers ready to jump from a recreational canoe to something a bit more efficient may discover that they can look to the same company for a more seaworthy touring model. Some of the best canoe brands have a range of canoes to offer, but they all share familiar aesthetics and outfitting features. If you find the seats of one canoe to be comfortable, the seats are likely similar across all models of that brand.
Buying a canoe begins with having a solid understanding of how you intend to paddle. Once you know what sort of paddling you want to do, you can start to look at canoes that match your style. All canoes are not created equal, and the price is not always an indicator of quality.
That is to say, paying more will not always give you a better canoe. It depends on how you want to use it.
At what stage do you choose the brand?
If you’re a new canoe buyer, you should start checking out canoe brands once you have a specific type of canoe in mind. Consider the type of paddling you want to do. Our Paddling Buyer’s Guide divides canoes into six primary categories: lakewater & touring, recreational, river tripping, expedition, fishing & sportsman, and whitewater. Most canoes will fall into one of these categories. There are also niche categories like folding canoes, racing canoes or pack boats. Let’s quickly review the different canoe categories.
Lakewater & touring
Lakewater & touring canoes are a broad category encompassing any canoes used for general touring. They balance tracking and maneuverability and have shallow-arch hulls that provide secondary stability. Secondary stability refers to a canoe’s ability to right itself when it’s on edge, and this is an essential feature for paddling in chop and current. Most tandem lakewater & touring canoes are 15–18 feet.
Recreational canoes are ideal for beginners or casual paddlers. They have broad, flat hulls, making them highly stable on calm waters. Generally, they are shorter than 16 feet and intended for day-tripping in sheltered lakes and slow-moving rivers.
River tripping canoes have more rocker than their lakewater & touring counterparts. Rocker is the bow-to-stern curve of a hull. A canoe with little rocker would have a nearly flat hull for traveling in straight lines. A canoe with plenty of rocker, like a river tripper, has upturned ends. This makes the canoe turn and maneuver easily, a benefit when navigating obstacles in moving water.
Expedition canoes take aspects of lakewater & touring and river tripping canoes and crank up the capacity and durability. These canoes are designed for extended wilderness trips, where you’ll be hauling lots of gear through rugged terrain. The classic Prospector design falls within this category.
Fishing & sportsman
Fishing & sportsman canoes may resemble recreational canoes. They are also geared toward stability but may have higher cargo capacities for hauling gear and game. Square-stern canoes are ideal for those planning on mounting small outboard motors. Some may have fishing-specific features like rod holders or accessory mounts.
Whitewater canoes may have some overlap with river tripping canoes. They will also have lots of rocker. Nearly all whitewater canoes use durable, impact-resistant materials like T-Formex or polyethylene. Whitewater canoes designed for playboating or creeking, like Esquif’s Zephyr, don’t have the same storage capacity as tripping canoes and are less than 12-feet long. These canoes are for running more technical rapids rather than taking extended trips.
Most canoe brands make various canoe types, with different models falling into each of the above categories. If you already own a canoe that you love but are looking for a new kind of canoe, then check out the brand in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide to see if they have one that matches your new style. It’s pretty cool to have a matching fleet of canoes, one for any purpose.
What materials do they use?
Once you’ve decided what type of canoe you need, you can start shopping for brands. Some brands focus exclusively on specific building methods, while others dabble in a bit of everything. The material you choose will correspond with your budget and the type of paddling you’ll do.
Most modern canoes are made of plastic or composite materials. Composites are lighter, while plastic is nearly indestructible.
Some brands like Old Town make their canoes exclusively out of polyethylene, which produces durable canoes and keeps the price low. Esquif’s T-Formex material is one step above polyethylene in price and performance. You can find other brands such as Mad River making their models in Esquif’s T-Formex material.
Higher-end brands like Wenonah use composite materials, which are more expensive but significantly lighter and stiffer, providing better performance. These materials aren’t as fragile as you may think and can still withstand rigorous use.
Other companies, like Nova Craft, offer their models in various materials. It’s possible to get the same design in polyethylene, fiberglass or their proprietary TuffStuff Innegra-blend.
Where are they from?
In addition to the type of canoeing you’ll do, think about where you plan to take your canoe. Canoe makers often tailor their craft to their local waters. For example, Swift tests their design prototypes in Algonquin Provincial Park, adjacent to their factory in South River, Ontario. It makes sense that the boats they build will thrive in lake-filled environments resembling the Canadian Shield country.
There’s merit in supporting brands that build their canoes locally. If companies make their boats in the U.S. or Canada, they’ll state it on their site. A company that’s been around for a long time will have established quality control measures and standards to ensure consistency across its production lines.
What are their values?
Purchasing a new canoe supports a company, so you may want to look beyond the boat itself and research what the company stands for. You can find information on many brands’ websites that indicates their philosophy and values, including environmental initiatives or any community activities they run.
Most importantly, no amount of searching online compares to getting in a canoe and trying it out. This is really the most important part of any canoe purchase. Visit a local paddle shop, or attend a demo day and talk to the staff there. If you describe your needs and budget, they can suggest brands and models that match. Seeing and trying canoes out may surprise you, and you could find one that wasn’t even on your radar.