No announcement yet.

Some questions about solo canoes...

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Some questions about solo canoes...

    I'm looking at possibly purchasing a solo canoe in the not-too-terribly-distant future. I've got a decent amount of experience with solo boating in practice, but my knowledge of specific brands/models is somewhat lacking. Ideally what I'd like is something that I can use for trips up to a week in length, somewhat into mid- to late Autumn, which I know is going to preclude the lightest and smallest options out there. I'd like to at least have the option to comfortably carry about 250-260+ pounds (including myself plus cold weather gear for longer trips in late October and possibly even into early November). Fortunately, it seems like there's a number of options to facilitate this out there that still fall well within the "ultralight" category- which is a must, as I'd also like something that I can easily portage with (on maintained portage trails, I don't plan to turn into Conk Jr. any time soon).

    The two brands so far that I've started looking into are the two most commonly associated with the Adirondacks- Hornbeck and Placid Boatworks. Both have the advantage of allowing me to "buy local." Are there any other brands that are worth considering besides Hornbeck and Placid Boatworks?

    Placid Boatworks models are more expensive than the equivalent Hornbeck counterparts (by about half again as much)- but Placid Boatworks models also appear to be a bit more robust, with more features included by default (although this does admittedly add slightly to the weight of the Placid Boatworks models). I do also especially like that Placid Boatworks includes the added coating on the underside to better protect the canoes from abrasions. I have had the opportunity to paddle boats from both companies in the past, although the majority of my solo tripping experience has been in Placid Boatworks canoes so I may also be somewhat biased towards that brand. I would appreciate hearing other's thoughts on comparisons between the two companies- do the added features that come standard with Placid Boatworks canoes justify the added cost over Hornbeck equivalents? Are there other pros/cons between the two companies that should be considered?

    I also have some questions about the different skin options available through Hornbeck. The website states that there is "no weight difference" between the different material options (kevlar vs. carbon fiber vs. a matrix combination of the two). My understanding after reading through the materials on the Hornbeck website is that, apart from carbon fiber being more brittle, the majority of the difference in these materials has more to do with the process of constructing the canoe and less to do with the qualities of the finished product. In that case, I'm curious- what would anyone pay more for carbon fiber (or even the matrix combination) over kevlar? Are there other qualities to carbon fiber that I'm not considering that justify the added cost? If cost is not a factor, which is the "ideal" coating?

    I've also been looking at the Hornbeck Blackjack options, where the entire boat is constructed with using carbon fiber. By replacing the normally-wooden components (gunwhales, thwarts, etc.), this results in a substantially reduced weight- for a somewhat substantially increased cost (although still cheaper than a Placid Boatworks equivalent). Are there any forum members here that have experience with the Hornbeck Blackjack options that can comment on the pros/cons of this design? Is it worth the added cost, or are there drawbacks to this style of construction that aren't apparent?

    My shortlist of models that I'm considering is as follows (PB = Placid Boatworks, HB = Horn Beck): PB Spitfire 13, PF Oseetah, HB Classic 12 (or 13), HB New Tricks 12 (or 13). The Hornbeck boats appear to have a greater capacity for the same length in comparison to the Placid Boatworks boats (presumably due in part do the Hornbecks being a bit wider). Of those 4, I'm leaning pretty heavily at the moment towards the Spitfire 13 or the New Tricks 12/13. I had an opportunity to take an 8 day paddling trip in a borrowed Spitfire 13 last September and it was perfect for everything I needed in a canoe- but if a Hornbeck can work just as well for less cost then that's definitely a consideration.

    Any comments on any of these models (or any other aspect of solo-canoe shopping) would be more than appreciated! Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    I have a PB RapidFire and a 10.5' Hornbeck hybrid carbon/kevlar, and a traditional 12' kevlar Hornbeck. I have paddled the hybrid from Boonville to Cumberland Head beyond Plattsburgh (185 miles including 62 miles of portaging during a dry hot July week), it carried me and everything I needed for the week-long traverse.

    I have raced the RF on the 90 miler several times with good success. Mine has wood gunwales, before the much lighter cobra-sox came out. Except when Joe decided to paddle with up to five his shop crew all in the newer faster designed Shadows. Now, I consider Joe to be a friend, but I believe the shadow was designed with a single purpose, and that was to beat all the RapidFires in the 90 that he had sold to customers over the previous years. I have paddled the shadow briefly, and like it for its designed purpose. But don't think the Shadow has enough stability or capacity to be a very good tripping boat. I also use the RF for my own solo tripping, and during BSA Voyaguer guide trip leader training. I paddle the RF fitted with a custom high seat using a single blade canoe paddle only (except during the 90 where a double blade is required in that class of boat - solo rec).

    I haven't done much in the 12', as it was recently given to me. Probably best used as a fishing platform. The Hybrid is a much stiffer build than the all kevlar model, as I could see when paddled next to my friend in a kevlar when his oil-canned a noticeable bit. I visited Peter one April day wanting to buy a standard Hornbeck for my pending cross-Adirondack trip that summer. Then I saw this shiny black beauty hybrid on the floor, a pound lighter and in opposition to the dozens of pure kevlars strapped like so many sides of beef hanging from the rafters. This was before Pete came out with the all-carbon 10.5'. Pete said the hybrid was an experiment that he was considering, didn't know if it would be liked or how it performed, for just $100 more. I had to have it and have loved it ever since. I did a bit of damage to my hybrid in the bony dry lower reaches of the Saranac River, but Pete repaired it at no charge. I don't know that he offers that layup anymore, not since the new trick models came out. Of the ultralight all-carbon Blackjack Hornbecks I have seen since, I know that more than one has developed cracks in the rolled carbon Gunwale rails.

    I also had my sights set on the GRB Peeper, from my friends at Newmandesigns but none were being made or available that season. They have other more substantial canoes in carbon fiber that might fit your needs.

    Don't overlook the Swift brand of canoes. Similar in design and function to Placidboats. Both are of David Yost design, and had the same engineer work on development. Same with the Colden canoe line.

    You will find more help on this forum:
    Hey guys, I'm looking to buy a solo canoe this year. Right now I have a Nova Craft Tripper 16 Tandem and when I solo paddle it I use a kneeling thwart, it's made for tracking and It works alright but would like a solo that I can take on weekend solo trips on Rivers/Streams, and lakes with...
    Last edited by Wldrns; 04-13-2020, 10:59 AM.
    [I]"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman[/I]


    • #3
      I've had the PB 13 Spitfire for several years now and have used it in Algonquin Park and the Adks for multi-day trips many times. My fishing/hunting partner has a Hornbeck BlackJack and looking at his in the water it is tipsy and the sidewalls are much lower... he's taken on water from wind/waves while fishing. His backrest doesn't support him well either and so he added a beach chair to provide better support. Here is a video that shows his HB BJ on a windy lake and he's unstable in it. Notice how close the top of the HB BJ gunnel's are to the waterline compared to my Spitfire. You can also see the beach chair backrest he put in for extra support as well:

      I'd go for the PB Spitfire... actually I'm placing an order this week for a PB 12 Ultralight for my wife as we have several trips planned this year. You are already familiar and experienced using the Spitfire... why change to something else now?
      Last edited by bioguide; 04-13-2020, 08:16 AM.
      [URL=""]My YouTube channel[/URL]


      • #4

        I don't think these meet your design requirements but I was intrigued so will share. Two skin on frame designs:

        Kudzucraft's Stone Fly. I Believe these come in at 35lbs so to heavy for your use but some may find it interesting as a quarantine hobby.

        And then I just stumbled on Cape Falcon. Two unique things about their skin on frame: their course apparently has a formula where you can decide how much you wish to carry, weight, how much rocker, how important tracking is for you, etc. Other oddity is a video where he bungee toggled two purpose built sticks across two boats and did some low level white water as a catamaran Again, maybe a 'stay at home' hobby.

        I have built neither but am attracted to the cost/weight low/lowness of the Cape Falcons
        Eyes on the Forest, not on the Trees


        • #5
          Have you tried the Adirondack canoe company?

          I've seen there boats but never used one.


          • #6
            I bought a RapidFire a few years ago and have no regrets. It was pricey but worth it. The boat tracked amazingly well on a windy day on Long Lake from the village north.

            I had been looking at the Swift Keewaydin as well, and was at their Gravenhurst location ready to buy but they didn't have any available to test paddle the day I was there.

            My criteria was a boat to fit me, a full pack and a dog and I thought the SpitFire was a little small for that.


            • #7
              My take on your question, A different perspective.
              I have had many fun solo trips with my 17 foot, 36 inch wide, 72 lb Roylex Mad River Explorer, 1991. It’s big enough to stand up in and pole up stream through continuous Class 1 rapids opening up lots of loop tripping or out and backs. When I go I do not fill it with gear, in spite of it size, no cooler etc. With light weight and compact camping gear I can easily Walk to the front of the canoe hop out and pull up and over 3 foot + beaver dams, slide it over the dam top into the pool above and then hop back into my normal padding position. Quick and easy compared to All narrow Canoes and kayaks. In wind with my minimum gear I can shift my gear and my paddle position to maintain a easily to angle to the wind. Oh did I mention with minimum of modifications I can add a sloop sailing rig, with lee boards and rudder to make lake travel a breeze.
              Carries... at 68 yrs I have no difficulty Performing two tripping Style carries. I generally take my gear Only part way, it’s light weight so it is just the opposite of a struggle more like a pleasant walk. I then go back for the canoe and carry to where my gear is. I then put the canoe down and pick up my gear and have more pleasant walking to the end of the carry, turn around and get the canoe. I have done many carries up to two miles this way. If longer I break up the trip into more sections.If I’m in the bush and there is no trail - the going is much slower and I repeat the process every 100 or 200 feet to make sure I don’t loose track of my gear. I was recently given two, wide tire simple, boat carts so on my next trip I may try a cart but last time I had a cart it did not work out well at all it was two wide for the narrow board walk with mud on both sides. In the last 38 years I’ve only lost one item, a very short, 30” kids paddle.
              I’m long past trying to go for new world records for speed or times and have the attitude the faster you go the less you see. I hammock camp in areas of no marked camp sites and tent camp in areas of available CSites. Set up in swamp hammock = no trace camping. I’ve tried sleeping inside my partially overturned canoe, with a tarp draped over the canoe, well it was probably better than the rocks the canoe was on and I stayed dry, I woke up many times, that may have seen due to the rain deluge that night.


              • #8
                Big canoe cont.
                I’ve also dropped the seat down several inches changed the Thwart positions And made my own carry thwart. The plastic is very slippery on beaver dams and rocks.


                • #9
                  Another recommendation for canoe makers is Dave Curtis at Hemlock Canoes.
                  "There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go." -from "The Call of the Wild" by Robert Service

                  My trail journal: [URL=""]DuctTape's Journal[/URL]


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by DuctTape View Post
                    Another recommendation for canoe makers is Dave Curtis at Hemlock Canoes.
                    Yes, Hemlock is yet another maker from the highly successful David Yost design brain with the engineering collaboration of Charlie Wilson.
                    [I]"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman[/I]


                    • #11
                      Pack boat?

                      it sounds like your only looking at pack (sit on the bottom)canoes. Is that right? Are you looking at paddling lakes, windy streams, Or moving water. that would narrow it down. I have experience with several light weight solos (all with high seats) , an you may want to look at savage River canoes. I have owned 2 and they are real tough and extremely lite.
                      Keep your paddle wet, Turtle


                      • #12
                        Since no one else has said it yet in this thread I'll say that building a strip canoe is not only fun but cost-effective. I am 200# and am very comfortable in my slightly modified Kite canoe, designed by John Winters. I don't think I have put in more than 40 pounds of gear and food, but I think the canoe would carry more, the designed weight capacity is 280 if I recall right. Mine is close to 40 pounds with the seat, but they can be built lighter. Mine cost about $300 to build, 5 years ago.


                        • #13
                          While I am sure building your own woodstrip is rewarding and inexpensive, but if you don't have the gumption, the facility, or the time, then I can highly recommend a local boatbuilder, Pat Brown, who lives out in the sticks on the far western edge of the Adirondacks; the closest village is Lowville. A one man shop, his boats are surprisingly inexpensive, though they can sometimes be found on the used market for far more than their original price.

                          Pat Brown has made strip canoes and guideboats for his livelihood for close to 50 years, ever since he started and perfected his skills in high school. He has even built a couple of voyageur canoes and is known for his many guide boats as well as different size tandem canoes, I use my tandem mostly as a solo canoe. I believe his total build count must now be near 1,000, as when he built each of mine (a tandem, a guideboat, and a voyageur) more than 20 years ago his numbers were not far from it. All of his boats have done very well in the 90-mile race, including many first place wins over the years. Pat lives at Upper Chases Lake, east of Lowville NY. Look for his phone number listed under the Glenfield phone exchange or PM me for his number. Pat is a very sociable guy. He will talk your ear off with all kinds of local stories if you happen to spend an afternoon at his shop and try out boats on his nearby small lake (Upper Chase Lake). His dream is to host a local radio talk show, based mainly on interviews with daily residents of Stewart's shops tables, entitled "Some of This Might Be True".
                          [I]"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman[/I]


                          • #14
                            I own a 12' Hornbeck Classic and love it. I initially wanted a Black Jack but after seeing the boats in person I opted for the Classic. It has wooden gunwales and they come in handy for for mounting stuff like fish finders and cleats. I made a custom bag for holding my life vest and water shoes that clips to cleats on the inside when carrying overhead. Pete Hornbeck also added a thwart for me to mount a rod holder while trolling.

                            As far as the durability goes I have run into submerged rocks at full speed. It scuffed up the underside but didn't crack or leak. I always carry some duct tape and epoxy just in case. Its easy to fix with a kevlar canoe repair kit and some wet sanding/elbow grease.

                            I can't speak for Placid Boatworks other than they look like beautiful boats. Bioguide has many videos of his boat in YouTube and it looks like a work of art.

                            The one thing I would suggest is to get the lightest paddle you can afford. Carbon fiber is a good choice. Be mindful of the paddle length as you'll need a longer than normal paddle to clear the gunwales.

                            Pre-COVID I used my boat weekly. Never had an issue with waves or carrying capacity. I'm 6'2" 200 pounds and have carried a full 90L pack plus fishing gear across Pharaoh Lake and Putnam Pond. I never felt unsafe nor did it take on water. I've also done long trips to Lows Lake.

                            Best of luck!
                            Oh I'd rather go and journey where the diamond crest is flowing...


                            • #15
                              PBW or HP

                              I’ll add my input as the owner of both a PBW and a Hornbeck solo who does a lot of paddling in the Adirondacks. When I expanded my fleet from a 14ft kayak (Perception Spectrum) and 16ft tandem (OT Penobscot) I considered several of the boats you mention. I wanted a lightweight canoe suitable for double blade paddle that I could solo camp with for multiple days and could handle rough water. Long portages were less of a concern than carrying capacity, durability, seaworthiness and lifting the boat safely on/off my car.

                              I had paddled a friend’s 12ft HB before & liked much about it. I had been considering Swift solos too. After I met a retired ranger deep in the woods who recommended PBW, I went to try out both the Spitfire & Rapidfire. I brought much of my camping equipment to check for fit & handling with a load (loaded cooler, backpack, popup chair & other stuff). After the test I picked the RF over the SP due to capacity (I don’t travel light). Mine has wood rails and seat on the floor.

                              As others have said, the Yost hull designs seem to perform very well including rough open water (LTL, Cranberry, Lk George). On an attempted trip to do the Lila traverse on LTL with a friend in a 12ft HB, we had to turn back when he took on water (and I had more of the load). That was not the only time I’ve seen a 12ft HB not perform as I would like in rough water.

                              Granted my boat is 15ft, but I do believe the Yost hulls shed waves better that at least the old style HBs without taking on water. This includes power boat wakes as well as wind driven waves. I do not have firsthand experience with New Trick hull. My HB (my wife’s) is an older 10.5’ Lost pond and while a great little boat, not what you are looking for.

                              The extra layer & gel coat on the PBW (like Swift) makes the boat stiffer and more durable than most HBs, but with some cost & weight penalty. The PBW seat back is way better (I added a similar one to my HB) and you need foot rests. I also added a spray cover for mine (and in fact made one for my friend with the 12ft HB for his safety).

                              Both firms are good at doing repairs reasonably & I know PBW sells a repair kit with clear/tinted/white resin, patch materials & sandpaper. My 10 yr old boat is now in fine shape again - and I use it a lot without babying it. Both Pete & Joe are nice guys and you should feel good about supporting them.

                              Enjoy your search & don’t let a few hundred $ make the decision for you. If you do get a HB, I recommend the highest sidewalls for safety with a load (penalty is getting more windblown, not really weight). Consider a spray cover eventually at least for the front.