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Old 04-12-2020, 09:14 PM   #1
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,296
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.
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