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October 13, 2022 9 min read

Dedicated To Those That Want An Independent Paddle

Woman lying on a clear kayak

Nothing beats getting outdoors and losing yourself out on the water. Some days you just need to do that solo as well to get the best health benefit. So let’s talk about solo canoes.

The best solo canoe means you can stretch out the paddle at your own pace. Go where you want without discussion with a co-pilot. And most importantly, find that blissful peace and tranquillity that is so important for mindfulness and wellbeing. Because after all, nothing is more therapeutic than being out on peaceful waters.

But what makes a solo canoe great? And how do you know which are the best to choose from? We are here to help. From a rundown of the best solo canoes on the market to extra gear you could add to make your experience better, we have got you covered.

What Are Solo Canoes?

First things first, we are going to answer the initial question you are probably asking – what are solo canoes? Aren’t they all just simply, canoes?

Just like kayaks (and to a certain extent stand-up paddle boards), canoes can come in ‘tandem’ sizes as well as being designed for individual paddlers. Typically, solo canoes are under 15 feet in length. This allows them to be more maneuverable for a solo paddler to handle. In these designs, turning and maneuverability are prioritized over tracking.

Our Top 3 Quick Picks – Best Solo Canoes

Best Overall
Old town discovery 119 solo sportsman canoe
Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman Canoe

Sleek, agile, and yet utterly traditional. This Old Town canoe ticks all the boxes in our opinion. There is plenty of space to store gear onboard for an epic adventure while also being lightweight enough to venture into the smallest of spaces.

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Most Unique
DUTUI Transparent kayaks fishing boats double transparent canoes crystal clear wear resistant
DUTUI Transparent Canoe

Want to stand out from the crowd? This transparent canoe from DUTUI is the way to go.

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Best Design
Wooden canoe with ribs curved bow
Wooden Boat USA Columbia Canoe 12

You cannot beat traditional design. The Wooden Boat USA Columbia Canoe is by far one of the most eye-catching boats out there. It is a timeless classic that is smooth in the water and will last you a lifetime. 

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What To Look For When Buying A Solo Canoe – A Buyer’s Guide

Green solo canoe on a lake

Buying a solo canoe can be challenging if you do not know what to look for. A canoe is an extension of the paddler's body, so, therefore, is a highly personal choice. And do not go assuming a solo canoe is simply a scaled-down version of a tandem option. The weight balance and design are often carefully crafted to suit a single paddler.

Here are a few tips to help you on the way to owning and becoming a solo canoeist!

Intended Use

What are you hoping to do with your solo canoe? Are you planning on fishing, heading out for flat water camping trips, or perhaps the ocean is calling you? The intended use will affect the length and size needed in the canoe.

If you are hoping to take on choppier waters and whitewater conditions, perhaps you should be considering a sit-inside kayak instead of a canoe. Due to the open top, a canoe is best suited for calm, flat waters that will not be splashing up inside. 

Dimensions

Solo canoes can range between 10-16 feet in length. 

The shorter they are, the easier they are to turn and maneuver. Longer canoes are more desirable for long-distance paddling as you can build up more speed and they generally have better tracking.

If you are planning an expedition and need to carry lots of gear with you, a 14-foot solo canoe is a perfect length. 

Materials

Overall, there are 5 types of materials that are commonly used when building canoes:

  • Wood
  • Composites
  • Aluminum
  • Plastic 
  • Softshell

The material affects performance, durability, weight, aesthetics, and price. So it is no small matter to consider! 

Traditionally, canoes are made out of wood and are handcrafted. They are long-lasting and look great, but they do come with a higher price tag. Composites, such as fiberglass and carbon, introduce the desirable lightweight factor that solo canoeists will be chasing. 

Other materials, like plastics and reinforced PVC, can be a good choice for those on a tighter budget. As technology has advanced, so has the performance and durability of these solo canoes.

Handling and Control

Paddling solo means you have total control over the canoe. This means you choose where you go and how fast you get there. Therefore, you need to ensure the canoe is easy to handle and control as a solo paddler. 

Handling and control are directly impacted by the size and hull design of the canoe. The shorter the canoe, the easier it is to handle and turn. 

Good solo control also comes from a good position within the canoe. As a solo paddler, you need the bench seat to be as central as possible for the most amount of control. You will need to alternate the side you paddle on to maintain a straight-line trajectory if you are only paddling with one paddle. 

Best Solo Canoes

Are you looking for the best solo canoe? We’ve done the research and compiled some quick-fire solo canoe reviews to help you find your next vessel!

Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman Canoe

This Old Town canoe is by far one of the best options available for solo paddlers that ticks all the boxes. It combines the simplicity of traditional design with agile, sleek handling found in a kayak. Being under 12 feet means it is nimble to navigate hard-to-reach spaces, but it can also still build up a good amount of speed when paddling. 

This thoughtful design allows you to keep fishing gear close to your hand while giving you maximum comfort. The hull is spacious, the seat is fully adjustable and comfortable, and you even have padded armrests to lean on. 

Old town discovery 119 solo sportsman canoe

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Length: 11 feet 9 inches 
  • Weight: 57 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 298 lbs

What we like:

  • Excellent stability and tracking
  • Super comfortable with adjustable kayak-style seat and padded armrests
  • Loads of storage available both behind and in front of the seat

What we don't like:

  • Nothing! This is an excellent solo canoe!

It is no wonder why we have chosen this canoe as our best overall solo canoe! The Old Town Discovery Solo Canoe is a fantastic piece of equipment for any water lover. It is also highly affordable when looking at purchasing a canoe.

Wooden Boat USA Columbia Canoe 12

A timeless classic. The Columbia Canoe 12 from Wooden Boat USA is a work of art! This canoe is handcrafted out of cedar wood and encapsulated in fiberglass resin to give you the best of the best results. With over 400 hours of work going into this canoe, it is no wonder why the price tag is so high!

The minimal rocker is paired with a cutting-shaped bow, making it plane across flat water like a dream. 

Wooden canoe with ribs curved bow

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Length: 12 feet
  • Weight: 35 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 375 lbs

What we like:

  • Beautiful craftsmanship and handmade
  • Super traditional design
  • One-of-a-kind type canoe

What we don't like:

  • High price tag

If the budget does not matter, then why not go for both style and function? Wooden Boat USA’s Columbia Canoe 12 really is something special.

DUTUI Transparent Canoe

Highly unique and extremely cool, the DUTUI Transparent Canoe is truly one of a kind! As the name suggests, this canoe is completely see-through so you can see what you are paddling over. We have to say, this would be an epic canoe to have when exploring the reefs around the Florida Keys or even further afield in the Tropics!

Even though the canoe is transparent, it is still durable and able to withstand adventures. The design is wide which gives great stability and an enormous carrying capacity (large enough that you could even take a passenger onboard). However, this does make it less maneuverable in choppy waters.

DUTUI Transparent kayaks fishing boats double transparent canoes crystal clear wear resistant

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Length: 10 feet 8 inches
  • Weight: 46 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 570 lbs

What we like:

  • Made from transparent polycarbonate material, so you can see what you’re paddling over
  • Wide and spacious hull for maximum stability
  • High weight capacity

What we don't like:

  • Difficult to manoeuver due to width and flat bottom

If you are keen to explore clear waters and see what you are paddling over, then there is no better canoe than the DUTUI Transparent Canoe!

Esquif Canoes Echo

With elegant curves and beautiful design, the Esquif Canoes Echo model brings a wonderfully modern take onto the water. This solo canoe is best suited for intermediate paddlers looking for a touring vessel. It has been specially crafted to cut through waters with speed and precision. 

This canoe can take you through tranquil and still waters one day and down class II rivers the next. It is a fantastic canoe to consider.

Wooden canoe with webbed seat, Echo by Esquif

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Length: 14 feet
  • Weight: 45 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 400 lbs +

What we like:

  • Super stylish and fresh paint color
  • Shallow arch shape and moderate rocker for seamless gliding through the water
  • Good speed and tracking

What we don't like:

  • Fairly narrow, so best for intermediate paddlers (not beginners)

If you have the skill and technique down, why not consider this beautiful piece of craftsmanship? You can switch between seated and kneeling positions comfortably throughout your session as well.

Nova Craft Canoe Trapper

Nova Craft’s Canoe Trapper certainly looks the part! This traditional recreational canoe is ideal for solo paddling. When ordering this canoe, you have several options on material and color, meaning you can get a truly unique vessel to call your own!

This canoe is great for the modern canoeist that is after both primary and secondary stability with no compromise on speed. It is good for improving your “J” stroke and can also be used with a double-bladed paddle.

Trapper 12 solo, Nova craft canoe

Where to buy:

Features & Specs:

  • Length: 12 feet
  • Weight: 20.4 lbs
  • Weight capacity: 

What we like:

  • Symmetrical hull
  • Shallow arch bottom
  • Slight rocker

What we don't like:

  • Nothing! This is a great canoe

From cruising to fishing, the Trapper from Nova Craft Canoes is suitable for it all! There is plenty of space for you to pack all the gear you need for an epic trip.

Additional Gear For Solo Canoeing

Once you have got your perfect solo canoe sorted, you can start thinking about all the other gear you need for your adventure. Of course, you need all the standard gear for canoeing. But you may want to add in some extra things you may not normally carry:

  • ​​Duct tape
  • Carabiner clips
  • Anchor
  • Repair kit
  • Dry bag
  • Phone

Single or Double Blade Paddle

The choice of paddle type is personal and depends on what kind of paddling you want to do.

Single-blade paddles are often preferred for smaller and more precise movements. However, a double-bladed paddle offers good ergonomics in each stroke and you can get more speed. It is common to see solo canoes being propelled with double-blade paddles, especially for recreational paddling styles. 

Double blade paddles are a good option for smaller paddlers to keep up with, and even outrun, skilled single blade users. Beginners to canoeing can also easily keep a straight course with a double-blade paddle. 

Top Tips For Canoeing Alone

Two red solo canoe

Canoeing solo is a wonderful experience. However, there are safety concerns that are deemed higher risk when being out on the water alone. To combat these, we recommend following these top tips for safe solo canoe paddling!

  1. Wear a ditch kit (typically a dry bag secured across the body with a shoulder strap with essentials, ie. phone, and keys)
  2. Tether/anchor your canoe when getting yourself ready or taking a break
  3. Tell friends your float plan or paddle route
  4. Know when to walk with your canoe
  5. Always take a phone
  6. Remember to eat and take water

FAQ’S

🏆 What is the best length for a solo canoe?

The best solo canoes are typically between 10 feet and 14 feet. This shorter length ensures the canoe is lightweight and easy to maneuver – this can however mean a compromise on speed. Longer boats generally go faster on the water.  


👍 What should I look for in a solo canoe?

When looking to buy a solo canoe, you need to consider the dimensions of the boat as well as the material it is made from. Ideally, you want something that is lightweight and easy to manage by yourself, both in and out of the water. Before you start browning solo canoes, you need to determine what paddling style you will be getting into as this will affect the shape of the canoe hull.


🏝️ How do you canoe alone?

Many people opt for a double-blade paddle to make solo canoe paddling easier. This means you can paddle both sides of the canoe without having to switch the paddle over, keeping straighter tracking and maintaining speed. You also need to consider where in the boat you are sitting/kneeling in order to keep an even weight distribution and balance in the canoe.

Jay Regan
Jay Regan


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