- Best Recreational Canoe
- Best Fishing Canoe
- Best Whitewater Canoe
- Best Expedition Canoe
- Best Racing Canoe
- Best River Canoe
Whether you are planning a leisurely paddle on a lake with your family and friends or a whitewater solo trip through some rapids, you will want the best canoe for your adventure. There are a number of different canoes designed for various activities on the water. The type of canoe you choose will depend greatly on what the primary intended use will be. Stability, maneuverability and good tracking are all qualities that are important in any canoe and will vary depending on the type of canoe you are looking at. Below is our helpful canoe buyer’s guide with detailed information to help you in your search.
Best Recreational Canoe:
Recreational canoes are a great way to spend a relaxing day on a lake or slow moving river. Designed for maximum stability, recreational canoes are often shorter and wider than expedition and touring models Recreational canoes are ideal for beginning paddlers, family day trips and weekend excursions. The best recreational canoe will be stable, easy to maneuver and track well in calm waters.
Whether you are paddling with children, pets or on a solo trip, you will want the best recreational canoe. These recreational canoes were chosen because they’re available in a range of durable and lightweight materials that can accommodate most any budget. These are canoes that are comfortable because they are stable, dry and track through the water with ease.
The Pelican 15.5 is a comfortable recreational canoe that tracks well and is easy to maneuver. This canoe comes with everything you will need for a fun day on the water including fishing rod holders. It’s perfect for the beginning paddler who is interested in trying their hand at canoe fishing or day tripping. Read Full Review
See it at:
The Hidden Pond 14 by Lincoln is a recreational canoe that performs. This canoe handles well in most any paddling conditions. The Hidden Pond 14 has plenty of cargo room and is stable enough to haul gear for an overnight trip. Read Full Review
The Bob Special 15 by Nova Craft Canoe is a recreational canoe with classic features like the raised bow and stern and shallow arch bottom. The Bob Special 15 is wide and stable with 35 inches at center yet remains conveniently lightweight, making this canoe easy to load and easy to carry. Read Full Review
The Osagian 17 Classic Side-Sponson Recreational Canoe is easy to maneuver whether paddling solo or tandem. Made with high quality aluminum, the Osagian 17 is a simple and sleek design reminiscent of popular recreational canoe models from decades ago. Read Full Review
See it at:
The Scout Elite by Sundolphin is an inexpensive and roomy recreational canoe. This canoe is a little on the heavy side at 84 pounds, but it’s an affordable and rugged canoe that can take years of wear and tear. It’s especially good for families with pets. Read Full Review
See it at:
Best Fishing Canoe:
Canoe fishing can be a relaxing and fun way to enjoy a day on the water but there are a number of factors to consider when looking for the right fishing canoe that meets all of your needs. Stability and smooth tracking are two of the most important qualities of the best fishing canoes. The canoe should also be versatile enough to be paddled or motored, made from durable materials, and will also have plenty of cargo space for rods, tackle boxes and additional gear. Finally, the canoe should be comfortable enough for day-long use.
Look for canoes that come with either an adjustable seat or room for a chair with a low center of gravity. There’s a wide range of stable, versatile and comfortable canoes that will make any fishing excursion serene. The fishing canoes on this list were selected because they offer plenty of storage space, are exceptionally stable for casting, track well in most water conditions and are comfortable.
The Colorado Inflatable Fishing Canoe is a moderately priced and convenient option. This canoe is easy to inflate and is made from lightweight, yet durable materials. At 10 feet 9 inches in length, the Colorado still has a 500 pound capacity, meaning you can take plenty of gear to your favorite fishing hole. Read Full Review
See it at:
The Esquif Cargo Canoe by Wilderness Supply is a lightweight and versatile fishing canoe. Made with a high quality and durable plastic, Royalex, that is ideal for fishing rivers and lakes. The Esquif weighs less than 100 pounds, is easy to carry and has plenty of room for the whole family to enjoy a day of fishing. Read Full Review
The Saranac 160 by Old Town is a fishing canoe the whole family can enjoy. This versatile canoe can be paddled or motored and remains stable even with loaded down with multiple passengers and gear. The seats are designed for the angler and have rod holders at the bow and center of the canoe. The Saranac also has dry storage in the center with a 6 inch hatch. Read Full Review
See it at:
The MacKenzie Sport 15 is available made from three different durable and lightweight materials including fiberglass, Kevlar and Ultralight Carbon. The heaviest of the three versions of the MacKenzie still only weights 72 pounds. The MacKenzie Sport 15 has plenty of room for gear, this is the idea canoe for family fishing. Read Full Review
The Fusion is a stout looking canoe with a width of 41 inches. This additional beam increases stability and provides plenty of cargo room for fishing gear. The Fisher is available in two different materials: rugged Royalx and Kevlar, which makes the durable Fusion possible to own on any budget. Read Full Review
Best Whitewater Canoe:
Whitewater canoeing is a fun and exciting sport and there are a wide range of canoe options ranging from beginner competition level performance. Whether you’re hitting the rapids for the first time or you are an experienced paddler, you will want the best option available. These best white water canoes feature moderate to extreme rockers for speed, excellent tracking and stability in rapids. They’re also very safe and designed to keep from filling with water while draining easily along with an appropriate amount of secure straps. Many of them also have flared sides to ensure a dry ride for the paddler in addition to being made from tough materials like Kevlar or Royalex so the canoe can take a beating season after season.
The Spark is a lightweight whitewater canoe that is easy to maneuver. What the Spark lacks in stability, it makes up in speed. The rockered design makes the Spark highly responsive in any conditions. Read Full Review
The Zoom is the ideal for the advanced paddler who wants a fast and agile whitewater canoe. The extreme rocker design makes the Zoom extremely responsive and maneuverable. Read Full Review
The Solitude Whitewater Canoe by Hellman is a fast and versatile canoe that tracks well in both flat water and through rapids. The sharp bow lines make this design ideal for cutting right through the roughest whitewater. It’s easy to lift, load, and launch single handedly, regardless of which of the three durable composite hull materials you choose. Read Full Review
The Viper, made by Mohawk, is a responsive whitewater canoe. The extreme rocker, 4.5 on the Viper 11 and 5 on the Viper 12, and flat bottom make the Viper predictable and easy to maneuver through large waves. Read Full Review
The Probe by Mohawk Canoes has a raised bow that deflects waves in most whitewater conditions as well as being extremely maneuverable and lightweight. Weighing at most 59 pounds and made from durable Royalex, the Probe is an affordable step up for a beginning or intermediate paddler. Read Full Review
Best Expedition Canoe:
Long trips in a canoe are a fun and rewarding way to spend time on the water. Expedition canoes are designed to travel long distances, carry large amounts of gear, and the best ones are maneuverable in any water conditions. Canoes that track well often have a moderate rocker allowing it to cut through the water with minimal effort.
Other features of a great expedition canoe include a raised bow allowing for a drier trip and a high capacity cargo area. These best expedition canoes were chosen because they are comfortable thanks to ergonomic seats and multiple paddling positions, feature fast and maneuverable designs, and have plenty of room for all your cargo.
The Penobscot 164 by Old Town is the perfect expedition canoe for intermediate to advanced paddlers. The Penobscot glides across the surface with little effort thanks to a minimal rocker and a shallow arched hull. Read Full Review
The Odyssey 15T by Mohawk is an expedition canoe that can be paddled solo or tandem and capable of carrying plenty of gear for a lengthy river trip for two. Mohawk also offers an ash wood seat back which is an inexpensive and very comfortable add on feature great for long trips. Read Full Review
Versatile and stable, the Expedition 186 Ultralite Canoe by Mad River Canoes can be paddled solo or tandem. The aluminum model weighs a mere 56 pounds which is extremely light for an 18 foot kayak that has the ability to store a couple weeks’ worth of gear. Loaded down, the Expedition 186 Ultralite still tracks well and is able to maintain consistent speed. Read Full Review
Wenonah is well known for their exceptionally designed canoes. This expedition canoe is a stable and comfortable option for the solo paddler who is ready to upgrade to a first class canoe. Whether you choose the fiberglass, Kevlar or graphite models, all versions of the Encounter are made to last through years of wear and tear. Read Full Review
At 16 1/2 feet in length and capable of carrying up to 1,100 pounds, the Moisie by Nova Craft Canoe can carry all the gear you will need on a wilderness trip. The Moisie is available in two different types of composite materials with overall weight between 67 and 77 pounds. Read Full Review
Best Racing Canoe:
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced paddler, you will want a racing canoe that out performs the rest. Racing canoes are long and narrow with an asymmetrical shape designed to cut through the water at high speeds. The material a racing canoe is made with is also an important factor to consider when choosing the right canoe.
Advanced paddlers will want to look for a canoe that is made from Kevlar or graphite. While it is more expensive than fiberglass or composite materials, Kevlar and graphite are extremely lightweight and durable.
Needless to say, the best racing canoes will be fast and accelerate with minimal effort. The racing canoes on this list were chosen because they’re fast and lightweight while maintaining exceptional tracking, and offer precise maneuvering.
Highly maneuverable and responsive to the slightest adjustment by the paddler, it’s no wonder that the J-203 by Wenonah has reigned in its class. This canoe cuts across the surface in most conditions and maintains excellent tracking. Read Full Review
The JD Pro 2 is a tandem racing canoe for advanced paddlers. This racing canoe isn’t just fast, it’s rigid, plowing through wakes and rough water. No matter which layup you choose, the JD Pro 2 will take your canoe racing to the next level. Read Full Review
The Freedom by Clipper Canoes is a great entry level racing canoe because it’s comfortable and predictable. This new take on an old design is fast, even at almost 50 pounds. The shallow arch hull makes the Freedom easy to control, even on a tight racing course. Read Full Review
Highly responsive, the Jensen Tandem Racing P-3 by Clipper Canoes is a competition level racing boat for advanced paddlers. The professional layup is not cheap, and rightly so because with the option of super lightweight carbon seats and a self bailer, the P-3 s a world-class racing for serious competitors. Read Full Review
Best River Canoe:
Navigating a fast moving river can be an exhilarating way to spend a day on the water. River canoes are specifically designed to maneuver a swift river or stream with ease. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced paddler, you will want the best river canoe for your skill level.
River canoes are longer than whitewater canoes so you’ll want to find a canoe that has flared sides that can deflect spray and keep the interior of the canoe dry. River canoes are made with a number of hull designs ranging from shallow to round and flat bottoms, but most all of the designs lack a keel. A well defined rocker is a key feature that you will find in the best river canoes because deep rocker at the bow and stern will help make the canoe more agile, enabling quicker maneuvers. These best river canoes are easy to maneuver, track well in fast moving water, and are constructed from durable materials such as Kevlar.
The Argosy River Canoe by Wenonah is a versatile river canoe with expedition capabilities. The Argosy has added volume that can stow plenty of gear for flat water paddling. The added depth provides a dry ride even in the roughest water, with the bow 18 inches above the water line. Read Full Review
The Wee Lassie by Savage River Canoes tracks well in open water and can easily be maneuvered laterally around rocks and through eddies. The Wee Lassie is available in both Kevlar and Carbon layups; two high-quality materials that are both lightweight and durable. Read Full Review
The Skeena by Souris River Canoes is a river canoe the whole family can enjoy. Versatile enough to carry gear for long trips, but built to take on whitewater. The Skeena has something to offer every skill level and is a great river canoe for beginning to intermediate paddlers. Read Full Review
The Alaskan River Canoe by Bell Canoes is a wide, yet nimble river canoe. Solidly built with plenty of room to spare for you and your gear, this versatile canoe can easily handle long trips or family excursions. The Alaskan is a river canoe that can be enjoyed by every skill level, from beginners to advanced paddlers. Read Full Review
The Concorde by Lincoln Canoes is a dry riding canoe with a steep 19.5 inches at the bow. This canoe is versatile enough to handle swift water and still tracks fast and true on flat sections of the river. The Raven is made with your choice of fiberglass, Kevlar or carbon, so either way it’s lightweight and can take years of abuse on the river. Read Full Review
Canoe Buyer's Guide
Finding the right canoe can seem like a daunting task. There are countless styles, sizes and construction materials to ponder. Buying the right canoe starts with determining what type of paddling you plan on doing the most. Canoe types range from your basic recreational canoe to more specialized canoes designed for racing, fishing or expeditions. Where you will paddle should also be a factor in determining canoe type. Whitewater and river canoes are designed to maneuver easily in fast moving water and rapids. Wider, more stable recreational canoes are ideal for lakes and slow moving rivers.
Once you determine the type of canoe you want to buy, construction materials is the next factor to consider. Canoes are made from a wide range of materials, each with their own benefits. The most common construction materials include aluminum, polyethylene, Royalex, fiberglass, Kevlar and wood. The cost and weight of a canoe can vary greatly depending on the material used.
Other factors to consider are how stable the canoe is, how well it tracks through the water, and length. Typically, the wider a canoe is the more stable it feels on the water. Tracking, or how well the canoe moves across the surface of the water, is often sacrificed for increased stability. The length of the canoe you are looking for will likely be determined by the type, how many passengers you will want to accommodate and how much gear you will carry. Longer canoes, over 20 feet, are more difficult to maneuver, but can carry plenty of gear for overnight expeditions or fishing trips. Shorter canoes, under 10 feet, are usually easier to maneuver in fast water.
Recreational canoes are designed for paddling in calm water like lakes and slow moving rivers. These canoes are typically shorter and wider than other canoes, making them more stable and great for beginning paddlers.
Most canoes can be outfitted for fishing, but canoes made specifically for fishing are already rigged with rod holders, bait wells, and mounts for trolling motors. You will want to look for a fishing canoe that is stable with a low center of gravity to make it easy to cast from.
Whitewater canoes are designed to be paddled safely in fast moving rivers. Features of whitewater canoes include extreme rockers which make the canoe fast and agile. Whitewater canoes typically have flared sides to make for a drier ride. Maneuverability is a more important factor to consider than tracking.
Expedition canoes are made to travel long distances in comfort. Designed with moderate rockers for increased tracking, these canoes paddle with ease even when loaded down with gear. Longer and narrower than most other canoe designs, expedition canoes are made to cut through the water with minimal effort. You will want to look for an expedition canoe with ergonomic seats and plenty of storage space.
Racing canoes are long, narrow and have an asymmetrical shape. These canoes are designed to track exceptionally well and glide across the water with minimal effort. The best racing canoes are made from lightweight Kevlar or carbon fiber.
River canoes are made for paddling swift moving water. Slightly longer than whitewater canoes, river canoes have flared sides to deflect spray and usually do not have a keel. These canoes usually have an extreme rocker at both the bow and stern, making it easy to maneuver.
Though aluminum is a lightweight metal, it’s one of the heaviest options for a canoe. Less expensive than lighter materials, aluminum is a low-price option for flat water and calm conditions. Aluminum canoes stand up to sunlight and temperature extremes better but are scratched relatively easily and dent if hit hard enough.
Polyethylene and Royalex
Polyethylene is a lightweight, flexible, and inexpensive plastic composite. Polyethylene is the heavier of the plastic composites, but is very durable and easier to repair than Royalex. Canoes made from polyethylene tend to scratch easily because this material is a lot softer than other composites.
Royalex canoes are made from a layered plastic with a foam core. Royalex is lightweight and durable, making it able to take a beating in almost any conditions. These particular canoes have a vinyl skin that can be abraded easily and is susceptible to the damages associated with exposure to sunlight over long periods of time.
Fiberglass canoes were once as common as aluminum canoes until the dawn of plastic composites and Kevlar. Fiberglass canoes range in price depending on whether or not they are composites. Fiberglass alone can easily be damaged and is sensitive to light and extreme temperatures. Fiberglass composites blended with Kevlar are more durable. These canoes are lightweight and relatively inexpensive but difficult to repair.
You might know Kevlar as the lightweight material found in bulletproof vests and it’s also one of the most durable materials a canoe can be made from (as well as one of the most expensive). You should consider Kevlar if you are planning on paddling in extreme conditions or are in the market for a lightweight racing canoe. Because Kevlar shreds like fiberglass when damaged, most Kevlar canoes have an outer coating of fiberglass or plastic composite to protect the hull.
Typically made from cedar or birch, wood canoes are expensive but have a rustic, natural beauty to them. While they’re easy to repair with some training, wood canoes do require quite a bit of maintenance and don’t fare well with continual exposure to sunlight. Wood canoes are best for paddling calm waters since the hulls can be damaged easily in extreme conditions like whitewater.