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Expert Shopper Sports & Fitness

Best canoe

Which canoe is best?

Picture being out on the water in a canoe, living your best life. It’s easily imagined and achieved with the right direction.

Before you buy a canoe, it’s important to know the purpose for your boat and how often you plan to use it. If you want to hit the water in a moderately priced but high-quality canoe, the Old Town Canoe Sportsman Discovery Solo is a great choice.

What to know before you buy a canoe


There are several ways to categorize canoes

  • Recreational: These are great for families or friends who want to take an easy cruise and paddle on flat water. They are built to be stable and easy to maneuver. 
  • Racing: Built for speed and competition, these are on the high end of canoe prices. 
  • River: These are designed to get pummeled by white-water rapids and everything else a river brings.
  • Tripping: Sometimes these are called touring canoes because they have the space that lets you and a friend go on longer trips 
  • Sporting: This sort of boat is ideal for fishing or hunting and is designed with space to carry your gear. 
  • Multipurpose: Also known as versatile, multipurpose canoes can be used for any reason: fishing, camping or just out for a cruise. 


  • Length: Standard canoes are around 16-17 feet long. Shorter ones are easy to maneuver and take anywhere, but longer models are great for lengthy trips. Plus, once you get the speed up they are easier to paddle. 
  • Width: The wider your canoe is, the more stable it will be. However, thinner canoes are easier to paddle and weigh less. 
  • Depth: Deeper boats allow more weight, but since the sides are longer, they are also more influenced by the wind. A shallower canoe isn’t as affected by the breeze but can let in water if it’s overweight.


  • Plastic: This is a lightweight, durable and cheap material for canoes.
  • Aluminum: This was once used commonly because it is strong and durable, but because of its weight, it’s falling out of popularity. 
  • Fiberglass: Lighter than aluminum and durable, it is also easy to repair.
  • Kevlar: Stronger and lighter than fiberglass, it is expensive and typically used on high-end canoes. 
  • Carbon fiber: Similar to Kevlar, this is also strong, lightweight and used on higher-priced models. 

What to look for in a quality canoe


The shape of your hull affects how your boat moves; the entry line is where the hull cuts the water. The sharper the entry line, the faster and easier you move through the water. A blunt end is better for rapids because it helps keep water out.

The bottom of the boat has its own variations. 

  • Flat: This style is good for a stable ride on flat water but can be turned over easily due to how high it sits above the surface.
  • Round: A bottom like this improves speed and stability during movement, but there is not much initial stability.
  • Shallow-arch: This bottom is an improved version of the flat and round combined. It has better initial and secondary stability. 
  • V: This version has a pronounced centerline, is maneuverable and also has good initial and secondary stability.

Side shape

  • Tumblehome: The sides curve inward and make it easier to touch the water. 
  • Flare: The canoe sides flare out to keep the water from getting in. 
  • Straight: This side shape is in the middle of flare and tumblehome.


Many canoes come with anywhere from one to three seats, two-seaters being the most common. You can customize and upgrade your seats to make your ride on the water more comfortable. 

Other features 

  • Rocker: This is the upward curve from tip to tail. A higher rocker is more maneuverable and a lower rocker is faster. Most are somewhere between.
  • Gunwales: These are the side rails. They need to be strong because they will take a beating. 
  • Freeboard: The distance between the gunwales and the waterline. The greater the freeboard the dryer you’ll be, but the easier wind will catch. The opposite is true as the freeboard gets smaller.
  • Thwarts: These are wood, aluminum or fiberglass supports that shape and stabilize the canoe.

How much you can expect to spend on a canoe

You can get a good pre-owned canoe or budget canoe for under $500, but a high-end canoe is going to be around $3,000-$4,000. However, there are also middle-range canoes that cost anywhere from $650-$1,500. 

Canoe FAQ

What is the difference between a canoe and a kayak?

A. Canoes have an open top, while kayaks have a closed deck with a hole for the occupant to sit in. Also, kayaks are easier to learn, while canoes are more stable and less likely to flip.

How do I store my canoe?

A. They should be stored upside down in a dry place, sitting on the gunwales.

What’s the best canoe to buy?

Top canoe

Old Town Canoe Sportsman Discovery Solo

What you need to know: This is a single-person recreational boat with plenty of room for fishing or hunting gear. 

What you’ll love: The seats and armrests let you enjoy a comfortable ride no matter what your purpose. The boat has cup holders built in, adjustable foot braces and a lightweight hull for easier transfer. 

What you should consider: It’s meant for a single person and might be too wide for some. 

Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods 

Top canoe for the money

Emotion Wasatch Canoe

What you need to know: This three-person canoe can be used for fishing or other recreational fun. 

What you’ll love: It has handles on the sides and a skeg that improves tracking. It also has two cup holders that double as fishing rod holders and two ditty trays in the rear for storage.  

What you should consider: This boat is only 13 feet long and may feel too small for three people. 

Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Worth checking out

Old Town Canoe Saranac 146 DLX

What you need to know: This is a family-friendly recreational boat that can hold up to 750 pounds.

What you’ll love: This flat-bottom boat has straight sides, making it stable. It has two padded seats with backs and cup holders. There is also a center bench to provide storage and an extra passenger seat. 

What you should consider: It’s almost 80 pounds assembled and over 14 feet long, making it difficult to maneuver solo. 

Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

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Erica Redding writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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