Before You Buy
What type of paddling do you want to do?
Will the canoe be used on flatwater, whitewater, or both? A great flatwater canoe will not be the best in big river rapids. Conversely a great whitewater canoe will not be the best choice for crossing lakes. A flatwater canoe should be more straight keeled to assist in tracking. It should also be shallower to reduce the effects of wind, be narrower and have finer entry lines for speed. A good whitewater canoe needs to have some rocker to facilitate quick turns. They will also be deeper and will usually have fuller ends for a drier ride. If you are looking to paddle on both flatwater and whitewater you will need a canoe with good multi-purpose characteristics.
What will the typical trip duration be?
Will you only be out for an hour or two at the cottage or are you going to go downriver for two weeks? A typical cottage canoe can be small because it will probably only hold the paddlers and a small amount of gear. An expedition canoe will have to have a larger volume to hold all your food, tents, and packs for your entire time in the interior.
How many people will be using the canoe at one time?
You need to make sure there is enough room in the canoe for everyone. A family canoe that needs to carry four people will obviously need to be bigger than one used for solo paddling. Don’t forget to include pets into the equation. Big dogs that like to move around a lot can easily be equal to one human passenger.
How light does it need to be for portaging and car-topping?
If you plan on doing a lot of portaging you need to consider the weight of your canoe. You also need to remember that while you may not portage, you still may need to put your boat on top of your vehicle from time to time. Make sure you can lift it comfortably and safely.
What material is best for your needs?
Composite canoes are lighter and offer better glide through the water whereas plastic boats are tougher and are more appropriate where severe impacts may occur. Whitewater canoes will need to be made of more durable materials to cope with impacts. Flatwater canoes can be made of lighter materials for portaging from lake to lake.
What is your budget?
As a general rule, lighter canoes are more expensive. While you may have decided that you need a high end boat, the practical matter of expense must be considered.