How to Choose Your First Canoe

by PennPaddler

Article: How To Choose Your First Canoe
Getting into canoe camping may seem scary at first, but canoe camping is really very easy. If you are totally inexperienced then you do have a few things to learn, but you don’t have to be an outdoors survival expert to take on this hobby. With some online research, a few visits to the right sporting goods store, and a Saturday afternoon in your canoe with an experienced friend you’ll be ready to hit the river with the family. And if you don’t have those experienced friends don’t fret because you can always find a nearby paddling club with experienced paddlers who are eager to take on new members.

Okay, let’s get started. Ask yourself the following questions to decide what type of canoeist you are and determine what type of canoe to purchase.

• Will you paddle rivers or lakes?
• Will you paddle short canoe camping trips or extended trips?
• Who will be your paddling partners?

When choosing the right canoe you need to know if you are going to paddle slow or fast rivers and creeks, or just flat lakes. Most recreational canoes are versatile enough to efficiently move through a variety of types of conditions. But if you are going to do extended trips, paddle with the entire family, or paddle in whitewater conditions then you will need to consider a canoe type designed for that specific type of water.

Recreational Canoe
These canoes are not really designed for any specific type of extreme paddling such as whitewater or extended tripping but it will handle most normal situations just fine. A very popular and affordable recreational canoe is the Old Town Discovery. The canoe is available in 15 and 16 foot lengths. The boat is versatile enough to paddle efficiently on backwater and slower rivers, and even handle a short section of class 2 river. The 15 foot model will easily accommodate enough gear for two adults on a one or two day trip and the 16 foot model will easily accommodate enough gear for an extended canoe trip. This is a decent canoe for paddlers who want to paddle under normal conditions such as lakes and slow rivers and creeks. The recreational canoe provides enough initial stability usually allowing for the movement you might experience from activities such as fishing, paddling with children or the family dog.

Touring Canoes
These boats are reasonably fast and maneuverable, they handle calm water and smaller whitewater rapids well. What these boats lack in primary stability they make up for in secondary. These boats are designed to perform in mild whitewater conditions or calm flat water. You will find that manufacturers offer these boats in many different versions. Some models are designed for paddling slower rivers with the family and some models are designed with more maneuverability for paddling more aggressive waters. A boat in this category is probably your best choice for canoe camping rivers and creeks under normal conditions.

Tripping Canoes
If you intend to paddle extended trips with plenty of gear then you may want to consider an expedition, or tripping canoe. Tripping canoes usually have a deeper volume for carrying large amounts of gear through swift river or whitewater conditions. Tripping canoes are designed for speed and are fast and are capable of covering greater distances. These canoes come in lengths of 15 to 17 feet and are usually designed for use under extreme conditions. For example some are designed with plenty of rocker enabling easier maneuverability around rocks, and whitewater while other designs enhance performance on smooth flat water.

Down River Canoes
These canoes are designed with one thing in mind, paddling down a river. They come in a variety of designs that make it possible to haul lots of gear or maneuver through whitewater. They generally are designed with rocker for quick maneuvering. This boat is for serious river tripping and might not be the best first choice for a new canoe camper.

Your Next Step
Now you know the basic canoe designs to consider during your first canoe purchase. But your homework isn’t complete. You have to remember that the canoe designs mentioned in this article are just a general outline of canoe designs. Canoe manufacturers generally will make up their own hybrid models that may be based on several of the categories mentioned in this article. Now your next step is to locate a reputable canoe dealer who will actually let you paddle their canoes. Some will allow you to paddle their boats for free, others will charge you a fee, but it is worth the 20-30 dollar charge to spend a Saturday afternoon testing boats. And some boat dealers will have open house boat testing sessions throughout the paddling season. I suggest you test paddle as many as you can before making your decision. If you can’t locate a dealer who will allow you to test their boats most paddling clubs hold events that offer the opportunity to try the members boats.

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