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Recreational Canoes

Top Picks

How we choose: The best recreational canoes highlighted here were selected based on 17 reviews of 12 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

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If you've used a recreational canoe that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

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Old Town Saranac 146

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3 reviews)

I chose the Old Town Saranac 146 canoe because of its quality, features, size, and price. Not too small or too big (needed to fit on roof rack w kayak). It's fairly stable and can easily be paddled with a kayak paddle! The padded seats, rod holders and extra storage are nice for extra gear. Plenty of room for 2-3 passengers, poles, tackle, cooler, etc. A quality compact canoe (for the price) that seems very durable. You can't go wrong with legendary Old Town brand quality.

Reasons to Buy

  • Easy for one or two paddlers
  • Great quality (for the price)
  • Durable and stable
  • Storage options

Reasons to Avoid

  • A bit awkward for single person lift

My wife and I were looking for two kayaks, but we love canoes. She bought the kayak and I chose the Old Town Saranac 146 canoe because of its quality, features, size, and price (boat clearance sale was less than $500). It's not too small or too big (needed to fit on a roof rack with kayak). It's fairly stable and I can easily propel it with a kayak paddle! The padded seats, rod holders, and extra storage are a bonus because I use it primarily for fishing small northern lakes. I use the center seat storage to hold a compact 12volt battery for my Garmin depth finder.

Read more: Old Town Saranac 146 reviews (3)

Old Town Discovery 119

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Great canoe! It's rugged, light, and easy to pull over log jams or sands bars. It feels tipsy at first, but is plenty stable for fishing or jump shooting duck. Have not been dumped yet, does require a good j-stroke or double paddle.

Reasons to Buy

  • Light for its price range
  • Easy to move and load solo, I'm 5'6'' and 120 pounds
  • Rugged

Reasons to Avoid

  • Takes some practice to keep it going straight due to length

This is a great little canoe! I have two other Old Town canoes for use with family and friends, but needed something lighter I could easily throw in the bed of the truck for fishing and duck hunting solo. The 119 has a shallow arched bottom so it does not have as much initial stability as a flat bottomed boat and will feel tippy at first, but it can actually be leaned over to the gunnels without tipping (with propped skill and balance).   The boat is easy to get down river banks and rough put-ins, and holds enough gear for my needs.

Read more: Old Town Discovery 119 review (1)

Old Town Discovery 169

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

Great canoe for day, weekend, and multi-day exploratory trips. Amazing way to fish, camp, and get away from the crowds.

Reasons to Buy

  • Virtually indestructible
  • Very stable
  • Easy to paddle and control
  • Carries over 1000 lbs
  • Will carry 3 adults plus cargo
  • Wonderful fishing platform

Reasons to Avoid

  • Heavy (approx 90 lbs)
  • Black plastic gunwales get very hot in summer
  • Windy days are a real issue

I am an avid backpacker and hiker, and at one time was extremely proud to be able to go for 10-14 days with only a 45-50 lb pack. One evening, after a few drinks at a bar/pub in Leadville, CO, a local outdoorsman mentioned he recently went out for 10 days and packed 4 thick-cut ribeyes, 6 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of champagne, 1 bottle of top-shelf tequila, cheese, bread, 18 real eggs, 2 lbs of bacon, real ice (and even 10 lbs of dry ice) PLUS fresh fruit and veggies. Then to add insult to injury, he commented he covered over 20 miles a day.

Read more: Old Town Discovery 169 reviews (2)

Old Town Saranac 160

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

We have named this the little canoe that could! The guys here at C&S Adventures Unlimited will probably start their own navy with these boats!

Reasons to Buy

  • Amount of weight canoe can hold
  • Very stable
  • Built very well

Reasons to Avoid

  • Seats need a bit more padding
  • A bit heavy
  • Would love a cup holder by the back seat

This is a medium to large sized canoe that can hold some serious weight. Can seat three and hold enough gear for a couple nights on the lake or river. Its wide body makes it very stable in the water. The molded flip down front and rear seat tend to be a little uncomfortable after a couple hours in the seat but that was solved with a small pillow or PFD. Center seat is a bench style with a small water tight storage area for things like wallets, keys and phones. It's a bit heavy, so getting to the water or on the roof of the truck by yourself is a pretty rough ordeal.

Read more: Old Town Saranac 160 review (1)

Nova Craft Trapper Solo

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

This canoe is based on a Trapper canoe originally built by Chestnut Canoe Company of New Brunswick. The Chestnut model was designed for trappers who needed a small, lightweight and easily maneuverable canoe for lakes, ponds and creeks. Today, the Trapper in the Nova Craft version is a great all around solo canoe for exploring small waterways and also for anglers wanting a small stable canoe to use as a fishing platform.

Reasons to Buy

  • Compact
  • Maneuverable
  • Fast for its length
  • Good teaching tool
  • Good initial and secondary stability

Reasons to Avoid

  • Cost is nearly as much as a larger canoe
  • Limited capacity
  • Weight is higher than other canoes in this category

Background: I bought the first production model and had it shipped out with several other Nova Craft canoes that local club members purchased. Initially, I had thought to sell it after testing it, but have decided to keep it as it fits into a category not met by my other canoes. I now have about 60 hours in this canoe. Trapper's canoes were built by many firms in the early 20th century. Besides Nova Craft, Old Town also makes a trapper's canoe. There are other names, such as angling canoe, or pack canoe.

Read more: Nova Craft Trapper Solo reviews (2)

Mad River Explorer 16

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

One of the great all around boats, especially for those who lean towards rivers over lakes.

Reasons to Buy

  • Durable/long lasting
  • Wood gunwales
  • Good for camping on rivers with rapids

Reasons to Avoid

  • Gunwale maintenance
  • Heavy, but similar to boats of its materials

I have not had a chance to use this as much as I have the Old Town Tripper and the Old Town Pathfinder (Camper). It was purchased for river camping and as a boat that could handle larger rapids than my other boat the Old town Pathfinder. It has mainly been used in the rivers of North Carolina.  Although friends have been very happy with it paddling most years of their lives across Canada with or without their child. A 17-foot boat might be easier with gear and two kids, but you could do it in this one as well.

Read more: Mad River Explorer 16 review (1)

Mad River Journey 156

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

Great price. Nice seats and finish. Good for camping. Seems easily damaged.

Reasons to Buy

  • Low price
  • Does most things well

Reasons to Avoid

  • Seems fragile

Bought this boat to replace an Old Town Camper. Was a great looking boat and the price was fantastic. I use this canoe mostly on lakes with a bolt on sail kit and to transport wife, dogs, and gear to an island campsite. For us it is a useful canoe. It paddles well and tracks straight. If it were longer it would probably track straighter. Our Old Town was a 16 footer and this one tracks almost as well. It is a tad heavy but that is not to much of a concern, for transporting you can use one of those two wheeled dollies and it is not problem loading and moving it around.

Read more: Mad River Journey 156 review (1)

Mad River Adventure 14

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

A GREAT canoe for not only mornings fishing, but for the more die-hard paddling adventurer looking to get away from the busy life of society and venturing into the land of mountain air, soaring eagles, and trout the size of small children!

Reasons to Buy

  • Easy to transport
  • Plenty of room for multi-day trips down river

Reasons to Avoid

  • Heavy
  • Hard to carry if soloing

I have used this particular canoe on multiple occasions both fishing hidden coves in nearby lakes to extended river trips with friends. The first thing I noticed once I sat in the canoe was how comfortable and stable it felt as I situated myself for a 20-mile trip down river. Never was I concerned with the fear of tipping it over while positioning myself in rapids or reaching for my water bottle. With plenty of cargo space, useful gear anchoring points and a design intended for smooth paddling myself and a buddy of mine comfortably set off on a 4-day canoe trip through a national forest.

Read more: Mad River Adventure 14 reviews (2)

Coleman Expedition 146 dlx

user rating: 3.5 of 5 (1 review)

This is your utility workhorse canoe... It's not going to win any races, and it certainly won't portage well, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another canoe that will tolerate as much abuse as this one.

Reasons to Buy

  • Rugged
  • Durable
  • Inexpensive
  • Flat bottom

Reasons to Avoid

  • HEAVY!!!
  • Slow
  • Wide beam
  • No bow and stern float boxes
  • Oil-canning

This review is for the Coleman Expedition 146 dlx, also branded as the Pelican Excursion 146 dlx. Pelican acquired Coleman's canoe division in 2000 and continued making RAM-X plastic hull canoes to Coleman's specifications. Some canoes were branded Coleman, and some were branded Pelican. They eventually dropped the Coleman branding altogether. Specifications: Length: 14' 6" Beam: 37" at the yoke Seats: x2 - hardwood frame with nylon webbing Weight: 92 lb Max capacity: 800 lb Hull material: RAM-X-CEL (HMWPE) Colours: Green or Red outer hull, light beige/grey inner hull, black deck hardware.

Read more: Coleman Expedition 146 dlx review (1)

Old Town Pathfinder

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Strong and long lasting canoe for two people to camp or a small family to cruise in. Very durable, but don't count on doing very well on any river that has more than class II rapids.

Reasons to Buy

  • Initial stability
  • Durable and longlasting
  • Light for materials used

Reasons to Avoid

  • Tracking when soloing
  • Flat bottom

This boat is great. It was a craiglist purchase in great condition. I think someone at Old Town actually told me it is the same boat as the Camper but just a different name from several years ago. I think they just started making two sizes of the Camper instead of keeping the Pathfinder name. Oh it is also less then 15'! See the rest of the specs from the Old town catalog at the bottom. Whitewater? and other waters I have ground it over the rivers of North Carolina more times than I can count and have not broken through the initial vinyl red layer even after many serious gouge making grinds and smashings head on or broad side.

Read more: Old Town Pathfinder review (1)

More Reviews of Recreational Canoes

Trailspace reviewers have shared 17 reviews of 12 different recreational canoes.

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Other Types of Canoes

Find more canoes reviewed in these related categories:

Touring Canoes

Tripping/Expedition Canoes

Whitewater Canoes

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