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Best canoes for paddling

The Best Canoes for Recreational Paddling in 2021

Ever find yourself daydreaming about canoeing down reed-lined rivers or paddling out for an early coffee by a pine clad estuary? Then maybe it’s about time you set aside some pennies and invest in your very own canoe. There’s simply no better feeling than the freedom of drifting from place to place at your own leisurely speed.

Perhaps you’re already a seasoned canoeist looking for an upgrade to your current model, or, you’re searching for your first canoe. Either way, you’ll want to invest your money in the best canoe for your specific usage; be that a solo-adventure on fast-moving water or a fun day out with the family.

So how do you know that you’re investing your savings in the right canoe? There are many models out there with various styles and designs. We know it can be a bit confusing, that’s why we’ve done the boring part for you and put together this list of the best canoes in 2020.

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The best canoes for beginners in 2021

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ProductCanoe typeSeatsCost
Old Town Saranac 146 CanoeRecreational3$$
Wooden Boat USA Skeena Canoe 18Recreational2$$$$$$$$
Mad River Adventure 14 CanoeRecreational3$$
Grumman Solo CanoeExpedition1$$$$$
Sun Dolphin Scout SS CanoeRecreational3$
Old Town Discovery 119 Solo CanoeSolo/racing1$$$
MYCANOE 2.5 Plus Origami Folding Portable CanoeRecreational2$$$$$
Old Town Saranac 146 Canoe

Old Town Saranac 146 Canoe

Type: Triple/recreational

The Old Town Saranac 146 is the best canoe for family days out or use on flat water. The extra width makes it almost impossible to capsize while the flat bottom assures maximum stability. It also boasts a weight capacity of up to 750 lbs, which should be enough to carry your picnic gear and keep the kids afloat.

This model comes with two moulded plastic seats, complete with backrests for a full day on the water. The centre bench gives you a cup holder as well as a storage tray, 6-inch dry hatch and under bench storage. You won’t have to worry about keeping your phone and wallet dry in the Saranac 146.

Overall, we think that the Old Town Saranac 146, with its thermoformed polyethene hull and useful storage features, offers excellent value for money.


  • Reasonable price tag
  • Very stable on flat water
  • Lightweight (considering the size)
  • Ample storage


  • Not suitable for fast flowing or rough water conditions

Find the latest price at:
REI | Old Town Canoes

Wooden Boat USA Skeena Canoe 18

Wooden Boat USA Skeena Canoe 18

Type: Recreational

Designed for gentle paddles on rivers and lakes, the Skeena Canoe 18 from Wooden Boat USA is an attractive wood-striped canoe that blends into natural backdrops. Canoes from Wooden Boat USA are hand-made from high-quality Canadian Cedar and coated with a transparent top layer of fibreglass and epoxy resin which makes the crafts extra durable. The 18 foot Skeena Canoe has two woven seats but it can also be paddled solo. It has a generous weight capacity of 650lbs so you can bring your cooler pack and other gear. This gorgeous canoe also has a slightly rocked hull that makes it easier to manoeuvre despite its length and weight.


  • Beautiful design
  • Suitable for solo or double paddling
  • Very stable


  • Heavy (65lbs)

Find the latest price at:
Amazon | Wooden Boat USA

Mad River Adventure 14 Canoe

Mad River Adventure 14 Canoe

Type: Recreational

The Mad River Adventure 14 is the best recreational canoe on our list; it’s best suited to slow-waters or lakes and can carry up to three passengers. The sharp shape of its hull makes it one of the most stable canoes on the market while the 14-inch length makes it easier to handle than longer models. It is, however, slightly heavier than other canoes of the same size.

Our favourite feature is the adjustable and moulded seats which are made with contoured EVA foam and offer comfortable back support for all-day excursions. Mad River has also ensured that the Adventure 14 provides storage space in the hull and stern along with multiple cup holders and handy storage trays.


  • Handles well
  • Stable design
  • Moulded seats


  • Heavy for its size

Find the latest price on:

Grumman Solo Canoe

Grumman Solo Canoe

Type: Expedition

This streamline aluminium canoe gives you the speed, style, and durability you need to take on any kind of water, from gentle streams to raging rapids. The wide beam and low profile provide stability as well as greater resistance to wind.

Meanwhile, its length and shaped keel allow the Grumman Solo to glide smoothly, even in strong currents. It’s also lightweight and, although the price is rather steep, you can be confident that the Grumman Solo Canoe will withstand the test of time. It’s undoubtedly the best expedition canoe out there.

The Grumman Solo is listed as a solo canoe and comes with one bench seat; however, this model can hold up to 545 lbs. Furthermore, users confirm that it’s stable enough for two passengers plus camping gear.


  • Sturdy and long-lasting design
  • Good handling
  • Lightweight


  • High price tag

Find the latest price on:

Sun Dolphin Scout SS Canoe

Sun Dolphin Scout SS Canoe

Type: Recreational

The Scout SS Canoe from Sun Dolphin is an affordable triple canoe for all around use. Its three moulded seats may not provide equal comfort to the Adventure 14 but they do offer multiple built-in cup and rod holders. Its shallow arch and wide hull mean that it handles well on flat or slow-moving waters. And the shorter length makes it fairly easy to strap to a roof rack. What makes the Sun Dolphin Scout SS Canoe even more versatile is the square stern which allows the user to attach an electronic trolling motor.


  • Durable material
  • Built-in cup and rod holders
  • Low price


  • Heavy
  • Basic seating

Find the latest price on:
Sundolphin | Amazon

Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Canoe

Old Town Discovery 119 Solo Canoe

Type: Solo/Racing

The Discovery 119 Solo Canoe from Old Town is an agile model designed for rapid movement across the water. Its body is made from lightweight rotomolded polyethene and at only 11 feet in length and 49 lbs it can be carried by just one person. The nylon webbed seat is strong and provides sufficient comfort on short to medium length excursions, without adding to the weight. There’s also plenty of storage space in the front and rear of the canoe.

When it comes to performance, it’s possible to paddle the Discovery 119 with a single or double-bladed paddle. The Discovery 119 is easy to turn and its aerodynamic shape lets it gain speed quickly. The narrow base does make it slightly more ‘tippy’. Overall, we would recommend the Old Town Discovery 119 for experienced solo canoeists.


  • Lightweight
  • Fast and agile design
  • Suitable for different types of paddles
  • Good storage space


  • Tracking could be improved

Find the latest price on:
REI | Amazon

MYCANOE 2.5 Plus Origami Folding Portable Canoe

MYCANOE 2.5 Plus Origami Folding Portable Canoe

Type: Folding/recreational

This clever folding canoe is a practical solution for paddlers with limited storage or transportation space. MYCANOE Plus Origami packs up in just 5 minutes to fit into an average car and takes only 10 minutes to assemble. When folded it’s compact and light enough to be carried by a single person. Once unfolded the canoe is 14.5 ft long with two seats and a weight capacity of up to 440 lbs.

You might be wondering about the durability of this soft-shell canoe – we were too – but MYCANOE claims that this product will withstand 2,000 folds. It’s made from a marine-grade polypropylene fabric which MYCANOE say is UV protected for 15 years.


  • Vey portable
  • Suitable for solo or tandem use
  • Quick to assemble


  • High price tag
  • May not be as abrasion resistant as hard-shell canoes

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Oricanoe

Things to consider when choosing a canoe

How will you use your canoe?

The best canoe for you is 100% dependent on your desired usage. The best canoe for family outings or wildlife spotting certainly won’t be the same model as the best canoe for whitewater. Will you be paddling on flat waters or attempting challenging journeys on fast rapids? Canoeing on wide rivers or exploring coastal caves? There are also tandem or triple canoes with storage space and comfortable seats which are ideal for family excursions.

Types of canoe

A recreational canoe is an excellent choice for beginners or family trips as they’re designed to be both durable and stable. They are well suited to paddling at slow speeds, on gentle waters or lakes, and often allow space to carry extra gear or camping supplies.
Whitewater canoes are intended to be highly buoyant and turn fast with a curved bow to stern. They are made from lightweight materials and should be steered from a kneeling position; therefore, the seats are in whitewater canoes tend to be minimal.

Racing or expedition canoes are comparatively longer and slimmer making them easy to steer in a straight line. They can be tougher to manoeuvre and balance.

Shape, width and length

The shape, width, and length of a kayak are the most important things to consider before making your purchase. Ultimately, it’s these three factors which determine the type of environment the canoe can be used in. For example, shorter canoes with high sides (rockers) are swift to gain speed and quicker to manoeuvre. You might opt for this style of canoe if you’re planning to hit the rapids or you already have some canoeing experience.

If you’re taking the family out for a fun paddle or you’re new to the sport then a flat-bottomed canoe is the best option. The wider base provides greater stability although it does limit the acceleration and maneuverability of the canoe/

A longer canoe with a round bottom is exactly what you’d want for building speed on distance paddles. This makes them ideal on wide waterways or ocean canoeing. However, the long shape can make the canoe a little more awkward to maneuver on twisting rivers or narrow waterways. A long canoe is the last thing you’d want for paddling on the whitewater rapids.


It’s worth considering the weight of your chosen canoe as it will affect the way the boat handles in the water. The lighter the better isn’t always the case in terms of performance. A heavier model will sit lower in the water and therefore provide greater stability and resistance to currents and winds.

On the other hand, lightweight canoes require less energy to accelerate and turn. They are more portable, particularly for solo trips, as you’ll need to be able to lift the canoe out of the water yourself for portages or up onto a roof rack.

Also, check the weight capacity of the canoe. Most are able to carry between one and four people but it’s important not to overload the vessel.


The material that a canoe is made from impacts its weight, durability, and price. Fortunately, the best canoes are no longer made from wood, but you’ll still need to consider appropriate material for your usage. Most canoes are made from one of the following materials.

Aluminium: these are usually made with a double sheet of aluminium, blended with a stronger alloy. Aluminium canoes are lightweight, long-lasting, and need very little maintenance. They tend to come with a higher price tag but are so tough that you may never need to buy a replacement.

Composite or fibreglass: made by reinforcing plastic with glass and other synthetic fibres (such as graphite), composite/fibreglass are often the most expensive but also the lightest material for canoe construction. They can be more brittle but are favoured for paddling at speed or over long distances.

Rotomolded polyethene: the most affordable canoes are usually made from rotomolded polyethene. It’s a highly durable type of plastic which makes them a great choice for both recreational and whitewater use. The downside of rotomolded canoes is that they are significantly heavier than fibreglass. Additionally, the fabric can, over time, become deformed due to long exposure to heat and UV rays.

Thermoform polyethene: a compromise between the previous two materials, thermoform canoes are almost as light as their fibreglass cousins but provide the durability of their rotomolded brothers. They have the added value of UV protection in the outer layer. This material generally comes with a mid-range price tag and is also largely recyclable.


It may seem obvious but you’ll want to make sure that there are enough seats for all your passengers but also look at the design and material of the seats. The most comfortable canoes will have moulded seats with backrests and foam padding, this comes in handy on full day trips.

Whether out on the lake for a casual picnic paddle, or on a multi-day expedition through unknown waters, our list of the best canoes in 2021 has something for everyone. And if you’re still no sure if canoeing is the best option for you, then read our guide to canoes vs kayaks to help figure out which is best for you.

Happy cruising, happy paddlers!

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About the author


Originally from the UK and currently based in Turkey, Beth Carter is a full-time adventurer, former scout, and vegan traveller. When she’s not hiking long-distance trails with an oversized pack on her shoulders, you’ll probably find her peddling up and down scenic roads, or pitching a tent in a far-off mountain range. On the odd occasion, you might even see her sitting at a keyboard, coffee at the ready, typing about her latest outdoor pursuit.

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