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Old 02-12-2008, 10:58 PM   #1
jackchinook
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How useful(less) and durable are 'pack' canoes?

I've been following the other solo canoe thread for the last couple of weeks and doing a lot of research on solo canoes through the winter. I'm still on the fence though....

My question for those of you out there with the tiny solo canoes - Hornbeck, Hemlock, PBW, Bell, Wenonah, etc. is:

Just how useful are these 'pack' canoes for everyday paddling? What made you owners out there decide on, say, a CRAZY-light Hornbeck vs. a VERY-light PBW Spitfire or Bell Bucktail, or a REASONABLY-light, though slightly larger solo like a Wenonah Vagabond or a Hemlock Falcon-series?

And, as a follow-up, how have you users of the CRAZY-light boats fared in terms of durability in your featherlight craft?

As some background, I'm looking for a boat that I will likely portage up to 2 miles occasionally. I'm no superathlete, but I am fairly young, I hike, ski and paddle enough that I can portage the right boat. I'll use it to search for wild brook trout Shangri-la so I do want to find that balance between being able to carry it and not getting to a pond with a splintered boat. I'll occasionally use it for 1-2 night solo trips with a small amount of gear and a 50lb dog. Any longer trips will be with my lady and our tank, a Mad River Duck Hunter. Around 75% of the time, it'll see quick paddles on local ponds in the morning or on the way home from work for a little fishing and wildlife photography.

The way I see it, I have 3 choices:
1 - CRAZY-light boat like a Hornbeck Blackjack 10-12'

2 - REALLY light, slightly heavier, more durable boats (Bell Bucktail, Wenonah Wee Lassie, PBW Spitfire/Rapidfire, etc.) 12-13'

3- REASONABLY-light, larger boats - Bell Yellowstone, Wenonah Vagabond 14'ish

Any words of wisdom from those seasoned soloists out there? I think I'm leaning towards category 2...but I'm not convinced.

Also, has anyone actually seen and/or paddled the new Wenonah Wee Lassie? I like the numbers: 12.6', 27.5" wide, 24lbs, $1199

Help me make a decision before spring!

thanks,
Michael
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Old 02-12-2008, 11:54 PM   #2
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I've been following the other solo canoe thread for the last couple of weeks and doing a lot of research on solo canoes through the winter. I'm still on the fence though....
I have both a 10.5 ft Hornbeck graphite/kevlar (16 lbs) and a Placidboat Rapidfire. They are far different boats for different purposes. Your 50 pound dog just put the 10.5 Hornbeck out of your category, so you would have to opt for the 12 footer at least.

When it comes to pond hopping, it is the Hornbeck, no question. The Rapidfire is best for fast cruising, on any size water, though it can be used in a more limited sense for pond hopping. I have had the Hornbeck on large lakes with whitecaps, including Lake Champlain in big rolling waves. Not really recommended, but it is plenty stable if you can keep the wind splash out (I use a fitted fabric spray cover).

Durability - I have carried and paddled the Hornbeck completely across the Adirondacks in a single trip, 185 miles, 62 of which was portage on my back. It suffered a bit (a lot) of bouncing and scratches on the lower Saranac River, but apart from cosmetics it served me well. Pete Hornbeck for free later beefed up a couple of spots in the cheeks and rear keel area that took hard rock hits. I would not have wanted to do that trip with the heavier, longer (and prettier) Rapidfire.

I have seen a couple of the much lighter all graphite Hornbeck Blackjack (12 lbs) with cracked gunwales. Since they are rolled graphite, not wood as in mine, there is more flexing and the gunwales don't hold up as well.

So... I enjoy the Hornbeck for bushwhacking any number of miles, though it does better than expected on big water. It is slow, but not painfully so for a short boat. I think it is highly maneuverable and tracks straight or can spin on a dime, though I have heard others not say so of the 12 footer. The Rapidfire is sleek and much faster, but not so easy to maneuver around trees or over blowdown. Although it is made primarily for a double blade paddle, I most enjoy paddling it with a single blade. It moves like a dream. I think it is very stable, stable enough for your dog if he sits still, and I have the high seat option installed.

Charlie Wilson of Placidboat fame, is here regularly and could give you all the info you might want on the other models you are interested in.
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Old 02-13-2008, 11:51 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by jackchinook View Post
Just how useful are these 'pack' canoes for everyday paddling? What made you owners out there decide on, say, a CRAZY-light Hornbeck vs. a VERY-light PBW Spitfire or Bell Bucktail, or a REASONABLY-light, though slightly larger solo like a Wenonah Vagabond or a Hemlock Falcon-series?

And, as a follow-up, how have you users of the CRAZY-light boats fared in terms of durability in your featherlight craft?
The weight was certainly the driving factor that made me choose a Hornbeck over any of those other models. If I'm going to be carrying a boat all over the place, I want it to be light, and the Hornbeck was the lightest I could find.

As for how useful they are for "everyday" paddling, well, that depends on what you're doing every day As Wldrns said, if you're carrying in to a wilderness pond every day, then an ultralight boat is your best bet. If you only do that occasionally, and the rest of your trips involve no portaging, then maybe you're better off with a different boat. Hornbecks aren't terribly slow compared to some other canoes I've paddled (I can easily maintain 3.5mph, and 4 if I'm in more of a hurry) but other boats are faster. And other boats are more durable (more on this later). They're definitely meant mainly for tooling around backcountry ponds, but as Wldrns said they can be used on big water as well. I've had mine on Stillwater, Low's, and Lila on windy days.

I have the 12' model, and as Wldrns alluded to, it doesn't really turn on a dime like the 10.5' does. The only time it becomes a pain is paddling upstream on a winding river like the Oswegatchie -- downstream is fine because the current carries you around the corners.

As for durability, as one of the guys (Simon) at Hornbeck told me, these boats are meant to be used. It's not going to fall apart the first time it brushes a rock. In fact, I've been paddling full speed and plowed straight into a barely-submerged rock; the boat went right up onto the rock and ground to a halt. It scraped the fabric, but no real damage. Made me cringe though. I've also done some bushwhacking with it and even after plowing through blowdown it still floated when I got to where I was going. I know people that have done a lot more bushwhacking than I have and their boats still float too. That said, I try not to abuse it. It is just a skin boat, after all. I don't grind into the beach when I land or drag it over rocks or anything, and needless to say I tend to avoid whitewater. But I have dragged it over countless beaver dams fully-loaded, and have paddled over a number of them with two people in the boat. In short, they're pretty durable, but compared to, say, an aluminum Grumman, not so much. By the way, mine's only a year and a half old so time will tell, but I've seen several much-older Hornbecks that have been carried absolutely everywhere and they still float.

In short, if you're going to be carrying it most of the time, then a Hornbeck, hands down. If not, take a look at some of your other options. Most any shop should have a pond or stream available to test paddle boats, including PBW and Hornbeck.
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Old 02-13-2008, 01:22 PM   #4
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I have to put in my vote for a Wenonah Prism. I bought 1 last year and love it. Nothing against the Hornbecks though because I never paddled one. I think they are probably a little better if you plan on doing alot of bushwacking with LONG carries. Other than that, I like the extra length of the Prism and if you are used to carrying around a tank of a canoe, the 33 pound Wenonah is super light. If you say that 75% of your paddling will be hitting local ponds on the way home from work, it'll suite you fine. That's what I generally do with mine. Paddle everything you can though and decide for yourself. Definitely note some of the different seating options too.

Gregg
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Old 02-13-2008, 07:08 PM   #5
Glenn MacGrady
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I'll offer some opinions, but first full disclosure: I do not own any of your category 1 or 2 boats, though I have paddled a few category 2's briefly. On the other hand, I have been paddling since the Truman administration and currently own 13 canoes and kayaks.

The first two things you have to decide is (1) what you mean by "everyday paddling", and (2) whether you want to paddle with a double blade sitting on the floor or with a single blade while kneeling and/or sitting.

I would not choose a category 1 boat unless my clearest and highest priority was to do a lot of long and frequent portaging. Sure, every canoe can float and move forward, but Sairy Gamp boats make significant sacrifices in all areas other than size and weight.

I would not choose category 1 or 2 boats if I wanted to paddle with a single blade, as I think all you have listed are primarily double blade floor boats. If you really do want to sit on the floor with a double blade, you should seriously consider whether you would prefer a kayak over a category 2 canoe. A good kayak will be much better in wind and waves than any open canoe. Of course, you can deck the canoe, but that can become a hassle depending on one’s preferences and priorities. You can get a good kayak in the 35-40 pound range. And they can be reasonably portaged, though nowhere near as conveniently as an open canoe.

For my "everyday use" in a first boat, including the kinds of short portages I occasionally do in the Adirondacks or Boundary Waters, I would definitely choose a category 3 kneeling/sitting canoe. As light as possible consistent with my wallet. If you want to do some whitewater or scratchy rivers, you may not want to go as light as possible even if you can afford it.

In category 3 you can find many fine boats in the 13'-15+' length range, and the 32-50 pound weight range, from sources such as Placid Boatworks, Hemlock, Bell, Wenonah, Mad River, Nova Craft, Swift and others.

I'm an old guy, but I don't think it's a big deal to carry a 45 pound boat a quarter mile once in a while. Now if I were doing what Wldrns does, I would probably own a Sairy Gamp ... and I also would probably be dead. (But with a satisfied smile on my face.)

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Old 02-13-2008, 07:21 PM   #6
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+1 Glenn. Part of the reason I switched from a kayak to a canoe was the higher seating position.

Gregg
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Old 02-13-2008, 07:32 PM   #7
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+1 Glenn. Part of the reason I switched from a kayak to a canoe was the higher seating position.
That's a good point.

I went from decades of open canoe to seakayak for many years, but ended up not really liking the seating position or the double blade. Well, I like them, but not as my primary position or blade. I prefer kneeling and the elegance of a single blade. However, I also like to sit and switch occasionally ... and even to remove my seat and sit on the floor for a real rest if I am able to do so.

What I did upon leaving seakayaking was to go to solo outrigger canoe. But that's a whole different story and something I don't think the OP is interested in.
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Old 02-13-2008, 08:59 PM   #8
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I too, like jackchinook, am looking for a solo canoe.

The only other canoe I own is a 16 foot Old Town Penobscot (Royalex) that weighs 58 lbs. I love this canoe for the family and its durability - but I want something lighter for my solo trips - where I expect to carry on reasonable trails of up to 2 miles (St Regis area, Red Horse Trail, MRP and the like) I'm not interested in bushwhacking with the canoe (at least not just yet).

I've been looking at an Old Town 12-ft Pack 12 33-lb made of Royalex. I've seen them on sale in the $700-$800 range. I am not as careful as I'd like to be - I'm always running into things. I'm sure I'd destroy a kevlar canoe within minutes. I love the durability of my 16' Royalex.

Jackchinook, have you considered a Pack 12?

Does anybody else have an opinion on the Pack 12?
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Old 02-13-2008, 09:12 PM   #9
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Does anybody else have an opinion on the Pack 12?
I know 2 people who had the OT Pack canoe. They now have Hornbecks and wondered why they suffered so long with the extra weight and comparative slowness and sluggishness of the pack. The graphite/kevlar Hornbeck is really quite tough, and much stiffer than the all-kevlar model. Side by side with a friend, going over logs and beaver dams the g/k does not "oil can" like the all kevlar does. Even the most careful paddler will eventually get scratches from hidden rocks if the boat is used at all in the backcountry. But scratches are cosmetic and don't affect performance or durability.
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Old 02-13-2008, 10:11 PM   #10
Glenn MacGrady
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Does anybody else have an opinion on the Pack 12?
There are 44 reviews of the Old Town Pack on paddling.net.

I paddled one a long time ago. Flat bottom; hence good initial stability for its size. Not very good secondary stability. Because of the flat bottom and short length it turns easily, but doesn't want to go straight unless you have a very good correction stroke. Or a double blade paddle.
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Old 02-13-2008, 10:48 PM   #11
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I have 3 canoes, and a kayak, and my hornbeck gets more use then all the others combined. I only use my kayak if I'm doing whitewater and the others get used if I've got 2 or more people going.

My Hornbeck is fast, light, stable, easy to load, easy to pack, carry, and portage...
I was trying to save for a Hornbeck, and realized that every day I waited, was a day I wasn't paddling. I dropped my card and paid it off in 6 months. one of the best decisions I ever made. I've traveled hundreds, if not thousands of miles in it. It's taken a beating, and still is going strong! I consider it one of my best purchases.

With my Hornbeck, pack, and Thule roof rack, there is almost no place I can't go in the country.

I would highly recommend it to anyone!
-Gary-
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Old 02-13-2008, 10:52 PM   #12
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Wow, what a wealth of information! I appreciate all of the feedback. I'm stuffed with all this food for thought.

I guess I need to sit down and make some decisions....like whether or not the dog will stay home! I dare say he'd protest. If only I could get him to pack his share of the boat! Anyone heard of a doggy Knupac?

One option that may split the difference might be the Wenonah Vegabond. Seems light enough (14.5'; 29lbs) to easily portage medium distances but should be able to hold me, gear, and the dog.

Any opinions on this boat? (In Kevlar Ultralight layup)

Crash - yes, I looked briefly at the OT Pack and, though it's fairly light, it's not all that light for its length. The price is relatively attractive but, though I'm certainly not made of money, I'm content that this boat will live its whole life with me and I have decided to buy the right boat for me the first time.

As for paddling style, I've got a decent amount of seakayaking experience. Certainly more miles than in a canoe (so far). I enjoy both styles.
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Old 02-13-2008, 11:11 PM   #13
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I guess I need to sit down and make some decisions....like whether or not the dog will stay home! I dare say he'd protest.
A paddling buddy has the 12' low-profile Hornbeck in all-carbon, and he brings his dog all the time. Not sure how much his dog weighs, but 50 pounds sounds reasonable. Here's a picture of her if that helps:

http://hiketheadirondacks.com/photo....chie_river.jpg

According to Hornbeck's website that boat is only 15.5 pounds. They don't list a weight for the 12' Blackjack, but I imagine it's a pound or so lighter than that. No need to leave the dog behind!

For that matter, I bring my girlfriend along in my 12' boat, and she's a lot more than 50 pounds (no I'm not calling her fat! ) but I have the regular 12', which weighs more than the low-profile.
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Old 02-14-2008, 12:36 AM   #14
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Don't mean to go off topic, but as a newbie here I'd like to say right away, in case I forget later, how impressive Gary's photography is.
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Old 02-14-2008, 06:57 PM   #15
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Don't mean to go off topic, but as a newbie here I'd like to say right away, in case I forget later, how impressive Gary's photography is.
Thank-you Glenn!
I appreciate the compliment. I do enjoy taking Wilderness shots.
We have a lot of talent on this forum! take a walk through the photo section sometime, or hit the photo forum section under the google adds.

We have some accomplished artist and illustrators too!
Take a look around, and enjoy it!
Thanks again,
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Old 02-15-2008, 12:47 AM   #16
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Deja Vue alkl over again

Didn't we just go over this ground a couple weeks ago?

We need a little more inf. What does paddler weigh and how tall is he?

Is he committed to double or single blade stick? if single blade, does he want to sit or kneel?

Lastly, what kind of water should the hull work best on, and where on the performance -portability spectrum does the paddler want to be?

Last edited by charlie wilson; 02-15-2008 at 09:23 AM.. Reason: spelling
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Old 02-15-2008, 09:31 AM   #17
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though i didn't start this thread, this seems like a good place and time to ask something. also, if someone can link me to the thread mr wilson referenced, i'd appreciate it... 'pack canoe' turns up nothing when i searched (and that doesn't seem right). i may have already read it, but i'm just making sure.

i'm planning a trip this summer to Little Tupper, Lila, and Low's, over about a week. The outfitter i'm talking to has several solo canoes. they're the Bell Bucktail (12', 18 lbs), the Bell Yellowstone Solo (14', 29 lbs), and the Vermont Canoe Tupper (13', 25 lbs).

I'm 5'-10'' and weigh 180lbs. My normal backpacking load without food/ water/ fuel is 14 lbs. i can add a few luxury items for a canoe trip, and some fishing gear, which i calculate at about 7lbs, plus a week's food at 15lbs... that puts the total initial load at around 215-220 lbs.

i've looked on the manufacturers sites for the specs on each canoe, but only came up with a weight limit on Bell's site. the Bucktail was 200-250, and the Yellowstone Solo was 160-280 (a bit broad). Couldn't find one for the Tupper, but i'm guessing (and just guessing, based on length only, though i know width has something to do with it) that it would be somewhere around 225, plus or minus... so they're all really close.

Quantitatively, the obvious choice would be the lightest, the Bucktail. however, i know there are lots of 'intangibles' that a lot of you seem very experienced with.

i think i'd be better off with a double paddle rather than single, as my technique isn't honed, and from what i've read here. mr wilson, i believe it was your very excellent post on tracking, and how a smaller canoe wiggles back and forth, wasting forward motion by needing to be corrected constantly. it was a bit technical, and you lost me after awhile, but what i did understand was good. i have some experience with solo-padding longer (16' Coleman) canoes, but that's on our Louisiana streams, which tend to be rather flat and slow, with never a breeze or a ripple (but with the occasional gator). i generally like to kneel rather than sit. it just seems more stable. but i do like the option to move around as my old knees dictate.

so, will the Bucktail suit my needs, or should i go with something slightly heavier and longer?
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Old 02-15-2008, 11:13 AM   #18
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though i didn't start this thread, this seems like a good place and time to ask something. also, if someone can link me to the thread mr wilson referenced, i'd appreciate it... 'pack canoe' turns up nothing when i searched (and that doesn't seem right). i may have already read it, but i'm just making sure.
It was the Suggestions on solo canoe thread from last month. While there's some overlap between the two discussions, the original poster's questions about durability and why folks chose ultralight boats weren't really discussed in the other thread.

As for your question, I've never paddled any of the boats you mention so I'll have to let someone else help.
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Old 02-15-2008, 11:28 AM   #19
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Eventually it becomes a bit like pole vaulting mice turds... any boat will do the job, its just how fussy the motor.
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Old 02-15-2008, 01:49 PM   #20
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It was the Suggestions on solo canoe thread from last month. While there's some overlap between the two discussions, the original poster's questions about durability and why folks chose ultralight boats weren't really discussed in the other thread.

As for your question, I've never paddled any of the boats you mention so I'll have to let someone else help.
thanks for the link... i've not had time to read it all, but in know i didn't see it before. i'm sure it will be helpful.

Quote:
Riosacandaga
Eventually it becomes a bit like pole vaulting mice turds... any boat will do the job, its just how fussy the motor.
good point. 'just get in the d#@!ed thing and paddle!' (though you didn't say it that way...) thanks.
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