Best Lightweight Canoe (Portaging Made Easy)
The best lightweight canoe can be difficult to find, especially right now. But we have put together a short guide to help you narrow down your search for that top-notch ultralight canoe.
These boats can be easier to carry, more convenient to travel with, and can mean less of a struggle at the beginning and end of your trip - even more so if you’re on your own.
Top 9 Best Lightweight Canoes
1: Sea Eagle Travel Canoe TC16 (best overall)
The Sea Eagle TC16 Travel Canoe is an inflatable canoe that is designed to be easy to store at home and convenient to transport. This one can be packed down and loaded into the trunk of a small car, eliminating the need for a roof rack or trailer.
This high capacity 16-foot boat deflates into a 40 by 24 by 16 inch package and comes with a storage bag to keep it protected when not in use.
A great feature of this boat is that it has full drop-stitch construction, giving you a more rigid feel for increased speed, stability, and durability. It can also be used on up to Class IV rapids, as well as flatwater.
2: Placid Boatworks Oseetah Ultralight (best solo)
The Placid Boatworks Oseetah Ultralight can be a great boat for solo paddlers. This ultralight vessel weighs just 20 pounds, making it easy to lift and carry, whether you’re car topping or portaging.
It features a carbon composite construction, providing strength, durability, and importantly, a super lightweight hull.
A great feature of this vessel is its speed. At just 26 inches wide, it is built for superior glide, making it quick over the water. It can be ideal for smaller paddlers but can also suit larger paddlers for day touring.
3: Wenonah Canoe Champlain Flex-Core w/Aramid (best tandem)
This Wenonah Champlain Flex-Core is designed to handle a range of conditions and a lot of gear. This tandem craft can be ideal for larger paddlers and can be a great boat for week-long camping trips, with plenty of space for all your equipment.
It is built for increased stability and can perform well on a range of waters, as well as windy conditions.
Made using an Aramid and Flex-Core composite, this is a lightweight, durable boat that can be ideal for recreational paddling and touring.
4: Placid Boatworks RapidFire XLT Ultra (best carbon)
The Placid Boatworks RapidFire XLT Ultra is a solo canoe designed mostly for speed, with a long and narrow hull that’s built to perform like a sea kayak. Weighing just 22 pounds, this carbon composite boat is easy to lift and portage by yourself.
With plenty of space, it can be ideal for a week-long camping trip and there’s even room for your dog.
It also has a high degree of stability and can handle the windier conditions found on open water.
5: Old Town Discovery 119 (best budget)
The Old Town Discovery 119 is a short, solo canoe that can be great for budget-minded paddlers on flatwater trips. It is made from durable three-layer polyethylene and features a single webbed seat towards the back of the center of the canoe for efficient solo paddling.
The two stout ash thwarts are designed to help improve the rigidity of the hull and the now and stern carry handles can make it easier to load on and off of a roof rack.
This can be a good choice for beginners, as it’s compact and easy to maneuver. It can also be ideal for solo fishing or camping trips.
6: Nova Craft Canoe Bob Special 15 Aramid Lite
This Nova Craft Bob Special 15 is a composite Aramid Lite boat that is designed to be strong, durable, and lightweight. The Bob Special can be paddled either tandem or solo, making it a great boat if you sometimes want to be able to bring along a second paddler.
It has a high capacity, with room for camping gear for two people, and it has been designed to appeal to both beginners and advanced paddlers.
It’s built to be easy to maneuver, comfortable to portage, and stable for recreational paddling.
7: Wenonah Canoe Spirit II Ultra-Light w/Kevlar
The Wenonah Spirit II Ultra-Light is a stable craft that can be great for fishing, camping, and photography. It can perform well on lakes and rivers and can handle wind and waves.
This versatile boat is designed for two paddlers, with room for your four-legged friend and some weekend gear. It is also built for improved speed and efficiency, despite its wide hull.
The Spirit II can be easy to maneuver and can be a good choice for both beginners and experienced canoeists.
8: Nova Craft Canoe Prospector 16 Blue Steel
This Nova Craft Prospector 16 Blue Steel is a strong carbon composite craft that can be at home on open water, flatwater lakes, backcountry rivers, and even whitewater.
It’s a 16 foot tandem that weighs just 48 pounds, making it convenient for car-topping and portaging. It also has a huge 1000 pound capacity for all your expedition gear.
This stable vessel can be ideal for a range of paddlers, from beginners to experts looking for versatility and strength.
9: Mad River Explorer 16 Ultralite
This Mad River Explorer 16 Ultralite can be a great boat for family day trips and week-long (or even two-week long) camping trips, with its generous capacity and spacious interior. It has a stable hull that can be ideal for rivers and lakes.
This lightweight craft is designed to be comfortable for two paddlers and is easy to carry to and from the water’s edge, making portaging much easier.
It features durable Aramid construction and is built to be quick and efficient over water for increased glide and easier paddling.
When Should Lightweight Canoes Be Used?
Probably the main advantage of a lightweight canoe is that it is easier to carry compared to a standard one. This can make these boats ideal for solo trips and more convenient for portaging.
Some lightweight canoes can be considered “pack canoes”. These are generally built for one person and tend to be lightweight and compact so that they are easy to portage on your own. Historically, this design was to allow canoeists to navigate the remote waters and creeks of the Adirondacks more easily.
Video: How To Lift Your Canoe To Carry It On The Portage
Standard canoes can often be too heavy for one person to carry, which is why a lightweight or ultralight vessel can be preferable.
However, lightweight boats are not just for solo paddlers. There are plenty of options out there for two or even three paddlers. These types of canoes can be great for family adventures and couples looking for an easy-to-carry craft that can hold enough gear for several nights away.
Ultralight Canoe Features To Look Out For…
Carbon fiber can be one of the lightest materials and is generally found on ultralight canoes. This is a very strong but lightweight material. However, carbon canoes can be expensive.
Kevlar or Aramid is also a very lightweight material with an extremely high strength to weight ratio. Kevlar canoes can be pricey because of their enhanced durability and minimal weight.
Fiberglass can sometimes be found as a composite material in lightweight boats that also feature carbon or Kevlar. This can help to minimize purchase costs compared to all-carbon construction while maintaining the durability and keeping the overall weight low.
Generally speaking, canoes are pretty stable, with wider ones often being more stable on flatwater than narrow ones. But some vessels are more stable in certain conditions than others. For example, some might be more adept at handling rapids or other moving water and others may excel on flatwater.
Think about the type of paddling you want to do and whether you’ll need a higher level of primary stability for flatwater or secondary stability for rougher conditions.
Video: Choosing The Right Canoe | Length, Width And Hull Shape
The amount of rocker, or curve, in the hull may affect how easy the boat is to turn. For example, the more rocker, the easier it may be. You may find that it’s easier to maneuver a shorter boat than a longer one.
If you plan to head out on your own, solo maneuverability can be a key factor to consider. A tumblehome hull can be easier to paddle on your own because you don’t have to reach as far over the sides.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Lightweight Canoes Durable?
Yes, some lightweight canoes can be extremely durable, for example if they feature Kevlar, carbon fiber or a composite construction. Kevlar, in particular, has a high strength to weight ratio.
How Heavy Are Lightweight Canoes?
Lightweight canoes can range from around 20 pounds up to around 65 pounds, depending on the size of the craft and the materials used in construction.
Is It Possible To Fish From These Canoes?
Yes, you can fish from them. However, remember that the wider the craft the more stable it will generally be, which can be useful if you’re fishing.
The best lightweight canoe, in our opinion, is the Sea Eagle TC16 Travel Canoe because it is the most portable of all the boats on our list. While it may not be the lightest on the list it has a high capacity, with room for up to three paddlers, and benefits from having a durable drop stitch construction for improved performance.
A great runner up is the Wenonah Champlain Flex-Core w/Aramid because of its capacity and stability on a range of waters. This can be a great boat for long expeditions with a paddling partner.
If you’re looking for an ultralight boat, another good runner up is the Placid Boatworks Oseetah weighing an impressively light 20 pounds. This can be the ideal boat for solo paddlers.
Remember to think about where you want to paddle and whether you want to head out solo or with a buddy, as this can help you narrow down your options. You may also want to consider the distance or terrain you might have to portage.
Not all of these vessels will suit everyone so it’s important to find one that meets your specific requirements.