Gear and Kit
Canoes for Wilderness Travel
There are so many kinds of canoes that a person could write volumes about them. I have no such aspirations. The main difference between canoes can be put simply. Lakes or Rivers? Lake boats tend to be sleek and fast with keels, no rocker (or bottom curve) and sharp front ends, whereas river boats are high volume deep and wide, with no keels, blunted ends, and rocker or bottom curve.
A person that paddles lakes will like the keels for tracking straight lines and the no rocker bottom. The lower profile of the lake canoe will reduce the affects of the wind which can push you around and off course. Lake canoes are faster in most situations but when used white water or waves the lack of rocker and the keels make it like maneuvering a freight train. Chances are it is going to take a lot of abuse on the rocks. The other nasty thing is that the front end as sharp as it is, has a tendency to slice through waves and haystacks instead of ride over them which the bow person isn't going to like very much if it's cold that day. The lake canoe is usually lighter as well and is designed to be carried on portages comfortably.
A person that paddles rivers will like the curved or rockered bottom and lack of keels which allows for fast responsive turns and sideways slipping in moving water. The high volume of river canoes generally means that the paddlers will stay dry in most conditions. River canoes will ride high on waves and haystacks and give the paddlers a rollercoaster feeling and while there may be splashing, no water should come crashing into the canoe. All this comes at the price of speed in the flat sections, and the affects of wind on the boat. If used in a windy lake the high ends of the river canoe act like a sail and want to move the canoe around, and the rocker only compounds the problem as less of the boat is in the water. Even on a calm lake the canoe will want to zigzag and will force the paddlers to use correction strokes more often. Lastly river canoes often are not the most comfortable to portage, often with just a basic carrying yoke and are in general significantly heavier.
Want the best of both worlds? That's what I wanted. The thing to do if you can afford it is to have more than one canoe, but for the rest of us that that get paid by the hour there are a few canoes that are half way between the two.
Some popular canoes here in eastern Canada:
Solo in a heavy wind it is still possible to maintain a straight course in a large Prospector canoe with a good J stroke
Buying a canoe is a personal choice that is best made after paddling many different kinds makes and models. The models that work most efficiently here in Eastern Canada may not be suitable for other areas or the world. My Prospector was very heavy in comparison to the lighter Langford, Bell, and Sioux River Canoes I saw in Algonquin Park. That said I still portaged it faster and more efficiently than most. Just remember that skill and knowledge are more important than gear, and a flashy canoe does not make the man or the woman paddling it.