Types of Canoes

There are lots of different canoes for different applications. They mostly vary by the material they are made of, but things can get complicated beyond that if you want them to. You'll essentially be choosing between durability, weight, and price. If you aren't portaging you don't have to worry too much about weight and can save lots of money, but you won't be moving very fast. My favourite go-to canoe type is kevlar: they are light and can take a bit of a beating.

Quick comparison

Type Rental Price Weight Durability
Wood N/A? Low Low
Aluminium Low High High
Fibreglass/Kevlar Medium/High Low Medium
Plastic Low/Medium Medium High


Wood Canoes

"ADK Museum - Antique Strip-built Canoes" by Mwanner - I created this image entirely by myself.Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ADK_Museum_-_Antique_Strip-built_Canoes.jpg#mediaviewer/File:ADK_Museum_-_Antique_Strip-built_Canoes.jpg


The most authentic and the best-looking! The usual stripper canoes (made of strips of wood) are quite fragile, so don't hit any rocks. They can rival the lightness of canoes made of modern materials, but tend to be heavier. There's a hybrid type of wood canoe with modern materials that make these canoes more durable without taking away from the great look. Not cheap, though. There's a lot of craftsmanship involved in these, so they are not cheap.

Their beauty is part of why I am calling them low on the strength scale. You'll feel pretty bad if you mark up your beautiful wood canoe. You have to be careful of moisture and sunlight, as continued exposure will break down the canoe. Scratches and scruffs should be treated to prevent the wood from decomposing. I don't think you'll find any rental places that'll let you rent one of these, but let me know if you do! Unless I get a cottage, I'm not sure I'll be trying one of these out any time soon.

Aluminium Canoes

"BWCA Canoe Outing - 001" by ShakataGaNai - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BWCA_Canoe_Outing_-_001.jpg#mediaviewer/File:BWCA_Canoe_Outing_-_001.jpg

You are not going to break an aluminium canoe. You are also probably not going to lift it! These are great for rental companies that are nervous about newbies bumping around in their canoes. They are too darn cold when its cold out and too darn hot when its hot out. They weigh a lot, they are loud, they are slow, and they are not pretty. If you hit rocks the canoe is going to be harder to get out of them than other canoes would be as it'll "stick" to them, but since the hull is indestructible you'll just brute force your way out of them without a care. Have you done that little butt-shift dance to get off rocks? They are usually rented out quite cheap, since they stand up to punishment.

Fibreglass/Kevlar Canoes

Franklin.vp at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

These are a composite of plastic resin, glass, and other bits. They are fairly inexpensive and can be durable if they are made correctly. Don't hit any rocks, they're puncture the canoe!

Kevlar canoes are essentially fibreglass canoes, but they use the proprietary Kevlar product. They're super light, durable, and expensive. They aren't very strong against being punctured, either. These are my usual choice due to availability and low-weight. They are a bit pricey.

These canoes are pretty quiet (though can be a bit creaky) and handle very well. My happiest happy place is paddling a kevlar canoe through those winding paths in mash lands with a silent swiftness and agility I can never experience on land.

Plastic Canoes

Credit for photo to Paul Brennan

All the advantages of aluminium canoes, but with a lot fewer drawbacks! They're lighter than aluminium, quiet, and durable. Canoes with plastics as their main material are usually composites with fancy brand names like Ram-X and Royalex. They're still pretty heavy and slow compared to the other kinds of canoes, though, but sometimes you can't beat inexpensive and indestructible.