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1/30/2018 7:47 am  #1

Pack Boat vs. "Solo" Boat

Hey all,

Myself and two friends have been doing a backpacking weekend for the past 12 years now?  This year we have decided to do a canoe trip.
We'll be renting boats and I was looking at renting a pack boat for the odd-man-out (probably me) since I think it would be easier to paddle with a double bladed paddle.

Our route is:  Magnetawan --> Misty;  Mistry --> Rosebary (up the Tim);  Rosebary --> David;  David --> Magnetawan

I had contacted Algonquin Basecamp (as I have previously used them for boat rentals and they're AWESOME to deal with) to see if they had any pack boats to rent as there are none listed on their website.  Chris responded that they don't have pack boats, but they do have Souris River Tranquility Solo boat which (depending on the route) people have paddled with a double bladed paddle with success.  I think the main difference is the seat height? Packboat seats are on the floor, vs the height of a traditional canoe.

I'm not a strong solo paddler and that's the reason I was leaning to a packboat with a double bladed paddle, but I thought I would throw this out there to see what other thoughts/recommendations on this might be.

Thanks in advance!


1/30/2018 9:29 am  #2

Re: Pack Boat vs. "Solo" Boat

I've never paddled the Souris River Solo but I have paddled the Swift Keewaydin Solo which is not a pack boat. 

I paddled that with both a double bladed paddle and a single blade successfully. I actually prefer the traditional canoe seat to the more kayak-like seat on the pack boats. I used the double bladed paddle while kneeling like you would in a canoe and found it quite comfortable. I also like that you CAN use a single blade paddle with this seat set up; it gave me a chance to practice my solo paddling skills (which are not great). 

One thing to ask at the rental place: do they provide a removable yoke. Some places I've called don't offer one and it's a big pain if you don't have one. I once had to use a webbing tie down strap around the belly of the boat to portage. No one wants rope burn on their neck. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/errr.png



1/30/2018 12:44 pm  #3

Re: Pack Boat vs. "Solo" Boat

I absolutely love the keewaydin pack boats. I have paddled one ( rented) for the last 5 years. It holds my stuff easily and I like the back support the seat gives me, as well as its very easy to paddle with a double blade paddle.
I know that Algonquin outfitters at oxtongue rents the pack boats. They don't have many, so book it early if you're going to choose that option. Request a removable yoke, they have them. Make sure to specify you want a pakboat at reservation time as they also rent solo keewaydins that are not pack boats.


1/30/2018 3:16 pm  #4

Re: Pack Boat vs. "Solo" Boat

Unless you head to an AO location first or to the Swift South River location( they have some for rent too) I think you are limited to the Tranquility in the Kearney area. 

I have a Keewaydin 14 with both a pack seat and traditional seat option. If I were as you describe " not a strong solo paddler" and "need to keep up to a tandem" in search of a rental I would pick up a pack canoe from Huntsville on my way to Kearney. You can certainly double blade  a traditional solo and keep up though. The pack canoe will just be more stable for you.. Which might be more important if your trip is in early spring?

Your trip is going to have a few beaver dams to carry over though and I find a traditional solo easier to get in and out of to deal with those. Just a thought

AO might start renting solos with their new adjustable seat option though. I would ask them if they'll have any of those for rent this summer.

You can see that seat at about the 1:20 minute mark of this video.


Last edited by ShawnD (1/30/2018 3:19 pm)


1/30/2018 8:55 pm  #5

Re: Pack Boat vs. "Solo" Boat

I have a Souris River Tranquility.  While it is an "option", I'm told that they put the adjustable seat in pretty much every one of them.  So you can have the seat at one of two heights, and it will slide back and fourth so you can adjust you position a bit.  I have the seat as high as possible, and when I paddle I have it as far back as it will go.  Rather than use the removable yoke to portage the thing, I simply slide the seat to the middle, put my life jacket around the seat, and sit the boat on my head so my life jacket is providing a bit of padding between my head and the seat.  I've portaged some pretty long (>5km), steep and rocky portages this way (all single carry), and I don't ever see my self going back to the yoke.  Sliding the seat to the middle is much quicker than getting the removable yoke in place, but it might be something you want to try out before leaving the removable yoke behind.

I usually use a double bladed paddle.  Mine is quite a bit longer than what you'd use in a kayak (it was a custom order).  You need the extra length to clear the extra width of the canoe vs. a kayak.  I'm also higher in the canoe than I'd be in a kayak.

The combination of the Tranquility and double bladed paddle makes for a very fast combination.  The canoe likes to track straight, and is a bit more work in a twisty river or creek.  I have to get into a pretty tight place before I'd switch back to the single blade paddle.  On a lake you'd have no problem keeping up with a tandem. 


1/30/2018 9:15 pm  #6

Re: Pack Boat vs. "Solo" Boat

Several times going in to Algonquin we have had an odd man out. My brother used to bring a 14 foot old town,  can’t remember the model and solo paddle it with a long kayak paddle. He could usually keep up no problem. Not sure how big you guys are ,  the other option is the 18 foot three seater.  I did this last year with two 14year olds. Depends how long the trip is, how much stuff you are bringing. Being back packers you probably pack lighter than most canoe trippers. I know back packing the last few years has made me rationalize my pack. The longest portage and all that.


1/31/2018 10:18 pm  #7

Re: Pack Boat vs. "Solo" Boat

Why does there have to be an odd man out? Anywhere you can rent a solo boat from I'm sure will have a 3-seater as well. I've gone in 3-seaters plenty of times (all adults, no kids), and there are no issues. It's cheaper, you'll have more manpower in the boat, easier to carry over beaver dams, etc.

If for some reason you're set on taking a separate boat, I personally don't like pack boats. Nothing against the way they paddle or anything, but I like the 'traditional' feeling of using a proper canoe paddle. My first solo I did bring a double-blade kayak paddle in a solo canoe with a regular seat, as an extra paddle, and it was fine. You definitely move quicker with it, but I stopped bringing it after that first time since I prefer the feeling of using a proper canoe paddle.


2/02/2018 7:13 am  #8

Re: Pack Boat vs. "Solo" Boat

Thanks all.
Trip is June 29 to July 2 (3 nighter).
We never really considered a 3 person canoe because it just seems like someone is along for the ride...
When we go on these trips we like to be as "active" as possible.
I am leaning towards stopping in Huntsville and picking up the rentals (including packboat) from AO as I feel as though it'll be a little easier to navigate the Tim with a packboat.
The Tim between Rosebary and Tim lake was quite twisty and it appears to be similar between Rosebary and Shah?

     Thread Starter

2/03/2018 12:01 pm  #9

Re: Pack Boat vs. "Solo" Boat

Since you set your mind on a packboat this might be redundant but still: there is another option, which is renting regular solo canoe and paddling it with a short bent-shaft paddle using sit-and-switch technique, i.e. switching paddling side every 3-4-5 or more strokes without any corrections. It's very comfortable approach on narrow and twisty rivers. As a matter of fact it's very comfortable on any flat water, except in strong wind.


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