Canoe weight

I'll suggest that the maximum weight for a canoe should be whatever the paddler is willing to carry, and whether it will be carried be on long portages, or just from the car to the water, will impact that decision. As you put more layers and/or heavier 'glass fabric on it, the clarity of the layup will degrade. So again, it's really up to the paddler.

Also consider the aging factor... My 17' glass boat with multiple repair patches wasn't too heavy for me to throw around 20 years ago, but now I don't move it without help. We humans age less gracefully than the boats we paddle.

I thought about adding floatation chambers to my stripper, but then realized how much more comlicated repairs would get, if it ever became necessary. Which it did...

So this probably isn't helping much, but it's really up to you... it's your boat :)
Whenever someone mentions having to be extra-careful with a wood/canvas canoe-- not being able to muck about in the wilderness-- I point them to Bill Mason's books and movies ("Path of the Paddle", to begin with), where he talks about "reading the river". Not trying to tell you what to do, Matthew-- just that your post reminded me of this and it maybe has nothing to do with your question.

I love the whole concept of "reading the river", because of the respect it shows of the river, as an entity. Human beings used to understand a lot about the world we live in, and paid attention to it, and maybe weren't hurt by it as often--- and maybe didn't hurt it as much, either.

But in a plastic boat-- or one called "Ram-X"-- a person can ram their way down a river without bothering to understand anything about it... or they think they can, and maybe they get dented along with the boat.

Bill Mason explored places without knowing the whole river, but would stop to assess the situation ahead.

Courting canoes weren't designed to be paddled in wild rivers, but canoes like Bill Mason's Chestnut can do just fine, with a few scrapes and scuffs.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that a lot of folks here actually use their canoes... or have at least one "user" that they don't have to be dainty about.

My standard comeback to the weight issue is that they don't weigh anything if you are paddling them. However transport on a portage or just a short carry to the water are inevitable, and our wooden canoes are heavy compared to modern materials. To me, in most instances it is worth the extra effort to be paddling wood.
In general, I think that the durability factor is directly in porportion to weight, but unplanned and unforseen mishaps can happen. Don't forget to be prepared for field repairs,and permanent repairs when you return home. It's part of the game when you really use a wooden canoe
On portages that make sense and is legal I use a set of wheels. That works really well and you can put gear in the canoe to all of the weight off your shoulders.
On portages in rougher wilderness areas, younger more fit guys can muscle it by themselves. As for me, I use portable yoke fore and aft and portage with two people. Ferdy (da trout slayer) has a movie of this. Maybe he can post it somehow.
It's just worth the extra effort on the portages and care while landing and departing to be paddling a wooden canoe.......

come on spring!!
Last edited:
I didn't think you were being cheeky-- was just reminded of things people have said to us about wooden canoes being too delicate for real use... so, got on my soapbox over that. Accidents are part of the real world, which is full of surprises.
Points well made.

I also built my stripper to be a canoe, not a coffee table, so it was in anticipation of repairs that I didn't put in any floatation bulkheads. That was just my choice; someone else may make theirs for other reasons, and have a different outcome. Whatever floats your boat... (OOoohhh, :eek: that was bad...) I have had to do some minor repair work inside the ends, where bulkheads would have prevented me from seeing that work was needed there, so I think in the long run, it has worked out okay for me. We all make our own choices. I don't think there's any question that they add structural strength to the stem areas, I'm just not sure if the additional strength is really needed -- the stems are probably the toughest part of the boat already.

I will note that, when swamped, this boat floats with just enough of it above water to say it's still floating... not much more than the tip of the bow stem shows. It could use help it that area! When I get the sail rig on it, I'll use floatation bags for when it swims me.

So as far as strength vs weight, yes, it's a trade-off. If you're okay with a more durable, but heavier boat, build it that way, by all means! After I cracked mine up, I doubled up the layers of glass, just for that reason. It's a solo canoe, 15feet, which weighed ~50lbs when it was new; I'm not sure what it weighs now, maybe in the ~55 range?

But after that major repair job, I'm thinking wood & canvas make a better boat for rough water use than strip & glass, for the repairability. Stripping the old glass off of large areas with the heat gun was not my idea of fun. And yes, while I do still use this boat for lakes and gentle rivers with plenty of water in them, I now use a tupperware boat for rock-bouncing days. I was tired of fixing it, and had the rubber boat on order, before I cracked it up.

Those "down for repairs" days during paddling season are just another argument for having more boats! :)
Wood/canvas canoes repair in an emergency with duct tape (Adirondack chrome) and tee shirts... moss-clumps... chewing gum... whatever is handy.

Remember--- the idea behind the canvas-covered canoe (allegedly) came from repairing birch barks with bits of canvas.

Our set of portaging wheels can easily be taken apart to ride in the boat when not transporting it... I think they all fold up or flatten out easily.

"I have not been impressed with tupperware boats. The very things that make them easy to manufacture and store make them undesirable to me. I like a little tumblehome."

Not quite sure I understand the comment about tumblehome... all three rubber boats on my trailer (not all mine) have tumblehome. In fact, the only boat I own that doesn't have tumblehome is the W/C Old Town.

Oh, every time I hear of somebody looking at canoes in a big box store I cringe... Around here (Chicago area), they'll sell small boats to anyone who puts a credit card on the counter, and tell them it's safe to take it on Lake Michigan (a fairly big puddle), where these unfortunate folks meet their maker. (You don't get much repeat business from people who don't survive their first outing, so I don't understand the business model... but that's a whole different issue).

You've got to get to a real paddlesports store, not a big box.
Coleman canoes are like bathtubs... on their good days... though a skilled paddler can make them work almost well enough to not laugh at too hard. You're in North Dakota, right? Can you make it to Madison, WI the weekend of March 12-14? There's a large paddlesport expo called Canoecopia (, where you can see some better boats, and the WCHA's Great Rivers Chapter runs the WCHA booth... which is a great time to visit with folks on this forum! Kathy and Dave are always there; if I can make it, it'll be Sunday only, due to my kids' activities. But it would be a great chance to learn a few things about canoes of all sorts!

Twin Cities or Duluth have to have some dedicated paddlesports stores, or check out some canoe outfitters by the Boundary Waters in MN. I'll check with some folks I know in that direction, see if we can locate a decent canoe shop not too far from you. How far are you from Winnipeg, Manitoba, or Regina, Saskatchewan? Might be resources there as well.
If you do make it to the show, please stop by the WCHA booth. You'll find lots of fine folks there.

1500 miles is round trip, I guess? All the same, you're right about the weather... and that's a brutal drive, even in good weather. That's two days, both ways, for me.

Keep an eye on the Chapter Happenings forum here... hopefully the Minnesota chapter will have events in the summer? Anybody from MN watching this?
canoe weight and flotation

River paddleheads,

The standard approach to flotation for moving water has not been mentioned, namely flotation bags. They do not weigh much, are removable, and can make all the difference in the event of a swamped canoe. They are more effective than bulkheads, because they can add a lot more flotation. They make perfect sense for use in w/c canoes also, even if they don"t look traditional. I would never paddle a river without a quality PFD even though it doesn't look right either.
Air Tanks

Floatation is not all that new. Every so often, copper air tanks shaped like the bow/stern of a canoe show up on ebay etc. These air (bags) tanks are about 100 years old or more.

I am late to your discussion so bare with me.

First, a couple questions.

1) You post the question in the "Stripper" section, but the discussion touches on everything from W/C to tupperware boats. What exactly are you thinking about building? Of are you just looking for info to buy a boat?

2) How do you plan to use this canoe? Is this for BW/Q work or shallow rivers or casual lake travel or somethiong else?

Now for weight:
My interest in canoeing is in the lake travel of the BW/Q, sometimes we've paddled rivers, but that's not my thing, so with that disclaimer:

Back when I was younger, I paddlied and portaged std weight grumman alum all over the area, I believe it was in the 72-74 lb range but don't know for sure. It was heavier then the std 17' Alumicraft me also paddlied. (The Alumicraft were also faster.) I was a dry footer, ie, I would drag that canoe over anything to avoid getting my feet wet.

As I got older, it got heavier, and now it's too heavy for me, so I went down the path of building a/several strippers to get a better/lighter canoe. (Plus I just wanted to build one.)

Anyway, the 1st is/was 17.5 ft, a modern tripper design. I used the std 6oz glass/1/4 wood/6 oz glass layup plus a second layer of glass in and out in the football. This canoe got way too much resin and ended up at 72 lbs, it seems to be fairly string and is stiff but is way too heavy.

Between the 1 and 2ed stripper, I did some research and learned a bit about glass and layups. There are sites that discuss this out there but in short, for a stronger layup,
1) more glass weight then wood,
2) glass to resin ratio at 50% or better,
3) thinner glass fibers are stronger per weight than thicker glass fibers,
4) 2 layers of thinner glass are stronger than 1 layer thicker glass, ie, 2 3oz are stronger then 1 6oz.

It's easy to make a light canoe, it's very hard to make a light tough canoe.

The 2ed canoe was 2+2 layers of 2.3 oz glass, over 3/16 wood. And it got stretched to 18.5 ft. This time the hull was 40 lbs, but the trim was heavy at 18 lbs, making a total weight of 58 lbs, not too bad but still not light enough.

The 3rd canoe is not finished, as it still needs to be trimed out but, after learning more about glass and glass strength, I learned that the 2ed canoe wasn't as strong as I wanted. So a different layup, this time 2 layers of 2.8 oz with 2 layer of the 2.3 layed at 90 degrees both in and out. The strips are 3/16 in the bottom, thinning to 1/8 on the sides. This layup is significantly stronger then either the std 6 oz or my 2ed layup. this canoe is a different, more full design, meaning more surface area, it's still 18.5 ft and in varnish weighs 44 lbs. It will probably have 10-12 lbs of trim pushing the total finished weight to 54-56 lbs. Not bad for a large (hopefully) tough tripper, but a lot of work.

If all you want is a light canoe, buy a Souris River Q 17. They are light and are building a rep as being tough.

If you are looking for a river boat, get a plastic one.

Mn Chapter

I missed the comment about the MN Chapter.

I was the POC til I moved to MI, but, Barry is planning/hoping to have a/some meetings this winter/spring to try to get the Chapter more active, though most activity in the past has been in the southern part of MN.

If you're in North D, if Winnipeg doesn't have a show, come down for the Midwest Mtn Canoe thing, it's in the spring. It's like the Canoecopia in Madison but a bit smaller. They also have a canoe auction where you might just find the canoe you're looking for.

Hi Matthew,

This was exactly what I was thinking about 10 years ago when I started on my 1st. So, some of the 1st decisions you will need to make (after the above)is:

1) What design? If at all possible, paddle it before you build it. I didn't and regreted it, the design I picked, while great paddling boat, was a terrible fishing platform, way too tender.

2) What construction method, ie, B&C strips or square cut.

3) Staples or stapleless.

4) Stems or not.

5) Stripping pattern

"Boredom sets in hard in late January and February. I have been thinking about building a stripper for many years and this year decided it was going to happen."

You said you have wood, but if you don't, Scherer Bros down in the Cities carries Aye (clear) Grade western red to 20 ft at the Medberry Store, I35W and HW10.)

Good Luck and keep us posted, and post some picks,

Hey, if you can't hijack your own thread, then whose can you hijack? Actually, I think you un-hijacked it, if anything...

The redwood is a gold mine! and it'll make a gorgeous canoe.

The boat design you describe sounds like a wide, stable platform for fishing, photography, and carrying very large loads. The 2-3" of rocker and lack of a keel will make it turn more easily, which means it'll take a bit of effort to keep it in a straight line. Sounds like a good all-around design for a lot of different uses, which is perfect for a lot of people.
I agree, you're off to a good start.

And that's a great price on that wood.

Be sure to post some pics so we can "live through you".

Sounding better all the time... Post lots of pictures of your build process, 'cuz we really like 'em! :) And don't hesitate to ask questions... there are a lot of folks here, way more knowledgable than I, who are very willing to help. And pictures are worth a thousand words...
Hello all, this is my first post on this forum.
I built a 12' solo canoe. I mainly wanted this for river and lake travel. I also wanted a solo because I needed it to be light, only 35lbs, and easy to portage. While building my stripper I read an article about adding kevlar sheets to the bottom of a stripper for added protection while running white water. It did add a little weight but gave so much more in protection than just a layer of glass.
I am new to building canoes and still very "Green" to this hobby but love to paddle and always looking for an adventure.