How do I Choose a Canoe?

Choosing a canoe can be tough. There are so many models on the market, and many of them look alike. Hopefully this guide will help you out with this task.


One of the biggest factors in deciding on a canoe model is the material of the hull. The material will tell you how heavy the canoe will be, how it will cut through the water, durability of the boat, and how much you will have to pay. Below is a description of the different materials.


This is what most canoes today are made out of. It is extremely durable, abrasion resistant, and very economical. The down-side to the polyethylene canoes is the weight. They can weigh quite a bit more than a royalex or composite boat. Old Town has come up materials which are even more durable than standard polyethyline; Polylink 3, and Superlink. Both of these materials are a triple layer polyethyline with air pockets in the center layer. The benefit to this is that the entire hull ends up being flotation for the boat.

canoe choosing


Royalex is similar to Polylink 3 and Superlink because it has three layers of material. The up-side to the Royalex however is that it is lighter than the polyethyline.


Fiberglass has been a standard for canoes for years, and can be a great choice for a canoe, depending on the method of laying out the fiberglass. All of the fiberglass boats that we sell are made with hand laid sheets of fiberglass, and not with a chopper gun which can lead to much heavier canoes.

Kevlar/Kevlar Ultralite

Kevlar is a material which is similar to fiberglass, but much lighter. Kevlar sheets are tougher than fiberglass, which means that canoe builders don’t need to use as much resin to harden the kevlar. This leads to the difference in weight.

Kevlar Ultralight is the same as kevlar, but the boats are made lighter, usually by leaving out the gel coat or some other addition.

Black Gold / White Gold / KevCrystal

These materials are specific to Bell Canoes, and they are generally combinations of different composite materials.

Black Gold – Combining the stiffness and abrasion resistance of carbon fiber with the excellent tensile strength of Kevlar®, BlackGold™ is the finest canoe laminate available. It is light and stiff enough to move your Bell canoe through the water quickly and efficiently. It also brushes off impacts that send other composites to the bottom of the lake. If you need a laminate for the long haul, BlackGold is it.

White Gold – Long a favorite of Bell solo paddlers, WhiteGold is a smart midweight laminate choice. An outer layer of fiberglass provides excellent abrasion resistance and ease of repair. Cross-hatched Kevlar® inner layers and a structural core round out this affordable performance package. WhiteGold provides all the advantages of composite construction for the budget-minded canoeist.

KevCrystal – KevCrystal inserts a custom bi-weave layer of Kevlar® behind a durable gel coat. This process is why KevCrystal is renowned for its stunning moire’ pattern. Foam core ribs, and internal reinforcements increase stiffness. Beautiful, yet lightweight, KevCrystal is for those paddlers seeking a balanced blend of light weight and durability.

Hull Design

For most canoes, the longer a canoe is, the more efficient it will be. Longer canoes do not require as much energy to be paddled in a straight line, and because of this, they are generally quicker than shorter canoes. The down side to a longer canoe is that they are tougher to manage outside of the water and are usually heavier and a little bit more expensive.

The rocker of a canoe also determines how efficient a canoe will be. Rocker is the difference in the bottom of the canoe between the middle of the boat and the end of the boat. Canoes with a lot of rocker tend to turn easier, but will not paddle as efficiently. Whitewater canoes tend to have more rocker than flatwater canoes.

Cross Section of the Canoe

Flat Bottom

Flat bottom canoes are generally stable on flat water because the surface area on the water is at its greatest on flat water. The problem is that if you lean the canoe or if there are waves in the water, the boat becomes less stable. Flat bottomed canoes also tend to be less efficient than other canoes.

Shallow Arch

Shallow arch canoes are not as stable on flat calm water, but become much more stable in rougher conditions, or when the paddler is leaning the canoe to the side at all. These tend to be more efficient than flat bottomed canoes as well.

Shallow Vee

The shallow vee hull is similar to the shallow arch, but the canoe dips down slightly in the center. This dip acts like a keel, but can get stuck on rocks and other things below the surface of the water.

canoe choosing guide

Round Bottom

Canoes with a round bottom are mostly limited to flatwater racing. They are very efficient, but do not have the stability needed for recreational paddling.

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