Pack Canoes

Pack Canoe Buyers Guide

What is a pack canoe, you might ask? The name gives it away. It's a short, lightweight solo canoe that's designed to rest easily on the shoulders and 'pack' its way on an expedition that is seldom reached or requires as much portaging as paddling. And, yes, pack canoes are solo boats. Few are longer than about 12 feet, and some are a lot shorter than that. They're all light. The heaviest don't exceed 30 pounds by much, thanks in part to state-of-the-art materials. But the pack canoe isn't a new idea. Credit belongs to the rugged pioneer who wrote under the pen-name Nessmuk for popularizing the breed. At their essence, pack canoes represent lightweight, solo canoes designed for the spontaneous, moment's notice adventurer.

History of Pack Canoes

Legend has it that pack canoes originate in the late 1800s in the Adirondacks of NY. In 1880, the outdoorsman with the pen-name Nessmuk commissioned NY canoe maker J.H. Rushton to produce a smaller craft - a 10ft Wood Drake weighing in under 18 lbs. Nessmuk was no giant himself, weighing no more than 110 lbs. But it was his size that inspired the Drake. He didn't want to hire a guide to haul his gear and wanted something lightweight. He iterated and tested different hulls in the Adirondacks with his last iteration being 10.5 feet. Alas, the lightweight solo canoe movement had begun and pack canoes have continued to innovate ever since.