If you've ever wanted to explore rivers and canals from the comfort of your own canoe, you've come to the right place. It doesn't matter if you’re a beginner or experienced paddler – we've got a selection of the best canoes for every preference and every price point.
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How to choose the right canoe
The first big question when buying a canoe is who you’ll have aboard: just you, or a first mate too?
If you’re planning to be a lone paddler on all of your trips, a single seat canoe will be ideal, with the benefit of being lighter, smaller and portable than a tandem. Conversely, tandem canoes are better if you’re carrying a lot of kit, as it can be stored in the base as you make your merry way along the waterway of your choosing.
You’ll hear quite a bit of talk about “rockers”, so allow us to translate: that’s how much the end of the canoe curves upwards when the body is sitting flat on the floor. No bow? Minimum rocker. Slight curve? You’ve got yourself a moderate rocker. Practically a banana? That’s a maximum rocker if we ever saw one.
The (very) basic guidance is that the more dramatic the curve, the easier your canoe will be to manoeuvre, but this is unlikely to matter if you’re heading out on the quay of a Sunday morning, rather than braving white water in the Rockies.
After that, things can get a bit weird. Inflatable or even foldable canoes are a big thing these days, solving the storage issues that so many of us have. Small car? No roof rack? No worries. These clever canoes tuck down easily into an included carry back to be stowed in the boot for your next big adventure. But if you’re after a traditional solid canoe, then look no further, because our list of the best has plenty of those too.
The 6 best canoes:
Looking for a traditional Canadian canoe to take your family on all manner of delightfully retro Wes Anderson-style adventures? Look no further. This four-seat canoe from Riber is everything you’d expect a canoe to be, with a classic shape and no-frills approach that the brand promises doesn’t compromise on comfort. With its decent capacity, it’s certainly our top pick for large groups, but bear in mind that you’ll all have to carry it — at 48kg, over double the weight of some of our other top canoes, it’s a real beast.
This inflatable Canadian style canoe gets our top spot for its overachieving nature. Sturdy and stable? Check. Comfortable? Check. Easy to inflate, deflate, pack and store? Triple check. The convenient inflatable constructions aim to keep things light and manoeuvrable as well as promising comfort over the course of long paddles, but the whole thing — according to owners — still feels impressively heavy duty. Plus, it comes with paddles and a pump, so you have everything you need to get going, along with that quick setup time. A great all-rounder.
If you’re frequently heading off on adventures of a weekend, this origami-style canoe is probably the one for you — it’s light, it’s foldable, and it can be chucked in the back of the car, no questions asked, no roof rack needed. According to reviewers, its slight rocker was enough in slightly rougher patches of water, and it was surprisingly sturdy for something that folds together. The caveat comes with the set-up time: if you’re desperate to get out on the water, steer clear, but if you want a capable canoe that doesn’t take up huge amounts of space, go for it.
If you’re after the best canoe for family holidays, you just might have found it in the Sevylor Alameda. The removable seats mean you can add or take away capacity at will — hit the waves with up to two other shipmates or go solo, it’s up to you — and it deflates and folds down easily and conveniently into the top-handle Dry-N-Store carry case. While certainly more of a leisurely paddler than an adventuring model, reviewers have noted that its tracking and gliding is surprisingly good for an inflatable canoe, so it’s certainly not one to be overlooked.
Looking a little like the alt-form of BB-8 (if he were a Transformer, bear with us here) this cheap and cheerful canoe certainly won’t get lost quayside, with its bright orange inner and unusual construction. The detachable inflatable seats mean you can paddle alone or with a buddy depending on your mood, and it meets nicely in the middle between a traditional open-top canoe shape and easy-clean and light-to-carry modern construction. It may not be the most stable thing in the world, but for the budget price, and at a light-as-a-feather 11kg, it’s worth considering for the odd use.
This sporty little number is affordable, sleek-looking, and by all accounts performs well, so what’s not to love? The low centre of gravity offered by the deep inset seat — which slides to optimum position — is intended to provide greater control and stability, and means you can use a double or kayak paddle if you so desire. Plus, with an included cup holder and storage behind the folding backrest, you can happily set yourself up for a day of discovery. A great, easy-to-manoeuvre, entry-level option for solo adventurers.