What is a Pack Canoe and why do I need one in my life?

Originally developed for the Adirondack region of North America, the Pack Canoe or Pack Boat is traditionally a small, light weight open top paddle craft designed to be manoeuvrable and easy to carry.  The original concept was for a boat that you could literally drop your gear into and go, it was open topped for easy gear access and usually quite short, wide and stable with a seating position lower to the floor to facilitate paddling with a double-bladed kayak paddle.  These boats were back country champions, able to be dropped into a narrow twisty creek and then dragged through thick bush to the next access point.  They have been successfully used by hunters and fishermen for over 150 years.

Like all things in life we tend to go through cycles and the trusty Pack Canoe had been forgotten for many years, especially with the introduction of the plastic Sit-on-top Kayaks.  However, in recent years they have enjoyed a resurgence with designers remembering why these trusty little boats were so popular amongst outdoorsmen for many decades.  Certainly, in the North American market manufacturers are finding a demand for these craft, particularly amongst fishermen who frequent remote freshwater rivers and creeks.  In Australia though our options are a little more limited, there is a growing market here that should drive a larger range of boats.

So why should you consider a Pack Canoe for your next fishing boat?  Here are the top 5 reasons to put a Pack Canoe on your wish list.

Number 1 absolutely has to be carrying capacity.  Canoes in general are just great for carrying gear and pack canoes are no different.  Canoes being an open top, higher sided boat, by their very nature have a lot of room to put your stuff in.  The abundance of room means you’re not having to second guess yourself on what to leave at home and it also means you’re not having to stow stuff away in 27 different hatches.  Even in a short canoe you can easily carry enough gear to go fishing and camping for multi day trips.  From a fishing perspective there is a tonne of room to put your tackle boxes, esky, milk crate, camera gear, extra tackle box, kitchen sink, in fact pretty much anything you want… Long story short, you can put a lot of stuff in a canoe!

Number 2 is weight.  Pack canoes are light, usually less than 20kg, so really easy to haul through the bush or lower down a steep river bank.  It also means it’s a lot easier to lift on top of your car or camper trailer.  Lower weight makes them nimble and responsive on the water, your paddle strokes translate quickly to easily to the direction you want to go.  Pack canoes more surprisingly well through the water.

Number 3 has to be stability.  Canoes as a general rule are an inherently stable paddle craft; pack canoes are no different.  As mentioned above, these boats were originally designed for use in rough back country creeks, so they have to be stable enough that you can launch them from a steep bank or overhanging log.  Want to stand up and cast, no problem, the pack canoe can accommodate that as well.   When you consider additionally the room you have to move about inside the boat it makes for a fantastic fishing platform. 

Number 4 is versatility.  Want to paddle with a kayak paddle, perfect!  Want to paddle with a canoe paddle, do it!  Want to motor, sure can!  Want to sail, sure why not!  Pack canoes are one of the most adaptable styles of paddle craft out there and lend themselves to a variety of means of propulsion.  Pack canoes are a fusion of the good points of a canoe and kayak which means you stay dryer and easier to get into than a kayak whilst being less wind affected and easier to paddle with a kayak paddle than a canoe.  The swiss army knife of paddle craft!

Number 5 and probably most important is comfort.  It’s just nice to sit in a canoe! The seating position is inherently more comfortable than a kayak because you have your butt above your feet.  This means you can shift your feet around as you’re paddling along and take some of the weight off your poor long-suffering backside.  I know you know what I mean by this!  Seating options are usually fairly abundant in these boats and it’s not hard to find one that’s just right.

Being roomier also means, you can shift around a lot more in the canoe whilst you’re fishing and avoid sitting in the same position all day.  Canoes are also very easy to fit out, with little effort you can have you pack canoe configured with all the modern conveniences to make your time on the water very comfortable.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite to give these little boats a go, I believe its worth considering for your next fishing rig.  If you’re looking for more information on Pack Canoes, we recommend looking at offerings from Wenonah, Old Town, Swift, or closer to home One Tree Canoe Company.  Happy Paddling!

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