To journey through calm waters by canoe is to experience nature from a more personal angle.
It can lead to overwhelming memories, which are only made stronger by taking along someone you care about.
Think about it:
You and your significant other, paddling together, surrounded by just each other and the sights and sounds of serenity. Or perhaps it’s you and a buddy, learning more about what your friendship means while fishing or camping.
A 2-person canoe is the answer to living this yourself. I’ll share my experiences with 2-person canoes, run down their characteristics, and give you some beginner’s advice for your next canoe trip.
Finally, I’ll help you figure out which 2-person canoes will work best for you and your canoeing partner!
Canoeing Together Brings You Closer Together
Canoeing around Algonquin Park has been one of my life’s pleasures every summer.
While it’s always a great time, it’s when my wife joins me in our 2-person canoe that it becomes even more special.
I’ve gained years of memories spent together out on the water, and I wouldn’t trade that back for anything.
When you are with another person on a canoe, there’s a harmonization that develops along the way in all respects—from the physical act of canoeing to conversation, to the observation of the natural world all around you.
Not to get too sentimental, but maybe this gives you a window into my love for canoeing and why I always encourage others to start.
I’ve also formed unforgettable memories with my close buddies on my 2-person canoe. From going fishing on short afternoon jaunts to long canoe camping trips, I’ve experienced it all with my best friends and family.
Through it all, I’ve learned a lot about what makes for a good 2-person canoe. It’s really important that you are properly informed before you get out on the water, so I’m going to get into the things you need to consider.
Of course, the most important learning has been about myself and my relationships with others, which you too will gain when you canoe with your loved ones.
What’s Important in Choosing a 2 Person Canoe?
Size is always an important consideration with kayaks, canoes, and other water vehicles. But with a 2-person canoe, size is going to determine a lot about what you’ll be able to do with your canoe. Size determines important points like speed, carrying capacity, and handling. Longer canoes can be tougher to get up to speed but can be easier to paddle over greater distances and have more storage room. If you are looking for stability, wider canoes are your best bet, but more narrow canoes are easier to paddle. Shorter canoes can be easier to steer and transport. You’ll need to decide what you want in terms of size in a 2-person canoe.
Here’s something that’s easy to overlook but hugely important once you realize the logistics of transporting a canoe. Some materials are much heavier than others, which isn’t going to work best for people who are portaging a lot. Look for lighter materials in that case. However, materials that increase the weight of a canoe also tend to make them more durable. For most people, it might be best to find a balance by choosing a moderate weight, which will make it a little easier to transport while still having the construction quality to last a long time.
There are a few different hull shapes to keep in mind, and these can have many effects on your canoe’s performance. Flat bottom canoes work best in flatter waters and are easy to maneuver. Rounded-bottom hulls are better in choppy conditions, and are speedy—they are often found in specially designed canoes for performance. V-bottom hulls are good in flat or choppy waters and have good tracking. Shallow-arch hulls offer similar advantages to V-bottoms with good efficiency.
Other design features
You’ll be looking for features that you and your canoe partner both agree on as priorities. This includes the number of seats (in our case at least 2), what the seats are made out of (do you focus on comfortable or durable sitting?), storage areas, thwarts, gunwales, and more. Here is where you can try to pinpoint the advantages and flaws of a product for your specific use.
2-person Canoe Beginner Tips to Improve Your Experience
If you’ve never done it, it can be a challenge to understand how to get the canoe to do what you want when paddling with another person. It may even feel like your canoe has a mind of its own that’s working against your two minds, but you’ll tame it soon enough if you follow these guidelines.
There are 2 paddling positions: the stern paddler, who mostly manages the canoe’s direction, and the bow paddler, who helps power the canoe.
The paddler with more know-how should be at the stern because steering can be difficult. The two of you will paddle on opposite sides of the canoe, and you can switch sides when you both tire.
Successful paddling requires both people to be in sync.
The bow paddler will set this tempo while the stern paddler follows. A steady rhythm will allow you to keep the canoe going straight. It’s easiest to get used to this on very calm water if you’re new.
Communication is so important here, which is why I recommend working with someone who’s close to you, whether a spouse, a friend or another family member. When both of you are locked in, everything starts to feel simple and almost automated.
Of course, there’s a lot to learn in terms of stroke techniques, direction, portaging and more, but the best way to start learning is to try the very basics first with someone you trust, or even better, someone you trust who has some canoeing experience themselves.
Reviews of Best 2 Person Canoes
1. Old Town Discovery 158 Recreational Canoe
The Old Town Discovery 158 Recreational Canoe is a balanced canoe with plenty of strengths. With its 3-layered roto-molded construction, you get a material that is both lightweight and burly. This, along with the convenient carrying yoke, will make it easier for the two of you for portaging (it’s a reasonable 87 pounds in weight)—taking it to different lakes and waterways on camping and fishing trips should be quite practical.
There’s a good amount of space in this 15’8” canoe, so plan on bringing along some food and supplies for longer trips. Its flat bottom makes it a stable ride on calm waters, which is just what you and your partner will need. The seats are nylon web, which is a durable material that is comfortable enough for long rides. A trip for two in the Old Town canoe will be a pleasant, no-frills time for both paddlers.
- Reasonable weight and strong materials for a 15’8” canoe
- Carrying yoke and gunwales make it easier to lug around
- Nylon web seating is sturdy
- Not packed with additional features
2. Sun Dolphin Mackinaw 15.6-Foot Canoe
As described in the name, the Sun Dolphin 15.6-Foot Canoe is a long canoe with great appeal for a serious duo. There are actually 3 seats available on this canoe, but its design is ideal for two paddlers who perhaps want to add another family member on board if desired. And the extra room is definitely put to good use—under the center seat is a storage compartment and cooler. The drink holders on each seat are a nice touch.
There are transport handles attached to make it more manageable to carry, and built-in holders for your paddles or fishing rods. In terms of performance, this canoe offers a mix of efficiency, stability, and good tracking, though its hull is not completely flat so be aware of that in shallower waters. All in all, the Sun Dolphin is a spacious, modern canoe designed for two.
- Very roomy with an additional seat in the middle
- Excellent storage, including a cooler, seat compartments, and nifty drink holders
- Quiet, efficient paddling and tracking; reliable stability
- Slightly curved hull helps performance, but pay attention so it doesn’t catch in shallows
3. Sevylor Ogden 2-Person Canoe Combo
This one’s a bit different from the others we have here. The Sevylor Ogden is actually an inflatable 2-person canoe, and it offers a strong value deal for people just dipping their toes into the idea of a tandem canoe. You won’t get the heavy duty spaciousness of hard canoes, but you do get solid PVC construction with puncture protection, easy inflation/deflation for quick operation, storage areas for personal items, and a skeg for better control.
Despite being inflatable, the Sevylor feels surprisingly sturdy out on the water. The oars are good quality, and the seats are adjustable so you can find a comfortable height to paddle from. One of the best benefits of this canoe comes when you aren’t using it, as it folds up for convenient storage once deflated. When you are ready to head down to the lake, transport is a cinch, as everything can be thrown into the included traveling bag. If you want to get value without going all in on a more expensive canoe, the Sevylor is a strong option.
- Better than expected durability and construction, keeping out leaks and punctures
- Feels sturdy on the water
- Convenient to store and travel with no matter where you go
- Smaller than solid canoes, in both length and weight capacity
- Lacks in overall performance
4. Old Town Discover Sport 15 Square Stern Recreational Canoe
A behemoth of a vehicle, the Old Town Discover Sport Recreational Canoe is strong, sturdy, roomy, and comfortable. You have three available seats, so an extra person can hop on board as you paddle with your partner. The nylon seats are well-made and can carry even heavier weights. You can bring along any extra equipment or consumables in the storage compartments.
Keep in mind, the durable construction leads to a heavier canoe than some of our other suggestions, as it comes in at 113 pounds. That’s a trade-off, but you also get a fast, efficient paddling canoe that is stable and has good tracking. Another cool feature of the Old Town Discover is the square stern which is shaped to fit an up to 4 horsepower motor. The investment in a workhorse canoe like this one will go a long way for a passionate pair of canoers.
- Huge canoe that is built to last
- Extra seat to fit in another family member or guest, and space for a motor
- Good tracking, stability, and paddling efficiency
- At 113 pounds, it can be a bit of pain to travel around with
5. MYCANOE 2.5 Plus Origami Folding Portable Canoe w/Rowing System
Another pick that’s a bit quirkier than your average canoe, the MYCANOE folding canoe combines innovation and portability to push out something truly unique. Their patented origami folding canoe is made of lightweight but strong polypropylene material. The assembly and disassembly can be done in mere minutes once you and your partner get used to it, and you can work together to speed it up.
Once assembled, this is a fully-featured 14’ two-person canoe with a wonderful performance in its class. You just don’t find portable canoes with the tracking, stability, and room that this one possesses. It even stays afloat if it were to somehow capsize.
When it comes to transportation, because everything folds up, it can fit in most cars so you can take it wherever you want. Other canoers will take notice of the stylish design as you paddle through the waters. Originally started on Kickstarter, the MYCANOE Origami Folding Portable Canoe is a testament to what new technologies can bring, and it’s a worthy choice as the primary canoe of a pair of paddlers.
- Unique folding assembly and disassembly makes it ultra portable
- When assembled, it functions as a full 14’ canoe with a strong performance
- Best balance between lightweight and durable polypropylene materials
- Have to learn the assembly/disassembly process
- Designed more for shorter day excursions as opposed to multiple day trips
Which 2-Person Canoe is Best?
As you can tell, this is going to depend on you and your partner’s needs. Whether you prioritize durability, performance, portability, or a balanced mix might determine which canoe you prefer.
Still, I believe the Sun Dolphin Mackinaw hits the right notes on the necessities of a quality 2-Person Canoe. It’s spacious, not too heavy, offers excellent storage compartments, and does it all without compromising performance. The slightly curved hull draws out another advantage in stability, tracking and efficiency.
If you want to go for something a little simpler or even more daring, like the foldable MYCANOE, there are plenty of options here. No matter which you choose, plenty of adventures await with your spouse, friends, and family. Because of the cooperation and one-on-one time involved, a 2-Person canoe brings out the best in people and their relationships (most of the time!).