What do you get when you combine features of a canoe, such as an open hull, with the maneuverability and ease of use of a kayak? You get the NEXT canoe by Old Town. When we heard that Old Town had a new series of watercraft coming out that they claimed offered a new and unique experience, we knew that we had to get one out on the water and try it out for ourselves.
The NEXT is unlike most canoes because it is smaller and setup for solo paddling, but this boat maneuvers like a kayak. So what is it? I guess you would call it a hybrid. With its single seat and large storage capacity this boat would be perfect for camping, river floats or fishing. Luckily enough, recently we were given the opportunity to get wet with the NEXT and put it though the paces.
- An open hull design which offers the storage of a canoe, yet maintains the maneuverability of a kayak.
- A low profile which allows for easy paddling with both a single-bladed and double-bladed paddle.
- Removable Element™ seating system that will make sure you remain comfortable on long trips.
- Adjustable foot braces for added support
- Light weight, making it perfect for solo trips.
- Length: 13’
- Width: 28’’
- Material: 3-Layer Polyethylene
- Hull Weight: 53 lbs
- Seat specs: 21’’ / 6 lbs
- Boat Capacity: 450 lbs
The first thing you will notice about the NEXT is the bright color of the boat. Old Town has been making canoes and kayaks in red and green for as long as they have been around. With the NEXT, they took a new approach and started offering fun, new vibrant colors that they hope will attract new paddlers. The NEXT is available in orange, blue, purple, and lemongrass. We received the blue version of the boat to review, and the color really stands out.
Once you get past the bright, new colors, there are many excellent design features you will notice. First, you will notice that the boat looks like a canoe and has an open hull. However, due to its low profile and the Element™ seating system, you can easily use a double-bladed paddle, which is what we used when we took it out on the water. I am an ameateur paddler, so having the ability to use a double-bladed paddle instead of a single-bladed paddle was a huge benefit. If you don’t know the basics of how to perform a J-stroke with a single-bladed paddle, do not worry. While you can use the NEXT with a single-bladed paddle, it maneuvers perfectly well with a double-bladed paddle.
Next, you will notice that, unlike many canoes, and like most kayaks, this boat has a seat. Specifically, it uses the Element™ seating system, which Old Town uses in many of their fishing and Predator series kayaks. I can’t praise this seat enough for how comfortable it is. It is adjustable, and offers great support. When we were out on the water, I felt extremely comfortable.
You will also notice that the boat has foot braces, which add stability and support while paddling. They are adjustable to fit people of various heights and with different seating preferences.
Last, but not least, once you get past all of the new features that you can see and you actually pick up the boat, you will notice that it is light enough for a single person to not only lift and carry, but to also mount on a car. This is extremely important, since Old Town markets this boat for solo paddlers.
The NEXT is marketed as having a “subtle” rocker, which means that it should both track well and be easy to turn. We took the boat out on calm water, and used a double-bladed paddle for our testing sessions. Due to the low profile of the boat and its relatively narrow width, the boat was very easy to paddle using the double-bladed paddle. It was extremely easy to turn, much like a kayak, and I was able to keep up with a fellow paddler who was in a canoe and is very experienced using a single-bladed paddle.
I have canoed and kayaked several times in the past, but am by no means an experienced paddler, especially when it comes to single-bladed paddles. The fact that I could get out on the NEXT and easily move around with my double-bladed paddle means I can confidently say that this boat is an excellent choice for new and amateur paddlers.
Throughout testing, we only encountered slight breezes and the water remained calm, so stability was never an issue. At one point we passed a fishing boat which created a wake, but the NEXT handled it fine.
I tested putting more weight to one side of the boat to see how stable it felt while the boat was leaning. I really wanted to see how much weight it would take to either tip the boat over or fall out, but due to the fact that it was still early May in Buffalo, NY and the water was freezing, I was hesitant trying to lean too far. With that said, I was never worried about stability in this boat.
The NEXT is made of three-layer Polyethylene, which has been used in canoe making for decades. Old Town uses a process known as rotational molding, which they developed in 1983. They surround a layer of closed foam with an inside and outside layer of high-density linear polyethylene. This technique produces excellent strength and durability making their three-layer design lighter, stronger, and stiffer than single-layer watercraft.
Storage is an important feature to me. As someone who enjoys backpacking, the idea of loading my gear in a canoe and traveling to different campsites along the water is very appealing. With an open hull, the NEXT has plenty of room to store your backpack and other gear. If you are really pushing it and traveling with gear that takes up a lot of space, the Element™ seating system slides 6 inches forwards or backwards, allowing you to trim the boat and fit more gear inside.
Since the NEXT has no dry (sealed) storage areas you’ll want to invest in some dry bags for longer trips. While this boat is quite stable on the water you can’t always predict rain, and there’s nothing worse than a duffle bag full of wet clothes and electronics!
With an MSRP of $999.99, the NEXT may seem a bit expensive for a new paddler who is just looking to get into the sport. For example, the Discovery 119 canoe by Old Town has an MSRP of $699.99, and is a lightweight canoe, that is also marketed as being a great choice for a double-bladed paddle. However, when you consider the overall package, a lightweight watercraft that mixes the best parts of a canoe with many desirable features of a kayak, it seems to me like it isn’t fair to compare the cost of the NEXT directly with a canoe. This is a new experience, and for the quality and ease of use, we think the price is fair. It is an excellent build, and a great experience to paddle.
If you are looking to pick up a new watercraft in 2015, but can’t decide between a canoe or kayak, the NEXT by Old Town offers a fantastic middle ground for both new and experienced paddlers. It is an excellent choice for solo paddlers who are looking for a lightweight boat that tracks well, is easy to paddle, can store all of your gear, and is light enough to load/unload from your car.
- Plenty of storage for carrying gear (and of course, beer)
- Tracks well, and is very easy to paddle
- The Element™ Seating system is extremely comfortable
- The cost might be high for people just getting into the sport, but for everything you get, it is a great value.