Boat Review: Vallinga Vuntut 10 | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
A woman paddling a wooden canoe. Photos by: Alyssa Lloyd


As a toddler Otto Vallinga would take his toy boats down to the nearby St. Clair River for impromptu buoyancy testing. Launching his baubles into the gentle current, this stereotypically youthful tinkering was the floodgate into Vallinga’s boat design career. Aside of course, from having a father who also designed boats.

As a slightly older tyke, there was always a canoe around. His parents would allow Vallinga to paddle on a creek when his friends came over. Those permitted passages on skinny water propelled young Otto to scrape up enough money to afford a sufficient amount of food to get him and a pal through a weekend canoe trip. At just twelve years of age, Vallinga’s canoeing career was germinating.

Following a short stint as a foreman for one of the chemical plants near his home in Sarnia, Ontario, closures led him to pursue his real passion imprinted on him so long ago—watercraft.

After studying design at Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, Vallinga went on to work for a commercial powerboat manufacturer. After more than ten years designing and building custom sail and powerboats and paying his sons way through university, Vallinga reverted to his labor of love canoes and kayaks.

Vallinga has an impressive boat designing record under his gunwale, with three dozen documented designs and numerous others under contract, not including standup paddleboards.

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You can get the entire kit for $919 including all of the cedar needed to complete this intricate little pack boat. Have some fun with patterns, Vallina describes in his book. Photo by Alyssa Lloyd.

The Vuntut 10 is an impressively short and sweet boat for all the right reasons. It’s the newest and smallest in Vallinga’s popular Vuntut series of solo pack canoes that also includes 12-foot and 14-foot versions. He specifically designed the 10-foot for ease of just plain everything.

Portaging? Nailed it. Pack canoes were born in the Adirondacks where early explorers and today’s adventurers need lightweight crafts they can effortlessly carry from small lake to small lake, ideally in one trip. Our epoxied cedar Vuntut 10 weighs just 26 pounds and is easily carried. As soon as I flipped the boat onto my shoulder, I realized I was eternally ruined for portaging. This is just too easy.

Paddling? Admirable. The boat’s maneuverability is that of a bicycle. You can essentially tilt to steer and if you didn’t need forward motion, your thoughts could practically propel this boat. The key to enjoying this 10-foot canoe, we learned, is minimizing all but the subtlest movements. Typical solo canoeing strokes cause the Vuntut 10 to be squirrelly—like overcorrecting a vehicle that’s been sucked onto a soft gravel shoulder. Slow everything down and enjoy the view. Small strokes generate more than enough correction. I told you once already, thought control would almost work best.

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The stern allows for ample space for a solo backcountry night or lightly packed weekend trip. Photo by Alyssa Lloyd.

Those used to kneeling for solo paddling will find the sitting position in the Vuntut 10 foreign and awkward, like, in a kayak. Pack canoes can be paddled with both a canoe paddle and a kayak paddle.

Transporting? Check. My first experience with loading the Vuntut 10 caught me with no canoe racks on my newly capped truck. So what did I do? All 10 feet of it fit on an angle in my six-foot, six-inch truck bed with only the bow laying on top of my closed tailgate. Less than a foot was overhanging—no red flag required. Try that with a 16-footer.

Why design a canoe that is best paddled like a kayak miles from the region where it’s normal to do so? Vallinga designed the Vuntut 10 to accommodate those who have mulled over the idea of a kayak only to realize they would rather not get in and out of a cockpit. The Vuntut 10 is a great compromise between the two. Kayaks are great at many things but portaging is not one of them. The Vuntut 10 is a win for those of us always trying to convert kayakers into backcountry canoeists.

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Vallinga created an entire series of books, not just of designs, but details to help you every step of the way throughout your canoebuilding journey. Photo by Alyssa Lloyd.

So far you’ve been reading about the Vuntut 10 as if it comes like any other pack canoe. But this clever designer has made his canoe and kayak designs available in their own publications. Building the Vuntut 10 written by Otto Vallinga is 192 pages detailing the construction of this wood strip and epoxy canoe so that you can build your own. Want to build a pack canoe but don’t have the time to source all the materials yourself? The Vuntut 10, and 12 and 14 for that matter, are available as a complete kit requiring only tools and time.

If you feel less inclined to channel your inner Otto Vallinga, you can get the Vuntut 10 by ordering the finished boat directly from Vallinga himself, like we did.

No matter how you get one, don’t be distracted by the novelty of such a small canoe. The Vuntut 10 pack canoe is no gimmick. It will allow you to access more places by being so light and nimble adding versatility to your solo adventures that you never dreamed possible.

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