It took me a while to make up my mind on getting a new canoe, but once I had my sights set on the Old Town Guide 119 I plowed ahead and purchased one. I had been looking at a bunch of other canoes, canoes that were much more expensive. But after reading over a hundred reviews from other paddlers and test paddling one for myself, I knew the Old Town Guide 119 was for me.
Article Update 4/13/21: The Old Town Guide 119 is no longer available as a new purchase, it has been updated and modified into the Old Town Sportsman Discovery Solo 119
If you’ve spent any time on Old Town’s website you will not have seen the Guide 119 there anywhere. It’s specially made for Dicks Sporting Goods. That’s right, Dick’s Sporting Goods is the only place you can buy a Guide 119 for new – either online or from direct point of sales at one of their retails stores. I ordered mine online and had it shipped to my house.
So without further ado let’s jump into the specifics on my new canoe and why I decided on the Guide 119. I’m gonna talk about things like the specs, stability, how it tracks, what I like, what I don’t like…etc…etc…
Old Town Guide 119 – Review Details
- A one person canoe
- Length: 11’9″ (that’s where they get the 119 from in the name)
- Width: 32.5″
- Bow Height: 19″
- Depth: 13.5″
- Carry Capacity: 500lbs
- Weight: 49lbs (not the lightest solo canoe out there)
- Material/Hull Composition: 3 layer polyethylene (very durable and why it weighs 49lbs)
- Hull shape: Shallow arch
- Sides/tumblehome: Straight/none
- Rocker: Moderate
- Warranty: Manufacturer’s lifetime hull and deck warranty from original owner
- Country of manufacture: United States Of America
- Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods
What I Like About The Old Town Guide 119
In buying any canoe you should purchase based on your needs. I would have liked to have had a lighter canoe, who wouldn’t!? But overall my need in a canoe was rather specific. Kevlar canoes are lighter, but the polyethylene composition of the Guide 119 can take a lot more abuse.
I don’t plan on putting my new canoe through any major beatings on purpose, hoping to bounce it off rocks and other underwater obstructions or drag it over the ground from my SUV to the lake. I take good care of my possessions… but, I plan to use this new canoe on many river and lakes that have underwater rocks and stumps. It needs to be able to handle those types of water environments. Also, if I want to take it on a BWCA trip into the wilderness I know I can do that to.
My specific likes I have for the Old Town Guide 119:
- It can hold a lot of gear, plus me
- The hull is heavy duty and can take A lot abuse than Kevlar
- The weight is easily manageable and I can load it on my SUV by myself
- Great for solo paddling and tripping on small to medium sized lakes and rivers like the St Croix River and Chippewa
- With care it can be taken onto larger bodies of water, but plan accordingly
- It paddles great with a double bladed canoe paddle and tracks well this way
- Good stability, great for fishing and taking photos
- The price, at $699 it is hard to beat
What I Don’t Like About My Old Town Guide 119
I’ve only had my new canoe for a short while now. Luckily there is not much I can say bad about it. That’s a good thing! However, there are a couple things…
- While I find the seat comfortable, the front edge does seem to be lower than the back. It’s an easy fix I can do myself but I just need to get around to doing it. This is a common complaint I have seen online in other Old Town Guide 119 reviews.
- The color… It only comes in a camo pattern. It looks nice enough, but I would have liked to have had a red one! Oh well.
- It doesn’t have a portage yoke. For any portaging over 100 yards it would be nice to have a yoke. I can easily get one and install it, so this is not that big of a deal to me. But worth mentioning.
In the grand scheme of things, what I don’t like about the Old Town Guide 119 are pretty minor! The seat issue I can fix with a couple small spacers added to the back seat’s mounting posts. Buying a $30 ash wood yoke and installing it myself is also rather minor. The color… I’ll live with it.
Old Town Guide 119 Stability
Is the Old Town Guide 119 a stable canoe for fishing and paddling? How is initial stability? What about secondary stability? Most people I talk to seem to be most curious about how stable this smaller canoe really is.
Let me tell ya, I’m not a little guy. Several months ago I was 325+ pounds. As I write this post I am down to 260. I’m also pushing towards six foot two inches tall. What I’m getting it as that I’m tall and have weight up top… not a good thing for canoe paddling… usually.
With all that out in the open I have to admit I was surprised at how stable I felt in the Old Town Guide 119. The seat is fairly low in it, and that helps lower my center of gravity which of course helps provide better stability. I’m pleased with how comfortable I feel in this canoe! I could certainly lower the seat another inch or two and make it ever better. But I don’t feel I need to do that.
Initial Stability – Getting In And Out
Being honest the most unstable part of using this canoe, and most any canoe, is when you are getting in and out of it. It takes a little practice to get comfortable with the process, especially because the seat sits lower in this canoe. It can feel a little ‘iffy’ during that transition. But once I am sitting down all feels fine.
Secondary Stability – Underway
When using a two bladed kayak paddle in the Old Town Guide 119 I didn’t have any issues with stability when underway. However, I did try and use a traditional canoe paddle and found it to not be so comfortable feeling. It wasn’t bad, but it felt awkward to me using a single bladed paddle, and that in turn made me feel less stable in this canoe.
So to sum it up – Initial stability is fine but takes a little getting used to getting in and out of the canoe. Secondary stability is just fine, but feels a little off when using a single bladed paddle in this canoe because I sit lower in it than other canoes I have used.
I did notice that if I have some weight up front, about thirty pounds, the canoe feels much more stable than it does with no weight up front. Don’t get me wrong, without that weight up there it feels fine to me and I have no worries, but I do have to admit having camping gear up front or even just a 5 gallon water container makes it far better than I could ever expect.
Old Town Guide 119 – How Well Does It Track
Most any experienced canoeist will know from looking at the Old Town Guide 119 or its counterpart the Discovery model 119, that it is short and has a moderate rocker. That means it’s likely to turn easily and be almost too responsive when paddling… paddling with a traditional single bladed paddle.
Most people who try and use this canoe with a single bladed paddle have problems; the Guide 119 will turn quickly with just a sweep or two. Doing a J-stroke can help track you straight but it’s not easy to do in a canoe that you sit low in, and if you could make it work you would find yourself going pretty slow in this canoe.
If you want to track straight and have less issues with the wind catching you in this canoe, you are going to want to use a double bladed kayak style paddle. It will track just fine that way. It does have a slight keel running down the center that helps, but by far the double bladed paddle is perfect for paddling in the Guide 119.
The Guide 119 And Speed
Longer and more narrow canoes are going to be faster when you paddle them. It seems many of the popular solo Kevlar canoes out there are narrow and between fourteen and sixteen feet long. Most can move along at a pretty good clip.
I’m going to be honest here, I’m not out to win any races in this canoe. Is it slow to paddle? Yes and no.
If you are canoe tripping with a couple buddies and they are in a tandem canoe you can count on them being faster. If you are canoeing with a couple buddies and they are both in solo Kevlar canoes using single bladed paddles you may find yourself just as fast or moving a little faster if you use a double bladed paddle.
All things are relative. What’s important to you in a canoe? For me when I am canoe tripping alone I don’t exactly worry about pouring on a lot of speed. I’m taking it easy and moving along at a comfortable pace. I’m not worried if I arrive at my destination five or ten minutes later.
(Check out my review of the Guide 119 versus a Swift Adirondack Pack 12, Click Here)
Old Town Guide 119 Summary
I’m pleased with my new canoe and looking forward to getting out in on a few camping trips. It meets all of my needs for a solo canoe: I can load it on my car alone, it holds enough camping gear for a several days, good stability, tracks well, adequate speed, can use it all over the Mid-West, and it was easily affordable when compared to Kevlar canoes that cost five times more.
I plan to share more information about my Old Town Guide 119 as I get out there and use it. If I do any modifications, like I plan to do to the seat, I’ll be sure to document what I do and share it here on this website.
If you’re looking to buy one of these canoes be sure to check them out online. Dick’s Sporting Goods is the only place that sells them and they have sales on the Old Town Guide 119 often… you can get them for even less than I paid!
You can learn more and buy one here: Dicks Sporting Goods.
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions about the Old Town Guide 119.