Old Town Guide 119

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 that retails for around $1000

Old Town Guide 119: Solo canoe, solid construction, can carry a lot of weight, stable, and a lot of fun to paddle.
Old Town Guide 119: Solo canoe, solid construction, can carry a lot of weight, stable, and a lot of fun to paddle. Image from a September solo BWCA trip.

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.

A solo canoe trip outing into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with my Old Town Guide 119.
A solo canoe trip outing into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with my Old Town Guide 119.

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.
While I do find that the Old Town Guide 119 has a comfortable seat, it does feel like the front edge sloped down a little too much. Easy fix!
While I do find that the Old Town Guide 119 has a comfortable seat, it does feel like the front edge sloped down a little too much. Easy fix!

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.

My Old Town Guide 119 Loaded Up
My Old Town Guide 119 Loaded Up

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 250.  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.

SealLine 115L in my Old Town Guide 119
SealLine 115L in my Old Town Guide 119

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.

With a little weight up front the stability becomes even better and levels the Old Town Guide 119. I could move the seat forward 4-5 inches and have the same affect.
With a little weight up front the stability becomes even better and levels the Old Town Guide 119. I could move the seat forward 4-5 inches and have the same affect.

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.

My Old Town Guide 119 On My May BWCA Trip.
My Old Town Guide 119 On My May BWCA Trip.

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.



32 thoughts on “Old Town Guide 119

  1. Thanks for this concise and thorough review. Have been looking for a new canoe myself and also picked up the points you raised with regard the seat, wasn’t aware it would be that simple to fix. My biggest challenge with the 119 is the camo colour. I prefer bright colours but at least I have a good review I can bench mark some other models against. Thanks for this

    1. Hi Abbas,

      I totally agree on the camo color of the Old Town Guide 119.  To be honest I was not overly fond of it either.  I guess Old Town used to make them in red and Green as well, but I have not seen any of those around for a while.


  2. Thank you for this review.  I was expecting it to be just an advertisement for the canoe company but it seems like you really did your homework.  I like when a reviewer expresses both the good and the bad aspects of something.  The canoe I have now is getting a little rough around the edges, so this spring I am thinking about replacing it.

    I have looked at a few, but haven’t done much research into it.  The good news for me is that now I don’t have too.

    I look forward to checking out your other articles and reviews to help me make a decision.

    1. Hi Terry,

      Thanks for the nice comment.  Canoe shopping can be a tedious thing.  I looked at a many different makes and models, all way more expensive than the Old Town Guide 119.  But for the type of canoe camping I like to do it seemed like a good fit.  It can take a beating, can hold a lot of gear, maybe is not the lightest canoe out there but far more durable than most, and it is surprisingly stable.  I’m glad I got it.


  3. Hmm this canoe does not even look local at all. They actually look like products from a big company. I was expecting to see the kind of old wooden constructed canoe I used to see when I was a child but to my utmost dismay it beat my expectations. People in river areas would love this more.

  4. Hello,

    I used to be a fisherman before I left my hometown in search of the city dreams. Though, I’ve never had a canoe as fancy as old town guide 119, I understand paddling on river and I really miss my canoe and brothers. There’s this calmness and uncertainty that the ripples of the river give, quite nostalgic

    Thanks for sharing this

    warm regards

  5. The is simple and classy canoe.

    This is really good for people like me that doesn’t know how to paddle but enjoy cruising on water. What i simply like in this Old Town Guide 119 canoe is that it’s really simple and lighter. The military color on makes it more superb. The comfortable sit that is not lower than the back is just too good for me not to have the experience of this canoe. Thank you sharing this. I will like to see more of this from you

  6. Hey, thanks for sharing this article!I’m not necessarily a canoe fan, but my dad is slowly getting into it. He wanted to get a canoe but I reckon he’s pretty new with this activity and even though I know he will find his way.

    my dad really wanted his in blue….

    1. Hi and thanks for reading!

      The Old Town Guide 119 is a great little canoe for the solo paddler… Not sure if it comes in blue.  I have only seen them in camo and red.  


  7. Thank you for this great review on Old Town 119 canoe.

    I am so new to all this but have agreed to a friend to go with them, finally, this year on a canoe trip. Of course, I have asked for help from those who already are way more familiar with canoes than I am.

    It actually made me a bit more worry or, let’s say, more confused since there are too many of different opinions out there.

    However, coming along your site and reading about this review made me a bit more comfortable that there is something there which I also can use as a newbie.

    Just a quick question, is Old Town 119 also a suitable canoe for someone, like me, who never have used a canoe before?

    I appreciate your input, thanks.

    1. Hi Sylvia,

      If you are going on a canoe trip there is a good chance you will be going through an outfitter… maybe.  If you are, then the odds are that the outfitter will have some very good input on what canoe would be best for you and your friend.  If going together but in solo canoes, they will also have some recommendations as well.

      Canoes come in a few shapes and sizes.  Some have better stability than others, and are suited for more experienced paddlers.  Most outfitters supply canoes that are good for beginners.

      As far as the Old Town Guide 119, it is a great solo canoe with excellent stability.  I’m a bigger guy and have no issues.  It’s a fun little canoe and paddles best when using a kayak paddle.

      Have fun on your trip this year with your friend!


  8. I was also looking into purchasing the Old Town Guide 119 about six months ago, but I really couldn’t find enough solid information on it so I left it for the time being – glad to have found your review. 

    My main problem with these types of models is my size in relation to the seat – I’m tall and sometimes I just can’t find a comfortable paddling position. You mention that the seat’s front edge is lower than the back – would this be a problem for taller guys?

    1. Hi Chris,

      I’m a bigger guy too, six foot one inches tall, and I have not had any issues with this canoe in regards to being comfortable.  As far as the front seat edge angling down slightly.  I adjusted that in my Old Town Guide 119 by adding a nylon spacer to the back seat posts that dropped the back down half an inch.  it fixed that issue for me.


  9. This is lovely and I appreciate the fact that you are sharing your thoughts with us here. I have heard about Old town guide but I never tasted its benefit this much. I must say this is the most comprehensive review I have ever read on Old town guide. What I love most about it is that weight is easily manageable and I can load it on my car by myself. This is an eye opener.

    thanks for sharing

  10. I really like the Old Town Guide 119. Right now I use a Saranac 146 which is a fine boat for the family, but a bit too heavy for soloing. I use it anyway, but wouldn’t mind getting a 119. I’ve got to convince my wife to let me turn our yard into a boatyard!

    1. Hahaha, yeah, I hear ya. I have an old aluminum 17 footer that just sits and never gets used. I love my Guide 119 though. It is a solid little solo canoe for sure.

      Thanks for reading!

    1. Hi,

      Yes, it is a good solo canoe for somebody who is getting into canoeing. It is cost friendly, which is nice, but it is also a stable platform and easy to handle/maneuver. I would suggest that if you get one to take out it a few times on a couple calm mornings to get the feel for it.


  11. I gotta disagree with your statement concerning kevlar vs. poly. I have had many OT Pack canoes, all in kevlar, that were used in the wilds of Alaska and were used ‘very’ hard for 8 years. All were used for very rough service, while some were even chewed and beaten on by brown bears. After years of hard service, not one of the kevlar canoes showed any sign of stress cracks or material separation. The OT Pack model were 12 footers and weighed 29 pounds stripped. Anyone familiar with kevlar knows it outlasts and outperforms poly in a canoe application. Kevlar was originally designed by Dupont to be tough and lightweight, which is why it’s used in law enforcement vest and helmets. Whoever gave you the information you state above was way off. Take it from the words of experience.

    1. Hi Pete,

      Thanks for reading and the comment. I am very familiar with Kevlar and it’s origins – you are very much correct; it is impressive and has many fantastic uses.

      The OT Pack canoe you mentioned were sweet little canoes. They used to be made out of a material called Ryolex, which I am sure you are familiar with and know is no longer available. T-formex is a newer material that seems to be on track as a replacement for Ryloex. The OT Pack is a highly sought after canoe among solo trippers. When the OT Packs pop up for sale on places like Ebay or Craig’s List they sell fast.

      With all that said I do stand by my comments concerning Kevlar vs poly. I do appreciate your point of view and your own experience. But I also have my experiences and know what I prefer which is why I bought the Old Town Guide 119 – I live in the upper midwest in canoe-country. Also, if you talk to any outfitter in the Superior/Quetico region they complain about how renters abuse their Kevlar canoes because they bump over rocks and beaver damns with them, how they paddle them up into shore and don’t do ‘wet’ landings. They don’t complain about how renters use their poly canoes because they can take the same punishment without the negative affects – and cost much less. Most outfitters also sell off their Kevlar canoes every season because they get to beat up. Less so with their canoes made of poly because they can take more abuse and be used over multiple seasons. Furthermore if you go on any canoe manufacturer site where they detail the canoe compositions they sell, the poly/fiberglass variants are always described as being able to take more abuse and having stronger durability over their light weight Kevlar canoes.

      Don’t get me wrong – I love Kevlar canoes. But there is a big difference on how you should use a Kevlar canoe over a poly canoe. $699 for an Old Town Guide 119 that weighs 45lbs that I can drag over rocks, drag up on shore with all my gear in it, and drag over beaver damns without a second thought about it. Or a $3000+ Swift pack canoe that weighs 30lbs but should be used only for wet landings, should be lifted over obstructions like beaver damns, lifted onto shore after all gear is removed..etc… For the fifteen or more pounds of weight I have to portage and saving $2400 dollars, I am personally happy with my Old Town Guide 119.

      With that said it remains ‘to each their own’. If you know how to take care and use a Kevlar canoe, as I am sure you do, it is going to last a very long time no doubt about it. If you treat your poly canoe just the same as you do a Kevlar canoe it is going to last for as long as you live. The trade off is the poly is heavier to portage, but it also cost a lot less.


  12. Thanks for a great review. My question is do you think that foot supports (braces) can be added similar to the ones that come standard on the discovery 119? Brice

    1. Hi Brice,

      Yep they certainly can be. You can get the foot braces for either the Discovery 119 or the Guide 119. You can find them online at various sources, such as Austin Kayak for around $30 bucks. You can also find them on the Old Town website for around $50. I was actually thinking of getting some and installing them last year, but decided I would wait a bit and get in some paddles this spring before deciding either way.

      The new Solo Sportsman 119 is a sweet looking ride!


  13. I’m looking at one of these on the used market. I’m a big guy, 6’3″, 280ish. I also have shoulder issues, so I cannot use a kayak paddle; I have to use a single bladed paddle. It’s a different motion and bothers my shoulder less. Is that going to be a problem?


    1. Hi Scotty,

      I have used a regular canoe paddle in my Old Town Guide 119 from time to time. It has never been an issue for me. I do use a shorter paddle though when using the traditional paddle, because I am sitting lower in this canoe and am closer to the water.

      Best of luck! It’s a great canoe!


  14. I heartily agree with your comment about having a little weight up front. It definitely helped me. And I did the same thing – used a collapsible 5 gallon water container. It now stays with the canoe dedicated just to being used for ballast. Very convenient to just fill it up with whatever water you’re floating in. If you’re just getting started, this little trick might make the difference in how comfortable you feel. My two cents.

    1. Yep, totally agree. That little bit of weight up front can make a huge difference when first getting comfortable paddling. On small lakes or streams I don’t bother too much with that anymore. But when I go out on larger bodies of water I have some weight up front 95% of the time.


  15. I have had my Old Town Guide 119 for quite awhile and probably 20 extended trips. I load it on the heavy side. Probably about 200 lbs of gear. This includes a small wood stove and a small wall tent I cut down to 6×7. I have never had any issues with the canoe. I did put the spacers in under the seat and solved that. All and all, it’s a brook trout canoe for me to get to the places I need to.

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