No one likes a sore behind! If you’ve ever spent significant time in a canoe, then you know how annoying and uncomfortable those hard built-in seats can be. The lack of back support combined with the hard-bodied materials can quickly lead to a stiff back and an aching rear end.
Whether you’re out fishing, doing a multi-day canoe trip, or simply going for a leisurely paddle, a comfortable canoe seat or cushion is one of the best upgrades you can add to your canoe.
Canoe seats vary widely, from simple foam cushions to ergonomic reclining seats that take seconds to install and remove. Most are fairly affordable, and also double as seating for stadiums, camping, or anytime you need a comfortable seat on the go.
I’ll break down some of the best canoe seats on the market; explain some of the features to keep in mind, and hopefully help you pick the best seat for your canoe or rowboat.
Quick Answer: 6 Best Canoe Seats & Cushions
- Best Seat with Backrest: GCI Outdoor SitBacker Adjustable Canoe Seat
- Best Canoe Cushion: Skwoosh Gel Pad
- Best Drop in Canoe Seat: Spring Creek Drop in Canoe Seat
- Wood Seat/Bench: Old Town Web Canoe Seat 34″
- Budget Pick: ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat
- Wide Seat: GCI Outdoor Big Comfort Wide
Best Seat with Backrest: GCI Outdoor SitBacker Adjustable Canoe Seat
Comfortable, supportive, and highly portable, this folding seat from GCI is on the best options when it comes to canoe seating. It takes mere seconds to mount and remove from a canoe’s bench, using the dual buckle attachment system below the seat. A sturdy backrest with lumbar support keeps your lower back completely supported when your paddling, while a single adjustable strap allows you to set the recline angle to your preference.
When you need to collapse the seat flat, the Auto-fold and Portage Lock keep it locked in the collapsed position. This makes transporting the seat a breeze and is also useful when you’re portaging (carrying) the canoe on land. The steel frame and tough fabric seat weigh just 3 pounds, making it light enough to sling over your shoulder and forget about.
At 11” x 16.5” x 18” the seat is compatible with just about any canoe bench or seat – whether they’re flat or molded. It also doubles as a portable seat for camping, picnicking, and sporting events. The seat is rated to support up to 250 pounds, so it should work for most people.
- Well-made, portable, and easy to mount/dismount
- Easily adjustable single buckle recline
- Portage lock strap for easy folding and transport
- Weighs just 3 pounds, supports up to 250 pounds
Best Canoe Cushion: Skwoosh Gel Pad
If you’re looking for a lightweight cushion to keep your backside comfortable, then this gel pad makes an excellent choice. Its low profile allows you to maintain a low center of gravity while your seated, which is key for keeping your watercraft stable. A lightweight pressure reliving fluidized gel creates a comfortable and slim half-inch layer of padding that keeps you comfortable for many hours of paddling.
A non-skid bottom keeps the cushion from slipping out of position, and a tie-down loop allows you to tether it to your canoe so you won’t lose it in case of a capsize. Keep in mind that no ‘tie-down’ buckles or loops are built-in, but the textured non-slip bottom does a good job of keeping the cushion in place.
The entire cushion weighs just 8 ounces, and measures 10.5” x 15” x 1/2”. It can also be folded in half for easy storage and packing during transport. Besides working as a canoe seat, it also works well for kayaking, rowing, and stadium seating.
- Lightweight, low-profile, fluidized ½-inch gel cushion
- Non-skid bottom keeps it in place while paddling
- Weighs just 8 ounces
- Protects your ‘sitz’ bones during prolonged paddling
- Made in the USA
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Best Drop in Canoe Seat: Spring Creek Drop in Canoe Seat
This sturdy drop in canoe seat is the perfect solution when you want to add an additional seat to either solo or tandem canoes. The sturdy seat will keep you comfortably seated and elevated above the wet canoe deck. It’s highly versatile and will expand from 34-inches to 40-inches wide to accommodate a wide variety of canoes.
The frame is made from sturdy anodized aluminum and will support up to 300 pounds. It’s exceptionally easy to mount and dismount, with c-clamp attachments that require no drilling. To attach the seat to the canoe simply set the desired width, attach the c-clamps around the gunwales, and then crank the knobs until the seat is firmly mounted in place.
The 12” x 9” seat features a comfortable built-in foam padding that keeps your rear end from getting sore during prolonged paddling. The seat works equally well for adults or children and is a great choice for adding additional passengers to your canoe.
- Sturdy anodized aluminum and ethafoam construction
- Expands from 34” to 40” wide to fit various cane widths
- Quick and easy to mount and dismount with C-clamps
- Works for solo or tandem paddling
- Made in the USA
- Holds up to 300 lbs
Wood Seat/Bench: Old Town Web Canoe Seat 34″
If you’re looking for a more permanent seating solution, this sturdy white ash and nylon webbed seat makes an excellent choice. The ash frame is strong and slightly flexible, providing a comfortable seating platform for many hours at a time. The seat can be fitted into the bow or stern of most canoes and can be installed in about 30 minutes with basic tools.
Cutting the frame to fit your particular canoe can be done fairly easily, and detailed installation instructions come included. The distance between the two wood arms is approximately 9-inches, which is the ideal length for comfortable seating, as well as not taking up to much space inside the hull.
The webbed nylon surface allows air to flow freely through the seat, adding to its strength as well as ensuring it dries out quickly when wet. Keep in mind is that no mounting hardware comes included, so make sure you pick that up separately if needed.
- Sturdy and flexible ash and nylon webbed canoe seat
- It can be fitted in either the bow or stern of most canoes
- Installation is fairly straightforward
- Webbed nylon seat is strong and dries quickly
Budget Pick: ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat
If you’re looking for a well-made canoe seat without breaking the bank, then this lightweight folding chair makes a great option. It features bottom webbing for easy attachment to canoe seats, as well as bleachers or other hard surfaces. The recline angle can be easily adjusted with the webbing straps on either side, while two webbing handles make carrying it in your hand a breeze.
A mesh pocket on the rear of the seat allows you to stash snacks, cameras, and other gear you want to keep within arm’s length. 1/2-inch thick closed-cell foam provides excellent protection and comfort for your legs and back, while still keeping your center of gravity low in the water.
Keep in mind this seat is fairly lightweight and doesn’t feature any type of metal frame. You can still set it up to be rigid and provide back support; just make sure to pull the bottom webbing straps as tight as possible.
- Lightweight, packable seat is cheap and effective
- Bottom webbing straps provide sturdy mount
- Half-inch thick closed cell foam padding
- Mesh rear pocket for storing smaller items
Wide Seat: GCI Outdoors Big Comfort Wide
This extra-wide canoe seat is the perfect choice when you need a little extra room for canoeing, kayaking, camping, or pretty much anywhere! It features a 20″ wide seat that can support up to 330 lbs. The adjustable backrest let you set the recline angle to your preference, while the 4″ seat elevation keeps your rear end high and dry.
Weighing just 2.6 pounds, the aluminum-framed seat is light enough to take with you nearly anywhere. An integrated L-shaped hook quickly secures the seat to benches, bleachers, and other flat surfaces. Breathable nylon mesh and polyester fabrics wick away moisture, so you’ll have more than enough airflow to stay cool and dry.
The seat also works well for wider kayaks, stadium seating, and for folks who prefer a slightly wider perch to sit on.
- Breathable nylon and polyester seat fabric
- Bottom straps allow you to mount the seat to benches, bleachers, and other flat surfaces
- Seat height is elevated 4 inches
- Measures 23.6″ x 22.8″ x 16.3″
How to pick the right canoe seat or cushion
With so many different types, sizes, and designs, finding the right canoe seat or cushion for your craft can be a little confusing. Let’s break down what you need to know to find the ideal canoe seat.
A seat’s dimensions are an important consideration to keep in mind when picking out a canoe seat. You’ll want to make sure the width of the seat or cushion is less than the width of the canoe’s bench, otherwise, it won’t fit properly.
Also, consider the seat’s weight capacity. Most weight capacities range from 250 to 300 pounds, so if you’re a bigger guy or gal, make sure the seat will hold your weight.
Additionally, keep in mind the indented user. If you’re planning to use the seat as an add-on for kids or smaller passengers, then you can get away with a smaller seat than one for larger adults.
A canoe seats padding type and thickness are also important factors to consider. Most seats are between a ½ inch and an inch thick, with varying degrees of plushness.
A thinner seat will help keep your center of gravity lower, which increases stability on the water. They won’t be quite as comfortable as a thicker plush seat, so you’ll need to balance comfort with firmness. If you get pain in your tailbone or sitz bones from prolonged sitting, then a comfortable seat is a must.
The major difference between canoe seats and cushions are the backrests. Depending on your canoeing style, backrests providing extra lumbar support can be a lifesaver.
If you spend long periods of time in a canoe, like when you’re fishing, using a trolling motor, doing a multi-day canoe trip, or just paddling for a prolonged period, having a backrest is key. It will allow you to lean back and relax your back muscles, which can get sore from maintaining a paddling stance.
If you frequently use your canoe in fast-moving water, then a seat with a backrest is not ideal. You’ll need to keep your center of gravity low, so a cushion would make a better choice. These cushions also double as pads to rest your knees on when you’re kneeling on the deck.
Mounting a canoe seat or cushion to your canoe is generally fairly straightforward. Most models feature built-in straps on the seat bottom, allowing you to cinch the seat tight to the canoe. Whenever you’re paddling, make sure to tighten the seat properly – if it’s too loose, the seat will shift around and make your paddling much less efficient.
This is especially important if you’re using a canoe cart to transport your craft over rocky terrain.
Some cushions don’t come with built-in mounting straps, so make sure to pick up some type of rope or cord to tether them to the craft.
There a few extra features to keep in mind that can increase the functionality of your canoe seat.
Storage Pocket: Some seats feature a small storage pocket on the rear of the backrest. These pockets are great for stashing snacks, water, fishing gear, or anything else you want to keep within arm’s length.
Flotation: Several cushions can also double as flotation devices in a pinch. While you should always wear a personal flotation device when you’re on the water, these can be handy for a variety of tasks.
Versatility: Beyond just keeping your rear end comfortable while paddling a canoe, most canoe seats also double as seating for kayaks, rowboats, as well as for bleachers and other sporting events. Because they’re easy to attach and remove from a canoe, you can easily swap them out to other watercraft in seconds.