Best all round tripping canoe?

Hello there looking for a all round tripping canoe, that I can paddle down a class 2 to 3 river for three four days and still paddle across a lake. I live on a class three river, and would love to be able to paddle day trips down that aswell, thanks very much :O)


First, are you looking for a solo or a tandem?

Do you plan to run Class III rapids in a loaded boat, or portage around them?

How technical is the whitewater you plan to paddle on? How long are the rapids? Are there good recovery pools below them?

Any canoe that is capable of safely running Class III water, especially if it involves long rapids, or technical rapids will have compromised flat water performance. How much you are willing to compromise flat water performance for increased whitewater capability is very much going to depend on the type of whitewater you want to paddle.

More details?
Will you paddling solo or with a partner? Do you mean “real” Class III, or the kind of Class III described in most informational publications for newbies and tourists? Real Class-III will have waves coming over the top of the boat and you’ll want the interior of the boat to be well-filled by float bags, and maybe even have a cover too. “Class III” as described in most canoe-touring pamphlets and their online equivalents is normally just moderate waves or occasional pronounced drops with quieter water below.

We haven’t asked about your dimensions, ht & wt, and your skill level.

If you are a skilled paddler and under 220lbs/100Kg, maybe a Colden WildFire, but the original question indicates otherwise.

Maybe a MRC Guide/freedom solo or a Swift Raven would be s better start point?

Tough to tell w/o more data

You don’t know this yet, but yours isn’t
a realistic request.

Any canoe that is highly effective on class 2-3, loaded with camping gear, is going to be a pig on a lake.

I would rather make a pivoting drop skeg for my 15’ high rockered ww boat to make it track on a lake, then try to take any lake boat down class 2-3.

I have a Mad River Guide Solo, and I don’t like to paddle it in class 3, empty. Full of camping gear it would be dangerous.

The class II-III do everything well canoe idea pops up quite regularly. I’ve done class II in a loaded “general” purpose tandem canoe, but I know that most all class III water would fill that thing up in a second.

How 'bout a tripping canoe that can handle lakes and class II?

Old Town Penobscot or Tripper, Mad River Explorer, various prospectors, etc…a lot of boats in a wide variety of materials in that class.

So have I
but the OP has not specified whether solo or tandem. If you are poler you can and do want a tandem if solo, but I doubt the OP fits that.

And on lakes Prospectors require a good bit of technique to make the boat go straight. That is another unknown.

Tripping canoes
I have been contemplating a new tripping canoe. These are some of the best:

Nova Prospector 17

Esquif Prospector 17

Wenonah Cascade

Swift Dumoine

Swift Yukon

Hellman Slocan

In a second category that is close, but not as good:

Bell Alaskan

Dagger Venture 17

Penobscot 17

Wenonah Champlain

The boat for your conditions should be long with high volume, arched bottom, flared hull, at least 14 inches deep, a beam of at least 35-36 inces, and lastly rocker, at least 2 inches, 3 is better. The Slocan has 4 inches but is hard to find in the States.

Some canoes on your list can’t handle
class 3 with a full load, and some are pigs on lake water.

I wouldn’t worry about flare if a canoe is big enough and not overloaded. None of my bigwater lake or ww boats is flared, and they all run dry.

But a lot of true class 3 has been
downgraded by the familiarity-breeds-contempt crowd. The Nantahala supposedly has only one class 3 rapid, but put a bunch of midwestern open boaters on it who don’t know the routes, and have no one to follow, and see what happens.

And some class 3, even class 2, is too technical for tandems loaded with gear. Example: middle Tellico.

The AWA classification system was weak in its inception with regard to classifying those rapids of most relevance to the largest number of paddlers, class 2 and class 3.

I finally ran into a slow Wenonah
If I were on a lake with a Wenonah Cascade, I would shoot myself. Five hundred miles on the Yukon was bad enough but the current was 12 kph which helped.

I do think bow flare helps… My Wenonah Odyssey was designed for downriver racing to class 3 and has a deep flared bow. Its quite OK for Lake Superior too. Its been both places. Its a handful empty and not a solo boat at all.

There are quite a few other “best” boats out there, but “best” in one category often means "lacking " in another category.

I used to run rivers with a Wenonah Odyssey which has a completely straight keel line and I hated that boat.

A tripper with some rocker can be made to go straight on lakes, but a straight boat is very hard to turn much less go sideways on a river.

All trippers have some compromises. The question was up to Class III rapids.

I agree
If you want to have one boat and paddle it on Class III water then buy a boat that can handle Class III water and put up with it on flat water. Otherwise buy a boat that is better on flat water and plan to portage around the Class IIIs (and technical Class IIs).

You might get frustrated paddling a whitewater boat on flat water but if you try it the other way around you might get hurt.

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Something related to this topic

– Last Updated: Mar-31-13 9:17 PM EST –

It would be good if the original poster could come back and join the discussion. In the meantime, my first thought was that he probably needs to work into the whitewater stuff fairly gradually anyway. That's because I don't think a person who'd be asking this exact question is likely to have the skills needed for Class III or even most Class II "right now". With that in mind, I think a moderately maneuverable boat would be a good choice, with the idea that as skills improve it would be good for some of the Class II while still being a reasonable cruiser on the flats. Naturally, avoiding the rougher, more difficult stuff for the time being would be best, both on account of the best type of boat for learning AND the learning process itself. When it comes to paddling whitewater, most of us start out that way (and with not a lot of good whitewater right nearby, I myself am STILL "starting out" that way).

Regarding extreme range of useage for boats, Bill Mason paddled everyplace he went using general-purpose tandem canoes. Naturally a solo paddler in a tandem boat won't be doing the same technical maneuvers as he might in a solo boat, and surely Mason would have enjoyed solo canoes a lot if they'd have been more readily available in his day. Along those same lines, I think people's expectations of what a boat should be able to do in whitewater have greatly increased along with the increased specialization of boat design for that purpose, and thus, a boat that was "good" for whitewater decades ago is now seen as a dog. I think it's worth noting too that really serious whitewater paddlers in their short, high-rocker boats tend to rely heavily on quick turns and spins, as well as offside paddle strokes, while paddlers who are using more general-purpose boats can partly compensate for mediocre turning/spinning ability by being good at back-ferrying and side-slipping, which were standard techniques when such boats were all that was available. Knowing/learning which whitewater techniques are most appropriate for the type of boat being used will be as important to the original poster as choosing which boat in which to get started.


– Last Updated: Mar-31-13 9:31 PM EST –

We have run rapids on the Buffalo (class2), Magnetawan, St John, and Wabakimi (all class 3) and found the boat quite responsive for a big 18.5 foot lake cruiser.

It was designed for those expeditions involving big water and big rapids in the North.

I have gotten pretty good at maneuvering it. For sure it is not an eddy catcher so if your line is not there without eddy hopping, you cant do it. One time I had to teach tandem FreeStyle with it. Not my first choice, with the turning arc of a semi but it worked.

I’ll probably get run out of town
but I would say an Old Town Tripper or a 17’ Nova Craft Prospector would tough to top.

Don’t think you will get run out of town
but those are a beast to portage. Which the OP did not mention.

Beast to portage -

– Last Updated: Apr-02-13 6:43 AM EST –

true. Which is why a true general purpose tripping canoe that meets all the need of every type of trip optimally does not exist. But, if you are tripping on class 2 and 3 rivers as the OP indicates a nice big hull made of royalex is a good choice unless, as you say, there are frequent long carries. Also, such a canoe will work on other types of trips - but it is a beast to portage. If you are young and strong should be ok.

I’m goin’ with a madriver explorer…
ain’t as flat bottomed as a tripper, a bit stiffer boat, more veed out. Less capacity, but a bit more turny.Never portaged one but can’t imagine it sucks any worse than a tripper. If you got a lot of gear the tripper wins out. Takes more skill to paddle the explorer but given a choice that’s what I’d take out of those two boats. The trippers ends sheds big whitewater better but it just ain’t as manuevable. I can’t speak to the others on the list- never paddled them. Boats I didn’t like as well for tripping included the blueholes, grummans, sea nymphs, discovery and penobscot.

A MR Explorer is NOT more “turny”

– Last Updated: Apr-04-13 4:54 PM EST –

than an OT Tripper. The Explorer is also a bit slower. However, it is lighter in Royalex, and can be had in "Kevlar" which has never been offered for the Tripper.

I can't imagine where you got the idea that the Tripper isn't maneuverable. Ours was very maneuverable, hampered only by the fact that, once induced to turn, its weight at its ends made it want to keep turning forever.

The marked V-bottom on the Explorer is very unfavorable for turning, so that once it is loaded, it has to be muscled by its tandem crew to make turns.

The Tripper sits on a center pivot zone, rather like a giant version of a Dagger Encore. But in outfitting, one has to make sure that center zone doesn't oil can. I put in a center foam pedestal that held the bottom down, and I could solo the boat on ww very effectively.