Boat in Bell Northstar category

Experienced river tripper looking for recommendations for a light tandem boat for lake to lake travel. 10 +/- day trips. Must be light weight! (getting older). Trips will include +++ portaging. Looking for boat with good secondary stability, fast enough and tuff. Must be under 17 " to fit in shed. Our total weights is 310 lbs and we usually carry 70-80 lbs gear.

Uhh, how about the Bell Northstar. I have one, for use exactly the same as you describe, about the lame load for a 10-12 day trip. 39lbs in Kev Light.

You don’t like it?

alternatives would be Malecite, or maybe Wenonah Solo Plus. There aren’t too many others in that class. Most people want a longer boat for a lake tripper.

do a search for “pocket tripper” and see what else pops up.

Our Bluewater Chippewa meets some
of your criteria… 16’ 10", 48 pounds with aluminum gunwales, 16" deep with about a 580 pound good-performing capacity. Bluewater does not list this model, but will build on request. However, the Chippewa, while a wonderful boat for swamps (it turns at a thought but then settles straight without fuss) is not as fast a boat as I might like on a lake. To give you an example, it is faster than the OT Tripper we owned, but I doubt that it is quite as fast as the middling fast Wenonah Spirit II.

The Spirit II might be worth looking at. I believe it is exactly 17 feet.

Thanks Matt,

I’m considering the Northstar but in BalckGold but have never paddled one and do not have access to those type of craft. In our area and for many miles around dealers carry ABS river trippers.

How does the Norhstar compare to the opposition ex: Souris River in Expedition Kevlar in 16 or 17 foot length.

I relying on the experience of members of this forum to guide me in my initial choice.

Forgot to mention we like to sit and paddle but kneel when things get rough so the boat has to be with standard seats and should be able to turn fairly easy for mild river stuff.


The Bell Northstar is a great boat for it’s size. We have used a Wennonah Escapade (also 16.5 ft), but the Bell steers a little better due to it’s 1.5 in (I think ) rocker. You can’t go wrong with either one. If you can go up to 17" feet you will have many many more options.

I’ve not paddled the Souris RIver boats, but I’d bet that the Northstar is faster than the Q16, and as fast or faster than the Q17.

I probably jumped to the wrong conclusion when you said “Northstar class”, which is why I threw out that term “pocket tripper”. Generally, the group of boats I was thinking about are narrower at the waterline and gunnels than a “standard” canoe of similar length. They were designed that way, to be easier to paddle solo from center or kneeling thwart, and to give them the speed of a longer boat, and probably to reduce the weight a little bit also.

All other things being equal, two boats of the same length, the one with the narrower water line should be faster. Racing boats are long and sleek, not short and fat. And if there is no other difference, a lighter boat should be faster than a heavier boat as well. Bell gives a ratio of waterline length to width for thier boats, but most mfgs do not. I see that the Q16 is 34" at the gunnels, but no spec for the waterline - the Q17 is 35" at the gunnels. I believe that the SR boats are generally built a bit wider, which is something they design in for more stability. The Northstar is 31" at the water line and gunnels, and 34" max. The Malecite is 16’5" long and 32 1/14" at the waterline. I am just assuming that the waterline width for the SR boats is wider, based on their stability claim.

Another boat you might consider is the Wenonah Escapade. 16’6 also and 39#, but with a 34" waterline, it is probably more similar to the Q16 than the Northstar.

And in what I’d consider the “Northstar Class” “Pocket Tripper” class, another boat I’d consider is the Swift Kipawa. 16’6", and 32 1/2" at the waterline. Really light at 33# if you get the integrated gunnels, and expensive at $3,300.

speed and weight are relative. A 39# boat is light, but a 33# boat is even lighter if that is a key criteria. Likewise, speed is relative - who cares if you get across a 5 mile wide lake five minutes sooner ? though a faster boat should be a bit less work.

and I’m for sure no expert. Just going by what I’ve read, and applying some logic. It would be nice is there were true objective tests that would give real comparative speed and stability

numbers for all boats.

Hemlock Eagle
Heavier than the Northstar, but for a tripper I think the layups may be tougher and/or field repairable.

Adirondack or Aurora in Kevlar UL
The Escapade is fast, but it is narrow and low. the Aurora is deeper and more stable and a bit slower, but still noticably faster than the royalext trippers. The Adirondack is in the middle and as its name implies is ideal for the long lakes and portages. It will easily handle the load and paddler weight.

I am surprised that no one has suggested a 16’Prospector in Kevlar from Wenonah or Novacraft. Theirs being the lightest layups.

If the shed will take a 17’ canoe, the Spirit II in UL kevlar would be the first choice. More stable than anything else its speed, and faster than anything else as stable.


light tandem
The Northstar is just such a fabulous boat…it would be perfect for your use…efficient and it will handle your load effortlessly. I’ve had a black/gold Northstar for a long time and have never felt the need for any other tandem (until recently)…but I have a number of solos. It seems to be almost in a class of it’s own.

The Swift Mattawa in Expedition Kevlar is also tough as nails and a super sweet boat (effortless and efficient but also maneuverable) that would handle your load easily. It’s actually quite Northstar-like…same rocker specs and similar handling. Your load is actually light for a Northstar so in some sense the boat is overkill, but it’s still happy with a light load like yours. The Northstar is a bit faster than a Mattawa but the Mattawa is more fun solo. The Mattawa would be perhaps 5 pounds lighter than the Northstar which you might appreciate.

Spirit II
We have a Wenonah Spirit II and it would certainly do what you ask for. We have the Kev flexcore with color coat but you could lighten the boat a good 15 lbs by going with the Kev UL without gelcoat (42lbs). The load you stated may be a little on the light side in the wind though. We usually paddle with around 500 lbs total and there is still plenty of capacity left in it.


Ranger Otter
Ranger canoe has a nice boat in that class.

I’ve had one for 2 years now. Really enjoy it.