Buying an Old Town Tripper/repair questions

Hi all, new here but hoping for some help with the purchase of a used OT Tripper 172. I have no idea on the year, but assume early 80s based on the seats, end caps, and white (or aluminum?) gunwales. It’s hard to tell from the photos and the seller has not been very responsive but I want to double check a few things before I drive 1.5 hours to pick it up. Price is $450 with some aluminum paddles which seems pretty reasonable, especially considering the used market these days. Pictures are here: old town tripper help - Album on Imgur

Few questions. This sure looks like Royalex, right? Is it difficult to repair the outer vinyl that’s chipping/de-laminating like that?

I’ve canoed my whole life but always in plastic Colemans, until taking an OT Camper on an 8 day excursion down the Connecticut River last year. I am never going back to a Coleman (unfortunately the Camper was on loan). Any advice on maintaining the Tripper to keep it in tip-top shape for a long life?

I want to eventually replace the end caps with ones that have handles–are they riveted on? Any tips to replace those?

I also will likely be putting back in a proper thwart and yoke, and may opt to put cane seats in. Those are just simple bolts yes?

Any other tips?? Thanks in advance!

Yes, I bought and rebuilt one of those a few years back. Old Town will sell you the parts, but they will not be white, they will be black. The decks are attached with 3/16 rivets and the new ones will have carry handles. The gunwales are vinyl and they may have an aluminum core in them. I believe you are right that the boat is royalex, but others might chime in if they were produced in 3 layer poly. I don’t think so. Seats and thwarts are just simple bolt in stuff that can be bought from after market vendors. It does look a bit beat up.


The Tripper is Royalex and its from the 80’s. It is near indestructible and the flaking vinyl… just put some G flex on and paint if you want.

Actually looks in good shape. I have seen worse but serviceable on Maine Rivers. The boat is eternal.

Thanks for the tips! Any red flags I should look for when checking it out aside from the obvious?

As others have said, the hull is Royalex. The gunwales are vinyl. I have read that the white gunwales were more prone to degradation and cracking than the black gunwales. The deck plates and seats are molded polyethylene and yes, the deck plates are riveted on. The thwarts in that canoe are not stock and have been replaced with heaven knows what.

I would absolutely not remove and replace the deck plates just to add grab handles. Just install short carry handle thwarts just behind each deck plate using stainless steel machine screws (#10 x 24) and stainless nuts with nylon locking inserts.

You can’t really “repair” the missing vinyl. The outer vinyl layer of Royalex was primarily to protect the underlying ABS from UV degradation and to add some nice color options. It provides a modicum of protection against abrasion but not very much. I would probably just paint over the areas denuded of vinyl with any paint that offers a reasonable color match.

For the areas missing vinyl on the stems, if you go to see the boat press in on those areas firmly with your thumb. If there is much “give” then the outer layer of the ABS has probably been thinned out. In that event I would cover the areas of stem wear with an abrasion plate.

I agree that the boat looks to be in quite good shape for its vintage and unless there are some flaws that are not apparent the price is good. If I bought it I would replace both thwarts with a center carry yoke and a plain thwart aft. I would add carry handles at both ends and I would consider replacing the heavy PE molded seats with wood frame seats with cane or webbing seating surfaces.

Ed’s canoe is a good source for carry handles, seats, seat hangers, yokes, thwarts, and hardware:

I agree leave the decks as they are and add a short thwart a few inches back from the deck. I made my thwarts from a bunch of aluminum tube I had that was an old cabin tent frame I had as a kid. I sawed it to length and smashed the end flat in my bench vice at an angle that matched the gunwale and clamped it to the gunwale and drilled it together and bolted it below the gunwale.

You could replace the other homemade ones the same and everything will match.

Thanks for the info. Yes, I definitely wouldn’t remove the deck plates now that I know they’re riveted on. Good tip to just add thwart handles close to the ends. I am going to see it tomorrow morning, hope everything else checks out. Without seeing this Tripper, the Camper I’ve been using for the past year is in arguably worse shape and was a great canoe. I will definitely be replacing the DIY’d yoke and thwart with real ash ones and will likely upgrade the seats down the line.

I figure repairing/replacing the gunwales would be a large endeavor, but they look fine from the photos. Any suggestions on maintaining/repairing those?

With a 40 year old Royalex boat, should I be worried about the hull being brittle? Have read a bit about that being a problem. Any tips to check that? Just push hard on it in a handful of spots?

Thanks again for all the help!

The RX is so thick that it may well not be brittle. At least 200 of these things of that vintage do the 17 mile long Kenduskeag Stream Canoe race ( google it. it is entertaining) which is 10 miles class 1 and 7 miles class 2 and 3. The rocks are all dynamited with sharp edges from the logging days and no one ever damages a Tripper.

I would pull out all the seats and thwarts and replace now. We had two Trippers on a day trip and both had all seat and yoke collapses. The end grain is never sealed and dry rot came which was invisible until the obvious happened. Rehab the seats too and seal the end grain

Thanks for the info. Yeah I was just down banging on the Camper we still have on loan and it might even qualify as “brittle” but we’ve had no issues with it, and don’t plan on doing a ton of WW action.

Any thoughts on this boat? Old Town 16' Canoe - boats - by owner - marine sale He doesn’t know the model but it looks like a Tripper or Penobscot to my untrained eye. Maybe a Discovery. 17 feet and he bought used in the mid-90s. It sure looks to be in better shape than that Tripper. Checking them both out this weekend.

Great community here, thanks again for all the help everyone.

Edit: That Kenduskeag race looks like an absolute blast. I may be changing my mind about WW action in the near future.

I have the same gunwales on my OT. I started to get some cracking at the seat bolts, so I reinforced them with 1.5" aluminum angle. Seems much better now.

I also replaced the flotation foam due to mice and water. Drilled the rivets, cleaned it out and poured new foam. Wasn’t too bad and the boat has a new life now.

I love it other than the weight

Good question. It is not a Disco. Penobscots came in 16 and 17 foot lengths in ABS. ( RX). Only you with the tape measure in hand can tell.