Camper vs. Morningstar

I was hoping for some advice.

After reading all of the product reviews at, I am still torn between buying an Old Town Camper or a Bell Morningstar.

As of now, It is just my wife and I and a large dog. Eventually, kids will enter the mix.

The majority of the paddling is on a quick river with tight bends, but I would like it to be able to do week long camping and fishing trips on small - medium sized lakes.

Any suggestions will be helpful.


Morningstar RX owner

– Last Updated: Oct-29-08 12:22 PM EST –

The MorningStar has been a great couple + big(75-lb) dog boat for us. Stability has been fine with the three of us and solo -- solo I've had it out in mild whitecaps on the lake and felt secure. The tumblehome does make paddling comfortable. I would suggest the kneeling thwart to give yourself more options. It is very maneuverable when properly trimmed. The tradeoff is that it's not a great straight-line machine compared to something like a Penobscot.

I assume you're looking at the Royalex version. I've read that the composite version is even nicer.

I don't have any experience with the Camper.

If you know that children will be coming soon, and/or are medium-to-large sized folks, you might consider the RX version of the Northwind(16'6") for a bit more room and straight-line performance. The Morningstar would be a bit tight with 3+ occupants and a week of gear.

Morningstar with dog, solo from kneeling thwart:

My $.02
2 completely different boats.

The Old Town camper is a hauler. Its flat, wide no real rocker to speak of, no tumblehome so she is wide all the way up, flat sided boat. Great for flat water, but not a boat for anything twisty…

The Bell is an asymmetrical design, with some rocker at the ends, definitely much more responsive and with the slightly rounder hull, she will be faster, more efficient in the water and will handle twisty water better.

Either will do the job, my preference would be the Bell.

Campers alright on twisty streams
I’ve paddled and poled a Camper, solo no load, on small twisty streams. It turned fine. Better than my MR Explorer in those conditions.

It’s certainly no whitewater sit’n’spin, but it turns pretty well for a 16’ general duty tandem.

Never even seen the Morningstar so I can’t compare them.


Agreed with Angstrom
I’d bump up to the RX Northwind. Its a foot shorter than the composite version, and because of the hull shape overall it is very stable as well. You’ll get the capacity you’ll need - kids take up more space than we think! as well as have the space to install a 3rd seat or what have you.

If you like the stability of the Morningstar first and foremost, not to throw a monkey wrench into things, but you may want to consider the Bell Chestnut Prospector in RX. Or, if weight isn’t as big of an issue, the Alaskan is an asymmetrical hull that WILL paddle whitewater, at 17’, its a fairly impressive sight. It will also handle the flats nicely and without much effort.

I agree with Tommy

– Last Updated: Oct-29-08 2:25 PM EST –

The Camper does just fine on twisty streams in my experience - so long as they don't go far above class 1 rough water. I haven't had any trouble making it turn and putting it where I want it when poling or paddling (solo or tandem). On lakes, it is pretty much at the mercy of the wind and takes good form to make it go straight. Wouldn't be my first choice for what you have in mind, but it would work okay.

I haven't paddled a Morningstar, but I hear it's a reasonably fast and maneuverable boat. Wouldn't be my first choice for what you want either, as I think it's a bit on the small side for your long-term plans.

I don't have enough experience beyond that to offer advice, but I do believe the Northwind and Prospector mentioned above are good suggestions. Come spring, I expect to be in a Prospector myself.

I’ve spent some time in a Royalex Camper (my friends boat) and I’ve test paddled both composite and Royalex Morningstars several times.

I think the Camper is more versatile than expected and it’s stable and turns easily but I think the Morningstar is even more versatile and works well with a variety of loads (not at all bad solo and would easily handle you, your wife and a dog as long as total load is under about 500 pounds). The Morningstar is friendly/stable and responsive under all conditions. Morningstar is guaranteed to handle quick (or rough) water extremely well. If given a choice I’d definitely take a Mornigstar if headed towards fast water.

I’ve had a Northstar for years and it’s a fabulous, versatile boat and the Morningstar handles very similarly to Northstar except it gives up a touch of speed/efficiency for a bit more stability…perfect for a family.

You can’t go wrong with a Morningstar.

If your normal load will usually be over 450-500 pounds then (and only then) you might want to look at a bigger boat.

The Bell Would Be My Choice

– Last Updated: Oct-29-08 8:14 PM EST –

Paddled the Camper a bunch years ago. It's not a bad hull, but seems slow and a lot of work to paddle to me, and I'm NOT all about speed. As for the flat bottom it IS stable as a rock.

I've been paddling Bells a few years now and I kick myself that I waited until my mid-40's to buy one. The Morningstar is a good boat, but I too think a royalex Northwind might meet your needs better. Have had one for two years and used it on long trips heavily packed and day trips on lakes and on rivers and it's a great all-around boat. Have even paddled it solo and it does a decent job and know another friend from (Osprey) who used to solo a Northwind quite a bit. And the shouldered tumblehome (turned in at the gunnels) makes the boat more comfortable to paddle late in the day when you're tired and your knuckles rap most boats gunnels. I have two Bells now (had 3) and will likely buy more if I can quit spending thousands of dollars a year on hospital and Dr. bills! Here's a couple pics of my two Bells. WW

that says it all
nice post.

both are good, but …
spend the extra money for the Bell.

I have the royalex version and my good friend has the Camper and we both agree that the Morningstar is faster, tracks better, is more enjoyable, and is more versatile than the Camper.

Keep in mind that the Camper is the royalex version of the Discovery 158, which is a great, basic boat (and I own one).

The Morningstar is just so much better in so many ways.

Bell it is
Thank you! I really appreciate all you help!

After reading your responses and doing a little more research, I think the Bell is the best bet for me. I also looked into the Northwind instead of the Morningstar per some of your suggestions. That is also a beautiful boat and would really do well with the the kids and longer camping trips. I am still thinking, however, because 90% of my paddling will be on small twisty I-II rivers and 90% of my camping trips will be 2-4 days, the Morningstar will still be my best bet. If anyone disagrees, I would love to hear from them.

Thanks again!!!

You Won’t Regret It
It’s a good boat that will meet your needs. I’m sure you’ll like it. Heck, I remember a guy here on that used to use one for everything from rivers to long flatwater trips; even up in the BWCAW. Take care. WW