Canoe comparable to MR Explorer

-- Last Updated: Jun-06-09 9:41 PM EST --

Looking for some recommendations on a kevlar canoe comparable to the older MR Explorers in kevlar. Any thoughts?

Why would the Explorer be a benchmark?

Vermont Canoe Encore

Never seen one myself but runour has it this is as close as they come.


Lincoln in Maine
Lincoln Canoe company in Maine will build you an Explorer

scroll to bottom of the page.

Old Town’s Penobscot is a good hull. More rounded then the Explorer, but probably a little quicker. Some say it is the only decent hull now left in the Old town lineup since being taken over by Johnson and Johnson just as Mad River is a shadow of its’ old self after it was sold to the corporate world.

Hemlock, Bell have some excellent hulls in 16 ft range and Swift out of Canada also does, but I do find the flare on theirs makes them a tad wide at the gunnels. Quick, nice glide and deflect heavy water though.

I would say the OT Tripper is the best
tandem design in their lineup, unless they have dropped it. Faster than an Explorer, poles better, better in whitewater solo or tandem. And more versatile than the Penobscots, though not as good for lake work.

Amen ta dat, G
Long live de Tripper.


Bench marking, and other…
…puppy piddles of personal paddlin’ preferences to ponder, I own a 1991-vintage Mad River Explorer in fiberglass, as well as a 1990-vintage Malecite, also in glass.

The Explorer was a rescue by my friend Mike McCrea, and he replaced the fully rotted wood gunnels with some Old Town vinyl rails he had salvaged elsewhere, as well as adding a center-seat with sturdy trestle drops for me. Along with some new, heavier wood thwarts, these repairs/additions probably brought the boat’s weight into the upper 70-pound range. It has been my usual river poling boat for nearly five years, now, as well as my tripper on some 3-to-4-day Assateague trips and other lake and big river excursions. Often with a 55 to 70 pound canine along, it was/is a boat that always gave me a feeling of confidence when frothy three-foot drops on the Yough, or two-to-three foot troughs betwixt wind-driven, cross-purposed waves of the Susquehanna or Sinepuxent Bay came tossing. Was/is a bear, as are most heavy, deep, heavily laden boats, when winds want to have at those steep-n-deep hull walls. But, wide though that beam is, I never minded putting the tilt to the semi-vee shape, firming on one of those half-planes of bottom-to-chine as I paddled from center station. If the winds at Assateague fought me from the front quarters, and, water there often being shallow, I, bed-wetting sin thoough it might be, just went to the 280 cm double-stick. And, that same tilt of the vee has always been a much-liked indicator to me when poling and looking ahead, not at my feet, that my curious canine associate has just thrusted a heavy noggin from port to starboard.

My Malecite, probably 10 to 15 pounds lighter, pretty much works to provide me the same results, though with the weight savings and slightly less beam (maybe an inch-and-a-half?) it produces better glide (I think the glass Explorer, 16’-4" in length is about equal in waterline with the 16’-2" glass Malecite whenst carrying the equal load of myself and dog). And, being about 3" shallower at midships, perhaps 2-inches less of depth at bow and stern, it glides its course a little bit nicer under the wind than the Explorer. Maybe a tad more unsettling when poling, though, to see that tilted midships gunnel ticklin’ the top of the water, especially when coming down a small drop and snubbing a leaned-turn into eddy. With that darn canine suddenly thrusting nose and forepaws to the upstream rail!

Now, all that gibberish being delivered, my friend Topher once described Vermont Canoe’s Encore as being a mid-point marrige of Mr. Henry’s Explorer and Malecite. I got to noodle about in one of Rob’s glass models on the Susquehanna a few years back, and again in a Kevlar model two years ago at Raystown. I saw Topher’s point right away. It is my wish, my Explorer’s bottom gelcoat and skin showing its years of rocky riparian ramblings, and my make-shift coatings and patchings only going to carry so far, to obtain one of the Kevlar Encores someday soon. It is a fine boat, (and possibly this is where you were heading with your original query) one that provided for me the familiar feedbacks that I’ve come to appreciate and paddle/pole with these years in the Explorer. Perhaps a wee tad less volume, but then a little bit better glider when upright on vee or facing a wind at quarter. Not a speed-demon, by any stretch, but a fine mix of lake traveler as well as river negotiator.

I like the 16-ft. Penobscot, and appreciate having Royalex under my feet when those submerged schists come gnawin’. And while the Noby slaloms a beautiful glide when snubbing, I’ve never had much success or confidence poling it back upriver. But then, I believe Steve_In_Idaho has faired well with one in that department. (Bet he’s enjoying an Appalachian - also a fine Old Town boat, by the way - for that purpose, now.) That upriver poling feeling I get could be because (and here, once again a matter of personal preference) in the Pebobscot, flat bottomed though that center station is, the keel line at fore and aft “sharpens” up a bit sooner than in the semi-vee’s, and thus if you tend to shuffle to-and-fro from midstation, especially trying to free the stems when zig-zagging through boulders and eddylines, you’re more likely to take the boat to its limits of secondary stability. Probably more of a blessing, really, when you are sitting or kneeling and paddling, getting that better glide. Sort of the same feeling I got from Mr. Curtis’s Hemlock Eagle, which some people describe to me as being Prospector-like, though with sharper stems and maybe less-rockerfor that better tracking. Guess it’s a semi-rounded verse semi-vee thing. But then, poling upstream seems to work better with more rocker, and thus there goes your paddled glide. I’ll take an Appalachian or Prospector over any other hull I’ve stood (haven’t tried a Royalex Explorer upstream) when you’re trying to climb ledgy, pushy water.

Anyway, that’s my piddlin’ into perhaps your reasons for an Exploreresque hull. Isn’t it both curious and fun how different paddlers all respond, with likes and dislikes, similarities and differences, when discussing various hulls. All part of the personal experience process, presumedly. Never, in my opinion, necessitating venemous argument, though that too, sadly, occurs. Polemics and politics, the, “Well, well, well,” until we’re sick.

Viva la various, hulls, and, still working on those hull lifetime experiences (those Wenonah Rendezvous and Voyagers will keep you second-and-third-guessing your thoughts),


Tripper faster than the Explorer? Doubtful.

VT Encore…

– Last Updated: Jun-08-09 10:09 AM EST –

It's all been said above. In simplest terms, the Encore ends up being a good cross between the Explorer and the Malecite. We've been been very happy with it's performance. As long as you don't consider "versatility" a dirty word, the Encore excels as a do "many things very well" canoe.

As always, it's best if you can test paddle so you can decide for yourself. I believe the closest retailer to you would be Blue Mountain Outfitters in Harrisburg. We will be on water at a paddle demo for Ramsey Outdoor in Paramus, NJ this Saturday if for some reason you'd be near there.

Happy paddlin'


Absolutely. Longer, finer ends, and

– Last Updated: Jun-08-09 9:27 AM EST –

less wetted area for its length. The Explorer is a V-bottomed tub.

When Payson Kennedy and various NOC partners raced open boat slalom and the slalom/downriver class on the Nantahala, they had their choice of MR Explorers or OT Trippers.... both were available. They raced the Tripper. They beat John Berry and his partner in the custom-designed AC/DC in the combined class.

Very pleasant craft the Encore
I paddled one solo at Raystown and enjoyed it very much. I can definitely see how it is a cross between the Explorer and the Malecite. Love the shallow V. It just feels right.

Let’s race…
You in a Tripper and me in a Tub…I mean Kevlar Explorer. (OT doesn’t make a composite Tripper anymore).

Rob :slight_smile:

We would have to swap back and forth
for a meaningful result.

I don’t have anything against Explorers, other than the fact that the Explorer is a dated design. From time to time, Mad River marketed similar canoes with better designs, but people didn’t buy enough of them, because of the Explorer mystique. I have a Bluewater Chippewa, 16’ 10", very shallow arch, some dead rise, which is faster than my Tripper was, and faster than a Kevlar Explorer, but the Chippewa is NOT a fast canoe. Not by any stretch of the imagination. So, Chippewa, Explorer, Tripper… We are talking about slow canoes.

If Mad River could cleverly upsize my Mad River Guide to make an Explorer II, they would have a dynamite tandem… though it still would not be very fast.

No Appy yet…
CWD - I found a deal on a Nova Prospector before I could find any Appy for sale (new or used). Then the Appy came around while my pockets were empty. Such is life.

My thoughts pretty much the same as yours on the Penobscot, but it does pole upstream nicely on flat water. Although faster, it does require more attention than the Prospector when things get pretty interesting…

dagger legend

Not similar at all.

Legend Tripper & Explorer
3 very “famous” canoes and three that are best paddled in a fast river. Have spent time in all three, time that seemed far too long for the distance travelled. The Legend is the tank of the 3, turns well, has incredible flotation in the bow to keep you dry, but feels like paddlng a tugboat with 10 truck tires attached to the bow. The bow seat is mounted so far back the paddling statiion is very very wide. Took longer to cross Lake Lenape than any canoe i have ever paddled. A Grumman Eagle would outrun it on flatwater.

The MR Explorer has always seemed a very overrated canoe. Yes it turns better than my Spirit, and is dryer in big water. But the Spirit turns well for where i paddle, even Cedar Creek in the Pine Barrens, and i don’t paddle anywhere you need to wear a helmet. The Explorer drags in shallows before the Legend or Tripper, due to its vee bottom. I find it ugly in a wind from any angle, and a slug in open water.

The Tripper has huge volume for its length. I have to contradict g2d on the Penobscot vs Tripper. The Penobscot has much finer lines at the bow, the Tripper has fat cheeks. In a whitewater race the Tripper will turn better and run dryer. On flatwater, the Penobscot will pull away quickly. I would not race g2d in a Penobscot on whitewater, but across any Finger Lake, i’d gladly bet dinner on the Penobscot.

The Vermont Encore is a well built canoe definitely along the lines of the Mad River Explorer. But in Kevlar there are many better paddling boats. And g2d had it right that Mad River made several better paddling 17’ canoes that just did not sell because they were not the Explorer.

In the 80’s the ‘canoe snobs’ had a Kevlar Explorer on top of a Volvo Wagon and a black lab inside. Later they switched to Bell Black Gold Northwinds on top of a Subaru Outback Limited with a golden retriever inside. The still don’t paddle more than a mile from the lakeside Bed & Breakfast, but they look fabulous.

Try a big assortment of composite canoes if you can and then decide what feels best for you.


Maybe I misspoke. I meant to say that
the Tripper is faster than the Explorer, by virtue of a bit finer entry, a foot more length, and less wetted area for its length.

A friend of mine could never win the Nantahals downriver in cruising class in his Tripper, but then won two years in a row in a 16’ Penobscot.