Canoe Recommendations - 17' Kevlar

-- Last Updated: Feb-16-16 10:23 AM EST --

I am looking to get a new canoe.

USE: My wife, two kids, and I would love to paddle around for weekend day trips. We just moved to MN and get outdoors quite a bit as a family. We will start longer Boundary Waters trips as well.

I think I have settled on a Northwind 17 blacklite (just got a new job so am celebrating a bit). Is there a boat that folks would think would be better? It is a big purchase so I want to make the right choice.


Pretty Good Choice

– Last Updated: Feb-16-16 12:04 PM EST –

Paddled that boat several days on a BWCAW trip. Good boat with good secondary stability and pretty fair primary. But how large are the kids? May be pretty "Close" with a couple kids in that boat. I'll link a pic of us with a loaded one.

The 18.5, which is the old Bell Northwoods model, is even more secure platform, but if you plan to do twisty rivers, it would be a poor choice. I'd sit down and think about what my payload is going to be and if it would be close to the limit of the 17, go up a foot.

I owned an old royalex Bell Northwind, which the new Northwood 16.6 replaces. Loved the boat but we were in the waning days of paddling tandem. Now, we paddle solo. Great boat! BTW, when you look at the Northwind reviews, remember that Bell called BOTH the 16'6" royalex and the 17'6" composite boat the "Northwind." The reviews contain a mix of both.

Call Ted at Northstar
And talk to him about what you want and what you need. He will certainly fit a boat to your use.

and check out Souris River
not knowing the ages of your kids and how much gear you would bring for a trip longer than a weekend, but I’d be thinking seriously about going to an 18 footer for a bit more cargo room.

I’ve never paddled a SR canoe, but they have a reputation for being stable and taking a beating

nice to get a new canoe, but the BW outfitters routinely sell off parts of their rental fleets - you might look around a little at those prices before going new

Call either Steve at Piragis.
Friendly, helpful folks.

Bell/Northstar DY desgins are addictive

– Last Updated: Feb-16-16 10:49 PM EST –

Your choice of canoe is good. The only real question should be what volume do you need, paddling station width and what material gunwales you wish. David Yost designs tend to have what some call "Glide". In other words how long dose the canoe keep moving after you stop paddling. This helps out with speed and lessons amount of effort used to move the canoe. The Nothstar canoes also tend to have a narrower paddling stations. This can help if you or your wife have shorter arm reach. My wife is five foot making this important. So stay with Northstar DY designs.

As wildernesswebb points out you need to know were you are going to use the canoe and your load. A Bell Northwind came available locally and was tempted to buy. As we researched this canoe found that the best weight range for a Bell Northwind was more than what the wife and I usually take with us on a day trip. Yes you can be too light of a load as well as too heavy of a load for a canoe. Our Bell Northstar has the perfect weight range for us. So we are saving up for a Northstar brand Polaris in black light.

The twisty much blocked creek we were on last weekend was no place for the Bell Northstar. The Madriver Explorer we used turns much easier and made it possible run this trip. But we missed the speed, glide, and the paddling stations that fit my wife's shorter reach. A Wenona might be a slightly faster canoe but will not turn as well as a Northstar DY design.

What I am trying to say is if you can only have one canoe a DY design is a great choice for a experienced paddlers. It can do most things you need a canoe well if the correct weight range is chosen.

Just know that the Northstar brand DY designed canoes can be addictive. Once you paddle one it is hard to go back to any thing else.

A 17’ one is too small for four…
unless they are just toddlers.

Take a look a Wenonah 18 Foot Kevlar Jensen

jack L


– Last Updated: Feb-17-16 11:04 AM EST –

The Jensen 18' is a great boat and better for your family than a 17' but for four people I would be looking at a Minnisota III at least or even a Minnisota IIII. Your family will quickly out grow a 17' or even an 18' boat. The Minnisota III would give you more room and serve you well untill your children are old enough that you would feel comfortable in two tandems or the Minnesota III and another tandem.

You'll see lots of Minnesota III's in the BWCA. They were designed to carry 3 paddlers and gear for Boundary waters tripping where most of the campsights accommodate 9 people and many groups need to carry a third person in one of there boats.

Just my .02


18’ but not Jensen
Jack L,

You’ve been in the Florida sun too long on this one and I have to disagree. The 18’Jensen is a great fast canoe, but it is not a family touring canoe. The 18 Champlain has the best volume for that load and the stability that is needed with kids aboard.

On the other end, I think the Minnesota III & IV are too much boat for beginners. I remember a very seasoned paddler who bought a Minnesota III for the 90 miler and swore afterwards he’d never paddle a C-4 again and sold the boat. Remember how grumpy he was Jack. With two kids in the middle who will not be much help paddling till they are bigger, the boat will be a handful to control from the ends. Especially the MN-IV. And you know I have as many miles on one of those as anyone. It is the answer for 4 people and gear. And it will go fast with even mediocre paddlers. The MN-III is easier to control, but again its a very long boat with very little rocker.

Canadians go family touring in 16’ canoes. I won’t, but it can be done. My choices would be the Spirit II or the Champlain for the stability, seaworthiness, and ease of control. You and Nanci with a couple grandkids could pack light and do it in the Jensen, but its not my recommendation for less experienced paddlers.

Jensens are Fast, Efficient…
…boats, as are MN II and MN III. But two beginners and kids? That’s a good way to turn people into motor boat people. Sorry, but I have to disagree. The David Yost designs are efficient while forgiving. Kids and beginners won’t appreciate paddling if they’re swimming alongside the boat!

Second the Spirit II
I have an older version in Kevlar with aluminum trim, sliding bucket in the bow, and an adjustable foot brace in the stern. The sliding seat was great when I paddled tandem with my daughter - slid the seat forward to improve the trim and get her to a narrower paddling station. You can put a ton of camping gear in it, but I have to admit that I never tried paddling it with kids.

I have to respectfully disagree Bill…
On several of your points:

First hopefully “Red Cross Randy” will weigh in here on the Jensen 18.

He has had one for years. Having been in it, I think it would be a great boat unless the kids are older teen agers, in which case it wouldn’t.

On the Min.III; I did not sell it because I didn’t like it. I sold it because I never wanted to race in the Min IV class again and figured it would just not get used.

I agree with the post that said it would be a good choice for the OP but I didn’t recommend it because the Op was looking for a shorter boat.

Come on down and enjoy this Florida sun and get sun burned like the clear coat on my Jensen 17 has gotten

Jack L