Craiglist option - a range from a Madriver Sundowner to mid 90s vintage Old Town and Wenonah


I am looking at some craiglist canoes this weekend. Looking for a tandem canoe for a couple in our mid-fifties. We are looking for general use mostly lake, pond or get onto the Wisconsin river flowage and paddle around and fish. No camping, no white water just pleasure. Perhaps some solo with fishing in mind but again on small ponds and lakes.

I was surprised at the range of canoes available so was looking for some advice.

The three brands are Old Town, Wenonah and Mad River that would fit our needs. What surprised me was that some of the canoes are from the 1990s and must have had little use or well maintained.

Old Town - Camper 15 from 1996 (an aqua color that the wife thinks is great) and a Discovery 174 - I think the camper will be lighter and easier to load and unload. Both have blow molded seats in them. Also a Pathfinder which is 15’ 2" and looks well used - with cane seats that need replacement. $600 for the camper and $800 for the Discovery both say original owners. The Pathfinder is $650.

Mad River Sunrunner - Kevlar with cane seats and wood gunwales and is a 1998. Scratches on the bottom but looks taken care of - asking $1,200. I believe this will be lighter than the Old Town. Wood trim likely needs some work with previous repairs showing up.

Wenonah - Sundowner - 18 foot fiberglass (red) and looks to have an adjustable front seat. 1991 based on the serial number. Looks like someone purchased it, polished and putting up for sale. Plastic seats with aluminum struts between gunwales for seats (looks like the rivets for the seats go through the hull on the sides). Asking $700 for it.

I have read up on each individually and for general use they all seem good, but looking for opinions as the material and weight likely differ and it is hard to know exactly the weight due to the variations of models over the years and lengths 15 to 18 feet.

How would you spend your money for general use? Note, this will travel on the top of my Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Thanks for your insights.


Photos added from the craigslist ads -

Mad River - Sunrunner - 17’2" 35" wide -

and the Old Town Camper - 15’ and 36" wide - the only photo in the ad

Wenonah - Sundowner - 18"

Welcome Bob,

I’m sure you’ll receive several opinions on these models and I’m happy to add my two cents

If I’m reading this right, you’re looking for:

tandem canoe also usable as occasional solo to fish

  • I’d suggest you’d be best off with flat web/cane seats than molded uni-directional seats so you can paddle solo from the bow seat facing backwards to bring your solo paddler weight closer to the middle of the canoe.

mostly lake and pond, no whitewater, no camping

  • sounds like leisurely day trips are the intended use

couple in mid-fifties

  • boat weight can be a factor as we get older. If moving it around on land becomes too burdensome, you’re likely to find something else to do

You probably have access to a number of other brands there in WI, but these brands you listed are some of the most common across the country (aside from Coleman and Pelican, which I wouldn’t recommend for you), so you’re likely to get good feedback.

In my opinion…

OT Camper 15
color obviously not a factor in performance, but if the wife likes it, it’s certainly a plus
not the fastest or straightest tracking, good when you don’t need to go too far or too fast. Best for leisurely excursions on smallish lakes and ponds, bad for whitewater
suggest swap out molded seats for standard web bench seats to facilitate solo paddling from the bow seat facing the stern. (all the Campers I’ve seen had flat web or cane seats)

OT Discovery 174 - tough and durable but too heavy

The Pathfinder is likely pretty old. Camper is a similar but better choice.

Mad River Sunrunner – no experience with this model. Personally don’t like to deal with the upkeep of wood gunwales, but some folks love the natural feel and enjoy the craft of maintaining them.

Wenona Sundowner is a nice model from a respected brand. Based on your planned use however, I’d guess it’s more boat than you need for two people doing day trips. Plus, with the tractor seats, hard to solo unless you add a drop-in center seat.

If I could only pick from these five and based on how you intend to use it, I’d lean toward the OT Camper. It’s a model that’s well suited for a specific niche, but that seems to be your niche. I’ve had good experiences in OT Campers over the years when used in the conditions you’ve mentioned. My wife loves the Camper because it’s initial stability is so good. Try as she might, she’s never gotten comfortable with the traditional “tippy” canoe feeling, despite my explaining why that can actually be a good thing.

That said, if you spot a good condition, reasonably priced Wenona Aurora or Mad River Malecite (especially in kevlar), I’d favor those two over the five you listed.

Good luck with whatever model you select.

I like the sundowner a lot for a daycruiser, but the sunrunner would be my choice because its around 55lbs as opposed to the downer’s 65lbs. Might not sound like much, but it makes a big difference. Light canoes are a beautiful thing. Really closer to 45 is ideal (and for the lucky among us Savage River makes full carbon boats in the low 30s!). It sounds silly, but a light boat gets used more… And just looking at the specs of the sunrunner it sounds like a well handling boat. 17’ isn’t too long or short, can carry a decent load, has a little rocker for streams, gel coated Kevlar is an ideal layup - light but semi durable (much more so than skincoat Kevlar at least). I vote mad river

All of the boats will work for you. As we get older weight matters. If you are going to car top your canoe, the lighter the better. It would be worthwhile to spend the extra money for a kevlar boat. That matters in your situation, more than the seats, gunwales, or design of the canoe. You can easily change out the seats.

For day trips a 16 foot canoe is fine, maybe even 15 feet. You should be able to get an idea of the weight by looking it up. Avoid Royalex boats, cross-link poly, or other heavy types of boat construction. If you can’t find a kevlar canoe you like, then buy a fiberglass one that is not too big.

Thank you for the comments. I updated with the photos from the ads. The Mad River is 1998 (seems like they made that model for a short time - 2 years?); Old Town is 1996 and the Wenonah is from 1991.

Thanks -

I agree that you want as light a boat as you can get to make it easy to use. I load my canoes onto a 4-Runner and I think your FJ is the same height so it might be a challenge for you two and especially for you alone when you want to go solo.

The Camper is a nice boat, I’ve paddled one. It’s very nice for flat/easy water. It’s light for a Royalex boat at 57 pounds if the manufacturer specs can be trusted. It’s a fine small tandem and you would enjoy it solo. I agree with the comment that it would be worth adding regular webbed seats. That’s not hard and would cost a little over $100 for seats, seat drops and hardware. is a good source. The flat bottom on the Camper makes it feel stable on calm water. In rough water a more rounded hull is better. So Camper is perfect for ponds and small lakes and for fishing solo. But you’d want to make sure you had calm conditions for going onto the Wisconsin. The Sunrunner could handle any kind of weather. It may be a little lighter than the Camper but I’d expect it to be in the low 50’s. I’ve never paddled a Sunrunner but they have a solid reputation. It would not be a great solo boat because it’s so big for one person. You’d also need to add a kneeling thwart or center seat so the weight would probably end up around same as the Camper. With regular webbed seats the (symmetric) Camper can be paddled backwards from the bow seat for solo use. If you look at the Camper first thing to do is flip it over and see how much wear it has and whether the Royalex skin is intact. I’d lean towards the Camper for you and suggest that you and your wife try loading it to make sure you’re comfy with the weight.

This one. I think they are around 55 pounds. Great all around boat.

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Thanks - that one was just out of my search area that I used - added another 50 miles and now I see it. That looks like a great option. Interesting that craiglist postings are so hard to get a response from.

A couple even older models show up - a 1980 vintage Pathfinder 15 (which seems to be the predecessor to the camper) - though I am unclear what the weight might be - Old Town Pathfinder Oltonar

and this cedar fiberglass from 1976 a Mansfield Stowe 15 foot - Mansfield Stowe - Seems like this company has been out of business since the late 1990s -

Thanks for the suggestions on the Bell!

I can’t comment on the last 2 boats. If I may say I’d suggest that you just offer full asking price for the Bell if you can get it and it’s not too far. It’s a modern hull that does a lot of things very well. The ad says 40 pounds but Royalex Morningstars are around 55. If it’s lightly used as the ad says then it’s a great deal. I’m tempted to pop over from SW Michigan to buy it just on principle. :slightly_smiling_face:


Thanks. I am trying to contact the person who posted the ad. Multiple emails sent as the way to contact in the ad - hope it isn’t sold.


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I’ve had a Bell Morningstar RX and it’s a great boat. Best one on the list in my opinion. Hope you can get it.

Thank you all.

I was able to contact the owner who is the original who purchased in 2004. He was selling to move to a kayak as his wife has MS and can no longer manage in the canoe.

Drove the 2 and half hours and picked it up. So in the end got the right canoe at a good price and hopefully helped the gentleman to move to a new boat that will be a better fit for his situation.

Some pictures to show how nicely he kept it since 2004.




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Congrats on your new boat! It appears there is even a kneeling thwart just aft of the yoke for when you want to solo it. Looks like a beautiful canoe. Enjoy!

Thanks for buying that boat. I was tempted because it looked like a good deal but already have a Bell Northwind 16rx that I set up for solo. Enjoy Dave Yost designed boats are a joy to paddle.

Congrats! Home run. Just FYI in case you didn’t know Royalex boats are no longer made and the replacement (T-Formex) is heavier and a new T-Formex tandem may cost $2000 so you really got a gem that’s worth more than you paid. I hope your wife likes the color and I hope you share your impressions of the boat once you’ve spent some time in it.

It also looks like perfect paddling weather today. :ok_hand:

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Nice canoe. You will like it. The MR and Wenonah are both good boats.