Explorer vs. Prospector

Have an opportunity to purchase one of these two boats used. Ive been looking for an all around used canoe and both these seem suitable. Any suggestions or comments would be appreaciated regarding these boats.

Novacraft Prospector 16 (royalex)

Mad River Explorer (f/g)


Yeah, what he said!
I’ve been thinking along these lines also.

mad river
the explorer is one of the best (IMO) all around canoes out there. very well balanced and with a symetrical shallow arch hull design, it handles everything but the wildest white water very well.

i have a kevlar model with ash trim which is going on 30 years old and is still a valiant and worthy friend. i’ve replaced the in and outwales once in all this time.

that’s my recommendation.

I would go for the Prospector.
For me, the Explorer has too much V in the hull, both for efficiency and for a good transition between initial and final stability. I had a Mad River Compatriot, even more V-botomed than the Explorer, and while I did a lot of class 2 rapids in it, the Compatriot (13’) was not NEARLY as good a boat as my Mad River Guide, which has only a very slight, mild V in what is more nearly a shallow arch hull.

V-hulls— an idea that never really worked.

Shallow arch— the best shape for experienced canoeists.

If Given the Choice
I would opt for the Prospector.

I do have a MR Freedom, which is nothing more than an Explorer with more rocker, and like it a lot. But, if I had to make the decision you have to make… the nod would go to the Prospector.

One of the reasons is that it could handle rougher conditions better than the Explorer, thus making it more versatile.


you knew that would happen, right ?
hahahahaha. one mans trash is another mans treasure. questions like "which would you choose, (a) or (b) almost always end up like this. little help at all, and you’re still left right where you started.

best bet … paddle them both and YOU decide which boat talks to you.

So, where do you get "shallow arch"
in your Explorer? Has it been out in the sun for too long, or have you been out in the sun for too long…

The Guide/Freedom is nothing like
the Explorer. Nothing.

Clarification on Freedom

– Last Updated: Jun-05-04 2:27 PM EST –

I should have been a little more specific, I had forgotton that MR has a "new" Freedom.

Mine is a 1993, 16' Royalex Freedom that has 2.5" of rocker in each end.
Some years ago, when I had to replace a couple of deck rivets, I contacted MR and asked what length I needed.
No problem on that, they sent me a pack for free.

While talking to the rep, I made the comment that MY Freedom was a great river runner but can be a wet ride in standing waves.

It was at this point in the conversation that the rep mentioned that the Freedom, my Freedom, wasn't designed as a "true" whitewater boat, hence the wet ride and why I mentionned that the Prospector would be better in rougher conditions. It's a drier ride........
He went on to add that the Freedom, my Freedom, had come about by taking an Explorer hot out of the oven and hanging it from the ends while it cooled, which gave it more rocker.

After a few attempts at this "hot hanging" they got the desired results and knew how to set up the mould to begin producing the "new" model, which they called the Freedom.

To use MR's words, The Freedom, meaning the one I have, is nothing more than an Explorer with more rocker..............


I Don’t Know About the Sun
Thing mentioned above, but he’s right, it’s most definitely not a shallow arch design…

The Explorer is a shallow V, not a shallow arch hull.

Personally I think the shallow V is a decent hull design but do prefer a shallow arch.

The V seems to increase stability in “confused” waves, which, if I’m not mistaken, was one of the reasons the Henry’s went with this design.


Ya know,
I personally think this is a great topic, as it gives a chance to explore the differences between a fairly traditional prospector design, and the Explorer, which is a very popular canoe. I had no idea it would break down into “My car is better than your car!” talk.

I wish someone would take this seriously and revive it.

I would at least like a comparison of the initial vs. final stability of the two models, loaded vs. empty performance, and why which one would might better for fishing, while still being enjoyable for paddling longer distances, solo, with a load, such as camping gear and Fido.

I’ve paddled a Mad River Explorer, and it was a nice all around boat. The Prospector is calling me, however.

I tend not to get into specifics when it comes to describing hull handling characteristics because it’s such a subjective thing.

The way I perceive that a particular hull handles may not be how others see it and in a forum enviroment things can be read into what a person says that may not have been what they meant.

I will say this about the two hulls, in a general sense, the shallow arch of the Prospector will have less initial stability than the shallow V of the Explorer, but have better, and more predictable, secondary stabilty.

Personally I think you’re in a no lose situation here, both are good hulls as far as I’m concerned, but, as I mentioned before, would choose the Prospector because I prefer shallow arch hulls…

To me, initial stabilty is not nearly as important as secondary because we do a lot of leaning in the conditions we paddle in, which is mainly rivers.


“v” vs. arch
you’re right … i meant “V”.

Some V hulls, including my MR
Compatriot, have LESS initial stability than shallow arch hulls such as my MR Guide and MR Synergy. It is a frequent characteristic of strongly V-hulled boats that they do not seem to want to “settle” in a central, straight up position. Whether a V-hulled boat is perceived as “stable” depends on how quickly it develops its secondary stability as it is heeled to one side or the other. My old Mad River Compatriot did not develop that secondary stability until it was tipped over a good deal. I learned to tolerate it.

And some shallow arch boats have distinct initial stability. My old Phoenix C-1, though quite arched, has much more initial stability than my first C-1, a Hahn, and my newer Millbrook Wide Ride, a rather flattish c-1 with just a bit of arch. But the Phoenix is inferior in both initial and final stability to my Dagger Zealot, a very slightly arched, hard chined all-out slalom c-1.

Sometimes you just have to try the boat. You can’t do all the physics just with your eyeballs.

OK I’ll wade in here.
I think that you’ll likely be happy with either boat once you get paddling it… and you’ll be singing praises of it on this board in a few months.

As to the whole shallow-Vee, vs, shallow arch thing… The whole concept of efficiency lost from one design to the other is pure bunk. I know that there is less than 10% efficiency gained from a Grumman to a pro marathon boat of the smae length. So there is less than 1% efficiency difference between these boats.

They are dimensionally similar, except for two things… Rocker and Flare. The Prospector has more of both… so it’s gonna be a better whitewater boat. The little gain in tracking from the V and less rocker makes the Explorer the better flatwater boat.

I think you get both boats together… load them how you will use them most of the time and paddle them in a bunch of conditions… paddle on flatwater… paddle in motorboat chop, paddle in wind driven waves, find some current. Then after you’ve done that… buy one… use the living hell out of it and don’t worry about all the little details because you’re paddling style will grow to fit your boat… and if your needs change… sell it or buy one to fit those needs.

Try, buy, be happy!!!


Good job!
Now those were some great responses. I’ve got a feeling that a Prospector style canoe will work its way into my garage one of these days.


“V” or arch…you just have to demo/paddle em’ both to feel what boat moves best with you paddling.

No kidding
I own 6 canoes… three have vee shapped hulls and three have arch hulls. Yes, they feel different… but none are slow, and the fastest of the lot is a vee hull. Infact some of the fastest canoes in the world (Marathon Pro-boats)are deep vee hulls.