I am looking to purchase a new or used canoe for family usage on rivers and lakes in WI. I have a large family (5 kids under 14) so being able to handle 2 adults and 2 kids is a must, but 2+3 would be nice. All of us are average sized height/weight. Ideally it would be able to handle moderately faster waters with class I/II rapids, but nothing super technical. Examples would be the Kickapoo, Eau Claire and Boise Brule rivers. Big water won’t be a priority, but we will use it on Lake Wissota a fair amount which can get a bit rough at times and probably Lake Superior and the Mississippi at some point. Mostly would be used on small lakes and slower moving/bigger rivers though for day trips. Hopefully a couple of weekend over-nighters, but probably not week-long expeditions.
Another consideration is that ideally it would be available at REI since I have a large amount of gift cards to use there. The three boats at REI that seem to fit what I am looking for are the Mad River Explorer 16 T-Formex, the Old Town Penobscot 164 or Discovery 169. Out of the three, the Mad River Explorer is what I would lean toward since it is lighter, sounds like it is a bit more maneuverable and has good initial and secondary stability. Also I have read you have to be careful how you store the poly boats. I do have garage space for it, but would need to get a hanger if I wanted to keep it top up.
However, another option would be use the gift cards to get accessories (paddles, car carriers, PFD’s) and get something else that fits the bill. If I go that route, I’d prefer used to keep the total cost down. A local outfitter has a Wenonah Champlain Tuf-weave used as well as some Spirit II’s, possibly some other options. I have been checking Craigslist and local eBay, but haven’t seen much at this point.
The Champlain is intriguing to be able to fit a lot of people and gear, but I am not sure if would would be maneuverable enough on the smaller, faster rivers. I also am concerned about its handling if it is just me and one of the kids or my wife in it since it is such a big boat. The Mad River Explorer sounds like it would be better for those considerations, but being 2’ shorter I think getting 3 kids and 2 adults would be difficult.
Out of the Champlain and Explorer options, which would you recommend? Would a Spirit II split the difference or should I consider one of the new OT’s at REI? Other recommendations welcome too, but as I said I haven’t seen much else available at this point.
Thanks for the help!