First River Solo Canoe - Which?

I realize this is a common question but any pointers would be great.

Experience on Flatwater - Intermediate/Expert

Experience on Whitewater - Beginner

Size - 6 feet tall, 180 lbs

Location - Calgary,Alberta

I am wondering what solo canoe I should buy, if I plan on river/whitewater tripping?

Key questions:

Royalex or Kevlar etc.?

Esquif Zephyr (heard less stable), Vestige (better for tripping, more stable?), Bell Ocoee?

Thanks for your suggestions.


I’m with Eric
I have a fair bit of whitewater experience, though most of it in tripping canoes. I owned an Ocoee for a season, and found it difficult to master. the Vertige is indeed much more forgiving and has much better capacity.

Depending on the nature of your trips, you might also consider something like the Clipper Prospector 14’ in duraflex, the Novacraft Supernova, or the Mad river freedom solo. Noe of these are “playboats”, but all are decent tripping canoes.

I’ve used a Mad River Synergy, 15’
and like a swedeformed ME. With gear and water for three days on an unfilterable western river, the boat was pushed down just enough by the load to resist being blown around, but not enough to lose its ability to spin. The Bell Caption is similar, but wider and somewhat drier.

I don’t know the Vertige at all, but the Prodigy X is one of the better pure solo boats. An Outrage X would, in my opinion, be loaded down too much by a load.

Another thing to think about
What kind of whitewater tripping are you doing? When carrying a load of gear, I would guess that the “playboat” aspect need not be high on your priorities, so if you are not tripping in water that is consistently high Class-II or Class III, you might be better off with a more traditional design instead of a full-on whitewater boat. Since you say you are a beginner at whitewater, I’m guessing that the rapids you are considering “right now” don’t necessarily require a whitewater boat either. Of course, I don’t know your whitewater plans, which is why I’m asking, but if you are an expert on flatwater, you probably know much of what you need to to adapt to something like a Mad River Guide, Novacraft Supernova, or Wenonah Rendezvous pretty quickly already, and those boat (along with a few others) will handle “tripping” in Class-II stuff while paddling “like a canoe” on the flatwater stretches.

add the Swift Raven
not a playboat but capacious enough for a few weeks journey.

you might fit a Hemlock SRT too.

Vertige X
I’ve been using a Vertige X for my river tripping for five years or so. As you say, it is quite stable and will hold a pile of gear. I do not consider it a white-water play boat but it is responsive enough for CIII, even loaded with a couple weeks worth of gear. Drawbacks are weight and a sluggishness on flats especially in a head wind, not insurmountable though.

If your rivers out west are anything like the rock gardens around here, I’d avoid Kevlar.

As to the other two you mentioned I’ve never paddled the Zephyr but the Ocoee, to me, is more of a play boat, although I’ve been on a ten day trip in northern Quebec where one guy paddled an Ocoee and he seemed to do just fine. He was also the best white water canoeist I have ever seen.

My 2 cents.


You asked about Royalex or Kevlar.
While I own a Kevlar whitewater OC-1, for most whitewater tripping purposes I would use my Royalex Synergy or perhaps my Royalex MR Guide Solo. The much lighter weight of “Kevlar” boats is offset by some vulnerability to damage in mishaps. This is magnified when the boat is loaded down with gear. My S-glass/Kevlar boat will glance off rocks and ledges when I am most of the load, but when there is almost as much gear as there is me, the hull gets hammered harder and has less ability to flex away.

Of course if there are a lot of portages, a really light whitewater boat is nice, but I think Royalex is still the better option.

as this pic. will show

– Last Updated: Mar-08-09 3:53 PM EST –

I don't see the Zephyr being a tripper. Hard chined as well.
Few other pix and vid. of Johns Zephyr in the album.

Yea, a rather light person might do
one or two nights in a Zephyr, but in circumstances where you have to carry a lot of gear, the boat is going to start to get wet.

Another issue about Zephyrs and other Esquif boats with Twintex layup is whether field repairs are feasible. Until recently, cracks in Twintex were best fixed by a factory rep. Royalex can be field-repaired with an epoxy kit and suitable cloth. Most composite boats can be fixed in a similar fashion, except perhaps Twintex boats.

Of course, most field repairs are done with various grades of duct tape…

Thanks for advice - Bell Prodigy?
Thanks for all the rapid info!

I would likely be doing 1-2 day trips with Class 1-3 rapids. I found a good deal on a Bell Prodigy. Sounds like this may be a good mix between tripping and whitewater playboat. And Royalex sounds like the way to go on Albertan Rocky Mountain rivers.