Flat bottom vs. shallow arch bottom

I’m looking at a number of used canoes for mainly family outings – lakes – and some fishing.

Stability is important as I have little ones (3 at a time in the canoe). I understand the difference between initial and secondary stability, but don’t know the “real world feel” of these canoes on the water. Will I feel that much difference between the two different types? I’m wondering your thoughts on these:

  • Predator C160…flat bottom… 3-layer Poly… 16’ $750 Blem price new
  • Camper 16 — flat bottom … Royalex (I think) 16’ $1200 Blem
  • Tripper 172 … Shallow arch bottorm, Royalex, 17’+ $700 used
  • Discovery 169 … $500 used

Tripper 172
I went through the same process looking for a family canoe recently. What I learned is that a 16 ft canoe is just too small for that many people. Alot of people recommended the Tripper 172 to me, and it has a great reputation as a stable boat with good capacity. Of the ones you listed, that would be my choice. Good luck and have fun!

Disco 169
I 've owned a 169 for quite some time, Old Town says it’s

a Tripper made in a different layup. I’ve also spent a lot of time in a Tripper and 169 in moving water. Both are basically the same stability wise with the Tripper being a little more nimble. I paddle my disco with my Tripper equipped buddy ( both solo) in lake, rive and ww. I’d recommend either especially with a flotilla of kids !

I recommend the tripper.
Very stable, durable, reasonably light canoe. It will last life time.

“Feel” of the boats

– Last Updated: Mar-11-12 8:35 PM EST –

A flat-bottomed boat will not tip as much as a boat with a shallow-arch hull when people or cargo move from side to side. It's a reassuring feeling if you are new to canoes. With a more arched bottom, the canoe will easily tip toward the side to which weight is shifted, and that's unsettling until you get used to it. If you are used to it, you will know that the boat continues to feel "solid", usually more so as it tips more, and that the initial rolling off of dead-center is easy but that continued tipping won't happen unless the tipping force also increases.

Much is made of the idea that flat-bottomed boat, when leaned farther and farther, will reach a tipping point of no return with no real warning - that is - it happens by surprise. No need to worry about that in spite of all the hype. You won't be leaning the canoe over that far once you have just a bit of practice with the thing. However, in swift water or very big waves, anything that launches the boat into a steep lean to one side WILL be more dangerous in a flat-bottomed boat because stability won't "get firmer" as the tipping continues. For most people, this is of no concern either because if they wanted to go out in such conditions, they'd gradually gain the skill and ability to feel comfortable in boats with a more-rounded bottom, and they wouldn't be taking flat-bottomed boats out in such conditions.

In mildly choppy conditions, the rounded bottom will feel much nicer, because the boat will not constantly be forced to "match" the inclination of the waves. That "easier tipping" of the rounder bottom allows the boat's inertia to keep it more nearly upright during those brief periods of having "tilted water" beneath it as the waves pass by. Also, you can use your body to intentionally tip the boat relative to the tilt of the water to maintain a degree of lean which is most advantageous at any given moment (for example, I often briefly tilt a boat well off-center to avoid having the gunwales overtopped by a curling wave). In mildly choppy conditions, this is mainly a comfort issue since tipping over still is not much of a risk. Again, if you have the experience to be happy in VERY choppy conditions, you will have the experience to be comfortable in a boat with a more-rounded bottom and that is what you will want to use.

A non-flat-bottomed canoe is also easy to lean for various turns and pivots, but once again, once you learn to do such things, you will feel comfortable in such a boat and won't worry about the more-tippy feel.

Thanks for all the advice. I appreciate the time you all are spending with a newbie.

I found that the Tripper 172 mentioned in the first post is about over 15 years old (according to the seller). Is age a concern? Is $700 a good deal assuming it is in good shape? I don’t know where to draw the line and at what point it is better to go with something newer.

Reasonably light? At 81 pounds?
I owned a Tripper, and it is a great boat once it’s on the water. But it’s heavy.

I sold my Tripper for half that price.
But if the ends aren’t bent and the gunwales are unbroken, maybe 700 bucks isn’t totally unreasonable.

On the flat-bottomed issue, it is actually hard to find a decent canoe that is flat bottomed. A Grumman, maybe. Souris River canoes come close.

Flatness does NOT mean initial stability. I have a kayak, by a famous designer, that is close to flat bottomed, and it has LOW intitial stability. What determines initial stability is what happens with the sides of the canoe when it just starts to tip.

More Information
Any of the boats you mention would be considered fairly stable boats. The predator with its flatness and extra width is going to feel the most solid with the camper coming in next. The Disco and the Tripper are essentially the same hull in different materials and do have some performance differences from each other but little difference in on the water stability “feel.”

After the first few times out everyone would be comfortable and safe feeling in any of the boats I believe. The shallow arch boats are more efficient, more seaworthy, and more what most of us think canoes ought to be like.

Camper is 20 lbs lighter than the others you list at least and that can make a major difference in how easy it is to get on and off the car and to and from the water and that ends up affecting how often it will get used quite possibly.

g2d, makes a good point about stability and the feeling of a boat firming up when leaned.

Regarding seaworthiness, we sometimes get into conditions we didn’t plan for. Weather changes and forcasts are dicey.

I other makers are available, a Wenonah Spirit II combines a stable feel with efficiency and seaworthiness and a more manageable weight than all your choices, though the camper beats in slightly on weight I think. Spirit IIs come up for sale used pretty regularly even in the rather canoe starved state of Texas.

Good luck!

Think you need 17’

– Last Updated: Mar-12-12 11:49 AM EST –

With 5 folks on board don't go any smaller. OT tripper is an all around great boat....if you can handle the weight. If it has been stored properly 700 would be an ok price. 600 would be a good price given the age.

So…if I’m in a Camper or Predator … or some other flat bottom boat and things get a little windy out on the lake (1/2 to 1 foot swells…windy)…am I in for a bumpy ride compared to a Tripper?

Flat bottoms
What hasn’t been mentioned yet about the Camper and other flat bottoms is that they are generally slower and have less glide than a similar-sized shallow-arch hull. The exception might be in extremely shallow water, and especially when going against current - but that won’t likely be an issue to you unless you take up poling.

I had a Camper early on and was happy with it until I got into more moving water and also saw how easily it was blown about by the wind. Of all the canoes I’ve had, the Camper was blown sideways by the wind the easiest. I did not like how the Camper handled with three average-sized adults. I think two adults with more than one small child or two very small children would be too much for it.

I haven’t had or paddled the Predator, but IIRC it has a keel? That would make it less susceptible to being blown around. But it’s also heavier and flat-bottomed. I would avoid it.

I have been in a Disco 169, and I consider it a competent hull for all-around use - but it is heavy and the hull material tends to warp.

I haven’t been in a Tripper, but I think that’s the direction you want to go.

Yes, in a Nutshell
A boat with more balanced design features and made to paddle will ride better in rough water, less likely to ride completely on top of the waves and slap down on the next when heading into the wind and more easily maintained on its vertical axis when running parallel to waves.

Also when the trolling motor battery runs out or the motor doesn’t work (burns up in weeds or whatever) You’ll appreciate a boat you can move forward effeciently to get you back to the landing.

Camper in Wind
Steve I agree about the Camper being blown very easily by the wind.

Thanks for that anecdotal evidence of the best hull shape for my situation.

Now I got someone selling a OT Charles River as well…too many choices !!! :wink:

Here’s something I found that was interesting … a Poly-3 vs. Royalex comparison.


you’ll like the Rx Tripper 172 …

– Last Updated: Mar-12-12 6:53 PM EST –

...... in the water it's the best choice of all the boats you've mentioned . It has some rocker which makes it a much better moving water piedmont/mountain river boat . That rocker and mild arch hull will make it turn and handle better , be more responsive . It's broad flare bow , deep sides and high stems means it handles heavier weather and water conditions . It's an expedition class boat with a proven history of being dependable . It has great volume , carries quite a load of people and gear if needed .

The Rx Charles River is about 20 lbs. lighter than the Rx Tripper . The Rx Tripper weighs about the same as the Disco 169 which is a 3 layer poly construction ( the Disco is not Rx) .

The Rx Camper is about the same weight as the Rx Charles River , but the Camper is flat and I would not want that flat bottom unless I was poling or just staying on calm waters of ponds . The Camper is the least capable heavy water boat and will be the roughest ride and probably the slowest too .

$700. is a top dollar price for a 15 yr. old Rx Tripper , so for that price it should be in sweet condition ... if there are things about it's condition that will need a little work , then the price should go down , $500.-$600. depending .

You shouldn't have any concerns about that Tripper being 15 yrs. old , it's still probably better than a new Royalex hull . I have a 1984 Old Town Royalex and it's hull is great .

The Rx Tripper 172 is a good choice (17'-2") . The Charles River if it's the Royalex model would be a nice choice as well . The Rx Charles River at 16'-3" is a bit smaller than the Rx Tripper , but it has rocker also , tumblehome side profile and still 14" center depth (Tripper is 15") , 24" bow and stern depth (Tripper is 25") , so it's real river canoe also , but made to carry a few hundred pounds less weight than the Rx Tripper and considered a recreation class boat . The Rx Charles River is an eye turner with it's recurve stems and tumblehome sides , and it's a good choice because it's very capable canoe like the Tripper just not able to carry as much load , but being a foot shorter and an 1-1/2" narrower it's well scaled like the Tripper .