Help me find a lighter boat

I have been paddling a Mad River Explorer 16 in the TT layup for the last 20 or so years. It has been a great family canoe. The MR has hauled our children and a prodigious amount of gear to many memorable destinations around the country.
Now that the kids have grown it’s just my wife and I and, as it turns out, the Explorer is not getting lighter as I age.
So, I am looking for a lighter boat. As a tandem, this new boat will serve as recreational paddler on flat water. I also want to use this on solo multi-day trips on Class I/II as well as open water (my wife no longer camps!). I paddle the MR Canadian-style pretty well.
I have been looking at some of the Prospector offerings currently available and they seem to have similar dimensions to the MRE. I would like to keep the boat under 55 lbs. What would you choose? Would you go in a different direction than a prospector? Finally, which layup would be most suitable given the purposes this boat would fill?
Thanks for your thoughtful input.

Find a kevlar canoe. I have one for sale in Nevada at 48 pounds. OT Canadienne 15’7".

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For your tastes a Novacraft Prospector (15’ or 16’ depending on the size of the two adults) in their Tuffstuff might fit. Wenonah’s Tuffweave is indeed tough but you would need to look at weights. Northstar has a big weight gap between Blacklite (carbon/kevlar) and IXP. Swift’s Expedition Kevlar might do as well.

We purchased a Northstar B17 in Blacklite this spring as our 65 - 70 lb canoes were getting hard to rooftop on the car let alone taking them for a km+ walk in the woods. Lightly used so far - but we did run it over a log on the Jordan with no known issues. Headding for a paddle & portage in Ontario in a week & a half.

Nova, Wenonah, and Swift Prospectors are pretty high on my list right now. Nova’s TuffStuff looks like it would take a beating and the 15’, aside from the length, has similar depth of sheer line and rocker. Seems like it could haul a substantial load of gear. The Wenonah 15 footer looks like it would get pushed around in the wind more than others. The Swift is appealing too and looks like it would carry a load pretty gracefully. I’m accustomed to a little more rocker, though.
I am curious about Swift’s Kevlar Fusion and Northstar’s Blacklite and how well they hold up to abuse.

Thanks for the suggestion but the Placid is not really to my taste. I’m not a big fan of tractor seats and it’s more shallow an narrow than I am looking for. Not to mention it’s a little above my budget for a canoe.

Not sure where you’re located, but Piragis (Ely, MN) has number of 2023 rentals on sale (Wenonah and Northstar). Even used, these are not inexpensive, but they’re good and way less than a new Placid or Swift.

Located in New Hampshire if that helps at all.

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The possibilities are virtually endless. The only problem is that the lighter the boat is, the more it costs.

I would be scouring used ones and see what fits you the best. Some light ones are meant more for racing and are less than great at stability. If you can find a couple of liveries and rent a few different kinds, you might be able to narrow the field down some.

Everyone has a different idea of what boat suits them or there would only be a few models built. Explore your options and find that fit.

Based on your input I’d personally be looking at the Swift Prospector 16. Owners seem to love it. I haven’t tried one but I’d like to. Check out the Combi on their website; I love the set-up with a center seat for solo. I have a Polaris set up that way. Seems like 2" of symmetric rocker plus the gently rounded hull would be great for rivers yet a bit more efficient than other Prospectors.

I’ve got a Blacklite Northstar and a Kevlar Fusion Swift. The Swift has a thicker gelcoat so it can take scratches/abrasion (or a gentle encounter with rebar) better than Blacklite. The Kevlar Fusion boat isn’t as stiff as Blacklite but overall it’s a resilient lay-up that they use for rental fleets. They have foam cores that can dent if you pull the boat over partially submerged trees with a heavy load in it. I’d expect that the Blacklite boat could take a bigger rock hit than a Kev Fusion boat without hurting the hull. I’ve used older Bell black/gold boats pretty hard and they can take light whitewater; I think the Blacklite is similarly strong but lacks the protective gelcoat so you’d need to touch it up from normal scratches and abrasion more frequently than a Kev Fusion boat. I don’t know if the Northstar foam cores are as prone to minor denting as the Swifts; in principle the stiff carbon outer skin may help prevent dents and it’s a minor issue anyway. I think both lay-ups should be relatively straightforward to repair if something bad happens.

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TomL, GREAT information/suggestions. Thanks!

I have the Swift 16’ Keewaydin combi. Carbon Kevlar trim, Kevlar fusion laminate, tech package… great for 2 people on short trips, great for 1 person on long trips. This canoe weighs 34 lbs. 34 lbs!!! I can just bend over and effortlessly pick it up over my head. I fish with it, sightsee and tour with it. Did I mention it was only 34 lbs? I don’t even use my other canoes anymore.


Nova Blue Steel
Clipper Canoes any of their tripper line. Many under 55 pounds.

I white water paddle distance Class I-V . My 20’ MacKenzie, in 7 years and 6,000 miles of travel, and 6,000 to 10,000 rocks, is still my principal boat. It has carried food and water equal to 6 weeks of travel. It weighs 101 pounds. Hard to carry long.

We also loved our old Mad River boat, for many years. But in our fifties/sixties, the weight and back issues made it less fun to contemplate the lifts, even as a couple. Invested in a Wenonah Kevlar Ultralight - 36 pounds, and could not be happier with the choice! Ours is the Fisherman model, just 14 feet, and turns on a dime. Our trips are primarily day jaunts on the river, so this works well for us - but consider other Wenonah boats intended for touring - the Kevlar UL is bliss.

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I bought a 15’ Pakboat for the same reason you are looking to buy. I’ve been extremely pleased with it’s performance. I bought the kit to convert it from tandem to solo as solo is the only way I paddle. The kit narrows the beam and increases freeboard.

Thanks, dleigh. I’ve never even considered pakboats but they do seem to cover the bases. I’m a little confused about the difference between the 150 and 150T, though. Does the conversion kit allow you to “switch back and forth” between these two models?
I need to research these boats.

Check out some of the U-Tuber that I follow such as Joe Robinet, Jon and Erin from Lost Lakes and Zander and Max Brudnik. Joe uses mostly swift canoes and pack boats, he has several different models, both kevlar and carbon, which take on a lot of abuse and he still uses all of them. The others both Jon(Lost lakes) and the two Brudnik brother use Nova Craft Canoes, Prospectors. These boats take on extreme conditions and seem to hold up extremely well in many extreme inviroments as well as whitewater and really rough portages.

According to the website:
" PakCanoe 150T is identical to the 150 with the exception of 5 cross ribs that add 3″ of beam."

So 3" wider and more stable.

Been through the same dilemma.
My beloved Wenonah Odyssey in Tufweave 70 lbs remained on the roof of the car, while I paddled & portaged à Kevlar MNII.
We just bought a Swift Keewaydin 17 in carbon fusion, for our tripping boat. 38 lbs! It is a joy to paddle & the 2” of bow & 1” of stern rocker are just enough to make it a joy to paddle.
I paddle a Wenonah Voyager solo in carbon fiber 90% of the time on local day outings. Neither of these are rock bouncers, and I don’t put them in whitewater. As for combo’s; do three seats take up valuable space, on solo trips? Just asking.
I like having the two separate purpose built boats, but then, I have 4 canoes :canoe: - accumulated over a lifetime. As others have said; test paddle several.
It’s a fun search.

Right. I got that but I just wondered if the conversion kit turned one boat into the other…if that makes sense.