I’ve got this trip to BW planned, and the canoe I’ve purchased is 63 lbs. I thought hard about getting another one when I go there, a Wehnonah Escape in Kevlar Flexcore to be precise. But they list that canoe as being 53 lbs. I’ve been lifting stuff like my 8" dutch oven to see exactly what I’d be shelling out the extra loot for, and without any BW portage experience, I think I’m just getting more confused. What do some of you vetran yokemen think?
Why not rent one?
Why buy another canoe when you can rent a kevlar canoe weighing less than 45 pounds for under $40 a day from anyone of many outfitters?
not worth the 10 pounds
I’ve rented alum., kevler, and royalex in the BW for many years. Portaged long and short. I have a 63 pound royalex. Personally, the 45 plus/minus kevs are a blast on the portages, but, in reality, 63 pounds is not bad. Of course, I am comparing this to the 85 pounder I used to drag up there 15 years ago.
Now-a-days I usually rent when I go because I don’t want to cartop for 650 miles each way. I did the kev for a couple of years and decided the royalex at 60 -63 pounds is ok (and cheaper) for this 55 year old out of shape guy. Of course, that 63 pounds adds on a couple of more when the paddles are lashed in. As long as you are not out to break a record when portaging (by carrying a good sized pack when carrying the canoe or setting a time record) the 63 pounds is a nice weight. Slow down a bit and enjoy the portages. There is joy in the journey. 53 or 63 pounds when up on the shoulders with the frame of your body supporting it is really not that much difference.
There’s four situations where I’m grateful to have a 45 - 55 lb canoe. At the beginning of a portage doing a one person lift with a full pack on; on a portage that’s more than 20 minutes back time (about a half mile); at the end of the portage doing a one person lift off my shoulders and easing the canoe in the water; and late in the day after 6 - 8 portages with several more to go. My opinion is the lighter canoe is only worth the extra money if what you’re looking for in paddling performance is also better than the boat you bought. You’ll have to paddle both to determine that. Rent first.
Folks have been portaging 75 pound aluminum canoes around the boundary country for decades and heavier wood/canvas boats before that. If you are packing very light and wish to single portage- take all your stuff, including canoe, across in one trip- then a lighter canoe is worth it.
For a first trip with portages like those in the BWCA I would recommend double trip portaging until you get to know your capabilities on the portage trail. Your canoe is fine for that.
Even though I have a Kevlar boat, I still double trip portages . Why ? I found that I could single trip, but I moved a lot slower, took more time to get “set up” and had to be more careful with both a pack and a canoe on my back . Now I relish the return middle leg of a double carry where I can walk unencumbered and get my legs stretched . And I can bring a few extra things
$$ vs lbs
I went through the same weight vs. dollars conflict last month when I was shopping for a second solo boat. After finally deciding on a Bell Wildfire, I had to decide between a Kevlar model at 30 lbs and $2100, or Royalex at 44 lbs and $900. Since money was not an issue in this case, I was set on the Kevlar until my wife had me put together a list of all the things I could buy with the $1200 price differential.
I got the Royalex.
Thanks, I think I’ll just work out
and take the Royalex boat. I can’t see blowing 20% the cost of a new kevlar canoe on 8 day’s rent. I’m just odd that way. But then, it would probably save in gas too if I drove up sans canoe on top of my car. Well, hell. I guess I’m right back to where I started, except I now have the rental option on the table. Anybody know what the effect of hauling a canoe is on gas mileage? I drive a 6 cylinder Ford Escape that gets 23 MPG highway.
My experience is about 10% less mileage with one large canoe on top. Two large canoes is worse - about 25% less mileage.
Look at used
I bought a used SR Q-16 from an outfitter for < $500, I think it weighs abour 50 lbs.
In addition to the weight difference, there is also a big performance difference between a royalex hull and a composite hull. The blunt bow on a royalex hull makes it noticeably less efficient than the sharp bow on a composite hull. Between Fiberglass and Kevlar there is very little paddling difference, but between Royalex and the two composites is a very noticeable difference.
On your shoulders in the dealers yard the ten pounds seems slight and the 63-65# boat seems manageable, but after the first real portage, the price increase for the 40-45# kevlar boat seems very worthwhile. My own personal tandem is a 55# cross-rib kevlar layup, and at the half mile mark it is manageable, but not light feeling. A 65# canoe at the half mile mark has me looking for a tree with a convenient crotch to stick the bow into for a rest.
Above it was mentioned how people did wilderness portages for years with 70# aluminum hulls and heavier wood canvas canoes before that. Yes they did, and they did not carry straight thru on the long carries. They did them in sections, only carrying the canoe till the shoulders tired, then returning for another load of gear and leapfrogging past the canoe for another section. They broke up the carry into short loaded advances, then short return trips to get blood back into the muscles. Still a good method for long carries with multiple trips.
If you decide to go with your familiar royalex hull, you can put in a really good padded yoke and it will feel ten pounds lighter. The laminated yoke with the cupped swivel pads from Wenonah is my favorite in any canoe. The cupped pads keep the yoke from slipping off your shoulders like a standard yoke when you sweat, and it keeps your hands free to carry paddles or a fishing pole.
Go for the ultra-light weight boat and you’ll never regret it. I’ve done a lot of portaging with an 18’ Wenonah Sundowner in Kevlar in BWCA and Algonquin and it is truely a pleasure at 39#. The performance of the boat, compare to Royalex, is nigh and day. You only live once, enjoy the ride!
Wenonah’s posted weights for their composite boats are very conservative. Their Royalex weights are more accurate due to the consistent nature of the royalex sheets.
Ten to fifteen years ago they published the average weights and you could get one three to five pounds above or below the published weight depending on the weather conditions and crew doing the layup. Then one of their competitors got hold of a boat that was over the published weight and raised a big stink with the dealers. So they weighed everything they made for a couple months and used the heaviest one of each layup for the next years catalog. The one you get will likely be lighter than the published weight, but not more.
$1700 for a ten pound drop is definitely too much to pay, but i could not find any Wenonah models where the price differential is that much for the drop from Royalex to Kevlar which is often more than 15 pounds. To compare another manufacturers royalex cost to Wenonah’s Kevlar would really skew the figures; Mohawk Royalex Nova 17 vs. a Kevlar Escape would be an extreme example of a big price increase for a smaller weight difference, but would not account for the big paddling difference.
Just keeping the comparison apples to apples
canoes are amazingly aerodynamic! the cost in fuel effieciency on my 4-cyl S-10 pickup is less than a mile per gallon!
As I reread this string I was reminded of a day about five or six years ago. We were on the Newton side of the Fall/Newton portage when a party of four 19-20 year old guys paddled up to the portage in the “lightweight” aluminum canoes they had rented for their week long trip. They were about to walk their last portgage. Even though this is a super highway of portages they were struggling with their canoes and gear. We chatted for a few minutes. I asked how their trip was and they said they had a good trip. But if they had it to do over again they would have spent the few extra dollars a day and rented kevlar canoes and had a great trip. They had underestimated just how heavy those extra few pounds would be over the course of a week long trip over many portages.