Large Tripping Canoe

-- Last Updated: Mar-24-08 9:19 PM EST --

I'm looking for advice on a good tripping canoe for 2 adults, a child, a 75lb dog, and gear for up to a 2 week trip. It would be primarily used for BWCA/Quetico type trips. So far the list includes: Souris River Q18.5, Wenonah Itasca, Wenonah Champlain, and Bell Northwoods. Anyone have any experience with any of those models? Any others I should consider?

Sea Clipper, Hellman Cruiser
Western’s Sea Clipper and the Hellman Cruiser come to mind.

If you folks are “average” weight, and pack reasonably, some of the standard trippers would likely be plenty, so the Souris Quetico 17 and Clipper Tripper are options.

Where are you located, or what does your local dealer carry?

is VIA rail going to be used?
If so the length cut off for canoe is 18 feet. Fifteen bucks versus #352 for 18.5 footer as the longer one is freight

I dont like flat panel bottom boats as they have no way to give if you hit something. That said after shattering the panel on our Wenonah Odyssey it gave us another 18 years of service.

We replaced it with a Souris River Wilderness 18, higher in the stern and a little fuller…not quite so fast.

There is less wasted space in the Souris River than the Wenonahs… Yes you can pack in the narrow bow and stern stems, but when you combine into a larger pack with the time wasted, you are losing efficiency.

You need the most capacity that you can get for that load. We did 16 day trips with a Golden Retriever withe the Odyssey but no kid.

Whatever you get

Then there is the Big Honkin’ Canoe

Please explain "flat panel"
I’m not sure what you mean by “flat panel”. This has to do with how the bottom of the canoe is made and how forgiving it is when it takes a hit? I’m not picturing what you mean, and maybe the original poster is wondering too.

Old Town Tripper XL
20 feet long and holds a ton of stuff

Tripper XL
NOT a boat I’d care to portage!!!

Why not rent?

– Last Updated: Mar-25-08 8:37 AM EST –

Numerous outfitters in Ely can outfit you with various models of SR's, Bells, and Wenonahs. Try several, and you will not be stuck with one that is not "the" boat for your family.


Almost forgot: Piragis will have it's demo days in early May, so you can try Bells and Wenonahs there. Then drive out to Red Rock Outfitters to try the Souris Rivers.

I’d add the Wenonah Seneca to that list
It’s the 3-seat stretch version of the Champlain. I paddle a Champlain when I’m not solo and love it for a family. Very stable, yet efficient.

true but you can’t have it both ways
the Tripper XL does weigh 100 lbs so moving it out of the water does require strength–that said it has to be one of the best mass produced expedition canoes made.

The NorthWoods will be the easiest paddling of the bunch, because the tumblehome allows more vertical, and hence more efficient forward strokes.

Big Tripper
I second what Jim said, why not rent first to find out the best boat for you first. You will have to experience all kinds of conditions with and without that load in the canoe before you can answer that question. I would also suggest to put a Minnesota 3 on your list and try it with your load especially if you appreciate a faster / more efficient canoe.

While it is true that running a canoe with foam core construction (bottom panel)up on a pointed rock or putting weight in that hull when it is not fully floating could rupture the foam core, you would be severely limiting your selection of portagable light weight tripping canoes if that becomes the prime driver in your decision.

Big trippers
While I have never been in a Souris River 18.5, I do have at least some experience in the other boats you’ve specified. Here are a few comments on each:

The Wenonah Itasca is a big boat (19 feet) but is the best handling of those you’ve mentioned. It can haul a really big (and varied) load and is, like most of the boats you’ve mentioned, happier when loaded than not. From a paddling position, you’ll know right away that you are in a Jensen designed canoe; the hull and gunwales tuck in and the tumblehome increases, giving you real room to dig in. It is amazing that you can move that much stuff that fast! For experienced paddlers, this is the one I’d choose. I’d go with a Kev-Flex lay-up, a little heavier than Kev-ultra-light, both stronger and more suited for the between-lakes rivers you’re going to run into (and a little less pricey, too).

The Wenonah Champlain (and its new longer, 3 seat variant, the Seneca) is a big, dry, stable lake boat. It is more benign than the Itasca, but also less technical. If you are looking primarily for a big, stable, lightweight lake boat that is easy to portage, a Champlain in Kevlar ultra light will be hard to beat. The Champlain is also less of a handful than most big boats when paddled without a load, though its dryness for the bow paddler also means that big winds can be a challenge when riding high in the water. It acts like a big Spirit II, which is what it actually is.

The Bell Northwoods is as obviously a Yost design as the Itasca is a Jensen (and that’s a good thing!) The Northwoods is a long, visually low (though surprisingly dry) beauty that just flies along, loaded or not. It is a real pleasure to paddle, and will carry a good sized load, though maybe not quite that of the Wenonahs. If you can afford it, the beautiful (and strong) Black Gold layup is the way to go. At Canoecopia they showed all their new Black Gold boats with a wonderfully smooth interior finish that would be a great addition on a long trip with a child and dog. Like all the boats here, make really sure that your butt and their seats match up. Bell uses really nice cane seats that some just love. I can’t use them without a pad, especially over a distance. Conversely, I find the Wenonah buckets fit me great.

The only other boat I’d mention is the Wenonah Odyssey, a boat that is supposedly available once again on special order. The Odyssey is essentially a drier Minnesota II. Because it is relatively low in the water (relative to other tripping boats, not canoes in general) it might not be as friendly to the load/dog/child model you described. But for two paddlers moving fast through the BWCA, it was always a favorite of mine.

There are lots of good outfitters Up North; I’d agree with the others who encourage you to rent at first to get a flavor for these very different boats. Or, at least visit Rutabaga, where you can try out many/most right out their backdoor. Paddle on!

Thanks for all the help so far. I have quite a bit of experience with the MNII and with the SR Q17. I would like something that is a little more manuevarable, and with more room than the MNII (especially in the bow). I would also like it to be a little more efficient than the Q17.

I do plan on renting prior to buying but would like to narrow it down to 1 or 2 top choices so that I don’t spend half the cost of a new boat on rentals. So far, I’m leaning towards renting the Itasca and the Northwoods but if there is any additional advice, I’d love to hear it.

big canoe
I’ve paddled the Bell Northwoods and it’s a great boat…like a big Northstar. I think you can’t go wrong if you want efficiency, maneuverability, and capacity.

I’ve also paddled all of Swifts boats at their demo days and I can tell you that their Quetico 18’4" is a fabulous boat…very similar in capabilities to the Bell but I liked the Swift even a touch more than the Bell and I told myself that if I ever needed a high capacity canoe I’d have to get the Swift.

The maneuverability of the Swift and Bell is amazing…you can spin either one on a dime yet they are awesome cruisers.

I have a Bell Northstar I bought for longer trips and it would work well.

With the child and dog added I would strongly consider the Itasca though.

I was looking at the Itasce when I made my purchase, but the Northstartr paddled better for day trips which I use it for quite a lot so it won out.

If my use was loaded more often I would have chosen the Itasca.

Well, I like my Champlain.
I have a Kevlar version that has held up over the last several years and many trips. It can handle a load of gear and dogs. In fact, the biggest problem is the temptation of trying and to fill it. My wife gives me dope slaps on trips since I tend bring too much gear.

Any 18 ft. tripper loaded down isn’t something you want to take on technical rivers, but the Champlain is great on lakes and rougher water. It can be controlled when you have to quarter waves – of course that has to do with the wind profile of the canoe.

Loaded it’s very stable and in fact I have problems when I switch to my other canoes, since I’ll be in for a swim if I don’t change my evil habits that I learned in the Champlain.

Anyhow, good luck on your quest for the ultimate tripper.


– Last Updated: Mar-26-08 12:04 AM EST –

We used a Champlain a couple years ago on a trip of just over 2 weeks, and kept the boat for a month afterwords. I can't compare this boat with the others you have listed, but compared to something like the Escape or MNII: Does not track nearly as well (which really isn't a problem), but does turn much easier. Lots of leg room in the bow, and plenty of space for gear. Probably not as fast of a hull, but not a slouch either. My wife who sits in the bow prefered the champlain over the other 2 listed. Back at home after the trip, I noticed that I did not much like paddling the boat unloaded in a stiff wind. Overall however, I would give it a high rating. Hope this helps.

Wenonah Minn III
Sounds like Wenonah’s Minn III is designed exactly for you needs.

buy the rental if you can
You might get a really good deal, if you offer to buy the rental you like best at the end of your trip. If you rent different boats from the same place a lot of your money might apply towards the cost of a canoe.