More Canoe Questions: Adirondack and Prospector styles

Alright, I’ve noticed that there are several different manufacturers that have Adirondack and Prospector style boats.
What are the differences between these styles?
Are there other styles that are generally adopted by canoe builders aside from these two?

Prospector style canoes are oriented more towards tougher paddling conditions. They will handle waves and white water much better. Prospectors are also fairly maneuverable, though all these attributes make them harder to paddle in a straight line. They generally are made from thick heavy duty material, and will carry a lot of weight. Most have high gunnels and a fair bit of rocker which improves the sea keeping ability, but those boats will also catch more wind.

Adirondack/pack canoes are very much the opposite. Most if not all are solo canoes, where all prospectors are tandem. They are designed to be compact, light weight,and easy to portage. Adirondacks are generally a few feet shorter, have much less free board, and weight 25%-50% of what a prospector weights. They are much easier to handle by yourself, but don’t offer the same capability when it come to tough paddling or heavy gear.

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Pack boat you sit and paddle with a double blade.

Prospector you kneel (or sit) and paddle with a single blade.

Other than that I agree with everything Hatchet_Jack said.

Weird. I have a tandem Wenonah Adirondack in royalex that weighs about 64 lbs and is a tank on the water and a Swift Prospector tandem that weighs about half of the Addy. The rocker profile is more exaggerated on the Prospector though.

Ah, the confusion is understandable … and lessened by the addition of the Wenonah brand.

The WENONAH Adirondack looks like a lake orientated canoe with 0 rocker while the original Prospector (wood & canvas) was a wilderness truck designed to handle most everything you might find on a long trip. Wenonah hasn’t migrated the ADK to T-Formex but a Wenonah Prospector 16 is listed at 71 lbs. A Tuff-weave Wenonah ADK is listed at 54 lbs.

I have a Novacraft Prospector 16’ in R-Lite. It comes in at around 65 - 68 lbs (haven’t weighed it in a long time). My feel is that it has a harder chine and maybe a bit less rocker than the original. That said, it handles big lakes and class II whitewater well with a full tripping load.

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I recently purchased an Esquif Prospecteur 16 in T-Formex. It weighs in at just at 70 lbs (catalog said 65) and has 2.75" of rocker. It will carry quite a load and still seems pretty maneuverable, but you won’t see many at a freestyle competition. I looked at the NovaCraft, the Wenonah and the Esquif and went with the Esquif as it was the best value and I got free shipping to boot .

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There is a basic problem here in that there is no set definition for either “Adirondack” or “Prospector” although you more more likely to see more commonality in boats called “Prospector.” They can be made out of any material and be heavy or light. I would expect a Prospector to be symmetrical and have about 2" of rocker both bow and stern. What an “Adirondack” boat is, I don’t know although I have been paddling there for 30 years. What Hatchet_Jack is describing is a pack boat which is common in the the Adirondacks. Mine is a Hornbeck which weights 16 lb. and is great for fishing on small, hike-in ponds. There is also the Adirondack guide boat which is rowed as well as paddled. I have no idea what an “Adirondack” canoe is other than a manufacturer’s appeal to something historic and outdoorsey. There are plenty of Prospectors in the Adirondack Museum at Blue Lake, but I don’t think there is an “Adirondack” canoe there.


I think Hatchet Jack nailed it. When I think adirondack canoe I think Nessmuck, George W. Sears

gererally true about the capacity. But a 15 foot pack canoe absolutely can handle a long trip with a heavy load safely. It does not bushwhack as easily as there is more of it to tangle though. Had my pack canoe out on Lake Superior and the Gulf of Mexico on 10 day trips… the latter the harder as that 80 lbs of fresh water counts.

Most pack canoes are much shorter and the Nessmuk grail is not realistic for most. George Washington Sears was 90 lbs. That small a boat would be less safe for a 250 lb person

Prospectors need a load… Otherwise they are a sail. But the name is so bandied about and no two are the same. Some have virtually no rocker. Esquif Prospecteurs have a lot of rocker and the 17 footer will spin in its own length.

the Prospector design is basically meant to provide a canoe for general purposes, i.e. can carry a load, is maneuverable, can handle bigger waves, can handle white water, can be used on lakes or rivers, can be paddled tandem or solo, sitting or kneeling. They are a traditional design that is symmetrical, rockered bow and stern. They can be made of all kinds of different materials - kevlar; fiberglass; sp3 (Novacraft); T-Formex; Royalex; TuffStuff (Novacraft); Blue Steel (Novacraft); Innegra-Basalt Kevlar Epoxy (H2O Watersport Inc.).
They will paddle straight with the J-stroke or turn on a dime to go through beaver trails. I have had a 16’6" Langford Prospector that was very light in kevlar; a 17’ Novacraft Prospector in sp3 that weighs 99lbs; a 16’ Swift Prospector in kevlar that weighed about 44lbs.; and an H2O 16’4" Prospector in Innegra-Basalt kevlar Epoxy Pro that weighed about 40 lbs. I just sold the H2O 16’4" Prospector to purchase a 17’6" H2O Innegra-Basalt Epoxy Pro Prospector canoe at 42 lbs. to better handle larger loads of packs and family.
Prospectors are not all the same. They typically have more rocker (1.5" to 3"). They can be paddled with a single blade or double blade paddle (on YouTube check out Jim Baird - Adventurer as he paddles his Novacraft 15’ Prospector on big lakes, rivers, and white water with both single blade and double blade paddles). Since I only can store one canoe, I opted for the H2O. Super tough (epoxy, kevlar and Innegra-Basalt with no gel coat!); very light weight; very tough; very maneuverable; very versatile; easy to carry with the centre carrying yoke; and can carry huge loads. Even in wind, I can paddle solo by putting weight in the bow.
On my annual week long canoe trip I see different canoes that my friends paddle. One is the small packboat solo Bell canoe (think Adirondack). Great canoe that handles very well but cannot come close to carrying the loads a Prospector can carry. However, my friend can make that canoe sing. He can handle all kinds of water conditions in that canoe.
So for me, it all comes down to desired use. I’m a generalist. Bring on the Propector!

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I know people love the Prospector as a multi-purpose, do anything boat, and I just went back to watch Bill Mason’s Path of the Paddle Solo Whitewater/Flatwater series to remind me why - he is an amazing paddler. But for paddling solo, I think there are dedicated solo boats that are more efficient and less subject to wind that can handle moving water just as well and can easily carry a week’s worth of gear. I am thinking of any of the 14 to 15-foot river runner designs, or 15 to 16-foot lake boats.

My main issue paddling a tandem (prospector or other) boat solo is the difficulty doing cross strokes (or even a real efficient forward stroke) due the the width in the middle. Bill Mason does amazing off-side turns and ferries using pry strokes, but I have never seen a paddler who can do that - especially in moving water. He also does more efficient forward strokes by kneeling in the the chine, but that makes the boat even more of a sail. With narrower width, a dedicated center paddling station and the ability to do cross strokes, a dedicated solo boat is much easier and more efficient to paddle.

I know I am never going to convince the true believers that they should consider a dedicated solo boat. I have tried unsuccessfully with several good friends. That’s OK - to each his/her own. In wind or long stretches of flatwater, I’m happy to stop and wait for them to catch up. :wink:

For tandem paddling, I’d love to have a 16 to 17-foot Prospector.

Personally, I totally agree with you about the benefits of a smaller solo canoe. They can be light but tough, and can really do a great job of carrying the gear for one person while being maneuverable and a joy to paddle. If somebody has the room and finances to have both a Prospector and a smaller solo canoe like my friend’s Bell canoe, then go for it!

…the young lady, paddling that white water from the bow of their canoe so very well, is his daughter, Becky. She has a well established fine reputation of her own, teaching basic and advanced paddling. I used her basic and advanced videos (downloaded subscription) when I was starting out - and still do because they’re so well done and a joy to watch.

(ps: Eric, you’re an amazing paddler too! Everyone on this website can enjoy the excellent videos and photo journals you generously share. Thank you.)

Mark L.

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A family of great paddlers. My favorite line from the Path of the Paddle video series is from is from a young Paul Mason - “I don’t know - looks pretty tricky” . Of course they go on to ace it. I use (and hear) that line all the time when scouting. I loved Paul’s cartoons too - I guess he doesn’t do them any more.

Speaking of Mason family videos, my favorite old-school, big boat paddling video is from Waterwalker. Starts at about 46:00, but the best scenes start at 47:30. Bill Mason paddles in solo at 47:38. The kid paddling solo at 47:56 is amazing.

Just goes to show - its not about the boat.

I paddle an Old Town Discovery 133 which I would say is a “Prospector” style boat. I decided to make it my all the time boat. I do rivers, creeks, lakes in it.

Learning how to use it was definitely a learning curve because different scenarios require you to pack it differently and paddle from different spots and B. Masons videos helped a lot. You have to know your strokes.

At first it was a bear now I couldn’t dream of anything else. By my self with fishing gear I can run in 4” of water. On a trip I can put a months worth of gear in it.

You need different paddles I have a wide short paddle for creeks and a long beaver tail for deep water. I also keep a 12’ pole for poling.