MR Guide vs. Bell Morningstar?

Hello, folks. I’m back to the fountain of knowledge again. I’ve got several great tandem/ tripping boats, and the kids each have their own kayaks. In my quest for a solo, possibly a solo/ small tandem canoe for myself, I’ve narrowed my choices down to either the Mad River Guide/ Freedom, or the Bell Morningstar. I’d like a boat I can paddle around in solo, either on river trips up to Class II, or sometimes on smaller lakes. All of our rivers are rocky here, so Royalex is a must. I’m 6’2", with a lot of my 255lb. weight in my upper body, and have pretty good reach and strength. I will occasionally be carrying gear, but probably never more than 80-100 lbs. when I’m on family-of-four trips (how come Dad has to haul all of the stuff, anyway?!)

I’ve paddled a Guide, but never with anything else other than me in it. Will a total of 350 lbs. or so bog it down too badly, or affect its handling? I’m pleased with how responsive the Guide is, but wish it had just a little better glide (I paddle lakes and rivers about 50%-50%). The benefit as I see it of the Guide, if it will handle the extra weight, is that it is responsive, and is an obvious choice of a lot of folks for solo river work.

The Morningstar gets great reviews, but I’ve never had an opportunity to paddle one, nor do I know of one within reach of me that I could try out. The advantage to this one is that the kids could use it tandem, it can carry a little more weight, and it has a little better glide and tracking than the Guide. The question I have about this one is, how much solo maneuverability do I give up over the Guide? (Keep in mind I’m talking about the Royalex Morningstar here).

I’d really welcome the input of any who’ve paddled both of these boats. I’ve read the reviews, done the research, just trying to make a decision. Last year I bought a "15’ " MR Explorer for this purpose, that turned out to be a 16-footer when I got it home, but that’s another story…

If anyone knows of other similar boats I’ve overlooked, that would fit my needs, please let me know about them, too.

Take care, friends. Thanks and happy paddling! Regan

I have a Guide, and its best handling
is achieved when lightly loaded. With 350# on board, you would have better handling and have a little better speed with another foot of length. However, I am not sure about a particular boat to recommend. If you can shake your fears about composite on rocky rivers, look at the AC/DC on the Millbrookboats site. The ACC/DC was designed by John Berry for “combined” class whitewater open boat racing, so it is pretty fast in a straight line and also has enough rocker to turn quite well. About 31" in beam, 40#, and a bargain at a price of about 1100$ for S-glass/Kevlar layup. The kids will love it as a tandem.

I appreciate your input. That’s the kind of info I was looking for. Still hoping for other opinions on how these two boats compare as far as maneuverability… Anyone?

Morningstar sits lighter on the water,
especially with a load, but the Guide is very well-designed for turning. Remember that the Guide is designed for one kind of dual-purpose, being able to do a tolerable job touring on lakes, and then to do a tolerable job on class 1-2 whitewater.

The Morningstar is designed for another kind of dual purpose, to paddle lakes and smoothish rivers either solo or tandem. Although fairly narrow, the Morningstar is not as good a solo boat as the Guide, even if both are loaded. But it is a significantly better tandem boat.

I am sure I could solo a Morningstar down Georgia class 1-2 rivers, but I would NOT want to do it tandem, because running tandem will cut down the Morningstar’s turning ability and will cause it to take too much water on class 2 ledges. The Guide could be run as a tandem in conditions of dire need, but it would make a really lousy tandem boat in easy whitewater because it would be overloaded with too much weight toward the ends.

canoe choice

You say you already have several tandems, so that would seem to be covered. I’m curious why you’re not looking for a dedicated solo boat, since that’s what you’re looking to do? Would certainly beat going solo in a tandem. But if you’re set on getting a tandem, the Wenonah Solo Plus is worth looking into. I’ve paddled it solo & liked it alot. (lake paddling) Never tried it as a tandem, so can’t offer an opinion there. Try it out if you can find one in your area. Good luck.

Thanks again!
I appreciate the additional input. I’m not necessarily looking for another tandem canoe, but it seems to me that anything much larger than a Guide is going to be a solo/tandem dual-purpose type boat. The possibility of the Morningstar being an occasional tandem for the kids is just one positive aspect, in my consideration, but definitely not the deciding factor. Again, I’m looking pretty specifically for a solo boat capable of handling me and some gear, and performing decently on both flat and gentle whitewater. I was hoping to find something with a little more glide than the Guide, since I spend a fair bit of my time on flat water. The weight factor is a consideration, also; I’ve read several places that the Guide does best when fairly lightly loaded, but I’ve not had an opportunity to paddle one with 350 lbs. in it.

All I want is a maneuverable solo boat that will haul a reasonable load, that also tracks well on flat water, what’s so hard about that ? (And before someone takes me to task, that was said tongue-in-cheek- I realize that every multi-purpose boat is by necessity a compromise).

I think g2d came closest to answering my concerns by stating, “the Morningstar is not as good a solo boat as the Guide, even if both are loaded.” That’s sort of the kind of input I was looking for. I’m not asking y’all to make my decision for me, just wanting your opinions and experience. The lack of a variety of boats in my area makes it hard to try many of them out. Thanks again!!! Regan

go solo
try a bell magic/merlin or a wenonah prism. they’ll handle flatwater very well and can do up to Class II or so. don’t know if you can get them in royalex, but a dedicated solo is definitely more efficient than paddling a tandem as a solo.

Wish I Knew an Answer For You.
I have not paddled the Guide or the Morningstar.

But I have researched them for the exact same reasons you are. I’m interested in a royalex solo that is on the larger more river worthy side. When the money is available I’ll probably get a Guide. I had a wildfire and sold it because I wanted just a little more payload. I’m about 220 but often cary a dog or a kid and also carry 20 lbs. or so of gear on day trips.

The Novacraft Supernova is the only other big solo I can think of that comes in royalex. Their reputation is good, but supposedly they have low initial stability.

I have a Swift Shearwater which is a high capacity solo, but they don’t offer it in royalex. I don’t think Swift is currently making their Raven which was available in royalex.

So then you look at small royalex tandems. The one that looks the best to me for use as a big solo (again, I haven’t paddled it) is the Bell Yellowstone Tandem. It is similar to the Morningstar in length and width at the gunnels, but with narrower maximum width and more rocker.

Good luck with your search.

Sloopsailor, here on the board, has one that I know he is very pleased with. I met him and saw the boat at the last spring Ozark Rendezvous. Good-looking boat- I did not have a chance to paddle it due to bad weather, though. It is indeed a BIG solo, but may indeed be best for my purpose; I know for a fact that it is capable of carrying quite a load for a solo. Just judging from the shape and design, it looks like it may be a little twitchy at first, but I bet the secondary stability is great. Probably does better with a little weight in the bottom, I expect. This boat is Canadian made, I think, and all the dealers are way (WAY) north of me. If you come across one, it is certainly worth a try! Good luck, and thanks, Regan

I spoke with Sloopsailer about the SuperNova last winter I think, when a good value on a used one turned up in this area. He was very helpful. I’d already ordered the Shearwater and then car repairs ate the last of the canoe fund so I never even went to test paddle the SuperNova. It was a composite model also and I wanted a boat for rocky streams.

If you’ve fallen in with that Ozark Rendezvous crowd, you’re in good company it sounds like. There are probably lots of boats to look at as well. alone has a dream fleat of solos.

Happy paddling and boat hunting.

I thinking …
I think if you’re looking for a solo boat, that you intend to use to carry yourself & a good load, you would not be too far off picking either the Guide, a Solo Plus, or the Supernova.

I think any of those 3 would do the job for you with minor variations in handling between the 3.

No major variation that a decent paddler can’t deal with. I believe all are available in Royalex, and if I were you, I’d go with Royalex if possible, based on your size, the load you were talking about carrying, and where you said you’ll use the boat.

I like the Merlin 2 also, and believe it might handle the load, but if I remember correctly it’s not available in Royalex. Any boat carrying 350 pounds, traveling on a moving water river, had better be able to “take a shot”!

Therefore…the Royalex.

Thanks for the compliment Osprey!

I added a wood trimmed Bell Flashfire to the fleet today. A beautiful boat; fun to play with too!



– Last Updated: Oct-01-04 8:54 PM EST –

Glad you got your boat, Bob! I know you've been fretting over that deal for a little while. I agree on the Royalex- although the composites are great boats, they would have a short life expectancy in my rivers! I'm afraid the Solo Plus may be a little long for soloing in small rivers (?). Happy paddling, and thanks! Regan

Yes, paddled a SoloPlus, found it
fairly determined to go in a straight line. Good for lakes and open rivers, but in class 1-2,you would have to force it.

Osprey-----see if you can find a
Mohawk Odyssey14 to try. For heavy river hauling with maneuverability they are a great value. More initial stability than the Guide. I’ve had 300+lbs in it and it handled well. Not as fast or maneuverable as a lightly loaded Guide, but it shines when you want to haul a lot. It wouldn’t be my first choice for long flatwater tripping, but on class I-II rivers it is doing great!

Congrats, Bob!
You’ve been talking about one of these for a while. I bet it cost more than one dollah…

The hubby and I were just talking about the Spring Rendezvous. We used all our vacation time, so no trips till 2005. Hope you all have a great Fall Rendezvous!

Now you’ve done it.
Bob, that little Flashfire is liable to make other boats in the your fleet seem like sluggish and homely embarassments to you. You saw what happened to that formerly tough-minded, rational McWood. Notice how we don’t hear as much from him lately. He’s probably out in the shop just looking at the Flashfire, maybe touching up a smudge on the woodwork, or examining for the tenth time that little scratch on the stern. Even when away he probably hear’s her haunting siren song.


Thats Right
Thanks Pamskee. I forgot about the Odessy. That is another royalex boat that sounds like it would work fine for someone wanting a big river solo. I think in my file I’ve got comments from Bob and JJoven on the Odessy. That good initial stability is a plus, as the boat would get used for fishing and as a loaner to folks wanting to try a solo.

Odyssey 14 …
Yeah! I completely forgot about that one. I use mine for my multipurpose “beater” boat; a day float, or a multi-night on the river float. Yes, good stability, and yes, also fine for class 1 & 2. Fun to surf, eddy turn, peel out, ferry, play with the river. In Royalex; don’t mind going out on the shallow, rocky, Ozark rivers & “banging around”.

I weigh nearly 200, and wouldn’t think twice about throwing another 75 to 100 pounds into it either. Certainly, it will handle different.

Overall, a decent boat for the price.


P.S. Would “not” suggest any boat made of Royalite for shallow river running.

Guide vs. Odyssey
I had considered the Odyssey, but the Mohawk website lists its capacity as only 400 lbs. I know different manufacturers rate things differently, though, so I’m not sure how this would actually compare to the Morningstar, SuperNova, or Guide. The reviews for the Odyssey here on the board contain statements like “handle almost as well as a Guide”, etc. Given that the Odyssey is also shorter than the Guide, I’d decided on the Guide (between these two) some time ago. This has been a long decision-making process for me, but I’ve about decided to give the Guide another try, unless I can find a SuperNova close by. Apparently, the Morningstar is more of a lake boat than a river boat, while I had initially thought it was more adapted to rivers. Thanks for all the additional input, y’all, I do appreciate it. Take care, Regan

Don’t believe it …
A Mohawk Odyssey 14 will “not” manuever as well as a Mad River Guide; empty or loaded it doesn’t make any difference. The Odyssey 14 may track a little better, but I had rather have manueverability than tracking on the rivers I paddle.

I base my opinion on about 500 river miles in my Odyssey 14, and over 1,000 river miles in my Guide.