I am looking for a mostly tandem possibly sometimes solo canoe for lakes, slow rivers, and some class I or II rivers in Montana. Weight is an issue. Not likely to do much tripping. I think I have narrowed my search to Bell Northstar White Gold, Wenonah Aurora Kevlar Flexcore, and Mad River Explorer Kevlar. The Northwind and Wenonah are cheaper-all are 51 lbs or so. Any comments? I haven’t seen specifically many people with experience with the Wenonah Aurora. Anyone know anything about that specifically? Also I may be able to get a deal on an Aurora Ultralight-will that hold up? Thanks very much.
Hi, I posted here with the same question a few weeks ago. I settled on the Bell Northwind, I think it’s the boat for you too. Of course there are many boats to choose from. I happened to get a good deal on this one so that’s why I went with it. The Explorer is a great boat, as is the Wenohnah Prospector. Look around, you are on the right track.
you might look at the Wenonah solo plus. Maybe not as maneuverable as some, but it is a comfortable boat that both solos and tandems.
All those boats…
Should do what you want. The Northstar will be the sweetest paddling, and fastest on the lakes and slow rivers I think, and the best solo, too. The Explorer would be better on the class II waters and hold more gear.
The Aurora is a good all around boat, maybe somewhere roughly between the other two. I owned an Aurora and liked it fine. Mine was royalex the composite is probably sweeter paddling. I bought my Aurora when a dealer who had the Explorer I wanted was rude to me and acted put out that I wanted to test paddle. No doubt in my mind that the Explorer would have been the better purchase, for the moving water I paddle most.
If you do much class two with rocks, and those Big Sky rivers can get boney right, I’d be leary of the ultralight layup. Maybe rent a royalex boat for those infrequent class II trips if you do get an ultralight layup.
I’d get the white gold Northstar. Never paddled one, but have paddled the Kevlar and Royalex Northwind and sure love the Bell feel.
I’ve been on the Smith R. up there twice in canoes. Georgeous!
I use an Explorer in MT
I was in you boat, so to speak, last summer. I ended up buying an Explorer in Royalex and so far have used it for lakes (Hyalite, Ennis, Quake, Lewis to Shoshone, Jackson, and String to Leigh) and the short slow stretches comprising the "to"s mentioned above. I recommend it as a great boat although it’s the only one I’ve spent much time in.
It’s kinda heavy (about 70 lbs) and I do worry how well I’ll be able to portage it as I get older but for now it’s doable since it’s very well balanced.
It’s my first boat so I don’t have much to compare it to but my wife and I find it very manuevarable and stable. It weathered 3 foot waves on Shoshone Lake with no problems - although it was scary. We’ve loaded it down with camping gear and it still handles well. I can solo it on lakes but that gets difficult if the wind picks up.
I’d be afraid of kevlar in any of our rivers. Our Explorer took a good shot from below from a log once. I could feel it pushing up on the hull and thought for sure that it would have damaged it but when we got out of the water we only saw a scratch.
If weight really is a big factor for then maybe you should let it guide your decision. Lighter boats may get used more often…it’s not good to skip a paddle because your boat is a pain to handle because of it’s weight.
Even the lightweight boat should hold up okay if you avoid direct hits on rocks and even if you somehow damage it - it can be repaired…then it’s just not as pretty.
I’d avoid the Explorer since you don’t need the volume/capacity and the other two are more efficient.
If you can easily pick up and handle the Northstar…you just can’t go wrong with the Northstar…it’s stable, fast and handles great and has a really nice personality. It works quite well solo and even better tandem. A white/gold boat will take all the abuse you can throw at it.
Go down to the Canoe Rack in Missoula and try the boats you have an interest in, you can get them out on the water. I bought a Northstar in BG last year and I love it. I agree it might not be the boat you want to do the Smith in, but I love the way it handles and the weight was an important issue to me. Have fun.
Why would the Northstar not be good for the Smith-too shallow (water level) and rocks? I’m definitely going to the Canoe Rack to try them but since it snowed 8 inches last night I thought I might wait. Would the Aurora be better for something like the Smith or Blackfoot or would you have to go to the Mad River?
I have a black/gold Northstar and also a black/gold Merlin II and they both have taken many many hits on rocks. But never any huge straight on hits. They will take just all kinds of abuse. I know one guy that actually rolled his Econoline van and crushed a black/gold Starfire -and the boat was repaired and it’s fine (but ugly). The white/gold is just as tough.
The thing is - you can only ENJOY hitting rocks in a Royalex boat. With Royalex you can aim for rocks. With a white/gold or black/gold Bell you’d try to miss the rocks…but if you screw up the boat will forgive you.
But there’s no Royalex boat that paddles like a white/gold Northstar. The Northstar is a magic boat. I’ve had many many solos and am “down to” 5, but have only one tandem…my Northstar. It does everything well.
New Canoe choice
What does anyone think about difference between Aurora and Spirit II (and for that matter Wenonah Solo Plus) for primarily rivers class I-II, second small lakes, and last overnight/possibly solo? Tracking vs. manuverability? For exsample Smith, Blackfoot, Beaverhead, Missouri. Thanks.
Hope this helps…
I own a Solo plus and it is a great solo boat
for me. It is very stable and when leaned it will turn quite quite easily. I purchased the tuf-weave and it is fairly easy to carry for a guy barely 5' 7" . However it is very twitchy as a tandem and is quite narrow , my wife is about the same size and found it to be a tight squeeze in the bow.I only bring this up
because you stated in your post that you will be paddling mostly tandem sometimes solo.
The only problem i would have paddling a tandem boat Like The aurora or the bell is the lack of tumblehome or narrowness at the center since I do not paddle canadian style. Hope the info I've given is of help in your search . Happy hunting!
We like the Solo Plus
My wife and I bought a used royalex Solo Plus last summer and we both like it alot. I can’t compare it to the above mentioned boats because I’ve never paddled them.
We find this boat to be much more stable (a major criteria for my beginner wife) than my other two tandems at the time (Sawyer 159 and Moore Ladybug) and at 58 pounds it’s light enough to carry on my shoulders. It seems to maneauver well enough both solo and tandem. It has alot more room for the front paddler than the Moore 16’. We have the web seats (three) and find them to be pretty comfortable. It does catch alot of wind when I paddle solo (I weigh 145lbs) on open water on a windy day and I’ll use a dedicated solo boat for that purpose in the future. Plenty of tumblehome for solo paddling from the middle seat with a double bladed kayak paddle (the only paddle I use because of shoulder & neck problems).
We don’t do any canoe camping, so I don’t know how it handles gear.
I reccommend trying this as a multipurpose boat.