Northstar Trillium - looking for comments, owners

Hi - I’m seriously considering a Northstar Trillium as a small solo for mostly flat water (rivers, lakes in New England, New York and surrounding areas), with maybe the occasional riffle. Day paddling, me (6’2", 180-185lbs) and Iain the boat dog (40 lb Cardigan Welsh Corgi). Want the option of using a double bladed paddle on occasion, but will mostly be single blade. I like to play with the paddle - not full on freestyle, but one thing I love about canoes is their responsiveness to each stroke. Thought about the Northstar Phoenix as well, but it seems the reduced rocker in the stern of the Trillium will help with tracking in windy conditions (and I’m finding it’s almost always windy here) without seriously impacting maneuverability. I paddle kneeling, usually offset to the right. I currently solo in my Mad River Malecite KX tandem, but like the idea of a shorter dedicated solo boat (I’ll be keeping the Malecite for paddling with my wife or in case I suddenly decide that a week long “expedition” is just the thing - could happen).

Two asks:
I’d like to get comments from folks who have paddled the Trillium - pro’s and con’s.

I’d love to find some one in the area (New England, eastern New York, NJ, PA) who has a Trillium and would be willing to let me try it out. I haven’t found a dealer with one in stock and I’d like to try before I buy.

Thanks in advance.


The Northeast is not prime country to easily find Northstar canoes
Closest to the Trillium are the Swift Keewaydin 14 and 15 and the Hemlock Kestrel and Peregrine
Since they are more locally made they are far easier to find

Yiu may find the solos a tad pinched for the dog. Depending on location of dog 60 lbs can have a profound effect on handling. So you really do have to paddle a test with the dog.
There is a solo canoe event in Weatern PA where you can often find many solos. I think someone brought some Northstar solos last year

kayamedic - thanks for the comments - I’ve looked at the Keewaydins and they are pretty close. I may paddle one to get a feel for it (there is a shop that’s not too far that has one). They are a bit pricier.

I’ll look up the Hemlocks - good tip.


Yes the Swifts are pricier. There is a reason… Vacuum infusion technology gives a precise injection of resin to all the right places in the right amount. Also they use a lot more fabric partials in the floor. Note that Northstar uses foam core to make the bottom stiff and not flex. Swift uses more fabric and the vacuum infusion so there is no need for a foam core. The Swifts are a little heavier but in the long term should you need a repair not having a foam core makes the repair so much stronger and easier to do.
Hemlock is near Rochester. Its essentially a family operation run with no dealer network, Dave Curtis has been building boats a long time . He also does not use foam cores.

You have to decide the pros and cons of each method of construction. All composite boats of the same material are not alike.

That said Oak Orchard in Waterport NY ( again Rochester area) has the Phoenix and maybe they can get the Trillium… I have to say that in my experience you can’t request a particular canoe to show up unsold… Northstar does scheduled deliveries but I don’t think they are frequent.

Blue Mountain Outfitters in Marysville, PA has a Trillium in their inventory. (Near Harrisburg, PA) Great people.

Tim - thanks - it’s a 6+ hour drive, but I’ll give them a call.


Paddle it before purchasing…but imho it’s a little small for someone of normal weight. Today’s 16’ composite canoe with standard waterline width is a breeze to paddle and will be infinitely more stable with a pet aboard. So, when taking it easy, you might not get up to cruising speed in those first 2 strokes(Big Deal) and maybe its total weight will be ~10 pounds heavier…it’s a much more stable canoe…ESPECIALLY when anykind of breeze kicks up. *I’m thinking about it if you were paddling up here in Maine, so if normal conditions are calmer in your paddling locale…you can judge better than I can, the difference is ~18"(L) but you’ll have more waterline width working for you for stability…especially when your dog may happen to bolt from one side to the other. Only 1.5" of stern rocker seems like nothing to worry about…only 1" difference between bow & stern can be trimmed anyway you want. I’d point you to paddle both the Trillium and other slightly longer canoes for comparison if possible.

Based on the specs the Trillium looks like a hot small boat so if that’s what you want it may well be the best choice. I really like boats with 2.5 inches rocker front and 1.5 rear…seems perfect. I’m about 180 and paddle with a 55 pound puppy and my 14 foot Bell Yellowstone solo works great…and we are pushing the weight limit more than you would be in a Trillium. I had a Phoenix and did not like it…the Yellowstone is way hotter. 15 footers like the Keewaydin or my Bell Merlin Ii have more comfort and stability and are great for cruising…it just depends on what you want. The Hemlock Peregrine would fit you well and it’s a wonderful boat but it does not turn like the Trillium should…and the smaller Kestrel would also fit your load if you want a hot small boat. I owned both Peregrine and Kestrel in the past.

Thanks all for the comments.

@BigSpencer: When you refer to a 16’ boat I think you’re referring to a 16 foot solo? I’m currently paddling a Mad River Malecite (Kevlar Expedition layout) - 16’ 5" long, 34.5" wide. Even at that, Iain the boat dog shifting weight impacts trim. I agree that a trial paddle is important, I’m working on finding someone with a Trillium that I might be able to try. I have located a Swift Keewaydin 15 that has similar proportions to try.

@TomL: Thanks for the comments. I have talked to the folks at Hemlock and based on height/weight/dog they suggested the Peregrine v. the Kestrel. Are you basing the turning comment (Peregrine v. Trillium) based on longer length and less rocker - (makes sense). What are your thoughts on Trillium v. Keewaydin 15?

I’ve paddled a lot of the boats under discussion but 15 ’ length for a tripping solo isn’t arbitrary. That length fits almost all paddlers with tweaks to width

The Peregrine has sticky stems. It’s far straighter bottomed than specs indicate. Remember there is no universal convention for measuring rocker LDC measures differently than DY
If I heel Peregrine to the rail and free up the stems it turns quickly but you may not want to do that with a dog or packs
There are some 16 foot solos like the Prism but your dog isn’t going to like it

They get quite narrow to minimize skin friction

In my experience the Peregrine is a great all around boat and a great dog boat, but it does not turn sharply and playfully like a Yellowstone solo. I think the Kee 15 is similar to a Peregrine (fast/stable/effortless cruiser)…I would expect the Trillium to be more like my Yellowstone solo…Trillium has same rocker as Yellowstone and is 6 inches longer and narrower…should be a hot boat!

@kayamedic : Packs won’t be an issue - I’m a day tripper - if I’m ever going longer I’ll likely use the Malecite. Dog would be the issue. I’ve paddled the Prism a couple of times, and it’s not really what I’m looking for - 0 rocker and really needs to be far over to get it to turn. Would be a great boat if I was interested in tripping, but that’s not where I’m going.

@TomL : I’m hoping to get into a Keewaydin 15 on Wednesday - we’ll see how it feels. The Hemlock SRT seems to be very similar to the Trillium, just a bit longer, the hull is deeper, but same rocker, so that might be something to consider instead of the Peregrine?

It’s hard to describe, and probably different for everyone, but the Malecite when paddled kneeling on the right chine feels “light” and responsive. I’m hoping for the same sort of feeling in a smaller solo boat, with hopefully a better response to wind because the kneeling position is more centered fore and aft and the hull at that more centered location is narrower, allowing solid access to the water (the Malecite’s 34.5 gunwale width at center makes it feel like I’m reaching too far out - could just be me).

Again, thanks all for the comments.

@TomL said:
In my experience the Peregrine is a great all around boat and a great dog boat, but it does not turn sharply and playfully like a Yellowstone solo. I think the Kee 15 is similar to a Peregrine (fast/stable/effortless cruiser)…I would expect the Trillium to be more like my Yellowstone solo…Trillium has same rocker as Yellowstone and is 6 inches longer and narrower…should be a hot boat!
The Peregrine ad the Kee paddle very differently. The trouble is both are hard to find at the same place. In order to make a really accurate comparison you have to paddle both at the same time ( well almost). It is possible though at the Western PA Solo Canoe Rendezvous if you can wait till June that is.
Statistics in print are only part of the story… I have not seen any canoe advertising that shows the hull shape in cross section at one foot stations.

Well it sure makes sense to try an SRT if you get a chance. I tend to push my solos a bit and I did not like my SRT for same reason as the Phoenix…the boat pushes back too much at faster cruise speeds…while my Yellowstone is effortless even when pushed. The handling of the SRT is wonderful…same with Phoenix…they turn predictably and make you feel secure. SRT efficient load range is 250-400 so your load is light for an SRT.

I think you might also like a Wildfire…worth trying one if you get a chance.

Please let us know your impressions of the Kee 15! And if you are going somewhere with Swifts I suggest you try Osprey and Shearwater…both are playful, cruise effortlessly and turn responsively…I’m biased since I have one of each and love them. Kee 15 will cruise more efficiently but Osprey and Shearwater are much more maneuverable and still cruise nicely. Both of my Swifts have sliding seats so they are awesome dog boats (and great for napping).

Tried the Keewaydin 15 today - with and without Iain boat dog. Had the sliding seat in it.

Enjoyed the boat. Not surprisingly it has less initial stability than the Malecite and the Wenonah Prism, but very controllable - adapted quickly in the short time (about 30-40 minutes total) on the water. Felt a little heavy with Iain in the bow, but he figured out he could get under the front thwart and came back to the center, which lightened things up.

I like the narrow lines - when kneeling I was able to brace my knees under the front of the sliding seat rails, which made the boat very easy to put on edge and to switch the edge from one side to the other (in the wider Malecite switching the edge requires a physical switch in body position, in the Keewaydin it was as simple as weighting one knee and pulling up on the other).

Maneuvered well using the small variety of strokes in my current inventory. Paddled quietly with the silent forward stroke - but still couldn’t sneak up on the otter/beaver that was swimming a bit away. Easy to handle with the bit of breeze that was available, both into it and across it - much less correction required. Not extraordinarily quick, but did 3kts without a lot of effort - I suspect that would improve the more the boat is used.

The sliding seat was interesting - I could feel the difference in trim when I moved it forward without Iain in the boat. The rails seemed a bit more flexible that I would have expected, but the ability to easily adjust trim is very nice. I also got a bit more aggressive with edging without Iain in the boat and found it had good secondary stability.

Overall a good boat. I’ve got an opportunity to paddle a Northstar Trillium tomorrow, so I’ll be interested to see the differences.

It sounds like you and the Kee 15 got along well. Looking forward to hearing your review of the Trillium. My dog stays in the middle with me…you may need a bigger boat if your dog likes to be way up front!


With a dog that might not be centered I’d avoid boats with symmetrical rocker. They are a handful in a stern quartering wind… Even the Osprey is notorious for weathercocking in big waves.
That eliminates the Wild Fire… And the DragonFly.
If you want something really fine go to Colden Canoe. Its near Buffalo and he makes a Nomad. Its perhaps the most dog and wind friendly and load friendly boat I have ever had. And I do currently have some six solos and have had some 12 others at one time or another.
For you the sliding seat seems like a nice to have feature.

Paddled the Trillium today - in Maine, a bit north and west of Portland on Sebago Lake. Rain, but no wind, so water was flat (Lake is really pretty - water is crystal).

The Trillium looked to be the White Gold layup, aluminum gunwales and thwarts, with spruce gel - pretty boat, very lightweight to carry. It’s used at a youth camp and the owner commented that there are 10 year olds who will one hand carry it to the water. Northstar has two seat mounts, one for sitting, one for kneeling. In this boat the seat was mounted low, for a seated paddler. Construction looked very solid, well done.

Because of the low seating I ended up paddling seated with one leg extended and the other folded (couldn’t get my feet under the seat), Not what I’m used to, but the boat handled it fine. A little less initial stability than the Keewaydin, but I suspect that the unfamiliar seated position contributed to that. Very solid secondary stability - it didn’t take long to where it was comfortable to be up to where the gunwale was just about touching the surface. Once edged, the boat did very quick turns and you could feel (and hear) the stern skidding across the water as it spun.

Straight ahead paddling revealed the start of a trend - like the Keewaydin it felt like I was pushing thru the water. To re-use an old cliche, I’m beginning to believe it’s not the boat, it’s me. Based on hull design, etc., they should be very quick through the water. The capacity-efficient ratings for the boats are more than adequate for my 180-185 lbs (the Trillium is 120-260, the Keewaydin 15 is 140-290). I suspect the pushing feel is more associated with prior experience soloing a Malecite - a much larger hull, comparatively lightly loaded so riding higher in the water = less pushing (except by the wind - that’s a different story).

The Trillium’s low center depth is noticeable - would make a difference when using a double bladed and puts the paddler very close to the water. On the flip side, I suspect with the kneeling seat your hips would be at gunwale level. Not a bad thing, just noticed it.

Another great boat, but not sure it’s my boat. I think the next step is to go to a slightly “bigger” solo - next in line is the Northwind Solo, Swift Osprey, and I am still looking for a Hemlock to try.

As you guessed, the boat’s “plowing” rather than gliding is an effect due mostly to your size relative to the boat. You’ll find that a Northwind Solo is going to require less effort and provide better glide because the boat’s dimensions are better suited to someone in your size range.

If you liked the Trillium and Kee, you should try a Colden Nomad, as mentioned earlier. The Nomad is a classic and a neat boat in the same class. Wind and dog friendly.

For “something completely different” you might try a Starfire set up as a solo. It may have too much rocker for your windy location, but is a very comfortable ride, yet responsive without a lot of sheer. With a good forward stroke, it tracks fine. It would be a good fit for your size, if you prefer a little more room. Someone mentioned staying away from symmetrical rocker with dogs. I would defer to them, as I don’t paddle with a dog.