Northwind Solo vs Keewaydin 15

I’m looking to venture into the solo canoe realm, and have narrowed my preferences to either a NW Solo or Swift Kee 15. I’m a 200# paddler, about 5’10”. Will mostly paddle larger rivers so need maneuverability but would also like to have something that would track well enough on larger lakes up north. Want to be able to do 3-5 night trips. I really like that Solo but can’t quite let go of the Kee 15, and know where one of these is available. Anyone paddled both of these and have perspective on how they compare?

Out of those two boats I prefer the Kee15. They are similar in terms of their capabilities so your opinion might be the opposite. I had a beautiful NW Solo, black lite with wood trim…under 30 pounds. I bought it before I retired as a treat. But I never liked it as much as my Merlin II and I ended up trading it in. It felt like it took more muscle to drive the boat…like I could feel the extra skin friction. I am just under your weight but usually paddle with a 60 pound dog so one key thing for me is how a boat handles the dog’s weight. The NW Solo takes the weight easily but doesn’t feel like it loves it like my Merlin II. Again your opinion could be different if you could put some of the weight behind you or if you put more value on the super high stability of the NW Solo. My friend has a Kee15 and I’ve paddled his plus I’ve test paddled them twice. I like it a little better than the NW Solo, it just feels a bit lighter on the water to me. I don’t know if you plan to kneel or whether you have the option of test paddling boats. The Northstar Trillium is a special boat…very quick and fast and significantly more maneuverable than the NW Solo and Kee15. Although it’s advertised as a smaller NW Solo in my experience it’s just a different boat. I’d get one in a minute, especially if I wasn’t carrying a big dog. I’m just under your weight and I have a friend that works at a Northstar dealer and he’s a bit bigger than you and me and his favorite in their fleet is the Trillium. To me the NW Solo is just a bit boring…no disrespect intended against the boat.

I can’t add anything else to what TomL has said, mostly because I haven’t paddled the Kee15 but also because he’s paddled way more hulls than I have and I would strongly trust his opinions as a tangible starting point. You may still perceive a boats performance to be different from him, but that’s why you try to get water time.

I just wanted to touch on the Trillium. It’s true that it’s my current favorite solo from them, for MY needs, but I only weigh about 155-160#. I feel I could trip for a week or so in it, but I pack fairly light. I’m not sure you’ll like it as much for you plus gear, but I don’t know how you pack. The big lakes are definitely where I’d be concerned on a trip.

As to big rivers and lakes, I would consider something like the Magic as well, though the Kee15 and NW Solo will be a bit more maneuverable. Truthfully paddling skill makes the bigger difference. Those conditions shouldn’t provide too much of a maneuverability challenge, I spend a good chunk of river time on the WI river around Conover, WI in a Prism and it handles just fine. That is not big river or lake. The benefit of the Magic would be energy conservation on longer days/tougher conditions and trying to get somewhere with losing daylight or storms rolling in. The Magic maneuvers better than the Prism, and I think glides better.

The Kee15 and NW Solo are both great options for a “one does all” flat water solo. Happy on twisty rivers, very happy on lakes. Great for wildlife photography and fishing. I sort of agree with TomL on the “boring” feel, but I think it’s more like “docile”. My Prism is definitely a bit more “boring” in my opinion.

I hope you can get water time as that’s truly the best way to learn, but I’ll also say if you find a boat available that you like, buy it. I can tell you first hand how difficult it is to get a boat right now, my shop is planning on no better than Christmas shopping season for any orders that we place now and we have almost no boats left in stock.

Ok, so I guess I added a bit. I’m bad at keeping my mouth shut. It’s hard to leave it to just two boats, I commend your restraint!

Mzungo and TomL, many thanks! Very helpful. Sounds like I can’t lose here. I do think the Trillium would be too limiting in capacity for me but I like the suggestion. I will try to get up to Rutabagas and try these boats and would be great to throw in a Magic, too. I am finding supply everywhere is tight so finding all in same place with require some luck. Thanks again for your help.

Cool. I agree that you can’t make a bad decision. Mzungu is right. Boring isn’t the right word. My Merlin II is similar to the Kee15 and NW Solo and I’ve put far more miles on it than any other solo because it just does everything but I wouldn’t call it playful. I’d be more likely to do eddy turns just for fun or practice freestyle moves in a Trillium. I recently went for a good long paddle with a friend in his new Trillium and he could cruise as fast as my Merlin II upstream but his boat was considerably more maneuverable dodging submerged trees coming back downstream.

And no offense to Rutabaga but Carl’s Paddlin is just 30 minutes west in Lone Rock. He doesn’t carry Swift but he’s got all the Northstars you’re looking at and his shop is a treat to visit and also has convenient test paddling.

I was up there a few weeks ago and he had a nice used merlin II blackgold/wood also.

I really like the specs on that Trillium and what you’ve shared, TomL. If I could only lose the pounds to make that work! I’ll check out Carl’s, too, and appreciate the heads up on the Merlin II, skyview. It’s not showing on the website now so it might have been sold, but I’ll see. Thanks again everyone.