Old town Penobscot VS Wenonah Champlain

-- Last Updated: Mar-01-12 9:53 AM EST --

I have an Old Town Penobscot 164 (16 foot 3 layer poly hull, 76lbs) I could trade up to a Wenonah Champlain (18 foot, royalex hull, 75lbs) for $300.

How do the 2 compare? Is it worth the upgrade?

I mostly canoe on slow rivers. Also some lakes around me. A few miles at a time, so short trips most of the time. However, I would like something that I could take up to the BWCA or shlep around by myself fairly easily. I will take along a friend so there will be 3 people in the canoe sometimes so the larger canoe has some appeal... Ive had an old rusty but trusty canoe that has served me up to now so im looking for some thoughts on how the 2 compare. Should I upgrade? or is it an upgrade?


Unless it is a small river, i would go with the wenonah. I think it is a better and more versatile boat. I believe it is basically an over-sized Spirit 2.

18’ Royalex @ 65lbs.?
Sounds optimistic, but the Wenonah is definitely an upgrade if you anticipate big loads. Lightly loaded in wind it could be a bear.

Can you get a Champlain in Tufweave
rather than Royalex? It will be lighter,stiffer, and faster. If that Champlain weight of 65 pounds is accurate, the Royalex Champlain will be a bit floppy with mild oil-canning of the bottom.

You’re right about the weight. Wenonah’s website says the champlain is 75 lbs. So if thats even is it still worth it?

Tough call.

– Last Updated: Mar-01-12 9:08 AM EST –

Your OT is a competent hull and can be soloed, but it's heavy for what it is. I've never paddled a Champlain. We have an OT Penob 17 that shines with two adults and generous gear. Three and gear would be pushing it, I think, but we've had four adults in the boat for fair-weather flat water sightseeing excursions many times with no trouble at all.

If your plan is for tandem tripping, though, and the boat is in comparable or better shape, then yeah, it's worth it.

Well, The Champlain…
…will hold a bigger load and be more stable. I’ve not paddled the royalex version of the Champlain, only the kevlar. I would imagine with that big, flattish hull there would be some oilcanning?

I also would hate to portage EITHER in the BWCAW, although; in my younger days I took my old 77lb Mad River Revelation up there.

And I can’t imagine soloing the Champlain for any length of time. Too darned big! It’s definitely a tandem boat that will hold 3, maybe 4 if a couple are kids.

The Penobscot is a pretty efficient hull, but I’ve only paddled the royalex 16’ version. I would imagine another 4" and in polyethylene would do nothing unfavorable, unless it’s warped.

Warping, THAT is the one thing that worries me about polyethylene. After a few years they tend to warp into a “Reverse” rocker, a “Hogback” shape. I’ve had a couple of Mad Rivers, and they did that to a minor extent. But I’ve seen some that were pretty bad, and paddled one that was “Hogbacked.” It was very difficult to control. But, I think Old Town has been making Poly hulls longer than anyone. I don’t notice a lot of warping in their hulls at the rental places. Still, I do prefer royalex.

Looking at this, it appears I muddied the waters somewhat. I guess it depends upon what you want it for. If tandem and big loads, Champlain. Champlain wins the material matchup with royalex. Weight is about the same, but I think the Penobscot Poly is a few lbs more.

Solo often, Penobscot. Rivers more than lakes, Penobscot. Lakes and slow rivers, Champlain. It’s a close call, But I think I would chose the Champlain.

Thanks for the thoughts. Keep them coming.