"pulling the trigger"

As soon as I almost decide to purchase a canoe I see a bunch more available:

Mad River Tahoe 16 - Royalex 1999

Discover Guide 160 - 3-layer ? (within 3-8 years old)

Discovery 158 - 3-layer ? (within 3-8 years old)

Discovery 169 - 3 layer ? (within 3-8 years old)

Any thoughts on Royalex vs. the 3 layer vinyl?

I’m not a fan of polyethylene

– Last Updated: Feb-28-14 1:56 PM EST –

"Three-layer" is polyethylene, not vinyl. They say it's better than regular polyethylene, but it's still heavy, and it still gets deformed over time.

Polyethylene works well for the new, very tiny solo whitewater canoes, which are very similar to kayaks (kind of tubular and therefore self-reinforcing), but I personally don't like its inability to maintain shape in conventional canoes (which are not tubular, and thus prone to flexing and deformation). I have yet to see a polyethylene canoe (other than brand-new boats in the showroom) that doesn't have all sorts of terrible warping on the bottom.

Polyethylene is cheap though, and very tough.

PE is soft, deforms easily, often oil cans, is heavy…and on and on

The only benefits it has are its cheap and hard to destroy. I’d choose RX over PE any day.

Go for the Royalex boat
assuming it appears to be in good condition. The MRC Tahoe 16 (which I have never paddled) is a pretty beamy canoe, and surely will not be a speed demon, but the Old Town Guide 160 and Discovery 169 share that characteristic, and the 158 is not much better.

The Tahoe 16 was advertised as a “lightweight Royalex” hull and the specified weight of around 65 lbs is pretty light for a (nearly) 16 foot long Royalex tandem. So the only potential advantages I could see for the polyethylene hulls would be ultimate durability if you plan to bounce the canoe off of a lot of rocks.

Three layer or “triple dump” polyethylene canoes paddle tolerably well once you get them in the water, but leading them to water can wear you out, if not break your back. The lightest of those poly boats (the Guide) is going to weigh more than 20 lbs more than the Tahoe 16. The smaller Disco is pushing 90 lbs and the Disco 169 is more than 90 lbs.

I am able to get a 90 lb boat onto the rack on top my truck unassisted, but probably not for many more years, and even now I have bad dreams about it the night before. In terms of portaging and car topping a 20+ lb weight difference is enormous.

A while ago Bob Foote and Karen
Knight did a wonderful routine making a Tahoe dance. They could get it going pretty well and heel it to the rail and make it spin.

For the tripping canoeist this means that the final stability is good.

That would be my choice too.

Itchy trigger finger or not?
If your finger is so itchy that you are asking only for opinions on the four canoes listed in your OP, I would vote for Royalex over polyethylene as a canoe material – but I can’t comment on the performance characteristics of those particular hulls.

If your finger is patient and can move on, I would strongly recommend a Kevlar composite canoe (with fiberglass or carbon) over Royalex for any type of canoeing other than regular whitewater use, wilderness river (but not lake) tripping, or severe abuse and bashing by Neanderthal paddlers or Lord of the Flies children.

Lightweight composite canoes are stiffer and have better handling characteristics than plastics, can be much, much lighter and hence will be used by you much more – which you will very much appreciate with age – and can last a lifetime with reasonable care.

Composites may cost a few digits more of initial outlay, but can add up to a better and more enjoyable investment over the long run. Search the used market.

Polyethylene and a Dagger Suwanee
It’s ironic that you first asked about the Dagger Suwanee, because the Suwanee was the boat I replaced poly boats with. Here’s the story:

About 14-15 years ago I found a paddling shop in South Carolina, if I’m not mistaken, when I first got “Online.” I ordered a polyethylene Mad River St. Croix (later the name was changed to the Explorer 14TT) from them and I took delivery in August. When it reached me, the polyethylene boat was warped. I called the company and they sent me another boat. Second one arrived and it too was warped, but not as badly. It also had a stamp or some mark in it that said “Blem,” which kind of aggravated me. I paddled it for a few days and a friend said he wouldn’t accept the warped, “Blem” boat if it were him. So I called the shop and they were again, apologetic. I said I preferred not to paddle a warped boat and had paid for an undamaged, “First” and not a “Blem.” They were anxious to please, but both the dealer AND I were squeamish about shipping a 3rd polyethylene boat. We finally decided I would kick in a bit more $ and pay for shipping (before shipping a boat cost an arm and a leg) and they would send me the Dagger Suwanee. The Dagger Suwanee arrived with no warps or damages and I paddled it several years as did various friends.

Polyethylene is heavier and tends to warp. You may think a few pounds doesn’t matter, but it does. I personally would get the Tahoe. Good luck with whatever boat you get!

Oh Kim
We don’t all wish we could paddle like Karen Knight.

Keep looking
There are better boats out there just keep looking.


There are different points of view -

– Last Updated: Mar-05-14 7:18 PM EST –

some people prefer wood canvas over royalex and kevlar etc. Probably not the conventional view. But there is merit to it. Read Becky Mason's discussion on her web site. She is a devote of WC even for the flat water freestyle stuff she does.

I had one kevlar boat in my life. It sure was nicer to carry on land and I liked that. But on the water? Ugh. Too light. It sat on top of the water instead of in the water. It got blown around something awful. I am slowly coming around around to the point of view that our modern canoes are just too darn light and it has a negative impact on the paddling performance.

As between Royalex and 3 layer, I vote very strongly in favor of Royalex. For the reasons all ready stated.

Has no idea?
Seems like the OP just wants a canoe and doesn’t have any idea what he/she wants? Those are big/heavy boats and may cause a sour taste in the mouth after purchase.

I like fiberglass or tuffweave boats…not as heavy, cost about the same as RX/PE boats and can be found in great shape if you are patient. The OP doesn’t seem to be patient.

in agreement…better ones out there.
A few more thoughts about what waters you like to paddle, your weight, just yourself?..