Research fatigue. Help! Old vs new Explorer, Old Dagger or New Esquif

Thanks everyone for all the help advice and opinions.

I agree, a classic used specimen like a royalex VT Explorer or OT Penobscot, or Dagger Reflection would have been a great decision, and maybe “better”…but there were issues with each.

The Dagger seller removed the listing from Craigslist and never returned my texts.

The best Penobscot sold. Others are $800-$1100 and needing repairs. Many sellers don’t have any more pics or know anything about them including the layups. No solid options here now.

The royalex explorer was mint…but I just really don’t think I want woods gunwales. And it was only $200 cheaper than new…

Lastly I was committed to going to Portland already.

We poked and prodded a new Esquif prospecteur 16…and really liked it. Unfortunately, there was no demo available. I was nervous it was going to be too squirrely a boat for us newbs, but I was pretty set on buying it if we didn’t like the Explorer after paddling it.

We saw the Northstar B16 and boy howdy was it pretty. But expensive and given all the other stuff we needed to buy, the price was prohibitive. Also, (this is surely my naivete talking) but the IXP layup that’s supposed to be as tough as royalex, felt a lot like a much thinner composite and did not inspire confidence. It did really make me want to get a Northstar one day tho…

And lastly we paddled the new Explorer 16 side by side a heavy plastic Penobscot 174. The OT felt like a submarine…solid, sturdy and good at going straight, but a little like an old buick or caprese classic…I liked it though and figured a 16’ royalex would feel better even.

The explorer felt lively, like it wanted to play. A bit awkward at first with the shallow V and the shorter length, but it felt like a boat we can grow into as our skills increase. It was easy to solo from the bow seat and fun to turn and spin and seemed to start and stop on a dime. And it was NEW and red. And discounted itself along with combo discounts on all our other gear.

So…we bought it.

The seats and thwarts were loose and wobbled quite a bit but I tightened them down and they felt much more solid. I think the Esquif prospecteur felt a bit more rigid in the store and maybe put together a bit better and more solid, but was about $300 more…and we didn’t get to demo it.

All in all my wife is ecstatic, and I’m pleased. I dream of a shorty solo esquif and a longer asymmetrical composite northstar or Wenonah one day…but for the foreseeable future my new ride or die is a Mad River Explorer 16.

Thanks again!

*Edited to add:

This is what we came home with:
-MRC Explorer 16, red T-FORMEX
-2 Bending branches explorer plus paddles (54"+56")
-1 Werner Journey paddle w/ fiberglass blade and CF shaft (58")
-Astral Ringo PFD for her (same cut as the women’s Layla. It’s just marketing.)
-Solquist Edge PFD for me (already owned it)
-3 dry bags (including the Ortlieb 85L duffel!)
-Inno cross bar rack for vehicle
-NRS straps
-Level Six thin rubber collapsable boots
-Astral Loyak shoes.
-odds and ends.

Now to go venturing!


Took it out on the Deschutes today for a spin. Only about a half mile of open river blocked on either end by ice…so we lapped it about 10 times! Ha.


Key words: “my wife is ecstatic.”


Though from New England here, I poled the Deschutes once with “Steve from Idaho” who provided boats and poles and great company. Loved the difference in scenery there compared to the thick woods generally surrounding me.
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You have a good versatile boat there, glad to see you enjoying it.


Daggermat, did you read the warning on top of the step ladder. You aren’t standing on the seat are you?

Vleelawson so nice of you to share pics of your new ride. Much of the time folks ask for input but rarely do we get to see a boat in use after the purchase. I’m kind of partial to explorers myself although I’ve never owned one, just paddled with friends who have owned them. I’ve never paddled a kevlar mriver boat either so now you just make me jealous.

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No problem! I owe so much to this forum for all the info I found on here.

I’m really itching to get it out on some local water and start feeling it out and getting to know my boat! We are trying to fit in an overnight on the Black Canyon portion of the Colorado soon, which I’ve done on paddle boards. Planning a bigger trip in May, either on the Green, or maybe we will get drawn for the Smith in Montana. Open to any other suggestions for Class 1, 3, 4, or 5 day trips!

For now it’s just sitting on a couple tires (upside down on the gunwales!) in the shade gleaming red at me. There are a few scratch/gouges which I’ll post someday soon just for opinions. I think they were from the shop putting it in and taking it out of the water for the demo (also, it’s t-formex, not kevlar)

Oh, and here is the link to the MRC Royalex Explorer from 1994 in case anyone is out west. He said he would sell it for $1400.

MRC Explorer Royalex craigslist

3 weeks later…I was the camera guy, and those shots are of “Steve from Idaho”. No, no seat standing, some folks like to stand on the gunwales, but I’ve always been more a sensible sort and stay firmly planted on the hull…except for those “out of boat” experiences that hit every poler from time to time.

That’s talent.