Tripping Canoe Choice

The wife and I are researching canoes for wilderness use. We want to take a trip to BWCA, Canada, and maybe Alaska some day. I like the idea of a durable Royalex hull, but I also like canoes that are efficient and track good. Weight is also an issue because my wife, while tough as nails, but not strong. Right now, I’ve kind of determined that MinnesotaII (Wenonah) would be a good choice, but not as useful here in Idaho due to rocks. That one is not available in Royalex. How tough is Kevlar? Are there any efficient Royalex models suitable for this type of use? Would I be better off just buying two canoes, one all around and one tripper?

Decide how much you will use the boat
on rocky rivers. There is little reason to get a Royalex boat for lakes and smooth rivers, because all except the superlight kevlar/glass boats can take the occasional whack against rocks. But if you think you will often go through class 2 rock gardens in a canoe loaded with you and the gear, then Royalex is well worth the extra weight on portages.

And as Cliff Jacobsen would tell you, Royalex is THE choice for wilderness trips on rivers with whitewater, because it is less likely to sustain damage than Kevlar/glass, and more likely to be repairable after extreme gronking.

Personally, I might still go for a composite boat, maybe something from HELLMAN or from Western CLIPPER.

Durable and efficient tripping boat.
This “concept” has always been a fascinating “oxymoron” to contemplate. If you go deep into wilderness, you really do need a vehicle that can survive “mishaps”. But the resiliency of Royalex hulls comes with the penalties of about 1 mph less speed/efficiency, 10-15 lbs more weight and quick abrasion wear through the thin skin at the bow and stern. For river tripping, I think you pretty much have to accept these tradeoffs because it’s so difficult to avoid the occasional misreading of the correct line to take through obstacles and so you inevitably make frequent contact with hazardous hard objects.

But what about the ambitious wilderness tripper who isn’t running a lot of Class II-III river waters? If high security is the priority, I think I might still go with a large Royalex hull, but get the most efficient design I could find … possibly a Wenonah Champlain … which is a more stable, stretched Spirit II. This is the fastest big Royalex tripper I know of (Swift’s Yukon is close, but is more river oriented; Old Town’s 20’ XL Tripper is too huge for most) and would allow you to go on large bodies of water without fear (due to it’s large capacity) and still give you the feeling that it could take some hard (and rocky) beach landings through a little surf (hey, it happens !).

If you were willing to give up a little hull resiliency to gain a lot of efficiency (you said your wife was not a strong paddler), I’d look hard at a Sea Clipper made by Western Canoeing (Clipper) in southern British Columbia. I’d have them make it in their toughest vinylester/kevlar layup with some s-glass outside for abrasion resistance and have them add vinyl caps to the gunwales for warmth and durability. Also, have them put in a deep dish yoke (wood, not their composite) for comfortable carrying.

Both of those choices are big boats (18 & 18.5’) … so they’ll be able to go anywhere and have some decent speed combined with safe capacity. They aren’t dedicated river boats … but then I didn’t get the idea from your post that that was your priority. A smaller alternative to Western Canooeing’s Sea Clipper would be their 17.5’ Tripper model … which is also well regarded (and a better river choice). The Wenonah Champlain would weigh in the low 70’s (ugh) and the Sea Clipper would come in in the high 60’s if you had them build it very strong for extra survivability. Good luck with your boat search … be safe out there! Remember that tripping with other experienced partners much preferred for safety/security … i.e. you can help each other out in the event of harsh weather, injuries, etc.

Thanks guys…just another question
I’m thinking the composite might be the way to go, just keeping to the lakes and flat water channels. Whitewater doesn’t interest me much at my age. Tranquility does. How does the Clipper layup compare with the Kevlar Foam Core of Wenonah for durability? Is one more rigid than the other? Which would be more suseptable to cracks, and does cold weather increase the likelihood of a damaged hull? Has anyone got firsthand knowledge of the Mad River composites? My tripping was done 30 years ago in a 14’ fiberglass solo canoe. I don’t recall ever worrying about rocks, so I must have been satisfied it matched my tripping habits. These new materials are intriguing, but sorting out all the choices is a challenge. For example, the Borealis from Mad River really seems to be a nice choice, but I can’t tell if it is available with anything but cane seats. I was really hoping to get buckets or web seats. My booty likes a nest.

Call each manufacturer’s tech guys …
… and they can fill you in regarding composite layups. Wenonah’s kevlar flexcore has some kind of syntactic core rather than the foam core of their ultralight … and is supposed to “give” better upon impact. Mad River’s expedition kevlar layup is all cloth and resin … so there’s no stiff foam sandwich which might crush or delaminate. Clipper uses a foam core layup for their high-end flatwater trippers, but will customize it for you. Since no one really does crash testing of modern composite canoes, most inferences are usually drawn from how well the rental canoe fleets hold up. Souris River makes a big deal about their epoxy resin, but short of demolition derby data, modern vinylester resins with cloth are generally about as good if there are enough cloth layers used and the bonding chemistries are right. If you want “composite hull security”, I’d pass on the ultralight layups and go for the 55-70 lb layups that have more layers … maybe with s-glass as an outside layer for abrasion resistance (more graceful aging than kevlar fuzziness). A well-constructed composite boat could easily last the rest of your life if you aren’t radically impacting it. In fact, you could challenge yourself to try and “wear it out” … that might require a LOT of tripping miles !!!

God, you guys are good!
I’ll call about the IQ seat system. I gotta tell you, I’ve read several catalogs and Canoe & Kayak regularly, and learned more here. The manufacturers only print positive stuff, and never let you know how their canoes compare to other company models or materials.

Tripping Canoe
It all depends on how you’re going to use the canoe. When you say wilderness tripping, are you talking about a month or a week? If you’re talking the BW/Q, 2 people, and a week or less, a 17’, or even a 16’, canoe will serve. Personally, I like the Wenonah Spirit II (68#)or the Old Town Penobscot 17 (65#) for 17’ royalex boats. I like the Wenonah Adirondack (62#) or the Old Town Penobscot 16 (58#) for 16’ royalex boats. There are others but I mention these because they are commonly available, will do the job, and are user friendly for novices. They will also serve for local rivers and lakes. They are all-purpose canoes. If later you find you want to upgrade, they have good resale value.

Cliff very rarely paddles Royalex these days. His choice of canoes is a Black and Gold Wildfire and his wife paddles a Black and Gold Flashfire. He’s wrapped them in rapids, and rerailed a few times in the last few years, but the canoe is still being used.


One is not enough
Mad River seems to be putting out a lot more tupperware / el cheapo boats these days, and as someone mentioned they don’t use the foam core that some other companies do . Besides being durable, foam stiffens the bottom , making the boat less prone to oilcanning in large hulls and more efficient . I would be leery of getting a MRC composite boat these days, since they don’t seem to focus on it like some others . I have been always been partial to Wenonah, and if glide and efficiency are important to you, I would check them out . They are not that great on whitewater though . The Minn II rocks for performance tripping. There isn’t one boat that does everything very well . I would put some bucks into a good quality composite ultralight lay up ( I think it is overkill to get a composite over 60 pounds - might as well get Royalex so you can beat on it ). I have a 9 year old Wenonah ultralight and as long as you don’t run it up on shore and store it inside or under cover, it is plenty durable . You can get a decent Royalex river runner for under $1000 , especially if you look at used or season ending clearance on demos . A real paddler needs more than one canoe ! :slight_smile: