Wenonah Wilderness = Large Vagabond

-- Last Updated: Nov-12-07 6:13 PM EST --

I think there were a couple of folks who had questions about the Wenonah Wilderness solo canoe that is new for 2008. The website description makes it sound like a small tripper with decent big lake capabilities. However, the 2008 catalog that I received today describes it as a large Vagabond. I'm not too happy because I ordered one based on the website description. If I'd known I was buying a big rec canoe, I would have ordered something else. If anyone else was considering buying one, consider yourself forwarned.

EDIT: Please see below for the response Wenonah e-mailed me. It looks like I was off-base with my remarks.

I asked about it. I’d still like to read your review once you paddle it. As much as your disappointed about the catalog description…you may be just as pleasantly surprised when you paddle it. The web site does make it sound “cool”. Keep us informed. I was excited about the Wilderness because where I live I can no longer get Bell’s, Mad Rivewr or Clippers! Now that’s disappointment!

test paddled the WNN Wildernes

– Last Updated: Nov-14-07 3:53 AM EST –

in september this year, and to me it seemed like a very decent allround-tripping solo canoe, a bit comparable to the Swift Osprey.

Thanks, Dirk. It’s nice to hear from someone as experienced as you are that it seems like a decent boat.

At 215 lbs, with no gear, I am surprised how much fun I have paddling my wife’s Vagabond. I think this could be a good boat. I do wish for some rocker, but it is a We-no-nah, and they do not believe in rocker.

the Vagabond is a nice rec. canoe

Vagabond works for me

– Last Updated: Nov-10-07 2:14 PM EST –

After two operations on my right shoulder in 2006, I needed something small-ish that didn't require a superhero to handle in the wind and chop on the broad river where I usually paddle. So far, the Vagabond has done what I need and has kept me out of trouble, despite my physical limitations. I can pick it up with my one good arm and carry it from the rack to the river bank. Its modest rocker makes it quite maneuverable, and it tracks well considering its dimensions.

Looking at the specs for the Wilderness, I would have been tempted to buy it rather than the Vagabond had it been available. I'm guessing the former has the virtues of the latter, only more so - the tradeoff being 3 more pounds in weight (for the UL).

The Vagabond is not a bad boat

– Last Updated: Nov-10-07 1:51 PM EST –

It's a little ho-hum as far as special abilities go, but I liked mine pretty well for straight-line cruising, and a longer version might be a good load-carrying tripper. I think it's good that you are getting yours in Tuffweave, because I don't believe that Wenonah takes into account the shrinkage of Royalex after molding when they design a hull, because with their Royalex boats you get nothing even close to the dimensions or rocker that the catalog says, while the length and rocker of their composite boats are "as advertised" (at least, this is true of the Royalex Vagabond and Sandpiper compared to the composite versions).

I hope the boat works out for you. I can appreciate your apprehension, but it may surprise you.

As you would expect
"It’s a little ho-hum as far as special abilities go…"

That’s why the company markets it as a rec tour. It claims the Wilderness is a touring canoe. Granted, the distinction is often a marginal one.

Once again
It’s best to paddle before you buy…or review.

Test paddling

– Last Updated: Nov-12-07 4:41 PM EST –

First of all, this is probably going to be a really nice boat for a lot of people. If it is the boat for you, I hope you get a great deal of enjoyment out of it and I hope you post your positive experiences.

Although I would agree that test paddling a canoe is a good idea, it is possible to get a general idea of how a boat will paddle before trying it out. In this case, Wenonah describes their canoe in the catalog (not on the website) as a large Vagabond, and also publishes a chart comparing it to their other solo canoes in various categories. According to their comparison chart, it is only slightly more efficient than the Vagabond and the Argosy but significantly less so than the Prism; slightly less maneuverable than the Vagabond, significantly less maneuverable than the Argosy, and significantly more maneuverable than the Prism; capacity between a Vagabond and a Prism; primary stability as less than the Vagabond, Prism, and Argosy, but still pretty good; and seaworthiness as only a bit better than the Vagabond. So you have a relatively inefficient solo canoe that is most likely not as seaworthy as the website writeup would lead you to believe, but which is relatively maneuverable and will haul a decent load. At least, that is what Wenonah’s comparison chart in their catalog shows. My primary concerns are with the efficiency and seaworthiness. The boat appears to be lacking in both categories, at least when compared to what _I_ expect from a boat, and doesn’t appear to be quite as good as the website would lead one to believe.

As far as test paddling, I’ve paddled enough solo boats to have a reasonably good idea of how something is going to paddle, especially if I already have been told how it paddles in comparison to boats that I am familiar with. Hopefully I am wrong about the Wilderness, and if I am, I’ll gladly post that. However, I have a sinking feeling that I am not.

Just to give you an idea of what solo canoes I have paddled or owned, here is the list as best I can remember:


Rob Roy
Merlin II


Prospector 14



Sea Wind

Mad River:
Guide/Freedom Solo


Jensen-designed 14’ composite solo


Old Town:
Penobscot 15


LaFortune 201C1

Savage River:

Autumn Mist
13’ Solo


Jensen-designed solo - ?OC1F?
Rendezvous (in both Royalex and composite)
Solo Plus

y’all are causing me to loose hope with this canoe!

another no-flair Wenonah

“The Wilderness carries additional freeboard and bow height for a dryer ride in rough waters common to larger, wind exposed lakes.”

I’m not a big fan of seaworthiness through bow height alone. I’m certainly no designer but what’s wrong with a little flair? What’s the downside? Loss of a tiny bit of speed through waves?

Paddling ease
I mostly paddle solo, and I wouldn’t own a canoe with lots of flair. Too hard to reach the water and stroke effectively.

not to worry
I wouldn’t give up hope on it just because I have a burr under my saddle. It might turn out to be an excellent boat.

The word from Wenonah . . .eating crow
I received an extremely pleasant response from Bill Kueper, the head of sales for Wenonah and Current Desings, to a rather nasty e-mail I sent them on the same subject. With Bill’s permission, I am posting his response:


Please accept my apology for the confusion between our web site and printed catalog. In any media presentation it is difficult, at best, to describe the characteristics of a canoe without some form of comparison. All comparisons are littered with personal preferences based on previous experience. The Wilderness’s relationship to the Vagabond is intended to allow consumers to understand the family lineage of the new boat. That said, the Wilderness is a completely different boat.

When our design team embarked on the Wilderness campaign, our goal was a solo tripping canoe in the 15 foot-plus category for better paddlers. Wenonah already sells two (2) advanced solos, the highly successful Voyager (17’6”) and expedition-proven Encounter (17”). The Wilderness address’s the shorter, more maneuverable solo tripping market. Unlike the Vagabond, the Wilderness rewards edging and advanced paddling techniques. In fact, to our delight, the Royalex® version is being embraced by white water enthusiasts for smaller paddlers and in situations where our Rendezvous is too much boat. Maybe the best way to compare the boats is by stating a Wilderness paddler can paddle the Vagabond but not all Vagabond paddlers can paddle the Wilderness.

I’ve paddled the Wilderness and Vagabond in both Royalex® and composites. I could write page after page describing my experiences but the only opinion that matters here is yours. Before you write off the Wilderness, I challenge you to paddle the boat and reply directly to me with your review.

I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

With my best regards,

Bill Kueper

Sales Manager

Wenonah Canoe & Current Designs Kayaks


Thanks to Bill for a courteous and very informative response, and I shall now head up to the kitchen to cook my crow before I eat it.

"Touring and expedition canoe hulls need to take lake waves (and moderate whitewater) and still have good hull speed. This is achieved by shaping the bow and stern with a slight flare to direct water away. The bow and stern should have low enough volume, however, to cleave waves easily. " - paddlermagazine.com

I don’t see anthing wrong with a little flare.

Judging a canoe
from its appearance, is as reliable as the weather forecast for next weekend. Which doesn’t mean I don’t listen to the weather forecast.

Very well said
"All comparisons are littered with personal preferences based on previous experience." and “I could write page after page describing my experiences but the only opinion that matters here is yours.” A very good PR man.

Hurump! Hurumph!
I have learned to almost ignore advertising write ups on most canoes,especially solos.If I read another writup with YET used every other word I’ll…,…

Solo canoes are a very personal thing and we are all individuals.I accidentally became really fond of a Sandpiper I got almost by accident.It does not have a great repretation and the adds didn’t appeal to me at all.It is perfect for me in a lot of the paddleing I do.Go figure.You may very well find this canoe perfect for yourself.