Open main menu

Tripping/Expedition Canoes

Top Picks

How we choose: The best tripping/expedition canoes highlighted here were selected based on 19 reviews of 8 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a tripping/expedition canoe that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

Disclosure: Trailspace never accepts payment for gear reviews, product placement, or editorial coverage. When you buy through affiliate links on our site, Trailspace may earn a small commission, which helps cover the costs of running the site.

Esquif Canyon

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Love this boat. Had an old fibreglass Clipper Explorer 17' which could not be replaced. Bought this Royalex boat to fill hole. Boy did it ever! Three inches of rocker makes this boat dance in whitewater when filled with air and it still handles great when loaded. Surfs well to boot!!

Reasons to Buy

  • Shape
  • Strength
  • Surface bonding for thigh straps, air and cargo

Reasons to Avoid

  • Weight
  • Seat configuration — height and strength

This is a great boat for those who can paddle. While it tracks beautifully with attention, it does want to turn. The rocker also means that wind drift is real so open crossings are work. Puncturing the boat to install skirt tie downs is not a worry and the wear and tear issue does not exist. The boat is warm on cold water and repairs have just not been needed so far. Glued on D rings have remained attached so far for air, cargo and thigh straps. Took out wood spacers that had hung seat below gunwales lowering center of gravity but straining the old knees and tying up the size thirteens under the seat, especially in the stern.

Read more: Esquif Canyon reviews (2)

Hemlock Eagle

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

If you are looking for a quality tandem canoe with moderate rocker and light weight, the Eagle might just be for you. One advantage is the narrow gunnel width at the bow paddling station which is good for smaller paddlers.

Reasons to Buy

  • Fast for its type
  • Lightweight
  • High quality build
  • Solid lay up
  • Stiff
  • Can be paddled tandem or solo
  • Narrow bow paddler station

Reasons to Avoid

  • High price
  • Capacity limited for long expeditions
  • Fine ends limit white water use to Class 2 when heavily laden
  • Shouldered tumblehome can cause some instability when leaned to an extreme

Background Dave Curtis has been building canoes for almost four decades. His first design was a solo boat. He wanted a solo tripping canoe that could stay with tandems on remote river and lake trips. His first designs were drawn by legendary paddler Harold Deal. They pioneered the use of shouldered tumblehome to give a canoe a narrow gunnel at the paddling station for a more vertical stroke, but a wider hull for stability and stiffness. Later, David Yost participated in designing the boats that Curtis built.

Read more: Hemlock Eagle review (1)

Nova Craft Prospector 16

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Rigid construction and classic design make this the SUV of the wilderness. It makes friends on every trip.

Reasons to Buy

  • Good durable construction
  • Classic shape good in rough water
  • High capacity load limit
  • Web seats allow for reverse solo paddling
  • Minimal wood = low maintenance
  • Paddles straight due to small keel

Reasons to Avoid

  • Fibreglass model is heavy

Taken my 16' Novacraft Prospector canoe down rivers and on week-long lake trips. Loaded it up and still had 6" freeboard. You will bulk out before you weight out—and we take cast iron dutch ovens, charcoal, fuel cans, watercubes etc; we camp heavy. Paddles well with two, although the Clippers pass us on flat water.  We pass them ashore on rough water because they are taking water in over the gunnels and we are not.  We glued D ring tiedowns on the bilge line for cargo, but don't use them, lashing over the two central thwarts works better.

Read more: Nova Craft Prospector 16 reviews (2)

Old Town Tripper 172

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3 reviews)
$1590 MSRP

Most durable and long lasting canoe I have ever experienced or heard of.

Reasons to Buy

  • Bomb proof
  • Does well in heavier water
  • Perfect for long camping trips with family
  • Good customer service

Reasons to Avoid

  • Wind can catch it as much as most
  • hHeavy but comparable to others of its size and durability
  • No longer produced

The Old Town Tripper after 40+ years of hard use and still going. Durability I grew up in this canoe. My dad purchased it before I was born. It is over 40 years old and has only been kept outside in the elements on the shores of Lake Superior. Harsh conditions to say the least (plenty of sun and sub zero temps). It has been run up on the cobblestone and bed rock basalt coasts all its life and yes the outer layer on one of the noses has worn through, but that only happened after 40 years and it's only a 1.5 inch by 10 inch area that can be easily patched with some kevlar skids.  Unfortunately record snows came a couple winters ago and the canoe had just been put up on a 4x4 rack where the gunnel only rested on two points.

Read more: Old Town Tripper 172 reviews (3)

Old Town Penobscot 16

user rating: 4 of 5 (7 reviews)

Old Town's Penobscot 16' canoe is a pleasure to paddle. The canoe is a solid performer on all types of water. With its ability to carry 1,100 lbs., the Penobscot is perfectly suited for long canoe trips. Even though it is 16' and made of Royalex, it is surprisingly light. This canoe is perfect for those weekend and longer canoe camping trips and for fishing. I highly recommend this canoe to anyone looking for a stable, well-made, versatile boat.

Reasons to Buy

  • Durable
  • Stable
  • Can be paddled backwards from the bow seat

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not as light as fiberglass or kevlar canoes
  • Deck plates seem a little wimpy

Old Town's Penobscot 16' canoe is a pleasure to paddle. Made of Royalex, the canoe is surprisingly light and extremely durable. Canoes are meant to go where deeper-draft boats cannot. I have taken this canoe in some pretty shallow water and over some submerged branches without putting a scratch in the hull. It tracks nicely, even in windy conditions paddling solo from the bow seat. The shallow V hull helps provide good initial stability, while secondary stability is great. The webbed seats allow solo paddlers to paddle the canoe backwards from the bow seat, which improves the canoe's trim bow to stern.

Read more: Old Town Penobscot 16 reviews (7)

Old Town Penebscot 17 RX

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)
$1600 MSRP

A reliable, durable, and stable all-around canoe that will last several lifetimes.

Reasons to Buy

  • Durability and reliability that comes from Royalex done well
  • All-around contender...does all things well.

Reasons to Avoid

  • A tad heavy for long, undulating portages
  • Not as streamlined and fast as Kevlar canoes

The Old Town Penebscot 17 is a reliable and functional tripper and everyday paddler. Extremely stable in all water conditions, from flat lakes to Class III. Initial and final stability are predictable and inspire confidence. I've tripped with mine for over a decade, from the lakes and rivers of Canada, Ohio, and Michigan to the Gulf, rivers and back waters of SW Florida. For portaging it is a bit overweight, but has been doable. Durability is without question as is its reliability. It does sit high and has the propensity to weathervane in high winds, but slices through the waves without letting the water in.

Read more: Old Town Penebscot 17 RX reviews (2)

Bell Canoe Northwoods

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Magnificent paddling canoe with slight tumblehome and rocker and easy paddling. I’ve paddled plenty and this far and exceeds everything out there.

Reasons to Buy

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to paddle, full glide on each stroke
  • No oil canning
  • Perfectly balanced on the carrying yoke

Reasons to Avoid

  • I’m not thrilled with the straight webbed seats. I’ve replaced them with the bent frame ones which fit my bottom better.

I bought it after Bob Cary recommended it back in the early 2000s. I purchased it used from Puragis Outfitters in Ely, Minn., and have been thrilled ever since. Although 18.5 feet long, it doesn’t wind vane like my old Minnesota II did and obviously much lighter and does oil can like the old Royalex Old Town Tripper that I owned for decades. This is the smoothest, easiest to paddle boat I’ve ever owned. I was saddened when Bell stopped producing, when I heard he started making them again as Northstar canoes I was thrilled. This guy knows how to make canoes that handle like Ferraris on the water, but carry loads like barges.

Read more: Bell Canoe Northwoods review (1)

Bell Canoe Seliga Tripper

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Two years ago my three sons and I traveled to the BWCA for a fabulous 8-day trip. Piragis did us a great service providing us with two new ash-trimmed Seliga's. The boats were perfect. Loaded with gear they tracked true and portaged with relative ease. They were dry through two considerable wind and rain storms and we had little difficulty with waves and weather vain affect.   I was glad for the extra free board when the severe weather hit and the slightly upturned ends are a classic and distinct design.

Read more: Bell Canoe Seliga Tripper review (1)

Other Types of Canoes

Find more canoes reviewed in these related categories:

Recreational Canoes

Touring Canoes

Whitewater Canoes

+2 more types

Review Your Outdoor Gear

If you've found this site helpful — or if we've missed something important — please consider paying it forward by some of your favorite outdoor gear.

Why? From professional gearheads to outdoor novices, everyone has an important point of view to contribute. will support the outdoor community and help others find the best gear.

Trailspace reviewers are outdoor enthusiasts like you: hikers, climbers, paddlers, backcountry skiers, and trail runners who share our experiences with the gear and clothing we rely on to get outside. Learn more about Trailspace