30 Years of Great Gear


When Canoe magazine debuted in 1973, the state of the art was the 17-foot-long aluminum canoe. In the May 1976 issue, Canoe published its first boat review, an examination of aluminum whitewater canoes, and the 17-foot Grumman was called “the closest canoe to meeting whitewater needs of open boat canoeists using aluminum crafts.”


Over the years the magazine has highlighted advances in technology and design, and some plain good ideas, that have advanced the sport – but there are still plenty of people out there paddling their aluminum canoes and having a wonderful time.


Here are some more of the highlights – not necessarily the best boats and gear, but 30 great products that have appeared over 30 great years for paddlers.


We know we have missed some of your favorite gear in this story – let’s talk about it on the new Canoe & Kayak message boards.


New Materials


The first ad for Dupont Kevlar (1) appeared in July 1974. Aramid was approved by the FTC in January of 1974 as a generic name for the new class of fibers. Jim Henry, co-founder of Mad River Canoes and a noted boat designer, talked about Kevlar as a miracle fabric – a 16-foot canoe made of fiberglass was 65 pounds, one of Kevlar was 40 pounds. Sawyer Canoe’s Bob Gramprie noted that it added $150 to the cost of the boat. Today, an 18.5-foot We-no-nah Minnesota II (2) carries big loads for flatwater trippers. It weighs 46 pounds and sells for about $2,400.


Old Town Canoe introduced the first Royalex (3) canoe, the Chipewyan 16, shortly after the new material was introduced in 1972 – today it’s the standard material for whitewater canoes, sporting canoes, and many general-purpose canoes. Canoe magazine explored the material in a discussion and review in the June/July 1978 issue and praised the Royalex Mad River Explorer (4) as “hard to beat as an all-purpose whitewater canoe, fast on the flats, snappy in the turns, and lively like a sporting boat should be.” It sold for $525. And in 1979, Jim Shelander made the first open-canoe descent of the Grand Canyon in a modified Explorer.


Meanwhile, the Old Town Penobscot (5), $775 in 1975, was gaining praise as a fast Royalex canoe, and in the June/July 1978 issue we saw the famous advertisement showing an Old Town Tripper being thrown off the factory roof. Old Town uses the trade name Oltonar for its custom lay-ups of Royalex.

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