Northstar Northwind 17 Review

Modern build quality and features meet a classic design in the Northwind 17.

Alan Schmidt and Judy Black-Schmidt paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota.

Review by Darren Bush

Photos by Aaron Black-Schmidt

The Northwind 17 is something of a misnomer because the canoe is actually 17'6". To be honest, I first noticed this when I loaded it on my truck next to the Swift Keewaydin 17 and started scratching my head. I didn't have a tape measure so I just decided to paddle it for a week instead.

The Northwind 17 is both a new and old canoe. Old, as it used to be the Bell Northwind 17, and new, because it was modified when Northstar Canoe started back up. With a little less tumblehome amidships, the Northwind 17 has a slightly larger capacity, and it still paddles beautifully. If it looks a lot like the Keewaydin, that's to be expected as they are both from the drafting table of iconic designer David Yost.

Aaron Black-Schmidt portaging in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota. Photo by Caitlin Looby.

We were paddling the Black Lite construction, a beautiful combination of aramid fibers and carbon fiber cloth that is light and tough. The elegant wood gunwales and walnut end caps are lovely, and the end caps are fitted with the precision of a Finnish carpenter. The Northwind is also available in Star Lite, their standard all-Aramid construction, which is a few pounds lighter but not quite as tough.

The Northwind paddled beautifully. Indeed, the first couple who tested it loved it so much that we had to switch boats with them at a portage so someone else could try it. It's a quick boat, which isn't surprising given its extra length. It has excellent stability and predictability, especially loaded down. Yost designs are famous for being predictable, and the Northwind was no exception. Despite its lack of adjustable seating, it was superlative at handling wind and waves, a little bit of trim adjustment made by shifting your load around.

Caitlin Looby paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota.

The addition of a kneeling thwart is a welcome option. Being able to paddle solo is a nice option after getting to camp. It paddles nicely solo, though I'm not sure I'd take it out in the wind empty. When paddling solo and heeling the canoe to the gunwale, the side walls are a little flexy between the ribs. It doesn't make much difference while the boat is not heeled over; the bottom of the canoe is plenty stiff. The core just doesn't go out to the side as far as some of the others.

Length: 17’6″  |  Width: 36″  |  Weight: 42 lbs.  |  Depth: 14″  |  Price: $3,495.00


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Swift