Photo: Dave Costello

($2,379 in Kevlar Flex-core,
L: 18’6”; W 35”; D:13.5”; 54 lbs.

Superlatives are easy to come by for the Minnesota II, by far the fleetest craft in our lot. Designed by Gene Jensen, it delivers quintessential tripping canoe performance: fast when loaded with gear and nimble without. “Accelerates like a scalded dog,” said one tester. “If the Mad River Expedition is our Bentley, the Minnesota II is the Ferrari.”

Another tester put it more pragmatically: “I could feel it accelerate when my 7-year-old daughter would paddle. I had to stop paddling 30 yards beforehand if I wanted to pull up beside someone to grab a soda…otherwise I’d just blow by.”

The Wenonah’s speed is the result of its sleek profile and light weight—an attribute everyone noticed, from the jet boat swampers loading it for the shuttle back to Moab, and those hauling it ashore (it was the only boat we carried up to camp each night; the others stayed on the beach).

It doesn’t have too many frills besides the ability to go fast— aluminum trim, adjustable stern footbrace, ash yoke, and bucket seats, with sliding bow. And most of our testers preferred bench seats to its saddles (“I like to be able to adjust my positioning,” says one). While it’s made of collision-proof Kevlar, some also thought the thinner hull connotes fragility. “Good for lakes and deep rivers with sandy banks,” says another. But that’s the price you pay for all-out speed, and a boat coveted every single day.

Tracking/Ferrying: 9.5
Hull Speed: 10
Maneuverability: 7
Eddy Turns: 7
Initial and Secondary Stability: 7
Overall Comfort: 8
Loading/Carrying Ease: 10


Mad River
Expedition 176
Nova Craft
Prospector 17
Old Town
Saranac 160 XT
Minnesota II
Mad River Expedition 176Nova Craft Prospector 17Old Town Saranac 160 XTWenonah Minnesota II