Nova Craft Prospector 16 (Tuff Stuff);

L: 16'; W: 36"; 56 lbs. with wood trim, 54 lbs. with aluminum; 1,000-lb. capacity (FGX)
($2,800 wood trim, $2,399 aluminum,

The Prospector is the Ford F-150 of the Canadian canoeing world. It's considered the archetypical canoe, much due to Bill Mason's popularization of the original Chestnut design. The shape is over a century old and it still holds up nicely.

Like a pick-up truck, the Prospector is meant to haul a load. The 16-footer is rated at over half a ton, though it would be dif cult to put that much weight in it. Two heavy paddlers and four packs for three weeks on a northern Canadian river is where the Prospector shines. Nova Craft bucks convention, using seats made of heavy-duty ash and strung with (wait for it) boot lacing. The result is comfortable and eld-repairable. While the Prospector doesn't have the rocker of a whitewater boat, it doesn't abide sloppy technique; you have to pay attention and paddle it. It will reward a paddler with good technique.

The things that make this boat great are the things that limit it. Paddling a Prospector empty on a breezy day will try your patience, and if the boat isn't trim, it will weathervane and give you a good spanking. That said, in a light wind or no wind at all, you can ip the symmetrical hull around backwards and paddle it from the bow seat. Way too much fun!

I took the Prospector down a shallow, rocky/gravely river. Yes, it left a few scratches, but they were all cosmetic. So Tuff Stuff passes the test.

Life After Royalex: Canoe Materials 101

A rundown of five post-Royalex canoe materials

Wenonah Argosy

Material: Kevlar Flex-Core

Northstar Phoenix

Material: White Gold

Abenaki Algonquin Canoe

Material: Betula Papyrifera