Gear Guide 2012: Nova Craft Prospector 17 Expedition Canoe

A 17-foot boat for paddlers who rank long-haul performance over short-course speed.

Tripping-style canoes are known for their shallow-arch hulls, which combine the initial stability of a flat hull with the secondary stability (steady when leaned over on edge) of a rounded hull. This makes them hard to capsize—and a good all-around choice for paddlers who rank long-haul performance over short-course speed. Nova Craft’s 17-foot version of this iconic design stays faithful to the original, but uses modern Royalex Lite, a heat-bonded composite of vinyl, plastic, and foam that’s both rugged and lightweight. With two inches of rocker (end-to-end curve), the bow stays well above the water.

“I stayed plenty dry through rolling waves and wind chop,” reports a tester who paddled through Utah’s 52-mile Stillwater Canyon. The Prospector scored well in tracking and ferrying (paddling across the current). The liberal 15-inch depth results in extensive capacity (up to 1,200 pounds), ideal for long-and-luxe trips: “Pack the bacon-filled cooler, the Dutch oven, the table, and camp chairs,” says our tester. “This boat can handle it all without getting tippy.” Bonus: Nylon lace seats are cooler than cane on hot days. $1,679; 68 lbs.; novacraftcanoe.com