Mad River Expedition 176
- This baby is built for speed.
- Minimal rocker and asymmetrical hull blend cruising power with cargo space.
- Top scores for tracking.
- And hull speed.
- One tester said, "Queen of the Fleet."
- Delicate looks created a phobia of all things igneous.
- Black gunwales burned one tester’s thighs.
- White interior meant muddy bathtub ring every night.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better expedition canoe than the Mad River Expedition 176, both in aesthetics and performance. It turns when you need it and hauls on the flats.
Perhaps the best attribute of the Mad River Expedition 176 is its lightweight construction, which makes you feel guilty about packing that extra Fosters oilcan. Its Kevlar base gives it a tensile strength five times stronger than steel, while a fiberglass/graphite weave, capped with a gel coat, makes it one of the most durable canoes per pound in the business. Combined with its sleek design, this made it the first canoe “dibbed” each morning.
Smaller details are also spot-on, including a sliding, contoured cane bow seat, contoured portage yoke, tripping thwart, adjustable stern ash footbrace, and shaped ash carry handles. “The Bentley of our trip – a floating work of art,” said one tester. “My wife said paddling it made me look 10 years younger,” said another. “It’s very sexy.”
Add in the ability of this canoe to track, and flat out haul when you want to, and you’ve got an all-around performer. It effortlessly stayed out front of the group when scrambling for a late campsite before the kids melted down, and its comfort combined with its cruisiness, “Reminds me of my Lay-Z Boy back home,” according to one tester. But here’s its true street cred: At the take-out, it was the first canoe purchased by one of our testers.
How We Tested It
For our expedition canoe test we headed on a six-day, 52-mile trip down Stillwater Canyon through Canyonlands National Park, bringing a fleet of 10 canoes for 20 people, including 11 gunwale-jumping kids. While we didn’t get into Quetico-style lake chop, we tested them how they were meant to be tested—fully loaded while making miles. As well as assessing hull speed, we punched them across mushy eddy lines, dealt with afternoon whitecaps, and even negotiated a ripple or two.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
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- Length: 17' 6"
- Width: 35.5"
- Depth: 15.25"
- Capacity: 1,175 lbs
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