Nova Craft Prospector 17
- Wide and stable.
- Hull is self-righting when placed on edge.
- Uber cargo capacity.
- A bit cumbersome for a quick evening solo paddle.
- Seems to handle better loaded with gear.
Best suited for river tripping, the Nova Craft Prospector 17 is versatile enough to be a good all-rounder, be it wilderness or whitewater. And it’s made for the long haul.
Canoeing’s venerable Prospector design has been called the workhorse of the Canadian North, for good reason. The symmetrical, shallow-arch hull with moderate rocker feels most at home loaded with gear in the boonies. Nova Craft’s 17-foot version remains faithful to the original icon, with the modern material touch of RoyalexLite giving it the heartiness of a Voyageur and the light weight (68 lbs.) of a true expedition craft. “Seems bombproof,” said one tester. “Surprisingly fast,” said another. “It was a true pleasure to paddle.”
As for hauling gear, it’s a true mule. Its wide body recommends it to those of us that like our aluminum lawn chairs and tables. And with its stability, it’s a good platform for kids and lots of gear. None of which compromises its maneuverability. “It would be a great boat where durability and tight maneuvering are at a premium,” said one tester.
“The yoke of the Prospector looks like it came right off an oxen team,” one tester said, adding that the burly design reinforces the sense that this canoe will help you keep your cool even when things go awry. As for comfort, the airiness of the cane seats was a favorite for many testers, with one remarking, “It dries your shorts real quick.”
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'
- Width: 36"
- Depth: 15"
- Capacity: 1,200 lbs.
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