Wenonah Minnesota II
- By far the fleetest of the lot.
- Ridiculously light.
- No frills besides the ability to go fast.
Versatile enough for lakes and deep rivers with sandy banks, it’s the speed that you’ll notice the most on the Wenonah Minnesota II. Or as one tester put it, “The thing’s a total rocket ship."
Superlatives are easy to come by for the Minnesota II. Designed by Gene Jensen, it’s one of the most quintessential tripping craft ever made, fast when loaded with gear and nimble without. “Accelerates like a scalded dog,” says one tester. “If the Mad River Expedition is our Bentley, the Minnesota II is the Ferrari. Every stroke translates into forward motion.”
Another tester puts it more pragmatically: “It’s like greased lightning. 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.”
Behind this is its light weight, noticed by everyone from the trailerhands loading it atop the jet boat for the shuttle out to those hauling it ashore (testament: it was the only boat hauled up to camp each night; all the others stayed on the beach). Fairly feature free, it does have aluminum trim, an adjustable stern footbrace, ash yoke, and bucket seats, with a sliding bow.
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.