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4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/03/2019 12:47AM  
Hi everyone. Im a new member and just wanted to introduce myself and ask a question. First off Id like to say wow. I've been reading and you all have a wealth of knowledge. Really impressive. I am a novice paddler with only one extended trip to the Boundary Waters and the occasional quiet river trip over the years. After a long hiatus, I just took an early season trip to the Current River this year. I had forgotten how much I like to Paddle. I am looking for my first solo boat and need some advice.

I am 5'5 and fluctuate between 170 and 180lbs. I was initially looking at short boats like the OT pack and Discovery 119 but they seem very wide for a short paddler to use a single blade. Im not against double blade if I need to cover significant ground quickly but Im not usually in a hurry and prefer a single paddle. This would primarily be used on slow rivers and messing around on local small lakes. I would like to be able to take on slightly faster water as my skills improve(Class 2 at most). Overnight to 3 day trips would probably be the norm.
I have been looking at the Northstar Phoenix and Firebird. The smaller Firebird was my first thought but with a max weight capacity of around 250, I was wondering if the larger boat would be more versatile. I have never paddled a solo but am planning to test a Phoenix in Chicago at some point. This will be my only boat for a while. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks again.
Aaron
 
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05/03/2019 06:14AM  
I came across this How To Pick A Northstar Solo Canoe article last night and it will be a good place to start.

BTW, I'm not one of those experts, but I suspect that you'd be better off with the Firebird. I don't think the upper end of the optimal range is anywhere near the maximum capacity and you're not likely to exceed the optimal range based on your criteria, so there's no need for a bigger canoe which will be more work for you to handle most of the time.
 
MidwestFirecraft
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05/03/2019 06:34AM  
4Miles,
Looks like you picked out two high quality canoes that fit what you are describing as your intended purpose. As you are finding out there is no one canoe that will fit all situations so it comes down to purchase more than one, or compromising. I own a Phoenix, Magic, and Pack 13.6. I have taken the Phoenix on a 5 day trip in the BWCA and found it to be more than sufficient at carrying my 195 lbs plus 60 pounds of gear. The only negative to it was I found that it pushed water when I tried to keep up with tandem canoes using a double blade, but I never expected it to be a speed boat. The only advantage I can see of the Firebird for you is if you were to primarily use it on slow, twisting streams or rivers. I went on the Sunrise river a week ago, and the shorter the canoe the better, as it was more a creek than river. That having been said I didn't feel I had too much boat, and was glad to have the higher bow in rapids, and on big lakes. There is no substitute for actually trying out the canoe you intend to buy so hopefully the Phoenix will speak to you, one way or another. Good luck!
 
05/03/2019 06:49AM  
I own a Northstar Firebird. I've only had it out a couple of times. Very responsive boat and will track reasonably well with a good J stroke, or a double blade if that floats your boat. There is a bit of a learning curve with a solo boat like the Firebird. It will feel a bit twitchy at first Like you, I plan on using in it primarily on my local rivers and creeks in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. Also I want to learn some Freestyle moves. I will however be taking it on a week long trip to the BW in August. I pack very light so it shouldn't be a problem at all. I'm 200lbs btw. Those who raise an eye brow at taking such a small boat like the Firebird to the BW need to only ask Dan Cooke what he often uses. If you live in Northern IL you're more than welcome to check my out.
 
05/03/2019 10:59AM  
If you're traveling from Kansas to Chicago and looking may as well add Rutabaga as a stop. They will set out canoes for trial paddling right behind their store. If you decide to do that call a few days ahead to make the arrangements.
I've paddled the Phoenix and really liked it, the Trillium is very interesting again 14 1/2 but less shear and a bit narrower. I feel the the Firebird is a bit too short for general purpose, but would be a blast to paddle. Do not put too much into weight capacities, Northstar lists Optimal Load Range, and not a max limit. You would be better served in a capacity discussion with Ted Bell or someone who has a more intimate knowledge of the load capability vs paddling experience.
Your size is not a limitation to the canoe size. I am 5 1/2 and comfortable in the 17 1/2 foot Voyager, own and paddle an Advantage at 16 1/2.

Welcome to BWCA.COM and have fun shopping!

butthead
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/03/2019 03:05PM  
Thanks for the input guys. I appreciate the thought. I will surely have more questions in the future. Enjoy your weekends.
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/03/2019 03:12PM  
Thanks for that offer Blatz. I would definitely like to check out the Firebird when I’m up around that area. May I email you when I know a timeframe?
 
justpaddlin
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05/03/2019 06:41PM  
Hey Aaron, do you plan to kneel? I had a Phoenix and it was not my favorite since as mentioned it "pushed water" when pushed hard. That boat has more capacity than you need for your stated plans and the fuller ends that make it a fabulous downriver boat also make it a bit more effort on flat water. But you are not likely to paddle it as hard as I did plus you may enjoy the feeling of stability and security...it's a super safe and very friendly boat. The Firebird looks to be a hot rod. If you don't plan to kneel I doubt whether it's right for you. But if you kneel and are willing to spend time on your skills the size is perfect for you and it would be great for developing better skills over time. The Trillium would also be a great fit for you and it would cruise more efficiently than the others and it would work well on slower rivers, it just would not dance quite like the other two. Great offer from Blatz to try a Firebird.
 
05/03/2019 08:52PM  
4Miles: "Thanks for that offer Blatz. I would definitely like to check out the Firebird when I’m up around that area. May I email you when I know a timeframe?"

No Problem. My limited experience with the Firebird is sitting is just fine while paddling. But everyones experience may very once they've paddled it.
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/03/2019 09:38PM  
Just paddling- Thanks for your view. I’ve heard the Phoenix described as a dry boat which sounded good. I was leaning toward a kneeling seat but was curious how comfortable they are while seated. I will probably switch back on forth for comfort and depending on situation. Are the kneeling seats unstable when sitting due to increased height? Probably just wait and see when I test drive.
 
MidwestFirecraft
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05/04/2019 07:33AM  
I have the kneeling seat in my Phoenix and I don't find it unstable while seated. Even with the kneeling height seat I can't get my size 11 boots under the seat, so can only kneel when barefoot or when I take boots off.
 
yellowcanoe
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05/04/2019 09:22AM  
That question is best answered with a tripping load. Boats firm up a lot with gear. Whether enough for you is something only you can find out.

Canted seats are very comfortable kneeling and sitting. The increased height makes it much easier to switch back and forth especially from kneeling to sitting.

Ha ha you may wind up with two boats. They are quite different in handling. They seem to be derived from the Flash Fire and the WildFire.

The former is not what I would use for tripping.. just a tad too small. The increased volume of the larger boat gives you a tad more freeboard for safety with the same load. Which is more fun for Freestyle? The little boat.

I have both Flash and Wild.. both are a handful in a stern sea. A load for a three day trip and a week trip really differs only by about 8 lbs. Flash is for day trip fun.. Wild for a trip.
Dan Cooke however has no problem doing a BWCA trip in his Flash.
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/04/2019 02:27PM  
I know there are a lot of variables to my next question. Packing weight. When I used to backpack I would do a week long trip with my wife. I would carry approx 60 pounds, she would carry 40. Our equipment was mid tier. Not ultralight, but not a Coleman canvas tent either. What’s the average weight of your gear load for 3-5 days?
 
MidwestFirecraft
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05/04/2019 05:11PM  
As yellowcanoe stated, the only difference in weight from a 3 day trip to a week trip is food. My five day load is generally 50 pounds.
 
justpaddlin
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05/04/2019 05:27PM  
I just got back from a demo day at Rutabaga. If you can spend some time there they have quite a few boats that might suit you. The Swift Keewaydin 15 is a very nice all around boat with a lot of stability for it's performance. They also have a Keewaydin 14 that would fit you perfectly but my guess is that you'd appreciate the comfort and stability of the Kee15. I really enjoyed paddling the Firebird...it's quick and responsive and quite fast...one of the most effortless paddling boats on the market and also excellent for developing freestyle skills (or just playing around). The one at Rutabaga has a (low) seat set up for sitting and the Rutabaga guy agreed that it's a bit weird to set up a freestyle boat for sitting. I said it's set up for test paddling but not for paddlers and he said "exactly". I knelt anyway and it was painful. It might feel tender to you at first. The Phoenix is for sure a dry ride; if you get wet in a Phoenix you're paddling somewhere scary. Of the two boats you mention the Phoenix is the rational choice and the Firebird is the emotional choice.

 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/04/2019 07:39PM  
Thanks MidwestFirecraft. It seems I’ll be able to do small trips in a Fire bird if I like it, but paddling more boats before purchase would probably be the best idea. Thanks for the other suggestions.
Justpaddlin-You hit the bullseye with your last statement about the rational vs emotional. If I liked both, I can’t tell you which would win. Think I’ll skip Chicago and check out Rutabaga. Can make it there faster than Chicago from Kansas City.
 
05/04/2019 08:27PM  
4Miles: "I know there are a lot of variables to my next question. Packing weight. When I used to backpack I would do a week long trip with my wife. I would carry approx 60 pounds, she would carry 40. Our equipment was mid tier. Not ultralight, but not a Coleman canvas tent either. What’s the average weight of your gear load for 3-5 days?"


The total, including everything but the canoe and yoke, about 40 lbs. Total does include paddles and PFD with ditch kit items in pockets.
 
DanCooke
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05/05/2019 11:08AM  
Having paddled both canoes and owning a Phoenix, it is best to paddle them loaded and unloaded. Either can do what your original qualifications you were posing the selection about. Both can do the windy twisty streams and rivers, Both can trip on the rivers or lakes. Your paddling likes and skills will drive you to one or the other. Kneeling or sitting will have a dramatic effect on the stability feel. Usually the rental and demo boats are set up for a sitting position with the seat lowered, making kneeling more difficult to get you feet under you. hopefully you will get the opportunity to paddle them both before buying one.

For me I kneel all the time in any canoe I paddle, solo or tandem. For me the Firebird does all I like to do better than the Phoenix. But the IXP Phoenix will take me on longer trips that I am tentatively looking at doing. (I also have a Flashfire and Nokomis that are more like the Firebird)

Getting Freestyle instruction I believe would give you on the way to a paddling skill set where you would be able to enjoy either of these hulls.
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/05/2019 08:00PM  
Thanks Dan. How is the IXP holding up. IXP and wood gunwales is where I’m headed at this point.
 
MidwestFirecraft
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05/05/2019 08:30PM  
Dan will obviously answer for himself, but I love IXP. I think it handles abrasion and impact better than Royalex. My Phoenix is the only boat I own with wood gunwales and I have thoroughly enjoyed them. They are much quieter than aluminum, warmer, and really are beautiful. I would sacrifice the 2 lbs. any day.
 
05/05/2019 08:59PM  
The wood is nice. Here's mine
 
DanCooke
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05/05/2019 08:59PM  
I do not have a lot of miles on it at this time. I am hoping to get some time in a fair amount of class 2 rapids and felt the IXP was a good option if I missed a clean line. Wood gunnels are the way to go in my book, they flex and come back some. If you had a catastrophic event with aluminum- to bend aluminum back (pop riveted to hull)could be more problematic than a field splinting of wood gunnels (Wood screwed to wood through the hull).
 
justpaddlin
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05/06/2019 11:31AM  
Hey Aaron, I just realized that if you are headed to Rutabaga from Iowa you will go right past Carl's Paddlin in Lone Rock Wisconsin. It's about 45 minutes west of Rutabaga. Carl is my favorite canoe dealer and he also carries Northstar canoes. He also has lots of used canoes...way more than Rutabaga. Carl used to manage Rutabaga years ago. He's a real paddler and canoe enthusiast and I can argue that you need to see his shop just so you can meet Carl and see the various rare old canoes that he owns. Carl's number is 608-583-2405. I suggest that you call him and just BS about your needs and also ask him what he has in stock.

One reason you might go to Rutabaga is that they carry Swift canoes. I paddled their new Prospector 14 this past weekend and it would also fit your needs well. It is extremely versatile and Swift offers a 2 position seat that can be set up for either kneeling or sitting...and switched between positions in a few seconds. It's slick and a nice feature for anyone.

I also favor wood trim but if you like carbon gunnels for lightness or aluminum for lower cost and lack of maintenance (or if boat will spend time outside) they are all good options. I have all three options and like them all.

When you test paddle I suggest you bring a flotation cushion to sit on since it will raise you up 2-3 inches and help you kneel in boats with low seats set up for sitting like the Firebird at Rutabaga. I also suggest that you plan to take your shoes off when you get in a canoe to test paddle because it will make it easier to get your feet under the seat.



 
BuckFlicks
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05/06/2019 02:13PM  
I'm 6'1" and I have a OT Disco 119. It's too wide for me without a bent shaft single blade. Forget using a double blade paddle. I regret making that purchase. I should have gotten a SOT kayak.
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/06/2019 02:46PM  
Justpaddlin,
Thanks! If I’m up that far I might as well check his place out. I’ll give him a call. Should I bring a weighted pack with me to test loaded vs unloaded, or are dealers set up for this? Thanks again to ALL for being responsive to my new obsession and patient with my incessant questions.
Aaron
 
justpaddlin
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05/06/2019 05:53PM  
4Miles: "Justpaddlin,
Thanks! If I’m up that far I might as well check his place out. I’ll give him a call. Should I bring a weighted pack with me to test loaded vs unloaded, or are dealers set up for this? Thanks again to ALL for being responsive to my new obsession and patient with my incessant questions.
Aaron"


It would be easiest if you could bring your own pack since dealers aren't set up for it. You might just bring a pack and 4-5 empty 1 gallon milk containers and fill them when you go test paddling. Carl will most likely be happy to lock up his shop and go paddling with you. I think you will enjoy talking to him and I hope you get to meet him. Carl has taken good care of me for more than 20 years.

We're all excited for you!
 
justpaddlin
distinguished member(551)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
05/06/2019 06:15PM  
https://madison.craigslist.org/bod/d/lone-rock-canoe-kayak-used-new-spring/6870018798.html

 
binetc
  
05/15/2024 11:31PM  
Greetings,

Thank you for this great thread. I'd like to echo Aaron's gratitude for everyone's generous responses.

I am in almost exactly the same position, with the same interests with one exception - my weight varies between 135 and 140lbs.

I'm new to canoeing, and It's been a year of waiting to buy one of these, so my question is: Is the Phoenix too much boat for someone my size (5'5 - 135lbs)? I think the lower end of the optimal load range is 175 lbs.

Here are the reasons I would prefer the Phoenix (culling from this discussion):
-- my knees don't work great - so kneeling all the time would mean more resting than paddling
-- dry boat, super safe
-- better for tripping (def on the cards once i have built some skill)
-- i've just spent a year coding a library at work that I named 'phoenix', after this boat ;)
I know I'll love the Firebird, but I want to make 'the rational choice" :)
@4Mile - what did you end up with, and what has your experience been?
TIA for any advice you could provide.

Regards,
binod
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/16/2024 09:59AM  
I found a good deal on a IXP Phoenix that I couldn’t pass up, so my decision was made for me. I’ve been very happy with the Phoenix. Perfect for how I use it. Just Paddlin had some of the best advice. If you have the ability, make a trip to Carl’s shop in Wisconsin. I think test paddles are invaluable. He has more boats than Ive ever seen in one place. Went up to his shop with a buddy who ended up buying a Phoenix as well. The Phoenix does feel large at times, but only in volume. Not in handling. My friend described that he felt like he was sitting in the Phoenix, but felt like he was a part of the Trillium when he paddled it. If you’ll be on lakes quite a bit, you may want to paddle a Trillium. If you’re ever around the Kansas City area, you’re more than welcome to paddle my Phoenix. Good luck and have fun.
 
binetc
  
05/16/2024 02:43PM  
Thank you for the generous offer, I would love to stop by or go to Carl's - but its going to be a 16 hour drive :) The closest dealer is 3 hours from Atlanta in SC; wonderful people - but they do not demo.

It's going to be 90% rivers once i learn the basics on a lake, so it is going to be one of these 2... not the Trillium.

I'm 40 lbs shy of the lower bound. I thought of filling a 20 liter barrel with water as compensation, but then the barrel can't "lean the other way" :)
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/16/2024 11:03PM  
Bummer about test paddles. I believe the Phoenix will feel more stable to you, BUT from what I’ve seen and read,I think you’d have plenty of room in the Firebird and it doesn’t look significantly less stable. It just might take a bit longer to become comfortable in such a responsive boat. You’ve probably already seen it, but if not check out happypaddler’s newer YouTube video “Firebird vs Trillium.”Lots of video of his 12 year old son paddling the Firebird and gently testing its stability. Let me know what you choose. I still think about picking up a Firebird at some point.
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/17/2024 07:16AM  
That video is actually posted by Happy Paddlin’
 
binetc
  
05/17/2024 11:36AM  
Thanks yeah, I'd seen that, and his delight with the Firebird is almost palpable. There's another video with a customer who felt that way too. I love that guy's videos.

I was at REI earlier today and spoke with the resident canoeist. His opinion is that my being lighter affects how stable I'd feel in it. This can be offset by kneeling when I'm worried. So from that perspective, it's a wash - especially when I'm on a trip with 40 or 50 lbs of gear.

And here's an opinion from a legend: https://www.cliffcanoe.com/post/2017/10/31/review-northstar-phoenix-canoe

Thank you so much for your thoughts Aaron. Now, any tips on how to find a deal on a Phoenix with wood trim? :)
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/17/2024 03:53PM  
Just got home from paddling a local lake. I think you’ll really like the Phoenix. I’ll keep my eyes open for you. My only tip if you don’t want to pay full price is be as patient as you can and be ready for travel to pick it up ?? What Layup are you leaning towards.
 
binetc
  
05/17/2024 04:12PM  
re: "just got..." - I'm so jealous :)
Thanks again, very kind of you to keep an eye out for me. I'm looking for IXP, preferably with wood trim. I'm a klutz and the rivers around here and the Carolinas are pretty rocky. Wood because it gets pretty hot around here, and i plan to paddle in cold weather as well - it can get cold up by Nantahalla, NC (absolutely gorgeous country btw)
 
4Miles
member (22)member
  
05/17/2024 05:29PM  
You’re lucky to be close to Nantahalla. I’ve only been there once, and it IS gorgeous.
 
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