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member (38)member
03/11/2024 02:10PM  
I will be attempting my 1st solo trip to the BWCA this year and I'm having a hard time deciding which canoe to rent from the Outfitter (I have been about a dozen trips to the BWCA but this is my 1st time solo).

I am down to these 4 options (Northstar Magic is not available)...
Wenonah Prism
Wenonah Basswood Solo
Northstar Solo
Northstar Rob Roy

I want a canoe that is stable and won't be too big of a risk of tipping if I hit some wind. I I will be taking on 15+ portages for this trip (most are not on big water. EP 37 going through the Louse River). I do a lot of walleye fishing and also do some northern & bass fishing.

Any recommendations would be appreciated. If there are any on this list you would recommend against, that would be helpful as well.

Additionally, if you have any tips for a 1st time solo trip I am all ears!
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03/11/2024 02:46PM  
I've owned a Kevlar Prism for 20 years, and it has been on 19 solo trips. Only dumped twice. Once when I was trying to exit a beaver dam on the downstream side, and the canoe was unstable due to all the sticks. The other was a simple tripping on the gunwale when leaving a campsite due a klutz attack.

I've always felt safe from dumping while on the water if the gear weight is proportioned properly so the canoe doesn't "weathervane". I've used both a regular paddle and a yak paddle. Prefer the yak myself, but they both work well. Bring a spare single blade paddle for sure. Glad I did, when I snapped my yak paddle during the klutz attack mentioned above. I use Strap Its or Bungee Dealy Bobs to secure the spare paddle in the canoe for easy emergency access.

Also said - If the waves are high, I don't get out on the water. Better to be late going home than early being dead.

03/11/2024 03:14PM  
I've paddled the Rob Roy, Prism and Northwind solo.

Rob Roy with a double blade will be the fastest and most stable. Alot of the stability comes from the low seating position. The disadvantage is space for packs. Pretty much limited to a hiking style pack, which is what i do and it kind of sits upright behind me. A buddy once tried a bunch of waterproof sealline bags and then a duluth #4 pack and packed and re-packed at each portage. It was efficient enough i suppose. Limited to double portage as the boat interferes with the pack too much. This is my favorite solo for tripping with any kind of distance.

Northwind Solo and Prism - To me these felt very similar in stability and speed. It really boils down to if you're more comfortable in tractor style seat or webbed platform seat. I like the seat in the northwind better as it allows for a little more shifting if your pack isn't quite centered or moves during a paddle.

Nothing to add for the basswood - it's a fat boat. The northwind solo and prism are plenty stable.
03/11/2024 03:42PM  
If stability and fishing are your priorities, the Basswood is the best fit. But if you want better paddling efficiency to cover distance the Prism and NW Solo may be a better bet while still being reasonably stable. The NW Solo should be easier to portage given it's a foot shorter and slightly lighter.
senior member (98)senior membersenior member
03/12/2024 08:39PM  
My first solo was the Louse River last year out of Sawbill…great choice!

It’s detailed in my trip report a bit, but I initially rented the Prism, and had major controllability and stability issues into a steady but not crazy headwind on Sawbill. Portaged that canoe right back to the outfitter and swapped for a Wenonah Wilderness. Flatter bottom, far more stable, and shorter which was better for the winding river sections, especially the Frederick and Kelso River

I was very, very happy I chose to go with the more stable boat, and am happily doing so again for this year’s trip (Frost River). If I paddled more regularly, perhaps I’d think differently. But for my skill level, I’m quite happy to sacrifice some speed to get into a boat that is easier for me to handle.
03/12/2024 09:53PM  
Often times the boat that's easier for you to handle will end up being faster for you. More comfortable and more confident equals a more consistant transfer of power.
distinguished member (399)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
03/13/2024 08:21AM  
Personal preference of course, but I considered all these boats as well (minus Rob Roy) and I ended up with a Northwind Solo. I bring my large dog with me on all my trips and while he fits comfortably up front and we have never dumped, if I could rewind and do it over again I would get the basswood solo, its the most stable of all the true solos and has a lot more space. Since I chose Blacklite with wood, its the same weight as the Basswood as well. The NW solo is alive, fast, and fun, but not unstable. You can lean it all the way over to the gunwales before it even feels like it's going go over. It just feels a little cramped sometimes if you have extra gear, or a dog in my case.
03/14/2024 02:57PM  
Have you paddled any boat solo before? If not, I highly recommend a test drive although by the end of your trip you will be an expert in whatever you choose :)

I had paddled OT Discos and Coleman plastic boats solo before, as well as short and fat Royalex boats like Wenonah Heron. Tried a beautiful Prism and dumped just getting in at a landing, and also tried a different solo (small and very lightweight - Kestrel I think) and felt like any moment I would be swimming.

So - to each his or her own, but I love tripping solo with the (64lb) Heron and paddle backwards from the bow, with all gear up front. It works for me, but I spent some years doing that with a child in the front, so maybe I acclimated to it. I'm also not in a race.

I'd love to practice with a prettier and lighter solo boat, but meanwhile...
distinguished member (429)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
03/16/2024 07:24AM  
How much do you and your gear weigh?

YardstickAngler and BWPaddler make a very good point, if you've never paddled one of these solo boats you really should test them them out before you go. I own a Prism but wish it was a Northwind Solo with a bench seat and wooden gunnels... the aluminum gunwales Northstar uses are incredibly loud but that is a very fast hull.
They both feel much more stable to me when loaded with 300 total pounds or a bit more. I've got a couple hundred miles solo under my belt now and I am still uncomfortable in either of them without extra weight/in anything but glassy conditions. I like to spend all day fishing from the canoe with my gear so it works out.
I am a bigger guy that packs heavier, if your total tripping weight is significantly lighter I recommend you look at the Wenonah Wilderness or a Wenonah Basswood Solo. I believe Sawbill has a couple Wilderness' and Sawtooth has a couple Basswoods. I have a feeling you'd prefer the Wilderness.

Great route! Don't miss Mug Lake Falls, and be sure to hook into one of those big Wine lake lakers.

Where are you in WI? I'm out of Tomahawk, send me an email if you'd like to test paddle my Prism sometime

distinguished member(8664)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
03/16/2024 06:37PM  
My first time in a solo was entering Beaver house for a TV day trip. The first launch and landing nade jeca little uneasy but after those first 10 minutes all was fine.

(Rented a Souris River Tranquility, later bought one. Very stable and pretty fast for me. )
03/16/2024 07:53PM  
I did my first solo last year (with almost a dozen group trips under my belt) and had my mind set on the Northwind Solo after much reading. I love fishing and photography so preferred to sacrifice some liveliness/speed for stability. It seemed like the NW Solo was the right compromise (with the Wenonah Prism probably being pretty similar).

I'm 5'10" and a bit over 200lbs, and brought 45-50lbs of gear+food, plus a 20lb day pack, and a 12lb camera pack. Total payload was likely right around 300lbs. The NW Solo paddled like a dream. I had no problem hitting 3mph with a single blade without even really trying. At the same time, I didn't feel unstable at all. I have somewhat short legs for my height so getting out at deep/small landings can be tricky, but I had no anxiety with this boat.

My only complaint is that it's so light that it gets blown around pretty good in the wind when fishing and photographing without the main gear pack, but that's not really this boat's fault. Even if you had a shallower boat lower to the water, at 27-30lbs, you're gonna get blown around. It made it tricky to get straight-on photos of the canoe pointing at an interesting feature, and also made it tricky at times to maintain my orientation to shore when trying to cast and retrieve baits. But again, that's just a general canoe problem, that this canoe doesn't magically solve.

I liked it so much (and enjoyed the solo experience so much) that I looked to purchase a used NW Solo. I failed to acquire one during the times I attempted to, but a brand new, gorgeous ruby red NW Solo w/ wood trim recently found its way into my line of sight, and after several days I couldn't let it go. I pick it up on Monday. :) I'll be taking it on a weeklong solo in June.

I can wholeheartedly recommend the NW Solo, but if you're 140lbs with 40lbs of gear, a smaller boat like the Trillium (same hull design but smaller) might be more for you.
senior member (77)senior membersenior member
03/18/2024 09:43AM  
Jumping on the NW Solo bandwagon here. I have paddled (and love) the Solo and its cousins (the Swift Keewaydin 15, Hemlock Peregrine, and Redfeather Merlin). I have a Redfeather Merlin and cannot sing its praises more highly. For lake-country tripping it's hard to beat the design - tracks well, handles the flowing water portions of the trip wonderfully, takes a load with zero issues, and the "bubble" sides make maneuvering fun. Personally I recommend a higher seat and kneeling when the going gets rough - the NW Solo will heel with the best of them!
03/19/2024 07:31AM  
I'm one who didn't care for the Prism. My total load is about 210 lbs. and I have used the NW solo successfully although it was a little bigger than I need and the extra shear line can make it a little tough in strong wind. A Magic would have been better if available. I would take the Northstar solo out of your choices for reasons already mentioned, but I have no experience with the Rob Roy or Basswood. I generally take a double blade and a single blade when I solo.
member (38)member
03/19/2024 02:38PM  
Thanks for all the responses, they we're extremely helpful. I've decided to go with a NW Solo as it sounds like a great fit for what I'm looking for. Now hopefully the fish cooperate that week as well!
distinguished member (132)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/12/2024 10:43AM  
quark2222: "... Only dumped twice. ...The other was a simple tripping on the gunwale when leaving a campsite due a klutz attack.

LOL. I hate when that happens. Especially when someone is watching.

Good info in this whole thread.
04/12/2024 04:40PM  
sconnie84: "I will be attempting my 1st solo trip to the BWCA this year..."

No attempting. Completing, paddling, doing, making, etc. Planning and preparing are okay as well.
distinguished member (136)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/16/2024 02:42AM  
Definitely don't buy the prism without paddling (like i did) it with and without gear.

I took it on a 4 day trip after trying it for ten minutes a few days before my solo trip.
I figured i would get use to the sketchiness. I never did. I never let myself remove my butt from the seat unless it was to get out. Andi have done a lot of paddling.
I am 6' 2" and a bit of a belly. Maybe my center of gravity was a little high.

At the Cache bay ranger station on my way in after about 45 minutes of paddling . Some paddlers ask me how i liked the prism. I said i would trade it right now for my 20' 3" WENONAH MINNESOTA 3. That i have taken on 5 trips before. I very nearly tipped at the ranger station dock 4 days later on my way out.

The expert a Piragis outfitters said it would be pretty fast and stable enough for fishing. It was pretty quick...second choice was the voyaguer.

I purchased a damaged Minn2 that i will make into a solo canoe.

100% get yourself a kayak paddle. My first trip i used my cheap heavy kayak paddle for the first two hours. Then tried my lightweight expensive carbon fiber paddle.
Stroke stroke stroke switch and repeat. After a minute of that i went right back to the cheap heavy kayak paddle. I have since upgraded to a top of the line Werener kayak paddle. No more energy sucking and momentum killing J-stroke
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