The Cruiser canoe category suits paddlers looking to travel quickly and easily across flat water. Boats in this category are built with a low profile to minimize drag. Some, like the Haida, feature an asymmetrical design for speed and a flat bottom for added stability.
The other cruiser, the Cronje, is built from the Chestnut Canoe Company’s classic design. This is the boat you want if you want a fast canoe to take on large lakes.
Nova Craft’s whitewater canoe offerings are the Moisie 16’6” and the Supernova 14’10” Solo. These boats are built for wilderness whitewater canoeing. Very few wilderness trips are purely whitewater, and these routes require paddling through flatwater to get to the steep stuff.
With this in mind, Nova Craft’s whitewater canoes are maneuverable enough to control in rapids but still paddle well along the calm sections. The deep hull and high capacity ensure both a dry ride and enough space to take along everything you’ll need.
The final category is the Prospector series. Deemed “the workhorse of the North”, the Prospector design is a do-it-all type of boat. Many companies produce a version of this boat. The particular designs may vary slightly, but the same characteristics persist: a Prospector is a symmetrical-hulled, high-capacity canoe intended for expedition travel.
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Nova Craft’s version is modeled after the Chestnut Canoe Company’s Prospector made famous by the artist, canoeist and filmmaker Bill Mason. It can be used for open waters or Class I-II+ rivers.
If you are a canoeist looking to do everything but only have space (or a budget) for one boat, consider a Prospector. The symmetrical hull means it can be paddled tandem or solo by sitting backwards in the bow seat. These boats paddle best loaded with gear and are available from Nova Craft in 15-,16-,17- and 18-foot lengths.
When it comes to canoe length, the longer 17- and 18-foot canoes have a higher storage capacity and are suitable for multi-week expeditions. Shorter lengths do not have the same capacity, but they are more maneuverable on tight rivers and easier to solo paddle. If you are sticking to short trips on smaller waters, a 15- or 16-foot boat is all you will need.
We’ve already touched on the discontinued Royalex material in the Used Buying Advice section, so let’s look at the options available in 2022, from heaviest to lightest.
SP3 is Nova Craft’s entry-cost canoe material for their most durable canoes. First-time canoe buyers may assume that a heavy canoe is always a bad thing and that the more expensive a canoe is, the better it will be. This is not always the case.
Although there is certainly a relationship between cost and weight, it ultimately depends on how you want to use your canoe. If you are looking for a durable canoe that can withstand all degrees of hard use, SP3 is the right choice over an ultralight canoe that will crumple if pinned in a rapid.
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Creating SP3 canoes involves rotomolding, a process that slowly spins melted polyethylene plastic in a canoe-shaped mold. Nova Craft’s process results in three layers, two rigid layers with a foam one in the middle. The foam adds flotation, preventing it from sinking if it fills with water.
Nova Craft got its start producing fiberglass canoes, and they continue to do so today. Woven fiberglass cloth is layered with epoxy to make a canoe that is durable and reasonably light, without breaking the bank. They weigh less than SP3 canoes, with a 16-foot fiberglass Prospector weighing 66 lbs/30 kg compared to the SP3 Prospector’s 85 lb/38.6 kg.
Fiberglass canoes also cost less than TuffStuff or other composite materials. These are good boats for recreational use or light canoe tripping.
TuffStuff and TuffStuff Expedition are Nova Craft’s flagship materials, developed after the demise of Royalex. The aim was to create a material tough enough to withstand tripping and whitewater abuse but still be easy enough to carry.
TuffStuff uses a blend of melted basalt rock and Innegra fiber. Innegra is a synthetic fiber made with polypropylene. It is lightweight, impact-resistant and water-resistant, making it a perfect material for canoe hulls. The composite construction is stiffer than SP3, resulting in a more responsive feel.
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The TuffStuff canoes are priced in the mid-range of Nova Craft’s offerings. The composite construction helps to keep the boat light enough to carry while still being durable enough to bump and grind down rivers.
A 16-foot Prospector in TuffStuff weighs just 56 lb/25.4 kg, or the more robust and reinforced TuffStuff Expedition comes in at 62 lb/ 28.1 kg, very manageable weights for the portage trail. Read more about what a TuffStuff canoe can handle here.
Aramid Lite is Nova Craft’s ultralight material for flatwater tripping canoes. A composite material like fiberglass, aramid has an extremely high strength-to-weight ratio. It is abrasion-resistant and extremely stiff. Kevlar is a well-known example of an aramid material. These canoes are on the expensive end, but they have a significant advantage in weight.
A 16-foot Prospector canoe in Aramid Lite weighs just 45 lb/ 20.4 kg! This is light enough to easily load or unload the boat solo onto a vehicle or for long portages.
The space-age Blue Steel canoe material blends the best qualities of the above materials into a super canoe. This hybrid of aramid and carbon fibers infuses Innegra into the hull for extra reinforcement. It’s stiff and light but ready to tackle tough rivers and handle abrasions.
The additional process adds a higher cost, making this the most expensive layup in Nova Craft’s fleet, but with a 16-foot Prospector weighing just 48 lbs/21.8 kg, it’s a canoe that can be carried just about anywhere.