Most Recent Reviews
I have paddled with it 8 days now, typically about 7 miles each time, and I am like the guy in the H&R Block ad, "I just don't seem to sweat any more".
I have worn a Pnet wicking shirt under it in 65 degree weather, a silk long sleeve shirt and a heavy weight polypropelene top under it in colder weather (in weather between 32 and 50 degrees out) and on one day where there was a moderate rain all day, and I have yet to be even slightly damp underneath at the end of my paddling.
The fit is generous, and range of motion is beyond excellent.
I have a couple of older Kokatat TecTour jackets that always kept my dry, though I tended to sweat more under them. They no longer fit me so well which is why I bought the new jacket. It probably has everything to do with what I am wearing under it these days too though.
My only complaint is that the velcro on the neck closure didn't allow for a secure closure for me. I have a large neck, but not abnormally large. I only had about a half inch of overlap on the Velcro which wasn't secure enough to be acceptable. I had to sew on another 1.5" long piece of 'loop' Velcro, and now it works the way it should.
At first I was leery of how light weight the fabric is, but I am no longer concerned and I like the packability and versatility. I will wear this jacket far more often than the heavier TecTour which I used only when there was very cold water or substantial rain.
This is going to be a great summer/hot weather jacket for paddling on Lake Michigan and Superior where the cold water demands the safety of a paddling jacket, but it won't be like paddling in a sauna. Even the TecTour got pretty steamy on summer days on the big lakes.
I have the Salmon color fabric which I absolutely love the look of. Frankly I have to admit the color alone is what drew me to the jacket on the rack at REI. Their 20% off deal at the time sealed the deal.
I find that this jacket has substantially improved my early spring cold weather/water paddling experience by a wide margin. I would definitely recommend it.
I was originally looking to buy the breathable model, but they didn't fit over my abnormally large calfs. The lite models are a tight fit on my calf, but it's a good thing as they are nearly water tight on me when I tested them to see how much water they would take in.
I have high bones in the top of my wide feet, and these are flexible enough for an excellent fit whether I am wearing light socks or super thick wool WigWams. While my legs are a little sweaty when I remove them, they are totally comfortable for hours at a time.
My only complaint would be that they could use a stiffer sole with some arch support. I am not using them for long portages and such, more for launching and in the canoe. The felt lined models would be better if you plan to do much hiking in them. But for at the launch and in the boat their awesome.
To sum it up I am extremely happy with these and would buy them again in a heartbeat. Highly recommended.
I looked at all the better brand larger tents, and this one still had the bomb proof design and features I look for with the room of a family camping tent.
We have used this tent for about 16 nights of use, most of which it was taken down each day.
The vestibule is a must have item and really adds to the value of this tent. We had four rainy, windy days on one trip, and the vestibule was a godsend. It kept lots of gear dry and protected, and allowed us to hang dry clothes inside it with the side doors open by letting wind blow through the vestibule and keeping the clothes dry. Quite a feat !
This tent has great ventilation even with the fly on it. Without the fly it's practically a big screenhouse. When visiting friends at their cottage, I have even set up a Full Size Aero Bed inside the tent (the one that's as tall as a regular bed). It fit no problem and was an incredible place for an afternoon nap.
I like the sunny colors of the tent. Friends who have used it all comment on how it improves their mood just walking into it. It has been very stable in high wind and is very well made. The poles are all of excellent quality with no funky hubs that could be hard to fix if the worst happened.
We always use it for canoe camping, but it should fit in a kayak just fine.
The real beauty of the voyager comes when paddling it loaded with gear though. Empty, it is a bit twitchy and my hips get a workout from the initial stability. The secondary stability is fantastic though. With a load in it, the Voyager settles in and is very comfortable and stable. It paddles just about as well, and doesn't get blown around any where near as bad as it does empty.
I don't really have any reservations about using it as a day paddler, but would choose my Advantage over it for that use. But when going for a trip the Voyager is an awesome solo craft. I paddle the Wisconsin River a couple times a year in it, often accompanying friends who are paddling my Sundowner 18. Granted, I am a stronger paddler than them, but I never have any trouble keeping up (in fact it's sometimes the other way around).
As a solo tripper, it's a 10. As an empty day paddler I would rate it an 8. The Voyager is very seaworthy and a lot of fun to play with in waves. I am very seriously considering a cover for it for windy days, but I don't like the idea of drilling it for snaps.
I have a number of solo canoes, and my main tandem had been a Wenonah Sundowner 18. I really like the Sundowner, but wanted something that paddled better with a big load of gear in it and lighter (my Sunny is glass). I have not been a fan of wood trim and the associated maintenance and weight. I didn't care for the aluminum gunnels on the Northwoods I test paddled, and when we pulled down a wood trimmed Northy I was simply in love with the look of it. I continue to like the look and feel of the wood gunnels more and more every time we hit the water. After I added a bunch of Watco oil, the wood is amazing.
I find the canoe to be very easy to carry and load by myself. I am really happy with the seaworthiness of the Northwoods. We have been in some amazing conditions with it and have stayed dry every time. I suspect my Sundowner is a touch faster when empty, but the difference is very small. The Northwoods seems faster when paddled loaded though, and by a larger margin. It feels really secure with a load in it too.
The Northwoods is noticeably easier to turn than the Sundowner due to the slight rocker. It is also a bit more work to keep it moving straight, but it still tracks extremely well. I am not blindly in love with it though. A few things I don't care for is the lack of a sliding bow seat. I also wish a tractor type seat was an option. My legs fall asleep on occasion on the bench. I considered putting in contoured seats, but for now I have added an inflatable Thermarest style pads which have helped. I prefer the tractor seats in my Wenonahs and Sawyers (and my main paddling partner has an even stronger opinion on this). It also needs a footrest added in the stern. I have added a Wenonah adjustable brace last week, but haven't used it yet. I had been using a neoprene heel pad which helped a lot, but it needed a real foot brace. I have also replaced the rope loop at the bow with a plastic coated stainless cable so I can securely lock the canoe when running shuttles.
Overall it is a great canoe, and the build quality on mine is absolutely fantastic ! The way the cloth was laid in the mold was smooth and symmetrical. The trimming of the cloth and wood was very precise, much better than any of my Wenonah or Sawyer canoes have been, and that's not to say they were at all bad. But the Bell is exceptional.
For a couple years the boat sat pretty much unused as I have several solo canoes that get used a ton, but then a friend and I were going for a 4 day river trip on the Wisconsin river and decided there was no better tool in my fleet than the Sundowner. We started using it for day paddles and couldn't believe what a joy it was to paddle empty. It's a genuinely fast canoe !
I am used to backpack style camping, bringing minimal gear (what's a sleeping bag?) and generally did the same in a solo canoe or kayak. We decided we had room to do luxury camping in the Sundowner including real folding chairs, a small gas grill and so on. We had a pretty good load going and I was a little nervous about how much less freeboard we had, but the boat paddled great with that 'big car ride' and we made exceptional time.
We even ran into some submerged logs and it handled it with aplomb. We took in a quart of water on a big incident, but the Sunny was very easy to handle in tough times and came away without even a mark. This year we did a similar trip covering 90+ miles in four days at a time when the locals were saying it would be tough going with the low water levels. We packed light to stay high in the water and by staying in the current and off the sand bars we were fairly flying.
I have 9 canoes and kayaks, and while my Wenonah Advantage solo canoe is still the one I paddle the most, the Sundowner is my favorite boat of the fleet when a good bow paddler comes along. I would consider it better suited as a day paddler for average to larger size people than to big gear hauling tripping, but for a bit lighter weight paddlers or if you pack reasonably it makes a fine tripper as well.
For flatwater and modestly wavy lakes and slower rivers it is a joy to paddle. It has great secondary stability and decent initial stability. I used to have a Sawyer Shockwave in glass layup which was a very comparable canoe. Truth is, if the Shockwave were still made I would have bought one over the Advantage because the seat had adjustable height and angle and the footbrace could be adjusted in seconds with no tools. (Wenonah has just redesigned their foot rest and the new design is excellent). The Shockwave was slightly faster as well, but by an un-important amount.
I am on the heavy side (250 lbs give or take) and it paddles just fine for me. I also have a Wenonah Voyager which is a foot or so longer and narrower with more freeboard.
The Voyager is a better boat for extended tripping with a lot of gear and is faster (longer narrower), but I feel (as do 7 or 8 people who I have had paddle them back to back) that the Advantage is a more pleasurable boat to be in.
With an improved footbrace and seat mount I would give it a ten.