Submitted: 09-18-2008 by Edson
I've had my Mistral for two years now and feel better able to give a more complete and rounded review.
Appearance/Outfitting: My Mistral is black with a whitish interior. It has web seats hung from the gunnels. The seats are high enough to put your feet under for kneeling. It has a very comfortable wooden yoke which probably seems more comfortable because the boat is listed at 52 pounds. I have not weighed the boat and I see that Esquif now lists the Mistral at 58 pounds. This could be because the newer versions have a foam core to aid with floatation. Mine has no foam core so, evidently, if you have no other floatation, the boat will sink if swamped. I haven't tried this yet. Esquif sent out two foam blocks cut to fit in the bow and stern but I haven't used them. On day trips I always take along some dry bags or other floatation and on trips I have my gear tied in. The boat also has comfortable carrying handles as part of the bow and stern deck.
Performance: Overall, I continue to be very, very impressed by the Mistral for a variety of reasons.
This boat will hold a lot of stuff. I have taken week-long trips with lots of gear and had a lot of free space.
The Mistral has 3.5" of rocker in the bow and stern and maneuvers very well. With a load, going straight isn't too much of a problem but with an empty canoe and some wind you do have to pay attention. It is quite a dry ride in waves and handles confused currents and lake waves from the side very well.
The Mistral is surprisingly fast. I've had it on day trips and camping trips with a variety of other canoes and it seems to have no trouble keeping up, if not being at the front of the group.
I certainly can't speak with any authority on the Twin-tex material but it does seem to be able to take some banging without any problem. I have one long scrape (I don't remember exactly what happened) that is a little deeper than I would like. I guess if I have any reservation it is with the ability of the material to stand up to repeated dragging over sharp rocks but then, how many materials do well with being dragged repeatedly over sharp rocks?
I believe that field repairs can be done with duct tape but that more permanent repairs require that the boat be returned to your dealer who has some sort of specialized machine that does the repairs. That sounds like a real negative but Esquif has had this material in some of their whitewater models and it has a proven record of taking all sorts of abuse.
Final verdict: This is a very nice boat. It is light, carries a load, handles waves well, maneuvers well, is surprisingly fast and it is tough.