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Submitted: 05-22-2009 by Steve_in_Idaho
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We lived with the 16' Camper through most of last year, and got to know it well. For what it is designed to do, Old Town has a winner in the Camper. This boat has primary stability enough to please anyone who should be in a boat, and will haul a pretty good load. It is roomy and comfortable and maneuvers easily. It is well-suited to class 1 flat water, and will handle a little chop - although it gets uneasy pretty quick if you don't pay attention when the water starts getting rough. And at ~59lbs, the Camper is easy to carry but still plenty tough for hard use.

In spite of what one might expect, we found the Camper to be better on rivers than on lakes. It turns well and sideslips easily, but straight tracking requires more attention to technique - and with a light load, the boat is easily pushed around by the wind. We found it best used on the nearby shallow class 1 river, where it handled tight turns well and slid easily through riffles and mini-rapids over shallow gravel bars.

The Camper also made a pretty good poling platform on that same river. It's very easy to learn to stand in and tracks well upstream when trimmed heavy to stern, and compared to the Nova Craft Prospector that we replaced it with, the Camper glides easier over extreme shallows and carves a turn with less "offside lean" when poling (though not quite as easy to turn with paddles). But it lacks secondary stability to tackle the rough stuff or the turbulence found under even class 1+ drops and the powerful eddies around wing-dikes, when poling upstream.

For the average novice paddler, or for anyone not interested in anything above class 1 and calm lakes, the Camper should serve well - but I find a boat that relies heavily on primary stability to be too limiting. Of the boats that we have owned, for flat water, I prefer the Old Town Penobscot, and in rivers with any excitement to them, I prefer the Nova Craft Prospector. We also have a Wenonah Fisherman that does as well as the Camper in extreme shallows while also providing good secondary stability and easier flat water tracking - although it's a bit slower and doesn't track as well going upstream while poling.

In short - the Camper is a pretty good class 1 river boat and pretty good for fishing and such on small (windless) lakes - especially for novices who are intimidated by a livelier hull. Easy to carry and car-top while still very durable. And good-looking, as well. But for anyone that might want to get into more exciting waters with comfortable control, I would advise to skip to something designed to lean more toward secondary stability and take the time to get accustomed to the "tippiness".

I believe these numerical ratings should reflect how well the manufacturer's design fits it's intention, the quality of construction, choice of materials, and it's ease of use - without comparing boats of different performance categories on the water. I give the Camper a 9, because Old Town could pay a little more attention to grain quality in it's wood seat frames - not a big deal.

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