Submitted: 09-27-2010 by Nature_Boy_1
2009 Old Town Camper 15' - Green Royalex
Having paddled only 17' aluminum canoes with a standard keel since 1970, I hesitated with this decision and did a lot of research. I was locked-in to Old Town brand for personal reasons. Having turned 60 last year and looking for a little lighter weight to be loading and unloading solo, I opted for this craft. I wanted a small, lightweight, stable canoe that would tandem as well as solo, one that would be more responsive in the smaller rivers I'm now paddling more and more, and a canoe capable of carrying camping gear for two paddlers for a few days.
I hated the cheapened look of the nylon web covered seats that Old Town is now offering, (If they would only replace the black nylon with a sand/brown color to compliment the color of the inside of the boat, it would help) so I replaced them with cane seats from Essex Industries before I got her wet. I got the contoured seats and after the first time out, I have no regrets. Wide seating area for the bow and narrow seating area for the stern. (No seat lowering done at this time)
Maiden voyage: Medium flatwater river in Illinois (Rock River)and windy conditions, paddling solo with only a camera dry-box on board. Paddled upstream first and then back down (My normal solo pattern) with a Bending Branches 60" Beavertail paddle. (I'm a 5'-6" male at 165 lbs)
Having no keel, I expected this boat to be more responsive in turning than my keeled aluminums of the past (it was much more responsive). Having upswept, recurved bow and stern, and paddling solo/empty, I expected this to be tough to handle solo in the wind. (It was, from the stern seat, but shifting to the bow seat and paddling backwards worked as expected with a marked improvement in handling) Yes, it still catches the wind more than some of the other styles would, but I'm from the old school and I like the style of the recurved bow and stern and am willing to pay some price in performance to get the look I want.
Having no keel, slight rocker, shorter length, and a hull that's slicker than stuff-on-a-doorknob, I expected a major change in stability as compared to my past crafts. (Not so! This little 15-footer was amazingly stable in a rough chop that was white-capping slightly) I wouldn't hesitate to take small children out in this canoe.
Oil-canning: Something I've never had the chance to witness in my past aluminum hulls, was present but very slightly in the rough chop I encountered. I don't see it as an issue and only mention it here to complete the review.
At 58 lbs, handling to & from the cartop was a breeze. A side lift straight up from the ground level to the shoulders showed that this Camper has perfect portage-balance. With constant pain in my hands at my age, I sprayed the carrying yoke with Krylon Non-Skid Coating (Clear) UPC 724504034001, that came out a very nice satin finish and retained the beauty of the woodgrain. That improved my grip on the yoke ten-fold. Lets face it, trying to lever a 15' long object in the wind by gripping a 2-1/2" wide surface can be challenging. The non-skid coating (Available at Ace Hardware) really improves my odds. I recommend this product for said purpose. Note! Sanding smooth the area that contacts your neck before use is a must. (No, I don't work for either of these, I just am sharing a hint that helps my dry handling of this canoe)
In summary, I cannot speak for long-term dependability, but if this canoe sticks to its initial performance, I will continue to highly recommend it as a good, stable, all-around canoe that handles well in wind and wave. It is in my opinion, a very good looking, classic-styled canoe as well (sans the black nylon web seats).
Always wear your PFD!