06-24-2011Submitted by: Nick
Reviews for Northwoods Canoe by Bell Canoe Works
Based On: 13 Reviews
- Rating: 9 of 10 I love the Northwoods. Bell is no longer in production, so this may be a pointless review, but you still may find a used one here or there. If you do I'd say get it. I've had an older Whitegold version, and now have a Blackgold/woodtrim version. On a recent trip to the BWCA I was with a weak bow paddler. I'm a somewhat strong paddler and I was still running faster than a pair of reasonably strong paddlers in another tandem. (SR Q17) We had a big load, but it didn't slow us down. When I'm with a strong paddler this thing will fly regardless of the load. The tracking is excellent, although I did find that I needed to make quite a few corrections to compensate for the weaker bow paddler. I don't really blame the boat for that though.
I've never once felt unstable in either of the Northwoods I've owned. Whether fully loaded or just with fishing gear its always felt solid. We did get blown around a bit in 20mph winds with a light load one day, but were able to maintain a course fairly well despite the light load as long as we communicated and really dug in when we needed to.
I also found that despite its size it was fairly comfortable to fish from solo in the early morning calm. I would never take it out like that in breezier weather, but it worked out great for this trip. I'm probably going to replace the rear thwart with a kneeling thwart just for that purpose.
Overall I love this boat. If you get one you'll love it too. If you find one, grab it! You'll be glad you did. While you're at it you may as well get a 75+ lb dog, you'll have room for it.
08-14-2009Submitted by: SteveR
- Rating: 8 of 10 I have paddled the BWCA for decades, but never in a canoe with as many attributes as this one. The BlackGold with wood trim is first a looker, then it proves itself. I shall not repeat the kudos of other reviewers, save that I enjoy thinking back with good riddance on the 80+ lbs. canoes of my youth as I easily trek my Northwoods and a pack along a portage in my fifties.
As a note of caution to buyers considering this gem, I did find it very difficult to paddle into the wind with an inexperienced bow paddler and only fishing gear. The slightest wind would push the bow away from the wind and I would have to dig mightily in order to right the course. I had the same problem with solo paddling while empty, (save for some fishing gear) even when paddling from amidships.
This problem may be true of any canoe, but all hull design involves compromises. The lightness of weight and stability while heavily loaded come at a price while traveling lightly.
05-18-2009Submitted by: H20fly
- Rating: 10 of 10 Tested the Northwoods and the MinnII recently. We were thrilled to wake up to a blasting wind so we could determine the cross, up and down wind handling characteristics. Neither boat was loaded but it became immediately apparent that the Bell is far superior in stability, primary and secondary. In the cross wind we were not sure we would make it back to shore in the Wenonah MinnII. We have since purchased a Northwoods and are most pleased with it.
03-24-2008Submitted by: yetiman
- Rating: 10 of 10 I picked up a 2007 KevLight Northwoods with full wood trim late last summer.
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.
09-11-2006Submitted by: raisedbybears
- Rating: 10 of 10 An incredible canoe. We've used the Bell Northwoods in the BWCA, Quetico, and Woodland Caribou Park for many years and the only complaint I have in all that time, was getting stuck in a sudden heavy quartering wind, making the canoe hard to keep on course with an inexperienced bow paddler. Even this was not a problem once we were able to move packs toward the bow.
12-08-2004Submitted by: ---
- Rating: 10 of 10 My kevlar/carbon Northwoods is a real gem of a tripping boat. Several trips to the BWCA have proven to me that you can have a boat that tracks great and yet has good maneuverability. I've done trips in Wenonah Min II's and the Spirit II, and they match the Bell for speed and maneuverability, but not both in a single boat. My paddling partner is 100lbs lighter than I am, and even with an empty boat on Lake of the Isles, it tracks and handles great.
04-12-2004Submitted by: ---
- Rating: 10 of 10 We've owned a Bell Northwoods for three years. We'd been using a We-no-nah Minnesota II for a number of years before that and never liked the initial stability on that canoe. We were constantly swiveling to stay balanced. Wears your back out. We paddled out among the Apostle Islands with the MN II and wondered if we would get back alive We tried out the Bell Northwoods, along with five other brands of canoes (we initially went to the dealers to buy a Sawyer), and as soon as we tried the Northwoods my wife and I began arguing about whose canoe this would be. It was love at first sight (or maybe at first sit).
We've taken the Northwoods on many trips in the BWCA, Quetico, Woods Caribou Provincial Park, and to the Pas. Highly recommend it as a long haul tripper. We had a little steering problem with a quartering bow wind one time when we had a light paddler in the bow and all the packs were toward the rear of the canoe. This was easily rectified by moving the packs forward. The canoe is a ten and much superior to any other tripper I've used (we own seven canoes and have tried many others over the years).
08-25-2003Submitted by: John Rankin
- Rating: 10 of 10 I have had a Bell Northwoods Black gold, wood trim for four years now. I paddle about 30 days per summer both flat water, moving water canoe, and kayak as well as sea kayaking. The Northwoods is one of many canoes I paddle. It is also the most stable, fastest, and the best tripper I have been in. My wife loves the fact that it does not rock back and forth but sits flat. She find this easy on her back. We paddled a two hundred mile trip on the Georgian bay with sea kayaks. We had no problem keeping up with the sea kayaks or handling the waves. In fact one day the waves were about 5 feet high and on occasion they were breaking. The Northwoods managed them very well even side ways. The cane seats however are not my favorite. This canoe can be paddled solo very easily holding it's line in wind and moving fast. It turns very fast when tilted and well when flat. Tilting it is fun due to the super secondary stability. It is manoverable enogh for swamps and small creeks. Two good paddlers can cover a lot of ground in this canoe and carry a ton of gear, dogs and kids. It is a breeze to portage. The hull is very stiff and strong standing up well to hidden rocks. I would buy another one and highly recommend it.
06-26-2003Submitted by: retracy
- Rating: 10 of 10 I picked up my Black Gold Northwoods at an auction used. What a beauty!!!! My wife and I have 3 children and we can all fit in this canoe. I added a 3rd seat for our oldest and let the 2 little ones sit on square floatation devices. This boat flies.. I can give a few strong paddle strokes and it keeps going and going. We were on a small lake that only allowed trolling motors and we were the speed boat on the lake!
09-05-2002Submitted by: ---
- Rating: 10 of 10 About two weeks ago me and my 7 year old son came from our second trip to Quetico. This year we went on our own boat Bell Northwoods balck gold. We did 90 miles on 28 lakes trough 30 portages. Northwoods exceeded my expectations. It is very fast even when you solo paddle it like did with a full load, my son and my dog. It has tremendous amount of glide on calm water. In waves and wind it has unbelivable secondary stability and thanks to differential rocker it has, keeps a bow on the course. The only drawback is that black gold layup that we have altough is the strongest it shows every little scratch on the hull. You really want to "wet foot" this boat on portage landings. In summary this is a top of the line wilderness tripper. I highly recomend it, especially to fathers with sons looking for great experience in the wilderness.
07-15-2002Submitted by: DaveT
- Rating: 10 of 10 Just got our black/gold Northwoods about two weeks ago. Sharon & I had been paddling a Sundowner 18 which we both disliked. The Northwoods was a fantastic change! I cruises very fast for a tripper, turns extremely easily when loaded and flat. But most importantly it holds course like a dream. Even in a stiff wind we could keep our direction without having to switch repeatedly or by doing a lot of correction strokes. We just finished a four day trip on the Chippewa Flowage in WI and played in powerboat wakes. I have never had a canoe that felt so stable in wakes. Head-on, angled, following, or broached, the Northwoods is VERY stable. We paddled it loaded and empty and found that it handles solidly at all times. My old Sundowner always had a transition period when waves slid under the hull (especially quartering waves) when it felt a bit unsettled. The Northwoods is designed so there appears to be no flat surface for the waves to catch and produce this feeling. I give the tripper a 10+ for performance.
Looks are another 10+!! Black/gold with a bow slider and aluminum trim. It is 5 pounds lighter than the wood trim model. An absolutely beautiful canoe.
07-10-2001Submitted by: RLW
- Rating: 10 of 10 My wife and I have been going to the Quetico park in Canada for 11 years. We own five canoes; including our original used Mad River Discovery,two solos, a custom cedar strip 17 foot Kudros Navigator, and our two year old Bell Northwoods "Black Gold". This 58 pound kevlar and carbon fiber proprietary lay up is the best wilderness touring canoe we have ever paddled.
We take two weeks in September for our trip and cover about 15 to 20 lakes and many more portages. The weather can be pretty bad this late in the summer and white caps with wind bound days are not uncommon. This boat is the driest and fastest we have tried. We not only love it's performance, but you cannot beat the wood gunnals,wicker seats, and the black with gold hints of the hull. We recommend the Bell Northwoods to anyone who
wants a dry, light weight, high volume wilderness tripper
04-09-2001Submitted by: BJCB
- Rating: 10 of 10 I recommend this boat enthusiastically. It can carry a huge load and still offer superb performance. I rented a pair of Northwoods' on my most recent Boundary Waters trip. We weren't exactly traveling light on this trip: the crew roster included five adults, my ten-month-old daughter, and a big, happy, dumb dog. We carried more gear than I would have dreamed of until I became a Daddy.
The Northwoods proved both fast and stable. Most of the way in, we paddled against whitecaps churned up by a strong quartering headwind. The boats seemed to have a tremendous amount of bouyancy, even when carrying such a heavy load. They shrugged off the waves and spray effortlessly. Stability was excellent; there was never a moment when we seemed in danger of tipping. And, despite the circumstances, they seemed to track straight and true. The return trip was made in calmer weather, and the Northwoods seemed to move quickly through the water without a great deal of effort. Despite the 18'6" length, I found it fairly easy to turn.
It also bears mentioning that, from an aesthetic standpoint, this is a beautiful boat. I would like to have one in the black/gold layup, with wood trim. It's not the absolute lightest canoe in its class, but it's easily portaged. I've been told that its hull offers greater durability than some lighter boats posess.
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