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Compared to my Mad River explorer, there is no contest - the prospector is a better tripper. Compared to the XL Tripper, the prospector is more maneuverable and lighter, but both perform well on big lakes (I'd take the prospector and put a spray cover on it). Compared to the Nova Craft Prospector, the trailhead boat is a bit stiffer and deeper, but not quite as flat, so it has a bit less initial stability.
I give it a nine so I have room to credit any new boats. It is my favourite tripping boat right now, though.
I found that the Prospector was hard to handle on the flatwater and open lakes where we had lots of side and quartering tail winds. It seemed that almost every stroke required a fair bit of correction on it in order to maintain a straight line. It really didn't matter how the canoe was trimmed fore to aft, it still wanted to turn in the wind. I thought it was just me for most of the trip, but then one of the others paddling a 16' version complained of the same problem.
In the whitewater, this canoe did handle quite well. My main point of reference is a fiberglass 17' Clipper Ranger which is much easier to track a straight line while still being capable in moving water. I rented the royalex canoe because the Paull River is shallow and rocky and it was very nice to have something that slid over the rocks so well without worry. I found the weight to be heavy (compared to fiberglass), but manageable over the long rough portages we encountered. In comparison to the other Royalex canoe I have paddled, the OT Tripper, I was much happier with the Trailhead Prospector.
In the end I was glad to have spent several days in this canoe under a variety of conditions because I now know that I should try a few other designs before I purchase a royalex tripping canoe.
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