When H2O Canoe Company owner, Jeff Hill, dropped off a fleet of three Prospectors at Paddling Magazine’s riverside office, there was one design that immediately caught my eye: the H2O Prospector 15-4 canoe.
H2O Prospector 15-4 Specs
Depth at center: 14”
Weight: 32 lbs
Material: Epoxy Pro Series, Clear Carbon
The H2O Prospector canoe is sleek and nimble
Sleek. Black. Sexy. The H2O Prospector 15-4 canoe in carbon is surely the Corvette of the tandem-tripping world. Given Hill’s background in manufacturing world-class composite rowing shells, the svelte and speedy shape of the 15-4 should come as no surprise.
Blending old and new
A scaled down version of H2O’s bestselling 16-4, which takes its lines from a Chestnut Canoe Company original, the 15-4’s symmetrical hull and two-and-a-half inches of rocker in bow and stern create a nimble craft. Its initial stability may feel loose for beginners, but more advanced paddlers will appreciate its maneuverability and responsiveness to tilt. I was impressed with its ease of handling while paddling upriver solo and unloaded, in a headwind.
Modernity and tradition meld in this design. The dished yoke and molded carry handles are made of durable poplar and stained near black. H2O’s attractive integrated composite gunwale system is ultra stylish, featuring a foam-cored gunwale wrapped in carbon, with an outer aluminum trim—it cuts the weight of regular aluminum gunwales almost in half.
Yet, for such a contemporary canoe, the H2O Prospector 15-4 retains elements of its heritage—there’s a gentle re-curve in the bow and stern, and the sharp entry lines of its traditional shape flare out quickly.
Clear Carbon lay-up is a winner
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, H2O has made a name for itself producing lightweight, high-end composite canoes. New for 2015 is their Epoxy Pro Series, of which our tester is a part. This premium series features three all-new lay-ups, each of which combines Kevlar, carbon and a basalt-Innegra blend in varying degrees to get different combinations of strength, impact resistance, weight and price.
Our 32-pound Clear Carbon tester, the lightest and priciest in the series, boasts a primarily carbon hull with a carbon-Kevlar interior and basalt-Innegra lining. The H2O Prospector 15-4 canoe is also available in a mostly basalt-Innegra composite, the toughest lay-up in the Epoxy Pro Series and weighing in at 40 pounds, as well as a mostly Kevlar lay-up, a compromise between weight (37 pounds), durability and price.
H2O was one of the first canoe manufacturers to integrate ultra-tough basalt-Innegra blends into their hulls, a move that is a growing trend in the industry. It’s because H2O is a smaller company that they’re able to adapt and incorporate material innovations quickly, Hill tells me. “We’re becoming the biggest little company; if there’s something out there, we’re going to try it,” says Hill.
Big plans for our H2O Prospector canoes
The H2O Prospector 15-4 is a stylish and maneuverable composite canoe perfect for tandem trippers. The Clear Carbon lay-up is a lightweight dream, sure to help you power through portages. As for the other two Prospectors H2O loaned us? We have plans to paddle our H2O convoy on a long weekend summer trip—stay tuned for more.
Video of the H2O Canoe Company’s Epoxy Pro Series:
Scott MacGregor speaks with H2O Canoe Company owner, Jeff Hill, about the all-new Epoxy Pro series. Using a combination of new and traditional hull materials, the H20 team set out to design 30- to 40-pound boats that have the strength and durability associated with far heavier layups. Hill showcases the all-new light and durable series, including the H2O Prospector 15-4 canoe:
This article first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Canoeroots Magazine.
Subscribe to Paddling Magazine and get 25 years of digital magazine archives including our legacy titles: Rapid, Adventure Kayak and Canoeroots.