TuffStuff Review: Nova Craft Prospector 16 Canoe

Paddling Buyer’s Guide


Nova Craft Canoe Prospector 16 Specs
Length: 16 ft
Width: 36 in
Center Depth: 15 in
Rocker: 2.5 in
Capacity: 1,000 LBS

Nobody in the last six months has called me asking how the Nova Craft Canoe Prospector 16 paddles. Not a single outfitter, guide, instructor or weekend tripper. Why? Because they should already know. It hasn’t changed shape since it was introduced way back in the 1970s.

We first reviewed the Royalex Prospector 16 exactly 13 years ago. It was one of five contenders in the light tripping tandem canoe shootout that appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of Rapid. Sixteen-footers, like Nova Craft Canoe‘s Prospector 16, are nimble enough to make you want to practice surfing a wave, or carry back up and hit a drop eddy until you completely nail it

Nova Craft’s TuffStuff may be an alternative to Royalex

When you’ve had your fun, this workhorse will fit enough barrels and packs for real wilderness travel. What is new about this Prospector 16 is Nova Craft’s composite material they’ve branded TuffStuff.

The Innegra-basalt blend is billed as an ultra-durable, moderately-priced, sub-60-pound offering for trippers and whitewater paddlers. Rapid wanted to find out just how tough TuffStuff really is.

How tough is TuffStuff? So, I lifted the pristine canoe off my truck, carried it down to the river’s edge and tossed it over my head and onto a pile of rocks. CRACK! To our surprise (and slight disappointment) there was hardly a mark on it. In the right light, you could see the gel coat was dented just a little. So we tossed it again. And again.

It wasn’t until all 59 pounds landed on one protruding rock did we so much as crack the paint. Where the rock made contact, the gel coat finally cracked and on the inside, the paint broke in the same spots. Nova Craft’s TuffStuff Expedition core did not so much as tear a fiber.

The Prospector 16 TuffStuff is immune to rocks on the river

On the water, I paddled the canoe full speed into every rock on the river. Shallow ones sent me grinding up and over. Exposed rocks with steep faces slammed me to a dead stop, ejecting me like a crash test dummy out of my seat and over the yoke. It looked so ridiculous a crowd was gathering on the shore. Eventually, I paddled over to explain. I paddle here often; I was afraid people would talk.

The calls I have been getting from livery business owners and paddlers have all been for one reason. They, like those watching me from shore, all want to know what happens to TuffStuff when it’s wrapped. Completely wrapped canoes don’t happen all that often, and when they do, no matter what the material, the boat ends up a complete mess. Wrapping the Prospector before a long-term beatdown is a waste of a perfectly good boat and a perfectly good opportunity to put on a season’s worth of real abuse.

When Tim Miller delivered the Prospector he made a point of telling me he wanted it thoroughly tested. This from a guy who tossed a TuffStuff Prospector from his 10-story warehouse rooftop. So, our Prospector 16 is going on loan to a local whitewater paddling school.

Then it’s spending a couple of weeks on the Dumoine River with some inner-city kids. If it’s still in one piece, my son, Doug, and I will bump it down the Noire River. If you have a trip lined up for late summer or early fall and are willing to pick it up at the Rapid office, you too can have a go at it. When and if it survives all this—and after our initial testing, we expect it will—then we’ll wrap it, and wrap it good.


This article first appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Rapid Magazine.

Subscribe to Paddling Magazine and get 25 years of digital magazine archives including our legacy titles: Rapid, Adventure Kayak and Canoeroots.

0/5 (0 Reviews)

This content was made possible with the support of Ontario Creates.

Ontario Creates logo