A review of the Esquif Pocket Canyon tandem whitewater canoe from Rapid magazine.
Over the last 10 years, Esquif Canoes of Frampton, Quebec, has assembled a river tripping and whitewater line-up that blows every other whitewater canoe manufacturer out of the water.
Quebec’s plentiful big-water play spots, backyard runs and remote northern rivers have no doubt inspired Esquif’s relentless innovation and 28 (and counting) available designs.
ESQUIF POCKET CANYON SPECS
Length: 14 ft 6 in
Width: 34.5 in
Depth: 16 in
Weight: 59 lbs
MSRP: $1,650 CDN / $1,436 U.S.
Given their birthplace, it’s fitting that nearly all of these boats fall into two distinct streams: whitewater play and river tripping. While a few versatile designs have blurred this distinction, none does so quite as smoothly as the Pocket Canyon.
As you may have guessed, the Pocket Canyon is a downsized version of its big sister, the bestselling Canyon.
While the 16.5-foot Canyon has long been a popular choice of paddlers looking for an expedition-oriented, but still whitewater capable boat, Esquif owner and designer Jacques Chasse thought it was time to create a new niche for moving water canoeists.
“Looking closer at their needs, I realized [most paddlers] might use the Canyon’s expedition potential once in their lives, so I decided to offer them something more adept at playing on the river and canoe camping for a weekend or week,” says Chasse.
Chasse describes the Pocket Canyon, released in 2008, as a “smaller, lighter and smarter version” of the Canyon. Its intelligence lies in the versatility of the design—it paddles well both tandem and solo, in rapids and flat water, and for shorter tripping and playing.
Esquif places the Pocket Canyon in its river tripping line, but it really fits somewhere in between tripping boats like the Canyon and dedicated whitewater saddle tandems like Esquif’s Vertige X or Mad River’s Caption.
At 14.5 feet with four inches of rocker bow and stern, the Pocket Canyon is supremely maneuverable and flat spins in a hole or surfs on a wave with ease. With an extra two feet of length and 16 pounds of heft, the Canyon simply can’t touch its nimble pocket sibling when it comes to playing your way down a river.
Standard webbed seats can be outfitted with thigh straps for whitewater and allow the Pocket Canyon to be used as a competent and comfortable tripper.
Paddle it backward and you have an extremely solid solo boat for extended river expeditions. There’s enough room for two large canoe barrels, one fore and one aft of the contoured yoke. Hull speed and stability, both loaded and unloaded, are very good for a boat of this length. Soft chines make it easy to initiate and hold a carving edge.
We paddled the Pocket Canyon in our backyard river, the Madawaska, and found it well suited to the moderate rapids of this classic weekend trip. Loaded with gear, it handles like a small, stable tripper.
Once at camp, however, you can dump your kit onshore and the Pocket Canyon transforms into a fun, agile playboat that will have you surfing and spinning long after dinner. For sheer fun and versatility, the Pocket Canyon is hard to beat.
If you’re coming from a tripping background and aren’t keen on paddling a canoe with saddles, yet want a multipurpose tandem that can handle much of the same water as a dedicated whitewater boat, the Pocket Canyon is definitely worth a look.