Boat Review: Old Town Canoes Discovery 169

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Nestled amongst the carbon fiber hulls, sleek silhouettes and gorgeous cherry wood trims in the garage, Old Town‘s Discovery 169 canoe stands alone. It’s a little thicker around the middle, a bit more chunky in its trim. Certainly, at 91 pounds, it’s one of the “bigger-boned” tandems we’ve ever tested.

Some might be tempted to pass over this husky polyethylene tripper in favor of a slimmer and sexier option—but we wouldn’t. The venerable Discovery 169 is perfect for your next family expedition. Here’s why.

Old Town Canoe Discovery 169 Canoe Specs
Length: 16 ft 9 in
Width: 37 in
Depth: 15 in
Weight: 91 lbs
Capacity: 1,400 lbs
Material: Three-Layer Polyethylene
Price: $1,099

A stable tandem canoe by Old Town Canoe

Renowned for the last three decades for its versatility and durability, the Discovery 169 is favored by Scout camps, outfitters, trippers and recreational paddlers who want to paddle far, bring lots of gear and forget about babying their precious boats.

You might already know how this boat handles because it seems like everyone has paddled the Disco at least once. If so, it’s just as you remember: agile, stable and easy to handle.

Its stable shallow-arch hull and 37-inch beam ensure the family hound and kids can throw themselves side-to-side wildly with barely a wobble. And measuring just under 17 feet, it maintains good hull speed once you get it going and the bow slices nicely through the water with an efficient glide. Thanks to the moderate rocker, it’s easily maneuverable.

The Discovery 169 recreational canoe has loads of carrying capacity

If you need carrying capacity, the Disco has it in spades. This recreational canoe will be perfect for all your camping gear. Rated to carry a max of 1,400 pounds, we don’t think we could ever carry enough gear and passengers to sink it. Best yet, the flat and fat plastic gunwales might be the best we’ve ever perched on for an epic bob-off. The kids will love it.

The Discovery series debuted in 1984, but its origins are traced back a further six years to when Old Town Canoes created the Old Town Tripper in Royalex in 1978—at the time a state-of-the-art canoe.

No worries about running up on shore or bumping rocks downriver—the Discovery can take a beating.

Following the famous stunt in which Old Town Canoes threw a Royalex Tripper off their factory rooftop to prove the new boat was nearly unbreakable, the team designed a new even heavier-duty material in three-layer polyethylene.

[ Read more: The Best Canoe Material: Canoe Buying Tips ]

“They took the Tripper design, and basically made the same hull in three-layer polyethylene and called it the Discovery, says Old Town rep Scott Phillips of the Discovery’s origin story. While accessories and seating arrangements have been updated and the series is now offered in five different sized models, the hull itself hasn’t changed much, he adds.

Family paddling is full of fun fun fun! | Photo: Hannah Griffin
Family paddling is full of fun fun fun! | Photo: Hannah Griffin

Old Town Canoe’s heavy but durable 17-foot canoe

That tough-as-nails three-layer construction is a sandwich comprised of closed cell foam surrounded by layers of high-density linear polyethylene. No worries about running up on shore or bumping rocks downriver—the Discovery can take a beating.

In fact, we see many from the ‘80s still on the water today. By now, many paddlers have long since altered the model name on the bow, scratching off letters until it simply reads, Disco ‘69. “The jury is still out on how long these boats will last—they just keep going,” says Phillips.

With the loss of Royalex from the canoe market, Phillips adds there’s been renewed interest in the Discovery and its three-layer poly lay-up

“It’s the next best thing,” he argues. “The only thing Royalex hulls had over the three-layer poly was lighter weight. The Discovery is more durable, its abrasion resistance is better and it’s even less expensive.”

I wouldn’t be the first to volunteer to solo carry this heifer—especially without a dished yoke. We might opt for another canoe for a portage-heavy route. However, on any other type of trip the Discovery’s carrying capacity and easy handling have won us over. With the Disco ‘69, there’s simply more to love.

v15-iss3-Canoeroots--248x300.jpgThis article originally appeared in the Canoeroots
Summer/Fall 2016 issue.

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