Gear Review: Wenonah Prism Canoe

The Wenonah Prism is a fast and light solo canoe that is an excellent choice for 1-2 week trips (if you travel light) or longer trips that have resupply options.

I bought the Prism in the Tuf-weave layup for my solo trip from Omaha to Memphis. Going into the trip, I had a list of challenges that the canoe would need to meet. These included long paddling days, big waves and high wind, rocky banks, and 1 week stretches without resupplying. After lots of research, I narrowed the list of potential boats down to one: the Prism. It is fast and has excellent tracking, which helped me to knock out 70 miles days in bad weather. It has a low freeboard compared to other multi-day canoes, which means less time struggling in the wind. It’s length (16′ 6”) and secondary stability make for smooth paddling in big waves.

Necessary Wenonah Prism Modifications for Expeditions

I did make two additions to the Prism before heading out. First, I knew my primary challenge would be the wind. So I made custom fore and aft spray covers to deflect the wind and the rain. I’m confident these covers made a big difference because 20 mph winds were a good day, 30 mph winds were annoying but workable, and 50 mph winds were dangerous but I didn’t die. The spray covers also catch water drops when switching the paddle. In normal conditions, these drops of water would not be a big issue, but in the winter they quickly cover the dry sacks and interior of the canoe in thick layers of ice. The second addition I made was a Crazy Creek canoe chair for back support, though the standard tractor seat is reasonably comfortable.

The Prism’s Storage Capacity

Initially, I was concerned about having enough storage space for food, water, and gear. I based this concern on other online reviews and first-hand testimony that the Prism is only suitable for 2-4 day trips. But those other reviews are wrong. Personally, I don’t pack the kitchen sink and bathroom vanity when I paddle. I easily packed 1.5-2 weeks worth of food and water in addition to all of my winter gear. Storage is not an issue for the Prism.

How Stable is the Wenonah Prism?

The Prism’s initial balance is not beginner friendly. Also, if you like to stand and paddle, the Prism is not the best boat for you. That said, the Prism’s secondary stability is excellent. The boat cruised through the big rolling waves that crisscrossed the river around busy ports like St. Louis. And it easily stayed upright when I found myself between an outside bend of the Mississippi River and a massive barge fleet as the tugboat slammed on the gas. The canoe also kept me dry even though I paddled over every other flooded wing dike between St. Louis and Memphis. For reference, the tallest waves I paddled through were plus or minus 4 feet from trough to crest.

The Wenonah Prism’s Stock Tractor Seat

The Prism comes with an adjustable tractor seat that can slide along the length of the canoe. This is a great feature that allows you to trim the boat while on the go. For example, if there is a killer headwind and you want to lower the bow, just slide forward. For paddlers who like to kneel and paddle, the tractor seat kind of gets in the way, but it depends on flexibility. I was able to tuck my legs under the sides of the seat, essentially locking me into the canoe. This arrangement is great for serious paddling through rough water.

The Prism also has an adjustable foot brace. The foot brace is critical because it allows you to paddle more efficiently, with a greater percentage of the total expended power getting transferred into the stroke.

The foot brace hides a lesser known feature of the Prism. Pull out the foot brace and a 6′ tall person can sleep in the fore of the canoe. This is not the most comfortable of sleeping arrangements, but it is firm and dry should there be no other options. I have broad shoulders and tend to sleep on my side, which means that the forward thwart was an annoyance. However, this will probably be a cozy and comfortable spot for a paddler with narrow shoulders who sleeps on their back.

Tumblehome: More Than a Cool Word

The Prism has a slight tumblehome, making for comfortable paddling and a boat that looks cool.

Wenonah Prism’s Tuf-weave Composite Construction

Some people complain that the Tuf-weave is heavy. Personally, I follow the “bag of horse feed rule.” If the boat weighs less than a 50 lb bag of horse feed, then I’m psyched. After bumping over a few wings dikes and a lot of rocky landings, the bottom of the boat has more than a few scratches, but nothing to raise concern. However, the lower part of the bow is showing wear and tear, including some frayed weave on the surface. The only way to avoid this is to never run the boat aground, and instead pull up next to the shore and disembark from the side. Honestly, it’s not an issue I’m concerned about. I’ll patch it when the damage is severe enough to merit the labor. The Tuf-weave is good, but I’m not taking it down too many Ozark streams.

Overall, the Wenonah Prism is a great boat for big rivers and big lakes.

Many thanks to Wenonah and the Alpine Shop for helping me find this boat at the last minute.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s