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Joe Noonan
It's All About The Ride was founded by Britta and Joseph Noonan. Britta and Joe are a happily married couple who share a love for travel, exploring and experiencing all that life has to offer. Currently on a work assignment away from their home in beautiful Coeur d' Alene, ID, they are presently living full-time in a fifth wheel near the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. Both Britta and Joe are adventure seekers with experiences and insights into all aspects of exploring and visiting unique locations. From camping off the back of a motorcycle to living out of an RV and exploring off the beaten path, their product and trip reviews come from first-hand knowledge and a love of seeing and experiencing all that life has to offer.

Canoe Review: Old Town Canoe's Discovery 169

Joseph Noonan Photography @ 2018, It's All About The Ride
The Discovery 169 sits on the shores of Upper Priest Lake in Northern Idaho. No homes, no traffic, no noise. Just the perfect camping experience. 

Deep in the recesses of my childhood memory bank are several wonderful trips to various lake front homes; sprinkled with a summer camp memory or two. In those memories I recall catching my first fish,  having my first beer, watching fireworks from the water and the name Old Town. It was like Coke, Tide or Kleenex. Brand names that are so synonymous with the product that they are called by their brand name as if that is what you called the competitors product. Pass me a Kleenex or I'll take a Coke, even when it is any soda. Old Town is interchangeable with Canoe. 

Old Town, like those other iconic brands, have a long storied history. Old Town boats have been made in Old Town, Maine since 1898. This longevity and lack of competition made Old Town a family name. Showing up at every lake and pond across America. The standard red or green hull color is one you will recognize from the earliest films and photos of family camping trips through the years.

Britta is really roughing it while sipping red wine and catching up on her favorite Sue Grafton novel. 

I guess that nostalgia is what made me want an Old Town for our first canoe. Reputation and quality are guaranteed built in. In addition with a large purchase like this, there is also the built in piece of mind with a company that has been around so long.

If you are in the market for a canoe, there are a couple of questions you need to answer first. What are we using for? What is my budget? How big of a canoe do I need?

Enter the Old Town Discovery series. While shopping you will be tempted by the carbon fiber hulls, sleek silhouettes and gorgeous cherry wood trims. Resist! If you have a family and want a boat for years to come that can do it all, the Discovery 169 stands alone. The Discovery 169 is a big sturdy boat that can take anything you throw at it. Certainly, at 91 pounds, it’s one of the largest double tripping canoe you can buy.

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

Renowned for the last three decades for its versatility and durability, the Discovery 169 is favored by girls and boy scout camps, hunting and fishing outfitters, weekend trippers and recreational paddlers who want to paddle far, bring lots of gear and forget about civilization for a while. 

You might already know how this boat handles because it seems like everyone has paddled the Discovery at least once. If you have the same memory of paddling a red or green canoe, chances are it was a Discovery. 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 pupper 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 efficient glide. Thanks to moderate rocker, it’s easily maneuverable. More experienced paddlers have no problem taking the big girl out solo. 

Fully loaded we had a three hour paddle up to our camp site. The Discovery 169 tracked straight and true in the wide open deep water of Priest lake.

If you need carrying capacity, the Discovery has it in spades. For us it was the main reason we purchased the Discovery. We wanted the ability to pack a weeks worth of camping gear for remote locales. 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, once camp is set up and she is unloaded. the large plastic gunwales are fantastic for hanging a pole off of while waiting for that perfect bass to strike your bobber! 

 When a remote outing requires you bring everything with you, There is plenty of space to pack.  Here I am finishing up loading the canoe for our week camp trip into Upper Priest Lake. The remote camp sites have no facilities what-so-ever. Camping like this requires a gear heavy pack. The Discovery 169 was the perfect canoe for a trip like this. Wide open water, tight thoroughfare navigation and windy open water with swells challenged the canoe and she never complained once. 

Ready and packed for a week-long trip. The Discovery held our coolers camping and fishing gear for a week. Even laden with all our gear and two passengers we never got close to the rated 1400lb carrying capacity. This boat really impressed us for a back country trip. 

The Discovery series debuted in 1984, but its origins are traced back a further six years to when Old Town created the Old Town Tripper in Royalex in 1978—at the time a state-of-the-art canoe. I remember the Tripper it was 17'4". I do recall paddling it and also an early model Discovery that was 17'4" as well. The current 16'9" is what I believe to be the sweet spot between stability, weight capacity and maneuverability. 

Following the famous stunt in which Old Town 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. “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 differently sized models, the hull itself hasn’t changed much, he adds.

That tough-as-nails three-layer construction is a sandwich comprised of closed cell foam surrounded by layers of high-density linear polyethylene. Not to much worry when running her up on a rocky shore or scraping and bumping big rocks on the river. The three-layer construction of the Discovery can take a beating. Still we found that cheap insurance for your hull is to add impact and abrasion  skid plates to your bow and stern. A extra layer of protection the will also extend the over all life of your canoe. insert this link skid-plates 

The fact is that many Discovery series boats from the 1980s  are still on the water today. By now, many owners 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.”

With the Discovery's three-layer poly construction, beaching up on rocky shorelines is no problem and no worry. Location: Lake Pend Oreille where the Clark Fork empties into the lake. There are wonderful channels and sand bars in the alluvial plain that make for a fantastic  an all day excursion. There is excellent camping in the area too.

At 91lbs portage on the Discovery is an issue. Britta and I can carry her down to a lake but with rest stops for her hand. We have since bought portage cart. It is lightweight and we can fold it up and bring it along if our trip requires several portage locations to continue. Otherwise I just roll her down to the launch , then pack the cart back in the vehicle before our day trip. We might opt for another canoe for a portage-heavy route, but on any other type of trip the Discovery’s carrying capacity and easy handling have won us over. With the Discovery 169 it hits the mark for all our tripping 

If you do have sections in your trip that require portage like we did here on Lake Pend Orielle, the Discovery 169 is manageable is short crossing. If you have long portages consider a portable canoe cart that folds up that you can pack along with you.

Portage with a 91lb canoe and another 100lbs or so in coolers and gear can be very daunting with the Discovery 169. We struggled with her for awhile then made the investment for a canoe cart. Why did we wait? Garage to the truck, truck to the launch site, portage along a trip, the cart made all of that a night and day difference. Invest in a good quality cart. Don't fall for lightweight cheap materials. This is a boat that can pass 250lbs easy when loaded. We opted for the 300lb rated steel frame Seattle ATC cart. It folds down easily for packing on the boat with you. We got ours at a significant savings on Amazon vs Seattle's direct store.

Seattle Sports ATC Cart review: 

"I can comment on the functionality of this cart. I load a 15 foot canoe with 100+ pounds of gear on this cart, tighten the strap and the canoe can easily be moved with one hand. Perfect for launching larger canoes at boat launches - roll it right into the water (I don't submerge the hubs), open the kickstsnd, take off the strap, lift one end of the canoe and you're launched. Throw the cart into the canoe and go. No scratching the hull on the concrete ramp. The large wheels roll well over trails and curbs and allow pulling the canoe at a comfortable angle. I use it with my kayak as well - use a bike lock to secure the cart to a tree while I'm in the water. I don't bother folding and unfolding the wheels - just leave it set up and ready to go. Two caveats: I wouldn't recommend this for rolling through sand and I wouldnt use in a salt water setting unless you don't submerge the hubs. Have had this for a year with no problems. The big plus here is that you can load your canoe with everything in the parking lot and roll right into the water and roll right out. Use this in combination with a Malone Microsport canoe\ kayak trailer, so no more manhandling the canoe on and off the roof of the car."

Discovery 169 Specifications:

LENGTH: 16’9”

WIDTH: 37”

DEPTH: 15”

WEIGHT: 91 lbs

CAPACITY: 1,400 lbs.

MATERIAL: Three-Layer Polyethylene

PRICE: $1,099

LEARN MORE: Discovery 169

Remember whether it has a motor, two wheels or four or floats, It's All About The Ride! Go out explore and enjoy.

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Joe and Britta


cdiane said…
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