Souris River Quetico 17 Review

Bill and Gail O’Neal. Paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota.

Review by Darren Bush

Photos by Aaron Black-Schmidt


Souris River makes a fine canoe. It’s true that the Quetico 17 is not going to win any beauty contests. It’s not a question of build quality, but construction method. The Quetico 17 is made without a core, but with a series of flexible ribs that are laid in by hand. The flexibility in the hull is presented as a feature rather than a drawback, so the hull will bend around objects encountered below the waterline.

Souris uses epoxy resin in their construction, with the claim that it makes a stronger than vinylester resins. There seems to be conclusive evidence that epoxy is stronger, but it has its disadvantages, such as its toxicity for people building the canoe. It’s all a balancing act, and Souris has chosen. It’s not a bad things, necessarily, but it’s worth nothing. Because they’re laid up by hand rather than vacuum bagged or infused, there may be stray fibers here and there. Again, nothing structural.

All that being said, here’s the good news: If you have ever owned a mid 60s Land Rover or Toyota FJ40, you’ll understand that the beauty of a thing isn’t always in the little cosmetic details. The paint drips on a Land Rover would make Jackson Pollock blush, but that never diminished my love for it. The Quetico 17 comes from this bombproof, rugged, but not perfect aesthetic.

The Quetico 17 is surprisingly quick. I was expecting something fairly barge-like due to the aesthetics, but I was dead wrong. It has gobs of stability, both empty and loaded, and it kept up with and even beat some of the slower canoes in the bunch. I don’t know how much the flexible core would make a difference once loaded down.

One feature I really liked was the curved thwarts, which are arched to allow for easier stowage of gear. At first I thought, “What’s the difference? Can’t be that big a deal.” Well, that little arch allows the Quetico 17 to swallow gear like a starving python swallows a goat. We fit four portage packs without even trying. It’s a simple and ingenious little touch.

The Quetico 17 is popular with outfitters. Indeed, we borrowed the one for our trip from a livery off the Gunflint Trail on the edge of the BWCA. They’re beefy, and if you’re hard on your canoes, the internal skid plates are a nice feature.

The canoe came standard with a yoke-shaped object, but it worked great with a pair of huge portage pads about the size of a small ottoman. They made the portages easy.

I think this is a great all-around canoe for folks who carry a lot of gear and tend to be on the rough side with that gear.

Length: 17′  |  Width: 35″  |  Weight: 44lbs.  |  Depth: 13.5″  |  Price: $2,995.00

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The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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