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dacipkowski 04-27-2020 12:45 PM

Firebird/Flashfire for Adirondack travel?
Hi All,

I appreciate all of the wisdom on this forum and have enjoyed learning from your posts. I am interested in a new canoe and am looking for feedback regarding the Northstar Firebird or Colden Flashfire.

Some context:

I am an avid solo paddler that kneels most of the time. I only use a single blade, just my preference. I am 5'10" and 185lbs. I pack light, about 25lbs of gear (incl food) for 5 days of travel. So while I am not the lightest person, the total weight in the boat is usually <220 when tripping.

For the past couple years, I have been paddling a Mad River Independence. Mine is the Fiberglass one, ~45 lbs. We have been on a lot of the larger lakes in the Adirondacks and last year I did the Whitney loop with it. And I day paddle it a lot on local flatwater (I am in Columbia County NY). While it's relatively heavy and a little wide (at ~29" gunwale width I sometimes wish it was a bit narrower for ease of paddling), I appeciate the MR Independence's versitility. But for trips that require more portaging and perhaps off trail travel, I am considering a slightly shorter and lighter boat, but something that is not too slow. I am not really interested in a typical pack boat, so small touring canoes like the Northstar Firebird and Colden Flashfire caught my eye. I'd be hanging on to the Independence for when I want to take my dog, more stuff, or for when portages are shorter.

The Firebird and Flashfire are both advertised as freestyle/small river touring boats for smaller paddlers. And I am a larger paddler that would primarily be on flat water, including ponds, lakes and small twisty streams. But the length, weight, and narrow paddling station of these canoes are really appealing to me, especially for those long-portage pond/stream hopping trips. And, compared to my MR Independence, which is fast enough for me, I don't think that either would be all that slow (your thoughts?). With a tripping load of 220 max, I'd fall within the efficient load parameters for the boats (100-240lbs for the Firebird), although not by much.

Given what I am looking for, do you think one of these boats would serve me well? Are there other canoes that you might recommend I look into? I know that a test paddle would be helpful, and after the shutdown I will do so. But for now I am just combing through internet resources.

Any feedback would be appreciated.


Nehasane 04-27-2020 01:22 PM

I am a bit heavier than you, prefer kneeling & single-blading too.
I have paddled the Wildfire & had brief time in the Independence but not the 2 in question - the composite Wildfire is just a bigger Flashfire.

The fire boats may be slower than the Independence & would be fun on twisty streams like the Oswegatchie - the 2.5" of rocker make them very maneuverable but they do not glide as well. The symmetrical fire boats tend to slow down faster when you stop paddling compared to modern asymmetrical designs.

Less rocker & asymmetrical designs like the Swift Keewaydin 14 will glide better & still be fairly maneuverable - Placid should have something similar too.

Rich Lockwood 04-27-2020 06:56 PM

I have a wonderful 25# Colden flashfire that I have tripped with in the ADKs for years. I am your size and weight and carry a little more camp stuff. it has worked wonderfully for the trips I like. Is it the ideal big lake canoe? No My colden namad is, but the Flashfire will do lakes fine. Where the flashfire really shines is in manoverability--it's the perfect canoe for the osswagochie's twists and turns. I also can speak highly Of Paul's meticulous craftsmanship,honesty and quality. I paddled the other canoe briefly, but not enough to form a strong opinion.

dacipkowski 04-28-2020 09:01 PM

Rich - thanks for your feedback on the flashfire. The Colden version is beautiful. What I like about the Firebird by Northstar is it's maybe a little faster on the flats given it is slightly longer, although maybe the difference is not significant. The asthetics of the Colden Flashfire wins for sure, though.

Nehasane- the Wildfire is also apealing. Thanks for sharing your experience with it and comparing its character to the Indy.

I think I will wait around for a used fire to pop up. Unforunately I missed one recently, a flashfire, that appeared in the Rochester Craiglist listings. It sold fast, but not to me sadly!


Rich Lockwood 04-29-2020 05:19 AM

I prefer shorter canoes. I find, that at my slower paddling speed, lower skin friction largely offsets the superior hydrodymic efficiency of a longer hull. Shorter canoes are also lighter and easier to maneuver in tight quarters. You are welcome to come to Turtle Pond and paddle my Flashfire.

EastOfMidnight 05-01-2020 12:23 PM

I prefer kneeling and a single blade, too. I have a PBW Spitfire that I love, sitting w a double blade, but is too low to kneel comfortably. Am trying to figure out a kneeling thwart cause I really love the boat.

Rich Lockwood 05-03-2020 07:27 AM

In my quest for an ultra lite kneeling canoe, I tried paddling in a spitfire while kneeling on and improvised high seat. I found it just too tender for tripping. I ended up buying a 16# savage river Wee Lassie with high seat and tripped with it for years. Currently the ultimate ultra lite kneeling canoe is a savage river June Bug. A cheaper and larger alternative is the Slipstream Impulse.

dacipkowski 05-03-2020 09:03 AM

Hi all,

Thanks for the helpful information.

Turtle - so kind to offer a test paddle in your Flashfire, if I lived a bit closer to Springville I would take you up on it. Hoping to test paddle a Firebird in coming weeks.

EastOfMidnight 05-08-2020 11:48 AM

I reversed the rear thwart - put it on top of the gunwale so I could kneel and get my feet clearance below the gunwale. Works but the boat is pretty tippy. However, a 30+ lb. pack helps lower the center of gravity and considerably improves stability.
I've heard that the guides used to put rocks in the bottom of guide boats for teh same reason.

EastOfMidnight 05-08-2020 11:50 AM

I reversed the rear thwart - put it on top of the gunwale so I could kneel and get my feet clearance below the gunwale. Works but the boat is pretty tippy. However, a 30+ lb. pack helps lower the center of gravity and considerably improves stability.
I've heard that the guides used to put rocks in the bottom of guide boats for teh same reason.

Woodly 05-08-2020 01:58 PM

I never put rocks in any guideboat I ever used at the Ausable Lakes but did have ten cases of champagne in one of them once :)

Wldrns 05-08-2020 02:20 PM

Use jugs or bags of water, never rocks for trim. I have used chunks of wood when I had no container to hold water. Water in water is neutrally bouyant, and a chunk of wood is positive or neutral at the worst. If a large rock gets caught under a seat and you capsize, guess where the rock, and your boat are going.

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