Paddling tips, tricks, news and gear reviews from an Unsponsored point of view

Have I Gone Completely Mad-River?

I thought some of you might be interested in my Mad River Explorer RX16 with iq2 gunwales as the boat is often complimented on and questions asked about its additions.I purchased the canoe around 6 years ago and it came with a bonanza of kit along with a host of IQ2 outfitting accessories which I have slowly been adding to, not easy in the UK when IQ2 kit is no longer being manufactured and most these rare extras are seldom found outside of the USA.

From what I can gather the innovative and flexible system was a bit of a flop amongst traditionalists but in reality and apart from the use of carbon fibre and other composites it surely is the only real attempt by a canoe manufacturer in recent years to push the boundaries of canoe design, now don’t get me wrong I have always been a member of the school of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and nothing gets my pulse racing more than a beautifully crafted wood and canvas canoe that has been traditionally outfitted but by the same token and as an engineer I love innovation and new ideas. Now the concept was never going to truly revolutionise the way we canoe but it certainly has its place in canoe history.

For those who have no idea what IQ2 gunwales are, simplified they are two circular profile channels than run around the inner and outer edges of the boat allowing accessories to be easily slid into place at various entry points, much like a caravan awning slides around a channel on the roof of a van.

The original iq1 had just one inner channel, confused ??

The following is taken from Mad Rivers Owners Manual and explains it far better than I ever could :


Welcome to one of the most innovative developments to come to canoeing in years, the Mad River IQ2 Modular Gunwale System. The IQ System will be complemented by a growing range of interchangeable modular accessories that can be added when needed and removed when paddling demands change. You can rig the boat for whitewater paddling one day, bring it home and set it up for a week-long camping trip the next. The beauty of it all is that nothing is permanently installed, no longer do you have to haul permanent whitewater outfitting along on casual outings or annual canoe trips.


History of a concept that’s been two years in development is perhaps a bit grandiose but a little insight into where the IQ and IQ2 came from helps with perspective. The IQ gunwale concept is truly the result of a group effort, no one individual came up with the idea and brought it full fleshed to the point you see it now. There’s a certain beauty in it being a group effort. Paddlers with whitewater play backgrounds joined with expedition trippers, with recreational day paddlers, with sportsmen, and even non-paddlers to create a system that offers significant advantages to however you choose to use your canoe. The original IQ gunwale system is crafted in aluminum and has the additional capability of movable seats. The IQ2 is based on a vinyl gunwale which does not have the structural integrity to allow the use of movable seats.

However, it has the full capability of the original IQ in terms of accommodating accessory modules and letting you rig your boat for specific activities and it offers that capability at a significantly lower price. The canoe is undoubtedly the most versatile watercraft afloat. The IQ exploits that inherent versatility and allows you to tailor outfitting to use or conditions. Another exciting part of the system is that it’s so open ended. We’ve just begun rolling out accessory modules to complement the gunwale system. For every one we bring to market, another two or three ideas come to mind. The nice thing about it all is that your IQ canoe will be able to accept and use all those accessory modules that have yet to get off the drawing board. It won’t become obsolete. So, welcome aboard. The purpose of this manual is to help you make the most of your IQ canoe. As we’ve come to say around the shop, “The IQ, just think about it.” The possibilities are nearly endless. We’re not too proud to think we’re the only ones capable of coming up with new modular concepts. Feel free to get in touch with us with your ideas. It’s that exciting and intriguing. ***END

As you can see the designers were super keen for input from fellow paddlers and were convinced they were on to something big. With such things as Chameleon Camouflage Drapes for blending into the environment, removable yoke, cup holders, glove box and a workstation for fishing, slide adjustable foot plates to name but a few so you can see that most trip types were covered.I am always searching for more items to add and thankfully most parts are easily smuggled past the wife unlike yet another new boat hmmmm. So far I have the following items most shown in the photos.

SPRAYSHIELD – TANDEM (#62-00190) Like a kayak miniskirt the Sprayshield extends over bow (or stern) of canoe, protecting paddlers from spray or wave and can serve to protect bow paddler’s legs from sun as well. It keys into outwale slot and cone-like profile deflects water overboard rather than into paddler’s lap. Multiple stays hold shape and keep it from draping down onto paddler’s legs. Semi-collapsible so it can be pushed out of way when not needed. Side zipper makes for easy installation or removal and lets you open cover to access gear without having to remove cover. Great way to paddle dry when crossing a lake with the chop kicking up. Not intended for use in Class III or above whitewater. 36” long x 33” wide.

BELLY COVER ( #63-0190)Covers center of tandem boats, protecting from waves, spray, and sun. Hoop stays elevate cover to keep from pooling water, also provides a shady nook for napping pre-school paddlers. Can be slid forward or back as needed, providing some sun protection for stern paddlers and protecting valuable gear wherever it might be stowed. Side zipper makes for easy installation or removal and lets you open cover to access gear without having to remove cover. Not intended for Class III or above whitewater.

GEAR/FLOTATION OVERBAG – TANDEM END BAG Two piece zippered installation goes in and out easy. Long axis zipper allows for insertion of up to 36” end bag or for assorted gear and equipment. Coated top deck resists splash and spray, mesh sides and base won’t collect water. External mesh pocket keeps often needed items close at hand. Great way to use often ignored storage space. Overbag and contents are integrated securely into boat, can’t wash out should something go wrong. Fits in bow or stern of IQ boats. Black deck with black mesh.

GEAR/FLOTATION OVERBAG/WANIGAN – CENTER Inspired by the old rigid Wanigan canoe boxes, the Center Overbag slots into IQ gunwales at center of hull. Adjustable rope rail system allows use in boats of varying widths and ability to keep bag tensioned to avoid pooling of water. Half-moon zipper allows easy in and out of bulky gear from mini split center float bags to a weekend or more worth of gear. Lash straps secure bag to center thwart and combined with IQ attachment make it virtually impossible to have Overbag separate from canoe unless you want it to, then it’s fast and easy. Overbags can be offset to allow doubling up, one bag on each side of thwart. External mesh pocket for easy access to frequently needed items. Coated fabric deck resists spray and splash, mesh base and sides won’t trap water. Linked side carry handles make it easy to haul loaded bag from vehicle to canoe or canoe to campsite and in one easy trip to boot. Black deck with black mesh.

FLOTATION/GEAR LASH IN SYSTEM (#62-02090) Spaced web loops sewn to slot-fitting “rope” make it easy to secure float bags or gear in your canoe. Each 56” length has 6 tie-in sewn loops. Can fit in center of boat or in bow or stern. Can be trimmed to length for smaller areas. (pair)

ZIPPERED CHINE DRY BAG (#62-04090) Dry bag sewn to slot-fitting “rope” with waterproof zipper provides bomb-proof dry and secure storage for valued gear. Keeps equipment much more accessible than when tumbled in a pile in center of canoe. Long zipper on a 40” long x 6.5” tall bag easily swallows long awkward items. Rope rail keeps bag secure in canoe and prevents loss. External lashing points to secure bulky items like paddles or tripods. Can be positioned or moved just about anywhere in canoe, on either side amidships or in front of paddlers for even faster access to gear. Yellow.

CUP HOLDERS X2SLIDE IN/ LOCKABLE LOOP TIES X 12As for the boat itself she was born in Olive Green Royalex inside and out and weighed in at around 33kg when stripped naked.I have added a custom made adjustable kneeling thwart/ third seat. Rubber Mast Foot along with a Custom Seat Mountable Mast Stay. Home made Sail and Leah Board.

Ash and webbing fold down seat back rests for those lazy paddles and a removable outboard motor mount for those really lazy non paddles ( unused as yet i might add) I do paddle the boat tandem and solo, loaded up or slightly healed over she works fine and I have paddled many miles like this, the high sides although good for sailing make it tricky to get the gunwales wet for my ‘slim physique’ ( cough cough )and although not as swift as many others she does paddle well. But it’s tandem and fully laden with camping gear when she comes into her own, exactly what the explorer was designed for and with a host of slide in and zip up storage options everything has its place and looks neat. I have to say that whether or not the traditionalists among you pour scorn on the concept of Mad Rivers IQ2 design the quality of manufacturing, heavy duty zippers and stitching on all parts is exceptional and all items are covered under Mad Rivers Lifetime Warranty so basically, if you ever experience failure attributable to defective materials or workmanship, they will repair or replace it at no charge. ( not sure if this is still valid )

Now the systems strength in higher grade WW was always questionable and I certainly wouldn’t test it in anything over grade III but that argument kind of misses the point of it which put simply is flexibility combined with neatness and weather proofing.

At the end of a trip I can simply strip the boat back to basics for car loading and throw everything into the centre bag which also features end carry handles for easy portage.

One of the greatest bit of kit is the yellow slide in dry chine bag, I am surprised more manufacturers do not produce a similar item because it is undoubtably my favourite item, it allows quick access to camera etc and can be slid around to any part of the boat.Now i hope this read hasn’t bored you to much and I haven’t robbed you of too much time that would be better spent on the water, but isn’t it nice to see alternatives to tradition ?

If any of you have other IQ2 info, reviews, photos or accessories for sale then please let me know, I would love to see a photo of a boat decked out in the “chameleon camouflage drapes” and also an image of the spreader tool for opening up the slots should they get damaged.

Keep paddling to new horizons and hope see you on the river soon…….

Ps anyone else got an unusual canoe or bit of kit ???

words and pict uses: Neil Gladman

1 Comment

  1. Dwight Jerome

    Back in the 1990’s I owned 2 beautiful Mad River solo canoes. One a kevlar touring model and the other Royalex whitewater canoe. The company back then knew how to make canoes that really looked nice and were functional. I was disappointed when the company changed hands and went in a different direction with their canoes. Forget about portaging a new model they will break your back. I eventually switched to Wenonah canoes and have been happy, but I sure miss the original Mad River Canoes.

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