After having borrowed some cheap "Swifty" kayaks from relatives to float down a small local river, I am in the market for a beginner recreational kayak.
The challenge is finding a small, "cheap" yak that can handle my 250 pounds in a river that gets very shallow in some spots. I'm no expert on class of rapids, but I would say this is just a Class I river. Maybe Class II at spots, but certainly nothing more than that.
After reading endless reviews of the cheaper box store yaks, I have identified three that may work well for me, and I'm looking for all opinions as to weather these would good for my application. I did buy an Old Town Heron 9 Angler on sale, but after one trip down the river, I was not impressed with it. It's not bad, but I think the Swifty tracked and handled a bit better. I don't want to buy a Swifty because it's a little cramped for me and not comfortable for very long.
The three yaks I'm considering are the Old Town Vapor (Or Trip 10 from Dick's), the Perception Sound 10.5 from Gander Mountain, and the Ascend FS-10 from Bass Pro. I cannot find reviews on the Perception Sound 10.5. The Vapor seems to have good reviews, but I don't care for the enormous cockpit. The Ascend is nice and probably leading the pack, but it's hard to catch them on sale. With the lack of being able to "try before you buy" with the big box stores, I would rather buy when they go on sale.
The Vapor and the Ascend both have a pretty big keel on the stern, while the Sound has a "tri-keel" design. Would the big keel on the Vapor and Ascend present a problem for shallow water? Would the Sound be better?
Also, how would these kayaks handle in faster moving water? My Heron seemed more difficult to keep straight through the rapids, as it seemed easy to get spun around. Keep in mind I'm a beginner, so I'm sure a lot of that is me, but the Swifty seemed easier to keep the bow pointed downstream in the faster water.
In the end, I guess I want the impossible...a short boat that tracks decent, is good for a beginner, and will float a fairly big guy over some shallow water. I realize I can't have the best of all worlds, but any recommendations on a boat or comments on these three would be appreciated.
P.S. On paper, the Wilderness Systems Aspire 105 seems like it would be a great kayak for my situation, but I'm not sure I want to spend over $700 on one just yet. Do you think the performance of that boat over the three that I listed would justify spending the extra money?
Thanks in advance for reading my lengthy post and for your answers!