10ft Kayak vs 13ft kayak

-- Last Updated: Jan-31-12 3:20 PM EST --

Hi all! I am looking to purchase a kayak in roughly the $400 - $600 range. My question is, I am 5'1, 105 lbs, and was wondering if a 10ft kayak vs say a 12ft-13 ft kayak would be best for my height and weight...or would that not matter? I am looking at the Perception Sport Conduit 13 Kayak right now that Dick's carries on their website. Very reasonable price compared to others out there. I am unable to find any reviews on this kayak, but have seen that people say it is the same as the Catalyst 13.0 Dagger. Any information would be helpful and appreciated! Thanks in advance!

Look for used boats
Used kayaks are a much better value than junk sold by big box stores. A decent SOT or rec kayak will go for about $350 - 600 dollars used. Craigslist is a good place to start, also try attending local club paddles and visit vendors when they have demo days. Canoecopia at Rutabaga in Madison in March is a really good place to see lots of kayaks and get an idea of what you want.

Likely you will want a light easy to transport boat, ask around a bit before you buy.

Thanks so much for the info on Canoecopia. I will definately be attending. A few questions about that event…do they sell used kayaks at Canoecopia? Also, am I able to test kayaks there? I know for sure I want a sit-in kayak, and a decent kayak for paddling somewhat long distances in.

"somewhat long distances", also, what bodies of water do you inspire to explore?

Canoecopia - most likely you will not be able to paddle the boat. I believe dealers will give a really good price for floor models.

Welcome the the world of paddling, you will love it. My 2 cents go for the longer kayak it will give you better performance.

Somewhat long distances as in being out on the water for 5 hours a day on a fairly calm water lake or slow river (not looking to kayak in rapids or the ocean or anything like that). I have my heart set on a 12 or 13 ft kayak, as in researching I found it to be best suited for my needs. I’m nervous that a 10 ft kayak would just have too horrible of a tracking speed and wear me out after a couple of hours. Also, too long of a kayak would be somewhat harder to maneuver – so i think 12-13 ft is perfect. I want a decent kayak for a decent price. I really look forward to attending the event in Madison in March :slight_smile:

longer boat for long distance
A 10-13’ boat is useful for poking around small waterways where maneuverability outweighs speed but for covering any sort of distance they are annoyingly SLOW. A decent used boat is a way better deal and you can often find complete packages of gear on craigslist when someone is getting out of the sport.

Hold off, if possible, before you go to Canoecopia before purchasing the kayak. I would second the suggestion to shop for a used boat. Also, budget for a good paddle. If you go to Canoecopia Danny Mongo has an excellent presentation how to chose a paddle. Many beginning paddlers end up spending money that is less than ideal fit for them.

Make sure to check out “Door County Kayak Symposium” in July.

10’ vs 13’
The following are generalizations:

Longer kayaks tend to be a little faster, glide further, track better, and are heavier (at least in the $ range you mention). Shorter kayaks tend to be a bit more maneuverable, and possibly lighter.

If you are going to be paddling alone, or at least be loading (car-topping?) and carrying your kayak alone, then I think (again,in general) you might want to get the longest/lightest kayak you can afford and handle by yourself, and that fits your intended use.

Have fun…

I agree go to Canoecopia
and talk to lots of reps…then narrow down to a few choices and wait for a used boat to float by.

You may be able to (I am not sure) sit in a boat. The fit is paramount. The Dicks kayak you are looking at is way too big for you widthwise. Lengthwise matters comparatively less but ten foot boats kind of limit where you will go and how fast you will go.

Buying kayaks is like buying womens pants. Its hard to buy a new pair without actually trying them on.

Thanks you guys!
For all the imput! Greatly appreciated! I wouldn’t be kayaking alone or mouting the kayak on top of my car by myself. So the weight of the kayak in that perspective is not important. I guess what worries me the most when purchasing a kayak is not paddling with ease. When I went kayaking last year, I loved it, but, I was in a tandem SOT kayak with my partner and moved TERRIBLY slow. I don’t want to purchase a kayak that takes so much effort to move. A person in a sit in yak flew by us, and was paddling with ease. For my height and weight, i’m nervous longer and heavier kayaks may have a disadvantage as far as speed goes. Am I wrong?

Third go to canoe-ect

– Last Updated: Jan-31-12 5:20 PM EST –

Frankly, you are tiny. Just about everything you are likely to look at to start will turn out to be too wide for you if you want to get more aggressive. So stay cheap on the first boat, get a beater that'll get you onto the water and you don't mind scratching up.

You are on the right track about getting a good paddle. Spend the bucks to get a light paddle to start. Your upper body will thank you.

Later add about the longer boat - while it may be out of your budget right now, sitka below has a point. At 5'1" tall, most of the boats that are really narrow enough for you are likely to be longer than you are looking right now. Beginner boats are usually tweaked to provide quite reassuring stability for new paddlers who are greatly concerned about this. As a result they are quite wide. You aren't (wide).

So again, get as narrow as you can in your price group, see if you can score something with two bulkheads and deck rigging, and find some folks to paddle with so you can get into their boats. You'll find kayakers are usually quite good about letting people try their boats.

Different direction…
Be honest with yourself about what you plan to do vs. where you think your interests will take you. Many people get a “beginner boat” only to become very frustrated with it. Even though you say it’s not what you’re after I would encourage you to move more towards a boat in the 16’ area. It’ll be fast enough to not frustrate you and allow you to grow into it.

Before you dismiss a larger boat out of hand due to your size I will say that I know several very small women who paddle boats of this size and are much happier as now they can keep up with a group, have room for gear and the larger boat has allowed their skills to develop with their equipment not being a limiting factor.

Since all of this gear is expensive, try boats out before you buy them and try them in a variety of sizes.

Good luck!

For your size, 12’-14’ sounds like a good length, but it shouldn’t be too wide. You should definitely ask about boats designed for smaller people, both women and kids. For example, a 12’6" CD Kestrel at 28" wide could carry a 200+ pound guy, but would be a barge for you.

I think the suggestions above to go longer, say 16’, are a mistake. Drag, and so paddling force required, is proportional to surface area of the boat in the water. Longer boats have more wetted surface and are harder to paddle, particularly for smaller people. Tracking depends on length to width ratio and hull design, so a short boat that is relatively narrow and designed well will track fine. I have a 13’9" by 23" boat that tracks amazingly well and glides forever because the drag is so low.

Here’s a good discussion of the trade offs in kayak design, it’s helpful for deciding what you want in a boat. I wish I’d read it before I bought my first kayak, a 17’ boat that I never paddle any more.


Drag at what part…
It’s not just about the power to start a boat up, but how much effort it takes to keep it going once you are there. My Vela gets going very quickly, but starts to set up a bow wake somewhere over 4 knots. If I can get my other, too-big, boat up to there (Explorer LV), it hasn’t set up that bow wake yet. So while someone could measure things a likely prove I was expending a good bit of energy, it wouldn’t be in a direct relationship to the over 2 foot diff in length between the two boats.

Not a dissimilar diff between my husband’s Nordkapp LV and the Aquanaut. The Aquanaut gets easier to paddle (per Sea Kayaker tests as I recall) at some higher speeds where initially faster boats start to plow water and get more drag.

It’s all about the hull design, not just what you can tell with a measuring tape. People get hung up in the physical dimensions of a boat and don’t really see the designer’s tweaks.

If you were my daughter, I would advise
getting the longer kayak.

One of my many daughters who is smaller than you paddles an eighteen foot carbon kevlar kayak.

I am not advising that for you, but I think you would be happier with the longer boat.

Jack L

Jack L

Careful - careful - careful
Yes, long boats are faster, BUT, they have more skin friction and thus need more horsepower. I wouldn’t jump straight into a 16-foot boat UNTILL having the skills to get a nice skinny one, and the knowledge that you have the power to make it go.

This has been covered a billion times here, but even so I’ll post more in the main thread.

Observations on Length

– Last Updated: Feb-01-12 1:21 PM EST –

I touched on the risk of going too long to start with in a side comment above. Statements that a 16-foot boat is faster than a 13-foot boat usually come from paddlers who have the skill and power to make a long boat cruise, but these same people have no idea what it's actually like to be a smaller, weaker person. I see it happen all the time.

I know one small woman who bought a 16- or 17-foot kayak (it's one of the Looksha models) on the advice of "experts" who told her it would be a whole lot faster than a typical rec boat. You see, being small, she was worried about being the slowest person in a group. Well, she simply lacks the power to make it move at anything close to a "normal" cruising speed. Later, she got a 10-foot boat for twisty rivers. The 10-footer is an ultra-cheap design, perhaps near the bottom of the quality scale in rec boats, but she's considerably faster in the little boat than in the Looksha, simply because of the lesser wetted surface area and lower skin friction. I suggest you take ALL recommendations about starting out in something of typical sea-kayak length with a grain of salt until you know more about what you can do, and probably until you are ready to buy a highly efficient design (which might be "tippy" for a beginner).

From my own experience with two rowboats of similar design, one being 12 feet and the other 15, the 15-footer is my favorite for long-distance cruising and attaining high speed, but it takes a noticeably greater effort to get it going and to keep it moving. Some might jump on the fact that a rowboat is not a kayak, but in spite of the extra overall width, the waterline width of each boat is no greater than that of a rec kayak (less than most of them) and similar to that of many touring kayaks. The 12-foot boat moves effortlessly in comparison to the 15-footer, and will even accelerate from a dead stop to 5 mph in a single stroke (that's possible even with enough gear on board to eliminate what's otherwise the advantage of weighing less).

I have a good friend who's about as small as you, and one of her boats is a 13-foot Necky Manitou. She's not unusually strong nor is her technique highly refined, but she can cruise in that thing like there's no tomorrow. A 10-footer would move with even less effort AT SLOW SPEEDS, but at fairly normal speeds, I think 12 or 13 feet is better. A ten-footer will hit its maximum speed at too slow a pace and at too low of an energy output by the paddler. On the other hand, something approaching 16 feet or more presents the risk of needing more power than you know with certainty you can expend, at least at this stage of the game. Overall, I think 13 feet is probably a good starting length, but talk to others before deciding. After a year of paddling you'll be in a much better position to decide what changes, if any, you want to make.

For what it's worth, there's no real learning curve when becoming "comfortable" in a little touring kayak like the Necky Manitou 13, so you're likely better off in ANY short touring kayak than in a rec boat of the same length, assuming you can find a touring boat on the used market.

There will be a few boats for sale in the parking lot at Canoecopia. Wander around and look for old boats for sale. There's no display area; the used boats will just be sitting on the roofs of the cars that brought them.

Check out Valley Avocet
Lots of smaller paddlers I know really enjoy this boat, you can get it in plastic and used near the top end of your budget.

Also Pikabike who posts here often may weigh in, I think she is about your size and does lots of lake paddling.

A longer sea kayak is fine if you are going to be on big water but if you do rivers and small lakes with winding feeder arms you might want a more maneuverable boat.

"Trying them on"
Yes, you can “try on” prospective boats at Canoecopia (though not in water).