12- vs 14-foot kayak

Somewhere on this forum I saw “don’t even consider a kayak under 14 feet.” Do they track that much better?

Looking at Current Designs Vision 120 (32 lbs) and Vision 140 (43 lbs). Is the extra weight worth it to get the two extra feet of length for long trips?

Rivers and lakes, no rough water, but sometimes windy.



14 foot can be found with dual bulkheads
a 14 foot kayak is usually offered with front and rear bulkheads. These are water tight compartments that aid flotation if you capsize, and limit the amount of water you will need to pump out afterwards.

Many groups will not allow boats without dual bulkheads for safety (the paddler and the rescuers).

Even if you never think you will capsize, most 14’ boats will be faster due to longer hull. I started with a 10’ rec boat and keep upgrading to longer boats for speed and practicality on longer paddle outings. I would have saved a lot of money if I started with a 14’ kayak.

The 120 is 23 " wide, and the 140
is 24" wide. I would think the 140 at two feet longer would track better then the 120.

That is quite a difference in weight, but if you think you can handle the heavier of the two, I would recommend the 140.

Plug the cost difference into the equation before making up your mind, and see if you can try them both out.

If someone says “don’t even consider a kayak shorter then 14 feet”; don’t pay any attention to them.

Jack L

What kind of “long trips”?
Do you mean overnight trips? If so, the choice may come down to storage capacity and what you plan to take.

Both models have forward and aft dry storage, but the 14 footer has a bigger front hatch and more storage volume front and back.

The longer boat is almost certainly going to be more efficient on flat water (unless you are a very small person) which might be a factor if you want to cover a lot of distance. On the other hand, the shorter boat is going to be more maneuverable on rivers if the going gets tight or technical.

As Jack said, there is nothing wrong with a 12 foot kayak.

What speed do you want to paddle?
At lower speeds, 3, maybe 4 mph,the resistance numbers are almost identical for most kayaks, regardless of length. It’s when you get going a little faster is where the differences get more obvious.

I have several reasons for 14’
Many people just entering kayaking often think of transport issues, once you go above 8’ (pickup bed length) it does not matter how much longer you are going to go in most cases in regard to transport, you are going to need a rack or trailer.

In my opinion there is a greater variety of 14’ and longer boats to better suit the environment that the boat will be used in. The range goes from flat bottom wide boats, narrow with longer water lines for tracking, or rocker boats for maneuverability.

I travel a lot and my boat that I kept in my trailer was a 12’ Native watercraft Innuit. It was a great boat for what I used it for, general paddling when I stumbled upon a paddling opportunity while I was traveling. I added a Dagger Alchemy to my home fleet and the Innuit got parked, then traded for a Zephyr 155 as a general jack of all trades boat.

In hind sight the evolution of my “fleet” would have been better served by starting out with a 14’ boat.

It’s not the tracking

– Last Updated: Nov-16-13 4:27 PM EST –

A 12-foot kayak that's not specialized for turning will track just fine. Our local paddling club is chock-full of people paddling short boats, and considering that most of these people have minimal skill, it's obvious that tracking isn't a problem for them. Sure many longer boats will track even better, but even if you want good tracking, you'd probably choose a longer boat for some reason other than that. Anyway, for small, twisty creeks, the 12-footer would definitely have the advantage, while in any waters bigger than that, the 14-footer will most likely be a better choice.

Someone pointed out that the 14-foot boat will have a faster top speed, but that at slower speeds (like the speeds most people actually go), there won't be much difference. In fact, if you are sensitive to such things, you'll surely notice that the 12-footer paddles a little bit MORE easily at 3 to 4 mph than the 14-footer. I wouldn't recommend this as a reason to buy the 12-footer, but it does illustrate why "being able to go faster" need not be a selling point for everyone.

Whether the extra two feet of length is necessary to get the storage room for your extended trips would take some careful consideration on your part. I've paddled with a lot of recreational kayakers, and most of them who have short boats need to stash a gear bag or two on the deck. Some can get by with very little storage space though. I DO think there is a tendency among beginners to think there is more space in the boat than there really is, so if you don't have experience actually stuffing a kayak with camping gear, give this some careful thought. Ideally you would compare boats side-by-side in the store, and try to put stuff in the hatches to get a feel for the difference, but I don't know if that's possible.

Finally, there's that thing about weight. If a boat is too heavy to carry comfortably, it's a pretty sure thing you won't do as many spur-of-the-moment trips, like right after work or "just because it looks like we'll have a beautiful sunset an hour from now".

All these things are some of the reasons why you are likely to eventually have two or three boats (or more).

I know you’re concerned about
weight, but 43 pounds isn’t much if you’re only concerned about picking up, carrying, and loading.

It’s not easy to produce a sound and durable 12’ kayak that weighs only 32 pounds, and I wonder if they’ve really done it.

I can’t see any disadvantage to getting the 14’ boat, based on my confidence that it is light enough for your purposes.

14 feet is so much faster in general
In most 14 foot boats I stand a chance of keeping up in group paddles. I might be the slowest one but I can catch up during breaks. If the water is rough I can keep up a little better.

In a 12 foot boat I can never keep up with the group. So if you plan to paddle with others consider what they will be paddling. In the lakes, rivers, and sounds around North Carolina, I most often see boats longer than 16 feet.

Hull speed for a 16 foot waterline boat is about 6 mph

For a 12 foot water line boat it is about 5.2 mph.

In general I find this translate roughly to being at least a half mile behind the group for each hour of paddling. You either won’t be with the group or they will have to go slower than normal for you to keep up.

Another way to think about it is how fast can you paddle the 12 foot boat. If you can easily make it go about 4.5 mph for hours then you can keep up with most paddling groups.

Lots of trips require a minimum boat length of 15 feet and dual bulkheads for the safety of the group, but I seen exceptions made for fast paddlers in 14 foot boats.

In a 12 foot boat you may be excluded from certain trips.

I don’t think tracking is an issue at all. With a few days practice is a white water boat you will be able to make any boat go straight.

How big are you ? River Conditions?
Some other factors to weigh are how much you weigh and your physical size. If you are small framed you might be much happier in the narrower, lower volume boat, it’s designed to carry about 200 lbs max supposedly. For camping if you weigh about 120 -140 this would be fine. If you weigh more than that and you want to carry a weekends worth of food and water then go with the larger boat. Also are the rivers gentle flowing or twisty with rocks and trees etc. If so go with the smaller boat. The difference in weight only matters much for carrying the boat to the water, and for acelleration, since you won’t be sprint racing or surfing a really light boat is not much of an advantage.

Smaller people
Such as yourself have a tough go finding a boat that fits well. If you are looking to go to 14 feet have a look at a lower volume design like the Impex Mystic someone suggested on your other thread. There are other longer boats built for smaller people such as the NDK Pilgrim, Tahe Reval Mini or the Valley Avocet LV. All of the those are longer/heavier than you are looking for and a fair bit pricier. The key part is they all have a lower volume hull design for the lighter weight paddler. The 140 you mention just seems like a big boat for only a 112lb paddler.

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen a Mystic, tried find one for my wife and couldn’t. I would have like to though as I found lots positive reviews from smaller paddlers on the net.

I may have made the referenced
comment with a disclaimer: “IF you weigh over 200 lbs, get a 14’ boat”. Sure, you can paddle one and I did for quite a while,but the heavier you are,the more resistance you create and the harder you will have to paddle to achieve reasonable speed.

Yeah, though I’m down to 212#,
when I paddle my 14’ 6" Necky Looksha Sport, there’s not much freeboard left once I pack a lunch.

my PERSONAL opinion…
I love a 22’ for day trips and overnighters.

For longer expeditions and multi-day, I prefer a 14’.

The reason is that I like the turning ability of the 12’ boat but the storage capcity and speed of the 14’.

But the 14’6" turns like a barge.

So I prefer my 12’ Dirago for day and weekend trips.

I bought a 14’6" Carolina for longer.

Frankly, although the Carolina is a bit faster, that extra 2 1/2’ storage isn’t much when you consider the loss of beam which forces my sleeping pads onto the deck.

other dimensions
Shorter boats in the same model line often tend to be wider and deeper to keep the rated weight capacity in the same range. That’s a potential disadvantage. At your weight, you don’t need much beam to be stable. Excess beam will just make you less efficient. Excess depth will just make the boat harder to control in a breeze.

Your weight puts you solidly in the “smaller paddler” class. A boat designed for larger folks will be a bad fit regardless of length.

Thank You
It’s an Impex Mystic 14!

Thank You all for your help.



– Last Updated: Nov-18-13 10:57 PM EST –

That's a classic choice of bona fide sea kayak for a smaller paddler. If you're the right size, it's a great choice. It's not a big-guy's boat made shorter, it's not a rec kayak, nor is it a kid's kayak. If you want a real sea kayak it's a better choice than either of the CD transitional kayaks you mentioned. But you really need to be in the stated weight range of 90-180 pounds for it to work.