1st Kayak - weight vs size (mine)

So… I’ve decided to pick up my first kayak. There isn’t really anywhere around I can demo any boats, but I’ve googled my arse off and landed on a small list.

My paddling is going to be, like, 60% Lake Michigan (WI side) exercise, 20% surf play on said lake, 20% flat river relaxing with up to the occasional mid class 2, and at least one 40mi river weekend camping trip a year.

Dagger Stratos is at the top of my list… My question is more on kayak sizing than specific boats.

So here’s the question. I’m 5’10, 210lbs, 34" waist (40" hips), 31" inseam, and wear 11.5 shoes. People guess me to weigh 180. I pack ultralight for backpack camping. I’ve used some small rec kayaks recently, and did a fair amount of white water canoeing up thru class 3 many many years ago (like over 20).

Would I be better off going with lower or higher volume versions (say, a dagger stratos/alchemy S vs L)? A full camp load on any S sized boat would stay under the max, but would I be riding too low in the water then? Or should I go with the L for the extra volume/higher deck?

Any other factors I’m missing?

Expand your search
First off, I think you should be looking at a longer boat. For the kind of paddling you indicated, you would be much better served by something in the 17 foot range and it should be a genuine sea kayak.

My favorites are Current Designs, Valley, P&H, Stellar and Eddyline. IF you want to go all the way, check out NC Kayaks.

Well first off I doubt you would fit into either of those S versions you mention. At 210 I don’t see it happening. Another option might be a P&H Delphin 155 NOT the 150 to small for you. Since you mention some white water the Delphin are really quick turning which would help in the white water BUT not made for white water but class 2 would be ok.


– Last Updated: Aug-26-16 7:18 PM EST –

I am 6', 215#, 36 waist, 32 inseam - the S is too small for me.

I disagree with the prior poster who said 17 feet. With your river trips, and also the surfing, the shorter length probably would do you better. But there is a serious trade off in packability - the Stratos will carry a lot less than a 17 footer. I have an Alchemy L - the 14 foot brother to the Stratos. I have done 3 night trips out of it, but it is tight. The Stratos should actually be a little better, with the extra half foot and without the day hatch (which to me makes it harder to pack with that extra bulkhead).

The Delphin would b a good option.

Can you get to Madison and visit the shop that puts on Canoecopia? I'd imagine they have a lot of boats and also ability to demo.


– Last Updated: Sep-01-16 3:08 PM EST –

Yeah, I plan on checking out Canoecopia, and Madison is only an hour away. I'm trying to turn my list into a "short list." Thanks for the input. Also, yeah, it's going to see a bit of the Bois Brule , in the summer. I'm trying to keep the lenght down as much as possible, my "big water" paddling is purely exercise so I'm not worried about a 17'+. As far as packing.. I've done 2 weeks stealth camping with just an old exterior frame pack and a hammock tent. When I say I pack light.. I mean light. I was honestly looking at like a JK Karma RG, or some other 12' creeker with a hatch. I could pack it easy, but unless I lose 60lbs, there's just no way.

WW not for fun…
My WW would be limited to navigating it without stressing out, not playing in it. I was looking at the Delphin 155 as well, but I don’t really see enough bonus to warrant an extra 600 bucks for qualities that I, as a novice, would be lost on me.

wouldn’t on RG

– Last Updated: Aug-26-16 9:03 PM EST –

I have a Karma RG. Great rock play boat, but for what you are looking at, I wouldn't bother. Stratos, Delphin, and maybe Alchemy are likely better choices.

If those don't work, some others you could consider (and maybe can get lucky and find used)- Necky Looksha Sport, Valley Gemini, NDK Romany, Necky Chatham 16, and Wilderness Systems Tempest 165. Note that the last ones of these are getting close to that 7 foot range I poo pooed before. If the long length is bad, then ignore those.


– Last Updated: Aug-28-16 12:35 AM EST –

Go to Rutabaga, in Madison (they host Canoecopia) and take lessons. Lake Michigan is not a place to play for the inexperienced.

At the store you can also demo kayaks and rent them to see exactly what boat you really want and need.

Bill H.

Jackson Karma
A friend has rented the Jackson Karma & Dagger Katana for 3 night trip this summer & last summer. She has a WW kayak and was trying to find a “do it all” kayak. Even though the Jackson was longer, she thought the Dagger Katana was way easier to pack because of the foot brace design. She could easily get gear in front of the Katana, but it was much harder on the Karma. She felt like both of them could handle WW, but weren’t optimal for touring trip beyond 2-3 nights.

I looked at the jackson Traverse (store by me has a 30% off jackson boats sale). I was looking at that and the Karma RG, but most of my paddling will be inside break wall and slower rivers. I think its not worth it for the little time i’ll be in class 2

What’s your take on the Jackson Journey 14, or WS Tsumanmi 145? I can pick up a brand new JK journy for 850. And maybe I don’t neeeeed so much rocker on the Stratos/Delphin?


– Last Updated: Aug-28-16 6:24 PM EST –

I have a Stratos L, fun boat. I use it to paddle slow rivers with very small sections of what I guess might classify as up to class 2. It is very turny and very stable, confidence inspiring in the rough stuff. Great boat for the larger paddler. I have not tried surfing with it yet. Flat water paddling I find it requires a tiny bit of skeg to track well. At 210lbs I think your waterline will be fine and still efficient with 50lbs of gear crammed in.

I'd suggest also taking a look at a Wilderness Systems Zephyr 160 if you do get a chance to demo.

Jackson Journey

– Last Updated: Aug-29-16 1:02 PM EST –

I often use a Journey 14 when I teach/guide at one of the places I work for. Works fine. Hatches seem a little cheap and like they may not hold on if a wave crashed over the boat, but never had one fall off (so maybe not an issue - but I pretty much only use on flattish water). Has a rudder instead of skeg. Jackson has strong whitewater background and brought those adjustable seats over to the touring boat (as did Dagger) - these seats make it easy to find comfortable seating position.

I don't have a strong reason why, so maybe I am off base or just holding some prior bias, but not impressed enough that I would buy the Jackson for rock play or surf. Sean Morley (about as close as you get to a paddling god) did take one out rock gardening and videoed it back when he was a sponsored Jackson paddler - http://youtu.be/8RUfI1TEu4U

Note - the 13.5 is much smaller than the 14 (lower deck, etc.). When I accidentally get in one of those, my legs fall asleep within 20 minutes. There is a larger size difference than you would expect for a 6" length difference.