A desert dweller and an ocean kayak!?

Greetings paddlers.

I would appreciate a little help in making a choice. I have a somewhat unique situation when it comes to choosing the best kayak for my needs. I have done lots of reading on this forum as well as other great resources. I feel that I have a good grasp on what I should be looking for. I have also defined my primary desired use, to help narrow the search down. My situation is unique because touring kayaks aren’t sold here. I am located on the western side of Colorado, along the Colorado River. I don’t think anyone would ever think about buying a touring sea kayak, except for me. The stores here just don’t stock them… The kayaks that are sold here are for either fishing, (“heavy sit-on top”) or they are for white water. I guess there is a third type bought at box stores, (wal-mart) for just floating a lazy part of a river.

Now let me describe what my plans are. I love to travel, I love to camp with my little dog, and I love to be remote. White water kayaking class 4-5 is not of particular interest to me. I would not mind some small rapids1-2 (without my dog of course) but this ranks very low on my list. I want to have a kayak that I can take on, a 7+ day camping expedition trip, into remote lakes. For an example I am going to take a trip to Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, (Northern Minassoda) this coming fall. Large lakes, maybe the Great Lakes, and full length river trips such as, Missouri, Missasipi, or others., Even some ocean exploring is what I need. And still using it on small lakes here is colorado for fishing and fun. Lets just leave aside whether I am capable or not, and stick to the kayak needed for doing such adventures.

So here is the short list, the way I see it of parameters the kayak must fit, let me know if I have missed something.

#1 has to be transported on top of my SUV. ( I have measured, 14ft is about max.) Keep in mind that I have to take my vehicle into some Colorado mountain roads and cant have a trailer behind me or a kayak hanging 5ft off the back end.**

#2 I will need to have the capacity to carry myself ( 5’11” 170 lbs), my gear, my dog (about 25lbs) and not go over weight. ( before I get all the naysayers about having my dog on a kayak and how a pack boat would be better. She already rides with me on a kayak just fine and has a blast. I have a setup that works great.**

#3 Somewhat light weight. Because of portages. This is how I break it down.

I am 170 lb Dog 30 lb Camping gear 70 lb This is 270 lbs. Not exactly packing heavy for an 8 day expeditions. I could pack 70 lb backpacking for an 8 day camping trip. However I need to calculate in the gear exclusive to kayaking. Paddles ( possibly even a spare depending on area.) PFD, dry bags, fishing equipment etc. you get the idea. I feel like it is not a good idea to have my kayak loaded to its maximum capacity. All told I think 300lb would be my total weight. I would like to be under my maximum by 40-50 lbs so that if I have a trip where I don’t have any portages, I would have a little room to take more if I am base camping, or take better food. I am sure you get the Idea.

#4 Budget, It had to come into play at some point. I am not going to spend untold sums to save 5 lbs on the weight. The bottom line is (not trying to brag) I climb 14k mountains here in Co, with a 60+lb pack on, sometimes 5k ft elevation gain to base camping 9 miles is normal. I am not overly concerned with having the absolute lightest money can buy. With that said allow me to double back and say that if I can save a few pounds I am still interested. It just seems that at some point, from what I have seen the prices increase about a thousand for only 5 lbs of weight savings.

Not sure if this affects the type of kayak or not but I am planning on putting a sail on it, for the long distance journeys and just for the fun of it. Looks like a great time sailing a kayak.

I am considering

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 -140

Capacity 350lb weight 56lb, the 140 is capacity 325 and 53lb

  • PROS

    • Affordable (cheap) Wouldn’t bother me drilling holes in it for a sail kit.
    • Very comfortable seat and cockpit (so I have read.)
    • Durable, ( I need help understanding the different types of plastic.)
    • Good for lots of conditions, has great reviews.
    • Essay to buy, I may be able to order off Amazon
    • 350lbs maximum weight will be enough to stay underweight on long trips. With lots of food and gear. The Tsunami 140 max weight is 325
  • CONS

    • A little heavy 56 lbs. Reducing the total gear I could have to portage by 10+ lbs.
    • Not confident in the hatches staying water tight
    • No day hatch
    • Hard to carry if there is vegetation such as brush or trees. Because of the length

Delta 12.10

Capacity 300lbs weight 41lb

  • PROS

    • Affordable,
    • Looks really nice.
    • Hatches have a good design, and should seal tight.
    • Light weight, at 41 lbs
    • Stronger haul, (But I don’t understand the difference in the plastic used.)
    • Shorter so easier to haul on my vehicle or portage.
    • Has a day hatch
  • CONS

    • 300 lbs maximum weight could mean I am near maxed out on long duration trips.
    • Wouldn’t want to drill holes for installing my sail. Because it is pretty

Delta 14

Capacity 340lb and weight 45

  • PROS

    • Good hatches
    • Lighter weight only 41lbs
    • Looks really good and easy to clean.
    • Stronger haul materially, then the wilderness systems
    • Has day hatch
    • 340 lb maximum weight will be plenty to stay 50lb underweight on long trips. With lots of food and gear
    • Comes with a rudder. Maybe nice for sailing.
  • CONS

    • Price is as much as the Wilderness Systems plus a sail kit.
    • Wouldn’t want to drill holes

Delta 15.5 GT

Capacity 400lb weight 49lb

  • PROS

    • More than enough weight capacity for gear
    • A true sea kayak.
    • Something to grow into for my expeditions.
    • If I have very limited portages, or easy portages where I can use wheels. I easly have enough weight capability for my Mississippi trip.
    • Looks great
    • Good hatches
    • Comes with a rudder
  • CONS

    • Cost, I would not be buying a my sail kit for a while
    • I would have a very hard time hauling it on my vehicle. Could get damaged because of hanging off the back of my vehicle. It could be done, or I could buy a different SUV.
    • Very long, it will be hard to carry if there is vegetation such as brush or trees.
    • Is there such a thing as being too light for the capacity of a kayak?
    • Some reviews say it’s seat is not the most comfortable.

Sitka LTCapacity 350lb weight 47lb

  • PORS

    • 350 lbs max load,
    • Nicer looking ABS plastic, easy to clean.
    • Seat is highly adjustable, and should add comfort.
    • Has a day hatch
    • Has skeg that is retractable.
    • More nimble and sporty. Could supposedly handle rougher conditions.
  • CONS

    • Hatches are not as good as others. There are some complaints in the reviews.
    • More expensive than others of the same construction
    • Cargo volume is less than some of the same length. Would have to pack tight.
    • Weighs more than the Delta of the same size.

Sitka XTCapacity 500lb weight 49lb

Compares closely to the Delta 15.5 GT, So I am not going to repete all the same pros and cons, most are going to be the same.

  • PROS

    • More than enough weight capacity at 500 lbs.
    • Day hatch
  • CONS

    • The most expensive. Not only would I have to wait to buy the sail kit, but also, I would have to cancel one of my trips where I was going to use the kayak.
    • Same issues with the size as the other 15.5ft
    • I don’t care for the hatches

Those are the ones that I am considering. I am sure there are other brands that my be even better than any of these. This is just a sampling of my top picks. Because demoing any kayak in the touring category is quite impossible, any and all input will be greatly appreciated. Right now my hope is that with the help of the community I will be able to have a fairly good idea of the 2 or 3 models, that will work best for me. Then I will try to find a place I can try one out before I purchase. I think the closest place will be Salt Lake City, about 6 hours from me.

Thank you all for the input.

Dagger Stratos 14.5. Get either S or L depending on your fit preference, I cannot imagine your dog in any of those kayaks you or I listed.

Please do more research before drilling holes for a sail. Kayaks are built to be paddled. Sailboats have a keel or centerboard which kayaks do not. Sailing a kayak can be done with wind abaft the beams and hopefully directly astern. Hope you check several of the other threads on this.


I would NOT order a kayak via mail delivery. Too many horror stories of damage in delivery plus you really need to assure proper fit of a boat before investing it it. Certainly if you are willing to drive halfway across the country for outings, you can also manage to drive to an outfitter, even out of state, and examine, try on for fit and buy a kayak in person.

Second, 12’ and 14’ are too short for your size and your intended use and cargo. A boat you have filled to near its rated capacity is going to be unstable, especially with a dog riding on it. 12’ and 14’ boats are for lightly loaded day trips, not distance paddling with a load and certainly not for coastal or Great Lakes travel. A better choice would be 15’ or 16’. You can haul a longer boat on your car. I have hauled 18’ kayaks thousands of miles on the roof rack of a Mazda CX5 hatchback wagon both on interstates and winding mountain roads. I am betting my car is shorter than your SUV.

Since weight is a concern for you, look at Stellar’s line of touring kayaks which come in a range of lighter layups than the common rotomold plastic.

Honestly, I don’t think all that much of Tsunamis. They are heavy and sluggish compared to similar models by other brands – kind of barges… A few of my friends I paddle with have had them over the years and I’ve traded off with them on trips or rented them and did not care for the performance.

If the model was still available I would recommend the Pakboat XT-16 folding kayak. At 38 pounds it had a capacity of 300+ pounds and fit in a duffel bag (set up time 20 to 30 minutes.) It could also be rigged with a sail kit – video linked below. Used ones turn up from time to time: I actually sold a slightly smaller XT-15 a few years ago. Still have 4 other Pakboats. The company does still make a 15’ model called the Quest 150, though the capacity is less at 285 pounds. It does have a number of advantages for you (and the dog) in that it can be paddled with or without the removable deck. The folders also have a large volume of storage for gear and it is more readily accessible than in hatches on hard shell boats. And, of course, you can transport the boat in a duffel bag inside your vehicle (or on the roof, as I usually do, using j-racks as in the attached video. And the Quest only weighs 31 pounds (26 pounds without the deck.) I don’t care how fit you are, unless you are willing to haul a breakdown wheeled cart along on your trips you are NOT going to be “portaging” a rotomold or composite touring kayak solo any distance at all.

Pakboat does still make a 15’ tandem folder (the Saranac model) that can be set up to paddle solo by moving the seat amidships. It is wider than their Quest, only weighs 29 pounds and also has the removable deck. therefore more stable though slower and with a 400 pound capacity. Huge volume for baggage in that one. VERY easy to set up (I have the smaller 12’ solo version.)


I’m not too far down the road a little south of you, and there is another frequent contributor here just south of me. Don’t rule out western Colorado a a place devoid of sea kayaks for sale. You might have to drive a few hours, but that is a part of living out here anyway. There is always boats popping up for sale in Denver, and on this side of the state there are currently for sale at least a couple of Current Design boats, a Necky in Durango, and a Tempest 165 in northern NM. I bought 3 sea kayaks last year alone (a CD Solstice, a Riot Brittany, and a very, very cool and fairly highly sought after Derek Hutchinson Gulfstream). A positive note is that when boats do come for sale over here they are generally pretty inexpensive because the market isn’t really looking for them.

I’ve driven about every Colorado mountain and back road in the state at one time or another, and am not really sure I agree with your hesitancy for some overhang. A few feet off the rear will be no issue, and stepping up a little from 14’ will give you a lot more options, and I think some better choices. Our family canoe is almost 18’, and I’ve got multiple kayaks pushing 18’ as well and have never had a problem on our fairly small SUV (a CX5 like Willowleaf!). If you do end up doing larger lakes or longer big river trips, you will definitely appreciate a little extra length.

It is easer then people think. My dog already goes with me on the river all the time on my cheep kayak. Just have to make a place with something like short nap office carpet for them to grip.
I was also looking hard at the Stratos. You should check out the the Falcon Sail. There is even a full install video.

My advice would be to give a good look at the Current Designs Sirocco. It’s a bit longer than you specified, but it should handle the load and more important the destinations you ,mentioned. You will really be thanking yourself when you have to cover some longer distances… It’s not the lightest boat around, but it will handle the rigors of your adventures. In any case, you’re going to need a dolly for the kayak and gear you intend. if any portaging is required. Make whatever adjustments it takes to haul a longer boat than what you are considering.

What ever you do, give as much consideration when choosing the right paddle and pfd as you do the boat. That is to say–don’t compromise…

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That’s a nice video of Nirvana. Have watched it before and yearn to tour in the summer time calm waters of the Mediterranean. The absence of PFD on man and dog is surprising for a solo paddler.

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I would also consider something longer than 12-14’ - I would not worry as others have said about the kayak sticking off the back of the car. Even a 14’ will to some extent since the kayak should be centered on the crossbars, not on the vehicle. This will push the kayak towards the back of the car anyway.

Since you’re willing to travel, I would suggest picking a well stocked dealer with some models you are interested in and making the trip. Call them first to discuss what you are looking for, set up demos etc as they will be better able to help you if they know you’re coming. Especially now as some shops are operating on limited hours or staff. I would do this soon - once the season starts in the northern tier stock is going to disappear quickly. Also inquire about the possibility of a half day or full day lesson as well.

Comfort and fit is paramount in longer, skinnier, tighter fitting kayaks. I too would be very hesitant to recommend buying a kayak sight unseen and having it shipped unless you were familiar with both the kayak and the company doing the shipping. Don’t get hung up on numbers and dimensions - go with what is comfortable and meets your needs.

There is also a Tempest 170 for sale in Albuquerque. Not saying it is or isn’t the best boat for the OP, but touring boats can be found in the southwest. One just needs to plan on traveling a bit.

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Consider joining canoe/kayak groups on Facebook to look for boats and find folks local to you. Also, consider the cost of the right rack system and accessories.

For what you are doing (small expeditions), get the longest boat you can store and transport (within reason). If you can do 15’ or 16’, you will find a significant benefit. If not, throw out all the 12’ on your list and only look at the 14 footers.

If the dog will be in the cockpit with you, you might want a slightly larger cockpit opening. Older school or more performance oriented boats often use smaller. A trick to get a feel for cockpit size is to look at the Seals Sprayskirt fit guide (Seals Sprayskirts - Sizing) and plug in make and model and see what number comes up. I think the sweet spot is a 1.7. At this size, skirts can still seal just fine, but opening is large enough to give you space.

I’ve not done Boundary Waters, but my understanding is there is a reason people use canoes and not kayaks - the portages. If you really want to go, research whether dolly carts would work. Or look at composite boats for the lighter weight. Or maybe build a wooden boat, as they can be even lighter.

In the 14’ range a boat that you could add to your watch list would be the Dagger Stratos 145L or 145S, which are available new. Or the Dagger Alchemy 14L, which are only available used now.


Dog, gear, shortness, portages, … I’d get a solo canoe.


Given the camping, the dog, the assumed absence of instructions, and the likely nonsandy type of shores you’ll paddle near, a rotomold SOT of about 16’ length with two hatches or one hatch and one tankwell (e.g., Tarpon 160) would be a top choice.

The overland weight is easily handled by using a portage cart designed for SOTs, where the scupper holes fit over prongs on the cart. Simple, fast, and the 16-footer will have room to stash the folded cart. Rooftopping could be accomplished by several kinds of loading options, all of which are discussed frequently on this board.

I live in the extreme SW corner and have lived in CO for all but about 4 yrs of my kayaking life. The usual way to buy a good non-WW kayak in CO is to buy from out of state, or buy used. There used to be a couple of small shops that sold some sea kayaks about 20 years ago, plus REI could bring one in from elsewhere for pickup at one of their stores. But the dealers stopped selling SK, and I don’t know if REI still sells them. The explosion in SUPing may have caused dealers to get rid of kayak stock in favor of the less voluminous (stack more in a given space) SUPs that are easy to sell.

I think a Tarpon 160 or similar would still be easier to obtain than sea kayaks, in this state. Fishing is popular here.

Of the 5 sea kayaks I have owned, I bought only one of them from an indie dealer, one from REI special-ordered, built a wood one from a kit that was freighted to me from the east coast, and drove about 1000 miles each way to buy two others, on two separate trips. I sold all of them, the most recent one from here in the corner to someone who drove from WI to pick it up (he was on his way to and from a Grand Canyon WW trip). My current kayak is a surf ski, ordered from a SoCal dealer of a Portugese manufacturer. I got lucky in that someone from the midwest was buying one also and delivered mine to my home, or should I say a tenth of a mile away (our road was too snowy for him to safely drive on). My husband and I carried the ski home the old-fashioned way, by horseless and wheel-less means.

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I’ve read somewhere that you should never use such carts. They can cause cracks in the hull by putting stress on the scuppers, which weren’t designed for that. Pick a different cart; there are lots of choices.

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I took your advice and Brodie. stepped up to a little longer and threw out the 12’ and 14’ picks. I was mostly concerned about overhang for backing up in tight spots. So I will probably just get a back up camera.
I didn’t ever hear from anyone about the pros or cons of different types of materials. roto molded or thermoformed abs or what ever. Information seems scares on this subject so I went with what I thought looked best. I just placed my order for the Delta 15.5 GT. I think that it is long enough, with out being overly long and hard to carry on a trail down to the water, if going to a lake not by a road here is Colorado. It has more then enough weight capacity for all the camping gear I will ever need to take.

Thermoform (ABS) is quite tough. I have a thermoform kayak and a kevlar kayak. I’m more concerned bouncing off rocks in the kevlar boat than the ABS one, probably because ABS is easier (and cheaper) to fix.

While RM boats can take the most abuse, they’re too heavy for my taste (or back).

That’s a lovely Delta you ordered. Make wonderful memories paddling it.