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
- 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
- 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
Capacity 300lbs weight 41lb
- 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
- 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
Capacity 340lb and weight 45
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- More than enough weight capacity at 500 lbs.
- Day hatch
- 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.