Advice for buying a kayak, paddle & pfd


I’m just getting started in kayaking. I’ve canoed a great deal in my life, but now I want to kayak. I’ve taken a basic class and an intermediate class, and tried out a few different types of kayaks, but there’s just so much information! I’d appreciate any help y’all can offer.

I’m 5’7 and 150 lbs. I’m super healthy but only moderately active. My man and I want kayaks to paddle about in the area lakes and rivers. This is flat water, as the even rivers here are really slow moving. I’d also like to take them to my folk’s house at the beach (Gulf Coast) every now and then, maybe two to four times a year. The bay there is calm, and I doubt we’d go out into the Gulf side unless with a large group of people who know what they’re doing. We might take a class down there as well. Up around here, we’d be paddling around on day trips and maybe an overnight camping trip four to six times a year.

Here’s what I’m thinking about buying. It’s not the end of the world if I have to upgrade later, because we have a bunch of young adult kids who could use our old stuff and go paddle around with us. There’s an outdoor store near here, so I can go there and check out all this stuff in person before I buy it. Here’s what I’m thinking.

Kayak: Zephyr 155? Some kayaks I get in are too wide. This one seemed ok. Can you adjust the kneepads, or are those fixed? They were a little wide, but from what I’ve read, anything narrower would be less stable. Also, this one had three hatches, and that seems to be a good thing. Are there any others I should look at? I’d like to stay under $2k.

Women’s pfds. What to look for? I’ve got some junk up front to work around (about 40”). I looked at the “Buyer’s Guide”, but it just looked like info from the manufacturers and didn’t give any reviews.

Paddle: I’m thinking about getting a Werner Cypress 215. Do I need a one piece or two piece? The one piece is a lot lighter, but the two piece would be a bit easier to store and transport. Straight and not bent, correct?

Anything else I should know? These are the big items I’m purchasing, but I have a list of other stuff to get/bring as well.

Thanks for your time!

Zephyr is actually a nice little boat. I’m also 5’7" and paddle a Tempest, which is a bit longer and narrower as I do mostly sea kayaking, but I’ve paddled the Zephyr several times. 215cm might be a great paddle. I use the 205cm Cyprus but again, my boat is narrower. The Cyprus is very expensive though, so you may want to demo a few lengths before committing. I have a two piece - just far more convenient.

Not sure what to tell you about PFD’s. I’m not super picky in that department. I just bought a used NRS one from my local shop.

Another tip
Agreed with you. I’d also like to add that OP can find some good deals around the $1k mark, so be sure to check those out. There’s no need to blow the budget and you can invest in better quality accessories than the standard add-ons/tools.

Zephyr is a Nice Boat
Try a Dagger Alchemy if one is near you; the smaller one. The Kokatat MSFit is a comfortable pfd that a lot of men use as well as women. Check out Greenland paddles sometime. Most of them don’t break down into two pieces but they’re great.

I am smaller than you so can’t comment well on the fit of the Zephyr 155 for you. It is rated as a good starter all around boat.

I would not worry about an inch of more narrowness for you. Stability curve yes, but you will find yourself feeling very stable very fast given how you seem to be approaching this.

That said, I have been in the Alchemy. For someone who may want to grow their skills I really really like this boat. A whole lot. The hatch covers tend to leak a small bit in some - but that is a plastic boat thing. Just keep crucial stuff in dry bags, or garbage bags until you have put aside money for really nice dry bags.

As to your first paddle, in fact your first two paddles regardless of whether Greenland or Euro like the Werners, I would absolutely go two piece. That way you end up with both a primary paddle and the spare you want/need on your deck.

The Cypress 2 piece, in foam core, is plenty light. Also plenty expensive - have you checked the price?One thing to consider if you want to save bucks is that the Cypress blade shape is available in other paddles in the Werner line in other than foam core, hence a bit cheaper. A phone call to a good outfitter or to Werner should clear up any confusion about which paddles have that blade shape. It is a high angle blade shape, which I suspect would be a good fit for you.

The worst that happens is the heavier version of it becomes your spare paddle.

The bent versus straight shaft depends on the person. I personally find that the bend built into Werner paddles does not hit me right. Others find it is better for their wrists. But the bent shaft in my H2O whitewater paddle fits beautifully, I really never am physically aware it is even bent.

I have read here that women who are better endowed that me, it isn’t hard, find the MsFit uncomfortable and go to other PFD’s. It is worth remembering that the MsFit PFD is almost as popular with men as with women. I think you should wait for a response from a woman who has the same concerns as you on the PFD.

Congrats on starting this, you will love it!

I think the Zephyr would be a good boat for you. It would do everything you want and then some. You might also want to check out the Squamish and Squall GTS boats from Current Designs. I think the CD boats are a little bit better quality than Wilderness Systems for about the same price.

The paddle you chose really depends on your paddling style - high angle or low angle. My wife and I both paddle fairly high angle. I’m 6’0" and use a bent shaft 210cm Werner Cyprus and my wife is just barely 5’0" and uses a 200cm straight shaft Cyprus, so I think a 215cm is too long for you and would probably suggest a 205 or 210cm. If you are more of a low angle paddler then consider a 215cm Kalliste. My wife and I use 2-piece paddles just because they go into a car that much easier.

Check out the Astral PFD’s
Some can go under the boobage. I found the MsFit intolerable as it squashes the gals.

The Astrals fit a little lower, which I like

You really DO have to try lots of PFD’s on and like womens pants finding the right fit takes time.

Do a lot of looking.
I’m repeating myself, but you really should look at the Carlisle Expedition paddle. For the price you simply can’t do better and you will pay at least $100 more to get as good in a Werner. That’s not a dig at Werner; I have a bunch of them, but the Expedition is just a really good deal for the price.

Be very picky when it comes to a pfd. Try a bunch on, but only those that are specifically for paddling. If you can, try out the NRS Ninja.

For a boat, again do a lot of looking and trying on. While you’re looking, go to just for the fun of it and for a point of reference. Keep in mind that NC puts on some very nice sales around Christmas and other times.

Current Designs, Eddyline, Delta, Valley, P&H, and Stellar should also be on your list of brands to look at.

Welcome to the paddling gear swamp.
There is a reason so many of us have been through so many boats, and loved every minute of it. The perfect boat hasn’t been made.

You really can’t know about a boat until you paddle it a bunch. Pick the one that feels the best now and go for it.

My wife is short but fairly “busty” and while she has yet to find a PFD that fits her really well, her current favourite is an Astral YTV.

PFD’s for double D’s

– Last Updated: Oct-24-16 2:17 PM EST –

I'll second all the suggestions to check out Astral PFD's. I'm about your size though 2 inches shorter and blessed (I guess) with a 40 inch chest with double D's. I'm also short-waisted, so sitting in a kayak makes a lot of higher cut PFD's get pushed up under my chin.

After trying just about every brand I could find, I own three Astrals, the V-8 (which is by far the coolest and best ventilated hot weather vest I've ever used), a Camino (which I got for more flotation and warmth in cooler weather and waters) and an Abba -- I admit I bought the latter for its wonderful green color and the pocket arrangements but have grown to really like its soft flexible buoyancy structure and the fleece-lined handwarmer area built into the front. All the Astrals are all super comfortable and very well made.

I often don't even remember I still have my PFD on at that end of a paddling day until I get into the car after loading my boat. Other vests I've owned (like from Stohlquist, Extrasport and MTI) I couldn't wait to take off. I had also tried the Kokatat MsFit and did not like the feeling of having the girls squashed.

Great Information!
This is great information!

Kayak: I’m glad to hear the Zephyr is considered a good one. It’s difficult to compare when you don’t have a lot of experience with them. We can rent some locally, but we’re still dependent on what they have on hand.

Paddle: I am a high angle paddler most of the time, so maybe I should consider a 210 or 205 instead of a 215. I’m thinking of 210. Straight Shaft. I would like to start with that Carlisle Expedition, but it only seems to go down to 220. Is there another comparable one that’s shorter? If I can find one, then later, if I need a different length I can go to the Cypress. It’s about a ten oz. difference, though. Is that enough to ruin my day? Or just a minor thing I won’t really notice?

PFD: I’m going to avoid the MSfit PFD, since squashed boobage is definitely not what I want. I’ll try some on at the local store before I buy one. They’ll match internet prices, I hear, so that should work out. Hopefully they’ll have an NRS Ninja and an Astral YTV for me to try. I will be super picky, as recommended.

I think you’re all right, and that I’m just going to have to pull the trigger and buy this stuff. Later if I want to upgrade or change anything I can. I’m not going to expect everything to be just exactly what I want for the rest of my life. And anyway, if I end up with extra stuff, that’s one more kid who can come with us.

Also, what’s the deal with kayak carts? Necessary? I would just carry a canoe. Once I carried one on a nine-mile portage. Don’t want to do it again, but point being, I’m capable of hauling one around.

However, and this is a real concern, there is a kayak put-in about two miles from my house (yay!), but it has a super steep path down to it, and it is difficult to walk down with nothing in your hands, much less a kayak (boo.) Would a cart help with that?

Good question
I bought a C-Tug when I first bought all my other gear, but in the last 2.5 years I can still count on 1 hand how many times I’ve used it. When I go alone, I launch from a place that’s easy for me to carry my own boat, and when I go with groups to other locations, we usually just help each other carry our boats. You know the types of places you’ll be paddling best, but for me this isn’t essential gear. That said, my Tempest is plastic and 58 pounds. I’m not sure how much the Zephyr is but I’d guess 50. It’s awkward for me to carry my boat alone but I can do it, but it is heavy. If I wanted to me nicer to my back, I’d use the wheels more.

While I’ve never counted mine,
a cadence of 50 full stroke cycles each minute equals 3,000 strokes every hour (so claims “Adventure Kayak” magazine).

My personal experience is that ten ounces makes a big difference even at a lower cadence.

I paddled with the fiberglass Carlisle expedition paddle for one season. During a class, I tried my instructor’s Werner Cyprus. It was like holding air compared to the Carlisle.

Santa was good to me as a Werner Cyprus 210 cm paddle was under the tree that Christmas. The Carlisle was moved to spare status.

This year my Lumpy Greenland paddle arrived - it weighs only three ounces more than my Cyprus. Carlisle now relegated to guest usage.

Yes, get a cart
You don’t have the carry and balance advantages with a kayak that you have with canoe and a yoke. You want a cart.

Take a look at the wheels and what kind of terrain they are supposed to handle. It should match your likely launch terrain. That could mean that the cart has to break down to fit in your kayak or (and I have done this) hide the thing in the woods while you are paddling because it will not fit thru the hatches. Just look out for poison ivy when you do that, which I failed to do one time.

The island not the tree!
And please note, the Werner paddle is a “Cyprus”, not a “Cypress”. :slight_smile:

I’m not sure you have paddled enough to
settle on a paddle length. An adjustable length with 210 as the center might be a good investment.

Good suggestion! What’s a good brand of an adjustable paddle?

Aquabound makes good paddles and are
moderately priced, which is where I would start. Epic and Werner are on the high end.Another consideration is blade width. A wide blade will provide immediate power but they can also be hard on your joints. As I have aged, I have gone to more narrow blades like the Wind Swift and a Greenland style.

IMO, you can paddle with virtually anything but the correct paddle for you is the most important thing you can buy.

Someone who makes Greenland style paddles, like Lumpy Paddles can fit you perfectly and they won’t break the bank like a carbon fiber paddle of any style will.

They are wet paddles without drip rings so you would want a skirt to keep the water out of your boat.