Also looking for a new kayak

I am an avid canoeist. I’ve never really considered a kayak because my partner in camping crime owns a canoe for local trips, and we rent a kevlar canoe for when we go to the Boundary Waters. Recently, I’ve moved to within 1 mile of a nice sized lake with lots of wildlife management around, and within 10 minutes of one of the busier lakes in TX. My desires for a kayak are these:

-1 person

-light enough that I can put it on top of my car by myself (I’m not a weakling, but a 2 person Royalex Mad River Canoe is too heavy, to give you an idea.)

-ability to transport it with my Hyundai Elantra

-I will be using it for lake paddling, and slow river paddling. I don’t believe there are many rapids in the North Texas area, if there are - they are likely class I or less.

-I forsee this mostly as a day trip vessel, but overnight or weekend camping expeditions are not out of the question down the line, so storage could be a concern.

-my reasons for paddlinlg:


-getting outside and enjoying wilderness

-occasional fishing

-possible short trip camping

I’m 6’1", 290#, but looking to lose weight. I have a bad back (lumbar region) and need to be able to lean back comfortably against something in order to spend any lenghty amount of time paddling.

I know almost nothing about kayaks. Do I want a sit on top or a sit in? What features should I be on the lookout for? Do I need a rudder? I’m familiar with most paddling terminology having been into canoeing for many years, but my knowledge on kayaks is pretty small - so feel free to use the Big People language.

I realize I’m going to get a lot of ‘you just need to sit in one and see what is comfortable for you’ responses, and that’s ok, I’m aware of that, and I plan to do that this weekend at REI. I plan to comb this forum and will probably find a lot of answers to my questions in other posts, but I wanted to throw this out there beforehand. I’m looking for advice on brands, materials, designs, features, everything. I’m a voracious researcher when it comes to making a major purchase and solicited ‘words of trusted experts’ are far more valuable to me than reviews in magazines or websites that might just be written by the manufacturers themselves.

Thanks in advance!

Drive down to

and test to your hearts content.

I’ve been told that is the place to go. I’m not sure how soon I will be able to get down to Austin. It’s a 4+ hour drive from where I am, and I don’t want to make a trip down there just to sit in some kayaks - I’ll have to combine it with another reason to make the trip. For the time being, I will need to find options closer to home (DFW metroplex) until I can make time to get to Austin.

Crash Course
Seems like you’re looking for a recreational (“rec”) kayak. The other two types are whitewater (not what you want) and touring. Touring boats are usually long, narrow, and focus on covering distance with as little energy as possible. Rec kayaks are shorter, usually wider (more stable) and have larger cockpit openings.

I would look at Dick’s, for they have a knowledgable and helpful staff, and I have bought three yaks (kayaks) from them with no problems.

As for specific models, I would choose between the Old Town Trip 10 Angler (known otherwise as the Vapor 10, Trip Dick’s exclusive) and the Perception Sport Conduit 13. They are both about the same weight, and their lengths are in their name.

Now it comes down to performance vs. fishing. The Trip is fully outfitted for fishing, and is very, very stable. It has lots of features, and a watertight bulkheand with hatch for storing stuff.

The Conduit (renamed Dagger Catalyst) is much faster, will give better performance, though it is stable enough to be fished from. Not as many features, though performance makes up for it.

You can also take the Conduit on the ocean.

Kayaks at REI

– Last Updated: Jul-23-12 11:08 PM EST –

I think you are going to want to look at 12' to 14' sit in kayaks (SINK). Sit on tops (SOT) may not offer the same back support, plus they often tend to be a lot heavier then a SINK of the same size. I also have been your weight but a bit shorter. Anything less then 12 I think you are going to find a bit too short for your weight -- I used to overload a few typical recreational 10' and they paddle OK but jumping up really does feel better when you are close to 300 lbs. The one issue you may have is that with a 14' kayak the cockpit can be fairly narrow for a large guy and the weight capacity may max out at 300lbs. I can find very few kayaks at 14' I can fit in the cockpit comfortably. Once you find a few that feel comfortable sitting in dry you do want to take out on the water to see how it paddles as you push the weight limit. Something with a max of 350lbs may be the best you find.

In general poly kayaks of this size are going to weigh 50-60 lbs, I really don't think the posted numbers are always accurate, so they may be a bit heaver.

Here are a few kayaks REI sells that may work for you:

Transitional Touring Kayaks
Wildneress Systems Tsunami 145 (on sale now at EMS and REI) you probably can do without the rudder -- this is a very popular big guy boat
Current Design Vision 150 Composite -- $2600 but under 50 lbs weight -- but may be too narrow for you
Current Design Kestrel 140 Poly -- may be too narrow
Delta 145 Expedition $2100 but under 50lbs, very good weight load but a bit narrow
Dagger Alchemy 14L

Hybrid Crossover
Dagger Axis 12 -- this is my current kayak, great fit for me. I added a thigh pads and hips for good contact with the kayak. Great tracker with the skeg down. Very nice seat. I like to take this down narrow twisting streams but also do lakes with and always have a good time.

Recreational kayak
Wildneress System Pungo 120 or 140 -- this is a insanely popular rec kayak. Cockpit is huge if that what you want. Fine for mellow paddling. I prefer a tighter fit which for me was the Axis (sadly all the little people think that has a huge cockpit as well).

Doesn't seem like REI still has this model but Hurricane makes an Expedition 140 both in a Pungo sized cockpit (but still with a front bulkhead) and a smaller Axis sized cockpit. They are made from Trylon which is as pretty as the composites but cheaper (more around 1K). Their kayaks are also lighter then a poly of the same size. I found their cockpit a good fit but wasn't able to find one to demo.

I have bought a lot of stuff online from Austin Kayak and they have always been great to deal with. One other thing to keep in mind is that lots of deals will be starting in Sept both on new and used rental kayaks. You may want to test drive now and hold off buying for a month -- might even have water by then.

Combine it with a crash course in basics
Most of the questions you have in this post can easily be answered by spending an hour or so on the water with someone who knows their stuff. And spending that money is way cheaper than spending several hundred or a boat that you know is wrong after the first 4 weeks. If you are already a paddler, it might not even take you that long to be ready to turn in a boat that you realize is a poor choice.

For starters, you probably want a kayak that is a somewhat tighter fit and narrower than someone coming from a canoe would first land on. You more than have the balance to handle such a boat, you just need to understand the fit of a kayak well enough to pick right.

The recommendation below for Dick’s as a place of good advice is, to state it mildly, not the experience of many here. Taking the advice of the kids at Dick’s is a pretty good boon to the resale market, but questionable beyond that unless you have a local one where the people really know something and are themselves skilled kayakers. Even then, if you end up with a bunch of WW folks they may not be able to provide great advice on a touring kayak. Our experience is that WW kayakers often gravitate to barges for their first choice in a touring kayak, assuming that they all have to be that way.

Austen is supposed to be a fun city - take a weekend and call it a holiday.

Native Watercraft
If you’re going for comfort as the top priority, I would suggest looking at boats made my Native Watercraft. While high-backed seats are often pooh-poohed as inhibiting proper form (torso rotation), if a high-backed comfy seat gets you out and on the water, I say go for it.

The Native Watercraft “First Class Seating” is basically like having a Lazy Boy in your boat. My hubby has lumbar issues, and switching to this seat has made him enjoy paddling again. The seat has a high back to lean against, adjusts a million different ways, and an additional lumbar pad can also be purchased.

All Native Watercraft boats used to come with this seat, but I believe now they only come in the “Ultimate” line. The Ultimates are like the bastard child of a kayak and a canoe…not quite a SOT, not quite a canoe. Coming from a canoe background, you might be very happy in one. The Tegris model is kevlar and only 36lbs, but $2400. the regular Ultimate 12 is poly and 55lbs, and $1000. Both can be fully outfitted for fishing, which is what most people use them for I think.

Anyway, check out the company:

Direct link showing the seat:

This is what I was hoping for, thanks everyone!

I think covering long distances in short time isn’t too important. I usually find that when I am paddling on rivers that I cover too much ground too fast and reach my camp destination far faster than I want. In the Boundary Waters, we’re in a canoe, and I definitely won’t be taking a rec kayak to Minnesota from TX.

The exercise and getting outside are going to be more important than covering a lot of ground in a short amount of time or a minimal amount of effort expended. Comfort and stability are going to be more important that speed in the water.

I really like the seat in the Native Watercrafts, and that Ultimate line looks more like a canoe than a kayak. It has potential and is near the top of my short list at the moment, but I like the idea of closed off storage that comes with a sit-on-top. I have plenty of dry bags from my canoe trips, but for some things, I like the extra layer of protection.

Dick’s isn’t likely to be a place I would solicit advice. There are a few specialty shops in my area that I trust and hire people who are at least well versed in their merchandise, if not experts. I fear that Dick’s (at least the ones that I go to around here) have part time employees who aren’t knowledgable in specialty recreational goods. I’ve never actually seen anyone in the outdoors sections and if I need help, they send someone over from shoes or clothes and they were unable to answer my questions. Not to say that I won’t shop there, but I will do my research elsewhere and if Dick’s offers the best price for the item I want, then that’s where I’ll buy it.

I do love Austin, I went to college there. I have gone paddling on the San Marcos River, and Guadalupe River near there, which was a really nice 2 day trip. Most of the river is edged by private property and the ‘rule’ is that you can only camp on sand bars in the river or under highway bridges which are public property… but most land owners along the river don’t mind campers as long as they’re respectful.

Anyway, The problem is finding a weekend where I don’t have anything going on for a couple days to get down there. I’ve found a few specialty shops up here that might be able to at least give me an on-water demo that will point me in the right direction.

Call Austin Kayak
They have good people who will answer your questions.

Go light as you can afford
The Native may be comfortable but it is heavy. And it is hot in Texas. A lighter boat is better. Look at the weight of the boats you want to load on your car. A lot of the ones recommended above are over 50 pounds and a kayak is a lot harder to carry and load than a canoe!

If you are mostly going alone and with other for slow fun trips almost any comfortable 12 to 14 foot boat would do.

In the sit on top world the best one for you might be a Hurricane phoenix 140.

Been shoppin’

– Last Updated: Aug-08-12 9:10 PM EST –

I've been doing some research over the last couple weeks. So far, here is my short list:
-Necky Vector 14 0like the combo of stability and performance, and it's a good looking boat, but drawback is low weight capacity.
-Wilderness Systems Tarpon 14 - read nothing but good stuff about it. Higher weight capacity.
-Jackson Cuda - even bigger weight capacity, though I can't forsee myself needing to carry 125# of camping and fishing gear. I'm also a backpacker so all my camping gear is light weight. I guess that'll increase my ability to carry fresh food instead of freeze dried. Other benefits are that I have found Kayak Instructors on Lake Ray Hubbard who rent and sell Jackson yaks - and have arranged for a demo/rental/lesson/guided tour day with them.
-Malibu X-Factor. Looks comfortable, has nice storage, is lighter than some others, but says it has over 600lb weight capacity.

Anyone have any +/- comments? I'm leaning toward the Jackson first, then undecided over the other three.

I went to my local Bass Pro Shop, which is ON lake Ray Hubbard, thinking they would have a decent kayak selection. They had a coupld Old Town boats and several "Ascend" brand boats, of which I have never heard. I suspect they might be exclusive to Bass Pro. They were very inexpensive, but looked it - not a lot of features, simple construction, cheap seats and covers. Probably not something I would be interested in.

Is anyone here a member of the ACA? Is it worth it? What are the benefits?

**EDIT** - foprgot to add the Wilderness Systems Pungo 140.

Also... how does Austin Kayak afford to ship kayaks for $49? People charge more than that for minor stuff on eBay.

Discount for a new Subaru
If you want one.

No one else has said it yet, so I will
Are you sure a solo canoe wouldn’t be a good choice? For the same cost you’ll get a lighter boat, and even at the same weight canoes are inherently easier to carry (even with no carry yoke, putting the front edge of the seat across the shoulders works quite well). Plenty of people use solo canoes for all the things you describe, and they are far superior for fishing. Also, with a lot more freedom of movement and variety of body positions available, one is able to reduce overall strain associated with being in the boat for long periods. One drawback is that the right model might be hard to find on the used market (there probably are 1,000s of used kayaks sold for each solo canoe), and another consideration is what do you really need to make your back comfortable? Do you ever kneel in a canoe, with a properly-slanted seat? There are so many people who’ve never even considered kneeling in a canoe that this at least bears mentioning. Many people with back issues find any kind of low seating to be tough on the lumbar region of the back yet find kneeling in a canoe to be pain-free. I myself do NOT have any major back issues, but I can kneel all day (with occasional breaks outstretching one or both legs) but find it much more stressful to sit upright on a standard canoe bench seat for the same amount of time. Also, with a slanted seat (which you’ll need for kneeling) and the addition of a footbrace, you can rest your knees now and then by sitting, but in this case, for some people anyway, that particular seating position (“locked-in” between sloped seat and foot supports) is a lot easier on the back than sitting on a horizontal seat.

Finally, I commonly hear kayakers speak of lower-back strain associated with sitting so low to the floor. For sitting that low, one thing that gets rid of a primary cause of such strain is improving hamstring flexibility, something which most people are sorely lacking (I myself know the “before and after” of this situation and can’t say enough about what improving one’s flexibility does to solve all sorts of comfort/mobility issues).

Liquid Logic
Remix 10 . Check it out online.

Not opposed
I’m not opposed to a solo canoe, and I took the positives you mentioned into account. I actually considered a canoe first, thinking that if a third person ever wanted to go on our river trips, I could take my solo canoe and prevent having to rent an additional canoe.

I still haven’t completely ruled it out, but I think wanting a different kind of boat for a change of pace was the ultimate decision maker. I also like the idea of secure dry storage. My knees are actually worse than my back, and kneeling for any extended time is pretty excruciating. I have two different strap-on seat cushion/backs that I use for canoes, one has a hard aluminum tube frame and the other is just a pad and back with straps. Both of them help, I am generally able to stay in the canoe all day with minimal discomfort as long as I take regular stretch breaks (not a problem in the BWCA, due to portages.) One of the drawbacks of a canoe, even with the added leg room, is that I find myself wanting something solid to rest my feet against so I don’t have to put them either straight down or straight out… something that the footpeg/rest features in kayaks would address.

I’m planning on going to a couple different paddle days in my area, and I will try out as many kayaks and solo canoes as I can, and I will definitely make my decision with an open mind.

Sounds good to me
I think you are going about this the right way then. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t thinking the way I did years ago (which many people do), that canoes were for two people and kayaks were for one, or that sitting down is “how it’s done” when paddling a canoe. The only thing I’d add, and I did mention it before but I see that it’s something you see as an advantage for kayaks, is that solo canoes (tandems too) can easily be outfitted with adjustable footpegs or an adjustable footbrace bar, so THAT particular issue need not be the decision maker. Have fun finding the boat that suits you.

I’ve been thinking about it over the weekend, and the more I’ve been thinking, that a solo canoe or a hybrid might be what I want. You are definitely right in that sitting that low would likely be an issue for my back, and the raised seat of a canoe would be an advantage.

One thing I realized was that I would like this to be an all-season boat. I love being out in the cool/cold weather and paddling a sit on top yak with scupper drain holes could lead to some cold days. I’d definitely want to stay as dry as possible in the pants region.

One concern is that a canoe is more vulnerable to the wind. I’ve seen how hard two people have to work to keep a canoe on a line in a cross wind in BWCA and imagine that by myself, I’d just have to surrender to mother nature… of course, I could be more selective about my paddling days on local trips and could avoid big wind - but it’s still a concern.