Any other Little Wing Paddlers out there

I have read several posts on this forum and the Sea Kayaker Magazine forum that Warren Light Craft kayaks are ‘gimicky’, ugly, and overpriced, and cannot possibly perform as claimed by the designer and builder. These comments were made by folks that have never paddled a Little Wing.

I recently purchased a Warren Little Wing 12.5 in carbon fiber. The constuction quality is amazing, and the cost was reasonable for an all carbon kayak at less than $3000). At this year’s Canoecopia, Peception had a carbon fiber 12-foot Tribute priced at $4000, Wilderness Systems had a 15.5-foot carbon boat priced at $5000. The Warrens keep their costs down by selling direct to the customer.

The LW 12.5 is remarkably light at an actual 24-Lbs (I weighed it), and it is comfortable to paddle, fast for its length, with phenomenally stability in rough water. I have a smile on my face every time I carry it to and from the car top or paddle it in the water, especially in rough water. To me, paddling a Little Wing almost seems like cheating by being able to handle almost any situation on the water without having to be proficient at traditional paddling skills.

As Sea Kayaker Magazine has not done a full review on any of the Warrne Kayaks, I am interested in other paddler’s experiences with their Little Wings.

I posted a review of my boat on about two weeks ago, and will send my complete review with photos by request.


– Last Updated: Apr-13-09 2:59 PM EST –

A few questions while we wait for your fellow Little Winger's to chime in...

1. What is good about a kayak that makes anyone feel they are OK going out with less skills than might otherwise be prudent? Your statements may seem like positive attributes to you, but I find this one troubling: "being able to handle almost any situation on the water without having to be proficient at traditional paddling skills". Think about the sort of paddler that might appeal to...

2. What else are you comparing it to (beyond brief demos)? Consider what the others who comment/review may have paddled...

3. What do you consider rough water (where/when)? Consider where the others who comment/review may have paddled...

Not trying to be overly critical, just looking for some context (some can also be gleaned from your exuberant and expansive review).

As I've said of these and many other kayaks in the past, they'll all work just fine for puttering about at 3 knots or so for an hour or so in mild conditions (Bnystrom's "Anything works on a pond" maxim). To be even more fair, at 12.5' that sort of use seems a good match for this design, and likely it's intent. I don't doubt it's more than adequate for central IL lakes and reservoirs, in some occasional light to moderate chop and small craft wakes. Light weight is alway a nice feature (don't need a spreadsheet to figure that out).

I'm glad you approve of your purchase. Most of us tend to feel that way most of the time, particularly early on after purchase...

A final suggestion. Enjoy your kayak, and don't take differing opinions personally - as they come from VERY different perspectives, experiences and understandings.

You’re in central IL?
I’d like to try it sometime. I’m in Urbana.

Question #1
Let me turn that around. Perhaps the Little Wing makes some skillsets no longer relevant. What you are saying is akin to why do we use ovens and now microwaves when we were perfectly fine cooking with fire for thousands of years? OK, that is an extreme example but nonetheless it should make the point.

Sort of like rudders. Maybe we shouldn’t have rudders on kayaks either.

It’s called technology.

Bill G.

Mt. Pleasant, SC

Not a Little Wing owner but I have demo’d (sp.) them. and too uncoordinated to use a rudder.

I have never paddled one
and I think they are beautifull

Misses the point
Gear is no substitute for BASIC skills. Never has been, never will be. Argue otherwise all you like, but it won’t make you look very wise.

I think you’ve been around here long enough to know when to play Devil’s advocate (I do it a lot myself) and when to play it safe regarding public comments. Also to know why I take the position I do on this BASIC stuff.

Besides, I said the thing would work for most for what most do - just with the caveat that that sort of use is not sufficient to test the claims.

Show me any similarly dimensioned kayak that won’t do the same speeds and adequately handle small lake chop as described in review. People doing more than that aren’t the target market for a gimmicky and expensive 12.5’ kayak. The construction and finish is interesting (and weight is on valid selling point), just don’t expect me to buy into the marketing BS about those hull shapes, and expect me to get vocal when such gimmicks are promoted as safety features by anyone.

Personally, I get a kick out of them. There’s room for all sorts of offerings, including these. I’m all for variety, and trying new ideas, but I also have to think Barnum would be proud of the claims about the performance of these…

To use your analogy, microwaves are great – until the power goes out.

Modern, user-friendly designs are a good thing. I think the concern – not unique to the Little Wing – is that they can build confidence faster than good judgment. If the design leads you to think that you can “handle almost any situation on the water without having to be proficient at traditional paddling skills”, what do you have to draw on when things get truly ugly?

Good seamanship has never gone out of date. Some skills have changed, but the fundamentals have remained the same since humans first set out in boats.

This is not a bad kayak IMO
For the target audience, this is probably a very good concept. In totally flat water, the thing is probably easy to paddle. In any sort of waves over 6", the wings will be in the water and I have no idea how the thing will behave - it will certainly behave like a wider boat… But let’s not forget that the overall width even with the wings is not that great and it is fairly round - it will probably be reasonably predictable in side waves rather than being too jumpty like some of the harder chined boats might be.

However, I’m still waiting for my answer from the OP to his review that I had asked via e-mail a while back :wink: The question was how wide is the kayak at the catch area? Seems to me it would be quite wide and inefficient in terms of paddle placement…

There was an interesging analysis article I dug-up recently on the wing kayaks - many of the designer claims were looked at from a scientific prospective and they just did not make sense… Google it if you care.

I’d be hesitant to say anything else without having paddled one though, except I’d like to hear a comparative analysis from someone who has expereince in varying conditions in this kayak and in other kayaks…

Little Wing will succeed or fail by
being tried in challenging open water environments, and showing that it can handle them. Although a 12 foot touring kayak is a bit short for open water…

Little Wing Kayaks
Greyak asked some good questions and the last poster made a good point. I would love for a skilled paddler to test a Little Wing, preferably a LW 15.5 or 16 in challenging conditions and write an objective test report. From my limited experience with my LW 12.5 I tend to agree with the post that compared the LW to modern cooking vs primative methods. Being an early adpoter of the Apple McIntosh and the windows environment I think of traditional kayaks as being sort of DOS-based vs. the Little Wings being like windows machines. The Little Wings just do not require the same skill set to achieve relatively high performanc in rough sea conditions. I have been corresponding with Matt Broze, the person who does the hydrostatics for Sea Kayaker Magazine; the following is what I sent Matt a few days ago. I hope it helps answer some of the questions posed on this message board.

"Matt, I sure wish that Sea Kayaker could test a Little Wing. My LW 12.5 really does, as the builder claims, have an amazing combination of speed and stability (actually two kinds of stability as I will describe). I have paddled it three times in our local lake. Yesterday, the wind was about 15-20 mph and wind-driven and boat-wake waves were about 1-foot. I continue to find that my LW will cruise comfortably at about 3.9-4.0 mph and that I can push it to about 5.6 mph in a sprint - which are the same speeds that I get with my 16.5-foot Folbot Cooper. I find that resistance seems to increase at about 4.0 mph (3.5 knots), probably, as you caculated, due to the high prsmatic coefficient (Cp). The tracking still continues to feel ‘light’ - there is no V-hull, no ‘keel’, no hard chine to get a grip ont he water. It is not difficult to keep the boat on course, but you do have to pay attention to your paddle strokes. The really amazing thing to me is the boat’s stability, both in resistance to capsizing and its directional stability in rough water. It also has an very smooth ride in waves as I will describe below.

Resistance to capsize stability: It is hard to describe the stability of this kayak as anything other than phenomenal. I can sit in the boat in the middle of our lake that is filled with powerboats creating steep wakes with confused waves and totally relax; talk on my cell phone, have a snack, lie back on the stern deck, whatever. The transition from ‘primary’ to ‘secondardy’ stability is seamless; the kayak just seems to be stable, period. I soon forgot I was in a 21.5-in maximum beam kayak with a 19.5-in wetted beam and just relaxed as if in a fishing boat; stabilty simply is not a issue. I estimate that the thin seat puts my butt about 1/4 to 12 inch off the hull, so the low CG may contribute to the stability. This low paddling position presents no hindrance to my reaching the water with the paddle since the boat is narrowest (20-in) at the cockpit.

Tracking stability: While tracking in quiet water is ‘light’, the boat’s ability to be unfazed by waves and wind from any direction is amazing to me. It seems to maintain its directional stability as easily in rough and confused waters as in calm water. I am assuming that both kinds of stability are enhanced by the hull’s complex and smooth transitions which seem to absorb and deflect wave energy. The Little Wing seems to be ‘unflappable’ in any situation that I have encountered so far. I have paddled a folding boat for some years and they are supposed to be particulary good at absorbing and dissapating wave energy and staying on course, but the Little Wing seems as good in this regard.

Comfort: I have always tended to get excruciating back pain while paddling - often within about one-half hour, which is not good since paddling is my favorite activity. I have tried many fixes to seats in my kayaks with no sucess. I have paddled my LW for up to 2.5 hrs so far with absolutely no hint of back pain. The excellent Immersion Resarch Lounge back band may have a lot to do with my lack of pain, but the shape of the thin but confortable seat also must help. Another way in which this is one of the most confortable boats that I have paddled is the way it rides over chop and boat wakes. My Necky Gannet has a buoyant bow and handled chop well, but sort of slammed down hard after going over a wave (with lots of spray). My Cooper, with its low volume bow, punched though some waves, and other times the bow rode high out of the water on one wave, then slammed down and buried its bow in the next one with water washing over the bow up to the cockpit rim. The LW 12.5 just seems to float over the waves that I have encountered so far and has a very comfortable ride with little spray. I have yet to have a wave wash over the bow.

I see several downsides to the Litttle Wings:

  1. For normal touring conditions, even in some fairly rough water, a paddler does not need to develop the kinds of boat handing skills needed to avoid capsizing many narrow sea kayaks. I probably never will develop beyond and ‘intermediate’ skills paddler in this boat.

  2. I wish someone had explained me in plain language that carbon fiber kayaks ‘dent real easily’ so that I would have gotten the FG layup. In trying to decide between FG and Carbon (which Ted and Zac Warren seem to favor) I read a lot of information on the internet. It ususally said something like, 'carbon fiber is not the best material for kayak construction because of its “low impact resistance”. I did not intend to take my boat in rocky rivers, etc, so I figured that carbon would work well for me. The problem is that I have picked up four or five small dimple-like dents, most of which I have not a clue as to when or where the came from. I have one dent just from my paddle blade hitting the deck as I entered the boat. I am afraid that in a few years my boat wil come to resemble a large, yellow golf ball or a car that survived a major hail storm.

    Otherwise, to me the Little Wings (at least the 12.5) are amazing boats, and really are sort of a ‘reinvention’ of the kayak. I am not saying LWs are ‘better’ than a skilled paddler in a, for example, a Greenland-style boat. Instead, they allow a less-skilled paddler (like me) to handled rough water conditions when necessary. The Greenland-style kayak has worked well for thousands of years, but early peoples could not construct or maybe even conceive of the complex hull shapes that computer design modern construction methods make possible. Maybe we should stop imitating and trying to improve upon primative designs. I think that Ted Warren’s greatest innovation was narrowing the cockpit area and pushing the volume out toward the ends to of the boat.

    I would really like for Sea Kayaker to test a LW 15.5 as it is Warren’s most refined and sleekest design. It continues their more Swede form design that they started with the LW 12.5, and its beam at the cockpit is only 19.5 inches, but its longer length would be of interest to more paddlers. I am very interested in what highly skilled paddlers think of Little Wings, and how LWs handle surf conditions. Surely someone on the West Coast has a Little Wing that they would agree to have tested. Happy Easter, - Mike"

    For some reason, Little Wings have not caught the interest of the sea kayaker community, nor have they been tested by the only comprehensive, detailed and objective authority - Sea Kayaker magazine.

Little Wings
Bill G. I see that you are the only person who responded that you had actually paddled a Little Wing. What were your impressions? Maybe it was too short a paddle in too mild conditions to form an opinion?

Little Wings

– Last Updated: Apr-13-09 11:04 PM EST –

Sorry, posted this twice.

Carbon outside should not make a
kayak “dimple” easily unless there is some kind of foam core layer underneath, or the layup is very “light,” that is, few layers of cloth or lighter cloth than usual.

Carbon will scratch more easily than S-glass or E-glass, but not to such a degree that most users of a touring kayak should have to be concerned.

Little Wings
To try to answer Greyak’s question about how Little Wings handle in rougher water than what I have encoutered so far in my inland lake I have taken the following from Billington Sea Kayak’s web site. Billington, located on the MA coast is a full service kayak dealer that carries all major brands (Current Designs, Eddyline, Epic, etc.) offers tours, etc. Their comments refer to their tests of the Warren LW 12.5 and 14-foot kayaks.

“2008… This is our 22nd year as a kayak and canoe shop. Every year it becomes more difficult trying to figure out which new model kayaks to carry in our already expansive line-up. It is tough at times to decide what model to promote and which of the models to let go or pass by. As best we can, the issue is approached from two perspectives; as paddlers ourselves and as a customer coming to our shop looking for accurate information, experience and honest recommendations.

New line for 2008


Little Wing kayaks are built of either fiberglass using a marine foam core inner layer or, most common, carbon fiber using a marine foam core inner layer.

The day we tried these kayaks at our shop the wind was blowing 25-30 mph and there was a 2+ foot chop with whitecaps that were splashing over our docks. Great conditions to demo kayaks before deciding whether or not to add them to our lineup! Both models performed extremely well in those conditions. These kayaks offer strong stability and were easy to keep on course no matter whether the wind and waves were coming at us, from behind us, or directly on our side. The unusual hull design including an angled transom provides excellent stability, both initial and secondary, rough water capability, and speed. The workmanship is impeccable and the construction is well thought out. And, these kayaks are light…easy to carry and car-top them. These were the deciding factors for us…they’re now in our lineup! More often than not, the number of times one goes out kayaking is directly related to how much the kayak weighs and how much effort it takes get it to and from the water.”

This is pretty much my experience also, but in milder conditions.

Little Wings
g2d: That was my thought exactly. The foam core is supposed to make the boat stiffer, but it seems to easily dent. If you know more about this issue, through personal experience or otherwise, pleast put it in a post.

Flaw Design
I have never paddled it and never will because from a paddling point of view it is a flaw design.

To perform a powerful/strong forward stroke, you need a very narrow boat at the catch -the narrower, the better. However, this boat is quite wide at the catch -the widest.

Even though from the hydrodynamic point of view, the boat might be sound; it is not sound from a paddling/forward stroke one.

Not really

– Last Updated: Apr-14-09 11:56 AM EST –

It's no wider than most, and narrower than many. The LW12.5 has max beam 21.5" and is only 20" at the paddler - very narrow for such a small boat. The new model, LW15.5 has max beam of 21" and is 19.5" at the cockpit. This is narrower than 90% of touring boats, I would reckon. I don't think you can dismiss the boat based on the width.

PS Iceman I see you are a ski-guy/racer so very used to narrow boats - but the Little Wing is just a touring boat.

Wouldn’t say that I know “more” but
it’s pretty obvious that some kinds of foam reinforcement, under a stiff cloth and resin, would lead to dimpling or denting. If it happened to my boat, I would probably mix a batch of epoxy and microballoons and, after sanding and cleaning, fill in the dent. I would not worry about matching color… damage just makes a boat less likely to be stolen.

There ways Warren could make the hull less likely to dent. They could make the surface skin thicker and tougher by adding more carbon, or S-glass, but that would weigh more. They could use Spheretex as a stiffener. It is not pure foam, but is a mixture of glass fibers and microballoons that saturates with the resin used for layup. Spheretex is often used to stiffen key areas in whitewater slalom boats. I have a Spheretex reinforced boat, and it is very hard and stiff. But it will weigh more than the approach used by Warren.

Perhaps Warren were feeling so innovative that they outsmarted themselves in certain ways. But they did achieve a light, stiff result.

21" is huge at the catch!
That’s why I keep asking the OP the question how wide is his at the catch but I’m being ignored :wink:

Anything above 18" at the catch feel too wide to me. And if you get used to 16" then 20"+ feels way too bulky. I think Pamlico 140 is probably just as narrow at the catch as this LW thing -:wink:

And again, talking not of the overall boat width - that can be as much as 24 in some areas, but the catch is where it counts for good efficient stroke.

Well, points for not being barges…
… but given your background I think you can see some hydrodynamic issues without needing to run the numbers or test paddle one.

Besides, commonly cited drag numbers (if we had them) would be off as many of the drag prediction software I’ve seen can’t process coke bottle shapes, and don’t do flow simulations at all anyway (how many who like to talk about this stuff have looked at what is actually in the math?).

Like I said, they’ll work fine for most - and given the beams on these will probably be faster than whatever they paddled before. That’s not saying much though.

The no/less skills needed angle is very troubling though. Totally clueless and irresponsible stuff for someone to post.

I’ve been trying to avoid getting into the comments about him paddling it THREE times on a lake! Given the lengthy review and numerous posts this guy has more keystrokes than paddle stroke with this kayak! Oh, and lets not forget the 5.6 mph sprint making it fast as what, a Folbot? Bow gurgle at 4? Yeah, real performance machine there…

Way over the top. Doesn’t pass the smell test. Reeks of planted stuff to get attention to these (seems to happen every spring just before ECC&CK). Maybe Warren (“we recommend the carbon” - no, really?) is giving price breaks to prolific marketers…

It is lighter and narrower than its likely competition (which is rec/crossover market, NOT sea kayaks), and that alone should get it a toe hold in a very large market segment of marginally fit mild water paddlers. Particularly with a smaller subset that has ample cash to burn and can baby them to avoid bruises, and have no desire to branch out and do other than they do now.

Rec paddlers who stay at same skill level and move to higher end rec boats seems odd to me, but makes sense in it’s own way. Could be a LOT of paddlers. Maybe the BS sells well to that crowd (with no means to really quantify it, why not? Just helps them sell themselves on it, as we see here). They get a lighter, “faster”, and likely more responsive kayak - so good for them.

Beyond that subset though, the hype only shoots it in the foot, er, I mean wing.

I did mention I like that this weird stuff is around, right? Vive La Différence! Points to the Warrens for that too.