Anyone knowledgable about Old Town?

I’m looking at the Old Town Heron, either the 11XT or the 9XT. A couple questions. Firstly, is 9 feet too short? My friend insists I need to get at least an 11 ft kayak for stability and tracking. Is this true? I’m only 5’8" 165 lb and I want it to be as easy to transport as possible while still maintaining a smooth and comfortable ride.

Secondly, I read in one of the reviews that the 11XT felt sluggish and dragged in the water and felt like a bit of a tiring chore to paddle. They said it felt much heavier than what the specs said. Is this true, and if so why? What other models would you recommend if this is accurate? I’ve heard for a while now that old town was a reputable brand and I really like the look and styling of the Heron. Thanks!

Where do you plan to paddle?

– Last Updated: Sep-06-16 10:45 PM EST –

Old Town makes decent canoes, but their kayaks tend to be heavy, clunky and slow. Slug-like" is the description that comes to mind. If you are only planning slow floats on small streams or fishing and birdwatching in calm lakes, you might be OK with one, but they are typically not very speedy or easy to paddle. 9' is short for an adult kayak and such a boat has to be comparatively wide to get enough flotation. This makes it relatively stable on flat water but slow and inefficient. And short boats rarely have sealed bulkheads and usually have oversized cockpits which makes them unsafe and unsuitable for wide or windy water. Should not be taken in water over your head or far from shore.

There are better brands in the same price range. You will get a lighter and easier to paddle boat if you look at models by Wilderness Systems, Necky, Dagger, Perception or Jackson.

We usually suggest that beginners look for a decent used boat. You can save considerable money over a new boat, get something with more features and better performance dollar for dollar and will take less of a loss if and when you sell it to upgrade if you find it not suitable.

Don't select a boat based on hoping to haul it inside a vehicle. It is simple and inexpensive to carry any size boat on the roof of a car. A foam block and strap set runs around $40 and it's crazy to limit yourself to something with limited performance due to transport concerns.

Have you kayaked before and/or had any instruction? It's best to know what you are getting into before making an investment.

Thanks for all the info! I have kayaked a fair amount, using a few diff models that belonged to friends and rentals. I plan to mostly be casual in my use; paddling down rivers and around on lakes, fishing a fair amount. Storing it on the roof is not a problem at all, that’s what I planned on doing. When I mentioned wanting a smaller/lighter kayak for transport reasons I mean being able to carry it to and from my car lol. How much more sluggish and hard to paddle are old town kayaks? I know this sounds shallow and silly but I really like the aesthetics of the Old Town kayaks lol.

Single layer polyethylene
sounds tempting… its light right?

Storing it needs to be done thoughtfully. It tends to warp and the bottom flex… Losing performance

Some makers ( and I believe Old Town is among them) weigh the hull, give you that weight and omit adding the seat weight.

There are better out there. For lakes and mild rivers, do you need a deck?

Pack canoes are faster and lighter but not as budget friendly… They tend to be 23-39 inches wide and 13-16 feet long, 20-30 lbs and paddle with a double blade. Fishing is easy from them

Some of them like the Placid Shadow are quite fast

In general the longer you go the better the tracking.( its a bit of a simplification but you dont want to hear of block coefficient now)

Really 12 foot is about as small as I’d recommend 14’ is better. Speed and ease of paddling is dependent on waterline length, hard to get if the boat is too short.

Also short kayaks wander around too much, takes extra effort to get them to track a straight line.

Bill H.

I see Ohio…
What lakes are you talking about? If the Great Lakes, the rec boat you are considering are not going to get you much of anywhere in those waters. It is not just the length, also features like bulkheads and perimeter rigging.

You can get a cart that will hold at least one end of the boat from car to water for as little as $30, or a bigger one that will carry the whole weight for more. That is the most sensible way to get any kayak from between car and launch.

Does it have to be new? You are coming into a good time of year for places to be thinning out their rental fleets, leaving you money to get a really decent lighter weight paddle.

No not Great Lakes lol
Just local tiny quarry and dam lakes in southern Ohio. Rivers too. So is the general consensus that old town are heavy?

they are comparatively speaking… Long ago they were designed for the unforgiving Penobscot River flowing by over jagged ledges next to the Old Town factory

Nowadays that history may be lost but they are still heavy… It takes money and expensive design to lighten them up… They are after all mass produced.

Oh ok
So are there lighter kayaks of good or better quality in that price range? Is it a huge difference if I really like the design of the Old Town,

Local choices

– Last Updated: Sep-07-16 1:09 PM EST –

I took a look at the Cinncinnati Craigslist and have some recommendations:

This Current Designs Solara 120 is only 42 pounds and the seller has posted it, fully equipped with paddle, pump, drybag and other gear for only $600. You would pay more than that for the OT Heron plus a basic paddle and the Solara is a much better boat.

There is also a Wilderness Systems Pungo 140 for $695:

A bit heavier but a hugely popular model with the added safety of dual buklheads:

NO accounting for taste, but I have to admit to being amused that you like the "look" of the Herons. What is it that you admire about them? I suppose compared to junk like Pelicans and Sundolphins that are so common maybe the Heron seems more "kayak-like" but I find Old Town kayaks very clunky and generic. In fact I find it ironic that OT would name such squat little tubs after a graceful water bird. Kind of like if VW had called the "Beetle" the "Gazelle" instead. The Solara strikes me as a much better looking boat IMHO.

There is also a Hurricane kayak for sale for only $375 - no model noted but it looks like it might be an older Santee 116. If so, these are only 40 lbs and are $1000 new. This would need a flotation bag in the bow for safety but that would only cost about $25 or $30.

I think any of these would be better than a 9 or even 11 foot Old Town.

On the design part…
You may be responding to the more plumb bow, which does nothing for me but some people like that over more pointy elfin ends. Be aware that there is a function to the more pointy designs, they alter the profile of the boat so that when you edge it to turn you are managing a lesser wetted surface. But if it is plumb bow you like, they are out there like the Swift and QCC boats. Not as hefty looking as the Old Towns, at all, but still less elfin than the Brit style boats hanging in my basement.

Nice thanks!
Although the first model you linked is $600 for the kayak by itself. $1000 for everything. My friend has a Pungo, they’re solid. As a novice paddler, do you really think I’d notice the sluggishness/heaviness of the Old Town? As shallow as it sounds I’m pretty hung up on the aesthetics lol.

While you are paddling the boat
You are not going to see the profile that you seem to so like. You will notice how it paddles.

ad a bit confusing
I guess you are right – the way they wrote the Solara ad isn’t real clear – it seemed like the higher price was for throwing in the roof rack system. Still not a bad price for the Solara, which list for $800 in plastic. By the way, I was off on the weight – CD did make a lighter composite verson but the one for sale is obviously plastic. In fact the dimensions and design looks virtually identical to the Heron 11XT.

I’m puzzled what you are comparing the Old Towns to, since they are far from sleek. It is possible for a shorter boat to be sleek, like this Eddyline Rio:

And as Celia correctly notes, you can’t see the boat’s profile when it’s in the water.

That’s a good point
Like I asked before, as a novice paddler will I definitely notice the sluggishness of the old town? I really don’t have a basis for comparison, I have only ever used my friend’s Old Town.

You will notice it if…
you try someone else’s boat that is easier thru the water than Old Town.

You really need to try some other boats rather than jumping on one because you think it looks nice. Boats are intended to be paddled, not sit around as a lawn ornament.

That’s pretty sharp
But I prefer a bit more rugged look. Are kayaks generally seen as more stylish and sporty when they are more narrow and pointy on the ends or is that more for the boat’s ability to glide through the water?

Do yourself a favor
Spend a lot more time looking on the internet and if possible, try out a whole lot more boats. In the long run I guarantee you that you will be happier with a longer sleeker boat and you will save money by starting with a boat that you won’t tire of in about an hour.

performance, not style

– Last Updated: Sep-08-16 12:09 PM EST –

The shape of the hull and even the deck is related to performance. Styling considerations are way down the list in kayak design, though sometimes cheapo models have laughable tweaks in an attempt to make them look like more than they actually are.

There are a lot of factors that go into tuning the architecture of a kayak, which is why you will find hundreds of different models. There is a reason why a Formula 1 race car looks different from a military HumVee and it has nothing to do with aesthetics. (if you want an automotive equivalence for the OT Heron for performance and styling, it would be a mini-van.)

For example (and this is for flatwater kayaks):
To get speed you need long and narrow with a vee-shaped keel. For ease of turning, a hull will have some rocker (higher at the ends than the midsection). A lower deck sheds wind better and makes it easier to roll. Hard or soft chines (whether the hull cross section is a smooth curve or has sharp angles) affect performance and many experienced paddlers strongly prefer one or the other. A narrowing taper at the stern aids tracking. A plumb bow adds to the waterline which can increase speed. Traditional Greenland style kayaks have an overhanging bow so they could ride up over ice floes. A wide flat hull makes a stable base for fishing and photography or as a diving platform but makes a boat hard to turn and slow.

A boat doesn't have to have a clunky shape to be strong.

But, I should know from the years that I sold wilderness gear that it's nearly impossible to talk someone out of a product when they are fixated on its "look", regardless of its function. If the Heron appeals to you so much, then you should buy it. If you do, check it carefully and buy it from a dealer that will give you reliable service because there are an unusually high number of reports of defects in Old Town kayaks (warped hulls, hardware that comes loose, seats that break). Old Town makes decent canoes (I used to own one) but I don't think much of their kayaks.

And just remember that we warned when you find out how ponderously sluggish it is.

the difference between looking cool
and looking like a fool is how well you paddle the boat you are in . Put me on some class II or III whitewater and throw in a few small surfing waves and holes and I can look pretty cool. Put me in a sea kayak and I look like a total fool. For others it is reversed and there are many on this forum that can look cool doing both. Looking cool = boat control.

Different boats let you hone in on different abilities. If you want to look cool then get really good at paddling whatever boat you decide to buy.

What folks are trying to tell you is that you are going to look a bit slower and perhaps a bit more tired compared to some other choices that have less weight and more hull speed or efficiency.

Nothing wrong with wanting to buy a boat because you visualize that it is the boat for you and imagine yourself paddling it. Just know that there are other boats that may work as well or better for your stated purpose.