Boat size?

I don’t live near a shop that I would call Knowledgeable about touring kayaks (they sell them, but the staff is mostly college kids who don’t kayak). So here’s where i need some insight: How do you go about choosing the size of bout you need. I am 6’2", 170 lbs, paddle on lakes mostly - once or twice a year on the ocean and I need it to be a good daytrip boat, but also able to carry gear for one or two nights (I’m a ultralight backpacker-so I don’t pack stuff I don’t need). how do I go about determining if I need a 15, 16, 17 foot kayak…

Are all 17’ kayak affected by the wind a lot when unloaded (such as a short day trip)?

I know I need to go try some out, I just want to narrow down what I want before I make a road trip to a more knowing shop

thanks for any help

(btw - I live in East TN, if anyone can suggest a good shop)

throw the linear dimensions out the window. They don’t tell you anything about the appropriate size. Two things, appropriate size for your comfort and skill level and/or appropriate size for load carrying.

Anything you get that feels comfortable sitting on the show room floor will be big enough for the use you describe. Most likely it’ll be bigger than necessary.

YOu could paddle anything from 12’-18’ and it would be big enough or too small.

sorry to not clarify things but length doesn’t mean anything for the use you describe.

What boats did you look at?
What boats did you look at?

It would be fairly easy to find one boat that would serve both purposes.

If you are a backpacker

– Last Updated: Feb-11-08 1:44 PM EST –

you'd be plenty fine in any 16' boat I can think of for one or two nights, and longer. These things carry a lot more stuff than it looks like. The only kayak-specific consideration usually is the hatch opening size that limits the dimensions of what will fit.

Shorter than 16', for a boat your size, you are usually getting into boats that aren't equipped the same way as the 16 and 17 ft ones - for the kind of purpose you are talking about you're likely to want the outfitting of the 16-17 ft boats. You can start taking a look at boats on web sites and suss that out yourself.

You are also an average sized paddler, at most on the lower side of the weight range, so there are a lotta boats that would work for you unless you are hugely focused on speed or performance in surf or some other specialty. There'd still be a bunch of boats, but criteria like that could narrow the list a bit.

The loaded/unloaded thing usually isn't a big deal in a boat that handles comfortably for you to start with.

You mention some ocean time - is there a place on the shore that you tend to go to? And if you were to decide to drive a couple of hours, what locations does that get you to? It might help for some here to recommend a dealer who has a good demo situation.

more info
My ocean time is during the holidays - down in Florida, Hopefully I can get new kayak sooner than that. I would be willing to travel to a western NC, East TN, or N Georgia shop if anyone knows of a good outfitter who let you demo… I want to get a nicer kayak ($2000-$3000 range)but no one stocks anything like that near me-they will order, but I don’t want to buy without trying.

BTW - My first and only kayak I’ve owned is a perception eclipse airlite (picked up used pretty cheap 6 month ago), seems way big (in the cockpit) and seems to get blown around a lot (although i here it performs better when loaded). I am a novice, but I have taken some classes-so i somewhat know what i’m doing

Read the info here

Especially the section on touring and “Greenland style” kayaks.


agree w/ Lee

– Last Updated: Feb-11-08 11:09 PM EST –

Don't fixate on length. Look at fit and overall volume. If you were buying a new backpack, would you focus on how tall it was?

Most boats equipped for ocean touring will fall into a fairly narrow range of lengths anyway.

Given your weight and primary use as a daytripper, I'd start with boats labelled "low volume" or "smaller paddler". Something like a Tempest 165 or Aquanaut LV might work well for you. The plastic Avocet fits more snugly than the composite version and makes a fun daytripper.

No, not all 17' boats are blown around when empty. Here's one example of a long boat with low freeboard(not much for the wind to push).

Try here

– Last Updated: Feb-12-08 8:32 AM EST –

On the shore, close on the border between Georgia and SC. Great boats to try and good people, tho' I can't tell you exactly how they work the demos re charge or whatever.

I read an article
about building skin on frame kayaks. In the featured workshop , the builder used the following formula:

Length = 3 times paddler’s height

Width = width of paddler measured with a closed fist at each hip.

I don’t know if that helps you or not. The builder claimed it was an Inuit formula for boat size.

Wow @ 6’2" that puts you in a 18’6" boat!

Maybe the formula “breaks down” above a certain height. Remember that the aboriginal N. Americans are not as tall (generally) as modern Americans!

I am 5’6" tall and the formula would put me in a 16’6" boat. I recently (6 months ago) stepped up to a 16’7" boat and the length seems to suit me fine. This was somewhat coincidental though as I was looking at longer boats but got a deal on the one I actually purchased.

As for wind effects…

I have heard that putting weight in the aft storage helps boat tracking.

I almost always carry a dry bag aft with: shoes, towel, socks, undies, t shirt, warm up suit, camp cook set, waterproof matches, toilet paper, tarp and space blanket.

This emergency kit adds weight to the back and I notice a difference with increased tracking in wind/current.

Plus with other assorted gear both fore and aft on the deck - I’m hardly ever “unloaded” even on short daytrips

I’m a newbie when it comes to owning a kayak, but I do know when you go to a site for one you are interested in, they give stats for how much weight they can carry. For instance, here are the stats for my kayak although the capacity says 400lbs which seems like alot:


Boat dimensions
In general, shorter is slower. Wider is slower. What people like about smaller boats is how easy they are to carry around. What they like about wider boats is stability. My next boat will be even longer and narrower, I’m not too into going real slow, stability is less important as your skills develop.


– Last Updated: Feb-15-08 9:05 PM EST –

of a boat, but a competent and capable tourer. Now Perception has played with the Eclipse series, even as Ford renamed both the 500 and the Freestyle -a real sedan and a sort of crossover, respectively -"Taurus", so P renamed the Shadow AND the Eclipse "E".

If you have the 'big E', you have the real "e" -about 17+' long, about 22-1/2" beam, about 13-3/4" high deck (and lucky for you, lighter than rotopoly Airlite!). If you have the 'little E', you have the old Shadow -around 16-1/2' X 22-1/2X13(?) -a smaller package.

Both are good boats -not great, perhaps, but good.
And, like you, my first SINK was also an 'E' -but it was a poly 70+ pounder that took a likkin' and still came up tickin'... Maybe it isn't a tandem kayak's SUV, but it IS a commodious station wagon for expeditions, with a lot of space and big hatches.

And it does get blown around unladen -or even with me, 6-0, ~200#, alone in it.

I can't tell you what boat to get -as noted above, size matters, but not as much as a lot of new paddlers estimate -but you probably DO want a lower-volume, possibly slightly shorter boat. Depending on your paddling abilities, and your willingness to 'grow' in your paddling, you may also be looking for a slightly slimmer boat. All these will, taken together, provide you with a better package to paddle than your current ride.

Like you, I, too, wanted something a little less cumbersome & commodious, still big enough for my butt and thighs, and a bit faster (fast is good!), good for a day trip, and OK for camping (and I am most assuredly NOT by ANY means an ultralight camper, LOL!). I also wanted a lighter boat... a SIGNIFICANTLY lighter boat. It's also about 15 pounds lighter -what a HUGE difference that is!

I, too, wanted to 'move up' -move to a better, more confidently handling, a tad more playful, boat.

So I went from the "E" to a Valley Aquanaut -a boat longer by about half a foot, a bit less volume & deck height, narrower by about an inch, skegged and not ruddered as the "E" is, and lighter by about 15 or so pounds.

What yours can/should/will be...? Only you can know. Read thru the archives a bit -see how folks changed boats, and why they changed. Read some of the reviews -and take hem with an open mind & a grain of salt; check the reviewers & cross-reference them with their posts, and you have an even better understanding of their perspectives and abilities and how they can -or cannot -relate to you.

And, if and whenEVER possible, at least get in a boat for a demo paddle. Know any other paddlers? Try to arrange a run in their boats. Make & keep a few 'impressions notes' when you come in off the water from any boat you get a chance to demo so you can better compare & contrast. Begin with your own Eclipse.

You're looking for a 2-3 grand investment after 1 boat -I made my decision after owning 6, paddling about a couple dozen or so more. You may end up with that 'owning 6' before you find "the one', but lemme tell ya, when ya do -you have an ear-to-ear grin as you


-Frank in Miami