If hull design issues are close, do not discount hatches. I will never buy another boat without a dayhatch…but. Hatch covers are important. You want ease of entry/closure and dryness. In my opinion, the best hatchs out there are the ones made by Valley. These have no straps to secure them and stay dry. There are boats with valley-like hatches but the ones I have seen are flimsy, much thinner and according to others prone to leak. I am considering a strip built boat as a new project and will seriously consider adding Valley hatches to that boat.
are the best. Many kayak manufacturers, in addition to Valley use them. They also float. However they are heavy.
Many also like and use Kajak-Sport including NDK, P&H, etc…
well… pros and cons…
Pros: Valley oval hatches are the best for accessing gear by far. Valley’s double seal system is as dry as you can get. Hatches float.
Cons: Hatches are EXPENSIVE to replace. Hatches are temperature sensitive (soft in the summer and brittle in the winter) and at times crack even despite regular use of 303.
As for Kajaksport, their hatches are rubber rather than whatever material valley uses so they are more consistant in various temperatures. Of course they are smaller as well but a cheaper too. I’m a fan of Valley kayaks so I guess I’m a fan of their hatches but I like Kajaksport hatches quite a bit as well.
It really depends (like everything else in kayaking it seems). I have a Valley day hatch covers on the Explorer, with Kayak Sport manufactured hatch covers on the Explorer 10 inch rounds and the Vela all around. My husband (as above) has Valley hatch covers all around on his Aquanaut and KJ on the Romany.
For the day hatch I very much like the Valley hatch cover - I find it to be nice and water-tight and still easy to access on the water. But it's a varying feast in the other hatch covers. The 10 inch round KJ-made covers have been bone dry from day one - never an ounce of water. And I only had a problem with the front Vela hatch, for a slight bit, when I had it in significant surf. The super-big KJ oval on the stern persistently leaks a bit once the boat is upside-down for any time, but I think it is less about the hatch cover and more about the hatch simply being so darned big that it'd be tough for any cover to have an even seal all the way around. I swear it's half the real estate of the stern deck beyond the day hatch.
However, I literally have been unable to get the oval Valley hatches up on my husband's Aquanaut when the water was cooler and creating some negative suction. This has occassionally been an issue when, in paddling on relatively flat water, the weather changed and we needed to get to something that had not been stored in the day hatch. In those instances we have had to land so he could get it open. Granted landing is safer, but at the moment it didn't seem too convenient when we could have gotten the whole thing done in a few minutes on the water.
Maybe u guys should start carrying a crow-bar…heheh.