Buying a new kayak, looking for advice on some options

Hi, new user here.

For history, I have been using a basic Pelican Pilot SE 100 for about 14 years on and off. Yesterday, I think I may have damaged the hull as my boat filled up 3 times in about a six km stretch. I had to pull out and drain it or I would have sunk. I was in a shallow river so I wasn’t worried about my safety, but I think one of the rocks that I grazed likely did something.

I have this kayak for a long time and probably didn’t store it properly–it spent all of Covid sitting under my Dad’s trailer year round.

So, now I want to upgrade a bit, but not break the bank. I am thinking either the Pelican Sprint 120XR or the Old Town Heron 11XT. Both are just under $1,000 CDN.

Any thoughts on these two? Perhaps other recommendations?

Thank you!

I’ll always vote Old Town . What are your weight and height? There are many boats in that size. The Heron gets good reviews.


Hi, thank you for the response.

I am 6 foot, 220 lbs. I don’t often carry much with me beyond a thermos of water, GoPro and a cell phone. I am leaning toward the Old Town as well. In fact, one of the local outfitters is selling Vapor XT 12 for about the same price as the Heron. I don’t really know if there is much difference between the two, to be honest.

I was interested in the Pelican as I kind of liked the upgraded cockpit with cup holder, etc. But in the end, those things are far less important.

Also, looking at FeelFree Aventura 125 V2 with Skeg. It’s the same price right now at MEC as the other two mentioned.

I don’t really know how to select a boat. I purchased my old Pelican by just walking into Sportchek and saying that one looks nice–it’s red! I had never paddled a lick before that, but have to come really enjoy my time out on my kayak over the years.

I mostly enjoy slow river, marsh, calm lake type kayaking. I just like to look for turtles and snakes and stuff :slightly_smiling_face:

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Side note: I came home from work today and put my kayak up on some bricks and filled it about 1/3 with water to see if I could locate the leak. Nothing was obvious, but it was kind of awkward to do and it would not just still still on the bricks and I eventually gave up. But when it was about 2/3 full, I did get to look around the bottom of the hull and nothing appeared to be dripping.

Is it possible that the leak could be farther up, like near the seam? Or perhaps maybe the seam itself? And maybe only leaks when under weight or something?

Something was definitely wrong. I’ve used that boat on that river for years now. Same conditions, same amount of rock scraping in spots, etc and never took in water like yesterday! I spent most of Saturday on a slow creek and didn’t take in any water.

I was hoping to locate the leak. Not sure why. I don’t really want to repair it as I can’t trust a boat that wants to fill up and sink 3 times over a very short space.

I’m with @string and would go with Old Town. Either the Heron 11 or the Vapor 12 would be a step or two up from your Pelican IMO. Try before you buy if you possibly can, and check out the used market too. Good used Old Towns, including Loon 120s and Camden 120s are often available.
In your circumstances, I’d recommend against any boat with a rudder or a skeg. Given that you occasionally scrape the bottom of the river you regularly paddle, they’ll be nothing but trouble.

I had a friend with a boat like that. We filled it with water and never found a leak. It got donated.
For someone your size,I recommend a 14’ boat. I am the same weight and IMO it puts a 12’ too far in the water. Maybe less rock scraping.

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Depends on other dimensions of the hull too. A good friend, 6’3 and about 225#, uses my OT Camden 120 (it’s 12’6" long) regularly and has plenty of freeboard to spare. Usable capacity is 350# if I recall correctly. His size “big” feet have lots of room too.

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Thank you for all the responses.

Right now I am leaning towards the Old Town Vapor 12 XT My local outfitter is selling them new for $916 CDN. This seems like a pretty good deal, actually. Most outfitters have them for around $1100.

I am a tiny bit concerned about buying from an outfitter. They are not a retail outlet at all. They do day trips and rent equipment. I was surprised to see them selling new kayaks on their website. If I had any issues post purchase, I may find that I wished I had purchased from a large retailer like Sail or MEC or something.

Inspect the boat carefully and then dont worry about it. Unless it is warped, severely dented , melted, or has mushy spots it will outlast you as long as you don’t scrape holes in it.

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I wouldn’t worry about it if:

  1. the boat comes with its factory warranty, and
  2. the outfitter is a real, ongoing business … not a pop-up that just appeared this year.

Yes, they are reputable. I’ve been doing trips with them a couple times per year now for quite some time.

The owner was really nice and will be giving me a perpetual discount (attached to my boat) for buying from them. This is handy when I want to plan a long solo outing that is not an in and out. I do have Thule racks, but when you’re not going with someone else, it makes down river trips kind of hard to plan. So you can book with them and provide your own boat for trip fee -$20

I can book any trip, any time, forever for $39 in that boat.

For perspective, I have booked a 42 km trip this Friday with them. The full fee for that is $175, but for me now it will only cost $39. And I can do this as many times that I want for as long as I own that boat. Big fan of that bonus. Plus the boat is $250 cheaper than every other seller in the area.


A reputable local outfitter or retailer is often more responsive than a big box store. An individual is more important to them as is local word of mouth.

Carefully consider a used boat if available. A used boat from a major manufacturer in good condition will last for decades with minimal care and if you later decide to get a different boat, you can always sell the used one for about what you paid for it.

Kayaks do not change that much over time and other than having a shiny new boat, a new boat does not offer that many advantages for what you pay. A used boat will often cost half as much as a new one.

Stores and outfitters that sell boats will often run sales at the end of the season as they must make room for the new models.

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@dmaker, not sure where you are in Canada, but I know Frontenac Outfitters north of Kingston and Algonquin Outfitters (in cottage country north of Toronto) have end of season sales on what’s left in stock and on boats leaving their rental fleets. The rentals tend to be a little more banged up as you would expect. :roll_eyes:

I’m in Kitchener-Waterloo. The Grand River runs right through my city, so there are a quite a few outfitters around here between KW, Paris, Brantford, Caledonia, etc.

I purchased the Vapor 12XT. Will be picking it up tomorrow and taking it out for its maiden voyage on Friday. A 42 km paddle from north of Montrose (just south a bit from Elora) back down to the Freeport bridge in Kitchener. Should give us plenty of time to get acquainted.

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Congrats! Let us know how it goes. Pics are always welcome.

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I owned the pelican sprint and I liked it but I needed just a little more cockpit for my dog. Other than that I’d still have it.

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I also favor Old Town, they seem to design what is needed for decent performance and durability. Forget winning races, however.

This Old Town will be substantially quicker than my old kayak. My old one was a 10` budget Pelican.

Going out tomorrow for the day on my new one. Very curious to get out and take it for a spin. A 42km spin on it’s first voyage. Should be super fun.

For $1000 you can buy a lot of kayak,even go composite,on the used market.
I’ve bought several kayaks that way. I have a composite 14’ CD Kestrel I paid $800 us & he gave me the $200 paddle. You may have to drive a bit to get it but it’s always been worth it for me.

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Check out the FeelFree Aventura 110 or 125. They are a lot of bang for the buck and a really quality made touring/recreational kayak for the money. I have the Aventura 125 which costs less than $1,000.00 and love it.