Day Tourers: Best Value in Kayaking?

-- Last Updated: Aug-05-11 2:10 PM EST --

Seems like the 'day touring' boat segment is becoming increasingly popular, and if so, little wonder... there are some attractively-priced yet reasonably capable boats out there, such as the

- Perception Expression 15 (& 14.5), $999
- Necky Manitou 14, $999
- Necky Looksha 14, $999

...and of course boats like the Dagger Alchemy, Venture (nee P&H) Easky 15, and uber-popular WS Tsunami(s), in the $1200-ish range or so.

Are these boats kind of taking over, as ppl start to outgrow and/or see the limitations of sit-inside rec kayaks, yet perhaps don't feel the need to go with a (usually quite expensive) full-on expedition boat?

Seems like sit-on-tops and closed-deck day-tourers are the 'hot' segments in kayaking now, just was wondering if others are seeing this too, or if I'm misreading the market.

What are the trends? And why?

You are misreading because my old
14.4’ Necky Looksha Sport is a better boat than the Necky Looksha 14. Are you on a marketing expedition for someone?

Popularity is not quality
A true sea kayak is more fun, more interesting, and more challenging. Just because you are only doing a day trip does mean you should use an inferior kayak. Why not enjoy the day trip as well as the longer trip?

i think
Day touring kayak may be short for cheaper boat. Personally I always want to be in my longer boat. If I was a small person I would still probably want a boat over 15 ft.

Ryan L.

I wouldn’t call most of those kayaks listed “inferior”, just different, and a reasonable value compromise. I’ve got 15’, 16’, 17’ and 18’ kayaks and enjoy all of them in different applications and conditions. For local day trips I have lots of fun with my Easky 15LV and honestly would not hesitate to take it out in a coastal area and chop, though since it does not have a rudder, that would limit my use of it in some conditions. It’s a nice little boat.

Personally, I’m happy to see the increase in reasonably priced and decently competent “touring” style kayaks (got the Easky for under $750 a year ago, BTW). While my favorite boats in my own fleet are a seaworthy Feathercraft Wisper folder and a sleek West Greenland skin on frame replica, most casual or novice paddlers are not going to be apt to drop $1500 to $4000 on such a specialized craft. Having modestly affordable and more respectable options to the clunky and ungainly “rec” boats and bloated inflatables that have increasingly clogged the market and waterways for the past 5 years is a good thing, is it not?? I say we should have more of these “transitional” boats.

Not new or a change

– Last Updated: Aug-03-11 11:46 PM EST –

Kayaks that appear to be cheaper and less challenging have always enjoyed higher sales than those with more serious paddlers in mind. The only diff is that there are more "transition" length models around than before, so they are accounting for a bunch of the sales. This is probably a good change. But I bet the 10 and 12 ft pumpkinseed rec boats still blow them out of the water in terms of sales.

I somewhat disagree with your characterization of the boats you list. Some are transition boats, with some capability for more serious work but with cockpits and widths that cater to those who are still worried about stability in a big way and/or fear a smaller cockpit. But the Alchemy for example is a true little sea kayak, albeit with enough rocker that it is better at playing in waves than going by them swiftly.

From what I know of the numbers and see in shops, the thing that is hot now is Stand Up Paddling.

14 footers can be good sea kayaks…
I have to say that a well-fitted 14-14.5 foot transitional kayak can do quite well in open waters. I have a Tsunami 14.5 - had it for years - and its still my go to boat for regular coastal trips and camping. It’s slower than a sea kayak – and a little big for me – but it enables me to handle anything my peers in the 17-18 footers can. In fact, I am a LOT more comfortable in chop or even big seas than those guys…because they are ALWAYS working to stay upright, while I can just barrel through the foam and spray. The more experienced guys have a distinct advantage in their long boats because of their skills, but for the moderately skilled paddler or someone who just wants to get out on the water, the transitional kayaks are great.

That said, the boat does hold me back a little when I paddle with the others, It IS slower.

BUT…I think the trend to shorter boats is a great thing for most paddlers.

not inferior
I wasnt suggesting they are inferior. I was just saying I prefer a longer boat even for a day paddle. The companies are developing this transitional kayak or day tripper market to increase sales. Obviously it is working, judging by the op. They are trying to establish that a shorter boat can be better for a shorter paddle. I don’t really believe that, but it is just me. I can think of a ton of reasons why shorter boats are good but none of them are “day tripping”

Ryan L.

Dagger Alchemy…
:: Celia wrote: I somewhat disagree with your characterization of the boats you list. Some are transition boats, with some capability for more serious work but with cockpits and widths that cater to those who are still worried about stability in a big way and/or fear a smaller cockpit. But the Alchemy for example is a true little sea kayak, albeit with enough rocker that it is better at playing in waves than going by them swiftly. ::

Well, that’s a tad bit confusing.

While I’m sure you’re right about the Alchemy being a true, albeit small, sea kayak, what I don’t get is how cockpit size and width would differentiate it from the transitional boats.

After all, at a listed 35.5"x18.5", the Alchemy’s cockpit is fairly large, and the 24" beam (for the larger of the two Alchemys) is typical of transitional boats.

So, if that’s not it, are there perhaps other things about the Alchemy’s design that make it quite a bit more capable than your typical transitional 'yak?

I don’t agree with that but

– Last Updated: Aug-04-11 9:39 AM EST –

some of my disagreement has to do with what a "day tourer" is.

I think smaller boats geared for day or weekend use are long overdue. I see people every time out that paddle large volume sea kayaks sold to them even though most of them will never utilize them fully. It's like buying a hummer to drive solely on-road and by yourself.

I don't think I'd call a Mariner Coaster or P&H Delphin an "inferior boat", but I would certainly call them day or weekend tourers.

you haven’t paddled a mariner

IMO long overdue

– Last Updated: Aug-04-11 11:10 AM EST –

First off I have to say I'm speaking to size, and not these particular kayaks. But as I wrote to dr. disco above, I see people every time out that paddle large volume sea kayaks sold to them even though most of them will never utilize them fully. Many of them are paddling boats too big for them. Tell me why you would put a slim 5'-5" person in an Aquanaut when a quality "day tourer" is probably the better boat?

When I think of "day tourer" I think of the original Mariner Coaster, the P&H Delphin, and other similar boats. I'd never call these "inferior" unless we're talking about volume. I think we get too wrapped up in labels but I think a market with more choices in the smaller sea kayak category, for people who only paddle unloaded on day trips, is long overdue. The only reason many people buy expedition-size sea kayaks is because they can.

Best value?
It depends on the quality of the workmanship vs. the price you pay. And the capability of the boat. There are day tourers that are good value. There are sea kayaks that are good value. I don’t think you can compare the two.

Given that the majority of paddlers rarely do multi-day trips or venture outside of sheltered water, it probably makes sense that SINKs and SOTs designed for day-tripping are popular. Shorter boats are easier to handle and to store. And less expensive. It looks like SOTs are being marketted pretty hard towards fishermen.

It’s a gradual scale but -

– Last Updated: Aug-04-11 10:21 AM EST –

Before the responses start flying, I am not saying that a given boat is less capable than another. A good paddler can get caught in a Swifty and make it home, a new paddler could be out in a very protective sea kayak like the Romany and end up a statistic. But the Romany makes it easier to get out of that safely, because of the suitability of the hull design to the conditions, floatation, smaller cockpit (assuming a skirt) etc. Itzak Perleman said once that anyone could sound good on his Stradivarius, but it takes a good player to make a lesser instrument sound well. Similar here, except that the penalty for a bad match is not just a bad review.

An inch or two of width makes a surprising diff in how much a boat is about stability sitting flat (what most new paddlers find comforting) versus stability over on edge (what sea kayaks are about).

A sea kayak is expected to be in water that is constantly moving and rarely actually flat, so stability over on edge matters more than sitting flat. The opposite is true for boats intended for calm, flat water. New paddlers tend to get concerned about the stability sitting flat because they haven't yet learned that the skinnier boats will go over but then stop and sit there quite happily. To a new paddler, that usually feels like the boat is on its way to a capsize.

Sea Kayaker magazine usually has stability curves in their boat reviews that show this behavior.

A kayak that is closer to 26 inches than 23 or 22 is marketed to people who will get hives if the boat starts wiggling sideways when they reach around for a drink of water. The narrower boats are designed for people who know that isn't a problem as long as they stay centered, and want that behavior for the water in which they paddle. (And boats that roll around more easily sitting there are usually friendlier for learning to roll.)

There is also rocker, which goes to maneuverability, and overall hull design. The Alchemy has a ton of rocker compared to some of these other boats. It has very high stability on edge because that's where it is supposed to be living, a low deck and an overall hull design that is intended to go out and play happily in a variety of positions other than straight upright. If you take that little boat out in waves you'll be rocking all over the place.

I don't know all of the boats in your list, but I know at least one of the 14 footers mentioned is designed to have higher stability on the flat, if anything to mask that motion a bit. Some of them are likely to also have less rocker, thus be less maneuverable.

For your size, yes the larger Alchemy is only an inch or two narrower than some of the other transition boats. But the overall package of the hull design is quite a different animal. And if you look at the Alchemy for a smaller paddle, the width is lower. I suspect that if you look at the same in the Manitou line for ex, it doesn't drop as much.

As to cockpit - height as well as overall dimensions are part of how well the boat fits your body. You only make a sea kayak go forward or back with just a paddle. For turning or slipping sideways well most of the work of making it respond well is in the lower body by putting it on edge. Some of the boats you mention have higher decks, some have less aggressive thigh braces etc. Cockpit fit can make or break the suitability of a boat if you want to advance your skills no matter how nice the rest of it is.

You have to go out, get in some boats and maybe spend a few bucks on a lesson to get some of this. You can't figure out how a kayak is really going to work for you by reading web sites.

Thanks much for the info/analysis, Celia, it’s appreciated. But as per our conversation in another thread, I would hope by now you’d be aware that I am both trying out boats and reading websites. :wink:

Far as that goes, and judging by your comments, you may be slightly surprised at what widths are like now for many of the sub-$1000 transitional boats.

To wit:

Perception Expression 14: 23"

Perception Expression 15: 24"

Necky Manitou 14: 24"

Necky Looksha 14: 24.5"

Seems like you don’t have to spend a lot these days to get a non-barge. And, echoing the comments of some others in the thread, I’d say that’s a very good thing. =]

Oops - and more info
Yes, you did say that you were actively trying boats. Me bad.

As to the boats you list above - can’t say anything about the Perceptions because I haven’t seen these. We do have a decent array of the Manitou and the Looksha variations around and have an older Necky ourselves. Lookshas weathercock fairly easily compared to lines like the boats from Current Designs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since it may also enhance their maneuverability, but it is a behavior.

The statements from the manufacturers for the last 3 boats play well in the discussion about design intent. Here they be:.

For the Manitou 14 poly - “Retains the stability and comfort of its shorter siblings while helping you advance your paddling skills.” Think higher flat water stability, less emphasis on secondary because they don’t think their primary customer for this boat lives there.

For the Looksha- “It has excellent tracking and glide, while offering great edge control with a smooth transition between primary and secondary stability.” Now we have a boat that the maker expects to be on edge, but still go out and do longer length paddles with some ease.

For the Dagger Alchemy, where they describe their design intent - “It is versatile enough for both entry-level enthusiasts and advanced paddlers, though it will be most appreciated by athletic and adventurous users at any level…

We drew upon a number of performance attributes from whitewater boat design. The pronounced hull chine assists dramatically in enhancing the boat’s maneuverability and agility. The boat’s secondary stability gives confidence to perform dramatic edged turns.”

Now we have a boat that is not expected to ever be sitting flat. Also no mention of glide, because it is much more about the turning.


– Last Updated: Aug-04-11 12:15 PM EST –

"But as I wrote to dr. disco above, I see people every time out that paddle large volume sea kayaks sold to them even though most of them will never utilize them fully. Many of them are paddling boats too big for them. Tell me why you would put a slim 5'-5" person in an Aquanaut when a quality "day tourer" is probably the better boat?"

I wouldn't. I'd put them in an Aquanaut LV. ;-)

I agree that many paddlers handicap themselves by buying for their expedition dreams instead of their day-paddling reality. But that may just mean that they bought the wrong sea kayak -- not that sea kayaks as a class are a bad choice. And putting a small person in a wider boat doesn't help. My wife is 5'0" -- I have some experience there...

I do like some of the "day touring" boats. I've got a sea kayak, and it does seem like overkill for some of the lake paddling I do. If I were buying again something like the Alchemy 14s or a Pygmy Tern 14 would be on the short list.

after reading
I feel swayed. I saw a guy paddling a tsunami 145 yesterday and I was thinking that that would be a nice boat to have to beat around in. But then I pretended like it wouldn’t. So I am now loving this breed of boat. And judging by the prices vs. capability I would say yes best value.

But… I will still paddle my 17 ft composite boat for “day tripping”

Ryan L.

I think we’re saying the same thing. It’s the choices of available boats and fitting the most appropriate one to the specific owner that presents value.

And I’d sell that person a Vela!

Do not judge by LOA and WOA
Shorter capable boats do seem popular. Some are designed with advancing or skilled paddlers in mind, some not. The overall dimensions of the boat says little about its personality or capabilities. A Vela and Delphin have nearly identical overall length and width, both are very capable, both made by P&H, yet have very different personalities.

My current personal hand of sea kayaks range from 15’9" to 17’7" in loa and 21" to 22.5" woa. Each has a very different personality, though all are very capable boats. The second longest of them (Nordkapp LV) at 17’6" maybe the most lively and actually have less displacement volume than the shortest (Elaho DS)… My Romany at 16’x21.5" is low enough volume that when I am using it as a day boat there is little freeboard at midships.

Are ‘day tourers’ the best value? Depends on what you term a day tourer and what performance or capabilities you value…