Deciding on a Kayak to buy

I am a fairly seasoned canoer and I have decided that I would like to get into kayaking. I am currently reading books and reviews on kayaks and trying to sort through the hundreds of different sizes, brands, purposes, ect. I am mainly going to do some fast flowing Nebraska rivers and some of the area reservoirs. I would like to be able to pack enough gear to weekend camp. I am not new to paddling, but will be new to kayaking. My wife and I like to vacation in Colorado and I would like something that would be versatile enough to do some of the easy runs on the Poudre and Arkansas Rivers too. I am currently leaning toward the Perception Carolina 12.0 or 14.0, Dagger Axis 12.0, Emotions Advant-edge (cheaper), and the Dagger Catalyst. If anyone can has any advice, direction. Please post and let me know. I will probably end up purchasing 2. One for me and one for my wife.


If you are going to be “Yak” camping
for weekends, I suggest you look at some boats in the 15 or 16 foot long range rather than 12 and 14.

So you will have enough space for the gear.

Jack L

A couple of thoughts
First, agree with Jack that you want to look longer than 12 ft. The speed and tracking may frustrate you… assuming those fast flowing rivers you are talking about aren’t lower class whitewater. In that case, the hybrids like the Dagger Axis may be a better idea.

Also, you haven’t indicated your and your wife’s size. If she is smaller than you, she will need a quite different boat than you to have something that makes her happy to paddle rather than feeling like a barge. You wear a kayak more than a canoe, so things like lower deck and less width start making a huge diff in how satisfactory the experience is for someone of average female size (around 5’4" height). It’s not fun for a person who is a little short for the boat to be contorting themselves to get a paddle into the water.

Last thing, some of the boats you mention or maybe all (I didn’t check) lack two sealed bulkheads and perimeter rigging. There two features make all the difference in recovering from a capsize - without these features it’s a trial, with them it’s quite reasonable for you guys to rescue each other or do do a self-rescue. (as long as you learn how and practice periodically) It sounds like you want to go some amount of distance - I wouldn’t recommend that you even think about that without two bulkheads and the full rigging. Recovering camping gear from a float down a river should you capsize would really make a mess of an otherwise lovely weekend. For the most part, you have that once you get to the 14’ boats.

Another suggestion
If you’ve got a local dealer for them you might want to also look at the Easky’s, made in the UK by P & H under the Venture brand. They make several models for various paddler sizes – I’m an average sized female (5’5", 150#) and find the 15 LV is a perfect fit for me, also easy for me to haul at 46 lbs. It’s a great fun boat in fast rivers and I’ve even used it in Class 1 rapids, but it also tracks quick and straight in large calm lakes and is rock solid in waves and wind. It has two full storage bulkeads and nice fittings, including thigh-hooks, a recess for a deck compass, easily adjusted foot pegs, a molded in metal fitting for a security cable, a clever hook and bungee arrangement for securing your paddle and one of the most comfortable seats of any of my boats with a back that folds down to be a backband or flips up for a more leisurely layback while lily-dipping. My only criticism would be that one of the hatches leaks a little but since I keep everything in drybags it has not been a problem (likely something I could correct with a little effort).

It is my 7th kayak so I have quite a few models to compare it with – I’ve found I enjoy paddling it just as much as I do my $4000 Feathercraft Wisper, which had been the previous favorite. I got the Easky without a rudder but it has all the apertures and fittings to easily install one if I wanted to add it – I have never felt the boat needed a rudder, though, as it tracks beautifully. For the quality of design and finish on the Easkys I think they are a good value, comparable to the Carolinas in price (I got mine for 30% off at an end-of-season sale for $780.)

Thanks for the advice all. I know the Perception Carolina’s do have 2 bulkheads in both the 12 and 14 footers. I am not for sure, but I think the Dagger also has 2. Yea…the problem with fitting/trying out kayaks. I live in the middle of no-where Nebraska. It is about 5 hours to Denver and about the same to Omaha…so trying kayaks out might not be an option. I am probably going to have to do an internet purchase. (I also have another baby on the way…anyday…so travel will be minimal until spring/summer). From the replies, it sounds like I don’t want to go any smaller than 14 ft for what I am waniting to achieve. Sizes…my wife is 5’ 4 and well right now an inflated weight, but come summer will probably be an average weight. I am 6’ 0 and and athletic 230 lbs :slight_smile: ! Maybe not quite as athletic as when I was in my early 20s. I think the 14 foot and above will rule out the Emotion and one of the Daggers. I am leaning toward the 14 ft Carolina. As far as gear. I have done some 3-5 day backapcking trips. Can the gear that I store in a 5000 cubic inch backpack fit into a 14 ft kayak? I will do some more looking for my wife. Part of the reason that I was thinking about buying 2 kayaks the same is because she will probably only be with me 50% of the time. The other 50% might be on my own or with my brother. I will look more into the women specific yaks. Thanks all. Please let me know if there is more advice. I am always up for more info.

Canoe experience
What canoes do you have experience with and which are your favorites? That might help us figure out which kayaks would be a good match.

Also, what are you looking to do in a kayak that you aren’t able to do in a canoe?


Pyrahna Reactor
Longer two bulkheaded version of the Fusion.

Seems to fit what you are looking for.

Not heard of it? Ain’t made it to US shores quite yet.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

why i am lookn at a kayak
The reason that I am looking at kayaks instead of canoes is because I will have the ability to go solo. I know you can do that in some canoes…but I think a kayak would be easier to handle. I can’t always get my wife to go with me and she is a wonderful partner to have in the canoe. When she isn’t going, then I end up rounding someone else up and that ends up being a lot of work…on and off the water. So, I am leaning towards my first purchase of a kayak. My canoe…well, the canoe that I have was bought for me when I was a kid. It is more or less an old aluminum…guessing around 17 ft. Lots of dings, but still floats. Nothing to. graceful. I also have canoed in a 16 ft coleman. I have been paddling rivers since I was about 9.


you should take a look at the Wilderness Tsunami line, in particular the 145 for your size and maybe the 140 for your wife. You don’t want or need anything longer than that for the uses you are talking about – they perform admirably in twisty rivers, flatwater or mild whitewater, and will carry more food & gear than a typical 6000 backpack (I think REI’s website has the hatch capacity ratings listed in the specs; subtract 20% to get a conservative estimate of what you can fit in there). I have a 140, 135 and 120 and all three have been on a week-long self-supported trip over 100 miles.

The Carolinas can be found cheaper but the Tsunami is a better boat all around. Also, look into Pneumo LTW drybags, you can fit more gear & food than with PVC bags, and they even make one that’s rigged as a bear bag.

Tsunamis are heavy
Don’t get me wrong: Tsunami’s are great boats and i paddle with two people who have them and have tried them myself. Very seaworthy craft. BUT they are awfully heavy for their relative size in every model. I’m athletic and quite strong for my size and age (5’ 5" and quite a bit past 50) yet it kicks my @ss to wrestle a 55 lb boat (which is what the Tsunami 140 comes in at) onto a roof rack. For roughly the same price, my Easky 15LV is 10 lbs lighter, just manageable enough for me to shoulder solo carry without pain, has similar storage volume and paddles more nimbly.

Sounds like you’ve got a really great and very sporting wife – just my two cents but please don’t burden her with a giant 'yak just because it will fit your buddies when she isn’t using it. You can pick up a big old beater used boat to loan your bro. Be a super husband and get your sweetie her very own sleek and trim kayak that will fit her just right and make her heart sing while she paddles circles around you. :slight_smile:

Words to live by
Willowleaf speaks the unvarnished truth - I know as I have been married going on 20 years and these are words to live by:

“Be a super husband and get your sweetie her very own sleek and trim kayak that will fit her just right and make her heart sing while she paddles circles around you. :-)”

Prijon Yukon Expedition
Designed exactly for what you want to do.

tsunami 140 and necky manitou 14
are what GF and I have paddled (respectively) in lakes and river up to class 2 for a couple of years. We usually day trip, but have overnighted with no problem. I’m not saying there may not be better/sleeker/lighter choices (I’m pretty new at this), but these have worked out well for us. MY GF loves her tsunami – thought I don’t think she has ever had to put it on and off the roof solo. For full disclosure, I am more recently in a sleeker longer boat for the lakes – may be getting her one, too (per the previous comments). Being new at this, I’m not sure how long and/or sleek you can go and still be comfortable on a quick/winding/wavy/shallow river (or how quick/winding/wavy/shallow your river choices might be).

sure, but

– Last Updated: Nov-03-10 6:03 PM EST –

I considered the Easky and it's certainly nice but the compartments are definitely smaller for camping (especially coming from a canoe), no day hatch and the seat is more basic. (do they still make two sizes, the Easky 15 is listed at 49.6 lbs on their website?) If a LV boat is the OP's objective over gear capacity then there's several others to look at too.

"awfully heavy" is an exaggeration compared to other plastic boats of similar size --

Tsunami 140 - 55 lb
Carolina 14 - 55 lb
Alchemy 14L - 54 lb
Inuit 14.5 - 61 lb
Looksha 14 - 57 lb
Prijon Calabria/Yukon - 59 lb

Zephyr 15.5
Not a featherlight either, but under 55lb (closer to 50 I think). More maneuverable than just about anything else in the 15-16 range. Stable. But relatively small packing capacity due to low rear deck.

To shed 10-15 lb go with something like a Perception Sonoma 13.5 in Airalite (or whatever the thermoform construction is called). These at about 40lb feel considerably lighter than the Zephyr when handling off the water and is about as maneuverable while paddling if not more (shorter). The material is actually more scratch-resistant than the poly on the heavy boats too…

canoes or kayaks
My canoeing experience was basically the same as yours when I got my first kayak, an Old Town Loon. It was fantastic! I couldn’t believe how much easier it was to handle and how much faster it was than canoes. I could suddenly go anywhere I wanted and paddle upstream on our rivers. It was the perfect boat.

Fast forward to 5 years later and I think I’d rather swim than have to paddle something like that Loon again. I upgraded my kayaks to some real nice touring boats that blew the Loon out of the water. Then I got a solo canoe (Bell Magic) so I could take my dog out fishing with me and found that I really liked it a lot. It was worlds apart from paddling crappy aluminum and plastic tandem canoes. I started getting more and more canoes and now that’s about all I paddle anymore. Rarely do I ever take out my kayaks unless I’m training for a race. They just aren’t as enjoyable to paddle (for me anyway).

Maybe a kayak is right for you but I’d recommend taking a serious look at some REAL canoes. Pick the right one and it will do everything the yak can do and more.


Agree, it’s about the only boat that does everything sorta well. It’s a master of none but does everything well enough to work. Fast enough for big waters and very manuverable for limited whitewater. Tough too.

Bill H.

Another kayak in that class
is the Necky Zoar ( Good luck with your paddling, and congrats on the kid!