Deciding On Which Kayak

Hello, I’ve researched numerous kayaks, read many posts on here, have narrowed down my list, but can’t seem to make a definitive decision on which would be best for me, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I’ve been on the water my whole life, tiny lakes to the Great Lakes, large and small rivers, in canoes, row boats and motor boats, but only have been kayaking for the past 2 years. A 20 mile, Lake Superior kayaking/camping work conference 2 years ago got me hooked :slight_smile: We spent 5 hours the first day, with an instructor teaching us all the basics of the gear, paddle strokes, one and two person rescues, rolling attempts, etc.

I’m a mid-aged female 5’6" 120#, short torso. My husband is 5’9" 155#, normal torso. We are both physically active. On a whim, I bought us both Elie Sound 100 XE kayaks, Bending Branch Sunrise fiberglass paddles, mine is 220 cm his is 230 cm, life vests, bilge pumps, etc. We predominantly Kayak the Escanaba River, 5 miles above the Basin, where the river starts over 50 feet wide, deep, slow, but strong current. We usually paddle upstream approx. 2 1/2 miles, the river narrows to 20 feet in spots, the current gets much stronger the closer we get to the big rapids. I don’t have much trouble doing this, however, when we go down towards the Basin, where it is open, or on a small lake, with any waves or wind coming at me, I totally struggle, my husband doesn’t, but his upper body strength is greater. I know now this kayak is way to wide for me, but it is stable, neither of us have ever come close to tipping, yet. We kayak approx. two - threes times per week from April to November, we break ice to get out early and late season, the center is open.

My dilemma is, I want a kayak I can control in open water, large lakes, with small waves and wind, but still be able to take on the river, where I do skim over submerged rocks and logs occasionally, but have never smashed into a rock. Something I can carry approx. 50 feet and load onto the truck bed myself, so no more than 50 pounds, 40ish would be better. I like the thought of the lighter composite kayaks, but there is the potential of me not being able to navigate around a large exposed when the current is really strong, so I’m torn. Also, something that can hold 1-2 days worth of camping/fishing supplies, between two kayaks, would be a plus. A comfortable seat. I’m looking to spend a max. of $1500, would prefer $1000, as I most likely will be buying two, one for each of us.

Here’s my list: Hurricane Sojourn 126, perception Tribute 12.0 RM or the Ultralite 12.0, Venture Islay 12LV, Delta 12s or Necky Manitou 13. Are all of these good options or is there a better kayak out there that I don’t know of? Honestly, I had never even heard of the Venture brand until last week after reading posts on here. Thank you.

From your list, I would pass up the 12s

– Last Updated: May-21-15 2:08 PM EST –

and go for the Manitou 13. If you were here or I were there (I've been on the lower Escanaba), I would put you in my Necky Looksha Sport, a 14.5 that is maneuverable enough for easy rivers. (Not made anymore.)

Length will help on open lakes, and it will help you run away from your husband. And one can learn to manage touring kayaks quite well on easy, class 1+, ww.

Really, you need to spend time in a couple of good kayak dealerships, plus hang with a local club, to get sure about what you really need. But pass up those 12s.

Forgot to ask, what type and length of paddle are you using now? Chance it might be too long for driving forward on a windy lake?

I agree with longer suggestion
I agree with EZ, go for a slightly longer boat. I am around your age and height though a little heavier. My “go to” poly boat is a Venture Easky 15LV which I find very versatile and have used it in everything from coastal Atlantic and Great Lakes paddling to negotiating narrow rocky Class 1 and 2 streams. I have banged it off rocks and dragged it through gravel bars – no problems. But it also feels very secure and seaworthy in rough open water, and is easy to paddle straight and with good speed. Venture kayaks (made in England and very nicely fitted) are great boats and tend to be lighter than equivalent models from other brands.

Don’t get hung up on the notion that a narrower boat is “unstable”. Yes it will feel a little different but most have good secondary stability, in fact BETTER in rough conditions than a wide flatter bottomed boat and it will be easier to maneuver on twisty streams and to avoid obstacles. And because you are on the smaller side, a boat under 24" will give you better control in the snugger cockpit. In fact, 22" or 23" will be a better fit for you than wider boats. Even your husband should be able to appreciate such models. My ex was 5’ 8" and 190 lbs with size 10 shoes and he really liked my Easky even though it was a low volume boat.

It would be optimal if you could find one or more outfitters having a “demo day” so you could get a feel for what these differences are on the water. If you can find a Venture Dealer, check out the Islay 14LV if they have one – or an Easky 15LV if there is still one in their stock. I have put many beginners in my Easky and all of them have loved it. In fact by now 3 friends have gone on to buy their own Easkys after liking the way mine performed for them.

Manatou is wifes go-to boat
She has the 146 (skeg) and she loves it. She is nearly identical in size. I am not sure if that model even is offered anymore.

The Manatou has a good glide and speed, and has good manners in rougher water or windy conditions. We have had a lot of different boats come thru our fleet, but the Manatou has never been considered for sale.

Tsunami 135
Have a look at the Tsunami 135 - 13ft6in x 23in wide, 48lb and designed for female paddlers.

Seat time
Have you sat in any of the boats on your list?

First time I was ready to lay big money down on a kayak from a dealer I agonized over the specs and reviews for weeks. Sat in one of the boats on my list right there in the showroom and unequivocally scratched it off the list in under a minute.

I paddle a 14’ in some pretty narrow streams.

If open water is in your goals look for two bulkheads.

Thank you
I appreciate all of your advice and responses. I half expected a majority of you guys to steer me towards one or two specific kayaks, but everyone suggested something different, which proves to me, I need to go sit in the ones you have suggested, if they are available. I also noticed that a few of you recommend a longer kayak than I was considering and said it would be okay for the river. For some reason, I guess lack of knowledge, I was thinking a 14+ foot would not be good for river and were mostly suitable for large, open bodies of water. Now, I may rethink length. I’m in my hometown of St. Ignace right now, I found dealer in Hessel, Woods and Water Ecotours, they have the Venture kayaks amongst others, I’ll check them out. I’ll stop at Germfask and Munising, and check out those dealers, on my way home this weekend. Thanks again :slight_smile:

I really began getting into kayaking myself during the 8 years I lived in West Michigan. Living there, I realized that at some point I would want yo paddle the Big Lake, so I made sure I began with a boat that was going to be competent for Lake Michigan and even eventually Superior. I started with a 14’ 6" kayak and did not regret it. Most 14 or 15 foot plastic light touring models are very versatile and also have the advantage that there are many that are under 50 lbs, Other boats you might consider are the Elie Strait 140 (though their material mat scratch more with river usage) and some of the midsize Neckys. Fit and feel are very personal. Fortunately you are in a state where on the water demos are easy to come by.

As to getting a range of suggestions, there are scores of makers and hundreds of models, and as with cars, everybody has their personal favorites and none of us has experienced more than one to a couple of dozen of them personally. But you can learn a lot through “crowd soucing” opinions and suggestions on here.

Below the bridge
If your travels take you south, The Outfitter of Harbor Springs is an hour away from St. Ignace. They carry Venture, Eddyline, and P&H and are always happy to arrange demos.

Comments on Hurricane Sojourn

– Last Updated: May-24-15 2:21 PM EST –

It sounds like you're describing a moving river with rocks? Lake and river are two different environments, two different kayaks. If you need rotomolded for rocky rivers you're not going to find the light weight you want. For lighter weight you need to go to thermoformed, which isn't good in white water.

How about getting a Sojourn for lakes and keeping your Elie for rivers? I recommend the Sojourn 135 rather than the 126 for more speed. Very nice hull design on the Sojourn; feels stable, turns well has reasonable speed. Excellent price.

The Delta 12S has a good hull, very stable, but a poorly designed seat. I think the Sojourn 135 is better.