I am currently trying to purchase a kayak for cruising around local lakes and slow rivers in Massachusetts (maybe overnight camping trips in the future too) and wondering what good options there are for a recreational kayak under $600. I’ve been looking at the Old Town Heron 11xt (I can get for $480), the Future Beach Vortex 124 ($400), and the Perception Conduit 13 ($600). Any input on these kayaks or other suggestions would be greatly appreciated since I can’t seem to make up my mind!
we usually suggest seeking used boat
For what you will shell out for a marginally useful new boat you could get something really versatile and often with a decent paddle and PFD thrown in.
Since you didn't mention your personal metrics (height and weight and shoe sizes, at the least) and your level of paddling experience and fitness, it is hard to give you good advice on model choices. Have you ever kayaked before or taken any intro lessons so you have some idea of what you might expect from the performance of a boat? A kayak is more than just a plastic shape that you sit in on the water. You should take into account what you plan to do with it and what will fit you and those ambitions -- THEN worry about the price and seek what you need within that budget. Staring with only what you can afford new is not the best approach.
For instance, if you are a medium to large guy, this used Necky Narpa touring kayak for sale in Northampton, MA, would be a better boat for hauling overnight gear and has a rudder, which is useful in large windy lakes..
I’m 5’10 160 lbs and very fit so I don’t need anything huge. I’m mainly looking to use a kayak for day excursions on lakes and rivers in the area so I really don’t need anything too long. Just something that tracks fairly well with good speed and a bulkhead wouldn’t hurt. I’ve kayaked plenty in the past on lake George and lake Winnipesaukee but have never owned a boat of my own.
Really hard to get a decent tracking kayak under 12’ and usually 14’. Look at used specially for your first boat that you’ll likely grow out of in a year or two. Won’t cost you much of anything buying used if you sell it when you move up.
I picked up a used Dagger Alchemy for $600 some years back. You would want the smaller of the two sizes. Way better than a new, short, “recreational” boat.
forget those models
If tracking, speed and bulkheads are on your "wants" list, none of the three boats you are looking at will make you happy. They are too wide and too short for speed. The Conduit would be closest but is really better for someone smaller (at least it has bulkheads). For somebody your size and for paddling wide windy waters like Lake George, you will be much better served by a 14 or 15 foot touring kayak.
Th suggestion of an Alchemy is a good one. There is a used one that looks to be in good condition near Albany (you did not specify what part of MA you are in.)
If that is beyond your budget or too far away, there is a Cape Horn for $350 near Boston:
And 14' Necky Manitou for $800:
And a Prijon Seayak (including paddle and skirt) for $500:
You would have much more fun with any of those.
Used Cape Horn
My beginner boat was the smaller Cape Horn. 15 feet and ruddered. A nice beginner boat but the Alchemy is better.
more on size
I’m 5’ 5" and around 150 lbs and my most versatile kayak for the kinds of Northeast river and lake paddling you describe is a 15’ long by 22" wide Venture Easky touring kayak. It’s long enough to be fast and track well but maneuverable enough for smaller rivers. I have even taken it in mild whitewater streams (some open class 1 and 2 rapids).