Good touring boat for smaller paddler

Hey everyone, newbie here. I’ve had a Walden Odyssey rec boat for several years and am ready to upgrade to a touring boat. I want a boat that I can pack a couple days’ worth of camping gear in, that can handle a bit of surf, and most importantly, that fits my small frame – I’m 5’8", 140 lbs. I’m pretty strong for my size but I don’t want something that’s too big for me, especially since it’ll be my first real touring boat.

I’m limited by budget and thus buying used - so I’m limited to what’s being sold locally. So while I appreciate suggestions for boats other than those listed here, the most valuable feedback would be on the following 3 boats…

Here are 3 boats I’m considering:

P&H Capella 160 RM

Seems like potentially a great fit, since it’s made for “smaller paddlers” and would hopefully be a good transition since it’s not huge. (Does $850 for a 6 year old version of this boat seem too high?)

Necky Chatham 17

seems like a great boat, my concern is the weight… 63 lbs seems like a bit much. wondering if smaller paddlers have experience with this one?

WS Tempest 170

again seems like a great boat but “made for mid-sized paddlers” has me thinking I’d be swimming in the cockpit. thoughts?

Thanks for any feedback.


Necky Eliza or CD Willow
I’m an average sized guy who had a chatham 17, but it was pretty heavy and didn’t have much space for gear. It was great paddling it otherwise. The Necky Eliza, Necky Manitou 14, or Current Designs Willow would be good touring boats for smaller sized people. If you have time and space to take on a project the Pygmy Arctic Tern 14 kit would be a fast cruising, easy to turn, and super light boat. After having owned several sea kayaks, I finally built the larger Arctic Tern kit and have been very impressed at how light, comfy, easy to paddle, and good looking it is.

NOT The Tempest 170

– Last Updated: Jun-29-10 5:13 AM EST –

The 165 would fit much better. I think the P&H boat is the most 'fitting' of the bunch.

Smaller still

– Last Updated: Jun-29-10 7:45 AM EST –

You'd be a match for the Tempest 165 rather than the 170 - I suspect if there is a 170 around used you could try a few more feelers and find a 165.

The Chatham 17 is pushing it on volume for your weight, as is the entire Chatham line.

I haven't paddled the Capella 160, but in size and volume you want something similar to the 161. Agree with Kudzu, it's the closest of the lot.

As to surf - you need to know how to handle that before you worry about what the boat can do...

other boat
I agree with the others about the Tempest 165 over the 170.

Another boat to consider, though no one will carry it locally, is the QCC 600x.


Handling of 600X vs Capella 150, Tempest
165? Aren’t the other boats mentioned much more maneuverable on edge than the 600X?

I’ve test paddled a Capella 161 and 160 and took a day of lessons in the Tempest 165, but have never paddled a 600X, so my impressions of relative handling of the 600X are from reading reviews and discussions, not from paddling it.

I’m 5’6" and 155 lbs.

small woman kayk
Current designs have several sea kayaks that fit only the small paddlers.

Current designs kayaks are well known for their craftsman ship and quality.

Stay away from Necky Chattam as it fits me and I am a big paddler.

CD willow is a beautiful kayak built for the smaller paddler.

check out their web sight at

If cost is the biggest factor look into their poly line.

I purchased a CD Vision poly and love my boat, that said it fits me tightly so for you to get a 'tight fit" I recommend their sea kayak line.

I don’t know how they handle when it comes to turning, I own a QCC 600 but haven’t spent any time in the other boats. FWIW, the QCC is plenty maneuverable for me.


Not Chatham 17 nor Tempest 170
Though good boats, both are too big for you.

The 3 poly boats that I would most suggest you try for your size, desires and budget are: Tempest 165, Chatham 16, and Avocet. All have been around for a while and have been popular so used ones turn up fairly regularly.

You’re a bit lighter and shorter than my husband, who previously owned a TempestPro165, which is the composite version of the boat. You’d be rolling around the cockpit in the 170.

We’ve only demo’ed the Chatham16 so I can’t advise you on that.

The Capella 160 is a good deal and should fit.

Lastly, there’s the Avocet. My husband traded his Tempest for this particular boat and has never looked back. There are usually a lot of these boats around used, both in poly and in composite, although people tend to hold onto their composite ones.

An NDK Romany would also work, which is a boat I highly recommend. My husband fits in my RomanyLV but it’s a tad tight so you’d have to see for yourself which version works for you.

I paddle an AvocetLV which you might fit in – I’ve had a few 6’/185lb+ guys squeeze in although there isn’t much freeboard – but I’d recommend the Avocet as they’re a lot more common, the LV version being a relatively new boat.

Try any of the above out and see what fits you the best and gives you the best smile.

Redoux on the Chatham 16
I just checked the specs, and I suggest a second look at the Chatham 16. Like try sitting in it.

I recall that it handled Ok for me on flat water - rolled fine and all - but felt big in the cockpit. But I just checked the specs and I may be remembering depth rather than allover size. Since you are taller than me that could be significant.

Avocet LV
I recently paddled the Avocet LV and really liked it. It’s worth waiting for this boat rather than getting a ‘kinda fits me’ boat right away.

Lots of smiles with the AvocetLV
…which fit me better than my RomanyLV – something I never thought I’d say as I love that boat – and the AvocetLV is fast.

I had it in some rock gardens last weekend and, because of its narrow beam and responsiveness, it slips right through with just the slightest amount of edging on my part.

Worth waiting for although, as with all kayaks, it’s a matter of fit

my vote…

– Last Updated: Jun-29-10 6:13 PM EST –

...the P&H Capella ..good quality boat from the few I have seen at shows. listed carry weight is 54#s. if everything on the boat is in 1 piece and no missing or broken parts..and the hull is in good shape, maybe the 850 is worth it..List price for a new RM is $1600 !

if those are the only 3
P&H Capella 160 is hands down going to approximate the best fit for your h & w. The seller’s asking price is high for a 6 year old boat, of a model that is easy to find, esp. if nothing else is coming w. the boat. Six years ago it didn’t cost $1500 or $1600!

I get where your budget is so not listing fiberglass boats for the smaller paddler. Most are just out in the last few years - niche market boats made and sold in small quantities that do & will command premium prices even in the used market.

Most used boats which are old enough to drop in your price range are too big for you. That limits your search too.

Try some more plastic seakayaks in the 15.5-16.5 foot range, look for the Chatham 16, the Avocet (in plastic). Tempest 165 roto. I’ve seen a few Dagger Alchemys - you’d want the 140S- showing up barely used for $800-$1000, check one out if you get the chance.

A used Necky Eliza in roto is worth a look.

You might be best off investing in a class w. a good local outfitter. Use the boat they put you in and make comparisions w. other boats you consider.

Thanks everyone…
This feedback has been immensely helpful. Thanks to the advice here I saved myself some time and possibly a whole lot of trouble and $$ and passed on the Chatham, even though it sounds like it would be a great boat if I were a little bigger.

I checked out the Cappela last night. It was being sold by a kid and it looked like it had been abused a bit, it had some large scratches on the bottom and even the top was pretty scuffed up. And he wouldn’t budge on the $850 price. It was clearly the older model, with the square-ish hatch covers. Without a spray skirt thrown in, it didn’t seem like a good enough deal, so passed on it. I’m kinda bummed, because it did feel like a great fit when I got in it.

(Just curious, for those that have the older Capella, are those hatch covers watertight? They didn’t inspire confidence, in fact they’re essentially the same design as on my Walden Odyssey!)

So, the search continues. Again, this feedback has been so helpful and I can’t thank everyone enough for the response. I’ll let you know if i find something…


Capellas are a classic design and a lot of them - in all three rotomoulded sizes, including the 160 - can be found pretty readily. Stay with it and another will come up. Be sure to check paddleshops, they may have older floor models, demo boats, etc they will sometimes let go at surprisingly great prices along w. deals on a paddle, pfd, etc - because they don’t want older models hanging around w. the year’s new entries.

$850 for what you describe is not a good deal, you were wise to pass.

Can’t comment on the older hatch designs.

CAN tell you that Capellas from the last 4 years or so - at least - have the black rubber Kajaksport covers, that fit on like Tupperware.

Kajaksport and Valley Canoe Products each make the top two rubber hatch covers in the world IMO. Kajaksport’s are standard on fine seakayaks made by a number of companies.

Once you find the right kayak you’ll never look back and think twice about what you just passed up :wink:

JoJo check your email
just sent you a msg which may be of interest…

happy hunting!

IMO used Avocet LV not so common…

– Last Updated: Jul-01-10 7:17 PM EST –

at least when I looked last year, in the Northeast. The only non-new ones I saw were demos from a local outfitter (good option for the OP to consider if the price is right). Just my experience.

At 5'7", 135 lbs, my Tempest 165 fits me well and I find it quite maneuverable--from creeks to big rivers.

No one has mentioned the Zephyr 15.5 here, which is considered more "playful" than the Tempest and would probably fit you well. I tested one recently, and indeed, was easy to turn and edge. The 16 was too big for me though.

I second the suggestion for the Dagger Alchemy 14S. Give it a try if you can. But it's new last year so I wouldn't think you could find a used one that easy. But a new "scratch & dent" or demo might be had for $1000...

Personally, I don't know if these other posters that say these boats are readily available used have actually shopped for them. ;-) I did not have luck with Craigslist or pnet classifieds with these (and a few other) boats in this size and price range--I highly recommend checking dealers/outfitters demos, previous year's models and "scratch and dents" for good deals on newer boats.