Help a fat girl find a great kayak! :D

Hey ya’ll! I have been doing tons, and tons, and TONS of reading-- however the more I read, the more I find conflicting information and have found that I’m dying to hear directly from those seasoned yakers out there. I would love to know your personal experiences and your best advice. :slight_smile:

My two best friends and I have all went kayaking before and camping before, though none of us have went camping via kayak nor could we could list kayaking as a hobby, but now… all three of us are dedicated to getting out there this summer and spending as much time on the water as we can! Our ultimate goal is to start doing overnight camping trips, spending more and more time each trip until one day we can take on crazy long adventures. (baby steps!!)

I am currently 240 lbs. at 5’5" and my questions will be based on myself.
(as the other girls are approx 220 lbs. at 5’7" and 165 lbs. at 5’ 9")

I know that your height and weight will affect the length and max capacity of your kayak, plus the weight of the kayak it’s self, the weight of your camping gear/supplies, and the weight of your dog (my Liberty is 45 lbs. and duh we’re all bringing our fur babies!)… so by this logic I should look for approx. a 350 lb.- 450 lb. kayak (PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I AM WRONG!) and I am looking for a sit on top.

Now my questions…

  1. Is my logic of what max capacity I chose correct?
  2. Is there a basic rule for height/length? Say at 5’5" I figure I shouldn’t really go over 10 feet, right? But then my weight…
  3. How much weight would you say your personal camping gear/clothes/food averages?
  4. What do you personally bring for camping gear/clothes/food?
  5. When camping is it beneficial to have one or two lock hatches, or basic strap on top style to carry supplies?
  6. The other two gals are convinced they want to purchase a cheap small kayak or towable item to carry their extra gear-- but I just don’t feel like this is smart or would be as easy/efficient as they believe-- any insight??
  7. Is there anything else I should take into account before purchasing?
  8. Do you have any kayak suggestions to purchase at or under $800? (Lower would be rad but I understand that I’m a big girl so that means more $$)

If you read all of this (and I do understand those who skipped it, ha!) please share some of your insights and I thank you so much!! :slight_smile:

Have you ever gone kayaking in a kayak? Maybe do that first.

Tow behinds a kayak don’t work out so well.

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Yes, I have gone kayaking in a kayak-- unless you mean camping in a kayak, that I have not done, lol. But if I 110% enjoy both of those activities, why would I dislike them together?

Hi IronRangeMaiden, welcome to the forums!

Disclaimer, I work in a paddle shop.

To start, you’re doing this right. It’s nice to see someone putting the time in to learn.

With kayaks I would rarely worry about height when choosing a boat. Weight and shape/design are my higher concerns. A rule of thumb I use for a lot of boats is subtracting the weight of the kayak itself from the total capacity to give you your “true” weight capacity. Some manufacturers note it this way, others give you one number and no way to know how they tested it. This “trick” always keeps me on the safer end.

Per towing something, I really dislike that idea. If you’re going straight across a calm lake, ok sure. But, wind/waves/rapids/snags/strainers/rocks/winding creeks and rivers, way too many ways to get snagged/hung up or just annoyed. I think it’s ABSOLUTELY better to buy an appropriate boat for including that gear.

Per length of boat, I wouldn’t go shorter than 12 feet. Longer boats will feel more stable in rougher water, and if the design is “the same” across the length options then longer will typically glide and track better (narrower also helps glide a lot). This is really just a general thought, not getting into all the specific details of all the many boats out there.

Sit on tops can have some loading benefits, larger packs can fit easier behind the paddler (sometimes in front as well), but there is less internal space and it’s one hollow space so smaller things can shift and move to over parts of the hull, sometimes harder to get back out. Sit insides have less “at your fingers” storage (sometimes) but easier bulkheads to load.

“In general” a comparable sit inside will be lighter and paddle more efficiently than the sit on top (think Wilderness Systems Pungo vs Tarpon)

As to specific boats, the areas you plan to paddle would be helpful to know about because there can be designs better suited to certain uses, or open up more capability.

Another option to consider would be a solo canoe. There may be less options available (nearly none new) at your price range, but I find canoes are not only far easier to load with gear and furry friends, but also easier interaction with the land for loading and getting in and out. It’s my preferred way to paddle.

The camping gear, etc. can get really personal. My own kit has changed a lot throughout the years. You really just want to know what you want out of your experience, get some gear that will deliver that, and start with some trial and error.

The paddle is as important as the boat, do not skimp there. That’s what your swinging around all day causing fatigue. It should be appropriately sized to your height and width of boat, and be on the lighter side.

Again, type of water you’re planning to paddle would be helpful, I feel I’m forgetting something but that’s why we can continue to post (or message) back and forth.

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Awesome reply, thank you for your input!

We’re thinking of starting on lakes and slower rivers in the Northern Minnesota and Iowa areas-- just stuff to get us used to it before taking on any wild ideas haha.

I’ve thought of the canoe, but I just don’t feel it calling my name and feel like I’d be more overall comfortable in a kayak.

From all of my research of what to look for, where we will be, what we’ll be doing, comfort of my dog, and budget-- I have been leaning towards the ‘Pelican Sentinel 120XR Granite 12 ft Sit-On Angler Kayak’ or the ‘Lifetime Teton Pro Angler Kayak’ which are in the $600 - $700 ranges, although I do understand going more expensive if needed.

Thank you so much for talking with me about this all! :smile:

(and the ease of fishing on these is a benefit as well-- although not our top concern! lol!)

Fishing is certainly easier from a sit on top than a sit in.

I would strongly recommend finding a way to demo/paddle some boats first. This will be a bit harder right now due to the pandemic (we had to cancel ours, and as of now may not have a rental fleet either).

Im hoping to not open a can of worms with this next train of thought, so I’ll preface by saying there are a lot of boats that people like and dislike for a huge variety of reasons, and I’m not trying to say it’s a “bad” boat/brand, buuut… I tend to be wary of big box store brands (of course Pelican now owns Confluence but that only gets under my skin because it’s yet more disappointment for Mad River’s history). They can have less uniform construction in there hull thickness (especially thermoformed) and a lot of those plastics “could” be cheaper being less UV resistant and durable. Outfitting “can” also be cheaper leading to more discomfort in seats and foot/knee braces, possibly needing repair/replacement sooner. Warranty on the hull will often times be a lot less than “normal” brands. A big one though is hull design, more of those brands will have a much simpler shape allowing it to be cheaper to make, but also less efficient and capable. Again, I’m generalizing and going off of my limited experience.

I would strongly recommend reaching out to shops in the areas you plan to paddle (and live), they can be a great resource for you! They not only know the waters (hopefully, I know I don’t paddle EVERYTHING around me), but also should be more likely to provide demo help.


Thank you! That’s a good idea! Everything around me is currently closed, so I suppose I’ll have to have some patience-- however Fleet Farm and Scheels are not, so I was hoping if I could find a good one at one of their stores I could get out of the house and have some fun before I have to return to work, haha. But yes, patience might be key on this one. :stuck_out_tongue: good idea!

I forgot to add, most recreational kayaks will get you around calm lakes and slow rivers. In this scenario the biggest challenge will be physical space when you get to adding camping gear. More design changes come into play when you get into bigger lakes, wilderness, faster rivers, etc.

Don’t be afraid to call around. My shop is “closed” (haven’t been to work in 2.5 weeks, yay paddle time!), but because we also are a bike shop we are considered “essential” and we have been providing curbside service. There may be a few that can do this for you. We’ve heard of shops in the Midwest that are having best ever sales quantity right now because people have time. It may be down to each shop choosing how “closed” they want to be, if they can choose.

Lastly, I totally get wanting to get out now. If that’s a high priority, go get som safe fun!!! You can always change boats down the road if you need to. And don’t forget the used market, maybe there’s a really cool boat at a better price (three of my canoes are off the used market and I plan on many more, cue eye rolling by my better half).

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Dogs tend to equal canoes or SOTs. That said, it is also a good idea to rent something basic and see how your dog reacts, before deciding to buy a boat around having the dog with you. Not all dogs are good paddling buddies especially if they did not get started as puppies.

Above advice to start out used is good. Very few people who find they really like paddling have their first boat a year or so later. As you paddle and find out what you prefer, needs change.


I notice from your handle - you’re near the Iron Range of MN? I’m thinking that would also put you near many of the outfitters serving the BWCA. If so, that’s an excellent source of used boats that are suited to pretty much what you’re considering… and lots of experienced paddlers to help with advice. (From six feet away.) The liveries that rent canoes and kayaks usually replace a portion of their rentals every year and there are deals to be had if you don’t mind a pre-scratched boat.

I’m a canoe guy, no expert with kayaks, but I can say I’ve known a few large folks who have gotten by very nicely in the conditions you suggest with Pungo 140s. Pretty much a decked canoe that you sit on the floor of… and a large cockpit that would accommodate a dog. You’d probably want to add a flotation bag in the front unless Wilderness Systems has come out with a variant with a front bulkhead. This is no sales pitch, just an observation that may give you at least a place to start looking.
Good luck and welcome to Pcom!


I am FROM the iron range, but I actually live in southern MN now. Still close enough to check out everything you mentioned though lol! Few people ever catch onto this handle, it’s cool that you did! :slight_smile:

Just a few comments in addition to the advice you’ve already gotten.

I agree that you should look at used boats because you’ll get more for your money plus there are zillions of used kayaks out there (actually just 227 according to Twin Cities craigslist).

With a load of 300+ pounds a small tandem kayak paddle solo might fit your needs well. Something in the 14-16 range. I see two of these in your area and in your price range.

A fishing kayak also makes some sense since they are stable with high capacity. But something with a large and smooth interior like the boat shown will work better for a dog since they can move around comfortably. Fishing kayaks often lack any flat area for a dog plus they don’t seem to allow a dog to move around.

You can use dry bags to store your gear like canoe people do and forget about hatches.

I’d be curious to know how you ladies plan to transport your boats to and from the water. Kayaks that fit your needs and price range tend to be on the heavy side. Loading into a pick-up truck bed or small trailer would be much easier than “tossing” a heavy kayak onto the roof of an SUV. Your ease and comfort of loading and unloading can have a big impact on how often you use a boat.

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Based on my research I don’t necessarily believe that I require a two person boat— plus from what I’ve read, having efficient control of a two person boat would be much harder. I’ll stick to a kayak.

And between the three of us we own two full sized trucks, two cars, and a Jeep— I think we got hauling down. We’re not prissy city girls by any means— heck one of the gals works a hog farm, one has caught an alligator with her bare hands, and I’ve hauled my fair share of deer from the woods, headed to hunt bear for my first time this next season. We can definitely make do.

However I will definitely check out the used sections on Craigslist and Facebook.

Finding a kayak that will fit your dog is going to be difficult. So is finding one with a big enough cockpit for you to be comfortable in and easily exit if you capsize. Camping equipment is not so easy to fit in a kayak. What you really need is a canoe.

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You and your 45lb Liberty would do quite well in that open cockpit tandem that Tom L posted. It looks like the Old Town Loon 160T that I’ve owned since around 2003. I’m mostly out paddling narrow sea kayaks. I use the Loon tandem when I bring my dog along, mostly camping trips. The seats slide to adjust trim. And the front seat, while a dog can step over it, provides a priceless barrier that keeps the dog off of your lap, and out of the way of your paddle.

The questions to answer would be fit, and it’s a heavy kayak. Y’all sound like a tough bunch. Just make sure you’re tough enough.

Outside of a canoe, this is really the style of kayak that will provide the most enjoyment for both yourself and Liberty.

Think about your dog’s name. Wouldn’t Liberty demand its own space?

An open cockpit tandem with sliding seats really will make a huge difference in your paddling experience with Liberty. Y’all are at a good weight where that kayak will feel nicely settled in the wind, and have enough length to allow, not fast, but a reasonable moderate glide through the water even with camping gear. I’d say something like this or a canoe.


Some of those Old Town kayaks are intended for either solo or tandem. Here’s a smaller one near you. My boat weight comment is not gender-specific; I make same comment to all newbies.

I suggest that you read the reviews on this site. I just glanced at the Old Town 160T review and people seem to enjoy it both solo and solo with a dog but they all seem to mention the weight.

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+1 on a smaller tandem kayak. They are very popular for solo paddling with dogs, extra gear, or both. Thanks to those who mentioned it, don’t know how I missed it!

I also wouldn’t be too concerned about handling them. Most of my interactions with people challenged by handling a tandem boat tends to be an issue of learning the appropriate skills. My Old Town rep’s teenage son routinely fishes solo (unloaded, and he probably weighs 130lbs) out of the current OT tandem, and I bet most of us (if not all) canoeists here have spent time soloing tandem canoes that are usually even bigger. Paddling skills are indispensable, they can really open up what any boat can do.

The big concerns still come to physical space for everything + dog. Weight is one thing, but it still has to fit somewhere. I would love to keep plugging canoes, but I also don’t want to dissuade from getting what you feel most comfortable in right now (you can use a kayak type paddle in a solo canoe, just have to size them longer). I think there’s something to be said for just getting started and growing from there. I was a tandem only canoeist for years, now you have to bribe me out of my solos!

Per camping, I did have a thought last night, if you intend on portaging during trips that would heavily put you into the canoe category. Every kayak I’ve come across in the BWCA looked like a hassle. Of course, you could always rent a canoe.

Whatever you end up with, I hope we get some trip reports when you get camping out of it!


Buying used is usually good if you have patience. My first kayak was $250. A 14 ft sit in rec boat. 24" beam and easy to paddle. It gets to be like many hobbies. I’m now up to 8 or 9 boats.


Hi Mzungu! Id love to know what you think about the Swell Scupper 14 vs. the Eddyline Caribbean 14 SOTs? A friend lent me her Necky Dolphin SOT and I love it, but it’s not made anymore so trying to find similar - narrow, fast, maneuverable. Need pretty good weight capacity. So many confusing reviews! The lightweight of the Eddyline is pretty attractive, but a reviewer thought it was too flat and slow. :crazy_face:

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