Help deciding what kayak to get

Hi everyone! Long time reader, first time poster here. My family has a cottage on a smaller lake (600 acres) and we’re considering buying a few kayaks to have for us to use along with other people that visit us. Most of our time is spent out on the lake skiing, wakeskating, wakesurfing, etc. so we’re not sure if we should opt for a mid level or higher end kayaks.

This past weekend I went to a hand full of kayak shops by our cottage as well as Dunhams Sports and Gander Mountain. The shop closest to us recommended the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 which is on sale for $819. Another store recommended the Old Town Dirigo 120. Dunhams and Gander Mountain have Perception kayaks but I didn’t see any higher end models in stock.

Most of the places we went to said that 12’ would be best but my wife could get away with a 10’ since shes pretty small.

What do you think would be a good kayak for our purposes? Is it worth dropping $1700-1800 on two kayaks if we’re just getting into this? Lastly, what brand/model paddle would you recommend? Bending Branches paddles are made near where I live, but I don’t necessary need to get one from them.

Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks!

think if you mentioned what kayak you’re

– Last Updated: Jul-20-15 11:21 AM EST –

coming from..and what you'd like your next boat to do better it would be a little easier for the experienced kayakers to help... What kayak that you've paddled, did you somewhat like/dislike...etc.
...just sayin'

Kayak help
We have only used kayaks briefly at a friends lake home. Both my wife and myself are beginners.

Size for wife

– Last Updated: Jul-20-15 11:50 AM EST –

If your wife is "pretty small" she'll be a lot happier with a boat that fits her. Length is NOT a good way to fit a kayak to a small paddler. Width, depth, overall volume and cockpit fit are much more important.

A kayak that's too wide and too deep will force the paddler to hold the paddle high just to reach the water, which is tiring and ineffcient. A small, light paddler in a narrower boat will be just as stable as a larger paddler in a wider boat.

For a smaller paddler, something like a Perception Tribute 12.0 would be a much better choice than a Pungo 120.

It's also important that she have a paddle that fits her. A paddle that's too big is uncomfortable and tiring to use.

I’m new at kayaking, too.
Angstrom has submitted some very sound advice.

I’ve spent a couple of weeks researching this sport and I’ve decided to go the absolutely cheapest route. Next summer, I’ll have more experience and will be able to upgrade to something that will suit my needs. At that time, the two inexpensive ‘sit on’ yaks that I ordered 10 days ago will be great for the grandkids, assorted cousins and other inexperienced boaters.

I bought two Sun Dolphin Camino 8 SS sit on kayaks. They are flat bottom and square across the stern for stability. After watching lots of Youtube videos, I decided these would be good for my leisure river and lake boating/fishing. This yak has a good sized space at the stern for strapping on fishing gear or a big cooler for a group outing.

The yaks were $169 each from the local wallyworld and they came with paddles. This deal was too good to pass. Like I said earlier, they can be passed to the kids next year. If you want to see the listing for it, do the store search for camino 8 ss. They do not show up with a ‘kayak’ search.

Hope this helps with your decision. However, you didn’t mention children in your post, so you might want to go ahead with a bigger yak and bypass the experimental phase that I am doing.

My wife is 5’8" maybe 120-130lbs. So length isn’t as much of an issue as width and height I take it. How does Perception compare to Wilderness Systems in terms of quality? I’m not sure if I can get that kayak locally unfortunately.

As for the other question, the kayaks will be for my wife, son and myself. My son is about my size.

I forgot to add my reasons for choosing an 8’ yak. Not only is it a manageable weight (40lbs), but it can easily be loaded into the back of my SUV and the bow can stick out through the hatch window. That means I don’t have to go to the trouble of lashing it to the top of the SUV.

Also, the affordable price allowed me to purchase two yaks, so I can invite someone to go with me every time I go. I hope to be boating every small river I can find in the coming years.

For me transportation won’t be an issue because they will stay at my cottage and never leave there.

Look at used Kayaks on Craigs List
If you are just getting started look at used kayaks on Craigs List, you can usually find a high quality entry level boat for about $350 if you shop around a bit. You don’t need matching boats and you can check out reviews here when boats are advertised as see if it something you are interested in.

For paddling on a lake where you are going to have guests who will not know how to roll, you might think about getting sit on tops from a good quality company like Ocean Kayak, Cobra Kayaks, Wilderness Systems, Dagger , Perception. Look at 11 to 14 ft models.

Really cheap SOTs from big box stores are not any better than pool toys, most are made in China from very low quality plastic and they not only don’t perform well, they also do not last very long.

Don’t get her a “shorter” kayak
than the other one you end up with, because other things being equal, a longer kayak is FASTER than a shorter one, in the same model. A longer one also might be easier to track and handles the wind better, depending on the model.

If you’re getting sit- in kayaks with cockpits, have her sit inside it to make absolutely sure she fits with that height, foot size and leg length. When you said “small” these manufacturers thinks of a “small” person as in the 5’ to 5’-4" range. A woman taller than that, may have much longer legs than a man of the same height at 5’-8’’. Some of the “women’s” sized kayaks are too low towards the front for a decent sized foot. You need to have a very comfortable foot and leg position because when paddling properly, you are going to be using them.

If you can’t reach the water without feeling like the arm is having to go “too high,” use a slightly longer paddle ! People get hung up on the strangest concepts some times. Modern paddles are lightweight and easy to use. Skinny boat, low in water, short paddle. Wider boat, seat higher, longer paddle. This is not based on gender but your actual limb length and how long/short your torso is.

Used kayak
I actually have been watching for a month or so and haven’t seen anything. They get snatched up quickly.

In Wisconsin?
I saw you said you were near Bending Branches paddles, you might want to look on several cities for Craigs List, lots of kayaks up now in Wisconsin. I used to live in Madison, and checked out Madison, tons of boats listed.

Also if you are near Madison, I would suggest visiting Rutabaga and trying out a few boats you are interested in. Rutabaga is great shop and they might be able to make you a deal if you are buying multiple boats.

Oh, BearRiver
You’ve obviously never paddled a kayak that was too deep for you. A longer paddle is not the answer for a boat that doesn’t fit properly. Have fun banging your knuckles.

Longer paddle

– Last Updated: Jul-20-15 4:26 PM EST –

One problem with using a longer paddle is that the blade goes into the water farther from the boat. This results in a paddle stroke that turns the boat more than a stroke closer to the boat, makes it harder to keep the boat going straight, and wastes energy.

My wife is 5' 0", so we have a lot of experience in trying to find gear for a small paddler. Her first two kayaks were too big, and when she finally got one that fit(14' x 21", low volume) it made a huge difference in her comfort and in how much she enjoyed paddling.

I will second the prior suggestion of Sit on Tops. Easier to use for people without knowledge, and a bit safer for when someone figures out how to flip it over. The ones you listed are considered recreational class kayaks, and while hard to flip over, are also hard to get back into when you do flip one over.

There is an article in California Kayaker Magazine that talks about different types of kayaks (sea/touring vs recreational vs sit on top vs white water) with pros and cons. Issue #10.

The 11 to 14 foot range is likely what you would want. You may also want to consider something like a Malibu 2XL, which can be used as a single, double, or even triple (for smaller people/kids).

Inexpensive might not mean cheap
"Really cheap SOTs from big box stores are not any better than pool toys, most are made in China from very low quality plastic and they not only don’t perform well, they also do not last very long."

I’ll keep this thread posted as to the quality and maneuverability of the Sun Dolphin. Btw, they are made in MI, which keeps American workers employed.

No doubt, if I were an experienced and aggressive kayaker, hitting the rapids, I would want something more streamlined. However, paddling around a smooth lake, to do some fishing, doesn’t require the most expensive yak available.


– Last Updated: Jul-20-15 3:46 PM EST –

Thanks for the replies! I don't want to get a kayak from a big box store. I'd prefer doing business at a smaller store.

I'd prefer to get sit in kayaks as my family members and myself will be using them most of the time. That's what I want so that's what I'm buying. I'm more so concerned as to what kayak to buy.

I'm actually located in Rhinelander, WI so I'm pretty far away from Madison. My son just graduated from school there but don't foresee us making a trip down anytime soon.

What about a Dagger Zydeco 11? They have one on sale for $499 at the store by my lake house. They said it wouldn't track well on our lake though.

height & weight
Ok, her height does not put her in the “smaller paddler” category, but her weight does.

If a paddler is much lighter than the weight a boat was designed for, there’s less boat in the water. She’ll be more affected by wind and the boat may not track as well as it would with a heavier paddler.

Hi there, Badger!
I live on a 600 acre lake in Florida, that on weekends is infested with skiers, jet skis, etc, but on weekdays is practically deserted. So I have some idea of the kind of paddling you might do on your lake, although in much colder water, I’m sure. Early mornings when the lake is flat, full moon paddles—a lake that size can be quite a lot of fun.

My favorite boat to use on the lake is an old Perception Swifty 9.5. A small, comfortable boat for that size lake—no point really in going fast, and it won’t. A stable platform for photography. Someone stole the one I’d had for 13 years, but I replaced it with a used one I got for $150. I’m only 5’3" but I’ve known several people as tall or taller than your lanky lady who found the Swifty comfortable as well.

Perception seems to have replaced the Swifty with the Conduit 9.5, which seems very similar in specs and appearance.

If I were going to buy kayaks specifically for guests to use on my lake, I would look at SOTs; as someone mentioned, much easier to get back on if capsized, and no need to empty water out of it either. But it’s really hard to capsize something like a Swifty (although Celia knows someone who did!)

Haven’t banged my knuckles since
the last time I got stuck with a rental kayak and swore that when I finally got my own, MY paddle would be Bear-sized !

Also saw lots of rather charming, petite women this past Saturday going faster than me in their 18’ and 20’ sit on tops, aka racing surf skis, etc, because I only have a 14’ long boat - but if you want to persist in promoting the myth that women must use tinker-toys upon the water, go for it… somebody has to buy that imported %$@*& $$$ pink inventory ! I love that short stuff, at least I can pass them easily in my decrepitude - and I’ve got room for a cooler and the beach gear !