Help finding a touring/day use kayak


I’m looking for my first touring kayak but only have room for one boat and plan to be out in it weekly at the smaller lakes and reservoirs as well as on very large bodies of water and multi-day class I/II river trips here in Colorado.

Given that I live in the mountains, with not a touring boat source within an hours drive. I’m going to buying sight unseen.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  1. A touring boat with a good reputation for maneuverability 16’5"-17’8" I’m guessing
  2. Good enough initial stability for photography but a reputation for good maneuverability. :slight_smile:
  3. Less that $3,500, and around 50 pounds or lighter.
  4. Good tracking would be nice.
  5. Something that will fit me well. Very active slender 45yo dude. 5’10" @ 165lb. 32" inseam. 33" waist. Size 11.5 shoes.

    I was looking very closely at ordering a Valley Etain but from the stats of the reviewers, I’m thinking I’d be swimming in the cockpit. Given my stats and needs, what boats should be at the top for my consideration?

Sight unseen for your first kayak

– Last Updated: May-29-12 12:02 AM EST –

Bad idea!

What mtn area do you live in, western slope, front range, or ??? That's a huge span of country. If you have places to shop within half a day's drive, it's worth spending a couple days going to those for such an important (and specialized) purchase.

Although CO doesn't have sea kayak shops, there are some places where you can sit in a kayak in the shop, and at least one shop I know of will rent you a kayak of the size you seek.

The Lakewood REI has some kayaks you can check out in the shop. They used to run a demo day in spring but I don't know if they still do this; if so, that'd be worth finding out about. Keep in mind that if you know there's a boat you like which they don't have in the store, they may be able to ship it from their warehouse (no extra charge). I did this when I bought a Tempest 165 from them. Just because the CO REI stores don't have it doesn't mean they can't get it for you...but you should know what you want before going this route.

Confluence Kayaks in Denver rents kayaks. My husband rented a plastic Tempest 170 from them a few years ago. With either REI or Confluence, you can phone these stores and ask them what they have on hand before you make the drive.

Colorado Kayak Supply in Buena Vista might have some longish kayaks. Although their emphasis is WW--no surprise--it's worth asking them. The old Alpenglow store (in Golden) had Prijon sea kayaks and they could obtain Wilderness System kayaks.

If you can take lessons with a school that uses sea kayaks, that's another way to get an idea of what you like--not to mention building skills.

It sounds like you are in a big hurry to buy. Watch out so that your newness and eagerness to buy don't label you "easy mark."

Not as bad as you might think.
Hi and thanks for the reply.

I’m not sure buying sight unseen is as bad an idea as you imply in this case.

I know what characteristics are important to me. The Valley Etain sounds like an ideal boat for me if they made a smaller cockpit version of it, rather than a 17-7 and a 17-5 with the same cockpit size.

I’m in Crested Butte. Will a minimum of four hours on the road guarantee that I can put my hands on a touring boat that is not only of the length I need but also with my desired handling characteristics? Probably not, since we are talking of a rare bird. Let’s say a 8 hour round trip to the front range makes a Valley Nordkapp LV available for me to try. I wouldn’t bother. Yes, it’s a very well regarded tourer but has little initial stability so I wouldn’t even bother sitting in it.

I’m hoping someone can point me to a few boats that fit my needs and my physical stature. I’ll make it work from there.

In addition…
Valley must have been reading my mind, as I just happened across this info:

“For 2012 Valley has built on the success of the Etain by offering more so there is an Etain to fit almost everyone. This year there will be two sizes available in roto-molded polyethylene Etains and three sizes in the composite/glass Etain.”

I’m thinking a call to Valley will have this worked out for me but I’ll call the shops you added in your edited post to see what they have and read the reviews.

I’ve done some kayaking in the San Juan Islands a number of year ago and I look forward to getting back on the water in Colorado.

What fits the bill aside from the Valley Etain?

Given your dual purpose…
intent, I’d expand your weight restriction to 55-57# and consider a quality plastic boat.

Pikabike’s concerns and recommendations are spot on. Heed them as much as possible.

The Tempest 165 would be a good boat to consider. Tracks nicely yet quite maneuverable. You should fit fine and can move the seat back 1-2" if you need more leg room for foot clearance. I’ve taken many a photograph from the T-boats without issue but they’re not a photography platform like a more stable fishing-type boat.

The Nordkapp RM is kind of like a larger version of a T-165. Faster, maneuverable, fits an athletic person. The Nordkapp shines on the bigger waters whereas the T-165 will reign superior on the river. The Nordkapp tips the scales at over 60# but is super strong and rigid.

I have both boats here in Casper, WY if you wanted to take a drive and get some seat time in the two kayaks.

Good luck to you in whatever you decide.

Mostly agree
I’m the OP’s size (or was when I bought my kayaks) and own both a T-165 and a poly Nordkapp. I have had a great time in the 'Kapp squiggly streams. I like the stiff Valley plastic. I don’t think it is as good a kayak to begin with. I think an Aquanaut could be a good choice in plastic or a Tempest/Zephyr. But really there are plenty of good kayaks for your needs.

Why not pick a good coach/outfitter somewhere along the West Coast, go train and test boats then drive back with a souvenir?

You didn’t say if you
want to trip or just day paddle, look at the Seda Ikkuma, CD Gulfstream both kayaks are very maneuverable and they can be seen at Arvada,CO

or at

I should read
Your heading,but check Current Designs Kayak’s and Seda Kayak,s web sites for dealers in this area we have kayaks in stock and do dimo’s

Other possibilities
Yeah, being in CB makes anything a fair drive away. Have you dug around to find out if there are candidates around Durango, Granby, Dillon, Steamboat, and other popular rec areas that have large lakes?

If you’re including folders in your list, you should take a look at Feathercraft’s Wisper. Plenty of stability, two cockpit sizes and rear deck heights available, very light (33 and 38 lbs, depending on which skin you choose), short enough to use in some rivers. Pricey, but you might find a used one.

Other than that, a lot of kayaks would fit someone your size, including the aforementioned Tempest 165 (I sold mine a couple years ago).

Haresfurs’ recommendation is a good one: head to the west coast and rent/demo a lot of kayaks, and take lessons. That way you are not restricted to one or two dealers but can get a better perspective after trying lots of models from different places, hopefully in the conditions you want to paddle in. I’ve had good experience renting kayaks from Aqua Adventures (San Diego) and Alder Creek (Portland), and they both offer lessons. Highly recommend them even though it means extra travel time for that $3500 purchase.

Chances of snagging a used Feathercraft Wisper are zero to none (I persisted for 3 years before finding one 3 states away and jumping on it.)

But another more economical folding option would be the 39 pound 15’ long Pakboat XT15, at around $1600 (plus or minus $300 depending on sale pricing.) We’ve got one of those and it’s a surprisingly versatile, tough and nice handling kayak. Tracks well, is super comfortable and is great in rougher water like windy big lakes. Really paddles like a hard shell, actually better in lumpy water. There are a number of YouTube videos showing them in action.

Sight unseen = bad choice.

– Last Updated: May-29-12 2:54 PM EST –

Way back when I was shopping, I really appreciated sitting in different boats and getting a feel from the cockpit. Anything from foot peg to seat back placement to thigh brace fitting can affect whether you're happy or not. A kayak is kind of like a pair of shoes; it has to fit.

There's plenty of boats that meet your criteria. But you have to find the one that makes you happy.

If you're looking to drop a few thousand dollars, a weekend trip to check out boats is not unreasonable.

Agree with the other folks – you should test-sit even if you can’t test-paddle.

That said, my first time in an Avocet RM(the year it was introduced) I thought “love the way it handles, sitting position is terrible”. But I spent more time in the seat, ended up buying one, and with some cockpit mods have had many happy years in it. Our personalities match…

Getting maneuverability and tracking in the same hull is hard. They’re a tradeoff. You can find hulls that track well when level and maneuver nicely on edge, but you need the skill to utilize that.

I’m almost your size: 5’9", 160, size 10s, prefer a snug fit. I almost always prefer the “smaller paddler” boats if there’s a size range.

In the Valley boats, the Avocet is probably the most maneuverable. The RM is a bit smaller than the composite version and is the best fit for me. The composite Aquanaut LV is a sweet boat. I haven’t paddled the Aquanaut RM LV.

Of the WS boats, the Tempest 165 and Zephyr 155 would be my choices.

The NDK Explorer is a great companion for rough water.

These are a LOT of possibilities.

I Am Very Close to Your Size
and weight. The Tempest 165 with the seat moved back a bit does it for me.

The smaller Zephyr is worth looking at as well. If you are entertaining plastic and more maneuverable, consider the smaller Alchemy at 14 feet.

Used Tempest 165
Would make you smile at less than 1/2 a new Valley. You are the right size for it. That’s for the composite version, if you so insist, which is rather heavy as they are…

For a 52lb plastic, it will be hard to beat the Zephyr 15.5 for fun and maneuverability. Not a rocket on the flats but not a slug either.

The Cetus LV might also be of interest to you - maneuverable, easy to roll, smaller volume than Etain. You will need to go up the price ladder to get below 50lb though…

I smell a sales troll, or maybe 2
That OP is mighty uncharacteristic for a first-time “touring kayak” buyer in this landlocked state. Aside from the actual content, the post itself reminds me a lot of someone who used to post openly but went into lurker mode quite a while ago. And I don’t mean “ethan”, who admitted to being a lurker in the kayak-prices thread.

Cetus is looking like “it”.
Kocho, nice pick. The Etain review I read a couple of days ago was done by someone that owns a Cetus, though I don’t remember the variant. His comparison there was enough to keep that boat in the back of my mind. I just finished reading all of the reviews for the Cetus that I could find and I think I’ll be pulling the trigger on one tomorrow if I can find a dealer that ships with one in stock. Funny that I came hear to see your recommendation after coming to that decision. I plan on the MV though, not the LT. What pushed me to the P&H Cetus is the lack of all the seat complaints that the Valley boat reviews seemed to repeat. I may end up going with something else like the Capella 167, which I’m sure would suit me fine as well. It will depend on the stock and shipping situation.

Unfortunately, most of the dealer listing for P&H in NA appears to need some updating.

I called several Colorado kayak shops today with nothing of interest turning up. The REI doesn’t stock anything longer than 14’ according to the person I spoke to.

Might want to edit that post pickabike. Your nose is wrong.

Etain review…

There’s the link to the nice review just over a year ago for the Valley Etain. Pulling that back up still makes me want one. The Cetus has much smaller hatch openings but a better seat. I’ll take the better seat, and I think the removable pod that Valley incorporated into the Etain is kind of gimicky, and I’d never remove it.

Try before you buy.
When I was shopping, it was a close choice between a Valley Avocet and a P&H Capella. I got to sit in a Capella and the cockpit combing hit me wrong. There was a sharp edge that caught my legs when I got in. Perfectly fine boat, just one little thing that didn’t work for me.

The Avocet cockpit fits me great and I can get in and out very easily.

These are things you can’t know from a spec sheet. Again, fit and personal preference are very important.

Comfort and fit are key
You are on the small side of average so you should be able to fit in many boats. The Cetus MV will probably fit you fine with perhaps a slightly roomy feel out of the box (I fit in it very nicely at 6’4" and 185-190lb). If you can’t find one close enough, you might check some of the East Coast dealerships such as Jersey Paddler or Marshall’s Hudson “something or other” (sorry, forgot the store but he carries and paddles the Cetus MV, and other Valley kayaks, as far as I know)…

Anyway, some boats are just shaped “wrong” for individual people’s body types/preferences: for instance, I do not like the out of the box fit of Romany or Explorers for example: braces are not where I like them, seats are terrible to my butt, backbands suck/pinch me, etc… On the other hand the WS Tempests fit my shape rather well and so does the Valley Cetus range.

I’d hate to spend $3-4K on a brand new kayak without having sat and paddled it a bit first. I see you list yourself as “advanced” so you probably have some paddling experience and know what boat characteristics you seek in genera. But you can’t figure out the boat’s fit from review, unless you know the size and paddling preferences of the reviewer very well and you can judge from there how it will translate to your needs.

They had them several times in the past

– Last Updated: May-30-12 11:35 AM EST –

If you read my first reply, it didn't say that REI or Confluence stocks long boats, just that they might have some on hand, and at least REI can (or used to able to) order such boats shipped to CO from their warehouse out of state.

Anybody planning a kayak-shopping trip should call beforehand anyway to make sure it's not a wasted trip. And then still beware: someone I know knew that a store was selling a sea kayak he was interested in looking at. He had a long drive so he called beforehand. When he arrived, the staffer who he met said they had no such boat around. The customer then pointed straight up at the ceiling, from which hung the desired kayak.

I am not going to delete my recommendations in the first response, because those stores have had 16- to 18-foot kayaks in the shop when I went there, and not just one time. In an area with little competition, customers should definitely check with them.

I have no involvement with any of the recommended stores other than as a customer.