Help for Beginners

We are beginner kayakers, interested in purchasing our first kayaks. I am 5’11", and weigh 175. My wife is 5’6" and weighs 120. We are in our early 50s.

To get your suggestions as to the most appropriate kayaks, we can provide you with the following information:

  1. We will be kayaking in tidal creeks, with relatively flat water. Speed is not as much an issue, but stability, ease of tracking and comfort are more of an issue.

  2. The kayaks will be kept outside on a rack, and will be carried about 100 ft. from their rack to the creek access. So, weight is an issue, but car transport is not.

  3. The kayaks will be used not only by us, but by our children (early 20s), all of whom have no experience in kayaking.

  4. Long trips/camping are not part of the equation; rather, we would expect at a maximum to be on the water for 2 hours or so.

  5. We are willing to spend no more than $500 or $600 per kayak.

    We have spoken to a couple of dealers, and have gotten recommendations for the Old Town Otter (may be a little too small), and the Pungo models. Would appreciate your feedback on these issues. Thanks in advance for your help.

Wilderness Systems
I would look at Wilderness Systems models if they are available in your area which I guess they are if you have looked at a Pungo. The Pungo and Pamlico models would suit your needs perfectly and are resonably priced. Be sure and get the Phase 3 seating package. It is standard on some models and not on others but is well worth it in the comfort department. Have fun.


When we were first getting into kayaking, we tried an Otter. We were on vacation and just wanted to rent something for a few hrs to get out on the water. All they had to choose from was the Otter so we tried them. In my opinion, they are awkward and don’t track very well. I think you may get frustrated with them and lose interest quickly as they are hard to maneuver. I would definitely try to demo them just to see what they are like. They fit the price range, you may find them frustrating :-)!

Help For Beginners
It is really tough making the right decision on the first kayak. Several things you should do before you buy:

  1. Go to a good kayak store, one that has has many different brands and models. Don’t go to a typical sporting goods store that happens to have a few boats hanging from the ceiling.
  2. In a kayak store the sales people know what they are talking about because they are kayakers and have used the equipment. Tell them about what you want to do with the kayak, where you will be using it, and who will be using it.
  3. Then after recommendations are made based upon your needs, test paddle the models selected. This is the ONLY way to be (somewhat) sure your final selection is good for you.

Simple answer…
paddle them to find out what you like. I can’t imaging anyone buying a kayak without paddling it. Sitting in it on a carpet on the dealer’s floor is not going to answer your questions.

Old Town vs Wilderness Systems
Avoid both yaks. Wilderness systems is having HUGE problems,and may not be around next year. That’s a fact.

Old Town kayaks don’t have a great reputation. EVEN dealers that sell them will steer you to their other brands. I’ve had three dealers tell me that " Old Town makes a heck of a canoe, but they can’t make a decent kayak."

I’ve been researching yaks all winter. I’m almost ready to buy a Perception Sundance 120.

One thing about the Pungo. It seems like a great yak, and if you’re not worried about perhaps being with out a warranty next year, go for it. Perhaps your dealer will stand behind it. My fear would be if something went wrong with the phase three seat. Will replacement parts be available if the company is no longer around?

whats this about WSystems?
Tell me more… and yes to the newbie, go to a demo its the only way to compare and find what you need. I finally find a yak I really like and my warrenty may be only worth the paper it written on? tell me it ain’t so

Pungo or Sundance
Both good boats. You should find a dealer that you will let you test paddle both. Plenty has been debated here about Wilderness Systems. I think Confluence Water Sports (the parent company) will weather the storms and stay viable for a long time. But what do i know?

I went Pungo 120 over Sundance purely for aesthetics. The Pungo is a hit with me, my dog and my kids! (me-50, Dog-3, Kids 17 and 15)

I feel the Perception swifty or Sundance are decent models(own a Sundance) Also Wilderness systems Pungo are decent. Haven’t paddled a Pamlico. They seem to track well and are fairly light. . I don’t like the phase 3 seating ,but others seem to love it. I would also avoid Old Towns. Ever consider a Sit on Top?

I have had two OT Loons and they’re built of a MUCH tougher layup than the Dagger, Liquidlogic, and Perceptions in the barn. The only boat I have no qualms about pulling up on the gravel bar and sitting on the deck, that’s for sure! I have no doubts about the fact that there may be better boats to paddle, but OT Loons will survive better on rocky Ozark Streams I paddle than the competition! I would reccomend trying them out before discounting them. WW

If your

– Last Updated: Apr-21-04 7:25 AM EST –

"Creek" looks like these:

I wouldn't recomend a Pungo. A friend of ours has one & on some of these rivers he has had problems in the shallows & narrow passes, not to mention the "tight turns".

I would recomend a smaller boat like the (10ft)Pamlico, (9ft 5in)Critter, (9ft 6in)Sundance, (9ft)Swifty, (9ft)Rush, etc.......

Shorter, flat bottomed boats are better for runs like you describe. Our friends have a (14ft)Pungo & an (12ft)America & have "some problems" on such runs. However, the "flat bottomed" America handles the shallows better than the "V-hulled" Pungo.

You can get the Critter, Sundance & Swifty for right around $300. The Pamlico & Rush are around $400.

Paddle easy,


What about Liquid Logic Tryon?
My choice for first kayak is now between the Pungo 100 or Liquid Logic’s Tryon(10’8). I had read good things about the pungo in the reviews, but then learn that most of the reviews are positive.

There are a few SOT models that you might consider if you live in a warm climate. The WS Tarpon 100 might be an option. Decent tracking with lots of manuverability.

If you opt for a SINK you might check Walden Kayak’s product line. They may weigh 3-5 lbs. more than other boats of comparable length/width but they seem to be a lot stronger. They’re made of recycled materials and they float even if swamped.

Carrying your boats down to the creek can be turned into a non-issue if you build your own carts from PVC. I built one for about $6.

Just food for thought.

Are another excellent manufacturer.

I have the basic Alpha which cost me $299 and have no complaints as a recreational kayak. I am 6 foot tall and 195 pounds.

Good Luck

…don’t want to draw the ire…
of any OT kayak owners, but I too would steer way clear of the Otters. I fully agree with the statements that OT has always made great canoes but has not attained similar respect in kayak circles. Some models have had specific flaws that OT has not addressed very responsibly.

TRY before you BUY. TRY to buy USED. I agree that building an inexpensive cart will make weight a non-issue. Have a great time.

Used Is Good
Used is good way to go. Save money for the next boat. There is always a next boat.

Otters and loons
are built tough. I just don’t like the lack of tracking channels and the seat set up. Also they are heavier than other brands.

easy introduction
I agree with nearly everyone (re: the OT & WS boats) I own both and personally like the Pungo. OT boats are all pretty durable. My wife and grandsons got their first serious orientations in the Pungo so I am buying another for them. Good general purpose play boats. (especially for inland water).

Get a kayak cart
About $100 will get you a good cart. You insert one end (usually the stern) of the kayak into the cart and either push or pull at the other end. Takes a lot of the weight off your own body. Or, if you always paddle together, carrying one or two boats together is fairly easy for that distance.

Definitely try before you buy.

My first kayak was an Old Town Castine, and I think its hull was tougher than most plastic hulls. Seemed stiffer and less scratch-prone.

by the way…
I bought the Pungo primarily to fish from - it is great.