Help me decide! First Kayak

Hi! I just joined and I’m looking for some advice. I’ve been going back and forth between a few different kayak models for DAYS and I just can’t decide. Here are the options:

Ocean Kayaks Venus 11 for $400

Ocean Kayaks Scrambler XT for $400 with no backrest but comes with paddle, seat cushion, both middle and front hatch add ons and wheels.

Lifetime Daylite 8’ with paddle and sail for $224 (Walmart)

I’ve been kayaking only once and it was on a Scrambler XT. I absolutely hate feeling unstable on the water and couldn’t stand canoeing when I was younger. I found the XT very stable and was surprised at the speed and it staying in a straight line (now know that’s called tracking) I will be going out alone frequently and will only be using it on flat water/very calm rivers.

I love that the Venus 11 is pink and made to be easy to carry/load on the car. It’s supposed to be a little faster than the XT and is definitely lighter. Same stability I think? The only problem is the 200-225 weight limit. I am 5’10" and weigh 170-190. Currently 180. Of course I’d like to get it to 165 and keep it there but don’t want to be out of luck in case I get back up to 190. I doubt that I’ll have much gear because I don’t fish or camp without a running water site!

The 8’ was just an option because of the low price, high stability rating and ability to return for full price if I don’t like it. I probably won’t go for that unless you guys talk me out of the other ones - I don’t want to spend too much on my first kayak unless I know I will love it.

So what do you think? Will the increase speed rating for the Venus be irrelevant if I’m that close to the weight capacity? Is the extra 10 pounds of the XT (40 pounds vs 50 pounds) going to make a huge difference to me? Any other ideas/suggestions would be greatly appreciated! :slight_smile:

of the kayaks above

– Last Updated: Jun-21-11 11:22 PM EST –

id choose the venus but im no expert

Just got my first one
I just got my first Kayak and I have NEVER done it before. I got a Coleman Hooligan kayak ~>

I didn’t want to spend too much in case I didn’t like it. However, I love my little green boat. So far I have taken it out on the lagoons where my father docks his boat and out into the bay.

Forgot to mention I want a SOT
Thanks for the fast replies! That hooligan is cute, and only 38 pounds with a 265 pound weight capacity is great. But, I am pretty set on a sit on top, I just love it!

Keep in mind
A SOT in NH limits you to paddling in only the warmest months of the year unless you have or are planing to get some cooler weather apparel. I realize a SOT is appealing but you may want to do some research and find out what is popular where you want to paddle.

Don’tbuy for immediate stability

– Last Updated: Jun-22-11 9:24 AM EST –

There is a very good you'll regret it by summer's end. It is always surprising to new paddlers how quickly what seemed intimidating in early summer feels like a pogey yawn by September. And that's an expensive decision if bought new rather than used, where the depreciation is already off the boat. Best to spend some time in basic lessons or demos, even group tours, to get the balance/comfort issue closer to where you'll be living once you own a boat.

Where in NH - way upstate near the smaller lakes or down closer to Portsmouth and the ocean off NH and Maine? Winepesaukee (sp?) is a big lake with a goodly fetch for wind (ie waves) and of course the ocean is the ocean. Whatever you say ow, if you are close to the bigger water it will eventually beckon. This could affect your best longer term choice.

Same thing with tracking. Unless there is some experience unmentioned, right now you don't know how to paddle. If you get some time learning that, something that feels very unstraight right now could be just fine.

I just reread your post and you indicate that you could return one of the boats... but how much time or wear on the boat before you couldn't do that any longer? If you are starting out intimidated by the stability thing, the return window may not be as much time as you need to get you sea legs (or seat).

Also, agree with above poster that a SOT could really reduce your season dramatically up there, or at least greatly impact your clothing budget.

Cold weather…more
I totally get where you’re all coming from and really appreciate the advice. I’m a total wimp when it comes to cold weather anyway, so I seriously doubt I would want to suit up and go out once it gets below 60. (And going alone in cold water seems much more dangerous) Also, I see a lot of highly rated sit ins for $200-300 or less on Craigslist in my area so if I did change my mind I’d just spring for one and have two kayaks. Not so bad since my dad might get into it. Wilderness Rascal and Perception Pirouette two out of many examples.

I live in Pelham NH, it’s on the MA border about 40 minutes from the seacoast. So yes the ocean is very accessible, but scary to me since I’ll be alone! I don’t doubt that I’ll someday be tempted though. There are days in the 70s up until October, so in a typical year I’m looking mid April to October or if it’s like this year late May to October (hopefully).

Someone mentioned buying new: The Ocean Kayaks I’m looking at are both used on Craigslist and are $300-400 under market value if considering all the extras. I’m not sure how long the Walmart kayak would be returnable but as long as I liked it the first time I would plan on keeping it for the season and selling it next year to upgrade, or just giving that one to my dad or daughter when she gets a little older.

So, considering that do you think I would do better with the Venus 11 or Scrambler XT for this summer? Or another SOT $400 or less new or used? I am checking them both out tomorrow so that’s why I’m specifically asking about those two for now.

why a sit-on-top?
I agree with Celia: a sit on top would not be my first choice for paddling in Northern New England. You will be limited to small ponds and maybe 3 months of the years when even they are warm enough to be safely paddled in an open boat.

I also agree you should take some classes and get some time in a variety of boats before spending that amount of money. Run a search on the forums here on recommendations for “starter boats” and you will see scads of arguments against (and for) various models.

Beginner fears about “stability” can lead to a lot of bad choices in first boats. Often boats that feel initially stable, due to flat bottoms and width, can become genuinely scary when you are hit with a large power boat wake or a sudden storm that brings the waves up (both of which are guaranteed occurences in the region you are paddling in). You will feel more secure in a narrower, enclosed boat in such conditions. And while sit-on-tops are lovely for tropical weather and dead flat water, they can be wet and chilly in most other conditions. If you live in Florida or southern California, or just plan to fish in flatwater bayous, they make sense. But for cold northern lakes?

Those are very wide boats, too. Slower to paddle and balky to maneuver. I am almost tempted to tell you to get the El Cheapo because I suspect you will quickly see it’s limitations with regular usage. Then you can either return it or dump it for $100 on Craigslist and start looking at boats that behave better – at that point you will have a better feel for what you would like the paddling experience to feel like.

Look to see if good kayaking outfitters in your area offer classes and demo days where you can experience the differences in the various models, on the water. You may, in the end, still decide to go with a short sit on top. But at least it will be an informed decision, not one based on unfounded fears and lack of experience.

I think you need to consider some other options.

OT Sports Vapor 10 for $140

– Last Updated: Jun-22-11 10:46 AM EST –

Thank you, ok I'm reconsidering! I just found an Old Town Sports 10' sit in on Craigslist with paddle and PFD for $140. Sounnnnds like a Vapor 10 but she is elderly and can't understand that I'm asking for a name other than the OT Sport. I'm going to go see it tonight if the first woman doesn't pick it up. I see that it has great reviews on here even for a beginner. So...better choice?

Vapor 10
Length 10'
Width 28.5"
Cockpit 19.5" x 48"
Deck Height 16.75"
Weight 44 lbs
Max Load Range 275 - 325 lbs
Suggested Retail $399.00

My thoughts
worth what they cost.

Craigslist - if you’ve looked there long enough to get a feel for what something sells for, then you can probably buy a kayak and re-sell it down the line for not a lot less.

Everyone would like to buy the perfect boat - but what is perfect now, won’t be perfect later. Many folks go through a progression. If you could buy the boat that would be perfect for you 5 years in the future, it might be too intimidating this year. Then you’ll never get to develop your skills.

If you get a kayak you are comfortable with now, that you can sell for little loss later if you change your mind, you will at least have some memories.

I still enjoy the memories from my first year kayaking, even though I haven’t used that same kayak for 4 years.

I don’t disagree entirely, but
I paddle a SOT in southern Quebec on lakes and slow rivers for more than 3 months a year(May-September - not continuously though). My brother-in-law in England paddles his SOTs along the southern coast (weather permitting) during 12 months. In both cases, one dresses for immersion, which means using wet suits (and wind proofed outer layers). I’d wear the same clothing if I was paddling a more traditional kayak, since it’s the water temperature that counts.

Buying a dry suit rather than touring kayak would be a better strategy to extend the paddling season.

I like my SOT in-part because it is very comfortable and easy to mount and dismount. It’s great way to paddle and do other things. But SOTS are also heavier and (on land) difficult to handle.

Reply to all of above

– Last Updated: Jun-22-11 1:06 PM EST –

(at least so far)

First, you are thinking WAY wrong about paddling temperatures. The water temperature drives safe paddling - because that is where people can die the fastest from hypothermia. Water takes heat from your body about 25 times faster than air. No one plans to capsize, but all it takes is the wrong one especially if you are alone. So, similar to where we live in upstate NY, you are looking at water for less protected paddling in terms of clothing and prep no sooner than late May, and no later than very early October. Before and after that the water temps will be well below 50 and unsafe for anyone without dry suit etc.

If you have limited tolerance for cold, you may need to take away a couple more weeks at each end.

Then, you didn't give your height but you are of the female persuasion. If you are 5'4" or less, a hardly unusual height, shaving an inch off the width of any boat would be a good idea. You have to be able to get your paddle into the water easily to control the boat, and by the time you get to the wider boats you'll find that can be difficult unless you are taller. That's why women's boats tend to be a little narrower.

As to what boat, my tendency is to suggest that you get the cheapest thing you can find and get on the water now and forgot about scoring a really good fit until you know more. The worse you have, if you do it right, is a guest boat that you can put a friend in to go out with you. A few hundred for a boat to do that is pricier than you need to go. Look around and you can probably find a bunch of $100 to $150 rec boats that'll get you out there in protected environments like small ponds and rivers with no particular current.

Re the packages, whatever you end up getting the best favor you can do for yourself is a decent paddle, fairly lightweight. You are going to be lifting the thing I think a thousand or a few times in a mile. It's worth it to have something pleasant to lift. It would be nice if one of these package deals had a good paddle with it, but that's not usual.

If you live 40 minutes from the ocean, just schedule some time this summer to hook up with a guided tour or a few. It'll be a nice day, safe for you, and a good way for you to get a feel for the bigger water boats.

Vapor 10
This kayak has proven itself among my friends as a great starter boat. Easy entry and exit, roomy enough to not feel confining. Some people will tell you there are better kayaks, and there are, but for the price you’ve listed if the boat is in good shape, I’d tell you its a good idea based on that alone, however your body size and comfort in the boat need to be big factors. My wives first kayak was undersized and nearly convinced her to give up the sport altogether.

So…the best thing to do would be to attend a Demo Day where you can try different brands and styles. Otherwise, definitely get the cheapest you can find just to try.

Water temp…more
You’re right, after I posted about 60 degree weather I rethought that. I’d need the water to be at least 50 in case of emergency. I don’t want you guys to think I’m going to put myself in danger, I’m very cautious.

I’m 5’10" - so it was easy for me to paddle the wide XT on my first (and only) try. I feel like I went pretty fast too, it couldn’t have taken more than 7 minutes to get back to shore and we were about 1/2 mile out. Ok I admit that could be totally wrong lol but I really got moving after I got the hang of the paddle.

The Scrambler XT I’m looking at comes with a $95 paddle - Bending Branches “Infusion Dream” not sure of the size but weighs 35oz. Has an 8.5-9 average rating on here. Exciting!

But if it’s the water temp that matters, and I’d need a wetsuit to go out in cold water, does it matter if I get a SOT or sit in?

Yes for comfort
If you are in a SOT, you are likely getting water on your lower body from drips or whatever, so you may want more protection for warmth up into slightly warmer air temps. You also need to factor in a greater impact from wind in a SOT. In a SINK you only have to worry about covering up the torso.

Re wetsuits, they are fine as long as they are dry in the air or wet and in the water. Wet and in the air, most of the basic paddling ones can be a fast trip to hypothermia in surprisingly warm air temps. The last time I had a problem with this was some years ago, but I was chattering badly and nearly unable to work my hands in a summer blow that was 68 degrees air temp.

Tolerance for this is individual - I admittedly have less head room on that than a lot of the heftier guys with whom I paddle. But water temps in the 50’s is dry suit time for me - I tried layers of neoprene and it just was not enough once I was getting wet. There’s little way to tell but to go out and get into the water, see how it goes.

One point that often gets overlooked is that you are not looking for the moment in which you might lose your ability to stay afloat or similar problems. The point at which hypothermia is a problem is when you can’t use your hands well to get back into your boat or are not thinking well. That happens much sooner than the time on the charts to risk overall failure - in 50-55 degree water I think they give that about 15 minutes without wearing very protective clothing. Check out the big motor boat sites - that chart is out there on a lot of them.

Honestly, the fastest way to sort out what’ll feel safe to you is to sign up asap for a basic class in self-rescues in kayaks. An hour of that will give you a lot more useful information than anything here about what kind of boat is good for your desired risk level. We regularly take people out to local ponds who think but aren’t sure they have this sussed out. It is always a real eye-opener for them. And it is getting warm now, a nice sunny afternoon in the water would feel good.

Some thing missing

– Last Updated: Jun-22-11 1:44 PM EST –

Your question about sit on VS sit in makes me think you're missing the comfort factor. You can stay dry in a traditional sit in kayak but in most sit on tops that's not possible. Sit on tops especially when fully loaded will allow water to flow up through the scupper holes and pool there. There is likely to be standing water in the foot well area and even the seat. Any water that ends up in the seat will stay there and it's not fun having a wet butt all day when it's cool. Hope that helps.

Celia you beat me to it and said it much more clearly.

Is it ok for me to practice some self rescue in my inground pool with someone watching me? I think that’s what I’d do for now and then if by the end of the season I changed my mind and wanted to do something in colder or uneasy waters I could take a real lesson. It looks like it is $90 for a rescue lesson.

I found a shop 45 mins away that will let me try them out, but too bad I didn’t visit them a few days ago - now I don’t have a chance before I’m supposed to go see these kayaks.

The problem I see with getting a SINK is that I want it to be easy to get into - no skirt? - and if I have no skirt water will still probably get in and there aren’t self bailing scuppers. I’d rather be a little wet than worry about bailing myself out. I plan to buy scupper plugs, and the paddle that comes w/ the XT has “heavy duty” drip rings.

This is all so much information! If I have the chance I’m going to buy that OT Vapor tonight, as well as the Scrambler XT tomorrow! The XT add ons alone are probably worth $300-350 so if I need to get rid of it I think I can get at least what I paid. Same for the Vapor.

Go with the Scrambler

– Last Updated: Jun-22-11 3:04 PM EST –

The Scrambler is tried and true design that is very seaworthy and a great boat for getting started. At your weight forget the Venus. The Scrambler is one of the most versatile designs for SOTs and very popular in coastal areas for fishing, day paddles, light surfing. It works well on rivers too.

A lot of folks here are biased against SOTs. Go to; it's a website run by paddlers from coastal New England, you can find helpful advice there from paddlers very experienced with SOTs. You can be very safe paddling in a wetsuit with water temps even below 50 F., but best leave cold water paddling until you get more experience. The Scrambler will be very easy to sell when you want a better boat.

I own both sit inside kayaks and SOTs, and would think the Scrambler is a great boat to get started with.

More back at you

– Last Updated: Jun-22-11 7:20 PM EST –

Just got in so you are probably on your way to buy something. So, in sequence best I can re your last post-

It is great to practice self-rescue anywhere, I suppose as long as swimming is not an issue. Most people spend too little time here. You may find that to be more challenged in the Vapor than a SOT like the Scrambler is all. In any case, knowing your capabilities early is the best way to go. Just remember that in a pool, the boat and paddle won't tend to be taken away from you as fast as in a river with a little current - learn to keep attached to everything (by holding on, not a vast array of tethers).

Re the Vapor, I suggest that you do this in a shallow pool or get float bags in there before you try this. It appears to lack flotation chambers front and back, so it could sink a whole lot deeper than you want once capsized.

Getting into a SINK, or out of it, is a highly overrated problem. Time will tell you that. As to skirts, the purpose is not just to stay dry(er) - I don't like super-tight skirts myself - but also to keep water from sloshing in and swamping the boat thus capsizing you. That's one of the reasons that rec boats don't belong in waves - the usually very large cockpits easily take on water. A skirt is often of no help on these boats against that because it is so big that water can implode it. And gravity works upside down - for the casual person in a plastic boat with a nylon skirt, the issue is keeping the thing on rather than getting out of it.

Heavy duty drip rings... no one in our pod even has them on our paddles any more. We found they don't do much and just get in the way. You may want to temper your expectations about what the drip rings can achieve. And it's a water sport anyway.

As to getting both boats - go for it. Seadart knows the SOT's better than many on this board, and if he says the Scrambler will hold value I am sure he is correct. I know from past threads that I chill a lot sooner than he does, but again you need to find your own tolerances.

Re the lessons, you'd hardly be the first to start by looking at videos etc. But there is a point that if a $90 outlay sooner can help you make a better decision on a $900 boat later, the numbers may work.

Vapor is gone
I got a call from the woman with the Vapor and it’s gone. So I’m going to pick up just the Scrambler XT tomorrow.

I had never heard of drip rings before last night, so I didn’t know what to expect. But I don’t mind getting wet anyway! :slight_smile:

Thank you Celia, and all other posters! I have a few more things to purchase like some good shoes and a car topping system. I don’t think I need a dry bag yet because this has middle and front hatch. I think I’ll go with the foam blocks because my car is 15 years old and already scratched up. Any brand prefs? MIssing anything else? Will have seat, paddle, wheels, hatches, side handles have been installed. I will probably get a ~$40 handheld GPS - to use for hiking as well.