My first kayak purchase was a Crescent Ultralight. I didn’t like the elevated seat, a little unstable and after I flipped over for no reason, I was done. Second kayak is a Jackson Staxx. Layout is perfect!!! Love me medium cooler right behind me, room for extra stuff and a small dog, room to camp (if I decide in the future). But I cannot keep up with anyone!!! Plus, it is wide and bulky making it very hard for me to manage (load, carry, etc) . I am a 5,6”, 165lb female. I kayak mainly creek, river, shallow waters. I like an open top, soaking up the sun is part of the fun. Should I look at a Pack Boat? Is there a kayak at meets my needs? The Hurricane’s look like a nice option, but I am worried about rocks (not that I have ever hit any…yet). What are your thought and recommendations?
Only you know what you like.
It sounds like you like sit on top kayaks, so shouldn’t be a need to change from that category.
2 options to consider to go faster:
focus on learning to paddle more efficiently in your current kayak and see if that helps enough. If you are newish to kayaking, finding a intro to kayaking class could be a good start. Making a kayak move anyone can do, but the most efficient way is a bit different than what most do as a natural feeling.
if you do go the route of a different kayak, in general a faster boat would be one that is narrower. To keep the same amount of float (capacity) in a narrower boat, you’d usually get a longer boat, which also has some speed benefits. Downside is that a narrower boat may feel less stable. Siting lower in the boat also will help stability, so sitting on a seat directly on the hull of the boat would be more stable than sitting in a stadium seat, if that was comfortable enough for you.
I normally paddle cockpit equipped sea kayaks (16’10" CD Gulfstream & 16’8" Necky Elaho) but did buy a Stellar S14S, a 14’ sit on top, that was just about as fast and efficient as my other two.
Shallow rivers and lakes, with a cooler some gear and a dog a solo canoe might make the third times a charm. The pack canoe designs are more like an open top kayak. You will still be open to the sun only not sitting as high as in a SOT.
I’m a good sized guy and I converted a 14’7” tandem canoe to a solo and I don’t have much trouble keeping up with my rec-kayak friends. Most of the time I’m waiting on them. Just because it is a canoe doesn’t mean you can’t paddle with a double blade kayak paddle. That’s what I do. The pack canoes have what they call a tumblehome hull design. It is where the top section is brought back inward like a kayak is made. That design helps with a double blade paddle. In my case I didn’t have that hull shape so I needed a kayak paddle about a foot longer than what would be kind of normal.
The upper end pack canoes are nice because they are quite light. But you do pay for that weight saving. Something like the Old Town Next at 13’ weighs about 60 pounds and is made from 3 layer poly with the center layer a foam core. It will haul close to 400 pounds total but would ride nice loaded to 300 I’m sure. If you go with something like a Swift Pack 13.8’ depending on the material you ask for the weight will be between 30-24 pounds. Getting that 50% weight advantage will likely cost double or more.
Along with not wanting to spend that much for me the places we boat and the abuse the boat sees I would be afraid of putting one of those beautiful Kevlar or Carbon Swift Pack canoes in the water.
As mentioned above only you will know what you like and what it will take to keep up with others. What kind of boats do you try and keep up with and are the others of a higher skill level. Most of my friends and those I paddle with have better rec-kayaks like OT models and most around 10’ length. In general when people show up with the SOT fishing kayaks they are quite a bit slower.
How much are you willing to spend? It sounds like you might like a solo canoe. I’m close to your size (female, 5’ 5", 150 pounds) and have owned about 20 paddle craft over the years, mostly kayaks but also a few canoes. One that I currently have in the fleet is a vintage Curtis Lady Bug which is just over 13’ long and only 28" wide and weighs 33 pounds. Very easy for this 72 year old to load on the roof rack or carry to the lake or river. Made of fiberglass so very sturdy, lots of room for the pup and your cooler. I paddle it either with a conventional canoe paddle or a 230 cm kayak paddle. It has an elevated woven nylon strap seat that slants forward so it’s a comfortable paddling position, though I also kneel sometimes using a thick closed cell foam pad (actually one of those cushioned kitchen floor mats) for that. Mine is vintage and the model is not made any more, but used solo canoes come onto the market (I paid $900 for mine) and there are companies like Hornbeck, Wenonah and Northstar that still make them as light as 15 pounds.
For ultimate lightness, take a look at the PakBoat Quest 150, a folding kayak (aluminum frame, like tent poles, with a PVC fabric skin shell. It can be set up with the optional deck or used without it as an open boat. It only weighs 27 pounds and is narrow enough to be pretty fast and easy to paddle. It does take about 30 minutes to set up, but you can leave it set up for the season and just roof rack it. It can be stored in a duffel bag that fits in a car trunk or closet and can even be taken as luggage on airlines. I took my slightly smaller PakBoat Puffin 12 to England with me from the US. Not at all fragile – these boats have been used in up to Class 3 whitewater. You can lay a yoga mat inside the hull for comfort and claw protection for the dog (though the material is very hard to puncture). Very stable despite being narrow because the boats have full length inflatable sponson tubes along the inside of the skin to keep it tight and add flotation.
A few photos of both boats I mentioned. The red boat is my small Pakboat Puffin (which they still sell as the Saco model) and the yellow is the longer Pakboat Quest – the newer Pakboats are completely open without that upper frame across the top, I just showed it without the deck to show how they are constructed. The Quest are longer and narrower and therefor will be easier to paddle faster than the wider Puffin models. Pakboat also makes folding canoes which are used by Alaskan hunting and fishing outfitters, which shows how durable they are:
I have a 230cm paddle and feel like I need a 240. Mine feels a little short, but does okay. Would a longer paddle make that much difference? If it would make a BIG difference, I might go that route. Otherwise, I may try to sale and get something else.
So the best time ive had on a sit on top is paddling a tandem sit on top solo. You get some more length (speed/efficiency) but there are longer sit on tops than you 10’ boats already set up for solo. Loading and unloading will be harder, as well as dragging into water. Get a carbon shaft paddle, focus on technique. Do those 3 things and you will move a lot better, have ten more pounds to wrangle off and on to a vehicle, 3 more feet length to load but you will move better on water!
10cm is certainly enough to notice, but I can’t say whether it would be better or worse. The right paddle length for you depends on the boat, particularly the width and seat height.
One of the challenges with boat recs is that anything I can think of that’s going to be significantly faster than your current kayak is also likely to feel less stable. Reviews say the Jackson Staxx is as stable as they come. Even your previous Crescent Ultralight has high marks for stability. As others have noted, if you want a faster boat you’ll have to look for something longer and narrower.
You mentioned Hurricane. I checked their website and it looks like the Osprey 120 might be the ticket since it has a spot for the dog up front. It’s 20 lbs. lighter than what you have and should be a little bit faster without much compromise on stability. It will be hard to predict whether that’s enough to keep up with other paddlers.
Pack boats are an interesting option, but the Placid and Swift boats I’m thinking of are probably less stable than what you’re used to. Not to mention expensive. Hornbeck’s Classic line is reportedly more stable and is definitely more reasonably priced, but I’m not sure about the speed and seat comfort. I’ve never seen one in person.
I agree with @RedMC, especially about 10 cm paddle length difference not likely being that much of an improvement (if at all) and that the rec boats you are in are going to be slow but most faster boats are going to feel less stable (at least until you get used to them).
One boat you might consider is the Northstar Trillium Pack, maybe you could test paddle one. The Trillium is ideally suited to paddlers your size and it’s just super efficient and effortless to paddle. Its quite stable even for kneeling paddlers so the pack version should be plenty stable. At under 30 pounds it’s easy to manage off the water. You mention a fear of rocks; composite canoes can take a ton of abuse. Canadian outfitters use the lightest lay-ups for their rental fleets. If you do manage to damage a composite boat they are easy to repair.
Question…do you load your canoe from the side or the back? Are your bars padded? I’m about your age as well. I’m only used to loading kayaks but got a canoe about 29 pounds but worry about the wood gunwales while loading. I have Yakima bars and the canoe stops. My truck is pretty tall also but could use my van which just has factory bars and is slightly lower. I could just put it in the bed with an extender but worry about other people too. I know, I worry a lot.
I got a set of 4 of the grey hard foam blocks that slip over my Thule bars for the wood gunwales to rest on. I drive a fairly short Mazda CX5 so it it easy for me to walk the canoe up to the side and lift it up and plop it onto the rack. I carry it to the car by sticking my head inside and grasping the gunwales. I pivot it to get the bow up there, then walk my hands back towards the stern to lift and swing that end up. At 34 pounds it is easy to lift that way.
You could also use chunks of pool noodles to cushion the rack. I always scope the summer goods departments of stores at the end of the season to snag different sizes and types of marked down pool noodles since they are so useful for many projects and paddling gear modifications. I have found some thicker and even square ones with split sides and larger diameter interior voids that slip well over roof racks and other tubular components.
If your local selection of pool noodles is lacking, pipe insulation is a good sub. Any decent hardware store will have many sizes. Of course, pipe insulation doesn’t come in neon colors.
Yes. You need a specific kayak for a specific purpose. There is no one-size-fits-all-situations.
I know people with a full fleet of 10-14 kayaks. If you’re not prepared to expand your fleet due to storage or $$$$ concerns, you should paddle just in the waters your other 2 kayaks are suited for. BTW, inflatables and folding kayaks are for kids to clown around with on a lake. If you are a serious kayaker, only a hard-body plastic kayak will do for creeks and rocky rivers, or something sleeker for open water. You should look into joining local kayaking clubs and see what they use to help you decide the best kayak for the water you want to paddle
Nazz, I’m glad to see your comment about the S14S. Gives me something to look forward to.
You have lots of good info on the Kayak.
So, let’s talk about “Take Your Kayak to Work Day”!
Traveling really depends on the type of vehicle you have.
I have a jeep, so I just fold down all my seats to fit my 8’ and 10’ kayaks inside.
When I’m going with a friend, they help me put them up on the car racks, 12 footers.
For 3 or more of us Kayaking I have a 4’x8’ folding trailer to haul them.
If your rear seats fold down, you might be able to carry it in your trunk.
So now I’ll comment on portaging.
I have several Kayaks and even though the lightest one is 35 lbs, it still gets heavy carrying it a long way.
Although they have some fantastic carts for carrying kayaks, they can be quite expensive.
I found a Baby Bike cart I use as a trailer.
It has the smaller tires, and I attached a long handle to the front so I can pull it behind me or hook it to my bicycle.
The one park I Kayak at is a mile trek from the car to river and yes when I was younger, I carried it over my head, whew!
The bike cart is light, and tires come off and it folds flat, so I strap it to the back of my kayak while palling and fits conveniently in the car.
Foam pool noodles were added to cart, to give the Kayak height to clear the tires.
The price was right for me, someone was throwing one away that had a bad tire.
It goes through rocks, wood chips and rough terrain pretty good.
I hope this gives you an option for getting out and enjoying Kayaking.
Sorry, but I have to challenge your comment “inflatables and folding kayaks are for kids to clown around with on a lake”. True, short cheap ones from Walmart are not performance boats. But I’m guessing you are simply unaware that there is a vast range of quality and product design within those categories. There are plenty of folding kayaks and inflatables that are extremely competent for open water (sea kayaking) and even serious whitewater. Check out Nautiraid and Pakboat for examples of folding touring kayaks.
By the way, I’m one of those serious kayakers you mention that have “10 to 14 kayaks”. Current fleet is 11 plus the solo canoe and 6 of the kayaks are folding models. I’ve been using high end folding kayaks and inflatables (Feathercrafts and Pakboats) for over 20 years. I’ve paddled my 15’ 7" $4500 Feathercraft Wisper in the Atlantic and the Pacific as well as in the Great Lakes and have a Java inflatable that can also handle coastal conditions. Adventurers have crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to North America using folders and many special ops military teams are equipped with them. Hunting and fishing guides who take clients on fly-in trips from Alaska to Patagonia use folders, especially Ally and Pakboat folding canoes, which can handle class 3 whitewater. I know people who rig them with sails and navigate seacoasts with them.
I have one plastic sea kayak and a couple of fiberglass ones (as well as traditional Inuit style wood frame kayaks with epoxied nylon skins) so I can state that my folders paddle favorably to similar sized hardshells. The fact that they weigh about half as much as the hard shells makes them easier to transport. I love that I can break one down into a duffel bag and check it as luggage to have my own boat when I fly somewhere on vacation.
And high end appropriately designed inflatable boats are the craft of choice for many paddlers of extreme whitewater. Aire and NRS are just two makers of whitewater inflatables. I paddled the Class 5 Cheat River Canyon in an inflatable over 40 years ago. Like inflatable rafts, they bounce off boulders rather than smashing up (which can happen with plastic boats.)
I have both the gray foam blocks and the canoe brackets. I find the foam blocks a bit easier as you don’t have to get the canoe over top of the brackets. If your wood gunnels are ash, they should stand up to being on the bars and then put the blocks on canoe gunnels. That’s how I do it with my solo canoe with ash gunnels. I tighten the straps very tight, so the foam compress done on the rack. I also tie down the bow and stern in such a way that the canoe would stay in place even without the straps. I load from the side, but I am also 5’ 10".
I have a knee-jerk negative reaction to rules for kayak selection. Rather than hard “thou shalts”, I favor softer guidelines such as:
- Carefully consider all the advice you can get here and elsewhere. Much will be good, some can be set aside.
- Try as many options as you can before you buy.
- Go with what you like best given your own situation.
- Relax. Today’s best choice probably won’t be best forever. If you’re like a lot of us, you’ll want to upgrade and/or expand your choice of boats as you gain skills and become interested in paddling different places. You’ll know when it’s time. Relax again.