It's all a question of size....

…and other things. I have been paddling for a long while and consider myself ever-learning, but have done many 1 week wilderness trips in the last 6 years. I have been using a low volume kayak, P&H Vela, for one week trips on big water, and although it’s a challenge to pack the b**tch, I’ve manage alright. To tell you the truth, I’d love a bit more room…but…I’m not a person of large dimensions. I’m 5’ 4" and weigh around 120. I truly want a kayak with more volume than the Vela…and I know this will be a compromise. I have the day paddle boats, but I am in search of a larger volume kayak that I can efficiently paddle LOADED and still comes close to fitting me. I know, a tall order! I would appreciate any suggestions and info, experiences, etc. so I can figure out a way to make packing a but more pleasant and still be able to keep up with the big kids.


Sharon, I assume that you have looked
at the Cetus LV? Sarah at RKC just got hers in a little while ago and maybe you could try hers. Bill


– Last Updated: Apr-27-10 11:42 PM EST –

....rather than someone recommending a specific boat ...I think doing some old fashioned homework and researching the various boats regarding over all volumes ,hatch sizes/volumes, cockpit sizes,etc.etc. from their respective websites would be a good start. Is weight important? plastic vs composite vs wood (CLC type) ? rudder vs skeg? How much more storage do you need? Is $$$ a consideration? Length ? width ? Do u really need a day hatch? would a front deck bag be more useful? For camping purposes i would confine my search to boats with big forward hatches and no day hatches behind the cockpit. hard chine like a CD Caribou or soft chine? I think once you make these decisions, the most practical boat(s) will reveal itself. Then its just a matter of test paddling them and deciding. I offer the web link below only as a research site for various boats on the same site, maybe it'll help..........

A couple of ideas

– Last Updated: Apr-27-10 11:56 PM EST –

I also have a Vela, and it has increasingly become my main boat. But it is a lousy rescue platform compared to my Explorer LV, so there are days that goes out. Hence I get your size issue. The overall dimensions that carry gear also make getting a larger guy onto the boat easier. I am 5 ft 3.5 inches, about 12 pounds heavier than you.

Only risk is that these boats could all be slower than the Vela below 4.5 knots.

OK - would fit you OK and still carry more gear -
P&H Cetus LV - full expedition length but decidedly built for a smaller paddler
NDK Pilgrim - haven't sat in one but the dimensions look right
Wilderness Systems Tempest 165

Maybe would do it -
Necky Eliza (in composite)
P&H Capella 161 - question more of how you'd like the fit, more gear carrying fine
Valley Avocet LV - Issue here is speed, but you have one so you already know that... (your profile)

I'm sure there are boats I forgot, but above may be a place to start.

FYI, big forward bulkhead areas are pretty much the norm in any longer boat with a bulkhead set for someone who is 5’4"… and the day hatch is actually quite practical in a tripping boat because it gives you a place to clearly put the day-on-the-water stuff separate from the bigger gear.

Anyone who likes the Vela has long since learned to live without a rudder - the boat is a bit skeg-dependent. So a rudder is not likely to be a major draw in this case.

This appears to be a paddler with enough seat time to be able to define what they want pretty well, without reinventing from scratch.

Tough situation

– Last Updated: Apr-28-10 12:35 AM EST –

I'm 5'2" and less than 110 lbs. All the sea kayaks I've camped from felt like slugs when loaded. Simply getting used to that sensation and naturally getting stronger on one long trip helped, but some trips aren't long enough to get benefit from the on-trip conditioning.

I've come to the conclusion that I need to increase my strength and fitness levels all year-round. They're already pretty good, so what I'm talking about now amounts to conscientious training, not just enjoying outdoor daily recreation. Big people can get away with brute force; we need to both be more efficient skills-wise AND maximize what power we can get from our bodies.

That addresses the "motor" aspect, or part of it.

The other issue is kayak volume. You can start by downsizing and lightening as much of your gear as possible. (In other words, this part is fixable by throwing some money at the problem.) Following are some examples:

1. Switch to a women-specific down sleeping bag, which packs small, weighs less than a regular bag meant for a 6' person, and also is warmer since we don't have to heat up excess space.

2. Ditto for the sleeping pad: ThermaRest Prolite-4 Women's model, good up to 5'6". Or use a 3/4 length standard pad (I hate those, though).

3. I use the smallest cookstove and kit I've ever seen. Made by Markill and distributed by Vaude years ago, but I don't know if you can find these anymore. There are other tiny ones available. Folding spork fits inside the whole assembly.

4. Nylon tapered compression drybags make use of space in the bow and stern ends. Nylon bags slide better than PVC and are less bulky. Compression drybags wherever possible.

5. A synthetic moleskin type of camp towel--as small as you can stand--will dry quickly and pack small. I found that one can double as both washcloth and drying towel even if only the size of a facecloth. You just have to keep wringing it out to dry, but it wrings out very well, ready to dry the next section of body.

6. I use a one-person tent just big enough to accommodate the gear inside as well as me, or one other person in an emergency. Possible alternative is for a partner with bigger kayak to carry a 2-person tent; you carry the groundcloth.

7. Make as much stuff do double- or triple-duty as possible. Instead of a separate pillow, roll up a fleece shirt. Convertible pants instead of separate longs and shorts. Or pull on a pair of shorts (for abrasion resistance while sitting on rocks) over the longjohns that you wore under the drysuit. In warm desert climates, ditch the socks and just wear Keen sandals or similar at camp or for hiking. Also in desert climates, wear as little as is decent, period. Indecent if nobody is around. (But still bring at least one warm set of clothing because nights can get cold in dry air.)

Despite the above, I still would need to downsize more to get, say, 2 weeks of stuff completely inside a 16-footer. Without taking further minimization steps, that much gear fits inside my Explorer LV. However, this very stable kayak that feels quite maneuverable unloaded feels pretty bargey when packed for camping. I'm waiting for the much narrower, slightly shorter Pilgrim Expedition to arrive and hope that will feel better when loaded.

Meanwhile, there is still opportunity to reduce the volume of the one item I haven't done much to downsize: food. So far, about all I've done is substitute compact foods for less-compact ones. Corn Nuts instead of tortilla chips, orzo instead of macaroni, that kind of thing. I've repackaged a few items, including vacuum-bagging them, and snipped off excessive borders on some bags, but that's it. The next step is to use more bulk dried foods instead of freeze-dried meals, which incorporate a lot of extra space and are expensive. I'm interested in bringing ghee (clarified butter) on trips, as it supposedly keeps well without refrigeration and would supply lots of calories and flavor.

These are just things that I've done or will do to improve the situation. The new boat may help also. Keep us posted on what you do. I'd like to see what others have found works for them.

Before you decide,
you might want to check out the option of building a stitch-and-glue kit by Pygmy Boats.

From your descriptions, the Arctic Tern 14 might be perfect for you. I’m 5’6"; my wife’s 5’2" and we love these boats. Plus, after the joy and creativity of building, you’ll have much more boat for the money than you would pay for any of the composites - and light!

I also paddle the Vela and so far I haven’t found a boat that fits me so well, but there are some nice boats to try. Here’s a review on kayaks (in German) from a smaller person searching for a touring 'yak.

Summary (NOT my personal opinion):

New Shoreline (North Shore): didn’t fit well

Anas Acuta (Valley): too flippy

Avocet LV von Valley: great boat, too flippy

Excite S (Tiderace): too slow

Skim Dex: looks ugly (Skim has stopped production)

Sirius S (P&H): hard to turn

Viking (Kajaksport): great, but thigh braces didn’t fit

Nordkapp LV (Valley): great, but still too big, didn’t fit

Alaw Bach (Rockpool): great, but too big

Bahiya (P&H): too big

Cetus LV: that’s the winner. Fits great, lots of room, fast, nice to handle

easy celia…
…I said “big hatches” (aka openings) not big compartments…I hate those tiny forward hatch holes/covers …I prefer something akin to a Prijon Kodiak or Seayak or some of the CD’s front hatch covers/openings rather than the small circle sytle opening/cover found on some touring boats. As far as day hatches go, from my looking at boats at shows…most day hatches I’ve seen are small compartments good for only a brown bag lunch or a cell phone,IMO. I would prefer a deck bag that’ll hold water, binocular’s,camera,map, etc, if I was using the boat for camping purposes. I’m keeping in mind the OP wanted more room for gear , hence my opinion and preference for bigger hatch covers/openings than her Vela has, easier to get gear in and out w/ bigger hatch openings. More flexibility as to what gear goes in what compartment.

ok 1 more comment…
…ANY boat is going to be slower loaded with weight…it’s physics! I would be more concerned with how the boat handles loaded up. In motorsports they have what is called the "horsepower to weight " ratio…every vehicle has XXX amount of HP to move XXXX amount of weight…more HP , less weight = faster…more weight, less HP= slower…same with boats and people, a person only has finite amount of HP…the more weight you add to a boat, the slower the boat will be. Ok I’m done.

The Tern is a much larger…
…and wider boat than the Vela. If the OP likes the fit of the Vela, the Tern will feel cavernous.

What is “flippy”?

There are some
For tripping try SKUK Pilgrim Expedition, TideRace x-plore-s.

If you like Vela, the fit in these boats will feel natural.

One boat that hasn’t been mentioned…
…is the Nigel Foster Silhouette, currently being made by Seaward. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but if you like the fit of the Vela, you should find it comfortable. Although it has relatively low stability, once loaded, that improves considerably, somewhat like the Nordkapp does. I’m considerably taller than you and I imaging my camping gear is bulkier than yours, and the Silhouette had plenty of capacity.

OK - still look to the profile though
OPer is heavy greenland paddler, so unless she is quite unusual in that pack will prefer as clean a deck as possible. As to hatch openings, you should take a look at a Vela sometime. The front hatch opening is reasonably proportional to the storage capacity, and the rear oval is friggin’ huge. In fact I haven’t yet found out how to seal that thing so it stays totally dry during a lot of wet work.

The gear loading issue with lower volume boats like the Vela is often the depth of the boat as much as anything else. Both of my sea kayaks are pretty low decked, and the reason the tent poles have to load separate from the tent isn’t the size of the opening, but the shallowness of the depth.

The Avocet LV she has comes with ovals front and back, but is also fairly shallow, so by now I figure her gear is suited to getting into more difficult spaces than those who paddle bigger boats.

Second trying the Silhouette
Darn - knew there was one I forgot. bnystrom is correct that the narrowness of the cockpit will feel OK if used to the Vela. As I recall it fit a bit longer in the thighs - you may want to pad a little to create more of key hole - but it was fine. It is stiffer than the Vela, so will take some edge to turn. The match of the paddler and boat is probably best if the paddler has a roll while everyone is getting acquainted. But I’m guessing from your profile that’s a long resolved thing.

The other thing is that I’ve seen a bunch of people who were mostly or all greenland, like yourself, who have this boat.

found no good translation, something like agile,shaky.


Again, not my review, but interesting boats.

move front bulkhead?
Have you considered shifting the Vela front BH closer to your feet and gaining volume in front hatch?

Thank you all
for the great responses and advice!

I have demoed the Silhouette and liked it as I recall, but wasn’t at the time looking for a tripping kayak, so will take another look at it. I have sat in the Cetus LV, but have not paddled it. I loved the fit but will have to look closer at the volume. I’m interested in learning more about the Pilgrim Expedition, but looking at it I see that it has just barely more volume than the Vela, 74 vs.72.6 I guess it depends on how that volume is distributed and as Celia said, some of the issues have to do with a low deck rather than length of the kayak. I agree, getting one with the bulkhead moved back would help greatly in creating more room up front. Otherwise that is wasted space as I don’t like to put gear in the cockpit with me. I also don’t like a deck bag and keep my deck as clean as I reasonably can.

As far as packing, thank you Pikabike for all of the suggestins. I have small gear, but I do think I could go to a tent that packs a bit smaller, even though I separate the poles. I can also go back to my smaller down bag, the bulkier womens bag was an issue. The cook set and stove are small. I dehydrate almost all of my food, no freeze dried meals, but I do think I tend to take more than I need. Have to work on that.

I do paddle in areas that can be cold (Great Lakes)and it’s not uncommon to be tripping in September, so I do need some warmer clothes, which, of course take up more room.

I like the oval rear hatch and tolerate the front round hatch on my Vela. I would prefer to pack through 2 oval hatches and have nightmares about the possibility of packing through two small round hatches like the Explorer LV or Pilgrim Expedition, but I’ve never tried it, so maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe Celia can weigh in on that?

I use my day hatch, love it and it’s quite large in both kayaks. I actually keep all of my food in there as well as items I might need throughout the day.

I use compression sacks, but haven’t tried the tapered ones to fit in the ends, a good idea that I will look into.

Flippy…great term. I have no fear of flippy and have never felt unstable in any kayak with the exception of Judy Segals flippin’ skin boat! I love to roll and am comfortable in lumpy water. I do not want a rudder, do like to have a skeg, but that is most likely because I’m used to needing it in the Vela.

I’ll look into all of the kayaks suggested above and see what I come up with.


One more Sharon. Aquanaut LV. I think
the Aquanaut line is one of my favorite all around boats. RKC has a demo day this Sunday at Elizabeth Park. They will bring any boat you are interested in if you call them before hand to arrange it. Sarah could bring you her Cetus too. Bill