kayak for day use & light touring

Hello paddlers,
I need some advice. I’m a 5’11" 190 lb. male who likes to day trip on lakes and mellow rivers. I live in Northern California so the Sacramento River is my paddling domain. I also paddle the Feather River, but only the mellow section near Oroville. Besides the usual day trips, I’d like a boat that tracks well and can handle light touring. I’d love to be able to do a 2-3 day river camping adventure. I sat in a Perception Expression 14.5 today (only because it was on sale for a ridiculously low price) and the 23" width wasn’t quite enough for my frame … a bit too tight. Also, the deck was so low that my legs felt really cramped. The boats that have crossed my radar so far are the WS Tsunami 145, the Perception Carolina 12 and 14, the Perception Expression 15, and the Dagger Stratos. I don’t think I’m serious enough to own a fiberglass boat; I’d rather sacrifice lightness for durability. I’d like something that can take a beating. I’m very drawn to the Stratos but am worried that the increased rocker may impede tracking. Any suggestions from you all would be greatly appreciated.
Cheers, Jeff

First, you don’t want a boat that fights back to turn it. From the reviews the Stratos may be turnier than you want. But don’t go so far down the tracking path that the first time you are out on a windy day you have trouble getting back to shore. The best beginner boats make all aspects of paddling relatively simple, including turning.

,As to sizing - my guess is that your width issue was the cockpit width, not the boat width. On a quick check, it seems all of the boats on your list run around 19 to 19.5 inches. And for someone your size that should normally be fine. You may need to look at a combination of measures, not just cockpit width.

Deck height is where the Perception Expression 14.5 runs smaller than the Tsunami and the Carolina - the latter two have at least two inches more in deck height. I suspect that is the measurement where you want to gain some space, to a point. The thigh braces or the closest equivalent spot you can find in these boats that blend towards the recreational side of touring also need to be reachable, you edge the boat to turn it. So make sure you have contact with something above your thighs even if you have to lift you leg a bit to find it. The Perception Expression 14.5 kayak is intended for a smaller paddler (female) - not someone your size - so has a lower deck height than the 15 and the Tsunami 145.-

I’m 6"0". 180 lbs. and my Expression 15 fits me fine. I actually found the cockpit width to be a little wide for me and am thinking about adding hip pads. FWIW I moved the seat back two " and replaced the seat back with a backband.

The boat you are looking for is the Current Designs Sirocco, but no matter what you get, treat the boat well and it will serve you well.

Thank you all, for your comments and suggestions!

I like the Dagger Stratos in the few test paddles I have done. Likely the largest of the cockpits of all the ones you listed. Dagger also makes an Alchemy series you might find decent. I use my Alchemy for 2-3 night camping trips.

I don’t think you will find the Stratos too turny. It has more rocker than other boats in the category, but it is kind of a subtle thing. Likely it tracks better than the 12 foot boat you considered.

On local shops, California Canoe and Kayak in Rancho Cordova likely has both available for test paddles. https://calkayak.com/index.php/store-information/hours-locations.html. They may also carry perception ad Wilderness Systems. if the talk of Current Designs caught your interest, they carry them also (though that boat really doesn’t meet the length you are looking for).

If Headwaters or Headwaters Adventure is your local shop, they are good, but I don’t think they carry the brands you mentioned (I could be wrong).

I’ve heard some questions about the other dealer in Sac - Adventure Sports Kayak City. They do discount more than most, which is good for the buyer. But I have heard they are often selling blems or seconds and not telling you they are such. Blems can be fine of you don’t mind whatever cosmetic thing was wrong with it, but seconds might not be.

Thanks Celia … yeah, according to the specs I found, the deck height of the Expression 15 (14") is only .5" higher than the Expression 14.5, and the cockpit width (19") is actually .5" narrower. Strange. I guess that extra half inch in deck height makes all the difference. The cockpit of the Stratos is also 19" but the boat width is wider at 24.5" or 25" depending on which site you trust.
Thanks blackthumb … might check out the Expression 15.
Thanks magooch … looks like a BEAUTY but the cockpit width is 16.5" … way too narrow for this posterior.
Thanks Peter-CA … all great information! I will check out the store in Rancho Cordova and the Alchemy.

I have this feeling that I might have to default to a larger, less precision craft … I just like having a lot of space to move around in.

The Dagger Stratos would be one of my top choices for a river camping boat. It´s sort of designed like a whitewater kayak so it will turn very quickly when leaned a little bit, it´s stable, has decent cargo space, cockpit is comfy and solid, and don´t worry about tracking, it has a drop down skeg. And the price is decent if you find it on sale somewhere. Only thing I don´t like too much about it is the smaller hatch on the bow compartment, but it is still adequate. Also, the weight is a factor. Mine weight about 60 pounds. Tough as nails but heavy. Still one of my top choices for a river camping boat in poly.
Comparing the Stratos to the Tsunami 145 is night and day. One is slow the other is a quick and nimble river runner. The Two things I´d change right away about the Tsunami is to get rid of that silly high seat back. You have to actually scoot all the way forward and fold the seat back flat then scoot back on it before you can get out of the boat without falling out. Replace the seat back with a back band. Second, that boat really needs a skeg or rudder. In waves it will wallow sideways and you have to keep paddling hard on one side to keep it from broaching, especially in waves going downwind.

Great to know, thanks!