Kayak for expedition - need help

-- Last Updated: Feb-07-08 1:58 AM EST --

Hey guys

I'm planning a trip this spring (May/June) to paddle the length of the west coast of Vancouver island (Port Hardy to Victoria) and I'm looking for a kayak to suit this (and future) expeditions/trips.

I've been looking around the threads on this forum, as well as doing some research on my own, but to be honest, I find I'm more confused compared to when I started! I need some help...

I know 'skill level' is a very relative term but I guess I would call myself an intermediate paddler; I've been kayaking for about 3 years now, comfortable in surf and open water, comfortable with both skeg and rudder boats.

I'm 6 feet and 180 pounds.

Due to the fact that I don't own a car, up to now I've been renting boats for all my trips; I paddled boats ranging from Looksha IV in plastic, CD Storm, Nimbus Telkwa Sports, Chilco, Tempest 180Pro.

With the Tempest 180 I did a two week trip exploring Clayoquot sound; I surfed in it, paddled through some rough seas, and I'd say that it felt very good. The Telkwa Sports was another high volume boat that I really liked; it was a tad more 'twitchy' in its primary stability compared to the Tempest, but the maneuverability and quality were excellent. Unfortunately I did not get to paddle the Telkwa in the same rough conditions or surf as the Tempest, so I am unable to comment on the handling.

So regarding the boat I'm hoping to get for this trip, there are a few limiting factors: the main one being the fact that I'm on a rather limited budget and hoping to find a good deal on a used boat. This means it'll either be a new plastic or a used glass boat. Another one is obviously the need for a relatively large storage volume required for such a trip and for the boat to handle well in rough water.

One question I have not been able to get a clear answer to is why people don't use plastic for expedition touring?? It seems all questions about plastic seem to diverge into an argument regarding which one is easier to damage/repair, etc. I know glass boats have much nicer lines and glide better, but by how much is this difference really noticeable? I'm not worried about weight considering the fact that I'm not racing anyone and that I'll already have quite a few kg in gear, food, and water. One thing I do find very attractive with plastic is its much lower cost.

Can anyone recommend any good expedition worthy boats in plastic? I've been considering the Tempest 170, but was told it did not have much storage volume (I attempted to find actual numbers to confirm this but it seems Wilderness Systems chooses to use kg for carrying capacity instead of liters which doesn't help at all...). Can anyone compare the Tempest170, in terms of storage space, to boats such as the Ascente or TelkwaSport?

I also found a great deal on a Seaward Quest X3, but I've heard it's extremely unstable and 'twitchy'. Is this true? How does it compare to the TelkwaSport or the Tempest 180? Does the 'twitchy' feel go away when the boat is loaded and moving? Also, in rougher water or surf, did you still feel this lack of stability? I'm worried that on the tour, if it is too twitchy it will become very tiring and uncomfortably on long paddling days. Also, on the Seaward website, they brand the Quest as an 'expedition' kayak, but I find their labeling puzzling considering the fact that their other boats such as the Tyee have more storage space but are not branded under the 'expedition' label. Any ideas why the Quest got the label vs. the others ?

Another option I've been looking at is the Thermoform Delta 17; it has a lot of storage capacity and seems to be designed a intermediate to advanced boat for rough waters. Any comments on this one? How would you say this would compare to the QuestX3?

In general I want a good boat that has enough storage volume for an expedition (with re-supply points) and can handle rough conditions well. The stability/maneuverability balance I'm flexible on, but I don't want a tank of a boat because this will be my only boat, which means it'll also get used on day trips and general paddling.

Thanks in advance!


p.s. sorry for the rather long post...

prijon kodiak
Try a Prijon Kodiak. Good speed. Lots of gear hauling capabilities. A proven boat on expeditions.

plastic is fine

– Last Updated: Feb-04-08 7:23 AM EST –

personally I'd go with a maneuverable ruddered kayak. Unless you paddle fast all the time there's no reason to pick a skinny/tippy boat.

Sounds like the budget is setting the choice as much as anything.

The aformentioned Kodiak would definately fit the description. I don't see an advantage to a thermoformed boat per se as much as whether that exact boat is a known quantity.

I think the Tempest 170 is big enough.

trip logistics and paddling according to conditions matter more than the boat.

plastic is fine.

T-170 is maybe 10% smaller than a 180. it will fit you better tho have not quite as much gear capacity. The plastic 170 has foam bulkheads that do take up some room.

good luck


CD Storm (comments on?)
Just a thought. Ruddered, plastic but not as heavy as some others’ plastic and will handle anything out there. Not speedy or sexy though - the Tempest may have a lot more to offer in that direction. I don’t know where the Prijon boat ranks there.

Metric conversions…gotta love 'em.
I could ramble on about the root origins here and how much I appreciate the metric system…or I can just tell you that 1 kilogram of water is exactly 1 litre. As I recall, Wilderness Systems and others that show “weight capacity” really mean “capacity with equal in reserve buoyancy”. I think you can pretty much just double what Wildy shows as Kg capacity to get the litre volume. Example: Tempest180 shows 181kg capacity = 181Kg + 181Kg reserve = 362Kg to neutral buoyancy = 362L volume.

…or maybe I’m all wet. :wink:


it would work
more stable, don’t think it’s as maneuverable. A lot of it’s volume is in the cockpit so I wonder if it’s storage volume is any different than the T170

Check Current Designs
I know you wanted something inexpensive but you may catch a deal on a used one like I did. I have a 18’ Current Designs Solstice GT and it packs gear nicely for a week long expedition. I like to think I caught a deal on it at $1000 used in fiberglass.

Storm Storage

– Last Updated: Feb-04-08 11:40 AM EST –

Don't know compared to the Tempest 170, but the storage in its related boat the Squall was impressive against its size due to the higher decks. The Squall, at slightly over a foot shorter than my Explorer LV and with a standard (way longer than needed for me) cockpit, packed out only about a cubic foot less in space if i recall correctly.

Again, it isn't sexy or "fast" though. The Storm just occurred to me because it does cheap and stable really well.

Expedition Kayak
Check out the Nigel Dennis Explorer. Comes in Std., low vol. and hv. This boat has been used in some serious expeditions. Good Luck. Vaughn Fulton

it’s big enough
I think this trip was done in CDStorms


Nigel Harris ‘Expedition’ volume
I looked up the specs for the Nigel Harris and although they brand it as an ‘expedition’ kayak it seems to have very little storage capacity compared to some of the other ‘expedition’ label boats. Specs as follows:


Front compartment: 58 litres

Middle compartment: 39 litres

Rear compartments: 60 litres

This adds up to only 157L total volume, which is much about the same as the low volume ‘day trip’ boats from Seaward (for example, Seaward Luna). So I’m a bit confused; could this just be different measurement standards? Although I would have though that Liters is liters everywhere…

How much do you need?

– Last Updated: Feb-06-08 1:30 AM EST –

(And I am usually not the one asking this.)

By the way, you did look up Nigel Dennis Sea Kayaks and the "Harris" is a typo - yes?

NDK Explorers (full size not LV) have been used on expeditions to circumnavigate land masses on the scale of (oops - wrong land) Greenland. I am not sure what you envision packing, but I am having a hard time figuring that you'd need more stuff than they took on that trip.

I'm not trying to advocate this boat, but if you know you'll need significantly more capacity than this boat it also narrows down your choices to wider and higher decked boats or the next size up to boats like the Kayak Sport Millenium. Except now we are getting into boats that you might hate as a day boat.

Valley Nordkapp
I would also consider the Valley Nordkapp in polyethylene. I think the plastic welded in bulkheads are the best of any poly kayak and at 17’9" it is expedition sized. It also handles quite well, although I’ve only paddled it in calm conditions.


Explorer vs. North American 'day boats’
I come from a backpacking background so I’m definitely used to packing light. The reason I’m doing this number game is because I don’t actually know how much ‘157L’ is in terms of what actually fits inside – I’ve paddled and packed many boats before but most trips were around 1wk long so space wasn’t a huge concern. I do remember some boats didn’t fit much, such as the Seaward Luna (labeled as a low volume boat for small paddlers and day trips by Seaward), which actually has 10L more compared to the ‘Nigel Dennis explorer’. My hunch is that the explorer can actually fit much more, but for some reason the measurements between various manufacturers don’t match up… Moreover, boats such as the Nimbus Telkwa Sport can fit 210L in storage, and that boat definitely doesn’t feel like a minivan…

Update on research
So after some more research I think I dropped the idea of the Seaward Quest, mainly because it seems to lean too much to the ‘go fast & don’t turn’ end of the spectrum (the other end being a more maneuverable playboat). I think the Quest would be good if you were trying to set some expedition speed/time records, but for a general all-around boat that’s also capable of expedition trips I think it is not as versatile. That’s the feeling I got. If anyone disagrees please let me know!

Although I must admit that I keep going back and re-considering the Quest because it’s a hard deal to give up; I can get it for 2200$ (awesome condition), which is less than a new Thermoform Delta boat (and it includes a paddle+skirt…).

I’m currently strongly leaning towards a the Delta 17 Thermoform kayak (http://www.deltakayaks.com/html/17.htm). It looks like a beautiful boat, seems to be right smack in the middle as far as the tracking vs. maneuverability balance (at 22.5” beam I would think it won’t be twitchy like the Quest but also not a wide mini-van type boat). Delta seems to market it as an intermediate-advanced skill boat, with good secondary stability and an ability to handle rough conditions well. My main concern is that it does seem to have a lot of body above the water, which I have a feeling will really catch the wind and slow things down… any opinions on this? Is it a relatively fast boat or pretty slow? I think I will take one out for a test paddle, but unfortunately with local test paddles it’s hard to judge because it will be in the calm waters of False Creek, not in west coast swell or surf…

Nigel Dennis
It’s NIGEL DENNIS not Nigel Harris. Maybe you are looking at the wrong boat. The Nigel Dennis Explorer has been used on alot of serious expeditions. VF

the numbers game
I suggest you develop a list of kayaks that have been used in trips such as yours with a number on the weight of the stuff you are carrying +/- 10%.

. THEN contact people who’ve carried that weight in their boats.

The problem with the numbers game is that it really doesn’t correspond to what matters. Volume in a tiny sliver up near the ends isn’t that usable,high volume in the cockpit may reflect the kayaks ability to carry weight but not it’s ability to carry gear since you may not carry a lot of gear in the cockpit.

I wonder if the rudder on the delta kayak goes very deep in the water. They do look well made (I saw some at PtTownsend sea kayak symposium) but the first Perception thermoplastic sea kayaks had seat hangers break easily. The thing I’d be concerned with is if you put 75lbs in the kayak and grabbed it by the coaming would the coaming stay attached, with repeated hard landings do the bulkheads stay in place. Are the hatches 100% failsafe. Stuff like that. For $2000+ and a long trip it would be good to have feedback from someone who’s done it and aren’t selling it.

Sounds like a Cool Trip
I’d imagine the Quest X3 paddles something like the Chilco, which is a “tippy” boat in my opinion. Its also similar in volume to a Chilco, which can be tight on a longer expedition. The Chilco paddles OK for me when packed down, but is pretty tender unloaded.

If you’re paddling the coast of Vancover (I’m jealous by the way, sounds like an awesome trip) would there be an opportunity to re-supply, or get friends to meet you with rations and beer? You’ll need your standard camping kit, which if you’re already a backpacker, you have an idea of what to bring, and its already somewhat compact. How big of a back pack does a back packer typically bring on an extended back country expedition? 100 liters or so, although people can get down way smaller than that. There will be plenty of room in most of the kayaks you’re looking at, its just going to be harder to pack some of the smaller sized ones when you’re fat with fresh food. There is plenty of fresh water in the PNW, so you don’t have to worry about packing your boat down with water, leaving lots of room in your boat for your camping kit, and however much food you decide to bring.

‘Circumnavigate’ land masses
like Greenland?

When did any kayaks circumnavigate Greenland???

To my knowledge, none have. Portions of the coast have been completed, but I’ve never come across any stories of paddlers circumnavigating the entire Island.