Kayak recommendations...beginner boat that I wont grow out of right away

Hello. New here and feeling a bit overwhelmed. Thank you in advance for your suggestions and advice. Here is my situation. My wife an I rented kayaks a few times the last two summers and LOVED it. We are ready to make a purchase and want to get something that will last us a while.

We plan to do mostly day trips on fairly calm water (lakes and large rivers in central/northern WI and UP of MI. We would like to venture into some kayak camping, and we are both avid backpackers so we have lots of small, lightweight gear. Not long trips 2-3 nights max.

We really want something that is “easy”. Easy to load/unload, easy to paddle, easy to steer, easy to throw in the back of the truck after work and go for a quick cruise on Lake Winnebago or some other local water.

My research so far is pointing me to the 12’ or 14’ touring kayaks. I like the 12 for its lighter weight and more manuverability. We typically dont go for speed, we more putz around the shores looking at things. We also would occasionally like to fish from them.

Me: 240lb, 5’11"
Her: 145lb - 5’9"

Ive been looking at the Delta 12.10 or 14 for me and the Delta 12S, 12.10, or even 14 for her.
Not particularly married to a certain brand, but would like to keep the combined boats <$3.5k

Thank you again for any help. I know being an “expert” on a board in another subject that you get a lot of these.


I was 6’1" at 255 lbs. I settled on the 145 Tsunami for foot room and stability on flat water. The 140 Tsunami is in your wife’s range. I have absolutely confidence in the boat. I’m now 230 lbs and the boat is even better. I don’t have a skeg or rudder on that boat. Also have the 125 and a 175 Tsunami with rudder. The 145 is my favorite. I actually looked at the Delta, I think the 15 or 15.5 (?) model, don’t recall, but can’t think of a reason to change.


You will want 14’ +for camping. The Deltas have a decent reputation for what you want to do as do Eddylines and Hurricanes. The Tsunamis are also workhorses. What ever you get, be sure they they have 2 bulkheads and sealed compartments. In that length range you don’t need to be concerned about maneuverability unless you are running whitewater or maybe surfing.

Canoecopia in Madison is next weekend. If you can, head there. You should be able to get good information & maybe the opportunity to sit in a couple of kayaks there.


A good starting place might be to decide whether you want a sit in or sit-on-top (SOT). I’ve always been an SOT paddler. I think I’m in the minority there in this forum. I like the SOT because I mostly do surf launches and paddle in the open ocean, and am frankly a little scared of having my yak swamped and doing eskimo rolls. I think there are lots of ocean paddlers here with sit-ins who take the time to develop the skills necessary to deal with those challenges who do just fine.

…so, from an SOT perspective: I’m 5’11" and 185lbs. I started with a Cobra Navigator. 12 ft, very sturdy, very stable. plenty of storage for backpacking and fishing gear as long as you keep it simple. As a backpacker, you have that advantage of knowing how not to overpack. I later picked up a Cobra Tourer (14ft with 2 in-hull hatches and one storage area behind the seat). Definitely faster, but harder to turn. Neither of my Cobra’s had rudders. The Navigator turned easily, but didn’t track well if there was any wind. Also, my paddling technique was admittedly sloppy in the beginning.

I later picked up a WS Tarpon 140, and added a rudder to it as I started venturing further out. Also a stable boat and much easier to deal with wind-cocking in windy conditions now that the rudder is installed. That plus working on my paddling technique made longer trips more enjoyable as I could cover more ground. But there’s no replacement for developing good paddling techniques. Love that boat.

I picked all three of these up on craigslist save a shedload over what I would have paid purchasing them new. There’s other posts on this forum (somewhere) that can help you when buying a used yak to make sure it’s worth the price, and most importantly, in sound condition. I’m on to longer, spendy-er boats now, but those three were a great place to start.

Hope that’s helpful!

1 Like

I just want to say I am super jealous of that Delta 12.10. It’s one of the prettiest boats I’ve seen that fits my needs.

I just bought a Perception Carolina 12, which is in a similar (though less $$) class. I kayak light coastal/surf and Mobile Bay, plus some small flatwater creeks.


Sit on top kayaks are generally heavier than sit ins. Current models have also turned most of them into fishing barges, so I think a sit in would be better.

I have some friends who think the Perception Carolinas are the best all around boat, anywhere. They are also pretty inexpensive. If you want to spend more now, the Eddylines might do, but I think their quality has dropped a bit lately, so Delta is about it.

Might want to consider a larger boat for you (14 foot) and small for your partner (12)

1 Like

Thanks sooo much for all the good advice. We are headed to Canoecopia next weekend for sure. Hoping that makes the picture clearer rather than more complicated. In my comparison spreadsheet, the Tsunami is the “default” that others are compared to. That was what I was originally targeting and still might.

As far as capacity, the spec on the delta 12.10 says it has 30gal of storage in the rear and 12 in the front. That is like 190 liters of storage. My backpack for a full 7 day trip fits in a 65L pack. Am I missing something here? Shouldnt I be able to get plenty of stuff in that much hold space? (do you call it a “hold” on a kayak LOL)


Since you’ll be at Canoecopia, look up John Chase. He’s an excellent coach and will be happy to help.

1 Like

14 ft if you can swing it. Will be easier to make behave in wind than 12 ft.


I have the Tsunami 165. I can’t say enough good things about these boats. For what the OP is looking for, you’re right, the 145 kinda hits the sweet spot for his needs. His wife should be good with either the 140 or 145. Not sure what they’re fetching on the used market, but for both mine and my girlfriend’s 165s, I didn’t pay more than $600 for either of them.


I think this is an easy recommendation! Dagger Stratos 14.5L for you and the 14.5S for your wife. Swiss Army knife of kayaks, does it all, won’t grow out of that yak anytime soon, if ever.
Great seat, skeg, edges well, tours well, surfing machine, you name it.


Agreed, it’s hard to go wrong with a Tsunami. As others have said, you’ll probably be happier in the long run with the 14’, especially since you are already aware of not wanting to “grow out of” the kayaks in a year or two. Many newcomers to paddling get short boats and then many come back for longer ones later.

Also, don’t get your wife a shorter boat than you. They definitely do not have to be the same exact model, but at her size she can most definitely handle a 14’. I’m close to her size and primarily paddle 18-19’ sea kayaks, including getting the kayak on and off the car myself.

Of course the 14s won’t just fit in the bed of a pickup without a little extra gear, but it can be done. If you end up cartopping them, longer kayaks are actually much easier to load on a roof than shorter ones. My kayaks range from 12.5’ to 19’ and the 12.5 is the hardest for me to load. Put some research into how you will transport them too - you are on the right track with knowing that if it’s easy, you’ll use the kayaks more. I’m sure Thule and Yakima will have booths at Canoecopia - pick the reps brains about options for your car (make sure you know make, model and year).

I think someone mentioned lessons - definitely put this at the top of your list once your local paddlesports shops start on water programming again this spring. At this stage you don’t know what you don’t know and you will learn more from a half or full day lesson than you thought possible.

It sounds like you are on the right path, and with any luck with product availability you should be in a good position to have a blast this summer. Good luck and have fun!


Yes, if you are a backpacker that doesn’t want to add alot when paddling, that boat will be fine for gear volume.

NHTrucker, you’re right on the mark. I bought my nephew a used 145 Tsunami for $500 and put $100 toward new seat pads and bungee restricting. The new models are in the $1,599 range. I let others use my 145 Tsunami while I use my 125 or the 175. Sections of the Susquehanna River from the head of The Head of the Bay to Harrisburg is flat water, but it kicks up some fairly good wave, especially with a NE 15 mph wind. These boats work very well. My sister hated my 145. She tested the 140 and fell in love with it. She’s in the 5’9" @145 lbs range. I noticed the sales literature lists the current models at 25.5 inches wide. I hope that’s a mistake, because the pre-2010 models were listed as 24" wide. The narrower width made it more efficient for a smaller person. I considered the Delta 15.5 or the 14, but couldn’t find a demo model to test. I was curious if shifting weight forward or back with the movable seat could change weather cocking.

My view is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I was looking for a faster boat, but there isn’t anything the Tsunamis haven’t been able to handle. I figure I may have been able to .1 to .3 mph at most. The Delta is about $1,000 more. My conclusion - paddle harder.


The Delta kayaks have a great reputation and the lightness of the boats will really be appreciated when you have to carry them, similar weights of the fiberglass or even kevlar boats.

Your wife should have an easier time finding the right boat for her but you need to be mindful of the max weight capacity of the kayak for yourself.

Thanks again to everyone for the info, suggestions, and tips. Making the new guy feel really welcome!

Will be great to see and hopefully sit in options at Canoecopia. Do they sell boats at the show? Any suggestions for/against a purchase there if available?

1 Like

My weight actually the primary reason I bought the Tsunami, the Delta’s weight was the reason I actually liked the Delta, and I could fit in it comfortably. Price is a bit steep. Agreevthat the wife should be able to fit many boats.

We were in your exact same place as you last year around this time. Covid had made the supply chain of boats slow down and we wanted to get on our slow moving river and inland lakes as soon as the weather and water temp allowed as a safe outdoor activity. I joined the forum also looking for ideas on boats and to learn what we could as new paddlers.

We knew she wanted a rec-kayak as that is what her friends have and had been letting her use the year before. She wanted to fit in with the others and I wanted her to be safe doing so. I sat in a few rec-kayaks and being a larger guy they just were not my thing for sitting in for 6 hours. I had always liked canoes as a kid, so we started off with a 10’ kayak for her and a 14’7” canoe for me that I converted from a tandem to a solo, in kind of a pack canoe way that I could paddle with a double blade and would have all the room for both of our gear for longer trips. I also use my canoe for fishing alone and I find the open boat with slightly higher seat much better for that.

We have went out together many times last year together and also with groups of others in mainly rec-kayaks and there was zero issues with me being in the canoe other than I get talked into hauling stuff for the others sometimes. I go everyplace the others do and get hung up less in shallow water.

I’m not suggesting you should get a canoe or a pack canoe just that when you are this new to paddling try out all your options.

We got her an Old Town kayak and for the price I felt it was a great little boat. I did add some front floatation under her deck and it has a sealed rear compartment. If she does capsize it not a problem now.

Dress for immersion and spend some money on good PFDs. Outfit your boats with painter lines or what you think you will need.

Welcome to the paddling community. :canoe:

bud16415, I started out in canoes owned by family members. That ended with when the canoes became bow ties on objects that wouldn’t get out of the way. My first boat purchase was a Mad River 16 ft Adventure, because it has back support. I bought two additional canoes and the 9 ft kayak for an odd paddler to tag along. I always loved canoes, but since getting involved with kayaking, I’ve only used them several time over the last fifteen years. The kayak is easier to sit in, but harder to get out of at the end of the trip.

I can understand the attraction to the canoe and the fondness expressed by forum members makes me want to put them to use. The kayak does let me go places in open water that I personally wouldn’t dare take a canoe, and the kayak is a little better suited to solo trips. I plan to give all of my boats a workout this year.