Lift Me Up! Pungo vs Santee vs?

18-year Pungo 120 veteran here. And while the seat is falling to bits and I’ve had to plastic weld a hole in the hull, I still love my boat. That said, while I’m strong, I’m only 5’6", and I can’t lift the Pungo onto our Toyota RAV by myself - and with my husband out due to a hand injury, I’ve been bummin.

We stopped at Rutabaga in Madison while visiting this past weekend and the great fella there recommended that we consider a Hurricane Santee - we paddle with our 80 pound dogs, and the hull space is critical. They had a Santee locked to a rack outside, already bought and paid for … so I couldn’t move it or really get all that good a look. I DO think I could get it up on our RAV4, but the material immediately concerned me - it just looks so SHINY and FRAGILE compared to the hunks that are our ancient Pungos. We’re not gentle with the Pungos, they’re scratched beyond belief, we’ve dragged them up on rocks and shimmied over old dams. I dunno if the Santee can handle that. And I’m a little concerned about how they’d track with the dogs. BUT – it would be so nice to throw a boat on top anytime, ya know? And maybe even … to PORTAGE!

BUT … the new Pungos look awfully sweet. And I’ve been looking at that Malone lift system that allows you to creep the kayak up the side of an SUV solo. Hmm.

SO … what do you all think?
After my 18 year love affair with my Pungo, am I likely to love the Santee?
Is the Santee durable?
Is the Santee gonna last half as long as Old Reliable Pungo?
Would I realistically be able to portage that Santee?
Has anyone tried the Malone lift system?
Would it be worth it to do that instead and stay Pungoed?
Are there other boats I should look at?

Since I can’t try out either boat due to inventory situations, I’m grateful for any advice you all have to offer.


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I have the Thule Hullivator, not the Malone but also makes a huge diff w getting boats onto my Rav4. At some point in your life it is worth the bucks.

That said, dog plus portage plus ease to get over logs and around beaver dams scream pack canoe to me.


Celia - I saw the Hullivator and it looks great - we have the Malone system tho, and it’s nice to know that if I did the Malone I could use one $350 tool to handle two kayaks, say if I went out with a friend who also couldn’t load. The Hullivator is not out of the question, just not ideal financially.

And per canoe … yeah. I know. But – I just don’t enjoy a canoe nearly as much, unless I’m just not in the know and someone can recommend a solo canoe that’s going to be able to handle Lake Michigan and inland lakes … while delivering a similar ride/feel? I’m open, just a bit skeptical.

Must point out that Lake Michigan is no place for rec boat like a Pungo either.

I am talking about a pack canoe, sit in the bottom and use a double blade paddle. Tend to be light. Frankly if you are going to mess w Lake Michigan that w float bags is a better idea than a Pungo. The Santee is also a better idea than a Pungo, but that is with a skirt which a dog knocks out.

Here is an example. Not cheap, but if you are holding a boat for 18 years probably worth it.

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Thanks, I’ll take a look. To be clear, we only go out on Lake Michigan when it’s 1 foot or less, with PFDs, just to zen out. We basically cruise a bit offshore, sit in silence, and that’s it. We’ve used the Pungos for all 18 years this way, with dogs in tow, and they have served us extraordinarily well.

Ok, then you have it down on safety concerns.

FWIW, l know more than one person who has shifted to a pack canoe for rivers and other more contained bodies of water as they got older. Because of weight and ease of handling, while preserving the speed of the kayak they had been hauling. Had l not the Hullivator and still the need to go out on bigger water, l would have made that jump myself. If l were to switch to paddling mostly Adirondack lakes l would also be there, because of portaging.

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I’ll see if Fluid Fun in Granger, In, has a pack canoe for me to try.

Meanwhile, anyone have or have thoughts on this? Hmm.

The Santees are nice and light, but do not have anywhere near the volume of the Pungo. Not sure they would work as well for person + large dog. While the manufacturers of thermoform kayaks go to great lengths to demonstrate how durable the material is, in 7+ years of working at kayak shops I saw a disproportionate number of thermoform kayaks come in for repair. I think they can be a great choice for someone who is very easy on their gear. I would take the cost savings from the rotomolded Pungos and get a Hullavator! (this is partially my opinion and partially my observations from working in the shops. I am not a big fan of thermoform kayaks, although many people love them. Just saw too many broken ones come in compared to how many are out in the wilds).


Just one comment re Hullivators and Rav4 - being the current owner of an 2020 Rav4, post the 2019 redesign, if I was starting fresh I would NOT use the Thule fitkit, footpad and bar combo. I would use the Yakima under-pinnings with their aero rail and the different bracket for my Huliivator cradles.

I did not realize until this vehicle what an inflexible job Thule had done adapting to the flush rails compared to Yakima’s approach. I used the Thule stuff to get the cradles onto the new car. But if this stuff dies I am going to Yakima.

When my wife and I first started paddling we bought two new thermoformed Pungos. We tried both them and Santees and preferred how the Pungos handled. After about a year of fairly light use both boats started to come apart, one at the hull to deck seam and the other split at the chines. Between the shop where we bought them and Wilderness Systems we got a full refund on both boats.

I still think that for a rec boat the Pungo is a great design. We’ve since moved on to longer, faster, lighter and safer kayaks but if I was ever to buy another Pungo I’d stick with poly.

@Brodie — Super helpful, and honestly that was my gut seeing that Santee on the rack. I’m also a little concerned that a lighter boat may be more prone to tipping with the pups moving a bit too - maybe I’m off on that? Anyway, thanks so much.

@kfbrady - curious what you “graduated” to post Pungo?

@Celia - any thoughts on that easy tack ramp system? Only a few reviews here but they’re all great. Thinking that might be a more elegant solution and less repair prone.

I looked over that system, left feeling undecided. I sure as heck get it with the Rav4’s, they have been getting ever taller. And by the way the damned fixed mounts in the 2019 redesign actually point the boats a bit downward. I had to cement felt onto my saddles and switch them with the glide pads on that side to keep the deep bow of the Veia out of my face driving.

What I could not assess from the info is how likely it is that the boat could get away from you and slip side to side or off near the top. Especially in the case of a tall roof like the Rav, where someone my height could be standing on a stool to finish or start the job. I concluded that I would probably decide to do it using ropes to contain some angles of motion. Whether that would be easy or a PITA is impossible to tell without trying it in person.

Annd - using it solo or with both of you? One on the ground and one on a stool?
I load my saddle/glide pad side using an Amagansett Roller Loader, which continues to work OK when talking about long boats like sea kayaks with full perimeter rigging to hang onto. And thru increasingly big spoilers. But apparently they are no longer available. If I had to try something else now I would probably go with an extension out the side or back, just to slide the boat up.

But that talking sea kayaks, skinny and at least 16 ft long. May not be a play with rec boats.

My canoe is an ultralight, which limits where I can take it unless I put in full float bags. But I leave it light so I can just lift it over my head, for an easy float on ponds and the like.

I suggest you solve the boats first, the decide on rack assist.


Post Pungo we both bought Current Designs “Vision” kayaks. They’re considered to be “transitional” kayaks, with fore and aft sealed compartments, smaller cockpits, skegs, and fiberglass/aramid composite construction so they’re tough and fairly lightweight. A local dealer had them on year-end clearance and we got a pretty good price on them.

We’ve had them for 6 years now and even though we don’t baby them they are holding up really well. I keep thinking I should upgrade again to true sea kayaks but these serve our purposes perfectly. At 13’ and 14’ they’re easy to store in our garage and are easy to transport - we have two Hullavators and have paddled these boats all along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to Florida. We don’t do overnight or extended paddles and with most of our use in the local salt water marshes and estuaries we don’t see really “big” water. We do like things a little interesting though and these kayaks have handled rougher conditions with ease.


Oops, sorry. I have you confounded w someone else. But l do recall your talking about the Visions now.

And FWIW, when Jim and l got our “transitional” kayaks years ago, that category did not include two bulkheads. CD must have relocated that term to boats with more trappings but maybe not a hull intended for the biggest stuff. I see the Visions don’t have perimeter rigging, that right?

I built my own for about 10 bucks and it works great. My canoe weighs about 80# and I’m almost 66 and about half as strong as I was at 33. Today we took out the canoe and her OT rec kayak. We loaded the 40# kayak by hand one of us on each end and I loaded and unloaded loaded unloaded the canoe by myself and it wasn’t any problem.

The difference between my DIY ramps and the ones you can buy is I have blocks on mine that let you lift it a little at a time. I tip it onto the ramps and stand by the car and pull it up 3 steps. Then I have it high enough to push and I move around to the outside and jog it up 3 more steps and then slide it onto the rack. :canoe:


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There is more about my ramps/ladder all thru this thread Here is where I extended the racks for two canoes or a canoe and a kayak etc.

Also there where some mods I made to them later on in the thread.

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Sorry, but anyone who thinks it’s “safe” to go out on Lake Michigan in boats not suitable for open water conditions because it’s “1 foot or less” doesn’t appreciate how fast that lake can change. We lost two family members off Pentwater Beach in August 1993 on what had been a blue sky day with mild slow period waves, when a crazy storm materialized out of nowhere within minutes while they were swimming out around the breakwater. Both were locals and athletic, father and teen son. The father’s body washed up, battered, within an hour onto the jetty and it took SAR teams 3 days to find the son’s body nearly 2 miles offshore.


I have been out on Lake Erie for well over 50 years in powerboats. They were all not huge but the smallest was 16’ with a 50 HP outboard. It can be like glass and you look to the west and see that dark sky moving in you best be heading for home. In a boat like that you don’t normally venture more than a couple miles from the launch location and never way out in the lake. The trouble was always the ramps were in sheltered areas but you might have 100 boats all coming in at once and the congestion at the ramps waiting your turn was a problem. People take out rec kayaks and canoes also when the conditions are calm, but I never see anyone more than 50 yards from shore and most are staying 50 yards one way or the other of where they can get out of the water. I worry more about jet skis than I do paddle boats actually. They go so fast they don’t think twice about ripping a couple miles straight out. All it takes is an engine failure and you are in a world of trouble even with good weather.

People that live along the lake paddle canoes and rec kayaks around close to shore some fishing and some going out and watching the sunset. When you are out 25yards and facing Canada you get the same feeling of the immensity of the lake as if you are out 15 miles. Being out in a little paddleboat in white caps is not any fun and 1 footers is not any fun IMO. The Great Lakes are nothing to be taken lightly for sure and can change quickly.

I have no plans on taking my canoe on Lake Erie but if I did it wouldn’t be a long trip or very far out. :canoe:


@willowleaf, I’m truly sorry to hear that. I suspect your cautionary words would best be directed at the dozens of local outfitters who set neophytes up on boats and don’t require them to wear PFDs during their entire ride. We are never more than 1/8 mile from shore, and only in perfect conditions. If a storm came out of absolute nowhere and took me, it was meant to be. Our Lake Michigan trips are short and about meditation, not about distance or speed or endurance.

Again, I’m sorry for your loss and appreciate your concern.

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@bud16415, man, that’s a brilliant setup. I may PM you for more info. Thanks for sharing … :heart::pray: