Lightweight kayak for larger paddler

Hello Paddlers!

I currently have a WS Tsunami 145, which - as a 5’11", 215lb guy - is perfect for me. It’s got a slightly higher deck so I don’t feel shoe-horned into it, where as many of the other 14-15ft. light-touring boats I’ve tried feel like I’m being strangled.

Problem, of course, is that it weighs at least 60lbs with the rudder. So I’m now looking for a much lighter boat. While I know this means paying more for lighter material, I’m tired of hefting this beast all over the place.

I have been reading about a few boats that are under 16ft and much lighter: the Swift 146, Impex Hesper, Manitou 14 fiberglass, Lincoln Chebeague and Eddyline Journey.

While there are many good reviews of all these boats on this site, I haven’t seen any from “husky” paddlers.

If you happen to be a fellow stout paddler and can suggest a good

Eddyline, Lincoln, Swift
I thought this must be a misprint at the Wilderness Systems website: the Tsunami 145 has a deck height of 16 whopping inches? Man, that is cavernous.

You know, sometimes you get used to a height like that and you don’t realize you could get just as used to something lower and maybe even be more comfortable due to better contact.

The Eddyline Journey was made for a person like yourself. The cockpit opening is similar to the Tsunami, 18.5 x 35. The deck is 13". I found the thigh braces were angled too low, but maybe they wouldn’t bother you.

I’m guessing you would have difficulty fitting into a Lincoln, except maybe the Schoodic (cockpit 16.5 x 33).

Which Swift are you referring to? I don’t see a 146 in their lineup. I don’t understand Swift kayaks. They dropped the cheaper trylon thermoformed plastic, which was a good material, and the prices of the kevlar and carbon composites are sky high. The only thing to justify those prices is the light weight. In my opinion these hulls are not stable in rough water (too flat on the bottom) unless maybe you’re an advanced paddler. The Eddyline hull is much better, in my opinion.


– Last Updated: Aug-27-13 7:47 AM EST –

Swift has replaced their Saranac 14.6 with the Saranac 15. Both models were made for larger folks; after all, Bill Swift is not a small person. The hull is not flat on the bottom, but rather elliptical, a David Yost design. I have the Saranac Classic (14 feet, same hull design), and I do not find it unstable at all.

You may be able to find a left-over or used 14.6 at a discounted price.

Edit: You don't say where you're located, but if you're anywhere close to Old Forge, NY, I noticed that Mountainman has a used 14.6 in their inventory for a decent pice. You can demo on-site.

Feathercraft Big Kahuna

Folding kayaks
I agree with Tsunami Chuck – look into folding kayaks or skin on frames. Folders typically are 30% or 40% lighter than rigid kayaks of the same dimensions. The Big Kahuna he suggests is a great boat (my first folder was the standard Kahuna) and it weighs 35 lbs. The kayak is $3500 new but you can find one used on occasion for around $2000. The Pakboat XT-15 is another great folder with similar dimensions and runs around $1500 new – Pakboat is phasing out that model so you may find good deals on it now. They still make the XT-17 which would work for you too. It’s only 44 lbs despite being 17 feet long.

Folders can be left set up all season if you don’t want to break them down each time and can be hauled on a roof rack just like any other boat. And they have the plus of being able to take them on vacation as checked luggage and to store them in their duffel bag securely in the trunk of the rental car or in your hotel room. Lots of advantages besides lightness, but the lightness makes them wonderful for frequent use closer to home.

Skin on frame rigid kayaks are even lighter – I have an 18’ one that weighs 32 lbs (wood frame with a urethane coated nylon skin). People are amazed to see me (a 60 something average sized female) carrying it to the water single-handed. There are a lot of people who custom build these around the country, often for less than you would pay for a quality commercially built hardshell.

You can even build your own with free patterns and instructions at A good intro to skin on frame kayaks is at this blog by a well-know builder and designer.

All these boats perform comparatively to hardshells of the same dimensions, in some cases better (folders excel in rough water since they flex with waves rather than fighting them) and they are far more durable than most people realize. I can smash my skin on frame with a hammer and it bounces off the skin.

The Eddyline Denali worth a look
Eddyline is a good choice. The material is tough, the hull is fairly rigid, the designs are excellent, the boats are durable.

The Journey is a good boat, but if you need more thigh or seat room may be too restricting. I prefer to think pants size more than simple height/weight relation. You could also consider an Equinox, but it is only slightly lighter and shorter, so there is an advantage to your first choice.

Eddyline mentions on their Facebook page a new boat coming out this Fall, the Denali. Here are the Specs: 15’3" length, 24.5 beam, Capacity 400 lbs, Weight 50lbs, cockpit depth aft 10.5", cockpit depth forward 14.5", cockpit will be their 35x19 one. If you can wait a bit, I think that would be an option worth trying out.

Thanks, Everyone!
Thanks for all the excellent feedback. Yes, I neglected to mention the model of the Swift I was referring to. It’s the Saranac.

I live in southwest New Hampshire. There are only a few boat dealers in my area, so either way, I’m gonna have to travel.

A place about 45 minutes away has 1 new Lincoln Chebeaque and 1 used (a year old).

The new one is yellow over white with a black trim layed up in fiberglass. Sale price is $1876.00.

The used one is Lime over white with black trim layed up in a combination of fiberglass and kevlar. It also has a kevlar keel strip down the bottom of the kayak (a $300.00 adder according to the shop).

The kayak is 1 year old and in “great” condition. Used price is $2000.00. Think I might take a ride up there this weekend and see how they fit.

Again, thanks everyone for this wealth of feedback and suggestions! It’s much appreciated!!



– Last Updated: Aug-27-13 3:47 PM EST –

That Denali sounds very similar in its specs to the QCC Q400, aka Caspian Sea at 15'3" by 24" by 14.5" deep. Mine is about 42 pounds in kevlar/carbon (I have a single hatch model, but with the front bulkhead added).

The Q400 is an efficient and very comfortable sea kayak for husky people, assuming the cockpit opening of 16 by 30 is big enough. If you can make it into the boat, there is tons of room. Very few come up for sale used, and they're usually the heavier all-FG models, but that tells you people are generally satisfied with them. I have been very happy with mine for the past several years, it's a beauty and I have no regrets about ordering it new to my own specs (of course, it was few years ago, and I ordered it during a winter sale event)

I always liked the looks of the Chebeague. $2K seems like a lot for a used boat, but if it's in good shape and you fit, it's probably worth it.

PS if you can find a used CD Pachena in kevlar, that is a great big-guy transitional boat, 14'1" by 25" by 14". The FG weighs 52#, the kevlar is about 45# I think.

Pakboat is in NH
Pakboat’s HQ is in Enfield, NH, near Lebanon. I believe they have a location near a lake where you can test paddle their demos, if you are curious about folders at all.

QCC 400X
I paddle a Swift Saranac 14 Sport myself. Another boat you may want to consider is the QCC 400X they weigh about 45lbs.

I wish that QCC would make

– Last Updated: Aug-28-13 4:19 PM EST –

a decent sized cockpit for their boats if they are going to advertise them as "big guy" boats. No one who is really a big guy can cram themselves into that tiny 16 x 30 cockpit. That's one area where Eddyline has thought things through. OCC makes good boats, but they really do not have anything remotely considered a "big guy" boat in their line up with that Lilliputian cockpit. Unfortunately, they are out of consideration for me since I would never be able to get into one, consequently I will never own one.

That’s great news!
I’ve been watching for the Denali for awhile. The Journey thigh braces were so tight on me that I cut them out due to hip pain, even though I don’t have large thighs (my weight is elsewhere).

I haven’t paddled the Denali, of course, but I can tell you that the Journey paddles much better than the Equinox. I wish the Denali weren’t 24.5" wide as it will probably be slower than the Journey.

Now I’m waiting for Eddyling to make a 14’ version of the Denali that’s 24" wide. I would buy that.

QCC and Lincoln for larger people?
How so?

QCC/Caspian Sea
Are you saying that QCC has the same hull as the Swift Caspian Sea?

Yes, same hull

– Last Updated: Aug-30-13 1:04 PM EST –

The Q400 is a renamed Caspian Sea, designed by John Winters. There's a full series of them --- the Q500 was originally called the North Sea, there's also the Tasman Sea, Labrador Sea and Bering Sea. Some were sold under those names by Swift, they still carry the Bering Sea. Plans for some are still available through Green Valley Boat Works.

Here's a page showing a cool cedar strip Caspian Sea:

I saw another done in geodesic aerolite style (a la Platte Montefort), it was amazing, and only about 25 pounds, I think.

I agree with Ayornamut about the weird small cockpits of QCC boats. The Q500 is really a huge boat and would be much more useful to big people with a larger cockpit. It does help to leave off the completely useless thigh braces when ordering a Q400 or 500, the deck is way too high to engage those braces, and they interfere with entry.

Re: the Q400, it's OK for a big boy if being used as a day boat, i.e. no significant cargo. The weight range is 160-240 pounds (according to the designer's statement on the Green Valley site). I use mine at around 210-220 total, and there is capacity to spare. QCC is showing a recommended paddler weight of 120-200 on the 'all models' page, but 115-180 on the Q400 page. I guess they're making some assumptions about cargo.

I think the Q600 and Q700 are a different series of hulls altogether, although they were also designed by Winters.

Outdate cockpit sizes
It’s really too bad that QCC and Lincoln don’t make a larger cockpit. Americans have gotten so much larger even in just the last decade. It’s time to update these cockpits instead of restricting their market to the 1/3 of Americans who aren’t overweight. Yup, 69% of Americans are now overweight. Plus we’ve grown taller. How can any manufacturer survive by targeting such a small market segment? There could be a stereotype that larger people don’t kayak, which I think is false.

Same for the Canadian-made Delta. Their cockpit is borderline large enough for Americans (18" x 32.5"). Canadians aren’t as overweight as Americans so maybe they just don’t get how big Americans are. Eddyline wisely offers a larger cockpit and this year wisely increased the depth.

As you say, some of these kayaks, like the Delta 15 and 15.5, are perfectly suited to larger paddlers but the cockpit is too small for those guys. Really too bad. A person who fits the small cockpit of these large-volume kayaks might actually find them hard to paddle, which further cuts down on sales.

It’s a bit surprising that designers don’t study user size carefully, since that’s the first question in the kayaker’s mind: Am I going to fit in this kayak?

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