Need advice on buying a kayak


I am looking to buy a kayak in the next week or two. I know everyone has their own opinion on brand names, etc, but I would love to hear some opinions especially from people with similiar kayak needs. I want a touring/expedition kayak that I could use to go out for at least a weekend (but longer would be ok, too). I live on a research vessel, so for my current situation a plastic boat would be best, so that I don’t have to worry about it getting scratched up. I’ll be using it in Alaska, down the west coast, then back on the east coast later this year, so I’ll be using it in lots of different conditions. I am relatively small (5’4" and 120 lbs.), so I’m interested in kayaks made for women or smaller people in general. The only kayak I have actually looked at was a Necky Elaho, which seemed like it might be a good match for me. I would appreciate any feedback! Thanks so much!

So many choices…
and are we to assume you are looking for a SINK kayak or SOT (sit on top)? Which types of water will you be paddling in most of the time? Have you taken any basic paddling or rescue classes? If not, that is your first step…if not, make sure you go with the Saint Christopher 14’ model…complete with rosary hatch when in trouble. Kidding aside, most recreational 13-14’ kayaks should fit your needs.

Take a look at the Perception
Carolina 14., or if they still make them, a Perception Shadow out of poly

One of them might fit your needs.

And definately stay with plastic.

My wife and I paddled many parts of the Alaska west coast and most of the fijords, and I don’t think there is a sand beach to be found, and with those humongous tides, there is a lot of dragging over rocky beaches to get above the high water line.



Tsunami 135

– Last Updated: Jul-09-08 7:21 PM EST –

might be good for your size.

Larger options would include the Tempest 165, Valley Avocet RM, Necky Eliza or Manitou 14.

Tsunami 125 is all you need
and a great boat. It will do all you want and more.

Paddlin’ on


more info
Just a little more info - thought I was being specific, but apparently not enough. I definitely want a sit-in kayak, not a sit on top. And I will be kayaking in all ocean/bay conditions from Alaska to Florida and everywhere in between, but I’m not planning on being in white water. Also, I do have some kayaking experience, but more canoe experience - I used to lead canoe trips, and have experience with multi-week canoe trips. Thanks for all your replies already!

125 vs 120
I agree that the Tsunamis are nice boats but the 125 is sized for large paddlers. The 120 seems like a better choice, to me at least. Is there a reason you’re recommending that model for such a small person?

You may

– Last Updated: Jul-09-08 11:31 PM EST –

want to consider what level of skills you want to develop and what level of skills are necessary to survive kayaking in Alaska.

For example, a kayak that is more "tippy" and narrow will be easier to roll back up. One that is wider and more stable might be impossible to roll back up if you do tip over.

You should start off on a lake. Practice a wet exit, getting in your kayak, then start paddling.

Soon learn to roll back up if you tip over.

Before you leave the safe lake, make sure you can wet exit and reenter the boat and pump it out of water on your own.

I'm not that familiar with plastic kayaks, but know they make a plastic version of the best glass kayaks.

There are a lot of 16 foot LV (light volume) RM that would be more of an expedition kayak meant for demanding conditions. Check with P&H, Vally, NDK, etc...

Edit: When you start using a spray skirt, keep in mind that the kayak tips over very fast and you will be upside down before you even catch a breath of air. Remember you will need to pull the release cord on the spray skirt, so don't tuck that in when launching. It can be difficult just to get in the kayak. But don't be discourged and don't take any chances. For example I have no desire to kayak in Maine let alone Alaska. ;) Maybe in 3 years.

16 ft kayak
I’d go for a touring kayak, not a rec kayak. There are now lots of great plastic touring kayaks. The wilderness systems tempest 165 might work well for you. Or the VCP avocet. Buy a used kayak, and you can get lot more boat for the money. 13 or 14 ft rec boats won’t be good bets for ocean paddling.


– Last Updated: Jul-09-08 11:53 PM EST –

Here, P&H has a Capella 160 RM (plastic)that has a weight range down to 110lb.

There are other compatable kayaks as well, but just that kayak would be very difficult for you to beat.

You don't want one that is too big either as you will ride up too high on the water and be impossible to paddle. Some people make this mistake and wind up trying to weight it down with 40lb of bird shot.

Edit: this Avocet RM from Vally might also work:

Tempest 165
Will fit someone of your size, is available in plastic, and has a nice blend of tracking and maneuverability. It’ll easily hold gear for the length of camping trip you mentioned, and it’ll handle well with that gear in it as well as unloaded.


– Last Updated: Jul-10-08 10:34 AM EST –

Some of the other choices mentioned above are fine boats but you did say you would like to go on camping trips at least for weekends(two nights?) or longer in the Alaskan wilderness. Any wilderness camping trips would be better in a longer boat to handle the rougher seas and all your gear and food. If you were just doing day paddles or overnights in more populated areas or float trips down rivers in a non wilderness setting(close or through towns along the route) then it would be different. But for what you want to do and your size, the Tempest 165 RM would be a good choice. Also a Valley Canoe Product Avocet is nice as well as a pintail but I'm not sure if the pintail comes in RM---I do know the avocet does

125 way too big
For a person of the OP’s smaller size the 125 would way way too big, even the 120 would be a lil big. The 135 would be a better choice for the OP not because of its length, but because it is made to fit smaller framed paddlers of the OP’s dimensions.

No one mentioned the Necky Eliza.
'Don’t know much myself, but wouldn’t that be worth looking at for her?


was going to but then forgot—necky markets this as a “womans kayak”—might also want to look at Necky’s Chatam 16

Someone your size
Should rule out any kayak with a beam wider than 24 inches. And that rules out many mentioned. With a short body and short arms, wider beamed boats will be a chore to paddle. And while a 22-23 inch beam might feel real tippy to a novice bigger person, it won’t to someone your size.

I haven’t seen or paddled the 120?
so you may be right.

Paddlin’ on


Yeah, there are

– Last Updated: Jul-11-08 8:41 AM EST –

some other good suggestions here.

The Avocet looked good, and make sure the Capella 160 doesn't weather cock. the entire design has changed over the years.

maybe too much advice from me? well, myself being an advanced windsurfer I was so discourged on my first day I didn't think it would work out. One beginner almost drown and he had an instructor. However after some time I'm out in some pretty choppy water. So, don't be discourged if it's not as easy as it looks. After your third time out you will be surprised how much you improve balance.

Edit: also a lot of people rely on a group for safety if someone tips over, etc.

For your reference
GK I paddle the 120, and I’m 5’10" 165lbs 32" waist 32" inseam. I find the 120 very comfortable, and not too roomy but not too tight. When I tried a 125 it felt kind of like wearing pants a waist size or two too big, with the belt tightened I can wear them, but it ain’t comfortable.

The OP is probably a “tweener” for the 120 or the 135, they would need to try both on for size. I’m thinking they’ll find the fit of the 135 better though.

I’m near your size

– Last Updated: Jul-11-08 12:16 PM EST –

My posterior has spread a bit and I weigh a leetle more, but same height.

Agree with the recs for the Tempest 165.

Re the Elaho - we have one. I like the boat for many things, but personally I think you are a little light for it in terms of sinking to a good waterline. With that diamond chining, you have to be sitting on a chine to get good performance and you'd be a little above the first one unless you threw in some ballast. The Eliza is a great suggestion, and in the Capella line you should be considering the 161 or as close as you can get to that boat in RM. I spent a couple of days in one, good all-around boat. You would also fit the Avocet LV if you can find one yet in plastic (new boat). Unlikely tho'.