Need advice on kayak purchase

I am a big water sport enthusiast. My husband and I have canoed often in his brother’s canoe. Yesterday, we took the beginner “just get in” kayak course from LL Bean. It was great. I love the way the kayak feels more like an extension of yourself on the water than even canoeing does. My husband has offered to purchase a kayak for me at LL Bean. As I have exactly one hour of experience on the water, I’m not interested in purchasing a super pricey, fancy boat, nor can I afford it. What Bean put me in yesterday was a Pungo 140. Did I say I’m almost 6 feet tall and a big girl? I loved it. Really enjoyed the whole experience.

We are looking at the LL Bean 12 ft Manatee and the Pungo 120 for purchase. The Pungo is about $150 more than the Manatee. When I read reviews, I get the sense that more experienced paddlers like the Pungo, while the “just dropped a boat in the water for the first time” people write about the Manatee. I know I only have an hour on the water, but I’m a fast study with this kind of thing.

Here’s the real question. Other than the better accessories, is there really any reason to buy the Pungo over the Manatee? I’m having a hard time justifying an extra $150 for a neat console and an easy open hatch. At the same time, I want a kayak that’s going to keep up with me and not give out too soon. As far as function goes, whatever I get is what I’ll get used to. I just don’t want to miss something glaring that makes the Pungo well worth $150 more.

Can anyone give me some advice?


no bow flotation
is a concern with both of these – hear from others on this, but it looks like there is only one bulkhead (stern). Adding bow flotation may be an easy matter – again, hear from others, I’m pretty new at this – just a safety concern I wanted to raise.

Buy the boat that fits your needs
First off, don’t be so quick to abandon the canoe. There are plenty of canoes in which you can feel the aqua-connection, too. If you have never paddled a canoe designed for your needs, don’t give up on 'em. Paddling solo, any boat is responding to your paddle strokes and your weight shifts. If you always paddle tandem with another person, its a different experience.

Whether its a kayak or a canoe, the boat is usually designed with a particular set of compromises. Some are designed to be highly maneuverable, some designed for speed, stability, comfort, hauling capacity, and the list of characteristics goes on. Boats like the Pungo are designed with a blending of all these characteristics and will be pretty good at everything, but not really great at anything.

So you need to think about what you want to do in your paddling life. Do you want to be able to go camping? Will you be paddling it on lakes, the ocean, little streams. Do you want to fish out of the boat? Do you want to cover lots of miles? Paddle whitewater? So, think about the paddling you will do, and that will help you choose the boat that is right for you.

If you don’t know your needs, just get a boat and get out there. You’ll have fun, and figure out that when you get your next boat you will get one that is more closely fitted to the type of paddling you have grown to enjoy. I don’t think any of us get it right on the first try.

SURGEON GENERALS WARNING: Buying a boat is known to be habit forming and may lead to boating disease. Warning signs that you have contracted boating disease include saying or thinking “my next boat”.


"keep up with me"
What do you mean by a kayak that will keep up with you or by big water? The reason I am asking is that these are rec boats, with rec boat limitations for more challenging water such as any whitewater, ocean etc. These are fine boats for their intended purpose, but between your post and your profile I am not sure that your plans are a match for these boats’ intended environment.

Obviously you fill a boat like the Pungo better than me, with 9 inches more size, but there are plenty of boats out there that will be a part of you much more so than these bigger cockpit boats.

Maybe poorly worded
I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. I know very little about what kayaks do what. I just got an ankle replacement in January after being hobbled for almost 15 years. I’m so excited to get out and do everything I can do. I don’t expect to go hard core white water with my kayak, but I hoped that eventually I’d be able to do class 1 or 2 with my kayak. I am 280 lbs, so for now, I need the cockpit room. I think I was hoping someone would give me a better reason for going with the Pungo. It may not matter right now. I expect to be doing mostly calm water and gentle rivers for the time being.


If flat water
A boat with a super sized cockpit like the Pungo can work. However, it is not a plan for class 2 except for a survival run down the middle, and the fun of class 2 is to try and catch standing waves etc. For that level of control you are better off with a WW kayak anyway.

But a bigger issue is the boat filling up with water and being a projectile or getting onto the wrong side of you in a capsize with gallons of water in it. So WW kayaks have smaller cockpits, are used skirted and have flotation and reinforcement in the ends so they can’t get squeezed between rocks and collapse with your legs still in there.

Water that seems like nothing from sitting in a raft gets bigger when you are eyeballing it from a kayak. You can pretty much add a class level to get any equivalences between raft and kayak.

Why 12 feet?
They put you in the 14 and you liked it so now you are going to a boat that is not as fast, won’t carry your weight as well, and has less flotation?

Why not the Pungo 14?

what he said ^
OP, pls. don’t think this a mean thing, but at your present weight you are definitely a large paddler.

Kayaks of longer lengths distribute your weight better so that the waterline is just right, and you can paddle w. more ease and efficiently. If you are too heavy for a boat the stern sinks, the bow rises and that makes it (much) harder to paddle.

Kudos to you for wanting to get active and back in the water :smiley:

Get the Pungo 14’
I agree with most of the previous posts and would like to add my 2 cents with a little economic perspective: it sounds like you have that spark that will make you a real kayaking enthusiast. This means you will undoubtedly feel the need to switch to a boat with more advanced characteristics than either of these rec boats possess (I.e. you will outgrow or become bored with some aspect of their performance) , but it would be hard to predict now what that direction might be (white water, flatwater touring, more speed, better handling, cargo capacity, etc.) So for now you should be thinking of best resale value --as others have said, boat buying becomes a habit BUT it helps to think of the cost as sort of a rental since you will recover a large proportion of it when you “trade up”.

That said, your resale payback on the larger Pungo will be much higher than the LL Bean boat. It’s an extremely popular model. So that will likely offset the initial cost differential. In fact, some large kayaking outfitter shops will even take a nationally respected and familiar brand name like the Pungo in trade towards a new boat (though outright selling it through Craigslist, despite the minor hassles, is more profitable.) The “store” brands like LL Bean, or the Pelican brands sold at big box stores, not so much.

I’ve bought and sold a half dozen used brand name kayaks over an 8-year period to get the “fleet” I enjoy best now. And I continually peruse the local kayak for sale ads to line up friends with boats themselves, so I know the market well.