Need help choosing "all-around" kayak.

Wanting to buy a boat for exploring mountain lakes here in Colorado and also be able to do mild river stretches over in Moab…that will include a few easy rapids.

Not interested in a hardcore whitewater boat or a 17’ sea kayak. Fair-weather paddler. Not opposed to SOT rig.

Intermediate skills

Wt: 220

Ht: 5’-9"

Any feedback would be great…thanks!

some thoughts

– Last Updated: May-12-12 9:42 PM EST –

If you want a longer season in those Colorado Lakes, you probably want a sit inside. Something like a Necky Manitou 14 (my first and good all around kayak) or a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140 (or 145, depending on your size) my wife's first and also a good all-arounder. There are a number of kayaks in this category, and others will probably chime in. I bet you could rent boats in that category to see if you are okay in the rapids you have in mind -- we have used that type of boat up to class II (not narrow technical). I think if you go much shorter, you sacrifice lake performance. I do know someone with a Tsunami 125 and he loves it even on lakes -- I guess it depends on what you want to do -- if you are pretty casual about it all, I guess a T125 on a lake is okay. I'm sure others will chime in, saying among other things -- try out some boats. There is always some sacrifice for an "all arounder." I have since purchased a 16.5' x 22" for the lakes, and more recently a Liquid Logic XP10 for the rivers, but had a total blast for a number of years with my Manitou 14.

Edited: my bad -- you did say your size -- I would guess the Tsunami 145 (vs. 140), but not certain.

There are about 4 well known models
that are transition kayaks that would serve your purpose. They differ, basically, in whether they paddle more like a WW kayak or more like a rec boat. All of them come with a retractable skeg and a sealed rear hatch. The Jackson Rogue paddles most like a WW boat. The Pyranha Fusion is second in this regard. Both the Liquid Logic Remix XP series and the Dagger Approach are more like a rec boat. All four come in different sizes, typically a “9” and “10”. I have paddled them all and liked the Jackson best but that does not mean you will. You really need to paddle them yourself, especially in some class 1 and 2 WW.

I really liked my Manatou 14,
In fact I still have it in the “fleet” as my loaner/rough use boat. One Manitou shortcoming is in high winds it does weather cock pretty quickly.

I have been using a Native Watercraft (now Liguid Logic) Inuit 14.5 with a rudder for about a year now and it has proven itself to be a very good all around boat on lakes in some pretty large swells and high winds, in tight small rivers, and some c3 wide passage runs. I have a rudder installed as a wind aide, but over time it has rarely been needed, as the boat tracks like it has rails.

Some shortcomings of the boat is that it is heavy, 68 lbs. and if not loaded very carefully tough to roll.

I am just a little taller, same weight as you and the boat is comfortable.

“crossover” on lakes, hmmm…

– Last Updated: May-12-12 10:52 PM EST –

The XP10, Fusion, Rogue, etc. are sometimes called "crossovers". If I were spending half my time on lakes (and could only have 1 boat), I don't think it would be a crossover. Crossovers have elements of whitewater hull design such as a pretty blunt bow rather than a more V-shaped bow that will cut through the water. I think a crossover would require more paddler energy to propel it through flat water at the same speed as say a Manitou 14. When I'm in the quieter, flatwater sections of a river in my XP10, my companions hear me coming -- because the bow is pushing the water rather than slicing through it. I don't claim to be an expert, so I hope others will chime in regarding a crossover type boat on a lake.

Edit: I'm saying that I think the compromise of a crossover on a lake is not one I would want to make. However, a "touring kayak" would do pretty well on I believe you said something like "mild rivers" with a few easy rapids.

Dagger axis 12
I am your height and 16 lbs heavier then you. I just bought a boat with the same thing in mind. minor rapids, but mostly rivers and lakes. Some kind of all round boat. sit in and I can still use a skirt if needed.

Ended up getting the Dagger Axis 12.

I agree totally

– Last Updated: May-12-12 11:58 PM EST –

I've seen some blunt-nosed crossover boats in action. For rivers with "a few easy rapids", I sure wouldn't want to be paddling one. There's something about a kayak that kicks up such a great big bow wave at pokey speeds that just looks "wrong" to my eye when most paddling is flatwater. I'd sure look for something a little sleeker. That's my take just from watching how they plow along. In swift water with lots of mild rapids, they'd probably be pretty nice, but that doesn't sound like the OP's intended use.

Oh yeah, I've noticed that "noise thing" too, especially the thing about knowing who's behind you just by the splashing noises. Boats like that are terribly "splashy" when pushed hard, and they must be pushed pretty hard to keep up with a group of paddlers in typical touring boats (or even to keep up with old farts in solo canoes!).

What about two used boats, one
a touring kayak, 14-15 feet long, the other a river runner ww kayak, or even one of the Fusion kayaks?

axis front bulkhead?
It looks from the photos like the Axis 12 has no front bulkhead. If it were me, for safety reasons, I’d pick a boat with both front and rear bulkheads (you could add float bags though). The Tsunami 125, 140,145, Necky Manitou 14, and many others have both – very convenient!

14 ft rec boat vs crossover
On a river with rapids that require maneuvering the 14 foot boot will not work well. We are talking harder class 2. On a large lake with others in sea kayaks you will regret being in a crossover. They are all dogs by comparison. In between, neither boat is ideal and it depends on companions, length of paddle, how many rapids (if any), and your skill and fitness level. I think G2D has the right idea. Get a used WW boat for rivers and a used flat water boat for lakes. The flat water boat could be a lot of different things depending on whether you are nature watching, fishing, exercising, etc.

Add Dagger Alchemy to your list
I don’t think it would have any more problems with running Class 2 white water than a 16 foot canoe does. It is not a play boat for rivers, but you’ll be able to catch bigger eddys and run down the river. It will surf waves really well and is about twice as fast on flatwater than a white water boat would be.

For a sit on top I’d look for an RTM Tempo for an all around boat.

REI Demo Day should be soon
In the past, it’s been in mid- to late-May. At Chatfield State Park’s main (swim) beach, from what I’ve seen.

If you’re close to the Denver area, it’s worth checking out, because normally shops don’t have kayak demos around here, except for WW kayaks.

Also ask at the WW shops, though of course they may be biased towards selling you a large WW kayak. But at least two of them near Denver rent kayaks for a very reasonable fee.

Other than that, hang around at the lakes and ask other people how they like their kayaks. I’ve seen plenty of SOTs, Hobie kayaks with pedal drives, crossovers, “transitional” kayaks…you’re likely to see more of these styles than you will 17-footers. Keep in mind that mountain lakes are often subject to intense wind, which can happen on fair-weather days. Also, reserve some of your budget for cold-water clothing.

saw a pair of XPs on the lake

– Last Updated: May-14-12 5:22 PM EST –

In spite of my general caution against crossover type boats on a lake, I must admit I saw a pair of happy paddlers yesterday who were enjoyig the beautiful weather and scenery on a mountain lake -- he in a 10 and her in a 9. So who am I to say! I asked them how they liked those boats on the lake. She said great, he said, well, better on the river.

While they were happy, they made me uncomfortable when I saw them crossing right through the middle of the lake (6 mile circumference) that just melted out a couple of weeks ago; they had no spray skirts and I would bet no bow flotation. (And I've seen what can happen to that lake in a hurry.) About 15 minutes prior, I had towed a WW paddler to shore who was roll practicing and missed. Fortunately, I only had to tow her 40 yards or so and she was still dang cold!

Anyway, back to the crossover vs. 12-14 foot "touring" kayak for lake and river duty. I guess the best (if you can only have 1 boat) is for a person to try both boats in both situations and judge for themselves. What's worse: the crossover on a lake or the "tourer" on their desired river. I think alot depends on the characteristics of the river.

Edited: in my case, the sections of the Snake River I paddle in Wyoming are not especially narrow and twisty, and so are fine with a 14' tourer -- except (for me) the Class III-IV section, which is also not narrow and twisty, but big waves and strong eddy lines (I ducky there).

It also depends on how much time you expect to spend on lake vs. river. As has been said, being in roughly the same type boat as your paddling buddies can be a good thing -- note the happy paddlers above. But be safe!

You mentioned SOT’s
Along those lines, I’ve owned a Native/Liquid Logic Manta Ray 14 and it was the best all-around boat I’ve paddled. Great on flatwater, great on class II+ stuff. I’ve turned around and played in class II+ whitewater and it was a hoot. It’ll also carry a ton of stuff.

Its one downside? They’re really heavy.

About the same size as you
I have been the same size as you – 5’8" and 220 lbs. I am bit heaver these days but having a gut (until you look at spray skirts) isn’t the measurement that kills short and stocky guys, it is our hip size, leg length and the thickness of our thighs.

Some of the boats recommended are great if you are a rail but if you are stocky you are going to have a problem with many of the touring cockpit sizes and deck heights.

I have the Dagger Axis 12 (cockpit 38" x 21", deck height 15.25") as it was one of the few sit ins that was a step up from the way too roomy recreational class (Pungos) that I could fit in and also have good contact points without feeling smashed in. I would probably have been more willing to go for one the tighter fitting boats if I was seal launching off a nice beach, but my area is more very rocky launches and on river trips we are frequently porting pass dams as well as having to get out in shallow areas and then cowboying back into the cockpit.

I looked at a specs for about every touring 14-16 boat sold in my area (Eastern PA) and found that I couldn’t fit comfortably in anything less than a 19" wide cockpit – my guess is you would find the fit about the same – but then I couldn’t find a cockpit that I felt fit my legs well.

I found the deck height (never seen it listed) of the Inuit 14.5 (36"x20") way too short for my legs – mainly due to muscular thighs. Sad as I liked the look of the boat.

The Tsunami 145 fit was probably borderline – may be worth a try for you.

Never could find a Jackson Journey 14 or Elie Strait 140 XE in stock to even sit in around here but might be worth a try.

The Dagger Alchemy 14L is sold as a cross over ww/touring boat but was a bit small for me (35"x18.5").

The Hurricane Expedition 140 was an interesting touring boat as it comes in a 38"x21" cockpit as well as extended one (Pungo sized) but both versions have bow and stern bulkheads. I didn’t buy as I wasn’t able to demo on the water and wasn’t able to find the smaller cockpit version in the area.

I do love the Remix XP10 look and the fit is perfect for me. I passed on that boat as I wanted something a bit longer as most of my paddling is flat water, slow moving rivers, with some occasional class 1-2 white water. From all I have read about that boat it was more a WW boat that was decent on flat water. But I admit my white water knowledge is limited.

Overall, I felt that the Axis 12 was the best fit for me. Like you I wanted something that is good on rivers and lakes – maybe it doesn’t do either as well as a dedicated WW or touring kayak but I have been very happy with it. I have never felt that it was too slow but then I don’t go out racing or trying to kayak extreme distances of open water. I have never had any problems keeping up with groups as any group I have ever gone with spends so much time chatting no one really gets left behind if they have a good enough boat. I just don’t do the open water trips when everyone has 16’+ boats. I don’t have problems taking the boat out for a long day. Seat is comfortable and it is roomy enough to carry some gear. My gut feeling is that the Axis 12 tracks as well as a 14 footer with the skeg down. With the skeg up it can really spin. I have enjoyed it both on lakes and rivers – no complaints and I always have fun in it.

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I’m your size with the same paddling
concerns. The deciding factor for me was the rocks. I escaped a Rotobold selection by choosing the Prijon Cruiser made from HPT. The Cruiser is a “crossover” and paddles well on the long stretches. I’ve learned to manuver it in rocky places and it bounces off the ones I miss. Definately not made for above Class II rapids.

More SOT’s
You might also check the RTM Tempo and the Tarpon 160. If I had to use one boat for everything it would be the Tarpon 160 but I like the older version with the standard hatches better.

Dagger discontinued model

– Last Updated: May-29-12 12:17 AM EST –

Dagger once built a kayak named "Crossover"

You will find more paddlers to paddle
with if you aren’t always the “guy with the neither here nor there boat”. Get an older river runner for WW and whatever looks fine for lakes. They are completely different sports.