New Kayaker---what to buy?

I want to start kayaking, but don’t want to break the bank starting out. I’ve found 2 reasonable kayaks for sale on craigslist and need a little advice on which would be the better boat. The 1st is a Perception Pirouette with skirt, paddle, and 2 float bags. The 2nd is a newer Old Town Vapor 12 with no accessories. The majority of my kayaking (at least starting out) will be in lakes and rivers and possibly using it on camping trips. While I don’t plan on anything extreme, I would also like a boat that can handle some rapids (class II or III). I’ve read reviews on both boats and they have been generally positive, but I would like an opinion that compares the 2. Thanks for your time!

Is a wonderful boat to have around for messing around with rolls etc, but what kind of distances are you planning? It is a an old school whitewater boat and takes some practice to make go straight. Also more effort than a rec or a touring type boat. Not sure it’d do well for camping - once you inflate the float bags (which you should) I doubt there’d be room for gear.

You should also check the condition, whether the plastic is brittle. This is at least a 15 yr old boat.

I am not sure but I think the Vapor is more of a crossover.

Two different kinds of boat
I think you’re looking at significantly different styles of boat. The vapor is definitely a recreational boat. It’ll be good for rivers and a limited amount of small lake paddling, but it won’t fit your desire to do class III rapids (imho).

We have a Vapor 10 for my daughter and it’s rock solid and a pretty good boat for starting out with. It may be bext to start with that and as your needs progress, sell it and upgrade to something else later.

Between those two I’d go for the Pirouette. It’s totally class 3 capable, and compared to a modern white water boat it’s fast-ish.

Camping might be a challenge, but if you pack light, and put everything in drybags you should be fine. It’s fine if your drybags provide the flotation instead of inflating the airbags all the way. Full drybags displace water just as well as floatation bags.

The Vapor looks like a pretty generic rec boat with a huge cockpit. Not suitable for whitewater, and I think no bulkheads, so camping will be no easier in this boat than in an old-school whitewater boat like the pirouette.

The two boats are the same length. The Vapor is 6 inches wider. I’d put my money on the pirouette in a race.

Camping or WW
With few exceptions boats that can handle class II or better won’t have enough space for camping gear. The WW boat you’re looking at is very old and not really good as your first kayak unless you only want to play on swift water. The Vapor can haul some gear but won’t be a lot of fun on flat water and can’t do true WW at all.

You need to start slow and work your way into class II and III but won’t really find a boat for WW and camping. There’s few kayaks that are going to work for both and it could be a long time before you find a used one.

Decide how the boat will be used most and look for a design to fit your needs.

Thanks for the Info
Thank you for all the info/advice. Chances are I will probalby be doing more lake paddling and camping to start, so I think I’ll go with the Vapor. That being said, I still plan on trying some WW at some point…so any recommendations for a good beginner WW boat?

Get The Pirouette…
too. People fought to get that boat in pool skool. (rolling class). If you want to roll a kayak it’s the boat to learn in.

WW boat
The Pirouette is a great little boat, and as Kudzu said many who have one won’t let it go. But that’s for reasons you may not have right now.

For a starting WW boat, options include one of the Jackson river runners or the current version of the Inazones from Pyrahnna. The hulls are a newer design than the Pirouette so make control easier, and both series have proven themselves as good boats in schooling fleets.


– Last Updated: May-20-11 3:54 PM EST –

The Pirouette is a perfectly fine beginning whitewater boat.

Whitewater kayaking in this country more or less evolved from a whitewater slalom kayak racing tradition born in the Alpine European countries. The first available "whitewater kayaks" in the US were typically either European models, or were built in molds that were taken from plugs of slalom racing kayak designs.

When rotomolded whitewater kayaks became available, they were a further evolution from those slalom racing designs. As such, they were relatively narrow, relatively fast, yet still whitewater capable. Boats from that era include the Perception Mirage and Perception Dancer. The early focus of whitewater kayaking in this country was on river running, not playboating, and those designs served that purpose well.

Later, as all of the reasonable first descents had been claimed and whitewater kayaking became more broadly popular the focus of the sport shifted from river running to playboating and later whitewater rodeo. Boats became shorter to allow retentive moves in holes and on waves in which longer boats washed out. Vertical stunts like cartwheels and loops became popular, as well as flat spins on relatively short, steep waves. To meet those needs, boats became very short and the hull bottoms became flatter (planing hulls) to accommodate surfing atop foam piles and to more easily allow horizontal spins. The front and rear decks became much flatter, or even scalloped out to allow them to be sliced laterally through the water during stern squirts and cartwheels.

If you start out in whitewater, you are not going to be doing stern squirts, loops, and cartwheels right away and maybe not ever. There is a notion on this board that modern whitewater playboats are obviously superior to "old designs". If advanced playboating is your goal, they are, but modern designs frequently track worse, not better, than older boats. They are much slower (that's why you will still see long boats like the Perception Pirouette, or the Dagger Greenboat in the winner's circle at whitewater downriver races like those on the Green River narrows, or the upper Youghiogheny). And in my opinion, modern playboats are often more difficult for many to roll or learn to roll.

The flat bottom, and the thick, slab sides of modern playboats at the position of the knee hooks, make it more difficult to wrap around the boat during the sweep. The transition between the flat bottom and the vertical sides often results in a sharp edge that will tear up the knuckle at the base of the thumb of the non-sweeping hand for those who use a C-to-C roll.

No whitewater boat is ideal for camping, but the Pirouette is no worse than the Old Town in that regard. The Old Town has no hatches or bulkheads but a "day well" on the stern deck that would actually decrease the volume for dry storage within the rear hull of the boat. If a limited amount of gear is carried, it can be placed in a couple of dry bags that are placed behind the seat on either side of the rear pillar, as Nate Hanson suggests. The flotation bags have long filler tubes so you just let out enough air to get the dry bags in and then blow the air bags back up. Putting too much weight in the stern will tend to make the boat too bow light, however.

kayak fit
You should really mention what your height, weight, inseam, and foot sizes are before anyone can make a really good recommendation.

Pirouette is an excellent old school boat, but, depending on your weight, could be totally unusable

WW and Camping kayak
Prijon Yukon Expedition!

Fits the bill…but german stuff is expensive!

More thoughts
FYI, while they are a tad bit more expensive than the single purpose bags, you can get bags that are intended to serve both as float bags and hold gear. These bags is that they are made of more durable material than most dry bags, so are more likely to hold air well over time. Using dry bags as float bags tends to shorten their life, and of course you can’t put stuff into a float bag.

The Pirouette is a tremendously well respected boat and, in good condition, no one is going to say otherwise. It just comes down to whether it is the boat for your purpose. Hard to tell how much flat water paddling versus moving water time you really will do. And, as below, the Pirouette came in two sizes. If you are a big person, the smaller size won’t do well. Have you called to see whether it is an S or a regular?

It is also a fairly low deck. Only you can tell what angle between torso and legs your body will like, and by sitting in a boat. There isn’t a good way to short-circuit this step.

Now, that said, if you need to turn the Pirouette around because its proportions and you are not a good fit, as you can see on this board someone will probably take it off your hands. It is an old boat so it is already fully depreciated, possible you could resell it for the same price if it is cheap enough. It is a wonderful boat to start rolling - personally I think my little old Piedra is just a bit better but the contest is very close.