Newbie needs kayak buying advice

Hello everyone,

I’m in the market for my first kayak and would welcome any and all advice from seasoned paddlers. When I was a kid (20+ years ago), I would take my grandfather’s kayak out on a lake in Austria, but that’s the last time I paddled. In other words, I might as well be completely new to all of it…

I live in the Lake Tahoe area and will probably spend 90% of my paddling time on the lake. I imagine that I’ll hit some nearby rivers as well. I’ve been reading up on kayaks and have checked out a few at REI, but I’m not (yet) comfortable enough to buy one.

As far as what’s important to me, here’s my list in no particular order:

  • 3 season usability. I don’t want to freeze my you-know-what off in the spring or fall when the lake is icey cold.

  • I think I prefer a sit-in versus sit-on-top design, but am open to any thoughts on this subject.

  • Speed and agility are important. However, since I’m new at this, I want a boat that’s easy to handle, doesn’t flip too easily, etc. In other words, I’m willing to sacrifice some speed for stability. I would say a strong intermediate boat…something I can grow into a bit, but not one that requires extensive paddling skills/experience from day one.

  • I want to bring things with me (ie: lunch, my camera setup, etc), so a water-proof storage area would be nice.

    That about does it. Any thoughts??? I took a look at a few Wilderness Systems boats and the sales guy at REI was pushing the Old Town Dirigo 120 pretty hard (because of the insulation).

    Thanks in advance for your feedback!


Advise from another newbie
I asked this same question about a week ago on this message board. I got a lot of good advise. But I think the one response that made the most sense was from a user “watersprite” you can check that post for the full details, but the jist of it was. If you try alot of boats and take courses and rent first, then you not only get to try alot of different boats in various weather conditions, but your skills develope as well. So you are more likely to end up with a boat that you will be happy with for a long time to come.

Tried a bunch of boats…
We paddled everything that we could get in the water, and ended up with our original choice, a Wilderness Systems Pungo 120. It was the easiest to use, works well for our purposes, and wasn’t hard on the wallet. We plan on buying another one soon.

Several ways to go
I’ve seen some folks start out by buying really advanced sea kayaks because they knew they would be kayaking open water and lakes almost exclusively. They saved a lot of money by buying expert boats first and quickly getting the skills to use them. In a year they were both very good seakayakers.

Most others start with an inexpensive rec boat and then learn more slowly to what kind of kayaking and what lind of boats they need. They often keep the rec boat to let friends and family use and for easy day trips.

So my advice is that since you are asking I think you don’t know what you’ll want and you should buy and inexpensive(used if possible) rec boat and get out there paddling ASAP!

I have a Pungo 140
I bought a Pungo 140 a over a year ago and have loved it. It is very stable once you get used to it and does have decent speed. My brother has 2 of the Old Town loons and a 4 or 5 mile lake paddle the Pungo is a faster kayak.I also installed my own bulkhead in the front so I have 2 sealed areas.The only down fall I have on the pungo is that when we were camping a few weeks ago, I had it on the beach in the very hot sun sitting on a rock and it ended up putting a dent it the bottom of it. All I did to get the dent out was to turn it upside down,and it did come out in just a few minutes.

It’s almost impossible to give advice without some reference points, because perceptions are so subjective, and so variable, depending on the paddlers size/ability/experience. For example, the previous poster said the Pungo 140 was “very stable once you got used to it”. I found the Pungo 140 to be too stable and frustratingly difficult to get on edge. Same boat, very different opinions.

Taking a class and demoing several boats will give you a good reference point for your comfort level.

Hey Rob you were getting stroked
I have been a member of REI forever. Once my rebate was big enough to buy two Moss tents, the big ones. The REI guy was stroking you, around here REIs sell kayaks but they are mainly used to LLBean up the clothing part of the store. Old Town’s have nice plastic and I know the Loon’s are over built, but the Dirigo has mixed reviews and a cup holder- I would have loved to be at that design meeting. For $70 more you can get a Prijon Capri Tour and leave that Dirigo in the dust. For your money you don’t get 13 lbs – that means the Dirigo weighs 31% more than the Capri.

Two questions- How much are you going to spend on the boat? Are there rocks in the river (i.e. can you use a composite boat)?

The other thing would be good to know what brands are actually available in your area. I see a lot of brands on pnet that I don’t see in any local retailers (100 mile radius).

BTW: Rob are you Bob in the other new guy thread 

big question
When you imagine yourself kayaking, what are you doing? Speed workouts? Overnight camping? Poking around the shoreline? Fishing? Having a clear picture of your intended use will help narrow the field.

Try an Old Town Castine.
They feel very stable to me, track when you want them to and turn very quickly when leaned. To some, they may feel a little tippy because you can rock back & forth and put it on edge very easy, but it seems to stop very solid when you have it so far on edge. At 12’9" and 26" wide, they’re not extremely fast, but they are faster than many beginner rec boats. At 56 lbs, they’re a little on the heavy side, but the layered plastic is pretty tough and will give you some insulation if colder water. I have no idea how they compare to the Pungo or Dirigo because I’ve never paddled those boats.

Of course, try to paddle one before you buy.

I saw your posting about the pungo 140. I am new to seakayaking but have spent 20 years white water kayaking. I am a pretty skilled paddler and want to be able to maneuver quickly. One company NC kayak said that I need to look for a Kayak that I can get on edge. They also recommended that I get it rutterless. I am looking for any advise as to what Kayak you would recommend. I will then go and try it of course but from 20 years of white water kayaking, I found the experienced paddlers usually know which one to buy.

Look at the Perception Carolina.
A number of people I know have them because our local dealer sells them. Everyone I know who has one likes it.

You are welcome to try my boats
I could also lead you to a good deal from a shop here in Reno.