Pelican kayak question

I’ve been reading the forums and the archives looking for info on choosing a kayak for someone who is interested in getting a general feel for kayaks but most of the advise involves a bit more investment than I’m interested in at this stage. Having my own hobbies, experiences, etc. in other areas of interest I understand that cheap kayaks are never going to be overly popular with those who are more experience/committed to this hobby, and I understand that completely.

That said, here’s what I am looking for a little assistance with:

  • I have an Old Town canoe and feel that my skills are moderate - I am completely comfortable in the canoe on flat water and minor riffles and have used it for over a decade on flat water rivers and lakes.
  • I am only interested in kayaking on flat water, perhaps a small amount of class 1 at most, but primarily on flat rivers and lakes for light recreation.
  • I am only planning on doing short day trips (1-3 hours) in places where we are vehicle camping - no fishing, kayak camping, or open water paddling.
  • I’d prefer something that is no more than 50-55lbs per boat, and preferably not longer than 12’ (the canoe is too long [17’] for use when vehicle camping)
  • I’d like a boat that can be placed on (the roof, Yakima rack already installed) or in (the 8’ bed) our truck by a single person without a great deal of difficulty (a distracted driver has made moving the canoe by myself very difficult, hence the lighter kayak idea.)
  • I am 5’10" and weigh in at 170#
  • My budget for this is low, around $3-400 for the boat itself, max.

    I have been looking at the Pelican boats at Dicks for two reasons: 1) cost - their kayaks are inexpensive and since I’m experimenting I’m not willing to spend a lot of cash at first (later on is something else, but I need to know what I’m getting into first) 2) they have boats that are relatively light and short, I know that I can handle them for loading/unloading just fine, and that they fit my truck with the camper in tow.

    I understand that my criteria will not make for a fantastic long-term choice, but that’s not what I’m after at this point. If I decide that the kayak experience works for me than I’ll do a more detailed search for a boat with a local shop who can give me the chance to take out a number of different models on a local body of water like I did when I bought the canoe.

    Basically would like to know is if there is any reason, given my info above, that one of these Pelican boats would be a poor choice? If they really are crap, have no redeeming values, and will give me no ability to do what I am looking to do I’d appreciate knowing that before I spend a couple hundred bucks. But, if they are at least passably serviceable for what I’ve described I’d appreciate hearing that from someone more knowledgable than the kid at Dicks.

    Thanks in advance for your comments,

  • R

Save your money
I don’t know which model you are talking about, but for the money you indicated, my opinion would be that the boat would be a waste of time and money. You would probably do better to look around for a good deal on a used boat.

If possible, it would be prudent to find a place, or event where you could try out a variety of boats and get some ideas about what suits you. Then save up for a boat that has a chance to make paddling a satisfying experience.

Agreed, you most likely won’t get a accurate kayak experience with one of those. The difference with the enjoyment level may not be attainable in something like you are checking out. Poor tracking, no guide and too much effort to save a few bucks. Squeeze a few more bucks Into your budget, $500 will probably find you a decent used 12’ boat with bulkheads. Also , find a demo day somewhere, even if you have to drive a few hours, just consider it a day trip and learning experience, that will answer most your questions, definitely time worth spending, and all the forum replies in the world can not compare to actually sitting in and trying a kayak with staff around to help out with info and questions.

I totally agree about the difference between reality and online comments - when we bought the canoe it helped quite a bit to be able to try out a number of boats in person on a lake near the outfitters shop. I would definitely work with the local shop to get a three or four different models wet if I were ready to invest in a long-term kayak, but as I don’t have a clear idea of what I want in a kayak yet, I’m not ready to spend that kind of money.

Still, I very much appreciate the feedback on the bargain boats from Dicks. The feedback on their website made them sound like they might be a good trial boat that could be given away later if I liked the overall kayak experience and was ready to invest in a quality boat for longer-term use, but judging by the feedback here that’s not likely to be the case. I had been looking specifically at the Boost 100 and the Apex 100, both 10’ sit-on-top models that I was able to look at in the store, lift, sit in, etc., but not take out on the water.

I was primarily interested in those two models because of comments people had left on their stability on flat water, the ease of re-entry in the event of a roll-over of a sit-on-top kayak, and because of comments I found on this web site relating to the sit-in Pelican models’ lack of ability to accommodate float bags and their apparent propensity to be difficult to bail without landing. These two also appeared to be cast from the same, or similar molds that were used on the far more expensive models they were racked up with, so presumably their general performance would be similar. I don’t really need anything special for a couple of hours on the water, and the other models had features that I could not see any need for when I had only planned on spending an hour or three paddling around relaxing on the water.

Given that I’m not interested in a large investment on a new, unknown hobby just now, I may just rent something when I can and stick to land when I can’t, rather than drop a couple hundred dollars on something that will be useless.

Thanks again to both of you for your thoughts!

  • R

So it looks like you are set on a Dick’s purchase, I know they carry a Perception Conduit 13, make sure to check that out, it’s only $99 more than your cut off price, and the length, width, quality and bulkheads make that worth the few extra bucks, and I’m just trying to help you avoid my previous mistakes, you won’t be sorry, those wide 10 footers are not nearly as much fun.

The problem with the 10 footers

– Last Updated: Mar-17-15 12:36 PM EST –

You really won't have much of a chance to properly find out what you are getting into, given that it sounds like you plan to use this boat as a intro to whether you want to do more with kayaking.
I agree with the posts above on trying to get more. If you are wedded to new at Dick's rather than going used to get more boat for the money, think about the Conduit.

As to your concern about capsize - I assume that is what you mean by rollover - a properly equipped sit inside with perimeter rigging and two bulkheads can be as easy or easier to get back into on the water than a sit on top. SOT's are not a panacea for those issues - I have seen people unable to get back on. Practicing on-water re-entry is a foundation skill for safe kayaking if you are going to be alone and any distance from shore, regardless of the boat type.

Not locked into a purchase from Dicks, but…
I’m also not sure that I’m willing to spend $600 on a kayak at this point given that I will still need to spend a hundred more on a paddle, and some other extras on top of that. This is certainly a nice looking kayak with a number of features, but it’s more along the lines of what I would have expected to use for the next 10 or 15 years, after I knew what features I really wanted. I was just wondering about an introduction/beginner kayak, hence the inexpensive models I listed. That said, I’ll certainly still keep any eye out for used boats too.

Thanks again for your comments, and please don’t read any unkindness into my responses, I just have a specific budget and size constraints on my tow vehicle that I have to work with, and if I can’t do what I was thinking of doing now then I can wait until things align better.

  • R

Doing more with more boat
Actually, I’m not planning on doing a whole lot more with a kayak that what I listed in the original post, but I feel like I may be missing something that’s obvious to everyone else here. If you (or anyone) would mind taking time to elaborate on the specific reasons that the Conduit is a better beginner kayak than those I mentioned, or any other kayak for that matter, I would greatly appreciate it. As with any interest, I greatly prefer to understand myself rather than to simply parrot the options of others on any given feature, option, design, etc. so knowing the specifics of “why” is very welcome information.

That said, my understanding at this time is that longer boats tend to be faster, track better, and have room for added features like dry compartments, rigging, room for stowing gear, etc. all of which could be handy in various circumstances, so I assume that those features are what makes the suggested kayak a better choice. Is there anything else that I’m missing? So far I have focused my attention only on kayaks classified as recreational, since that is my intended use, but as I stated above, if I’m missing something obvious please let me know so that I can learn a bit.

As an aside, I would add that I am not now, nor am I likely to ever be, a thrill seeker (no white or open water, no rapids, etc.), I am just looking for a boat that will allow me to do what I do now, er… used to do, with my canoe, but that can be moved and hauled more easily. Purely recreational activity for relatively short periods of time, relaxing, taking the odd picture, doing a little drawing or painting in a quiet stretch of water somewhere, birdwatching, etc.

I will certainly keep an open mind toward a used boat with more features on the used market - I’m in no rush to buy today, I’m just doing research and so far everything I had read (including the product reviews on this site) made those models I listed seem like reasonable choice based on what I want them to be able to do. I’m not married to them in any way, they just happen to be close enough that I can look at them in person easily. I’m also clear on the concept that a first kayak is unlikely to be something that meets my needs for the long term. I fully expect the need for a boat with different features a year to two down the road, once I have had time to form my own ideas about what features I want and why, and I’m OK with that.

Lastly, thanks very much for the correction (I knew that overturn was likely not the correct term) and for the words of caution regarding capsizing. While I don’t expect any watercraft to be proof against capsizing, I am fully comfortable dealing with a capsized canoe so I’m fairly confident that I could learn how to deal with a capsized kayak, given proper instruction. My comments in that regard were just based on what I had read in another thread on this forum where someone stated that the sit-in Pelicans were difficult to deal with in that regard, so I thought that a sit-on-top would be a better choice.

thanks again for taking to time to answer my questions!

  • R

I started with a Perception Swifty

– Last Updated: Mar-17-15 6:14 PM EST –

From Dick's. Now I have several much better boats and do things someone with a Swifty would not be invited on BUT the Swifties are still in the fleet and get paddled every summer because they are fun as hell.

It sounds like you hae done your research and understand the difference in capability so as long as you are not overestimating the performance then get a cheap rec boat.

My one comment on different models, cheap boats of a given length is identical to any other cheap boat of the same length so don't sweat the reviews and praise on the companies homepage. And, given that, I would buy a used Pelican for $150 and sell it next summer for $150 at a net cost of nothing.

The paddle has more impact on your experience than the boat. Drop $130 on an aquabound stingray, DO NOT BUY A DICK'S PADDLE

Sit insides are skinnier than SOTs which makes them %100 easier to paddle. Only ignorant people worry about getting trapped in a rec kayak on calm flat water. I put my 80 yr old dad in one without a second thought.

Don’t sweat it too much

– Last Updated: Mar-17-15 6:36 PM EST –

No one is EVER encouraged to buy a short, cheap kayak on this message board, and are nearly always told it's a really dumb idea. Don't let that stop you. You imply that you are currently paddling that 17-foot canoe solo, and I am pretty certain that I know HOW you are handling that boat from the way you describe things and what's typically the case for a casual canoer who's been at it a while but isn't a dedicated enthusiast. If I'm right about that part, you aren't able to do anything with that canoe that the kayak enthusiasts want you to be able to do with the new kayak. I get the impression that you mainly need a boat that can be transported those times when you have no room to carry the canoe.

If all that stuff is true, you'll be fine in a cheap boat. Getting something better on the used market would be nice, but not doing so won't be the end of the world. Go have fun.

I'm going to "spike someone's guns" now. Someone is going to tell you that you need a kayak with bulkheads so you can self-rescue after a capsize. Well, unless your skills are pretty remarkable, you can't self-rescue in your canoe either, and no one here ever calls that a problem. It goes without saying that to be safe in your canoe, you need to stay relatively near shore unless the water is nice and warm so you can survive a swim. If you take the same approach to paddling your kayak as what works with a canoe, it need not have bulkheads. However, installing float bags in a kayak (not needed if it's a sit-on-top, of course) isn't hard, and it will help a lot with handling the boat after a capsize. This would be a really good idea if you go offshore a ways - only when the water is warm, of course :)

Further thoughts
I was not sure what your thoughts were about maybe getting more into kayaking - this can mean a lot of things. It sounds like the boat you are considering would get you on the water OK.

There are a couple of things that I didn’t mention before which might be worth mentioning now. The comment on getting back onto the Pelican sit insides is correct, but that is not restricted to Pelican. A SOT of any manufacture is going to be easier for on-water re-entry than an unrigged, wide and big cockpit sit inside boat. That said, people have found themselves unable to get back onto a SOT so it bears practice.

Loading the boat seems to be in the mix here. I assume your back is not into taking a lot. Just a consideration, it takes longer than with two people but I can get a lot of kayak on the roof of a car by sliding it and having wheels that I can prop one end onto and just push. Off load just goes in reverse. I am never actually carrying the full weight of the boat myself, maybe 50% at most. This is actually easier to manage as the boat gets skinnier and longer, and has more things like perimeter lines and cockpits to hold onto as you slide it.

And of course a cart is involved to get to and from the back of the car.

I can’t replicate this exact loading process with the canoe, the shape and where it is strong don’t give me the options to shove it around the way I can the kayaks. So I have to keep the canoe a lot lighter than the kayaks to handle it myself.

Anyway, get a boat and have some fun. Absolutely make sure the paddle is decent - you body will thank you. The Aquabond Sting Ray paddles have worked well for a lot of people for a quite decent price point.

just go for it
It seems like you want to get one of the Dick’s 10 footers. They and the similar entry level boats show up on Craigslist often enough. You may even get lucky and find a used Conduit like I did.

I have no thoughts but,

– Last Updated: Mar-17-15 8:56 PM EST –

I just want to say that I have contemplated writing your post almost word for word, minus the part about already having a canoe. I'm in the same boat (sorry for the pun) as you are in that I have a VERY small and limited budget and am looking at Dick's Sporting Goods.

I have had a few others on other forums talk about their Pelican Trailblazer 10 foot. Being dirt cheap, that is what I am planning on going for. I have no experience other than a single 2 hour excursion in a rental at the lake which that rental was like a rubber duck trying to paddle it. That boat was just round on the bottom. Nothing to the hull at all. It was basically egg shaped and I couldn't get it to go straight hardly at all. I want to do some more but figure 4 outings in the rental and I could have that cheap $200 Pelican. I would think it just has to be better than the rental.

Even with struggling to keep the thing straight, I had an absolute blast those 2 hours. I used Mapmyride app that I use for cycling and recorded that I paddled 3.5 miles. I wasn't trying to go fast, just enjoying lazily being out on the lake. That is what I am going for.

I have many rather large and small lakes around that I want to explore. I also live 6 miles from the middle part of the Allegheny in which it is very shallow (no boats around except some fishing boats) and practically like a calm lake. My interest is just for exploring the little fingers that extend off the larger lakes, exploring the smaller lakes around home that are trolling motor only, and floating down the Allegheny. I'm not looking to be a speed demon at all.

I've been wanting a kayak for 2 years. I took up cycling for exercise instead back in 2013. I'm certainly committed to my cycling exercise with daily rides on the rail trails but the problem is, while I spin my way up the trail, I'm watching all the folks floating down the Allegheny. I still want a kayak, but I spent my money on the bike which is more important for the exercise factor.

The Perception Conduit 13 is definitely a boat I'm looking at, but there is very little chance of me affording that. I've been waiting 2 years and plan on getting something this spring (next month probably.) If I was to increase to a $5-600 boat, the water would be frozen over again.

Craigslist seems useless to me. They may certainly be good deals, but all I see are $1500 boats. Being near Slippery Rock Creek and McConnell's Mills, all the rest on Craigslist are WW craft.

I am glad to see the Conduit 13 mentioned. I've been wondering about that one.

But yeah, the first post here, I could have typed out word for word. It's exactly what I've been wondering. I don't have much of a choice but to get a $200 boat. I have other things to pay for. Same with a Dick's paddle. I figure I'd be happy enough with a cheap boat and paddles are cheap enough that if I wanted something better next year, a cheapie would be just fine to have as a spare. I can say that I have no plans whatsoever of expanding into more than just flatwater shore skimming exploring and floating down a lazy river.

The thing about the paddle
Just really can’t be explained. You have to experience it.

I started with a Dick’s paddle. If you’re in your twenties you could paddle with a 2x4 and may not care but if you have arm/elbow/wrist/shoulder pain after you go it could be technique but it’s probably from the cheap paddle. I would rather paddle a $150 boat with a $150 paddle than a $600 boat with an $80 paddle.

But again, you sound like another candidate. If you read up on “edging” “t-rescue” “cowboy scramble” “rolling” and realize that you won’t ever be doing any of that because your boat can’t and don’t try to join a group of guys in 14 to 16 footers doing 10-30 miles, then stick to where you can stand up if it sinks and enjoy.

re: paddle choice
Thanks for passing along your experiences with your bargain kayak - they were very insightful. Your suggestion on paddle choice is also very much appreciated since the is no reason to change paddles when upgrading your boat. I spent a good deal more on the paddles for our canoe than my wife wanted to spend, but in the end the better paddle made a great deal of difference.

  • R


– Last Updated: Mar-18-15 9:30 AM EST –

You live in my area (I'm in Pittsburgh) and I would recommend you be patient for a little while and keep looking for a used kayak. I've been buying and selling kayaks for 10 years around here and have gotten fully equipped used touring kayaks with hatches and rudders for as little as $325, including a paddle and spray skirt. Those boats also retain higher value than any $200 plastic bathtub boat. In fact I resold the $325 one after using it for 3 years for $400 without the paddle. So I essentially MADE about $150 on the deal (the used paddle I kept was worth around $75.) Most of the good deals I have found on used boats around here were in the North Hills, which I am guessing is not far from you.

Used kayak sales on Craigslist pick up in the Spring as folks start cleaning out the garage and either decide they are not going to use the kayaks stashed in them or that they want a new one.

Even if you are going to insist on staying under $200, you could still get more for your money by watching for a used rec boat, maybe with a better paddle than those awful $39 Dick's boat anchors.

Honestly, for what you talk about wanting to do I would rather see you buy a cheap inflatable like a Sea Eagle than a Pelican.

Can you hold out until June 12-13? That's when the Lake Arthur regatta takes place and there will be lots of kayaks there that you will be able to test paddle and even people selling them.

Meanwhile, have you ever been to Wiegel on the Water, the kayak dealer in Franklin? If not I suggest you take a drive over and talk to them.. Be honest about your budget and see if they can help you out with anything, maybe they have used boats or a factory second. I'd rather see them get your money than Dick's. And even if you don't buy from them their advice will be invaluable and you will probably learn some things from them that will prove useful.

re: cheap boats
"No one is EVER encouraged to buy a short, cheap kayak on this message board, and are nearly always told it’s a really dumb idea."

I can understand that completely. There are a number of other interests that I have where I’m not deeply involved but I know people who are, and the idea is basically the same - enthusiasts rarely, if ever, counsel others to get anything that would be considered a joke or be embracing to to show up with to an event/gathering/etc. I prefer to paddle with others (not many, but some, for safety) and while I’m not overly concerned with appearances, I wouldn’t want to do the equivalent of showing up to a road race with a pink tricycle :slight_smile:

“…a casual canoer who’s been at it a while but isn’t a dedicated enthusiast…” is exactly it. I got the canoe for my wife and I to use of day trips and short excursions, but after we got hit she lost interest (and ability) to do much with it, so now I take it out solo from time to time. And you are absolutely right, I cannot self-recover it if, for example, some bozo in a bass boat makes three passes to intentionally swamp me (not that I’m angry or anything…)

Partly because of that, and partly because I am far more of a sightseer than excitement seeker, I tend to avoid water where motors are allowed. I’m skilled enough to be able to get the canoe back on the water safely and without incident if that happens (again) but it’s not what I would call a particularly fun experience (more like work, really.)

Also, thanks for mentioning the warm/cold water issue. I lived in Florida for 17 years and warm water is what comes to mind when I think of paddling. Now that that is not longer a given I’ll have to keep water temperatures in mind when making plans. It is unlikely that I would be far enough from shore for it to be an issue unless the water temps were really bad, but it’s still something to be aware of and act accordingly.

  • R


– Last Updated: Mar-18-15 1:55 PM EST –

Sorry to "shout" but look what just got posted in the NOrth Hills:

I would call them immediately because this will sell fast -- it's a deal at $285 and it is not far from you. The Swifty kayak is worth $400 and the Seaclude paddle is worth $115. By the time you paid PA sales tax and bought a low end paddle you would spend this much on the crappy Pelican and this is a better made boat and a better paddle. And then go to Wiegel and get PFD and a set of inflatable float bags for the bow and stern.

re: re-entry and loading
Excellent info, thanks very much! I knew that the rigging was helpful/necessary for certain re-entry techniques for sit-in kayaks, but thought that it might be more of an issue with the Pelican boats since they have no stock rigging, at least to the models that I was able to look at in person did not. I know that it can be added, but at some point getting a boat that is outfitted with proper rigging from the get-go seems to me to make more sense.

Loading is the primary issue with me, so you were spot on on that score. My car is doable with just about anything as it’s roof is not that tall, even with the rack installed, but the truck is far too tall for me to deal with without assistance. To get a bike on it’s roof is somewhat of a chore, but it can be done in a pinch (‘though I prefer the bed for transporting bikes.)

A 17’ long canoe on top is right out, at least for me these days, but a lighter kayak should be doable on the roof so long as it has handles in the right spots (which seems to be something that can be added without a great deal of difficulty if needed.) I’ve seen many people using the method you described, so I follow your description just fine, and that would be perfect for my car, but the truck might post some interesting challenges. Still, I’lll look into it as my brand of roof rack has that mounting option in a couple of variations.

Thanks also for the advice on a paddle - that makes a lot of sense and I’ll be sure to look for the brand you mentioned. I only have one local shop where I can see gear in person. It’s an actual outfitters, not a big-box store, but the kayaks they carry start out at around $1000 and just go up from there (touring and white water styles only, which is understandable.)

Thanks again for taking time to help me out!

  • R

That’s my plan at this time, to bid my time and keep an eye out for what comes up online in my area (or within reasonable driving distance.) Based on all the feedback I’ve gotten so far, that seems like the best idea since I’m not bursting at the seams to get something today.

  • R