Perception 13.5 vs. Wilderness 14.5

Hi! I’ve recently started shopping for my first kayak and have a few questions. I think I’m looking for a day touring kayak and have begun narrowing down the selection of boats at the local shop.

I felt pretty comfortable in both the Perception Carolina 13.5 (poly) and Wilderness Tsunami 14.5 (also poly), though my size 11 shoes fit a bit better in the Wilderness. (I’m 5’11" and about 180 lbs.) I paddled the Wilderness for about 5 min before I went swimming :slight_smile: But I don’t consider that a fair test of the boat, just my (lack of) paddling experience.

(1) Is there much difference in quality between these two boats, or any similar boats?

(2) Is sitting in a kayak on the shop floor any indication of how comfortable it will feel in the water?

(3) Being a complete newbie, will I be able to tell the difference between the above boats, and for that matter, any similar boats?

(4) I will be going to a demo at the local shop this weekend. When I paddled the Tsunami, I was more concerned about not tipping over than the feel of the boat. As a beginner, what should be my concerns in purchasing my first kayak? I’m not (too) afraid of a tippy kayak as I look forward to a more ‘intermediate’ boat. Or should I have a more conservative attitude?

Thanks for all your thoughts!


(1) Both Perception and WS make good product. As of a few days ago they are now owned by the same company.

(2) Not really. You’ll get some idea of how the seat feels, foot and leg space and other cockpit issues, but no boat feel.

(3) Maybe. You might sence that something is different, but with no experience you probably won’t be able to put any meaning to the difference.

(4) Neither of these boats is regarded as “tippy”, so you’ll probably quickly get used to either.

Is there any chance you could take a lesson or two before you buy? Preferably from an outfit that has different types of boats. This would get you over the “what the heck am I doing phase.” Tell the instuctor that you are shopping for a boat and want to try a few differnt boats. They should be able to help you identify what to “feel” for when you get a chance to demo.

I own a Carolina 13.5, which I love. I cannot say that I’ve tried the Tsunami. One thing to consider is that the Carolina 13.5 is marketed toward small to medium sized paddlers (I’m only 5’3"), so perhaps you should consider the Carolina 14.5 instead. It may be more suited to your size.

Lessons are after demo
Thanks for the suggestion, MintJulep. I plan on attending a beginner lesson on June 2nd, which unfortunately is after the demo day this weekend.

It’s going to be very difficult not to break out my checkbook, especially if I find a boat I really like. Any moral support here would be appreciated :slight_smile:

Gnatcatcher, I will see if they have the Carolina 14.5 at the demo day. I didn’t have that one on my list for some reason, price maybe.

Thanks for the replies!

Waiting may be the best idea…
You may find that your taste in boats undergoes a major change after a few hours of lessons and a little experience paddling rental boats. What seems challenging now can appear dull and unresponsive with a brief bit of training and practice. By all means go to the demo and try out some boats, the more experience the better. But, I would try to resist the urge to buy for a few weeks.

Have fun.


waiting moral support
If the dealer is offering special demo day prices, ask how long he’ll honor them. Explain your situation – that you want to buy from him, but would like to take a lesson first. A good dealer will want you to be happy with your decision. What they don’t like are folks who demo their boats and then buy from a discounter.

If you’ve got to buy something right now, buy a good comfortable PFD. It’ll make your paddling more comfortable, it’ll work with whatever boat you choose, and it’ll show the dealer that you’re serious about doing business with him.

Perception Sonoma 13.5 Airalite
Another Kayak you may want to take a look at is the Perception Sonoma 13.5 Airalite. My cousin just bought one from Rutaba, in Madison Wi. The Airalite material is very attractive - looking much like fiberglass. It is also very light with his kayak weighing in at only 41 lbs. My cousin had never paddled a kayak before although he had had considerable time in a canoe, found the kayak a little tipsy but hopes he will grow into it as his skills improve.

I won’t be making my purchase

– Last Updated: May-18-05 12:29 PM EST –

online. The local shop's prices are close enough and they've been extremely helpful and friendly. It is one of my best shopping experiences.

Angstrom, thats a great idea buying a PFD right away. I may do just that. What about a paddle? They have 1 line of about 5 paddles which vary only in weight (and price).

Any suggestions on rescue kits? They have a package that comes with a wistle, paddle float, and pump, or everything individually.

Gnatcatcher, I'll definitely look at the Carolina 14.5. The 13.5 was a bit tight around my size 11 feet.

Todd_K, the airalites sound really nice. Unfortunately, they are a bit out of my price range. Besides, I don't want to spoil myself yet with a lighter boat :)

I bought a paddle long before I bought a boat. It eliminates one big variable while you’re demoing and learning. The only problem would be if you ended up with a boat that had a beam significantly different than you expected, because the right paddle length is a combination of your size, the boat width and depth, and your paddling style.

From what I’ve seen, many beginners start with paddles that are too long, which makes all your strokes more difficult. At 5’9" in a 22" boat, I started with a 220 but now prefer something closer to 200.

For your first paddle I’d stay away from the top and bottom of the range – you want something that’ll be comfortable, but there’s no point in spending a fortune when you don’t know exactly what you want.