Recreational Kayak

We have read some of the forums regarding kayaks and totally understand the box store kayaks being of lesser quality than others. As well, we are looking into possibly buying used kayaks from a kayak rental place.

Our situation is this. Both my wife and I have been kayaking several times in creeks, streams and some open lakes. We are now ready to get our own kayaks. Our plan is recreational and will most likely be on lakes and some stream use. No ocean use.

So, for these uses, does anyone have any suggestions? We were looking at Pelican and Future Beach (yes, at Dick’s)and I understand from the rental place that we are going to visit, that they use Old Town.

We don’t want to go overboard in price. The ones at Dick’s run between $229 and $350. I do not know the prices at the rental place yet.

Thanks for any assist.


Conduit 13
Dick’s has them for $550, though I got mine off Craigslist for $400. I quite like it although the cockpit is a little too big for me. I fixed that with a half (rec) skirt.

Dick’s also has the Pelican Storm 120. That has a terrific seat and looks pretty, but it seams a little slow for a relatively narrow, good-tracking 12 footer.

I’ll say it again
Any new $300 kayak is no different than any other new $300 kayak. Buy whichever one comes in your favorite color.

cheap kayaks
I agree with Pirate. Kayaks (or what the discount stores call a “kayak”) under $400 are pretty much interchangeable “bathtub” boats. ( I call them “POO” for Plastic Ovoid Objects.) Yes, they float, but are slow and clumsy and the “one size fits all” approach pretty much means they fit nobody. If you look at kayaks as equivalent to bicycles, rec boats are like single speed sidewalk cruisers. If that is satisfactory to you, it won’t really matter which you buy – they are all about the same. Just pick the lightest one.

I also agree that the Conduit 13 is probably the least expensive true kayak that offers the safety features and approximate performance of a kayak. It has foot braces, thigh pads, a decent set and front and rear bulkheads. It is a bit wide at 26 1/2 inches but not horrible for the length.

Better to invest a little more in a minimally competent boat that will be enjoyable and safe in all conditions. And don’t skimp on the paddle – get something with a fiberglass shaft at least and as light as possible. Smaller blades are better for a day touring kayak (bigger is not better in this case).

It would be helpful to know your approximate sizes (height and build) and fitness level.

A rec kayak is a rec kayak is a rec

You can bake it, boil it and fry it and it is still a rec kayak.

Most here started with them and then once hooked you spring for something better and longer.

Jack L

Thank you
Thank you all for the input

I am 6’ and a little over 200lbs. My wife is abt 5’9 and a bit heavier than I am. We are both avg athletic and active.

We definitely don’t want to go out and get aggravated from the start. I know it’s easy when you are renting as they know what their kayaks are capable of better than the customer.

We will take all into consideration and make sure we look around.

Reality - and you might like this
First, if you take lessons you’ll know better what you can handle and might want. That will prevent disappointment later. And it will increase your safety and pleasure with whatever you buy.

Second, a lot of posters really disrespect recreational kayaks. There are some good reasons, but that’s not the whole story for everyone. YMMV.

You do need good flotation in any kayak. Most rec kayaks don’t have flotation chambers (you see them as hatches and bulkheads), but many can be retrofitted easily with blow up float bags. That takes care of that issue regarding basic safety.

YOu do need a kayak that can handle your body, your skills and the water conditions you are planning to encounter, as well as your budget. So if you are after doing serious white water rivers, large bodies of water (big lakes that get waves, etc.), or oceans, you simply must learn to use (and buy) the right kayak for those more difficult conditions.

On the other hand, if you’re planning on using it in maily calm flat waters, small lakes and slow (no rapids) rivers, you do NOT necessarily need the more specialized kayaks. This is what rec kayaks are built for and not all are built poorly.

I’ve done really well with my $400 Emotion Glide in mild waters and it would fit larger paddlers. For safety I bought a second float bag from the company to fit into the bow (they sell you the boat with one for the stern already.) It’s not suitable for oceans or whitewater, but does great in sloughs (including tidal sloughs), lagoons, lakes, canals, etc. I can paddle it up to 4 mph, which is fast for casual paddling, but not faster. It handles very well and is very stable for beginners.

So this nonsense about everyone having to emulate their Iniut heroes doesn’t fit all people!

Yep. Not everyone is (or aspires to be) Maligiaq.

We have an older Wilderness Systems Pungo that has served well through many kinds of uses. Dog and adult, small child and adult, fishing, and just goofing around. And as a guest boat. The new ones are different designs, but seem to be well liked. Just another option.


Rec kayaks are dangerous
Mine started a whole family …sea kayaks, pack canoes, sea canoes, canoes…

Just don’t do it! For all my boats I could have a nice Bayliner.

Nice Bayliner
And then you are back to the “Rec Kayak” of power boats. :slight_smile:

What about Old Town or Emotion
My wife and I went to Cabela’s today. WOW! What a store. Anyway, we looked at kayaks there as well. They carry primarily Old Town and Emotion. I guess they would be less of a “box store?” Any thoughts on either of these two brands rather than Future Beach and Pelican? The kayak rental shop indicated the ones they are going to sell at end of season are Old Town

Cabelas would not be my choice for kayaks. Hunting and fishing stores do not generally offer a good selection of them nor do their salespeople have knowledge of the needs of paddlers.

You have not said where you live. If we knew we might be able to recommend competent kayak dealers. Often they are the same places which sell backpacking and ski equipment, rather that general team sport and hunting/fishing gear. There are some chains, like Eastern Mountain Sports and REI, that stock some, but your best selection and service will be with canoe and kayak outfitters.


Both Old Town and Emotion kayaks tend to be heavy for their size and rather clunky. They are a step above the offerings at Walmart, but still have limited utility and features. Some of the companies that offer entry level quality boats are Jackson, Dagger, Wilderness Systems, Elie, Necky and Venture.

Another option that we often suggest for people wanting to enter the sport on a tight budget is to look for used boats through local Craigslist. This is a good time of year to find them as people try to clear out their garages for car storage in the winter. If we know whereabouts you live (you can add that to your profile or just tell us in a post) we can look at the offerings on your regional CL and make suggestions. You can generally save 30 to 50% on your first boats and accessories if you can be patient and look at used ones.

I’ll say it again
All $300 dollar boats are the same.

My wife and I went paddling this weekend. We have a few kayaks we paid over $1000 for hanging in the boat barn but for this trip she paddled a cheap 9.5 ft Swifty. If the water you’re paddling fits a rec kayak then go for it. Stop worrying about which one is the best. Your wasting time.

Yes Cabella’s, Bass Pro and the rest are big box stores when it comes to kayaks.

Sorry Jack,
but that’s just not the case. My daughter has a Dagger Zydeco which is very much a rec boat and it’s an exponentially better kayak than the box store tubs. We don’t expect too much of it but it’s very capable and is handy to have around when we want to take non-boaters down the river with us. She has an RPM that she prefers but insists we keep the Zydeco.

Bit of a subtext, but I’ve often wondered how the term recreational has become a pejorative within the paddling community. It’s not just a Pnet phenomenon. My club puts on two excellent paddling schools annually, whitewater school and rec school. Both schools mostly teach the same skills; water reading, eddy turns and peelouts, wet exits (kayakers only) and even surfing if time and student aptitude allow, yet somehow people (including some instructors unfortunately) are amazed to learn rec school is not a joke. It’s become such a problem we’ve decided to change the name to something like “school of river skills”.

It is what it is, but I’ve just thought a lot lately about the unfortunate etymology of that term within the paddling community.

Appears that …

– Last Updated: Sep-29-14 3:24 PM EST –

... some are somewhat snobbish about what you buy & where you buy it.

Buy what you want [new or used] for a price you feel is appropriate for your situation. If you like kayaking you will buy "better" for more $$$. If you don't like you can always sell or return to store. All store big box [Dicks, Sports, Academy,...] will allow a return if you hate the boat, so no scratches until you decide to keep.

Not necessarily so
Not snobbery when safety is a factor. Quoting from an article here at pNet:

“Just so we’re on the same page, I’m going to define recreational kayaks as those that are less than 14 feet in length that are made for calm water, near shore usage. They may not have hatches, bulkheads or a rudder and may have a large open cockpit. Generally speaking they have inadequate flotation to be paddled ashore when they are swamped - they’ll float, but not if they are trying to support your weight as well.


You can buy this type of boat at nearly any kind of outdoor sporting goods retailer.

They make up the largest share of the kayaking market.

Consumers buying these types of kayaks often leave the store with the least amount of safety education.

Generally speaking these are the paddlers we read about in the afore-mentioned “accident reports”. The culprit in these accidents is simply a lack of public education.

Usage: Again, the designers of these types of kayaks really didn’t intend them to be used for expeditions, open-water crossings and conditions more appropriate to “touring or coastal” kayaks. They were meant for a variety of calm water situations on gentle rivers and lakes during mild weather. They’re inexpensive for the most part, have a comforting degree of initial stability and can be handled by most anyone. Rescues in them are simple if the are in their intended use category - if you fall out, stand up or swim to the near shore dragging the boat with you. They are extremely difficult to empty and re-enter from the water, even by very experienced rescuers. A deep water rescue of a recreational kayak even by a skilled sea kayaker can land everyone in the water and you’d better hope they’re all dressed for immersion.”

Getting back to Willowleaf
We live in Central New Jersey (Ocean County). As I indicated a couple of posts ago, we are going to check used kayaks this weekend at Cedar Creek Campground. But, of course, if anyone has info on any for sale fairly inexpensive, that would be helpful. We are each looking for our own and my son may want one as well.

We may or may not decide to go with better quality and more costly down the road. For now, we are just starting out. We have gone on rental kayak short trips and a solo on a creek. But nothing with kayaks we actually own.

We don’t want to start with complete “trash.” On the other side of the coin, we don’t want to go really high quality/expensive, in case either of us determine (not likely) that we don’t like kayaking enough to keep ours. AS I said, “not likely.” We both have really enjoyed the times we have been kayaking.

So that’s why we kept our “new kayak search” to Pelican, Future Beach, Old Town and Emotion. We just don’t want to get out in the middle of a lake and sink. LOL

Seriously, again; Thank you all for your input. It is greatly appreciated to us as Newbies

Your para ending in LOL nails th problem
Every boat on your list will sink if you have problems in the middle of the lake. They are designed for where you can swim (preferably wade) dragging a flooded boat.

I am not a boat snob. If you are going to stick to creeks and streams then anyone of them will suit your needs because they all handle and behave the same. It’s like arguing about the best college football team outside the SEC, it really doesn’t matter cuz they aren’t SEC.

If you want to paddle safely on big water you need two bulkheads and perimeter lines. When you get into more expensive kayaks the fit of the kayak becomes more important. In the less inexpensive boats they are meant to perform equally well for an #80 girl or a #225 man.

Now I got to go put up the boats we used this weekend, including my Perception Swifty from Dick’s.

Vanderbilt sucks
But that’s neither here nor here. I agree otherwise, you’re spot on about $300 boats. Get one and don’t look back, if you move on you haven’t spent a lot. Only thing I’d pass on is flimsy plastic.

I’d suggest the buyer demo a rec kayak and a skinnier touring kayak to get an idea of how they paddle differently.

Don’t Want to sink: reply to pirate
All kidding aside. We would be using our kayaks on lakes, our local reservoir and some streams. Are any of the brands I mentioned (pelican, future beach, old town, emotion) better than others in these areas? Recommendations for sizes in these areas as well would be helpful. Of course, I also know operator error also comes into play in regards to safety and sinking.