Romany Explorer v. Caribou S

Any takers on these? Comparisons, specs, experience?

Maybe throw in the SEDA Ikkuman 17 for grins, or any other comparable.

Just would like some opinions…


They’re completely different boats!
Each is designed to fill a diferent niche. If you give us some idea of what you want to do, you’ll get much better information than a comparison of seemingly randomly selected boats.

Not Random - Not Completely Different
"They’re completely different boats"

We’re not talking Perception Swifty v. Current Designs Libra, here.

BOTH these boats are around 18’ long. Both turn quite well. Both are quite stable for their narrow beams.

Just wanted some thoughts from those who’ve paddled them, that’s all, folks…


no doubt, more alike than not
the really hard chines of the Caribou, i find are prone to wear and damage, being so sharp. this is a priority issue for me, hence the mention. a friend has one and i it a great paddling boat, quite fun, but never had it in conditions. sorry, not so helpful there.

I’ve paddle both so here we go…
I paddle a Romany for one summer and own a Caribou.

Romany - 16" long 21.5 inches wide

Caribou - 17’ 8" long and 21.5 inches wide

They are fairly different kayaks, other than day hatch and types of hatches. Romany is a slower kayak that is pretty easy to turn and maneuver. It handles well in rough water and surf. It does tend to pop up over waves and ‘slam’ down on the other side.

Caribou - faster and tracks well, carves when on edge but has lower secondary stability. It tends to ride over waves vs Romany action. Not very good in the surf - it tends to purl. When it is choppy it gets bounced around more than the Romany - at least it feels that way.

So it really depends on what you to do with the kayak.

I think he was asking
about the Explorer :slight_smile: or Romany Explorer according to Nigel.

Paddled both, own neither
The Caribou and Explorer have very different personalities in my experience.

Both are good capable boats. I’m 6’, 180 lbs: the last time I paddled a Caribou I was bracing off the forward bulkhead and felt as if I was pushing a bit of water.

The Explorer feels to be higher volume, though I like the fit better. The Explorer is a very supportive and forgiving boat which is part of why it is used so much by coaches and for teaching.

Had a Bou for a few years…
and paddled the Explorer a bit.

Bou, a ton of secondary, some say too much for “Greenland skills”. Only way I can explain the feel is that instead of flowing with the waves like a softer chine the Bou will hold it’s ground and take the hit. It is very solid in conditions and I can only remember throwing one brace. Good guide boat as I could turn around in it to watch or help others without thinking about my boat. Very decent speed, turns well with a lean.

The Ikkuma looks more like the Bou and would be interesting with the dayhatch option. I’ll have to try one.

Still have one
Bought it new in 1998. Everything Grayhawk says is accurate, IMO. I love the way it handles in rough water. I learned Greenland technique in it, but a lower volume boat is easier to do those things in, which is why I have a BBK Recluse to complement the 'Bou now.

In steeper beam seas, the Caribou requires a slightly more active approach from the paddler than the Explorer does — you attack waves rather than just letting them hit you. No big deal, though - just add a brace to your forward stroke, and put it on the crest of the wave.

The boat is comfortable in seas upwards of 8 feet. You do have to learn how to control pearling, though. Just lean back real hard, and the bow will rise out of the wave most of the time. I make a game out of it in smaller waves, and see just how far I can get green water on the deck before I pull out. Been up to my body once or twice.

After about a year of paddling the Caribou, I had no more interest in buying an Explorer, which to me feels oversized and sluggish in comparison. YMMV.

Wayne Thanks and Others
See I ask this question to get input, not to make a purchase decision.

I sold my ‘Bou to purchase an NDK Explorer. I agree that the Caribou feels faster and nearly as stable.

I purchased the Explorer after carefully asking around, then I paddled one, albeit on flatwater in early winter.

I’m trying to decide if I’m going to purchase a Caribou S in Kevlar AFTER I find a Romany 16’, which I fell in love with when I purchased the Explorer.

I kinda wanna hear from the NDK Explorer fans as to whether the 'Bou can handle the crap the Explorer can.

Just like nice boats…


Sure it can.

How playful?
I think there is no contest that a Caribou is as capable as an Explorer of handling snotty seas.

My usual interest these days is how playful is the boat and how much conscious management does it require in conditions.

I’ve not played enough with a Caribou nor paddled one in conditions enough to have a take on these characteristics.

The Explorer is sort of the ultimate ‘no-brainer’ capable boat. As Tom Bergh characterized it to me, the Explorer is a boat you don’t have to think about in conditions - it takes care of you. My sense is that the Caribou has enough different personality that paddler attention required is apt to be somewhat different than an Explorer.

I have a boat that takes care of me pretty well (Aquanaut) and I have boats that are more playful - Romany, Elaho DS, and Nordkapp LV. (Though the Romany is also a pretty undemanding boat in most situations.) The Nordlow takes the most of my attention of my boats when paddling. Right now it is, for me, the most fun of the lot. I would have found it scary a few years ago.

All capable boats are some balance of various characteristics. Once you ascertain that the boat is well designed and built, the rest may be personal preference.

How Playful?
Probably somewhere between the Explorer and an Anas Acuta or Pintail. It definitely turns faster than the Explorer, but doesn’t feel like you’re spinning like in a Pintail.

I’d call it pretty playful for it’s length. Although I could see myself being really tempted if Valley came out with an Anas with a lower foredeck than the current version…that would be “Really Playful”.

I’ll take one of each

Get the Explorer (assuming that is why you are asking the question).

First off because if you have to ask this question then the Explorer would be better suited to you.

Second off because most would agree that it is a better all-around boat for “most” people than the Caribou. Of course everyone has their preferences, but this is a good generality.

The Caribou, like other hard chine boats, is more of a niche boat in my opinion. Whether or not that niche is for you I don’t know. Explorer is a safer bet for most.


“the correct response to your question”

– Last Updated: Feb-18-08 10:20 AM EST –

"...i think the correct response to your question, will eventually come down to NDK Explorer, so i'll just tell you that now and get it over with." -jbv

inevitably - ;-)

Hard edged
on top of a hard chie profile. Doesn’t mean that much other than what marketing says it does.

BTW, your explorer is a hard chined / soft edged hull. FWIW

I’m sure to have someone come and tell me how that hard edge “carves” their displacement hull…

Marketing has swayed sea kayakers more than any other group I think.

hard chined
True about the Explorer, but not as hard chined as the Greenlander Pro was. I have not paddled the Caribou but the GP has a similar hull profile.

I can say this for sure…paddle a Greenlander Pro vs. an Explorer and one will see that harder chines of the GP makes a very noticeable difference in the way the boat feels. Much different.


design irony

– Last Updated: Feb-18-08 12:40 PM EST –

I've felt it was indicative of the evolution through trial in sea kayaks that the Romany was designed starting from a Pintail mold and hardening the chines (among other tweaks) while the Pintail itself was based on an Anas Acuta but with softened (rounded) chines.

The soft edge hard chine of the Romany and Explorer must have some impact of the performance personality of the boats - along with the relatively flat bottoms, rocker, distribution of volume, etc...

Are you sure it’s the "edges"
or just the hull shape itself? I vote for the later. There have been tests done on this subject actually according to Chris Cunningham where paddlers were blindfolded etc., and swore they were in one or the other boat. I’ve had the opportunity to see similar tests done by an R&D team on their own products… It’s a displacement hull, and behaves accordingly. It’s the shape of the hull, rocker, volume in chine etc., that determines how it will turn.

I’ll bet $ you could radius the edges on the Greenlander and it would perform the same…but that’s not very fun to hear…I know.

Hard edges cause drag, and that is why you will not see them on a surf ski, or race hull. Epic has a good bit on their site about that.

As for grabbing a wave face? Ever seen an edge like that on a surf board? Half an hour with a surf board shaper and you’ll think about it differently.

Look, I know what I’m saying is going against most of what you’ve read and been told. Take it or don’t take it. Some of the other boat design types here do get what I’m saying