Hello, I am a newbie doing research on buying a kayak. I’ve been thinking about buying one for years and I am ready. I will do mostly lakes, including large ones (open water) and slow moving rivers, possibly occasional dip in the Puget Sound (I live in the PNW area). Mostly half day outings with occasional full day or overnight trips.
My research boiled down to two kayaks, based on use case, location, and budget: Eddyline Skylark (12 foot) and Dagger Stratos 14.5.
My understanding is that the thermoformed Eddyline will ‘glide’ better and will be stiffer. It is lighter but shorter that the rotomolded Stratos and doesn’t have a skeg of thigh braces. I believe the Stratos may be more forgiving…?
I am 5’9 for 180lbs in OK shape. I only have a of 4/5 days total experience kayaking on flat water.
Any input anyone can provide would likely be helpful in me deciding which kayak to purchase.
I’ve had a Skylark in the fleet since ‘06 or ‘07. While other boats have come and gone, the Skylark stays. It’s great on flat to flat-ish water … amazingly stable, tracks very well for a 12’ boat, and is reasonably light. However, I wouldn’t recommend that a relatively new paddler take any 12’ rec boat very far out on large, open water. Wind and waves can kick up too fast to be safe.
Is there a reason you favor Eddyline’s 12’ Skylark versus their 14’ Equinox? At your weight, esp. with a load of overnight gear, the Skylark will be siting fairly low in the water. The Eddyline Equinox seems like a better comparison (size-wise) to the Dagger Stratos 14.5. The Equinox has no skeg, but in my opinion you’ll very rarely miss it (especially as you learn to stay the course by adjusting your stroke), and you will always appreciate not having the skeg’s extra weight.
Generally, I prefer the looks of thermoformed versus rotomolded hulls, but that’s 100% subjective as both do the job. Truth be told, I still grab my Old Town Camden (12’6" poly) when I want a go anywhere/do anything (up to a point ) rec boat for a relaxing day on the water.
Hi, thank you for the feedback!
The main reason I didn’t consider the Equinox is budget, but I might have to do more thinking. Not sure I want to spend something really up there in my budget range for a first kayak. Is the Stratos not a kayak you would recommend for the kind of use cases I described?
Two very different boats (I’m a dealer for both brands, so have sold plenty of each). Stratos is a performance oriented open water boat, popular here in the midwest for Great Lakes paddlers who want something useable on flat water, but that will really open up on the days when there are waves on the lake. The fit is snug (intentionally) and designed for sport use. Newbies CAN use them, and they’re great boats to grow in to.
Skylark is what we’d call a "performance rec’ kayak. Fairly open cockpit design, best suited for smaller water (lakes and rivers) and a casual, relaxed paddling trip. If you wanted something in the Eddyline group that was a fair comparison to the Stratos, it’d be the Sitka LT - super popular boat, the same length as the Stratos 145s but with a flatter rocker line and a sharp vee hull. Price wise, you’ll spend $800 more for the Siktka LT over a Stratos, but drop about 12 pounds in the process: you pays your nickel, you takes your chances.
Sorry, I’ve never paddled a Stratos so I can’t comment on it, and I absolutely get the budget factor.
Eddyline says the Skylark has a 295 lb capacity, but I think that’s beyond generous. For reference, the paddler in the Skylark below is about 5’8" / 150 lbs. with no extra load. To me, this is about in the sweet spot … enough displacement for good tracking and enough freeboard to handle some mild chop, but another 40 or 50 lbs could be pushing optimum load, even in this fairly calm water.
If you want to stay in the 12’ range, there are higher volume boats like the Old Town Loon 120 and 126 that could fit the bill. The Loons are great rec boats with really comfortable seats, and there are a lot of them around (at least in my part of the country) so you may find a very good used one come up for sale as spring approaches. As with the Skylark and other 12 footers, the Loons are not big water boats.
I would personally advise you buy something used. It will be much cheaper, just as good, and will give you the opportunity to try something out and see how you like it. Usually you can resell a used boat for close to what you paid for it, even the same or more. Depending upon where you live there can often be many good used kayaks available.
I am a little surprised by some of the suggestions here since you mention wanting to do overnight camping trips amd paddle in “large lakes” and even “dip in Puget Sound”. That combination of projected use is not compatible with a 12’ recreational design kayak ir even a 14’ for someone your size. Paddling in open water with the pitential for winds, waves and needing to cover distance with a load means a kayak with a moderate sized cockpit coaming that will snugly support a sprayskirt, that has sufficient volume to displace your weight plus your camping load and that has a hull design that enables good tracking and efficiency in waves, strong currents and wind.
Both the boats you are considering are good craft for what they are designed for, but are not reallypractical or even safe for all the activities and paddling locations you have described. I am smaller than you (5’ 4” and 145 lbs) but would not venture out on large lake, high flow large river or strait or onto cold coastal waters in the PNW, nor would I pack a kayak for overnight camping unless it was at least 15’ long and had a hull designed to maintain a good water line with an excess load and track well in waves. This means a touring or sea kayak, not a recreational or play boat.
in the area where you live there are a lot of paddlers and there is usually a strong market in used kayaks. Are there paddling clubs or groups in your area you can connect to where you might be able to join more experienced kayakers on outings where you could rent or borrow some boats that are appropriate for tyour regional waters.? Or you might consider enrolling in an oufitter basics class or classes to get more exposure to more seaworthy models.
While you could buy either of those models and restrict yourself to the shorter outings and milder waters for which they are appropriate, you would end up needing to upgrade or add a second boat to progress to the more challenging trips and locations you say you want to explore. Getting yourself a properly scaled sea kayak to begin with will allow you a greater range of future options. A good quality used one will cost tge same as a new rec or light touring boat and used boats often come with sprayskirt, paddle and even PFD and pump which can save you hundreds to start with.
until you really have some more experience on the water you won’t know exactly what boat is ideal which is why buying used is more economical. Most of us who really get into paddling eventually figure out by trial and error what features and performance factors we want to dial in and move on to different models tgan we vegin with. But if you have a clear idea of what kind of paddling you want to do, it’s usually better to get a boat you can grow into than one that will limit your eventual goals, in this case by being too small and not safe for bug water and cargo loading.
Fully agree that your first boats should probably be used boats. It is awfully hard to find just the right boat, or if you buy used and it’s not the right boat you can usually resell it for about where you bought it for. If you bought new and have to resell it, you’re going to lose a whole bunch of value.
Can’t do a comparison for you as I’m not paddled the eddyline, but I have a lot of experience with the 14.5’ stratos (I own both an 14.5L and 14.5S). It is an excellent boat for everyone from beginner through experts. I think it would do all that you were looking for. I’ve taken into some pretty advanced conditions and have also used for a couple of nights of camping. You could fit either size.
Dagger Alchemy 14L is a similar boat which you may find more often on used market.