solo kayak for speed, stability, volume

I am considering an attempt at paddling the Mississippi river in the near future. Assuming I want to complete the trip safely, and as fast as possible what would be your suggestions for a kayak, and what are the advantages/disadvantages of this boat.


Choice depends…

– Last Updated: May-09-06 1:57 PM EST –

... more on your paddling background.

Some info on this would net you better answers. What I would pick might not be right for you.

Others have made this trip. Do dome Goggle work and you'll find people who can give you very detailed advice on all aspects.

Do you mean an expedition ?
The full navigable river? Just for an extended trip I would choose the Prijon Kodiak if you are fairly new to kayaking, it’s very stabile, seaworthy boat, fairly fast and carries a lot of gear and you can find a used one for a reasonable price.

How much gear are you carrying? How big are you? What kayaks have you paddled that you liked/didn’t like? Can you roll? Budget? Build or buy?

Many, many boats

– Last Updated: May-09-06 4:31 PM EST –

There are many, many boats that would serve in such a trip.

This question is too open ended to bother people with.

Have you done any research for yourself? Have you paddled any boats?

sorry to waste your precious time

– Last Updated: May-09-06 4:41 PM EST –

If you choose not to reply please feel free to skip past this thread.

There are many, many boats that you can use on this type of trip. That is why before I went out and started to blindly try boats I thought I would access the knowledge of a site such as this. People have paddled the river in every type of boat imaginable including heavy royalex canoes. I have not been happy with information gathered by searching the internet as many of the people that have run the river did it with very little background in expedition paddling, just as I am.

I am 6'2" 165 lbs and will be carrying 35 pounds of gear. I would consider myself an intermediate paddler and can roll a kayak. I would like to keep the price below $1200.


– Last Updated: May-09-06 6:00 PM EST –

"I am 6'2" 165 lbs and will be carrying 35 pounds of gear. I would consider myself an intermediate paddler and can roll a kayak. I would like to keep the price below $1200."

Well, heck, that wasn't so hard, was it? Even that little bit of information is very helpful.

You spent almost no time composing your initial question. Why do you think it's reasonable for strangers to "waste their precious time" playing twenty questions when it's apparent it wasn't worth your time composing the original post?


At $1200 (boat only), you are looking at plastic or used (or both).

Check out the Valley Aquanaut in plastic. The glass version has a reputation for being fast.

The QCC 700 (if you can find one) would also fit the bill.

The Perception Eclipse would do well also (and you might find one used).

Almost any boat about 17-18' and 22'' wide would serve you quite well.

You might want to see what is available new or used near you.

Have you demoed any sea kayaks? What have you paddled? Are you looking for a boat with a rudder?

The Valley Aquanaut in plastic is
$1,599 before sales tax.

$1200 is tight

– Last Updated: May-09-06 6:54 PM EST –

$1200 is tight for any new appropriate boat. So, it's clear we are likely talking used.

One might find a used Aquanaut (maybe a demo).

If you are looking at used boats, you are limited to what is being sold. In this case, a better strategy would be to see what boats in the 17-18' range are available used and then ask people's opinions of them.

Almost any boat in the 17-18' range would be appropriate. I'm assuming the trip is in the flatwater section of the Missippi.

"as fast as possible"

Unless you are some sort of uber athlete, you can assume 3-4 MPH (ignoring current) speed over a long time (eg, 4+ hours). You will be able to sustain this speed in almost any 17-18' boat.

Note that you probably want a boat that tracks well (goes straight).

Bingo (from the pnet classifieds):

WI) 17 ft Perception Eclipse Sealion with rudder for sale. Includes Voyageur spray skirt, harmony duo-float, billage pump, and seaquel paddle. Only 4 years old and in excellent condition. Asking Price $750

Check Kayak Ferstivals
for used kayak, there are many at them. Just look over every inch for cracks because onece you buy it it is yours. Saw a well used pretty scratched up (but no cracks) Seda Glider in kevlar for 1000 at the Charlotte Harbor Kayak Festival last weekend.

I have a q700 and prijon kodiak

At 17.5 x 24" the Kodiak is a fast and stable boat.

Ran the 2004 Missippi Phatwater race in 5:01 (45 miles)

The 2004 Colorado river 100 miles in 17:00

At your weight you might look at the Seayak. I couldn’t get my butt into one 6’3 260

Lots of good boats.

– Last Updated: May-10-06 11:15 AM EST –

Simplify, simplify.

Go look at the reviews on this site for 17-19 foot long boats. There are about 185 of them and almost anyone of them would work for you (and this list isn't even complete). Your original question is basically asking for people to generate this list.

Here's one approach to use:

1) Restrict your search to plastic boats about 17 feet long and about 22 inches wide. You want to restrict your search to boats that have a reputation to track well.

2) Go to one or more local kayak stores and look at boats of this type and sit in them. (The point here is to be able to see a few boats in one place).

3) See what boats are available used in your area. If you can, go look at them and sit in them. See if there are reviews of these boats here on

4) Make a list of a FEW boats (maybe, at most, five) and post a message here looking for comments about these specific boats.

Otherwise, all you are going to get is an incomplete list of random boats that people like.

This won't be useful information and is a waste of time. Most of these boats will be very hard to find used (unless you are very, very patient or are willing to get a boat shipped sight-unseen).

Your $1200 budget will eliminate most of the boats people will randomly list (unless you are lucky enough to find a convenient used one)!!

Also, if you indicate where you live, people might be able to recommend kayak stores or clubs to check out.


– Last Updated: May-10-06 2:41 PM EST –

35 pounds of gear and 210 pounds total is really not much. Unless you've got some very bulky items, you don't need a high-volume "expedition" boat.

How hard are you going to paddle? At normal touring speeds, the differences in efficiency between boats of similar dimensions are pretty small. I'd think almost any kayak in the 17-18' x 20-22" range would work. If you're really going to be pushing, it does make a difference, and you should be looking at race results, not expedition stories, to help you decide. You'll see a lot of QCC 700s, Epic 18s, Seda Gliders, and WSBS boats, but you'll have a hard time finding one for what you want to spend.

If you're going to be in the boat every day for weeks, cockpit comfort becomes a major consideration. Plan on spending time fine-tuning your outfitting, or bringing tools to make modifications on the way. Installing a bulkhead footrest will give you a lot more leg-position options.

If you have more time than money, you might consider a kit -- something like a Pygmy Osprey HP, Shearwater Bluefin, or Guillemot Night Heron.

My inclination would be to look for something like a used Tempest -- plastic should be well under $1200 -- and use the money saved for other comfort & safety items.

We paddled the Mississippi and Atchafala
last year. Check out our website and give me a holler if you have any questions.

A couple of quick thoughts.

It took us 73 days to pull that trip off. Get something comfortable and more importantly something that you feel relaxed in when you’re dealing with boat traffic, barges, wing dams, wind, etc.

There are a bunch of portages from the source at Itasca through Minneapolis. Kayaks are a pain to portage, IMO. Well - portages just suck anyway. The point is - taking all your stuff that’s jammed into small drybags all around a kayak and doing a portage would be a real hassle.

If I had to do it again, I’d seriously consider using a Klepper folding kayak or something similar. The logistics of getting the canoe to and from both ends of the river was a big headache. Being able to ship a boat easily anywhere would be well worth it. Also - having that big open cockpit makes it easy to load and unload.

We used a Minnesota II canoe from Wenonah, and it was fine for the most part. Being able to stretch and sprawl out anytime was a huge plus. There were a few times I would have wanted to be in a kayak though for more stability.


– Last Updated: May-10-06 2:42 PM EST –

"Klepper folding kayak or something similar"

It's unlikely that one would be able to find any folding boat used and in good shape for $1200.

I'd think that a folding boat would be significantly slower than a hardshell.

It also seems that you should be able to ship a kayak for about $100.

Yeah - I sort of glazed over that part like a jelly donut. I’m planning on building something Klepper-like using Tom Yost’s techniques myself. Should run less than $400 if everything goes OK.

Hardshells aren’t necessarily faster than folders, expecially when the waves really get up. I’ve chilled out in a Kleppers in conditions that had my buddies constantly bracing to stay upright. The wide beam and sponsons help make it hard to flip so you can just concentrate on making miles.

Regardless, there’s not one perfect boat for the entire river, IMO. That thing changes from a tiny creek about 15’ wide to some crazy conditions the further south you go. A canoe is easy to load/unlaod daily, but I would have rather been in a decked boat when we were going around Lake Winnebigosh in 30 MPH winds. To each his own.

“exception fallacy”

– Last Updated: May-10-06 8:01 PM EST –

"Hardshells aren't necessarily faster than folders, expecially when the waves really get up. I've chilled out in a Kleppers in conditions that had my buddies constantly bracing to stay upright. The wide beam and sponsons help make it hard to flip so you can just concentrate on making miles."

One can always find exceptions to general statements. The existance of exceptions do not necessarily invalidate a general statement.

For most of the time, in most conditions, the hardshell will be faster than the folder. Your example does not disprove this.

For what percentage of your 73 days would the foldable have been faster?

Foldables, additionally, are more effected by wind (like canoes) than hardshell kayaks.

I think, generally, a kayak will be faster than a canoe. The orignal post also mentioned "kayak". Concidering canoes would have broadened an already too-broad question!

I'd have no problem paddling my sea kayak in something 15 feet wide. If you meant 15 inches, well, amost nothing would work very well!

Note that foldable kayaks, like the Klepper, are proven craft (I'm not suggesting otherwise).

I’m not going to get a head-butting match about this. Paddle what you want - I was just giving my impressions of what I would do if I did it again.

After about 7,000 miles of backpacking and paddling trips, I’ve got a decent idea about what works for me on long trips. Hauling tail every minute of the day isn’t what gets you to the end - being able to relax whenever possible while making miles is THE key to finishing a trip. It’s a marathon, not a race.

As far as what % of the 2,150 miles we paddled on the river would be faster in a foldable, I honestly wouldn’t throw out a guess. It’s academic really. Where you really burn your time is in towns messing around/resupplying/resting etc. We took 6 full days off from the river, 3.5 of those for Hurricane Dennis. There were also countless trips to get water, grab lunch, or just sightsee.

Again, your mileage may vary. We averaged around 45-50 miles/day below St. Louis with a few days over 60. Could we have gone faster? Maybe, maybe not.

That first stretch from Itasca to Bemidji (about 67 miles) isn’t the place for a sea kayak. Way too many beaver dams, shallow water crossings, etc. You’d be better to rent a canoe from Bemidji State University’s Outdoor Pursuits office (Mark Morrisey is the director) for that firsts bit and switch out boats once you get back to Bemidji.

Good ideas

– Last Updated: May-11-06 11:13 AM EST –

"I was just giving my impressions of what I would do if I did it again."

Your commments were a unique contribution and interesting and helpful. Your point about the portages and renting a canoe for the first part is especially helpful. Thanks for the contribution!

My only issue with what was said was the "speed" comment: I think it's misleading to suggest that a folder will be faster.

Everything is a compromise and there may be other conciderations besides speed. (For the original poster, clearly cost is a major concideration.)

I definitely agree that the speed thing isn't that important. That's one reason I said that many boats (even a folder) would work and noted an average speed of 3-4MPH (typical paddling speed) would be attainable in almost any boat. Also, very few people would be able to paddle a fast boat at 6 MPH for very long (so it's largely irrelevent whether a boat can reach those speeds).