Tandem + Single recreation kayak recommendations

Hi all:

Looks like my summer vacation plans for the family is cancelled, and also the kids will be stuck at home instead of at daycare/summer camp. Fortunately I live by a reservoir so we were thinking of taking up recreation kayaking for the summer and hopefully beyond. Started doing some research, even ventured to newly reopened Dick’s yesterday, and have concluded that choices can be overwhelming, and also the big box stores are all out of kayaks for the moment. So I got onto this forum for some advice.

My current plan after a week of internet research is to get a tandem kayak plus a larger single kayak. I was thinking a tandem for me (6 ft, 200 lbs) and our 50 lb 5.5 year old son, and a large cockpit single for my wife (5’10, 150 lbs) and our almost 3 year old. I’d prefer not to get anything shipped, so I’ve been looking at things I can buy and pick up locally. These are some of the possibilities:

Pelican Argo 136 EXP 13’6" (was at a somewhat nearby REI, but now out of stock) - $750
Old Town Twin Heron - $1000
Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus - $1450
Hurricane Santee 140T - $1350?

Single with big cockpit:

Old Town Vapor 10 - $500 (48" long cockpit)
Old Town Loon 120 - $1000 (56" long cockpit)
Hurricane Santee 110/120/126 Sport - $1200 (55" long cockpit)
Wilderness Pungo 120 - $1000 (52" long cockpit)
Wilderness Aspire 105 - $829 (52" long cockpit)

I’d appreciate any advice or recommendations you all can give me.

First of all, is it at all feasible to get a long cockpit single for an adult plus toddler like I was planning? I’m not too worried about safety since we’ll all have life vests, and we’ll be limiting use to lakes like the very tranquil one next to our house.

As to the specific kayaks. I am drawn to the Santee’s because they seem well designed and are significantly lighter than the other choices (especially that tandem). I don’t know too much about specific brands so I don’t know how good Hurricane rec kayaks are in general. The 140T seems to have some pretty good reviews on this site, so I’m leaning toward it at the moment. Almost pulled the trigger on the cheap Argo ($750 plus 15% dividend at REI), but it’s out of stock, so I’m looking at the more expensive alternatives.

For the singles, I did read a lot of good reviews on the Pungo (and I’m assuming the Aspire would be very similar), and those may be in stock at my local LL Bean, so I can potentially get say an Aspire 105 for $663 after 20% off if I get their credit card, or the Pungo for $800.

EDIT: The LL Bean didn’t have any Pungos despite what their website says. However, they did have one very pretty blue Hurricane Santee 120 Sport on sale for $925 ($740 after I applied for their credit card), so I pulled the trigger on it today.

Sorry for the long post, and thanks in advance for your help and advice!

For the tandem look for one with a center seat to paddle solo or hold 3. The vapor 10 is the best value boat that can be had for

The aspire is a terrific boat, but may be more capabile tgan you need.

You can probably fit your kid in one of those long cockpits okay.
All of the boats under consideration seem small to me.
Consider some larger boats for two people.

I’d certainly consider that if I could get it for $350, but the only place with it in stock is selling at MSRP of $500.

My local LL Bean has a Hurricane Santee 120 Sport for $929, and if I get their card, it would be 20% off for $743, so I’m thinking of getting that for the single.

The tandem kayaks are still too small for two people? I’m sure they’d be big enough for one of us plus our 6 year old.

Are you saying the tandems are too small for the two of us adults to use together?

You do not want a 10’ anything for your needs. To handle weight, they add width which makes paddling a chore, not fun.
A miserable boat is never a value.


Have you checked your local craigslist for used kayaks? I have bought most of my high end kayaks and canoes for much less than new by shopping for used boats. you often get things like paddles and PFDs (life vest) included with the used boat you buy . This adds considerably to your saving money.

A 3 seat tandem gives you more versatility to paddle solo or with others

The vapor 10 has the weight capacity to handle an adult and small child, I know I have one.

Be careful, On this web site some people will bad mouth boats they never owned or paddled

And some haven’t paddled enough to know any better.

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Between the quarantine and the economic disruptions, there are very few kayaks on the market, new or used.

Saw a post yesterday for two used Pungo 120s for $1100, emailed the guy, but it was sold in less than 24 hours.

I essentially checked craigslist/offerup/letgo for the entire state of Maryland and found basically no entry or mid level kayaks to be had. Even the three Dicks in my area were sold out.

I just came back from driving down to VIRGINIA to buy the last Kayak they had in stock at their store (although hilariously the store had 6 perfectly good looking Manatee branded kayaks mounted outside, I guess as decoration?). The sales guy at LL Bean said due to supply chain disruptions, kayak production in the US has almost ground to a halt.

So I’ve got one Kayak out of the two I’m planning to buy, a Hurricane Santee 120 Sport.

Currently planning on driving north to Pennsylvania to buy the tandem tomorrow. The specialty kayak store up there is down to their last 3 tandem kayaks, all at full retail prices (maybe even a bit more than MSRP), but I guess I’ll just have to pay it if I want to do any kayaking this summer with the family.

So I’m driving up to Lancaster County Marine tomorrow to get one of their tandem kayaks. They are the only place within driving distance to me who has any tandems in stock.

You mentioned 3 seat tandems. Do you mean those with a small jump seat in the middle like the Necky Manitou II or the Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus ($1449)? This store also has the Hurricane Santee 140T ($1399) and Old Town Twin Heron ($999), which have two seats within one large cockpit.

I’m currently leaning towards the Santee 140T since I’ve just bought a 120 Sport, and given my wife’s almost inexplicable claim of the 38 lb 120 Sport feeling “heavy” to lift, I’m not keen on getting a 70 plus pounder like a Dirigo compared to the svelte 57 lb 140T.

The twin heron is also not heavy, at 60 lb, and is by far the cheapest at only $999. I’ll take a look at all of them tomorrow and see if I still want to stick with the Santee 140T, or if maybe the cheaper Twin Heron is sufficient. But the twin heron is listed on this website with an MSRP of $799, so it feels like a bit of a rip off to pay $999 for I guess a very entry level tandem kayak?

People come on here all the time and ask for advice. Then if it does not fit their ideas, they ignore it. Okay fine. Do what every you want. But a 10 foot kayak is too small for two people no matter how many seats it has.

Are you replying to my original post or someone else’s comment? There aren’t any 2 seat kayaks which are only 10 foot long.

I ended up with the 12 ft single Santee 120 Sport and the 14 ft tandem Santee 140T.

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Enjoy them!

The Dirigo is a good choice for rivers and lakes. I worked at a kayak shop for many years and we took out lots of families to paddle on the Merrimack River in Newburyport, MA. We used different style tandem boats over the years, finally settling on the Dirigo as a good beginner tandem boat, as it’s stable and quite roomy, with far more open cockpit space than a traditional tandem sea kayak. The Dirigo is also a good family boat, since it has an optional jump seat that you can install in the rear cockpit, just in front of the seat. This enables the person in the rear to have a child close at hand but on their own seat. Your 5-year old could sit up front of you, while your wife has the younger child in her lap in the front cockpit. The Dirigo is heavy, but you have to balance that factor with how well it paddles loaded up with your family. You want to have a good, safe experience on the water first and foremost.

Kayaks are in short supply right now due to three months of staying at home. Same goes for bikes. My buddy who owns the Plum Island Kayak shop has his phone ringing off the hook with people looking to buy a used kayak.

Try renting a Dirigo at Plum Island Kayak: www.plumislandkayak.com. Ken Taylor, the owner, has Dirigo boats in his fleet. 978-462-5510.

Lancaster Marine has a surprisingly large collection of tandem kayaks in stock, even a Necky Manitou II. We still ended up buying the Santee 140T. Even at 57 lbs my wife was complaining bitterly about us hoisting it onto our minivan, so I think the Dirigo would have been an absolute nonstarter. It was also their last Santee left in stock as well, so we bought it on the spot.

The Santee is also the only one with a single continuous open cockpit instead of twin cockpits, so it is quite roomy. We tried it out with one adult in the back, the 5 year old in the front, and our 3 year old in the middle, and it works pretty well. Very stable, in a lake at any rate. Very easy to haul in and out of the water, although its shiny thin ABS construction is likely much more prone to scratching than your regular rotomold plastic kayak.

I don’t think it would be safe for all 4 of us to go into one tandem kayak, in any configuration. It would be almost 450 lbs between the 4 people, which is probably too much. I think going forward I’ll probably be the one stuck in the tandem with the boys while the wife zips around on the Santee 120.

Oh and here is a pic of the pair of kayaks we drove both north and south to get. Hope to get many years of fun out of them!