Tarpon 120 vs. Quest 11 vs. Quest 13

My wife and I are going Monday to demo the three subject SOT kayaks before deciding which to buy. Anything in particular we should make note of? We have not yet put our backsides in any of them, so only have the looks of them and the features list to go by so far. I like the idea of the more adjustable seat in the Tarpon, but I like the bow hatch on the Hobies and the fact that they come with a “starter” paddle so we don’t have to buy one until we learn more about what we might like. The Hobies are lighter weight than the Tarpon too, which will of course make loading on the Jeep roof easier. Anyone have experience with these boats you’d care to share?

We’ve already decided on SOT kayaks and the rough length range we’re interested in, so we don’t need to compare to sit in kayaks or talk about 17’ vs. 12’ characteristics.


Demoing kayaks
With SOT’s there are less options for padding out for better fit. Therefore you should pay a lot of attention to how you fit in the seat. I normally find that I need to sit in a kayak seat about 20 min before I really know if there is going to be a problem. 30 sec to a minute will tell you if there is a major problem, but the longer you can sit in it the more problems you will be able to identify.

SOT’s generally have more problems with lifting and carrying than SINK’s where you can pick up and balance on the cockpit rim. Do some practice lifts like you were going to put it up on the car and some practice carrys as if you had to carry it across a wide beach or down to the water from a parking lot some ways away.

All three of the kayaks look pretty nice. Do not beat yourself to death trying to figure out the perfect one. I hope you find one that you like.


buy a cart!
And get the one that you like best. I think I would choose the Tarpon, but I’d go for a Tarpon 140 or an RTM Disco for an all around Sit on top.

It is worth saying twice…so buy a cart and figure out how you are going to slide on end onto the car at a time!

More questions
Thanks for the ideas. We’re looking forward to trying them out. Given the way we usually pick things for ourselves, it’s entirely likely that we’ll end up with two different boats but I don’t guess there’s anything wrong with that. In theory we’ll be together when we kayak so I’m hoping that with two of us, loading and carrying the boats will be doable without a cart but that will always be an option. We have a lot to learn.

One question about the Tarpon, I’m told that fancy seat is not removable for transport. I worry about it getting filthy while being on top of the Jeep being towed behind the motorhome in wet weather. Is there some common way to cover it or keep it reasonably clean/dry?

Well, we’re home with our two shiny, scratch free, fresh out of the shipping bag Hobie Quest 13’s. Fairhope Boat Co. was great to work with, very patient with two inexperienced kayakers. We demo’d all 3 boats on Mobile Bay and were in no way rushed or “sold” on one boat over another. I found the Quest 11 to be a little squirrely and harder to track straight. My favorite to paddle was the Tarpon 120, but the Quest 13 was a close second and won the call based on other factors. I was concerned about the seat on the Tarpon not being removable and about the rails on the top abrading or being abraded loading and unloading, plus it was a few pounds heavier. The Quest 13 tracked straight and was dryer over the bow when paddling into the waves. It was wetter in the cockpit though because with every stroke water was coming up through the two scupper holes closest to me. Of course it drained right back out, but I still didn’t like that. The boats come with 4 scupper plugs though so those holes will get plugged up.

We brought them home on the Jeep, one in a Thule J rack and one hull up on the crossbars. The Thule straps worked great and the bow/stern lines worked well too, using both as bow ropes. The boats didn’t move a bit during the 200 mile trip home being towed behind the motor home. We’re very pleased and can’t wait for the first chance to get out on our own.

I’m storing the boats standing up straight on the stern strapped to the wall of my hangar. The seats, PFDs and other accouterments went into a lidded plastic box and the paddles are in the paddle keepers on the hull.

Thanks for the advice.

Have not tried a Quest
Glad you found something you liked. We often team carry the boats, but I still use a cart regularly. I might move boats, while Maria moves gear or takes down the tent.