Hey folks - new to forum! As an introduction, my name is Mike and I have been wanting a kayak for many, many years, but my wife did not want to spend the $$. I finally have that part together, and she is actually on board with getting into the hobby a bit, but my head is swirling with the options. We have kayaked in the Bahamas, Aruba, South Carolina (Hilton Head), Maine (lake), and other places, so we are both familiar with the hobby/sport. We have 3 kids, but right now this would be our way to spend time together. Maybe later the kids can join in. Generally speaking, we are looking for a ‘hybrid’ kayak. Nicer than recreational, not as advanced as touring.
Given all that, and through extensive research online, I’ve narrowed down what I think I want, but a little advice/feedback would be helpful. I know there are some inevitable questions that will be asked, so I’ve tried to answer those below. It might generate some interesting conversation.
Where will you be paddling?
We will not be white-water kayaking, nor will we find ourselves in the open ocean far off the coast of anywhere. We live in Southern Indiana along the Ohio River (across from Louisville, KY). So no oceans, but plenty of water. Most paddling around here are slow moving rivers and lakes. BUT - long term, we WOULD like to be able to use whatever we purchase in what I can only call ‘mild coastal’ waters, meaning like inlet-type marshy waters around the Carolinas, etc. (I’ll stay way from the gators of Florida, thank you. lol!) We MAY use them on the Ohio River on SUPER calm days, but most likely only on inlet creeks/streams. The OH river itself is pretty fast-moving, so I’d want to be with someone experienced the few times. I just don’t have room to store 6 boats, so we’ll primarily stick with what we buy. We will likely NOT be doing any overnight camping or week-long camping trips with them - just taking them out for a few hours or half day.
What do local paddlers use/recommend?
Honestly, we don’t know many! We aren’t really looking (at this point) to join a club/society/etc. I’ve found a local website online and many are using expensive stuff I’ve never heard of. We do not really have any friends who are into this - it’s just something we would like to do to get out on the water and enjoy time together. I just want a dependable boat that’s easy to paddle and moves well - does not have to be ‘fast’, as I’m not racing or keeping up with 20 people. But I’d also rather not paddle the SS Minnow or something that will tip over every time I lean over. I DO know I do not want a sit-on-top, nor do I want a 17’ kayak with a cockpit so small I have to lay down and pull it on like a pair of pants.
Have you looked into used kayaks, rentals, etc.?
At least this time of year, there isn’t much on craigslist for our area (been watching a while). Places where I’ve found rentals generally charge like $30/half day, which adds up when talking about 2 people. They also tend to rent more low-end ‘livery’ type kayaks. One of the local stores will do a demo for you, but they only carry two brands. I’ve not identified any other ‘demo days’ around town. There is another store I’m aware of but they carry the high-end stuff.
What is your budget?
I’m looking to spend no more than @$850-900 per boat (AFTER tax/shipping/etc.). It would be a bonus if that included a paddle and (double bonus) cockpit cover.
How do you plan to store and haul them?
I’ve spent WAY too many hours looking into a kayak hoist for my garage. Currently trying to determine whether to build my own or buy a Harken Hoister and modify it. We have a 2015 Honda Odyssey to haul them - just need to get the kayak supports for our roof rack.
So, what are you considering now?
After MUCH research, I think I’ve narrowed down to 12"(ish) kayaks being the ‘sweet spot’ for what we want. I’m currently considering the following:
- For me: I am 5’11", @255 lbs. So I’m running up against the weight limits of a lot of kayaks. I had kind of narrowed down my choice to the LL Bean Casco (a rebranded Perception Carolina) but I may need to lose a few pounds first (?). I would go with the Bean over the Perception simply due to Bean’s warranty and the fact they sell a package (https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/87637?attrValue_0=Red/Yellow&csp=a). Yesterday I saw and sat in the Old Town Loon 126, which I liked more than I thought I would. I thought the ‘dashboard’ was a bit gimmicky, but removing it did make ingress/egress easier, and after seeing it in person, I could see it being a ‘nice to have’ thing.
- For my wife: Also looking at either the LL Bean Casco, Calypso (narrower - https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/78134?feat=508078-GN3&page=calypso-12-kayak-package&csp=f), or perhaps the Old Town Loon 120.
Note: A local dealer carries the Old Towns, which would come with a lifetime warranty. They will do a demo. The price would likely be close to the same as the Bean kayaks, but with tax instead of shipping. They would throw in paddles, but not covers.
So given all that great info, I’d love to hear what folks here think! Personal experience with any of these boats? I know I can easily demo the Old Towns, but not the others. I also know LL Bean generally has a great reputation. Appreciate your thoughts and feedback!