Touring kayak for small person

Hi all :slight_smile:

This is my first post here. I’m looking to upgrade my current Advanced Elements Expedition inflatable to a hard sided touring kayak. I would like something that slices through the water better and isn’t as affected by the wind as the inflatable.

Most of my kayaking is done on Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra lakes, but I would like the option to take it to the coast and paddle on the ocean. I do occasional short 2-3 day trips where I have to carry gear, but I’m also a backpacker so I can pack fairly light and don’t need a huge carrying capacity. Wind is always the issue here, especially in the afternoons, so I’m looking for something efficient and with a skeg or rudder to help out in that respect.

The big problem (or rather, small problem) is that I’m 5’2" and only 105lbs, so finding a used kayak in my price range that will fit me and allow me to load it on/off a vehicle by myself is a challenge. I have been doing some reading and have started a list, but I was wondering if I could get some feedback from fellow small paddlers on the options that I have available within a 4 hour drive, as I won’t really be able to test any of them.

These are:
Nimbus Solander Plus (I guess this is the older Solander) - fibreglass (looks in good shape from pictures & is the closest)
WS Tempest 165 - plastic (seems heavy @ 55lbs)
Valley Avocet - plastic (this one looks like it has some wear and the hatch covers are missing)
Mariner Coaster - fibreglass (long drive for this one & it’s at the top of my price range)
Current Designs Solstice GTS - fibreglass (long drive again)

Thanks for any help.

Regular Avocet is going to be way big on you. LV would work.
Tempest 165 is a solid boat and could be padded out for you. Note also on the big side since you are really tiny, but it is intended to be a smaller person’s boat and a reliable performer. Get a cart and explore things like extension bars on roof racks to help slide it up and down.

Any Valley hatch covers will always be missing, they rot out. Sealect makes replacements.

Can’t comment on the Coaster or the Solander.

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I think the last Mariners were made in ~2006. The Coaster likely has one or zero watertight hatches and may need float bags to compensate for the lack of flotation when capsized. It is relatively short at ~13 feet.

Those may sound like negative factors, but the Coaster is a cult classic, very sought after by experienced kayakers, especially for rock gardening. Without rudder or skeg it handles very well e.g. very little (if any) weather cocking. I am not sure if the Coaster had the sliding seat, but that would allow adjusting trim on the water. The seller may get the price as listed. Resale would be relatively easy. I have an acquaintance with a Coaster and expect that he will be buried in it when his time comes.

Agree about the coaster, if it’s a decent price get and resell, there is a big demand for any Mariner boats.

If this boat is still available, might be worth grabbing

Northwest did some sort of deal with Mariner to make a lower cost version of the Coaster. Based on the photos, this one looks like it is made of Kevlar.

If you haven’t, definitely consider taking a intro to sea kayaking class. Learning how to get back into a sea kayak in deep water is important - bit different than in an inflatable. And if you get a Coaster (or similar boat without front and back bulkheads), you will need to learn about the extra bits needed to know to rescue in them.

Oh, it seems that the Coasters here in NorCal are losing their cult status a bit, which means prices aren’t as high as they used to be. As mentioned, they used to be highly desired for rough water and rock gardens back when most other sea kayaks were 16+ feet long, but now there are many other boats that do those well.

How much is the Solstice GTS? Year?

Not sure if it’s to long for you. Others will chine in.

My wife is 5’4" and is paddling a Current Design Solstice GTS, Current Designs :: Solstice GTS The boat gets used for day trips and week adventures, it holds a lot of gear.


Well, the Coaster didn’t last long… should have jumped on that when I first saw it but I didn’t have time to make the drive until the weekend :confused:

The Coaster is a very cool boat, but it is also a boat that wouldn’t work if you got into a regular sea kayaking class. Too different from what they would be training around.

I wouldn’t worry about missing it, stuff works out.

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mowog73, how does your wife feel about the ease of turning the Solstice? At my height and weight I worry that it might be too much boat for me, but if she’s happy with it (and not much taller than me) then maybe I should give it a closer look.

Two more to look at :
SKUK Echo and RockPool Isel. Both built for smaller paddlers.

A boat that is an older design, but might work for you if you can find one used, is a P&H Vela. You would have to sit in it to be sure, a higher deck than newer boats, but you can pad that out. A surprisingly capable if abandoned design, 19.5 inch beam at the waterline. But fully equipped, three hatches and full deck rigging etc. Narrow cockpit as it goes to the front so let position is not way froggy.

Arctic Hawk would work for you, l think, just with a seat adjustment and padding to get a comfortable reach to the thigh braces.

A couple of others l recall from earlier days, like in the Necky line, would force you into an uncomfortably froggy position for the thigh braces. I found that to be an issue with the Necky Merlin at a few inches taller than you. I am talking about the small person’s version, was it the XT?

One thing you probably want to look for is a boat with fairly aggressive keyhole cockpit. So you can get your thighs under something.

She finds it easier to turn compared to the 14’ Looksha Sport that the Solstice GTS replaced.

I think if you find the boat fits you, you will find you will be able to maneuver it easily.

I have a Solstice GTHV, a very similar boat to the GTS, and I find that when you lean the boat a bit, doesn’t have to be on its edge, that it turns quite quickly.

I hope that helps.


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Tempest 165 or Avocet RM are both heavy. I find it very challenging to solo load the Avocet RM, even though it fits me pretty well (I’m 5’6” and 135), so was relieved when I found a boat a bit lighter!

I’d look on here for the many lists of small-person kayaks and then be ready to jump if you see one used. Maybe more will come up in fall. It’s a bit hard to find good used small-person kayaks, but if you can be patient they are around. The first thing I thought of was an Impex Mystic which is 14’ long and 21.5” wide, not too heavy. They come up pretty often in my area, often under $1000. Good luck!

Doggy Paddler is right w the Impex Mystic. It’d work for you.

There’s a Nimbus Cygnet on FBMP in Acampo, CA. I don’t know this boat at all but it’s said to be for a smaller paddler. Maybe someone else who knows it will chime in. (Sorry I can’t seem to link to the ad)

What are the particulars on the Solstice GTS. One thing I know are CD boats and pricing. I have been looking at the for ten years plus.

Read some reviews here there probably is a ton on review section. Very popular kayak.

If you bought it and didn’t like it it should be easy to resell with no loss.

The Solstice GTS we have is a kevlar boat. CD’s website says it weighs 48 lb, width of 22". Cockpit is 16.5" x 31". We bought it back in February for less than half the cost of new.

I’ve had the same Solstice GTHV for 25+ years, love the boat. I can see the GTS being the last boat we’ll ever need to buy.

I have weighed all five of my CD hulls they are accurate with the weights + - pound.

The Solstice GTS I’m looking at is a 1997 fibreglass model, apparently in good shape with no repairs & kept indoors. Price seems reasonable (under 700). The website says this is 52lbs, which is a little on the heavy side for me but it’s a big boat. It’s an 8hr round trip to pick up, so I want to make sure I’m onto a winner here.

I also saw that Cygnet, but the owner hasn’t contacted me back.