Touring Kayak Question

-- Last Updated: May-27-10 1:08 AM EST --

Hi guys, hoping you can help me out.

I'm setting out to take a pretty long kayak trip this summer, the length of the Mississippi, looking at about 2-2.5 months. I'd be restocking for food once every 4 or 5 days. I've been looking at a whole bunch of used touring kayaks in my area, and there's only really 2 that could possibly meet my needs:

1) 13' not-name-brand touring kayak for $500. The storage space is a bit small, and I'm worried I won't be able to hold all the stuff I'd like to inside. I might need to carry a lot less food and restock much more often than I'd like.

2) Necky Elaho HV for $650. It definitely has the storage space, but I'm worried this boat might be a bit big for me, at 17' to my 5'8" 150 lbs.

So I was wondering if anybody had any advice / experience. Is a 13 foot boat reasonable for trip, or do I really want a longer/faster one? Is the Elaho worth the money & manageable for a smaller guy?

Thanks for your help

maybe the Elaho
I’m responding with a bit of hesitancy to you. I was a wilderness instructor for some years and also used to work in the outfitting business and often had people come in to buy gear for trips that in my opinion were way beyond their capacity and knowledge. This places the professional consultant in a quandary: do we allow the person to purchase the invariably inadequate gear they “think” they need for their ambitious trip? On the one hand, I would feel a responsibility to talk them into getting more instruction and real-life experience and to persuade them to buy the kind of functional gear that they REALLY need for the trip they are dreaming about. On the other hand, I learned that approach can backfire – some times it is better to let them buy the cheap junk because they will discover more quickly that they are in over their heads and bail out on their “expedition” before they get in far enough to put themselves in danger. I am still haunted by the three guys who came in with a totally stupid list of woefully useless gear to climb a Peruvian mountain (they had NO Alpine experience, had only taken a local class in snow camping and basic rock climbing). I had a bad feeling about it but was able to persuade them to purchase warm clothes and bags, tents, stoves and safe climbing gear. All three made it to the summit, became disoriented, fell on the descent and died. I always wonder if I had just let them fly down there with the army boots, summer sleeping bags and sterno they were planning to use (on a 20,000’ glaciated peak!) they would have given up at base camp and come home to their families.

With that in mind, i will say that the Elaho would be a better choice for what you have in mind. But also, what you have in mind is clearly beyond your experience level if you have to ask such a question. The Mississippi is a major industrial waterway with many objective and subjective hazards, not a peaceful country stream. I admire your ambition and optimism but feel this sort of solo attempt at your level is foolhardy.

I will be interested to see what some others think of your plan.

longer boat

– Last Updated: May-27-10 1:33 AM EST –

I have a 14'6" Necky Looksha Sport which I have done overnight trips out of, and it is very tight (and I have to leave behind comforts that I wish I could bring). But I have used 17 foot boats for week plus long trips no problem. For storage space, I think the larger boat will be much appreciated.

Elahos generally are not large people boats (though I have never tried the HV version). On that, I actually do not fit in a standard Elaho (6' tall, 220 pounds).

On a trip like this, carrying only food for a week or so - the food and water is not the major space user in the boat. the least…
…or any similiar true sea kayak. Be aware you will have to portage at some spots. Others have tried to do this trip so search the archive here for any additional advice. hope the links help or just google …

…mississippi river kayaking…

Take a look at the Tsunami160
The Wilderness Systems Tsunami series are a nice bunch of touring boats that come in low and high volume. The “5” indicates the high volume boats. They have front and read hatches, full rigging, the ability to add a rudder, good size, and at 16’ or more, a proper day hatch. The Tempest is another consideration, although it’s more of a sea kayak. For this length of trip, longer is better, for speed, handling, and storage. I like the higher volume 165, but I’m 6’2" 260. At your size you could look at the 140 as well, but I’m not sure how you’re built (slim, muscular). A friend jsut took his 160 down the Connecticut River from Mass line to LI Sound (68 miles, three days). The System 3 seating is a major plus in these boats when you’re spending long days in the cockpit.


– Last Updated: May-27-10 1:48 PM EST –

"Is the Elaho worth the money"

That a mere $150 might be a make-or-break amount is a bit worrisome.

How much paddling have you done?

The questions you ask indicate that you really have no experience. Typically, a person would choose to get some experience before such a trip.

The 13 footer sounds like a "rec" boat. Of the two, the Elaho would be it.

Better plan
I’d say buy the Elaho, which is being offered for a good price. Then paddle it around your local area for the next two seasons, be sure to take some safety training. If you still feel like you’re king of the river after some humbling experiences in safe water close to home, then plan your Mississippi adventure for season three.

Thank you very much for both the advice and concern. It does sound like the Elaho is the consensus pick, which is good because it’s the one I was leaning towards anyway!

I’m not quite sure how to respond to those who would call for me to rethink the trip. I guess I would like to assure all of you that I am completely aware of my ignorance and am quite fine with that state of affairs. My absolute favorite thing to do in life is to put myself into scenarios which are entirely out of my comfort zone. While my chances of successfully completing the trip would be far higher if I trained for a season or two before embarking, that would take all the fun out for me! This attitude has gotten me injured before, and it probably will do so again. Working through the unanticipated difficulties, and learning about myself through that process, is always the true goal for the trip.

Thanks once more for all of your help, and see you on the other side.

p.s. I don’t really see why it’s worrisome that I would be concerned about wasting $150. I’m on a bit of a tight budget, and $150 can take you a long ways if you use it right.

Fair enough
OK, sounds like you’re cognizant of your position, which is good. On the subject of money, buying a used boat is a good idea. It’s also a good idea to pick up a good lightweight paddle - those can be had used as well. Werner paddles are good and commonly available.

I encourage you NOT to economize on a pfd aka life jacket (maybe you already have one). A crappy one will just rub you raw in all the wrong places, be generally uncomfortable, fall apart, etc. I recommend a Kokatat MsFit Tour (yes, the woman’s model, it fits great) or something similar, well engineered and with some pockets. I know they’re expensive, but sometimes you get what you pay for. And you have to wear it while paddling, of course. Good luck with it all. Cheers…

Penny-wise but pound foolish

– Last Updated: May-27-10 3:32 PM EST –

"p.s. I don't really see why it's worrisome that I would be concerned about wasting $150. I'm on a bit of a tight budget, and $150 can take you a long ways if you use it right."

And (maybe) risking the venture to save $150 is not very smart.

It's a hint that your priorities might be out of wack.

It's penny-wise but pound foolish.

Tight budgets are OK but don't be crazy about it.

Only a suggestion, but you might
want to look into things a bit more. A friend of mine has done the Mississippi and is continuing on. You could glean a good amount of gear, route, weather & water conditions, etc. info from his website and blog.

Don’t forget
repair supplies appropriate for the materials of your boat.

old man river
Good luck to you. I have read two books on people who have paddled the entire mississippi river with little or no previous experience. One guy borrowed a canoe and went at it blind. So it can be done. Just use your head and have fun with it. It will take alot of luck and a greenback dollar.For god sakes be careful! Read the guide books and have PLENTY of water and emergency gear. I would go for at least a true sea kayak. Once again good luck, and let us know how it turns out please.

Good luck. Sounds like your handle is appropriate-you like to roll the dice.

Get the Elaho.

Paddling the Mississippi
My wife and I paddled the Mississippi River in 2005. There’s a ton of info on our website that you might want to check out.

Regarding the kayak, I’d get the Elaho if I were you. You’re going to need the carrying capacity for water if nothing else.

Another option would be to pick up a canoe. I find for a long trip that canoes are easier to live out of (re: pack, load, carry, etc). There’s a bunch of portages (at least 15, IIRC + whatever locks you choose to not go through).