touring sea kayak for small woman

Does anyone out there have a recommendation for a 5 ft tall(120lbs) woman wanting to find the right touring sea kayak? Looking for a lightweight boat for multiday trips.

more info please!
What level of paddler are you? What is your price range? What conditions will you be paddling in?

With that said, the Current Designs Slipstream is a nice boat for smaller women. The Valley Pintail also is a fun boat.

Others recommend the P&H vela
but at 220 pounds I’ve never paddled one.

local has one
it’s cute


– Last Updated: Feb-08-05 6:04 AM EST –

will allow her to do "multi day" and still be enjoyable for day touring. However, if "multiday" means a week or more, then you may want to consider a bigger boat like the CD slipstream, Impex Montauk, Eddyline Nighthawk 16, Chatham 16. The fact is the majority of paddlers buy these very high volume boats that are big enough for mini-expeditions but rarely go out for more than a weekend, if at all. Then they're stuck with pushing more weight and higher volume boats that are more affected by wind on the many more day trips they do. In other words, they buy a boat that is suited for that maybe one trip a year and then compromise the ease of a lighter, low volume boat on the many more day trips they do in a given year.


I’m lighweight,taller
and love my QCC600! Fits me like a glove!

NDK Explorer Low Volume
I am taller than you (5’4"), but I’ve seen women your size fit in this boat fine as well as myself. It has an extra small cockpit and is probably the only full length touring boat in curent production where the thigh braces may actually cover your thighs. So you have decent contact for manuvering. Most of the other options will be OK on your weight, and but you’ll find the best you can get out of the cockpit fit is a knee brace - the cockpit size will be your basic small.

I love the CD Slipstream but at 4" shorter than myself this boat may have the same problem. It’s also not the most forgiving boat out there.

The LV also has a deck that is lowered from the regular one, so you can get a good fit vertically as well as forward. And the LV is a very forgiving boat that will be fine for a paddler that is still learning. I didn’t catch your skill level, but a lot of the boats that may fit you better are also boats that will require a fair bit of your attention in rougher stuff.

Re size, the Explorer LV is a full length touring boat - 17 ft and some inches. You’ll get a good bit more storage out of it than most of the other boats mentioned here, but you will be regularly hauling around a full length expedition boat. As mentioned above, if you are planning to only do lightweight camping, not a week out or so, you may want to go with a 16 ft boat and just plan on getting it really fitted out.

The Impex Mystic is not going to have a lot of storage capacity but probably has the lowest deck of the listed 16 ft boats - definately worth a try if the LV isn’t for you.

By the way, 'ware the Chatham 16. I tried their first year when it came out, and the cockpit was beyond huge even at 4 inches taller than you. I’ve heard that they made it smaller in subsequent years, but at your size the original cockpit would be uselessly too big.

One other boat that may be fittable for you pretty well is the Foster Silhouette, but you’d have to sit in one and see. I am still not sure that your leg length would get you to a useful brace point, thoug the boat is nice and narrow. It is also not a beginner boat.


Impex options
Your about the same size as my wife and the following would probably be right on target, but I’d rather see you paddle them first before giving my suggestions the final approval. (Was that enough of a disclaimer?)

Impex Montauk - 16’ 49lb.FG/41lb.CK

Impex Outer Island - 18’ 57lb.FG/49lb.CK

(my wife’s speed boat)

Impex Force 3 - 17’ - to be released later this year. Skinny boat comparable to a slightly smaller scale NDK Explorer.

I have pictures of the first two on:

Not sure exactly when the Force 3 will make it’s appearance.

See you on the water,


Mystic is 14’

Force 3 Info?
(Yeah - I’d forgotten the length of the Mystic.)

Re the Force 3, is there any info on what they did to modify the boat for a smaller paddler? I hadn’t heard of this one yet, and Impex is doing some really interesting things.

Thanks if you know!

I am 5’ 5" and weigh 130-135#
and love my avocet. Although considered a day touring boat, it has a greater storage capacity than the pintail, and the Anus Acuta. It has a nice, low rear deck. Here is a link for more info:

The boat comes in plastic as well.

Weight , Brit Boats
I know someone will mention this re the NDK boats… though Brit boats are traditionally quite heavy, both NDK and Valley now have produced lighter weight layups. My LV comes in at about 45 pounds.

I don’t know if that is light enough - but I can get it on my shoulder and walk with it if I’m not too beat at the end of the paddle.

On forgiving quality in a boat - I didn’t mean to sound snotty or whatever on that. On many days I’d like to be out in the most challenging boat I could possibly handle. But for most of them, especially touring, I’d rather think about aiming the camera than keeping the boat upright.


Another possibility is…
Joe Greenley’s Redfish Kayak, the ‘Silver’.

You would need to build or have someone build her for you…but you will have a beautiful and very light wonderful kayak. If interested you can contact Joe to see who paddles one near you…most builders love to share their boat for a demo…and just to talk shop.



Eddyline Nighthawk 16
I’m 5’4", 125 lbs. and it fits me like a glove, handles great and can carry enough for a week, easy. (And that includes 50 lbs. of water when traveling places where the water filter doesn’t work well) It weighs in at 49 lbs. in carbonlite.

I paddle the Vela. I am 5’4" and 125#. It is my first kayak and I had no problem as a beginner, and still love paddling it 4 years later. I agree that long trips are not a possibility, but I’ve had no problem doing a week end, could do 3 days. It not only fits great, but performs well, and as long as you don’t intend to take long trips it would be a good one to consider.

I rented one and thought the cockpit was too large and the fit generally loose. This was one with a keyhole cockpit (which I prefer) but I am told that the newer Pintails are slightly different from the older ones.

Would not want to do multiday tours with a Pintail. The one I rented had had the skeg removed for repair. I got used to making it track straight in calm stuff, but when the wind picked up, it became more work than fun.

It did not feel like a 17’ kayak due to short waterline length. My 16’ wood kayak tracks better and resists weathercocking much better, yet still is easy to carve turns with.

Multiday trips for smaller paddler
I’m 5’2" and 110 lbs. First sea kayak was a CD Squall, which I still use for camping. I also paddle a Shearwater Merganser 16, which I have only used on day trips so far (it appears to have as much space as the Squall does—I just don’t have any deck rigging on it).

How you pack makes a big difference in load capacity, as well as the kayak’s shape. If your kayak has fine ends as the Squall does, it’s even more important to use tapered bow/stern bags. I bought one of these, found out how much more gear I could add, then bought another one. They make a BIG difference in carrying capacity. Also, nylon bags slide past each other rather than sticking and hanging up, as PVC bags do. Get dry bags with purge valves whenever possible, as they allow you to easily remove excess air space. Practice packing, and when you figure out the best “mapping” of bags, record it as a drawing or a list of what goes where in what order.

Kayaks with the same beam widths can have very different cargo capacities, depending on overall shape as well as deck height.

Except for food and water, you need the same amount of gear for 8 weeks as you do for 8 days. I thought my Squall could only take 1 week’s worth of gear, but it served me well during a month of paddling in AK. We picked up pre-mailed boxes containing 2 weeks of food (we planned enough food to last 6 weeks). I did have to stash some of it on top of the deck (not a great thing to do), but it worked. No capsizes. This is one of the advantages of using a kayak meant for LD touring rather than just day trips: it’s likely to be stable enough to allow practices such as keeping overflow stuff on top.

Trust me, if the boat fits reasonably well in the first place and you are used to paddling it, you won’t mind the fact that you are pushing more boat through the water than if you were using the smallest day tripper you could handle. It’s really nice to be able to take a photograph from the kayak, or rummage around in the cockpit for that snack, paddle jacket, or water bottle.

At your size, as long as the thigh braces actually fit over your thighs instead of the kneecaps (common problem for us small paddlers, as celia pointed out), you can easily add minicell foam to take up extra vertical space. My Squall is big enough that I have extra vertical AND horizontal space, but I added more padding under the thigh braces, use a good backband instead of the crappy stock backrest, and can roll the kayak even with the hip slop.

BTW, the Squall is fairly heavy, being plastic, but its composite version, the Solstice GTS, would be worth considering as one of your candidates.

My first touring boat, and a heck of a solid performer. Would require some significant padding out like mentioned above for you, and you would probably want them to move the rails for the pegs back as well (I had them do that), but the boat will handle anything.

The big downside is the weight, about 62 pounds, which is why I didn’t mention it before. But then again, it’s plastic. So if you drop it while trying to get it off the car, no big deal. Get a kayak cart and you may find an “abusable” plastic boat easier to manage than a composite boat that you have to handle with care. Of interest - CD is apparently redoing the molds for this boat. And if they are putting them out at present with those plastic bulkheads that do not impress me at all, it wouldn’t be a reach to add in a block of minicell foam and glue it in to strengthen it up.

The Squall is also a fairly fast boat for a plastic one, at least when it is newer. You’d have an easier time keeping up with a group than in a lot of 16 foot boats. You didn’t mention who you’d be paddling with, but if everyone else is in 10 ft plus boats you may want to consider speed and tracking as a criteria.

The Explorer LV would require less fitting than just about anything but a custom made one, but budget may be a factor too. They are very fairly priced but you are still talking about $2900 new (before the most recent plunges of the dollar).

Um - 17 ft plus boats…
not 10, for other boats. (how’d I manage that typo??)

there should be a low volume version
of the QCC600,it’s a very,very efficient hull shape, with less windage and smaller cockpit it would work very well as a smaller persons touring kayak.