Tribute 12 Airalite vs. Kiwassa 12.6LV

I’ve been researching and testing kayaks, prior to making my first kayak purchase. I’ve paddled a tandem canoe for years with my spouse and have paddled rental kayaks on streams, inter-coastal waterways and bays several times. We paddle a fair amount with groups who paddle mostly kayaks. Last year my spouse purchased a Lake Placid Spitfire solo pack canoe. It’s time for me to have a solo paddle also. My decision is down to the Perception Tribute Airalite kayak (12 feet, classified as a light touring kayak by Perception) and a Swift Kiwassa 12.6LV (the hybrid fusion). Both of these kayaks are geared toward the smaller paddler. Both are lightweight (good for portaging from pond to pond and vehicle loading). I was able to test ride the Kiwassa in both an estuary creek and in a great lake bay (with some wind and chop). I was only able to test the Tribute Airalite in a small narrow and perfectly calm pond. The Tribute is considerably less expensive, but I’m hesitant to buy without some idea as to how it would handle crossing a lake or bay with some wind and moderate chop. Does anyone have any personal knowledge with how the Tribute might handle?

Opinions about both kayaks would be appreciated.

Why those two models?
I don’t know anything about the Tribute. The hybrid fusion Kiwassa is $2295. If you have that much money, I think there are really better choices.

The first important question is length. For the conditions you describe you might consider 13’ to 15’.

Before spending that much money on the Kiwassa, I hope you will research the shallow arch (as opposed to shallow V) hull and how a shallow arch combined with short length impacts stability in waves and confused seas. That would not be my first choice for those conditions.

Can you say more about yourself and your needs? Height, weight, kayaking experience, what your criteria are, budget, conditions you will paddle in, day trips or camping trips?

I also have no experience with the Tribute but recently bought a Swift Saranac Classic for myself. Yes, the Kiwassa is more expensive, but I found the Swift workmanship to be top-notch. The Kiwassa LV, unlike the Tribute, has massive, usable hatches both front and rear - safer and more practical.

I see no need to go with a longer boat as suggested in the post above if your spouse is in a twelve-foot SpitFire.

Have you ruled out a pack canoe for yourself?

Tribute Airalite vs. Kiwassa 12.6
My husband purchased a Lake Placid Spitfire pack canoe a year or so ago. Usually when paddling I’ve been with him and we use our 17’ tandem canoe…unless we are using rental kayaks. I’ve experienced both sit-in and sit on top. Because the groups we paddle with mostly use kayaks, I’m thinking it is about time I went independent, or at least had the option.

Mostly I’d be looking for a light solo kayak that would be fun to explore the numerous streams and small lakes and ponds in upstate NY and the Adirondacks. However, sometimes we do cross good size lakes (say Middle Saranac) and I want to feel relatively safe while doing so. Usually I can avoid windy, choppy situations, but one can always get caught.

I am 5’2". weight 115lbs. I want something I can lift and portage and load on my car with relative ease by myself if I have to. I also tried the Swift Saranac 14LV also fit me relatively well, but actually seemed a little less stable (at least initially) when I took it out on Irondiqoit Bay in a bit of chop. Also tried a Current Designs Vision 12 and Vision 13 but they just didn’t seem to fit me as well.

I will take your advice about researching the shallow V vs. the shallow arch. Thanks for the suggestion.

Warren Little Wing 12.5
would easily meet your requirements. It weighs 22-Lbs, has tremendous storage capacity for a 12-footer, and will allow you to handle 2-3-ft waves and 30-mph winds with ease and confidence. I have paddled my 12.5 for over a year on inland lakes, ponds, and Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Also, easy to portage between lakes. I love the way mine handles.

There are two negative to the Warren 12.5; first it is expensive (over $3000 list), and it scratches and dents quite easily so care is needed in lauching and landing.

Kiawassa 12.6
Having owned a Saranac 14.6 which I believe has a similar hull shape let me say this about my experience with it. Excellent stability, did very well in a 2-3 ocean swell, the reason I sold the boat is because it did not have good glide so essentially once you stopped paddling, the boat stopped moving forward.

Hmmm, poor glide
I don’t find that at all with the Saranac Classic.

Pack canoes vs. 12 foot kayaks
No. Haven’t ruled out the Spitfire for myself. They list at about 2600 now and I was trying to stay below it.

The Perception Tribute 12 Airlite is about the same weight and about a $1,000 less expensive then the Swift Kiawassa (or the Swift Pack Canoe for that matter). However, I think it would be easier to take on water and flip it and I really didn’t like the Tribute dealer. When he found out that I was considering a Swift, he started to bad mouth them. Course he didn’t handle Swifts.

Problem is not the workmanship
I think the Swift plastic and the workmanship are good (better than Hurricane). I think the design is not on par with Eddyline for stability, efficiency, and esthetics. My Kiwassa was very unstable in coastal water that an Eddyline or Delta would have been able to handle (only comparing to Thermoforms here since the OP brought up Swift and wants lightweight).

There’s no real consensus about the shallow-arch hull. I will only make the observation that the shallow-V is much more common. For me the combination of the shallow arch plus the short length of the Kiwassa was unworkable. It was tossed around like a ping pong ball. I sold the Kiwassa for safety reasons and got a longer Eddyline.

So that’s the dilemma about weight: short kayaks are light, but not always safe in rough water. If light weight is a priority, you really have to research the hull design and think carefully about the length. I would say, go with the lightest, shortest kayak that is SAFE IN YOUR INTENDED CONDITIONS.

Saranac Lake gets enough wind and waves that personally I would much rather be in at least a 14’ kayak, even if my spouse were in a 12 footer. No sense both of you ending up in the water. :-((

Yours is 1" narrower
That can make a big difference.

Couple of questions
What was your impression of the Kiwassa when you tested it?

What aspect of the Visions didn’t fit you well?

OK, now that we know your height and weight it’s clear you need a small, light kayak. One problem is that many short, light kayaks are also wide (they need the extra width for stability). Here are some kayaks that are 12’-14’ and weigh 45 lbs or less:

Hurricane Tampico 135S

Necky Manitou 13 & 14 composite

Merlin LT (check the hull design & stability carefully)

QCC 300S

Reply to Couple of Questions
The Kiwassa LV just fit. The cockpit was the right size and width to hook my thighs under. The foot braces were easily adjusted to fit me and I had notches to go shorter or longer rather than having them on the shortest adjustment. I really liked the roomy hatches and the covers, the padding around the cockpit which was nice against my legs and made carrying the kayak on my shoulder comfortable. And I just loved the colors (yeah, I know…so like a woman). It felt stable to me, but a couple of reviews suggest it doesn’t “perform” well outside of calm situations. Still, I didn’t get scared in the short amount of time I was out in the choppier situation although I admit I didn’t spend much time out or try to cross the bay. The biggest thing I didn’t like was the price. Just not sure I would use it enough to justify spending $2300 to $2500 vs. the $1300 for the Tribute.

I liked the fit of the Tribute 12 Airalite also. It is also marketed toward small paddlers, had a comfortable seat, was light enough at 34lbs. that I could portage myself for reasonable distances and maybe even get it on top of a vehicle by myself. The con was that I was only able to test it in a very small, perfectly calm pond. It appeared to have a subtle keel or V shape to its hull as opposed to a U shape. Would that do anything to the stability? (Haven’t had a chance to do the research yet on shallow arch vs. shallow V yet. Been out paddling our Mad River canoe today. :))

The Current Design Vision 12 was the right size cockpit, but the foot braces had to go in the first hole to be usable for me. The Vision 13 foot braces wouldn’t work at all. When I tested the Vision 12, it was in the bay and the wind and chop were worse. I felt ok, but I was being very cautious. It seemed like it might be faster than the Kiwassa. When I made the approach back to the dock, the wind and waves were at my back and with a couple of paddles I picked up a wave and I actually rode it in. Exciting, but a little unnerving for someone more used to calm water situations.

Thanks for the other suggestions. I will try to check them out. Who makes the QCC 300S? A search didn’t come up with anything.