Usual "What Kayak to Buy" Question

-- Last Updated: Sep-05-14 7:01 PM EST --

I love kayaking. I've rented a many kayaks over the years, but until this last vacation all were roto-molded. This past family vacation in Seattle, we went kayaking three times and, two out of three times I got a kayak with something other than r/m: (1) a Current Designs Double Vision tandem; and (2) an Eddyline Equinox solo. I had a great time on both of them. Now, back on the East Coast (DC burbs), I'm thinking to buy a kayak.

If I was going to get a tandem, I'd get the CD DV. I've been in a lot tandems, and this was the first that didn't feel like a battleship. But I'm thinking to get a solo. I initially thought to get the Equinox, but then I came home and read all the recommendations that led me to conclude that I'd outgrow it too soon to get my money's worth from it (25" width, etc.).

So now I'm thinking something in the 14.5' - 16' range, with a width of 24" or less, for example:
Riot Edge 14.5 (Thermo)
EDL Journey
CD Willow
Delta 15s
CD Vision 150
Swift Saranac 15

I'll never be able to test even half of these in DC, so I may have to buy without testing. I'd consider used as well as new. I'd like something other than r/m and ideally under 50# weight. 80-90% of my use will be day-tripping. I'm 5'9", 148#, and on the young side (61). Any other facts that I need to lay out?

Any/all thoughts welcome!


What kind of water
Lots of different water in the DC area, where do you like to play?

Water testing
There isn’t really a good kayak shop in the immediate D.C. area for on-water tests, but Annapolis Canoe and Kayak is a great shop, isn’t far, carries Current Design (and many others) and will let you test on the water. The Eastern Mountain Sports in Annapolis carries Eddyline, but I’m not sure they can arrange for an on-water test.

If you’re willing drive further, Chester River Kayaks in Rock Hall, MD has Eddyines and will let you test (but call first), and Appomattox River Company (about three hours away) has a very large selection (Eddyline and many others) and will also let you test. They also have an open house on the lake day in the Spring.

Tandems are difficult to paddle solo, so unless you always paddle with a partner, I’d avoid tandems. Even if you have a partner most of the time, you are probably best off with two solos over a tandem.

Here’s my list

– Last Updated: Sep-08-14 7:52 PM EST –

NC Kayaks 15'-8", or 17'-2"
Valley Nordkapp, or Etain
Eddyline Raven
P&H Cetus
Tiderace--what ever suits you.
Current Designs Sirocco, or Gulfstream

These are all lifetime boats that you will not outgrow and if you do, there is always the NC Expedition.

a few other ideas
You could build a kayak and really keep weight down.

You could get a surf ski - light and fast.

But it sounds like you’re sort of on the right track in considering smaller low volume boats. There’s no reason to pay for an expedition kayak when you’re gonna paddle it empty most of the time.

Have you considered shopping used? Lots of good deals on composite kayaks out there.

other non-plastic options

– Last Updated: Sep-06-14 10:47 AM EST –

I'm also of your youthful generation (64) and have reached the point where weight is one of my primary considerations in kayak choice. For that reason and several others you may want to add skin-on-frame and folding kayaks to your short list. If you are not familiar with them, two good intro sites are:



If you are ever in the Pittsburgh area, I have low volume versions of both, a Feathercraft Wisper and a custom built Greenland style skin boat that weighs 31 lbs. I am your weight though a few inches shorter, though with long legs so fit should be comparable. Be happy to let you test them - I 'm 10 minutes from the water here. Another benefit of folders is that you can pack them in a duffel bag and check as baggage on a plane. If you are still bi-coastal that could be handy.

Also look at wood kayaks like Pygmy, Chesapeake Light Craft and Betsie Bay. Even if you lack the resources or ambition to built a kit boat, these regularly come up for sale used. These Are also light boats that have low volume models.

don;t buy without test
Basically, I would remove any boat from the list which you will not be able to test paddle.

Keep in mind - you are likely going to spend at least $2k (and for a boat under 50 pounds, likely quite a bit more). So factoring in a weekend trip away (mileage and lodging) to some place you can test paddle shouldn’t be cost prohibitive. Maybe arrange it at the same time as an event, like a symposium, a demo day, an interesting sounding guided trip, or a class to add some value.

another to consider
51 lbs, $1,300.

Test paddle
Like others have said don’t buy any kayak without test paddling it. Especially since your looking at expensive kayaks. Keep in mind that manufacturers when they state the weight they kinda fudge the weights. They often don’t include the seat and hatch covers in that weight. It makes a difference. A kayak that is a few pounds lighter is noticeable when carrying it.

The one poster mentioned several places you could go to test paddle. Do it for sure. 3 hour drive is nothing if you get the right boat. No idea what your skill level is but I would even tip it over to see how hard it is to get back in. Some kayaks with high back decks make it a lot harder to get your self back in. I myself always test roll it too.

If it’s 16’ or under
that you must have, then have you considered an Avocet? A Romany? And ditto what others have said - don’t ever buy a boat you’ve never test paddled.


– Last Updated: Sep-08-14 5:22 PM EST –

Lots of good advice here! OK, I confess, I was secretly hoping to bypass "try before buy" -- there are some good-sounding deals in used kayaks right here on But I take the point -- I followed the try-before-buy rule for my mountain bike, skis, tennis racket, running shoes -- so of course I also should for a kayak. Thanks, George, for the leads on the semi-close-to-DC kayak stores; I'll give them a try. Thanks to the others for suggesting other models/types for me to check out. I'll do it, and report back.

Thanks again,

The problem with testing
Unless you are a very experienced paddler, there is a good likelihood that you won’t recognize all, or even a few of the attributes that a really good boat has to offer. Do you even have the paddling skills to assess what you are testing? You are most likely going to be influenced by how tippy the boat is, how comfortable the seat is and how hard the boat is to get into and out of. .

Sure, test a boat as well as you can, but be aware that first impressions are often wrong. Keep an open mind and consider that boats that have good reputations have probably earned it. Boats that have a loyal following have probably earned it.

Read the reviews and watch for specific virtues that might interest you. Put more weight on reviews by folks that are long time owners, but don’t ignore those who are experienced paddlers with a new toy.

Happy shopping.

is good advice. My friend did exactly as stated. Sat in the boat-paddled a bit-declared his love. Soon he learned to hate it.

Sometimes, you just have to pull the
trigger on a used kayak and buy without a test paddle. Learn to spot a screaming deal on craigslist. Buyers regret? Just sell it.

At 5’9", 150lbs you’ll be more comfortable – and have more control --in “smaller paddler” boats.

Follow Up – Deals in Annapolis
Compare and contrast:

  1. 2011 CD Willow (kevlar), used but in great condition. I would be allowed to demo it, but haven’t yet. Seller is asking $2400.

  2. Two new (2014) EDL kayaks: Journey and Samba. Each is 20% of regular retail price, so that would be $1895 for the Journey and $1815 for the Samba. I would not be allowed to demo either one.

    Thoughts? Thanks!

Still no kayak

– Last Updated: Apr-29-15 1:08 PM EST –

...but spring is here, I've put my skis away, and am ready to start again with my quest for a kayak. Anyone tried the Dagger Alchemy? The reviews sound good: it's positioned as fun in both whitewater and sea (coastline playing). It weighs more than 50# (51-54, depending on whether the S or L model), but is $1000 less than, say, the ED Samba.

Anyone tried both the Alchemy AND the Samba?