Which boat for 20-30 mile day trips?

Agreed, and you’ll shorten your wait time if you have several models of interest on your list.
Also, if listings for quality used boats are sparse in your area, being ready to pull the trigger when a good boat at a good price comes up is important. Chances are that someone else is looking too.


You need to look daily at minimum 3-4 sources. I would keep a link on my phone screen for 3-4 places. You can check all 4 in 1-2 minutes or less.

In addition to demo-ing many kayak makes/models, consider a series of training sessions with an advanced ACA or BCU instructor. Effectively performed strokes and maneuvers will make paddling any distance more efficient, safe and enjoyable.

For me, a 20-30-mile day trip involves a tandem canoe and a good paddling partner - two engines are better than one. :wink:

I am primarily an open boater and a river paddler who bought a sea kayak this summer. I am a little bigger than you (OK, a lot bigger than you - 230 lbs.) and ended up with a P&H Capella 166 RM. When buying used you obviously are stuck with what’s available in the market. I ended up with a list similar to yours, but found that the shorter boats just weren’t available around here. Maybe you will be lucky or more patient than I was. At my size it’s probably just as well that some of the smaller boats weren’t available anyway.

In terms of “putting down miles” vs. maneuverability, I’m not a big fan of dual use boats, so pick what you want to do and get a boat that fits that need. In this case it sounds like need a cruiser. Go for it, and use your current boat on narrow twisting streams or to play around in easy whitewater.

I have to say, coming from an open boat/moving water background, paddling the Capella has been an interesting learning process - especially edging to the outside of the turn - something I would never do in moving water. I’m getting there.

I took the Capella out on the river the first time this weekend. It has been raining here in southern New England for the past three weeks, and all my local rivers are cranking. I needed to stay local and do an up-and-back trip. I figured it would be easier fighting the upstream current in the kayak, and it was.

Going upstream the boat was all over the place, and I wasn’t sure why. I assumed it was the current and tried to manage it just by edging the boat. Eventually I gave in and put down the skeg. It was a lot easier. When I turned around at the top of the run I realized that I had been paddling upstream with a pretty strong tail wind, so the boat had been weathercocking. Putting down the skeg was the right thing to do. Live and learn.

Good luck with your search.

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Based on what you’ve said about the availability of touring boats in your area, be prepared to travel a bit. I’d say my average for boats over the years is ~6 hours one-way. I’ve traveled farther for some. Do as much research as you can, get plenty of pics showing the condition, talk to the owner about fit comfort, and make a little trip out of it. You might get lucky and find something local but I’d be prepared to cover some ground if needed.


My limit was doing the trip in a day so usually that was under 4.5 hours one way. Nice slow video up and down the kayak top and bottom is usually best. Sometimes pictures show glare and it can hide or look like scratches. Few boats were better than expected. Some people send you pictures and never bothered to hit it with a hose for a rinse. Gel coat buffed up can become near new again.

Was 800 bucks. I got few others for 7-900 bucks including a 22’ Libra XT tandem for 900. Two of the kayaks I bought the people didn’t even use them they took them as payment when people owed them money.


If you will see class II rapids, stay at 14’ or less and plastic rather than composite. Otherwise go with a 16’ composite. Personally, I would have two boats because a good class II boat is not going to be a great flatwater distance boat. I regularly paddle 20-30 miles a day on lakes and wide rivers like the lower Potomac, often in strong winds, and have done 50 miles in a day on my local lake, Lake Wylie. My distance boat is an Eddyline Nighthawk, 16’ with a skeg and an amazingly comfortable seat. I can paddle that boat endlessly. I have longer and faster boats, but nothing more comfortable for an all-day paddle.

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Attainments are so satisfying. Even more so when there are enough features to eddy hop your way up a river flowing at a good current.

good insight, thanks

I can only address whether a composite sea kayak designed for straight-line speed like mine (Current Designs Caribou, skeg-equipped, 17’-8" long with not a lot of rocker) might work for you.

My kayak handles wind and waves very well, as do most decent sea kayak designs. But it wouldn’t be much fun to paddle my kayak in wind if you can’t choose a direction with respect to the wind and stick with it. If you keep going from upwind to crosswind back to upwind etc., that would make skeg management a royal pain.

How much maneuverability do you really need? Do your rivers have tight blind bends, “sweepers” (fallen trees in the water), rocky or very shallow sections, or other dangers? If so, a kayak like mine would not be a great choice.

Just for curiosity, will your 20-30 mile day trips be downstream-only with car shuttle, or out-and-back? Even with my fast, tracks-like-a-train sea kayak, I could never manage to paddle upstream through the rapids created by side streams/rivers emptying into my (also slow in late summer when I paddled there) main river. Maybe your rivers are different, but at these locations my river became very shallow and the water really picked up speed!

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This is insight I needed to hear, because yes, this is not an uncommone event. Thanks for chiming in. My solo trips are up and back. Mileage isn’t as important on those as I can turn around at any point. There are a couple sections of rivers that I have my mind on for point to point with shuttle. Those sections fall in the 20-30 range. Flow rate varies dramatically from flat to nope. I want to be able to do it at both flat and about halfway to nope. :grin:

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:smiley: The good news is, going downstream the closer it is to “nope,” the slower your kayak can be! :wink:

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Eddyline Nighthawk is worth adding to the list of possibilities, IMO.

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It ain’t close, but I’ve got a Necky Looska 17 (poly) I’d part with if you can’t find anything else.

Okay, you have a very wide range of kayaks on your list, now to pare it down.

Luckily you want to develop your skills. Dump the boats that are like what you are already paddling. Then dump the ones that too far away from your skills.

Think of where you want to be in 6 months.Look at the boats that are there ( 6 months from now).

I would shoot for 16-17 feet long and a beam of 22-24 inches. Plastic will be fine, since there are some small rapids to negotiate and remember that a good paddle is often the best way to improve your skills.

The Night Hawk is a good boat. More stable than the specs suggest and quite responsive. I find it to be quick for the length. Mine weighs 52 lbs. on my super-accurate bathroom scale.

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Says the guy with how many boats?


No comment on # but all bought once. :laughing:

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Yeah Josh if you paddle on rivers with sunken trees then rocker is critical. I hit submerged trees basically every time I paddle. Last season I managed to pin myself sideways against a barely submerged tree and in a situation like that some rocker helps a lot to give you more options and keep you relaxed. Plus if you get hung up on top of a sunken log in a zero rocker boat it’s scary…super unstable.

I’m also an up and back paddler and if I switched to kayaks I’d hope to work my way up to a boat like raisins’. I think his is a relatively narrow 16’ with generous rocker.


Yep, that pic looks really similar to type of Rivers I find myself on. Can’t find the comment for raisins, any chance you recall the model. Your advice about sunken logs is good. Thanks. Crazy how this thread has exploded. Been a lot more fun reading this than other stuff.