Which kayak to buy for long trips

I am planning on training and taking a long trip either down the entire pacific coast of North America or just down the California coast. I am 5’8 150lbs and was wondering which kayaks would be the best for this. I prefer more control but I’ve also never done a trip that long. Any recommendations?


many great kayaks out there. I would get something in the 22" range plus or minus a tad and over 16’-17’. What is your budget? New, used, roto, or composite? How much gear & supplies are you hauling? I personally like Current Designs CDkayak.com line but there are other good ones out there also. Seaward makes many sizes and may be not to far as you are in CA and them in western Canada. Where are you in CA as someone here nay have good dealer near you also.

What’s your experience to date?

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Marshall’s question holds bearing, as the west coast is very committing, with exposed shores, big conditions, and often few landing places. I can think of more than one paddler who had to cut short their trip due to wrecking the boat and/or being rescued.

Here is a report from early on from a trip that Matt Krizan, a west coast ACA level 5 instructor, did. He damaged the boat on a surf landing (which took repair work at a surf shop to make usable) and had to fix his rudder multiple times, but did finish the trip. http://www.hmbreview.com/sports/kayaker-goes-on-an-odyssey/article_2b497bbc-3782-11e3-a909-001a4bcf887a.html

I general, you’ll want a long boat to carry all the gear and lots of food. 18 feet would not be unreasonable. Many people doing long expeditions seem to prefer ruddered boats, which lets them focus on moving forward (using the rudder to compensate for side wind or swell).

I can connect you with Matt and provide a lot of other contact/info (more so for CA than OR and WA) should the trip come together.

Here is another article on Matt K’s trip:

And here is an article on a guy trying the entire west coast who ran into trouble (to put it mildly - check out the pics of his boat) just south of the Columbia River:

There is a reason the shores near the columbia are used by the Coast Guard for small boat training. It is a horrible stretch of water (almost perpetually), filled with rough surf, rebound waves, and high currents. He was fortunate to make it to shore. Not a lot of good options at night in such surf.

So, yeah, a longer boat should make it possible to carry sufficient gear (17 to 18 feet) and maintain the tracking you need. As stated, much of N. Calif. coastline is rocky and steep. Lots of dumping waves at the surf line (steep shores, so waves come in and dump all their energy in a surprisingly small area - in some places the distance between swell and wave collapse can be just a few feet). Beautiful, but powerful conditions. Cape Disappointment (around the mouth of the Columbia) is, as stated, really gnarly. The rest of the Oregon coast is not as difficult as the lost coast section of N. Cal., but it is still no walk in the park.

This is considered a highly technical area to paddle, so skills should be sharpened ahead of time. You really do not want to be caught in the changeable conditions without the confidence to handle them.


This is all great to know, I was also trying to plan where I wanted to start. I wasn’t planning on doing the whole coast as a first trip but hopefully a good chunk of the California coast. What are your guys thoughts on a 13ft? I’m an ultralight packer so I try to remain extremely light on what I’m packing and not overly concerned about space. I would like to stay below $800 for a kayak. Is it possible to have a slightly thicker kayak and do the trip efficiently? As of right now I know the basics of kayaking and I’m planning on taking courses which is why I am planning this trip for next year.

13 Foot Kayak for what you want to do = No.

Look for 16’. Polyethylene is fine with forward/aft bulkheads and hatches. Skeg or rudder will be beneficial. You can likely find one that’ll fit you (another topic) for your budget.

As to “know the basics”, you’re proficient in all on this curriculum?

See you on the water,
The Connection, Inc.
Hyde Park, NY
845-228-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile
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13’ kayak, are you joking? You better go take some lessons from Marshall or the Kayak Academy.

Shorter boats don’t track as well, and don’t go as fast. Considering you are going to cover a lot of miles, having a boat that helps you move straight forward more efficiently would really pay off. Matt Krizan’s paddle of California coast was 36 paddling days, and many of those days were in excess of 40 miles. If you get a boat that can average an extra mph (say 4mph instead of 3mph), you can see that this can greatly shorten your paddling time.

On super light packing, keep in mind that there will be stretches where you need to go a week plus without being able to restock. This often includes water (though this year there are lots of streams running which you could possibly filter from, but that isn’t the norm). So your gear (tent, sleeping bag, clothing, etc.) isn’t usually the majority of what you carry, but instead it is food and water. And you will need lots of food to offset the calories you burn.

Another consideration for a $800 kayak is that you would be looking at a rotomolded plastic boat. On plus side, they are cheap and durable. Downside is that if you did wreck one, they are generally not repairable in the field (and limited repairable at home). Most everyone on these extended expeditions use composite boats, because you can repair them overnight in the field (though they are a bit more fragile, so additional care on launches and landing needs to be taken to avoid needing to make repairs).

Liz, while you’re planning, I think the Deep Trouble books might be helpful. They certainly were for me.


I was going to write a sincere reply, but now I’m beginning to think you’re just joshing us. Either you are just pulling our legs, or you have no business considering the journey you’re contemplating

However, on the off chance that you really do want to put yourself out there on that stretch of ocean. First of all, you’re going to need a few years of experience and that will give you time to save up for a boat that has some chance of making the trip. Hopefully, the experience will reveal the extreme challenge you have in mind and convince you to find something more prudent to do. That said, my recommendation for a boat would be an NC Expedition. Another choice worth consideration would be a Valley Nordkapp.

Not joshing anyone, I would really like to learn more in detail about this as I only really know the basics. I have connections to a 13ft which is why I asked. For a larger kayak I’d probably have to take a shorter trip probably morro bay would be the furthest I’d be able to start just because of transportation. I just want as much information as I can get and also would like to take classes to prepare myself. You gotta start somewhere right? I will look into those classes and also getting that book. Anything else I should be aware of for starting to plan a trip like this? Also I’m fine with starting small I’m not planning on doing the entire coast for my first tour. Any suggestions that would be better for a starter tour around LA area?

It’s a trip I’ve always wanted to accomplish since I was a kid and am gathering a couple people to do it with me as well. We all want to have the best knowledge we can before we do this which is why I’m fine with how long it would take to train and prepare.

Okay, assuming you’re not yanking our chain, I then have to believe that you are very inexperienced and haven’t the faintest idea what you’ve talked yourself into. That isn’t meant to be a criticism, or to diminish your enthusiasm.

In the best of circumstances, a 13’ kayak might be the right tool for surfing a few waves in a relatively safe area, but certainly not the right boat to put a lot of miles behind you. Even if the Pacific Ocean lived up to it’s name–which it doesn’t, perhaps the biggest challenge and frustration with long distance paddling is the feeling that you’re just spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere. Also, there are times when a bit of speed can get you through conditions where otherwise you would be stuck–such as trying to make headway against winds and, or currents.

In any case, it’s hard not to admire your sense of adventure and ambition, so good luck and don’t do any big trips until you’re realistically confident in yourself and your vessel.

Is there a smaller trip that you would recommend embarking on first? Thanks for the feedback. Really is helpful, I guess to best explain my experience level, I have more stamina, water safety and swimming capabilities than the average person but I do know I have a lot of work ahead.

Unless you went on a fast track schooling schedule and that still don give you experience you could end up a news paper article. Not to be mean but if you’re asking what type of kayak for a trip like that it should have told me your not ready. When you’re ready for a coastal journey in the ocean 90% of your questions should be eliminated. When you can’t stand up in the water it’s a problem. Go for it when you’re ready. Slow but sure! Good luck!

A guided trip down in Baja might be a good way to get started kayak camping, especially if you can find someone to help you with paddling skills and expedition type skills. You can learn how to pack and paddle e loaded boat.
Also be aware that ultra light gear (especially tents) might not be the prefered shelter to hunker down in an exposed place like a beach, whilst you wait out storms. So make sure that you pick your shelter carefully.

Hello AdventureAddictt : If you are in the LA area I would suggest you get in contact with Jenn Kleck at Aqua Adventures in San Diego and see what kind of coastal paddling courses they have planned. They used to do three classes that involved basics of ocean paddling, rescues and surfzones then sign up for a trip with AquaAdventures to Baja. Two trips to build your skills would be the Todos Santos Island Trip and the other would be the Baja Sea caves. You could also look into some guided paddles in the Sea of Cortez. There used to be a few businesses that conducted good training in LA area but I think they have gone out of business. Also there is a kayak club called “California Kayak Friends”. You can google for this. Previously they did several group paddles a year ( I am not sure if the are still active, and you would need to know how to roll and surf zone skills). A good training paddle is to paddle out to Catalina Island and paddle around the island, do this as a group and carry your camping gear, water etc. Some of the other Channel Islands offer more challenging coastal conditions and you can find guided tours. Anacapa is great.

The coastline in the LA area is much tamer than Northern California, that being said you should go in a group if you are getting started doing training paddles. Honestly paddling the California Coast solo is something that is going to require a full on seakayak and two or three years (at least) of instruction and training. Besides getting started with Jenn, you could also contact John Bonaventure at Central Coast Kayaks near Pismo Beach. The Kayak Connection in Santa Cruz also gives good training and tours. Sean Morley, is a great kayaking coach, you can find him on facebook, he is in the Bay Area (he has done a number of huge expeditions) and Jeff Laxier at Liquid Fusion Kayaking at Fort Bragg. Instead of a long paddle you could aim for getting instruction in several small trips in these areas and after you have the training, skills, and seamanship, then go for a big one.

I’m in the San Diego Area but have paddled much of the California Coastline from Bodega Bay north of SF down to Ensenada / Buffaodora and bit further south in Mexico ( in small trips). Honestly there are spots that under the wrong conditions are absolutely deadly, so please get good instruction and tons of surf zone experience.

@Adventureaddicttt7 said:
Not joshing anyone, I would really like to learn more in detail about this as I only really know the basics. I have connections to a 13ft which is why I asked.

Mind giving us the brand and model of the 13 foot kayak you have in mind?

Sounds like you are in LA area? I would connect with a club called California Kayak friends - http://www.ckfkayak.club/. Lots of local knowledge on boats and trips there.