Which Kayak to Choose?

-- Last Updated: Apr-28-06 1:18 AM EST --

Which kayak to choose? Your oppinion counts. Please reply and put in your two cents. I am going to have to do the unthinkable and buy a kayak site unseen. There are very limited opportunities for me to rent so that I can try out different models. If I could find time in my schedule I would just fly somewhere for a couple of days to demo boats.

I am 5'11" @ 165 lbs with size 9 feet with a 32" inseam. I have no experience whatsoever other than two brief encounters with the Perception Carolina and the Dagger Specter. Both boats felt fine except I felt that they were something I would buy for my kids. I can say that fit was good on both. Stability was so carefree that I feel I could go into something a bit tippier.

I rock climb, backpack, mountainbike, and dirtbike. While I do not consider myself an athlete, I am definately an adrenaline junky. this boat though will not be about adrenaline. I will be using this boat primarily on lakes with the occasional trip down to the gulf of Mexico to ply the intercoastal waterways and back bays. I am a backpacker above everything else and kayaking, at least for now, will resemble what I do in the backcountry. It is mostly about solitude and nature. In the backcountry I am not the lightest or the fastest, but pretty close.

Must haves:
1) Must be good roller.
2) Great secondary stability
3) Quality construction
4) Dry hatches or the ability to make them dry.
5) Easy self rescue. (see solitude)

Will pay big bucks if I think it is worth it, but would rather save and buy another kayak later this summer.

my 2 cents
wildy tempest 165…

Necky Chatham
Get one of the Necky Chathams…awesome paddling kayaks and very little windage. Strong quality control as well.

Beware of Wilderness systems or Perception/ Dagger kayaks…very poor quality this year after their merger and change of factory. If you search this site a bit, you’ll find lots of negative comments on quality from these companies.

Cheers…Joe O’

Ask Yourself Some More Questions…

– Last Updated: Apr-27-06 1:38 PM EST –

since you mentioned you have already paddled two plastic boats that are too staid for you. You also mentioned other equipment oriented activities. You seemed to have set a paddling development goal that is beyond the mere recreational paddler.

What is your history in other sports? Are you athletic and tend to pick things up quick and like challenges? Do you like really good equipment (if not the best equipment) and are willing to expend the money up front?

If you answer, yes, to two or more of the questions, the amount of up front money will go up and your options open up. However, you will likely end up with a boat that you can paddle for awhile and grow in with skills development.


I like Prijon too.
Also, Current Designs Sirroco The boat handles really well.

The CD Scirroco is a fine sea kayak as well!

want #1.

– Last Updated: Apr-27-06 2:28 PM EST –

"cuts through waves,not over"

I don't understand that preference. In high wind anything will be wet. Anything good in wind will be low freeboard and wet.

With NO experience I would seriously suggest looking for a bit more stability than performance. Chatham 16 would fit the bill. Tempest165 for more efficiency and a bit tippier but I find the Phase III seat gimmicky and the Chatham allows for more ultimate customization. If your inseam is around 32" you can remove the Chathams thigh braces and tuck your knees under the deck and have adequate bracing and lots of room for entry/exit.
Eddyline NightHawk16 possibly.
If you want something to withstand wind you don't want big and you don't want long. If you want long you'll be looking at ruddered and skinny.
If you want rudder possibly a Squall.
You don't give a price range, composite/plastic.

high wind/Scirocco
I wonder, it feels more efficient and I’d rather paddle it for a distance than the Chatham16 but in screaming wind the Scirocco weathercocks more and the skeg really doesn’t correct well enough. I wish they’d soften the entry a bit. Maybe ten pounds in the stern would make the diffrence?

How do you like to paddle?
Speed you like to hold (or would like to hold) over distance?

Distance you would like to cover in this boat?

Bias toward straighter tracker for ease of touring, or more maneuverable for tighter spots?

Price an issue? If so, what range? (Used can greatly extend this).

Etc., etc., etc…

Much of that is more dependent on the paddler than the kayak, but within the long list of well made non-leaky boats it might help narrow things down a bit.

With what you listed so far - what you’ll mostly get are recommendations for everyone’s current kayak. They are not you.

I’m About Your Size
Love My Tempest 165. I dunno about the wave cutting through and dry staying. Go try one and see what you think.

Some good advice so far
I have edited my post somewhat. Hopefully it will narrow down what might fit me best. Thanks for all of the replies.

I will say that I have spent two weeks going through the kayak reviews on this site and will likely stay away from Perception or Dagger for now unless I find an older boat in great condition. I looked at an Eclipse Airlite the other day and was sorely disappointed in the quality of the construction. I hope I am not setting my sights to high.

Cuts through…
I don’t mind getting wet. I just assume that getting wet is part of paddling a kayak. What I don’t want is a kayak that bounces up and down in small waves or chop. Maybe none of them do. Your post is pretty much dead on to what I have been thinking myself.

Speed 1st
I think speed for getting to where I want to be is going to weigh heavily with my decision. Cost is secondary to form and function. I will probably build my own kayak once I really get to know the sport. That way I can make one just for me. For some reason manuverability is not high on my list. I guess I haven’t fully considered where I would need it. I will probably be going in straight lines more than anything else with this purchase. One thing I have neglected to mention and it is probably very important, is that I would like to be able to stop and relax if I see something interesting.

staying dry?
Several have mentioned this. Maybe it was the way I had it worded, but what I meant was “dry inside the hatches”.

Earlier I’d mentioneda Necky Chatham…still a fine choice. If you like the speed factor alot though, consider also the Nigel Foster Legend…far faster than anything else mentioned in this thread. Less initial stability but you will get used to that with time spent in the boat. Hatches stay very dry as well, top quality construction.

You are right about staying away from Dagger and Perception too…poor quality in my oppinion (and in many others as well)…I’d say the same abiot the other company in the merger, Wilderness Systems. The last Tempest I inspected had three hatches that all needed to be resealed, the hatches were suspect at best and the overall mold prep had been poorly done. Too bad because the tempest is a good design at least. They just need to come up with some quality.

Cheers…Joe O’

nope,getting educated
You’re not setting your sights too high. It’s easy to steer to a particular characteristic when it’s not based on experience. You are working at cross purposes wanting efficiency/speed AND hang out stability AND rough water comfort handling.

Kind of a tangent,I haven’t skiied downhill in a long time,when I was skinny, young and fit I cross country skied and the down hill skiis were long. This was 20yrs ago. Recently I went skiing and there were these short 165 skiis that were more common than the 185s I used before. Amazing how comfortable these shorter skiis with the wide tips and narrow midsection were.

It’s kind of like that with paddling. Some folks go for the max/efficiency/max top speed boats but they DO require keeping a blade in the water for hanging out. Other boats require a bit less. In rough water or social paddling often times folks get more maneuverable boats and save the long/fast boats for solo paddling or group paddling with very similar paddlers. It doesn’t take much of a difference in output for folks to drift apart if they don’t try to stay together. You’re just at the height where things can get tippy for a beginner but you’re relatively light weight is an asset for stability.

You could do a lot better than the Eclipse, especially in Aerolite(thermoplastic). In high winds without another 50lbs in the kayak you’d be blown around a lot.

It sounds like your budget is open but that you might buy another kayak later. If you’re not familiar with sitting in a kayak you might be challenged getting a snug one (Nighthawk16, T-165)

My $.02 is that skills development is going to be more important than speed/straight line efficiency for awhile. Given that speed/efficiency requires good technique and that the tradeoffs in stability and “hang out smelling the roses” comfort will bring noticable reductions in primary stability.

The Chatham is a bit slower than the above mentioned boats,at cruising speeds I don’t think it’s diffrent than the aerolight carolinas really. What you will get is a kayak that will respond well to learning and most important to me will be controllable in very high winds. Technique is important for all challenges but when it comes to very high winds it’s pretty much horsepower and technique. In a way the Chatham is like getting a 4wd car in an area that snows. Not always a critical necessity compared to good snow tires on fwd but sometimes it is.

Most likely whatever you get will be “the first boat” whether you keep it or not.

If you get a big boat like an Eclipse I can pretty much gurantee you’ll get something lower volume later on if you paddle a lot or head out in winds once.

If someone had an old used fiberglass/kevlar Dagger Meridian that would be a good boat, a little more slippery than the Chatham but weathercocks more.

Whatever you get you’ll find that skills development will be your focus and not the boat.

Some skegged kayaks require more skill to travel in a straight line than others. A rudder elimnates that issue.


– Last Updated: Apr-28-06 11:13 AM EST –

ok,,this is cheating but it would work. Get a ruddered QCC600 and glue down some d-ring tabs behind the seat or aft bulkhead. Strap down about 20lbs of weight in the bottom of the kayak. You'll get substantially mroe stability. And can remove it later on as you become more comfortable with the tippiness. This would give you similar stability as the Chatham but in an extremely efficient/fast package. The size of the kayak would ensure you'd sink it down enough to not get blown sideways and the rudder would assist steering in high winds. Self rescues would be more of a challenge than the other mentioned boats because of the higher aft deck but it would be an incentive to learn to roll. The reason for this one and not the 700 is that you should probably be in the upper size range for any kayak you get for more response/turning and handling in wind for day paddling.

Alll of the above
is OK advice, but for my money (I’m your size ) a NDK Explorer would fill the bill. I just took delivery of my second one :slight_smile: Of course my first love is the Romany.

Necky Looksha lV
You might check out the Looksha lV in your research. Kind of a good all around boat.

Addressing the Squall specifically
Must haves:

  1. Must be good roller.
  2. Great secondary stability
  3. Quality construction
  4. Dry hatches or the ability to make them dry.
  5. Easy self rescue. (see solitude)

  6. Pretty good. Too deep a boat for my short self, but should not pose a problem for you at 5’11". I did learn to roll in it despite the fit problems.

  7. Excellent

  8. Not so good. Mine had a banana curve that only worsened with age, plus the rudder lever was installed “funny” and required incredible force to operate.

    The rear compartment leaked terribly, which I found out on a long trip. It did not leak on day trips, except in rolling practice when I (wrongly) attributed any water to poor sealing of the neoprene undercover and the large oval hard cover. During the trip, I stopped at one port and bought silicone sealant and sealed all the bolt-through areas; it continued taking on about 1 to 2 cups of water each day. The leakage only occurred after sustained paddling in waves OR if the kayak were beached with the stern end in the water.

    Much, much later, upon looking more carefully at the kayak, I found a rough-looking area near some rudder attachment hardware, high on the stern end. The rough area contrasted with the rest of the plastic, and appeared to be an attempt to fix a crack with melted plastic from a stick. The location was high enough that with an unloaded kayak water did not reach the crack.

    I bought the boat as new. It may have been a second (or third?) that was not labeled as such. Or maybe it was damaged in shipping. I myself had never dropped the boat or otherwise abused it.

    If it were not for the quality questions, I would agree, check it out if you want a ruddered kayak, though I think you’re on the large side for this kayak. DEFINITELY too much weight by the time you add in your camping gear.

  9. Not great, not horrible as far as hatch covers go.

  10. I was able to do self-rescues on the Squall without trouble. It does have a high rear deck that bothers some–it’s a bit tippier with your weight across it than some other kayaks I’ve practiced in–but it works.

    I thought this kayak hobbyhorsed too much in waves. However, it was fairly fast for its size, and had the very high secondary stability you listed as required.