My wife and I just started kayaking and I’m ready to buy a couple of new boats. I had my mind made up on the Pungo 120 but then ran across the Loon 120 and 126. I’d really appreciate hearing from people who have paddled both on your experience. We’re only going to use them for flatwater paddling in local streams and small rivers and lakes. We have no current plans for trips over 4 hours if that should factor into our making a decision.
WS Pungo 120 or Old Town Loon 120/126?
Feature for feature, these boats are pretty much a toss up. The Old Town may be a whisker narrower while the Pungo has the larger cockpit opening, which gives more room if a four legged passenger or carrying a cooler front and center is in your plans.
As for which to choose, recommending one based on my experience would be like suggesting which shoes you should buy because one pair happened to fit me better than another.
The final authority should be your back sides. Paddle both, if at all possible, or at least sit in both then buy the one that you believe you will find more comfortable during a three or four hour stint on the water. That’s where the important difference between these boats will lie.
Enjoy whichever kayak you choose.
Pungo or Loon?
You can't go wrong with either. Both have wide open cockpits, big enough for a small child or dog or extra gear in front of you. The hull shapes are similar, so cruising speeds are nearly the same, although the Pungo seems to glide a bit faster. How do I know? I've had both when I began my paddling adventures. The Loon, if it's the very old version or the brand new version (you can tell by noticing whether or not the inside is a tan color and the outside hull is different.) It's called Polylink. While Old Town made the Loon in basic roto-molded plastic for a few years, the older ones and now the newer version is a two-layer form with a layer of foam sandwiched between the inner and outer hulls. This makes it a bit heavier, but it floats even when full of water, even if the hatch covers are off. It's a great design, one Old Town abandoned,then began using again. If the Loon is the same color in and out, it's simple plastic. Both brands, if newer, have good hatches and some come with bungee-on plastic cockpit decks, a nice touch. The Pungo's hull design makes it a bit easier to lean in turns. I've been a fan of OT and WS for many years and they make very good plastic boats, affordable and quite durable. Both very nice kayaks. And don't forget the seat. If one is more comfortable than the other, there's your deciding factor. If you can demo them, that's the way to go. Pick a nice color, spend extra on a really good paddle and have fun.
Paddled the Punto and while it’s OK, all it took was a 5 minute test Paddle in a Old Town Dirego and I was hooked. Test Paddle and see what you think.
You should think about kicking it up a notch to something closer to 14 feet. I would also look for something with an adjustable skeg and air tight compartments. It will probably cost a bit more money, but the quality of paddling will be exponentially greater.
Picked the Old Town Loon
Thanks for all the feedback…
I decided to go with the Loon 126 for myself and the 106 for my wife (she seems to prefer a smaller boat). Picked up a pair of Werner Skagit kayak paddles, a Stohlquist TREKKer and a Stohlquist Cruiser PFD.
We’re heading to Sturgeon Bay in a few weeks so I’m excited to get these boats in the water.
I don't believe either of your Loons has a bow bulkhead so another safety accessory you need to add is a flotation bag for each, especially with such large cockpits. If you don't have that and are capsized or swamped, the boat will sink, with the bow down and will be impossible to re-enter. You won't be able to get effective spray skirts for such large cockpits which is one reason you should stay near shore in them. These are not boats for open water and could also be difficult to paddle back to shore if there are strong winds or currents. Know their limitations and use them safely.
Also stay aware of water temps and wind. Right now the water up around Sturgeon Bay is hovering between 65 and 70, which is not all that warm and could actually be dangerous in gusty conditions if you don't have protective clothing to provide some insulation and wind protection.
The bay is somewhat more protected than Lake Michigan but it still shares the big lake's unpredictable weather and at 10 to 15 miles across is a pretty big piece of water itself. Being "new to kayaking", before you venture out in the bay you should really enroll in an outfitter skills class and learn both paddling techniques (which are NOT intuitive) and basic safety procedures. It would probably also be best to paddle with a group until you are confident in your ability to handle the conditions you may encounter.
MI or WI?
Pungo vs Loon
The Pungo has more of a v in the hull and thus a little deeper draft and faster speed and better in choppy water.
The Loon has a little flatter boat so shallower draft which is not a big deal as all kayak are pretty shallow draft, but in shallow rocky rivers I had to get out and drag the Pungo when the loon would float. Also the Loon would not catch submerged rocks in funny ways as the Pungo would when drifting sideways.
I was fortunate to get to demo these Kayaks back to back at the recent ACK demo day in Austin Texas. Both tracked well but the Loon 126 had a more comfortable seat for me and glided farther/faster per stroke. According to the latest review “The new Loon series features a completely redesigned hull that provides effortless glide and straight tracking.” I totally agree! - A very good Boat!
I know I’m a little late to the thread but I did get a chance to paddle both boats today for a nice head to head comparison. I’m an older gent and probably 250 lbs or so. I first took out the Pungo 140. Honestly, it seemed just a tad tippy to me. I think this is due to the keel and chines, but left me rather unsettled the whole time. It tracked incredibly well, so much so it seemed harder to turn in tighter stuff or smaller rivers. It also seemed pretty fast to me and the seat was semi comfy though I didn’t have a lot of time to spend setting it up. In fact, feeling sort of tippy, I really didn’t even want to mess with the seat adjustment on an unfamiliar craft. The foot braces seemed well placed and I like the easy adjustment for those, not having to reach in terribly far.
Next I tried the Loon 126 and felt more at ease right off the bat. I would say, from my experience, the Loon is definitely more stable, and turns quicker as well. It definitely tracks well, but doesn’t want to stay as straight as an arrow as the Pungo. However, for me, this is an advantage. I like paddling in the smaller tighter waters. I don’t mean to give the impression it tracks poorly, it doesn’t, but just not quite as good as the Pungo in my opinion. However, I would gladly give up just a tad of tracking for more stability and maneuverability. The seat was way comfy on the Loon as well and it’s equipped with the standard Old Town foot braces which work and adjust well. I found it much easier for me to attempt on the water seat adjustments on the loon. The wind really picked up on the way back with the Loon. I was paddling either head on or at a 45 into it and I was so so happy with the handling. I just felt “comfortable” in the loon, both physically and psychologically.
To sum up, for me and my style of paddling, I will choose the loon. I remember seeing another video review of the Pungo and the reviewer claimed the Pungo felt tippy to him as well, as if riding a knife edge - that is the same feeling I had. I don’t know if it’s a weight thing, or paddling style but as I said, it left me feeling unsettled the whole time, not much fun. With the Loon I was super comfy, it still felt fast, handled or turned better and I was more of, the attitude “bring it on”