2006 Kayak & Canoe Buyer’s Guide
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible
Versatility is the theme for the AdvancedFrame Convertible-a solo or tandem kayak that can run topless or with a single- or double-cockpit deck and can break down for easy transport. Unlike most other inflatable kayaks, this 15-foot-long, 34-inch-wide boat features a built-in aluminum rib structure that defines the bow and stern. The 46-pound boat is pre-assembled at the factory, so all you have to do is unfold it, inflate the six chambers and attach the seats. Features include dry-storage compartments, D-ring tie downs, low-profile molded rubber handles, deck lacing for access to gear, and a carry bag. Capacity: 550 lbs. MSRP: $599.99. Advanced Elements: 866/262-9076; /advancedelements.com/
Current Designs Kestrel 140SOT
Sit On Top (SOT) is a popular design these days among kayakers who prefer to not be stuffed down inside a tight cockpit enclosure. The Kestrel 140SOT is a bit different than most SOTs in that the sleek (26-inch width), lightweight (36 pounds) composite 14-foot hull form looks like a traditional kayak, except there is no tight cockpit opening to slide down into. The molded cockpit features integral foot braces and a molded seat bottom with a padded seatback. Fore and aft hatches lead to internal gear storage compartments. Front, mid and rear deck bungees hold on-deck gear. For those who like to fish, there are integral fishing rod holder platforms. MSRP: $1499 Current Designs: 507/454-5430; /wenonah.com/CDKayak/.
Dagger Catalyst 12.8
Even though the 12-foot, 10-inch Catalyst 12.8 boat was designed as a recreational boat, it acts like a touring kayak. It has awesome fore and aft gear storage space behind waterproof bulkheads. Stability and maneuverability are good (25-inch wide hull), while hull speed and tracking are great. An optional Yakima rudder can be included to boost tracking ability in challenging conditions. The seat has an adjustable high-back backrest and Thermofoam seat and back pads, plus an adjustable air Core lumbar support system. The company rates this boat as an excellent choice for intermediate paddlers. Weight: 45 lbs. Capacity: 275 lbs. MSRP: $830 or $1005 with rudder. Dagger: 800/433-1969; /dagger.com/.
Hobie Mirage Outback SUV
What makes this hands-free, 12-foot, 1-inch kayak work is Hobie’s MirageDrive pedal and rudder system-a foot-operated propulsion mechanism that really works. Just sit back in the comfy adjustable high-back seat and let your feet do the paddling in the 34-inch-wide Outback SUV hull. You can haul the whole picnic on this boat since there’s special cooler storage space, two cup holders, cargo bungees fore and aft, a pair of storage hatches leading to dry bags, and utility trays around the cockpit. Four molded fishing-rod holders point to the corners of the compass; and a speedometer keeps track of your momentum under foot-power. Weight: 57 lbs. Capacity: 400 lbs. MSRP: $1549. Hobie: 800/HOBIE-49; /hobiekayaks.com/.
Necky Kayak Manitou II
Primarily intended for beginning and intermediate-level recreational paddlers, the two -or three-seat Manitou II features the same hard chine (good stability) as its predecessors, with a hull that has a wave-piercing dolphin bow for clean entry and a dry ride. The 14-foot, 8-inch long hull’s sleek profile (28-inch width) delivers excellent tracking and cruising performance. The dual cockpit offers a roomy 48.5×18-inch rear opening and 35×17-inch front opening. An optional child jump-seat can be installed in the rear to accommodate a small, rear-facing passenger. Gear stowage is available in a large rear compartment with a neoprene hatch cover. Weight: 75 lbs. MSRP: $999. Necky Kayaks: 800/8-KAYAKS; /necky.com/.
Ocean Kayak Scrambler XL
If you like the idea of a sit-on-top kayak, the Scrambler XL from Ocean Kayak may be the answer. Brand new for 2006, this 11-foot, 6.5-inch-long and 29.5-inch-wide kayak is ideal for novices, offering stability and maneuverability on flat water or moderate ocean swells. The capacity (300-350 pounds) will allow for most paddlers and a bunch of gear for diving or just spending a day on the water. There’s a molded-in keel that keeps you moving in the right direction; and the comfortable seat offers relaxing support. Removable bungees fore and aft permit deck stowage of gear; additional room for small items such as car keys or a cell phone can be found in the 6-inch center hatch that leads to a storage bucket. Standard features include a molded cup holder and two paddle keepers. Weight: 49 lbs. MSRP: $569. Ocean Kayak: 800/8-KAYAKS; /oceankayak.com/.
Old Town Cayuga 146
New for 2006 is the Cayuga 146 kayak from Old Town. Designated as a recreational touring kayak, the 14-foot, 6-inch boat features the Old Town Stabil-Form hull design that debuted only last year in the Dirigo line. This hull was engineered to deliver a combination of paddling efficiency, maneuverability and tracking in a relatively narrow hull (24.5 inches) with a single chine and flared sides. High secondary stability makes it easy to put the boat on edge to perform aggressive lean turns, while the narrow hull makes it a snap to Eskimo roll. Paddlers will like the easy access to the “day hatch” that is positioned in front of the paddler and angled to create viewable space for a chart. Greater storage space is accessible through fore and aft cargo hatches, with enough room to carry supplies for a week-long voyage. Weight: 49 lbs. Capacity: 340 lbs. MSRP: $999. Old Town Canoe: 800/343-1555; /oldtowncanoe.com/.
Seda Kayak Vida
The Vida model kayak from Seda is 14 feet long with a 25-inch hull width. Weighing just 35 pounds (Kevlar hull), you can easily load it on top of your vehicle or camper. Standard is a retractable skeg for excellent tracking, plus a stern watertight compartment for dry storage of personal items and other gear such as a camera, binoculars, lunch, etc. The Vida boat offers a slightly flared bow to help cut through the chop, and the shallow V-hull provides good stability on the water. Handles on the bow and stern help you muscle the boat in and out of the water. Bungees running across the bow and stern deck can be used to secure cargo. Capacity: 280 lbs. MSRP: Kevlar/$2290; fiberglass (44 lbs.)/$1790; hybrid fiberglass-Kevlar (40 lbs.)/$1990. Seda: 800/322-7332; /sedakayak.com/.
Stearns Spree Two-Person Inflatable Kayak
Designed for use on flat, calm water for fishing or just paddling around and seeing the sights, this lightweight (32 lbs.), two-person inflatable has a lot to offer. According to Stearns, the design of this 11-foot, 7-inch kayak, with its durable tarpaulin hull, allows it to perform to similar molded/rigid kayaks. The two main chambers are fully enclosed to provide a 35-inch-wide rigid body when inflated, and a third chamber provides additional safety. There’s a folding seat for the front passenger and rollaway spray decks for both cockpits. A zippered mesh pouch in front of the forward cockpit is a handy place to stow gear. On the bow is a bungee tie-down area for even more gear. The Spree comes with a storage/carry bag, making this kayak easy to transport. MSRP: $453.99. Stearns: 800/333-1179; /stearnsinc.com/.
Wenonah Spirit II
Of all the Wenonah canoes, the 17-foot, two-person Spirit II is highly ranked among the most versatile when it comes to stability, capacity and maneuverability. Depending upon your skill level, this canoe is ideal for a day on a placid lake or for paddling the rapids of a whitewater river. Even with two large people aboard, this canoe draws just 4 inches of water, leaving a lot of reserve buoyancy for hauling camping gear. With more load, the 36-inch-wide boat becomes more stabile, yet still maneuvers well. Spirit II is available in a choice of three models: Tuf-Weave Flex Core model (63 lbs.); Kevlar Flex Core version (54 lbs.); and Kevlar ultra-light (42 lbs.). If you need ultimate durability for running the rapids or other rugged applications, and are willing to heft a bit more weight, the 68-pound Royalex model will do the job. MSRP: $1199 to $2249 (depending upon material). Wenonah: 507/454-5430; /wenonah.com/.
Although many of the “boat” manufacturers offer accessories, a number of specialty accessory companies have come up with some great paddle gear, too. Vehicle racks can be found through Thule and Yakima.
Cascade Designs: 800/531-9531; /cascadedesigns.com/
Seattle Sports: 800/632-6163; /seattlesportsco.com/
Thule: 800/238-2388; /thuleracks.com/
Voyageur Gear: 864/859-7518; /voyageur-gear.com/
Werner Paddles: 800/275-3311; /wernerpaddles.com/
Yakima: 888/925-0703; /yakima.com/