2008 Canoe & Kayak Buyer’s Guide

May 29, 2008
Filed under Camping Gear, Sporting Goods

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THE NUCANOE SOLOWhy buy a canoe or kayak? It’s the best watercraft choice for viewing wildlife, reeling in the big one, or experiencing the thrill of running whitewater. Canoes and kayaks are relatively lightweight and easy to manage. They are affordable and low maintenance in comparison to other types of boats, great for kids and adults and can be used for fishing, camping, relaxing, exercising or site seeing. Versatile and easily transportable, a canoe or kayak is a staple in any outdoor enthusiast’s gear stash.

What type of canoe or kayak is best for you? Choosing a canoe or kayak is akin to picking out a new car. There are 4x4s in the boating world, and there are Cadillacs. Picking the right boat for you requires your careful consideration of when, where and how you plan to use it.

Some questions you should ask yourself are:

How many people will you be carrying? How important is the weight of the boat? Will you be portaging often? If you are buying a kayak, do you plan to fish or snorkel from it? What type of water do you plan to spend the most time in-flat water or whitewater?

If you are specifically looking for a kayak, there are some special features to consider. Some come with lots of dry storage space in watertight compartments to hold camping and other types of gear. Built-in rod holders are becoming common in kayaks designed for fishing, and if scuba is your forte, look for a kayak with molded-in scuba tank storage.

There are a few basic features, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, which affects the functionality of the kayak or canoe. The most important factors to consider when choosing a lightweight watercraft are size, hull material, and cross-sectional hull shape.

Fit To Size

Most solo boats are big enough for an adult and a small child. Some tandem boats can fit two adults and one or two small children. Boat size can also determine cargo storage capacity. Will you be spending one day on the water or several? How much storage space for gear will you need?

In general, the shorter the boat, the more maneuverable it will be. Shorter boats are better suited for whitewater. Increasing the length generally increases speed in the water. Long boats are well suited for flat water. A wider hull generally increases boat stability.

Hull Material

The hull construction greatly affects boat functionality and is also the leading factor in determining cost. The most popular hull materials on the market today for canoes and kayaks are:

Aluminum. Pros: low cost, maintenance free, durable. Cons: gets hot and cold, is noisy, reflects sunlight, does not slide well over rocks, relatively heavy to lift.

Fiberglass. Pros: low cost, sophisticated hull designs are available, lightweight and moderately rigid, easy to repair. Cons: more brittle than aluminum, can crack if hit hard against rocks.

Kevlar. Pros: same advantages as fiberglass but more lightweight and durable. Cons: can be costly, must be stored out of direct sunlight.

Plastics (Royalex and Crosslink 3 are most common). Pros: moderately priced, flexible material, can rebound after denting, durable and resistant to abrasion — a good choice for whitewater kayak. Cons: hull can be heavy, must be stored out of direct sunlight.

Wood. Pros: classic beauty. Cons: very expensive, not very abrasion resistant or durable, requires constant maintenance.

Hull Shape

The cross-sectional hull shape greatly affects the boat’s performance and stability. There are two types of stability to be concerned with: initial stability and secondary stability. A boat with great initial stability is resistant to tilting. Secondary stability refers to how a boat behaves as it tilts. A boat with great secondary stability may feel tippy at first due to low initial stability but is stable and predictable as it leans. A high degree of secondary stability is an important feature in whitewater and rough-water boating.

Flat-bottomed boats have high initial stability but low secondary stability, making them ideal for flat calm water.

Round-bottomed boats have low initial stability but high secondary stability. They are speedy and efficient, but may be too hard to manage for the average recreationist.

Shallow-V and Shallow-arch hulls are an intermediary between flat and round-bottomed boats, and are the most common canoe designs. These shapes provide a compromise between initial and secondary stability to improve all-around boat performance.

A keel is a ridge that runs the length of the bottom of a boat and is something the average recreational paddler should look for. The presence of a keel is ideal for a boat that will be used in calm, flat water. It increases the tracking capabilities of your boat, as well as increases the boat’s resistance to crosswinds. However, it would not be ideal on a boat intended for paddling in whitewater, as a keel is vulnerable to rocks and decreases overall boat maneuverability.

Shopping Tip

Something that costs as much as a canoe or kayak should never be an impulse buy. Be sure to take some time to compare features and choose the right canoe or kayak for your needs. It will make a big difference in how much you enjoy your boat in the long run. No matter what you love to do outdoors, there is a canoe or kayak made just for you.


Advanced Elements DragonFly XC

The bow and stern of the sporty new DragonFly XC inflatable kayak from Advanced Elements have fixed rigid forms that help cut through the waves and keep it on course. Its exterior cover is made with two different materials: The topside is a high-denier polyester with a PVC laminate, while the hull is made with a PVC tarpaulin (two sheets of PVC with a fabric mesh in the middle). In addition, the side tubes are covered with a high-density fabric to increase performance and durability. Features include molded rubber-grip handles, bungee deck lacing, padded seat rests, mesh accessory pocket, tracking skeg and a foam floor.

Length: 12′

Width: 35″

Weight: 29 lbs.

Capacity: 350 lbs.

MSRP: $400

Current Designs Vision 150

Full sized and fully functional as a recreational touring kayak, the Vision 150 delivers excellent efficiency and maneuverability. With a standard rudder and 15-foot length, the Vision 150 displays superb tracking characteristics and is the perfect step-up boat for those wishing to improve technique and skill development. A generously sized keyhole cockpit allows easy entry and exit, as well as ample foot room and large storage capacity. The Vision is constructed from a composite of aramid and fiberglass for a lightness, stiffness, toughness and value. It is also offered in rotomolded polyethylene.

Length: 15′

Width: 24″

Weight: 59 lbs. (rotomolded polyethylene); 45 lbs. (fiberglass/Kevlar hybrid)

Capacity: 375 lbs.

MSRP: $1499 – $2399

Current Designs Double Vision

The Double Vision shares all the design, function and performance of the solo Vision kayaks, but in one built for two. Offering a high level of stability and tracking capability, this 16-foot, 8-inch boat provides paddling enjoyment for the whole family. Two generously sized keyhole cockpits allow easy and stable entry and exit, as well as extended foot room and increased storage capacity. As with the solo models, the Double Vision is constructed from a composite of aramid and fiberglass.

Length: 16′ 8″

Width: 28″

Weight: 60 lbs.

Capacity: 625 lbs.

MSRP: $2799

Dagger Kayaks Blackwater 12.0 Angler

If you’re looking for an easy-to-handle, sporty solo kayak that features a little something extra, the Blackwater 12.0 Angler by Dagger Kayaks deserves some attention. This kayak offers stability and effortless gliding hull speed, and is ideal for getting to the best fishing spots on the river. The boat is available in a comprehensive angler version that comes with two stern flush-mounted rod holders located for easy access from the cockpit, as well as one swivel-mounted rod holder on the bow. There’s even an anchor to hold her steady while reeling in the big one.

Length: 12′

Width: 26″

Weight: 45 lbs.

Capacity: 350 lbs.

MSRP: $900

Hobie Mirage i-12S and i-14T

Hobie’s new Mirage i-12S single and Mirage i-14T tandem inflatable kayaks are powered by patented MirageDrive technology that lets kayakers pedal, leaving their hands virtually free for other activities like fishing or taking photos. The mechanism operates underwater flippers, so these boats can be pedaled, paddled, and/or sailed. Each boat inflates and deflates quickly and comes standard with a rolling travel bag. The hulls are constructed of durable 1000-Denier PVC with a drop-stitch floor. Each boat has three inflation chambers with one-way valves. Wear-guard material protects the bow, stern, and hull centerline. The cockpits are self-draining with dual scuppers. Both models feature a kick-up Twist and Stow rudder that can be lifted and turned to lay flat on deck when not in use. Boat comes with a repair kit and a rapid-inflate hand pump. Adjustable deluxe high-back padded seats with lumbar support and four-piece paddles with on-hull storage are included.

Length: 12′/14′

Width: 36″/36″

Weight: 53 lbs./61 lbs.

Capacity: 500 lbs./600 lbs.

MSRP: $1799/$2499

Mad River Reflection 17

For 2008, Mad River has announced the rebirth of the Reflection 17, a traditional-style canoe that fills a need for a long, light, efficient touring/cruising/camping canoe. According to the company, the hull tracks well, but doesn’t feel like it’s on rails. That translates to agile handling and maneuverability that can sometimes escape a long canoe. All of this makes the Reflection 17 right at home on lakes or rivers. The hull shape and size accommodates an enormous amount of total cargo weight, making it perfect for family camping trips. The Reflection 17 is available in a choice of sand or green hull and IQ2, aluminum, IQ, or wood gunwale systems.

Length: 17’4″

Width: 35″

Weight: under 70 lbs.

Capacity: 900 lbs.

MSRP: $1180 to $1580 depending on gunwale system.

Mad River Synergy 12

The Synergy is a unique blend of the best attributes of a sit-on-top kayak and the characteristics of a canoe. Visualize it as a deep sit-on-top with spacious storage fore and aft secured by custom fit mesh covers. Equally suitable for single or double blade propulsion (canoe or kayak paddles), the Synergy offers a great alternative for cold weather/rough water conditions that keep conventional sit-on-tops on the beach. Dual mesh pockets provide convenient storage next to the paddler, and adjustable foot braces are standard. The boat is also available in a 14-foot model or with an optional rudder.

Length: 12′

Width: 30.8″

Weight: 60 lbs.

Capacity: 350 lbs.

MSRP: $750 ($975 w/rudder)

Necky Zoar Sport Angler

The Zoar Sport Angler, Necky’s first fishing-specific kayak, features exceptional glide and a roomy cockpit that allows the sport angler great control and freedom of movement. The multi-edged, hard-chined hull makes for an extremely stable kayak with great edge control and a smooth transition between primary and secondary stability. The Zoar Sport Angler includes the Extrasport seating system for couch-like comfort, two rod holders, ComfortFit thigh braces, anchor trolley system and paddle leash. Other key features are bow and stern hatches with bulkheads, reflective deck rigging with perimeter safety lines and deck bungee. The rudder system has easily adjustable foot braces.

Length: 14′

Width: 25″

Weight: 57 lbs.

Capacity: N/A

MSRP: $1099

NuCanoe 12

A new company and boat style, The NuCanoe 12 combines the best attributes of a sit-on-top kayak and a canoe. With exceptional beam width, the NuCanoe offers stability for recreational paddlers who have minimal technical ability. With adjustable seating arrangements that will accommodate up to three persons, this boat is ideal for a day on the water whether you like to go solo or with one or two paddling partners. Built of linear low-density PE plastic, the rotationally molded hull is lightweight and durable. It is also available in a 10-foot model. For those who prefer to row instead of paddle, there is an outrigger system for using oars that can be installed on any NuCanoe.

Length: 12′

Width: 42″

Weight: 85 lbs. (10 model is 65 lbs.)

Capacity: 475 lbs. (10 model is 425 lbs)

MSRP: $799 (10 is $699)

Ocean Kayak Peekaboo

Built on a traditional Ocean Kayak sit-on-top platform, the Peekaboo adds a unique new component to the paddling equation-a large, in-deck viewing window that allows the user to observe the underwater world beneath the boat while paddling. A supremely stable kayak, the Peekaboo is ideal for casual fun on the water. It can be paddled solo but also includes a child’s jump seat in the bow that will handle an additional passenger (up to 100 pounds). A new built-in handle configuration is designed to make re-entry from the water and car topping more convenient. Other amenities include the Comfort Plus seat back, extra large tank well with bungee web (great for storing a mask, fins and snorkel), molded-in cup holders and bottle holders, paddle keepers and optional 6-inch hatch.

Length: 11′ 10″

Width: 34″

Weight: 65 lbs.

Capacity: 250 lbs.

MSRP: $899

Perception Kayaks Tribute

The Perception Tribute is a solo 12-foot day touring kayak that offers great performance characteristics and ergonomics designed specifically to fit women. Featuring the signature Perception hull found in its Carolina family of kayaks, the Tribute is effortless to paddle, yet stable and comfortable. The Tribute is available in a choice of rotomolded polyethylene as well as in Perception’s lightweight Airalite thermoformed construction, with the Airalite model weighing 6 pounds less than the rotomolded model.

Length: 12′

Width: 24″

Weight: 40 lbs. (rotomolded polyethylene); 34 lbs. (Airalite)

Capacity: 230 lbs.

MSRP: $800 (Airalite model: $1150)

Sea Eagle 330 Kayak

This two-person inflatable kayak goes anywhere there is water and packs easily in a car trunk. It is so portable you can take it anywhere to paddle wild rivers, remote ponds, scenic lakes, pristine bays, mountain streams, or even ocean surf. Standard features include deluxe inflatable kayak seats, two skegs under the floor for superior tracking, large I-beam inflatable floor for faster paddling, three one-way air valves, self-bailing drain valve, spray skirts with

rope lacing, and carry handles. The SE 330 comes complete with two paddles, foot pump and nylon carry bag.

Length: 11′ 2″

Width: TK”

Weight: 26 lbs.

Capacity: T/K lbs.

MSRP: $349

Seda Kayak Ikkuma 17

Among the broad line of kayaks Seda offers is the Ikkuma 17- a modified Greenland-style kayak that carries an aggressive chine and moderate rocker to deliver good handling in chop and currents. It’s been updated with a rod-style skeg deployment system, and with the high-aspect-ratio carbon-foiled skeg blade, the Ikkuma 17 delivers positive skeg control in all angles of operation. The deck includes flush fittings, Kayak Sport rubber hatches, Immersion Research backband and a dry-hatch option for easy access to gear. Pass-through toggle handles at both ends offer sturdy carrying points; and fore, aft and deck bungees ensure gear and paddles stay put. Hull options are fiberglass, Kevlar, and carbon.

Length: 17′

Width: 22″

Weight: 48 lbs. fiberglass, 43 lbs. Kevlar, 41 lbs. carbon

Capacity: 350 lbs.

MSRP: starts at $2700 (fiberglass)

Walker Bay Airis Kayak

A new venture for traditional powerboat builder Walker Bay Boats, the innovative Airis line of rec’ kayaks use patent pending AirWeb High Pressure Construction to form a seven-layer polymer-coated fabric bonded together by thousands of drop-stitch fibers-like a complicated and very sturdy spider web. This construction allows for a 6.5-psi inflation level (according to Walker Bay, six times that of other inflatable boats), forming an ultra-rigid hull that glides easily on the water. The Airis has two air chambers, and no aluminum stays. Available in four models, ranging from 8 to 11 feet long, the kayaks are loaded with essential features such as a high-pressure two-way pump with air pressure gauge, molded carry handles, bow keel, rear skeg, integrated dry bag, deck bungees for storage, cup holders and a bow bumper rail. Our favorite is the diminutive Airis Play 8; it’s short, playful and easy to maneuver.

Length: 8′

Width: 33″

Weight: 15 lbs.

Capacity: 225 lbs.

MSRP: $749

Wenonah Aurora

The Aurora features classic good looks and the latest in modern construction materials. This boat offers the versatility and superb performance of the company’s best-selling model (the Spirit II), but in a more-compact package. Not meant for heavy expeditions, the Aurora is most suitable for day trips. It’s an easy-paddling hull that glides well and retains sufficient freeboard when loaded. It offers a good blend of initial and final stabilities, for excellent safety and handling on waves, making it a great family boat for a day on the lake or river.

Length: 16′

Width: 36″

Weight: 39 lbs. (Kevlar Ultralight); 64 lbs. (Royalex)

Capacity: N/A

MSRP: $2249 – $1229

Wenonah Wilderness

The Wilderness from Wenonah is a solo canoe that defines a new standard for mid-length extended solo-trip canoes. Although the company does not affix a carrying capacity, they assure us that the Wilderness will carry plenty of gear for distant exploration beyond the reaches of smaller, less efficient canoes. The Wilderness carries additional freeboard and bow height for a dry ride in rough waters. A well-rounded stability profile and moderate rocker inspire confidence and maneuverability. It’s available in Royalex or lightweight composite.

Length: 15’4″‘

Width: 30.5″

Weight: 32 lbs. (Kevlar Ultralight); 47 lbs. (Royalex)

Capacity: N/A

MSRP: $1099 – $2079

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 135

The Tsunami 135 is part of the Wilderness Systems women’s collection. It features a lowered cockpit height for a more comfortable paddling experience and fit for smaller paddlers, yet retains the great Tsunami performance. It is lighter and smaller than its larger brethren, for easier car topping, portaging, and paddling. The Tsunami 135 is offered in rotomolded Gen2 Polyethylene as well as in Wilderness Systems’ lighter Duralite construction, which shaves 7 pounds off the 50-pound Gen2 model. To fit with the women’s theme, the kayak is available in lime green, light blue and pink.

Length: 13’5″

Width: 22.75″

Weight: 50 lbs.

Capacity: 275 lbs.

MSRP: $1050 to $1475, depending on construction and outfitting.


You’ve no doubt heard of sit-on-tops, but what about a stand-on-top? It’s not exactly a kayak, but Hobie has done it again, and come up with something really cool-the SUP, or Stand Up Paddleboard. It’s a cross between paddling and surfing, and you do it standing on top of the paddleboard using a long and straight single-ended paddle. The Hobie EXP-1 SUPs come in three models, each designed for a certain type of water. (The Surf is designed for quick turns in the surf; the ATR is a combo surf/distance platform; and the Paddle is built for paddling on oceans, bays and lakes). All boards are made with a precision one-shot epoxy molding system, creating a durable and lightweight board. A line of custom hand-shaped SUPs is also available. The 11-foot 2-inch ATR model is $1350, without paddle.


Advanced Elements: 866/262-9076; /advancedelements.com/

Current Designs: 507/454-5430; /wenonah.com/CDKayak/

Dagger: 800/433-1969; /dagger.com

Hobie: 800/HOBIE-49; /hobiekayaks.com/

Mad River: 800/59-KAYAK; /madrivercanoe.com/

Necky: 800/8-KAYAKS; /neckykayaks.com

NuCanoe: 888/226-6310; /nucanoe.com/

Ocean: 800/8-KAYAKS; /oceankayak.com/

Sea Eagle: 800/748-8066; /seaeagle.com/

Seda: 800/322-7332; /sedakayaks.com/

Perception: 800/59-KAYAK; /kayaker.com/

Walker Bay: 888/44-WALKER; /walkerbay.com/

Wilderness Systems: 800/59-KAYAK; /wildernesssystems.com/

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