2009 Canoe & Kayak Buyer’s Guide
Quietly paddling along the edge of a reed-lined lakeshore, through the maze of a mangrove-twisted seashore, or down a pristine and crystal-clear creek offers the chance to see and hear a piece of the wild world that can only be found from the cockpit of a human-powered watercraft. The recreational and angler-style canoes and kayaks highlighted here are all excellent choices for the camper who wants to get out and on the water for the day or a couple of nights. For more details, or to look at more models, go to the manufacturers’ websites.
The new Tandem inflatable from Airis is built for two, and offers seating that can be located almost anywhere in the wide-open cockpit for maximum passenger size flexibility and legroom. Other useful features include integrated bungee cords for storage on deck, and easy-grip handles for transport. Two seating options are available: standard cushion and backrest ($49), or the deluxe extra padded cushion and backrest ($99). The 12-foot Tandem ($1599), weighs 39 pounds, can carry 450 pounds, and comes with its own backpack-style carry bag for hoofing it to the water’s edge. Airis Kayaks (Walker Bay Boats): 800/44-WALKER; airiskayaks.com.
New for 2009 is the Kestrel 120 OC (Open Cockpit) kayak, a recreational boat for the paddler who likes lots of room to move about in the boat. Offering a large and spacious cockpit for easy entry and exit, the new boat from Current Designs also provides plenty of room for gear in its storage compartments. This is a good choice for the serious angler, or for someone who wants to simply float on your favorite little river and have fun. The $749 Kestrel 120 OC measures 12 feet in length, weighs 48 pounds, and has a capacity of 275 pounds. Current Designs: 507/454-5430; cdkayak.com.
Creating rugged inflatable kayaks with built-in rigid panels to define the bow and stern for improved tracking is this company’s bread and butter. So it was no surprise when Advanced Elements’ sporty and sturdy little Lagoon 1 appeared on the new product horizon this year. A tracking fin and skid plate are among hull features that include high-flow twist-lock valves, an inner tube cover for increased rigidity, an outer cover for abrasion and puncture resistance, bungee deck lacing, molded handles, padded seats, a large accessory pocket and a foam floor. The $330 Lagoon 1 comes with its own carry bag and a host of other standard features. Advanced Elements: 866/262-9076; advancedelements.com.
The Alchemy from Dagger can handle everything from calm seas to surf and placid lakes to Class III rapids. The light touring boat offers stability, but with good turning ability. The kayak comes in two sizes, small (14.0s with a 23-inch beam) and large (14.0L with a 24-inch beam) to suit different sizes of paddlers. Both are 14 feet long. The small boat weighs 50 pounds and offers a capacity of 275 pounds; while the large model weighs 55 pounds and can carry up to 300 pounds of weight (passenger ands cargo). Both are priced at $1295. Dagger: 888/52-KAYAK; dagger.com.
New for 2009 from Hobie is the i9S model inflatable kayak equipped with the patented MirageDrive pedal system. This 9-foot-long boat is nimble and lightweight (39 pounds), and has a carrying capacity of 325 pounds; and the pedal power system allows for hands-free kayaking (good for fishing or photography). Among its many standard features, the i9S ($1549) comes with the “Twist and Stow” rudder, Rapid-inflate Hobie hand pump, adjustable high-back seat, self-draining cockpit, a four-piece paddle stored on deck, and an on-deck mast base for an optional sail kit. It comes with its own travel bag. Hobie Kayaks: 800/HOBIE-49; hobiekayaks.com.
Budget-priced and easy to use, the stable and durable Adventure 16 Squareback ($800) canoe can be paddled or motored (using an electric trolling motor, not included). The new boat from Mad River comes ready to go with a transom block, gear trays, cup holders, adjustable padded backrests, seat pads, accessory pockets, and an integrated center seat. The seat positions on the new canoe have been lowered for improved stability. The Adventure 16 Squareback is 16 feet long, weighs 85 pounds, and offers a carrying capacity of 1000 pounds. This is a boat for serious outdoor adventures. Mad River Canoe: 888/52-KAYAK; madrivercanoe.com.
Two new models were released by Necky for 2009. The Looksha 12 and the Looksha 12Si are designed for day touring or recreational paddling, and are good entry level kayaks. Both are 12 feet long. The 12 ($999) weighs 50 pounds and is a high-volume boat designed to carry a load, while the 49-pound 12Si ($999) is a lower volume kayak built with smaller paddlers in mind. The new Looksha kayaks offer performance features such as adjustable foot pegs, padded thigh braces, Extrasport seats, bow and stern hatches, and optional rudders that make them boats a novice can grow their skills in and still be satisfied. Necky Kayaks: 800/8-KAYAKS; neckykayaks.com.
A pioneer of the sit-on-top kayak concept, Ocean added two new models to its Prowler Trident line of kayaks. The Prowler Trident 11 (11’ 5” long) and 13 (13’ 6” long) are offered in standard or fishing editions and feature a new adjustable foot peg system. Both also offer the Comfort Plus seat back, large tank well for storage, bow hatch and paddle keeper. Angler models also get the Rod Pod that stores rods inside the hull, flush-mount rod holders, and a Sonar Shield and battery bag for Humminbird fish finders. A rudder system is optional. The 11 (standard) runs $799, weighs 54 pounds, and can carry 350 pounds; the 13 (standard) is priced at $899. Weighs 60 pounds, and has a 425-pound capacity. Ocean Kayak: 800/8-KAYAKS; oceankayak.com.
This year Old Town is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the company’s Discovery canoe—the Discovery model 174, introduced in 1974, was the industry’s first rotomolded canoe—with the launch of the new Discovery Sport 15, a versatile square-stern 15-foot-long boat that can be paddled, rowed or motored (with up to a 5hp outboard). The Sport 15 ($1500) weighs 113 pounds, offers superb stability on the water, and lots (1650 pounds) of cargo capacity.
Also introduced this year, Old Town’s new Vapor series of kayaks includes seven new boats, but we’ll focus on Vapor 12xt Recycled ($709) built from 100-percent post-industrial recycled plastic. The 12-foot long boat is ideal for protected waters, weighs 56 pounds, and will carry 325 pounds. It offers a large cockpit, adjustable seating and foot pegs, and padded thigh braces. One percent of the gross sales from Vapor 12xt Recycled boats will go to help fund the Waterkeeper Alliance (waterkeeper.org). Old Town Canoes & Kayaks: 800/343-1555; oldtowncanoe.com.
The Perception Tribute line of kayaks was introduced in 2008, offering smaller paddlers, such as women and kids, performance in an easy-to-handle package. The line’s success prompted the company to add two new Tribute models for 2009: the $650 10.0 (10-foot length, 26-inch beam; 38-pound weight, 225-pound capacity) and $995 14.0 (14-foot length, 23.7-inch beam; 46-pound weight, 250-pound capacity). Among the boats’ highlights: new Zone DLX outfitting seat system (includes thigh and foot braces and adjustable backrest and leglifter) for comfort in the already roomy cockpit, bow and stern storage, perimeter deck lines, and grab-handles for easy carrying on land. A rudder option is available for the 14.0. Perception Kayaks: 864/859-7518; perceptionkayaks.com.
The SE 370 inflatable kayak features Sea Eagle’s I-beam construction, high-frequency welded seams, and extra thick 33-mil Polykrylar hull for rigidity and durability. The company says the lightweight (just 32 pounds) SE 370 is a good still water boat, but is also strong enough to handle Class III whitewater, and can carry 650 pounds. Standards on the 12-foot, 6-inch kayak include dual molded-in fins for tracking, an inflatable spray skirt, removable front and rear seats, rope handles on each end, and a self-bailing drain valve. The SE 370 Pro Package (also includes upgraded seats, two paddles, foot pump and storage bag) has a retail price of $399. Sea Eagle: 800/748-8066; seaeagle.com.
The new Fusion 13 solo canoe blends the best of canoes and kayaks into one boat for recreational paddling and fishing. A very stable platform, the 13-foot-long Fusion can be paddled with a single- or double-blade paddle, and its optional foot-controlled rudder makes it easy to manage. And it’s designed to accept accessories such as rod holders and storage trays. Black vinyl gunwales and wood thwarts and handles are standard; wood gunwales and trim, and skid plates are offered as options. The (Royalex plastic) Fusion runs $899, weighs 45 pounds, and can carry a solo paddler and plenty of cargo. Wenonah Canoe: 507/454-5430; wenonah.com.
The Tarpon line was redesigned for 2009 and includes bow-lift enhancements for gliding through surf, increased tank well sizes, and extensive outfitting and deck improvements such as hinged hatch covers, the company’s high-end Phase 3 SOT seat, SlideTrax rigging system, bungee paddle holder, and molded-in mesh gear pockets. Our two favorites from the Tarpon line are the $850 model 120 (12 feet, 3 inches long, 60-pound weight, 350-pound carrying capacity) and the $950 model 140 (14 feet long, 62-pound weight, 375-pound capacity) because they are roomy enough for the serious fisherman. Rudder systems and special Angler models are also offered. Wilderness Systems: 888/52-KAYAK; wildernesssystems.com.