2011 Canoe & Kayak Buyer’s Guide

June 2, 2011
Filed under Camping Gear, Sporting Goods

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Is there a better way to spend a summer day than paddling a boat? It’s hard to think of another activity that lets you peacefully explore bays, rivers and shorelines with friends and family. Whether your boat of choice is a canoe, kayak or sit-on-top, paddlesports brands are offering more choices than ever before. Traditional boats are receiving upgrades to address paddlers’ desires for more comfort and customization opportunities. And new models for 2011 offer kayak fishermen and families even more options to fit their specific locations, interests and paddling preferences.


The Renegade is a sit-on-top kayak designed for easy handling and stability. Its supportive, molded-in backrest and multiple foot wells provide all-day comfort for paddlers of all sizes. A spacious tank in the rear is large enough for a small child or a dog to ride in. The integral stern and side handles make carrying the kayak from the car to the water easy and can also be used for securing it. Rod holders can be mounted behind the seat, making this a good boat for fishing enthusiasts. The Renegade is 10 feet long and has a beam that is 36 inches wide. It weighs 49 pounds and can carry 325 pounds maximum. $399. Emotion: 866/352-9257; emotionkayaks.com.

Jackson Kayaks

Best known for whitewater boats, Jackson Kayaks also offers fishing kayaks. The Coosa addresses the fisherman’s needs for a wider, more stable, steadier platform, and was designed by professional kayak fisherman Drew Gregory. Other features include a Hi/Lo seat setup and deck arrangement with numerous paddle and rod staging and holding options. Fishing features such as tackle storage under the seat and a large tank well round out the Coosa. $799. Jackson Kayaks: 931/738-2628; jacksonkayak.com.

Necky Kayaks

Necky’s first sit-on-top kayak in nearly a decade, the Vector 13 offers a seat that’s engineered to reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve and prevent leg and foot fatigue associated with paddling long distances. A forward-seated solo boat, the Vector 13 can be equipped with an optional rudder system for increased control in currents, wind and waves. The Vector 13 is self-bailing for a dry, comfortable ride and offers a host of additional features including adjustable foot pedals, watertight storage, a nylon tank well cover, scupper plugs and a mesh storage pouch. The Vector 13 is 13 feet long with a beam of 29 inches. It weighs 59 pounds and has a 300-pound capacity. $899; $1,099 with optional rudder. Necky: 800/852-9257; neckykayaks.com.

Current Designs

New for 2011, the Current Designs Kestrel X line of full-sized recreational-style kayaks are designed to fit paddlers comfortably and put even the most wary beginners at ease. Extra deep and wide, the Kestrel X line features generously sized cockpits for easy entry, as well as two composite bulkheads and storage compartments for maximum gear capacity. There are three models: two composite hulls, the 140X and 120X; and a rotomolded polyethylene hull, the 120 roto. Our favorite is the 120X; it’s sleek and light, perfect for bird-watching. The 120X is 12 feet 6 inches long and has a 28-inch beam. It weighs 42 pounds and offers a 350-pound capacity. $1,899. Current Designs: 507/454-5430; cdkayak.com.


The Mirage Oasis features Hobie’s MirageDrive pedal system. It’s sort of like pedaling a bike, except you are powering a set of flippers under the kayak. It actually works very well. A major attraction is that the Oasis can be used as a tandem or single, and it features a steering system from both seat positions. Redesigned for 2011, the Oasis also offers three 8-inch twist-and-seal hatches, forward and rear cargo areas, two molded-in rod holders with caps, deluxe padded seat backs with lumbar support, two mesh-covered storage pockets and midship carry handles on both sides. Weighing 75 pounds, the Oasis offers a 550-pound maximum capacity. It’s 14 feet 6 inches long and it has a 33-inch beam. $2,699. Hobie: 760/758-9100; hobiecat.com.

Mad River

Designed and tested by Jim Henry, founder of Mad River Canoe, the new Journey has comforting stability and an ease of paddling that offers a sense of security with adventure potential for every skill level. Incredibly seaworthy, versatile and ruggedly durable with an affordable price point for families, the Journey is available in two sizes. Made from a super-sturdy, triple-layer sandwich setup of polyethylene with a foam core center, the model 156 (weighs 83 pounds, carries up to 1,100 pounds) is 15 feet 6 inches long and the model 167 (weighs 88 pounds, carries up to 1,200 pounds) is 16 feet 7 inches long. Both have a 35.25-inch beam. $900. Mad River: 888/525-2925; madrivercanoe.com.

Ocean Kayak

The new Ocean Kayak Nalu 12.5 stand-up paddleboard (SUP) is a versatile craft that can be paddled from both standing and seated positions. It’s suited for a variety of waters, from lakes and slow-moving rivers to moderate surf. The Nalu 12.5 offers two self-draining scuppers, a storage bungee and ergonomic carrying handles. Molded-in tail fins give it solid tracking, and textured foot wells provide extra traction for paddling while standing. The Nalu 12.5 also comes with the company’s Comfort Tech seat back. The boat is 12 feet 6 inches long and has a 30.5-inch beam. The Nalu 12.5 weighs 49 pounds and has a capacity of 300 pounds. $749. Ocean Kayak: 800/852-9257; oceankayak.com.

Old Town

The new Old Town Saranac 146 was designed as an affordable family boat and features contoured bow and stern seats and a center bench ideal for children or smaller passengers. The center bench includes a covered storage compartment. All Saranac seats incorporate a variety of extras including cup-holders, rod holders and storage trays designed to add convenience and versatility to the canoe. Molded-in carrying handles offer easy transport, portaging and car topping, while vinyl gunwales provide added durability.

The Saranac 146 is 14 feet 6 inches long with a beam of 36 inches. It’s made from thermoformed polyethylene, weighs 79 pounds and has a maximum load range of 700 pounds. $549. Old Town: 800/343-1555; oldtowncanoe.com.


The Perception Impulse 10.0 is a versatile, simple design offering a family-friendly recreational kayak at a good value. This is a no-fuss, multipurpose kayak with a lively yet forgiving hull. It offers durable molded-in features such as bow and stern handles, a cup-holder, paddle rest grooves, a dashboard tray and bungee attachment points. A comfortable seat pad, backrest and an elevated area under the seat deliver leg support for long days on the water. The Impulse 10.0 is 10 feet long and has a 29.9-inch beam. It weighs 44 pounds and will carry a maximum of 275 pounds. $399. Perception: 888/525-2925; perceptionkayaks.com.

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle launched its new, larger high-performance kayak, the Sea Eagle FastTrack 465, for 2011. Designed for open water, the expedition-quality FastTrack utilizes a high-tensile-strength, lightweight fabric; a rigid, drop-stitch inflatable keel in the bow of the boat; and a large skeg in the stern. The rear skeg can be removed, making the FastTrack suitable for use in up to Class III rapids. A high-pressure drop-stitch floor increases the rigidity of the FastTrack, making it more efficient to paddle and even allowing the kayak to double as a stand-up paddleboard. The FastTrack 465 can accommodate two or three people, and is 15 feet long and with a 34-inch beam. It weighs 44 pounds and has a capacity of 795 pounds. $1,149. Sea Eagle: 800/944-7496; seaeagle.com.

Wenonah Canoe

The Wenonah Canoe Canak is a high-end Kevlar solo touring boat that shares the advantages of both the canoe and kayak. It’s great for lake camping when the capacity of a canoe is needed and the touring ability of a kayak is desired. The one-of-a-kind bow and stern storage compartments are spacious and more accessible than standard kayak hatches, and the slipover covers keep your cargo dry. The floor-mounted sliding seat and adjustable kayak-style foot braces make this boat as comfortable as any large cockpit kayak. The Canak is 16 feet long, has a 30-inch beam and weighs 38 pounds. $2,699. Wenonah: 507/454-5430; wenonah.com.

Wilderness Systems

The Commander 140 is a fishing kayak for bigger paddlers and longer trips and received a number of upgrades this year. The 14-foot-long, 30.5-inch-wide Commander’s most prominent feature is the molded-in elevated captain’s seat, but it also offers generous bow and stern storage, larger tank wells, more cockpit and storage capacity, widened foot room and a higher placement in the water. The Commander outfitting includes an integrated trolling motor mount, a dual-seating system and the SlideTrax accessory system. It weighs 77 pounds and has a maximum capacity of 475 pounds. $1,349. Wilderness Systems: 888/525-2925; wildernesssystems.com.

Also check out our picks for Canoe and Kayak Accessories.

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