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Canoe & Kayak Buyer’s Guide

June 7, 2007
Filed under Camping Gear, Sporting Goods

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For those coming into the paddle sports and sometimes worrying about staying upright and comfortable on the water, don’t fret. Nowadays, canoes and kayaks are so darned stable that it’s almost impossible to flip them over. Stability aside, the canoes and kayaks of today are also lightweight, offer exceptional tracking, and smart features such as adjustable seats and large cargo areas. They’re also available in fun, bright colors.

Yet, before you buy, know how you intend to use your canoe or kayak and on what type of water. Will it be a family trip on a gentle lake? A white-water rapids adventure with another person? A calming solo fishing expedition? Here, we assist by showing the newest and latest offerings from many of the major players who will make your life afloat fun, safe and comfortable.

ADVANCED ELEMENTS ADVANCEDFRAME

At 10 feet, 5 inches long and 32 inches wide, the AdvancedFrame is a hybrid folding frame kayak and inflatable kayak. The bow slices through water like a knife, and the company says it rivals the trackability of hard-shell kayaks. The stern acts as a skeg, increasing tracking performance. There’s also plenty of room onboard to store equipment for extended trips. Set up takes a few minutes, and the whole thing packs away in a duffel bag that measures only 30x17x10 inches for easy transport. The AdvancedFrame features an inflatable coming for attaching to a spray skirt. MSRP: $399 (Weight: 36 lbs. Capacity: 300 lbs.) Advanced Elements: 866/262-9076; /advancedelements.com/

EMOTION TANDEMONIUM

A relatively young enterprise going into 2007, the company has nine kayaks in its line, which includes the Tandemonium, the most stable two-person kayak tested by the company. At 13 feet, 4 inches in length and 34 inches wide, this kayak can be paddled solo or with another person riding in the middle. The hull provides enormous weight capacity and has a well-designed top deck for convenient sit-on paddling. But it’s the kayak’s handling and performance that brings out the emotion. MSRP: $699 (Weight: 65 lbs. Capacity: 500 lbs.) Emotion Kayaks: 866/352-9257; /emotionkayaks.com/

FEELFREE TRI-YAK

The company’s tri-yak is a good moniker to hang on a sit-on kayak that accommodates three people. Feelfree notes the Tri-Yak is also a great fishing platform for its stability and tracking, making it ideal for family recreation. Features of the 14-foot, 5-inch long, 32-inch-wide model include three comfortable nylon padded seats with gear pockets, brass clips, safety lines, carry handles, dry storage, a drink bottle holder, and three sets of foot rests. MSRP: $1049 (Weight: 74 lbs. Capacity: 681 lbs.) Feelfree: 952/233-5223; /feelfreekayakusa.com/

HOBIE MIRAGE SPORT

This 9-foot, 7-inch-long, 291/2-inch-wide kayak includes an adjustable seat that accommodates a wide range of users, from 4-foot youths to 6-foot adults. As the seat is moved forward, the pedals move backward, shortening the distance for smaller paddlers and vice versa for taller paddlers. The unique MirageDrive pedal mechanism is connected to underwater flippers, much like penguin wings, which propel kayakers faster using the pedals than with a traditional paddle. Standard features include a 6-inch and 8-inch Twist & Seal hatch and flat areas to accommodate an optional rod holder, GPS or other equipment. Rear cargo area accommodates a cooler, milk crate, or bucket for the fishing kayaker. MSRP: $1399 (Weight: 48 lbs. Capacity: 245 lbs.) Hobie: 800/HOBIE-49; /hobiekayaks.com/

MAD RIVER SYNERGY 12

Blend the best attributes of a sit-on-top kayak and a canoe and you get the Synergy 12, a unique one-person boat that offers a high carrying capacity and creative creature comforts such as adjustable foot braces and an adjustable padded bracket. Other features for fishermen include a padded seat back, generous storage areas at the bow and stern, two recessed rod holders and two rod notches, and a cockpit bungee tie-down. The multichine hull on this 12-foot-long, 31-inch-wide boat provides good stability. An optional rudder is available. MSRP: $750; $950 for Synergy 12 Angler (Weight: 60 lbs. Capacity: 350 lbs.) Mad River Canoe: 800/59-KAYAK; /madrivercanoe.com/.

NECKY ELIZA

The new Eliza is a kayak designed by women, for women. This 15-foot, 31/2 -inch-long, 22-inch-wide model is designed for beginning to intermediate female paddlers with a small to medium build. As one of the lightest polyethylene boats in the day-touring category, it is a sleek and responsive boat that claims to offer a superior ergonomic fit for women. The Eliza is rudder-equipped for superior tracking, yet performs well with the rudder retracted. The deck is designed to shed water and minimize windage, while allowing better stroke clearance for women with narrower shoulders. Features include front and rear hatches with sealed bulkheads. MSRP: 1299 (Weight: 49 lbs. Capacity: 160 lbs.) Necky Kayaks: 800/8-KAYAKS; /neckykayaks.com/

OCEAN KAYAK FRENZY

The company’s Frenzy model has been improved for 2007 by redesigning the seating area so it is more spacious and ergonomic, with footwells crafted into the forward deck to help maximize leverage while paddling. Measuring 9 feet in length and 31 inches in width, the Frenzy has a built-in keel for improved tracking and a more streamlined hull shape. Standard features include a molded-in cup holder and an improved tank well for better storage. Both the bow and stern are equipped with removable bungee cords for cargo stowage. MSRP: $409 (Weight: 43 lbs. Capacity: 325 lbs.) Ocean Kayak: 800/8-KAYAKS; /oceankayak.com/.

OLD TOWN DIRIGO TANDEM PLUS

This kayak is Old Town’s first dual-cockpit model, ideal for family paddling. The forward cockpit is large enough to accommodate a parent and a child, while the rear cockpit holds an adult and a child (equipped with a child seat). Company officials say performance is what sets the Dirigo Tandem Plus apart from its competition. The hull design is more advanced than any other Old Town tandem, yet it provides all the comfort, control and stability for which the Dirigo family has become known. The Tanden Plus measures 15 feet, 3 inches in length and 291/2 inches in width. Standard features include adjustable foot braces, paddle keepers, a day hatch and a rear hatch with bulkhead. MSRP: $1099; $1299 w/ rudder (Weight: 80 lbs. Capacity: 500 lbs.) Old Town Canoe: 800/8-KAYAKS; /oldtowncanoe.com/.

PERCEPTION CAROLINA 14

This popular transitional one-person touring kayak has been improved for 2007, sporting a new V-shape hull with soft chines for stability and easier paddling for beginners. Getting in and out of the 14-foot-long, 241/2-inch-wide kayak is not a problem thanks to a large cockpit, and the cockpit rim makes for comfortable paddling with your knees up. For fisherman there’s also perimeter deck rigging and bungees to secure gear, a rear oval hatch and a 10-inch bow hatch for stowage. A rudder option is available. MSRP: $1000 (Weight: 55 lbs. Capacity: 300 lbs.) Perception: 800/59-KAYAK; /kayaker.com/.

SEA EAGLE 420X

The largest member of the Sea Eagle Explorer Kayak family, the 420X was developed after the company heard from customers that a larger kayak would be great for expeditions. This boat is designed to carry more people and more gear for family outings or serious exploration. At 14 feet in length and 37 inches wide, this expedition-quality kayak is rugged enough to handle Class IV whitewater, large enough to hold three people, and spacious enough to transport gear for a wilderness trip lasting months. And yet it can be deflated and packed into a duffel bag that can be backpacked to a remote lake, packed in the truck of a car or taken on an airplane. MSRP: $999 (Weight: 54 lbs. Capacity: 855 lbs.) Sea Eagle: 800/852-0925; /seaeagle.com/.

STEARNS BACK COUNTRY

This two-person inflatable canoe is an ideal way for some folks to introduce paddle activities to the family. As an inflatable, this canoe is lightweight and easy to transport in its own convenient carry bag. Made of 600 Denier polyester and heavy-duty tarpaulin, the hull is 11 feet, 6 inches long and 39 inches wide and features five air chambers, inflatable seat bottoms with adjustable backrests, two tracking fins, abrasion rails to protect from rocky shorelines, and molded handles for easy carrying. MSRP: $428 (Weight: 39 lbs. Capacity: 500 lbs.) Stearns: 800/333-1179; /stearnsinc.com/.

WAVE WALKER

Now, here’s something different – a kayak with a retractable propeller. This new species of human-powered water vessel is what the company refers to as hydropeds. In the tandem model, which measures 17 feet, 8 inches long and 33 inches wide, dual independent Hydroglide Drives drop down through the hull to provide foot-powered propulsion. A retractable rudder is accessible from the aft cockpit and turns the kayak in a radius nearly equal to the boat’s length. You also can propel the Wave Walker forward or reverse. When you want to go solo, just climb in the rear cockpit and take off. MSRP: $3495 (Weight: 160 lbs. Capacity: 675 lbs.)Wave Walker: 877/928-3925; /wavewalker.us/.

WENONAH BOUNDARY WATERS

This new 17-foot-long tandem touring canoe combines stability, capacity and easy paddling to take novice passengers through rough water with confidence. The stability factor results from a straight keel line for width in water and low heights at the bow and stern to catch less wind. A 361/2-inch-wide beam offers extra capacity for fishing gear, an extra small passenger or an ice chest. Curved webbed seats keep passengers in the center, yet also allow for kneeling while paddling. Available in three composite models. Weight: 63 lbs.(Tuf-weave Flex-core)Capacity:approx. 1250 lbs. $1374. Wenonah Canoe: 507/454-5430; /wenonah.com/.

WILDERNESS SYSTEMS RIDE 135

The company’s Ride has been a favorite among fishermen, since they can stand and cast from this one-person kayak thanks to superb stability. New for 2007, the Ride 135 features a redesigned pontoon-style hull for enhanced performance and a new deck layout for easier access to gear. Anglers will appreciate the molded-in rod guides that hold rods out of the way of paddle strokes, a comfort seating system, a 181/2-inch bow hatch, a tacklebox, and a rear tankwell for diving tanks, milk crates or buckets. An optional rudder and angler package is available. MSRP: $800-$1185, depending on outfitting (Weight: 64 lbs. Capacity: 400 lbs.) Wilderness Systems: 800/59-KAYAK; /wildernesssystems.com/.

SIDEBAR: DON’T FORGET THE PADDLES

Even before you buy a canoe or kayak, consider the extras you’ll need to make your craft more useful. Paddles are a given, but at the very least, have a whistle and a personal flotation device (PFD). What about a roof rack? Or just other useful and fun accessories for touring or fishing? You can find them at these resources:

Cascade Designs: 800/531-9531; /cascadedesigns.com/

Kokatat Watersports Wear: 800/225-9749; /kokatat.com/

Seattle Sports: 800/632-6163; /seattlesportsco.com/

Stohlquist Water Wear: 800/535-3565; /stohlquist.com/

Thule: 800/238-2388; /thuleracks.com/

Voyageur Gear: 800/311-7245; /voyageur-gear.com/

Werner Paddles: 800/275-3311; /wernerpaddles.com/

Yakima: 888-925-0703; /yakima.com/

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