Recreational Kayak Experiences

Categories:

This is a log of my experiences with some different recreational kayaks. They’re all fun kayaks to play in!

If these kayaks all sat side-by-side, the most obvious difference between them would be the colors, followed by length. There’s a little curve here and there that is different, but they all seem pretty similar — until you try paddling them! The differences jump right out and it becomes obvious that so many different brands and models exist to fit so many different people’s requirements.

Having tried several of them, I’ve been able to form some opinions and create a clearer picture of what I want in a kayak. I’ve also been able to form at least one clear opinion: I don’t want a recreational kayak. These all have some significant limitations when I consider how I want to use a kayak. A rec kayak is great for just hanging out on the water and having some fun, but it’s just not designed for paddling a fast-moving river or as a fitness tool. There’s nothing wrong with them; they’re just not what I want. But, I basically knew all of this from my previous experience (Buying a Kayak, Part 1: Some Research).

The kayaks are listed in the order I tried them.

Perception Prodigy 10

The Perception Prodigy 10 is a 10-foot long, 29-1/2-inch wide plastic kayak. There’s a very minimal keel to it and the bottom of the hull is pretty flat, with a soft chine.

  • The Prodigy 10 turns pretty fast and easily with a wide sweep, turning 180-degrees in about three strokes. This kayak has very, very little lean — it’s not even worth trying to lean, I’d say.
  • This kayak feels just stable enough while stopped and moving on calm water. Taking this onto a lake with power boats would likely result in me rolling.
  • It doesn’t track particularly well, though it certainly doesn’t track poorly, either. The kayak’s speed is on the slow side.
  • The cockpit opening is huge, and entry/exit is easy. The cockpit is so large, in fact, that after each stroke water drips down the paddle and off of the drip rings right into the cockpit. Water splashes in easily.
  • The seatback height is just barely low enough to not push my PFD up and off of my shoulders.
  • The width of this kayak means the thigh braces are more like knee-cap braces. I had to keep readjusting my legs to keep from pushing my knee caps sideways off the knee joint.

Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100

The Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100 is a 10-foot long, 30-inch wide plastic kayak. There’s a small keel to it and the bottom of the hull is pretty flat, with a soft chine.

  • The Pamlico 100 turns very fast and easily with a wide sweep, turning 180-degrees in as little as two strokes. Leaning into a turn feels a little scary because the kayak shape doesn’t really allow for leaning. Conversely, keeping my weight centered, the kayak feels very stable.
  • This kayak felt very stable while stopped and moving. Even getting hit on the side by a relatively strong current didn’t make the kayak feel too tippy.
  • It doesn’t track particularly well, though it certainly doesn’t track poorly, either. The kayak’s speed is on the slow side.
  • The cockpit opening is huge and very easy to get into and out of; water also splashes into the cockpit very easily. The cockpit is so large, in fact, that after each stroke water drips down the paddle and off of the drip rings right into the cockpit. The dashboard provides enough protection to keep the drips out, but not the splashes.
  • The seatback is too high, pushing my PFD up and off of my shoulders. The seatback is only a little higher than the Prodigy 10, but it’s enough to push the PFD up.
  • The width of the Pamlico 100 cockpit means the thigh braces are more like knee-cap braces. I had to keep readjusting my legs to keep from pushing my knee caps sideways off of my knee.

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

The Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is a 12-foot long, 29-inch wide plastic kayak. A small keel and slightly “V” hull bottom, with a soft chine. This is definitely my favorite of these four kayaks.

  • The Pungo 120 turns pretty fast and easily with a wide sweep, taking about 3-4 strokes to go 180-degrees. The slight “V” of the bottom means a little lean is possible while turning.
  • This kayak felt very stable while stopped and moving. There’s definitely a little extra secondary stability when the kayak is moving, but it’s minor. Even getting hit on the side by a relatively strong current didn’t make the kayak feel too tippy.
  • The Pungo 120 tracks pretty well. It’s not a fast kayak, but not slow, either.
  • The cockpit opening is huge and very easy to get into and out of; water also splashes into the cockpit very easily. The cockpit is so large, in fact, that after each stroke water drips down the paddle and off of the drip rings right into the cockpit. The dashboard provides enough protection to keep the drips out, but not the splashes.
  • The seatback is too high, pushing my PFD up and off of my shoulders.
  • The width of the Pungo 120 cockpit means the thigh braces are more like knee-cap braces. Not quite as bad as the Pamlico 100, but still not a good fit.

Heritage Kayaks FeatherLite 12

The Heritage Kayaks FeatherLite 12 is a 12-foot long, 30-inch wide plastic kayak. Its hull has no keel and a flat bottom, with a soft chine. Despite what the web site says, I see no skeg.

  • The FeatherLite 12 turns very fast and easily with a wide sweep, taking about 2 strokes to go 180-degrees. Its flat bottom lets it spin easily. I was also surprised by how much I could lean this kayak — despite the flat bottom it was easy to lean the kayak to make course corrections to help track straight.
  • This kayak felt very stable while stopped and moving. When being hit by heavy wake it still felt good.
  • The FeatherLite 12 does not track well. Its speed isn’t fast, and the flat bottom meant it required constant course correction.
  • The cockpit opening is quite large and very easy to get into and out of. The “V” shape of the front of the cockpit keeps dripping water from falling into the cockpit.
  • The seatback is very high, reaching up past the middle of my back and nearly touching my shoulder blades. It was easy to lean against and did not push my PFD up like the other seats do. However, when paddling I heard a constant rubbing sound as my back twisted and the PFD and seat rubbed together.
  • Pushing my knees against the sides of the kayak for stability worked pretty well. Despite being roughly the same width as the other kayaks I tried, it’s obviously a different design: my kneecaps weren’t being pushed.

Conclusion

I have a lot of fun each time I go out in any of these kayaks. It’s nice to go out on the water, splash around, and see where I can go. As I said in the beginning, there’s nothing wrong with these kayaks, they’re just not what I want.

The difference between the small-keel design and the no-keel design is obvious: the Pamlico 100 and Pungo 120 tracked straighter than the other two kayaks. The longer (12-foot vs 10-foot) kayaks displaced more water, and therefore felt more stable. Based on those two ideas alone, the Pungo 120 jumps out as the best.

The Pungo 120 still has some shortcomings that highlight why I think a light touring-style kayak would be better for me. My biggest problem with these wide rec kayaks is that pushing my knees against the sides of the kayak is very uncomfortable: a narrower kayak is less likely to push on my kneecaps directly. Plus, it will be a bit faster. A smaller cockpit would let me keep more water out of it, and a harder chine would have more lean to it.

The natural place to start looking is at touring-width (roughly 24 to 27-inch wide), 12-foot long kayaks. However they displace less water than the wider rec kayaks, so to make up for that I’ve been looking at 14-foot kayaks. I think that’s the sweet spot for me.

Share Your Thoughts ( Comments Already)

Recommendations

Powered by the Patrick theme and Movable Type Advanced!