I want a kayak that’s light and fast. Should I get a sit-in or a sit-on-top?

I’m looking for a fast and light sit-on-top kayak that tracks well. I paddle a Feelfree Move on the Russian River with a couple who have a tandem Hobie, and I can never keep up with them. What do you think about the Cobra Explorer or the Hobie pedal kayak? Chrissi Cloverdale, California

Jul 6, 2007
Outside Magazine
REI Necky Manitou

Necky Manitou


Well, yeah, I’m not surprised you have a bit of a struggle keeping up with a tandem Hobie. They have twice the paddling power that you do, in a boat only slightly heavier than a single kayak. Same principle applies in bicycling; there aren’t too many single cyclists who can keep up with a tandem crewed by cyclists of physical ability equal to the single rider. And the Feelfree Move ($545; feelfreekayak.com) is a stubby little thing.

While I have absolutely no quibble with a design such as Hobie’s pedal-powered Mirage Revolution ($1,600; hobiecat.com), I’m doubtful that it would offer any speed advantage over what you’re using now. Likewise, the Cobra Explorer ($460; cobrakayaks.com) is a perfectly fine sit-on-top. But I wonder if you’d be better served by an enclosed kayak. It certainly would be faster—you’re lower in the water, less wind drag, etc. I can imagine that heat would be a factor in your area, but some boats have big, roomy cockpits that vent well.

With that in mind, I’d certainly suggest you take a look at something such as the Necky Manitou ($799; necky.com). It’s a “hybrid" boat, one that you sit inside of like a traditional kayak, but that has more stability and a bigger cockpit. It’s easy to paddle and you don’t feel as if you’re wearing the thing. There’s also a storage compartment for extra gear. I really think you’d find it to be easier to paddle and keep up with your friends. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 ($775; wildernesssystems.com) is similar, as is the Dagger Blackwater 12 ($679; dagger.com).

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