Gear Guy

Charleston 14     Photo: courtesy, Dagger

Q:

Which touring kayak will perform best on flatwater?

I'd like to buy a touring kayak primarily for day trips and possibly some overnight jaunts. I've been sea kayaking a number of times, but was always with a guide so never learned much about the boats. I live in Austin, so I'll mainly be on flatwater lakes. I'm a proficient paddler with medium build and height, so what would you suggest as a reasonably priced boat (under $1,000)? Danny Austin, Texas

A:Quite a few choices, particularly given that you'll be on relatively benign water. Perception's Carolina 14.5 ($980 with rudder; www.kayaker.com) is a sleek, easy-to-handle craft. It has fore and aft stowage for your gear, with plenty of room (approximately 8,600 cubic inches) to stash gear for overnighters or even several nights. It's a very seaworthy boat, so you can take it out on the ocean again, or it will be plenty stable on a lake if a thunderstorm roils the water a little bit. And, at over 14 feet in length, it should be about the right size for you.

Another nice boat is the Dagger Charleston 14 ($850; www.dagger.com), which is a touch shorter than the Carolina. But it still has room for gear in fore and aft stowage bays (around 7,000 cubic inches of dry storage space), and is a maneuverable little craft that still tracks pretty well when crossing open water.

You might even get by with a sit-on-top, which would sure let you take advantage of both the sun and the cool water. Wilderness Systems' Freedom ($649; 800-311-7245) is one such boat, with I think just enough storage for an overnight trip. Very comfortable, but with a true sea-kayak hull for stability and water-worthiness. Worth a look, certainly.

Check out the best touring and whitewater kayaks in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide.

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