Gear Guy

Q:

What's the best all-purpose kayak?

I'm interested in buying a new kayak for touring and open-water paddling, but one that could also take a little whitewater action once in a while. What would you recommend? Jeff Midland, Michigan

A:That's a tall order. Touring kayaks and whitewater kayaks are almost completely different creatures—very few touring kayaks will be happy in whitewater. What you'd want is a relatively short touring boat, so you'd have more maneuverability. One candidate would be the Dagger Crossover, which is actually designed to handle as wide a range of conditions as possible. It's short (12.5 feet), with a retractable skeg and enough storage space for a carefully packed multi-day trip. It costs $900. This is a compromise boat, though, so in exchange for the maneuverability needed for streams, you get a boat that doesn't track or glide that well in open water. But it'll work.

In a boat skewed a little more to the touring side of things, Perception's Catalina ($890 with rudder) is just under 14 feet in length, meaning it will track better than the Crossover but won't be quite as nimble on streams. One advantage is its bigger storage capacity—it's a boat that could handle multi-day trips. Prijon's Calabria ($850) is a similar alternative; a stable boat with pretty good speed.

Perhaps you've already got the accessories. If not, a personal flotation device is, of course, a must: Kokatat's Outfit Tour PFD ($120) is a well-fitted, sturdily made PFD with pockets for strobe flashers or cell phones. Harmony's Paddle Leash ($15) would be useful, as would a Pelican Mini Flasher ($10), a blinking beacon visible for hundreds of yards. Clothing is down to personal taste, but a good base layer is the Warmers 2mm Farmer John Wetsuit ($90), which could be worn under a Mysterioso Neoprene Long-sleeve Top ($60) for good all-weather protection.

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