I'm looking into a recreational kayak for flatwater lakes and slow to moderate rivers (nely, the erican River up near Folsom, California). I need a kayak with a cockpit big enough to fit me and a little guy (under 50 pounds). We've paddled in open kayaks in lakes, but I would like a closed hull. Any good suggestions? I've looked at the Loon 111 and Perception Swifty. Annette Roseville, California
That pretty much describes the Loon 111 from Old Town Canoe ($549; www.otccanoe.com). It's not a big boat—just over 11 feet long—so it's easy to manage out of the water. In the water it tracks like a much longer boat, while its short length makes it nicely maneuverable. And it has a cockpit specifically designed for a pilot and a second, compact passenger. A Labrador retriever, say, or a five-year-old. Perception's Swifty ($380; www.kayaker.com), on the other hand, may be too compact at nine feet in length to hold you and your little guy. You'd want to find a model and both sit inside, then imagine paddling. It's a fine little boat, though, both stable and maneuverable.
There's another good choice: Dagger's Blackwater 13.5 ($649; www.dagger.com). It's designed as a small dualie, with a seat that can be taken out for solo use or to enlarge the cockpit. It's two feet longer than the Loon, which translates into better speed and tracking. It also uses a new resin, called Exolar, that is stiffer and lighter than the stuff used in the 111 and the Swifty. A great little boat, and I think just the ticket.
More kayaks reviewed in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide.