My girlfriend and I would like to purchase kayaks, but I have no clue where to start. I want to get into some whitewater, she is more interested in backwater touring. Is there a boat out there that can mesh our interests? Brian Gainesville, Florida
Still, there are boats that can ensure domestic bliss. First up, Perception's Enduro 12.5 ($940; www.kayaker.com). It's a moderately small boat that has a retractable skeg (rudder) that can be deployed in calm water and pulled up in rougher stuff. The skeg helps the boat track in calm water, while the small size and thigh braces help you navigate fast-moving rivers. It doesn't have a ton of storage space, but between the two of you it's possible to pack enough gear for two or three days, provided you pack tightly.
Dagger's Blackwater 12.5 ($700; www.dagger.com) is sized about the same and has a similar amount of storage, so it's a good choice too, although its hull seems a little more oriented to calm water. But it too has a retractable skeg, and it's relatively short.
One last candidatethe Wilderness Systems Pungo 140 ($775; www.wildernesssystems.com). It's a touch longer than either the Perception or Dagger boats, so tracks better and holds more. But it's still billed as an all-around boat, capable of handling Class II rapids, which I assure you is plenty. All in all, a nice boat.
Take the time to try several boats, perhaps renting boats at first so you get a sense of what's comfortable for you, both fit-wise and stability-wise. Kayaks are like shoesyou really put them on, rather than get into them. So fit is very important.
Read more kayak reviews in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide .