Specter 14.0
Specter 14.0 (courtesy, Dagger)

Is there a touring kayak that can handle Class IV rapids?

I want to purchase a kayak that'll handle a four-day river tour in Utah, one that can carry a load and maneuver in Class II-IV rapids. What do you suggest? Phil San Diego, California

Specter 14.0

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There really isn’t such a boat. For Class II, yes, you could buy a short touring kayak and probably be dandy. But Class IV is pretty serious stuff—fast-moving water, narrow channels, lots of rocks and obstacles. A kayak that can hold its own in that sort of water is not going to be one that packs 40 to 50 pounds of gear along with the rider.

Specter 14.0 Specter 14.0

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So what to do? Well, for the easier waters, you probably could get by with a boat such as Dagger’s Specter 14.0 ($1,100, www.dagger.com), a rotomolded plastic boat that’s billed as a compact touring boat. It’ll hold a fair amount of gear (most of it in a 120-liter hatch), while its relatively short length gives it good maneuverability. Fine for light touring, surf, that sort of thing. Whitewater? As I said, Class II you’re probably fine—beyond that, don’t come knocking on my door with a lawsuit.

The alternative is a true river-running boat such as the Necky Mission ($999, www.necky.com). But, the Mission is only seven feet two inches long—enough room for you, and that’s about it.

So I’m somewhat stumped. I assume you aren’t planning on making this a solo trip, that you’ll be part of a group. Perhaps in that case you can combine rafting and kayaking. The raft carries the gear and a few people, who trade off with kayakers in whitewater boats as you make your way downriver, maybe stopping occasionally and running the same stretch several times in the different rides. That strikes me as the only safe way to combine a kayaking and touring trip on anything more than pretty benign whitewater.

More touring and whitewater kayaks reviewed in Outside‘s 2004 Buyer’s Guide.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: courtesy, Dagger