Blackwater 11.5
Blackwater 11.5

What kayak should I get for river-running the Saskatchewan wilds?

A few buddies and I are planning a five-day trip on the Clearwater River in northern Saskatchewan. We plan on hitting some whitewater, though nothing too outrageous. We want kayaks that will track well on flatwater but also be able to bomb down some whitewater. What would you recommend? Rob Lloydminster, Saskatchewan

Blackwater 11.5

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Well, you’ll be needing kayaks that also carry gear, right? That probably means you need some kind of agile, touring-style boat. That won’t be the best thing for serious whitewater, but can handle what I expect you’ll find on the Clearwater.

Blackwater 11.5 Blackwater 11.5

Dagger’s Blackwater 11.5 is such a boat—a cross between a whitewater boat and a touring model. A little less than 12 feet in length, it’s got enough room for gear, paddles reasonably well on calm or flat water, but can handle up to Class II whitewater. Mind you, it’s not going to be a champ in whitewater, but it’ll get you through it! And at $700 it’s not too hard on the wallet (

Wilderness Systems’ Pamlico 140 ($650; is slightly longer—about 14 feet, as the name implies—so can hold a little more stuff than the Blackwater, yet still offers that flatwater to Class II flexibility. This too would make a good, versatile boat for your trip.

Now, a good kayaker can handle rougher whitewater than Class II in one of these boats, but don’t press your luck. The extra length of these boats makes them more difficult to steer in tight quarters, increasing the risk you hook a rock or something. They also provide a longer “lever” for water to grab. Don’t mess with fluid dynamics—you’ll lose every time.

For more river-runners, check out Outside Online’s Kayaks Buying Guide.

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