Carolina 14.5
Carolina 14.5

What’s the best kayak for flatwater day trips?

Could you recommend a kayak for day trips on the relatively slow-moving Hackensack River, a wide tidal river (it feeds into Newark Bay and New York Harbor) with no rapids or whitewater sections? I already have a small nimble boat (an old Perception Pirouette) for other trips, but since it does not track well, I'd like to get a second boat. Stu Hackensack, New Jersey

Carolina 14.5

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You need something with a little more length to it, Stu. The Pirouette is a cute little boat, but at just over 11 feet in length it’s just not going to hold a straight line that well. Which is what you’ve apparently discovered!

Carolina 14.5 Carolina 14.5

One very fine mid-priced choice would be to keep it in the Perception family with the Airalite-constructed Carolina 14.5 ($1,750 with rudder; Airalite is a fairly new plastic material—it’s been around for about two years now—that yields much of the strength, light weight, and appearance of more-expensive composite, but at a much lower price. The Carolina itself is a compact boat but one with enough length to offer good tracking without sacrificing maneuverability. Plenty of storage for day trips, and if you ever choose to overnight, then it has room for that, too.

Dagger’s Specter 15.0 ($1,000; offers a similar performance package in a slightly longer, less-expensive boat (it’s available in Airalite, in this case the rotomolded version). It’s designed to be a day tourist that can handle calm waters or light surf. The Specter is very stable, tracks well, and offers plenty of space for day trips and even weekenders. In short, a lot of boat for the money.

On the high end, Necky’s composite Elaho ($2,800; is light, stiff, and maneuverable. It’s sort of a touring playboat that’s a blast to paddle. Plus it’s a gorgeous boat!

For a look at more great kayaking gear, check out Outside Online’s all-new Kayaks Buying Guide.

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