What’s the best kayak made from mostly recycled material?

What's the best kayak made from mostly recycled material? The Editors Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Ah, the age-old outdoor lover’s paradox: You’re all about protecting the environment, except that nearly all of your gear–from your long underwear to your kayak–is made from the carbon-filled decomposed leftovers of dead dinosaurs. (Oil, that is; black gold; Texas tea.) I’m as guilty as anyone at committing the eco-sin of using petroleum-based products, largely because there are so few alternatives.

If you’re looking for a whitewater boat, you’re completely out of luck because recycled plastic materials aren’t considered strong enough to take the pounding. Flatwater paddlers have a limited range of choices. The two most notable kayaks made from 100-percent recycled materials are produced by Johnson Outdoors, which owns Necky Kayaks and Old Town Canoes.

The Necky entry is the Manitou 13 Recycled. It’s made from waste plastic created during the manufacturing of other kayaks in the company’s line. The Manitou is a stable, easy-to-steer, recreational boat that stretches nearly 13 feet long and two feet wide and weighs 45 pounds. At $929, it also costs $30 more than the non-recycled-plastic version of the Manitou 13.

Old Town’s earth-kind boat is the Dirigo 106 Recycled. Like the Manitou, it’s got a handy drink holder molded into the front-center of the seat (read: don’t even bother with a spray skirt). But the Dirigo is nearly 18 inches shorter and three inches wider, for even more stability. $749;

Walden Kayaks, based in Michigan, builds its boats in the U.S. (reducing the carbon footprint of shipping) from recycled HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic. (Soda and milk bottles are generally HDPE, also identified as number 2 plastic in your recycling bin.) Walden offers six different models, which are available at a handful of retailers in the northeast, or can be shipped directly from the company. The one I’d buy (if I had an extra $750 sitting around) is the touring Oydssey. It’s long (13 feet, two inches), lean (23 inches wide), and light (39 pounds) and made for expeditions–so you’ll have a reason to use that pair of petroleum-based long underwear.

In addition, Dagger has announced that this year it’s releasing a flatwater kayak, called the Fiesta, that’s also made from all-recycled materials, but it’ll only be available in the UK. You can watch a video explaining how it’s built–and showing a guy in skateboarding shoes take a hammer to it.

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