I was able to test paddle some new sit-on-top kayaks in a demo day like setting during a trade show late summer of 2011. While the testing was not extensive the results should provide a decent first impression that will allow a general introduction to the kayak’s performance and facilitate one to make some preliminary decisions.
The conditions were on a flat water pond, cool weather, no wind, no waves, short distance; about 5-10 minutes saddle time each boat. Knee straps were not used. Basic seats were used. None of the kayaks were equipped with a rudder.
Where I suggest distance ranges and/or water conditions they are subject to a great deal of interpretation based on the skill level and strength of the paddler. Or in other words are not absolute.
Necky Vector 14
Length: 14’1" / 4.3m
Width: 25" / 63.5cm
Weight (lbs): 63 / 28.6kg lbs.
Total Weight Capacity (lbs): 250-300 / 113.4-136.1kg
Necky’s new Vector kayaks put Necky back into the sit-on-top game after a considerable hiatus. (Necky, Ocean Kayak and Old Town are all part of the same company, much like Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth.)
The advent of the Necky Vector offers some promise of a better performing sit-on-top kayak for touring rather than for fishing and recreational use only. While I was not able to try a Vector 13 some of what I found can be applied to the Vector 13, but I am sure that they are indeed quite different kayaks.
The Necky Vector 14 is a very comfortable kayak, however it is a wet ride. While this may be a deal breaker for some, I personally feel that one cannot expect to stay dry in any kayak. You should be dressed to swim, so why fret over a little water in the cockpit. If that is what it takes to make a sit-on-top kayak stable and fast I will accept it. The kayak has two scupper holes under the seat pad that do a reasonable, but not perfect job of draining the cockpit.
The Vector 14 has good primary and secondary stability, part of the feeling of comfort. The kayak was not fast, but it was not terribly slow. I would have preferred a bit more glide, but it is after all only 14 feet. Handling was decent. On the pond there was no need for the optional rudder, but if you plan to paddle this kayak on the ocean, or for longer distance it would be advisable to get it.
The side handles are somewhat in the way of the paddle stoke, but that can be remedied with a small modification, still allowing use for lifting the kayak. It is well worth having these handles. The hatches seal well and are easy to operate. Having two larger cargo hatches make this kayak a good candidate for expedition use.
The foot pegs are a bit low on the cockpit for my likes (I wear a size 9 men shoe). A skid plate on the stern of the hull is nice, but do not use this as a license to drag the kayak, this part is not likely to remain available forever if it should need replacing from abusive use.
The seat back support may feel a tad short for some. I for one am not a big fan of built in proprietary seat systems for sit-on-top kayaks. While the seat of the Vector is very comfortable I feel that the seat will fit the average person well, but leave those who have different seating needs out of the picture. The use of SOT accessory seats allows the paddler to customize the seating to fit very specific needs and purposes. Many seat options can be used on one platform. It is conceivably possible to apply a standard SOT seat, but I was not able to test that notion.
The Necky Vector 14 would be a good option for casual ocean touring with some waves, lakes with some chop and day trips of about 5 miles or more depending on strength and skill levels. If outfitted with a rudder the Vector might be a decent sailing kayak.
Ocean Kayak Tetra 12
Length: 12' 1" / 3.68m
Width: 28" / 71.1cm
Weight (lbs): 55 / 25kg lbs.
Total Weight Capacity (lbs): 300-350 / 136.1-158.8kg
Ocean Kayak, the primary progenitor of sit-on-tops in America, is still a leader in the field. While focus has been heavily aimed toward the fishing and recreation aspects, the Tetra series (Tetra 12 and Tetra 10) further entrench O.K. into the rec world. (I do however have to say that some of the Prowlers and Tridents are quite decent day touring kayaks and may be well suited for the non-fishing paddler and kayak sailor.)
I found the Tetra 12 to be kind of tippy overall. The primary stability was good, but the secondary stability was a bit tender. Leg straps suggested. Like any kayak, a few weekends of practice will have you paddling like a champ, so do not let the first five minutes of saddle time make up your mind.
The Tetra is a dry ride, paddler seated higher, that is probably why the secondary stability was a bit off; but I was comfortable and dry. The OK Comfort Hybrid Seat was decent - I like the plastic fittings - and while this seat is tall, it could be easily replaced with any size standard SOT seat.
Like the Vector, I found the foot pegs set a bit too low. The kayak was not slow for a 12-footer. Handling was decent, not hard to turn around and it tracks well. A rudder was not needed on the pond, but might be nice on more open waters.
The Tetra was outfitted with the same Quick Seal hatch cover as the Vector offering decent cargo storage, but the lack of a large stern hatch makes it hard for this little kayak to carry camping gear. It does appear to have a hatch option in the rear cargo well, but it would have to be well sealed. It has a skid plate on the stern of the hull, probably same hardware as on the Vector.
The Ocean Kayak Tetra 12 would be a good kayak for an entry level paddler who is keen to practice and looking for a general purpose recreational kayak. Best used on relatively protected waters for day trips of about 5 miles or less depending on strength and skill levels.
Perception Triumph 13.0
Length: 13'5" / 408cm
Width: 29.5" / 75cm
Weight: (lbs): 58 / 26kg lbs.
Total Weight Capacity (lbs): 350 / 159kg
Perception (one of the sister companies of Dagger, Wilderness Systems and Mad River) has had a hard time getting traction in the SOT world since the excellent but discontinued Prism and Illusion models of SOTs. While recent kayaks, the Search (Tarpon clone) and the Tribe (similar to OK Scrambler), have had some kudos, the Triumph is a turning point for Perception. I am looking forward to a Triumph 15.0 or so.
Of all the kayaks I tried on that day the Triumph was best of the bunch. It was fast for a 13 foot SOT with good glide and stability. The kayak was reasonably maneuverable with good tracking. The rudder was certainly not needed on the pond. However it would be wise to have on the kayak if used in more open waters.
The Triumph was comfortable and a dry ride. The demo model I paddled was outfitted with a decent SOT seat; I do not know if it is part of a package deal. However it would be easily replaced with an alternative seat if so desired. The cockpit has a tiny molded child seat (more of a spot really) located appropriately in the center of the cockpit, between the adult’s legs.
The built in side handles are good and I think I can get to like this sort of feature, if done right. The Perception Dual Density hatch is a good system; however I really wished the kayak had a decent stern hatch like the Vector 14. I would have preferred a rear toggle handle on the center line, but I do understand the reason for it, as a rudder blade, if installed, will pinch your fingers.
The Perception Triumph 13.0 is a good choice for a performance minded paddler who is looking for a better day touring sit-on-top and not a wide rec or fish kayak. While it is not suited well for kayak expedition, this little 13 footer should be able to handle some longer trips, about 5 or more miles, and casual ocean touring.
Length: 14' 9"
Weight: 47 lbs
Total Weight Capacity (lbs): 286
While the Bic Scapa is not a new kayak this year, it was the first time I had a chance to test-paddle one. Bic kayaks are made in France with a two part (deck + hull) thermoform process. The quality of construction is very good. The kayak was surprisingly light. Bic was the company that popularized wind surfing back in the 1980s.
I found the Bic Scapa to be fast, a welcome performance feature in the sit-on-top world. The Scapa had good primary stability; the secondary stability is a bit tender. I would recommend leg straps with this kayak for open water paddling.
The tracking was very good. The Scapa has a keel strip down the length of the hull that I presume helps it keep on its straight-arrow path. The kayak handles well and will turn reasonably well.
The Scapa was comfortable despite the Bic brand seat. However the Scapa lends itself to accept any standard SOT style seat, so comfort can be fine-tuned to the paddler’s needs. The foot-rest ridges rubbed my ankles, a minor irritant. The use of high top kayak booties should remedy this. (I wore low cut neoprene slippers.)
The single small bow hatch and shallow cargo well are somewhat of a disappointment to me as a touring kayak goes. As such this would not be a good expedition kayak. I do however feel that the Scapa is a decent choice for when a faster sit-on-top kayak is needed.
The Scapa does not have a rudder option, nor did I find it needed on the pond. I do not know if it would be needed for open waters or not. My assumption is that it would not be needed for moderate conditions.
I would suggest the Bic Scapa for those people who are looking for a faster day touring sit-on kayak that is in the 14 foot range. I would be happy to paddle the Scapa on a 5-10 mile trip on open waters in good conditions. For other applications such as diving, sailing and fishing, you might want to compare to other similar boats and test paddle.
This set of reviews is meant to help you get the ball rolling in terms of what kayaks to start comparing. Additional information may be found from other Top Kayakers on our Forum. I do hope that you will be able to test paddle (or at least test sit) the kayaks you have on your list. The best way to do this this is to rent, take a tour or lesson, or find a shop that offers test rides. Demo day season is in the spring when many shops have big events.
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