We were sent two Hot Seats by Surf to Summit to test and review their performance, comfort and installation in several touring sit-on-top kayaks. The seats come as "Spicy" (firm with grip, for surf and white water) or "Mild" (soft, forward support, for touring) in two colors blue (mild) and black (spicy). We also wanted to see if the Hot Seat could keep your butt warm in cold water.
Fit Analysis in several touring kayaks:
We considered the fit of the Hot Seat in several touring kayaks before choosing two to install the seats in. We considered how it would fit into the cockpit, how it would look, if it would cover any scupper holes and how it felt to sit in.
Cobra Expedition: The Hot Seat fits into the space nicely. It covers up the "faux" scupper holes, but since they do not drain, no loss. As a mater of fact it looked so good to cover those holes that I think the Cobra Co. should make the Hot Seat a standard feature of the Expedition. It felt comfortable when I did the sitting test. Letting the pad rise up the back of the cockpit improves the fit.
Islander Ventura: The color of the blue Hot Seat matched the color of our blue Ventura perfectly. The pad covers the drain holes, partially or completely depending on how far back in the seat you want to place the pad. It also covers the warning label. The comfort of the pad is really good on this kayak.
Ocean Kayak Scupper Classic: The Hot Seat fits in the cockpit nicely even though it covers the drain holes. This may be a viable option for those who wish to permanently block the drains. The seat is very comfy in the classic.
Heritage Expedition: The Heritage kayaks look like they were made for the Hot Seat. The cockpit is smooth and flat for easy installation. Heritage kayaks often come with a back band and the addition of a Hot Seat will be a perfect complement. The seat feels good in this kayak, but should turn up the back of the cockpit a bit for maximum comfort.
Cobra Tourer: The Hot Seat looks like it will fit just fine in the cockpit, but space is limited. Place the pad forward in the seat to rest against at ridge along the forward edge of this area. Roll pad slightly from bow (front) to stern (back) during adhesion so the back edge of the seat sticks last and turns slightly up the back wall of the cockpit. Due to the very textured surface, I would suggest sticking the seat to the kayak when it is very clean and dry, preferably new. Press firmly when applying, one inch at a time to force out air pockets that will form in the indentations.
Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro: The Hot seat partially covers the drain holes. The deep bucket seat of the Pro "cups" the Hot Seat, so I would recommend the "Mild," softer more flexible version. The feel of seat was ok but felt funny. A person who is petite may feel more comfortable than I did.
Heritage Nomad II & LP: The Hot Seats are well suited to the Heritage kayaks. While the heritage seats are comfy the addition of a cushion is nice. The cockpit of the LP is a bit wider and deeper than that of the II. It would be a better fit in the LP than the II, but ok in both.
Wilderness Systems Tarpon: Our Tarpon has its own seat pad (Comes standard with Tarpon, kind of thin in comparison) but the Hot Seat will be a good replacement if necessary. The Hot Seat will fit well in the space and looks good.
Sticking the seat onto the kayaks was as easy as applying a decal, but a bit of prep work will help you do a good job. This advice is included on a sticker with the seats: "For a long lasting fix we recommend that you clean the seat surface with rubbing alcohol, then mark your installation points with a piece of tape. For best results we also recommend that you wait 24 hours before getting your kayak wet."
I sprinkled the alcohol on the seat area and scrubbed it with a rag. I tested the location of the pad, by sitting on it while placed in the cockpit, before making it permanent.
I found that letting the seat pad come up the back of the seat a bit helped the comfort and the fit. I used a low tack masking tape to mark my location, but a pencil/pen mark could work in a pinch. If you have a good eye you might not need it at all, but once this is stuck, it is really stuck, and there is no going back.
I peeled off the backing paper to about ½ to allow me to handle the pad with out getting stuck to it. Start at one end and work your way to the other, in a rolling motion. Front to back may be best.
Now that you have the pad in place press on it hard and evenly, I used my butt to do this, bouncing in place. Finally look around the entire perimeter for any unstuck areas along the edge. Press firmly to make sure the edge is flattened and won't collect sand and debris.
We installed the Hot Seats in a Cobra Expedition (Spicy) and an Islander Ventura (Mild). The installation was easy and both seats seem to be sticking firmly in place. The paddling went well, except for the black flies that thankfully were blown away at times by the gusty wind. The comfort level was as expected, cozy and very good.
The Hot Seat is available in firm (Spicy) for surfing and white water, and soft (mild) for touring. Athena's comment concerning spicy vs. mild was "softer is better." This was not a surprise due to the fact that we focus on touring. For my self I felt that it would not matter much either way. We did not have an opportunity to try the seat out in rough conditions. Like salsa, spicy and mild may be a personal choice depending on your need for a certain fit and feel.
As some people know, the Cobra Expedition is kind of a wet boat due to its low center of gravity to give this rather skinny kayak some sense of balance. During our test paddle I was sure that my seat was staying dry.
I was wearing splash pants over wet suit shorts and nylon trousers. When we finished for the afternoon I realized at the beach that the seat area in the cockpit was indeed wet, and that the hot seat had helped to keep me higher and dryer, not to mention more comfortable.
The traction or grip seemed to be good. While we were wearing slash pants there was a bit of slip, but not as much as some backrests with seat pads or un-textured seats. If you had a kayak seat with a smooth finish, like a composite kayak, then the Hot Seat would be a great advantage. If we had been wearing just swimwear, like Speedos or bikini bottoms the Hot Seat would be a must for comfort. We lived in Hawaii for many years and I know that you can get a rash from "skin to kayak" contact. Other water sports clothing should give the rider good traction.
I can see distinct advantage of Hot Seat use for those with paddlers who go long distance, have little natural padding, a physical problem like pinched nerves or poor circulation and for paddlers who receive impact in white water and surfing.
Many sit-on-top kayakers have only back bands for support. The addition of the Hot Seat will round out the cockpit comfort. Not only will a seat pad complete the ensemble, but it will allow you to utilize the back band you have with out getting a whole new back rest with attached seat pad.
Cold Water Testing:
I tested the "Hot Seat" for its insulation qualities on a cold April day on a lake in New Hampshire. Water & air temperatures were approximately 34 degrees f. with a light to gentle breeze blowing from the north. That gentle breeze was kind of chilly, making exposed skin feel cold and painful.
Although the "Hot Seat" is designed for comfort and control, I felt that it had great potential as an insulation layer to reduce conductive heat loss from body to boat. In simple terms: keep your butt warm. So I put it to the test, as soon as the ice had cleared from the lake. That's ice, not foam!
I paddled for a while with the seat and for a while without the seat. I was adequately attired, and the small chop on the lake made the cockpit a bit soggy. There was a noticeable difference, the "Hot Seat" felt warm and the plastic cockpit seat felt cold. When I took the seat away after using it a bit I really felt the difference.
I was never uncomfortable without the seat but this test proved to me that a seat pad can conserve body heat and therefore make the paddler safer, more comfortable and extend their range.
This test was performed using a back band backrest in a cockpit with out drain holes in the seat. The "Hot Seat" was not glued into the boat to allow for necessary removal and replacement at will.
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