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Sit-on-top Touring Kayak Reviews from our
TopKayaker.net Fall Expeditions
Dolphin, Tourer, Classic, Tarpon, ExpeditionHelping sit-on-top kayakers gain confidence in extending their paddling season.

Touring sit-on-tops, the Necky Dolphin - Cobra Tourer - Ocean Kayak Scupper Classic - Wilderness System's Tarpon and the Heritage Kevlar Expedition, were put to the test in our fall wilderness trip to Umbagog: New England's Most Wilderness Lake.

Please note: There is no perfect kayak out there as every kayaker has different needs and preferences. Do further research on any kayak purchase. However, these reviews are not paid for; so they are honest expressions of the paddler, based on their previous experience. You can meet the reviewers by clicking here. We appreciate those manufacturers who have supported this effort. Links to their websites are unsolicited and provided strictly for the convenience of our visitors.

15' X 28" 50 pounds
Maximum Capacity 475 pounds
Polyethylene Outfitted w/ 3 cargo hatches, rudder
Cobra Tourer

Joe: The Cobra Tourer is a fairly fast and stylish looking kayak, kind of a cross between an OK Scrambler and a Scupper Pro. It has lots of space in the hatches and tank well. It is a very stable kayak, but I found it wet even without waves. Small waves can wash over the bow. The hatches are not totally waterproof, as is true with most. The sturdy footrest is easy to brace against, but I was in-between sizes. The rudder pedals needed more adjustability to match my leg size. I think it could fit a long leg person well. It seems that there are too many lines on top of the boat that may have a tangle potential, but I had no problems. Overall the rudder did work well.

Cobra TourerMike: The Cobra Tourer is a very stable and comfortable kayak. It has a good balance of tracking and turning. The Tourer paddles into the wind good with or with out the rudder. I like the low profile for the wind and it is reasonably fast. Medium size waves made the cockpit wet, but I wouldn't call it a wet boat...a couple of inches of water in the foot wells. Otherwise it was dry in the seat. I like the tank well (cargo deck) for loading and the hatches are a good size. The rudder is smooth, but could use more adjustability. The Cobra is a great all around boat and it looks cool.

Tom: The Cobra Tourer is a very good kayak for camping expeditions. The storage hatches are easy to load despite the many locking toggles. There is plenty of cargo space under the decks. The tank/cargo well is very handy for tents, sleeping bags or coolers. The foot support, with rudder, is the best I have encountered. I like the way the whole foot is supported at the heel and the ball of your foot, while only the toes control the rudder. Bravo! This allows for good control of the kayak in leans and rough water. The rudder system works very well. It is a bit difficult to adjust for different size riders, you must use an allen wrench. (Keep one in the center hatch!) The exposed control lines running above deck concerned me at first, but we had no problem with them at all. In fact I am sure that a field repair of the rudder with almost any line or rope would be a snap, unlike below deck rudder control lines. The cockpit is comfortable and dry for the most part, but some of the larger waves broke over the bow to wet the cockpit. The ride is very stable and the hull tracks well. There is a bit of slapping noise as the hull cuts trough small chop. The overall look of the kayak is very modern and utilitarian, almost like a space ship. I would recommend this kayak to any one who wants a very stable kayak, with a good rudder and lots of room and access for cargo.

Athena: I want to keep this kayak. I agree with Mike and Tom, very comfortable and stable. Love the fit for both the heel and ball of the foot. I paddled this back to camp on one of our windiest days and was so pleased with both the rudder and its stability without. It is not as fast as the Tarpon, but feels more stable and turns as responsively and I couldn't resist the handsome look of it on the water.

18' X 28" 48 pounds
Maximum Capacity 325 pounds
Kevlar Outfitted wi/ 2 cargo hatches, rudder.
Heritage Expedition

(Please note that Heritage has discontinued their fine hand made composite kayaks. It is our hope that they will be made again. In the mean time you may still be able to find them 2nd hand or new by checking with dealers listed on their website.)

Joe: The Expedition paddles well, and has a distinct advantage in swells and waves. It is almost as fast as the Eskimo sit-in-side. The cockpit is very dry, and the bow deflects the waves. The Cockpit is also very comfortable. The Expedition needs a heavy load for the best stability. The rudder system is sticky, but the boat really did not need the rudder. The rudder however could be used as a skeg. I found that turns could be made by using leans. The hatches are very watertight. Storage is easy with small & medium bags, but large bags could be placed in the boat first and then loaded. It's a fine looking boat with a distinctive upswept bow.

Heritage ExpeditionTom: The Heritage Expedition KV (Kevlar) is a fast kayak that tracks and turns equally well. A Rudder option is/was available for this model. Ours was equipped with a rudder and for the most part it was not necessary to use. A lean turn will make a graceful and easy tight turn. I did find that the rudder was not the easiest to use. It is very stiff; the foot pegs do not move freely in the tracks. This may be a good thing if you are concerned about bracing your self in the kayak for rough water. On the other hand it was easy to "set" the rudder to hold a course in wind and waves. Adjusting the rudder for different size paddlers is also difficult. For the most part I did not use the rudder even in the worst of the wind we had and I felt fine without it. The foot pegs are a bit low for comfortable support. I may consider customizing the whole system. There is a ton of storage space in the Expedition. It certainly lives up to its name, and paddles at its best with a significant load. The storage hatches are very watertight (The air makes a "whoosh" sound as you open the hatch!) but the openings are a bit small, making it necessary to put your cargo into smaller size dry bags. We were able to put a nice supply of firewood inside the Expedition, in addition to the camping gear. I used a deck mounted storage pouch on the console area to give me some easy access to handy items. The bungee cords mounted on the decks provided additional storage options. I was impressed with the internal bulkheads. They are completely sealed and would provide a great deal of safety in the unlikely aftermath of a leak in the hull. Stability is, over all, good; primary stability is a bit tender, secondary stability kicks in nicely on a lean and both are improved with a heavy load. It is a little bit hard to get back into from deep water after a swim, but still relatively easy. The cockpit is reasonably comfortable and very dry. Almost no water washed into the seating area except on the roughest day. I felt well connected to the kayak in the seat, but the cockpit may be too narrow for some. The Heritage is a good-looking kayak with traditional lines. The Kevlar finish is still nice and glossy despite the hard use. I would recommend this kayak to anyone looking for a fast dry kayak who intends to do long distance expedition paddling with heavy loads, or for a moderately heavy paddler who is looking for a fast kayak.

14' x 28" 55 pounds
Maximum Capacity unavailable
Polyethylene Outfitted w/ 3 cargo hatches

Mike: The Necky Dolphin turns on a dime, and feels like a good surf or riverboat. I felt low to the water with good power for paddle strokes. It was a bit hard to go into the wind and the back end would swing around in a following sea. It tracks poor but is easy to turn. The Dolphin does not have a lot of glide, but it is nice and light. The cockpit is comfortable, but kind of wet, but my feet stayed kind of dry. The front hatch is too small but the storage space inside the kayak is dry. I like the tank well (cargo deck) for loading.

Necky DolphinShawn: The Dolphin is very comfortable and was a fairly dry kayak. The height of the seat made me feel secure over the water, and I felt stable. The Dolphin slides around with the waves coming from behind, but tracks well other wise. It surfed too! It seemed fast to me, and I felt no need for a rudder. I liked the deck storage, (Tank well) and was impressed with the waterproof skirts for the hatches. The Necky is easy to get into and launch from the shore. I like the way the Dolphin looks; the square back distinguishes it from other boats.

Tom: The Necky Dolphin is a corky and spirited kayak. I feel that this touring kayak would be equally at home and perform well in the surf zone, rock garden or class II river as well as open water. I did have the fortune to play in some eddies and ride some rips on the Rapid River, what fun! It is maneuverable and fast. The hull seems to hydroplane a bit, giving me some concern about efficiency on flat water, but I felt no extra effort in paddling it. The storage hatches seal very impressively with neoprene covers, but I do wish they were larger for ease of loading, particularly the bow hatch. The rivets that fasten the hatch combings to the deck are a concern to me. They protrude into the storage space and threaten to tear dry bags and skin. (I actually scratched my hand while unloading.) The tank/cargo well was wonderful for loading bulky packages like tents and sleeping bags. The center hatch in the cockpit was nice for access to handy items. The Cockpit was reasonably dry and I felt no need to use a thick foam pad under my butt. The bow deflected wave spray well. The comfort of the seat and the footrest was good. Our test kayak was not equipped with a Necky rudder. While I felt I did not really need one for the most part, it could have helped on some of the windy, open water crossings. The Dolphin has a sporty and sleek look, but the stern end looks kind of chopped off. I would highly recommend this kayak to anyone who wants a lively touring kayak, with emphasis on rough water play. Campers who travel very light with little cargo could also benefit from this kayak.

14'1" X 26" 48 pounds
Maximum Capacity 350 pounds
Polyethylene Outfitted w/ 3 cargo hatches (center hatch installed by owner)
Scupper Classic

Shawn: I liked the Scupper, it is a good boat. It felt solid on the waves, and surfed straight. The Classic is a comfortable kayak. I did not expect to like the foot support but found it to be comfy. Adding a cushion to the seat did not make the kayak tippy. I like the open feel, its not claustrophobic. The kayak handled the waves well. The bow deflects wave splash, but I still was a bit wet in the windy wavy weather. The Scupper tracks well and no rudder was necessary. It keeps up a good speed. The hatch design did not impress me, but the storage was dry inside. The hatches are great for large bags. I like the looks of the Classic.

OK Scupper ClassicTom: The Ocean Kayak Scupper Classic is the original sit-on-top touring kayak. Classic is a good name as it has passed the test of time and is still a popular and functional, performance oriented boat, developed twenty-four years ago. The Classic tracks well, has good maneuverability, is stable and keeps up a good speed, with ease of paddling. The Storage space is very easy to use and access. There is also quite a lot of cargo space as well. We found that the watertight seals of the hatch could be improved by adding a ring of pipe insulation to the rim around the opening. Ours was outfitted with a center hatch for handy items. The cockpit is very comfortable, but I felt that there could be a bit of additional support for the balls of my feet. The cockpit is a bit wet but can be remedied with corks in the drain holes and maybe a foam seat pad. The stability is good and very reassuring. The look is simple and graceful, almost like a surfboard. No sharp corners or edges to inhibit reentry, in fact it is very easy to get back on from deep water. Our Classic did not have a rudder, nor did I feel that it needed one. (There may be no rudder option at all for this kayak.) I would recommend the Classic to anyone who is looking for a fun easy to use kayak for touring and some rough water play, and for campers, who will find the cargo loading easy with plenty of space.

Athena: This is my baby, and I know it well. It is not "too much boat" for me as is the Heritage Expedition and OK Scupper Pro, but packs easily and holds all I need for a weeks camping trip. Ditto everything Tom mentioned; yes, even I have paddled it in some real washing machine rock gardens in Hawaii. It carried me faithfully through a 45-knot windstorm for six long hours in eight-foot swells on our North Maui trip; but realistically, now that I've enjoyed the feel of a rudder on the Cobra Tourer, I have to admit it would take some getting used to for someone unfamiliar with a rudderless kayak. For this reason, it is at its best heading into the wind. I've always felt like I was flying in a headwind; but perhaps that is because my auto-reflex to rudder with corrective strokes is at rest. Maybe I am responding to it more than it does to me; but it does turn at will and was able to keep up on that north Maui trip with a fleet of kayaks a foot longer. One very important thing: getting back in. I don't remember ever capsizing, but found while snorkeling its low profile makes it the easiest kayak to get back into from deep water that I have ever paddled.

WILDERNESS SYSTEMS TARPON 160 (Two-hatch older version)
16' X 28" 63 pounds
Maximum Capacity 325 pounds
Polyethylene Outfitted w/ 2 cargo hatches, rudder, plastic backrest, self-adhesive foam seat pad

Be sure and read: NOT ALL TARPONS ARE THE SAME: Field Reviews & Tips For The Tarpon Buyer by Tom Holtey
WS Tarpon

TarponJoe: The Wilderness Systems Tarpon is a very dry boat. It is a fast kayak that is very stable and not tippy at all. The hatches are easy to load. It has slightly less storage space than a Pro but is very dry in the hatches. Water does come up through the drains, with or without the plugs, but it was not a problem as the drains are very low in the far end of the cockpit. It could fit a long legged person. The hull tracks well and is hard to turn, with or with out the rudder. However it is a fine rudder and easy to use. I would want to customize the knee strap locations. The backrest was very comfortable, and the seat pad helps on long rides, even though it gets kind of wet. The Tarpon is very sleek looking and cut through the water with not much wake.

Tom: The Wilderness Systems Tarpon is a fast, straight tracking kayak with good stability. It cuts through the water very nicely. The boat would seem to glide for the longest time even after I stopped paddling. The seat area is very dry, but some water comes into the cockpit with a strong lean or waves from the side. Ours was equipped with a stick-on foam seat pad that was soft and gave good thermal protection. The seat is roomy. The stock, plastic backrest was surprisingly comfortable. I had my doubts about it when I first saw it, but I found that it was not hard and was PFD friendly. (PFDs and backrests often don't cooperate well, with the backrest pushing the PFD up.) The Tarpon is easy to reenter from deep water. The rudder is awesome! Quite possibly the best I have encountered. It is easy to adjust, moves freely, turns the boat easily and holds a course well in wind and waves. Although it is not entirely necessary to use the rudder, it was such a pleasure to do so, that I did use it most of the time. The storage hatches are good and large. They are very easy to load and there is lots of space inside the kayak for cargo. The console area can accommodate a water bottle and small storage pouch at easy reach. It is a good-looking kayak that lays low to the water and offers little for the wind to push against. I would recommend this kayak to anyone who wants a fast, true tracking kayak that handles larger bulkier dry bags. It is ideal for wilderness travel. I feel that it also could be good for riders who have long legs. Anyone keenly interested in a kayak with a rudder should consider this one.

Athena: I did find myself amazed at how well it tracked in a strong crosswind, even without the rudder. Unlike Joe, I didn't find this kayak as stable feeling as I did the Cobra Tourer or my own Classic, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment of paddling it. Also, unlike Joe and Tom, the plastic seat back was not comfortable, but I am short-waisted, so was not surprised and would outfit my own seat back for it in the future. It was fast and fun to paddle, seemed to respond well when turning, but I just took it out for one windy day excursion. I would deffinetly recommend it above any other large kayak I have paddled, as I not only enjoyed the speed, but felt in good control.

MEET THE REVIEWERS: We used common backrest and knee straps. You can read a complete account of the trip "Umbagog: New England's Most Wilderness Lake"

JOE: Joe is an advanced paddler and kayak camper from sunny Hawaii. He has logged many ocean miles along most of the remote Hawaiian seacoasts as well as Alaska and other locations. Joe is president of Hui Wa'a Kaukahi, the local kayak club. Height: 5'8", Weight: 240#.

MIKE: Mike is an advanced paddler and outdoorsman from Massachusetts. He has logged many miles in both canoes and kayaks in the North East and Hawaii. Not only has Mike joined us for our lake Umbagog trip this year but also he was with us for our Lowe's Lake trip last year. Height: 5'11", Weight: 145#.

SHAWN: Shawn is a Beginner kayaker with years of experience paddling canoes. He is a well-prepared outdoorsman and photographer from New York. Shawn also participated in our Lowe's Lake trip last year as well as this year's Umbagog trip. Height: 5'7", Weight: 145#

ATHENA: Athena is an advanced paddler and kayak camper originally from the west coast and Hawaii. She has logged many ocean miles in Hawaii as well as the waterways of the forests in the North East. Athena is co-founder of Sit-on-topKayaking.com and participates in the forum. Height 5'5" Weight 165#

TOM: Tom is an advanced paddler and outdoorsman. He is co-founder of Sit-on-topKayaking.com, author of two kayak books and an ACA instructor in New Hampshire. Tom grew up canoeing and kayaking New England and spent ten years in Hawaii paddling most of its remote coastlines. Height: 5'10", Weight: 165#.


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