Why do people like to kayak? Where do they like to go? I suspect that manufacturers ask these questions, and this review critiques six of their answers.

Maybe you’re the workout type or a rec boater looking for a little more performance from your kayak. Or maybe your futon and chair crowd your cozy little Brooklyn apartment to the point that a closet is the only place you can store a kayak.

These six boats highlight the noticeable strides manufacturers have made in the performance, design, and function of rec boats. The kayaks were tested in calm water. They were not compared with each other, but assessed on their respective merits and rated on a scale of 1 to 4 in these categories:
Weight: How easy it was to carry and to maneuver the kayak in the water.

Comfort: Aspects such as padding, seat design, and ergonomics.
Details: The quality, not quantity, of each boat’s features.
Bang vs. Buck: Are you getting what you pay for?

Eddyline Equinox
Length: 14′
Width: 25″
Weight: 45 lbs
Material: Carbonlite 2000 (thermoformed)
Price: $1,849

Eddyline Equinox:
The Equinox is a beamy mid-volume touring kayak with the accoutrements that one would expect-hatches, bulkheads, recessed hardware, bungee cords fore and aft of the cockpit. Hard chines lead to a rounded-V hull, providing both good initial and secondary stability. Carry toggles are on stretch cord, so they’re flush to the deck when not being used. The Equinox reviewed had adjustable foot pegs but no rudder or skeg. Inside the cockpit, there’s a seat and double-layer backrest. The front layer is padded and can be vertically adjusted by unscrewing the knob to three different height levels. There’s padding at the hips and thigh braces. The Equinox tracks well, and its shorter length allows for easy turning. It is also easily shoulder-carried by one person.
Bottom Line: Have you grown out of your rec boat, but an 18-foot sea kayak is a little too long? The Equinox strikes a happy medium.

Current Designs Kestrel 140
Length: 13′ 6″
Width: 25.5″
Weight: 55 lbs
Material: Polyethylene (rotomolded)
Price: $999

Current Designs Kestrel 140

The Kestrel is a stable and maneuverable kayak with soft chines that roll into a shallow-V hull. Bungee-cord paddle rests are featured on both sides of the kayak. Carry toggles on the ends could benefit from having a little longer cord. The rudder could use a clip to secure it when not in use. Holes are molded into the plastic, as part of the kayak, rather than being drilled in for pad-eye hardware. I expected a thicker bungee cord for the deck riggings. Reflective specks in the bow painter line provide improved visibility at night. The seat is molded plastic with a cushion, and the backrest can be adjusted for forward and backward movement. Foot pegs can be used for both support and rudder direction. The boat has two storage hatches and bulkheads.
Bottom Line: The 13-foot-6-inch Kestrel is suitable for day touring or short overnight trips in calm water.

Perception Rhythm 14.0
Length: 14′
Width: 24″
Weight: 42 lbs
Material: Airalite (thermoformed)
Price: $1,600

Perception Rhythm 14.0
The Rhythm is a stable racing-style kayak, not a traditional sea kayak. You won’t find foredeck bungee cords, though there are several on the rear deck. There are no storage hatches or bulkheads, but there are blocks of closed-cell foam that run lengthwise under the deck for some structure. There are carry toggles on the bow and stern. The front of the seat is slanted upward to raise the thighs, and there’s a gel seat pad for your bum. The back band has an adjustable ratchet system. There are foot pegs and some padded knee braces. The boat had no rudder or skeg, but it didn’t need one; it tracked well. It also edged great when I engaged the knee braces. The foredeck has a specific place to attach your heart-rate monitor, so you can see it while you’re paddling. Clever.
Bottom Line: Perception is marketing the Rhythm (for average to larger paddlers) and its sibling Cadence (designed for women and smaller paddlers) as fitness kayaks. If leaving ducks in your dust and working up a sweat are appealing, the Rhythm was made for you.

Ocean Kayak Venus 11
Length: 10′ 8″
Width: 28″
Weight: 40 lbs
Material: Polyethylene (rotomolded)
Price: $529

Ocean Kayak Venus 11
A little marketing fancy to promote women’s health and active lifestyles, the Venus is a sit-on-top designed with female paddlers in mind. Not only is it available in pink, but it’s also a light 40 pounds. There are three smartly positioned handles for carrying ease, as well as bow and stern toggles. Storage space includes a small screw-top hatch between the thighs and a stern storage well. There’s a paddle rest on the right, pad-eyes are recessed, and a seat and back band can be added. Another unique feature is an area to mount an MP3 player. It’s very stable and maneuvers easily, as short boats should. If you don’t care for pink, there are other color options.
Bottom Line: If you’ve been thinking about kayaking as a means to snorkel, take pictures, or exercise, a Venus 11 will meet your needs.

Bell Canoe Rob Roy
Length: 15′
Width: 25.5″
Weight: 30 lbs
Material: KevLight (composite layup)
Price: $2,195

Bell Canoe Rob Roy
Bell Canoe Works is known for its canoes, and the Rob Roy is a canoe-esque kayak, very wide and open-decked. Definitely minus the bells and whistles found on other kayaks. The Rob Roy made available for this review was laminated in Bell’s KevLight. In 2006, Bell is also selling the Rob Roy in its durable BlackGold material, which is designed to be both lightweight and abrasion-resistant. Refreshingly clean cut, the Rob Roy has no bulkheads, hatches, bungee cords, rudder, or skeg. Inside there are foot pegs, a seat with padding and a backrest, and plenty of room to carry drybags. There are cord carry toggles on the bow and stern. It is extremely lightweight, an easy single carry.
Bottom Line: The Rob Roy is a beautiful piece of workmanship that may appeal to both canoeists and kayakers.

Bic Yakka

Length: 9′ 4″
Width: 30″
Weight: 48.5 lbs
Material: Polyethylene hull
Price: $599

Bic Yakka
The Yakka is a cross between a hardshell sit-on-top and an inflatable. The cool thing is that it folds into two pieces. The bow and stern ends meet and clip together. Unclip to unfold and you’ll see an aluminum bar that unscrews to slide over the seam in the hull. Rescrew the bar into place and the hull won’t fold on you while you’re paddling. Then inflate the canvas sides, and within a matter of minutes you’re ready to paddle. The polyethylene hull provides the rigidity normally found with hardshell kayaks. The canvas sides are attached all the way around the top of the hard shell. The air valves are covered by a neoprene patch. There is a little wheel on one end of the Yakka, but it is best wheeled on pavement; you won’t get far on sand or pebbles.

Bottom Line: Short of storage space? The Yakka is a solidly constructed and smartly conceived foldable recreational kayak.