Jackson Journey 14
($1,400; www.jacksonkayak.com)
L: 14'; W: 24.5"; 61 lbs.

We knew we'd found a winner when our photographer kept wanting to paddle the Journey. He liked its predictable stability for taking pictures, roomy cockpit for keeping camera gear accessible, and speed to set up his next shot. And, it didn't hurt that the Journey boasts the best comfort in our fleet with the cush beanbag-like seat, easy adjusting and supportive back-band, roomy cockpit with kneepads, and plenty of leg-stretching room—zero comfort complaints. In a splashy crossing, the Journey's high-volume bow rode up and over waves keeping the cockpit dry, while its excellent tracking kept it on course. Good straight-line paddling usually comes at the cost of maneuverability and the Journey was no exception to this rule. Even with the toe-controlled rudder deployed—think gas pedal with fixed foot pegs—turning felt sluggish. Two contributing factors: little hull rocker and the friendly chine. The flipside is initial stability so solid even heavy, expert paddlers had trouble putting the boat on edge. That's good news for beginners, casual paddlers, and overnighters planning to carry a load (plenty of room in the three hatches for a long weekend), but not so much if you want to push your paddling skills. Either way, built with the same tough plastic and fixtures Jackson uses in most of its whitewater boats, this Journey will last you for many years.


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