After an eternity of looking longingly at meandering rivers I’ve come to the conclusion it’s time to finally invest in a kayak. The problem, as I’ve quickly learned, is there’s no shortage of options, so I’m looking for input from any kayaking Oppos.

So far what I know I want in the general sense is a 10-12 foot yak with rear dry storage (I’d like to do a couple overnight trips down the road) and good manners. I don’t want anything longer because, as mentioned, I intend to navigate rivers at times and want to have some maneuverability. It doesn’t have to be the fastest, but I don’t want to feel like I’m paddling a barge, and I’d want it to track decently well. Price ceiling is around the $750 range.

So far here’s the ones that have caught my eye:

Old Town Dirigo 120

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General consensus is it goes well (though a few people have said it pulls right on them), and I really like the sealed dry storage container on the dash in addition to the dry storage in the stern. One concern is that I watched a review video on YouTube where the reviewer said he had trouble fitting his size 13 feet comfortably in the boat. I also have size 13 feet, so this could be an issue. Also this is the most expensive of the boats.

Old Town Heron 11XT

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This is one of the cheapest and lightest boats I’ve looked at so far. It loses all the dash features and bungie straps of the Durago (plus a foot in length), but at 10 lbs and $300 less I’d give it a look. Unfortunately paddling.com has zero reviews on it, so not much to go on as far as user experiences.

Wilderness Systems Pungo 100

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A ton of positive reviews on this one, it seems to be a popular choice. This one’s also towards my ceiling, but it has the kayak equivalent of Lincoln’s 30-way seats, and there’s an optional removable dash console.

Wilderness Systems Aspire 105

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No removable dash console, but this one does have a retractable skeg which helps it track straight on more open and choppy water (large lakes and such). Again, strong reviews and those crazy seats. Again right by my price cap.

I know I shouldn’t buy anything before actually trying it out firsthand, and I intend to give as many of these as I can a go during a demo weekend at the end of the month, but I want to do as much research as I can now so I know what I want to try out when the day comes. If anyone here has any experience with these boats, other boats that fit my described desires, or kayaks in general and have anything positive/negative to say about certain manufacturers I’m interested in hearing it.