Articles - Crossover Kayak Group Test
Checking the gear loading capacity of the crossover kayaks
It’s an appealing idea, a kayak that can negotiate its way down rapids, play in the coastal rock gardens but still track really well and cover the miles for a spot of touring. And what about gear, if you’re going to paddle such a boat you’re going to want to pack some gear in aren’t you? Be it a pile of camping kit for some multi-day adventure, or a big flask of tea, a blanket and a box of sandwiches. The crossover kayak is a pretty new idea, yes people have been making do and using boats to do everything for years, but kayaks specifically designed to cross the touring/whitewater divide only really came in to being when Dagger released their innovative Approach series a few years ago. That boats popularity meant that they were on to something and more manufacturers followed suit, so there’s now a fair few crossover kayaks on the market. We put four of the market leading models to the test to find out what hybrid boats are all about.
Jackson Kayaks All-Water
More info: www.jacksonkayak.com or www.squarerock.co.uk
The All-Water comes in two sizes the 9 and the 10. It is a strange looking beast with a pronounced sharp bow and raised knee bumps just past the cockpit. The outfitting in is interesting and our testers were torn on the Sweet Cheeks seat padding system, some liked it, but others weren’t keen on it and felt it was a bit over complicated. It’s certainly very stable and has a reasonable forward speed and when we gave it to beginners they had no problems hopping aboard and getting afloat. They did struggle to keep it tracking straight though, even with the skeg down.
The rear hatch is accessed by a small hatch and offers plenty of usable space to pack gear. We packed all of the boats with basic overnight gear and the All-Water’s handling was hardly affected and it dealt with the added weight with no problems at all.
Build construction was good and it’s a reasonable boat, but there are too many things that niggled us about the All-Water to be able to really rave about it, and performance wise it struggled against some of the other boats in this test. The raised knee bumps soon got on our nerves and we constantly clipped them with our paddles when paddling on the flat. That combined with a fairly ineffectual skeg made it hard work on long distance paddles, especially if there was aside wind or it was being piloted by a beginner. On the rough stuff again it was OK, but just not as manoeuvrable as any of the other boats that it was up against in this test.
'Boat Armor' outfitting, including the Sweet cheeks, Sure-lock back-band, skeg with adjustable skeg box for minimum drag and waterproof easy access hatch for dry stowage. The hatch was good and stayed dry even after rolling and running rapids and the back band was easy to adjust and provided good support. Footrests were simple to use and adjust, even on the water and provided solid, positive platforms once fixed in to position.
Specs: 9 10
Length: 274cm 305cm
Width: 65cm 70cm
Weight: N/A N/A
Paddler weight: 70kg 88.5 kg
Dagger Approach CKUK V.F.M Award
More info: www.daggereurope.com
This is the innovative design that really started things jumping in this genre of kayak. We’ve tested the Approach before and only had good things to say about it, but back then it was one of a kind, so how does it fair now?
Well, when we first tested the Approach on the River Dee a few years ago the amount of thinking that Dagger had put in to the design of the boat shone through and that still holds true. It’s very stable and inspired confidence in our beginners. It handles well on the flat and has a relaxed, well-behaved manner. It’s fairly fast and the drop down skeg is effective and keeps the boat tracking well, so you can concentrate on keeping the forward power on.
The Approach is surprisingly nimble on whitewater and although Dagger only recommend it up to grade 2 with the keeper style Sidelock™ foot-braces, we’ve seen an Approach, fitted with a full plate footrest, look right at home on much harder water, such as the Upper Dart, so it certainly cuts the mustard on that front. Again it’s gentle sidewalls and stability come in to play and the less experienced amongst our testers had a great time trying their hand at their first taste of the white stuff and faster flowing water. The large rear storage area is accessed by a small dry hatch, which can be reached from the cockpit. It stayed dry throughout and handled the overnight gear easily with little effect on the performance. Because of the size of the hatch, you’ll need to pack things in to smaller dry bags to get it to fit, but this is fairly normal practice when packing for over-night trips anyway. The Approach is still a cracking boat and ticks all the boxes that we were looking for in a hybrid design and coming in at a price that makes it a no brainer for our VFM award and a CK recommendation.
The Approach comes as standard with a comfortable moulded in padded seat, with adjustable back-band. The thigh supports are also adjustable, which allows a wide range of paddler sizes attain a good comfortable fit. Footrest duties are taken care of with super-easy to adjust keeper style Sidelock™ braces. And we really liked the simplicity of these. Quick to use and very little to go wrong or break, a big advantage on longer trips. It has neat, and importantly, effective drop-down skeg on the stern. Other features included a tamper proof security bar, front deck elastics. A closed cell foam sealed stern bulkhead, complete with dual density stern storage hatch.
Specs: 9.0 10.0
Length: 275 cm 314cm
Width: 65cm 71cm
Weight: 18kg 20kg
Paddler weight: 111kg 127kg
Pyranha Fusion CKUK Best In Test Award
RRP: Flip-Top Version £499, Connect 30 Outfitting version £699, Deck Pod £29.95
More info: www.pyranha.com
The Pyranha Fusion has been proving to very popular in the short time since it's release and we were keen to check it out for ourselves. Pyranha are producing it in two different outfitting versions. The Flip-Top, as the name suggests comes fitted with a Flip-Top backrest, which allows you to either flip it up for huge amounts of back support and comfort while cruising along or flip it down to allow for a spray deck to be worn for some rapid running action. It also features simple to use and adjust, Twist-lock style footrests.
The Connect 3o version, again as the name suggests, features Pyranha’s full Connect 30 whitewater outfitting, as used in their full-on whitewater river runners and creek boats, for those that want to use the boat more frequently in harder conditions and want the comfort and control that this outfitting provides. It comes at a cost though and there’s a hefty 200 quid difference between the two versions. Both models come with a drop down skeg, deck elastics and a large rear sealed bulkhead with storage hatch. There is also the option of an ingenious three-litre plastic deck pod that can be fitted on the bow, just in front of the cockpit, ideal for keeping touring essentials such, as cameras, maps, energy bars, flask etc. Some great deck-elastics finish of the package.
As soon as we got on the water in the Fusion we knew it was a bit special. It carries great forward speed and the skeg was awesome, once down it just cruised along straight as a dye, which allows the paddler to concentrate n an efficient, and energy saving, forward stroke; something that’s going to be a big boon on longer trips. It’s very forgiving and that combined with the great skeg made it the clear favourite amongst our group of beginner paddlers. On moving water it really comes good and reveals a surprising amount of manoeuvrability and it handled rapid running duties with ease. The large hatch on the back made accessing and loading the large sealed bulkhead very easy and it swallowed up the gear with no noticeable effect. We were a bit concerned that the large hatch might succumb to leaking on the rough stuff, but even after we gave it an extra hard time it stayed dry, so our initial worries proved unfounded.
We think that Pyranha are on to a winner with the Fusion, especially with the Flip-Top version. We can see why some people may want to opt for the higher spec, for source to sea expedition type of trips, but for the majority of us the Flip-Top Fusion ticks all the crossover boxes and ticks them well and so earns our Best in Test award.
The large drop-down skeg is a great feature on the Fusion. It'll keep your tracking in a straight line with no hassle at all. The drag-reducing skeg box allows water to flow freely through the stern of the kayak. A sealed foam bulkhead, with a 'Kayak Sport' hatch for stowing gear, and very useful deck elastics on the bow. Pyranha’s great grab loops and rescue attachment points finish it all off nicely. (See above for Flip-Top and Connect 30 details).
Paddler weight: 121kg (including load)
Liquidlogic Remix XP
More info: www.liquidlogickayaks.com or www.systemxkayak.co.uk
Available in two different sizes, the XP 9 and the XP 10, the Remix XP comes from an illustrious whitewater background and is an extension of Liquidlogic's very popular range of Remix river running kayaks; it was obvious just from looking at it that it was a very different style of boat from the others. Our beginners found it a bit on the wobbly side. To be fair it does have excellent secondary stability, but for our novices it felt tippy when compared to the other boats on test. It was also noticeably harder for them to keep it running in a straight line and the shallow skeg didn’t really help matter much. The waterline has been lengthened and the rocker reduced from its whitewater brethren and while the XP does track very well for a whitewater boat, for leaning and proper flat-water touring duties it does not. Our experienced testers found it more to their liking but it still required more effort to keep it running straight on the flat that some of the other boats in our test. Comfort wise all our testers liked the XP and it’s no wonder it really is like sitting in the ‘Bad-Ass’ outfitting is like relaxing in a padded armchair.
Once on to the moving stuff it was a different story and the Remix XP came in to its own and it handled our grade two rapids with ease, it was clear that this boat could handle much harder grades of water, no surprise really considering its pedigree. A neat hatch accesses a sealed bulkhead, but once open the space is rather minimal and the skeg box comes right up in to it too, further reducing your packing capabilities. The other niggle that we had with the XP’s storage was that the bulkhead is fixed too far back, meaning that the load is held far closer to the stern. This meant that when loaded there was a noticeable change in handling.
In our opinion the XP doesn’t quite make it as a complete crossover hybrid, it’s a whitewater boat that’s been adapted to do the odd bit of flat-water. On the rough stuff it was great and it was OK on the flat, but its lack of directional stability for long distance touring and its lack of user-friendliness in the beginner department, not to mention its high price make it a specialist boat. If you want to do lots of multi-day whitewater paddling (something we don’t have much of in the UK), or a boat that’s unsurpassable of the outfitting/comfort front it’s well worth considering, but if you want a true ‘all-rounder’ look elsewhere.
Liquidlogic's Bad-Ass Outfitting really is a head of the game in the comfort stakes. Inspired by the all-day responsiveness of race car seats, this full-contact unit is supple, snug and connects the paddler and kayak with unmatched adjustability. The quick drying, recyclable DVC material acts as an air cushion, supporting and releasing potential hotspots when compressed. The system provides easy entry and adjustment of both the form-fitting hip pads, which take seconds to retro fit, and a supportive ratchet back-band, which can be easily disengaged with the flick of a thumb. Other features include, sprung-loaded drop-down skeg, sealed bulkhead, front and rear deck elastics, grab handles, security/rescue attachment bars and adjustable footrests.
Specs XP9 XP10
Length: 282cm 312.5cm
Width: 66cm 71cm
Weight: 21kg 22kg
Paddler weight: 45-100kg 82-136kg
To discuss your experiences of any of these boats head to the forum and to find your nearest demo centre and dealer take a trip to the market place.
If you'd like to find a canoe club in your area head to our 'Clubs' section
If you found this review useful then you may also enjoy our Sit-On-Top and Open Canoe Group tests