Stay away from Advanced Elements kayaks. I've never paddled one, because I value my life. I HAVE seen two
of them shredded on a local Class II run (different days).
I currently have a Lynx 1, NRS Bandit 1, and a Tributary Tomcat in my fleet.
1. The Bandit (Which isnt' made anymore) and the NRS Outlaw
are similar in design, and I was a bit too heavy for them at 210 lbs. They are rocker heavy and will tend to ride "over" waves rather than crash through them. This is good and bad, depending on the water you are paddling. I haven't paddled the Outlaw, but have heard reviews to back up the fact that its similar to the bandit. I would be interested in trying one out just to see how the drop stitch floor feels. It should add some nice rigidity. The outlaw is pretty affordable at $695.
2. The Aire Lynx
is the best all around IK on the market IMO. It is stable and performs well in class IV water. They have run almost anything that a hard boat has run at this point. It handles my weight with no issue, I can even pack gear for a 2 day trip on class III water. Getting a used Lynx is a good bet unless you have $1400 to spend.
3. Tributary Tomcat
- this was my first IK and it served me very well on class III water for a couple of years. I blew out a zipper on it in a hole and Aire repaired it and didn't even charge me shipping (under warranty). For a first time IK owner that is budget conscious - this is probably the boat to choose. It does perform anywhere close to the Lynx, but it is a solid boat in class III water and it costs less than half as much as a new lynx at $599
I have heard people speak well of the tributary Strike
boats before, but they are considerably more than the tomcat - enough so that I personally would consider buying a used Lynx before a new Strike.
I also have paddled an Aire Outfitter
, and I really like this boat for big water or multiday trips due to the larger tubes.