Advice for a hardshell boat?/Transitioning from IK and packraft - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-24-2018   #1
Omak, Washington
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 36
Advice for a hardshell boat?/Transitioning from IK and packraft

Greetings Buzzards,

I'm contemplating making a move into the hardshell game and am looking for advice for make and models of new or slightly used (if I can find one) kayaks.

First about my skill level and experience: I have a fair amount of IK and some packraft (Alpacka Gnarwhal - a whitewater model with a spray deck and thigh straps) experience on class III - IV water. I.e. low-water Middle Fork of the Salmon, Tieton, Wenatchee, lower Methow, upper Granby, upper Suiattle, Ruby Creek, etc... Very limited hardshell experience (on the Cispus) and can't roll (yet). I row an oar-framed raft on a couple of multi-day trips each season and am fairly skilled at reading water.

My primary intended use will be local day runs and regional multi-day outings, self-supported and/or with raft support.

I am contemplating a hardshell purchase - new or lightly used if I can find an appropriate boat. Thinking a creek boat Like a Dagger Nomad, Jackson Zen, Pyanha 9R, etc... But that's based on my cursory (and experientially-uninformed) research.

I have read the advice - demo, demo, demo. If and when I can, I will. But I'm looking for suggestions about where to start my inquiry from you Buzz-yakers with more experience than I.

Okay - do your worst...

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Old 07-25-2018   #2
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Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Old 07-25-2018   #3
Bellingham, Washington
Paddling Since: 1998
Join Date: Dec 2014
Posts: 166
My advice is to look for a true river runner like a 1st Gen. Dagger Mamba 7.5 (small), 8.0 (medium), or 8.5 (large.) You can sometimes find them on craigslist for $400 or $500. I like the 1st Gen. Mambas better than the 2nd Gen. Mambas (7.6, 8.1, and 8.6) because they added so much extra volume that the boats lost some of their river-running edge in order to become more like a creeker. (Which you won't need on the rivers you listed.)

And, yes, a Nomad is a great boat for creeking (I have one), but the rivers you'll be running will be more fun in a river runner than a creeker. And more importantly, you'll learn more about boat handling & control in a river runner than a creeker.

A Jackson Zen would be another good choice if you see one on CL. I am not a big fan of Jackson's outfitting, but their hull designs are often (not always!) good.
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Old 07-25-2018   #4
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Kalispell, Montana
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 2,636
CurrentLY, if you can find a boat for $300 or less, just buy it. It's boating season. Get on the water and start swimming!

Seriously, though, you could spend the rest of the good water season shopping for the perfect boat. Keep shopping, but also get on the water.

Also, what is your height/weight?

I agree with landslide's advice.
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Old 07-25-2018   #5
Omak, Washington
Paddling Since: 1989
Join Date: Aug 2016
Posts: 36
Thanks for the advice so far!

landslide - maybe I should have clarified that these are the rivers I've run in an IK and/or my packraft. I hope to boat these, and many others, in a hardshell in addition to my other boats. I typically boat multi-days in Idaho a couple times a year and if I can talk someone else to rowing my raft I'd love to be a river maggot. But I've expanded my circle of boating buddies recently and hope to boat more often and get new rivers in my sights. Including steep creeks as I build my skillset.

I was steered away from dedicated river runners by a kayaker buddy because: 1) he claims they do a little bit of everything but nothing particularly well; and 2) a lower volume hull (especially stern) limits multi-day self support gear hauling. All of the multi-day kayaking/packrafting I've done so far just happened to have raft support, but I'm really keen to do self-supported small boat trips with a posse. Alpine-style rather than the seige-style that is rafting/gear boat rowing.

MT4Runner - I'm 6'1 and 185#. And believe me - I'm boating every chance I get, just in my IK, packraft, or oar-framed raft. Stoked for a lower Salmon trip in 10 days. Hoping I might find a good deal on a newer used hardshell after the boating season drops off but am considering a new one too.

Again, many thanks for the advice so far and I welcome additional/other thoughts and opinions.
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Old 07-26-2018   #6
MT4Runner's Avatar
Kalispell, Montana
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Apr 2012
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Originally Posted by CurrentLY View Post
I'm 6'1 and 185#.

You'll fit a lot of boats, then. Look for "large" but not XL/big guy boats.
I'm 6'-6" and 200#. I need the big guy boats for leg room, but I lack the mass to push them down in the water like they should.

And believe me - I'm boating every chance I get, just in my IK, packraft, or oar-framed raft. Stoked for a lower Salmon trip in 10 days.

Let me put this another way: the weather and the water are warm. You need to be in a hardshell, even in flat water. Learn to brace and start working on a roll. These skills suck to learn when it's windy, rainy, and cold.

Unless you have a drysuit...then you can start in March.

Good luck in your quest!
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Old 07-27-2018   #7
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Poundtown, Wokastan
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X2 on Landslide's advice.
I saw someone do it on youtube.
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Old 07-28-2018   #8
Bozeman, Montana
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 96
If you have the money to throw down for a new boat, take a look at the new modern creekers such as the Pyranha Machno, Jackson Nirvana, Waka Tuna, Zet Toro, etc. All of these boats are a ton of fun compared to the older style boats such as the Mamba, Nomad, etc. Look for something with a lot of bow rocker and a good edge.

I have a small Machno and couldn't be happier. For a beginner it's a much better boat than the 9r. Easier to roll, more stable, almost as fast. If I were a little bigger I'd probably be in the Toro.
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Old 08-02-2018   #9
Wenatchee, Washington
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 12
There is no great reason to start in a creek boat, especially if you've got experience running whitewater and aren't scared of a swim or two. I don't think you need to demo when you're a beginner, just make sure you get a boat properly sized. Starting out in a creek boat will slow your progression because it will be so forgiving. I did see a large zen posted on washington whitewater gear on facebook, that might be a good setup. I'd want to get that boat for about $500 personally. There is also a Recon 83 which is a very forgiving boat.

Ideal learning boat would be something like a Jackson 4fun. The current generation is a great all arounder boat. Enough volume to river run, but still a great surfing boat. You could also look for an Axiom 9.0 or something like that.

Here is a gen 1 mamba 8 - that looks pretty good:
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Old 08-03-2018   #10
Creswell, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Feb 2008
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I'd go with the Nomad. It is forgiving, but I don't see that as a flaw. You have to use different techniques to catch eddies as it doesn't have edges, so what. It holds a lot of gear for multi day trips and is hard to beat for creeking and river running. If you want to surf, get a play-boat with edges. Most kayakers I know have both, a creeker and a play-boat. I wouldn't go with the new large Nomad, it's around 94 gallons. The 8.5 or the new medium would work better for your size and weight. That's just my two bits worth. Obviously, there are different strokes for different folks or there wouldn't be so many different types of kayaks out there to choose from.
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