Pros and Cons of the Karma - Mountain Buzz

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Old 09-22-2015   #1
El Dorado Hills, California
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 28
Pros and Cons of the Karma

Hey there,
I'm thinking about purchasing a Jackson Karma and are wondering what some of the pros and cons are. Thanks!

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Old 09-22-2015   #2
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2004
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,107
It depends on your height and weight and what size karma you get. I have the large. Pros: extremely stable, great secondary stability, fast, relatively easy to turn for its size, soft edges allow for good carving and ferrying, lots of room for overnighters. Cons: L is bigger than I need at 5'10" 200 lbs. Wish there was a boat inbetween the M and the L. Only other minor complaint I have is that the cockpit height around your waist is relatively high, which mildly impedes leaning to the side to roll and brace. Not a huge deal, but I wish the cockpit rim were about an inch lower.

Other than that, its got the standard Jackson outfitting, which is a pro to some folks and a con to others.

The karma is a very forgiving boat and makes hard whitewater easier for me, which I really appreciate when things are getting hairy. Great high water boat, but its still maneuverable in tight creeks.
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Old 09-22-2015   #3
Roseburg, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2015
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 90
I must refer you to this video.
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Old 09-22-2015   #4
kayaker1976's Avatar
White City, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 52
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Bought me on of them Karma thing's cancelled order before it shipped and bought another nomad instead. I've been looking at that Mamba pretty hard and now that I know it's a pussy magnet i'm sold!
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Old 09-23-2015   #5
boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2010
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 20
that video was to funny
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Old 09-23-2015   #6
KSC's Avatar
Boulder, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,104
Some context around your needs would help. You should be able to find lots of existing reviews of this boat as well. My short list:

- Good all around hull design
- Good warranty service
- Relatively light for size

- Outfitting subpar
- Standard linear plastic that's gonna break if used for intended purpose
- Jackson slowly taking over the world
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Old 09-23-2015   #7
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 6
pros and cons



It's very fast. Fast to accelerate and fast in a straight line. Only takes a few strokes to get up to full speed. Personally (unless you're racing), I think acceleration is more important than top speed. Fortunately, the Karma has both.

"Wet" boofs:

Karma launches off waves, "wet" ledges, water boofs, etc, better than any other boat I've paddled -- the rocker design (good front rocker, low stern rocker) makes it accelerate off the lip of waves and ledges.


again, the rocker profile, speed, plus hull design makes this a truly excellent ferrying boat -- it glides over boils and funny water -- does not get blown downstream when ferrying like some other designs (recon, for example).


Has an edge, but is very stable and forgiving, also very quick to edge from side to side. I can't stand a boat that is boxy and not quick to edge (like the mamba -- even if it does bring in more tang).


Ain't no water coming in the boat -- I wouldn't buy the boat just because of this, but it sure is a nice feature.


relatively light compared to other creek boats. when you're trying to shoulder your boat on a steep incline with several hundred feet exposure, this becomes a pretty big deal.


dry boofs:

Not terrible, but the somewhat low rear rocker and flat-ish hull means you have to hold your stroke longer on angled rock boofs, lest you stall out and fall onto your shoulder sideways.


I've gone back and forth on this, but ultimately decided I prefer the ratchet backband and I sure as shit prefer a traditional bulkhead -- the jackson bulkhead kind of wobbles back and forth when you press on it.

Seat position:

The deck is too low for my taste -- I prefer the high knee position -- puts you in a better/more aggressive paddling posture and keeps your feet awake. recon was the most comfortable boat I've ever paddled (and that was the only thing I liked about it).

Active paddling:

Can debate on whether or not this is a pro or con, but you need to actively paddle it -- the large stern pushes the bow off-line if you stop paddling. That said, it actually holds a line really well when active paddling (think -- not as good as nomad as holding a line but way better than a stomper).

Shame factor:

yes, you will be paddling a jackson. yes, you will want to run your boat to and from the river as fast as you can so no one in the parking lot will see it. no one will throw you brown claws when they drive by you and see it on top of your car. if you're a virgin, you will stay a virgin. on the plus side, it means your hull will remain in good shape for lack of grinding described in the above video.
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Old 09-23-2015   #8
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Jun 2015
Posts: 6
forgot one more important pro

Warranty -- I broke my first one -- a 2014 -- within a month due to the welding of the seat to the hull. Walked into the store the next day -- they called jackson and I walked out with a brand new 2015 of my choice about 10 minutes later. 2015 has the glued seat and seems significantly heavier/beefier lay-up than the 2014. The plastic is holding up as well as any creek boat I've owned (eskimo salto being the lone exception).
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Old 09-23-2015   #9
Sumas, Chilliwack, BC
Paddling Since: 2012
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 127
It is a great boat. The sizing between medium and large sucks though. 200-250 # is tough weight range to be in a karma. Unless you are super tall the L is a massive boat and the Md will ride a little low.... I bought a 2015 zen L and it is a great in between boat with a faster hull (pro) but less rocker(con for hardcore creeking). If your weight isn't in this less than ideal range, by a Karma it is fun, spins on a dime and is easy to roll.

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Old 09-24-2015   #10
kayaklifeislife's Avatar
Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2015
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 79
Why the Karma is not the best begginer boat

The Karma is an awesome creek boat providing literally the best stability on the market. The only thing is... it's almost too easy to boat. I learned to boat in a Jackson Karma and of course got hooked on the sport but, had a harsh reality moving into another boat. You can almost like cheat on moves with the Karma, but it also is great because of how stable it is for a beginner. Don't get me wrong it's a great boat but you may develop some bad boating habits in the Karma.
PM me if you have any questions about the Karma I love to talk about boats!
Keep calm and Kayak On
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