Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Comfortable, easy to paddle, easy to climb in and out, great storage
Cons: Heavy to carry, rudder for tracking has to be purchased as extra
Manufacturer: Wilderness Systems
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Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105
|Price||$1,079 at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
|$750 List||$430 List|
Check Price at REI
|Pros||Comfortable, easy to paddle, easy to climb in and out, great storage||Very stable, great glide, comfortable outfitting, roomy, lots of storage||Extremely stable, great tracking, very durable, comfortable, stackable||Very lightweight, easy to paddle, comes with paddle, inexpensive as they come||Very large cockpit, stable, easy-to-adjust seat, includes storage compartment|
|Cons||Heavy to carry, rudder for tracking has to be purchased as extra||Heavy, hard to drain, removable deck pod a bit flimsy||Heavy to carry, no internal dry storage||Thin plastic, harder to drain, not enough leg room for tall paddlers||Sluggish, difficult to load, drink holder is far away from seat, no cover for storage|
|Bottom Line||This well-outfitted kayak allows for many different paddling applications, all in one super comfortable sit-on-top model||An overall high-quality sit-in kayak that is comfortable, maneuverable, and accessible thanks to a wide-open cockpit||A super solid and stable all-around kayak great for any age or ability level at a modestly affordable price||This highly economical package will get you on the water having fun in calm waters, without breaking your bank to buy or breaking your back to carry||A comfortable and stable kayak ideal for casual days paddling on calm water that comes at a reasonable price|
|Rating Categories||Wilderness Systems...||Wilderness Systems...||Ocean Kayak Malibu...||Pelican Brume 100XP||Old Town Vapor 10|
|Glide and Tracking (30%)|
|Construction Quality (10%)|
|Specs||Wilderness Systems...||Wilderness Systems...||Ocean Kayak Malibu...||Pelican Brume 100XP||Old Town Vapor 10|
|Weight||57 lbs||49 lbs||59 lbs||40 lbs||47 lbs|
|Weight Capacity||325 lbs||325 lbs||360 lbs||275 lbs||325 lbs|
|Material/Construction||Polyethylene||Polyethylene||Singler layer polyethylene||RAM-X Premium polyethylene plastic||Single Layer Polyethylene|
|Features||Quick-park paddle holder, Rigid carry handles, SlideTrax accessory rails, magnetic water-bottle strap system, removable DryTec dry box, sectioned storage tray, Phase 3 AirPro seating system, Dog-friendly deck||Rigid handles, Replaceable skid plate, Orbix hatch with sealed bulkhead, thigh pads, XL foot braces, SlideTrax and 2 mounting platforms, removable dry box, 2 cup holders, lithium battery recess (battery not included), Phase 3 AirPro seating system||Tri-form hull with an integral keel and sponsons, AirGo molded in seat and seat pad with adjustable AirComfort backrest, molded-in foot wells and calf rest, paddle holders, side/stern/bow carrying handles, molded-in oversized bow and stern tank wells with bungees, Splash resistent QuickStash dry hatch, 2 molded in fishing rod holders, 3 water bottle holder, replaceable skid plate.||2-piece Poseidon paddle, paddle tie-down, Twin-arched multi-chine hull with drain plug, cockpit table with a bungee cord, bottle holder, Molded footrests, knee pads and an adjustable ERGOLOUNGE padded backrest with ERGOFORM seat cushion.||Adjustable Comfort Flex seat, Glide Track foot brace system ,Stern day well, Molded-in cockpit tray with cup holder, Molded-in paddle rest, Built in carry handles, Thigh pads, Drain plug, Skid plate|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Wilderness Systems has been refining the Tarpon sit-on-top kayak design for over 20 years. The current version is available in three sizes: 105, 120, and 140. For this review, we tested the Tarpon 105 which is 10 feet, 6 inches long, and 32 inches wide. It has a large rear storage well and a dry hatch on the bow. There are self-draining holes in the foot well of the Tarpon, which you can choose to seal with scupper plugs if you so choose.
Glide and Tracking
At 10.5 feet long, this kayak isn't necessarily built for speed, tracking, and gliding for extended distances. It's short compared to longer, more touring-style boats. It's more of a short-range kayak that was designed for maneuverability in tight coves and meandering rivers rather than long-distance journeys. This was one of the Tarpon’s lower scores, although it still performed better than the average kayak we tested.
The Tarpon 105's hull is flat for the most part, but it has a unique hull flare at the bow to boost its ability to cut through waves, and a pointed stern to assist it in tracking and gliding through the water. The hull has a dual inverted keel design that is very similar to the Wilderness Systems Aspire 105, helping this relatively flush-bottomed hull to track and glide more efficiently. It glides well, it's just not the best.
If you are looking for an identical kayak built for a little more speed with better tracking, increased glide, and more storage, we suggest some of the larger and heavier models in the Tarpon fleet such as the Tarpon 120, or 140. In order to improve tracking, it is also possible to add a rudder to the Tarpon kayak with the purchase of the XL Rudder kit. An expensive accessory, it may well be worth your expense for those looking to improve tracking for comfort, fishing, or photography.
What the Tarpon 105 lacks in glide, tracking, and speed, it makes up for in maneuverability. The lack of a pronounced V-shaped hull or rigid, defined keel allows the boat to turn easily and quickly. The flared hull and ever-so-subtle rocker at the front and back of the boat promote efficient turning with minimal effort, earning it a top score.
If you do happen to fall off this kayak, its open access makes it easy to climb back on board. In addition, if it was to fully capsize it is easy to re-right, as it will self-drain. Not having to empty a capsized kayak saves the user time and energy compared to other sit-in-style kayaks.
The Tarpon 105 is a podium placer when it comes to stability, thanks to its generous width, relatively flat bottom, and moderate overall length. The seat position is slightly lifted off the floor which raises the center of gravity an inch, but overall, it is an incredibly steady craft that is suitable for gentle currents.
Large paddlers will easily fit in the Tarpon 105 but may consider a larger version if they want to maintain the best advantage of stability. If well distributed, loading this kayak with extra weight will actually make it more stable up to its maximum load capacity of 325 pounds. That will give you plenty of space to bring a lot of fishing tackle or camping gear.
The Tarpon 105 delivers outstanding all-around comfort. Wilderness Systems put a lot of thought and effort into their ergonomic seating system, from contoured seats and backrests to the soft edges of the leg lifter that contour beneath your thighs. They also had the foresight to use multi-sized holes in the special perforated foam padding that promote aeration and help the seat padding air and dry quickly. This, along with the tight mesh covering, keeps your back safe from sweat and water that may splash into the boat. This is one of the most comfortable boats in the test.
The Keeper XL foot braces are sturdy and easily adjustable. You just reach down and squeeze the lever behind the foot pedal, slide the foot pegs to the desired slot along the rail, and release it to lock it into the most comfortable position. There are also two handy paddle holders attached to each side of the gunnels by your seat. The company spares no expense with its comfort, and this is evident from the first time you sit in one of their boats and take it out for a paddle.
Wilderness Systems doesn't mess around when it comes to building their high-density roto-molded linear polyethylene boats. You can tell from your first look at their kayaks that they want to produce boats that stand the test of time and withstand the normal knocks and scrapes that come with transporting and pulling their vessels on and offshore.
The Tarpon 105 has a large open rear storage well with a mesh cover that is great for stashing dry bags or gear. On the front of the kayak, a 9-inch by 6-inch sealable dry hatch opens up volumes of storage space within the kayak. Not all of this space is easily accessible and you could definitely lose a small item in its depths. Keeping your gear in sealed bags will help to avoid this.
The storage latch on the dry box has a simple and secure twist and latch closure system. We much preferred this to the more flimsy levers used on the Orbix hatch covers on other Tarpon models.
An excellent feature only offered on the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 are the accessory rails built into the gunnels at the front of the boat. This allows you to rig fishing pole holders, GPS or fish finder screens, cameras, or anything else you might want to attach to your boat without having to drill holes.
One big benefit of having a smaller boat is that it can be loaded onto almost any vehicle. The Tarpon 105's smaller size also makes it easier to get your boat to and from your launch location and around rocks or other obstacles when portaging. Wilderness Systems gives you plenty of handles to haul this boat around, but several boats were easier to move.
The Tarpon 105 is considerably heavier than a lot of the other kayaks we tested and some were only a few inches shorter. We don’t notice this weight on the water but they are pretty heavy and awkward to carry. You can’t balance them on your shoulder like some kayaks. The handles on the stern and bow are robust and comfortable. But Wilderness Systems did put soft rubber grips on the bow and stern handles that keep the webbing from digging into your hands while carrying.
Like a few of the other kayaks we tested, there is a replaceable skid plate on the stern of the hull so you can drag the boat using the bow handle when you are without a buddy or kayak dolly.
Though a bit more expensive than its nearest competitor, the Tarpon 105 more than justifies the additional cost with all the cool extra features and dry storage options. Its well-designed hull and high-density roto-molded linear polyethylene plastic will likely pay off in the long term, as the quality manufacturing should add to the life of the boat.
The sit-on-top Tarpon 105 kayak offers great stability, comfort, and accessibility in a kayak that is also very maneuverable. Wilderness Systems offers excellent attention to detail, versatility, durable construction, and extra added features. With lots of storage space available on the kayak and inside the kayak, this craft is ready to take you on some long adventures.
— Sara James
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