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How We Tested Kayaks

By Dan Kramer
Thursday March 14, 2019
Paddling out of Emerald Bay after a long day of testing out kayaks and having fun with friends
Paddling out of Emerald Bay after a long day of testing out kayaks and having fun with friends

Testing Process


Kayaking offers up so many ways to recreate, adventure and exercise in some amazing locations. Just getting in any boat and setting off for a journey on the water is sure to be a fun and enjoyable time, but some boats will provide a much smoother, effortless and comfortable ride than others.

So, we grabbed some of our favorite models and took them to Lake Tahoe and other High Sierra alpine lakes and rivers where we played with, tested and retested them rigorously for three months in all sorts of conditions.

Each boat has seen plenty of paddle time on calm early mornings, windy and busy afternoon sessions, punctuated by frequent boat wakes. We also enjoyed some upstream and downstream lazy river runs. After all this field testing we were able to put these supple crafts through our rugged, meticulous metrics testing and rate each model on its glide, maneuverability, comfort, portability, and durability. This is how we did it.

Testing Metrics

  • Glide — We paddled each boat to speed and then stopped paddling when we reached a buoy in the water. We measured the distance between the buoy and the spot the boat stopped.
  • Maneuverability — We counted how many sweep paddle strokes it took us to turn each boat 180-degrees from a standstill. We also ran through a buoy slalom course with each boat to see how quickly we could shift it from one direction to the next.
  • Comfort — We spent a lot of time in these boats, we simply rated them based on how much we did or didn't whine.
  • Portability — If we hated carrying it, picking it up to put it on a car, or dragging it across the beach, it didn't score well. If we didn't, it did.
  • Durability — We based the durability score on how sturdy the hull felt, how many scraps and dents each boat had at the end of testing, and by looking over all the seats, straps, bungees, hatches and latches.