Sea kayaks, with their big-swell stability and buoyant load-carrying ability, are perfect for backpacking via water. This versatile 17’4” cruiser has the hull speed to keep paddlers in the peloton and enough storage space for long, Walden-esque escapes into the wilderness. While not as light and fast as fiberglass or composite boats of the same length, its durable polyethylene construction means you don’t have to worry about dragging it over rocks or cobblestone beaches. Its multichined hull design—featuring subtly angled edges instead of a smooth curve—offers high initial and secondary stability.
On a Belize trip, testers could even hop out of the cockpit with snorkeling gear on and climb back in without wobbles. “Even when running broadside to the prevailing swell, I felt in control,” says one tester. The relatively streamlined 23.75-inch beam (width in middle) enhances speed and glide (which saves energy), while a high-volume bow (more space up front than in the stern) keeps waves at bay. Oval-shaped bow and stern hatches allow easy access for storing food and gear (maximum capacity: 375 pounds). Bottom line: You get the performance attributes—stability, durability, and ample gear-hauling capacity—of Necky’s higher-end boats in an affordable package. $1,750; 65 lbs.; neckykayaks.com