[bargain sea kayak]
If you’re torn between an affordable rec kayak or a sleeker (but pricier) touring boat, the Expression 11.5 provides the best of both worlds. During test trips on northwest Colorado lakes, its short (11’7”) length helped it poke in and out of tight bays, yet the boat is still long enough to maintain hull speed on open crossings.
The wide, flat bottom offers great stability for beginners, but also makes it tough to track a straight line, so Perception added a retractable skeg (like a fin): Just uncleat the cord on the side and drop the skeg down to allow for arrow-straight control. The oversized (36 x 20 inches) cockpit makes for easy egress, and a rear hatch and fore/aft deck rigging provide enough storage for an overnight trip. Comfort props: adjustable thigh braces, a padded seat that raises to support your lower thighs, and an über-luxe high backrest. $799; 44 lbs.; perceptionkayaks.com