Look for: V-shaped hull with little rocker (end-to-end curve to the hull) for straight tracking; narrow hull goes faster with less effort; 16 to 18 feet long; 1,000-plus-pound load capacity
Best for: Extended trips on lakes or gentle rivers
Look for: Pronounced rocker (curved hull) for fast turns; rounded bottom (no keel) for clearing rocks; 15 to 16 feet long
Best for: Rivers with class III or higher rapids
Look for: Long, narrow hull for speed and tracking; flared bow for cutting waves; 15 to 17 feet long; 300-plus-pound load capacity; comfortable seat and cockpit; seats one or two
Best for: Oceans, big lakes, and long, gentle rivers
For a complete wilderness-paddling gear list, check /gear.