Submitted: 09-07-2007 by JG
I've now taken out my Walden Vista on two fairly rigorous trips (Manhattan circumnavigations) and I think I now have enough of a feel of the kayak to give it a thorough evaluation. I purchased the boat used this summer as a replacement for a larger (and heavier) Necky Kayook. I found that I wasn't using the larger, more sea worthy kayak enough because of its weight, and overall I haven't been disappointed. Here's my comments on the Walden Vista:
PROS: It is a highly maneuverable boat. It turns on a dime, but is stable enough to handle significant current, wake, and waves for the experienced paddler. The Walden is INCREDIBLY LIGHT - I had no problem picking up the boat after paddling over 20 miles, which really says something because loading a canoe or kayak on the car after a trip is usually a burden for me. The boat is spacious enough (I'm 6' ~185lbs) and I don't feel cramped in it. The seat is moderately comfortable, but I found myself slouching a bit so I will work to find better back support for the boat in the future. The boat is very nimble, and it moves quickly in the water. I found the Vista to be very stable (I haven't rolled yet), but I can definitely tell that as a smaller boat closer to the water it would be easier to roll than the Necky. It handled 3-4' waves in Hell's Gate off the East River quite well. I had read somewhere that the boat has a tendency to let waves roll over the front of the boat - I didn't notice that, although my boat was back heavy with gear, water, and food.
CONS: The Vista tracks OK, but it is beholden to the wind a bit. I found that in brief water/food breaks I'd have to paddle a few strokes to keep her on direction and away from tour boats. Perhaps that only matters on a congested waterway with a significant tidal current, but it was slightly inconvenient. It has a rather small storage compartment/hatch - on long trips I like to take an extra paddle, but it actually doesn't fit in the back so I have to paddle with it in the front between my feet. The interior material is also a bit rough, so I lay a towel under my calves which makes the trip more enjoyable. Comfort is important! Also, there is no convenient place to lock the kayak - in an urban area you DEFINITELY want to lock your kayak on the car, but I actually had to add a U-bolt from West Marine and drill it into the boat. It looks great, but I wish the factory had done that for me. I also had to re-seal the hatch cover and cabin separator with silicon to decrease a small bit of water leak, but that seems to have helped. I think the Walden spray skirt fit isn't great for the boat, so that may also be part of the problem. I didn't take on enough water to cause any flotation problems, but it's frankly not that enjoyable sitting in a puddle of Harlem River water either. Will still have to work on getting this kayak water tight, although again, I think it's a spray skirt issue and there is not a problem of hull integrity.
CONCLUSION: After saying all of that, I LOVE the boat, I'm completely glad I purchased it, it was able to handle a rather long trip in a comparable time as longer kayaks. I give it an 8/10 due to storage limitations (camping equipment would be tricky) and the water problem - which only bothered me because of where I was paddling and not the amount of water that got in. I’m very glad I “traded down” to a smaller boat.