Submitted: 08-09-2010 by RKBerta
I did a review of this same kayak in April of this month. Normally I use it on lakes and slow rivers for fishing but last weekend I went on a 7 mile river paddle that opened my eyes to the durability of the Dirigo. I should put a caveat here...my Dirigo is a 106 version that I bought 4 years ago. The latest versions have changed the seat design (I liked the old design better) and I believe gone to a lighter/thinner hull material. I have heard that the newer hull has some issues with strength and Old Town may have gone back to the previous design...you may want to check if this is so if you decide to get one. If so it would be a good move because I found the old hull was REALLY able to take a pounding.
The river had some class 1-2 rapids including a few areas where the river was "necked" down to go through corrugated culverts. The speed picked up and it was a wild ride with some banging and crashing into the side of the culverts. But the real test was when I had to go over downed trees and big limbs knocked down by recent storms that were in several areas that were in rapidly moving water. The trees and limbs were above the water, and were situated that you didn't know they were there until almost on them..and due to the bank condition you couldn't get out to portage around them.
The short length of the 106 Dirigo makes it not so good at tracking and the high deck height makes it more susceptible to wind cocking on open water... but that wasn't an issue here and the ability to turn on a dime was a big plus. Several of the trees required my buddy in his kayak and I to push and pull to get over the obstacles... often it meant going full bore to counter the current and than trying to pick the cleanest point to bomb over the trees and branches.
With all this hard treatment, I was surprised at how well the Dirigo did... no hull damage and never a hint that it was out of control. I never planned to put my Dirigo through this type of punishment and was amazed at how well it did. I was also REALLY happy that I didn't have my "good" kayak on this trip...its Airolite hull most likely wouldn't have liked the treatment!
So overall the Dirigo impressed me with its ability to survive such hard treatment. I don't plan on doing this on a regular basis...but it is nice to know it can take a beating and survive non the worse for wear.