Submitted: 01-11-2012 by AD
I purchased this kayak this previous fall, and have used it as much as I could before it started getting cold.
This is my first kayak purchase. I always had a desire to get into kayaking, and "window shopped" at my local retailers at the various brands and models available. All they carried in stock were enthusiast kayaks under 14 feet, with most being in the 12 foot variety. I wanted a kayak that was long enough to be comfortable, and with enough storage to carry enough cargo for a couple of days camping.
I kayak solo. I just don't really know anyone else who is interested enough to invest in a kayak. So when I go camping, I go alone. Good in that it allows me some much needed 'alone time', but bad in that I must carry everything needed myself, without having another boat to share the cargo carrying.
I can load the boat with everything I need for a three day/two night endeavor. The storage compartments in the boat carry my tent (2-man), my sleeping bag, a self-inflating bedroll, a couple of bottles of water, four or five cans of soup, a backpacking stove, my camera tripod, folding saw, etc. Most everything I need fits in the cargo holds, and the only things I have to strap to the deck webbing are a folding camp chair, waterproof bag containing camera equipment (DSLR body and lenses), a waterproof bag containing a couple of changes of clothes and extra shoes, extra paddle, and my hand pump for bailing out water.
The seating of the kayak is quite comfortable once you learn how to adjust it. If left loose, I got sore fairly quick, but if you cinch up the back to fit and adjust the thigh braces properly, I could paddle much more efficiently as well as the boat responded much better. Much more comfortable to boot!
The kayak as a deployable skeg which makes a big difference in how the boat tracks. In the stowed position, the boat is maneuverable and turns well, but does not track all that great. Deployed, the kayak stays on course but is difficult to turn. The skeg is adjustable from fully deployed all the way to fully stowed, any amount in between. I find myself going "half open" sometimes which gives a happy medium between straight tracking and turning ability. The skeg fills with mud if you drag it across the ground, and must be cleared before the skeg is usable. Yep, I found that out the hard way after setting out on the water before cleaning the mud in the skeg box!!
I'm happy with this purchase, and recommend the Essence 16.5 to any intermediate paddler. Beginners will find it is a kayak they can grow into. It is stable enough for a beginner to learn with, and capable enough for a more advanced owner to enjoy.