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Submitted: 06-20-2012 by PastorBrian

I purchased the Potomac Pathfinder 100 made by Pelican Industries at my local Dicks Sporting Goods for $180 which was 50% off the retail price of $360. First, let me say that this is not a $360 kayak. It maybe a $200 kayak which sold for $180. (I noticed on Dick’s web site the price has risen to $229 since my in-store purchase.) I read all the reviews on the Dick's web site and knew what I was getting, so my rating reflects the Pathfinders as a low-end introductory model kayak.

The Pathfinder is my first foray into kayaking. I've rented a SOT Prism before but decided on a sit-in model for a drier ride. I've had it out on the water only once for about an hour on a flat gentle river with calm winds. Some of my initial observations:

  1. The RAM-X material seems very thin. I have the two-tone blue with white bottom. The hull bottom looks almost translucent. I wouldn't trust in on rocky rapids.
  2. The cockpit is adequately spacious with plenty of leg room for my 5'9" 170-pound frame. The footpegs are easily adjustable. The cushioned seat is secured in a molded seating area giving more back support. The seat bottom cushion is very thin—about 1/8" thick. One of the first things you'll want to do is replace the seat or add some cushioning. There are also no thigh pads. It's supposed to have a cup holder between the legs, but mine appears to be only half formed. I don't know if that's a design flaw, but it won't hold a water bottle in place.
  3. Some of the reviews I've read complained that it does not track well. I did notice that there was a tendency to track left or right while paddling upstream, but that might have been the effects of the current or even my paddle techniques. I found that if I allow my paddle to transition too far out, the boat will move off line. Good paddle technique could be the answer to some of the tracking criticism. Again, it's a 10' flat-bottom kayak. Don't expect great speed or laser-straight tracking.
  4. The Pathfinder is light, weighing in at only 36 lbs. I was easily able to top it onto the roof of my Hyundai Sonata sedan and secure it using the Yakima Universal Kayak Carrier system. Carrying to and from the put in was easy enough. I'm fairly athletic, so lugging the thing is not an issue for me.
  5. The fore and aft bungee fasteners look cheap. They may need replacing.
  6. The Pathfinder is not roto molded. Some customers have reported cracks in the seams. That's something I'll have to keep an eye on. The yak doesn't run too deep in the water for me, but I also haven't loaded it to its listed 275 lb capacity.
  7. There is a small dry storage compartment aft of the cockpit. The cover doesn't look too watertight and is held in place by bungees. Remove the bungees and the lid easily comes off.
  8. The Pathfinder felt stable in the water. The area of the river I paddled is a highly used recreational spot with lots of powerboats. The wakes rocked me pretty good, but the yak didn't feel tippy at all.
Analysis: This is a simple no-fills kayak best suited to lazy rivers, small lakes and ponds. The price point is low enough to leave you with some coin to buy a fishing rod holder, thigh pads, quality seat and other upgrades for less than a pricier kayak. I bought mine mainly for fitness paddling and occasional fishing. It will easily serve the needs of the budget conscious recreational play paddler.
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