Research Kayaks in the Buyers' Guide!
Select Kayak to View in Buyers' Guide
I am 6'1" 190lbs with a 33" pant length, strong paddler. My g/f also has one, she is 5' 125lbs and says initial stability is great, but has to use ballast on windy days. We love the boats and as far as Trylon goes that stuff is tough! I was carrying my Tracer on my shoulder, fell off a dock onto a stone boat launch and face planted into the cockpit. The Tracer suffered scuffs, that's it! I am giving the Tracer a 10.
A great little boat which is easy to handle off the water and a great fun boat for protected waters. First timers may want a bit more initial stability. Secondary stability seems good. If you are in a confused chop the kayak seems very unsteady and was no where near as reassuring as other boats I have paddled. It seems to handle bigger waves better than chop. The hatch covers go on and off almost too easily and I wondered how secure they were at sea during capsize or rolling.
In short a great boat with its light weight and maneuverability for protected waters but you should have another for the tough stuff. I have rated it 8 but would be 9 in quiet water and a 6 in the rough stuff.
A few weeks later it arrived at the shop for pick up. Once I had it home I removed the seat and added the closed cell formed happy bottom seat from Chesapeake Light Craft, with the help of some large Velcro pads added to the seat bottom and the floor of the Tracer. This seat is practically weight less, and personally comfortable. Two other added benefits to this seat is it lowered the center of gravity a tad, and most of all it solved the oil can effect by placing my body weight in direct contact with the bottom of the kayak. Any oil can effect would have to work against the weight of my minimally fat ars.
In the few weeks after the pick up, I also order custom neoprene hatch covers from Reed Chillcheater. So from removing the seat and the rubber Hurricane hatch covers and replacing these with the foam seat and neo hatch covers I removed about 6 lbs of weight, bringing the kayak to a little over 42lbs.. I'm not getting any younger so the loss of weight is best noticed in the carry to and from the car. I also added a bronze pad eye on the deck behind the cockpit for the use of a tow rope and a theft/locking point. The foot pegs were okay, yet I like the ability to correct on the water if needed, so I replaced them with the Duckworks adjustable type.
Now after a few years of paddling my handling characteristics are these.
Tracking: Generally fine, strangely a slight breeze appears to effect tracking more than a wind. Just half a skeg drop is what I use if I feel the need, this still allows for quick sharp turns if needed.
Stability: on flat water or mild chop I don't notice a stability issue at all with the Tracer, yet I have a feeling this is only due to my jaded and demanding aspect of paddling my 20in. width SOF. Paddling into more steep wind/tidal driven waves in the bays or Atlantic ocean this kayak excels. It breaks through waves well and holds a course well with or without the skeg. On following wind/tidal seas is where I find a negative aspect with the Tracer. I find even a full skeg drop has me giving this kayak my full attention. It appears to have a strong tendency to want to broach. My guess is the Stern is rising high enough to be a bit out of the water on a wave negating even the skeg, placing the bow deeper in the water where even a slight cock one way or the other gives the bow a very disconcerting bow rudder action. I compensate a lot with paddle strokes in high following seas basically to limit surfing and letting the bow to deep in the water. The sad fact is I enjoy surfing in my other kayaks, yet the Tracer I find demanding in these conditions. Added weigh in the rear compartment might help, yet I have yet to put this together under following seas conditions. Hull strength: Well I timed a few surf entries wrong a few times and went practically vertical, which resulted in a big slap coming over these waves. It appears to take a pounding and keep on ticking. My spine is another story.
Rolling/sculling/balance brace: I'm very comfortable above or below the water with the Tracer, yet I would say that about most kayaks.
I'm giving the Tracer 165 a 8 rating only because of the following seas broaching issue I have. If I could tweak the design of the Tracer I would add one to three inches in the stern behind the cockpit and sharpen the bow a tad to limit the bow rudder effect. However, to have a solid bulk headed kayak at a custom weight of about 42lbs, with the good looks of this kayak, and at a very, very fair price, is a big plus for me.
Don't get conned first time buyers!! Kayaks made out of thermoformed plastic are nothing but cheap rubbish that cost the earth and deliver very little. They are good for one thing though. You can depress the centre of the hull with your hand and make them sound like a Rolph Harris wabble board.
I'm a beginner, so I wasn't trying execute rolls or anything and have a pretty good feel for what I want out of a kayak.
Now that I've qualified myself...
The Hurricane Tracer 165 is a good boat I think for the price. The Thermoformed ABS is my favorite material, and although there was some flex in the hull when pressing down on the back, it felt solid. The cockpit was snug. I'm not a fan of the seat as it would get uncomfortable fast, and the foot pegs are hard to adjust. I needed to get out of the boat to adjust them. This wouldn't be a problem though if you own this boat, because you probably won't be changing the foot pegs at all.
On the water, it does feel a little unstable. The wind had picked up for a time and I don't think the boat was too affected by that. It is definitely maneuverable, and just a little bit of skeg changed that. It wasn't sluggish, but its not a racer either.
Overall, as I said above this is a good boat for the price. Its very entry level. I think it provides a good platform to learn from. If I had been wearing immersion gear in the wind and current of my test paddle, I would've felt more confident about putting it through the paces a bit more.
I owned the Hurricane Tracer 16.5 for a summer season in which I did a moderate amount of assorted kayaking; coastal, open ocean, lakes, and ponds. Prior to owning the Tracer, I had plenty of experience in all types of sea and recreational kayaks, so I had much to compare it to. I found that the Tracer handled relatively well in most conditions. It's defined rocker made maneuverability simple on a slight lean.
The Tracer is a good alternative to a high-end composite sea kayak, it is light weight (46lbs), and proves to paddle very smoothly and respond well to forward and reverse strokes. One of the few issues which I found to be inhibiting to the boats overall performance was its noticeably tender primary stability. If a novice paddler, the Tracer will feel highly comfortable and acts as though it foundations on a much narrower hull design. The overall speed of the boat is unimpressive for one of its length (16'6"). While it capable of keeping up with its composite companions, it requires much more effort of behalf of the paddler. The built in drop skeg is very useful in the Tracer as it is highly susceptible to weather-cocking, and will often change direction at the caprice of a head wind. The seat design is exceptional, and proves to be unrestricting on long distance paddles as it provides reliable support.
Overall, I rate the Tracer as a 7, in that, it performs well in most conditions but its overall lack of primary stability coupled with slow handling notches the Tracer 16.5 down the competitor scale.
The boat edges well and is great to have in surf of 3ft. waves. I have not done larger than that but will soon (just waiting on conditions to be right). I don't understand the complaints for the uncomfortable seat that I have been seeing - I'm 5'10" 165 lbs. and this boat fits me great.
The greatest feature of this boat I must say is the drop skeg. Very simple to control and it makes a world of difference for me when I'm out on Lake Michigan. If you're looking for a fast entry level sea Kayak I highly recommend the Tracer. I plan to be keeping mine for many years to come.
My problem with it was the seating. In spite of trying many things I could not get comfortable in the seat. I could only last for about one hour before I had to take get out of the boat due to a lot of pain. I tried many different seating configurations, and none helped. Reluctantly I had to return the boat to the dealer.
In all fairness, this is a good boat, as attested to by the other members of the club I paddle with. It just did not work for me. And for the record, I am 6'2" and 220 lbs.
I was actually quite shocked how maneuverable this boat is, I have an Expedition Sport as well and there is no comparison. The Tracer seems to really offer the best of both worlds. With the skeg up you can carve and turn with great ease, with it down you go as straight as an arrow.
I don't see myself looking to replace it any time soon.
I've had the boat out 31 times in a 6 week span of time w/ no previous experience. The boat has been used only on high elevation Colorado reservoirs including 2 camping trips totaling 3 nights. Don't know how it handles in moderate seas.
Edges well. Maneuverable. Affordable, light weight is welcome and She's cute.
Weathercocks; from what Iíve read about sea kayaks, the Tracer may weathercock a bit much but the skeg works like magic. I work at times to practice and use paddle strokes to point the boat where I want it to go and it works with effort but after reassuring Myself that I can do it, when the situation gets stressful, I use the skeg and conserve energy for when I may need it later.
Doesn't track straight; it trades tracking for easy maneuverability. When I stop paddling it veers / turns; pretty much almost never glides straight. Sometimes when I stop paddling to observe something, I wish it would just glide straight but I accept that in exchange for the maneuverability which is more important. Requires corrective stroking which is normal. I can do that. The good news is that, like today, I was out for 3 hours on a 3,000 acre lake (reservoir) at 9,000 feet above sea level with healthy winds, waves, swells, whitecaps etc. At one point with quartering waves (which want to move Me into the irregular rocky shore) that seem about 1 second apart and 1 to 1.5 feet swells the boat can easily maneuver to angle away from the rocky irregular shore when there's a few smaller waves, momentarily exposing the beam and then when noticing bigger waves approaching turn it back so I'm only exposed to quartering waves which the boat can deal with well allowing Me to relax.
The boat is fairly quick.
Secondary stability is right there. Primary stability is good; when I got the boat I felt tippy for a few but now the thing is easy. This is a good example of a boat a beginner would enjoy if the beginner was going to actually use it often and get to know it, rather than a beginner who may use it for a few times each summer. An enthusiastic beginner may not want a beginner boat.
I've been very happy with the Tracer. Rating it high. Feels like a 10, but what do I know with nothing to compare it to.
For some novices paddlers it maybe too big a jump to go from a beamy rec boat to a sea kayak. So far, it working out really well for me and I love the boat. It will probably be the last boat I buy.
Note to others thinking of taking up kayaking from my experience: Take lessons FIRST before buying a boat, preferably from 2 different sources. Go to all the local store demo days and try every rec and touring kayak they have. Can't decide? Rent a boat you are interested in for a weekend. Try a Hurricane Tracer, I think you'll like it.
At 6'0" \ 175 lbs the cockpit is nicely sized and the knee braces are right where they ought to be. The rear hatch does leak a bit in splashy conditions but it usually doesn't let in more than what looks like a cup of water. The front hatch is very water tight.
So far my biggest beef with the boat is how the skeg actuator protrudes out the side of the boat. It's only about 3/4" but enough for me to bang my hand on a few times per outing. I'd much prefer a recessed handle.
So overall a great boat for the money. Looks great, handles well, and after a long day of paddling isn't too hard to hoist up on the car.
If you lean hard to one side and paddle on that side, this boat turns quickly - very impressive for a boat this length. And the boat 'stops' when you lean hard, as it is hard to tip it over, unless you really try. In high wind I used half or more of the skeg and it eliminated any weather cocking.
I got water in my front hold somehow - the hatch cover seemed to be snug - I'll test this out more by putting water in the cockpit and seeing if any leaks into the front hold. Or if the hatch cover does not totally seal - by spraying a hose directly at the cover.
The 46# weight made loading and unloading much easier than my rec boat or shorter rotomolded sea kayak. I drive a 4Runner and have Yakima J style cradles on the roof. I could load and unload this boat alone, but it was super easy with a helper.
The only negative I found was that the seat seemed to move a little bit when you leaned hard. I did not expect any movement and it made a popping sound when it did move.
I plan to put the included foam on the thigh braces, add foam where my knees hit, and on the sides of the seat, covering the screws. My wife also paddled it and will likely buy one soon for herself - a different color of course.
I've had mine since May 2007 and have no plans to move into another kayak any time soon. I purchased it in mint condition from a friend who had it for a very brief period of time because he wanted to try it out. I consider myself an intermediate paddler, actively in the sport for more than five years. I upgraded to the Tracer from a Carolina 16.
If you're new to kayaking, the Tracer may not be the most stable boat for you. It's better suited to paddlers looking for the next step in a performance sea kayak after becoming comfortable in their first kayak.
That said, I've read many reviews that criticize the Tracer's tracking. This kayak is maneuverable, considering its size. You can make quick turns, spin around and do many things you can't with comparable sea kayaks. If you want to paddle in a straight line -- and you've got a bit of wind -- drop the skeg to your liking and your so-called tracking problem is solved. Good technique makes for good tracking with any kayak. It's also quite speedy. My wife tells me I have two speeds with the Tracer -- bored and fast.
I've paddled the Tracer extensively in varying conditions in Southwest Florida, both in open water and back waters on short and longer trips. The Tracer's profile makes it well suited to most conditions. It handles big waves well. If anything, the kayak's maneuverability makes it more forgiving in confused seas, sloppy seas or challenging currents and quick-changing conditions. I have not paddled the kayak fully loaded for trips.
The Tracer is relatively light and made of Trylon. I load mine alone with relative ease. The previous owner added a thin foam liner inside the cockpit for additional padding under the deck. I added Wilderness Systems hip pads, which make a big difference in fitting the boat around you (especially if you're a smaller, thinner paddler). The pads help me feel like I'm wearing the kayak, which affords more control.
Overall, the Tracer is a solid, performance kayak for people who cannot afford more expensive brands.
My only complaints are that the seat tends to shift side to side when edging but I will try and stabilize that soon with some foam wedged on each side. I also found that the Tracer tends to weather cock and spin out when I stop paddling. It has been mentioned by others that a little skeg helps to correct this and it's true. I also must mention that even with the skeg down the Tracer still responds very well and turns on a dime.
This is a lively boat which makes it fun to paddle and I think that's a good thing. The initial stability is a bit touchy but I can't complain since I'm just getting out of a transitional boat and need more time to adjust. My Wife, who is very petite, found it much more stable that I. For the price of a roto mold the Tracer is not only beautiful but performs more like a high end composite. I would prefer a little better tracking but otherwise, I really enjoy this boat and didn't have to go broke getting it.
I have had my eye on the Tracer 165 for some time after trying the Tampico 135L, which is a great boat, fast, stable and comfortable. I like the way you can adjust the foot rest on the fly without having to be out of the boat on the Hurricaneís. When I went to pick up the Tracer, having seen it only in small internet pictures, I wasnít sure what it looked like up close. When it was pointed out to me I about fell over. The pictures do NOT do it justice, it looks fast sitting still.
I have paddled six different kayaks before this one and after reading all the reviews posted here, I had a few concerns, after all I still consider myself to be a novice. When setting off, the wind was blowing and the waves were a little on the large size. The Tracer seemed tippy and was suffering some weather cocking so I couldnít get it going very fast. Time to try out the skeg I thought and after dropping it down the weather cocking went away like flipping a switch but it was still a little tippy. I thought I would be taking a swim and practicing my wet entries a few times before the day was up. There are a lot of big boats making big waves where weíre at and some of them like to try to sink you. Once I saw one large boat going out of his way to head right toward me. As he got close, he turned his boat and gunned it and I heard one of them say, "That should sink him." Every time a boat would go by leaving a big wake, I would think, "This could be it." After a half hour in the Tracer I found myself looking for big waves, the bigger the better. My tippy feeling was gone, I feel, thanks to the perfectly placed thigh supports. Itís amazing how much control I had over the Tracer using them. Iíve used them in other kayaks but never with such good results as with this one. I could lean the Tracer over like my sport bike and it would just pop right back up. By the end of the day I was thinking it an impossible task to tip that thing over and if you did, it would probably roll you back up so fast you wouldnít know you went down.
I found the tracking is very good and when the skeg is up it turns very quickly especially when on the top of a good size wave. The Tracer is so light that after stopping at the shore for a quick snack, you can just pick it up and turn it around and youíre ready to go, without any help. The short of it is, donít just take it out for a quick spin, youíll never have enough time to fully appreciate it. Spend some time in it, but bring your check book, you may not want to bring it back.
The only problems I found with it was the seat, after being in it four hours straight, it became a little uncomfortable. (Was having too much fun to get out) Easy fix with a seat pad. And although it has a 325lb weight capacity, itís very slim and sleek not giving it much room for a lot of stuff. For these two things I deducted 1 point. I think itís a great kayak that anyone would love, unless its your first time out, you may want to try more of a beginner kayak.
First: I LOVE the boat. Everyone loves their new boat. But I already have several, so I don't have to 'love' this boat. But I do. Yes, yes, it does yaw a bit and weather cock a bit in calm water--totally eliminated by just a little skeg. I was concerned about the posts about this as I waited for shipment. But I understand why this is so--it is (duh) a consequence of the design of the hull. It is a sea kayak, and it was obviously designed to excel in rougher conditions. I've had mine out in a variety of conditions in just short time I've had it. Yesterday I headed into a 15-20 knot head wind, 2-3 rolling waves on the Indian River and it was GREAT! Love the hull design--it spears (only word for it) through waves and was tremendously stable in this bad weather (raining/nasty and all). *The other day I had it on the Banana River in calm conditions and it needed a little skeg. Yesterday in bad weather it wasn't necessary until heading home with a following sea. What a great boat.
Very good construction. I may have given the impression that I'm able to buy boats on a whim when I said I had several. Not so. So I value good build quality. I love Hurricane's plastic/Trylon composition. It's 2 1/2 feet longer than my Manitou but 3 lbs lighter. And it is very durable. With less UV damage to worry about, I may never get another type of boat (less you give me one or I win one!).
Very maneuverable, turns on a dime, and I think it's handling characteristics will even change again when loaded. I've never paddled it (or my Manitou for that matter) loaded as a long marathon paddling day trip so far is the extent of my travels. But I bet the Tracer gets even more stable with some weight in her holds. I think I'll toss a sack of rocks in there once just to see.
I love my Tracer 165.
I'm Scottish, value-conscious, and a near-perfectionist to about 94% average accuracy. That said, here's my review of this relatively cheap and quite satisfactory product... also the other stuff around it.
8 of 10: Kayak
10 of 10: My basic kayaking skills from instructor's point of view as of this review (not when I got the kayak)
5 of 10: Dealer
6 of 10: Manufacturer
Kayak & Me - The replacement boat is generally shaped like one would expect a kayak to be shaped. Both ends point forward and backward along pretty much the same straight(ish) line. The stem and stern point mostly up and down. All the pieces are fairly well fitted and glued on. The boat floats both right-side and wrong-side up. Stuff in the storage/flotation chambers stays dry if I put electrical tape over the air pressure equalization holes in the bulkheads and/or if I'm bright enough to place the stuff in dry bags. The boat fits me well, and after adding the suggested padding in the suggested places, I fit it well. The color (yellow) is highly visible, and the materials are tough and light. After filing and sanding off the burrs and sharp edges, less blood leaks out of me and into the boat. I'm male, 43 years old, was recently 5 feet, 7 inches tall, and weigh 162 lbs (mostly water, bones, and muscle, with a little fat and some transitory internal tract content). Before I received professional training, the boat pointed generally where wind and waves pushed it and was not really easy for me to control while paddling it. I kept the skeg down a lot. The boat felt tippy. I suspected that the problem was not the boat. After receiving professional training and practicing a little, the boat does exactly what I want it to do, when I want it to do it, and without me thinking about it (or messing with the skeg, which now stays mostly up). I can roll it both ways, climb back into it if I bail out, keep it from going over, maneuver it in tight quarters, and move it pretty fast both forward and backward. The instructor observed that I had some sort of zen-like thing going on with the boat and the water. I'm not sure what that means, but I understand that most of what makes an object good or bad is me. Let me suggest that until we achieve basic kayaking skills, we consider not blaming our boats for unruly behavior.
So, I'm cool with the boat. It's cheap and does good. Fine. Boat and me get along now.
Dealer - Grrr with a smile the whole time. After taking delivery and getting to the house, I noticed that the first boat was quite bent, twisted, and unpleasant to behold after laying down $1432.42 in hard-earned cash (actually, I mostly sat on my butt in air conditioning when I was earning it). I kindly pointed this out and was treated with the assertion that the boat was just fine when the dealer received it. Out of respect for Paddling.net's Bytes I'm not going into the whole experience here. In the end, the dealership owner seemed to grudgingly discuss the situation with the manufacturer after I helpfully put together an easily accessible and easily postable website showing and describing the bent boat situation. Ahh, the power of potentially shared information... Also, be gently persistent and apply honey, not vinegar, in these situations. Pay for your boat with a credit card from a company that will wrestle with the merchant for you if the product is flawed. Don't leave the balance on the credit card. Tie your shoes. etcetera.
Manufacturer - Geez. I'm glad they offered to replace the bent boat. The replacement boat is a little bent, too. However, I don't have the energy or desire to continue the wrestling match or to consider defiling myself by invoking the professionals infesting our befouled legal system. How and why did they let the first boat out of the shop? I suggest that before you take delivery of your boat, level it with a carpenter's level a-thwart-ships across the coaming, then tape a weighted string from the centerline of the deck and hang it off the bow and stern. Step away a few paces and take a good, hard, critical look at it. If the string hangs off significantly to one side or the other, request a non-bent boat. Too bad you have to do this instead of trusting that it is done before it's delivered. I ordered and paid for the boat in October 2006, received the bent boat in November 2006, and received the mostly not bent boat in December 2006.
Let's put this in context. After I got my boat sorted out, I went and looked at some $3k-$5k kayaks. Very nice, very straight, high quality, attractive, solid, a few observable blemishes. It would bother me a little to scrape the hull against an oyster shell. I wouldn't get any more enjoyment out of it, and I've got $1.5k - $3.5k more cash in my pocket for important things like beer, sushi, and laundry machines. I'm taking it out tomorrow morning as the sun rises and will enjoy. Life is short. Pick a boat that pleases you, doesn't stress your budget, and get out on the water.
Good Points: Light weight, Good looks, Good secondary stability, Great value, Durable/easy maintenance (can still beat it up like a plastic boat but get weight/stiffness of a composite). Very responsive. Great glide (percieved by both me and paddle partners)
Negatives: Hatches let "mosisture" in -certainly don't flood but not bone dry either when edging/rolling. I had a small crack in mine where the skeg control is (fixed well with epoxy/glass) -I think it was damaged during shipping but noticed well after I took delivery.
Not so much a good/bad thing but this boat weathercocks (2005 model) substantially. The skeg does a good job of controlling the weathercocking and I can even steer the boat to weathercock or leecock in broaching winds.
I certainly do not have any doubts that buying this boat was a good decision and expect it to be in my fleet for a long time.
As the boat is a 2003 model it did not have a skeg installed and supposedly has more rocker than the newer models (both of my other boats have some rocker, one considerably more than the Tracer so I'm a bit perplexed by the concern voiced by some reviewers). However, based on my experience with unruddered or skegged boats with rocker, and reviews here and elsewhere and advice from an aquaintence who has a Tracer, I decieded to it would be wise to add some tracking assistance over the winter.
I obtained and installed an Ocean Kayak rudder and Sealine foot braces with toe controls. Turns out to be a worthwhile investment.
My experience to date indicates the following: The Tracer is a well made, easily manoeverable kayak. The cockpit is generously sized making it fairly comfortable for a 6'1" 196#, size 11 shoe, not so limber 57 year old man to get in and out. The seat is nothing special but seems reasonably comfortable after several excursions. The way the seat is installed will allow easy modifcation (moving it fore or aft an inch or two either way) or removale and replacement.
Primary stability will feel a mite twitchy to those coming from wider rec. boats or SOTs. However that is just a matter of perception. It's primary stability is a about what you'd expect for a boat of this type and design. A friend of mine summed it up by saying it felt a little more tippy than his Cappella, but less tippy than his Sirus. It's secondary stability kicks in as you take the boat up on edge and seems fairly solid (I still have some learning to do in this area so be advised)
The boat is very manoeverable with the rudder up - you can turn it quickly. You need to mind your forward stoke to stay straight. It does have a tendency to weathcock easily. With the rudder down it's a different story, the boat tracks well, responds quickly to the smallest rudder corrections, and still turns well. Winds on the stern quarter are no longer problematic. Deploying the rudder does not seem to add any appreciable drag maybe due to the rudder blade's foil shaped cross section and limited wetted surface (it's short).
The boat seems to glide fairly well and has a fair turn of speed. It might not be the fastest 16 to 17 foot long sea kayak out there, but it's not the slowest either.
What I like so far: Cost; Material (Trylon seems very rugged and scratch resistant); Weight (at about 50# it's easy for me to cartop single handed); Fit & finish; Ease of paddling
Minor complaints: Cockpit combing rim is close to the deck making it difficult to use sprayskirts with thick rands or bungees. I had to modify the bungee knot on one of my spray skirts to get it to fit. No thigh braces - not a big issue for me as with my size and leg length I can brace my knees under the deck at the cockpit rim edge. Could be a big problem for a smaller paddler. I will add foam to get a more secure fit for my knees. Front bulkhead position is way too far forward. I have long legs (34" inseam) and on my other boats have my foot braces on the furtherst stop. Not so with the Tracer - there is at leat a foot between my foot pegs and the front bulkhead. I can streach out my legs full length and still can't reach the bulkhead (lot of extra water volume to pump during resuce practice,etc).
Final word - this is a great boat for the money. Even at full MSRP it's a bargain. If price were THE major rating factor I'd give it a 10!
Fit and finish are only so-so: there are other boats assembled with more care -- but not at the Tracer's low price.
Performance is good. The Tracer is fast and turns well, but it's a little short on primary stability: it may not be the best choice for beginners.
In our household, the Tracer is my boat, while my wife paddles a fiberglass Current Designs Solstice GTS. Fit and finish on the Solstice is better, and it's a prettier boat. The Solstice (for almost a thousand dollars more) is faster and holds a line better, but it's much harder to turn. The Tracer turns more readily, and it's a bit lighter. I prefer the Tracer's skeg to the Solstice's rudder. The Tracer's more fun; the Solstice is the boat I'd take on a long-distance trip with headwinds.
For some reason, I can roll the Solstice more easily than I can roll the Tracer. I can bring the Solstice back up most of the time with a sweep roll. With the Tracer, my sweep roll usually fails, and I have to resort to a Pawlatta roll (which is slower but has more leverage).
All in all, I like the Tracer and think it's a great value. I'll give it a "9" for now. If the folks at the factory will stop daubing the adhesives on with such a heavy hand, I might raise that to a "10."
To any of my kayak-shopping friends on a budget, I'd say, "Put the Tracer high on your list."
I couldn't believe the price for such a light boat compared to fiberglass. The store owner did inform me that the skeg box leaked but that I could probably fix it with Marine goop. I did easily and so far no more leaks. I later learned that this was quite common with older Tracers. Compared to my old '89 Chinook, the Tracer is a Corvette. It glides through water like a hot knife cutting butter. Fit and trim is superb and it tracks well in all kinds of surf.
I would have rated it a 10 if not for the skeg leak.
The Trylon (thermoform) plastic is great looking, strong, and LIGHT. I have a bad shoulder and can still get the boat in the roof racks by myself. I can not say enough good things about Trylon.
If I had it to do over again I would still buy it . . . best investment I have made for a while.
DANGER, DANGER, DANGER, WILL ROBINSON. (Used boat caution)
If you are thinking of a used Tracer make sure it has a skeg or rudder. The first boats that were built (prototypes?) had no skeg, no rudder and more rocker. You really had to concentrate and have excellent paddling skills to keep from going large in circles.
120,000+ people can't be wrong!
The Paddling.net Newsletter is a must if you like to canoe or kayak! Each week it is packed with great articles, photos, product reviews, and special features. Better yet, we promise not to sell your email address to anyone; that's right ZERO spam! Sign up today and find out what you've been missing!