My husband, sister and I bought our kayaks last summer after much research and test driving. I've been hooked on my Walden Scout ever since! I bought it mainly for the comfort of the large cockpit (lots of room to stretch the legs on those long journeys!), the padded seat and especially for the fact that Walden is concerned enough about the environment to use recycled plastic in its boats. Plus, I liked the looks of this kayak. I ran into it after I had already purchased one, and ended up buying it anyway because I liked it so much! My other boat hasn't seen much action because of my addiction to the Scout!!
When I purchased the 12-foot Scout my two main concerns were how it would handle in rough, open water and how fast it would go. I definitely didn't need to worry about either! I have been in some pretty rough water on Lake Huron and even Lake Superior, and it has handled very well. (It would be beneficial to have a spray skirt in situations like these since the large cockpit does allow for more water to enter.) As far as speed and tracking, my Scout Boy and I can outpaddle my husband in his 14-foot, rudder-equipped boat on any given day!
I feel very comfortable, stable and safe in this kayak. It's great for rivers, lakes, open water, fishing, nature photography, hauling camping gear, etc. The rear hatch/beer cooler comes in handy, too! I couldn't be happier with my purchase! One-time demo in a Scout. For the money, this appears to be a competent kayak. In fact, if my only desire was to fish out of it on small water, I would consider buying it. The Scout went at least as fast as the longer, narrower Vista, and was more stable. Yes, stable is a combination of experience, seating position, and the paddler's skill, but stability can also be measured in "how much do my hip and rib muscles hurt after trying to keep this thing upright for an hour?" With the Scout, this was not a battle.
Turns well, like most 12 foot kayaks. This is also a "knees outside" boat, so you can't brace your knees inside the cockpit. This is not necessarily a drawback, just a design feature.
After trying one, I can see why Scout users like them, but I paddled yaks that I liked better that were just as stable and a bit faster. Examples were a Perception Monterey, Carolina, and America (all 13.5 feet). I'm not comparing it to the 16 foot Montauk--not fair!
Why is speed important at all? If you are done fishing (or whatever), and you want to get somewhere because you're done, the fishing is lousy, your mother is calling you, whatever--sometimes you want to get out of Dodge. That means getting somewhere, and here's a thought--how fast do your neighbors drive on the highway? Do you drive 55 or 75? You can always paddle slower, but you can't always paddle faster unless your kayak design and your skill allow it. Please don't look down on this 7. If you love your Scout and rate it a 10, it is a 10 to you.I LOVE my Scout! I didn't want a sit-on-top because I planned to hunt and fish during the winter months here in Louisiana and I wanted the added protection from the elements of a cockpit. The Scout has a very roomy cockpit. I'm glad that it came with a clean bow (no eyelets etc...) because I wanted to install my own in specific locations chosen by me. I'm able to use it as a "layout" boat for duck hunting and have created a frame of PVC pipe and parachute cord that supports custom sewn Shadowgrass material for a hunting blind. It works great. I even have it arranged so that I can paddle out to retrieve birds without any disassembly. I did this by making the side panels of my blind where they can slide back like curtains. I can't make a full padle stroke, only about 80%, which is plenty for retrieves. For fishing I made a wooden workdeck that installs in less than 20 seconds and provides space for a small tackle box, a rod holder, a cleat and other "stuff". I rigged stretch cord in a loop on both sides from bow to stern which enables me to attach a 3lb. folding anchor to either side and employ it fore or aft. The top part of the cord runs through eyelets and I clip the anchor onto the bottom run. I put a cleat on my wooden work deck to tie the anchor line to. Works great.
Back to the boat - Easy to handle, tracks well, tough yet light enough for me to load easily. Very stable while seated and I can kneel in it on calm water without fear. A GREAT all around kayak. Suggested improvements might include a fold down seat to improve aft storage and it would be nice, though not neccessary, to have the ability to readily attach a factory made rudder system. Only thing I really would fuss about so far is the work deck that I purchased for it BUT I learned that if I turn it upside down, slide it forward, and attach it to the carry handle it makes a great rain cover for gear stored on the bow.I just purchased a Scout as my first solo kayak (I owned a tandem before).She's a real beauty with flawless craftsmanship evident in her construction. She looks much more like a composite boat than a plastic one, with the same fine lines and angles that one sees only on composite boats. She definitely does NOT look like a plastic trash can or porta-potty like most of the other plastic boats I've seen. Regarding performance, she tracks beatuifully and I have crossed a relatively large lake in her with winds blowing hard enough to bend over the small trees, and she didn't blink an eyelid, keeping her track with minimal effort throughout. She develops very good speed and responds to the paddle nimbly. In all, she does feel like a MUCH longer boat.Regarding stability, she's advertised to be an ideal fishing/bird watching platform. This I can't vouch for. Though she is nearly 30" wide, she has very soft chines and therefore is a little more tippy at rest than I thought she'd be. Secondary stability though, is excellent. She carries a long waterline with absolutely no rocker or flare. Though this contributes to her excellent tracking, she does bob a bit in wind-blown chop, no matter how small, though she continues to feel rock-solid stable when underway. The seat is huge and very comfortable, though I'd prefer an adjustable seat back to vary seating positions on long paddles. The Scout's seat is fixed and though comfortable on daily hour-long workouts, I wonder how she'll feel on a day trip. The footbraces, which are adjustable from the cockpit on boats made after March,99 are exceptionally long and they fit my 6'5" frame easily, and adjust to vary foot position (and overall comfort) very easily from the cockpit. The rear-deck "cooler" (in shape only) is a real pleasure and would be accessible from the cockpit if the intial stability was a little better (its still very good though). I did have some problem with Walden's customer service when I bought my brand new '99 Scout (in July,99) and found that it had '98 footbraces. However, after some haggling back and forth between the dealer and Walden, they delivered me a brand new JUNE, 1999 boat with the new footbraces (and unfortunately a new shade of yellow which is not nearly as striking) within 2 days. All in all, great service, but I wish that the haggling hadn't occured. Her great tracking, great hull speed, beautiful construction, classic beauty and comfort make her a definite keeper, and I'm sure that we'll grow to be GREAT friends after we get to know each other better, though I'm mighty impressed after our first few dates.
By the way, it was a choice between a Scout and a Dagger Delta for me. Though I never actually paddled the Delta, I found the cockpit on the Delta to be relatively the same size, but the rough edges on the plastic cockpit coaming which face your knees were very uncomfortable as I sat on the show-room floor in her, and abraded my knees just sitting there. Other than that, she looks like a fine boat, and a Dagger all the way, but she does look like a psychedelic garbage can. But I'm sure that she'd be worth a try. Chines seemed to be harder so maybe she'll have more initial stability than the Scout, but she'll never have the Scout's classic good looks.