See Current Kayaks from Perception
in the Buyers' Guide
Select Kayak to View in Buyers' Guide
To summarize this boat is great for a novice paddler or someone who occasionally paddles. Great for "recreational" paddling on flat water and protected harbors with an occasional trip outside the breakwater for excitement. The stability gives one great sense of comfort when paddling. My friends have thoroughly enjoyed paddling my Carolina. They were comfortable with it within minutes of paddling. BTW as someone else had written, I had a missing rudder bushing too and also was told by customer service that I really didnít need it, but they sent me one just for G.P. That is an improvement their customer service. The only change I would make is switching out the plastic rudder for a Yakima rudder.
I used the boat on a camping trip recently and the storage is fantastic. TONS of room and very comfortable.
I paddle in Baltimore's Inner Harbor with 200+ ft. commercial boats and have had no problems. I used it in the Ocean recently and aside from a small bulkhead leak, the boat was great.
The only downside to this boat is that the material is a bear to maintain. I have a kevlar boat and Iím used to water washing. All that aside, it was a great buy and a great boat.
I would say that this boat is a great buy for the all-around paddler.
The 2005 with the new longer cockpit was just the answer. It tracks well and in Missouri a rudder is really not needed. It has a comfortable seat and with the longer cockpit I can easily pull my legs out while sitting. I now know why no one sells these boats used.
I've been out on it a few times, in the C&O Canal and Potomac River, and am quite impressed with it. It's easy to get in (and out) of the cockpit (with some caveats, below), its 41lb weight makes it easy to handle by yourself, and it's very stable (primary and secondary). Pretty responsive, too, for maneuverability and speed.
The things I'm finding aren't quite worthy of a 10 rating are: the foot pegs, with the rudder, don't stay where they are (by design), making it hard to get your feet nice and snug sometimes, until you push the rail forward; there are no deck lines or painters suitable for helping you get back into the boat; and my aft bulkhead leaks.
All in all, I'm looking forward to many years of enjoyment with this boat.
It isn't too big or too heavy to cartop by yourself, either. All in all, I think this is a very good kayak for someone who wants a true sea kayak but who isn't a kayak fanatic and doesn't want to spend a small fortune to have fun.
I'm a big fellow, but the boat is roomy. I seriously questioned whether I needed a rudder, but it's a nice feature. Very luxurious. I was concerned about the seat after reading the reviews here, but I have not noticed any problems. I've sat in the boat for three hours straight without feeling uncomfortable. It makes me wonder if other people are paddling or sitting in it differently than I am. My only complaint is the Tupperware-like covers that seal the storage compartments. They're a pain in the butt to get on. I suppose if one is patient and works with them, they close fine. But it takes work. For $870, you would think come up with a better method. Other than that, it's a fun boat. Happy paddling.
I live on Lake Champlain, which has the scale of a Great Lake- so we get all kinds of weather/water conditions. While I have not taken friends out in really choppy weather, I paddled this boat through 3-4 foot swells, and felt very comfortable. Watertight hatches too!
My complaints are on two counts: the seats in the 2003 models are horrible. I paddled it twice when I first got it, and realized nobody was going to be happy with that seatback after about an hour on the water. The first two people to paddle it agreed- and we are all different heights. I took it into my local dealer, who could not have been nicer about switching out the seat back for Perception's higher seatback. But now I am left with the issue of getting a sprayskirt to accomodate the higher back. Perception needs to fix this for 2004.
My other issue with the boat is that it did oilcan pretty quickly. I have a Yakima rack system with rollers, and I set them properly, yet the boat dented within weeks, despite being careful with how I tied down.
Summing up: if Perception changes the seat for 2004, and you carry teh boat on its side or upside down on your rack, then this is a perfect beginner boat. It is a pleasure to paddle for just about anyone, though a more advanced paddler is going to want a little refinement.
The Carolina handles well. The rudder is useful in the wind, and I would definitely recommend it if you plan on crossing large bodies of water.
The bulkheads work well, and the kayak fits well (I'm 5'9" @ 180lbs, size 10 shoe). I installed hip pads, which really help when putting the kayak on edge.
My only complaint(and it's a big one) is the plastic. After a month, the kayak already developed an oil can. The plastic scratches too easily, and it already looks as bad as my year old Dagger. The Dagger Crossover can be used in class 1-2 whitewater use, so I can see where the Dagger plastic would be stronger. However, I have serious doubts about the longevity of the Carolina.
I will definitely enjoy the Carolina while it lasts, but I will not buy any plastic boats from Perception in the future.
The hatches on the 2001 model are plenty large and havent leaked a drop so far. Im 6'2" and would have liked to see another notch in the footbrace adjustment. The cockpit opening is very roomy and gives me confidence should I get into a situation demanding a wet exit. This boat is extremely stable; Ive rolled it pretty far in its side and it gets harder and harder to flip the farther you tip it. As a boatbuilder and commercial fisherman, I would favor a more distinct chine although not a full on hard chined hull. Good boat but not perfect.
The good: good stability and tracking, reasonably good on turns, cruises well for a 14 foot boat, and has plenty of storage for weekend trips.
Drawbacks: Hatches on older models are too small, must be cartopped upside down or you will distort the hull, seat on basic model is uncomfortable for many people after a few hours of paddling.
For a casual tourer, this is a very good boat. If you are more than an intermediate paddler or price is not a concern, then you should consider any number of other boats.
Here is why I chose the Carolina. All the boats I tried were great for their size. Some tracked better, some turned easier. The Carolina handled and fit well. I'm 5'6" and 150 pounds. Tracking is great, turning is not bad. I had a little trouble in some fast moving water, but that could have been more me than the boat. My 12 year old had no problem with it on a windy and choppy lake. I liked the idea of two hatches for storage and the fact that there is less cockpit space to clean out after getting in and out on the muddy/sandy banks around here. The hatches could open and close easier. Some of the reviews talked about them leaking, but after 2 very wet trips, they remained dry.
The last reason, I bought the Carolina was the price. I got mine for around $820.00 with the rudder. (it was on sale) Most of the boats that interested me were around $800 without a rudder or skeg. In my experience, a rudder usually isn't necessary, but when you need it, it's great to have it there. You can definitely get a better touring kayak than the Carolina, but everything has a price. for the money I paid, this a great boat.
At the time, I was looking for a good recreational-touring kayak. In hindsight, a recreational-touring kayak is a contradiction in terms. The best feedback that I can offer is, don't under estimate your abilities as a beginner. The kayak was comfortable and very stable. However, I quickly found the Carolina to be heavy and sluggish in the water. I felt like I had to push the kayak to keep a decent cruising pace. The 25" width doesn't sound like much, but I would repeatedly bang the sides of the hull while paddling. The added width also made it difficult to turn the kayak without making a big circle. The hatches seemed to have a good fit to the hull and appeared dry after my various trips. I did find the hatch openings to be on the small side. For this reason, I never used the front hatch.
I had always hung the kayak from straps in the garage. I also used kayak saddles on my roof rack. I still noticed a tendency of the hull to have the "oil can" effect that is common in some plastic kayaks. The kayak is comfortable and stable, but you give away a great deal of performance and speed for the comfort. This kayak may be a good choice for use on a lake as recreation. It would be good for casual paddling or novice paddlers, but I would not recommend it for any serious touring. It is not a bad kayak, but there are many other kayaks that have a lot more to offer. I quickly decided to sell the Carolina after only 6 weeks.
Demo as many kayaks as you can. If you want to paddle for a few hours and go to different areas, look for a longer, lighter kayak that will not limit your ability. Think ahead of where you want to paddle and how long your trips may last. Make your decision on that type of touring and don't sell yourself short. I realize that this review may contradict many of the other comments about the Carolina, but I hope it will prevent the next buyer from buying twice!
P.S. - Perception has fixed the bungee problem as far as I can tell.
Surfs well, with nose high. Front & Rear bulkheads with good - sealing rubber hatch covers. Tracks dead straight. I rarely use the rudder anymore unless in heavy water. Very inexpensive and plastic, so you don't feel bad about dinging it up in shallow creeks. Light enough for 1 person cartopping.
Another great quality is the tracking of this boat. Normally I paddle a Dagger Meridian with a skeg, and was quite impressed with how straight the Carolina performed in comparison. Although it doesn't go dead straight, as my Meridian does, it tracks very well, with much less course correction than I expected. The channeled hull on the Carolina works well as intended. If you plan on using this boating only in calm water, the rudder accessory is definitely not needed.
For a novice this is the perfect first boat. You get a large, roomy boat with great performance at a very low price. I was lucky enough to get a brand new Carolina for $500 since the hull was slightly scraped, something that seems to happen anyway the first time you take it out. The only real complaint I see with the boat is the weight, but that's normal for a plastic boat. In regards to the deck fitting flaws that I've read about in the other reviews, I haven't had a chance to check it out yet. Hopefully I got a boat with the improved fittings. :) The hatches are a bit difficult to open, and are small, but I think this is insignificant for a day-tripper. Another big plus... bulkheads... waterproof bulkheads are a big plus on any kayak. If the Carolina did not have them, I would not have bought the boat.
My only suggestion is that if you have $1500-3000 to spend on a first boat like I did, go ahead and get a fiberglass or Kevlar hull. The performance difference is tremendous. This will prevent you from "outgrowing" the boat as you gain experience, thus keeping each outing interesting. However, if you are value minded and/or want just a great boat for a fun day on the water, the Carolina is definitely the boat to buy.
They redesigned the tri-clamp piece and made it out of a stiffer plastic but they still popped out under pressure because the deck plastic softened in heat and sunlight. Perception apologized for the trouble and told me they would send me replacement deck hardware, at no cost. The replacement hardware is a more traditional fitting like on the deck of the Spectrum. Iím happy with the way they took care of me as a customer.
In comparison to my own kayak (Kit built Cheasapeake 17 made of marine grade mahoney plywood) The Carolina can't hold a candle to it. My boat is 10 lbs. lighter, is far easier to propel across the water (MUCH faster), has large hatch covers and the rigging is solidly attached to the boat. I rate the Carolina a 7 and my boat a 10!
It tracks as straight as an arrow and turns easily (no rudder needed). It has very good initial and secondary stability and has a roomy comfortable seat and cockpit, although tall people may find the leg room limiting. The seat back is taller than most and is also comfortable. The cup holder in the seat is about useless.
Although some have complained that the hatch openings are small (they are) they will accommodate most items need for a full day of paddling, the rest can be strapped to the deck. I'm sure that Perception used this hatch design to maintain hull integrity and rigidity (larger openings weaken hull strength) and save cost (hatches are more expensive).
The only complaint that I have is that the deck rigging keeps popping out of the deck hardware. This happens even when applying only minor pressure on the shock cords. I have tightened and retighten the deck hardware only to have it happen again. I must fault Perception for a poor job engineering the deck rigging. If it did not have this problem I would have given it a ten.
If you comparing this boat to any other in its class I'm sure you'll agree that the Carolina is by far the best boat in its price range. Go try one at your local dealer TODAY and BUY IT. You won't be sorry. My other kayak is a Perception Prism (great boat, lots of storage).
On the negative side, I think the hatch openings are too small and the rubber hatch covers can be difficult to handle and that's what stops me from giving it a 10 out of 10 rating.
Given the relativley low cost of this craft and all of it's fine attributes I highly recommend this kayak (again I am just getting into the sport so take my recommendation for what it's worth!).
Carolina's competing models I'd grade at 4 to 8 score.
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!