Posted by: ShadyClip on Oct-13-12 11:31 AM (EST)
Just looking at your choices at REI and the kayak specs it would seem that the Expression 15 would be your best bet.
It sounds like your fit issue is due to long legs and deck height, is that right? It seems you are probably skinny and you may have room in the hip width area but you can always add hip padding, which is fixable unlike deck height.
It sounds like you at least sat in the Expression 14.5, if you found that a bit tight then it would seem that the 15, which gives you more room for your legs and an extra inch of deck height for a 6" longer and 3/4" wider boat would be a better fit for you. I have never actually tried out any of the REI kayaks you are looking at beyond the Inuit 14.5 (I found it very tight but I am more linebacker sized).
As for if you should buy from REI or not, if you initially bought a discounted kayak from REI then that purchase is not going to be included in your member check and my guess is any replacement kayak for that one will also be counted as not being reliable for the member refunds. That being said, REI is a great place for customer service and returns. I am sure they will ship the kayak to the store for you and if after you sit in it you don't like it, they won't have a problem with refunding your money, as long as you have that membership card they really do bend over backwards to help a customer out.