-- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 10:01 AM EST --
Unfortunately I don't have any more than a few minutes seat time in the Elie Strait, from a quick test at a dealer's on-the-water open house, but I had been intrigued by that model when it first came out with very good reviews. It is a well behaved kayak, was my impression, with a very comfortable cockpit and nice forward glide. I was impressed with the outfitting -- it has the look and feel of a more costly boat. I do understand there have been some complaints about the durability and customer service, but that is often true with other models and makes. I think it is a decent boat, but for the same price range I still prefer my Easky 15LV. Other kayaks in that same mid-price and mid-size range are the aforementioned Manitou, the Perception Carolina and the Wilderness Systems Tsunami (in your case it would be the 120 or 140 models). All around $1000, plus or minus. Yes, the Conduit is a great value for almost half that.
Somebody else mentioned skin-on-frames -- I am a big fan of those having owned 6 of them over the years. Some areas of the country you can take a class to build your own -- since people do build them they sometimes turn up used. I bought a used one that was 18' long for $800 and it only weighs 31 lbs, which is quite nice for transport. A good intro to what they are all about is the fun blog of Brian Schulz, who designs and builds them out in Oregon:
This is his famous F-1 design which you could build in one of his classes for $1400. 14' long and under 30 lbs. In one of these everybody else in the club would be struggling to keep up with you:
Also, Tom Yost's site where you can see photos of kayaks that people have built using his free designs:
These are kind of off the track of what we started talking about, but both are enjoyable sites that provide some added insight to the world of kayaks.
The Kayak Wing
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