-- 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.
EZ-Dock modular docks
Rescue / Throw Bags
Deck Rigging Gear
Bent Shaft Canoe Paddles
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