Pros: Lightweight, Inexpensive, Stable, Oversized Cockpit, Built-in seat
Cons: Not for open water paddling
If youre new to kayaking and you want to get your feet wet with a simple boat that doesnt cost a lot of money, but will give you a chance to explore a lot of what kayaking has to offer, you should take a look at Old Town Canoes Otter Kayak. The boat offers plenty of features in a small and easily manageable size that should give anyone a good first impression of kayaking.
Measuring in at 9 ? feet long and about 28 ? inches (a little over 2 feet) wide, the Otter is one of the smaller recreational kayaks out there. Its about a foot thick and the cockpit opening is 19 inches by 38 inches. When all is said and done, this really means that the Otter, even though it is small, can easily accommodate most paddlers. The cockpit is slightly oversized when compared to other similar boats and the length and width of the boat is more than enough for all but the tallest of paddlers.
The boat is rated to hold up to 225 pounds, but you can go up to about 250 pounds of weight in the boat without affecting the performance. This weight includes the paddler and any gear that they might have in the boat. With weights above 250 pounds or so, the boat starts to ride lower and lower in the water, which makes it harder to paddle and less maneuverable.
The Otter is constructed of single-layer polyethylene material, which is basically a heavy-duty plastic that can be bent and folded without breaking. The material does scratch easily, but these scratches dont affect the overall structural integrity of the boat they just show the rocks youve gone over when youre out paddling. The material does heat up quickly in the sun, so if you are paddling in the sun, the boat can get hot to the touch something to think about before you lean on it.
Theres a built-in folding seat in the cockpit that can be adjusted. This seat has a high back, which makes sitting in the Otter more comfortable than some other boats that have lower seat backs, especially if you have back problems. The seat also has a built-in cup holder that is located between where your legs would be, making it easy to carry a water bottle, soda bottle or some other sort of bottle between your legs while you are paddling.
There are carrying handles that are attached via a heavy duty loop of rope located at either end of the boat. The handles are contoured plastic that make it easy to grip and hold on to them. It also makes it more comfortable when you are carrying the boat.
There are no foot pedals in the boat like some other kayaks, so you have to just find a comfortable position to rest your feet and your legs in the boat. For some this can be a bit of a pain, but Ive found it to be more comfortable than some of the boats with the pedals, since at 6ֶ, sometimes Im too tall for even the tallest pedal setting in other boats.
Theres foam located in either end of the boat to provide extra buoyancy. This cuts down on storage space within the boat, but since there is no access portal in the boat, most of the space within the boat is inaccessible while you are paddling (especially the space behind the seat). When you are paddling, the only real accessible space is that area directly in front of you in the cockpit and right underneath the portion of the boat in front of you.
Choosing the Otter
I got the Otter a year ago when I was looking to get back into the world of paddling after a long absence. I wanted something that was small and light, easy to carry and that was big enough for me to fit in (Im 6ֶ). I also wanted something inexpensive should I not want to keep paddling or if I wanted to upgrade to something bigger in the future.
Out of all the boats I looked at, sat in and otherwise tried out, I ended up going with the Otter because I felt it was the most value for my money and it seemed like it would satisfy most of my requirements for a boat while not costing me an arm and a leg.
I purchased the Otter for about $250 and with a life jacket and a paddle, I think I ended up spending about $325 for the whole paddling package.
The other big draw besides price was fit I found many of the boats slightly difficult to get in and out of or uncomfortable to sit in once I was in mostly due to my height. The Otter seemed really small looking at it but getting in and out was easy and there was more than enough room to stretch out once I was in the boat. I can even slump a bit in the chair and still have enough leg room to stretch my legs out in the boat.
And while its possible to get almost any boat up on roof racks, Ive found that the Otter is the perfect fit with my Rav4. The boat is light enough for me to easily get it up on the rack and its small enough that it doesnt feel like Im driving with an elephant on the roof.
The Otter isnt designed for whitewater and I havent used it there (though it would be more than enough for quick water and some slight rapids), instead Ive used it quite often in the slower waters of the Charles and Blackstone Rivers here in Massachusetts, along with several lakes and ponds both here in and in New York.
The boat has been easy to get in and out of along the river, has proved to be very stable once its in the water and is easy to paddle and maneuver both on the rivers and in the lakes and ponds. Overall Ive found the boat to be a great reintroduction to the world of paddling.
That said, dont get the Otter thinking it is a perfect boat. It tends to drift off while you are paddling (wont stay going straight) and doesnt travel as fast as some other boats, especially on flat water. Not only that, but the Otter really isnt designed for wide open waters you wouldnt want to be in the middle of a large lake in the Otter, between the wind and the waves, it would be an uncomfortable and hard paddle back to shore.
Ive also found it to be a great way to introduce people to watersports. Its stable enough that even beginners can get in and start to paddle without feeling that they are going to flip over and the open cockpit tends to give people more confidence that should they flip, they can get out easily. Ive taught several different people to kayak in the boat.
Overall, the Otter is a great boat for beginners or for more experienced people who are looking for a small, easily maneuvered, knock around kind of boat that really isnt a master of any one kind of water, but more of a jack of all trades. With the Otter Ive been able to paddle on slower rivers, cruise down slightly faster waters and paddle around the shores of various lakes and ponds.
If youve never had a kayak and want to start or youre looking for a lightweight, small, easy to use, knock around kayak for flatwater and slow rivers and streams, then the Otter is definitely worth taking a look it.
At only 9 ? feet in length and 39 pounds in weight, the Otter is easy for a single person to carry and load onto a roof rack. Its also easy to maneuver once you are in the water and it can handle a multitude of different conditions from the placid surface of a lake to the quicker water of a river.
Do yourself a favor and check out the Otter from Old Town Canoe if youre considering buying yourself or someone you know a basic flatwater and slow water boat.