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8 Best-Selling Whitewater Crossover Camping Kayaks

Updated: Apr 1, 2019

Crossover designs have established a huge following in the world of paddling over the last five years becoming the fastest growing segment in whitewater -Liquid Logic.

These crossover kayaks have been described as Life-Style, All Water, Backpack/Pickup trucks.

Peter Holcombe of Famagogo.com and Jackson Kayak found the perfect crossover boat for the Salt River in Arizona.

This winter Isabel and I are planning our 400-mile thru paddle on the New River and Kanawha River, from North Carolina through Virginia and West Virginia to the Ohio River. Ours is the headwaters segment of Thru Paddle 2020, The 70´s Senior Challenge, Headwaters to the Sea.


Autumn afternoon on North Fork of the New River, Ashe County, North Carolina

We will begin in a headwaters stream only a foot deep and fifty feet wide on the North Fork of the New River near the Eastern Continental Divide along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Our launch point is just a few miles from the Appalachian Trail.

Along the way we will paddle north on hundreds of miles of fast water and nearly a hundred miles of flat water backed up by dams.


There will be close to a hundred Class II-III rapids on the upper and middle sections of the river, segueing to Class IV in the Lower New River Gorge.


After kayaking through the Upper New River Gorge and rafting through the Lower New River Gorge we are hoping to take another raft ride through the Class IV section called the Dries depending on dam release schedules. We will pass the confluence of the New River and Gauley River and float into the Kanawha River which we will paddle through the heart of West Virginia.

Three weeks after leaving the highlands of North Carolina we will float under the bridge and into the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia where the river is twenty feet deep and a six hundred feet wide.

Other members of our team will paddle the Ohio River to the confluence of the Mississippi to meet up with team members paddling south on the Mississippi River from Minnesota. They will paddle together to the Gulf of Mexico.

Our purpose is to send a team of 70-year old paddlers all the way from the Eastern Continental Divide to the Gulf of Mexico. Other teams will take the western route from the Eastern Continental Divide by going down the Watuga to the Holston which flows to the Tennessee and on to the Ohio.

Still other members will paddle from the Western Continental Divide and head southeast on the Missouri to the Mississippi and to the Gulf of Mexico.


Our first plan to do this trip included light touring kayaks, about 14 feet long. I wrote a blog called Top 5 Adventure Camping Kayaks about the kayaks we are considering.


Photo by William Pyne, Dagger Stratos 14.5L river touring kayak

Kayak manufacturers are very accommodating when it comes to making these kayaks in his-and-her sizes. Any of the five that I wrote about in that blog would be ideal for our thru paddle.

There was a lot of interest in the kayaks we chose to look at and some suggestions for other touring kayaks to consider, so I will be writing Part Two within the next week or so.

The other suggestions we got for kayaks we should consider was surprising. Several readers suggested using whitewater kayaks.

Stubby, high rocker whitewater kayaks would be very useful in the Class II-III-IV portions of the New River, but they would be too slow and hard to paddle on the hundreds of miles of flat water and swift water sections upriver.

However, the suggestions are for the whitewater crossover models. These crossover models are longer for better tracking and and more speed. They have dry storage for camping gear and food and a skeg for flat water tracking. At least one of these kayaks came from a downriver racing background.



Even though they are faster than typical whitewater play boats the whitewater crossover kayaks are going to be slower on flat water than a typical touring kayak in the 14- to 16-foot range.

But, the increased capabilities in whitewater will offset the need for speed and the whitewater crossovers have more than enough storage capacity for our trip.




Here are the whitewater crossover kayaks we are considering right now. After we have a chance to try these on the river I will write a follow up review of their paddling characteristics.

I like each of these boats so I listed them in alphabetical order rather than appear to show favorites by which was listed first.

Dagger Katana 10.4, $1,229, Class I-IV


Specifications:

LENGTH: 10' 4" / 315 CM

WIDTH: 27.25" / 69 CM

BOAT WEIGHT: 56 LBS. / 25 KG

DECK HEIGHT: 15" / 38 CM

COCKPIT LENGTH: 37" / 94 CM

COCKPIT WIDTH: 20.5" / 52 CM

VOLUME: 104 GAL / 393 L

PADDLER WEIGHT: 155 - 285 LBS. / 70 - 129 KG



Dagger Katana 9.7, $1,299, Class I-IV


Specifications:

LENGTH: 9' 7" / 292 CM

WIDTH: 25.75" / 65 CM

BOAT WEIGHT: 50 LBS. / 23 KG

DECK HEIGHT: 13.5" / 34 CM

COCKPIT LENGTH: 35.5" / 90 CM

COCKPIT WIDTH: 20" / 51 CM

VOLUME: 79 GAL / 299 L

PADDLER WEIGHT: 100 - 210 LBS. / 45 - 95 KG


The Dagger Katana is truly a rough-water capable kayak, professionally outfitted whitewater design and ruggedly built. The Dagger Katana 10.4 and 9.7 have the real Dagger whitewater seating which I find incredibly comfortable for all day paddling. It has Contour Ergo Creek Outfitting, Ratchet Adjustable Backband, Roto Molded Seating with Leg Lifter.

For camping on up to Class III I would take out the adjustable roto molded plate footrest and install the Harmony Slide-lock footbrace system which is plenty strong enough for moderate whitewater. Removing the factory footrest will make additional room available in the bow for SealLine tapered dry bags for cargo and to add flotation.

Do this with caution however, depending on the severity of the rapids you will be running. Whitewater boats are built to withstand tremendous pressure in massive whitewater. The footrest bulkhead is designed as a safety against the bow being crushed and trapping the paddler if pinned.

The Katana has an oversize cockpit for a whitewater boat which is better for long hours of downriver paddling. It also has precision adjustable thigh braces, contour hip pads with extra minicell foam shims, comfort carry handles and the TruTrak adjustable skeg system that works flawlessly.

The stern hatch offers watertight storage. The skeg control is on the right beside the cockpit and a drain plug is on the left behind the seat and just forward of the rear bulkhead.

This is a serious whitewater tripping boat fully capable of Class III and higher with a competent paddler.

Dagger Axis 12 $959 Class I-II (III with capable paddler)


Specifications:

LENGTH: 12' / 366 CM

WIDTH: 27.5" / 70 CM

BOAT WEIGHT: 55 LBS. / 25 KG

DECK HEIGHT: 15.25" / 39 CM

COCKPIT LENGTH: 38" / 97 CM

COCKPIT WIDTH: 21" / 53 CM

MAX CAPACITY: 350 LBS. / 159 KG


Dagger Axis 10.5 $859, Class I-II (III with capable paddler)


Specifications:

LENGTH: 10' 6" / 320 CM

WIDTH: 28.5" / 72 CM

BOAT WEIGHT: 50 LBS. / 23 KG

DECK HEIGHT: 16" / 41 CM

COCKPIT LENGTH: 38" / 97 CM

COCKPIT WIDTH: 21" / 53 CM

MAX CAPACITY: 300 LBS. / 136 KG


The Dagger Axis 10.5 and Dagger Axis 12 are recreational-hybrid. More suited for quiet water and easy whitewater. They cost less than the other boats in our list.

The first whitewater crossover boat I ever paddled was the old Dagger Approach, a recreational kayak that we used in Class I-II whitewater.

The Dagger Approach was one of the first of the skeg-mounted river runners and it was a success inasmuch as usage was concerned, but quality of the boat was lacking. I remember my skeg kept popping off its plastic axle. Dagger discontinued the Approach to bring out the Axis and the improvements are quite significant.

The Dagger Axis is an ideal kayak for a rental fleet on lakes or rivers. It is easy to turn yet easy to paddle straight with the use of the drop down skeg. The long cockpit makes it easy for larger people to get in and out and the stability encourages confidence for newbie paddlers. The Axis cockpit is big enough to carry a child or dog between the knees.

The seat is a recreational quality (thin) seat pan with high seat back. For serious whitewater the seat should be replaced with the Dagger whitewater outfitting or at least replace the high seat back with a good back band such as the Immersion Research Reggie.

There is a paddle park strap on the left of the cockpit and the skeg control is on the right of the cockpit.

The cockpit has knee pads instead of knee braces. Knee pads are adequate for mild whitewater. The foot pegs are easily adjustable, and there is room ahead of the foot pegs for tapered dry bags to add cargo space and flotation.

The rear compartment is dry and offers plenty of room for larger gear, and there is room behind the seat for additional gear.

The front deck is unusually high, and the boat is unusually wide, so a longer kayak paddle will work better. There is room under the front deck between the knees to install a North Water under-deck bag and room on the front deck for a spare paddle and a Advanced Elements waterproof deck bag.




This can of course be taken to an extreme as you can see in the photo of the Pyranha Fusion. Normally we would not pile the gear so high on the decks, depending on your situation and the type of water you are running, and your own skills as a paddler.

Photo by Imyers Buena Vista, Colorado, Pyranha Fusion whitewater crossover

The bags on deck can interfere with rolling the kayak. But sometimes the air trapped in the float bags on the front and bag decks can act like a float, helping roll the kayak back upright.


Jackson Kayak Karma RG, photo courtesy BristleconeMountainSports.com

Jackson Karma RG, $1,299.00, Class 1-IV


KARMA RG

Max paddler (lbs)110 to 325

Size (inseam + footsize) 0 to 56

Length 11'10

Width 25

Cockpit Size

34.5″X 20.25″

Height 14.75″

Material Linear Poly

MSRP (US $) $1,299.00

Rear Hatch Yes;

Round 9.375

Rudder Type Skeg

Seat Type Whitewater w/ Seat Pad

Total Capacity 325

Volume 94 gallons

Weight (Pounds) 56

The Jackson Karma RG (stands for Rock Garden, or Ready to Go) is a leader in the whitewater crossover genre, birthed out of the famous Jackson Kayak Karma UL.

The Karma RG is a whitewater playboat that thinks its a river tripper. This is an expedition boat for extended whitewater and mixed water anywhere from park and play to extended thru-paddles.

A disadvantage to the RG is the small hatch opening, necessitating all the gear and food bags be small and to take a little extra time packing and unpacking.

The upside for this kayak is the overall length lends speed, the skeg lends tracking for downriver miles. But when it comes time to play the width and rocker lend stability and maneuverability.

The back hatch may be small, but there is plenty of room for extended tripping cargo and additional room on deck for deck bags fore and aft.


Jackson Kayak Traverse 9, $1,199, Clas I-IV

Jackson Kayak Traverse 9

Length 9'8

Width 25.5

MSRP (US $) $1,199

Total Capacity 270

Volume 86

Weight (Pounds) 48


Jackson Kayak Traverse 10, $1199, Class I-IV

Jackson Kayak Traverse 10

Length 10'4

Width 27

MSRP (US $) $1,199.00

Total Capacity 300

Volume 102

Weight (Pounds) 52


The Jackson Traverse comes in two sizes, 9-foot and 10-foot to fit paddlers of almost any size or ability. Jackson Kayaks says, ¨The KARMA TRAVERSE mates a stretched, slightly wider version of the the highly acclaimed Karma with unique features to make for one of the most versatile kayaks ever.

While the Traverse will handle whitewater with ease, its longer waterline and retractable skeg make for less effort when knocking out miles of flatwater. Yakattack rails allow for attachment of all sorts of accessories like camera mounts, smart phone holders, fishing rod holders, cup holders and more.

Full JK whitewater outfitting including the Unishock footrest system and an optional implosion- proof "Expedition" rear hatch cover make the Traverse truly expedition-ready. One boat for many waters and many uses...the Traverse.¨

Liquid Logic Remix XP 10, $999, Class I-IV

Specifications

Weight: 49 lbs.

Length: 10' 3"

Width: 28"

Volume: 397 liters.

Max Capacity: 300 lbs.

Cockpit Dimensions (L × W): 38.00 × 21.50"


Liquid Logic Remix XP 9, $999, Class I-IV

Weight: 46 lbs

Length: 9' 2"

Width: 26"

Volume: 276 liters

Max Capacity: 220 lbs

Cockpit Dimensions (L × W): 36.00 × 21.50"

The interest in designing whitewater crossover kayaks initially was because of the company's interest in doing long-range self-supported whitewater trips such as in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.

The Liquid Logic Remix platform grew out of the company's river runner designs, with added length and a little less rocker for speed, and an expedition size rear hatch for camping. The skeg serves to off-set the annoying veer on flat water so common in whitewater kayaks.

The Remix became the backpack/pickup truck for these 12-day expeditions, doing the heavy hauling with aplomb then turning into a whitewater play boat on command. Self-supported whitewater camping trips are the forte of these beautifully designed and ruggedly built boats and they are just plain fun to paddle on day trips up to multi-day expeditions.


Liquid Logic Stinger XP, $1,199, Class I-IV

Length 12´5¨

Width 24.25¨

Weight 55 pounds

Paddler weight 100-300 pounds

The Stinger XP represents the next level in Crossover design, growing out of the whitewater downriver racing kayak Stinger designed for the famous Green River Race.

This game changing design of the Stinger XP combines the speedy performance of its race-dominating sibling with the convenience and tracking of our award winning Remix XP design. The combination provides a truly one of a kind race ready expedition kayak for intermediates and seasoned boaters alike. The Stinger XP's back hatch and spring-loaded skeg ensure it functions efficiently when loaded to the gills with camping gear for flatwater and mixed current expeditions.


Pyranha Fushion II Large $1099 Class I-IV

Length 10´4¨

Width 27.5¨

Weight 54#

Paddler weight 176-286


Pyranha Fushion II Medium $1099 Class I-IV

Length 10´4¨

Width 26¨

Weight 50#

Paddler weight 121-243


Pyranha Fushion II Small $1099 Class I-IV

Length 9´ 8¨

Width 25¨

Weight 44#

Paddler weight 88-176


The Pyranha Fusion II series offers a combination of moderate length waterline, balanced rocker profile, and retractable skeg. You can be fast on the flat and manoeuvrable on the river, whilst the adjustable outfitting and spacious cockpit offer security, control, and comfort in equal measures.

Do not confuse the Fusion II with the original Fusion which had the plastic day hatch on the front deck. That model has been discontinued.

The skeg control design is a little different on the Fusion II, located in front of and to the left of the cockpit. On the right as part of the deck rigging is a paddle park clip, and on the left behind the cockpit is a very convenient drain plug. Mounting rails offer places to mount rod holders and cameras.

Multi-adjustable outfitting allows for day-long paddling comfort in a boat designed for whitewater agility and downriver performance.




WaveSport Ethos 10, $1155

LENGTH: 10' 3" / 312 CM

WIDTH: 27" / 69 CM

BOAT WEIGHT: 53 LBS. / 24 KG

DECK HEIGHT: 14.75" / 37 CM

COCKPIT LENGTH: 36" / 92 CM

COCKPIT WIDTH: 20.5" / 52 CM

VOLUME: 100 GAL / 379 L

PADDLER WEIGHT: 150 - 260 LBS. / 68 - 118 KG


Wavesport Ethos 9, $1155

LENGTH: 291 cm / 9' 7"

VOLUME: 303 L / 80 gal

WIDTH: 65 cm / 25.75"

DECK HEIGHT: 34 cm / 13.5"

COCKPIT: 92 x 52 cm / 36" x 20.5"

BOAT WEIGHT: 22 kg / 49 lbs.

PADDLER WEIGHT: 41 - 91 kg / 90 - 200 lbs.


The Ethos is a stable, forgiving, performance-minded crossover platform that offers a confidence- building introduction to paddling whitewater. The hull is manoeuvrable in rapids, yet tracks well on flat water with the help of a drop down skeg system. Offering outstanding comfort on long, multi-day river treks due to the roomy cockpit, sizeable gear-storage space and the trusty BlackOut Outfitting. 

In the context of the 3-week thru-paddle that Isabel and I are planning the importance of a kayak that can track straight on the flats and act like a river runner on the whitewater is all important. All-day paddling comfort is very high on our list, too.

We need reasonable speed and ease of paddling so we can cover the miles without being totally exhausted at the end of the day. Stability and maneuverability in the challenging whitewater of the Upper and Lower New River Gorge are critical.

Cargo room is important to us, too, because we will be carrying our kit for three weeks. There are towns along the way where we can stop and re-supply food. Our plan is to prepare our meals ahead of time in freezer bags and then mail drop to convenient stops along the river. We are planning on two mail drops.

There are 7 dams and 2 waterfalls that require us to portage. We will be able to use the portage cart on some of the portages. During the portage our paddling gear will stow in the cockpit and our paddles will strap to the deck.

The back hatch will carry about 50 liters of gear and clothing. In the bow we will take out the bulkhead foot brace and replace it with foot pegs since we are not intending to run any whitewater where there is a chance of being pinned.

Then we can fit a 20 liter tapered dry bag in the bow in front of the foot pegs securely fastened against coming loose in a wet exit. The bow bag will provide dry storage and flotation.

These whitewater crossover kayaks come in small, medium and large sizes, so we will be able to size the boat to fit our body size and type. I'm 5´9¨ and 180 pounds and Isabel is 5´ 3¨ and 110 pounds.

It is important that the boat fits. I once spent a day paddling a Liquid Logic Remix XP10 which was tremendously large for me. The width and deck height caused me to spread my pelvis too much creating excruciating pain after about 3 hours. The Remix XP9 would be a much better option for me.

Another concern about the wide bodies and high decks is knocking knuckles on the sides of the boat during the paddle stroke. The wider bodies also require a longer paddle and a high angle whitewater technique instead of a low angle touring technique.

After trying these kayaks over the next few months I´ll write a review following up on this article. It is certainly a very exciting time for us to be be checking out all these new boats and planning our trip.

If you have comments and suggestions please feel free to comment below or contact me at www.AndyLeeOutdoors.com. Thanks for reading, I look forward to hearing from you.


Andy Lee is the author of Five Hundred Miles to the Sea; Adventure Canoe and Kayak Campiing Book 1. He is the administrator of the Facebook groups Adventure Canoe and Kayak Camping and Virginia Paddlers.





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