The Good and the Bad: a full run down from store to expedition
We got the Equinox kayaks recently from Costco. They were an amazing wedding gift from Jen’s brother his wife. We used them on our honeymoon, living out of them for five days, and got to see first hand where they shine and where they come up short. Before you take the the plunge and commit to buying one here’s what we loved and what we wish was better.
A little about on our trip
Jen and I spent five days in April along the Rio Grande, in Big Bend National Park surviving from our Equinox Kayaks. The river was a mix Class I and II rapids since the flow rate was around 150 cubic feet per second. As a result of the low water, our kayaks consistently dragged the rocks lining the rapids of the Rio Grande.
The Hull integrity
Having owned kayaks previously I’ve witnessed kayaks crack and break under those conditions. There were moments when I thought ours may not make it. They came through like champs though without cracks or breakage. It was actually somewhat astonishing to see the bottoms after the trip. I had expected to see gouges and cuts, but they were unblemished.
This thing has a cargo capacity of a Big Bend Burro!
If you plan and pack well there is plenty of storage to pack all that you could need for a week in the wild. At the start of the trip we each had food for three days, three gallons of water, clothes, gear, medicine, cameras and even a couple books. Still,m we had room to spare.
This particular model boasts about 60L of dry storage space. Then there’s a spot to strap a 40L dry bag (bought separately)with the kayak’s attached bungees on top of the rear storage. There is also plenty of room in the hull between your feet for storage. This is quiet an astonishing amount of storage, with the real limit being the total carrying load of the kayak, which is 275 pounds. Depending on your own weight, you can bring quite a lot with you. It was a welcome change from backpacking to be able to bring a few luxuries.
We did try to keep the weight down though as should you on any remote trip. This is especially true in Big Bend National Park where rescue parties are not sent for groups or pairs of back country explorers. With Jen’s lesser weight we could manage both of us aboard a single craft with food and water to get back to civilization in an emergency.
Made for tall folks, pack a booster if your under 5’8″
The depth of the seat of the kayak forced Jen to elevate her shoulders in an unnatural paddling position. The second day her shoulders were very sore from the awkward position of the day before. Big Bend makes you bring a secondary floatation device in case you lose one. Jen ended up using hers as a booster seat and it worked perfectly. With the booster in place paddling was comfortable and natural.
While Jen had to make adjustments, I at 6′ tall, found it absolutely perfect. No matter what position I tried, I was never uncomfortable inside the Equinox kayak.
The Bad: Design Flaws and Cheap Plastic
After a week of extended use we only found a single design flaw which I would definitely recommend you fix yourself before heading out.
Up a river without a paddle
That’s how you might find yourself, if you don’t fix that poorly placed paddle strap. Most kayaks have a paddle strap. Usually this strap is a bungee that passes over the paddle and latches to a hook on the cockpit, it holds the paddle tight against the kayak and snugged into the crease between the deck and the cockpit.
The Equinox kayak strategically placed it’s hook right in that crease. We would have thought it to be a fluke if both didn’t have it. The misplaced feature meant that instead of the deck of the kayak supporting the whole length of the paddle and the bungee holding it in place, all the support came from the bungee alone, a single point. This meant any paddle placed in it was unsecure and floppy, susceptible to loss. Other kayaks like the Ascend line at Bass Pro place this hook right. They are also almost twice the price…..so there’s that.
While we only found that one design flaw, we found more instances of poor craftsmanship.
Don’t trust cheap plastic
The seat is mounted on by a series of little plastic buttons. Buttons made of cheap plastic. After 3 days these little buttons began popping off one by one, and our seats began to move and require resetting. We are contacting the manufacturer about replacements. The craft is under a 1 year warranty and I think breakage after 4 days should be covered.
We will definitely update the article with their response. I feel confident they will fix it. They are a domestic company made in the USA .
Hit it with the hot glue
The seals around the dry storage are not glued in place. This allows them to shift and let small amounts of water into the dry storage. On our trip we consistently found the things in our dry storage damp. This was in just class I and II rapids. I can only imagine how bad it would be in real rapids.
A simple fix for this is to glue those foam seals in place. In the video below you can see how loose they were after 4 days.
Bottom line is that you will not find a better deal on a kayak at this price. At least not one capable of overnights, carrying gear, and taking you any where the water goes. I think the next closest competitor was nearly double the price. We found ours for $300, but I know that in other locales prices can vary. For instance in West Palm Beach, FL they were $350.
I would highly recommend this kayak for anyone. It is well suited for beginners as a displacement type hull that tracks well. It has ample storage and takes a beating well.
We are super happy about these and we’ll put them to good use making memories.