Research Kayaks in the Buyers' Guide!
Select Kayak to View in Buyers' Guide
I'm about 5'10" tall, weigh about 175#, am 41 years old, in reasonably good condition for someone whose work is full-time and sedentary.
Prior to taking up kayaking this season (spring/summer '05), my experience paddling has been the occasional rental canoe on lakes and rivers, and a miserable sea-kayaking experience at Toyon on Catalina Island in one of those pointy, double-ended, round-bottomed fiberglass boats that were pretty worn out by the time we used them on that Eighth Grade weekend field trip.
Other moving-water experience was several years surfing longer boards as a teenager in SoCal.
I've paddled the E68 now for something like 20 or so hours, cannot tell you how many miles that's been. A couple of outings have been at least 12 or 13 miles each. Most of my paddles in this kayak have been between five and eight miles.
Comparing its assembly to my Puffin II, the E68 is easier, but a little more time consuming to assemble. Takes me about 40 minutes to assemble the E68, and I actually sort of enjoy doing it.
Disassembly is faster. The boat's original giant-size backpack was not included when I bought it, so I'm using two military style duffles - one of standard size to keep the skin and ribs (packed in the skin's folds), and the other for the longer pieces - a duffle the other is larger, about 52" high and proportionately wide, for the chine, keel, gunwale, coaming, and paddle. Both bags combined weigh about 70 pounds. Both bags, plus a smaller rucksack containing pfd, sprayskirt, etc., all fit in a Volvo 850 trunk with one of the rear seats folded forward.
I have paddled the E68 in windy, choppy, rainy, clear, glassy-calm, very hot, small river (paddling upstream & floating back down) and, today, near freezing (air temp) conditions. Assembly has been easy in all weather, the boat is reasonably fast, very stable (secondarily), dry (if you're careful with paddle splash), warm (with knees wedged between carling & gunwale), cool (with sprayskirt off in summer), in the above stated conditions.
The E68 came with a rudder that I have never used. The cords running from the pedals (which affix to the heel-plate) to the rudder cables are too short to allow me to position the heel-plate with pedals comfortably. I have never felt the need to use a rudder, the kayak will turn around pretty handily when leaned, and without a sprayskirt, I don't lean it very hard. I've never paddled this boat with more than 10 or 15 pounds of gear, so don't know whether it will need a rudder when loaded with a 100 pounds or so of camping gear.
I think this boat would benefit from a forward hatch. My understanding is that later production runs of the E68 included a standard forward hatch. I've purchased a couple of NRS Swift Canoe bags for additional floatation, and it'd be nice to be able to complete the bow bag's inflation from the hatch. On the other hand, stuff forward the foot pedals is pretty easy to get at by reaching under the deck from the cockpit.
The E68's standard feature perimeter line with many D-rings and a deck bungee are very helpful.
The cockpit's carlings are probably my favorite feature - I can wedge my knees between them and the gunwales, or draw my knees up and press them against the carlings. The carlings and the heel-plate allow me to sort of fuse my frame with that of the boat, essentially making me a large skin-on-frame animal that uses a prying tool for propulsion (not, necessarily, a smart or especially skilled animal).
Another E68 paddler I know of has modified his boat's cockpit with a back-band, which he says gives him a greater feeling of control while paddling.
The skin requires airing out before packing, or it will tend to shrink a little, making frame insertion difficult and frustrating.
My one experience with said shrinking was after an all night shift at a hurricane relief shelter, cadged about four hours sleep, then got the bright idea to go paddling on the local lake in the early afternoon before reporting for the next shift. Really bad idea - lack of sleep amplified the frustration of attempting to put the frame into the slightly shrunk skin. If the boat had not been so well constructed, I would probably have broken something. Lack of sleep also made what should have been a pleasant eight or so mile paddle feel like some kind of endurance test - I'll not make that mistake again.
I still rate this boat an 8 out of 10. It'd be a ten, I think, if I were a more experienced paddler, had a front hatch (rear deck closure permits easy access to huge volume of space behind the seatback), and a better seatback set up to facilitate forward lean, rather than backward. The Pouch E68 "Single 2000" is probably the Volvo C70 convertible low pressure turbo of folding kayaks. This is a great boat. Now I'm coveting the Pouch RZ96.
The conditions were windier-than-predicted, sunny, with a temperature of about 85 F. The water's surface appeared to move in swells and small wind chop, in addition to the usual boat wakes. The E68 seemed very stable in those conditions, showed a slighter tendency to weather-cock (I think it's called) than the Puffin.
Assembly was very easy, albeit a little more time consuming than my Puffin II. This boat is about five years old and has the quarter-turn fasteners - although Pouch appears to be using a different fastener method now, the older fittings worked without any problem. The assembled frame feels very tight/sturdy.
Putting the frame in the hull is very easy, as is centering same. I unhooked the foredeck rigging before inserting the frame. The excenter - tail lever / skin tensioner - worked easily. The previous own modified the sponsons' air tubes so that they are inflated in tandem, therefore evenly. Worked great - much better than counting puffs or pumps.
Assembled, the boat, skin and frame together, make a tight unit that weighs may sixty or so pounds, and is, for me, light enough to shoulder carry to and from the water.
I didn't use the rudder because had not been able to practice assembling the boat with rudder - pedals arrived in the mail after my practice assembly Thursday.
In photographs, the boat's stern half appears much lower than the forward section, but during my time on the water, the boat's rear deck appeared to remain completely dry. Shipped no water through the small rudder cable openings in back.
I was able in the "Single 2000" to paddle about twice as far (about nine miles, total) than I normally do in the same amount of time with the Puffin II. The Pouch glides for a long way after the last stroke, and tracks well during the glide or while paddling. The boat's initial stability was considerably less than my Puffin II paddled solo, but, by starting out cautiously, I was pretty quickly accustomed to the boat, confident that I would be able to keep my seat in normal conditions. Tried leaning to facilitate turns with success.
The only water that actually got in the boat was what came in with my shoes. I wore a sprayskirt that the seller kindly threw in with the boat - possibly too small for the cockpit opening because, although I tightened the cord around underneath the cockpit rim, it pulled off in back three or four times when I leaned forward, head down, paddling into the wind using maybe exaggerated torso rotation. I probably looked ridiculous, but made good progress.
The Pouch's heel-plates were a big help in transforming paddling effort into boat-through-water progress. I will have to adjust them a little better next time to make good use of the cockpit's carlings. The stock seatback was not uncomfortable, but did maybe help me lean back more than I wanted to. The stock seat, itself, was pretty comfortable.
In terms of temperature, I remained pretty comfortable under the deck and the sprayskirt, but did sweat some. Don't think it added much to the shoe-water in the bilge.
The drum like sounds of paddle-splash beating against the sprayskirt and foredeck were pleasing to hear. I also really liked the deck rigging and perimeter deck line. This is a splendid boat. This was the best bang for my limited boat bucks. I am very happy with my decision to purchase this much used, somewhat faded vessel.
Two other beginner kayakers were struggling against the wind and chop in what appeared to be twelve foot fiberglass round bottom boats. I felt like I had a real kayak, and they were messing around with beach toys.
Only reason I didn't give the boat a higher rating is my relative inexperience with kayaks, generally.
100,000+ people can't be wrong!
The Paddling.net Newsletter is a must if you like to canoe or kayak! Each week it is packed with great articles, photos, product reviews, and special features. Better yet, we promise not to sell your email address to anyone; that's right ZERO spam! Sign up today and find out what you've been missing!