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Reviews for Cape Horn 170 Kayak by Wilderness Systems


Rated: 8.89/10 Based On: 18 Reviews

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08-12-2011
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     I like this boat very much. I have paddled & owned roughly 20 boats, from Valley Skerrey (roto), Necky Looksha (glass), P & H Sirius (glass), etc. Mine is plastic w/ a rudder. It's a bit cumbersome to on the shoulder, but on the water this boat performs well. It tracks well without the rudder deployed, it fast, it edges nicely. Great for over night trips. It can also be rolled fairly easily with the rudder.
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06-22-2011
Submitted by: MarkSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     Reviewer Profile: 'glass Cape Horn w/rudder, 5'9, 180, 20 yrs paddling.
The Cape Horn is an impressive boat. Well build, good fit and finish. It is the perfect expedition kayak by my standard - an ideal mix for long trips. I own a "faster" kayak (s-18 Falcon) which is great for zipping around on a training paddle, but if I am going to spend hours and cover miles I much prefer the slightly shorter and slightly more stable Horn. It handles rough water really well with it's high bow and sharp entry, is stable enough that you aren't constantly vigilant and has plenty of room for packing.

Now, here is the interesting part. Accepting that the Horn is a great tourer the obvious question (as asked by several reviewers) is one of speed. Well, on my quick-paddle exercise loop the speedy Falcon is consistently only about 1:00 faster than the Horn over five miles/one hour. Consider it. The Wilderness Systems is Just 1/60th slower than the performance Falcon but the Cape Horn 17 is so much more flippin' user friendly!

Great all around boat, and pretty sexy.

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08-17-2007
Submitted by: Capn' Crunch
Rating: 8 of 10

     For starters I will say that I have only a year of paddling history, but mileage to make up for 10. Just finished the MS river from Itasca to Head of Passes. I bought my Cape Horn last year ('06 model). Mainly I do rec touring, but started racing as well.

I see many of y'all mention speed. It's fairly fast for what it is, I averaged 5mph on the trip. Fastest recorded speed on my GPS was 13mph (well I was drafting a barge) My Horn is used for everything. Camping, racing and touring. It does it all.

I have found the boat to be comfortable for 8 to 10 hours although the back rest will recline some after several hours if you lean back to stretch a good bit. The thing held water out very well, with the exception of the open section for the carry handle loop. It tracks pretty well, although high winds (15 to 35mph) tend to shove it around. Rudder works good, just have to watch the sliders they are susceptible to dirt and trash (guess they all are).

As far as stability goes this thing is a rock. I can lean it over quickly, cockpit to water line and back to the other side no prob. Only got dumped once, 3 1/2ft whitecaps and and one got me when I wasn't looking. Wet exited, righted the boat and climbed back in, paddled behind a jetty wall at a lock, bailed it and continued.

Super solid, almost indestructible boat. I have a rumpled nose from an incident with a garage (try that with a composite boat) I plowed marsh and granite on the upper river, full load drags around a few portages, forcibly rammed it over beaver dams and parked it on rip rap. It looks a bit worn now but is still super serviceable.

I am a naturally athletic, 6ft 155lb guy. I don't know hardly any of the fancy kayaking terms, just taught myself to paddle. If you are in the market for a boat with good tracking, cargo hauling, butt hauling, stability, comfort and durability this is the boat for you. I now paddle a Ruahine Intruige for races. I will have the good ole Capn' Crunch with me for the rest of my life.

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08-14-2007
Submitted by: MikeSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I have owned a WS Cape Horn 170 for 4 years now and still love it just as much as the day I bought it. It truly is a fast, stable, and comfortable boat. I am 235lbs, 6 foot - this is a great kayak for bigger paddlers with lots of room. Also lots of storage space for overnight trips. Seat is comfortable, however I continuously have problems with keeping the back seat in the higher position. It is unfortunate that WS has stopped production of this line. If you are looking to buy a used one, I highly recommend it.
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10-30-2006
Submitted by: higginsg2003Send Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     I'm 6'4"/220 lbs with size 12 feet. The only complaint I have is that there's not enough room for my feet to move around comfortably.
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08-21-2006
Submitted by: JAMSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I am 5'10" 280lbs, so I am a big guy in a slender boat. The first trip in the poly Cape Horn 17 was on the Chipola river in Florida. I capsized within 20 seconds of leaving the shore. I exited the cockpit without any difficulty(actually, the boat threw my inexperienced butt out): Pumped out the boat and was just fine the rest of the 5 hour trip.

The second trip was in Indian Pass on Appalachicola Bay in Florida. I got out into the middle of the pass and slowly capsized. A jelly fish came along and gave me a painfull hello as I was being towed back by a friend. After pumping out the boat I did fine on the next crossing attempt. I concur with the other reviewers; the Cape Horn 17 is fast, tracks great, and yes, the openings for the deck lines do leak a bit, but not more that a cup of water got in for hours of operation. I hit some rocks on the shoreline going really fast with only a few small dings in the bow to show for it.

The boat is a bit heavy, but with a hull roller on my Aveo, I can easily cartop the boat myself. I am sure once I get the weight off the secondary stability of the Cape Horn will not be a problem for me. I can be dry and slow in a rec boat or fast and wet, I choose fast and wet. Buy the boat; you will be the fastest boat on the water.

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05-03-2006
Submitted by: DmitriSend Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     This is review #2 as i've had the boat longer and now sold it.

Complaints: Outfitting is very recreational. The non-adjustable molded-in knee braces that are actually angled funny,at least for me.The seat back is rigid,high and hinged so its comfortable but not good for layback manouvers. Boat is quite un-watertight. with 2 seasons of use, the rear bulkhead leaked bad and it leaked through seat bolts and most spots where perimeter line goes through. Way to go WS, save 25c worth of plastic and make a leaky boat.

Still think it's a great hull shape, which by the way isn't any less prone to oil canning than any other rotomolded kayak out there, don't kid yourself about the molded keel keeping things rigid, it wouldve probably tried to oilcan worse than it did, but still it developed warpage in the front. Won't touch another Wilderness Systems boat for the very mediocre fit n finish, it could've totaly been a 9/10 if they put more thought into it.

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09-28-2005
Submitted by: DmitriSend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     I got a one year old blue plastic Cape Horn 170 for a pretty decent deal after renting a similar one previously.

First off, to throw a few stones at other reviewers: Fiberglass boats are NOT fragile, are easily fixed, and don't scratch near as easy as plastic. Just don't go rock bashing with one. And, "lean turning" is actually a legitimate and effective technique for making a long touring kayak turn quicker without use of rudder. Not just to 'look cool', though I think some people do use it to show off their skill.

Back to the boat: It has pretty decent speed, I second the 6-7 km/h claim with only cruising effort. It is pretty damn stable, primary and secondary stability. Phase 3 seat IS good. But, to me, not really any comfier than the previous generation seat. Only believe the advertising if it fits YOUR ass/back.

Tracking-It tracks fine in flat water, but in rough water, cross winds and following/quartering seas, the tracking really shines. I only used rudder once. The boat lost 2 points for what I believe are quality issues.

First and foremost is itís as watertight as Iíd like-water seeps a bit through hatches and fasteners. Worse yet, the hole that the perimeter rescue line goes through in the very nose of the boat can leak water in- i was very unimpressed when I saw water run out of there when I turned the boat upside down after couple hours in rough water. Since then I sealed it. Easy enough a fix, but I believe it should have been taken care of at the factory.

Second, I donít like how you have to turn the strap clips to get hatches off, means you canít have the bolts tight enough for max water tightness.

All n all, itís a great entry level touring kayak that can do it all.

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05-19-2005
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     First of all this boat is a pleasure to look at, beautiful graceful lines with the low rear deck and high front deck. I also am a fan of the "plastic" boats, and would worry too much about my precious glass being scratched or cracked if I paddled a glass boat (that and the price tags on glass boats are a little out of my league). I got my brand new Blue Cape Horn 17 off of ebay at a killer deal $800.00 for the boat and rudder system from an outfitter in Wyoming, (brand new, and they even delivered) in December and have loved this boat. Just took it back up to my homeland (South Puget Sound) for a mini-trip and this boat is fun to paddle, haven't had the boat out in the ocean but soon, Kokatat drysuit is on its way and then I'll learn how to roll this boat, shouldn't be a problem, soon as I get the drysuit and learn the roll I'll write some feedback. On to the judgement!
  1. SEAT--Best, most comfortable seat on the market!! Hands down a perfect 10
  2. HULL--Getting used to the secondary stability, its there though, good thick plastic on the rotomold with good seam.
  3. DECK/RIGGING/HATCHES--Hatches could be a tad larger, don't like how hatch covers slip under the clips
  4. RUDDER--great rudder system, just as good as perception's rudder system, smooth, easy, well-made.
I'm 6'1" 220lbs and the boat is a nice fit with a little room left over. Fun boat, ocean-capable, can't wait to roll it.

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07-19-2004
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I am in my third year of kayaking and I have tried out many kayaks,the cape horn 17 is by far the best kayak that i have used. I am 256 lbs. and 6ft., the fit is great I have installed the smart track system and the 20 mile trips I take are a real blast. I also believe that the poly boat is the best buy because the durability for a new kayaker. I hope that the do not stop production so that when this one wears out I can buy a new one.
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09-18-2003
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I recently moved up to a Cape Horn 17 from the Cape Horn 15. Although I tried and like the Tempest 170, I did not like the fact that is does not have a surf rudder, as the skeg was not that effective for tracking in a strong cross wind.

First thing I notice is that the cockpit is a bit harder to get into than on the 15. Once in though, there's plenty of leg room. Also the new Phaze3 seats are a huge improvement over the old ones and you can stay on the water for many hours without having leg cramps or ass aches.

On the water, I initially found it a bit more tippy but got used to this very quickly once I realised that there was plenty of secondary stability. Tracking is not as good as the 15 with the rudder up, I think the 17 has more rocker, but on a positive note it's real easy to turn. With the rudder down, cross winds and surfing is a breaze. I thind though that the rudder system on the 17 is more sensitive to slight adjustments from the pedles than on the 15. Something else to get used to!

I took it out a few times on Lake Ontario around Toronto in what are rough conditions for the region: 60 kph winds and 1-2m waves. It is a much drier ride and almost no water gets into the cockpit or hatches.

On average I can manage 6-7 kph without having to strain myself, so it's quicker than the 15.

One last thing, I'm happy that WS offered the kayak in orange because now I am a lot more visible to traffic (unlike my grey-white 15 that blended in with choppy waves).

The only thing that could be improved upon is if they used a rubber hatch system like that on the Tempest 170.

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06-13-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     I'm 5'10" 240 lbs. I bought 2002 Cape Horn 17 Roto. Aqua blue. This is my first kayak. I recently took a kayak fundamental course on a lake active with powerboat wakes, and it seemed to handle fine, even with wakes rolling port and starboard. It really built my confidence in the boat and the sport. I kept up with all of the glass boats. I just didn't get that on edge thing too well. Maybe i need to reduce my gut a bit and stretch my stomach muscles to get it. But like I said, I'm a beginner.
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12-02-2002
Submitted by: rehSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Cape Horn 17 (plastic). Like several others in this forum, I also bought my spouse a Cape Horn 15 (about six months later). I spent lots of time looking at other boats- especially the Necky line. The main criteria for my first purchase was how well the boat fit me. I'm over 6'4" and 260 lbs. After owning the boats for over a year, I am very satisfied in all respects- they are comfortable, fast and (the 15 is by far the more attractive however). My only complaint is too few opportunities to paddle...well, I guess I would be happier if the cockpit was long enough for me to get my legs in and out like more petite folks....
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09-27-2002
Submitted by: JPSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     After reading many reviews on this (very good) web site, I thought it was time to throw my two cents in.

I bought a Cape Horn 17 earlier this year (2002) as my third kayak (after a Necky Santa Cruze and a Necky Eskia) in less than a year after taking up this ridiculously addicting sport. I thought very long and hard about a glass boat, but I AM NOT the candidate for anything that fragile. I am 5'11", 165 pounds, athletic and somewhat reckless (also occassional mountain biker). So...I wanted plastic (beach it anywhere the urge hits me, drag it across rocks, plow over rocks, into rocks, under rocks, and literally toss it on the roof of the Jeep). I wanted speed (7.1 m.p.h. when I "get on it") and I wanted that FANTASTIC seat (the most important thing is its adjustment range--when the back hurts, just change the lumbar support).

The primary is very, very good (I fly fish from it). The secondary--well, who cares? I can't seem to understand the importance of this "lean turn" stuff, unless it's like pulling wheelies on a bike--you do it to look cool--nothing wrong with that. I've done plenty of lean turns (and, nope, the secondary on the Cape Horn 17 isn't as dependable as even my Necky Eskia, as I found out when I tested its limit, going butt-over-teapot so hard I was actually thrown out of the cockpit one night). I spin the puppy around with the rudder (EGAD! He uses a RUDDER! Yes, I am the "anti-poser") just as tight, and the Cape Horn 17's rudder surface area is very well matched to the boat and offers no drag--I prefer to use it all the time so I can concentrate on delivering maximum power from a smooth stroke (to get the speed-I-need).

For athletic paddlers,the good primary is important. Strong strokers will wind up bobbing between opposite secondary stability points like a pendulum on something tippier, like a Necky Looksha IV, like I did.

The keel is cool. It really adds to the arrow-like tracking and lets you give the tie down straps a good tug when you travel, without worrying about oil canning the hull.

The hatches could have larger openings, and the rear leaks a little bit in the big water (wouldn't know about rolling--I think rolls are for having with coffee--the only time I've tipped is when I've done it to myself).

So, if you want to go anywhere (3-4 foot waves/wakes in the Hudson River--no problem), beach the boat on barnacles (and actually think a scratched up hull is a sign of having fun), like to fish, like to, and have the strength to be, the fastest thing out there (Canadian Geese have to take flight, hard, to get away from me) and appreciate a cup holder in a seat that is an exact fit for a Foster's "oil can," BUY THIS BOAT.

The better half (5'2", 125 lbs.) has the Cape Horn 14, and we are so perfectly matched (do the math--length, power to weight ratio, etc.), I'd recommend the same combo to any other sporty couples.

By the way, she IS beautiful (mine's yellow), scratches and all :-)

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06-11-2002
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I recently purchased a Cape Horn 17 Pro made in Kevlar, with rudder. It is as light as my CLC 17LT, and a bit faster. It is monstrous in the hatches with more room than I could imagine. It handles well but turns require solid leans and sweep strokes. I am extremely pleased with the build quality, and finish. It really looks great, white hull, mercury blue deck and red stripe and trim. I'm 58 5'8" 210# have been paddling 5 yrs, all over the US, Lake Superior, Ca., Fla. This boat is really great.
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05-16-2002
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Demo'ed the Cape Horn 17 Pro (Glass) along with the Perception Eclipse, Looksha Tachea (sp) and a Serenity - Gale Force winds on a small lake - The Cape Horn was the only boat I could turn easily in that wind without using the rudder - The following weekend I demo'ed the Cape Horn 17 in plastic and found the plastic version which is several pounds heavier to handle very much like the Pro with a much smaller price tag. The cockpit is a bit smaller but even at 6'1" 260 lbs I am quite comfortable however I am not sure how easy it will be to extract myself in an emergency escape situation. Unlike my composite boat I will have no qualms about running this one right up on the beach or have any fear of rock gardens. The day hatch for my keys and compass mount are a definite plus but the real selling point outside of the boats ability to track and turn well is the Phase 3 Seat - only seat that I am aware of that will conform to my exact seat back height requirements - did I mention that I bought it!
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10-31-2001
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 9 of 10

     A review is only as good as the reviewer from whom it comes. Before I tell you my thoughts on the Cape Horn 17 plastic some info about me that you should be aware of: athletic 50 year old, 6 feet, 180 lbs, size 12 foot, have healthy fear of water, especially deep water, new to kayaking currently with 15 paddles under my belt.

After demo'ing everything I could get my hands on I choose the Cape Horn 17 for four main reasons - 1)primary stability 2)fit/comfort, 3)can take it anywhere, 4)boat I can grow into. It was not as tippy as Perception Shadow & Corona, Eddyline XT, Necky Looksha, etc. giving me the courage to paddle alone with hopes that I would get back alive and dry. If you've ever ridden a bicycle or skied in boots that didn't fit you know what self-imposed torture is. The Cape Horn 17 has room in the cockpit for my legs and feet sans that flattened 'pancaked' feeling I got from boats with less height, the higher seat back gives more support for torso, and the not at all constricting thigh braces (as opposed to the Necky line which forced me into a position I could not maintain) assured me a comfortable ride. As a performance boat it could be safely paddled in any water conditions. When I explained to one of the many salespersons that I would be going into Boston Harbor with big wakes and plenty of chop he advised me to buy a longer boat and don't go alone. His explanation for a longer boat: when one part of it was in a wake a large other part of it would not. Whether this makes sense or not my first paddle was in the harbor and the Cape Horn 17 did very well in rough conditions with no thanks to my puny abilities. And on another ferocious paddle into 30 mph winds I held my own with six others who were in reputedly faster fiberglass boats. Unlike boats in class of the Perception Carolina, Wilderness Cape Look-out (which I eventually bought as a second boat for non-kayaking friends), Current Design Breeze, Necky Zoar Sport, the Cape Horn 17 is in the performance category which gave me a boat I could grow into, and one that would not present limitations on where I could paddle.

The reasons I did not give it a score of 10 is because no boat can be everything to anyone. Although the primary stability is better than other performance kayaks, that does compromise its secondary stability. I was able to set an edge with let's say the Eddyline XT much better than the Cape Horn 17, but since I do not conspire to become an expert and I don't plan on tipping the boat very much the primary is more important than the secondary. Also, keep in mind that the boat is heavy for one person loading. I am tall enough and strong enough to just get it on top after a long paddle without whacking it into my new car, but this car is much lower than the roll bars on my Jeep Wrangler. Then again, I didn't care if I whacked the Jeep. In summary, by all means buy the Cape Horn 17 if it fits your parameters. I got lucky and it works well for me. Proof's in the pudding - when it came to buying a more stable second kayak for unskilled friends I choose the Cape Look-Out by Wilderness for all the same reasons.

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09-05-2001
Submitted by: HGGSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     After looking for a kayak that tracks well and that fits my big feet (size 13) and getting advice on another forum; after test paddles of the Cape Horn 17 and Perception Eclipse in Annapolis; and after reading many of your reviews as well as Sea Kayaker Mag's (Aug. issue), plus visits to 5 kayak stores and talks with sales people, I bought the Cape Horn 17. At the same time, my girlfriend got the Cape Horn 14. (Both are plastic.) Our primary interest was to get boats that tracked well and were not too heavy and that could carry camping gear for multiday trips.

This past w/e we played around two afternoons on Potomac, several hours on the water each time. Let me add that we are "watersporters" (sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and recreational kayaking), but so far have little experience with sea/touring kayaks. In any event, we loved our outings with these 2 Cape Horns. My g/f should add her on review of the 14. She certainly kept up with me w/o any problems. On the 17: it tracks beautifully, one of my first criteria. I found the speed amazing comparing it to my recreational kayak. One of the nice and exceptional features of the Cape Horn is that it has a "keel" (a very shallow one over the length of the boat). And it has only modest rocker. I have not seen other kayaks that have a "keel". I has a long waterline as well (no upswept stern, more like a built-in skeg). These features accounts for its great tracking. Also, the keel adds to the rigidity of the hull (which can be an issue with a plastic boat). I used the rudder just to try it out although I did not really need it and noticed that in windy conditions it does help. Generally, however, you don't need to use it.

The boat felt stable on the water (we are still learning how to lean it properly). We helped a guy who had capsized his wooden sailboat, bail out his boat which had filled up completely (no floatation) and was rolling over every time he tried to right it, by stabilizing him by coming alongside with our kayaks on either side.)

At 62lbs/28.1kg, the Cape Horn 17 is not a super light boat, but for the length it is very good. The glass model is only 3lbs lighter (and $1000 or so more expensive). This is just my first report on this boat. As I gain more experience, I will write more. Anyway, these are the first impressions from a happy owner of a new Cape Horn 17. I would love to hear from others who have this boat too. (I rate it 9 because I don't know enough about the boat yet (in different weather for example, to rate it a 10.)

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