Read and submit reviews for the Excursion 128.
After a paddler with a new Santee told me two weeks ago that she had purchased it based on my recommendation, I am compelled to update my review of the Expedition 128.
Since purchase of the Expedition in 2011 (more recent Excursion body have been strengthened, I've been told), I've paddled anywhere from 800-over 1,000 miles a year in a variety of conditions: small creeks between cypress trees and (over) knees, rocky shoals, coastal waters, big lakes (Voyageurs' Kabetogama), fast rivers. It was my only kayak until 2015. There is no on-the-market spray skirt for this pre-2012 Expedition so I had to have a spray skirt made (by Seals - a great company) in 2013. In 2015, paddling the lower Columbia, the combing tore when I took off the spray skirt. On the road, Hurricane sent me a list of possible retailers to help fix the tear. On a tight schedule, I didn't have time to get it done until I arrived in Alberta, Canada, where an outfitter there did a fix. With a multi-day trip planned for later that fall on Yellowstone Lake, I purchased a Delta 14' kayak with a stronger combing.
The Delta is now my primary kayak. However, when a shorter kayak is needed, I use the Expedition. In 2016 on a scouting trip a small tear appeared on the side of the Hurricane. Again, Hurricane customer service was responsive and sold me a patch which seems to have done the trick. About 6 months before that, another kayaker with the same make and model of Hurricane had the shell tear lower down the hull; we patched it with marine duct tape which we had bought at Piragis in Ely and it enabled her to paddle about 6 miles more down the Apalachicola River without incident.
My husband's 14' Expedition's (a later make) combing also tore and he's had to reinforce it.
I examined the new Santee and although some changes have been made on the combing, the same thin material is being used. A Santee is primarily a recreation kayak, and Hurricane may have strengthened the touring kayaks or made it part of the mold.
Hurricane was a great beginner kayak for me -- it was fast, responsive, it rode the waves and it had great stability and it gave me hundreds of hours of great service. Hurricane's mango coating still looks as fresh as it did when I purchased the kayak, unlike the Delta mango coating which seems to attract dust and oil and retains oil stains. (We do use uv protectant on the outer coat).
If you plan to use a spray skirt, I would check out the combing very carefully. And in older (lighter) versions of the Hurricane, I would also check out the body of the kayak before purchase.
In 2013 it got about 800 miles of wear, in even smaller streams and creeks than we've ever paddled, in very low water, in tight spots which required using my paddle to pole rather than paddle, and on Voyageur's Kabetogama Lake when the winds were blowing 15-20mph with 2 feet waves and crosswaves (got a special order skirt made by Seals), and in coastal bays and inlets along the Florida gulf coast. Without rudder or skeg, it steers well in bay swells and large lake paddling in wind.
This boat has been, fast, light to carry (relative to other kayaks of its length), great on secondary stability (proven on the high waves and cross waves in Voyageur's last fall)and has maintained its finish.
It has taken a lot of beating such as unforeseen cypress knees on north Florida's narrow and winding small rivers (upper Econfina, upper Sopchoppy, take-outs on gravel and concrete landings and with just regular maintenance still looks superb.
The only caveat for short people like me would be that there would need to be adjustments on the pedals and a replacement seat (made for the new expedition 128) is much too long and requires stepping on the seat to get in and out (for me). I do like that the back is not as high as the previous seat, but had I seen it before it was installed, I probably would have looked for a shorter seat.
The hatches are still water tight.
I am 5 feet tall and the 38 pounds of weight is welcome. Without a skirt in choppy bays or lake waters it doesn't take in any water compared to my husband's 14 feet kayak and it skims over waves like a dream. It has great secondary stability. Granted it's more supple than other thermofoam kayaks and if a heavy person were to sit on it, it would give a bit, but it tracks well, maneuvers decently and gets up to speed faster than many similar craft longer than this. My husband says it skims along the water beautifully and it feels that way from the cockpit. The capacity of its hatches has allowed me to multi-day camp (with water) without scrimping on the basics
I am sorry that Hurricane discontinued this to build a stronger and heavier craft, but if I were to get a touring kayak for my granddaughters who are now learning to paddle whitewater, a second hand Hurricane 128 would be my choice. My oldest grand daughter, age 11 and 1 inch taller than me, loves this boat over the few non-whitewater boats she has tried in a North Carolina Lake; Alberta, CA lake in wind, and a quiet Panhandle bay.
The only criticism I would make is that I had to have a skirt made to order, but that was remedied with help from Seals and for my size, it would be nicer to have it a bit narrower at the cockpit, but that might compromise the benefits of this craft. I had to add to the footpads (with advice from paddling.com readers) because at its shortest option, it was still too long for me to get proper control of the craft.
I rate it as 8 and not 10 because although I tried several other makes before making my choice, it's the only thermofoamed touring kayak I have tried and there is one make I would like to try, which while heavier has great reviews. Weight is a major consideration for me and it would be hard to beat the 38 pounds of this kayak.
It's not as maneuverable as my 10 feet Dagger award which I use as a transitional river kayak in Canada, but it seems to be as good as or better than kayaks of equivalent length. It seems to be much faster than my husband's Perception Carolina 14 and even without a rudder or skeg tracks as well, except when confronted by crosswinds and high waves as we were on Lake Ilo in North Dakota. However, it did not take in water on that trip, and my husband's did (no skirts). Although it required much more strenuous paddling, I have no complaints about its performance under those conditions -- it's stability was awesome.
I am 5 feet tall and it is made for a taller person, so I really should add an extension to the pedals which is set at its limit and the width makes for less than comfortable edging. Both hatches are tight and large enough for camping gear and water, there is room in the cockpit for additional storage if necessary, but have not had to do that. Fully loaded, one doesn't notice the extra weight after about half an hour of paddling. It was tested on a fast, rocky bottomed river, Brule in Wisconsin with class I and II rapids. I could feel the thermoform skin flexing on the bottom, but examination of the hull showed no damage or stress. We maintain and properly store our kayaks when not in use, but the coat on the Expedition looks like new.
While we are careful about maintenance and storage, I pretty much give this craft everything it comes across -- over logs, rocks, tight cornering, and downfalls and it has not disappointed me in its performance.
It is 38 pounds. A new version of the Expedition which is much heavier by over 6 pounds was introduced in 2012 and I have not tried it, but if this version is on the secondary market now, I would have no problem recommending it to someone who kayaks the kind of venues we do. It would have been nice, however, to have a better way to secure the craft when left all day in a primitive camp site -- there are no holds or loops which cannot be easily cut, although the carrying loops at both ends of the kayak are much easier to use than the Perception's.
Manufacturing - The Hurricane boat appears to be well made. I could not find any problems or flaws with the boat's construction. The hardware appears to be of good quality except for the seat adjusting pull cords which look like an afterthought.
Stability - This boat feels tippy initially. Part of it may be the large cockpit and lack of thigh braces and hip pads. The secondary stability is very good however as this boat can be put on edge when desired.
Performance - This boat feels fast to me. It accelerates easily and maintains it's speed. The 128 has more glide than the recreational kayaks and the whitewater kayaks I have paddled. In terms of handling, it turns well for a boat of this length. It won't turn like a whitewater kayak, but then again, I didn't expect it to.
Comfort - The seat and it's position are comfortable for me. I'm 5'11" and weigh 190lbs. There is plenty of room for a larger paddler.
Appearance - The 128 looks good. In my opinion, it looks much better than a polyethylene kayak. People frequently mistake it for a composite boat. I have had many complements already. We will see about durability over time.
Rough water performance - I took this boat out a river mouth into Lake Superior on a day with 3 foot waves. It performed very well in breaking through the surf keeping me reasonably dry. I have seen longer boats perform worse in the surf as they cut through the waves instead of going over them. Out beyond the breakers the ride was smooth and stable and the boat tracked well despite strong winds. The only negative for me in the rough water was the lack of hip and thigh pads that could of helped me control the boat while adding to my sense of security. In 3 foot waves or higher, I will stick with my XP10 that excels in rough conditions.
Conclusion - The Hurricane Expedition 128 is a good value for someone who wants a recreational cockpit with a fast hull. It appears to be a good value for the money. I would recommend it based on my experience.
It took me a bit of time to get used to the roominess of the cockpit coming from the Manitou. But this is more of a rec boat, but not in the beginner boat sense. Feels at least as fast as the longer Manitou but more maneuverable. Also feels easier to lean. In fact, it felt somewhat tippy until I readjusted my foot pegs. Also has front and rear bulkheads. You must check out the Mango color. In the sunlight, you see streaks of yellow (my friends yellow Tampico streaks green in sunlight).
Fast, maneuverable, light, what more could I ask? I'll give my impressions of the Tracer after I've paddled it some more (so far, so good though).
I'm loving my new Santee!