Just took 6 kids on a two week paddle around a lake in Jackson Journeys. These boats held up to a lot of amateur abuse. We pulled out on rocks, sand, mud, grass and even asphalt with no damage what so ever.
The kids ranged in age from 13-16 and had varying skills. All handled their boats with ease. The other leader and I are tall; I'm a 6' tall woman and he is a 6'3 guy. The shortest kid didn't reach the 5' mark. We had no difficulty adjust our boats to our own comfort. By the end or our trip, we were paddling up to 4 hours at a time. Hd these boats not been easy to handle and comfortable, that would not have been possible.
The amount of room in the holds was impressive. We carried our own gear, food and water with not problem at all.
I only wish my own personal kayak was a Jackson.
I love my Journey! This thing is fun, fun, fun. I'm 6'3", 200lbs, and it feels perfect. I love the many cockpit adjustments for comfort and control. I've had it on choppy lakes and even some class 2 rapids and it felt great. It is playful and pretty speedy. It has a ton of storage and is very stable. The biggest down sides are the weight (heavy) and without the rudder it can be very hard to keep from weathercocking in strong wings.
The best uses for this boat are river trips (especially camping), shorter flat water trips, lake excursions, and even shorter ocean paddles. I highly recommend the rudder and a spray skirt really helps this thing keep out the chop. You will have to work on your paddling skills, but you will feel sporty and confident while learning. A great boat to grow in, and a lot of fun. It is not a tank, but just feels like a good all around touring/day trip boat. Jackson really did a great job.
I have had six kayaks both sit in and sit-on-top as well as two tandem kayaks. This one is my favorite by far! I haven't had a kayak fit me this well and feel like I had such great control. It is quite adjustable: backrest, foot pegs, amount of air in the seats cushion. I was very comfortable paddling 18 miles down the river in 6 hours. I would not have been able to do that in any of the other kayaks I own. I have the rudder version but found I haven't needed it - probably on lakes and when I do my open water trips i will like using it - haven't needed it thus far.
The three overarching strengths in my opinion is comfort, tracking, and storage capacity. Feels like a rec boat and if you are looking for a faster, sleeker boat then don't buy this one. I would say it's more on the rec side for a touring boat - just my thoughts on that.
What I liked about the Islay is that it seemed faster than the Journey and the skeg made it a delight to paddle in strong current. I also liked the little day pod at the top of the deck. both of my demos took place at the Alder Creek Kayak center located a walking minute of the Columbia River. On my second demo I had pretty much made up my mind. I was there to purchase the Islay. For some reason I decided to demo the Jackson Journey again.
The outfitting in the Journey was far superior to the Islay. A lot of effort has gone into the design of the cockpit and it really shows. I paddled both boats in sheltered light current and also in strong straight and cross currents with winds up to 10 knots. The Journey wanted to wander but by simply leaning and some paddle corrections I was able to correct course without any issues. The Islay's beam is 3/4" less, it weighs a lb or two less, an again I thought the Islay was slightly faster and certainly the skeg helped keep it going in a straight course.
The decision pretty much came down to which boat was more fun. The Journey fit me like a glove, the Islay's seat was very loose fitting. The back band on the Islay felt awkward and (I hate to say it) cheap. My 32" inseam legs were also on the next to last setting on the foot pegs. I could also touch the forward bulkhead with my size 10 feet out-stretched.
Other things I liked about the Journey, the deck lines seemed to be laid out better, the day hatch is a brilliant design and in general the hatches were easier to take off and put back on.
This 60 year old, 6', 200 lb man is very happy with his new Journey. I know other people have compared the Dagger Alchemy, the Islay and the Journey and came up with a different decision. But this is a decision that you really can't make a bad choice. You should demo the boats, if possible, because the bottom line is you need to decide which boat is the most fun for you. For me, I feel more "connected" in the Journey. Sure we're going to get tossed around a little bit - what fun.
The outfitting is suuuuper comfortable with the sweet cheeks and hip padding. The backband is nice as well and comfy, allowing for quite a wide range of flexibility. The boat also rolls well, and with a little practice this kayak will come back around with a good hip snap.
I do love this boat and will have it with me for some time.
BUT, when the rudder was installed and the pedals were adjusted, it was a dream! It was so fast and fun. When I stopped paddling it would glide so straight and smooth. Paddling upwind was super easy, too. A nice surprise also, is that there is room for my miniature schnauzer to ride with me in this fairly small cockpit. I thought I would have to give that up in a touring kayak.
I adore the Jackson Journey 14 and would give this kayak a perfect 10 except for 2 things - the tracking without the rudder and it does not have a paddle holder on the side of the boat. Otherwise it is truly what I had hoped for.
I'm delighted with the Journey. It's got enough room but I can get snug enough to feel a good connection with the boat (the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145, on the other hand, felt way too big). The seat is very comfortable and the back band adjustment is simple, easy to operate, and effective; much more so than other back band adjustment systems I've tried. The Journey tracks well, has good initial and secondary stability, is easy to put on edge (and hold there) so it's fairly maneuverable. I had no problems with steering it around on a shallow, narrow creek in central Pennsylvania this summer, when everyone else was paddling 10-foot boats.
There's plenty of storage space for longer trips if you want to do a weekend camping trip (perhaps longer, depending how you pack and how many luxuries you want). The hatches are mostly watertight, though when doing some wet exit and rolling practice, a bit of water gets in. I've never had water leak into the very convenient day hatch, though. The day hatch is easy to reach and has a softer rubber cover that is easy to remove and replace while on the water; no struggling or contorting in order to use it. The hanging bag on the inside assures that, not only does your stuff not bump around on the bottom of the boat, but it doesn't roll away, either, so it's always readily accessible.
The deck bungees and deck lines are well-placed and work well for a variety of gear. I always have a paddle float and bilge pump attached. Sometimes I'll also have a deck bag, water bottle, or raincoat (in a stuff sack) on the deck, too. The back deck bungees are designed to assist with a paddle float entry by firmly holding the paddle in place which is fantastic if you're trying to pump out the water from your cockpit. You can just leave the paddle attached for stability until you're ready to go.
I don't have a rudder on mine, but one can be easily installed, since all the cable tubes and attachment points are already on the boat. I've paddled in moderate to high crosswinds in mildly choppy (12" waves) water without much trouble even without a rudder. Occasional correcting strokes and some edging were all that were needed to keep me going where I needed to go. The Journey tracks very well on flat water.
I've paddled some higher end boats and none of the ones I paddled really blew me away in comparison... which was good because trying to justify the purchase of a new $3k kayak to my wife would have been an issue. Ha! I know I'll eventually get another boat (or two... or three), but for now, the Journey is exactly the boat I want and I'm delighted with it.
I still can only give the boat a 9 against all other boats because it is a heavy plastic boat. Fiberglass still wins with me as a better paddlecraft but I will say the Journey is durable. I have paddled it all over Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, river and lake and it is looking good!
I demo'd a Journey with a SmartTrak rudder and although the fixed, gas pedal style thing sounds like a good idea, I found it a little awkward to use (another reason I decided to forgo it initially). Compared to the WS Tsnunami140 (fiberglass) that I also have, I find the Journey to be a much more lively boat, stable but easy to tack and spin in rough water. I love the way it responds to turning by leaning. It's really fun!
I am only an intermediate paddler but I am really looking forward to all the new skills I can learn because this boat responds. If your only stroke repertoire is a straight on forward stroke you may not be happy with this boat. It asks for more but gives back with proper paddle technique. The WS by comparison is a bit doggy. Yes, it goes straight but gets stuck going straight too. Yes, you can sweep and pry but I will say it again, it is sluggish by comparison. I also once demo'd a plastic Tsunami 140 and it felt like a barge. I literally couldn't wait to get out of it.
I also prefer the athletic, whitewater style backband to the upright rigid seat of the WS Phase 3 outfitting. The Jackson seat is much more conducive to good roll technique and plenty comfortable enough. I sometimes have difficulty getting in the WS at difficult put-ins, snagging the top of the seat with my behind and having it fold down on me. The Jackson seating will allow a larger range of roll techniques.
I can only go an 8 on the rating though because I am not thoroughly happy with the rudder system and it is a PLASTIC boat which means heavier than if you wanted to spend some real money on a fiberglass model. However, plastic is durable and I have thrown it off the car a couple times trying to work out my loading technique and right now, in Colorado, our reservoirs are very low, making for rocky, less than ideal put-ins. The Journey is the go-to boat for those conditions for sure.
I am a big guy… 6'3", 240lbs, 34" inseam and size 13 shoes. I have the Journey 14 prototype and find it to be an excellent roughwater playboat that responds extremely well to edging and advanced paddle technique. The boat spins very quickly when leaned and is a joy to paddle. The Tsunami 145 stalls badly, for me, when edging and I find it hinders advanced skill development. Jackson's Journey 14 is fairly quick for its beam but won't win any races… but that is not what touring boats are built for.
The Journey 14 is surprisingly stable. No seriously… I was actually surprised. I have paddled hundreds of different boats (not an exaggeration). The degree to which this boat supports you as you lean it hard over actually caught me off guard. I can easily stand up and paddle the boat around. At a recent pool session, one of my buddies was standing on the back deck of the Journey and kept trying to jump and land standing on the front deck. He couldn't quite stick the landing, though he came close several times. He thinking he had a shot at doing this trick speaks volumes about the confidence the Journey inspires.
The Journey14 prototype that I have does not have the final deck rigging but the placement of its fittings offers great flexibility for customization. I do lots of rough water paddling / fishing from my kayaks and have modified my decklines significantly. I am very happy with the utility and number of options this arrangement offers. The prototype is only a couple months old but it has seen significant rescue practice and none of the fittings have failed yet.
The Smart Track rudder system is the best I've seen. There are no sharp edges to scratch yourself on during rescues and the system provides for rock solid footpegs with gas pedal style steering. That said, at my weight (I can't speak for someone who only weighs 140lbs) the boat requires no rudder. Even in extreme conditions, the Journey handles very neutrally. I see rudders as a potential liability, and extra weight. I have removed the rudder system from the prototype and when I get my first production boat it will not have a rudder.
I frequently paddle roughwater here in New England and elsewhere, I tend to like rugged, high volume, responsive boats. I have had several NDK, Valley and Nigel Foster boats over the years. They were all faster… but none of them were tougher, more comfortable or more fun to paddle. I have only owned one boat that was as much fun to paddle in ocean rough water as the Journey 14. That boat was a P&H Orca 14 (now made by Venture Kayak). It is still a great boat… but its deck rigging leaves a lot to be desires and it is a light touring boat with only one bulkhead, which makes rescues more challenging. Due to its superior utility and safety, the Journey 14 has displaced the Orca 14 as my roughwater boat of choice.
I'm not a salesman for Jackson Kayak. I am just a paddler looking for the most fun, safe and functional boat to play in that I can find. When I saw the early renditions of the Journey go up on Jackson's website I reached out to the company to see what they had to offer. I'm impressed with what I've found.