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Spectrum Description

The Spectrum is a kayak brought to you by Perception. Read Spectrum reviews or submit your own review to share with the paddling community. Check out a few other kayak recommendations below or explore all kayaks to find the perfect one for you!

Spectrum Reviews


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Spectrum Reviews

Read reviews for the Spectrum by Perception as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!

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One of the best.

Submitted by: paddler370815 on 6/26/2017

I bought my spectrum new in 1999 and have used it extensively since. I love this kayak. I have used other types and always end up back in my spectrum. I'm moving to the virgin islands now and wish I could take it with me but the shipping costs are over 2k so I'm letting her go. If you know anyone wanting one let me know.


by far the best kayak for the…

Submitted by: paddler236398 on 7/28/2015
by far the best kayak for the money. I haven't had any tracking problems with rudder up or down class I-III NO problem. It turns great, rolls great, everything about this boat reminds me of how much money I have spent on my other boat - I should have bought this first. I use my Spectrum for everything that's what's so great about it.

I have owned my Spectrum…

Submitted by: rudderboy on 7/13/2015
I have owned my Spectrum since 1990 when it appeared at my local outdoor specialty shop as a factory demo. I was looking for a solo canoe after failing to find anyone to paddle with after a week of work. I was talked into buying this by getting a great deal. I paddled a multitude of rivers in Michigan, even class III's. I paddled to an island with my cousin in his Prijon, 6 miles out into the Atlantic off the coast of Maine. It's been off the coast of Florida, both Atlantic side and the Gulf. I've been out into Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior It has never failed me and never rolled. The first 15 years it tracked true as an arrow, but as the bottom began to oilcan, It doesn't track as well, and the seat back is terrible. I have other kayaks, so the spectrum has sat, almost unused for 2yrs. I have decided though to correct the bottom problems, add a skeg box or rudder system, an adjustable backband, add hatches and bulkheads, and put it back into service. It was my first kayak and after 25 years with it, I will never part with it

This is an old kayak. I…

Submitted by: ckyria on 7/9/2015
This is an old kayak. I bought is second hand from craigslist. Mine was built in 1996 but continues to perform admirably. I can fish from it without worry other than waves over a few inches. I would not take it out in big waves. I do not think that the back hatch is watertight. Also the hard plastic seat gets uncomfortable after a few hours. I am considering replacing the seat as it still has lots of life left in it.

I have had one of these off…

Submitted by: kenp on 9/20/2013
I have had one of these off and on (owned, sold, then bought another) since 1990 the first year they were made. A great general use kayak for recreational purposes. A lot faster hull than most boats of if it's length class and a comfortable ride. Very stable, forgiving and durable. I've done a lot of fishing and multi-day exploring in these. A great all-around design.

Good for an inexpensive…

Submitted by: bkyriakou on 7/29/2013
Good for an inexpensive kayak. Not a true sea kayak and definitely not a whitewater kayak. I can fish from it and paddle to reasonable fishing locations. Very stable but have not tested water tightness of hatches. Customer service was very helpful when I called to replace a lost part.

I'm still a rookie on the…

Submitted by: paddler234562 on 6/1/2012
I'm still a rookie on the water with only a few hundred miles under my belt, a bit over 100 with this yak on a class I river. I totally agree with the one reviewer who mentioned this boat doesn't rest well, as soon as you stop paddling it wants to cock to one side or the other: but that makes you paddle and I like that. Also it has forced me to improve my paddling form, it doesn't tolerate lazy strokes and I find it is much happier with a high angle stroke where as touring/low angle strokes result in a lot of side to side movement.

Compared to my Eagle Run 12' this thing would be a horrible idea for a fishing kayak - it's initial stability is far lower, though it's secondary is solid. You could fish from it but if that's your primary purpose for the yak look else where.

I've found the Spectrum to be a bit temperamental, but again that's forced me to learn to use my hips to handle it and has allowed me to start leaning into and out of turns.

I see a lot of suggestions for this as a beginner yak and I agree if the person wants to learn to handle a touring boat, but I see a lot of casual folks with stickers on their paddles which are proudly held upside down - they should definitely look elsewhere.

For a beginner looking to get seriously into the sport it's an awesome kayak. I know I will outgrow it eventually and likely wind up with purpose boats for whitewater and ocean - but I doubt I will ever let my Spectrum go.


I have owned the Spectrum…

Submitted by: paddler233520 on 3/30/2010
I have owned the Spectrum since 1998. I have done many week long trips and whitewater paddles in this boat. It is a great boat. It is not a true whitewater or touring boat. It is functional as both, but not as efficient as either.

The people having tracking problems are either too light for the boat or are not using the correct paddle stroke.


If you can still find a used…

Submitted by: drs on 12/10/2009
If you can still find a used Spectrum, buy it. I purchased my yellow, plastic Spectrum in 1999 and have logged many miles in it over the past ten years. Since then I have purchased a more efficient touring boat that of course tracks better, has much better speed, and turns better. However, I still return to the Spectrum when I want to run some river rapids and not worry about scraping and denting my more expensive boat. I also use the Spectrum for overnight trips -- the cavernous rear hatch swallows gear and I can stuff dry bags far up under the front deck.

This Spectrum should never be confused with a touring kayak; it can seem cumbersome compared to any narrower, longer boats. However, I've found tracking to be actually quite good for the hull shape; weather cocking is a problem and may demand over-paddling on one side (don't waste $$ on a rudder for this boat).

At 5'9" 165 lbs, I have lots of wiggle room and never feel cramped; in fact, compared to my 22" wide touring boat, when I return to the Spectrum I feel like I'm rattling around in it. This is still a far better overall boat than many of the recreational kayaks on the market and is just as stable and user friendly as any of them. So if you can find one, buy it -- it should be cheap and provide you with plenty of additional years of paddling fun.


Spent the first 7 years…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 9/15/2007
Spent the first 7 years paddling a 12' Pungo, and this boat is quite a step up! True, the seat needs work to bring it up to today's ergonomic standards, but I've been VERY pleased with the boats overall handling.

No rudder on mine (got her second hand, and for a 14 year old boat this thing is in incredible shape!), but it tracks just fine--just keep in mind it is a soft chine and requires a bit more from its pilot than just a forward stroke. Paddled in protected and unprotected waters, and class II-III rivers, and have felt comfortable and had a blast with them all. Awaiting arrival of factory thigh braces and am eager to install them--can only make for an even more incredible boating experience!

Can't say enough good things about this boat. If you're still in a rec boat, it's time to take the next step-you won't regret it!


This is an old model made by…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 7/16/2007
This is an old model made by Perception - Aquaterra with clear lines of a recreational boat yet with the capacity of a small touring. It is definitely a seaworthy one with a watertight aft hatch and bow/stern flotation bags. Bit of a rocker this lady, she is going to request your total concentration to find the balance point to keep her going straight, once you find it, brace yourself and enjoy the possibilities. Turns and speed become easy stuff, stability is a great point in this kayak that really makes difficult to flip over when eskimo rolling.

As to wet exit & re entry I haven't found a more friendly kayak: I can climb back in easily and I am known as one of those that have problems with re entries. Add basic safety features such as paddle float, bilge pump, handy sponge to ensure a longer stay on the water, use your favorite spray skirt and you won't need any sponge.

Tried her with two different paddles : 220 vs. 230 and found the shorter one performs better for low & high bracing, why? I dunno, but that's what it is: a shorter paddle makes her turn on a dime, gives you more power stroke for speed, bracing & rolling go better than when using longer paddles.

Can you fish from that thing?
That's the question in everyone's mind when window shopping for a kayak. I am not an authority nor I believe I have the basic knowledge to give an opinion on this matter. That being said, I had two SOT's, I have two SIK's that give me a whole world of possibilities I couldn't find on the SOT's world, being a man of short extremities the chance of wearing the yak allows me to get much more of a day on the water than using a SOT. If I had to get on the water to save someone else's life I'd rather grab a SIK than a SOT, you can bet all your money on that.

Fish finder and rod holders can be placed on the front deck with endless possibilities, rear hatch area is huge also open to many different set ups. I'm going with two Ram 119 T on the front is going to ruin the funny eskimo roll thing but hey! we gotta catch some fish, don't we?

Final note: If you aren't familiar with SIK this one might not be your best choice. See you on the water, don't spook my fish!


I recently bought a used…

Submitted by: Jimbo on 4/26/2007
I recently bought a used Spectrum and it has served my needs very well. It seems to have a bit of a rocker, so it does turn easily. This also means it takes just a bit of concentration to keep it tracking well. After 5x on the water, it now feels natural. I also have an upgraded rudder, which helps in windy conditions, although I can feel just a bit of a drag. The cockpit is very roomy; I sold my Prijon Seayak, because it was too tight. This has much more space and more comfortable for wet exits. I did need to upgrade the plastic backrest to an ergo back band; this gave me more adjustability in the seating. It's an older style boat... no fancy Greenland bow, but it is so functional. Shorter length makes for easy loading and transport. Good all-around day boat.

I wuv my Spectrum..... It…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 1/19/2007
I wuv my Spectrum..... It tracks real good and turns on a dime. actually it does take some skill to make it do what you want it to. I think it is a David Yost canoe hull with a kayak deck. I've had her in some class 3/4 on the Deschutes river near home and taken her to the sea. make a decent surf boat.

I like this boat. It's…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 8/11/2003
I like this boat. It's comfortable, has lots of storage but will agree that I have trouble tracking straight sometimes. It can be a little frustrating. Overall though, I enjoy it.

WOW, got this yak used, for…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 7/14/2003
WOW, got this yak used, for $325 with bulkhead, and full rudder. Took it out on the river this weekend. Just general flatwater paddling, had a head wind of 5 to 10 mph so no major wind. This performed fantastically. Extremely stable, tracks well (even without the rudder down). A friend of mine has a Dagger Edisto, his is a lot more tippy and I can keep right up with him with little effort. I had two friends and my 13 year old son try out the yak and they loved it.

But lets get this straight, this is a touring Kayak. It is not a high end $$$$$ yak, it is rotomolded plastic, meaning it can and will oilcan. But this could well be the last yak I buy. It should be well tested in a couple of years but right now it is fantastic I would love another for my son.


I've had my spectrum for…

Submitted by: paddler229898 on 8/28/2002
I've had my spectrum for several years now and have found it be ideal for trips I like to take, overnighters of a week on the lakes I like to travel. I have the rudder installed and have been quite pleased when a wind comes up and is pushing my paddle buddies sideways across the lake and forcing them to seek wind shelters to make it back it back to camp, I can point the nose toward camp and have the coffee on and dinner cooking before they come staggering in. In addition, the front and rear storage area's allow me to pack all the gear I need as well as some extra comfort items I enjoy. Thos baot was never intended as white water runner, but I have run it through a couple class II and III stretches, which is as far as my skills wanted to go. I have found it to be rugged and dependable craft, easily controlled as well as easy to load and unload at a camp site.

I bought a yellow plastic…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 6/28/2002
I bought a yellow plastic Spectrum about 7 years ago, at which time it was almost state-of-the-art and basically all that was available. Where I live in Auckland, New Zealand it is only a five minute drive down to the sea. For fitness I have been doing pretty much the same 1hr 40 min run on average 3 times a week for at least five of those years, and at a conservative 4 knots that works out to be over 4500 nautical miles. With a rudder tracking is never a problem. Head or beam on seas are no problem either. The only times (say 10 runs) that I have had to turn back is when a huge following sea has forced me to slow down to avoid broaching - thus making the run too slow and not worthwhile. Sure, I get blitzed by bunnies in boats with better hull speed, but I can treat the Spectrum real rough and hence, in terms of value for money, give it a high rating. I think there is probably a better general purpose kayak around that can take a pounding but I haven't seen one yet. For more fun, especially during summer, I think I will get a surf-ski.

Have been paddling the…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 9/4/2001
Have been paddling the Spectrum around the coast of South Africa for the last 2 years and find it to be extremely stable with NO tracking problems at all. Carries a good load and surfs like a dream. Regularly partake in "surf sessions" and seem to stay in my boat longer than many others! No rudder damage thusfar, and this boat has had some large wave experiences!

Good all around boat. It is…

Submitted by: paddler229366 on 7/24/2001
Good all around boat. It is exceptionally stable and has good speed for its length/width. I own a Wilderness Systems Seacret and my brother owns a Spectrum. We have had both boats in surf (ever pitchpole a 14' boat?), long open water paddles, and whitewater (fall line Appomattox River class I-III). The spectrum is about bullet proof. It is fishable and capable of long distances. We have covered up to 21miles in 6hrs with my brother in the spectrum.

I recently went paddling with my brother with him in his new Walden Legend (17.5' X 21") and me in his old spectrum. With a little extra effort I was able to keep up. We ventured into the lower James River (5miles wide) into a stiff NW wind blowing straight down river and whitecaps up to 3'. It beat hard into the waves and was a bear with a headwind but surfed a following sea well.

Like two other sub 15' boats I've paddled, it tracks fine as long as you're pulling ahead but turns when you pause. The solution, don't pause frequently. Even light forward strokes keep it on course if applied correctly. It also weather cocks with a stiff beam wind (same as other two boats). The rudder helps when deployed but exaserbates the problems when retracted and acting like a sail.

If a beginner, I would recommend this boat without a rudder. Work on paddling skills. Also, rudders get in the way in wooded swamps and are easily damaged in surfing accidents.


I bought a Spectrum from EMS…

Submitted by: paddler229150 on 3/20/2001
I bought a Spectrum from EMS about four years ago and we have travel more the 500 miles together, including thorough explorations of Penobscot Bay, and the Everglades. It is a fine beginner's boat, stable, and surprisingly fast considering its beam and length. It is very comfortable for me, but my wife has to use a cushion with it. I circumnavigated the Isle Au Haut in about six hours without any heavy breathing, or an emergency evacuation to a chiropractor. The boat is quite maneuverable. I have rudder and no purist qualms about deploying when the wind sends us into navigational ambiguity. It does weathercock badly at times, but the rudder cures this. My chief complaints are its loading weight, getting tougher to load on top of the car as I push 60, and its lack of bow storage. While the stern hatch is large and well engineered, any extended expedition makes me look like a seagoing version of TOBACCO ROAD. After fives years (counting this coming season) I am eyeing a Kevlar CD Solstice GT. However, I am fleeting up to a bigger boat only because the Spectrum has been such a good teacher of the joys of sea kayaking. Two daughters are already fighting over who inherits her.

I have owned my Spectrum for…

Submitted by: paddler229127 on 2/27/2001
I have owned my Spectrum for 3 years now and have only one complaint, its weight. This boat is a hog at 62 pounds, which makes for some grueling portages. I have been reading the reviews posted here and I think what many people fail to notice about the Spectrum is the hull shape. This boat has quite a bit of rocker and does not fall into the typical touring boat category. It does not handle like a touring boat and if you paddle it like one you will have problems keeping it straight. Rocker allows a boat to spin more easily; the degree of this effect is controlled by the amount of rise and the location of the axis on the hull. A touring boat has little rocker and therefore will go straight practically by itself. Another effect of the hull shape is that it does not respond very well to typical leans where a right side lean helps you turn right and a left side lean helps you turn left. It actually responds in opposite, left = right, right = left in the initiation of the lean then right = right and left = left after the turn is in progress. It is a bit strange and can be quite confusing to an inexperienced paddler. The Spectrum was designed to be somewhat of a whitewater touring boat. Therefore it needs to be paddled like a whitewater boat. It is actually quite capable of handling class I and II whitewater as a result. Efficient paddling strokes are necessary and equalized paddling pressure on each side is needed to keep it moving straight. A slight pause will cause the back end to spin around requiring corrective strokes. As for the tracking issues, people who experience problems are either paddling it wrong or are light in weight. The spectrum is a high volume boat. Light paddlers may not have enough weight to allow the boat to glide and utilize the full shape of the hull. Adding a little weight could help. Too much weight can also be a problem, sinking the boat beyond efficiency. Equal distribution of weight is helpful as is adjusting the seat forward or backward to help level out the hull as it passes through the water. If the stern (back) sits too low in the water, the point of the bow (front) will not cut the water properly therefore causing poor tracking. If the bow sinks too low, more energy will need to be spent to maintain forward speed. It really is a good boat; I have seen many reviews and have also watched many people paddle it. Some get it, some don't. Its not the boats fault, its just doing what it was designed to do. I think people should do more research to avoid buying something they do not like.

Just bought a Spectrum…

Submitted by: paddler228892 on 9/7/2000
Just bought a Spectrum "Demo" and don't understand complaints about tracking. No problem with or without rudder--in wind or current. Very comfortable, efficient boat.

Don't even bother with this…

Submitted by: paddler228636 on 5/27/2000
Don't even bother with this boat unless you buy it with a rudder. I tested my Spectrum Basic (No Rudder) out before I bought it, and it was all over the water. This was back when I was a new kayaker, and I thought that I would increase my control as I learned. After purchasing the boat, I paddled a flatwater river with it. I returned the boat the day after I bought it. Yes it is fairly fast and stable, but it sails like a drunk. I traded mine in for an Acadia, which I am very happy with. I can not say that I have tried this boat with a rudder, because even the mention of the name "Spectrum" brings up this ugly incident. Get yourself an Acadia.

Glad I read the other…

Submitted by: ckayakers on 4/12/2000
Glad I read the other reviews! Like others I thought the tracking problem was me, even after 6 years of trying. Rudder corrects problem, good for day trips. My wife wants to use it for occasional outings when I get a new boat. UPDATE- Sept. 7, 2000: By the looks of the reviews, they must have had two Spectrum molds; one made boats the were great, the other made the rest of them!! After this years vacation and more kayaking we are selling both our kayaks, my wife now wants a better boat for her self, she says our Spectrum is a slug.I knew she has been a great wife for 32 yrs, but this is too much to hope for, shopping for 2 new kayaks!

From the very beginning I had…

Submitted by: paddler228390 on 3/16/2000
From the very beginning I had tracking problems and worried that it was me and my paddling skills. However, I soon realized that this was not the case and called Perception. The person I spoke to suggested that I check and see if the keel was straight. The keel is straight and perhaps I have gotten somewhat use to the tracking problem. I now enjoy it in the small creeks and streams in Kentucky.

I have owned a Spectrum for…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 2/15/2000
I have owned a Spectrum for three years, and use it almost exclusively in salt water along the coast of New England. I have never had a tracking problem even in choppy conditions. Its stability makes it a perfect boat for those beginning to venture into the ocean. It could use a little more speed on long tours.

It's amazing to me the…

Submitted by: paddler228389 on 12/15/1999
It's amazing to me the spectrum of other reviews. I have owned a spectrum for 4 years and have crossed the upper Chesapeake, fished in small coves and completely covered the susquehanna river below the conowingo dam. It's been a pleasure to paddle, store and load on my jeep. As a first kayak, I highly recommend it. I now have a Chesapeake 17, that I recently completed - yes a great deal more volumn and even lighter, but the Spectrum is just so versatile and I don't worry about the cosmetics as much. Look for one on sale from somone upgrading - you can get a great deal - happy paddling.

I've owned this boat for 6…

Submitted by: paddler228372 on 11/28/1999
I've owned this boat for 6 years now. Even though I am overweight for this boat (185lbs) it handles beautifully. My son enjoys this boat now. It tracts well and turns on a dime. Great river boat but not good in the Ocean, too short for my taste. The boat is nimble and quick, but not a fast boat. Very responsive. I would purchase again. Great all round boat!

I am surprised to see such…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 11/8/1999
I am surprised to see such low ratings on this boat. My wife and I have both loved our Spectrum and have paddled it in the Gulf with the porpoise, taken it down local Florida rivers and raced it in lakes. Perhaps people who think it doesn't track well are used to longer boats and don't recognize this boat for what it is. It is a short touring boat so isn't designed to track as well as a longer boat but having started with whitewater boats I have never had any problem with the Spectrum and have always bragged about how well it tracks. I recently placed 6th in my devision racing it on a 4 mile run in competition with both longer and shorter boats. And at age 48, I was in competition with largely younger more agile paddlers. It is lightweight so very easy to carry and tote on most vehicles and allows for considerable storage. This is a fast,lightweight boat that is ideal for long day trips and I highly recommend it for day excursions in the Gulf of Mexico even though its design is more suited for lake and river trips-hence its best feature-it is the most versatile boat I've ever owned.

My parents have two of these…

Submitted by: paddler228321 on 10/11/1999
My parents have two of these boats, and I recently paddled one of them 10 miles. I will never trade again! I found my Carolina to me much more comfortable and easier to control. I would never recommend the Spectrum over the Carolina if you have the choice.

This boat is a great beginner…

Submitted by: paddler228294 on 9/20/1999
This boat is a great beginner boat because of its stability on one hand. But on the other, the tracking is a serious problem. This is the first boat I have ever paddled for longer than 3 hours, and I thought I was doing something wrong because I kept losing control, even in calm water. I'm glad to hear other people had the tracking problems too!!

An instructor once told me…

Submitted by: paddler228206 on 8/1/1999
An instructor once told me that "if I bought a boat and never paddled another, my boat would always be my favorite". Luckily, I paddled many boats after the Spectrum. What once was Perception's "bread and butter" utility boat is now a old dog better put to sleep than paddled. The Spectrum is clunky and tracks poorly. It may hold its own when used for fishing, but don't expect performance when touring or camping. It is only a matter of time before the Perception Carolina renders the Spectrum obsolete. Great for kids.

I have had a Spectrum for the…

Submitted by: paddler228205 on 7/26/1999
I have had a Spectrum for the past year and it has worked great for me. I have went on short and even long (6day) trips with it and it worked pretty well. I did however have tracking problems in open water, but after adding a rudder all problems are in the past. I also added a Humingbird fish locator and use it for fishing often. Easy to Roll, nice and easy to pack, over a great boat for the money. Only grip is the lack of any bow storage.

This review refers to the…

Submitted by: paddler228165 on 7/7/1999
This review refers to the Spectrum S. Used on open rivers & Chesapeake Bay, with rudder. I come to open water from older whitewater boats, so any long boat seems to be on rails. I consider it comfortable, rudder works well but is not essential. Lot of resistance to leaning into water. Not the most beautiful barge on the water. Overall fine performer.

I've rented Spectrums on two…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 6/20/1999
I've rented Spectrums on two seperate occasions. Once for large, flat lake, once for a class I & II river run. Although the Spectrum was not bad on the lake--stable enough for fishing--I had tremendous difficulty with tracking on both rentals. Once the boat is 5 degrees off of straight-ahead, it starts turning and is almost impossible to get straight again. Incredibly annoying on the lake, almost dangerous on the river. I bought a Wilderness Systems Manteo and am thrilled--faster, better tracking, and superior construction, features, and materials.

My husband and I both had…

Submitted by: paddler228125 on 6/15/1999
My husband and I both had problems with tracking from day one. Kept heading left. Took it back to the store and they said maybe it was us! Replaced it with a Pungo (read my review of the Pungo). Wouldn't buy another Perception.

This is a great all around…

Submitted by: paddler227966 on 11/24/1998
This is a great all around boat! We use it for fishing, photography, weekend trips and some mild river work. Forget the rudder you don't need it for paddling but may want it if you do a lot fishing from it. I also have a meridan which is faster but enough to seperate us on a weekend trip. It is very stable and tons of storage.