Most Recent Reviews
After years of use a tiny amount of play has developed between the two halves but it is not serious and the paddle works fine.
Overall it's a very nice paddle for a decent price.
The inflatable pontoons are nice in that when not in use they can be deflated and stored in a hatch where they won't take up too much space. In practice however, I rarely use them for the simple reason that when deployed they produce excessive drag in the water. You will simply wear yourself out if trying to paddle any significant distance with these in the water. I have instead opted to paddle to a spot, then deploy the stabilizers when fishing, and remove them when paddling again. This is complicated by the fact that they can be a bit tricky to remove once attached when you are on the water and confined to the seat of a sit-in kayak.
I think they would be better suited to a sit on top boat where you can move around more. Besides this drawback my only complaint is that the components are not all water tight. The outer layer of the pontoon is not water tight and water fills the space between this outside cover and the inside air bladder. Then they get heavy because of this water. Likewise the metal arms are not water tight and it is difficult to clean saltwater out once it gets inside (so I worry they might rust from the inside out). Also, the pontoons require very powerful force to inflate - such that I'm usually light headed by the time I get them blown up!
Overall they are a great concept but one that would benefit from further refinement. Because of these drawbacks I hardly ever use them and have simply learned to keep my balance when fishing instead. So far so good!
These holders are indispensable when trolling lures or you need your hands free for anything else. One challenge I encountered was how to mount them on the curved deck of a sit-in kayak. I overcame this on one boat by using a Jonny Bar by Mad Frog Gear (with the added benefit that the whole setup is completely removable with no holes drilled in your boat). On the other boat I sandwiched a flat piece of rubber between the mount bottom and the deck to squeeze and expand to help accommodate the curve of the deck.
There are several models: some with fat wheels for sand and some that have a bit smaller frame than others. Mine is the "full size" with tough tires (foam filled). I recommend it if you can't carry your boat to the water for whatever reason. I have not tried using it on uneven or bumpy terrain so I can not comment on how it would handle that. I bought mine because I was paddling on a lake that you had to walk several kilometres to on a gravel trail.
The design has good and bad points in my opinion.
First the good:
Stable. Somebody who has never kayaked before can hop in, hit the water, and feel like a natural very quickly. I have had numerous friends who do not kayak use this boat, sometimes in moderately challenging conditions with no problems. Many tour companies in my area use this boat for rookie paddlers.
Maneuverable. When using the rudder, this boat will turn on a dime compared to my other kayak. This is very beginner friendly because when my non-kayaker friends want to turn they just pivot the rudder and the boat turns. They can just use an easy straight paddle stroke and let the rudder do the work instead of trying to turn by paddle stroke. The rudder is also very useful in wind and current to keep the boat on a desired heading.
Tracks straight poorly. Without using the rudder, the boat's natural tendency is to turn at the slightest provocation. This could be a benefit to some people but I prefer straight tracking ability over turning ability. I do not want to be constantly focusing on keeping the boat going straight. My novice kayaker friends normally can not keep the boat straight so they revert to using the rudder. In my opinion it simply turns too easily to be a practical boat for non-rudder use. That is the only place where it loses points.
My wife and I owned this kayak for one season. It proved to be a quality boat with good performance but had one major flaw that resulted in us selling it and getting a different model.
We found that the Muktuk was fairly stable and reasonably fast. It wasn't as stable as a kayak designed specifically for beginners but it wasn't bad and we took many rookie paddlers out in it with only one ever managing to flip it (on glassy smooth water). Speed was decent. It tracked straight, turned with moderate effort (easily with the rudder), and handled heavy seas well. The fit, finish, craftsmanship, and quality were excellent for a plastic boat.
The major flaw, and the reason we sold the boat, was that it could be uncomfortable on your knees when they were nestled up inside the hull, bowed off to each side in good paddling posture. Not everyone who used the boat found this to be the case, but about half of them found that their knees hurt by the end of a paddling session. This was my wife's boat and it hurt her knees so it had to go. We now have a different model and her knees no longer get sore, and no friends have ever complained of sore knees either. In its defense, the Muktuk was designed for small paddlers, so maybe only very small people can comfortably paddle it (but it didn't seem like a particularly small boat or kayak).
I'm a man in my late twenties, fairly fit, about 170lbs and 5'9". I bought this kayak in good used condition two years ago. It is the first, and so far only, kayak that I've owned or used extensively so I can not compare it well to other boats. I can only tell you my experiences as a beginner who's grown into an intermediate paddler with the Boreal Design Fjell.
This is a plastic kayak that seems well built with a quality feel to the materials, fit, and finish. It has rubber hatch covers that require no straps to hold them down and durable foam bulkheads inside. The deck hardware and lines are holding up well. I store the boat outside and there's a bit of color fading that is noticeable only when I compare the current color to the original color under the bungee lines where sunlight rarely shines. So far I've been very happy with the quality.
My first trip was on the ocean. That was a mistake! I felt very tipsy with moderate ocean swell and small wind waves. So tipsy in fact that I was uneasy and remember thinking "what have I gotten myself into... thankfully I bought used so I can sell without taking a loss".
Instead of giving up I decided to practice on a calm lake to see if I was the problem or the kayak, and I'm glad I did. It took some time but eventually I learned to paddle better, and like learning to ride a bike, it soon became second nature to keep the boat balanced in a wide variety of conditions. This comfort and control eventually lead to pushing the boundaries of what the boat could do.
I would say that this boat has fair initial stability and very high secondary stability. It rocks easily while upright but I can lean the boat far onto its side without flipping. I can lean it so far to the side that water will be over the edge of the cockpit but the boat still hasn't reached its tipping point. I have not tried but I suspect this won't be an easy boat to do rolls in.
After two years I would say that it's a responsive boat that leans easily while turning and for control but to a beginner these characteristics can feel like instability. I consider it a safe and forgiving boat that can be leaned really far without tipping. There seems to be a wide safety margin which is nice when the waves get big. I was once caught broadside by a steep 7 foot wave that was on the brink of breaking. The Fjell rode parallel up the steep wave face and down the other side without missing a stride. On other occasions the boat has performed well in confused seas with fairly big waves coming from multiple directions. On a few occasions the sea was calm at the beginning of a trip but became quite choppy by the end and I had no trouble getting home safe.
My boat is equipped with a skeg but the Fjell has a rudder option as well. The skeg is deployed by turning a knob next to the cockpit which lowers the skeg into the water to any desired "amount". Without wind or current the Fjell naturally tracks quite straight and doesn't need skeg or rugger help. Just a tiny amount of skeg takes you from straight to arrow straight. Add in wind and current and I find I'm usually using a moderate amount of skeg to track straight. There's a tendency for the boat to want to weathercock a certain amount but usually the skeg can correct this without additional action. Strong wind and large waves moving contrary to my direction of travel will occasionally require additional corrective paddling techniques to compensate.
On the other hand, maneuverability and turning seem decent and the boat is easily controllable with proper paddle strokes. It probably won't win turning contests but for me the good tracking characteristics are more important. In terms of speed, I've never really accurately measured myself, but I seem to be able to average about 7km/h over long distances in moderately calm conditions. I can sprint faster over shorter distances in calm water but I feel like I can out-paddle the boat, as though I reach hull speed limitations before I max out my paddling power. Without comparison to other boats I would say the Fjell is fast but not the fastest out there.
The Fjell seems to have a higher profile than some other kayaks. This is good when waves break across the deck and clear before getting to you, and translates into spacious cockpit and storage spaces, but it's also bad because wind can catch the hull easier.
As I mentioned my boat has a skeg but I've used boats with rudders as well. My preference is definitely the skeg. I prefer the solid footrests that allow me to transfer power better instead of the "soft" feeling of the rudder peddles that move. Having said that, I find my main problem with the boat is pebbles sometimes getting lodged in the skeg slot when I launch. This becomes a problem when it later prevents the skeg from deploying once I'm out on the water and run into conditions that call for skeg. I recommend always checking the function of the skeg after launching from pebbly beaches and have found that a paddling partner can sometimes reach under the stern to dislodge pebbles.
Overall my experience with the Fjell has been extremely positive. It's a great boat that I love to paddle. I've even added fishing accessories so I can wet a hook with ease. In my limited experience I can confidently recommend this kayak.