Most Recent Reviews
This is a great design for kids - it's sleek and fast, just maneuverable enough that they will learn how to make a boat go straight, and has great stability while still being leanable. I usually chuckle at reviews that claim a boat has all of those traits, because they usually are mutually exclusive. But these boats really do fit the bill, especially with a pilot who weighs under 100 lbs.
The boat has just enough wiggle in its primary stability to make it easy to lean/edge, but secondary stability is solid. In spite of being a "narrow" hull, my kids have to work to flip them. They even can stand up in the seats and jump out to swim, then scramble back in without flipping.
As kids grow, the boat will sit lower in the water and become less maneuverable, but it still will turn when edged, just like a "real" touring boat.
These boats aren't perfect. The seat is minimalist/cheap with no backband, there are no hatches or bulkheads, and the factory foam pillars do not provide enough floatation to allow on-water emptying/recovery if the boat flips/swamps. I use whitewater kayak floatation bags in ours.
I think these are discontinued now, but if you can find one used, it's a great kid starter boat
Regardless of what the company says, the Fun is more playboat than river runner, with all of the pros and cons that go with that. It will get slapped around when running a rapid, and the edges WILL catch on crosscurrents. It's probably forgiving compared to a dedicated playboat, but your kid will have to learn to mind his/her edges and keep an active blade in the water. My son had fun and learned a lot in this boat, but he was very happy when he got big enough to switch to a Remix 47.
I'll echo the other reviewer's complaint about the rope/cleat back band setup. It's very hard to secure properly, even with adult strength and coordination.
Of course, no boat is perfect, so here are the downsides:
1. Footpegs instead of a bulkhead. They make the boat lighter and probably help keep the cost down, but I really think bulkheads are safer and more comfortable for WW boats. The rest of the outfitting is a kid-scaled version of LL's "Bad Ass Outfitting," and it's aptly named. Best seat/hip brace/thigh brace setup on the market.
2. Liquid Logic needs to make a Remix 42 and a Remix 52. The 47 is TOO stable and a bit too deep for a typical 6-8 year old, if you want them to feel what it's like to properly lean/edge a boat. Granted, it will be nearly impossible to flip at that size, which I suppose can be a good thing, but your kid will be forced into using bell buoy body leans to edge the boat. That can be a hard habit to break. On the top end, once your kid outgrows the 47, moving into a 59 will be a really big jump in volume and width.
The adjustable seat in the Royalex version is annoying - the mechanism rattles loudly when car topping, and it will pop out of your chosen setting if you bump it with your feet while moving around in the boat. Neat idea, though.
The Royalex is a bit thin/fragile, but that's an issue with most Royalex boats these days. At least it makes the boat easier to carry/portage.
Overall, the Argosy does nothing well, but it does a little of everything acceptably.
I learned solo open boating in an Impulse and always thought that my dislike of the design was just a side effect of the steep learning curve - any solo WW boat will be very frustrating during your first few outings. Then I jumped into an Impulse again recently and discovered that it's just as unresponsive, slow and piggish for an experienced paddler as it is for a beginner.
Even with it being several years since Dagger quit making canoes, Impulses still are pretty common on the used market. There is a reason for this...
The Probe 12 is quite stable. This can be a mixed blessing - when you're learning, it makes for fewer swims. When you get good, it makes technical moves and play more difficult, since the boat doesn't register subtle changes in lean angle or paddle pressure very well. Its stability also may contribute to needing perfect technique to roll consistently in the sorts of conditions likely to make you flip in the first place. Or maybe I'm just not very good at rolling a canoe…
The Probe doesn't have as much rocker as many newer solo boats. In class 2, that won't really be too noticeable, but in bigger stuff you have to plan ahead and use wave peaks and small eddies/holes to assist with making quick turns. For surfing and ferries, you need to be very careful of your angles and assertive with your correction strokes, otherwise you'll find yourself getting blown downstream pretty quickly. The boat isn't super dry and will take on a fair amount of water if you spear a wave or hole head on. On the other hand, it's decently fast. I've done attainment moves in my Probe that I couldn't do in either an Ovation or an Outrage.
Overall, I wouldn't call the Probe 12 a great design, but it's not terrible either. I find it a decent compromise - enough performance that I can enjoy it in class 3 but not so twitchy that I have to be on my "A Game" 100% of the time. When my Probe 12 wears out, I'll probably replace it with something else, but until then it gets the job done just fine.
I still think the RPM is a great design, especially if you're into long boat play and slalom-style moves; however, for general river running, it's no longer the best out there. Kayak companies have finally figured out that there's more to creating a river runner than just rebranding last year's playboat design. Examples? Wavesport Diesel and Dagger Mamba. Both are more stable than the RPM and still have most of its other positive traits. The only things you give up are the ability to do stern squirts and a bit of hull speed.
Pros for RPM - good hull speed for it's length, but short enough not to be too hard to maneuver. Low volume stern makes for good front surfs and stern squirts. Easiest rolling boat ever made.
Cons for RPM - low volume stern can catch and flip you in bigger stuff and makes it hard to carry extra gear.
The Shaman is a very nice flatwater boat, but it would be a handful on anything more than easy Class I rapids. The full-length keel ridge is pretty grabby when crossing eddy lines and confused currents. Also, because this boat can't be spun unless edged, it's tough to reposition yourself in a small eddy. Eddy turns also tend to degenerate into "eddy deflections" unless you lean the boat hard and plant a huge duffek stroke.
That said, the boat does roll easily and is very maneuverable for a narrow, keeled hull. On flat water (moving or lake), you can initiate and control turns just by edging (though I would need a lot of hip padding to keep me from sliding side to side on the seat). I don't know how it compares to a "real" sea kayak, since I've never spent more than 10 minutes in one, but it glides beautifully compared to pretty much any other rec boat. It threaded its way through lots of downed trees in current on my local river without much ado, and it had great speed for attaining upstream.
But it's definitely not a whitewater crossover boat--more of a high end day tourer, if there is such a thing. Can't say how it performs in "open" water, since I'm not a tourer and don't have access to such conditions anyway.
The Phase 3 seat was incredibly comfortable, mostly due to the adjustable under-thigh support. First factory kayak seat I've ever sat in that didn't put my feet to sleep within minutes. If I bought a boat like this, though, I'd probably rip the backrest out and replace it with a backband. I just don't use or like backrests, high or low.
The plastic is of average toughness, I suppose. I scratched the heck out of it in the week I had it, but then I was banging over rocks and t-boning the riverbank (before I figured out that the boat NEEDS a duffek stroke to complete an eddy turn :). It also deformed where the roof rack contacted the front deck, but what do you expect from unsupported plastic?
Overall it's a very cool rec boat, I suppose, if you want the look and feel of a sea kayak but don't need something 17 feet long.