For comparison purposes, my wife and I used to a 17', 47 pound Ally skin and frame canoe. We use it travelling around the country in a truck camper. We decided we wanted hard shell options for local paddling, with more comfortable seating, and considered kayaks, as we tried a tandem in the UP and enjoyed it. At our age, though, getting in and out wasn't the easiest thing. So after reading up on a few options, we thought the Next canoe would be a good compromise - and after about four times out on a lake - 1-2 hours each time - here are our observations.
The seats are extremely comfortable. They are adjustable and the back support is nice. The lower seats make getting up a little more difficult, but not problematical. Younger people will have no issue. The seats are, in realty, not very adjustable. The tracks the seats are on are not parallel, but bow with the shape of the boat. Slide the seats forward, and the plastic cups supporting the seat separate, and the seat falls out of the cup and off the track. Definitely a design problem which could be easily repaired at the factory. I also worry about the durability of the plastic cups. The open canoe design definitely helps our boarding and egress of the the craft.
We are getting used to the doubled bladed paddles. In fact, we've been using them on our Ally with great delight. The Next tracks well we are paddling, except in in medium to strong wind, but we are learning to compensate for the wind. On a windless day, we find we are moving along fairly well for our lack of experience with a kayak. It maneuvers exceptionally well. It doesn't track well when gliding, but begins moving in a short circle. Problematical even on the windless day. Wonder if a skeg would alleviate the problem? The problem might be aggravated by the fact we can't move the seats forward as advertised.
We've definitely noticed the weight difference - but we are not planning on portaging, and have wheels for transporting them from car to launch area. we modified a utility trailer for transport - though I doubt we will take the trailer on our cross country trips. We are getting what we wanted from them - exercise and comfortable seating. If we are looking at longer flat water trips, the Ally would still be our first choice.
We debated keeping the Nexts. We bought them untested from REI when they had a sale price of $749, and REI has a generous return policy - so we knew we could get our money back. We have so far kept them - it's been about a month, but done so a bit grudgingly. We can deal with the weight, I can add a skeg or rudder for the glide problem, and may be able to move the seats forward using spacers to keep the seat from popping out of the cups, assuming the cups will hold up.
So, I give it an 8: it didn't meet our expectations completely, but our expectations may not have been realistic based on out experiences with the Ally. But it has some issues I did not expect, given OT's reputation. But, given what we wanted from our purchase, these might well be the best option.