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Outdoor excursions in my home state of Michigan include a variety of activities, from the fall deer hunting season to winter snow sports to spring fishing to summer water sports—all of which I enjoy at every opportunity I get. Moreover, with five Great Lakes and thousands of inland lakes and rivers available to residents and visitors alike, water craft such as canoes and kayaks are very popular for individuals and families. Since my family and I enjoyed kayaking on Mona Lake in Norton Shores, Mich. earlier this year and look forward to more kayaking in the future, I jumped at the chance to review Pelican International’s Solo, a 6’ sit-on-top youth kayak. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the Solo is a youth kayak, it would not be me doing the testing but one of my four children. I drafted Jack, my 12-year old son.Pelican Solo Youth Kayak,
The Solo arrived safely at my home wrapped in enough plastic bubble wrap and cellophane that I could have re-used it to pack a hundred porcelain teacups and still had some left over. Once unpacked, I admired the bright yellow kayak’s smooth lines and thoughtful design. My wife thought it was a lovely addition to our living room.
I thoroughly inspected this vessel. After all, while it was too small for me, I would be sending one of my children out in it. So naturally my fatherly instincts kicked in as I looked closely at the virtually seamless construction, wide hull with rear entry handles, footrests, and carrying indentations. The Solo was equipped with a mount for a small flag and molded notches in which to rest a kayak paddle. Neither was included. I also read the documentation that came with the kayak. While the product manual applied to all Pelican kayaks, the overall instructions were clear enough and replete with helpful safety reminders. The one page insert that was specific to the Solo model only listed two included parts: the hull drain plug (installed) and the car top carrier kit (missing).
Right from the start, I could tell that the Solo was more than mere molded yellow plastic. It was a sturdy and functional watercraft with thoughtful design features. Every inch of the kayak felt robust and durable to me; as such I figured my kids would outgrow it before it ever came close to failing. Until the day we put the Solo in the water for a review, the kids took turns sitting in it while it waited in the living room for the big day.
And finally the day arrived. My son Jack and I would discover that using the Solo required not much more than simply transporting it to a body of water. No other preparation was needed other than finding a paddle.
Once in the water and carrying my 12-year old son, the Solo passed its ultimate test: it kept Jack afloat and allowed him to paddle safely around a lake near our home. And he had fun doing it!
As a sit-on-top model, the Solo’s molded plastic design clearly indicates where a passenger is to sit and put his feet. While the maximum weight is limited to 140 pounds, it seems that a variety of sizes of children would easily fit and be able to use the Solo. The hull offers drain holes or bailing ports in case any water breaches the sides. Multiple molded rests at the front of the Solo provide a place for feet, accommodating many leg lengths. Jack is just over five feet tall and weighs in at just under 100 pounds. While he fit in the Solo and could function just fine paddling around the lake, he’s probably at the top of the scale in terms of what would constitute a workable size for the Solo. He said he found the Solo comfortable but preferred the size of the adult kayak he tried earlier this year. Still, as I watched him paddle around the lake, the Solo did its job well. My son said he never felt like he was too big or heavy for the kayak and he never feared tipping. In fact, he appreciated the Solo’s stable ride, which Pelican points out as a key benefit from its wide hull design. Even if he did tip over, the sit-on-top design would be safer for him to handle.
Moreover, with its double hull construction, the Solo felt sturdy. It was more than capable for anything we’d ask of it. Still, the Solo traveled easily in the water—Jack wore his street clothes and a standard life preserver and only got his jeans a little wet. The Solo also fit well in our full-size SUV, sitting on the tops of the seatbacks in their upright position. At only 18 pounds the Solo was easy for us to pull from the lake and carry to the truck.
Even though Jack enjoyed the Pelican Solo and was well under the kayak’s maximum recommended weight limit, he fits into and easily uses a larger kayak. Regardless, I’m sure the Solo is targeted at much younger or smaller users. As such, the younger the child that uses a Pelican Solo, the more its value increases. It seems like a great entry-level kayak for a small child and one that would remain useful over many years as that child grows. So, with its sturdy and thoughtful construction and light weight, the Solo gets a high rating for value.
As long as a family is looking for a sturdy kayak for a smallish child, the Pelican Solo should be on the list to consider and therefore gets the highest rating for referability. Nothing was lacking in Pelican’s Solo kayak and the extra accessories such as a flag or car carrier would only add value. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Solo to family and friends as long as they’re clear on the size and weight restrictions and their child’s ability to safely handle a kayak.
Despite the fact that he just fit, Jack liked the Solo—a lot—and even asked about reviewing larger models. In that sense, if one of Pelican’s aims is to engage younger children and get them interested in Pelican products, the Solo accomplished its mission.