Sunday, April 23, 2017

Old Town Loon 126 - -My kayak review

Shaker Hill Outdoors is located in Poland, right on Rt. 26.  I stopped by there today to talk to them about carrying the book as it pairs well with their customer base.  My publisher had reached out to them and I decided to follow up in person.  While I was waiting for the man I needed to talk with, who was with other customers, I asked if they had any of the Old Town Loon 126's in stock.  Yes...yes they did.  

I have been keeping my eye on the Loon 126 for a while.  My boat has always been the Old Town Loon 138.  I have loved that boat for many reasons.  The first being that it was my mom's boat... so the sentimental value is priceless.  Besides that, I love that it is a stable boat, tracks well, is comfortable, and has plenty of legroom.  For me, all of those things are important.  
Here is a direct link to the Old Town Loon 126 on Old Town's website: 

The red kayak I inherited after my mom died is still in great shape.  The only thing that it 'going' on it is the seat.  It has a couple of cracks and the back of the seat isn't as supportive as it once was.  I reached out to Old Town to try to replace the seat... but.. the kayak was made in the early 90s and they no longer make seats for it... which is disappointing.  So... I have been looking at the new Loons by Old Town.  Because I have had a red kayak and often mention the beloved red kayak I have paddled I have looked at the red version of the loons... and didn't like them.  They also come in 'cloud' which is blue swirled with white.  But... despite being pretty, I worry that a blue kayak doesn't show up well on the water... so that left lemongrass or sunrise... I like the idea of yellow, but... sunrise, when I saw it today, really caught my eye.  It has a lot of red in it, with yellow and orange.... 

Long story short... I bought myself a NEW OLD TOWN LOON 126 - the Sunrise color... THIS is my NEW boat:


Why did I buy it? Well as I said I have been looking at them for a while... and I sat in it... THAT was my downfall... THE SEAT!!  My oh my!  It was sooo comfortable!  I think I could take a nap in that thing!  It was roomy... width wise and the length of the cockpit was comparable to what I am used to in the Loon 138.  (And... it is possible that Miss Gladys would be able to join me in this boat... though we would be a bit cramped, it is possible! We tested it out later in the day!) 

So.. here is MY review... after ONE voyage in my new boat...

Appearance: I like the look of the new Loons, though I miss the older decal, the traditional Loon decal that is on the older boats.  The new loon looks more.... sphelt than the older loons, more modern.  

Size/Weight: The weight of the 126 kayak feels a bit lighter than my 138.  Being a bit shorter it feels a bit easy to maneuver off the water by myself.  

Cockpit: The width of the cockpit is plenty roomy.  The length reminded me of the cockpit in my 138.  Plenty of room for my legs.  (For those who do not know... I am very tall, 6'6"  and am not a skinny chick!  This EASILY accommodated me.)  
Oh.. another big selling point for me... there IS room behind the seat for the cart I use to transport my kayak solo.  The rear part of the kayak is blocked off, there is a compartment for storage which is nice.  I didn't try to access the rear storage while paddling, but I did have a sweatshirt in there in case I needed it! When I had looked at the 126  elsewhere I didn't think there would be room for my cart behind the seat, but there is!!  That was a big bonus for me!

Here is the kayak without the console. 

The console: I like the idea of a console... and need to have more experience with it to see if it is something I like or not.  But on my first adventure using it, I was not sold on having it.  (Perhaps because I am not used to it.)  There are two main reasons for which I am not an automatic fan... 
1.) It closes off the cockpit just where my knees go... so, if I wanted to pull my legs out to hang them over the edge which I sometimes like to do to change position and on those hot summer days when I want to dip my feet in the water I would have to remove the console to do that.  That being said, it would not be hard to take it out because the locking mechanisms which hold it to the cockpit are easy to move and the console comes off and goes on very easily.  In fact, I needed t take it out to get in and out of the kayak, to be able to swing my legs in/out, and it was easy to do that. 
2.)  On the bottom of the console there is a metal water bottle holder attached to it.  (See the photos below.)   In theory, I suppose it seems like a great addition... but for me... someone who, due to knee issues, likes to move my legs around a bit as I paddle, the drink holder got in the way.  It looks like it will be easy to remove, which I plan on doing.  I have never minded having a water bottle be on the floor of the kayak.  The drink holder leaves only about 6 inches of space between the water bottle holder and the bottom of the kayak.  I suppose that clearance would be enough for some people's legs, but I didn't care for it. 


See the water bottle holder?  Hangs well below the console. 

This is the console IN the kayak... (Sorry it isn't a better picture, I used my phone and the lighting isn't great...)  It does show that there is not a ton of space below the console for legs to move around... Perhaps designed by people who don't spend hours on the water?  I think I could use it for shorter trips, but don't want to have it on my console, not for my comfort. 

I did like the compartment in the console.  Big enough for my phone, sunscreen, and a thick pair of wool socks!  (It was still a bit chilly today and I brought them just in case my feet got cold!)  The console has a USB port which connects to a usb cord inside the water tight compartment.  This is designed to have a battery of sorts inside so people can power their devices or phone... I suppose that would be good if your phone battery was low... because I do use my phone a bit when I paddle to take photos and videos... 
But... there is something in me that doesn't like the idea of having a charging station in my kayak.  For me kayaking is about getting away from it all... I don't want to listen to music while I paddle...I want to listen to the sounds of nature and listen for critters... but... I know some people like to listen to music.  And... perhaps having a battery would allow fishermen (and women) to use their fishfinders or other fishing tools... so... I won't say it is unnecessary, but for me... not needed.  
I can foresee  myself taking the console on trips (without Gladys of course!)  where I am in salt water coves and for shorter paddles.  I will keep you updated on whether or not it grows on me! 

The Seat: The seat!  Oh my goodness the seat!  Now.. perhaps my point of view on the seat should be taken with a grain of salt... I have been sitting in a kayak seat that is the hard plastic molded seat.... a hard plastic molded seat that is close to 25 years old, complete with a couple of cracks and lack of great back support, but THIS SEAT!  I love it!  It is so comfortable even while wearing my pfd!  I will say that I don't think I had to adjust my pfd once to make myself more comfortable.  The back came up high enough on me where I felt supported and the butt part of the seat is also comfortable.  I like that it is adjustable so that I could raise and lower the part of the seat that was on my lower thigh.  In my other boat I often took a styrofoam pool noodle to put under my knees because sometimes my legs would fall asleep when I paddled.  The pool noodle helped change the angle my legs were at... I don't think I will need the noodle again!   The seat folds down for easier transport.  There is a small bungee with a plastic cip on it to connect it to a similar bungee and clip on the seat to keep the seat folded.  I wonder about the durability of the plastic clips... but time will tell! 


The red bungee like cord in the circle of the seat is how you adjust the height of the front of the seat.  

Maneuverability: Since I had planned on getting on the water today anyway... I kept my plan and headed to Tenny River.  (post on that later...or sometime this week!)  I was so excited that the water was open and accessible!  (What a difference a few days make!)  
Getting into the kayak was similar to my other boat.  (though I miss the bungee on the side of the boat to secure my paddle.  The kayak did come with a paddle holder that can be attached to the kayak... I am choosing to NOT attach it because a - my paddle doesn't fit in it and if it were attached to the kayak in the location where it is supposed to be,  and b- it would likely get damaged when I load the kayak onto my truck.  It is supposed to sit towards the back of the cockpit... and I think that when I pulled it off the truck It would get caught and get banged up.  I transport my kayaks cockpit side down... which I know not all paddlers do. So, for me, the metal type paddle holder is not a feature to highlight.  I am going to see if I can figure out a bungee system similar to what is on the old Loons.)  The stability of the boat was VERY similar to my old Loon.  I was SO happy about that!  
Tracking-  I don't think the tracking was quite as good as the longer Loon 138, but would say it was still good.  I found that when I tried to 'float' to take photos, I would often turn more than I expected when I would try to slightly adjust my position. It is something I think I will quickly adapt to.  
Speed - I have paddled with a lot of people who have described their boats as 'faster' due to their design.  To be honest it is not something I was too concerned about because the Loon 138 met my needs.  That being said... I think this boat is a little faster in the water.  I am not sure what about the design makes that the case, but, I did feel like my paddling strokes got more bang for my buck, so to speak. 


Overall I am in love with this new kayak! It is, because of the seat, more comfortable than my other Loon... I am not yet sold on the console, but would bet that I will end up doing some trips with it and will like it just fine... AFTER I remove the water bottle holder.  In the meantime I am going to try my 'deck bag' I got last year, pictured here: 

I think this may give me what I am looking for while allowing me to have the more open cockpit... but time will tell.  And I need to find a way to secure my paddle to the boat, which should be easy to find and hopefully to install!  

 If you want a stable boat that provides comfort and efficiency, especially if you are above average in the height/weight department, I doubt you could find a better rec boat!  
Happy to answer questions from folks who may be looking to get a Loon 126, shoot me an email at mainekayakgirl@gmail.com!


As a side note... I love supporting local businesses, and am happy to support/endorse Shaker Hill.  I also support Sebago Trails Paddling Company located in Raymond.  Sebago carries a lot of brands of kayaks, but if I remember correctly from conversations with Bill, the owner, the Loon 126 is not one they sell.  I encourage folks to check out both businesses!

I reached out to Bill at Sebago after I got home and am pleased to announce that this year he IS becoming an Old Town dealer!  So whether you go to Shaker Hill or Sebago Trails, know that you will be well taken care of and are in good hands!

*I feel like I should add, I am reviewing this kayak totally independently.  I have always been a fan of Old Town products, and reviewed the kayak based solely on my experience and preferences! 

1 comment:

  1. As we chatted, I can say I, "bought mine first," ha!

    Outstanding, very in depth write up. I bought the same identical model and color as I was researching 'yaks as a rookie paddler:

    - Supporting local businesses, I agree. I spent some time growing up in an Old Town canoe at the pond and I also lived in Old Town my senior year of UMO, so it all made sense. Quality workmanship and a great reputation were also keys in my purchasing decision.

    - Same idea on the color. I was originally going to get the Loon 126 Angler in Urban Camo, but figured I wanted to be more visible on the water, especially as I make rookie mistakes. So, the "sunrise" scheme for me was the way to go for all the same reasons above. I may still add an anchor trolley and rod holders once I feel comfortable enough to also put my fishing gear in this thing. I’m not a huge fisherman, but might give it a shot.

    - The dash was a big selling point with me as it added a, "modern" element. Not sure about the USB charger, as in theory, the wiring and whatever you plug into would be outside the water tight compartment on the dash (which is awesome by the way) and I do have an external charger battery, if needed that I can put in there. I liked the rail for my Go Pro, the cell phone holder and the water bottle holder for me was just right. The dash is indeed easy to take on and off, as needed. I'll probably listen to sports as I paddle, depending on the time of the day, so these will all come in handy for me. I enjoy getting away, but being able to stay connected most of the time, as needed. My Golden is 80lbs, so I don't think he'll be riding with me in this anyway, so I'll probably always keep the dash on except to clean, etc.

    - The seat is amazing. I sat in it before ordering mine and to be able to crank the front of the seat up to support my hamstrings and then adjust up or down the seat back and the forward pulling straps, it all felt just great. After spending a few hours in it on Sunday, I felt outstanding. I’ve been told those of us with history of back issues may have issues sitting in a kayak, but I think this seat will do very well to support me as I enjoy the water.

    - The triple layered construction was also a selling point for me. No need for foam inserts for buoyancy jammed up in the front and rear of the boat. If it is swamped, my understanding is it will still float. (I'll have to test this when the water is much, much warmer.) The water tight rear hatch is pretty cool also, I have a bag of extra clothes, spare water, food and other survival gear in there, just in case. I could not put the cart in there, but I’ll have to try the behind the seat trick, good call!

    - Listed weight of 56 lbs was in line with other sized kayaks. Also, the weight limit of 450lbs was much higher than many other similar sized kayaks. I go about 225 with PDF and with gear, probably pushing 250lbs in the boat. Enough that if we did a camping trip, or multi-day paddle, I'd have no fear of over weighing the boat with extra gear needed on a voyage.

    - The paddle holder works with my carbon Aqua-Bound, so I installed it on the side, but have yet to use it. I actually forgot about it as I hauled it to the water on Sunday and broke down my paddle to fit inside the cockpit, but will try it next time. Probably a good spot for an extra paddle on a long trip.

    - I liked the way the rear, “sweeps” down into the water. I think I heard on a video that this was an attempt to keep the rear end out of the wind, helping with maneuverability. It went where I pointed it on Sunday. Can't comment on speed compared to other kayaks, etc.

    Anyway, I only have a few hours in mine, as I learn more about it, I want to do some minor modifications, add some pad eyes, the anchor trolley, etc. but so far, I'm enjoying it and hope to have it for the next number of years!

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