There’s no shortage of kayak brands that market themselves to recreational and beginner kayakers. But not all of these models are created equal. Many lack the stability, durability, or features to make them worthwhile investments.
But several companies produce reliable, well-designed kayaks that make getting into paddling easy. One of these is Pelican, a company with an impressive resume of constructing tough and stable kayaks.
We’ve looked at Pelican’s 2023 lineup and reviewed what they offer in various categories to help you choose a suitable model.
Pelican Sport Overview
Let’s start with the legacy. Founded in Canada, Pelican Sport has been around since 1968, and it’s hard not to take notice when a company has existed and thrived for that long.
A business with a long-lasting legacy means plenty of time to perfect and master its chosen field. Pelican seems to have done that, offering a rich array of kayaks in various categories.
Pelican’s kayaks aren’t meant to be the highest-performing models since they’re mainly designed for recreational use. But this doesn’t mean the quality is subpar. On the contrary, they provide excellent stability, making them great options for those just starting out.
Kayaking is an expensive hobby, but the majority of Pelican’s models are very reasonably priced for what they’re designed to do. Again, this makes them awesome if you’re new to the sport, aren’t sure how much paddling you’ll be doing, or just aren’t ready or able to make a big financial commitment.
What Sets Pelican Kayaks Apart?
Pelican has developed their own patented plastic material called Ram-X. This polyethylene plastic provides their boats with excellent durability that can withstand most collisions and even accidental drops while carrying.
Polyethylene is heavy, making kayaks challenging to carry. But Pelican’s Ram-X is lighter than many competitors, making it simpler to get from the car to the water.
Stability is priority number one for Pelican. And this is especially apparent when you look at their sit-on-top models. These kayaks are marketed toward beginners and have additional stability built into their hulls, giving newcomers a level of confidence you can’t find in other designs.
Many of their fishing kayaks are so stable that they allow you to stand up and cast, providing an extra advantage when looking for schools of fish.
Speaking of angling, custom features are vital when selecting a fishing kayak. And Pelican has been sure to trick out their fishing models with a host of customization locations, allowing you to outfit your boat with additional fishing rod holders, fish finders, and other gadgets you want on the water.
Pelican Kayak Reviews
Understanding the key differences and features between various kayak models is imperative to selecting the right boat for you. This section thoroughly summarizes Pelican’s 2023 lineup to help ensure you go home with the perfect kayak.
Best Sit-Inside: Pelican Sprint 100XR
Length: 10′ | Width: 28″ | Weight: 41 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs
While most of Pelican’s kayaks are designed with casual paddlers and newcomers in mind, the Sprint 100XR is an exception to the rule. This doesn’t mean that beginners are excluded from the Sprint XR. Although, the deep, V-shaped hull and high chines can make it feel tippier and less forgiving.
However, this streamlined design makes it one of the highest-performing Pelican kayaks available. Tracking is impressive, even in choppy conditions, a rarity for kayaks of this length. In addition, the boat responds well to shifts in body weight, allowing you to control your course and direction with simple pivots of your hips.
The keel is sleeker than most Pelican boats in this category. This gives it a better top speed and tracking than most recreational kayaks, providing a more efficient paddle. However, it’s a boat meant for more protected water, so challenging crossings and windy conditions should be avoided if possible.
The load capacity isn’t very high at 300 pounds, making it better for day outings. A watertight stern hatch and a smaller, 4″ compartment accessible from the seat provide plenty of dry storage if you’ll be paddling in the rain.
A comfortable seat and superb knee braces keep you on the water longer. And the knee braces come in handy when dipping the Sprint XR’s chines in the water for sharp turns or to maintain course.
Best Value Sit-Inside: Pelican Argo 100X
Length: 10′ | Width: 28″ | Weight: 36 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
The Pelican Argo 100X makes for a perfect low-priced introduction to the kayaking world with a simple design and lightweight frame.
Many kayaks that weigh less than 40 pounds are unreliable, suffering from either stability issues, poor design, or subpar performance. But Pelican knows what they’re doing, and the 100X’s twin-arched, multi-chine hull gives you the reassuring stability to head out on calm lakes, protected bays, and mellow rivers.
The shorter keel and narrower beam make it easy to maneuver and squeeze into hard-to-reach places. However, the tracking and speed are below average compared to higher-end kayaks, making it a proper recreational kayak that shouldn’t be used for longer overnight adventures.
The load capacity is on the low side at 275 pounds, but that’s not uncommon for budget kayaks of this class. A small watertight hatch is built into the bow of the 100X, while a more significant, open-air storage spot can be found in the stern.
The seat is well padded on the back and bottom and is made of a breathable material that helps keep you cool on hotter days. However, the lower deck and narrower beam means that taller paddlers or those with bigger feet may have difficulty squeezing into the cockpit. If you can, test it out before purchasing if you’re on the tall side.
Best Sit-Inside for Beginners: Pelican Argo 100XR
Length: 10′ | Width: 29″ | Weight: 41 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs
The big brother of the Argo 100X, the Argo 100XR, can easily be confused thanks to the similar name and specifications. However, a few additional features and a higher-performing package separate it from the 100X and makes it a dynamite introduction to the world of sit-in kayaks.
Performance is similar as the 100XR is also ten feet in length. It’s an inch wider and weighs just a little bit more, but can also carry 300 pounds compared to the 100X’s 275. It’s still not enough for big trips, but you may be able to squeeze an overnight trip out of the 100XR.
The storage layout is also slightly different, with a big, watertight stern hatch. Unfortunately, there isn’t a designated storage area in the bow. Still, it’s always possible to shove gear in front of your feet, especially stuff sacks and other items that compress easily.
The big difference comes in the premium features built into the 100XR. Along with the well-padded seat, you also get knee rests and adjustable foot braces which can help paddlers of all shapes and sizes find a comfortable position.
A few customization options have also been included, with a pair of rigging tracks built into the hull. These are usually reserved for fishing kayaks. But they allow you to easily hook up a GPS, GoPro, fishing rod holders, or whatever else you deem necessary for your next Saturday afternoon on the river.
Best Sit-on-Top: Pelican Sentinel 100X
Length: 10′ | Width: 30″ | Weight: 40 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs
The sit-on-top version of the Argo 100X, the Sentinel 100X, is a stable model that provides additional leg room and an easier time getting in and out of the kayak. A twin-arched, multi-chine hull has been included in the Sentinel design, and the extra width necessary for a sit-on-top means that you should have no trouble keeping it upright.
Despite the extra width, the Sentinel is still just 40-pounds. This, coupled with the 10-foot keel, should allow many solo kayakers to carry it by themselves for short distances. In addition, the rigid plastic hull can absorb short drags to the water if the beach is sand or pebbles. For longer portages, t-shaped handles have been built into the bow and stern, making tandem carries simple.
There’s no dry storage in the Sentinel, but that’s common for sit-on-tops. So instead, you get two open-air areas, one each in the bow and stern, with the stern area being larger.
There are no adjustable foot pegs, but you get multiple footwells to brace against. Unfortunately, these can sometimes feel too cramped or too far away for some paddlers. Still, this minor inconvenience is offset by the open design of the Sentinel, making it a solid choice for big and tall kayakers.
Performance is similar to the other kayaks mentioned above. It’s a true recreational kayak that’s easy to steer, but will run into trouble if you attempt more significant crossings or attempt to take it through rough or windy ocean conditions.
Best Tandem: Pelican Argo 136XP
Length: 13′6″ | Width: 32″ | Weight: 67 lbs | Capacity: 500 lbs
You will not find many tandem sit-in kayaks that are this light. Many tandem kayaks feel like a burden, and carrying them to the water’s edge can be exhausting. However, the Pelican Argo 136XP checks in at just 67-pounds, and the solid, built-in handles on the bow and stern make portages easy and painless.
Once on the water, the sit-in design allows the Argo 136XP to be narrower than its bulkier sit-on-top counterparts. Add in the keel extension, and this boat has a better top speed and tracking than you’d expect. Of course, it’s still on the short side compared to many tandem kayaks, so don’t try big water crossings, but it handles chop better than most 13.5-foot boats.
The load capacity is large, but remember you’ll have two paddlers. There’s only one dedicated storage area, a decently sized, watertight stern hatch. There is some room in front of the seat where gear can be stuffed, but this may depend on the length of your legs.
Pelican’s patented multi-chine hull makes up the 136XP’s foundation, providing excellent stability, and those comfy ergonomic chairs offer plenty of padding. Like other smaller sit-in kayaks, bigger or taller paddlers may feel cramped. But the overall performance and tracking of the 136XP make it an easy choice for the best Pelican tandem available.
Best for Fishing: Pelican Catch 120
Length: 11′8″ | Width: 34″ | Weight: 69 lbs | Capacity: 400 lbs
The Pelican Catch 120’s calling card is unbelievable stability. The pontoon hull makes it feel like a battleship beneath you, able to handle moderate chop without fear of tipping over. It’s even stable enough to stand and cast from, which is a huge advantage when it comes to spotting schools of fish and casting with accuracy.
Comfort is a premium when fishing, and the Catch 120’s seat is well padded and easily adjustable. If you don’t want to stand and cast, the higher seat setting provides an excellent angle for casting.
For customization, the Catch 120 has four rod holders to go along with a host of other custom options. A couple of ancillary eyelets allow you to install custom fishing gear, including a fish finder.
A watertight bow hatch offers plenty of dry storage space. While an even larger, open-air stern hatch allows you to take full advantage of the kayak’s 400 lb capacity.
The Catch 120 can carry more gear than most beginner-friendly kayaks. It should be enough capacity for you to make an overnight trip. Beyond one or two night adventures, you’ll have to pack your gear carefully.
Best Value Fishing Kayak: Pelican Sentinel 100X Angler
Length: 9′6″ | Width: 30″ | Weight: 44 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs
Fishing kayaks are currently in something of an arm’s race to see who can load their boat with the most accessories and gadgets. Usually, you have to spend a pretty penny to get these extra toys. But Pelican is bucking the trend by jamming in a ton of additional features into their Sentinel 100X Angler and making it an excellent value fishing kayak.
Multiple accessory eyelets let you add a GPS, fish finder, or additional fishing rod holders with little trouble. You also get two vertical rod holders built directly into the hull.
But what really catches my eye is the removable central console. The Pelican patented EXOPAK can be quickly taken out of its housing, allowing you to pack it at home. Then, simply plop your Sentinel 100X in the water and reinstall the EXOPAK. No rummaging around or deciding in the moment where you want to store your fishing lures and other items you want accessible.
A beefy, watertight stern storage hatch provides space for larger items, and a mesh-covered bow storage section allows you to maximize the boat’s 275-pound capacity. That’s a bit on the low side for a fishing kayak but is perfectly suitable for day trips.
A comfy, high-backed seat and adjustable foot pedals mean that paddlers of all shapes and sizes should be able to find a position that keeps them comfortable no matter how long they plan to spend on the water.
Best Pedal: Pelican Getaway 110 HDII
Length: 10′5″ | Width: 33″ | Weight: 59 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs
A bigger and brawnier model than many on this list, the Getaway 110 HDII stands apart from Pelican’s other models thanks to the innovative pedal system that completely changes your perception of kayaking.
Instead of a paddle, a pedal system allows you to propel yourself with your feet. At the same time, steering and maneuvering is done with an easy-to-use joystick that can be controlled with one hand. This gives the Getaway 110 a better top speed with less physical effort than a more traditional kayak without compromising maneuverability or stability.
Most pedal kayaks are big and cumbersome, with many tipping the scales at over 100-pounds. But like the rest of Pelican’s kayaks, the Getaway 110 is a reasonable weight at just 59-pounds. So while you’ll probably need a second person to move it up and down the beach, it’s much better than most in this department.
A pair of rigging tracks lets you outfit your Getaway however you see fit, though I wish they’d dedicated a bit more of the boat’s 10’5″ keel to storage. Unfortunately, there’s only an open-air stern area for storage where gear can be secured with bungee cords.
Like other Pelican models we’ve discussed, the Getaway’s load capacity is on the low side at 300-pounds. This makes it better for day tours and does negate the lack of storage space to some extent.
Best Motor-Compatible: Pelican Catch PWR 100
Length: 9′9″ | Width: 40″ | Weight: 75 lbs | Capacity: 450 lbs
Even larger than the Getaway design, the Pelican Catch PWR 100 provides another alternative method of propulsion. While you can use the PWR 100 for a range of activities, it’s clearly built with fishing in mind.
The transom can handle up to a 2.5 hp motor, either electric or gas. If you choose to go the electric route, a designated storage compartment has been built into the hull that can accommodate a battery. The pre-wire setup makes installing your electric motor easy.
Stability is outstanding on this model. The wide, flat bottom allows you to cast from a standing position with ease.
The comfy seat that’s a mainstay in Pelican’s kayaks has also been included. For the PWR 100, the chair is fit on sliders, so you can simply move back and forth. It can also rotate, allowing you to spin a full 360 degrees and cast from any angle.
Plenty of the goodies and accessories you’d expect in a fishing kayak are here too. Custom options to outfit your boat to your specification are included, as are anti-slip carpets, bottle holders, and designated spots to hold your fishing rods.
Despite all of this, it’s still a reasonable weight, at just 75-pounds. Remember that this doesn’t include the motor, which is not included in the purchase.
Pelican Kayak Comparison Table
|Pelican Kayak||Length||Width||Height||Weight||Capacity||Seating||Cockpit Type|
|Sprint 100XR||10′||28″||14″||41 lbs||300 lbs||Solo||Sit-inside|
|Argo 100X||10′||28″||14″||36 lbs||275 lbs||Solo||Sit-inside|
|Argo 100XR||10′||29″||13″||41 lbs||300 lbs||Solo||Sit-inside|
|Sentinel 100X||10′||30″||13″||40 lbs||300 lbs||Solo||Sit-on-top|
|Argo 136XP||13’6″||32″||15″||67 lbs||500 lbs||Tandem||Sit-inside|
|Catch 120||11’8″||34″||15″||69 lbs||400 lbs||Solo||Sit-on-top|
|Sentinel 100X Angler||9’6″||30″||13″||44 lbs||275 lbs||Solo||Sit-on-top|
|Getaway 110 HDII||10’5″||33″||11″||59 lbs||300 lbs||Solo||Sit-on-top|
|Catch PWR 100||9’9″||40″||16″||75 lbs||450 lbs||Solo||Sit-on-top|
Pelican Kayak Buying Guide
If you think Pelican is the right kayak brand for you, you still have a few choices to make. Pelican offers such a diverse set of boats that it’s crucial you understand the differences and select a design that will fit your lifestyle.
Our buying guide will help you choose the right model, so you spend less time clicking through kayak reviews and more time on the water.
- Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top
- Stability & Tracking
- Portability & Storage
Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top
Pelican offers the main types of kayaks, sit-in and sit-on-top. Both can handle a range of activities, but there are key differences between them.
Sit-inside kayaks offer that svelte, traditional look. They’re skinnier than their sit-on-top brethren. This makes them more efficient to paddle as there is less water resistance, and they can travel at a faster speed and take less effort.
From a comfort standpoint, they’re more cramped since the lower half of your torso is confined beneath the kayak’s deck. Some taller paddlers may find it more challenging to get comfortable because of this.
While they’re still stable, they can feel a bit tippier than a sit-on-top. This is because their primary stability isn’t as good, but the secondary stability is excellent. As a result, they can tip side to side easier but are still difficult to flip. More practiced paddlers won’t think much of it, but newcomers may do a lot more twitching back and forth in fear of capsizing.
A sit-in kayak will be a good choice if you live in a cold or rainy area. The cockpit’s combing can have a spray skirt stretched across it, which will minimize the amount of water that trips into your lap while you paddle.
Sit-on-tops don’t have that same sleek look, but they’ve become the most common kayak on local lakes and rivers.
They’re wider than sit-in kayaks and don’t have a confined cockpit, giving you much more space to move around and get comfortable. This gives them excellent primary stability, a plus for newcomers that want to feel stable no matter how much shifting they do.
This does limit their performance to some extent. You won’t get the same speed or maneuverability you get in a sit-in design, and most lack dry storage space.
Since your entire body is exposed to the elements, they’re at their best in warm weather environments where you won’t mind some water splashing on you while you paddle.
Like most recreational kayaks, Pelican’s boats are made of a tough plastic called polyethylene. They have designed their own version of this plastic, though, Ram-X.
This innovative design allows Pelican’s boats to be lighter than many competitors’ models without compromising durability. This makes them an excellent choice for those that will be doing a lot of kayaking on their own and may not be able to enlist the help of someone else to get their kayak to the water.
The speed of a kayak is strongly correlated with how long the keel is. The longer the keel, the faster the kayak will go. Width also plays a role in this equation, with narrower keels providing less resistance and a faster top speed.
Finally, kayaks that use different propulsion methods, such as the pedal or motor-compatible boats on this list, have a sizable advantage in speed.
For the more traditional designs, the tandem Argo 136XP outpaces the competition thanks to the long keel while having room for two paddlers, doubling its power on a stroke-by-stroke basis.
Among the solo kayaks, the Sprint 100XR lives up to its name thanks to the 10′ keel and narrow hull. If you’re looking for speed and overall performance, the 100XR is probably the boat for you.
While many of Pelican’s kayaks won’t blow you away in the speed department, those shorter keels combined with the narrower hulls give most of their models fantastic maneuverability.
This is a considerable advantage for newcomers as they’re very forgiving when it comes to the more challenging short-distance paddle strokes needed to squeeze into a dock or other cramped places.
While some of the longer boats on this list, like the Argo 136XP, will be a bit more challenging to steer, they’re still relatively simple for paddlers of all experience levels to handle with little trouble.
Even models like the Getaway 110 HDII or Catch PWR 100 have the aid of either a rudder or an engine to make steering even easier.
Pelican takes their kayak seats seriously, something all paddlers can appreciate. Their seats are well-padded and ergonomically designed, providing excellent support for your back.
Since many of their kayaks are shorter, it does mean that their sit-in models may be too small for some paddlers. For example, the Sprint 100XR may be too narrow for some to fit comfortably.
This shouldn’t be an issue for the sit-on-top models, however. Pelican has big, open cockpits for these models with plenty of room to operate and stretch out in. I prefer the adjustable foot pegs in some models like the Sentinel 100X Angler or their sit-in models. Though the foot wells are good enough for day paddles.
Stability & Tracking
In general, kayaks don’t tip over easily. The arched, multi-chine hull is a mainstay of Pelican’s kayaks, giving them excellent stability even though many of their boats are narrower than their competitors.
This makes them great choices for paddlers of all experience levels. Even their sit-in kayaks feature solid primary stability that can handle the rocking back and forth.
The one small exception to this is the Sprint 100XR. It does feel a little tippier if you’re brand new to kayaking, but rest assured, it’s plenty stable. You may just need a bit of practice close to shore before you feel comfortable.
The rigid plastic exterior means that Pelican kayaks can stand up to most drops or collisions while you’re on the water. However, this doesn’t mean you should treat your kayak with impunity, as rough landings can still lead to punctures in the hull that can be impossible to repair.
But with a few basic precautions, there’s no reason that your Pelican kayak can’t last for years. Whenever possible, carry your kayak to the water instead of dragging it. Over time, dragging your kayak can create deep scratches and peeling plastic that can decrease your boat’s speed and performance.
When not in use, keep your kayak out of direct sunlight. Polyethylene is UV resistant, but prolonged exposure can lead to warping. Ideally, you can keep your kayak in a climate-controlled area like a garage. But a covered shed will do just fine as well.
Portability & Storage
My favorite thing about Pelican’s exclusive Ram-X plastic is how light it is compared to other plastic boats. This makes them some of the easiest kayaks to carry and transport. Of course, if you are on your own a lot, you may still want to consider investing in a kayak cart to make your life easier, but even the bigger models are relatively light.
The drawback to Pelican’s designs is that they lack the load capacity that bigger boats feature. Even their fishing boats like the Catch 120 don’t have the capacity other fishing boats have.
Storage space is not as spacious either, though part of this is due to Pelican kayaks being shorter. There’s just not as much space for watertight hatches. If you’re looking to make more extensive trips or have a lot of gear, you may want to look elsewhere. But for day trips or quick overnights, Pelican’s capacity should still be suitable.
With such a diverse collection of kayaks, Pelican can provide a suitable model and design for many paddlers. Those interested in recreation or fishing trips should have little trouble finding the right boat.
But those looking for something higher performing capable of handling longer trips or managing more challenging water conditions may want to look elsewhere for a longer keeled boat with more carrying capacity and maybe something rudder compatible.
Pelican stands as one of the premier brands for reliable boats at reasonable prices to get you out and on the water in no time.