Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Delta Seventeen is the Best Expedition Kayak on the planet. Period.

I know.

That is a bold statement. But I have now put a ridiculous amount of miles under the hull of my seventeen. And it is true. I have paddled the Seawards, I have paddled the NDK's, and the Wilderness Systems boats. The P&H Cetus is a beautiful boat too. I came close to buying a Necky Looksha, but at the end of the day, I will stick with my Delta.

After literally thousands of miles, I still love this boat. Let us start with build quality. Beautifully finished, glossy and sexy. With great finishing touches - I would like some more outfitting options. Like a choice of seats, and such. I have made one repair to this boat, and it took me literally seconds - I replaced the hatch cover seals which Delta sent me at no cost. High quality gas pedal style foot braces,  have given me literally zero trouble. After six years and thousands of miles, I have yet to make a repair to my rudder, or rudder cables (and people say they are more prone to problems than skegs, but in the same amount of time I have repaired four skegs for friends or employers) and if you want it with a skeg you can have that too.

Thermoform plastic is a 21st century material, Fiberglass is very 20th century. Sorry folks, but that is how I see it. (the theme of this week at Paddling Otaku is 'drop the dogma' so lets just throw out the notion that fiberglass is the only way to go, because people say it is) Thermoform - when done right, like Delta does - gives me a stronger, lighter, and more forgiving material than fiberglass. Now someone will say "Oh, but you can't fix thermoform like you can fiberglass!" Nonsense. I repaired The Delta 15 after it got damaged from a forklift - yes, that is what it takes to crack one of these boats - and then it did the AGAP trip without issue.  I have done things to this boat where I was sure I had cracked it, and gotten nothing but scratches. I have slid this boat down rocky beaches to get away from bears - yes, a massive coastal brown bear in Alaska, literally had his front paws on my stern hatch, it did no damage - I have loaded it and unloaded it on rocks because it was my only choice for a campsite. It has been on the roof of my car for two round trips to Alaska. Drive the Alaskan highway and you will get hit with debris, I have the cracked windshield to prove it, but no damage to the boat.

For long trips, this boat is exceptionally easy to pack. Large openings, that close easily. No neoprene to fight with over the hatch covers. No day hatch,  with a  tiny opening and adding a bulkhead to the stern. I can put a gallon can of fuel - standing upright! so I don't have to worry about it leaking - in the bow compartment. I don't know of another boat that can do that. Behind the cockpit I can fit three 15 liter dry bags of food, side by side.

A metal locking ring behind the cockpit can also be used as a tie point for towing, and they put supports in the hull where the boat will be sitting in a roof rack. That is the kind of attention to detail I like.

You don't fit well in the seventeen? Well there is a very similar eighteen and sixteen. The sixteen performed amazingly in Alaska, and I will have a review coming up soon.

I think the only real competition for this boat is the NDK explorer, which is a great boat, is beautifully made, and has some incredible attention to detail. The angled rear bulkhead to help empty water out of the cockpit is genius. But it is heavy, and over $1000 more, but neither of those problems  is the deal killer for me. I need to do one thing on an expedition. Move a lot of gear and food. The bow of the Explorer holds 58 liters versus The Seventeens 83 liters. On the explorer add the day hatch to the stern compartment, and you have a total of 99 liters behind the cockpit. The Delta has 135 liters behind the cockpit. We won't even get into the fact that the Day hatch on the Explorer makes it more difficult to pack.

If you have a touring boat you think is better, lets go paddling. Prove me wrong.


  1. Glad you like the Delta 17 and a fun, reasoned review. However, a respectful devil's advocacy question for you: If this is "drop the dogma" month, is it not dogmatic to suppose there is an absolute best boat for everybody? I may want something different out of an expedition boat than you do, and my paddling companions may want something different again. "Better" in an absolute sense isn't just for certain activities, but for each individual. Some like fast expeditioning, some like carrying all the comforts, some like playing the destinations at which they arrive...all are equally valid but demand different compromises in boat design. Some boats are absolutely good or bad, but most are pretty great...for certain people! :-)

  2. Nathan, Perfectly valid points, and I thank you or bringing them. My point was that if you spend enough imd in the kayaking community, and particularly the expedition community, they are very dogmatic. "Fiberglass or nothing". "Only certain boats are true expedition boats", and that is the dogmatic approach that bothers me. The only thing I would add is that I am referring to people doing extended trips, who generally don't have rom for toys... But yes, you are right. This is the best expedition boat, for me.

    Thanks for comment


  3. Great points PO many of which why our Delta 15.5's Expeditions are our choice. After recently completing 10 days on the outside of Vancouver Island I think we amazed our paddling partners by what we could pack into them and how they performed in big seas.

    We now have close to 2000 km on our kayaks over 3 years and the hardware that Delta uses just doesn't fail. Believe me I have thought about bigger glass touring kayaks and I keep asking myself why and I can't come up with a single reason to make a change.

  4. Mark, we had a 15.5 expedition on the trip, and it is a load monster. It held as much gear as my 17 (a sport, which they don't make anymore) and I have to say the 16 was no slouch in the gear carrying capacity department. All the boats performed beautifully, and remember the 15 was severely damaged when I got it. The only pending repair on the seventeen that needs to happen is the bungies need to be replaced. But after 5 years of hard use, that isn't too surprising. And none of them have failed, they are just starting to lose some stretch.


    1. Thinking of purchasing the current designs isle kayak. I'm a xl paddler looking for a fast boat that you can advance your skills in. Then I read your review of the delta 17 expedition kayak and is making me re think my choices. Have you paddled the delta 18.5? I might need the extra room.

      How does the delta kayak handle bigger water? Is there a lot of flex due to the thermo form plastic?

      Is the delta 17 as fast as the other Fiberglass boat you paddled?

      My only concern is the thermoformin is less in quality than the traditional fiberglass or Kevlar lay ups.

    2. Good morning Mark, I will apologize for what may be a lengthy response.

      First, I haven't paddled the Isle, but I have paddled the Solstice (and other CD boats) Current Designs makes a great boat and you won't be disappointed.

      I haven't paddled the Delta 18.5, design wise it is very similar to my seventeen (which is the sport version, I don't think they still make the sport and expedition versions of the seventeen). However, a buddy of mine has, he is 6'6" with a size 14 foot, and he had plenty of room in it. He got in it, paddled it a few minutes, fell in love, and then rolled it just for fun. He was super impressed with how it handled.

      I have had my boat in big water - though I am not a surf paddler - and it handles beautifully. In normal use there is no perceivable flex. A couple of times in the right conditions I have gotten some flex in the hull under my legs. It takes an odd selection of forces, as I can't recreate it at will. I suspect the current version of the seventeen and eighteen don't flex like that, as my hull is very hard chined (giving it a flat bottom) and the new version is more rounded, which makes the thermoform stronger, and less flexible.

      I have paddled a lot of boats, made in a lot of different materials, and with the exception of the weird flex I mentioned above the seventeen feels like a fiberglass boat. That was why I fell in love with it. In terms of speed it accelerates as fast as any boat I have paddled (top speed is more a matter of the engine (meaning you and me) than boat design.

      In terms of quality my Delta is as good as anything I have ever paddled. I have put literally thousands of miles on my seventeen. On both US coasts and Canada and Alaska. I have made minimal repairs. I've paddled all the big glass boats, P&H, NDK, Wilderness Systems, Boreal, name it... This boat is as nicely made as any of them.

      I of course recommend paddling a boat as much as you can before you buy it, a lot of it is fit and needs, but I can't recommend my delta enough. Good luck finding a boat, if you have other questions feel free to email me.

      Thanks for your comment.


  5. Great review on the delta 17

    No dealers in michigan, would have liked to test paddle one

    Ended up buying the new 2017 ph Scorpio HV in corelite x.