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The Explorer vs. Tempest

NDK Explorer

Back in 2013, I asked about switching from an Explorer to a Tempest on an online forum. I loved the Explorer, but I knew exactly what I didn’t lov about it. And, I was hoping to find a sea kayak that was better than the Explorer but still felt Explorer-ish. I tried several boats and liked the Vaag and Tempest best. The Vaag didn’t click with me with its stability profile and the Tempest clicked with me.

I eventually bought a Tempest to use in my sea kayaking business (read: Why I Got Out of the Sea Kayak Guiding Business). But, found that after paddling it daily for much of the three years I owned the business that I just didn’t care for it. There were a bunch of reasons, but I found that I liked the Explorer more. The stability of the Explorer just feels better to me. The cockpit was easier to get into and out of and the lower coaming made rolling easier and torso rotation easier, too.

In the end, I gave up the search because I had a kid, bought a house and settled down. We do more canoeing now than I do kayaking and buying a new expedition kayak for what little tripping I’m going to do wasn’t worth it. The Explorer was good enough.

Here’s what I wrote back then:

The kayak in this picture is my NDK Explorer, which I have a love/hate relationship with. I like it because it paddles nicely in waves, carries a huge load and, well, carries a huge load.

I want a kayak that carries about the same, but has more initial stability, requires less work on following waves (as I find I have to fight the Explorer from broaching more than my Romany or other kayaks I’ve enjoyed such as the Vaag), has a seat that doesn’t break often, and maybe something that tracks a bit better, because I just use this for touring.

I’d like to hear thoughts from anyone that has spent time in both an Explorer and a Tempest 170. I’ve only spent an hour in a Tempest and I liked it, but I need a bit more feedback. Is the Tempest a good replacement for an Explorer on a 20- to 30-day trip (with 2 resupplies)?

Since then, I’ve replaced my Explorer’s seat with foam seat, and then tore that out and replaced it with a high performance NDK Seat, which is excellent and made the kayak so much more comfortable.

During my search, I also paddled a Tiderace Xplore and found it less stable than I wanted and not as fun as the Explorer. The Xcape was suggested as was an Xcite. An Aquanaut was suggested and it is a excellent boat that I paddled for awhile when I guided for another company. I liked it fine. The Cetus was also suggested. I still haven’t paddled one. The Xtreme was also suggested. I’ve only paddled the Xplore and would love to paddle more Tiderace boats.

Back then Sam Crowley suggested:

Check how you trim your boat out. The Explorer is sensitive and will not track well if it isn’t balanced well, especially with a light load. Upside is it responds well when balanced.

When messing around with trim I found that he was correct. I’m lazyish on packing my boat and as food is consumed on expedition, I found that I had to pack slightly different. It’s best to try and balance the food between the hatches and reduce the loads equally each day. I generally like to pack my lunches and breakfasts together and then pack my dinners separately. That can be a challenge to equal out, but with practice it works. The key is to balance the other gear and always pack the other gear in the same places and then balance the food weight. Even when trimmed right, it still has a few characteristics that while not a big deal I don’t really like.

Back then I replied:

I don’t think it’s a trim issue as I’ve trimmed it many different ways, and have it dialed in where I like it. It’s not that it’s a huge issue, it’s just that I’ve been in boats that I like better on following seas and for the initial stability. But there were things that I didn’t like about those boats enough to get me to trade the Explorer. The closest was the Maelstrom Vaag so far.

There was a bit of conversation about rocker changing stability and that by increasing it, you reduce stability. In the end the stability wouldn’t change by much but it would draft deeper.

The reason that I bring this up is that the post was posted on recently and it’s like a flashback to six years ago. People who weren’t on the forum back in those days are commenting on it like it is a new post. And, life has moved on. Priorities are different now and if I were to buy a new kayak, I’d probably do a Reg Lake design like the Sterling Progression. Instead, I’m currently paddling canoes more than kayaks and when I’m in a kayak it is a Dagger Meridian SKS in Kevlar.

I hope this post is helpful to anyone comparing an NDK Explorer to a Tempest. Unfortunately, you can’t get a Tempest in composite anymore.

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