Saturday, February 19, 2011
Valley Etain sea kayak test preview
Now I had better make a declaration of interest. I think I am reasonably impartial when commenting about my experience of different kayaks. I currently own three sea kayaks, a P&H Quest LV, a Valley Nordkapp LV and Rockpool Alaw Bach, so clearly I am not slavishly attached to any particular manufacturer. I have also been lucky enough to have had long term test boats lent to me by various manufacturers/retailers including P&H, Valley, Rockpool, Seakayaking UK, Point 65 and others. In 2009 and 2010 I had a P&H Cetus on long term test. It is no secret that I thought it was a superb sea kayak. For the purpose of this test, I brought along my own Nordkapp LV, a traditional Valley design to compare with the Etain, which in Valley's words is "a new strain of DNA in the Valley range, one that is a little more contemporary both in style and paddling feel."
You can edge this kayak right over and you rest on a comforting wall of solid, secondary stability which is quite unlike the Nordkapp LV (which we were paddling along with it). On edge the Etain is very manoeuvrable but it did not feel so quick to turn as the Cetus. It felt about the same as the Rockpool GT, which is still a manoeuvrable expedition kayak. On edge the Etain did not turn so quickly as the Nordkapp LV but the Nordkapp required a great deal of concentration to balance on edge to turn quicker than the Etain! We had light force 0 to 2 winds so I cannot comment on how it handles in a wind but it tracked very straight.
All too soon, our 25km trip came to an end and we were back in Oban. Phil has been paddling for 2 years. His own kayak is a Quest, his verdict was that if he had the money, he would by the Etain. Paddling it unloaded, back to back, with the Nordkapp LV, I preferred the Nordkapp LV as a day kayak (but this is a kayak I have paddled in this role for 5 years). The Etain is designed primarily as an expedition kayak and I usually only use the Nordkapp LV for overnight camps, due to its size and my weight. The difference is that the Etain can be used as a day boat and I think that many newcomers to the Valley brand will use it primarily in that role.
On this day paddle, The Etain's character steadily grew on me and I was sorry to hand it back. Obviously a full review of its characteristics would need a camping trip with wind, tide and surf conditions. My first impression is that this is fantastic addition to the Valley stable. It achieves Valley's aim of introducing a new style of kayak to the range, one with increased primary stability but it is still very much a Valley in other respects. It is kayak that will attract and look after many more beginners and intermediates than the Nordkapp. I was reminded of this when I got back in the Nordkapp LV and tried to take a photo, suddenly it felt rather unstable!
Specifications: (Valley's own figures)
Length: 17’6” (534cm)
Width: 21.5” (55cm)
Depth: 13.25” (34cm)
Weight: 51lbs (23.5kg) excluding hatch covers
Weight: 50lbs (23kg) excluding hatch covers
Although these broad figures look similar, I have seldom paddles two kayaks with such different feel. The Nordkapp LV tapers in breadth, height and volume much more quickly towards the ends.