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Current Designs Vision 120 SP Review

Posted by on June 13, 2012


Model: Current Designs Vision 120 SP

Material: Hybrid Composite (fiberglass/aramid fiber)

Weight: 32lbs

Length: 12’0″

Width: 23″

Class: Transitional/Light Touring

Alex’s Take

The Vision 120 SP provides a smooth and forgiving ride on the water while offering both maneuverability and considerable speed. One of the first features which surprised me when I first began paddling was its quick response on the water. The 120 SP’s combined super-light weight and 23” beam provides the paddler with a kayak which doesn’t compromise speed for stability. It is challenging to compare kayak speeds in this class, mainly because, well… there aren’t many consumers who expect to purchase a 12 foot vessel with the hopes of breaking speed records. Weighing in at a mere 32lbs, the Vision 120 SP moves effortlessly both on and off the water. It’s smooth composite hull glides like a dream and responds well to each paddle stroke.

The 120 SP turns and maneuvers nicely, and would make a great companion in narrow rivers. With a solid sweep stroke the Vision almost turns a full 180 degrees with little resistance. Its combined quick turning response and ease of maneuverability make the Vision 120 SP a fun little flat water play boat.

In terms of stability, the 120 SP could feel twitchy or borderline unstable to new paddlers. Its primary stability is a little tender at first and may discourage novice kayakers. Like many kayaks, if a paddler spends time familiarizing themselves with the feel of the kayak on the water, that initial tenderness will diminish over time. On the other hand, the 120 SP’s secondary stability is much more confident. When bringing this kayak on edge, it locks-in nicely and gives the paddler some breathing room for lean turns. There is a strange transition between the primary and secondary stability. At first, it was challenging to get a feel for the Vision’s stability, but once I got a feel for its threshold between primary and final stability, I was able to take advantage of the Vision’s exceptional edging ability.

Current Designs lists the Vision 120 SP’s gross weight capacity at 200lbs. This weight capacity is rather low for most kayaks in this class, forcing it into a category for smaller to medium-sized paddlers. I weigh just under 150lbs, so for me, the Vision 120 SP handles my weight perfectly with plenty of room for a weekend’s worth of storage.

Pros: super-light weight, maneuverability, speed, comfortable seat, fore- and aft- bulkhead/hatches, secondary stability, and spray skirt compatible.

Cons: Price (at around $2,000 this could press the budget for many entry-level paddlers), Primary stability, low weight capacity, and only available in two colors.

Demo notes: The Vision 120 SP was tested in calm, flat water conditions with no wave or wind action

Kayak Dave’s Take

I was very impressed with the Vision line by Current Design when they first came out for the 2009 kayaking season. In general, the Vision line offers a masterful take on a light touring class kayak with superb craftsmanship, performance, and attention to detail. Being a smaller paddler, I was naturally drawn to the Vision 120. I really enjoyed it but there were some points in the original version that had room from improvement. The biggest problem was that the sizing was off with an over-extended beam (24”) and large cockpit. The original Vision 120 handled more like a recreational kayak than the light touring kayak that it was supposed to be.  I heard that Current Design had some changes in the pipeline and my hope was that they would correct the sizing issue and tighten up the cockpit to make the Vision 120 SP more like the rest of the Vision line and a great kayak for small paddlers!

Thankfully, the new 2012 Vision 120 SP presents all of the changes that were needed to take the old Vision 120 from good to great! The designers took some volume out of the cockpit by reducing the beam to 23” and tightened up the cockpit quite a bit. Now, the Vision 120 SP fits very nicely (small paddlers won’t feel like they’re swimming in the cockpit) and handles as well as the rest of the Vision line! This kayak is quick, steady, and highly maneuverable. The solid secondary stability makes lean-turns and edging a dream. The outfitting is fantastic with a comfortable seat, padded thigh braces and ample deck rigging. The fore and aft hatches can easily store a weekend’s worth of camping gear and having both bulkheads is a rare feature on a 12-foot-long kayak.

Aside from the great changes and much improved handling of the Vision 120 SP, I continue to be impressed with the superb craftsmanship and relative affordability of the Vision line. The Vision 120 SP is constructed using a hybrid (fiberglass-aramid) layup that weighs in at an astounding 32lbs. This is a good 10lbs lighter than almost any other 12ft kayak on the market! Not only that but the MSRP on the Vision 120 SP is under $2000 which is a good 20-30% less than the average cost of a composite kayak. For me, this combination of a lightweight layup at a relatively affordable price point should put the Vision 120 SP high on the list of the smaller paddler looking to get into a kayak that can be easily managed both on and off the water! Bottom line: the Vision 120 SP is a great kayak.

Pros: Light-weight. Relatively affordable. Superb craftsmanship, performance, and outfitting.

Cons: Some may find primary stability a bit twitchy. Hull entry could be narrowed to increase efficiency and speed.

Demo notes: The Vision 120 SP was tested in calm, flat water conditions with no wave or wind action.

Similar Review: Current Designs Vision 140

8 Responses to Current Designs Vision 120 SP Review

  1. Sarah

    How does the maneuverability of the Vision 120sp compare to the Venture Flex? I currently paddle both a Venture Flex and a Tsunami 135. The Flex is way too roomy (the way frog-legged position to get my thighs out, up, and under the braces kills my hips). The tsunami 135 fits really well, but is built more for tracking vs. tight turns despite its shortish length. I want something that paddles like the Flex, but fits like the Tsunami 135…
    If maneuverability is way more important to me than tracking, and I’m looking for a boat with a 23″ or less beam, would the 120sp fit the bill, or do you have another recommendation?

    • alexrusso12

      Hello Sarah,

      Thanks for the question. If you are looking for a kayak that maneuvers well with a snug fit, I would recommend the Current Designs Vision 120 SP. At only 23″ wide and outfitted with a keyhole style cockpit, the 120SP is a great option for smaller to medium sized paddlers who want comfort, lightweight, and maneuverability. If you are looking for a kayak with similar features, but is a little bit longer, I would recommend the Stellar Kayaks S14. The Stellar ’14 has a similar feel to the 120SP, but its extra length does take away from the maneuverability you are seeking. I hope the feedback helps and good luck on your search.


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