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Necky Manitou 13 Review

Posted by on July 21, 2012

The Deets:

Material: Polyethylene

Length: 12′ 10.5″

Width: 24.75″

Weight: 45 lbs

Weight Capacity: 325 lbs

MSRP: $849.99

Alex’s take:

One might say that the Manitou 13 by Necky is the most versatile fleet kayak available on the market today. Built from Necky’s durable polyethylene plastic material, the Manitou 13 is a kayak designed to take a beating. Whether operating a kid’s kayaking clinic, a kayak rental shop, or an adult instructional program, the Manitou is forgiving not only on the water but forgiving to damage. It’s minimalist design and simple rudder/skeg-free hull bring the Manitou 13 into the category of having minimal moving parts. The Necky Manitou 13 handles rougher water like a touring kayak, but provides the stability and price-point of a recreational kayak.

At only 45lbs, the Manitou’s weight is manageable both on and off the water. Its symmetrical design provides a great carrying weight distribution and makes it easy for car topping or securing on your favorite Thule roof rack system.

Both the primary and final stability of the Manitou 13 prove to be forgiving for even the newest, most timid paddler. A combination between its spacious cockpit and rock-solid primary stability make the Manitou 13 the keystone kayak for any beginner. Why would I recommend the thirteen foot model? There is a simple answer, and it all comes down to versatility. At thirteen feet and just under twenty-five inches wide, the Manitou 13 is a great light-touring kayak that is willing to take its fair share of coastal paddling and inland recreational boating. While 25” may seem like a wider beam than average for this class of kayak, its extra beam width contributes to the Manitou’s stellar primary stability.

Its “Active Comfort System” seating is a staple in many of Johnson Outdoors’ kayaks. You can also find this seating system in the Necky Manitou 13’s cousin, the Old Town Cayuga 130. While the ACS seating design provides both comfort and support on the water, we have found that its hard plastic components can be problematic. With pegs becoming dislodged and the foam seating loosening from the seat back, the ACS seating requires frequent maintenance. While Johnson Outdoors has made great improvements to their seating system over the past several years, the overall ACS seating system could use a little boost in durability. Seat replacements can be costly if needed.

The Manitou 13 only has one rear hatch and bulkhead, but this feature is typical in many polyethylene competitors in this class. If you are looking for a similar kayak with both a fore and aft bulkhead/hatch combo we would recommend the Old Town Cayuga 130 (2012 or older) or the Necky Manitou 130 R (2013 and newer).

Pros: primary and secondary stability, durable material, versatile length, minimal moving parts, no need for rudder/skeg, affordable price point, ease of transport

Cons: less durable seating system, one bulkhead/hatch

Kayak Dave’s Take:

I’m going to echo Alex’s sentiments about the Necky Manitou 13 being a great choice for many fledgling kayakers.  I was first introduced to the Manitou 13 during my full-time instructing years when we bought a half dozen of these kayaks to serve our adult programs. This craft has also been the cornerstone of our rental fleet at the Billington Sea Kayak shop for many years. Needless to say, we’ve launched hundreds of first-time paddlers from our docks in Manitou 13s and most of them have returned with a big smile!

The reason why the Manitou 13 is great for beginners is because it’s a very forgiving craft. It has excellent primary stability, tracks well, and is fairly lightweight (45lbs) for a boat in its class. Beginners love primary stability and the Manitou has plenty of it along with a soft transition to a rather friendly secondary. Overall, at 13ft long and 25 inches wide, this kayak moves along fairly well in light and moderate conditions. (A word of caution for taller paddlers (>6ft): you may find that the primary stability of the Manitou 13 is less than desirable. If this is the case then try the Manitou 14 which offers more cockpit space and stability.)

The cockpit outfitting of the 2012 Manitou 13 has come a long way from its elder years. Originally, the cockpit outfitting was rather shotty with a flimsy seat back and hardly anything in the way of thigh braces. These issues have since been addressed and the Manitou 13 now sports the standard Johnson Outdoors seat and thigh braces which I find to be very comfortable and adjustable!

One final thing that used to drive me nutty about the old Manitou 13s was the way they configured the back hatch. The hatch cover consisted of two parts: a plastic outer cover and an inner, neoprene cover. The neoprene cover was a beast to put on and would tend to pop off or get lost thus rendering the hatch permeable to water. The 2012 model has incorporated the standard Johnson Outdoor hatch cover which is a one-piece, plastic cover with a rubber seal. This is a much better system but far from watertight in my experience. Make sure that you stow any gear that you want to keep dry in dry bags!

In summary, the Manitou 13 is an excellent choice for most beginner paddlers with much improved outfitting in the newer models. Other, similar kayaks to check out include: Old Town Cayuga 130 and Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125

Pros: great primary stability, tracks well, affordable price point, much improved outfitting.

Cons: hatch only marginally waterproof, only one bulkhead (add forward float bags).

Kayak Dave Rating:

17 Responses to Necky Manitou 13 Review

  1. Dave

    Does anybody know where I can get a cockpit cover for the Necky Manitou ?

  2. Katy

    Can you compare the Necky Manitou Sport with the Prijon Combi Tour I’d like to use for mostly flatwater 7 hour float dotted with Class 2 and 3’s, lots of sandbars? Hearing conflicting info.

    • arrudad

      Hi Katy:

      I have paddled the Necky Manitou Sport on may occasions but I don’t have any experience what-so-ever with the Prijon Combi Tour.

      It sounds like the river is mostly flat water but the class 3 sections would give me pause if I approached them in a recreational kayak like the Necky Manitou Sport. I would not feel comfortable recommending a recreational kayak for that type of swift water. Recreational kayaks are designed to be used on flat water and you could get yourself in real trouble should you get pinned in swift water (the water could crush the boat around you). Whitewater-specific kayaks are reenforced and contain features to prevent this from happening. If you do decide to take a rec boat along for “speed” on the flat sections then I’d recommend portaging the class 3 sections to be safe. Use good judgement on the class 2 stuff.

      Sorry that I couldn’t be of more help with the comparison that you requested.

      -Kayak Dave

      • Katy

        I have done this stretch in an Old Town Sebago, not made anymore, 12 footer. Can you compare that with the Manitou Sport since I have a point of refreence with the Sebago. btw I agree, the class 3 part has to be done just right, and I know that from doing it wrong and living to tell the tale.

      • Katy

        ok..if that’s also too obscure a request..maybe you can tell me more about the Necky Sport for the river I mentioned above…minus the class 3 stuff. Does it travel well on flat water?

  3. JK

    In reading your review of the Manitou 13 and the WS Tsunami 125, it sounds like the Manitou is more easily maneuvered in the water – is that fair to say? Also, do you know if the 2013 version of the Manitou has fewer seat issues? I’m relatively new to paddling and am also concerned about the comment regarding the Tsunami being better for intermediate to advanced paddlers. I’m going back and forth between the two and your input would be helpful.


    • arrudad

      Hi JK!

      I’m definitely a fan of the Manitou 13. We’ve been using this kayak to teach beginner classes for years. It fits a lot of folks, handles nicely, and allows one to grow as a paddler. Consider checking out the new Necky Manitou 13R (formerly the Old Town Cayuga 130) which I find to have better cockpit outfitting and has fewer seat issues. It also has a front bulkhead and hatch. In my opinion, the Tsunami 125 is definitely a good choice for beginners (another staff writer wrote that particular review). What they were probably getting at is the fact that it’s almost too stable (lots of volume) and takes a lot of effort to get on edge which doesn’t allow a beginner to grow much as a paddler.

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

    • alexrusso12

      Hi JK,

      Thanks for the question. We always love feedback and questions from our readers, so yours is appreciated. In terms of comparison between the Tsunami 125 vs. the Manitou 13, you are absolutely correct. The Manitou is more maneuverable and a little bit more playful in the water. Although each kayak reacts differently to each unique paddler, it’s fair to say that the Tsunami is less playful and tracks straight and true.

      In reference to my original statement about intermediate and advanced kayakers, I was mainly referring to the Tsunami’s ease of maneuverability. Since its performance is kind of rigid, it make take some more advance techniques such as lean turns or edging to make the Tsunami make sharp maneuvers.

      In terms of the Tsunami’s overall performance, it would be perfectly suitable for a beginner paddler with little experience. It is very stable, tracks well, and is very forgiving to common beginner mistakes. The Manitou makes a great beginner kayak as well but may feel a little less stable at first.

      From my personal experience with both kayaks, smaller paddlers tend to perform better in the Manitou and larger paddlers generally prefer the Tsunami. In some, it’s just a matter of preference. My personal recommendation to you would be to take both kayak for a test run. Who knows, what you expected/read might be different from how you feel in each one.

      Hope this helps,


      • JK

        hey guys,

        Thanks for the quick responses – I’ve test paddled the 125 but only the Manitou 14, which I realize is a completely different boat, but I really liked the Manitou so was curious if the 13 would have similar characteristics – absent the skeg of course. As a new paddler, it’s sometimes hard to know what’s what. I plan to paddle flat water with some streams or connectors – no white water in my future.

        Alex, I’m about 5’8 and around 170 so not sure if that puts me in the small to med paddler you suggested would tend to favor the Manitou or not.

        Dave, I’ve tried to find a used Cayuga, but it seems like no one is selling – I hadn’t checked the 13R yet but will see if I can find one at a local boat shop.

        Thanks again guys –

      • alexrusso12

        Hi JK,

        It’s tough to say, you kind of fall on the fence for a paddler who would favor either kayak. As the best litmus test, I would try and find a local kayak shop that has both available for a demo. It will give a great side-by-side comparison and allow you to match your comfort level with the right kayak.

        Thanks again!

  4. JK

    Thanks Alex.

    I took the 13 out for a short test paddle this afternoon and I’m as confused as ever. The kayak shop guys were great, but the 2013 model of the 13 seems to have been downgraded a bit since Necky introduced the 13R – at least that’s their opinion. For instance the 13 I paddled no longer comes with thigh braces just the foam knee pads – which doesn’t give it quite the same feel as the 14 and the 14 just doesn’t maneuver quite as easily for me. The 13R is a little above my budget. Oh well, back to the drawing board or perhaps a closer look at the 125. Let me know if you think of any others that would be worth considering – i.e. any thoughts on the Tsunami 120? I’m told it’s been discontinued but thought I’d ask.


    • Katy

      Hey JK..surprised to see a run on this subject. I left a dangling question way back about the Manitou 13 and this is the first flurry of activity on the subject. I just wanted to put in my two bits. I wound up buying one and then another one I liked the first one so well. I loved the adjustibility of the seats, and although I was distressed enough about the thigh brace issue enough to order a pair of add ons, I never attached them. I found that with the seat properly adjusted my knees fit beautifully under the side lip, and anything added would have been overkill…and additional weight. if you decided you must have thigh braces however, I’ll sell you mine.

      • JK

        I appreciate your input – always good to get another prospective. I’ve decided to go with the 13 and will let you know what I think once I’ve had a chance to paddle it. I did find the boat Dave recommended, OT Cayuga 130, on line at a shop in NJ, but the shipping is just too much to make up for the cost difference. I’ll keep you in mind if I decide to add the thigh braces.


  5. Cole

    I’m new to paddling (why I am reading a fairly old review) and have been shopping around for a kayak and looking for a deal. I’ve found a Necky 13 that is a used (rental) 2009 model. Do you think $600 is a reasonable price for it?

    • Kayak Dave

      Hi Cole!

      The Necky Manitou is a great kayak! We use it for all of our learn-to-kayak classes on the lake. Determining what a used kayak is worth is a tricky subject. The quick answer is “what ever someone is willing to pay for it” is what it is worth. A used Necky Manitou could arguably be worth $600 if it’s in good condition and you really want it. However, if you’re looking for a “deal” on a used boat this is probably not it. $600 is pretty close to what the outfitter probably paid for it (wholesale) back in 2009. It depends on the condition of the kayak but if it were me I’d offer a bit lower and try to get a better deal!

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

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