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Hurricane Tracer 165 Review

Posted by on August 24, 2012

The Deets:

Material: Thermoformed ABS Plastic (Trylon)

Class: Performance Touring

Length: 16’ 6”

Width: 22”

Weight: 50 lbs

Cockpit Size: 33 x 18 inches

Hull Type: Moderate V

Rudder/Skeg: Rudder Optional, Skeg Standard

MSRP: $1749

The Review:

One of the most affordable performance touring kayaks available, the Hurricane Tracer 165 offers a British-inspired design for half the price of a traditional composite sea kayak. I personally paddled the Hurricane Tracer for over two years as an instructing/guide kayak and for recreational, day tripping, and skill development. As my first touring kayak, the Hurricane Tracer helped me develop important skills as a paddler and provided both performance and stability in a variety of conditions.

At 16.5 feet, the designers at Hurricane developed a hull with a moderate V-shape and subtle rocker. This type of hull is most commonly found on British-style touring kayaks. The moderate rocker hull offers great final stability while allowing for effortless carving. New paddlers may feel overwhelmed by the handling of the Hurricane Tracer because it has a fairly tender initial stability. Upon first sitting in the Tracer, one may feel that its initial stability is very twitchy and may even discourage some novice paddlers. After becoming familiar with the handling characteristics of the Tracer, its performance is impressive. With rock-solid final stability and graceful maneuverability; the Tracer provides paddlers with a playful ride.

The Tracer 165 is outfitted with a plastic molded seat, Mountain Surf back band, fore and aft bulkhead/hatches, an elongated keyhole cockpit, and an integrated drop-skeg. Unlike many performance touring kayaks, the Tracer comes with Hurricane’s own hatch covers rather than Valley Canoe or KajakSport brand hatches. The Hurricane hatch covers provide a water-tight seal, and are easily removed and put on. If one needs to replace the factory hatches or prefers a more traditional look, the Tracer hatch rims are compatible with KajakSport hatches. The drop-skeg is effortless. Although the drop-skeg is cable controlled, it has a smooth action and has a very reliable construction.

In terms of performance, the Tracer handles rougher ocean conditions very well, and even provides a fun, enjoyable ride in surf. The Tracer 165 is prone to weather-cocking (when a forward moving kayak points into strong wind), making the drop-skeg a necessary feature in windy conditions. The Tracer is not the fastest kayak in the fleet although it offers both comfort and efficiency.

Overall, the Hurricane Tracer 165 is a great option for those who want dependable touring performance without the price tag. The stiff, durable construction has both the look and on-water feel of a much more expensive boat…at half the price. Although the Tracer’s primary stability is rather unforgiving, it offers great performance for a diversity of kayaking skills. This touring kayak would be best fit for medium to larger sized paddlers weighing between 150-220lbs.

Pros: very affordable price point, lightweight and durable thermoform design, maneuverability, quality skeg system, spacious elongated cockpit, comfortable seat and back band, Made in USA

Cons: Initial primary stability is tender, prone to weather-cocking

Demo Notes: I have test paddled the Tracer 165 in a variety of conditions ranging from clam flatwater to rough open-ocean conditions.


11 Responses to Hurricane Tracer 165 Review

  1. Gary Silber

    Thanks, Alex. I just bought a 2013 model. Your review was very helpful!

    Gary S.

  2. Donnie

    Has anyone found structural problems (i.e., unwanted flexing, warping,) in this material/design combination?

    • alexrusso12

      Thanks for the question. I have personally owned and worked with thermalformed kayaks for several years now from both Eddyline and Hurricane Kayaks. In terms of structural integrity, thermalformed kayaks are very study and hold their form well. They do not warp or develop hull deformations as one might see in a traditional polyethylene plastic kayak. For the most part, thermal kayaks are resistant to UV damage and physical damage such as hitting rocks. In comparison to composite kayaks, they tend to be a little more flexible and not as stiff, although they are not as brittle or prone to cracking as composites. One might say that thermal material is a happy compromise between both composite and polyethylene.

      If you are comparing Eddyline Carbonlite 2000 versus Hurricane Trylon, you may find that Eddyline boats are stiffer (although they have a higher price point than Hurricane kayaks). If you are looking for a thermalformed kayak to compare to the Hurricane Tracer 165, I would suggest looking into the new 2013 Eddyline Raven which has similar dimensions/features.

    • Peter

      Not structural issues as such, but glue or lack of glue problem. after a wet exit in some big surf I had found the combing glue gave way providing loss if structural strength and water tightness.
      On further investigation I found the rear bulkhead leaking like a siv. Then the big one – the center horizontal seam (joining the two halves of the boat together) leaking.

      After contacting the Australian wholesaler, I was quite disappointed when told this was not a warranty issue and would have to fix this myself.

      So… in general the boat performs quite well, but has major glue issues and no after sales service in Australia.

  3. donnie

    Thanks Alex, I had recently purchased 2 Tracers and was wondering if this was an issue I may encounter. I didn’t notice any noticeable flexing in the Tampico model but the Tracer is a bit longer and may perform differently.

  4. alan

    I just spoke to Steve Jordan at our paddling show over the weekend. He tells me that they’ll be coming out with 2 Tracers, a low volume and high volume as with the Tampico, it’ll have harder chines (the current Tracer scared the hell out of me with its feeling of tippiness), and possibly a day hatch up front. There’s also a review in the current issue of Sea Kayaker where Jordan says, as of this month, we can special order an Airestream seat-back.

    • Donniepizza

      Did I read that right, bigger Tracers and Tampicos? Awesome!

  5. alan

    Not bigger Tampicos (although I’d love one). I was just using that for comparison, which I believe Steve did. There will be a high volume and low volume Tracer with harder chines. It may be out late summer. They’re in the process of working on it.

  6. Keith

    I own a Tracer and I’m having trouble with the front hatch cover leaking. Hurricane has sent me a replacement, but to no avail. The article mentions that Kajaksport hatches can be used, but which model? I’m thinking the KS Round 10?

    Also, this review is spot on!

    • arrudad

      Hi Keith!

      Sorry to hear about your hatch leak…but good news: I just confirmed with the folks at Hurricane that a 10-inch diameter, round Kajaksport hatch cover should fit just fine. Apparently they used to use Kajaksport hatch covers on the Tracer in the past. Good luck with the fix!

      -Kayak Dave

  7. alexrusso12

    Hi Keith,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the review. Dave is right! Your standard 10-inch KayakSport hatch cover will fit the Tracer. Since you have already tried two hatch covers and are still having leaking issues I would make sure that the leaking is not from the hatch rim instead of the hatch cover. Sometimes the hatch cover is the suspect, when the real problem lies underneath at the rim itself. Just double-check before purchasing a new cover.


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