Weight: 48 lbs
Cockpit Size: 51.5 x 23.5 inches
Capacity: 400 lbs
Hatches/Bulkheads: Stern Only
Rudder/Skeg: Skeg (rope operated)
The upcoming 2013 paddling season will usher in a changing of the guard in the Wilderness System recreational lineup. The long-trusted Pamlico 100 and 120 have been replaced by some new boats on the block: The Aspire 100 and 105! The shop has been buzzing with anticipation and predictions for how the Aspire would perform on the water. When our first shipment arrived, we couldn’t get these boats unwrapped fast enough! The following review highlights our experience with the larger of the two: the Aspire 105.
The Wilderness System Aspire 105 is a state-of-the-art recreational kayak that provides an excellent platform for leisure paddling, fishing, and photography on flat or slow-moving water. Overall, I was very pleased with the performance of the Aspire 105 when I test paddled it in light conditions on the pond! I found that the tracking was better than the average 10’6”-long recreational kayak thanks to the dual inverted keel lines. The Aspire 105 showed some weather cocking in the light breeze but this was managed with minimal corrective strokes and could have been completely compensated for had I decided to deploy the rope-operated drop skeg. The addition of a drop skeg to a kayak of this length is fairly uncommon (the Venture Kayaks Flex 11 comes to mind) but can be very useful! The maneuverability of the Aspire 105 was very impressive. It took only two sweep strokes the turn the craft around 180 degrees without edging the boat at all!
The primary stability of the Aspire 105 is probably the thing that impressed me most. The 29” beam, relatively flat bottom, and hard chines make this one of the most stable sit-in kayaks that I have ever paddled! No joke, I was trying to tip this kayak over by throwing my weight over the gunnel and it hardly rocked at all. Granted, I only weigh in at 120lbs so the stability profile may be different for someone a little closer to the 400lbs maximum capacity. I can hardly comment on the secondary stability because I could hardly get the Aspire to transition to it while seated. The only way I could think to test the secondary stability was to literally stand up in the cockpit and lay my weight to one side. Thankfully I discovered that the secondary stability was very good. The ridiculous stability of the Aspire 105 makes this kayak especially well-suited for kayak fishing and on-the-water photography. I do not believe, however, that the Aspire 105 will allow you to grow much as a paddler as getting and keeping this kayak on edge is a chore.
I found the outfitting of the Aspire 105 to be very comfortable and highly functional. I really like the design and feel of the new Phase 3 “Air Pro” seat. When paddling, I made sure that the seat back was in the lowest position to prevent it from impeding an active paddling position. When relaxing I raised the seat back to its highest position and adjusted the seat bottom to create a cushy, lounge chair-like position. I could have easily taken a nap with the seat in this position! All of these seat adjustments were easily made from a seated position thanks to the accessible pull tabs. I should note that some of the webbing straps seemed to be cut a little on the short side and one pulled through its buckle when we were first playing with the seat adjustments on shore. A rear Orbix hatch with bulkhead, stern skid plate, and “Kayak Konsole” round out the highly functional outfitting.
What do I think could be better about the Aspire 105? For starters, at 48lbs, the Aspire 105 is a bit heavy for a recreational kayak of its size. It’s definitely a good five pounds heavier than the Pamlico 100 that it replaced in the Wilderness Systems product line. I also found shouldering the Aspire 105 to be rather uncomfortable. The seat is positioned for proper trim on the water but this also happens to be the balance point when carrying the kayak on your shoulder. Therefore, the seat hanger does not allow for your hand to be placed on the balance point which makes for awkward and unbalanced shouldering.
In summary, the Wilderness System Aspire 105 is a state-of-the-art recreational kayak that provides an excellent platform for leisure paddling, fishing, and photography on flat or slow-moving water. It measures in at a mere 10’6” long but the tracking is enhanced by dual inverted keel lines and a drop skeg. The 29” beam, relatively flat bottom, and hard chines provide for unimaginable primary stability. A generously-sized cockpit and highly adjustable Phase 3 Air-pro seat allows for a comfortable and relaxed paddling position. Be warned that the high relative weight (48lbs) and awkward shouldering characteristics may make getting this kayak to the water difficult for some paddlers unless they enlist the aid of a kayak cart.
Pros: Outstanding primary stability, Comfortable seat, Descent tracking plus drop skeg
Cons: Heavy for its size, Awkward to shoulder carry.
Demo Notes: I have test paddled the Aspire 105 in flat water and light conditions (<10mph of wind).
Kayak Dave Rating:
See Also: Wilderness Systems Aspire 100 Review