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Wilderness Systems Aspire 105 Review

Posted by on September 24, 2012

The Deets:

Material: Polyethylene

Class: Recreational

Length: 10’6”

Width: 29”

Weight: 48 lbs

Cockpit Size: 51.5 x 23.5 inches

Capacity: 400 lbs

Hatches/Bulkheads: Stern Only

Rudder/Skeg: Skeg (rope operated)

MSRP: $699

The Aspire 105 in Mango (Image Property of Wilderness Systems)

The Review:

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 The long-trusted Pamlico 100 and 120 have been replaced by some new boats on the block: The Aspire 100 and 105!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.

-Kayak Dave

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

41 Responses to Wilderness Systems Aspire 105 Review

  1. John


    I am 6’2″ and was wondering if you thought the Aspire 105 would a comfortable fit for me?



    • alexrusso12

      Hello John,

      The Aspire 105 is a great recreational kayak, and while it’s only 10 feet long, is designed for a wide variety of paddlers. In your case, I think that the Aspire 105 would be a suitable fit in that it has plenty of interior volume for folks with longer legs. I hope this answers your question.

      Keep on paddling,

  2. Stuart

    I was thinking of the riot edge 11, do you think the apire105 is a better kayak. I’m a beginner and will be doing a lot of photography, I dont care about the weight of the kayak. I may use it for a weekend camping trip.

    • arrudad

      Hi Stuart:

      I think that most of my colleagues would agree that the Aspire 105 is far superior to the Riot Edge 11. We stopped carrying Riot kayaks at the shop a few years back because of some serious and widespread quality issues with their plastic layups. Very poor quality plastic with lots of oil canning. I’ve used the Aspire 105 demo that we have for photography on the lake and it was a super stable platform for that sort of thing! It’s faster than it looks like it should be and the skeg certainly helps with tracking. It’s definitely a recreational kayak; it wouldn’t be my first choice to take on a trip where you’d need to cover some distance or experience anything more than light conditions. If you’re serious about weekend camping or otherwise expanding your horizons then you may want to consider a slightly longer kayak (13ft-15ft). There are plenty of stable, beginner-suitable boats in this “light touring” class.

      Hope this helps and happy shopping!

      -Kayak Dave

  3. Josh


    Thanks for the great review. I’ve narrowed down my choices to the aspire 105 or hurricane Santee 116 sport. I’m looking to get my 2 and 5 year olds out on the water as well as do some fishing. I’m looking for a rec boat with a larger cockpit so I can fit my kids in the front. I’ve sat in both boats and cannot make up mind. The boats will be used in some small slow rivers and larger lakes. Loving the weight of the santee, but it seemed to flex a bunch. Would love to hear your opinion. Thanks.


    • arrudad

      Hey Josh:

      This is a tough one…both the Aspire 105 and Santee 116 sport would meet your needs. I’d lean toward the Aspire 105 if it were me. It’s rock-solid in the stability department and also has a drop skeg which does help quite a bit when it comes to tracking in the wind. I’ve taken one out at the shop to do some on-the-water photography with my DSLR on a few occasions and it’s a great platform. Makes me believe that it would be great for fishing too. The one thing that I would check out is whether or not there will be enough room in the cockpit to accommodate your 5 year old in front of you. The best thing to do is take him/her with you and at least sit in the cockpit together in the showroom (on the water is better). The Santee 116 is a great boat too (bit longer cockpit and a little lighter) but I prefer the way that the Aspire handles on the water.

      Have fun paddling with the kids!

      -Kayak Dave

  4. Kristine

    In your review of the Aspire 105 you compared it to the Venture Kayaks Flex II. Of these two options which would accommodate a 6′ 200 lb. man the best; and which would you recommend for a beginner?

    • arrudad

      Hi Kristine!

      Both the Aspire 105 and Venture Flex 11 are excellent recreational kayaks that are well suited for folks interested in paddling calm lakes, ponds, flat-water rivers, and near coastal waters. They are both well suited for beginners as they are easy to handle and quite stable. The Aspire 105 is an extremely stable kayak and I enjoy using it for on-the-water photography on local ponds. I find that the Venture Flex 11 has a little more to offer in terms of handling (edging in particular) and is a little less effort to paddle due to its slightly narrower shape and the fact that it has thigh braces.

      Both of these kayaks will accommodate 200lbs without issue. The height (and shoe size) are a little trickier to estimate. I highly recommend that you at least sit in both of these kayaks and, better yet, demo them both on the water to see which is more comfortable for you. At 6′ tall, you may be more comfortable in a slightly longer kayak such as the Venture Easky 13.

      I hope that this helps you in your search and feel free to contact me with any other questions that you may have :)

      -Kayak Dave

  5. Jorge Ortega


    How would you compare the Aspire 105 to Point 65 XO11GT

    one of my concerns is back support and i like the seat on the point 65 kayak

    thank you

    • arrudad

      Hi Jorge:

      I don’t have any experience with the Point 65 XO11GT to make a comparison. However, I can attest to the comfort and support of the seat the Aspire 105. They use the new Phase 3 seat which is very comfortable and quite adjustable. You can raise up the back for added support on the water and then collapse it back down for transport. It’s doesn’t have the inflatable cushion that the Point 65 kayak does by the paddling that it does have is pretty plush non-the-less.

      -Kayak Dave

  6. Butch Waddill

    Hi Dave, Looking for a kayak for our local slow moving rivers (up to class II) with a rare light multi day trip and lakes as an accompanying boat for friends while in my Pyranha Fusion. Narrowed it down to the Aspire 105 and the Dagger Axis 10.5. Think the Aspire is more stable and a better beginners boat while the Apex is more maneuverable and maybe more versatile at $50 more. Can you give me your thoughts and recommendations please? A Western Montana Paddler

    • arrudad

      Hi Butch!

      I would feel much more conformable recommending the Dagger Axis 10.5 based on your intended use. The Aspire 105 is really designed for flat water paddling only. Yes, it’s quite stable but it has a large, recreational-style cockpit without thigh braces. I think that the Dagger Axis 10.5 would be much more versatile as the paddler will have a little more control over the kayak via the thigh braces should the class 2 get a little bumpy and wear a spray skirt if necessary.The Dagger Axis 10.5 should be fine for a beginners boat and is definitely better suited for the water you describe.

      Let me know if you have any more specific questions!

      -Kayak Dave

      • Butch Waddill

        Thanks Dave. Let me throw the Liquidlogic Remix 10 with drop down skeg into the comparison with the Dagger Axis 10.5. Another jump in price but a bettet boat for my intended purposes?

  7. Butch Waddill

    Sorry Dave, that would be the Liquid Logic Remix XP10 compared to the Dagger Axis 10.5.

    • arrudad

      Hi Butch!

      This is a tougher call as both the LL Remix XP10 and Dagger Axis 10.5 are well suited for the conditions that you describe. It may come down to a matter of preference. I’m quite partial to the LL whitewater cockpit as I’ve paddled a LL CR80 for a few years in the past. However, my feeling is that the LL Remix XP10 probably falls more on the “white water” side of the crossover spectrum where as the Dagger Axis is more on the flatwater side of the spectrum. This is to say that the Remix will not track as well (even with the skeg deployed) or be as quick in the flats as the Axis will be. With that said, the Remix may be a better match to your Fusion in terms of speed so that you and your friend will stay together as opposed to one having to chase the other. All things to be considered…

      Let me know which one you go with…


      • Butch Waddill

        Thanks again Dave. It’s really helpful to be able to call on your expertise. I think I’m going with the Axis as when we go my friends and I will be doing mostly slow moving rivers and lakes, they will probably be at the beginner level and there is a considerable price point difference between the 2 boats. I really appreciate the help!

    • Gary

      Just stumbled across this site as I was researching a Wilderness System Aspire 105. I live on the Flint river in N. Alabama and my Dagger Axis 12 is perfect for this class 1+ river. The Axis 12 is super fast and very comfortable. I’m kayaking about 2-4x per week for 2-3 hrs per trip and I would like to get my wife and/or friends (newbies) to join me. I just saw a Wilderness System Aspire 105 on Craiglist for sale (1 month old). Should I grab the Aspire or hold out for a Dagger Axis 10.5 or 12? My other boat is a Dagger RPM which I play around with in “white water” but I could never keep up with the Axis in slow water.

      In short, my garage is full and I don’t want to end up with another boat that is not as fast, comfortable and versatile as the Dagger Axis 12. That said, I like the idea of scoring a virtually new Aspire 105 at half price (as long as i won’t be disappointed with its performance). Please advise.


      BTW… Great site!! Tons of extremely useful info!! I’m a fan.

      • Kayak Dave

        Hi Gary!

        I’m not sure that you’re going to get the speed that you’re used to with the Axis 12 out of the Aspire 105. I’ve found that these “hybrid” kayaks are still better suited for only one type of water. The Aspire is still more of a recreational kayak and well suited for flat-water paddling and will be slower than you’re used to.

        Happy Paddling!

        -Kayak Dave

  8. arrudad

    Anytime, Butch! and Happy Paddling -Dave

  9. Morgan

    can you eskimo roll the aspire 105?? I sure hope so cause i just bought one

    • arrudad

      Where there’s a will there’s a way! But seriously, you need to send us a video if you’re able to pull it off! -Kayak Dave

      • Morgan

        So that would be a no…… Can you at least get a neopreme spray skirt for it?

  10. arrudad

    Yes, rolling the Aspire 105 would be quite challenging considering that it doesn’t have any thigh braces. Seals has nylon spray skirts and cockpit covers (size 5.5) but does not have any neoprene skirts yet. -Dave

  11. Kerya

    Hi Dave, Okay, so I like the sounds of the Axis 10.5 how does it compare to the Dirigo 106 or the Rogue 10 for lakes, rivers, some shoals.

    • arrudad

      Hi Kerya:

      All of these kayaks are well suited for lakes, slow-moving rivers, and very near coastal paddling on flat water.

      The Aspire 105 and the Dirigo 106 are both recreational kayaks with a large cockpit that offers a relaxed seating position (no thigh braces). These two kayaks are quite stable with the Aspire 105 being slightly quicker and benefiting from a drop skeg as a tracking aid.

      The Axis 10.5 is a multi-water kayak that is also designed to handle some easy whitewater (up to class 2-2+) in addition to the flat water. You can expect the Axis 10.5 to be a little more sporty (faster, slightly more maneuverable, a little less stable) than both the Aspire 105 or the Dirigo 106 on flat water. However, the biggest difference is that the Axis 10.5 has a smaller cockpit with thigh braces which means that you’ll be “wearing” this kayak rather than sitting in it like the others. This has two main advantages: 1) You’ll be able to fit it with a neoprene spray skirt and 2) You’ll have more control over edging the kayak. The Axis 10.5 also has a drop skeg to help with tracking on flat water. There’s no doubt that the Axis 10.5 would handle “bigger” conditions (some wind-blown waves) better than the others as well.

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

      • Kerya

        Thanks Dave, is the Rogue 10 more like the Axis 10.5 then the Aspire?

  12. arrudad

    Yes, the Rogue 10 falls into that multi-water category like the Axis 10 :)

  13. Glen Smith

    I am looking for a kayak to use both on flat water and small white water (Class 2 or small 3) and also for three to four day camp trips. Is this the kayak I am looking for/

    • arrudad

      Hi Glen!

      A better choice may be the Dagger Axis 12 which is a cross river kayak designed to handle both flat water and some light whitewater conditions (class 2). It also has a rear hatch that may accommodate enough camping gear for a weekend + if you can pack light like a backpacker would. There is also a drop skeg on this model which will help with tracking on the flats. Check it out at the following link and stay tuned for a full review at in the near future :)

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

  14. Laurie

    Hi Dave…my friend and I are looking to start kayaking here in central Florida. We’d be using the inter-coastal waterway that’s fairly calm. We both weigh about 350 pounds and are about 5′ 7″ – 5′ 8″. Can you recommend a kayak for each of us to try?

    • arrudad

      Hi Laurie!

      The Aspire 105 would be a good choice for both of you if you’re looking for a sit-in style kayak. Capacity is 400lbs and your height would not be an issue. You’d have more options if you go to a sit-on-top style kayak. Some to consider would be anything in the Ride series by Wilderness Systems or the Moken 12.5 by Feel Free. Both of these have capacities well into the 400lb range and are well outfitted. It’s always a great idea to buy from a shop that allows you to demo the kayaks on the water so that you can see which is the best for you :)

      Happy paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

  15. Isaac

    hey Dave, i was wondering where you think the best spot for a paddle holder is on the aspire 105. I’ve recently purchased one and can’t seem to locate the best positioning for the paddle keeper.

    • Kayak Dave

      Hi Isaac!

      Typically folks will place paddle holders on the side of their kayaks such that the paddle is stowed parallel to the side of the cockpit. I’m looking at an Aspire 105 as I write this reply and it seems that placing the paddle holder just behind the “Wilderness Systems” logo along the side of the kayak might work. Ultimately it’s up to you where to place this holder but consider the best spot as one that doesn’t interfere with your paddling or reentry.

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

  16. Luís

    I’m portuguese and recently bought a WS Aspire 105.
    Does anyone know wich spray skirt is indicate to this kayak?
    Thanks in advance,

    • Kayak Dave

      Hi Luis!

      Seals Spray skirts makes great spray skirts and cockpit covers in a wide variety of sizes and styles. The Aspire 105 has a cockpit size of 5.5 in their catalog.

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

  17. Sara Caron

    Hi Dave\
    I just bought a Wilderness Aspire 105 for flat water/lake type paddling. However I have been having trouble getting a cockpit cover for it. The web sites claim 52/22 as the Harmony size for cover but when I tried it on it was WAY too small. What can I do?

    • Kayak Dave

      Hi Sara!

      Please check out the following cockpit sizing chart by Seals. There you will find the appropriate size for your Aspire 105 (of course it only applies to the Seals line as there is not a standard for cockpit sizing shared amongst manufacturers. I’ve been using Seals products for the past decade and swear by them!

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

  18. Felipe

    I love my 105 but I cant keep it straight without the skeg down. I tought it was me but I can go really straight with my tarpon 100 :(

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