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Wilderness Systems Aspire 100 Review

Posted by on October 16, 2012


Image Courtesy of REI

The Deets

 Material: Polyethylene

Class: Recreational

Length: 10’

Width: 27.5”

Weight: 44 lbs

Cockpit Size: 49  x 22.25 inches

Capacity: 300 lbs

Hatches/Bulkheads: Stern Only

Rudder/Skeg: Skeg (rope operated)

MSRP: $699



Finally! A company has released a recreational kayak that is designed for… get this… smaller people! Traditionally, recreational kayaks are built with exceptional volume and beam width to create a stable platform. The issue with this design method is that smaller paddlers, i.e. folks weighing between 90-140lbs, often feel swamped in these high volume recreational kayaks. Wilderness Systems has done an exceptional job closing the gap between high-volume stability and a comfortable fit for smaller paddlers.

The Aspire 100 provides a very stable and enjoyable paddle in a variety of conditions. Unlike many recreational kayaks out there the Aspire 100 is outfitted with a drop-skeg. This feature is ideal for times when the wind picks up and the water becomes a little dicey. Feeling daring? The Aspire 100 is not designed for big water, but its ultra-stable hull and effortless maneuverability will make even beginner paddlers feel more confident on the water.

The Aspire isn’t shy on features either, sporting a comfortable and adjustable Phase 3 AirPro Seating System, cup holder, rear hatch and bulkhead, and a nifty dashboard for your keys, cell phone, camera, etc. The Aspire 100 weighs in at a light 44lbs which makes this boat an easy car topper or carry down to the beach. Unlike its big brother, the Aspire 105, the 100 is actually easy to shoulder carry as the seat position does not get in the way.



 The Aspire 100 is highly recommended for any smaller paddler, beginner through intermediate, looking for a fun, maneuverable, stable, and lightweight recreational kayak.


Pros:  Outstanding primary stability, comfortable seat, built-in drop skeg, great fit for smaller folks

Cons: About $100 more than its predecessor (the Pamlico 100)


See Also: Wilderness Systems Aspire 105 Review


13 Responses to Wilderness Systems Aspire 100 Review

  1. kathy nekton

    I’m a 5’1″ 116 lb female just starting out and thinking of buying my first kayak. This seems like a wonderful option. do you think it will serve for some time even if I really get involved in this sport?

    • arrudad

      Hi Kathy!

      This is a great question and it really depends on the type of paddling that you are interested in doing (or may become interested in once you get into the sport). The Aspire 100 is well suited for folks who are interested in relaxed or what we call “recreational” paddling in light conditions (low wind, small waves) on protected waters (lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers, harbors, ect). It’s also a great platform for fishing and photography. As a recreational kayak, you can expect the Aspire 100 to be very stable and maneuverable but rather slow and more difficult to keep going in a straight line without using the drop skeg. The cockpit is very large and feels more like you’re sitting in the kayak rather than wearing it. If all of this sounds like what you’re interested in then the Aspire 100 would be an excellent choice for someone of your size!

      With that said, the best advice that I can give you is to evaluate what type of paddling that you’ll be doing and then demo a few kayaks within the appropriate class. The one mistake that beginners tend to make is to get into a kayak that is too short and stable which will the limit you should your horizons expand. That’s why I like to pair beginners in transitional touring kayaks (12-15ft long). These kayaks have the features that will allow you to do more as you expand your skills. They tend to feel a bit less stable at first but they are faster, track better, and have cockpits with thigh braces which will allow you to develop your edging techniques and wear a spray skirt. This will allow you to paddle in “bigger” conditions which means that you can paddle more efficiently in a transitional touring kayak should the wind pick up or the waves get a bit larger. You will also have much more fun on longer trips or even an overnight in a transitional touring kayak as opposed to a recreational kayak. Some models to explore include the Hurricane Excursion 128, Venture Easky 13, Necky Manitou 130R.

      Good luck with your kayak shopping and I’d be very happy to try to answer any questions that you develop along the way!

      -Kayak Dave

  2. Karen Danko

    Does this kayak track good or does it wobble with every stroke?

    • arrudad

      Hi Karen!

      The Aspire 100 is only 10feet long and like most shorter boats it’s not the best at tracking straight, especially when the wind picks up. However, the Aspire series comes stock with a drop skeg (a retractable fin that acts as a tracking aid) which really helps a lot when tracking becomes an issue. This feature is not found on many “recreational” kayaks of this length and that’s one reason why we like the Aspire so much :)

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

  3. John Kattato


    I’m a 5’7″ male weighing in at 170 – would you recommend the 100 or the 105? The only issue from what I’ve read about the 105 is the balance point you mentioned when shouldering the boat.


    • arrudad

      Hey John!

      This is a tough one. You’re not too big for the 100 and it would certainly be more responsive than the 105. However, we’ve experienced that the 105 is the more popular size with customers at the shop. I think that it has a lot to do with the superior stability and roomier cockpit that most “recreational” paddlers are interested in. Both of the Aspires are great boats and either would be a good choice.

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

      • John


        Thanks for the quick response. After additional research I’m now leaning towards the Axis. My sense is it will give me more options to grow as a paddler. Now the question is the 10.5 or the 12 – any thoughts/insights would be appreciated.


      • John

        Dave, one more follow up question if I may – if you were to recommend a kayak to a beginner who plans to start on lakes, small streams, etc but who hopes to advance to class 2 moving water – what would it be? Let’s say the high end of my budget is $800.


      • arrudad

        Hi John:

        This is in response to this and your last question. It seems to me that you’re trying to do a lot with one kayak (ie flatwater and moving up into some whitewater). With that said, the Axis is an example of a cross over kayak or “multi-water” kayak that is designed to do everything from mellow lakes to mild (class 2) whitewater. This kayak will probably suit your needs for now and I would advise going for the longer Axis 12 for better tracking and speed on the flats. However, the big problem with these cross-over kayaks is that they’re really not the best in either world. This is especially true on the whitewater side of the spectrum. If you’re going to be out on the flats more then consider going with a better rec kayak like the Aspire 105. If you’re going to get serious about whitewater then spring for a real whitewater kayak that will let you grow into class 2 and class 3.

        Hope this helps!

        -Kayak Dave

      • John


        Thanks for all the feedback – it’s greatly appreciated. I’m hoping to test drive an Aspire this week while in Lake Placid. I took some advice you posted earlier about transitional/larger boats and tested the Manitou 13 and the Tsunami 120 – and loved them both as they tracked great, were pretty fast and handled well. I’ll let you know what I think of the Aspire.

        Thanks again,


  4. Sue

    Hi Dave,

    I’m a grandma looking for my first 2 kayaks — one for a big 10-yr-old who can swim, and one for me and my little 50-pound grandson who cannot swim. He would, obviously go in with me. Is the cockpit on the 100 big enough for both of us? Thanks

    • Alex Russo

      Hi Sue,

      Thank you for your questions! I see the Aspire 100 as a great fit for your 10-year old especially if you are looking for a kayak that will allow him/her to grow into through their teen years. As for a kayak that will fit yourself and your grandson, I would actually suggest looking into the Pungo 120. This Pungo 120 really has the advantage of a longer, more spacious cockpit that will allow your grandson plenty of room to sit toward the front of the cockpit area. Keep in mind, that your grandson may soon outgrow the ability to do this in one kayak.

      In terms of flooding in case of capsize, the Aspire 100 will not sink because it has a rear bulkhead with some forward flotation. But it still could get swamped and may be very challenging to get the kayak back to shore without assistance from another boater. Because there is always an inherent danger of capsize, I would always suggest kayaking in protected areas such as inland lakes and ponds where the conditions are a little more predictable. Also, make sure that everyone is outfitted with a properly fitted PFD at all times. I always suggest attaching whistles to your PFDs to signal distress if you feel that you cannot get back to shore.

      Please feel free to ask any other questions you may have.


  5. Sue

    Also, I forgot, is the Aspire built so that if we dump, I can worry about the kids, and not have to worry about the kayak flooding (like the Old Town 3 polylink), and us not being able to get back to shore? Thanks

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