Until a few years ago, the choice of whitewater kayaks capable of exploiting multi day rivers ranging from Class I to VI in difficulty pretty much boiled down to standard and large volume river play boats. Which is to say, there wasn’t much of a choice. Hardshell kayakers just used their standard river runner or large volume creek boat. In fact, it was the search for other craft, which included a new generation of crossover or hybrid style kayaks, precipitated the idea for Kayak Wild. Today, with the interest in rodeo apparently dwindling and renewed interest in running rivers, most kayak manufacturers offer some sort of large volume river runner hybrid (i.e., crossed with sea kayak function), perhaps most easily identified by their drop down skegs, and rear accessibility hatches. The idea of these hybrids is to ease paddling on long flat water stretches as well as provide increased and more easily accessible internal storage. I have never used one of these craft, but their ability to carry 2 weeks of gear or more has inescapable appeal on some rivers. I welcome others experienced with them to comment on their strengths and weaknesses, particularly on whitewater.
I continue to use standard river “play boats” for self supporting, capable of running any class of whitewater, despite their relative deficiencies in flat water tracking/paddling. The kayaks I have used have always been the same I use for day trips, simply out of necessity. Any relevant first hand information I may impart up to this juncture, applies only to standard river runners. All of my boats have been either normal or large volume versions of any particular style, primarily because, at over six feet, I am “large”. When selecting a pure river runner for self supporting, it would be wise to choose one at the top end of one’s size range, or larger, if considering self supporting. Remember that your boat will be required to handle well with your weight plus the perhaps considerable additional weight of necessary overnight gear. Fortunately, the renewed general interest in pure river running has also begun to reverse the unfortunate trend of ever shorter kayak designs. This only eases the ability to get adequate gear in one’s boat, both fore and aft, as well as making for more comfortable day long paddling. Hopefully, river runners will be headed back towards a solid 9 to 10 foot length, something already evident in crossover/hybrid designs.