Parents could use a hand when it comes to finding great, green gear for their miniature outdoor enthusiasts, who are small in size but big on adventure. Over the course of the spring and summer I will be investigating, reviewing and reporting on various eco-friendly or otherwise low-impact outdoors options for children who happily don DEET-free bug spray after shedding their city garb, to get out and enjoy the wilds of nature. In this post I get my feet wet by learning more about kayaks.


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Timothy: I’m looking at buying two small kayaks for my boys — and I do mean small. My youngest is 6 while my older boy is 8. Do any of you know of anywhere a person can go to buy a real kayak scaled down to fit small children?

Dave: One [high-labor, lesser cost] option is to build a couple Pygmy kits, sized to fit them.

The above is a truncated dialogue from the PaddleWise website, and it answers a question nagging most boat-loving parents. In response to Timothy’s’ question, 3 other readers recommended pint-sized kayaks for kids. But not every option was a green option: “We are not currently able to purchase BS1088 rated Okoume ply with a sustainably harvested label, though there is a possibility it will become available as a certified sustainable product in the near future,” says Jim at Pygmy Boats. Parents will have to weigh the benefit of having their child out enjoying and embracing an appreciation for nature, against the environmental impact of the kayak’s manufacturing process.

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“Tim, try looking at the Perception Umiak…” – Lorraine and Dennis
Although the Umiak seems to have been discontinued, Perception still offers a kid-sized kayak in the Acadia Scout 10.0 ($425). “Childhood memories that last a lifetime don’t happen in front of the TV. That’s why the Acadia Scout is designed just for kids in every way.” Precision kayaks are made from polyethylene, an environmental no-no, but “this year we will be rolling out a number of new programs that will help reduce our impact on the environment…”

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“I would add the Wilderness Systems ‘Piccolo’ to the list…” – Richard
Again the Piccolo could not be found, but the Pamlico 100 ($525) seems to be comparable. “Worry-free manageability and easy to control, it’s the perfect kayak for children.” Although they declare, “we feel a unique responsibility to do all we can to help preserve and protect the environment in every way we can,” the only mention of corporate responsibility on their website is a link to the new ‘Paddle-It-Forward‘ program.

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CLC Boats has “plans for a ‘Cape Charlie’ which might work out…” –Jack
I headed over to the CLC Boats website and came upon a multitude of fine wooden specimens. None were specifically geared toward kids, and the smallest I found was the 10 foot, 30lb Little Auk ($975 complete kit). The kits generally call for “modern mahogany marine plywood” which tends to incorporate a water resistant phenol-formaldehyde glue.

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Making my own way, I came across an outfit called Necky Kayaks. Necky seems to be championing the green recreational market by building kayaks that create a tiny carbon-wake. “Made with 100% post industrial plastic our new recycled kayaks not only perform well on the water, they are environmentally friendly.” Necky offers the Sky model ($499), “Our smallest, lightest recreational kayak,” but unfortunately it is not yet offered as a recycled model. While speaking with a Necky representative, she said they were hoping to add such a model to the 2010 line.

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Old Towne Canoe and Kayak also offers a model made from 100% post-consumer plastic with its Dirigo 106 ($749) – a Paddler Magazine’s ‘Paddler’s Picks’ Award winner. At 41lbs, I am certain my son can haul this thing into the water… with a little help. Plus 1% of the recycled boat sales benefit the Waterkeeper Alliance.

Finally, a key note from Michael, a PaddleWise reader: “Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake I did. I bought one of those ‘tub’ kayaks for my daughter, figuring that the extra stability would be an asset. As it turned out, she couldn’t paddle without hitting her hands on the boat because of the width. Although she still loves paddling, she never really liked that boat. I would suggest letting the boys try the boat out to see how they can paddle it before putting any money down.”

Happy kayaking!