I have been a fan of Boreal Design kayaks for a long time. I used their Inukshuk expedition kayaks while taking students on several month-long, self-supported expeditions trips on the coast of Labrador. Years later while guiding in Antarctica I paddled their Epsilon series. The mother ships we travelled on had fleets of Epsilons and believe me, those plastic models took plenty of abuse. Now the updated Boreal Design Epsilon arrives to join the fleet.

Boreal Design Epsilon C200 Specs
Length: 17’
Width: 23.5”
Weight: 54 lbs
MSRP: $3,499
www.borealdesign.com

Which Epsilon is for you?

The Epsilon series includes three different materials: HDPE, which stands for high-density polyethylene; thermoformed ABS plastic; and the C-series, C meaning composite. The composite series is available in three different lay-ups including fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon. And in these five materials you have three different sizes ranging from 16’6” to 17’6”. Confused yet? From the fifteen different possible options we tracked down a C200, the middle-sized 17-footer in fiberglass for some early spring testing.

Straight as an arrow

What I first noticed about the Epsilon C200 was a shallow V hull and very little rocker. With a long waterline, the C200 tracks like an arrow and maintains fast hull speed over long distances.

With 23.5 inches at the beam primary stability of the C200 is excellent. The low shear line and low-profile bow allows for good handling in wind and waves. The Epsilon has soft, rounded chines. I’d say it has consistent edging performance.

It makes sense why this is such a popular boat with outfitters and tour operators. It’s a boat that people feel good about in the right way. Just for fun, I paddled the C200 to a small surf wave and it offered responsive edging control. When I blew off the wave it was a blast to jet ferry back across the current to the eddy for another round.

Closeup of cockpit on the Boreal Design Epsilon C200 touring sea kayak
The keyhole design is shaped for easy entry and exit. An adjustable back-band and foot braces accomodate a wide range of paddler sizes. The molded knee braces are padded and comfortable to slip in and out of. | Photo: Gabriel Rivett-Carnac

Fitting into the Boreal Design Epsilon

Let’s talk cockpits. For a guy who is six-foot-two and needs to be able to dive in and out of a kayak, I was pleasantly surprised. The opening is not exaggerated at 31 inches long and 16 inches wide. It really is big. The seat system consists of a pre-formed, hinged back rest and is comfortable. The adjustable back band seemed high and initially I wondered if it would be a problem for cockpit re-entry. Self-rescues can be performed easily on the low-profiled stern deck with no concern of back band interference. I think the back band just looks high because the stern deck is so low. I didn’t even think of it as I was dropping back down in the seat.

Bow and stern deck rigging on the Boreal Design Epsilon is the standard you would expect of a touring sea kayak these days. One thing of note however is the rear cockpit deck bungees only cover one half of the deck to allow for the day hatch. In the event of a scramble self-rescue when you use a paddle float and paddle it may be more difficult to slide the paddle under the stiff deckline on the opposing side. It would be worth practicing beforehand so you know what to expect.

Expedition-ready steering and stowage

To the back right of the cockpit is the pull-cord to raise and lower the rudder system. The cord is easy to access and the rudder steers with the adjustable foot braces. I didn’t need the rudder during our testing of the C200, but clients love it.

Boreal Design Epsilon C200 touring kayak, closeup of Feathercraft rudder
Boreal Designs uses Feathercraft rudders that are stern, deck-mounted. The dependable design is simple to use and easy to fix in the event of a mishap. | Photo: Gabriel Rivett-Carnac

The large oval openings of the bow and stern hatches easily facilitate the stowing and retrieval of tent poles, tripods, bulky bags and awkward gear. Throw in the round day hatch and the Epsilon C200 is suitable for both short expeditions, as well as day use. According to Boreal Design, even with the low stern deck, the C200 is capable of a 295-pound load capacity and boasts a total volume of 415 liters. More than enough storage for everything you would need for a day trip, overnight or short expedition.

I know it’s common practice to always dry bag everything you store for a kayak trip. Some will say determining whether hatches are waterproof is just being picky. Personally, I am a freak about water in my boats and always check to see just how waterproof my hatches really are. I loaded the bow and stern hatches of our Boreal Design Epsilon with gear and performed several maneuvers including sculling braces, rolls and in-water re-entries. After a morning of playing around inspecting the hatches revealed maybe a bottoms-up of Jack Daniels between all three compartments.

For those interested in cold-weather paddling, it is worth noting that cold makes all the plastic hatch covers stiffer. And when they are stiff they are more difficult to hammer on and peel off, especially with paddling mitts and numb fingers. They need to be this way to be tight and dry when they are warm and supple.

Epsilon goes to the ends of the Earth

Dragging the kayak through the leftover snow and launching off ice shelves seems to be what I do in Epsilons. It’s what lots of people could do in the Boreal Design Epsilon C200, an enjoyable-to-paddle and expedition-ready sea kayak. And if 15 different models isn’t enough for you to ponder, each one is available in a variety of color schemes. You do the math. That’s a lot of great boats to choose from.

 

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