Recreational Kayak Review: Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

The Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT is a popular recreational kayak that updates the construction and outfitting of Pelican International’s best-selling Trailblazer model. This 10-foot sit-inside kayak offers great value and ease-of-use for beginner paddlers, and its light weight and outstanding stability make it a favorite for family kayaking, touring on calm waters and casual kayak fishing.

Read on for a full Pelican Trailblazer NXT kayak review.

On the water with Pelican’s Trailblazer 100 NXT

Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT Specs
Length: 10’0” / 3.0 m
Width: 28” / 71 cm
Weight: 36 lbs / 16.3 kg
Capacity: 275 lbs / 125 kg
MSRP: $280 USD

Performance

When it comes to kayak design, there are a few fundamental trade-offs to consider. First trade-off: how well does a kayak turn to navigate obstacles (maneuverability) compared to its ability to glide in a straight line (tracking)? Too much maneuverability and you’ll find yourself zig-zagging rather than traveling in an efficient line. Not enough maneuverability and the kayak will feel sluggish and unresponsive when you try to turn it.

Second trade off: how stable does the kayak feel versus how fast is it? Wider kayaks tend to be slower but more stable, but the ideal width must complement the hull length and shape.

The Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT manages to strike a good balance both between maneuverability and tracking, as well as speed and stability. It has a twin-arched, multi-chine hull that distributes weight evenly across its 28-inch width, so new paddlers will find it very stable. That outstanding stability means the Trailblazer NXT isn’t the fastest 10-foot recreational kayak, but its narrow bow and light weight help it to accelerate quickly and maintain speed with minimal effort.

Market and demographics

With its attractive price, user-friendly handling and durable construction, the Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT is a great starter kayak for beginners looking to buy a first kayak. With a carry weight of just 36 pounds, it’s an especially attractive option for casual paddlers who want a sit-inside kayak that is as easy to transport as it is to paddle. In fact, many Trailblazer NXT fans are smaller-framed adults and teens who want a kayak they can carry unassisted to and from the water.

Those who are looking to use the Pelican Trailblazer NXT kayak for fishing will appreciate the roomy cockpit and excellent stability. While there are no dedicated fishing features, this compact kayak offers a generous amount of space, including a rear tank well with a mesh cover that can be used to hold a fishing crate or cooler. The front cockpit tray and below-deck storage hammock are handy for keeping smaller accessories within easy reach.

The Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT is best suited to exploring calm rivers, lakes and waterways. The sit-inside design also makes it a better choice for all-weather paddling than a comparable sit-on-top kayak. However, the Trailblazer NXT kayak is not intended for use in rough waters, or anywhere you may be exposed to strong currents or winds.

If you are looking to head further offshore or play in larger waves, choose a kayak that has built-in safety bulkheads to assist with flotation and emptying water from the kayak should it capsize.

Comfort

The Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT kayak features an oversized cockpit that is 42 inches long by 20 inches wide for an unrestricted fit and easy entry and exit, even for larger paddlers. The spacious seat has a cushioned bottom and is paired with an adjustable, padded back rest that most kayakers will find comfortable and supportive for shorter day trips.

About the Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT

Design

Design features and details

The Trailblazer 100 NXT’s user-friendly design begins with its twin-arched, multi-chine hull: Pelican combined the straight tracking attributes of a deep-V keel at the bow and stern with the outstanding stability of a flatter, twin-arched mid-section. The latter adds volume to the sides of the hull, creating a more stable kayak that won’t feel tippy should you shift your weight off-center. This kayak has a maximum capacity of 275 pounds, which is fairly typical for a recreational sit-inside kayak of this length.

Material and construction

Pelican International is known for the exceptional durability and stiffness of their plastic kayak construction. The Trailblazer 100 NXT is built from Pelican’s proprietary RAM-X material, an ultra-durable, multi-layer, high-density polyethylene. Along with superb resistance to impacts, UV radiation and abrasion, this material is valued for its stiffness and longevity.

Wear A Life Jacket
  • Everyone, even strong swimmers, needs to wear a life jacket at all times when on the water. It is extremely difficult to put a life jacket on once you fall into the water. Even a light wind can blow any paddlecraft away from you, faster than you can swim.
  • Buy (and wear) a comfortable Type 3 or S life jacket specifically designed for paddlesports.

The Pelican Trailblazer NXT kayak is constructed using twin sheet thermoforming (TST)—meaning two plastic sheets are heated and vacuum-formed over the kayak mold. This allows for more refined design features and lighter weight than traditional rotomolded kayaks, since the TST technology uses less material per boat.

Another advantage of RAM-X polyethylene is that this robust material requires minimal care and maintenance, and all TST kayaks include a lifetime limited warranty on the hull. Good to know, Pelican makes their kayaks from recycled post-industrial plastic and recycles 99 percent of plastic waste generated during their production.

Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT outfitting and accessories

The Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT kayak boasts an assortment of molded-in features throughout the deck and cockpit. You’ll find a cockpit table with an accessory tray and bottle holder, a mesh storage hammock under the front deck and a tank well in the stern deck (which makes the Trailblazer 100 NXT an appealing option for first-time kayak anglers who need an accessible place to store gear).

The cushioned seat features a cup holder, padded back rest and a range of molded-in foot rests to help you optimize your paddling posture. Another handy feature is the drain plug, which allows you to empty any accumulated splashes or rain when the kayak is out of the water. Popular accessories, such as a Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT kayak cockpit cover, are available from the manufacturer.

Opportunity for modifications

The spacious decks of the Pelican Trailblazer NXT make it a favorite kayak for custom do-it-yourself modifications and accessorizing. Popular Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT kayak mods include adding flush-mounted rod holders and a paddle holder alongside the cockpit, and adding decklines and different bungee configurations for increased safety and storage. Some DIY-ers even cut a hole in the rear tank well for a 6-inch round hatch, giving access to additional (wet) storage under the deck behind the seat.

Since there is no bulkhead under the front deck, you can also easily slide a large (20-liter or more) dry bag between and beyond the foot rests for even more storage. This also has the advantage of increasing the flotation (and therefore the safety) of the kayak, by displacing the amount of water that can enter the hull should you find yourself in rough conditions.

Carry A Waterproof VHF Radio, Use Your Phone Only As A Backup
  • A handheld VHF marine band radio allows you to communicate with the Coast Guard and other boat traffic. Use Channel 16 only for hailing and emergencies. The radio should be waterproof, because it is virtually certain to get wet.
  • A cell phone, even if in a waterproof case or sealable bag, might not work, so don’t rely on it as the primary means of emergency communication.

Warranty

Pelican offers a limited lifetime warranty on its RAM-X, RAM-X Premium and POLY-XR boats (hull and deck) and a 1-year warranty on product parts and accessories. Just be aware that any warranty coverage is nullified if you modify the hull by drilling or cutting holes for accessories.

How it compares

The Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT replaces its predecessor, the Trailblazer 100, a boat with similar specs that featured a stern hatch rather than a tank well. But how does the Trailblazer compare with other companies’ popular recreational kayak designs? Overall, is the Pelican Trailblazer a good kayak?

  • Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT vs Pelican Mustang 100X

    Like the Trailblazer 100 NXT, the Pelican Mustang 100X is another best-selling 10-foot kayak in the sit-inside class. The Mustang is slightly wider and heavier, with a modestly higher capacity than the Trailblazer 100 NXT, and is equally suitable for recreational paddling and fishing. Both kayaks share Pelican’s twin-arched, multi-chine hull.

    The main difference between the two kayaks is that the Mustang 100X has a front storage hatch in the bow and is fishing-ready with two flush-mounted rod holders.

  • Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT kayak vs Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

    The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is a 10-foot, sit-inside beginner kayak with a similarly attractive price as the Trailblazer 100 NXT. Both kayaks offer spacious cockpits and a user-friendly blend of moderate stability and tracking. While the Aruba 10 is slightly heavier (40 pounds versus 36 pounds), it offers a covered rear storage hatch and adjustable foot braces—so it’s a good choice if paddlers of different heights will be sharing the same kayak.

  • Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT vs Argo 100X

    The Pelican Argo 100X is the same kayak hull as the Trailblazer 100 NXT, with slight outfitting differences on the deck. While the Trailblazer sports a clean front deck, the Argo 100X is equipped with a front deck storage hatch. There are also subtle differences in the molding of the rear tank well. Otherwise, the two kayaks share the same spec sheet, including identical width, weight and capacity.

  • Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT kayak vs Lifetime Zenith 10 kayak

    The Lifetime Zenith 10 kayak (also known as the Zenith 100) is an entry-level sit-inside kayak with similar performance attributes to the Trailblazer 100 NXT. Like the Trailblazer, the Lifetime Zenith is 10 feet long and manufactured from durable, high-density polyethylene. However, weighing in at 46 pounds, the Zenith 10 kayak is more than 25 percent heavier than the Trailblazer 100 NXT—so it’s not the best choice for smaller paddlers who enjoy being self-sufficient to and from the water.

Education: Get Some!
  • Take a paddling safety course from the American Canoe Association (ACA), your local paddling shop or outfitter, or other reputable source.
  • Take a boating safety course from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons® or your own state’s boating agency.
  • Take on-the-water skills training.
  • Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT kayak vs Pelican Bandit NXT 100

    The Pelican Bandit NXT 100 offers a sit-on-top profile that shares the super-stable 10-foot, twin-arched hull of the Trailblazer 100 NXT. The open deck of the Bandit NXT 100 means it’s even easier to get in and out, and there’s more on-deck space for longer legs or even a furry companion. For those who want the peace of mind of a sit-on-top design, the Bandit NXT 100 features integrated flotation inside the hull and weighs just four pounds more than the Trailblazer.

Where to buy the Trailblazer 100 NXT

Dick’s Sporting Goods is the primary retailer for the Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT, so check here first for the best range of in-stock color choices. You can also search for “Pelican Trailblazer NXT Walmart” and “Pelican Trailblazer NXT Amazon” to see if these companies have any kayaks in-store or available to ship.

Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT pros and cons

If you’re looking for an entry-level, sit-inside recreational kayak that offers superb value and ease of use on sheltered waterways, the Pelican Trailblazer 100 NXT could be the perfect fit. The main advantages of this kayak for both beginner and casual paddlers are its confidence-inspiring stability and a light carry weight that’s easy to manage off the water. Pelican is also a favorite for DIY fishing kayak mods, since the spacious, rigid deck allows for the simple installation of accessories.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Stable
  • Spacious cockpit
  • Decent amount of storage space
  • Durable, long-lasting Pelican RAM-X material
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Budget friendly

Cons

  • No dry storage
  • No bulkheads or flotation for safety in open water
  • Fixed foot braces offer a limited range of foot positions
  • Max capacity of 275 pounds may not be ideal for larger paddlers

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