Valley Etain 17.5 Specs
Weight: 60 lbs
Volume: 60 U.S. gal
Cockpit Size: 19” × 32.5”
Weight Range: 100-130 lbs
MSRP: $3,479 USD Diolene (fiberglass) / $4,349 USD Carbon/Kevlar
Valley may be the most venerable sea kayak manufacturer in the world. Their signature model—the Nordkapp—has achieved truly iconic status. But that kind of success cuts both ways: lauded for their classic kayaks, what can Valley do for an encore? The answer is a carefully planned departure from classic form with the Valley Etain 17.5 sea kayak.
Into the Valley Etain
While Valleys have traditionally been fish-form hulls (where the widest point of the boat is forward of the mid-point), the Etain is slightly Swede-form (widest point aft of the mid-point). Moving the volume sternward generally creates better stability, more cargo capacity, improved sense of glide and allows the foredeck to be a little narrower to accommodate a more vertical paddle stroke.
Aesthetically the Etain is a handsome, if rather conventional looking, British sea kayak. The bow and stern are upswept, and the deck is clean and uncluttered. Refinements include carrying toggles neatly held in place by shock cords and a security lock bar aft of the cockpit.
The Etain is available in two sizes: the 17.5 on test here and its larger sister the 17.7. Three lay-up options exist: standard Diolene fiberglass, carbon/Kevlar and triple-layer polyethylene (17.7 only).
A comfortable and well mannered expedition kayak
Weighing in at 60 pounds with optional keel strip reinforcement, our carbon/Kevlar test boat was no featherweight, but it was stiff and neatly finished throughout. Afloat, the Valley Etain has reassuring initial stability, certainly more than the Nordkapp. She’s not as fast as her famous sibling, but overall speed and glide are quite good and the boat accelerates quickly. The Etain also feels smaller than it really is thanks to the Swede-form shape. I really liked the seating position, finding it very comfortable and conducive to good control and drive.
Tracking is quite stiff on an even keel. However, when edged aggressively the volume in the back of the boat allows the stern to skid round for tighter turns. The Etain composite kayak feels great on edge when gliding through a turn or surfing a wave, but secondary stability is less reassuring when stationary.
The Valley Etain is well mannered in wind with only a minor tendency to weathercock, which is easily controlled by adjusting the skeg. In waves and current, handling is poised and predictable with no unpleasant surprises: it’s a good choice for rough water duty.
The Valley Etain is a welcome addition
While not quite as fast or as maneuverable as the Nordkapp, the Etain’s superior carrying capacity, tracking and initial stability make her a great choice for paddlers who want a dependable and more user-friendly expedition kayak. As a touring platform, the Etain is a very credible addition to the Valley family.
Video review of the Valley Etain: