Kayak Review: Radar 135 (Paddle Only) from Wilderness Systems
Heard about the Radar 135 from Wilderness Systems? I checked it out and I’m giving you the real info. No paid praise. No mandatory glowing review. If you’re down with that, keep reading.
My new norm for reviewing kayaks is spending a day fishing on them. Nothing clues you in on all the good and not so good features as actually getting out there and doing it. I try to hit a day that will give me some differing conditions and this time it worked out.
Length: 13 ft 6 in
Width: 34 in
Weight: 95 lb
Capacity: 475 lb
Price: $1,499 (paddle version/does not include rudder) As tested with rudder from the Helix PD kit.
The Good Stuff
The Radar 135, even in the paddle only version, comes nicely equipped. The electronics pod has been continued on from models like the ATAK and Thresher. The housing that fits the pedal drive is molded into the kayak so if you want to add it later you can do that.
Stability is pretty good in the Radar 135. If you’ve had a Ride 135, the stability feels similar. The hull of the kayak has a couple of points of stability designed in so the initial side to side rock doesn’t mean you’ll tip the kayak over because the secondary stability will kick in as long as you can convince your body to not over correct. I didn’t need a stand assist strap even from the low seat position which is a bonus.
Speaking of seats, the Air Pro Max seat that Wilderness Systems has become known for is also included in the paddle version of the Radar and has the normal three seating positions. I did almost all of my testing in the low position or standing because of the conditions on the water. I appreciated the new connectors on the seat that make a better secured seat to the mounting tracks.
Molded into the hull are some trays that work great for different applications. Have a Plano 3600 box that you are accessing frequently? The molded insert behind the seat fits one perfectly and also has a bungee to strap it in. The Radar 135 also has molded in trays in the side walls which allow for quick stowage of baits when swapping them out or fit most phones pretty well. I kept my Samsung S7 Active in one of the trays all day for quick access for pictures. I would recommend a water proof phone or phone case because paddle drip will find its way into the tray. The tray does drain but your phone will get a little wet.
The Radar paddled well early in the morning before the wind got up. Surprisingly, the kayak turned 180 degrees relatively easily without the rudder in the water. The flattened out nose of the boat helps keep water away from the front hatch and doesn’t allow bow entry of water.
The tank well is long and has a pretty large capacity of items that aren’t really wide. I took my Flambeau Portage Backpack and a YETI Hopper Flip 12 in the back with a little bit of room left. The included bungees allow cargo to be secured.
If you like track to attach accessories, this is a good kayak for you. The Radar 135 has track along the gunwales on port and starboard sides so you can add all kinds of accessories. For testing I added on two RAM Mounts 2008 rod holders just behind the seat.
IDEAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
When the wind got up and whitecaps were rolling, momentum was hard to maintain. I found the Radar 135 sluggish in the wind even with the rudder helping keep it on course.
Since I mentioned the rudder, let’s talk about that. The one that I used is the one that comes with the Helix Pedal Drive Kit. The rudder blade attachment has been redesigned and I feel like it is less efficient than previous rudders. The attachment points have been moved closer to the stern of the kayak and with the new barrel attachments that connect rings to the rudder and utilize an allen screw to hold the synthetic cable, range of motion is lost. I also found the rudder control in the way, faulty at times, and overtorquing of the cable connection points. I realize the rudder control is because of the potential for pedals but it needs refinement. It is not intuitive and can get in the way of your paddle stroke in the low seat position. That isn’t ideal if you have pedals and need to paddle. Your best bet if you aren’t going to do pedals is to get the foot controlled rudder for $279 and call it a day. Most of these issues will go away.
The floor of the kayak is reinforced at the scuppers nearest the front of the seat (and you can see the bulge) but the floor of the kayak everywhere else sagged under my weight. (I am 6’2” 185lbs). For a kayak with a claimed weight cap of 475lbs, I wouldn’t recommend it as is for people over 250. I think a lot of the floor sag is because the entire center spine of the kayak in front of the seat is a hatch, a port for pedals, a removable pod, and a large oval hatch. All that open space is difficult to reinforce. I’d recommend not having the rectangle hatch in front of the seat. It looks identical to the hatch that Ascend uses on their FS12T and 12T kayaks. It’s just not necessary.
The final thing I noticed was the large flat areas, beside the tracks, behind the seat. It seems all that flat space takes away from what could be a larger tank well. I thought at first it might be for mounting an accessory but with track right beside it, it seemed improbable. The plastic also seemed very thin in this area. With my rod holders in the track, any amount of pressure on the rod holder flexed the entire area.
With as many soft areas in this kayak, it seems the designers of the Radar 135 might have been tasked with shaving weight off of this kayak and thinned the mold in that effort.
Final Thoughts on the Radar 135
The Radar 135 is a decent paddling kayak that comes with lots of features. If you are wanting to get a kayak with the idea of eventually getting pedals, this might be a good choice. It is sleeker than several of the pedal market kayaks and will be much easier to paddle should you want to. If you are looking for a paddle kayak, with no want for pedals down the road, I don’t think this is your kayak. Several other options are available, even from Wilderness, that would serve you better on price without sacrificing speed or stability.