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Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100

rated 4.0 of 5 stars
photo: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 sit-on-top kayak

A hard boat to justify.


  • Stable
  • Comfortable
  • Adaptable
  • Features
  • Quality


  • Heavy
  • Hatches leak
  • Expensive
  • Tracks poorly
  • Paddles like a log
  • Not rudder capable


Without a doubt Wilderness Systems builds exceptional plastic kayaks. They will easily last a lifetime of heavy use with minimal care. They are virtually indestructible in the hands of all but the most extreme users. The Tarpon 100, 120, 140, and 160 all offer what many consider to be the most comfortable SOT seat and driest ride available.  They also come with quite the feature set. So what's the problem?

I'll start with the hatches. The Orbix hatches used on these boats all leak, which some people consider a really big deal. I don't. Kayaking is a water sport...meaning I and my stuff will get wet. Stuff I don't want wet I put in a dry bag; easy. You may feel differently. The hatches they've now used for over a decade look really cool, are convenient to open and close, but leak. The old tupperware style hatch covers used on the original hull design, and still used on countless boats today, were and are water tight. Enough said.

It is very stable due to its short, wide, stature. However, it tracks poorly. In moving water you will get turned about and work hard to maintain your line. I guess on a positive it is really, really easy to turn. This is the only model in the line that Wilderness Systems decided to not make rudder ready or even rudder capable, which is odd when you consider it's the only model in the line that actually requires one.

It's also a chore to paddle it any kind of real distances, again due to those short and wide dimensions. It's heavy for its size and I'm sure that doesn't help either. I'd liken it to paddling a log; a short fat log.

It has limited stowage in the bow that's accessible through a small round hatch and a small tank well in the rear.  You can get away with overnighters provided you travel light and have backpacking gear. Those with full sized tents and sleeping bags will find it difficult, if not impossible, to fit everything. Like all Tarpon models it has ample storage compartments sides and center that are located perfectly within reach for snacks, phone, water bottle, etc.

On the good the hull has five pre-molded mounts for rod holders, cameras, fish finders, etc. Additionally, the included Slide Trax mounting system offers almost limitless options for mounting just about anything without having to drill and cut into the hull. So you can set up this little kayak for just about anything; it's definitely adaptable.

The seat is adjustable three different ways while you're sitting in it and offers one of the driest rides in the business. No sitting in a puddle all day. It offers a reasonable amount of padding, support, and ventilation which all add up to what Wilderness Systems calls the most comfortable SOT seat available. Most people find the seat very comfortable, myself included.

So who is this boat targeted at? Wilderness Systems says it's a versatile SOT that offers stunning performance for surf play, ponds, lakes, and bays. Well, I'll give them versatile.  As for performance, I'd say lackluster at best. Of course you'd be hard pressed to get "stunning performance" out of any kayak with these dimensions, and there's the caveat. You may be tempted to purchase this boat because you are a novice and believe it will be more stable and easier to learn on than a longer, narrower boat. While there is some truth to that, the Tarpon 120 offers similar stability with vastly improved performance. In fact, on moving water a novice would likely find the 120 easier to handle because it tracks so much better.

Then there are those looking for a lighter, less expensive option and really don't intend on using it for much more than tootling around the swimming hole. For those people I would recommend visiting your local box store. There you will find far cheaper and lighter options with similar dimensions, albeit less durable with little to no features. However, if all you intend to do is paddle around the beach at your local lake you won't really miss the features, and with a little care it'll still last you many years to come.  

So this is a boat that's hard to justify. Those just starting out will likely outgrow this boat quickly, provided its lack of performance doesn't turn them off to kayaking before that happens. For a couple hundred bucks and 8 pounds more, the Tarpon 120 offers superior performance and realistic storage for camping adventures in a package they may never outgrow. For those looking for a cheap, light, summer toy for playing around the beach at their local lake or pond; the box store offerings are both cheaper and lighter.


I've been kayaking for many years. Kayaks are one of the most specialized water craft on the planet. I own and have owned all kinds of roto-molded, thermo-molded, and composite kayaks. I currently and probably always will own a Tarpon 120 and a Tarpon 140 among the other kayaks in my fleet. I often loan those to friends who come along with me. I purchased a Tarpon 100 used and kept it for only one season. Everyone I've taken out, including first timers, preferred the Tarpon 120 over the 100.

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $350

Are you looking for a moderate sized, sit-on-top kayak that's easy to transport, comfortable to sit in, handles well, and is capable of carrying enough gear for a backcountry adventure? Then you should consider the Wilderness Systems TARPON 100 sit-on-top kayak.


  • Small size
  • Generous payload capacity
  • Very comfortable and adjustable seat system
  • Lots of storage
  • Easy to transport by one person


  • A bit heavy at 55 lbs
  • A bit pricey

I've prepared an in-depth video review of the Wilderness Systems TARPON 100 sit-on-top kayak.  I bought this kayak as a birthday gift for my wife, but I love it so much I'm considering getting one for myself.

This 10 foot-long kayak weighs in at 55 lb. and has a load capacity of 325 lb. The fully adjustable seat makes this little boat very comfortable to paddle, and for a short boat it handles and tracks very well.

Please check out the video:

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $900 CDN, about $700 US

My husband and I bought the Tarpon 100 kayaks for each other for Christmas 2017. We are extremely satisfied with the kayaks and can't wait for warmer weather to take them out this spring!


  • Easy to transport
  • Plenty of storage
  • Comfortable seating
  • Durable
  • Easy to get around in


  • A bit heavy
  • May not be the best kayak for lengthy kayaking trips
  • A bit pricey

So far we are very happy with the Tarpon 100 kayaks. We have used them in the bay and various lakes. I love the size in that we can throw them in the back of his truck without using a carrier. They were great in the bay in the Outerbanks—even had our dog on the kayak with us!

Wilderness Systems builds a sturdy reliable kayak. It can get wet inside but we just use our dry bags for anything that cannot get wet like wallets, etc. All in all, we love the kayaks as do our two teenage daughters. Hoping to get some rod holders and other accessories to do some fishing this spring!


Having owned the kayaks for over a year I am very happy with our purchase. We had the cheap plastic kayaks in the past which were OK, but do not compare the quality and sturdiness of the Tarpon 100. We have friends with the larger Wilderness Kayaks who use them for serious kayaking trips in rough water over many miles, but for the recreational user, the 100 is perfect.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $750 each

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Price MSRP: $699.00
Historic Range: $524.99-$759.00
Reviewers Paid: $350.00-$750.00
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