As someone fairly new to kayaking I wasn’t sure what kayak to choose as my first. I knew I wanted something stable, less likely to tip over, and suitable for lakes and calm rivers. Two of the most popular entry level kayaks are both from Pelican and those are the Trailblazer 100 NXT and the Mustang 100X but what are the differences between the two, especially when out on the water? Hopefully, I can answer that for you.
The Mustang goes for about $299 and the Trailblazer is about $179 but you can often find them on sale. I got both for a good savings during a Memorial Day Sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods and saved $150 between the two. The prices can vary from week-to-week so keep an eye on the prices because you’ll probably be able to save quite a bit by waiting if they aren’t already on sale.
Since I do reviews, I thought it would be a good idea to get one of each so I can test out both and help others make the right decision. As I was trying to decide between the two I wasn’t sure if the more expensive Mustang was worth the price over the more budget friendly Trailblazer. Both are actually considered entry-level, budget friendly kayaks but there’s more than a $100 difference between the two so it’s worth doing some research, as you’re doing right now!
The Mustang is designed as a fishing kayak but you don’t necessarily have to use it that way. I don’t plan to but maybe someday I will. It’s a little heavier than the Mustang, actually 3 pounds heavier but that sure seems to make a difference when lifting it on top of my SUV’s and also how it tracks in the water and more on that in just a bit.
The Mustang has a front compartment for bait though it’s fairly shallow. It would have been nice if it were a little deeper and had a removal bucket. You could place a bowl in it, I guess. I’m not sure how practical it would be to use as a tank well considering how far the reach is from the cockpit but maybe more seasoned kayakers could pull it off.
I’ve only just become brave enough to look behind me and not worry about instantly flipping the kayak over. Hey, I’m as green as my kayak but I’m learning!
The Mustang also has a zippered removable storage bag for cargo in the back but it’s more suitable for items that you don’t mind possibly getting wet if you happen to get caught in a downpour or somehow flip the kayak. For items that need to stay dry, you’ll need to invest in waterproof containers and/or bags. I have one for my phone and keys.
The cockpit of the Mustang is 25″ wide by 47″ long compared to the 20.5″ wide by 42.5″ long cockpit of the Trailblazer. Looking at the two kayaks you would think the cockpit of the Trailblazer is larger but it’s actually not. However, it is more open so larger people shouldn’t feel too cramped.
The Mustang is rated for a single user of 300 pounds while the Trailblazer is rated for 275 pounds. Both have footrests that should accommodate both shorter and taller kayakers. I’m 5’1″ and the second setting is perfect for me. There are four footrest settings in both.
There are some added comfort features of the Mustang including knee pads (which I find very nice to have) and a more padded and wider seat. Also, the back of the cockpit acts as support for your back as well as the seat. You don’t have to rely on just the adjustable straps of the seat back to offer support which is an advantage over the Trailblazer.
I think for longer trips on the water, the Mustang would be the more comfortable choice.
After getting used to the Mustang, I really noticed the difference in the way the Trailblazer tracks and how different the cockpit and seat feels. The cockpit in the Trailblazer is more open. There is more freedom of movement in the Trailblazer in contrast to the more nestled feeling of the Mustang’s cockpit.
I certainly noticed that the Trailblazer was lighter in the front and seemed to almost skim on top of the water while the Mustang cut through a little more.
They both track well for the type of kayaks they are but the Mustang tracks a little better, meaning that when I was paddling fast I could keep it going in a straight line easier than the Mustang but not by a huge amount.
As far as stability goes, I didn’t feel like I was in danger of tipping at any point in either kayak but I was on calm lake waters. I did experience some waves with both but both handled them well. Any kayak can tip but both of these aren’t likely to unless you lean over and put nearly all your weight on one side or hit a large boulder or log.
Again the biggest difference I noticed was comfort. The upgraded seat, knee pads, and the molded back of the Mustang’s cockpit makes a big difference.
What I like about the Trailblazer however is its weight, especially when lifting it on the car. It also has more areas to grab on to when lifting it because of how the cockpit is designed. It’s just easier to pick up and transport. It would have been more ideal to have handles on each side of the Mustang’s cockpit to lift it on top of a rack.
Something that my son and I both agreed on was that we would have preferred to have had longer paddles. The kayaks don’t come with paddles but when you’re choosing paddles, I’d suggest getting longer ones because both kayaks are wide as kayaks go and you sit fairly low in them.
The quality of the paddle you choose makes a big difference too. We were using one paddle that came with an inflatable kayak and one that I purchased of much better quality and I definitely preferred the better quality paddle because it was stronger but my son liked the lighter weight of the cheaper paddle.
But we both agreed, they both needed to be longer.
So, put a lot of thought into what paddle you choose because that’s the one thing you’re going to notice the most by the end of the trip. You want one that does a good job and doesn’t wear you out in the process and you might have to try a few different ones until you get the right one for you.
So, in conclusion, which one should you buy? Is the Mustang worth the higher price tag? If comfort is the most important consideration for you then the Mustang is the easy choice. I also think the Mustang tracks just a little better than the Trailblazer. Both are stable kayaks and good for beginners. Both offer plenty of storage space for bringing along a cooler, tackle box, towels, extra clothes, etc.
And yes, I think the Mustang is worth the higher price tag. It does feel like it has a stronger build quality probably due to the cockpit design and it is a little wider than the Trailblazer. The Mustang is 30″ wide while the Trailblazer is 29″. Both are 10 feet long.
If you’re just wanting a kayak to go on short, fun trips then the Trailblazer is a good option. Since it is less expensive, it’s the more budget-friendly choice, especially if you plan to buy more than one.
But overall, I do prefer the Mustang because I think it’s just the better between the two when considering back support and tracking. If you have lower back issues, the Mustang is the one you’ll want. If you’re going to go fishing in your kayak, it’s also the clear choice.
If you want to save some money and have a lighter kayak that’s easier to lift then the Trailblazer is the clear winner.
If safety and stability are top concerns, as they should be, both score high. They’re built for beginners but they’re not built cheap. These are kayaks for calmer waters so also keep that in mind.
And again, the paddle you choose makes a huge difference as well and paddles are a very individual preference. I’m still shopping around to find the ideal one for me.
And of course, I can’t stress enough the importance of wearing a life jacket when kayaking. Any kayak can tip given the right conditions. It’s also difficult to get back into a kayak in deep water, especially if you have never done it before. Learn as much as you can about kayaking safety, especially if bringing kids along.
Be prepared, play it safe, and have a good time!