This is a review of the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS fishing kayak.
The Journey 10 is a sit-on-top kayak that’s specifically designed for kayak fishing. It’s popular with beginners and anglers on a budget due to its low price.
It’s one of the smallest and most lightweight kayaks on the market, which makes it a great choice if you’re short on storage space or want a kayak that’s easy to transport.
In this review, I’ll assess the performance and build quality of the Sun Dolphin Journey 10. I’ll also look at the fishing accessories and features that make it a great fishing kayak.
Let’s dive right in!
Sun Dolphin Journey 10 Pros and Cons
- Excellent maneuverability, making it a great choice for small water and excluded fishing spots
- Good stability in calm conditions
- Lots of storage options for tackle and kit
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Inexpensive, making it a good option if you want to try out an angler kayak without spending a lot of money
- Tracking is poor, though there are a couple of hacks that can help improve this
- It’s uncomfortable to sit in for long periods, but it’s easy to upgrade the seat to make it more comfortable
Who Should Buy the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 Kayak?
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 is an ideal first kayak for fishing and recreational paddling on small lakes and calm rivers.
Because of its small size, it’s best suited to shorter persons. If you’re over five-foot-ten, then I’d recommend looking at the Journey 12 SS kayak which has similar features but more legroom.
If you’re an experienced paddler, you may find the performance and comfort of the Journey 10 limiting, particularly for longer trips. However, as an introductory kayak, it does a great job of giving you a taste of what it’s like to fish from a kayak.
I wouldn’t recommend using the Journey 10 on the sea or in choppy waters or rough conditions. You’ll have a drier, more enjoyable experience in calm weather.
Features of the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 Kayak
Let’s take a closer look at the features of this angler kayak and how it performs in the water.
I prefer sit-on-top kayaks to sit-in kayaks for kayak fishing as they’re more stable and you don’t have to worry about your kayak flipping over in the water.
The Journey 10 SS is pretty stable when you’re sitting down. As it’s smaller than other fishing kayaks, it feels a little unstable in choppy water, but you shouldn’t have any problems paddling on small lakes or calm rivers.
In my opinion, the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 isn’t stable enough for casting standing up, unless you’re small and have a great sense of balance. If you want to stand on your kayak, to get a better look at the water or for casting, then you may want to look at alternative models.
That said, buying a fishing kayak that does have this level of stability is going to cost you. So there’s definitely a trade-off between price and how you intend to use your kayak.
I also wouldn’t take the Journey 10 out on the sea. It’s not designed to punch through waves and the center of gravity is too high to make it stable in rough water. That doesn’t make it a bad kayak – just one that performs best in calmer conditions.
The Journey 10 SS is a great kayak when it comes to maneuverability. Although it’s marketed as a 10-foot kayak, it’s actually just over nine-and-a-half feet long. The short length makes it snappy to turn and easy to maneuver in small spaces.
Its maneuverability makes the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 an excellent choice for fishing small water or excluded areas that larger craft can’t access. It’s easy to navigate around rocks and avoid overhanging vegetation.
Tracking refers to how well a kayak keeps a straight line when you’re paddling. Short, flat-bottomed boats are harder to track straight, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the Journey 10 SS doesn’t excel at tracking. Even in calm conditions, you may find yourself turning in circles as soon as you stop paddling.
The good news is, there are a couple of things you can do to improve this.
If you’re a beginner kayaker then the biggest thing you can do to improve tracking is to refine your paddling technique. The video below gives a good overview of developing an efficient, powerful forward stroke that will help with tracking.
If you’re an experienced paddler then you could consider adding a small skeg to the keel of the kayak to make it easier to track straight.
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 is constructed from high density polyethylene. This is a durable plastic that doesn’t need much maintenance and will pretty much last forever. To back this up, the kayak comes with a limited lifetime warranty. (You need to register your kayak on the Sun Dolphin website within 30 days of purchase to take advantage of the warranty.)
Most well-used kayaks pick up minor scrapes and scratches over time. Although it’s designed to be robust, the plastic the Journey 10 is made from is thinner than other fishing kayaks. If you drag it over sharp rocks, you could end up damaging it, but treat it with care and you’ll get years of use out of it.
You can sometimes get dents or distortions in a kayak, particularly if you have to compress it when traveling. This isn’t a disaster. Just leave the kayak in a warm, sunny spot and the polyethylene should bounce back to its original shape.
Length and Weight
As I mentioned above, the Journey 10 is short for a sit-on-top kayak. This makes it a good choice if you’re short on storage space at home or if you’re transporting it on top of a small vehicle.
At 44 pounds (20 kilograms), it’s easy for solo kayakers to get in and out of the water. The kayak doesn’t have any handles to help with handling, but it’s small and light enough that this isn’t a deal breaker.
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS is rated for a maximum weight of 250 pounds (113 kilograms). If you’re a large person, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to fit you and your kit in the kayak. To be honest, if that’s a concern, then I’d suggest looking at the Journey 12 SS, which is rated up to 395 pounds.
As a smaller person, I found the Journey 10’s capacity perfectly adequate. I could fill up the storage compartment and make the most of the bungee cord rigging without going over the recommended weight limit.
One of the downsides of sit-on-top kayaks compared to sit-in kayaks is that you’re more likely to get water entering the cockpit. Most sit-on-top kayaks have several holes drilled into the cockpit that act as a self-bailing system. The scupper holes allow water to drain out rather than pooling in the base of the cockpit.
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 has scupper holes drilled into the base of the cockpit at the front (where your feet go) and in the seat. These help drain water that splashes over the edge of the kayak. However, some users have found that water has come up through the scupper holes, leaving them with a wet butt.
Scupper holes are designed as a safety feature to prevent too much water from building up in the cockpit. They’re not designed to keep you a hundred percent dry. The pressure of waves under the hull can sometimes force water up through the scupper holes into the cockpit. The more weight is in the kayak, the more likely water is to enter.
This isn’t much of an issue in warm weather, but if it’s cold, getting a wet butt will be uncomfortable. In this situation, you can use rubber plugs to block the holes and prevent water from coming up into the cockpit. These are easy to remove in case you need to drain water coming in over the side.
Unfortunately, the Journey 10 does not come supplied with scupper plugs. You can buy them separately, but it’s worth contacting Sun Dolphin first, as they may ship you a set for free.
As you’d expect for a fishing kayak, the Journey 10 SS has specialist features to help you land and deal with your catch.
Flush Mount Rod Holders
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 comes equipped with three rod holders. Two are flush-mounted in the back of the seat and are easy to access and use. The rod holders are deep enough that you don’t have to worry about losing your rods.
There’s also one swivel fishing rod holder situated in front of the cup holder, between your legs. This rod holder sometimes pops out of place, which is a bit frustrating, but not that big a deal. Just make sure it’s secure before you fit your rod in it.
For beginners, the three rod holders should be sufficient. If you want additional holders or want to add more stability to your setup, then it’s possible to modify the kayak to add an outrigger. Check out this DIY rod holder outrigger for an example.
The Journey 10 SS is fitted with a paddle holder on either side of the cockpit. These make it easy to quickly stash your paddles to reel in a catch rather than risk dropping them in the water.
One thing that’s worth noting is that the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 doesn’t usually come supplied with a paddle. Although this may seem a downside, it actually gives you the freedom to choose the best paddle for you rather than settling for a standard model.
For a small angler kayak, the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 has a lot of storage compartments. The largest of these is the portable accessory carrier that sits behind the seat. This is a little awkward to access, particularly as the opening is only about eight inches in diameter.
As the name suggests, you can remove the portable accessory carrier and tow it behind the kayak if you need extra storage. By doing this, you free up a large space in the stern that you can use for a cool box or a backpack. A shock cord deck rigging system helps keep your kit in place.
There’s a smaller open storage area at the bow of the kayak with bungee cord rigging to keep items in place.
In front of the seat, there’s a small storage compartment, a water bottle holder and a cup holder. You could use this to stash your morning coffee or to give easy access to small fishing accessories.
The small storage compartment is marketed as dry storage, however, it is prone to leakage. Sealing the storage compartments with marine sealant should help, but I’d suggest bagging anything prone to water damage in a dry bag.
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS is a budget kayak. You get a lot for your money, but one of the main compromises you make with cheap kayaks is comfort.
Put simply, the Journey 10 SS is not the most comfortable kayak on the market. For short trips, it’s fine, but if you’re spending more than a few hours in the kayak, you’ll want to invest in a few upgrades.
Bear in mind that due to the open cockpit, your lower body will be more exposed to the elements than in a sit-in kayak. You’re also likely to get wet either from water splashing over the side or coming up through the drainage holes. If you’re kayak fishing in cold weather then I’d suggest wearing a dry suit to keep warm.
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS comes with an adjustable padded backrest that offers good support. There is no padding on the seat base – you sit directly on the boat itself.
After a couple of hours paddling, my seat bones were demanding a comfier option!
Adding a padded seat cushion is an easy fix but for more support, you could buy a cheap stadium seat.
Adjustable Foot Braces
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS has a pair of foot rests that you can adjust depending on the length of your legs. As I mentioned above, this kayak is on the small side. If you’re six feet or taller, then you may find the foot rests too short. You could remove them, but it would make more sense to upgrade to the 12-foot version of the kayak.
Protective Thigh Pads
A pair of protective thigh pads are built into the kayak. The positioning of these is quite far forward. For most paddlers, this renders them pretty much useless as thigh pads, though they might offer a bit of padding for your knees.
What Kayakers Are Saying About the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS Sit-On-Top Kayak
While there are a few downsides to the Journey 10 SS kayak, I felt it offered great features for the money. I wanted to know if other paddlers agreed with me, so I took to the internet to find out.
PeaboBryson on Reddit sums it up as being a great introductory kayak that’s easy to transport. While he admits that it isn’t the most stable kayak, he successfully fished in it for two-and-a-half years despite being a larger person.
Chiefien agrees that it’s a great option if you want to try out kayak fishing. He points out that you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a kayak only to find you don’t like paddling. One of the bonuses of this kayak is that it’s light to carry. Chiefien says he uses his lightweight kayak a lot more often than his heavier one as it’s less hassle to get it in the water.
Sun Dolphin Journey Alternative Angler Kayaks
a) Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS vs Lifetime Tamarack 100
The Lifetime Tamarack 100 retails at a similar price to the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 and the two kayaks are often compared.
Arguably, the Tamarack 100 has better build quality. It weighs 52 pounds, compared to the Journey 10’s 44 pounds, and most of that weight is due to the thicker plastic. It’s less likely to get damaged if you hit underwater rocks or drag it across stony beaches.
However, the additional weight makes it harder to transport. This may be an issue if you paddle solo and have to carry your kayak from your vehicle to the water’s edge by yourself.
Both kayaks have a storage compartment behind the seat. Unlike the Journey 10’s compartment which is self-contained and detachable, the Tamarack simply has an access point into the hull of the kayak. This gives access to more storage space, but if you drop your water bottle down there, it’s going to be hard to dig it out when you’re on the water.
Personally, I feel that the storage options on the Journey 10 are more flexible and easier to access.
The hull shapes of the two kayaks are also slightly different, and this is where the Tamarack has an edge over the Journey 10. It has a wide, flat bottom for stability, but the bow is sharp and there’s a tracking skeg at the rear of the craft. This means the Tamarack beats the Journey 10 hands down when it comes to tracking and ease of paddling.
I’d recommend the Tamarack for paddlers who prioritize performance over ease of transport.
b) Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS Sit On vs Journey 12 SS Sit On Kayak
Sun Dolphin also makes a 12-foot version of the Journey Kayak. In terms of features, it’s very similar to the Journey 10, but the extra length and width make it a better choice for larger persons.
The Journey 12 is only an inch wider than the Journey 10, but the extra two-and-a-half feet in length means taller people can stretch out their legs. It also has a much greater capacity – 395 pounds to the 250-pound capacity of the Journey 10.
This makes it the best kayak for heavier paddlers and those who carry a lot of kit. If you’re planning a multi-day fishing trip, for example, I’d recommend the Journey 12 over the Journey 10. The extra length also makes it more stable.
The downside, of course, is that it’s less easy to transport and store than the Journey 10. It’s also heavier, though not as much as you might think – there’s only a four-pound difference in weight between the two models.
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If you want to give kayak fishing a go but don’t want to shell out for an expensive kayak that you may end up not using, then you should definitely check out the Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS fishing kayak.
Although it’s a budget kayak, it offers all the features you need for fishing. It’s sturdy, yet super lightweight and easy to transport. With the addition of a comfortable seat and a set of scupper plugs, you have a great kayak that will give you a perfect introduction to fishing.
Ready to give it a go? Start your kayaking journey.