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Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 Review

An overall high-quality sit-in kayak that is comfortable, maneuverable, and accessible thanks to a wide-open cockpit
wilderness systems pungo 120 kayak review
Credit: Wilderness Systems
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $1,189 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Very stable, great glide, comfortable outfitting, roomy, lots of storage
Cons:  Heavy, hard to drain, removable deck pod a bit flimsy
Manufacturer:   Wilderness Systems
By Sara James ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 9, 2022
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 11
  • Glide and Tracking - 30% 8.0
  • Maneuverability - 20% 7.0
  • Stability - 20% 8.0
  • Comfort - 10% 8.0
  • Construction Quality - 10% 8.0
  • Portability - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Pungo 120 delivers the winning combination of glide, stability and maneuverability. It is also one of the most comfortable of the kayaks we tested, making it fun for paddlers of all ages and abilities. With a wide-open cockpit, the Pungo is one of the easier sit-in kayaks to get into and out of. The adjustable seat, back band, and foot pegs enable you to secure just the right fit to ensure you are comfortable out on the water. The Pungo has ample storage capacity with a dry stern hatch, storage space behind the seat, and a bungee cord deck system. It also has a unique detachable deck pod, which sports a removable dry box and compartments for all your gadgets. Delivering all-around outstanding performance across our testing parameters, this kayak could fulfill all of your kayaking needs.

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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $1,189 List
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Very stable, great glide, comfortable outfitting, roomy, lots of storageComfortable, easy to paddle, easy to climb in and out, great storageExtremely stable, great tracking, very durable, comfortable, stackableVery lightweight, easy to paddle, comes with paddle, inexpensive as they comeVery large cockpit, stable, easy-to-adjust seat, includes storage compartment
Cons Heavy, hard to drain, removable deck pod a bit flimsyHeavy to carry, rudder for tracking has to be purchased as extraHeavy to carry, no internal dry storageThin plastic, harder to drain, not enough leg room for tall paddlersSluggish, difficult to load, drink holder is far away from seat, no cover for storage
Bottom Line An overall high-quality sit-in kayak that is comfortable, maneuverable, and accessible thanks to a wide-open cockpitThis well-outfitted kayak allows for many different paddling applications, all in one super comfortable sit-on-top modelA super solid and stable all-around kayak great for any age or ability level at a modestly affordable priceThis highly economical package will get you on the water having fun in calm waters, without breaking your bank to buy or breaking your back to carryA comfortable and stable kayak ideal for casual days paddling on calm water that comes at a reasonable price
Rating Categories Wilderness Systems... Wilderness Systems... Ocean Kayak Malibu... Pelican Brume 100XP Old Town Vapor 10
Glide and Tracking (30%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Maneuverability (20%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
9.0
6.0
Stability (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort (10%)
8.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
Construction Quality (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
4.0
8.0
Portability (10%)
6.0
5.0
4.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Wilderness Systems... Wilderness Systems... Ocean Kayak Malibu... Pelican Brume 100XP Old Town Vapor 10
Length 12'-2" 10'-6" 11'-5" 10'-0" 10'-0"
Width 29" 32" 32" 28" 28.5"
Weight 49 lbs 57 lbs 59 lbs 40 lbs 47 lbs
Height 14" 15.3" 12" 14" 16.8"
Weight Capacity 325 lbs 325 lbs 360 lbs 275 lbs 325 lbs
Material/Construction Polyethylene Polyethylene Singler layer polyethylene RAM-X Premium polyethylene plastic Single Layer Polyethylene
Features Rigid handles, Replaceable skid plate, Orbix hatch with sealed bulkhead, thigh pads, XL foot braces, SlideTrax and 2 mounting platforms, removable dry box, 2 cup holders, lithium battery recess (battery not included), Phase 3 AirPro seating system Quick-park paddle holder, Rigid carry handles, SlideTrax accessory rails, magnetic water-bottle strap system, removable DryTec dry box, sectioned storage tray, Phase 3 AirPro seating system, Dog-friendly deck Tri-form hull with an integral keel and sponsons, AirGo molded in seat and seat pad with adjustable AirComfort backrest, molded-in foot wells and calf rest, paddle holders, side/stern/bow carrying handles, molded-in oversized bow and stern tank wells with bungees, Splash resistent QuickStash dry hatch, 2 molded in fishing rod holders, 3 water bottle holder, replaceable skid plate. 2-piece Poseidon paddle, paddle tie-down, Twin-arched multi-chine hull with drain plug, cockpit table with a bungee cord, bottle holder, Molded footrests, knee pads and an adjustable ERGOLOUNGE padded backrest with ERGOFORM seat cushion. Adjustable Comfort Flex seat, Glide Track foot brace system ,Stern day well, Molded-in cockpit tray with cup holder, Molded-in paddle rest, Built in carry handles, Thigh pads, Drain plug, Skid plate

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is a 12-foot, 2-inch long, 29-inch wide sit-inside kayak with a cockpit length of 54 inches. It has a dry storage hatch at the rear of the kayak and an on-deck bungee system for storage.

Performance Comparison


wilderness systems pungo 120 kayak review - the wilderness systems pungo 120 is our favorite all-around kayak...
The Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is our favorite all-around kayak, taking home our top honors.
Credit: Sara James

Glide and Tracking


Thanks to its 12-foot, 2-inch length and predominantly V-shaped hull, the Pungo 120 is comfortable maintaining a straight line and moving at speed. Due to its relatively wider design, it takes a stroke more to accelerate than our swiftest kayaks tested, but it was able to cover 50 meters in a similar time.


There is no rudder on the Pungo and unlike other Wilderness Systems kayaks, this model is not designed to be compatible with the addition of one. However, the Pungo is designed to track well without this tool and in the sheltered condition, it was able to maintain a long straight glide without paddler assistance.

wilderness systems pungo 120 kayak review - the pungo's v-shaped hull helps the boat slice through the water...
The Pungo's v-shaped hull helps the boat slice through the water, making it great at gliding and tracking in a straight line.
Credit: Sara James

Maneuverability


Designed to be easy to move around on the water, the Pungo is easy to adjust so you can steer where you wish. It is also relatively quick to turn 360 degrees considering how long the kayak is. You can improve the efficiency of a turn in a kayak with a hull like this by actually leaning out away from the turn. This may feel counteractive and is contrary to what you would do in a flat or round hulled kayak. However, once you get used to it, it is highly effective.


If you were to somehow fully top over the Pungo on flat water, you could swim the kayak to land and empty it out as long as you were close enough to a shoreline. There isn’t a drain plug to help with this and a friend is really the most useful tool.

If you are not close to land, this kayak isn’t designed for self-rescue out on the water and this would be particularly dangerous if you were in any moving currents like rivers or ocean swells where the kayak can fill with water relatively quickly and easily become a 500lb + weight. If kept in the gentle waters for which this kayak was designed you can avoid this challenge.

wilderness systems pungo 120 kayak review - turning a kayak in moving water is more challenging but the...
Turning a kayak in moving water is more challenging but the stability of the Pungo can help you navigate this task.
Credit: Sara James

Stability


The Pungo's hull is designed with stability as its focus. With great primary and secondary stability, this kayak was one of those we felt most secure in. It has a gentle V shape that only feels unstable when sitting on flat ground. As soon as you are in the water, the Pungo is steady like a charm.


The wide hull and low seat position further enhance the stability of this steady boat. We took this kayak down gentle class II rapids with novice kayakers, and although this boat isn't specifically designed for those conditions, it could handle it without trouble.

wilderness systems pungo 120 kayak review - the pungo kayak can handle gentle class ii rapids, but it is not the...
The Pungo kayak can handle gentle class II rapids, but it is not the craft to progress your white water skills in.
Credit: Sara James

Comfort


The vast leg room and wide cockpit make this kayak one of the easiest to access and comfiest to sit in out of all our sit-inside models. The seat has multiple points of adjustability to ensure you can get your legs and back at the best angle for your activity and comfort. The padded sides help to ensure your legs don’t rub


There are adjustable foot pegs on the sides of the kayak, unlike some other kayaks we tested. They are designed to be easily adjustable from your seated position and avoid any awkward movements if you decide to change your leg position mid-paddle. Users found these foot pegs sturdy and comfortable.

wilderness systems pungo 120 kayak review - the ample leg room, knee pads and the adjustable seat give the pungo...
The ample leg room, knee pads and the adjustable seat give the Pungo a comfortable feel that you can sit in for hours on on.
Credit: Sara James

Construction Quality


The kayak shell is made of uncompromising plastic that we suspect can handle far more than the actual kayak is designed to withstand. There is also a replaceable skid plate on the rear of the hull to protect it if you happen to drag the kayak up on rocks, or across a beach or parking lot.



The Pungo 120 has an oblong-shaped dry hatch that is 15.5 inches long by 9.5 inches wide. Although the entrance dimensions limit the shape of the objects you stash, we have successfully loaded overnight camping supplies (including a pillow). There is additional space behind the seat for storing dry bags, and an on-deck bungee system to stash spare paddles or wherever else you fancy. With ample leg room that is easily accessible, adventurous travelers could easily store additional supplies in their foot well, though we would be careful storing anything in the foot well if you venture into rough waters where you could tip over.

The rear hatch on the Pungo is opened by two simple flip latches.
The rear hatch on the Pungo is opened by two simple flip latches.
The rear hatch on the Pungo is sealed with a dry hatch and a bulk...
The rear hatch on the Pungo is sealed with a dry hatch and a bulk head so as to keep your gear dry.

The Pungo comes with a removable dashboard pod that can be attached to the front of the cockpit. This enables users to customize their deck to ensure they have everything they need on hand for their particular adventure. It includes cup holders and a place for your battery and even a removable dry box. We could see paddlers using this box for snacks, fishing gear, or safety supplies. Unfortunately, the dashboard pod doesn’t seem to be made of the same high-quality plastic as the rest of the kayak, and we are sure the Pugno kayak will outlast this additional and not really necessary extra feature.

wilderness systems pungo 120 kayak review - the removable deck pod has space for gadgets, drinks and has its...
The removable deck pod has space for gadgets, drinks and has its only removable dry box which we used for snacks but could also be used to fishing tackle or other gear.
Credit: Sara James

Portability


While the thicker plastic makes the Pungo very durable, it does increase the kayak’s weight. Weighing in at 49 pounds, this kayak makes it into the heavyweight category compared to the other kayaks we tested for this review.


On the plus side, the thick molded plastic handles are some of the most comfortable we came across in our testing, and this definitely makes the task of transportation slightly less tedious if you have a buddy to share the load.

wilderness systems pungo 120 kayak review - it is possible to carry the ws pungo on your own, but the handles on...
It is possible to carry the WS Pungo on your own, but the handles on either end of the boat make it much easier to split the load with a friend.
Credit: Sara James


Stronger paddlers may be able to lift this kayak onto their car roof by themselves, but this is not a task that we would enjoy, particularly after a long, tiring paddle. The wide cockpit makes it difficult to do the usual kayak deadlift and it generally requires a more awkward experience. A kayak trolley or roof rack load assistor would be much appreciated by the solo paddler. Alternatively, if you are not concerned about the loss of performance and comfort, there are lighter kayaks on the market.

wilderness systems pungo 120 kayak review - the pungo isn't the heaviest kayak we tested but it does help to...
The Pungo isn't the heaviest kayak we tested but it does help to have a friend when loading this bulky kayak to the roof of your car.
Credit: Sara James

Value


The Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 is not the most expensive kayak we tested, but it is near the top of our lineup. Delivering all-around performance and maintaining comfort, its many features bump its price above other less expensive competitors. We felt that the performance and quality of this kayak justify the price tag, particularly because of its overall construction quality.

Conclusion


We enjoy paddling this kayak and think you will too. The Pungo 120 is comfortable, easy to access and adjust, and has plenty of storage. Designed to manage gentle rapids and excel in flat water environments, this kayak will suit the needs of many kayakers.

Sara James
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