Jackson Tupelo 12 Recreational Kayak: Full Review and Features

Jackson Tupelo 12 is a 12-foot (11’10”) recreational kayak made for weekend trips and longer cruises. It provides both great primary stability and edging performance so it is easy to paddle for beginners but will allow you to grow into the sport without the need to upgrade too quickly.

RELATED: Jackson Kayaks in 2020: Full Model Lineup and Reviews

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to transport and store
  • Stable
  • Dry storage in stern bulkhead
  • Comfortable seat
  • Tracks well

Cons:

  • No front bulkhead or hatch

About the Manufacturer

Jackson Kayaks was founded in 2003 by world champion and Olympic kayaker Eric Jackson, design partner David Knight and friend, Tony Lunt. Based near Rock Island, Tennessee, Jackson Kayak is well-known both in the kayak fishing world and among freestyle kayaking athletes. In fact, many of the world’s leading freestyle kayakers use Jackson kayaks.

Size and Weight

Jackson Tupelo 12 is 11’10” long and 27″ wide. Combined with a very light weight (only 42 lbs without the seat), this ensures excellent performance and easy transportation. An average adult can simply put the kayak on the shoulder and walk to or from the water. Throwing it on top of your car should not be a problem for most of us, either.

Capacity

With a total weight capacity of just 250 pounds (less than many popular 10-ft recreational kayaks), the Tupelo 12 is definitely geared towards smaller paddlers and those who carry minimal gear.

Don’t forget that the total weight calculation should include not only your own weight but also your clothes, your PFD, and the gear you plan to take along.

Construction and Material

Like most Jackson’s kayaks, the Jackson Tupelo 12 is made from High-Density Polyethylene using the rotational molding technology. Beads of polyethylene are poured into the mold, the mold is heated up and slowly rotated so that the material fills up every nook and cranny. After the mold cools down you get a one-piece construction that is extremely rugged and durable.

Jackson Kayak is known for high-quality materials. Their kayaks last a very long time.

The downside of polyethylene is that it is a very non-stick material. If you manage to put a hole in the hull, you can’t just glue a patch to it. Repairing usually requires a piece of the same material and a blowtorch to melt it onto the hole.

Hull Design

Jackson Tupelo 12 has a V-shaped hull with a pronounced keel and two hard chines. The sharp bow pierces through the water instead of pushing it, which reduces resistance and helps you go faster and paddle longer. The keel goes all the way to the stern, ensuring a great tracking ability (the ability to go straight). The hull between the keel and the chines is a little flared (arched), creating some sort of tunnels. This design is known to provide good primary stability. The hard chines themselves, on the other hand, ensure excellent secondary stability and make it easy to edge the boat for more effective turns.

Overall, the hull design offers a great balance between performance and stability. This boat should be easy to handle for beginners but will also let you practise some more advanced paddling techniques as you progress.

Deck/Cockpit

The roomy open cockpit of the Tupelo 12 makes it an excellent choice for those just getting into the sport. You won’t feel trapped inside this kayak and it’s very easy to get in and out of the vessel.

To add even more comfort, there are really comfortable knee pads on the rim of the cockpit. This small feature adds a ton of comfort on longer trips and will make your kayaking experience much more enjoyable.

The cockpit opening has a rim, but don’t let that make you think you can fit a spray skirt over it. With such a huge cockpit opening and a high back seat, it is unlikely that you will find a suitable spray skirt. You could, however, get a cockpit cover that will keep most (but not all) of the water out for a much drier ride. Anyway, if you plan to go into white water or waves in your kayak, you should look at other models. The Tupelo is for calm water and good weather.

Another feature that is worth mentioning is a bottle holder between your legs. It is designed for a Nalgene bottle and each kayak actually comes with a Jackson-branded Nalgene bottle.

Seat

The seat is actually one of the Tupelo’s strongest points if you’re looking for comfort on relaxed, long trips. The kayak features Jackson’t Ergo removable frame seat that goes into the company’s high end fishing kayaks. It is made from a mesh material that provides excellent ventilation on hot days. The seat is held in place by four bungees, so you can easily remove it and use as a camp chair.

The seat back is adjustable. Bring it up for active paddling or recline it into a comfortable lounge position and relax as the river carries you. A Thermarest inflatable lumbar support pillow creates even more comfort, so you’ll want to stay on the water all day.

Storage

Jackson Tupelo 12 offers sufficient storage space for a several day trip.

First, you can slide small items under the front deck (there’s a structural block between your legs so anything large just won’t fit). Next, there’s a bungee cord on the front deck to secure dry bags or other gear.

Moving back, there’s some space right behind the seat, in front of the stern bulkhead.

Next, there’s another bungee cord on the rear deck. Put a rain jacket there or anything you need quick access to.

Finally, the boat’s main storage compartment is in its stern bulkhead. You access it via on oversized hinged hatch which is waterproof and secured with two quick-open latches. Great design. The bulkhead has enough room for a weekend or even a multiday trip if you don’t get too crazy with your gear.

To summarize, Jackson Tupelo 12 provides adequate storage for what it is designed for: day paddles or short multi-day trips. Having a front bulkhead with a separate hatch would be great though.

Gear Mounts

Unlike many other kayaks of this type, the Tupelo 12 actually has something to offer in terms of gear mounts. Jackson cleverly equipped this boat with four rear-loading gear tracks, taking its customizability to the next level. Want a couple of rod holders? A camera or GPS mount? No problem! That is an awesome feature.

There’s also a threaded insert for a GoPro mount on the front deck if you want to film yourself during the trip.

Footrests

The Jackson Tupelo 12 comes with adjustable footrests that will help you find an optimal paddling position. Since the kayak is designed for smaller paddlers, the foot pegs can go quite close to the seat.

Paddle Holders

The Tupelo 12 offers standard paddle holders on both sides. The paddle is secured by a bungee cord. This is a simple and effective system that won’t give you any problems.

Handles

The Tupelo 12 is equipped with rigid plastic grab handles both on the bow and the stern. We tend to like them better than fabric handles because they are more reliable and easier to use.

Stability

Jackson Tupelo’s tri-chine hull design ensures excellent primary and secondary stability. The kayak does not feel tippy, which makes it beginner-friendly. At the same time, it allows you to use more advanced techniques as you progress. It edges very well, providing great secondary stability and clear feedback.

Maneuverability and Tracking

The Tupelo 12 has a pronounced keel that spans the length of the boat and helps it track really well. This is especially important on larger bodies of water and longer trips – not having to correct your course too often will save you effort and make the experience more enjoyable.

That said, the kayak still turns very easily, both with paddle strokes and by edging it.

Speed

Narrow, sharp bow of the Tupelo 12 helps it pierce through the water instead of pushing it. This creates minimal resistance and helps you go faster with less effort. At 12 ft, it is not a super-fast kayak (longer boats are usually faster) but has enough speed to cover large distances and keep up with friends.

Care and Maintenance

Rotomolded kayaks are extremely durable and require minimum maintenance. However, here are some useful kayak maintenance tips:

You need to do some maintenance when you take your kayak out of storage before the season. Check the hull for damage, inspect all hardware and rigging, replace anything that is worn out, check and refill the emergency gear. It is also a great time to get the new gear you were dreaming of last year.

During the season, it is a good idea to quickly spray down your kayak after each trip (especially in salt water). Store the kayak away from direct sunlight or use kayak covers. Avoid dragging the kayak on its hull if possible. A kayak cart is a great and inexpensive accessory that can prolong the life of your boat.

When it’s time to put the kayak away for storage, turn it upside down and wash it with mild soap and a sponge. Make sure you get any sand, dirt or dead bugs out. Dry the boat thoroughly. Check the rigging and see what needs replacement. Loosen any bungees or straps that can be loosened. Apply some corrosion protection (like WD-40) to metal joints, screws and bolts.

Storage

Jackson recommends to store your kayak indoors standing up on its end and secured by a strap so that it does not fall. If that’s not possible, store your kayak hull up on some flat surface. Worst case, just put it somewhere there’s no direct sunlight and use a cockpit cover to protect the kayak from dust or critters.

Warranty

For kayaks bought in 2019 and earlier, Jackson offers a 3-year limited warranty. For kayaks bought in 2020, the warranty period has been increased to 5 years.

The warranty covers substantial defects in materials and workmanship in the hull and outfitting components made by Jackson Kayak.

The warranty applies from the original date of purchase from an authorized dealer. For demo boats and used boats, the warranty begins from the date the kayak was shipped from Jackson.

Unlike with some other manufacturers, Jackson’s warranty also applies to subsequent owners of the kayaks, not just the original owner.

Depending on the year of the warranty period, Jackson will repair or replace the hull and/or outfitting components, as follows:

Watercraft Purchased 2020 and After

First Year of Warranty: We’ll replace or repair the hull for free (or we’ll replace the complete boat for 10% of the current MSRP), Free Shipping
Second Year of Warranty: We’ll replace or repair the hull for 10% of current boat MSRP (or we’ll replace the complete boat for 30% of the current boat MSRP), plus shipping.
Third, Fourth and Fifth Year of Warranty: We’ll replace or repair the hull for 30% of the current boat MSRP (or we’ll replace the complete boat for 50% of the current boat MSRP), plus shipping.

Note that some components are manufactured by independent companies and are covered by separate warranties. You can learn more by contacting Jackson.

To submit a warranty claim, you will need proof of purchase. Jackson may require you to provide photos of the damage or to return the product at your own cost.

International warranty claims are handled via Jackson’s distributors. Warranty terms may be different in different countries. Please contact your local dealer to learn more.

For full Jackson’s warranty terms, click here: https://www.jacksonadventures.com/warranty/

Alex Buchnev

Alex loves kayaking, fishing, and all things outdoors. When he's not out there in the wild, he's probably typing away at his laptop or trying to be the world's best father for his two lovely daughters.

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