If you’re fueled by an adventurous spirit and enjoy exploring both lakes and rapids, there’s no better way to do it than in your own kayak. Choosing a kayak has many benefits – it gives you comfort, stability, safety, and, most of all, unlimited fun while paddling.
Whether you’re a laid-back recreational kayaker or an adrenaline junkie who seeks only whitewater, the perfect kayak for you is out there. To help you find it, this article focuses on the best kayaks on the market right now, so you can get the most out of every trip to the water.
How to Choose The Best Kayak – Buying Guide
Buying a kayak can be an overwhelming experience, especially the first time. To help you make a decision, we’ve provided a low-down on each type of kayak available and their features.
More and more people are moving into apartments or smaller homes and driving smaller vehicles. To ensure this sport is still accessible to people who are downsizing, kayak companies have been putting a lot of work into designing and creating inflatable kayaks. We can all agree that being able to carry your kayak in a compact backpack is a very desirable option.
For those who like to explore many different lakes, these types of kayaks portaging much easier (especially when you have other gear with you as well). Their lightweight design and the ability to deflate between lakes makes them a great option for both families and solo paddlers.
Inflatable kayaks are made using a strong and thick material (typically PVC), allowing them to ride similar to a rigid boat. These high-quality materials also give them impressive durability, so they are strong enough to face even your dog’s sharp claws!
Specializing in fun for the whole family, our top inflatable kayak is made by Intex (the Explorer K2). It’s no wonder that it ranks so highly on our list, as one of the excellent kayaks that two kayakers can take on the water.
In recent years, many fishermen are turning to fishing kayaks instead of other boat types. The main reason for this is their comfortable size and their ability to go to lakes, rivers, and just about anywhere.
Whether you want to go with a group or you’re planning a solo trip, everything is much more convenient with a small and portable kayak. As a bonus, it can usually be transported even with the smallest of cars.
To make your time on the water more enjoyable, most fishing kayaks will come equipped with rod holders. These prove very beneficial if you want multiple lines going, or you just want to free up your hands and grab a cold beer from your cooler.
Paddle holders (common on these kayaks) will help free your hands when trying to reel in a catch. Most paddles don’t float, so having a way to secure them is very convenient (no paddle in the middle of the lake can be very dangerous).
Because fishing requires lots of gear, you want to make sure your boat can accommodate that with a large weight capacity. You may want to pack a cooler, bring an overnight bag with a tent and a sleeping bag, or just pack for all kinds of weather.
All this requires extra space to store your gear, as well as an increased weight capacity that will allow the added cargo. Additionally, this extra deck space and weight capacity also allow you to bring your pup along, which is an option few would pass up.
The top of the line fishing kayak on the market is the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100. This boat has everything you will need for a great day fishing out on the lake.
A tandem kayak makes it easy for you to bring a friend or family member on a kayaking adventure. When looking to purchase a two-person kayak, it’s very important to consider the materials used to make it.
Material quality can affect many features of the kayak, from the durability of the boat to the ride and overall weight. When choosing, look for a high-end polyethylene or vinyl material – both of these are lightweight while offering a durable long-lasting hull.
The overall weight of the boat should be another consideration. Even though tandem boats can hold two people comfortably, you should be able to carry and set it up yourself. If you can’t get it to the water on your own, you will not be using your kayak as much as you want.
Next, the maximum weight carrying capacity is one more important aspect. For safe use, it’s recommended that a tandem boat has at least a 400-pound capacity. And, if you decide to take it out yourself, you will be able to fit all your gear.
Sit On Top Kayaks
A sit on top kayak is designed with an open feel to it, fantastic for warmer weather. Unlike closed kayaks, your feet and legs are not confined so you won’t feel claustrophobic. People with long legs especially appreciate the open design because they can move around without struggle.
The flat deck is perfect for summer days when you want to quickly jump in to escape the warm air. These are very versatile boats that can even be used for scuba diving, or as a dinghy to get to your sailboat.
Depending on how you’ll be using a sit-on-top kayak, there are a few features to consider. Like with any other kayak, carrying capacity will be at the top of the list. If you and your gear can’t ride above the waterline, you’ll have a bad time. If you are considering taking your children or pets out on the water, be sure to look for a higher-capacity boat.
Storage for your belongings is also worth thinking about when considering a sit on top kayak. In other words, you don’t have to give up storage space to feel comfortable on your boat.
Dry hatches are fairly common on sit-on-top kayaks, ensuring that your valuables stay dry. In addition, bungee systems are also very convenient – they allow you to quickly stash and grab items that you need close to hand.
Since the deck is open, surf water is bound to get into your boat. For this reason, a sit-on-top kayak usually comes with built-in scupper holes to drain out the excess water. Feel free to open them while you’re moving and let momentum carry the water out of your boat.
Generally speaking, sit-on-top kayaks are excellent for any skill level. If you are just getting into the sport we recommend trying a sit on top style as you don’t need any special training or skills if you face an emergency (unlike a closed kayak).
A recreational kayak is probably the best option for relaxed paddling and having fun on the water. For this reason, you must test it out and check the comfort level (especially the seat).
One more thing to think about is storage – whether you love photography, enjoy kayak camping, or always look for the perfect picnic spot, recreational kayaks should allow you to bring all your gear along with you. Having a kayak for camping that is both durable and gives you a stable ride is a huge advantage.
Recreational kayaks can provide lots of fun and a killer workout, but you should be careful and spend your money well so it can last for many years. These boats should be able to perform on still lakes, but also handle themselves well with some mild surf.
Kayaks for Beginners
If you are new to the sport of kayaking, we recommend looking at beginner kayaks that are designed to make learning quick and easy. Additional stability and balance will ensure you stay in the boat without capsizing, even if you don’t have the perfect paddling technique.
Beginner kayaks are typically very lightweight in design, so you won’t need to paddle as hard. Opting for a boat with a stable design will give you the confidence to stay out and enjoy the water for extended periods of time.
Because most beginners aren’t sure how and where they’ll be using their kayak, we recommend getting a multi-purpose kayak that can perform in any condition. Typically, most kayakers start in flat water. But, being able to handle some surf (especially on long distances) will help you get the most out of your boat.
The beginner kayak that we chose for our list is the Intex Challenger K1. It’s durable enough to handle a beating, while performing well in many different conditions.
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Touring kayaks are designed for long-distance trips, such as overnight kayak camping. Their thin streamlined shape allows them to cut through the water with ease, while their length allows them to brave the ocean while maintaining speed.
The versatility and performance of these kayaks make them excellent for intermediate to expert riders. On the other hand, they will be much more difficult for beginners to control. They have less initial stability, allowing them to cut the waves and turn differently than others. This is mainly due to their hull shape.
Unlike a flat bottom like sit-on-top kayaks, a rounded-bottom hull combines with the pointy bow to create a low-resistance boat. This design also allows the sea kayak to keep its stability when it’s in motion, but makes it tippy when stationary.
The best kayak for touring will be comfortable and built with lots of storage. Of course, the seat is the crucial aspect of this comfort and it should be neither too soft nor too firm. A high-quality kayak seat will be fully adjustable with straps and belts so you can find the perfect paddling position.
Besides the seat, the cockpit design also plays a big role in the overall comfort. You should be able to sit in the sea kayak comfortably, with enough legroom to move them and not feel restricted. This is important if the worst-case scenario happens and you need a quick exit after tipping the boat.
As for storage, touring kayaks usually come with below-deck compartments (hatches) to ensure that your most valuable possessions stay dry. Additional above-deck storage usually includes a large bungee system to strap your gear and dry bags for quick access.
Kayaks for Ocean Fishing
If you decide to take your fishing adventure to the open waters, you’ll need a top kayak for the ocean that can handle the challenge. An ocean fishing kayak has a much different shape compared to others, so it can handle the ocean swells and unpredictable currents.
Ocean kayaks are also the longest of all the kayaks – typically ranging from 15 to 20 feet long. In addition, you’ll want a boat that is stable enough not to tip when cornering and maneuvering. A rounded hull will be the best for this, as it makes handling the kayak smoother in the surf.
Keep in mind that kayaking in the ocean makes traveling to and from shore more difficult, so having everything with you is very beneficial. A boat with plenty of storage will set you up for the most successful fishing experience.
Lastly, you want to opt for a kayak that is made from plastic that can withstand saltwater, with not many metal elements that can corrode. Doing this will drastically increase the lifespan of your boat.
Kayaks for River Fishing
Many people love taking their fishing experience one step further, and try tackling moving waters. When looking for a river fishing kayak, make sure that it can handle the unpredictable currents and surf with ease.
Your ideal kayak for fly fishing will focus on stability, while giving you a smooth ride in unpredictable surf. A shorter kayak (around the 10-foot mark), will allow you to maneuver through the lakes, rivers, and waves better. On top of this, some kayaks will even come with accessories such as paddle holders and rod holders to sweeten the deal.
Q: What’s Safer And Easier For One Person: Kayaking Or Canoeing?
For solo riders, kayaking is much easier a bit safer than canoeing. The biggest reason is that kayaks are much lighter and easier to maneuver than canoes. The double-sided paddle used for kayaking allows you to gain full control when maneuvering their kayak. Also, kayaks are generally much faster than canoes.
Q: What Is The Best Beginners Kayak?
This can be a tricky question because there are a few different types of kayaks. If you are looking for the best rigid sit-in kayak, Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is a great option. Sit-in kayaks help you to lower your center of gravity, making them ideal for beginners worrying about falling in the water.
As for inflatables, the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is one of the best beginner tandem kayaks if you find yourself wanting to go out with a friend.
Q: How Hard Is Kayaking?
Kayaking is not as hard as it looks. There’s no rush when you’re on the water, so you can take your time and paddle at your own pace. You’ll get beautiful views of the water and surroundings while adding in a great workout.
Building your upper body strength kayaking can be done lazily while casting a fishing line, or provide a killer workout for speed and intensity. If you do not have a lot of upper body strength, there are pedal kayaks that allow you to incorporate your legs for a lower body workout.
Q: What Are The Benefits Of A Kayak Over A Canoe?
Maneuverability, speed, and efficiency are the main benefits. The type of paddle used for kayaking (double-sided) allows you to gain much more control over your boat and paddle it from side to side with ease. This way, you can cut through the water quickly while delivering faster strokes that increase your speed and efficiency.
Another advantage is the hull design and shape. Kayaks often have narrower hulls with rockered bow and stern, allowing them to glide through the water better and reach higher speed.
Q: What Are Some Tips On Kayaking?
Don’t be afraid to dress up your kayak by adding some kayaking accessories. These can be anything from fishing gear to seat supports. Personalizing your rig will help you get the most out of it.
From a technical standpoint, pay attention to how you are holding your paddle. You want to use both hands at just over shoulder-distance apart. The goal is not to dig your whole paddle below the water’s surface for maximum power.
Unlike canoeing, taking light repetitive motions with both hands will provide you with a faster speed. Also, be sure that your paddle is facing the right way, with the concave part sweeping through the water in a scoop motion.
Q: What Are Kayaks Made Out Of?
Inflatable kayaks are typically made from heavy-duty vinyl material that is resistant to punctures, dings, and dents. Hardshell kayaks are usually made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), fiberglass, or even wood. Whichever you choose, it mustn’t get damaged easily (because you’ll inevitably hit something).
Each of these materials has its advantages and drawbacks, but most kayaks you’ll see are made from HDPE. This is the most cost-effective material with excellent durability too. But if you are looking for something lighter, fiberglass makes a great kayak material. However, keep in mind that this is also one of the most expensive options available.
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No matter which corner of the water you wish to explore, the most excellent kayaks will get you there. When choosing, it’s important to consider the type of boat that will work best for you. For example, a long-distance touring kayak will perform great during weekend trips, but not be the best choice for fishing or short trips.
By reading our reviews carefully and comparing the kayak design with your specific needs, you’ll be able to select the perfect kayak for all your water adventures.
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