How to Choose a Kayak That is Right for You

Why has Kayaking become so popular?

Kayaking is an activity that draws its attraction from the disconnection from modern technology and its associated worries it provides.

The number of people who enjoy this activity on a regular basis in their leisure time is increasing each year. In fact, kayaking is regarded as one of the most rapidly growing adventure activities in North America, as per recent reports provided by the National Sporting Goods Association and the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

A January 2009 survey conducted by the OIA noted a 15.2% increment from the 2007 to 2008 in the kayakers lying in the 25-44 age group. The survey reported a general increase, in 2008, in the number of Americans who pursued outdoor, nature-based activities.

ModelTypeFeaturesSeatsPrice
Intex Challenger K1 KayakInflatableMade from PVCSingleDollar-sign-icon
Intex Excursion 4 Boat SetInflatableFamily friendlyup to 4Dollar-sign-icon
Intex Explorer K2 KayakInflatableTandemDoubleDollar-sign-icon
Lifetime Manta Tandem KayakTandemHigh stabilityDoubleDollar-sign-iconDollar-sign-icon
Lifetime Sport Fisher KayakFishingFish standing upup to 3Dollar-sign-iconDollar-sign-iconDollar-sign-icon
Perception Sport Conduit 13 KayakTouringSports kayakSingleDollar-sign-iconDollar-sign-icon
Riot Kayaks Edge 13 Lv Flatwater Day Touring Kayak TouringLow deck profileSingleDollar-sign-iconDollar-sign-iconDollar-sign-icon
Riot Kayaks Enduro 13 HV Flatwater Day Touring KayakTouringGreat for fishingSingleDollar-sign-iconDollar-sign-icon
Sea Eagle SE370k_p Inflatable KayakInflatablePet friendlyup to 3Dollar-sign-iconDollar-sign-icon
Sevylor Tahiti Classic Inflatable KayakInflatableHigh stabilityDoubleDollar-sign-icon

The biggest reason for this growing trending towards kayaking is attributed to the fact that this activity lets one escape from the monotony and exhaustion of everyday life – in spite of the fact that it happens in urban areas these days.

Kayakers often speak of the inner peace they experience from the quietness and solitude of a kayak outing.

Another reason for its popularity is that kayaking can often be done in conjunction with other adventure activities such as fishing, hiking and photography. It is a personal and unique experience when you travel and sit in kayak by a historic plantation in the Deep South.

You can enjoy this water sport alone or with your friends – and the trips can last from a few hours to a few days. You may start out in calmer waters as a beginner and slowly progress to more aggressive bodies that will test you, both physically and psychologically. Enthusiasts prefer the latter, researching on their own to find the best kayaks to match their hardcore kayaking preferences.

Those who are trying out kayaking can do so at highly affordable rates – typically $40 for 6 hours. This cost includes all gear and the kayak itself, but this also depends on the location and the demand.

Consulting a professional guide is a great idea when going on a kayaking trip – they will advise you on which kayak types are good for your trip, the route to take in order to see the most idyllic sights, as well as any precautions you need to observe.

Get out in nature, get fit and healthy

Women and children are among the fast growing fan base of this sport, whereas teenagers in the age of 14-15 are the only exception among whom it isn’t as popular.

The reason is probably their texting and social media obligations which keep them away from physical activities, however, it is predicted that as they grow older, they will also begin to crave the relaxation, adventure and real life interaction offered by the great outdoors in the form of sporting activities like kayaking.

What are the different types of kayaks?

Kayak type depends on their body style and hull. Recreational padding is the most common application of kayaks among leisure users – it refers to kayaking in calm waters e.g. lakes, flatwater, ponds, sheltered ocean bays, salt marshes and so on. Basically, there are three types of recreational kayaks according to their accommodation capacity:

  • Single – seats one.
  • Tandem – seats two.
  • Tri yak – seats three.

12 foot kayaks are the maximum limit for recreational activities – they have wider cockpit openings for easy entry/exit, a wider width (beam) for better stability, are lighter to lift because of their length, have lesser cargo holding capacity, and are composed of rotomolded plastic to keep their price between $300 and $800.

Here is a kayak comparison according to the activities they are used for:

Inflatable Kayaks

These are sophisticated, durable, lightweight and high performance kayaks. As you’ll see in several inflatable kayak reviews, their better varieties have spines and rib frames, as well as forms to toughen their structure.

This Kayak is Easy to store

Some may incorporate puncture resistant PVC hulls, as well as a floor base. Ranging in kayak length from 8’ to 15’, they can easily be inflated via a foot pump in less than twenty minutes. The can be used independently or as a team, and are used for both recreation and fishing in open coastal waters, flatwater and whitewater. 

Touring Kayaks

The versatile light touring kayaks are good for beginners – they are longer, with slightly more space for holding extra gear, and can be used for day trips as well as overnight camping scenarios.

They cost less than the sea touring kayak, but are also slightly less durable. Because of their versatility, they can be used as river kayaks or lake kayaks provided that the weather is mild.

See nature at it's best with this kayak

Sea kayaks were originally wooden boats used by the natives of Northern Canada, Alaska and South-Western Greenland. They are sturdy enough to handle rough weather without tipping over, can carry more cargo and track better too.

Modern sea kayaks are composed of rotomold, carbon-kevlar or fiberglass. They may be longer than 12’ to enhance their tracking capability, but this requires the paddle powered kayaks to be augmented with rudders in order to compensate for their increased difficulty in navigation due to their length.

2 Person Kayaks

Also known as a tandem kayak. These are made of rotomold, wood, fiberglass, folding, as well as inflatable material. They can have a big single cockpit or two smaller separate ones.

A single cockpit with adjustable seats is preferable since it can allow for solo paddling as well.

Best to take a friend

Because of their wider beams, these kayaks have longer paddles, and they are faster in the water because of their longer waterline and combined paddling power. They key to successfully operating tandem kayaks is the teamwork and understanding between the two paddlers and their correct positioning according to paddle strength.

Sit on Top Kayaks

These are one of the most popular varieties of kayaks, particularly among young people/beginners, and are easy and fun to use. These are open kayaks with an open hull (i.e. a paddleboard) that has a seat on which the paddler can sit on top of.

Because of their wider beam, they can be easily kept upright and are also more stable. Even if they do flip over, they can easily be made upright again thanks to the open design which prevents water from swamping in.

Great light weight kayaking

Rotomolded type kayaks have air inside them which keeps them naturally buoyant. Because of their open hull they make for some of the best fishing kayaks.

Their fiberglass or plastic build makes them light weight, low maintenance and durable, so you’ll often see them at rental shops. They are available in both solo and tandem designs.

Fishing Kayaks

Fishing kayaks are either sit-on-tops or sit-inside. These kayaks, which come in both solo and tandem models, are meant for use by anglers which is why they need to have plenty of cargo space.

A more stable platform is present because of the typical side to side motions involved in fishing. Often, fishing kayaks come with extra storage space for fishing gear.

Sit-on-tops have already been discussed, in short, they sacrifice speed for the sake of stability, can navigate confined areas and allow easy access to gear.

On the other hand, sit in kayak fishing has the advantage of greater speed and protection with the drawback of confined access to gear. Sit in kayaks are typically preferred by coastal fishermen for their properties.

There is a good deal of variation in fishing kayak features from model to model, and depending on the need of the angler. Your fishing grounds will play a role in determining the type of fishing kayak you want.

What a great combination fishing and relaxing in nature

If you are fishing in the ocean, you’ll need to cover greater distances and also handle the wave and wind motion for which a longer and narrower kayak will be optimal. If, on the other hand, you are going to be fishing in sheltered flatwaters, maneuverability will be your chief concern, so you should stick with a lighter, shorter kayak that can make fast turns.

Some fishing kayaks have integrated rudder systems for easy turning, course correction and straight tracking, whereas some of them are pedal powered kayaks i.e. they have a secondary pedal system installed besides the usual paddles which allows anglers hands free movement, by shifting forward / backward control to your feet – foot powered kayaks are particularly useful for trolling.

In many cases, the kayak pedals are removable and mount into built in hull openings.

When you’re outfitting a fishing kayak, remember that this will be considered as extra parts, which will increase the overall cost of the boat. You should only get as fancy as your budget allows, and then add more parts on your own as their need arises.

What are the top kayak brands?

Here are some good kayak brands that frequently enjoy highly positive kayak reviews from both professional and amateur boaters:

Sea Eagle

SeaEagle-330The Sport Kayaks offered by this brand are versatile boats – they can deliver performance and reliability in whitewater rivers to match your adrenaline rush, or smooth sure movement in calm waters.

The SeaEagle 330, their most portable and light kayak is also the most popular vessel of its kind in America – weighing in at just 26 pounds! You could fit it in the trunk of a small car, but it is robust enough to sustain the combined weights (up to 500 pounds) of two people while remaining easy to carry by only one. The other popular product is the SeaEagle 370, at 32 pounds and a carrying capability of three individuals (650 pounds).

This boat allows you to carry equipment for long camping, river running or fishing trips.

Both these vessels boat a hull made of extra thick Polykrylar, an I-beam style construction floor for more rigidity, expandable spray skirts, front and back rope handles, inflatable removable back and front seat and a self-bailing vale for drainage.

Tracking is of crucial importance for a kayak, so skegs are incorporated into these kayaks to enhance their tracking in various waters to conserve paddling effort. There are plenty of cheap competitors that skip the skegs for a lower cost, but with its dual molded skegs, a Sea Eagle Sport Kayak will be the best kayak for the money.

Advanced Elements

Advanced ElementsThe range of inflatable kayaks / canoes offered by Advanced Elements is highly suitable for use in family based water trips / activities. They become fully inflated in a matter of minutes and are extremely easy to use, as well as very reliable. Manufactured from top notch materials, these kayaks are designed meticulously.

They can be packed in a bag that goes easily inside the trunk of a car which means they are easily transportable for even long journeys. Besides offering an extensive range of kayaks, Advanced Elements also sells plenty of accessories and spares for kayaking.

There’s even a 2 year guarantee on their kayaks offered by retailer, Vortex. Advanced Elements have pricey, heavy duty kayaks as well as light, inexpensive kayaks e.g. the Advancedframe Sport Kayak to match your needs and budget.

Perception Sport

Perception Sport kayakPerception guarantees to help you find a kayak to match your lifestyle. Whether it’s for quality family fun, solitary relaxation, adventure or simple exercise, there will be a Perception Sport kayak for you.

The Recreational kayaks from Perception let you integrate kayaking into your life easily, thanks to their swiftness, control and ease of use, combined with stability and handling.

The Expedition/Touring line of kayaks deliver more performance, better compactness, and a greater capacity than their recreational line.

However, their handling is also predictable for both beginners and pros so they can easily be used for longer trips on all types of water. Be it a several day journey or a boating trip in rough weather, these kayaks are guaranteed to deliver performance.

Priced at $505, the Tribe 9.5 kayak by Perception is inexpensive, easy to handle and aesthetically appealing sit-on-top that works equally well in calm and rough waters.

Riot

This manufacturer claims to let you experience the world in a different manner – a quiet ride, a day spent on the water, an extended trip or challenging a tough river and its obstacles – all such adventurous moments are guaranteed to be made that much more special by the equipment provided at Riot, which are better equipped and better designed at any of their price ranges.

Recently, Riot has launched a wide range of thermoformed kayaks to cater to the needs of those looking for faster and lighter boats. They also claim that they are focusing on connecting with their customers using online means to ensure that they get maximum value and experience from their products.

Riot has application specific affordable kayaks for both whitewater activities (playboating, river running, creeking, surfing) as well as flatwater (recreational, day touring, touring, fishing, SOT).

Tahe Marine

Calling itself the ‘rock star’ of kayaks, Tahe Marine has almost 25 years of experiences, and offers a diverse range of various designations of composite/tripe layer polyethylene rotomolded kayaks to different tastes. All Tahe products are manufactured in Estonia.

The basic categories of Tahe kayaks are Wind, Reval, Spirit, Lifestyle, Tandem, Fit and Aqua. Besides the specific Tandem line, most other categories also have two person models which can be chosen from as required.

Tahe Marine

The Fit line has the most extensive selection including solo, tandem, recreational, fishing, motor & sail, sit-on-top etc. A great feature of this manufacturer’s website is the ability to enter a Live Chat with their representative to get better guidance regarding your kayak purchase.

Liquid Logic

Liquid LogicThis manufacturer has been making top quality whitewater kayaks for more than one decade. Starting out in 2001 on North Carolina’s Green River, they have now joined hands with Legacy Paddlesports in Greensboro and have moved to a modern manufacturing / testing facility in the same city.

The Liquid Logic team designs, manufactures and try outs its own line of kayaks. One of their chief designers is Shane Benedict, who also happens to be an international playboater and a decade long US Freestyle Team member, as well as a well-known NOC instructor.

In fact, most of Liquid Logic’s employees have several years of whitewater kayaking experience. Today, Liquid Logic is a global brand with centers in Japan, New Zealand, Europe and Asia thanks to their meticulous testing and high standards of product quality, performance and safety.

Liquid Logic makes a complete range of whitewater kayaks including creekers, freestyle, river runners and crossover boats besides several SOT kayaks. Their price range lies in $800 to $1100. The products are known for their quality, roll ability, stability and maneuverability.

There are also plenty of other manufactures with many a good kayak for sale – once you learn to identify your needs and identify the key characteristics to a good kayak, finding the right manufacturer won’t be a problem.

How to pick a kayak

The kayak brands list in the market is quite extensive, as demonstrated by some of the best detailed above. Picking out the right one is largely dependent on how you will use it and the experience you have, as well as your budget constraints. Even though kayak brands have much in common, there are also some distinctions between them that you need to understand in order to purchase the best all-around kayak to suit your needs.

Types

Kayaks are usually categorized according to their intended purpose e.g. whitewater, recreation, folding or sea. Inside each of these categories, there are further refinements in kayaks available.

Recreational kayaks are meant for the casual paddler who isn’t interested in crazy performance and include fishing, sit-on-top, inflatable and boats that have a shorter length and a bigger cockpit. Whitewater kayaks are utilized in rapid waters and are composed of hard plastic.

Touring or sea kayaks are meant for use in open water and often incorporate below-deck storage capability for trips that last for multiple days. For those who will use the kayaks for travel, folding kayaks are recommended for their portability, hardiness and versatility.

Here is a comparison between recreational and touring kayaks – a couple of extremely common kayak types:

 RecreationalTouring
Duration:DayDay or greater
Best for:Ponds, calm bays, small lakes, slow riversLakes, slow rivers, bays, currents, ocean
Skill level:Novice to intermediateIntermediate to professional
Stability:Most stableMore stable
Manageable:Most manageableMore manageable
Speed:FastFaster
Tracking:GoodBetter
Maneuver:Better than touringGood (depending on the length of the boat, and the rudder)

Design features

The two fundamental design properties of a kayak are its maneuverability and stability, or performance. The stability of a kayak describes the backwards/forwards rocking of the vessel, or its potential to tip over.

The maneuverability is determined by the kayak’s hulls structure, length and width. Depending on the category and type, kayaks with greater stability have lower performance and in reverse.

Design has the following dependents:

Length

Generally, shorter kayaks (max. 12 feet), will track much easier than longer ones (13+ feet) and will also glide with lesser effort. However, it should be remembered that the length being discussed here is of the boat’s waterline (i.e. the line at which the boat is actually sitting in the water), and this waterline may be considerably shorter than the overall length of the boat.

Shorter KayaksLonger Kayaks
Easier to turn as well as maneuver.Easier to paddle for extended distances (after you reach a certain speed).
Ability to make faster turns.Can hold a straight line better in order to stay on course.
Best for rivers, estuaries, small lakes, but not that suitable for longer trips.Great for open water and satisfactory on smaller water bodies.
Weigh less.Somewhat more bulky.
Less influenced by winds.Can carry bulkier loads without a great loss in performance.
Easier to transport.Glide a greater distance per stroke for more efficiency.
Slightly slower.Move swifter.
Recommended for young kayakers.Accommodate more gear.

Width

Wider kayaks have greater initial (or primary) stability in calmer conditions whereas narrower kayaks travel faster and provide improved secondary stability if the boat is leaning towards its side in rough conditions

NarrowWide
Greater secondary stability (resistance to capsizing).Greater initial stability (stability when entering the vessel).
Can be easily made upright if they capsize.Easier to enter and leave.
Less bulky.Bulkier.
Better tracking.Width corresponds to slowness.
Greater efficiency in paddling through water.Requires greater effort when paddling because of its bulk that requires more water displacement.

Depth

The depth of a touring kayak – the height from its hull to its deck’s top – can vary from 13’’ – 16’’. For SOT kayaks, this depth may lie in the range of 11’’-16’’. Paddlers who are taller and larger should make sure that there is plenty of depth so they have space for maneuvering as well legroom.

Taller sides also aid in water deflection besides potentially providing greater storage capacity. The downside to this is they’ll catch more wind leading to slowdowns.

Skeg

This is the triangular metallic plate found beneath the stern, it can be lowered and raised. Kayaks that have skegs yield better tracking in cross-currents and crosswinds, by lowering the ‘weathercocking’ effect of the kayak.

It is adjusted to various positions by means of hand controls located close to the cockpit. It can be difficult to grasp for novices, but enthusiast kayaks incorporate it as a principle.

Rudder

Basically, this is a paddle which is attached to the top of the stern and can be lowered into water by means of a hand lever. It can be manipulated up/down and/or left/right.

Foot levers present in the cockpit enable the kayaker to set the direction for the rudder which makes turns easier to handle.

Weight capacity

Each boat has a limit on recommended weight. Here’s what you need to think about:

  • The number of paddlers.
  • Will it be utilized for single day outing or multiday trips.
  • How much gear will it carry?

These three factors will contribute to the weight – do that math before comparing your end result with the weight capacity of various boats.

Hatches

Touring kayaks incorporate storage areas, usually found at one or both ends of the boat which are enclosed on the deck via a lid. If the boat capsizes, these bulkheads provide the buoyancy needed to keep the boat afloat, but only so long as the hatch lids remain secured.

There are several types of hatch lids with their own distinct features:

  • Plastic lids come with gaskets fixed to the deck and/or lid, they are closed using cargo straps and are general purpose in nature.
  • Neoprene covers are stretched over the hatch and can be used in conjunction with a more rigid outer covering, they are also secured using straps. Although they are good sealants, stretching than can be tough, and they only work if they are properly positioned.
  • Rubber hatches snap to the molded deck lip or hatch ring like Tupperware. A hatch strap is used to keep them from getting lost.
  • A toggled hatch has a gasket as well as toggles for sealing the plastic lid.

Tips:

i) Employ several smaller drybags instead of a single big one.
ii) Replace worn out gaskets.
iii) Place float bags in the hatches for extra buoyancy in the event that the boat capsizes.

  • Materials: Kayaks can be composed of fiber and resin or solid plastic. The two principle fibers used in the manufacture of kayaks are Kevlar and fiberglass. Resins include inexpensive polyester, slightly costlier vinyl and costly epoxy. Plastic kayaks are inexpensive, indestructible and are roughly 10% bulkier than their fiberglass counterparts. Fiberglass kayaks aren’t as rigid as the plastic ones, and require a greater deal of attentiveness when padding. The latter does not perform well in rocky water bodies, and extended exposure to saltwater can compromise their lifetime, however, their weight is less than plastic kayaks. Kayak made from Kevlar are even lighter and match the strength of the plastic boats.
  • Price: Both the construction materials and the design play a role in determining the cost of the kayak. A kayaking school by the name of Kayak Academy has stated that the minimum cost of a sit-in touring vessel will be at least $1000 in the current market. A plastic molded kayak will lie in the price range of $1,200-$2,000, whereas the epoxy resin/fiber ones will cost more than this.
  • Considerations: The style and type of kayak which will suit you depends on your intended use. If your intention is to utilize it for multiple day trips, you should choose a kayak in the sea / touring category. Novices ought to consider a recreational kayak since you need a most stable kayak when starting out to become proficient in basic paddle strokes, after which you can progress to a performance oriented kayak, should you desire. Furthermore, material, construction and weight are also directly related to how portable the kayak will be.
  • Expert insight: Before choosing a kayak, pay a visit to your nearby kayak retailer and try out as many of their styles and types available. Depending on the factors mentioned above, you may find one brand better than the other. Also spend some time doing research on kayaks by visiting websites of manufacturers and also reading reviews from other uses.

How much is a kayak?

Kayaks vary in priceThere is no single answer to the question, how much do kayaks cost, because there is so much variation in kayak prices with different models/categories. When thinking about how much are kayaks, you need to decide the model you want to use:

Whereas an inflatable kayak costs the least, at around $200, it is also the least robust and offers little to no versatility. It is only good for beginner kayakers who plan to use it for leisurely excursion at a local pond.

Plastic kayaks can be another affordable option. They are comparable to the inflatable ones, whilst also offering somewhat increased durability. The catch is that they can get damaged quite easily and can be difficult to repair if they develop a hole.

If you have more funds, or intend to use the kayak in rough conditions, a sea kayak is going to be your best bet. Don’t expect a cheap kayak in this category – they start at $1,000 and can have maximum price that exceeds $3,000.

But these boats are strong, lightweight and highly durable. They also pack in more storage room, as well as features like adjustable seating.

Besides the kayak itself, you’ll need to purchase paddles. Paddles made out of fiberglass cost around $150 whereas lighter weighing carbon versions can have a price tag between $275 and $500. Life jackets are also recommended since boating accidents can happen, especially with beginners.

Other accessories include fishing pole holders, additional storage, customized seats and so on.
You can easily find cheap kayaks for sale through a quick internet search – look out for clearance sales to get the biggest discounts!

Take a Look at Our Kayak Reviews

Conclusion

Kayaking can become a gift that keeps giving, if you put enough effort it into it. You can easily learn the essential skills in a matter of days and enjoy honing those, and learning more advanced ones in the years that follow.

It is a sport that has health benefits such as strength gain, weight loss and stress loss, and can lead to an overall healthy/fitness oriented lifestyle. If you enjoy a challenge and don’t mind social interaction, this is the sport for you. Even if you like to spend time alone, the still waters of a lake will be most inviting.

Although it may seem somewhat unorthodox, or even hazardous, you can kayak with dogs! Of course, they have to be your pets to begin with and well trained to obey verbal commands, as well as be familiarized with the vessel itself. You might think that it will be hard to keep the dog in one place for so long, but training them isn’t all that difficult.

With proper security features in place e.g. a doggy life jacket, you can have lots of exciting adventures with your pet in open water, lakes or rivers. Also stay clear of the rookie mistake of attaching the dog to a rope or leash – if the kayak were to capsize, your dog would be trapped beneath it, and may even be dragged downriver alongside the boat, out of your reach!

Kayaking with a dog can be an extremely fun experience – it will give you time to develop a special bond with your pet and lead to some amazing, glowing memories and most definitely to some quirky pictures to share with friends and family.

Once again, ensure that the dogs are well trained so as not hinder the kayak’s handling for you, and take all necessary precautions into account before embarking on a trip with your pet/s.