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Ultimate Guide to Kayaks

Mark Armstrong
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Ultimate Guide To Kayaks - the main imagePin

Hello, and welcome to our buyer’s guide on how to choose a kayak!

Paddling a kayak is a great way of seeing the great outdoors and having an adventure. You can paddle as soft or strong as you want.

If you want to build up some fitness and core strength, you could do worse than paddle a kayak.

And if you want to paddle around at a more leisurely pace, that’s ok too! You can stick to calm rivers and lakes and absorb the scenery.

Kayaking also just a great way to get out of the house and suck in some lovely fresh air. You can involve yourself as much as you want to. Maybe you want to just paddle offshore, splash around and have some fun with the family? Or perhaps you want to go a little hardcore and hit the whitewater…?

Kayaks are now very popular with anglers too. There’s a huge range of dedicated fishing kayaks available to buy today. You can even upgrade normal kayaks to be used for angling. 

You can even attach a small trolling motor to some kayaks if you don’t feel like using those paddles!

Whatever it is you’re after….we’ve got you covered!

Ok, So What is a Kayak?

Also commonly referred to as ‘yaks, kayaks are small water craft that are generally built for one, two and sometimes three persons. Usually the third person will be a small child or dog – but not always.

They are designed to be manoeuvred using a double bladed paddle (a blade at either end), and come in two basic cockpit designs:

SOT (Sit-On-Top)

The paddler(s) sit on top of the kayak. They are not enclosed and as such, access in and out of the kayak is made easier.

Sit-On Top Kayak - watersports in the sunPin

SIK (Sit-Inside-Kayak)

The paddler(s) are enclosed within the kayak. Spray skirts can be used to keep the water away from the lower body.

Sit-In KayakPin

There are many different types of kayaks for different activities and user levels. You can buy kayaks that cater more towards fishing, white water, rivers, the sea/ocean, for touring or just for general recreation.

A lot of the budget kayaks are recreational kayaks (sometimes known as leisure kayaks) and are suitable for just having fun. 

But you can also use recreational kayaks for some of the aforementioned activities at a basic level. For example, it’s possible to use a leisure kayak for fishing. You may need to buy attachments to properly upgrade. But if you are a keen angler, you would probably be better opting for a dedicated fishing kayak (which can of course just be used for recreation too!).

We’re going to talk more about the different kayak types in a moment.

Where USA Kayakers Live - MapPin
Where Kayak Anglers live. Courtesy americancanoe.org

Where To Go Kayaking?


Lakes, ponds and reservoirs can be great places to kayak, especially if you’re just starting out, as these types of waters can usually be calmer than rivers and oceans, for example. However, you may still encounter current and other water users, which can affect how calm the water will be.

For your first kayaking experience, it can be helpful to choose a body of water that’s relatively quiet, where you won’t run into power boats. 

Best kayaks for lakes


Slow moving rivers can be easier to paddle than fast moving ones, for which you may need some additional training and safety gear, and indeed a more suitable yak for whitewater. Slow moving rivers can be great for a paddling trip, as some rivers have paddling trails that have several put-ins and take-outs along the river where you can begin and end your journey.

There are even National Water Trails that can be found in various locations across the country.

Best river kayaks

Sea And Oceans

Taking a recreational kayak to the beach in warm weather can be a fun way to enjoy kayaking and can be a good way for kids to get used to kayaking, where they can usually jump on and off when it suits them.

Calm oceans and shallow bays can be better for learning but once you develop more skills, you may find you’re more equipped to handle some ocean touring adventures.

Kayak Camping

Many yaks have room for you to bring along additional gear, such as camping equipment. Kayak camping can be a great way to explore a waterway and enjoy an extended paddling adventure, using your yak as your mode of transportation.

Designated paddling trails can sometimes be useful, as they will often have campsites along the route.

Storage space will vary depending on what type of vessel you have but dry storage, such as dry bags, can be a good idea so you can keep your gear and food dry. Knowing how to pack your yak for your trip can help you make the most of your space.

When Is The Best Time To Buy A Kayak?

When you’re looking to purchase a kayak, one of the things you will probably be asking yourself is when is the best time of year to buy?

Well, that can all depend on what you’ll be using the yak for and also what sort of area you live in.

Seasonal Paddling

Man on kayak on ice cold waterPin

If you’re planning to use your kayak at a specific time of the year then buying it in advance of that season can be beneficial to you. This way you can make the most of it in the coming season and get to use it right away.

However, in some places you might find that there are deals at the end of the season, as companies or individuals are wanting to get rid of their stock before the new stock arrives or before different seasonal stock arrives.

On the other hand, if you live somewhere with a warm climate, for example in Florida, you’ll probably find that paddling season is all year round. This could mean that you may not see the same sort of deals as you would in other parts of the country (that has sharp off-seasons).

But if you do live somewhere that has warm weather all year round, this could mean that you could paddle at all times of the year. So no matter what time of the year you buy it, you could be out there enjoying it straight away.

Spring And Fall

Spring and fall seasons can be good times to buy a kayak because of many people and retailers getting rid of old stock and making way for new stock. In the fall, there may be less demand for vessels as people may not want to buy a craft that they might not be able to use until the following spring.

But prices could be lower during this time because retailers also don’t want to have the stock sitting around in a warehouse for several months. However, with kayaks, you may not get the types of discounts that you may get with other end of season clearance sales.

By purchasing after the end of the summer season, you might still be able to get some use out of the yak right away, even if you live in a colder climate. Plus, if you’re thinking about buying a sit-inside, then you could kit it out with a spray skirt and potentially use it throughout winter, providing your lake or river doesn’t freeze over. The guy above…demonstrating this point very well!

And if you purchase during the spring, you could benefit from it all summer long.

No matter when you buy your kayak, you should be able to enjoy your new boat for years to come. So think about when would suit you best and when you might be able to get the most use out of it.

Kayak Dimensions (Sizes & Characteristics)

Parts Of A Kayak (Anatomy)Pin


Kayak hulls are designed with stability in mind, yet some may be more proficient in certain conditions than others. This is often down to the boat having primary stability and/or secondary stability.

Primary stability is the initial stability of the vessel, for example how stable it feels when you get in and are paddling on flat, calm water. 

Secondary stability is how stable the kayak will be in choppy conditions, such as ocean waves or rapids. Yaks with more secondary stability than primary stability will often feel less stable on flat water because they are designed to roll with the waves.


The shape of the hull is often what determines how stable the boat will be and what conditions it might be able to handle best. Round hulls and V shaped hulls tend to offer a higher level of secondary stability than primary stability and can be better at handling choppy conditions than a flat hull.

Boats with round hulls can be easier to maneuver in rivers and whitewater, for example, whereas V shaped hulls may be better suited to open water, such as the sea where speed might be more important.

Flat bottomed hulls can be useful on fishing yaks, where you might want increased primary stability, such as for standing. These types of hulls can be ideal for flatwater paddling. However, flat bottomed hulls can also be found on whitewater boats and surf kayaks because of their planing ability.

You’ll also find yaks with pontoon hulls, which can give you a combination of both primary and secondary stability.


Hard Chine vs Soft Chines diagram on a kayakPin

The chine is usually describing the edges or sides of the kayak as they connect with the bottom of the hull. You’ll often see the chine described as being hard, soft or sometimes moderate. Hulls with hard chines tend to have more defined edges, whereas those with soft chines often appear smoother and rounder.

Hard chine hulls might be useful for playboating on whitewater or surf because, similar to some flat bottomed vessels, they can plane better when tipped. But because of these sharper edges, some secondary stability may be lost.

Soft chine hulls may offer a higher level of secondary stability compared to hard chine hulls and may also be faster because there is less protrusion in the water.


Diagram showing more rocker vs less rocker on a kayakPin

Rocker is what describes the angle of the hull, for example, whether the bottom of the hull is curved from front to back or not. If a kayak has more rocker, it will be more curved, meaning the bow and stern will be curved upwards out of the water.

This can be useful for maneuvering over waves and through choppy rivers, as it can essentially help you to rock over the waves. Vessels with no rocker have more of the hull in the water, which can be good for tracking, or paddling straight ahead.

Lengths And Widths

The length of a yak can affect its performance. Generally speaking, the longer the yak, the faster it may be able to go but the more difficult it might be to maneuver. The width of the hull can also affect the performance of the yak, with wider hulls being generally more stable but not as quick as narrower hulls.

Long, narrow hulls can be useful in touring kayaks when you are likely to be paddling over longer distances where speed and efficiency can be important to minimize paddling fatigue.

Short, wide hulls can be ideal for recreational kayaks or fishing kayaks, when stability and maneuverability might be important. This can be helpful in ponds and narrow rivers.

Diagram showing Kayak Lengths and CharacteristicsPin

Materials Commonly Used


A lot of recreational rotomolded boats tend to be made from polyethylene, which is a type of plastic. This can be a durable and inexpensive material, which is why it can be found on many recreational vessels, including rental yaks.

However, it can also be heavier than some other materials and can be susceptible to UV damage if it’s stored outside and unprotected. 


Fiberglass boats and composites featuring fiberglass or graphite can be more expensive than other types of kayaks. These materials tend to be lightweight and durable and are often used to enhance performance, such as speed.

The gel coating on some of these types of yaks can help to create a smoother and harder surface, which may improve speed over the water.


Many inflatable kayaks are made from PVC and often feature a combination of materials, such as polyester or nylon in order to enhance durability and rigidity. Hypalon is a type of polyethylene that is sometimes used in inflatable vessels because of its ability to hold air and its added resistance to UV light.

Polypropylene is a type of plastic material that is used in the construction of folding kayaks. This is because it can offer flexibility as well as strength and durability.

Do I Need A Skeg Or Rudder?


A skeg can be useful for paddling in current or open water where you may want a little tracking assistance. This means it can help you to paddle straight in situations where current or wind may be hampering your efforts, similar to a rudder.

But unlike a rudder, a skeg remains in a fixed position under the hull, rather than being able to swivel like a rudder. On some vessels the skeg can be dropped down when required and retracted when not, rather than permanently deployed like on some others. 

> Read our guide to Skegs here

2 kayaks - 1 with Rudder and 1 with SkegPin


A rudder can work in the same way as a skeg but it can also be moved from side to side to help with turning. Being able to change the direction of a rudder can also be useful when it comes to paddling in the wind or in choppy conditions where you may need extra help to maintain your course.

On some vessels, such as some fishing or touring kayaks, rudders may come pre-installed and on some others, you may be able to install one at a later date if you choose.

Rudders and skegs might not be suitable if you paddle in very shallow water or in rocky rivers where this is a risk of them being damaged.

> Read our guide to Rudders here

What About Paddles?

The type of paddle you’ll need will probably depend on the type of paddling you want to do and the type of yak you have. Kayak paddles feature two blades, one at either end of a shaft.

They come in various sizes, which is usually related to your own height and the width or depth of your boat, and there are different styles of blades available.

Paddles also come in various materials, which are suited to specific types of paddling and performance requirements. 

> Read our guide to Paddles here

Are Kayaks Comfortable? What About The Seats?

A good seat can be important when it comes to being comfortable in a kayak, as this is likely where you will be spending most of your time while you’re paddling.

Some recreational vessels may not come with a very comfortable seat, or may even simply feature a molded seat without padding or a seat back. If you plan to spend longer on the water, you may want to upgrade your seat.

The type of kayak may also affect how comfortable you feel, for example, a sit-inside may feel a little confined at first but once you get used to it, you should feel more comfortable. A sit-on-top, on the other hand, features an open style cockpit, which should feel less restrictive.

There are other things that can affect your comfort levels, such as your paddle, which can cause blisters on your hands from friction while paddling. However, wearing gloves or pogies can help to minimize this.

> Check our guide to Kayak Seats

What about the different kayak brands?

There are others to choose from of course. These are just the brands we have been taking a good look at recently on our site.

Top Kayak Brands To Consider

  • Ocean Kayaks
  • Lifetime
  • Old Town
  • Sun Dolphin
  • Perception
  • Jackson

> Read our full kayak brands guide here

Guide To Different Types Of Kayaks

Fishing Kayaks

SOT Fishing KayakPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Lakes, rivers, bays
  • Suited Towards: Fishing
  • Budget: Low, mid-range, expensive

Fishing kayaks have arguably seen the greatest rise in popularity over the last number of years.

What makes a good fishing kayak?

Well, some of the obvious trademarks are rod holders and storage hatches designed and placed in perfect positions while you fish. You want to keep your live bait fresh and within arm’s reach, so ideally right in front of the main seat. And if you’re good at catching fish, a big storage area for keeping fish cool is useful!

Having lots of options for attachments will also be useful. Sliding rails are really good for this. You can attach extra equipment, like fishfinders, GPS, phones etc alongside your rods.

You might also want to consider a comfortable seat that adjusts into many positions. You’re probably going to be sitting down for long periods of time, so a comfortable seat will be at the forefront of your mind. Most seats are foldaway and fasten to the deck with straps that tighten to your satisfaction. Some seats even come with adjustable lumbar support.

This is definitely something to consider should you have or be worried about any potential back ache.

Types of Fishing Kayak Used by US Anglers - sit-in vs sit-on-top - in a pie chartPin
US stats courstesy: americancanoe.org

Remember that some kayaks don’t come with a seat or have seats that can be replaced. So you do have the option to buy a kayak from a large selection pool (no pun intended!) and then fit a seat of your liking.

If you like standing up when you fish, a lot of fishing kayaks have a standing platform. Some even come with casting bars, which can be used for leaning against, or keeping steady should the wind or waves pick up when you’re standing. You’ll most often need to attach a bar. Make sure your kayak supports it. Make sure you pick a wide kayak if you’re a stand up kinda guy. So, we’re talking 32-36 inches here.

Fishing kayaks are also generally quite short. And shorter kayaks are typically good for manoeuvring around, which is what you want when you’re hunting in close quarters. There are longer fishing kayaks (14ft and up) which are generally better for the open waters and are faster through the water than their shorter siblings.

> Kayak fishing guide and tips

Top Kayaks For Fishing

Malibu Kayaks Stealth 12 Fish and Dive Package Sit-on Top Kayak

Malibu Kayaks Stealth 12 Fish and Dive Package Sit on Top KayakPin
  • Length: 12ft 4 inches
  • Width: 33 inches
  • Depth: 12 inches
  • Weight: 60 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 450 pounds

The Stealth 12 (just over 12 ft long) is a solid entry into the world of fishing kayaks. It’s packed with storage options, essential for a successful day’s fishin’. The main storage areas are at the front (covered) rear (open, with cords) and center (also covered, and can be used for live bait).

Malibu have also included 4 rod holders. There’s also a standing platform and foot braces that can be adjusted.

The Stealth 12 does not come shipped with any seating, so you’ll need to source one yourself. 

There is an additional small seating area should you want to bring a small child along for the ride.

Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak

Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak - angled viewPin
  • Length: 13ft 4 inches
  • Width: 28 inches
  • Weight: 56 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 325 pounds

This is one of the longer kayaks on the list. At 13 ft, it’s good for the open waters and has plenty of features to keep the keen angler content.

There are two rod holders at the rear and an option for more up at the front. Storage is good too. You have 2 covered hatches at the front and directly in front of the paddler. There’s a 3rd open, and spacious storage area at the rear behind the seat. Also comes with a storage bucket.

The Prowler 13 comes packed with a padded Comfort Plus seat but sadly paddles are not included, so you’ll need to purchase separately. There are paddle keepers on board.

There are varied foot wells to rest the feet and legs, has 2 cup holders and you can fit your own transducer for fish finding.

You can stand on this kayak, but as the beam (width) isn’t particularly big, it’s not really recommended.

> Full guide to Fishing Kayaks

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kyak on a lakePin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Rivers, lakes, bays
  • Suited Towards: Casual paddlers
  • Budget: Low

Inflatable kayaks are good for those who want to get from home onto the water without having to worry about transport too much.

Air-filled kayaks compress down into spaces small enough to fit into a backpack. There’s no need for a trailer or a roof rack with an inflatable. You can carry it round with you to your destination.

Of course, you need to inflate the kayak before you launch. This takes a bit of effort. Not much, but it needs to be considered. You can be looking at up to 10 minutes to get up and running, depending on the ‘yak (with a little practice, it can be under 5 for some kayaks). If you have multiple chambers to fill (and we recommend you do as they’re safer), then you need to pump up each chamber. And you need to deflate them all when you’ve finished.

Another advantage of these versatile craft is cost. Yes, inflatables generally cost less than plastic or fiberglass (hard shell) ‘yaks. This makes blow-up kayaks more attractive to first time kayak buyers or recreational users who only venture out now and again. They know that if they lose enthusiasm for kayaking, they haven’t blown too much cash if they never use it again.

A lot of inflatables are also very sturdy on the water. Another benefit for beginners and recreational users.

Popular Inflatable Kayaks

Advanced Elements AE1012 AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak Above - Best Inflatable KayakPin
  • Length: 10 Ft 5 inches
  • Width: 32 inches
  • Weight: 36 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds

Ok, first up we have a solo sit-in inflatable. The AE1012 has 7 air chambers in total to help make sure you don’t sink, if you are unlucky enough to suffer air loss.

It has aluminium ribs that help keep its shape. There’s no need to assemble the ribs – they are built into the kayak. This shape encourages better tracking and more efficient paddling. Being an inflatable, it is lighter than hard shell kayaks, but it’s still able to carry a total weight of 300lbs.

There are zipper storage areas on board, one of which also has Bungee ropes to hold down more cargo.

The AE1012 comes in 2 colors. The red AE1012-R and the green AE1012-G. Bear in mind that this kayak does not ship with pump or paddles, so you need to consider ordering these if you don’t own these already.

Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak

Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak with Pro Package - Best Fishing KayakPin
  • Length: 12 ft 6 inches
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Weight: 32 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 650 pounds

Here we have a popular tandem inflatable (check out the Coleman Colorado for another option further below).

This 3 chamber inflatable ‘yak is a durable option for 2 paddlers. It can be inflated inside 8 minutes and comes with inflatable seats, a foot pump and a carry bag with puncture repair kit.

It has 2 skegs to help keep things under control in the water and has 2 carrying handles for when it’s out of the water.

> Check our full guide to Inflatable Kayaks here

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Sit-On Top Kayak - watersports in the sunPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Calm rivers, bays, lakes, warm climates
  • Suited Towards: Recreational paddlers
  • Budget: Low to mid-range

SOT (Sit-On-Top) kayaks are very popular today, and with good reason.

They particularly appeal to newcomers, but also to those who have been paddling for years. The biggest advantage is how easy they are to board and get back out of. The cockpit is wide open. You don’t sit enclosed within a shell like with SIKs (Sit-In Kayaks). Kayak users love this, especially the newcomers. No-one wants to scramble into an enclosed cockpit worrying that they’re going to topple over into the water!

SOTs also tend to have more storage space compared to their SIK enclosed counterparts. This is because you, the paddler, aren’t sitting inside the kayak taking up all the potential storage space. As you are enclosed, it’s also more difficult to access anything other than what you can reach from your seated position.

A drawback of SOT kayaks, is the weight. Sit-on kayaks are generally a lot lighter than SOTs. This impacts speed and how much effort you need to put in with the paddles.

Note that sit-on top kayaks are great for the summer because you can keep cool on the deck. The flip side of this is in the winter months, where you’ll be more exposed to the elements compared to a sit-in kayak.

Top SOT Kayaks

Perception R15 Pescador 10.0 Kayak

Perception R15 Pescadors 100 Kayak SeasprayPin
  • Length: 10 ft
  • Width: 29 inches
  • Weight: 52 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 325 pounds

The R15 Pescadors 10 ft kayak from Perception is a solid SOT kayak that isn’t going to break the bank account.

It’s a good tracking all round kayak with solid enough stability for a 10 ft ‘yak. If you are very tall, the stability will lessen of course, and you will probably want to opt for the 12 ft alternative (see right).

It comes with storage hatches on the bow and directly behind the seat. A larger open storage well is at the rear (with cord). There are multiple foot wells to place your feet.

Perception have also included a comfortable seat and paddle holders. Note that you need to purchase a paddle separately.

Lifetime Tamarack Sit-On-Top Kayak 120″

Lifetime Tamarack Sit-On-Top Kayak 120"Pin
  • Width: 31 inches
  • Depth: 14 inches
  • Weight: 50 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 275 pounds

The Tamarack is a polyethylene (tough plastic) SOT that doubles-up as a fishing kayak.

It comes with a seat (back rest and separate pad for sitting on the deck), and if this isn’t to your liking (for comfort or position), you can of course source your own and replace the stock seat. Lifetime have also included a paddle, and foot wells for leg/feet rests.

There are open storage options at the front and rear (with cord). There are also enclosed hatch storage areas. One in front of the seat, the other directly behind.

Comes with 2 fixed rod holders behind the seat, and a rotational holder in front.

There are handles at bow and stern end to make transport easier.

> Check our full guide to Sit-On-Top Kayaks here

Tandem Kayaks

Couple on Tandem sit on top kayakPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Lakes, rivers, bays
  • Suited Towards: Two paddlers (sometimes 3 and/or a dog)
  • Budget: Mid-range

There’s nothing quite like sharing the adventure, is there?

Tandem kayaks are for those who like to share….not just the experience, but the effort of paddling! As long as you are partnered up with someone who is willing to share the workload, a 2 person kayak is great for getting around with less effort, and maybe even more fun.

Kayaks for 2 Persons are a little heavier than solo craft, so they are harder to carry around. Of course, if there are two of you, this task is not a problem.

Some tandem kayaks actually work pretty well when paddled solo. Now, we would always recommend a solo kayak if you are mostly going out alone. But if you expect a lot of trips out on the water with a partner, a tandem is a great option.

Storage space can increase too. But, it probably isn’t going to provide as much space as two separate solo kayaks for two paddlers.

Overall though, tandem kayaks (you can often fit a third smaller person on here – a child or a dog?) are a great way of kayaking socially.

Popular Tandem Kayak

Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem Kayak

Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational KayakPin
  • Length: 12 ft
  • Width: 34 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 425 pounds

The Malibu is a tandem 12-footer from Ocean Kayaks.

As such, it can hold up to 425 lbs in weight, to include you, your paddling partner and any cargo that you may want to bring with you. There’s also room for a third small passenger, so you can bring a kid with you. You can also paddle solo if desired.

The Malibu Two ships with two Comfort Plus foldaway seats.

Out of the box, there isn’t much of a storage area to speak of. This tandem kayak is designed more for short recreational trips rather than fishing or long excursions. However, there are three molded area on the deck that can be cut out and used as storage hatches if storage is important to you.

Paddles are not included.

Colors include ‘Sunrise’, yellow and ‘Envy’ green.

> Check our full guide to Tandem Kayaks here

Recreational Kayaks

2 people on tandem kayakPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Lakes, rivers, bays
  • Suited Towards: Recreational, casual paddlers, dog lovers
  • Budget: Low to mid-range

A recreational kayak is perfect for those who are into…..recreation of course!

Recreational kayaks are general all-rounders. They are perfect for flatter waters, calm seas or slow rivers. These kayaks have been made for those who want to paddle near or out from shore a little, and maybe go for a swim. Or maybe just lounge around in the sun for a while. Perhaps even just to go and do a little adventuring and exploring.

These kayaks aren’t going to break any speed records, nor are they going to turn on a dime. But they are good for general kayaking. If you’re into fishing, they can be turned into a fishing kayak too (check with the kayak has the fittings for the upgrade). So yeah, pretty versatile overall…

Just know that recreational kayaks won’t do any one thing really well. They are usually relatively cheap, which makes them especially popular.

Inflatable kayaks are a popular choice for those taking the recreational option. Because they fold away into a small pack, they are easy to carry around.

Now that we are on the subject of transport…just remember that unless you live right beside the water, you’re going to have to get the kayak to the water each time you want a paddle. Lifting the kayak up on top of the car (have you got a rack?) isn’t going to be easy. If you have a helping hand each time of course, this isn’t much of an issue. Or if you have a trailer, that’s really going to help out too. Or you could think about a lighter kayak.

This is when an inflatable comes in handy. They are lighter and so much easier to get from A to B…

Fun Kayaks For Recreation

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On Top Recreational Kayak

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak YellowPin
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Width: 31 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds (shipping weight)
  • Weight Capacity: 325 pounds

A kayak for the solo paddler. The Frenzy from Ocean Kayaks is a plastic shell SOT option with storage bays at the front and rear of the craft.

There are molded foot wells to cater for differing leg lengths, carrying handles and a drinks holder for the longer journeys.

Comes with an adjustable padded seat and a skid plate to protect the Tri-Form hull.

Colors in ‘Envy’, ‘Sunrise’ and yellow.

Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem Kayak

Lifetime Sport Fisher Single or Tandem Kayak - Best Fishing KayakPin
  • Length: 10 ft
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Depth: 19 inches
  • Weight: 65 pounds (shipping weight)
  • Weight Capacity: 500 pounds

And here we have the tandem offering. The Lifetime Sport Fisher kayak is actually suitable for up to three persons. That’s 2 adults and a kid.

If you’re looking for a recreational water craft, the chances are you will want to be out with friends or family. This ’yak from Lifetime provides that experience on a budget.

This one has a tunnel hull design and can be used for fishing standing up (you can stand up, but it’s not really been designed for this). There’s also 4 rod holders, a hatch at the rear and a large open storage area on the bow.

As we said before, a recreational kayak is an all-rounder kayak, and as such doesn’t do any one thing really well. And in this case, the Sport Fisher isn’t a really good fishing kayak…..but you can fish from it. It’s just that if you are more serious about angling, you may want to upgrade to a better quality craft.

If you’re just an occasional recreational fisher, then this effort from Lifetime might be all you need.

> Guide to Recreational Kayaks

Beginner Kayaks – What’s The Best Kayak For Learning?

Beginners on kayak - woman and childPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Lakes, rivers, bays
  • Suited Towards: Learning paddlers, recreational
  • Budget: Low to mid-range

If you’re a beginner, you’re probably just looking to get a feel for kayaking in general. Maybe you just want to see if it’s a hobby you can take up regularly? Well, if you can, try to rent a kayak first. Check out your local area to see if you can rent kayaks for the day.

A good rental should have plenty of stable kayaks for hire. Make sure you talk through with them exactly why you want to kayak and if trying multiple kayaks (we highly recommend this!) try to talk about each one you try.

They should hopefully be able to offer you good advice to help you make a decision. And hey, you may find that you don’t like kayaking so much after a couple of hours out on the water (shame on you…just joking!).

Safety must be taken seriously. This goes for beginners right through to the experienced paddler. Wear a PFD. Even in shallow waters, you just never know when you might end up in trouble and the water may not be as shallow as you thought. Make sure you can swim competently too.

You should also consider getting some lessons. Improving your technique will really help you paddle along much more efficiently and help you to navigate much better. They might have a kayak that feels just right for you. All you gotta do is order one or something very similar.

It’s usually recreational kayaks that beginners seem to opt for, as they are for many purposes and are at the budget end of the price spectrum. And as we talked about before, in the recreational kayaks section above, inflatable kayaks can be a good option for some.

Just note that if you are a beginner, these kayaks should not be taken too far away from shore. If you get into trouble, you don’t want to be stuck out at sea or deep out in the lake, hoping that someone spots you!

Newcomers to kayaking are very often children. You can get kayaks for kids that are a little smaller. Lessons and rental in your local area will probably be the best bet here.

Always Remember – Safety First!

Kayaks That Beginners Might Like

Remember that we recommend you rent kayaks before making a decision. 

But if you must buy first, here are two budget options.

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Sit-in Kayak

Sun Dolphin ArubaPin
  • Length: 10 ft
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Depth: 13 inches
  • Weight: 40 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 250 pounds

If you want to get your feet wet buying a kayak (that was a joke!) then the Sun Dolphin Aruba kayak is one to consider. It’s 10 foot in length and can carry up to 250lbs I weight.

This one is actually a sit-in kayak, but it does have a large open cockpit, so you won’t feel too enclosed. Inside the cockpit are adjustable foot braces to set to your leg length.

There are storage bays at the bow and stern end, with cord to hold down kit. Also has a water bottle holder and handles to lift around.

Its relative light weight and simple functionality make it appealing to the beginner.

Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak (for the teens)

  • Length: 6 ft
  • Width: 24 inches
  • Depth: 8 inches
  • Weight: 18 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 130 pounds

If you have kids (aged 5 or more) who want to get into kayaking, you could do worse than the Lifetime Youth Wave ‘yak.

It’s only 6 foot in length and weighs a measly 18 pounds.

Comes with a paddle and molded in handles on the sides. There’s also a step to help your kids enter from the water.

> Check our full guide to Kids Kayaks here

Touring Kayaks

Man on Touring KayakPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Calm rivers, bays and lakes
  • Suited Towards: All-day paddlers, intermediate or advanced
  • Budget: Mid-range to high-end

Touring kayaks are designed for longer paddling trips, so they will often have features that can make your time on the water more comfortable, such as with an adjustable seat. They will also tend to have more storage options so that you can bring along camping gear for a multi-day paddling adventure.

A lot of touring vessels are designed for flatwater paddling but may be able to handle the occasional small wave or low class rapids, but this will usually depend on the particular vessel itself. Calm ocean bays and lakes can be ideal for touring yaks, as can slow moving rivers.

However, because touring vessels tend to be built for long distance paddling, this can make them a little more difficult to maneuver in small areas because of their often longer lengths. The longer lengths can help with speed on open water, making them easier to paddle straight because they tend to glide through the water more efficiently.

You will probably find that touring boats also have some enhanced performance features, such as a rudder or skeg. These features can be helpful when paddling in open water as they can help to center your yak and keep you paddling in a straight line, effectively helping to minimize the effects of current or wind, meaning paddling should be less of a struggle.

Touring yaks come in both sit-inside and sit-on-top styles, with sit-insides being more suitable for colder water conditions, as they can help to keep you dry. 

Typical Touring Yak

Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 Touring Kayak

Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV Flatwater Day TouringPin
  • Length: 14 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 22 ½ inches
  • Weight: 60 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 325 pounds

The Riot Edge 14.5 is sit-inside touring kayak that is built for flatwater, such as slow moving rivers or calm lakes. It features a retractable rudder that can help you stay on track in wind or current. It also benefits from an adjustable seat, thigh braces and adjustable foot braces so you can balance yourself and sit comfortably while you’re paddling.

There are two storage hatches, one at the front and one at the rear, which can let you keep some of your gear dry. There are also bungee cords on top of the boat where you can secure larger items, such as dry bags. This yak should give you enough room to store gear for an all-day paddling trip, as well as an overnight or weekend trip.

> Check our full guide to Touring Kayaks here

Special Kayaks

Red Folding Speciality KayakPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Calm rivers, bays and lakes
  • Suited Towards: Casual, recreational paddlers
  • Budget: Mid-range to high-end

There are various types of specialty kayaks that can combine the performance of a traditional yak with convenience. Folding kayaks and modular kayaks can let you get out on the water without having to worry about expensive trailers or roof racks, as they can often fit in your car, or in the case of some folding yaks, they can even be carried on public transportation or taken on aircraft.

Many of these specialty vessels can be good options if you live in an apartment or a small home that may not have enough storage space for a traditional kayak. They can also be ideal for casual paddling and occasional use.

In the case of modular kayaks, you can often purchase additional middle sections to create a longer kayak, which can be suitable if you want to create a tandem vessel with the ability to switch back to a single paddler version when required. This can save you buying two or three kayaks, as you can simply purchase additional middle sections when you want to increase the paddler capacity.

The downside of special kayaks is that they can sometimes be pretty pricey but they can be worth it if convenience and ease of transportation is a priority. 

What A Folding Kayak Looks Like

Oru Kayak Bay ST Folding Kayak

Oru Kayak Bay ST Folding KayakPin
  • Length: 12 foot (33 inches folded)
  • Width: 25 inches (12 inches folded)
  • Weight: 28 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 300 pounds

The Oru Kayak Bay ST is a lightweight folding kayak that is built for touring adventures on calm bays and lakes. Although it’s lightweight and portable, it is designed to be durable and strong, with a 300 pound weight capacity and space to carry additional gear within the hull itself.

It’s a sit-inside yak so it can be great for exploring in colder conditions, and just like many traditional kayaks, you can also add a spray skirt (sold separately) to keep water out of your cockpit. It features a padded seat with seat back and adjustable foot braces so you can steady yourself and feel more comfortable on the water.

> Check our full guide to Folding Kayaks here

What A Modular Kayak Looks Like

Point 65 N Tequila!

Point 65 N Tequila! GTX KayakPin
  • Length: 9 foot 8 inches
  • Width: 29 ½ inches
  • Weight: 48 ½ pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 265 pounds

The Point 65 Tequila is modular kayak that comes in two sections, with the option of adding additional middle sections to create a longer yak for more than one person. The two sections slot into place in the middle to become a traditional looking sit-on-top yak.

The yak features a padded seat with seat back for added comfort and there are bungee cords on the deck behind the seat for storing gear. The stable hull is V shaped at the front and back to help you paddle in a straight line. 

> Check our full guide to Modular Kayaks here

Kayaks With Pedals

Ocean Kayak Malibu PedalPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Calm rivers, bays and lakes
  • Suited Towards: Casual, recreational paddlers
  • Budget: Mid-range to high-end

Pedal kayaks can give you the freedom to concentrate more on fishing, or photography rather than paddling, as the boats are propelled using your feet instead of your arms. This can make them easier to use, especially for complete beginners, as just about anyone can use the pedals without needing any paddling or kayaking skills.

There are usually two types of pedal systems: rotational pedals, which work like riding a bike; and push pedals, which move back and forth as each foot pushes down.

While pedal yaks can be easier to use for beginners, they can also be much heavier, which means you may need a trolley or another person to help you get it to and from the water. The pedal drive systems can also take up extra space in your yak, so you may lose storage space or room for your legs in some vessels.

Many pedal vessels are built for fishing, which means they are usually designed to hold heavy fishing gear, such as crates and coolers. So they often have a higher weight capacity than recreational yaks and usually have more storage options on deck, including fishing rod holders.

These types of vessels can be useful in open water conditions where you want to be able to cover water quickly but they may not be suitable in very shallow water because of the propellers underneath that could hit the bottom. You may also find that you will still need a paddle to be able to turn quickly, for example.

Popular Pedal Yak

Perception Pescador Pilot

Perception Pescador 12.0 PilotPin
  • Length: 12 foot 5 inches
  • Width: 33 ¾ inches
  • Weight: 85 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 475 pounds

The Perception Pescador Pilot is a sit-on-top pedal kayak that has been designed for fishing. It is built for stability and comfort, and with a generous 475 pound capacity there is plenty of room for your gear. However, you might need some extra help when it comes to carrying it or putting it on top of your car, as it might be heavy.

The boat features an elevated seat, which can help for sight fishing and there is a rudder that can be adjusted using a handle near the seat. The yak is powered using the rotational foot pedals which activate the propeller under the boat. This means you can move across the water faster and can use your hands for fishing.

> Check our full guide to Pedal Kayaks here

Whitewater Kayaks

Whitewater KayakingPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Rapids
  • Suited Towards: Whitewater paddlers, thrill seekers
  • Budget: Mid-range

Whitewater kayaks are designed for just that: whitewater. This means they are built to handle waves and rapids. These types of vessels are usually shorter than other types of kayaks to make them more maneuverable in tight spaces. They will also tend to be sit-insides, so that you can stay dry and use your body to help you maneuver.

Yaks designed for whitewater also tend to have more rocker than recreational boats, for example, because this can allow them to ride over waves and rapids rather than being swamped. So this means the hull will often be curved from front to back. Some may also have flat bottoms, similar to a surfboard, which can allow you to surf waves and carve, using the edge of the boat as you turn, just like surfers often do.

There are different types of whitewater yaks, with each type being better able to handle a certain type of whitewater. For example, as well as finding dedicated surf kayaks, you will also find creek boats that may be better for river running since they tend to have more rounded hulls for good secondary stability.

Playboats can sometimes be good all-rounders, usually being able to surf and handle some river runs, as well as being generally good for tricks. Before you try whitewater kayaking, it can be a good idea to learn some safety techniques and advanced paddling skills, as rapids can be dangerous and you will often need to know how to roll your kayak to right yourself after a capsize.

Typical Whitewater Yak

Riot Kayaks Boogie 50 Whitewater Surf Kayak

Riot Boogie 50Pin
  • Length: 7 foot 9 inches
  • Width: 24 inches
  • Weight: 36.3 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 200 pounds

The Riot Kayaks Boogie 50 is a whitewater kayak designed for surfing. It features a low profile curved hull, with lots of rocker, meaning the front and back tip slightly up, particularly at the front, which can help with riding waves. There are also foam foot blocks and padded knee pockets to help you stabilize yourself.

It’s a relatively short boat, which can make it easier to turn and control, and it’s designed with a flat planing hull, similar to surfboard. Also similar to a surfboard is the addition of the dual fins underneath, which can help with stability and speed as you cut through the water.

> Check our full guide to Whitewater Kayaks here

Crossover Kayaks

Crossover Kayak in RapidsPin
  • Can Be Paddled On: Whitewater, lakes, rivers, bays
  • Suited Towards: Advanced paddlers, recreational paddlers
  • Budget: Mid-range

Crossover kayaks are hybrids and are designed to perform in a range of conditions rather than just one, giving you added versatility that you might not get from a traditional kayak. This means you can take your boat out on rapids or surf one day and a calm lake the next.

Crossover yaks tend to have a combination of performance features, such as a higher level of rocker in the hull, so that the boat can handle moving water, and storage hatches, for example, so you can load up your boat with gear for a day trip.

These types of vessels can be useful if you plan to try out different styles of paddling and you want to be able to take on different water conditions with the same boat. They can also be ideal for a range of skill levels and could be a good entry level option for whitewater, since you may find they’re a little wider and more stable.

You’ll probably find that these yaks might be a little shorter than some touring yaks but longer than some whitewater yaks. This can make them easier to maneuver than longer touring yaks but can also make them easier to paddle on flatwater than a whitewater yak, as they will often have drop-down skegs that can help you paddle straight in flat water.

Crossover Example:

Dagger Katana Crossover Kayak 10.4

Dagger Katana Crossover Whitewater KayakPin
  • Length: 10 foot 4 inches
  • Width: 27 ¼ inches
  • Weight: 56 pounds
  • Weight Capacity: 285 pounds

The Dagger Katana Crossover is designed to handle a range of conditions, from flatwater to whitewater. It also features a rear storage hatch so you can keep your gear dry as you’re heading down the river or out touring for the day. There’s additional storage on top of the front deck, where you can secure dry bags with the bungee rigging.

This boat benefits from a spacious cockpit with a comfortable padded seat, adjustable thigh braces and hip pads, as well as a retractable skeg, which can help you paddle straight in open water. The yak is also built for stability in both flat and choppy conditions, and could be ideal for beginners as well as more advanced paddlers.

> Check our full guide to Crossover Kayaks here

Pimping Your Kayak (Upgrading)

Essential Accessories

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) –  A life jacket is an essential accessory to have for all types of kayaking. There are different styles to choose from but it’s important that you get one that properly fits you and is comfortable to wear.

Spare Paddle – Of course, a paddle is one thing you don’t want to be without when you’re kayaking. Having a spare one can also be a good idea to store on your boat in case of emergencies.

Nice-To-Have Accessories

Kayak Cart – A cart or trolley can be helpful when it comes to getting your yak to or from the water, especially if you have a little distance between your car and the lake.

Dry Bags – These can help to keep your gear dry and can be even more useful if your vessel doesn’t have built-in dry storage.

Must-Have Fishing Gear

Rod holders – can help to keep your rods safe and out of the way while you’re paddling to your honey hole.

Paddle leash – This can help keep your paddle from floating away while you’re dealing with your catch.

Light – can be essential if you plan to paddle in low light conditions or at night, especially in bodies of water where there is other boat traffic.

Fishing Gear To Consider

Gear tracks – These can be installed on your yak to let you mount other gadgets and accessories, such as more rod holders or a GPS.

Fish finder – A fish finder can let you see the depth of the water and the underwater landscape, as well as helping you to locate fish.

Kayak FAQs

Are Kayaks Heavy?

Some can be heavy, for example some fishing or pedal vessels and may require a second person to help you lift or carry it. Many single person boats are relatively lightweight and can often be carried by one person.

Review of the best lightweight kayaks

Is It Ok To Buy Used Kayaks?

Yes, but make sure you check it over for damage first. Check the hull for any scrapes or signs of repair. Read our guide.

Is Kayaking Safe?

Kayaking is generally safe, as long as you know your personal limitations and skill level, as well as the limitations of your vessel. You should also make sure you always wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) while you’re on the water.

How Stable Are Kayaks?

Wider kayaks will tend to feel more stable than narrow ones and similarly, flat bottomed yaks will tend to feel more stable initially than yaks with rounded or V-shaped hulls.

However, flat bottomed hulls may not be as stable as rounded hulls in choppy conditions.

Who Makes The Best Kayaks?

There are several big brands that make quality kayaks, including Perception, Ocean Kayak, Wilderness Systems, Hobie, Dagger, Old Town and others.

Why Do Kayaks Have Drain Plugs?

This is to let water drain out of the kayak so that it doesn’t fill up with water, since water may enter the cockpit from splashes from your paddle or from waves. You can use scupper plugs to fill them if you want.

How Do You Store A Kayak?

Ideally, you should store it inside or covered if it’s outside, so that it’s protected from the weather. There are various racks or suspension systems that you can use to avoid damage to the hull.

How Are Kayaks Transported?

You can transport a yak tied down on a roof rack, on a trailer or even in the back of some pickups.

How Do You Strap Kayaks To Roof Racks?

Use suitable straps, such as cam straps, to tie down the kayak to the crossbars on your roof rack. You may also need to tie down the bow and stern to your vehicle using ratcheting lines.

> What if I don’t have a roof rack?!

Ultimate Guide To Kayaks PinterestPin