Best Lightweight Kayak – 2021 Buyer’s Guide
When you’re trying to find the best lightweight kayak there are probably a few things that you’ll want to think about. For example, how often do you plan to use it and where do you intend to paddle?
To help you find the most suitable vessel for your lifestyle and your choice of activities, we’ve put together some information that you can use as a guide.
Quick Look: Light Kayaks
(these links take you to 3rd party sites)
Top 9 Best Lightweight Kayaks Reviewed
1: Oru Kayak Bay ST Folding Kayak (best overall)
The Oru Kayak Bay ST is a folding kayak that is designed to be easy to store at home and can be transported in the trunk of your car or even taken on public transportation. When folded and packed this 12 foot yak measures just 33 by 29 by 12 inches.
Weighing just 28 pounds, this lightweight kayak can be easy to lift and carry to the water. It can be unfolded and ready to go in a few minutes - but may take a bit of getting used to at first.
This durable sit-inside boat has a 300 pound capacity and has bungee rigging on the deck for storing your gear. It can be ideal for touring coastal waters, rivers and lakes, with testing on Class III whitewater. It’s also built to be speedy and efficient and can be great for experienced paddlers as well as beginners.
You’ll also find a padded seat with an adjustable back rest for added comfort on longer trips.
2: Sea Eagle SE330 Inflatable Kayak (best for seniors)
The Sea Eagle 330 can be a great boat if you’re looking for something that is easy to lift, transport and paddle. This compact inflatable kayak weighs just 26 pounds and measures just 24 by 16 by 7 inches, making it easy to carry and load in your car.
A great feature of this yak is that it can be paddled by either one or two people. But you might find that it’s more comfortable for just one adult plus a child or a dog.
This is a stable boat that can be ideal for beginners and with its open deck it can also be easy to get in and out of, which can be helpful if you have mobility issues.
It can handle a range of water conditions and is rated for up to Class III whitewater, if you fancy a river adventure.
3: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak (best inflatable)
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame kayak is an inflatable sit-inside vessel that features a rigid aluminum rib frame to provide enhanced tracking and hydrodynamic performance.
This lightweight kayak can be packed down to a compact, transportation-friendly size of just 30 by 17 by 10 inches, so it can offer good portability if you want to take it to more remote areas.
It features triple layer material for increased puncture resistance and benefits from having multiple air chambers for added safety and buoyancy.
The padded seat features a high support backrest that can be adjusted to suit your paddling posture. You’ll also find bungee rigging and D-rings on the deck for keeping your gear secure while on the water.
4: Sea Eagle 350FX Fishing Explorer (best for fishing)
The Sea Eagle 350FX is built for fishing and is ideal for paddling in a variety of conditions, including both flatwater and up to Class IV whitewater.
It is a stable boat with a spacious deck. It even features a non-slip floor to give you more traction underfoot if you choose to stand up to fish. The floor also benefits from having added reinforcement to withstand sharp objects such as hooks.
This inflatable kayak has plenty of fishing features, including spray skirts at the bow and stern that can be customized with your gear. These spray skirts also have built-in rod holders.
Additionally, you’ll find a 40 inch ruler on the side and anchor trolley attachment points on both sides. There is also a removable skeg to help with tracking on flatwater.
5: Pelican Argo 100X
The Pelican Argo 100X is a lightweight hard shell sit-inside kayak that can be ideal for exploring slow moving rivers, bays or calm lakes. It can be a great boat for beginners because of its stable hull. It’s also designed to be easy to maneuver both on and off the water.
A great feature of this compact yak is that it has a roomy cargo deck at the rear, with a mesh cover to protect your gear, and a storage hatch at the front.
The large cockpit can be easy to get in and out of and can be less confining if you’re new to sit-inside boats. There are molded footrests to help you stabilize yourself and there is a padded seat cushion with an adjustable padded backrest to let you sit more comfortably.
To make it easier to carry, there are toggle handles at both the front and back of the boat.
6: Oru Kayak Coast XT Folding Kayak
The Oru Kayak Coast XT is a 16 foot touring kayak designed for open water and longer trips. This lightweight foldable kayak can easily fit in the back of a small car, unlike a traditional 16 foot kayak.
Designed more for experienced paddlers, this sit-inside yak is ideal for a range of waters and can handle coastal waves and up to Class III whitewater. It has a padded adjustable seat, thigh braces and removable bulkheads that can be ideal for storing gear within the hull.
This durable boat is quick on the water and can even be rolled. There is an adjustable footrest in the cockpit and bungee rigging on deck for securing your gear or aiding a self rescue.
This can be an ideal option if you’re looking for a touring kayak with high performance and capable of being stored in a closet at home.
7: Perception Sound 9.5
This Perception Sound 9.5 is a compact and lightweight sit-inside kayak with a stable tri-keel hull that can be ideal for paddling on flatwater, such as lakes and slow moving rivers. Being a sit-inside, it can be great for year round paddling.
It features a large, spacious cockpit which can make getting in and out a little easier. It can also be more comfortable for moving around if you’re fishing or taking photographs. You’ll find two built-in rod holders behind the cockpit.
The boat has a 300 pound capacity and a spacious rear cargo deck, which can be ideal for a fishing crate. You’ll also find a dashboard at the front of the cockpit where there are flat mounting points for accessories, as well as a gear tray directly in front of the seat for keeping smaller items such as lures.
8: Pelican Sentinel 100X EXO
This Pelican Sentinel 100X EXO is a lightweight sit-on-top kayak that can be a great entry level boat. Weighing just under 42 pounds, this yak can be easy for one person to carry. There are also toggle handles at the bow and stern if you want to carry it more easily with a buddy.
This 9 foot 6 inch kayak is designed to be stable and easy to maneuver. It’s ideal for lakes, slow moving rivers and calm bays.
A great feature of this vessel is the non-slip deck padding, which can give you better grip while getting in and out. This can also be more comfortable for dogs to stand on if you’re bringing your furry friend along.
The padded seat has an adjustable seat back and there are molded footrests for paddling comfort. The boat also benefits from having a removable storage container that fits in the cargo deck at the back.
9: Sevylor Quikpak K5 Inflatable Kayak (best budget)
The Sevylor Quikpak K5 is a budget kayak that is designed for one paddler. It has a sit-inside design with a spray cover that can be ideal for both warm and cool conditions.
This compact boat comes with a paddle and a hand pump. It also comes with a backpack that the boat can be packed into, and a handy feature is that the backpack turns into the seat.
This is a stable inflatable kayak that can be ideal for shorter paddling trips on rivers, lakes and coastal bays. There’s also bungee rigging on the deck if you want to bring along gear.
It features multiple air chambers for safety and is made from 24-gauge PVC with a durable tarpaulin bottom.
Why Own A Lightweight Kayak?
Easier To Carry
A major advantage of owning a lightweight kayak is that it should be easier to carry. This can be beneficial whether you’re lifting your kayak on top of your car or simply carrying it to the water’s edge and back.
A lightweight yak can be easier on your muscles and your back, and can mean you have more energy to spend on the water paddling. If your boat is easy to lift and load, you may find that you’re more likely to use it, which can give you extra time to practice your paddling skills and enjoy the fresh air.
A lightweight yak can be ideal if you want to head out on your own. A lot of kayaks can be too heavy and cumbersome for one person to carry. With a lightweight kayak you could have more freedom to go out on your own, as you should be able to carry your boat by yourself and you may not need to rely on a second person to help you.
Minimize Extra Costs
A lightweight vessel may also eliminate the need for additional accessories, such as a kayak cart. Heavy fishing kayaks, for example, can often require additional accessories to help you get to and from the water, which can come at an extra cost.
Heavy boats may also require lift-assist accessories to help you load your yak on top of your vehicle. Lightweight kayaks can generally be lifted more easily and shouldn’t require expensive hydraulic lifting systems.
If you have a compact, lightweight boat, such as an inflatable, you may also find that you can store it at home for free. Larger or heavier boats may require storage fees if you want to keep them stored on site at a kayak livery yard, for example.
Improves Vehicle Fuel Economy
One reason to own a lightweight kayak over a heavier one is that it may reduce your fuel consumption while you’re transporting it from A to B, which could save you money. The heavier the load in your vehicle the more fuel your vehicle will use to travel.
Features Of A Lightweight Kayak
Many recreational kayaks on the market will often be made from polyethylene, which can be heavier than some other materials used in more advanced kayaks.
However, some polyethylene vessels can still be lightweight, particularly if the material is thinner in the construction. But also, the additional features on the boat can affect its weight, such as the seat, storage hatches or fishing features.
You may also find lightweight yaks made from carbonite, fiberglass or composite materials but these can often be a lot more expensive.
Thermoform kayaks can also be lighter than rotomolded polyethylene ones. These types of kayaks are made from two pieces of plastic joined together rather than a rotomolded one which is molded from one piece.
An inflatable kayak can be a great way to get a lightweight kayak without having to compromise too much on size or weight capacity. Good inflatable kayaks can be very durable and tend to be made out of PVC.
Many inflatables often have a higher weight capacity than a traditional kayak of the same size, which can be great if you’re looking to go camping or have your dog join you. You may also find they can perform well in a range of different water conditions and some can even be paddled on whitewater.
A great feature of an inflatable is that you can deflate it to store it at home or fit it in your car. This can be useful if your home is not suitable for storing a traditional vessel, for example if you live in a condo or an apartment.
Folding kayaks are similar to inflatables in terms of convenience but they can be more expensive. They can be folded down to a compact size and fit in the trunk or backseat of your car and stored under your bed or in a closet.
Folding kayaks can be made from polypropylene and they are often designed to be resistant to punctures and abrasions, meaning they can be a lot more durable than they might look. They can also be pretty quick on the water and have a similar performance level as a hard shell kayak because of their rigidity.
With many folding yaks, there will usually be a limited number of times the vessel can be folded and unfolded, regarded as the fold cycle. Oru Kayaks, for example, are generally rated for 20,000 fold cycles.
Video: Oru "Origami" Kayak Assembly Demo
You will probably find that, in general, the shorter the kayak the lighter it will be. However, this is not a hard and fast rule as it can depend on the materials used in the construction process.
Smaller kayaks can offer more convenience when it comes to carrying your kayak or even maneuvering it on the water. Size and ease of transportation may be more of a factor for hard shell kayaks.
An inflatable or a folding kayak can let you opt for a longer boat, such as a touring kayak or a tandem but gives you the convenience of easier transportation and storage. A longer vessel can be useful if you want extra space for gear or more leg room.
Weight capacity can be an important feature of any kayak, as this can let you work out if the boat will be suitable for you and your activity. If you want to go fishing or camping, for example, you may need a boat with a higher weight capacity to accommodate you and all of your gear.
If you only want to use your kayak for recreational paddling and exercise, you might not need a high weight capacity. However, your boat should have a weight capacity higher than your own weight so that its performance is not negatively affected.
Inflatables usually have a higher weight capacity than a hard shell equivalent because they tend to have increased buoyancy due to their air chambers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Lightweight Kayaks Strong And Sturdy?
Yes, lightweight kayaks are generally strong and durable. Many of them, including inflatables, are built for recreation and therefore are designed to withstand various knocks and bumps that beginners can often have.
Can One Person Carry A Lightweight Kayak?
Generally, yes. You should be able to carry a lightweight kayak on your own but this will depend on your own strength and the amount of weight that you’re safely able to carry.
Are Inflatables The Best Light Kayaks?
Inflatables can be great boats because they can be durable and easy to transport, as well as being lightweight. The best light kayak will usually depend on your lifestyle and where or how often you plan to use it. Inflatables will usually require to be inflated, dried and deflated after each use so may not be suitable for everyone.
Do Lightweight Kayaks Need To Be Small?
Not necessarily. Some small kayaks can be heavier than larger ones, depending on the features and materials. If you want a larger kayak that’s also lightweight, an inflatable or foldable one could be a good option as these can still be compact for storage.
Are Lightweight Kayaks Easy To Transport?
They can be easier to transport than heavier ones, as they can be lifted and car-topped more easily. They can even be carried in the trunk of your car if they’re inflatable or foldable.
There are many great options when it comes to lightweight kayaks but we think the best one is the Oru Kayak Bay ST because it can be folded down to a compact package that can be easy to carry and easy to store. This lightweight yak can also give you a high level of performance on the water, making it ideal for a range of skill levels.
A great runner up is the Sea Eagle 330 because it’s very lightweight, durable and easy to paddle. It can be ideal for beginners, with a spacious open deck and a high weight capacity.
If you’d prefer a hard shell vessel, another good option is the Pelican Argo 100X. It has ample storage and can be great for beginners and year-round recreational paddling.
The best lightweight kayak will probably be the one that suits your needs best, so you may find that not all of these boats will meet your requirements. If you’re looking for portability, an inflatable or foldable yak might be best. If you want to paddle frequently, a hard shell might be your best bet.