The Best Tandem Kayak – Double Up Your Paddling Adventures!
Sharing is caring, right?! Well, many tandem kayaks are for those of us who like to share.
Paddling a tandem with another person on board can be a great way to socialize and share that perfect paddling experience.
We can hear single paddlers screaming "Being stuck on the same boat with someone else is my idea of Hell!".
But in all seriousness, two-person kayaks have their good points, and their bad.
Before we go into more detail on the different types of tandems and the reasons why you should consider one, let’s have a look at some of the best tandem kayaks for every price range…
Top Tandem Kayaks At A Glance:
Top 15 Best Tandem Kayaks Reviewed
1: Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Tandem Kayak
Our favorite, the Sea Eagle SE370 inflatable kayak comes with a hand pump, two inflatable seats, two paddles, and a repair kit. The repair kit can be ideal for patching small punctures to the multiple air chambers, including the I-Beam floor. But it's crafted to be puncture resistant and UV resistant.
With heavy-duty construction, polykrylar material, the SE370 is a surprisingly durable inflatable kayak and one of the best tandem kayaks in terms of versatility and maximum capacity.
It can be ideal for up to Class II rapids, but if you're looking to take on up to Class IV rapids, there are other kayaks that can be better suited.
It maneuvers well, even when paddled solo. There's plenty of storage space (but no sealed hatches) with a spray skirt at the front and rear offering covered storage.
You can transport this without a roof rack, unlike some recreational kayaks.
You get two paddles (aluminum paddles) with the SE370, unlike many tandem kayaks, but you might be better off sourcing your own made from lighter composite materials. It also comes with its own carry bag and is self-bailing.
2: Wilderness Systems Pamlico 145T
High up on our list of our tandem kayak reviews, the Wilderness Systems Pamlico 145T is a sit-inside yak that has a large 90 inch long cockpit that can be easier to get in and out of. This is one of the best tandem kayaks for year-round paddling with a friend and can also be paddled solo.
It comes with two Phase 3 AirPro seats that offer back support, full adjustability and breathable padded mesh for added comfort. The bow seat can slide back to the center position for improved boat control if you’re paddling alone.
There is a dry storage hatch at the stern and storage space at the bow.
The Pamlico 145T is designed to be easy to maneuver and comes with a rudder for added performance. It can be a great tandem for weekend paddling expeditions on flatwater but doesn't come with paddles.
3: Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Kayak
This Dirigo Tandem Plus can be a feature-rich two-person kayak. This 15 foot 3 inch yak is relatively narrow, at under 30 inches wide, which can mean improved speed. This can make it ideal for longer paddling sessions or a multi-day kayaking trip.
This sit-inside tandem kayak features two spacious cockpits (ideal for adding a spray skirt) with thigh pads. The rear cockpit is almost 50 inches long (great for large adults), with a removable middle jump seat for a small passenger to tag along. The stern seat can also slide forward if you choose to paddle the boat solo.
The Dirigo Tandem Plus has plenty of room for your gear, with a large Click Seal hatch that’s ideal for larger items. You’ll also find deck rigging for securing other gear. Both paddlers have access to cup holders and the front paddler has the benefit of a small storage hatch for valuables.
4: Ocean Kayak Zest Two
This is a longer kayak that’s built for light touring. With its stable hull, it can handle a range of water conditions and can be one of the best tandem kayaks for a family camping trip or calm ocean kayaking.
Because of its relatively narrow width compared with its considerably longer length, the Zest Two is designed for speed and efficiency compared to some shorter, wider kayaks. This can make it easier to paddle over long distances.
The two-person kayak comes with two seats, but there’s room for a small third passenger or dog. It also has decent leg room for tall people so you don't feel cramped.
There are spacious gear storage compartments with bungee cords for securing outdoor gear in dry bags or essential gear for an overnight trip. But there are no waterproof hatches.
This is a pretty long vessel, which may require additional transportation considerations and a strong second person to help lift it. But there are four carrying handles.
5: Old Town Twin Heron Tandem
Back onto the subject of sit-inside kayaks - the Twin Heron has a large, spacious cockpit with two seats and adjustable seat backs.
The design of the cockpit (and that you're sitting lower) can also mean you’re able to paddle it on your own if you need to. And to help with this, there’s an Auto Trim Hull, which redistributes the weight when paddling solo, so it shouldn’t affect the performance.
There's also the useful "Glide Track" foot brace system, which helps you position your feet comfortably.
With a huge capacity it can be an excellent choice for larger solo paddlers or if you want additional gear storage capacity. If there are two of you, you should also still have room for light camping gear and there’s the benefit of having additional storage space at the stern.
It has front and back carrying handles for transport.
Note that there's no dry storage area. The cockpit is mostly covered, but you might want to consider using a dry bag for your valuables.
6: Advanced Elements Straitedge 2 Inflatable Kayak
The Advanced Elements Straitedge 2 is another one of many inflatable tandem kayaks that could be a good option if you want to take your vessel with you wherever you go without a roof rack. Unlike traditional kayaks, this can fit in the trunk inside its own duffel bag.
It has aluminum ribs at the bow and stern, and drop stitched floor, which can help with performance, particularly improved tracking on open water. But it can be ideal for a range of water, from lakes and bays to rivers and up to Class III rapids. But there are faster kayaks on the list if you're not looking to hit choppy waters.
Another feature of this Advanced Elements inflatable kayak is that it has fishing rod holders. It comes with padded seats with adjustable seat backs but it’s also possible to reconfigure the seats to paddle it solo from the middle seat if you want more space on the open deck.
7: FeelFree Lure II Tandem Fishing Kayak
The FeelFree Lure II can be a great two-person kayak if you’re looking for a feature-rich kayak with multiple storage options, as it comes with two padded mesh Gravity seats with mesh storage pockets and adjustable footrests. The Hi/Lo seats let you sit higher and can be adjusted for support and comfort on longer fishing trips.
There are two sonar pods for a fish finder (sold separately) and a standing platform for easier fishing. This tandem fishing kayak is also rigged with fishing rod holders, gear tracks for installing additional fishing accessories, and storage space with shock cord for your crate or cooler.
While this stable kayak is pretty heavy, there's a wheel in the keel to help you move it.
You can paddle this tandem kayak solo from the rear seat, freeing up space at the front for additional cargo. It’s also compatible with the Overdrive pedal drive and trolling motor drive (both sold separately), and is rudder-ready.
8: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two (12 ft version)
This ever-popular high-density polyethylene kayak seats 2 paddlers comfortably. You could also fit a smaller child in the center making this a 3 person kayak. Up to 425 pounds of weight in total is supported.
It comes with Comfort Plus seats that can be inserted in two of the three molded-in seat wells.
It’s a hard-shelled ‘yak so of course won’t store away compactly, like some of the inflatable tandem kayaks in the list. But it has a lower total weight than some other kayaks.
Best suited to relatively flat waters. Rough waters can make the Malibu Two a bit of a handful to control, which could prove tricky for beginners, and could make water come through the rear drain plug.
Note that paddles are not included with this product.
9: Riot Escape Duo Sit-On-Top Tandem Kayak
The Riot Escape Duo is a rigid tandem kayak that can be ideal for a range of water conditions and can be a great boat for fishing.
There are four flush-mount fishing rod holders, with two positioned for the front paddler and two for the rear. You’ll also find two paddle holders, so you can both stow your paddle securely while you’re busy fishing.
This boat has a generous capacity, making it a good choice for larger paddlers or if you want to load it up with lots of gear. There is storage space in the rear, with deck rigging to help keep your stuff secure. There is also a smaller storage space at the bow and two sealed hatches.
It comes with two Flex 4 seats that are padded with an adjustable backrest for support. There are also molded-in foot wells for both paddlers and molded carry handles at the bow and stern.
10: Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak
This inflatable kayak has a number of fittings that allow for customization for you and your kayaking partner.
This tandem fishing kayak has a mounting bracket for a trolling motor, plus paddle holders and fishing rod holders. So this kayak is perfect for the fishermen among you. There are seats included and it is easy to carry around courtesy of its D-rings.
This inflatable kayak is made from thick gauge PVC with a polyester core. Even if you did happen to get a puncture, the kayak has several air chambers, so only a certain area will leak in water, rather than the entire ‘yak sinking.
Downsides are that is does not come with a pump or paddles. So you are going to have to factor that extra cost in if purchasing. But it is an affordable option that's easier to transport than hard shells.
11: Lifetime Manta Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak
This is the ultimate budget option on the list.
Some may view the Manta as "junk", but for those dipping their toes into kayaking on a budget - this kayak might just do the job.
The Manta is another non-inflatable kayak without the hefty price tag. Relatively lightweight at 60lbs, it comes with paddles and two soft backrests. There are actually three molded seats, unlike its solo counterparts, so a third (small) person could sit in the middle seat or this can be used to paddle the kayak solo.
Along with paddle bars, there’s a handy little storage area at the bow and drink holders. There's not a lot of room for gear because it doesn't have the extra length, so it's probably not the best for fishing or tall people.
It comes with aluminum paddles and has a rocker profile for surf.
12: Star Paragon Tandem Inflatable Kayak
13: Perception Tribe 13.5 Tandem Kayak
14: Aire Outfitter II Tandem Inflatable Kayak
15: Aquaglide Chelan 155 Inflatable Kayak
Why Choose A Tandem Kayak?
Tandem kayaks have many pros, and a few cons. Deciding on whether or not a tandem is for you is going to depend on many factors. It’s down to the preference of the kayaker!
However, what we can do is give you as much information as we possibly can to help you get closer to making that final choice!
How about we start off with highlighting the advantages and disadvantages (and the main difference) of owning a tandem kayak.
You Have A Family
This is one of the more obvious pros to owning a tandem. If you have kids, then having a tandem is a must.
Depending on the age & size of your kids (make sure you are confident they can be trusted in the cockpit), you can paddle as an adult and child together. One child had best sit in the bow (front seat) and the adult or heavier person sit at the stern (back seat).
With this set up, your kids can sit at the front and enjoy the views. While you can paddle at the back, still see everything, and look out for any obstacles that may crop up.
If you have one child and two adults, you could consider purchasing a separate solo ‘yak. Best to have an adult in that solo kayak, especially if you have younger kids. Always make sure you all wear a life vest and have your little ones within arms reach. Set some good, common sense ground rules before you set off (no standing or leaning etc). It goes without saying that safety should always come first!
Most tandem kayaks have enough room for a third person. Some can have a seat fitted in this third space, some not. It’s possible for a child to squeeze in here, or perhaps a dog. Just be careful. This position may mean the person's lower body is more exposed to the elements. Something you want to avoid if the person is not 100% competent….like smaller kids.
Can Be Easier (take breaks, multitasking etc)
Paddling a tandem kayak can just be ‘easier’!
When paddling a single-person kayak, everything is down to you and you only.
With tandems on the other hand, it’s possible to take short breaks while the other person paddles on. Shhh! The person sitting in the stern position may be able to rest a little more as they are out of sight, like a tandem bicycle.
Tandem kayaks also get the big ‘thumbs up’ for those who are multitasking. For example, if you’re paddling along a picturesque river and have a camera, you’re probably going to want to take some snaps. Having two people on board means that one can steer, while the other sets themselves up for the perfect shot while continuing hands free.
Fishing would be another example. If you’re trying to reel in a whopper, you’ll want someone else on board to keep things steady on your tandem fishing kayak.
If you want to pick up the pace, then a tandem is the way to go. With two people and teamwork you can really power ahead.
Longer kayaks plus two paddlers mean you can tour along faster. Even taking into consideration that the stern is wider on a tandem, theoretically, you should travel faster through the water than your average kayaker.
Now, speed isn’t necessarily an advantage. If you’re enjoying the beautiful scenery, then speed may not be a priority.
Stability can be key, particularly for less experienced kayakers. Think beginners, and of course, children. If you lack experience, you may be looking for stability over speed – something we would recommend.
Stability is also important in choppier or less calm waters. The more stability, the better.
You may want to consider a tandem kayak with a rudder and pedals for easier control. Tandems can be a little more difficult to maneuver than shorter kayaks.
Sharing Is Caring (It Can Be More Fun!)
This is purely subjective! Sometimes the paddling experience is just more fun with two people. You can share the moment much easier than if you were in single kayaks.
Sitting in one kayak, it's much easier to have a conversation and talk about the views and the overall experience together. You can share those ‘look at that!’ moments much more easily compared to most kayaks.
This is especially the case if you're with your significant other. It can be more romantic to share the ride with your loved one in one kayak than paddling separately.
More Spacious (but 2 single/kayaks usually carry more than Double Kayak)
The basic rule is that a double kayak can carry around 1.5 times more equipment than a solo kayak. That’s a significant increase in storage space. However, be warned. There is usually a lot more space in two single-person kayaks than there is in one tandem ‘yak.
As tempting as it is, try not to bring too much gear with you. Yes, tandem kayaks can take a lot of heavy gear. But the more that’s carried, the more difficult it is to get around and the harder it is to paddle. Kayaks tend to be so much more sluggish when nearing weight capacity.
This is another reason why two solo kayaks are better than a tandem should there be a need to carry around more stuff.
If you can carry less – do so. Your paddling experience will be a whole lot more enjoyable as a result.
If There’s An Accident, Or Someone Ill, That Person Can Sit In The Spare Seat
This is something to really think about. Whether you just have the one tandem for 2 people, or you’re out with a group…having at least one tandem kayak is a great added safety backup.
If you’re out with a group and someone falls ill or tires out, you have the spare seat in the tandem for that person to relax and let the other paddler do all the work.
If you’re out with a bunch of solo ‘yaks, then how is that person going to get to their destination? A solo kayak would have to get towed, with that person on board. Not particularly practical, although possible.
Take The Dog!
Yup, why not take the dog with you! As long as they’re happy enough, a “man’s best friend “ can be great company if you’re going out for a tour.
We recommend looking for a ‘yak with a removable seat booster. This will leave as much room as possible for ‘Fido’ to get comfortable and enjoy the ride as well. Remember your dog's life vest.
The Disadvantages Of Tandem Kayaks
So what are some of the drawbacks of owning a tandem kayak?
Transport & Storage
This is probably the biggest disadvantage. Tandem kayaks are just bigger and more cumbersome than single versions.
This means you need to think about storage and how you're going to move the kayak around, which may require additional purchases:
- Have you got enough space to store a large kayak?
- Is your car capable of carrying around your bigger-than-average kayak?
Tandem kayaks also tend to be heavier. Well, the hard shells are, at least.
With all this weight, can you easily lift the kayak onto the roof rack of your car? One strong (relatively speaking) person should be able to do this alone, but really it’s a 2 person job. Although you could invest in a kayak loader to get around this problem.
Keep these points in mind!
Not As Much Room As 2 Solo Kayaks
As we said before, a tandem kayak is ‘roomy’, but two single kayaks are a better option if you plan on lugging around lots of equipment regularly and want to sit comfortably (especially for taller paddlers).
There is no golden rule on this, as it’s going to depend on a number of variables. Just measure up all your kayak options before making any decision.
Loss Of Independence?
We explained earlier how a tandem kayak can be good for sharing the experience. But sometimes tandem kayaking can cause friction between two paddlers. Particularly if there is a great difference in fitness levels and in expectation from the kayak tour experience.
One person may want to paddle slowly down one side of the river, while the other might want to go ‘all out’ down the other!
There’s also a loss of independence. If you’re paddling a one person kayak, you can go anywhere you want and as fast as you want. Tandems mean teamwork. So if you have an independent thinking mind, a kayaking partner may not be for you!
Brian Day - Paddling Mag
When it comes to tandem paddling, there’s no clear advantage to one design versus the other. Instead, it’s best to choose the tandem kayak that is most appropriate for the paddling that you plan to do. If you want a tandem recreational kayak that can be paddled some distance from shore, a sit-on-top design will be best.
If you know you’ll stick to shallow water and want a dryer ride, choose a sit-inside recreational design. If you’re looking to camp out of your tandem, consider a tandem touring kayak instead of a recreational design.
2-Person Kayaks: FAQs
Can You Paddle A Tandem Kayak Solo? If Yes, How?
Yes, you can paddle a tandem kayak solo. You may find that you have more control over the boat and better weight distribution if you reposition the seats so that you’re sitting closer to the center.
How Long Are Tandem Kayaks?
They can be a bit longer than solo recreational kayaks but this is not always the case. They can range from around 10 feet up to around 20 feet in length, with most of the recreational tandems generally falling within the 12 to 14 foot range.
Who Steers A Tandem Kayak?
Both paddlers can help steer a tandem kayak but the rear seated paddler may have more overall control over the boat. The bow paddler can use a forward sweep stroke, while the stern paddler can do a reverse sweep stroke on the opposite side and this should turn the boat.
Is A Two Person Kayak Faster Than A Solo One?
They can be faster if you and your paddling partner work in unison to paddle effectively.
Are Tandem Kayaks Safe To Use?
Top-rated tandem kayaks tend to be stable and safe to use. They can be ideal for having kids join you, but make sure they wear a suitable life vest or flotation device and stick to calm waters.
Is A Tandem Kayak Or Canoe Best?
It depends on what you plan to use the boat for. A sit-inside kayak with a spray skirt can be better for rougher waters than a canoe. But a canoe can be better for a camping trip with a lot of gear and if you have to portage frequently.
Wrapping things, up, if you’re after a kayak for recreation and touring in good weather conditions, we think the Sea Eagle SE370 is be ideal. It's an inflatable tandem kayak with a huge weight capacity for you and all your gear.
A great runner up, on the other hand, is the Wilderness Systems Pamlico 145T with its large single cockpit and two fully adjustable padded seats. This can be a good choice for paddling with your partner in all seasons.
Another fantastic runner up is the FeelFree Lure II which is ideal for a trip on fishing kayaks. It’s rigged with lots of angling features and benefits from having two height-adjustable seats.
However, remember that not all of these tandems will be perfect for everybody as there may be other elements to consider. Before you jump in, think about who you plan to paddle with, the activities you want to do and where.