Best Touring Kayaks for Long Distance Trips (inc Sea & Rivers)
Are you in the market for a new touring kayak? If so, we've got your back.
We've published this buying guide to choosing the 5 best touring kayaks on the market today. Hopefully it will help you narrow down which one is right for you!
But before we get started, here's a quick list of the best touring kayak reviews:
Top Touring Kayaks: At A Glance
(these links take you straight to Amazon. There's more on the kayaks below)
We will hopefully answer some of your questions and give you some insight into what makes the best touring kayak.
What Are Touring Kayaks?
A touring yak is a vessel that is designed for paddling on lakes, bays and rivers, where you perhaps want more storage for a longer trip and better maneuverability than you might get from a recreational yak.
One of the first things you might notice about a touring kayak is that it has a lot more options for storage (and more storage space in general) compared to a recreational one, usually including dry hatch storage compartments and deck rigging. This makes them ideal for going on extended trips, as you can easily pack in camping gear and supplies for a weekend or a few days away.
As well as often being longer in length, touring kayaks will sometimes have rudders. They are designed with maneuverability in mind and improved tracking - traveling in a straight line - in addition to being able to turn easily for less effort when paddling.
Their longer length means they are able to travel across water faster and more easily than recreational yaks and they also have good primary stability and strong secondary stability.
A touring boat will usually have a large cockpit with more ergonomically designed seating, so you can paddle all day long in comfort. You might also find that they are more geared up to having extra attachments, such as deck rigging for a sail or housing for a compass (or other navigational tools). Some may have rod holders for fishing.
Are Touring Kayaks The Same As Sea Kayaks?
A sea kayak is essentially a type of touring kayak that’s made for the sea. It is similar to a touring yak in that they will both offer excellent storage solutions, making them both ideal for paddling for multiple days. However, where the touring kayak is best suited to flat water or moderate rivers, with hard chine, the sea yak is designed for ocean paddling.
This means the hull design is engineered to give better stability in waves and currents, making it easier to paddle for longer distances in choppier conditions. A sea kayak often tends to be longer and narrower, often with a V shaped hull and soft chine, giving it better hydrodynamics, which helps when you’re trying to gain or maintain speed on the ocean.
A lot of the times you’ll find that sea yaks are designed to sit lower in the water, which makes them more aerodynamic in breezier coastal weather conditions. However, because of their long length and narrow width, you might find that they are more difficult to maneuver once you’re on the water.
Another thing that makes sea and touring kayaks different from other ones is that they are usually always sit-in. This means you can explore a greater range of environments, as you can paddle in cold or rough conditions compared to the more limited warm weather environments available with a sit-on-top.
Guide To Choosing A Touring Kayak
It’s not just the seat that you should take into account in touring boats, but the size of the cockpit. You should be able to fit into the cockpit easily but no so easily that you end up surrounded by too much space once you’re in there.
Additionally, the best kayaks should have enough space for you to be comfortable over long periods of time and enough room that you can exit quickly and easily in case you need to perform a wet exit. Enough foot room can be important too.
An adjustable seat can be as important as cockpit size, offering maximum comfort on a long trip and can be pretty essential when you're spending lots of time kayak touring. You may also find thigh braces that can help you make sure your kayak stays stable in rough water, giving you more control.
In a cockpit that’s the correct size for you, you should be able to fit your legs comfortably inside when you straighten them and be able to have your hips and thighs close to the edges so that you are able to use them for balance and rolling.
As always, it’s a good idea to check out various sizes of yaks before you buy them, such as during the demo days offered by most retailers. This will give you a better idea of what size is comfortable for you as well as letting you get some paddling experience in it before you commit to purchasing.
Skeg Or Rudder (Or Neither)?
One of the things you might want to think about is whether you want a rudder or a skeg on your yak.
So, what is a rudder? Most of the time, on a kayak, a rudder is attached to the very back of the stern and is often operated by a foot pedal in the cockpit, so that your hands are still free to paddle. It can be moved from side to side in order to help you steer and track straight.
A rudder on a yak can help you to paddle in a straight line when the currents or weather conditions are against you, such as in windy conditions. It can also help you when turning, helping you to control the direction, but it’s mostly to aid tracking in rough waters. It can be flipped up when not needed but is also susceptible to damage.
Some racing kayaks will have their rudders directly under the stern, which obviously will maintain better contact with the water, even in waves, but these types cannot be retracted and would not be suitable for touring vessels because of the damage they would suffer.
What about a skeg? Well, a skeg is located under the stern and works similar to a rudder for better tracking, in that it will keep you heading in a straight line but you won’t be able to move it from side to side, like you can with a rudder, so it won’t help you to turn.
However, a skeg can be retracted into the keel (check the video below) and dropped out when you need it. It gives you the extra help for maintaining direction when you’re out on the ocean or on a lake with cross winds or strong currents.
Many people may opt for using neither a skeg nor a rudder and will simply rely on their paddling skills to maintain direction and navigate turns. Whitewater kayaks, for example, don't usually have these features. For many touring kayaks, you won’t always require the help of a skeg or rudder, unless you’re in particularly strong currents on a wide river or waves or wind on a lake.
Most of the time you will find that it is sea kayaks that will benefit most from a rudder or skeg, due to the more difficult conditions on the ocean.
You'll need to consider whether speed and weight is more important that durability.
You’ll find that most touring kayaks are made from ABS plastic, most commonly high density polyethylene, similar to recreational kayaks. This makes them durable and better equipped to deal with bumps and UV damage compared to a composite kayak.
Composite kayaks, such as fiberglass and carbon fiber, have the advantage of being lighter in weight than ABS plastic boats, meaning you will be able to paddle at greater speeds. It can also be useful to have a fiberglass craft when it comes to lifting it onto your car or trailer.
However, carbon fiber or composite touring boats will often be more expensive than plastic ones and composite materials will probably require more specialist repairs if they get damaged, which can also add to the cost.
You can also opt for an inflatable kayak, which can be ideal if you want something lightweight, easy to transport in your car trunk and convenient to store at home. Inflatable kayaks can often offer greater storage capacity than hard shells, making them useful for weekend trips or longer trips.
5 Best Touring Kayaks Reviewed
1: Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5
- Length: 14 feet 6 inches
With a built-in rudder system, this sit-inside touring kayak is designed for flatwater and ticks all the boxes. It’s made from polyethylene, giving it the durability that you need when you’re out on a multi-day trip. It can also be a little quicker than shorter kayaks, thanks to the narrow hull shape, so you can paddle long distances more efficiently. This can make it great for experienced kayakers on longer tours.
In addition to the rudder for excellent tracking, there are lots of features on this craft, including a fully adjustable seat as well as adjustable sliding foot pedals. It also features reflective lifelines, a drain plug and built-in thigh braces.
Being built for touring, this yak has sufficient storage, with two large storage hatches in the front and rear bulkheads. In addition to this, there are also deck bungees, so there’s ample space to store your gear if you’re heading out for the day or for long trips.
The cockpit size on this touring kayak measures 36.5 inches by 19.5 inches, with the hatch measuring 15.75 inches by 8.13 inches.
2: Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125
- Length: 12 feet 6 inches
This Tsunami craft is built for kayak touring in twisting rivers or exploring the coves around a bay. Its shorter length means it’s easy to maneuver on tight turns, as well as being more convenient for transporting on a vehicle or trailer.
With its larger cockpit size of 36 inches by 20 inches, it could be a good choice for taller paddlers, but with a short hull that can be easy to control for smaller kayakers. This is a compact touring kayak that has ample storage space for your gear for day touring or an overnight trip.
It benefits from having two storage hatches as well as deck bungees for extra storage space. There is also a paddle holder.
The fully adjustable seat is ergonomically designed and features Phase 3 AirPro technology for extra comfort, even when you’re paddling all day. There are SlideLock adjustable foot braces, adjustable padded thigh braces, and soft chines in the hull design, making it easier and more comfortable to keep stable in rough water or adverse conditions.
This polyethylene touring kayak is durable and easy to manage, with soft touch handles that make it more comfortable to carry.
3: Sea Eagle Razorlite 393rl Inflatable Kayak
- Length: 12 feet 10 inches
- Capacity: 500 pounds
This Razorlite craft is super lightweight and easy to transport, so could be a good choice if you’re looking for something portable and would prefer a shorter kayak under 13 feet long. It's an inflatable kayak, so can be deflated to fit in any car, as it measures just 22 inches by 22 inches by 12 inches when deflated and when you get to the water, it can be fully inflated in just 7 minutes.
This sit-on-top touring kayak is durable and hydrodynamic with a slender profile and a large, removable skeg to improve tracking in open water, helping you paddle in straight lines. It has a comfortable seat with a high back, as well as adjustable footrests and plenty of space on deck for gear storage. Its high maximum capacity can also tolerate heavy gear weight and enough gear for several days.
There are spray skirts that will help protect some of your items from water splashing and there are convenient front and rear carry handles. This touring boat is crafted from reinforced PVC, with Drop Stitch technology and a firm nose at the bow and stern for added speed, efficiency and exceptional tracking. Because the hull is a bit shorter, it might not be as fast as longer kayaks.
4: Ocean Kayak 16ft Zest Two
This Zest tandem touring kayak is a sit-on-top that is designed for overnight trips or day touring and could be a good choice if you’re heading out in warmer climates or different water conditions. It has a polyethylene hull, so it’s durable and easy to maintain.
Built for long days on the water, it benefits from having two molded in seat wells, each with a comfortable, high back adjustable seat. There is plenty of room for both paddlers, with the stern seat having a leg length of 49 inches and a width of 18 inches, and the bow seat having a leg length of 47 inches and a width of 19 inches. So it can be great for larger paddlers.
On a touring kayak, storage is important and on this one, you can place all your gear in the large bow and stern storage areas that have bungee cords to keep all your essentials securely stowed. There’s also more storage space behind the bow seat, however, there is no dry storage on this craft.
Another feature of this tandem touring boat is the side mounted carrying handles to make it easy to transport, especially when there are two of you. It also benefits from a hydrodynamically designed hull, which gives it extra speed on the water.
5: Perception Triumph 13.0
This Perception craft is an affordable touring kayak, with good initial stability, that's designed to deliver the performance level of a sit-in with the convenience of a sit-on-top. It is a rotomolded polyethylene plastic vessel with UV protection that's abrasion and impact resistant. It's also a wider kayak that can offer extra stability. On the other hand, its stability may sacrifice speed.
This lightweight touring kayak offers great value and is easy to paddle, being suited to lakes and rivers, but is also versatile enough to be paddled on coastal waters or even used for fishing. It has a comfortable seat, which is ideal for all day paddling and can be great for improving your kayaking skills.
With a high capacity and ample storage space, you can load it up with all the gear you’ll need for a day on the water, or even a weekend camping trip. This stable touring boat has a large dry storage hatch at the bow and a smaller one in the center for easy access, and there is also a spacious storage area with deck rigging.
There is even room for a pet or a small child, with the benefit of a molded-in child’s seat. It’s equipped with self-bailing scupper holes, a drain plug and is ready to have a rudder attached if you choose.
Now that you’ve had a look at some of the best touring kayaks, you will hopefully have a good idea of what you should be looking out for when you purchase yours.
Remember, a touring kayak is designed for longer periods on the water. With their longer hulls and greater storage space, they’re ideal for multi-day adventures, allowing you to pack in everything that you need and sometimes even extra paddlers or guests.
As long as you have an idea of where you might be paddling, you should be able to make a good choice when you purchase your touring yak. Just keep in mind that, ideally, your seating area shouldn’t be too big or too cramped and that you’re able to transport it on your own if you need to.
And a last, important note; make sure you’ve got enough space on board for all the equipment that you might need.
Do you own a touring kayak, or maybe you're thinking about getting one? Tell us about it below...