Best Touring Kayaks
Are you in the market for a new touring kayak? If so, we've got your back.
We've published this guide to choosing the 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 top touring kayak picks:
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 a great 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 compared to a recreational one, usually including dry hatch storage compartments in the bow and stern. This makes them ideal for going on multi-day 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 are very good at tracking - traveling in a straight line - in addition to being able to turn easily.
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.
Touring vessels will usually have large cockpits 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 rigging for a sail or housing for a compass (or other navigational tools).
Are They 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 multi-day trips. However, where the touring kayak is best suited to flat water or moderate rivers, the sea yak is designed for ocean paddling.
This means the hull 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, 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 colder and rougher 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, 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, you will want there to be 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.
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.
A rudder on a yak can help you to paddle in a straight line when the currents or weather conditions are against you. It can also help you when turning, helping you to control the direction, but it’s mostly to aid tracking. 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 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. For touring vessels, 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 a lot of touring yaks are made from plastic, most commonly polyethylene. This makes them durable and better equipped to deal with bumps and knocks compared to a composite vessel.
Composite kayaks, such as fiberglass, have the advantage of being lighter in weight than plastic vessels, 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, composite touring yaks will often be more expensive than plastic ones and will probably require more specialist repairs if they get damaged, which can also add to the cost.
Best Touring Kayaks
1: Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125
- Length: 12 feet 6 inches
This Tsunami craft is built for touring in twisting rivers or exploring the coves around a bay. Its shorter length means it’s easy to maneuver on the water, as well as being more convenient for transporting on a vehicle or trailer.
With its cockpit length of 36 inches and width of 20 inches, it could be a good choice for taller paddlers. This is a compact touring yak that has lots of storage space for your gear for a day away or an overnight trip.
It benefits from having bow and stern dry sealed hatches as well as bungee cord on the deck for additional items. There is also a paddle holder.
The seat is ergonomically designed and features Phase 3 AirPro technology for extra comfort, even when you’re paddling all day. There is a SlideLock foot brace system and adjustable padded thigh braces, making it easier and more comfortable to keep stable in rougher conditions.
This polyethylene sit-in vessel is durable and easy to manage, with soft touch handles that make it more comfortable to carry.
2: Sea Eagle Razorlite 393rl Inflatable
- 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. It is inflatable, 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 vessel is durable and hydrodynamic, with a large, removable skeg that will let you paddle straighter in open water. It has a comfortable seat with a high back, as well as an adjustable foot rest and plenty of space on deck for all your gear.
There are spray skirts at the bow and stern that will help protect some of your items from splashes and there are convenient bow and stern carry handles. The yak is crafted from reinforced PVC, with Drop Stitch technology and a firm nose at the bow and stern for added speed and efficiency.
3: Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5
With a built-in rudder system, this sit-inside touring vessel is designed for flatwater. It’s made from polyethylene, giving it the durability that you need when you’re out on a multi-day trip.
In addition to the rudder, there are lots of features on this craft, including a custom fit seating system as well as adjustable sliding foot braces. It also features reflective lifelines, a drain plug and built-in thigh braces.
Being built for touring, this yak has sufficient storage, with dry sealed hatches in the front and rear bulkheads. In addition to this, there is also bow and stern bungee cord storage, so there’s plenty of space to store your gear if you’re heading out for the day.
The cockpit on this vessel measures 36.5 inches by 19.5 inches, with the hatch measuring 15.75 inches by 8.13 inches.
4: Ocean Kayak 16ft Zest Two
This Zest tandem touring craft is a sit-on-top that is designed for weekend adventures or day tours and could be a good choice if you’re heading out in warmer climates. 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 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.
On a touring yak, 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 extra space behind the bow seat, however, there is no dry storage on this craft.
Another feature of this plastic tandem is that is has 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 a sit-on-top yak that is 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 that is UV resistant as well as being abrasion and impact resistant.
This lightweight craft 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.
With a high weight capacity, 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 craft has a large dry storage hatch at the bow and a smaller one in the center, and there is also a spacious storage area with bungee cords behind the seat.
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, touring vessels are designed for longer periods on the water. With their longer hulls and greater storage space, they’re ideal for multi-day trips, 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...