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Best Touring Kayaks for Long Distance Trips over Seas and Rivers

Mark Armstrong
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What if your next kayak could take you further than you’ve ever gone before?

What stories await in those hidden, distant waterways?

Chart your course with our roundup of touring kayaks designed for those with an insatiable curiosity.

For those wanting a quick answer: The best touring kayak is the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145. Featuring Wilderness Systems’ famous seating system for comfort, this is a fantastic all-rounder with excellent storage capacity.

Top Picks:

Top 15 Best Touring Kayaks Reviewed

1: Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 (best overall)

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 Kayak overhead viewPin
  • Length: 14 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 25.5 inches
  • Depth: 15 inches
  • Weight: 56 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 350 pounds

The Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 is one of the most comfortable touring kayaks on the market. Regarded as the “Swiss army knife of touring kayaks”, the Tsunami 145 can handle just about anything. It can be ideal for weekend trips, or longer if you pack light.

This is a versatile length that combines maneuverability with paddling efficiency, making it ideal for river tours or coastal exploration.

One of the best features, in my opinion, is the Phase 3 AirPro Tour seating system. As well as having padded mesh fabric for comfort and breathability, this kayak seat features full adjustability and can slide forward and back for different leg lengths. 

The large and roomy cockpit can be ideal for larger paddlers. A downside to this is that the kayak may be more difficult to control for smaller paddlers.

There is plenty of storage capacity in this kayak, including a large rear hatch and a front storage hatch. The hatches act as sealed bulkheads for added buoyancy. There’s also an under-deck storage space for your water bottle. 

One of the things I find most useful about this boat is the mesh storage on the deck. The two mesh pockets are ideal for keeping essentials within easy reach and are perfect for holding a bilge pump and other safety equipment.

You’ll also find bungee rigging and perimeter lines. 

This touring kayak has decent tracking, adequate speed in open water, and a good degree of both primary and secondary stability. It’s also equipped with a rudder system.


  • Adjustable seating system 
  • Good storage space
  • Foot-controlled rudder system


  • Not the best for small paddlers

2: Eddyline Skylark (best for day touring)

  • Length: 12 foot
  • Width: 26 inches
  • Depth: 13 inches
  • Weight: 41 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 295 pounds

The Eddyline Skylark is billed as an entry-level kayak but it’s a versatile boat that can be an excellent kayak for day trips. However, don’t let that fool you. This little kayak offers a high level of performance and has enough room for multi-day trips.

At just 12-feet long, this is a compact touring kayak that turns easily, making it a good choice for river touring as well as a great boat for beginners.

It’s relatively lightweight, so it’s easier to carry to the water compared with some of the longer kayaks. 

This is a quality kayak that’s made from co-extruded ABS laminate, which gives a similar appearance and performance quality to composite kayaks but with added durability.

You’ll find ample space for gear in the fused Carbonlite bulkheads at the front and rear, offering dry storage and buoyancy. Added storage can be found on the deck with the bow and stern deck rigging.

As for performance, the sharp entry and exit lines help to maintain excellent tracking in moderate waves and choppy conditions. However, there is no rudder. 

It has a comfortable padded seat, with height-adjustable duo-foam backrest. The seat also has extended thigh supports to minimize pressure on your hips and back. The adjustable foot braces also help you maintain the correct paddling posture.


  • Compact, versatile touring kayak
  • Great for all skill levels
  • Ample gear storage


  • No rudder

3: Delta 15S Kayak (best for smaller paddlers)

  • Length: 15 foot
  • Width: 22 inches
  • Depth: 11.5 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 270 pounds

The Delta 15S is a sea kayak that’s specifically designed for smaller-framed paddlers. This means it can be a great choice for women. The smaller cockpit can be a better fit for smaller paddlers, which can allow for improved boat control, particularly when it comes to rolling.  

If you’re on the tall side or have particularly long legs, you may find this boat a little too cramped for long-distance paddling. 

This sea kayak features two large dry storage hatches as well as an easily-accessible day hatch, so there’s plenty of room for gear for several nights away. You’ll also find deck bungee rigging for additional gear.

With a decent combination of primary and secondary stability, this kayak is designed for stability on open water and ocean swells. It has excellent tracking, aided by the aluminum rudder, and it’s pretty quick over the water. 

It also has a useful scalloped deck that makes re-entry with a paddle float a little easier. 

The low-profile cockpit features a Contour II seat, which is built for back support. The padded seat can be adjusted for added comfort. The backrest is also low-profile, so it shouldn’t interfere when you want to add a spray skirt.  

Another handy feature that I like on this Delta 15S is the paddle park system. This gives you two places to stow your paddle if you want to eat a snack or rehydrate. 


  • Made for smaller paddlers
  • Excellent storage capacity
  • Great for ocean touring 


  • Not the most suitable for tall or large paddlers

4: Perception Carolina 14 (best for beginners)

Perception Carolina 14Pin
  • Length: 14 foot
  • Width: 24.5 inches
  • Depth: 14.5 inches
  • Weight: 53 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 300 pounds

The Perception Carolina 14 is an entry-level touring kayak that’s easy to maneuver. It’s made for flatwater touring and can be an ideal kayak for new paddlers. 

It offers a good degree of stability, both on flatwater and moving water. It can handle lakes, calm bays, as well as open oceans and rivers.

The V-shaped hull at the bow and stern help the kayak to cut through water and track well. This also makes it easier to paddle, meaning less fatigue over longer distances. 

The roomy cockpit is designed to be comfortable for long trips and can be a good option for larger paddlers, as there is plenty of legroom and an easy-access cockpit.

The Zone DLX seat system features leg lifters for additional comfort and support. You’ll also find padded thigh braces and adjustable foot braces. 

There’s plenty of storage for a few nights away, with front and rear storage hatches and deck bungees for additional storage. 

A downside of this kayak, particularly when it comes to sea kayaking, is the lack of a rudder or skeg. However, it is rudder-ready, so you could add an aftermarket rudder kit (sold separately).


  • Great for large paddlers
  • Excellent stability
  • Easy to paddle


  • No rudder or skeg

5: Old Town Castine 145 (best for capacity)

Old Town Castine 145Pin
  • Length: 14 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 26.5 inches
  • Depth: 16 inches
  • Weight: 62 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 450 pounds

The Old Town Castine 145 is a touring kayak with a high capacity. This makes it a good choice if you want to haul a lot of gear or if you’re a heavier paddler.

This is a durable touring kayak. It’s best suited to flatwater touring but it can handle moderate waves and sheltered coastal waters.

It doesn’t have a rudder as standard but a rudder is available as an optional extra if you want improved tracking capabilities in moving water and wind. 

If you want to head out onto the open ocean, this is probably not the best kayak, as it’s not designed for large ocean swells.

One of my favorite things about this kayak is the comfortable cockpit. The ACS2 seat is incredibly comfortable with an ergonomically designed backrest that is height adjustable for tailored support and comfort.

Another handy feature of this kayak is the removable slide-track day storage in addition to the two Quick Seal hatches and phone cradle. This gives you enough room to store gear for a weekend trip. The deck bungees provide additional space to store essentials.


  • Great for larger paddlers
  • Comfortable cockpit
  • Generous capacity 


  • Not ideal for open oceans

6: Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 (best for sea touring)

Wilderness Systems Tempest 170Pin
  • Length: 17 foot
  • Width: 22 inches
  • Depth: 13.5 inches
  • Weight: 57 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 325 pounds

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 is a long touring kayak that’s ideal for sea kayaking expeditions. It’s built for speed and enhanced tracking, so you can paddle efficiently over long distances. 

The adjustable TruTrak skeg helps you control the kayak from the cockpit in wind and currents. 

At 17-feet long, this is not the easiest kayak to turn, so it’s not ideal for river touring or beginner paddlers. 

The Tempest is crafted for enhanced secondary stability, which sacrifices primary stability a little. But it can handle ocean swells, waves, and wind. It also edges well and can be easily rolled when required.

This is a comfortable kayak for ocean expeditions. It has an adjustable seating system with ergonomic backrest and breathable mesh fabric for ventilation.

There are bow, midship, and stern bulkheads for increased buoyancy. You’ll find plenty of space to store camping gear and equipment in the three hatches. Plus, there’s bungee rigging on the deck (bow, midship, and stern) for securing additional items. 


  • Covers water quickly
  • Ideal for ocean touring
  • Excellent tracking


  • Not for beginners

7: Jackson Journey (best for flatwater touring)

Jackson JourneyPin
  • Length: 14 foot
  • Width: 24.5 inches
  • Weight: 56 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 300 pounds

The Jackson Journey can be an excellent option for touring on flatwater lakes and rivers. This is a compact touring kayak that’s easy to maneuver. But it’s also built for efficient paddling and can reach decent speeds on open water once you get going.

With Jackson’s experience in whitewater kayaks, this kayak is not shy when it comes to handling rough water. It’s at home on flatwater lakes and rivers, so it’s a great boat for beginners. But it’s also equally good on rock gardens and waves for more experienced paddlers. 

It has a decent capacity, with space to store gear for an overnight trip or longer trips if you pack well. The three hatches are designed to keep your gear safe and dry. The added deck bungees are ideal for stowing safety equipment. 

There’s also a mount for a camera or phone.

The whitewater-style cockpit features a comfortable padded seat and Sure-Lock Back Band system that can be infinitely adjusted for a customized fit for all sizes of paddlers. There are also contoured hip and thigh pads for improved support and boat control.


  • Easy to paddle
  • Excellent stability
  • Great for all sizes of paddlers


  • Not as fast as some of the longer kayaks 

8: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite (best inflatable)

  • Length: 13 foot
  • Width: 32 inches
  • Weight: 42 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 450 pounds

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite is a solo inflatable kayak that’s ideal if you’re short on storage space at home. 

This is a compact kayak with a sit-inside hull that can be ideal for day trips on lakes and slow-moving rivers. The short length of the hull when inflated means it’s easy to maneuver, which can be useful if you’re a beginner.

Being inflatable, it has a higher capacity than comparable hard shell touring kayaks. This means it can be a good choice for heavier paddlers.

The Expedition Elite has a large zippered hatch at the stern, which is large enough to hold equipment for a day trip. You can also store items on the deck, securing them with the deck bungees. You’ll probably find there’s limited space for a multi-day trip.

A nice feature of this inflatable kayak is the aluminum frame at the bow and stern. This helps add rigidity to improve performance, allowing the kayak to cut through water more efficiently and track straight. 

It also has a drop-stitch floor for added glide. However, because of its inflatable construction and the width of the hull, this is not the fastest boat. 

The cockpit has an adjustable seat with inflatable lumbar support, but it’s not the most supportive for long periods. The cockpit coaming can be inflated so that it’s compatible with a spray skirt (not included).


  • Easy to store 
  • Drop-stitch floor
  • Storage hatch


  • Not the fastest

9: BKC SK287 Angler Touring Kayak (best for fishing)

BKC SK287 Angler Touring KayakPin
  • Length: 14 foot 9 inches
  • Width: 21.5 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 330 pounds

This BKC SK287 is a fishing kayak with a difference. Combining the features of a sea kayak with the practical features of a fishing kayak, the SK287 can be the ideal boat for a coastal fishing trip.

This is a lightweight boat compared to most fishing kayaks. But it’s also a lot narrower, which generally affects the primary stability. This kayak is not made for beginners.

However, it’s built with secondary stability in mind, with a foot-controlled rudder system to help you maintain your course in ocean swells, wind, and currents. 

However, if you’re a taller paddler, you may find this boat a little too cramped in the cockpit. The rudder controls are not designed for folks with long legs.

Being a fishing kayak, this has two flush-mounted rod holders behind the cockpit, so you can keep your fishing rods out of the way while paddling.

There are two watertight hatches for storing fishing gear or camping equipment. There is further storage located under the deck behind the seat. The seat folds down for easy access. 

The deck rigging gives you extra space to store essentials.


  • Rudder system
  • Fishing rod holders
  • Dry storage hatches


  • Not great for tall paddlers

10: Perception Expression 11.5 (best budget)

Perception Expression 11.5 KayakPin
  • Length: 11 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 25.75 inches
  • Depth: 14.5 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 250 pounds

The Perception Expression 11.5 is a small touring kayak that can be perfect for both new paddlers and those on a budget. This affordable kayak is easy to paddle no matter what type of water you want to explore.

It’s crafted as an entry-level touring kayak and features a high level of stability both on flatwater and ocean conditions.

It’s pretty quick over the water, considering its short length. And it has a cockpit-controlled skeg to have you navigate through wind and currents.

Despite its compact length, this little boat is capable of open water crossings and multi-day trips. However, space for large amounts of gear is limited. 

There’s a large hatch at the stern, which can hold overnight gear. Deck rigging at the bow and stern provide additional space for storage.

It has an ergonomic seat with padding and adjustability for comfort. It also benefits from having leg lifters to support your thighs and allow for better paddling posture.

Being a shorter touring kayak, it can be easier to car-top compared to some of the longer ones, and easier to carry down to the water. 

With a 250-pound capacity, this is probably not the best choice if you’re a larger kayaker. 


  • Versatile
  • Great entry-level touring kayak
  • Budget-friendly option


  • Not great for large paddlers

11: Dagger Axis 12.0

  • Length: 12 foot
  • Width: 27.5 inches
  • Depth: 15.25 inches
  • Weight: 55 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 350 pounds

The Dagger Axis 12.0 is a compact touring kayak that’s engineered for versatility thanks to its crossover design. It’s built with enough rocker and secondary stability to handle mild to moderate whitewater. 

But it also performs well on flatwater, including lakes and slow-moving rivers, with the addition of a retractable skeg that can be deployed to help with tracking in open water. 

I think this can make a great river touring kayak if you want to do some kayak camping for two or three nights. 

There is only one storage hatch but it’s relatively large and can fit light camping equipment and food. 

There are bungees on the deck at the bow and stern. You’ll also find a mesh deck cover at the front. This can be used to secure large items to the deck.

The cockpit is spacious and comfortable, with enough room for larger or taller paddlers. The ConTour CFS-R seating system can be fully adjusted and it’s cushioned for comfort. You’ll find thigh pads and there are SlideLock XL foot braces.

While the large cockpit can be easy to get in and out of, it’s not ideal when it comes to finding spray skirts to fit. 


  • Crossover hull
  • Very stable
  • Good for river tours


  • Limited storage 

12: Aquaglide Chelan 155

Aquaglide Chelan 155Pin
  • Length: 15 foot 1 inch
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Depth: 11.5 inches
  • Weight: 38 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 600 pounds

The Aquaglide Chelan 155 is a tandem inflatable touring kayak that’s designed for flatwater excursions and recreational trips. This is a large inflatable kayak with a huge carrying capacity, making it ideal for extended trips.

The spacious flat deck also makes it a great option for kayak touring with your dog. The floor features drop-stitch technology which provides a rigid, flat surface that can be comfortable for dogs to stand or lay on.

The durable Duratex construction creates a tough kayak that can handle bumps on river tours. The removable skeg helps with tracking on open water and the added rocker helps with performance over mild waves and moving water. 

However, this is not a great boat for paddling in ocean conditions. It doesn’t handle wind very well. 

This inflatable kayak comes with two seats that allow you to sit slightly elevated off the deck for a drier ride. The seats also provide back support and feature storage pockets for small essentials.

There’s plenty of space for overnight gear, with the bow and stern both benefiting from having small spray covers to shield your belongings from the elements. There’s also bungee storage on top of these spray covers. But there is no dry storage.


  • High storage capacity
  • Dog-friendly touring kayak
  • Tandem inflatable kayak


  • Not built for ocean paddling

13: Oru Kayak Coast XT Folding Kayak

  • Length: 16 foot
  • Width: 25 inches
  • Weight: 32 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 400 pounds

The Oru Coast XT is a folding touring kayak that’s designed primarily for portability and convenience. This is a very lightweight kayak that folds up into itself and can be carried like a large suitcase.

Folding kayaks like the Oru Coast XT are not typically designed to handle very rough water or inclement weather conditions. So, while this is designed for sea kayaking, it’s not the best choice for paddling long distances on open oceans. 

The main feature of this folding touring kayak is its portability. This is ideal if you live in a condo or apartment with no garage. It also eliminates the need for a roof rack on your car. You could even carry it on the train or bus. 

This can be a good choice for exploring calm coastal bays in good weather and on short adventures. But it can be rolled if necessary and has coaming on the cockpit to allow you to add a spray skirt (sold separately).

This lightweight touring kayak comes with a padded seat and backrest. But the seat is pretty basic, so you might want to add extra cushioning. 

There are no storage hatches but there is storage available within the bow and stern. However, to access the storage areas, you generally need to unfold the kayak part of the way. On the other hand, there is storage space on the deck with bungees to keep it tied down. 


  • Lightweight and portable
  • Spray skirt compatible
  • Ideal for traveling


  • Not for long ocean tours

14: Riot Edge 13

Riot Edge 13Pin
  • Length: 13 foot 1 inch
  • Width: 25 inches
  • Depth: 12 inches
  • Weight: 58.5 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 300 pounds

The Riot Edge 13 is a compact touring kayak with an affordable price tag. It’s easy to paddle and can be ideal as a starter touring kayak. 

This is a durable little kayak that can be great for overnight trips on rivers and canals, where you need the added maneuverability that comes with a shorter hull. But it also has the performance qualities to handle large lakes and coastal bays.

There are two oval storage hatches, sealed with bulkheads. You’ll also find a day hatch within easy reach of the cockpit. The deck rigging provides additional storage for multi-day trips. 

One of the most unusual features, not commonly found on touring kayaks, is the gear tracks at the rear. The two tracks mean you can install your own accessories to customize the kayak for your trip. For example, you could add rod holders or camera mounts (both sold separately). 

The cockpit is comfortable, with a Flex 4 seat that benefits from lumbar support and a height-adjustable backrest. It also has leg lifters on the seat bottom. 

This has a decent combination of primary and secondary stability. But it’s not designed to handle long ocean tours or rough conditions.   


  • Affordable touring kayak
  • Easy to paddle
  • Accessory tracks


  • Not ideal for longer tours

15: Sea Eagle 473RL Razorlite Kayak

  • Length: 15 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 30 inches
  • Depth: 10 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 750 pounds

The Sea Eagle 473RL is an inflatable kayak with a high load capacity, space for two paddlers, and a high level of durability. 

With a spacious open deck, this can be a great boat for kayak camping. And there’s enough room to bring your dog along for the adventure.

It features full drop-stitch construction so it can feel more like a hard-shell boat than an inflatable. The drop-stitch technology helps to provide a rigid floor and sidewalls for improved performance and durability. 

While this is a tandem kayak, it can be paddled solo if you’re looking for added space for solo expeditions. 

The tapered hard-nose bow and stern help to cut through water for better speed and tracking performance. There’s also a large rear skeg. 

With a 750-pound capacity, this can be loaded up with camping gear for multi-day excursions. However, being an inflatable, there is no dry storage. 

This is a low-profile kayak that is designed for flatwater paddling. It can be great for touring on lakes and inland waterways. It’s not the best on open ocean waters and it’s not built for rough water or whitewater. But it could easily handle calm coastal waters close to the shore. 


  • High capacity
  • Convenient to store and transport
  • Durable construction 


  • Not for open oceans

What Are Touring Kayaks?

Touring kayaks are designed for longer trips. They are generally longer in length and offer more storage options compared to recreational kayaks. 

Man on Touring KayakPin

Generally speaking, touring kayaks are sit-inside kayaks and they have long, narrow hulls. The longer kayak hull and narrower beam allows for increased speed over the water. This means you can paddle more efficiently over long distances, minimizing fatigue on touring expeditions.

A touring kayak can be ideal for kayak camping trips, with many of them having room for several nights’ worth of gear. Storage options on touring kayaks generally feature at least one hatch plus bungees on the deck.

Most touring kayaks tend to be over 12 feet in length, ranging up to around 16 feet. But you’ll find many that are over 17 feet long ranging up to 26 feet in the case of some tandem kayaks. 

Many touring kayaks can be over 10-inches narrower than many recreational kayaks.

The narrower kayak hull allows you to have more contact with the boat for increased control during turns and stability in rough water or wind. 

You may also find that many touring kayaks have additional features that make paddling easier in open water conditions, such as a rudder or a skeg.

Some touring kayaks are designed for flat water and some are designed to handle ocean waves and swell.

Are Touring Kayaks The Same As Sea Kayaks?

A sea kayak is essentially a type of touring kayak. Sea kayaks are designed to be paddled in the ocean. So they tend to have additional features to counter the effects of wind, waves, and currents, such as a rudder. 

Sea kayaks tend to be long and narrow to maximize speed and tracking performance on open water. This means it’s easier to paddle in a straight line through waves and currents. Kayaks designed for sea touring are generally longer than most flatwater touring kayaks.

Sea kayaks are also crafted with a high degree of secondary stability to handle rough water. They can be edged for turning and can be easily rolled in the event of a capsize.

Most sea kayaks are designed for extended trips on the ocean, so they will often have an increased amount of storage compared to some of the shorter kayaks. 

A sea kayak is generally aimed at advanced paddlers. The narrow beam and increased secondary stability can make it feel a little unstable to most beginners, especially when compared to the high initial stability of a recreational kayak. 

What Features To Look For In A Quality Touring Kayak

How To Choose The Right Size Of Touring Kayak For Your Needs

Touring kayaks vary widely in length and width. The longer and narrower the kayak, the faster it will generally be. The shorter the kayak, the easier it will usually be to maneuver in tight spaces.

The length of kayak you need will usually depend on where you plan to kayak and how long you plan to tour. Longer kayaks, such as those over 15 feet, can be better suited to open water, such as the ocean or large lakes and bays. 

Longer touring kayaks will also typically have more room for gear.

If you plan to kayak along a river or a canal, you might be better off with a shorter kayak, under 15 feet, to allow you to navigate bends more easily or turn quickly to avoid obstacles such as rocks or logs. 

Touring kayaks in this length can also be ideal day touring kayaks.

If you’re a smaller paddler, a shorter kayak can also be easier to control. But this is not necessarily the case, as some long kayaks have small cockpits to better suit smaller-framed paddlers.

The size of the cockpit and the amount of contact you can have with the boat will usually determine how easy the boat is to control. If the cockpit is too large, you might find you don’t have sufficient contact with the kayak to allow you to roll effectively or stabilize yourself in rough conditions.

Find out how to roll a kayak.

Kayak cockpit size can be important. Larger cockpits may be more suitable for larger paddlers, as these generally offer more room for longer legs and bigger feet.

Some touring and sea kayaks are available with different sized cockpits to suit paddlers of different sizes. This allows you to find the right length of kayak for your needs with a suitably-sized cockpit. 

Storage Capacity And Weight Capacity

The capacity of a touring kayak is important, as most paddlers will want to be able to take a bunch of gear with them, whether it’s for a day or longer. 

A day touring kayak will generally offer less storage than a sea kayak. But you should still be able to pack enough gear for a weekend trip if you pack well.

A touring kayak will typically have bow and stern hatches. These are usually watertight storage compartments that can hold a large amount of gear below deck. 

Most large hatches are capable of holding a small tent and other sleeping equipment. Smaller hatches can be ideal for storing food and cooking equipment. 

Bungee cords on the deck can provide additional storage for extra gear. But you might want to make sure you don’t overload the kayak on the deck, as this can affect your boat’s performance and balance, and can make it difficult to paddle in windy conditions. 

How To Efficiently Pack And Balance A Touring Kayak For Long Trips

The main consideration when packing a touring kayak for a camping trip is to  pack light. If you’re ever gone camping with your car, you’ll know that every bit of your car’s available space is usually maxed out. So, you’re going to have to think smaller.

Lightweight camping equipment that’s designed for backpacking can be more suitable.

If you’re going kayak camping or kayak touring as a group, I recommend you share the load. For example, you don’t all need to carry a tent: you can have one person carry a tent for two or three people. Larger tents take up more room, so keep that in mind.

Another important consideration is to balance your kayak. This means strategically packing so that a heavy item isn’t causing your kayak to tilt to one side. Unbalanced kayaks can be difficult to paddle, just like an overloaded one. And you could find that a moderate wave may lead to a capsized kayak.

Heavier gear should be placed closer to the center of the touring kayak, with lighter items closer to the bow and stern.

Remember to keep safety items, such as bilge pumps and rescue lines, within easy reach of your cockpit. You’ll usually find bungee cords on the front deck to secure these items.

Check out our guide on how to pack a kayak for a camping trip.

Do I Need A Skeg Or A Rudder?

Skegs and rudders are both tools designed to help with tracking performance. Many touring and sea kayaks have a skeg or a rudder. But not all of them do. However, you can usually add a kayak rudder kit separately to a touring kayak as an aftermarket product.

A skeg is a fin that is located under the stern, usually in the center of the keel. Most skegs are retractable and can be operated from the cockpit. Inflatable kayaks usually have removable skegs. 

When deployed, a skeg can help you maintain your direction by anchoring your stern in the water. This can make it easier to paddle in a straight line through currents and wind. It can also help to prevent weathercocking, where your kayak’s bow starts to turn to face the wind.

A rudder is a similar tool but this is attached to the very back of the stern. Rudders are generally operated by a foot pedal in the cockpit. 

The difference between a rudder and skeg is that a rudder can be swiveled from side to side. This can be useful to counter currents and the effects of the wind by helping to correct the direction of the kayak. 

A rudder can essentially help you to steer your kayak, meaning you have to perform less corrective paddle strokes to stay on course.

If you plan to paddle in open water, such as the ocean, where you’re likely to encounter wind and currents, I recommend your kayak has either a rudder or a skeg. 

You can add a skeg to some kayaks.

Using a pedal-operated rudder may take a bit of getting used to. Generally, the left pedal will turn the kayak to the left and the right pedal will turn the bow toward the right. 

For example, if you have a crosswind blowing your kayak’s bow to face left, hit the right pedal to counter this action.

Video: How To Use A Rudder Or Skeg

Comfort Is Important

When you’re kayaking for long periods of time, it’s important that you’re comfortable. Mild discomfort at the start of your trip may lead to moderate or severe pain after a few days.

Touring kayaks and sea kayaks will tend to have comfortable cockpits that are designed for sitting for long periods. However, if you’re used to an elevated framed seat for kayak fishing, a sea kayak seat might feel a little different. 

Sea kayaks often have back bands rather than backrests. This means the seat maintains a low profile to accommodate lower profile decks and allow you to attach a spray skirt comfortably.

A touring kayak will generally have a more comfortable seat than the average recreational kayak. 

A padded seat can be beneficial for being seated for long periods. But the most important feature of a kayak seat for touring, in my opinion, is the level of adjustability. 

An adjustable seat lets you tailor the level of support to suit your paddling style as well as providing you with the correct paddling posture. This can help you maintain good boat control and stability.

Thigh or knee pads can also be common features on a touring kayak. This can provide additional comfort at contact points. 

Adjustable foot braces are also a useful feature and will typically be found on most sea kayaks and touring boats. Sliding foot pedals can suit different leg lengths, allowing you to find the correct placement for your optimal paddling position and posture.     

Environmental Considerations When Touring With Kayaks

It’s important to think about the environment when you’re spending any time outdoors. If you’re heading out on an overnight trip in your kayak, remember to take all trash with you. 

You should always stick to the dispersed camping guidelines. Don’t set up your camp within 100 feet of any water source and remember to keep this distance in mind when you have to go to the bathroom. Always dig a 6-inch hole to bury human waste and take your toilet paper home with you. 

It’s also important to consider the wildlife in the area. Don’t disturb or feed wild animals. Similarly, you shouldn’t take or move anything from the environment. Follow the Leave No Trace guidelines at all times while kayak touring. 

Quick Questions On Touring Kayaks 

Can Touring Kayaks Be Used In Different Types Of Water Conditions?

A touring kayak will usually have specific types of water that it can handle. But the range can be greater compared to a recreational kayak, as most touring vessels can be used on open water. 

A touring kayak can generally handle mild waves and moving water, as well as flat water. Sea kayaks can handle open oceans as well as large lakes. These vessels are not usually designed to handle whitewater rapids. 

What Is The Typical Price Range For Touring Kayaks?

Price varies quite widely depending on the size of the kayak, the quality of features, and the materials used. An average touring kayak will cost somewhere in the region of $1200 to around $2000. Better quality ones will be over $2000, with a fiberglass kayak often costing upward of $4000. 

Sea kayaks will typically start at around $2000 but some custom sea kayaks can cost over $6000.

Are There Specific Skills Required To Handle A Touring Kayak?

One of the most important skills to master before attempting to paddle a touring kayak is paddling technique. Learning how to paddle a kayak effectively and efficiently can help to minimize fatigue and help you cover water more quickly. 

You should also learn how to roll a kayak, especially if you’re planning a sea touring trip. 

Video: How To Roll A Kayak

Can Children And Pets Travel In Touring Kayaks?

Inflatable kayaks tend to be better suited for bringing along children and pets because of the open deck with increased space. An inflatable touring kayak will also be a more stable kayak for a dog.

Some tandem sea kayaks may give you the space to bring a dog or a child if you have them sit in the second cockpit but this might not be practical.

What Accessories Are Recommended For An Optimal Touring Kayak Experience?

A PFD is the most essential accessory for all kayaking trips. You should also carry a whistle, bilge pump, rescue lines or a throw bag, first aid kid, and weather-protective clothing. 

Weekend trips will require additional gear, such as camping equipment, food, water, and cooking accessories. 

Paddles Down: The Ultimate Takeaway On Touring Kayaks

When it comes to choosing the best touring kayak or sea kayak, the bottom line is that it suits both your adventure and you as a paddler. 

My favorite and the overall winner is the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145. This is an extremely usable touring kayak that can feel at home on a range of waters, with a short enough hull to navigate rivers but with enough length to cover open water quickly and efficiently.

My runner-up pick is also another extremely versatile kayak. The Eddyline Skylark is one of the shorter kayaks but it offers a high level of performance, including great speed, tracking, and maneuverability. It also has plenty of room for gear, making it much more than just a day-touring kayak.

Remember to check out these kayaks for yourself to help you find the right one, as they won’t all be suitable for everyone.

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5 thoughts on “Best Touring Kayaks for Long Distance Trips over Seas and Rivers”

  1. All of the kayaks reviewed would be appropriate for day trips, not multi day trips. There is not enough room for the gear you would want to pack out. You should show a fully packed kayak.

    You review skipped over some of the best kayak manufacturers.


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