The Best Kayak Brands Around Today

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All kayak brands are the same, right?! Wrong!

Here's a list of the biggest and most popular brands around today. And a few lesser-known brands that we thought deserved a mention.

We can't really list which brand is best, because some brands tailor their kayaks to a certain style of paddling.

For this reason, this is a flat list, with the more popular ones in the top half of the rundown.

Best Kayak Brands available to buy today- PinterstPin

Ocean Kayak

Ocean Kayak

The founder of Ocean Kayak was a keen scuba diver in Malibu, California and developed the company based on his desire to have a vessel that was easy to get in and out of, with space for his scuba gear.

Ocean Kayak developed the durable sit-on-top kayak and is now one of the world’s major kayak manufacturers, based in Old Town, Maine. Ocean Kayak is part of the Johnson Outdoors Family, which includes Old Town Canoe and Kayak.

Made For: Recreational Paddlers and Beginners

Lifetime

Lifetime Kayaks

Lifetime began making adjustable basketball hoops in Utah before branching out into a range of other products, including kayaks. They offer a range of lightweight, durable kayaks for both kids and adults, with affordability being a key part of their appeal.

They make both sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks, including ones with additional features designed for fishing.

Made For: Beginners and Budget Paddlers

Old Town

Old Town Kayaks

Old Town began making canoes back in 1898 in Old Town, Maine. The company has become the world’s oldest and largest manufacturer of kayaks and canoes and is part of the Johnson Outdoors Family, along with the Ocean Kayak brand.

They offer a wide range of kayaks and canoes, for recreation, sit-on fishing and touring, mostly within a mid-range price point. Some of their boats also have pedal drives for hands free operation, making them more appealing to serious anglers.

Made For: Anglers, Recreational Paddlers and Tourers

Sun Dolphin

Sun Dolphin Kayaks

Sun Dolphin has been based in Muskegon, Michigan since it was launched back in 1982. The company is known for its affordable recreational and fishing kayaks, which are designed and manufactured on the shores of Lake Michigan.

As well as kayaks, Sun Dolphin also makes canoes, small boats and paddle boards at a budget-friendly price point. Most of these vessels are built to be easy to use and stable for beginners, with basic features.

Made For: Budget Recreational Paddlers

Perception

Perception Kayaks

Based in Greenville, South Carolina, Perception has been in the kayak business for more than 40 years. The company has a range of boats mostly aimed at recreational paddling on flatwater, with options to suit beginners and experienced kayakers.

Perception also has a selection of fishing yaks, including a couple with pedal drives. Perception boats are generally designed to be affordable to mid-range, as far as price goes.

Made For: Recreational Paddlers and Anglers

Jackson

Jackson Kayak

Jackson Kayaks are mostly known for their whitewater kayaks, co-founded by Eric Jackson, a three-time world champion and Olympic kayaker. The brand’s headquarters are located in Rock Island, Tennessee and they now offer a range of recreational and fishing kayaks.

Jackson boats generally come in at a mid-range price point but prices can vary significantly between the types of kayaks, with fishing kayaks being more expensive because of their added features.

Made For: Whitewater Paddlers, Recreational Paddlers and Anglers

Hobie

Hobie Kayaks

Hobie began back in the 1950s, making lightweight surfboards in Southern California. The company then progressed into making playboat catamarans, known as Hobie Cats. In the late 90s Hobie invented the MirageDrive system for pedaling a kayak instead of paddling.

They now have a range of fully rigged, stable pedal kayaks, designed mostly for fishing but also recreation. These boats tend to be pricey because of their added features and pedal drives.

Made For: Anglers and Pedal Kayakers

Feel Free

Feel Free Kayaks

Feel Free Kayaks are based within the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, with a factory in Thailand. They focus on stability, comfort and convenience, with many of their kayaks designed for fishing. The fishing kayaks tend to be packed with features for easy customization.

Feel Free recreational kayaks are generally affordable boats, with the fishing kayaks being a little more expensive, particularly the ones with a pedal drive. But these boats are generally still within a mid-range price point.

Made For: Anglers

Vibe Kayaks

Vibe Kayaks

Vibe Kayaks was born out of the desire to create a premium fishing kayak at a more affordable price. Based in Kennesaw, Georgia, the company has a range of fully rigged sit-on-top kayaks designed for fishing on a variety of waters.

These boats are built for stability and ease of use, making them ideal for beginners and anglers who like to stand to fish.

Made For: Anglers

BKC (Brooklyn)

Brooklyn Kayaks

Brooklyn Kayak Company (BKC) grew out of Brooklyn, New York. Their vision was to create kayaks that are affordable and feature-packed for fishing and family adventures. All of their kayaks come with paddles and seats included, as well as storage compartments.

Their range includes tandems and pedal kayaks, as well as solo vessels. Some models also include trolling motors.

Made For: Anglers and Beginners

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle Kayaks

Sea Eagle began back in 1968. It is a family owned and operated company based in Long Island, New York. Their first product was a tandem inflatable kayak and since then the company has grown to offer a range of inflatable kayaks and boats for recreation, fishing and touring.

Sea Eagle vessels are designed for durability, portability and ease of use, with many of them being suitable for a range of different waters.

Made For: Beginners, Anglers and Recreational Paddlers

Dagger

Dagger Kayaks

Dagger is probably best known for its whitewater kayaks. The company manufactures a range of predominantly sit-inside vessels. While most of their boats are designed to handle whitewater and surf, they also have a selection of touring and crossover kayaks that are designed to perform well on all waters.

Many of Dagger’s boats are offered in different sizes, meaning smaller and larger paddlers can have a more size-appropriate cockpit while paddling the same length and model of kayak.

Made For: Whitewater Paddlers

Pelican

Pelikan Kayaks

Pelican is a Canadian company based in Quebec, with over 50 years of experience in manufacturing thermoformed kayaks, canoes and small boats. They use a durable, exclusive Ram-X material that is lightweight and impact resistant.

Pelican kayaks are generally budget boats, with options for fishing and recreational paddling. Their range includes affordable sit-on-tops, sit-insides and even pedal kayaks. They also offer a variety of short kayaks, designed for small paddlers or kids.

Made For: Budget Recreational Paddlers, Beginners and Anglers

Wilderness Systems

Wilderness Systems Kayaks

Wilderness Systems is a generally well-known brand, dating back to 1986, with a wide range of vessels for all types of paddling. Wilderness Systems kayaks can be ideal for fishing, with a variety of dedicated angling options as well as pedal kayaks that have lots of features and room for accessories.

They also offer touring kayaks, sit-inside and sit-on-top recreational vessels, as well as tandem crafts at a mostly mid-range price point.    

Made For: Anglers, Recreational Paddlers, and Touring

Delta Kayaks

All of Delta’s kayaks are manufactured in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada. The company designs and manufactures thermoformed touring kayaks with an emphasis on quality craftsmanship using advanced manufacturing techniques.

The brand only makes touring kayaks, with a range of options available for both beginners or intermediates and experienced paddlers, either for long-distance touring or day touring.

Made For: Touring, Experienced and Intermediate Paddlers

Eddyline Kayaks

Eddyline Kayaks was founded in Boulder, Colorado, by designer Tom Derrer, and has been making high-end touring and sea kayaks since 1971.

Headquartered in Burlington, Washington, Eddyline kayaks are crafted with Carbonlite, a type of thermoplastic and the products include a range of kayaks for different activities, including recreational (both sit-inside and sit-on-top), fishing, and touring kayaks.

Made For: Touring, Recreational Paddlers, and Anglers

Aquaglide

Aquaglide is an inflatable watercraft company that began in the small town of White Salmon, Washington but since 2018 the company has had its headquarters in Bend, Oregon. The company is known for its inflatable vessels, including kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, but it also manufactures inflatable water parks.

The range of kayaks includes touring, recreational, whitewater, fishing, and tandems, with a focus on lightweight materials, ease of use, and portability.

Made For: Beginners, Budget Paddlers, Anglers, and Whitewater Paddlers

Riot Kayaks

Riot Kayaks manufacture a wide range of kayaks for all types of activities, including whitewater kayaks and touring kayaks. They also offer a variety of vessels for fishing (including pedal options) and recreational paddling, both for beginners and more experienced paddlers.

Riot Kayaks can be an affordable brand with durable, budget-friendly options for all skill levels and almost all paddling activities.

Made For: Beginners, Whitewater Kayakers, Touring, Fishing, and Budget Recreational Paddlers

Native Watercraft

Native Watercraft manufactures a range of kayaks aimed primarily at anglers and made in the USA. Many of their vessels are crafted for durability, affordability, and comfort, with plenty of features built-in for convenience while fishing.

Native Watercraft also has a range of pedal kayaks that are designed to be stable enough to stand on and easy to use, even for beginners.

Made For: Anglers, and Beginners

Aire

Aire kayaks are inflatable vessels that are crafted to be durable and offer a high level of performance. All Aire kayaks are manufactured in Meridian, Idaho with thermal welded seams for improved strength and a tough PVC shell with an internal bladder system.

Every part of an Aire vessel can be repaired or replaced, adding to its longevity. There are a variety of options designed for either whitewater or touring.

Made For: Whitewater paddlers and Touring

Advanced Elements

Advanced Elements kayaks are inflatable vessels that are designed in California and made for durability, versatility, and portability.

They have a variety of high-performance vessels built for whitewater, touring, and fishing. The range includes hybrid kayaks and both sit-on-top and sit-inside designs. An exclusive feature of some Advanced Elements kayaks is the AdvancedFrame technology, providing an aluminum-rib frame for increased performance.

Made For: Beginners, Experienced Paddlers, Inflatable Whitewater Kayakers, Touring, Recreation, and Fishing

Evoke Kayaks

Evoke Kayaks is an American brand, based in Muskegon, Michigan, that designs and manufactures recreational and fishing kayaks in the United States. Evoke kayaks feature rotomolded construction for durability and are built to be stable, easy to maneuver, and packed with features.

The range of vessels includes both sit-on-tops and sit-insides.

Made For: Anglers and Recreational Paddlers

Oru Kayaks

Oru Kayaks is the home of the Original Origami Kayak. They specialize in folding kayaks with designs based on the Japanese art of origami. These boats are built for durability and portability, being able to fold up and pack away for storage in a small apartment or trunk of a small car.

Oru kayaks are generally built for touring on lakes, bays, and oceans, but there is also a model built for more general recreational paddling with a slightly wider hull.

Made For: Touring, and Portability

Point 65N Sweden

Point 65N is a Swedish company that began back in 1996. The kayaks are mostly modular vessels that can be easy to put together and store. These vessels can be easily transformed from a solo kayak to a tandem or triple vessel by connecting additional sections. There are also modular fishing options.

As well as modular kayaks, there is a range of touring kayaks that are crafted as a single-piece vessel.

Made For: Touring, and Sea Kayaking

Lincoln Canoe And Kayak

Lincoln Canoe and Kayak was founded in 1959 in Stow, Massachusetts, and they still make all of their kayaks by hand in New England. The company claims to be the oldest maker of hand-built composite kayaks and canoes in North America.

The company has a range of high-end, quality touring kayaks as well as options to have a custom-made craft.

Made For: Touring, Sea Kayaking, and Experienced Paddlers

North Shore Sea Kayaks

North Shore Sea Kayaks is a British company that makes both composite and polyethylene kayaks and has been designing and building vessels since 1982. All North Shore kayaks are built by hand in the United Kingdom.

These boats are crafted for sea kayaking and long-distance touring, with hulls built for speed and stability in ocean conditions.

Made For: Sea Kayakers, and Experienced Paddlers

Hoodoo

Hoodoo is a new company that launched in 2019 to offer durable vessels at a mid-range price point. This is a family owned company that is based in North Houston, Texas, and also offers accessories including coolers, plus camping and fishing gear.

The range includes sit-on-top kayaks that are mostly built for fishing and recreation, with features geared towards angling and hunting. There is also a range of Hoodoo pedal kayaks to choose from.

Made For: Recreational Paddlers, Beginners, and Anglers

Bonafide Kayaks

Bonafide Kayaks launched back in 2016 and the company has its manufacturing headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina. This means all Bonafide boats are made in the USA. Bonafide kayaks are crafted for stability with a focus on angling features, such as standing platforms, accessory mounts, and spacious decks.

Made For: Anglers

NuCanoe Kayaks

NuCanoe was launched out of an idea by Tim Niemier, the founder of Ocean Kayak, and is based in Bellingham, Washington. The idea behind NuCanoe Kayaks was to get “a billion butts in boats” so these vessels are designed to be used for just about any activity.

With a focus on fishing and hunting, NuCanoe kayaks are designed to be easily customized, with all the models being able to adapt to pedal power, motor power, and, of course, paddle power, so they can be easily altered to suit a particular activity.

Made For: Anglers, Hunters, and Outdoor Enthusiasts

Star

Star is part of the NRS group of companies and is a manufacturer of inflatable kayaks and other inflatable vessels, such as stand-up paddle boards and rafts. These boats are designed to be affordable, portable, and easy to paddle, both for beginners and skilled paddlers.

The range of vessels includes inflatable whitewater kayaks, recreational boats, and fishing kayaks.

Made For: Beginners, Recreational Paddlers, Whitewater Kayakers, and Anglers

Liquidlogic Kayaks

Liquidlogic is based in Fletcher, North Carolina, and began back in 2000. The majority of Liquidlogic’s boats are made for whitewater and river running, with a wide range of creek boats and playboats.

This company is not just for whitewater enthusiasts, as they also have a range of recreational vessels, crossover boats, and sit-on-tops, with options even for beginners.

Made For: Whitewater kayakers, and Recreational Paddlers

Pakboats

Pakboats began as a company back in 1995 designing portable, foldable canoes. The company makes folding canoes and kayaks, with a manufacturing base in Germany.

These folding kayaks are designed to be very lightweight and easy to transport and store, weighing up to 50 percent less than an inflatable kayak of the same size. There are different options, designed for touring, tandem paddling and recreation, as well as fishing.

Made For: Touring, Recreational Paddling

What About Unbranded Kayaks From Box Stores Or Available Online? Should I Avoid?

Unbranded kayaks, such as those in big-box stores, can sometimes appear to be good value because of their low price tag. But these types of kayaks will tend to be very basic in their design and they may not be very comfortable, which can be particularly noticeable if you plan to spend a couple of hours sitting in the seat (if there’s one included).

As with most products, you tend to get what you pay for. If you’re buying a cheap kayak you will probably find out that it has been cheaply or poorly constructed.

Many unbranded or box store vessels may not have a well-designed hull, which could mean it is more difficult to maneuver the boat, or perhaps it’s not as stable as you might expect.

Having good stability in the hull can be important if you’re a beginner, or equally important if you’re looking to take on some minor rapids or waves. These unbranded boats may not be able to handle moving water safely and some may be designed more like a kids’ beach toy.

You may also find that an unbranded boat is heavier or more difficult to paddle, with poor tracking and speed, which can make it harder to learn good paddling techniques and may put off new paddlers.

Another thing you might notice with these vessels is that the quality of the materials may not be up to scratch, which could mean some parts could become damaged more easily and the boat may not last as long as you’d hoped.

The quality of the materials could also affect the overall safety of the boat. Quality branded kayak manufacturers will generally make vessels that meet national and international safety standards. These manufacturers will also often offer a warranty on their products if they fail to meet standards or if parts need to be replaced. 

Popular Kayak Brands For:

Recreational Kayaks

●    Ocean Kayak
●    Sun Dolphin
●    Perception
●    Pelican
●    Sea Eagle
●    Jackson
●    Lifetime
●    Old Town
●    Star
●    Advanced Elements
●    Evoke Kayaks
●    Riot Kayaks
●    Wilderness Systems
●    Eddyline
●    Aquaglide
●    NuCanoe
●    Vibe Kayaks
●    BKC
●    Dagger
●    Feel Free
●    Liquidlogic Kayaks
●    Pakboats

Fishing Kayaks

●    Wilderness Systems
●    BKC
●    Sea Eagle
●    Hobie
●    Feel Free
●    Perception
●    Native Watercraft
●    Old Town
●    Bonafide
●    Hoodoo
●    Advanced Elements
●    Star
●    Evoke Kayaks
●    Vibe Kayaks
●    Riot Kayaks
●    Aquaglide
●    Sun Dolphin
●    Lifetime
●    Ocean Kayak
●    Jackson
●    Eddyline
●    Pakboats

Inflatable Kayaks

●    Sea Eagle
●    Star
●    Advanced Elements
●    Aire
●    Aquaglide

Sit-In Kayaks

●    Dagger
●    Delta
●    Eddyline
●    Perception
●    Lincoln Canoe and Kayak
●    North Shore Sea Kayaks
●    Advanced Elements
●    Oru Kayak
●    Point 65N
●    Pelican
●    Evoke Kayaks
●    Riot Kayaks
●    Wilderness Systems
●    Old Town
●    Feel Free
●    Sun Dolphin
●    Liquidlogic Kayaks
●    Pakboats

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

●    Ocean Kayak
●    Wilderness Systems
●    Star
●    Old Town
●    Pelican
●    Sun Dolphin
●    Lifetime
●    BKC
●    NuCanoe
●    Perception
●    Evoke Kayaks
●    Dagger
●    Aquaglide
●    Sea Eagle
●    Hobie
●    Riot Kayaks
●    Vibe Kayaks
●    Hoodoo
●    Delta
●    Feel Free
●    Eddyline
●    Liquidlogic Kayaks
●    Pakboats

Whitewater Kayaks

●    Dagger
●    Star
●    Advanced Elements
●    Riot Kayaks
●    Aire
●    Aquaglide
●    Jackson
●    Liquidlogic Kayaks

Touring Kayaks

●    Eddyline
●    Lincoln Canoe and Kayak
●    Point 65N
●    North Shore Sea Kayaks
●    Oru Kayaks
●    Advanced Elements
●    Aire
●    Wilderness Systems
●    Riot Kayaks
●    Perception
●    Delta
●    Old Town
●    Dagger
●    Feel Free
●    Pakboats
●    Sea Eagle
●    Star
●    Liquidlogic Kayaks

Pedal Kayaks

●    Hobie
●    Wilderness Systems
●    Feel Free
●    NuCanoe
●    Native Watercraft
●    Perception
●    BKC
●    Old Town
●    Ocean Kayak
●    Hoodoo

Tandem Kayaks

●    Ocean Kayak
●    Feel Free
●    Perception
●    Riot Kayaks
●    Pelican
●    Wilderness Systems
●    Old Town
●    Liquidlogic Kayaks
●    Pakboats
●    Aquaglide
●    Sea Eagle
●    Star
●    NuCanoe
●    Native Watercraft
●    BKC
●    Lifetime
●    Vibe Kayaks

Folding

●    Oru Kayaks
●    Pakboats

Modular

●    Point 65N Sweden

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