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The 9 Best Lightweight Kayaks in 2021: Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

Are you looking for the best lightweight kayak? Not sure which one is right or what to look for? Well you’re in the right place. Lightweight kayaks are much easier to carry, transport and store and can make kayaking a much more pleasant experience without suffering back ache and sore shoulders the next day.

In this post, we’re going to break down everything you need to be looking for as well as discuss what makes a kayak heavy. We’ve also included some lightweight kayak reviews towards the end to help you choose the best one for you. Let’s get started.

Quick Answer: The Top Lightweight Kayaks

How to Choose a Lightweight Kayak: A Buyer’s Guide

Whether you’re a first time buyer looking for beginner kayaks, or you’re a seasoned veteran looking for something more advanced, the weight of your kayak is a significant consideration for all paddlers. There are two times when you want the most lightweight kayak you can get – when you need the maximum performance it can give you and when you need to carry it out of the water.

Of course, getting a lightweight kayak is easier said than done. The ways to build boats that are straightforward and inexpensive also result in heavier boats. Plus, the materials used in lightweight craft are more expensive. This all totals up to make a feather-light kayak a pleasure to paddle but painful to purchase.

Lightweight Kayak Materials Compared

More than any other factor, the material your kayak is constructed from contributes to its weight. Each material has pros and cons going for it, so choosing what you want your kayak built out of is a good starting place for determining what sort of lightweight kayak you should purchase.

The material also determines how usable your kayak is. Some materials shouldn’t be left in the sun, while others are relatively delicate and shouldn’t be used on rocky beaches without a lot of care. As you study the materials, think about your paddling and where you’ll be using and storing your boat.

Inflatables

Inflatable kayaks vary in quality considerably. Some of the least expensive ones are made with very thin vinyl, like a beach ball or a pool float. These are great for playing around on the lake or at the beach, but they don’t have long-term durability.

The better quality inflatable kayaks are made of a multi-layered vinyl (PVC) coated fabric. This is the same sort of material used to make inflatable standup paddleboards (iSUPs) and Zodiac-style RIBs (rigid inflatable boats). The military commonly uses these boats, so you know they aren’t a pool toy.

The trick is figuring out what type of fabric you’re looking at when shopping. Many of the higher-quality boats will rate the thickness of the fabric in denier. 800-1200 denier PVC is fairly beefy stuff.

Another consideration with inflatable boats is determining how they are constructed. Like sewing a garment, flat panels of fabric and cut out and joined to make a 3D object. But the fabric can’t be sewn, so it is either heat welded or chemically bonded (glued).

Some inflatables use frames to give them more shape and harder keels and chines. These features are intended to make the boat paddle better and give it performance more like a hard-hulled boat.

Most people worry about puncture damage to this type of boat, but a high-quality inflatable boat is tough to puncture. It can happen, but small holes are reasonably straightforward to repair.

A bigger problem with an inflatable boat is keeping the seams in good shape. Neither glued nor welded seams last forever. The act of rolling the boat up breaks them down, as do heat changes and UV damage. To add more problems, under and over-inflation can cause damage and stress to the seams. The boat’s pressure will change as the weather turns, so a boat left outside on a hot day can quickly become over-inflated.

No one picks an inflatable kayak because they paddle as well as a hard boat or because they last the longest. The biggest advantage is that they deflate and can be packed anywhere. They are lightweight, too, and one person can lift even large boats. An inflatable kayak means you don’t need a roof rack, and once you get home, you don’t need a garage or a yard to store it.

Folding Kayaks

Folding kayaks have only recently become popular. They are made with semi-flexible lightweight plastic panels that fold together like a Japanese origami artwork. The plastic is rigid, like a hard boat, but the package folds down into a small case, like an inflatable boat.

Plastic Kayaks

There are two types of plastic kayaks–rotomolded polyethylene and thermoformed ABS.

Rotomolded polyethylene kayaks are by far the most common types. They are inexpensive to produce, though the nice ones are still pricy. They are also the heaviest type of kayak available, so the only way to get a lightweight one is to buy a tiny boat with a low capacity. Be wary of kayaks built in this manner that seem lighter than their competitors–it may be a sign that it’s built too thin.

Besides being heavy, rotomolded boats tend not to be very resistant to UV rays. They should be stored inside, or at least under a cover.

ABS is another type of plastic used. These boats are built in two pieces, a hull and a deck, which are then joined together. The material is more rigid than polyethylene, so the result is a lighter and thinner kayak that can still take some abuse. The ABS material is also more resistant to UV damage.

Both types of plastic kayaks are produced relatively quickly in factories using molds and machines.

Composite Boats

Composite kayaks are built like yachts–cloth layers are saturated with a liquid polymer that cures hard. The cloth is usually a glass-fiber cloth, making the resulting hard material fiberglass, also called glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP). Since the cloth can be laid to take any shape using a mold, it’s a wonderful material to build just about anything.

The strength of the cloth used determines how thick the final layup of materials needs to be. High-tech cloths like carbon fiber (CFRP) or aramid (Kevlar) will result in lighter kayaks.

But the work of making a composite boat is done mainly by hand, and therefore the cost is very high. These boats are very lightweight, but they don’t take bumps and scrapes as well as plastic boats do. If they do get chipped or cracked, they are easy to repair. They’ll last forever if taken care of, even in direct sunlight.

Wood Kayaks

Few manufacturers still make kayaks from wood, so it is most likely owner-built if you see one. The woods used are usually lightweight, and the final product is often coated in a thin layer of fiberglass to waterproof it and add strength. Wood boats are costly if you find one for sale, and their weight will not be the primary factor in your purchase. They’re purchased because they are works of art in themselves. Chances are, they’ll weigh somewhere between a fiberglass and a plastic boat.

The Size and Weight Equation

Kayaks are large items. There are certain physics involved in kayak design that can’t be changed.

For one thing, the kayak needs to displace enough water to support the weight of the kayak, you, and all of your gear. Then there needs to be a little margin for safety because a little extra buoyancy will make the boat seem more stable.

To get the right amount of buoyancy out of a hull, it needs to have a certain wet surface area. That comes from the boat’s length and width. So in short, you can have a short and wide kayak, or you can choose a long and skinny kayak. But you can’t have a short and skinny kayak.

Another fact to think about is how well they paddle. A short kayak will be more difficult to paddle in a straight line. Longer kayaks, in contrast, track and glide very well. Their longer waterline resists the turning motion of your paddling.

That’s the same thing as saying that shorter kayaks are easier to turn and long kayaks are difficult to turn. This is why whitewater kayaks are very short and why rudders are common on longer boats.

The moral of the story is this–you can save weight by buying a smaller kayak, but only to a certain extent. A lot is going on with the width and length of a kayak’s design. There’s a minimum size kayak you need to be functional and stable on the water.

As a paddler, your height and weight play a critical role in selecting a kayak. A six-foot-tall 250-pound person is not going to ever be comfortable in an eight-foot long kayak.

It’s also essential that the kayak has enough capacity and physical space to carry what you need. Do you want to paddle with your dog? Or maybe you want to go kayak-camping one day? Whatever adventure you have in mind, make sure the boat you pick is big enough for you and your stuff.

How Does Weight Affect Performance and Usability?

Novice paddlers might be surprised to learn that a heavier kayak probably doesn’t affect their kayaking experience on the water very much. A heavier boat will seem more stable at times and require more force to make a turn. That may make them seem like they track pretty well.

It’s out of the water when a heavy kayak becomes a burden. If you have to lift a brute of a boat onto the top of your vehicle by yourself, you may quickly regret going for the 70-pound 15-foot rotomolded model. Likewise, the farther you carry the kayak between your car and the water will determine how happy you are with your choices.

Transportation is the single biggest problem that owners face when dealing with large or heavy kayaks. The more you have to move your kayak around on land, the smaller and lighter you want it to be.

The exception to this rule is if you are looking for a boat that performs well. No matter what your performance measure of choice is, a lighter boat will always win out. A lighter boat takes less effort on your part to move through the water and, therefore, will allow you to paddle it faster or for longer periods of time.

A lighter hull will also give you more leeway when loading the kayak. When comparing two similar kayaks side-by-side, the lighter one should have a greater payload.

Budget

Your budget will be the primary determinant of how lightweight a kayak you can afford. Inflatables and folding kayaks are an exception since you give up some functionality to get their space and weight-saving designs. With performance and racing kayaks, every pound saved during construction is a potential advantage. That makes these boats extremely expensive.

How Much Does a Kayak Weigh?

Kayak weight is determined mainly by its material and size. As discussed earlier how much a kayak weighs can vary dramatically from under 20 lbs for a small inflatable or carbon fiber kayak all the way to over 100 lbs for a long fishing kayak. Make sure you check exactly how much your kayak weights before purchasing. Below is a table with some average weights for the different types of kayaks.

MaterialAverage Weight – Kayaks Under 12 feetAverage Weight – Kayaks 12-15 feetRough Cost
Inflatable25-30 lbs40-45 lbs$-$$
Folding20 lbs35 lbs$$-$$$
Plastic-rotomolded45-50 lbs65-70 lbs$-$$
Plastic-ABS30-35 lbs45-55 lbs$$-$$$
Fiberglass25-30 lbs40-50 lbs$$$-$$$$
Carbon Fiber20-25 lbs35-40 lbs$$$$+
Wood35-40 lbs45-55 lbs$$$-$$$$

Best Rated Lightweight Kayak Reviews

#1. SeaEagle 370 Lightweight Inflatable Kayak

Having a lightweight kayak can make it easy to enjoy a day out on the water. Whether you’re an adventurous camper, an avid angler, or a passionate kayaker, there are many reasons to own a lightweight kayak. Still, many kayaks are designed for specific hobbies. But not the SeaEagle 370.

This inflatable kayak puts all other inflatable kayaks to shame. It’s tough enough to handle a wide variety of conditions and elements, making it the ideal option for anglers, campers, and kayakers. It’s made of rigid PVC that’s designed to resist UV damage and saltwater corrosion. 

More impressively, it’s capable of supporting about 650lbs in weight! You can seat three people on one of these kayaks (though there are only two seats) or enjoy some superior legroom by going alone. Either way, you’ll experience excellent movement and stability from the SeaEagle 370. 

This beauty slices through the water quickly, and the included spray skirts help keep kayakers dry, even in rough or choppy waters. And at only about 32lbs, this might be the lightest kayak in this best lightweight kayak review, especially when you consider its size and capability.

#2. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Light Kayak

While most inflated kayaks have divided internal cells to keep them stable and well-inflated, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame kayak uses both air pockets and aluminum poles to keep itself rigid. 

Lightweight aluminum adds a slight amount of weight, but this kayak still manages to weigh only 26lbs. Even better, it doesn’t have the same feel as a standard inflatable, plastic kayak. 

That’s because the exterior panels and interior cockpit are covered in a skin-friendly tear-resistant fabric. When you’re done using this kayak, you need only deflate and fold to store it away. Of course, considering how comfortable this vessel is, you might never want to get out!

Still, the cockpit berth for this kayak is a bit large, which can become problematic for those who enjoy kayaking on rougher waters. Overall, this option might be best for calm lakes and slowly-moving rivers.

#3. Pelican Maxim 100X Lightweight Hardshell Kayak

Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-in Recreational Kayak Kayak 10-Foot Lightweight one...
191 Reviews
Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-in Recreational Kayak Kayak 10-Foot Lightweight one...
  • Lightweight and easy to carry with Front and Rear T-Handles for Easy Transport this Sit-In kayak has a maximum capacity of 275 lb....
  • Includes a Storage hatch with bungee cord and a Storage Platform with a Mesh Deck Cover to store all your gear for your trip on...
  • The Shallow V Chine hull Design provides good stability and maneuverability while providing very good performance.Do not use...

Are you looking for a lightweight kayak that isn’t inflatable in this best lightweight kayak review? The Pelican Maxim 100x might be right up your alley. It’s a single-person kayak that’s made of lightweight, high-density recycled plastics. It’s coated in UV-resistant paint, helping it survive many months and years of consistent usage.

However, at about 36lbs in weight, this option will weigh more than inflatable options. Because you cannot collapse this kayak down into a more portable form, you may also need to purchase a kayak rack for your vehicle if you don’t already own one. 

Still, this is one of the most lightweight non-inflatable kayaks, and it’s also one of the easiest to maneuver. It has a v-shaped hull that helps it remain stable in the water while also reducing water resistance. This design makes for more accessible, faster travel. 

The Pelican Maxim 100x has two storage areas, though they’re both relatively small. But you can chalk this up the fact that this kayak is designed for one person.

#4. AIRE Tributary Tomcat Solo Lightweight Inflatable Kayak

Made with a combination of vinyl and PVC materials, this inflatable kayak could be the most durable inflatable option. It’s also one of the heaviest inflatable kayaks, weighing-in at 34lbs.

This kayak may also be one of the pricier options, but there’s a good reason for this model’s hefty price tag. While most inflatable kayaks are notorious for their inability to travel on rapids and whitewater safely, the AIRE Tributary Tomcat can do just that. If you’ve got a penchant for adventurous travels, this kayak could be the smartest choice.

That’s because this kayak is protected with multiple air pockets, it can drain itself of any onboard water, and it has specialized air valves that let air in but doesn’t let it escape. While you might pay a pretty penny to make this kayak yours, you’ll be investing in months (or years) of fun times on the water. 

#5. Oru Beach LT Lightweight Folding Kayak

Oru Kayak BayST Folding Portable Lightweight Kayak - High Performance for...
68 Reviews
Oru Kayak BayST Folding Portable Lightweight Kayak - High Performance for...
  • THE ORIGINAL ORU KAYAK – Meet the boat making waves in the kayaking world and helping people everywhere connect with the water....
  • FROM BOX TO BOAT IN MINUTES – Construct your kayak in under 5 minutes! Oru pioneered the Bay ST’s origami-inspired, foldable...
  • SLEEK, DURABLE, & RELIABLE – Although your kayak is small enough to carry when folded, it is most certainly mighty. Oru Kayaks...

The Oru series of kayaks are some of the most well-known lightweight options. That’s because they feature a unique folding design that eliminates the need for an air pump or kayak rack. The Oru Beach LT weighs a mere 26lbs but can support about 300lbs in weight. 

It also folds down into a large square (33in x 12in x 29in) and converts into an easy-to-carry case. When you’re ready to hit the water, all you need to do is remove the seat (carrying case cover), unfold the panels, and connect the included ropes and straps. After a few attempts, you’ll be able to get the hang of it. 

A 12-month warranty protects each Oru kayak, so if any issues arise, you can quickly sort it out and receive a replacement kayak or (potentially) a refund. Still, it’s crucial to note that the Beach LT is designed for calmer, smoother waters and coastal areas. If you take it out for some whitewater kayaking, you might end up springing a leak.

#6. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Light Beginner Kayak

Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak, Paddle Included (Tangerine, 10-Feet)
36 Reviews
Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak, Paddle Included (Tangerine, 10-Feet)
  • Large open cockpit with adjustable padded seat with high back support
  • Convenient gear storage with shock cord deck rigging
  • Adjustable foot braces;Capacity: 113kg

Sun Dolphin is well-known for producing some of the most accessible and affordable kayaks and canoes. The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is one such option, but it also happens to be relatively lightweight.

This kayak weighs-in at 40lbs, making it the heaviest of the lightweight options. However, it’s not an inflatable vessel, which may appeal to those hoping to traverse rougher waters. This kayak is made of UV-resistant, high-density polyethylene that resists abrasions and punctures. 

The adjustable seatback and footrests ensure that users of nearly all heights feel comfortable, though individuals weighing more than 250lbs may want to choose a different model. In addition to the gear rigging cords, there’s also a tiny rear internal storage space. There are also padded carrying handles and a paddle storage spot for greater ease of use.

#7. Sea Eagle 330 Deluxe Light Kayak

The SeaEagle 330 Deluxe is very similar to the 370 in terms of construction and capability. However, it’s a slightly shorter, smaller model. As such, it features a 500lb weight limit and a two-person capacity limit. 

Because this kayak is also an inflatable option, those numbers are impressive. The SeaEagle Deluxe 330 can be slightly more tedious to inflate, as it comes with a foot-pump instead of a powered inflation device. Still, this kayak only weighs 26lbs, making it easy to transport.

In addition to the deflated kayak and foot-pump, buyers will receive a nifty carrying bag, a repair kit, and two AB30 paddles. As such, this kayak could be the best value choice for couples who enjoy taking to the water together. 

In terms of ease of use, SeaEagle once again impresses. This kayak utilizes two rear skegs to keep the craft stable during use. These skegs also help minimize water resistance, allowing for easier paddling. 

#8. Lifetime Lotus Lightweight Sit On Top kayak

Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle, Blue, 8'
202 Reviews
Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle, Blue, 8'
  • Kayak Paddle included
  • Adjustable quick release seat back for comfort
  • Tank well storage with bungee cord lacing to secure loose items

While it can be helpful to have an enclosed cockpit area in your kayak, it isn’t always necessary. Sit-in cockpits can add weight to your vessel, which is why it might be better to opt for an open-air option, especially if weight is your primary concern.

The Lifetime Lotus kayak doesn’t feature an enclosed cockpit, and while it is 38lbs, it’s one of the lightest polyethylene kayaks available. But with a weight limit of 250lbs, it isn’t the most robust kayak. Of course, it’s designed for single riders, so this limitation may not be a problem for most kayakers.

Though this option doesn’t offer many ergonomic features (the seatback is notoriously tricky), adding a cushion isn’t much of a challenge. Besides, a built-in carrying handle and a nifty cargo area help make up for the lack of comfy seating. 

There are also multiple built-in footrests along the interior, ensuring that users feel relaxed as they kayak. If you need a paddle, you won’t need to place an additional order after purchasing the Lifetime Lotus—It comes with one!

#9. Intex Challenger K1 Cheap Lightweight Kayak

Sale
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and...
18,100 Reviews
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and...
  • Nimble, durable kayak is made of durable welded material with eye catching graphics for added safety on the lake or slow moving...
  • Cockpit is designed for comfort and maximized space, and inflatable I beam floors add stability
  • Cargo net to store extra gear, and grab line on both ends of kayak; Inflatable seat with backrest

Do you need something that’s both lightweight and budget-friendly? If so, the Intex Challenger K1 inflatable kayak could be the best option. At only about 27lbs, it’s one of the lightest and most portable kayaks available. 

Because it’s inflatable, you don’t need a kayak rack for your car. Instead, you can chuck this kit into the back of your car and inflate it when you arrive at your kayaking spot. In addition to the kayak and a light aluminum oar, you’ll receive an air pump when you order this item. 

There’s even mesh netting along the front that’s perfect for keeping cargo safe and sound during your journeys. However, this kayak does have a 220lb weight limit, so it might not be the most effective option for larger folks. 

Additionally, you may want to avoid using this kayak on rivers or streams with sharp rocky areas. This might be one of the most affordable and lightweight kayaks, but it’s not the most durable. 

Which One Should You Buy?

Though all of these lightweight kayaks have their pros and cons, the best overall option in this best lightweight kayak review has to be the SeaEagle 370. Even though it’s inflatable, it’s capable of supporting more than 600lbs and three kayakers. 

The PVC construction is durable enough to handle light whitewater (up to Class III) and certainly survive the average kayaking adventure. This kayak also has attached spray skirts that can help you to avoid taking on water. You can also utilize the spray skirts for safe and secure storage. Knapsacks, sleeping bags, and other bits of gear fit easily on the front and back.

If you’re a single rider, you might be pleased to know that there’s plenty of room for long legs in this kayak. Overall, it’s challenging to find a sturdier, more lightweight, and more capable kayak than the SeaEagle 370.