Looking for a tandem kayak but not sure what the best ones are? Or perhaps you’re wondering if a tandem kayak is right for you and what the pros and cons are vs a solo kayak. In this post, we’re going to break down all the different things to look for in a tandem kayak and what features you need to look for when buying one.
We’ll also review some of what we think are the best tandem kayak on the market in 2021 to help you choose the best one for you and your needs. Let’s get started.
Quick Answer: The Best Kayaks for 2 People
How to Choose a Tandem Kayak: Advice for Buyers
There are many decisions that go into buying a tandem kayak. First, you’ll need to decide if you want a sit-on-top or a sit-in kayak. Then, there’s the issue of material: plastic or fiberglass? And finally, what accessories do you want?
Depending on who you ask, tandem kayaks are either loads of fun, or they are the worst. If you’re reading this article, you must want to know a little more about them from someone who’s paddled both solo and tandem kayaks in all sorts of conditions.
The experience of paddling a tandem kayak can be most likened to rowing a canoe. It’s a longer vessel built to carry a load. It is technically possible to paddle with one person, but it isn’t always an enjoyable experience. When you have only one person on board, the trim of the boat gets out of whack, and the position of the seat becomes critical.
Below we’ll help you work out the answers to all the questions you might have so that your purchase is perfect for your needs.
Is a Tandem Kayak Right for You?
The First question to ask is a tandem kayak right for you? Tandem kayaks make some compromises that you need to consider. The independence that comes from controlling your own fast, maneuverable vessel on the water is half the fun of kayaking. A tandem kayak gives that part up. Plus, tandem kayaks are longer and wider and are therefore less maneuverable. At times they may be a bit faster than a solo kayak, but not often enough for it to be an advantage.
Pros of Tandem Kayaks
Tandem kayaks are fun when they’re used for shorter trips, the kind of paddling where you aren’t necessarily going anywhere, like when you’re just out having fun on the water. It’s usually possible for one person to do something else, like photography or fishing, while the other paddles. They’re fun for families, too, since you can put younger kids in the front seat to keep an eye on them. And many owners of large dogs like to use tandems to give their furry crewmembers a seat all to their own.
If you’ve got a large family, a tandem kayak or two makes a lot of sense. Another time you might consider it is if you share your kayaking adventures with different friends. If some have kayaks and others don’t, tandems allow everyone the option to play. If you own a lake house or a beach cottage, tandems make wonderful toys to have on the property for whoever is staying. They are often present at holiday rental homes as a fun activity.
Cons of Tandem Kayaks
A big problem with traveling long distances in a tandem kayak is the teamwork involved in getting to Point B with your crewmate. Some people call tandem kayaks “divorce boats.” Any size boat you share can turn into a divorce boat, as many newly single yacht owners can attest. But tandem kayaks are very small indeed.
One problem with shorter tandems is the necessity of paddling in sync with one another. Like a marching band, the paddler in the back needs to follow the strokes of the paddler in the front. If they don’t, the two paddles smack one another–a jolting and unpleasant break in everyone’s rhythm.
Paddling in sync might not sound like a problem until you try doing it. It’s easier to control the kayak if the more experienced paddler sits in the back for steering. But then, the experienced paddler has to match the moves of the inexperienced. The person in front can’t follow the strokes of the “expert” in the back because they can’t see them. All of this makes for great entertainment–if you’re in another boat watching from a distance.
Types of Tandem kayak
When it comes to classifying kayaks there are lots of different ways. The two most fundamental ways though are ‘sit-on top’ and ‘sit inside’ kayaks.
Sit on vs Sit in Kayaks
In the recreational market, there are two main types of tandem kayaks. The first type is the sit-on-top boats, which have no decks. They’re great for swimming off of since their cockpits are self-bailing, and getting on and off is easy. Sit-on-top designs feature molded-in seats and footwells, so it’s challenging to get the trim of the kayak perfect if the two paddlers are of different sizes.
Sit-in tandem recreational kayaks are nearly always more like partially decked canoes. They have a large cockpit opening that fits both seats. The space between the seats is wide open, making it a great place to stash a cooler, the dog, or even small kids.
Sit-in tandem sea kayaks have two separate cockpits, often quite far apart. To make this feat happen, they are nearly always 17 feet long or more. Each cockpit can be equipped with a spray skirt for cold conditions. While these boats can’t carry as much as two solo sea kayaks, they can carry enough for two people to camp and explore for several days.
Hardshell Vs Inflatable Kayaks
Just like solo kayaks, you can find both “hardshell” and inflatable tandem kayaks.
Inflatable kayaks exist as a solution to the portability problem of long and bulky kayaks, which is an even bigger problem with tandems. An inflatable boat can be rolled up and easily stored in the trunk of your car. No roof rack and no space in the garage is required.
Of course, the portability of an inflatable model does not come for free. They are very robust but can still be punctured if abused. And they generally do not paddle as nicely as a hard-hulled boat, though manufacturers have come a long way by using metal frames or high-pressure inflatable panels.
Number of Passengers
A tandem kayak that is designed to also be paddled solo is a handy vessel to have. No, it’s not going to paddle as well as a purpose-designed solo boat because it is so much heavier and wider. But many smaller tandems can support one or two people, and the best ones have a position to paddle from for solo operations. Whether it’s a molded-in center position or a sliding rear seat, this will improve the solo handling and make the boat all that much more versatile.
Weight and Portability
Tandem kayaks are larger, longer, and heavier than a single-person kayak. That means they’re harder to transport and harder to store. But at the same time, a single tandem is usually smaller and easier to transport than two individual solo kayaks.
Weight Capacity and Stability
You must look at the kayak’s weight capacity you’re planning to purchase. Then compare it to a realistic estimate of what you want to load into the kayak. Many tandems look appealing for their size and price until you do the math.
You don’t want to paddle a kayak that is loaded until it is right up against its maximum capacity. As the weight increases, the craft’s stability will decrease. Yes, you can load it up to the number listed. But it will paddle a lot better and be a lot more fun if you give yourself some fudge factor.
Tandem kayaks are very stable, to begin with, since they are longer and wider than most other kayak designs. But once overloaded, they can be tippy and uncomfortable.
Stability also becomes a factor if you try to paddle a boat alone. On many tandem kayaks, a solo paddler has to choose between the forward or the aft position. The problem is that from the forward position, the boat is too difficult to turn. But when sitting in the back, the bow rises to the point that it’s out of the water. In this situation, the boat’s tracking will be terrible.
Some designs fix this problem with a center seat or by allowing the rear seat to be adjusted forward. But if the boat isn’t designed to do this, paddling with one paddler might not be comfortable.
That being said, they make an ideal choice for big and tall kayakers to use as a solo kayak due to the extra weight capacity and space.
There are some shorter tandems on the market, but generally, the smallest ones that you’ll find are about 13 feet long. Compare this with the shortest single kayaks, which start at about nine feet, and it’s clear that tandems are universally longer. When looking at long sea kayaks, singles are 15 to 17 feet, while tandems are 17 to 21 feet long.
The reason is the weight capacity requirements. To displace more water to stay afloat, the hull needs more wetted surface area. That comes in the form of a longer, wider hull.
As you might imagine, these long boats mean excellent tracking and speed but less maneuverability. When compared to solo kayaks of the same length, they are generally wider, too. The largest tandems are usually equipped with a rudder, operated by the rear passenger’s foot pedals.
Materials and Durability
Most hard kayaks, especially those sold as recreational, are made of plastic. The most common type of plastic is rotomolded polyethylene. This is a sturdy hard plastic, but it’s not entirely resistant to the sun’s UV rays. These boats should be stored indoors for the longest lifespans, or at least undercover and out of the sun.
Rotomolded kayaks can also warp if they are left in the sun in the wrong position. Most manufacturers recommend storing them on their sides or upside down to prevent problems. If they are left on their bottoms, they can lose their shapes and develop flat spots.
A less common type of plastic kayak is made from thermo-molded ABS. These kayaks are more expensive, but they do not warp, and they are more resistant to UV rays. From the ownership standpoint, they’re something of a hybrid between a rotomolded and a composite kayak. They’re less expensive than composites but also more prone to damage than rotomolded plastic.
Composite materials include fiberglass, carbon fiber, or Kevlar. These are lightweight and very expensive. They also can be chipped and damaged more easily than plastic boats, so they tend to be used for sea kayaks where there’s little chance of banging into rocks or hitting objects.
Inflatables are made of very thick PVC vinyl. It’s the same sort of material they make inflatable boats like Zodiacs out of. Their quality is directly related to the fabric thickness, which is usually measured in Denier. Even the most robust ones can be punctured, but it takes considerable abuse for it to happen. You can easily patch them should a leak form.
Storage Space for Supplies
Most tandems have some amount of storage space, though it can be lacking on shorter models. There is usually a deck hatch for keeping things dry, plus bungees and wells for keeping things on top. One of the most spacious areas on tandem kayaks is often between the rear paddler’s legs, which are usually far apart.
Small tandems tend not to have much storage since space is already tight. While a tandem can carry two people, it can seldom carry the stuff of two people. And then there’s the consideration of weight capacity. If you’re already near the kayak’s capacity with people, you won’t need space to put your stuff anyway. It is remarkably easy to overload a tandem kayak.
The comfort of the tandem kayak depends on a few factors. First, there are the seats. Most sit-on-top kayaks will accept generic seats with adjustable seatbacks, which are a considerable upgrade in comfort. Sit-in boats will have some integrated seats built-in, and they will either be comfortable, or they won’t be. The best boats come with extremely comfortable and fully adjustable seats.
The second thing that helps to make a boat comfortable is the footrests. The rear passenger footpegs are often placed very far apart, which can be uncomfortable for long paddles.
As with solo kayaks, there is a wide variation on prices for tandem boats. Some of the fluctuations have to do with materials and craftsmanship. Others are simple market factors, like brand recognition and economies of scale.
You can find some of the best values in inflatable boats. These boats generally have very customizable seating patterns, allowing one, two, or even three people to come on board. They also have the highest weight carrying capacity as well as being the easiest to transport.
Rotomolded kayaks can be had relatively inexpensively, but be cautious of materials and quality. The cheapest models feature very thin material that does not hold up well. More troublesome are their poorer hull shapes and designs that make them inferior performers on the water.
ABS and composite boats are reserved chiefly for experienced paddlers who know precisely what they want. These boats require special care and attention to ensure that they aren’t damaged. Their high prices mean that these boats are reserved for dedicated paddlers looking for premium boats.
The Best 2 Person Kayak Reviews
Now that we’ve covered and hopefully answer all your questions about whether a tandem kayak is right for you it’s time to look at the best 2 person kayaks on the market as we review some of our favorite models.
#1. Sea Eagle 380x Tandem Kayak
The Sea Eagle 380x Explorer Inflatable Kayak boasts a large, rugged design with a 750lb weight capacity. It’s large enough to hold up to three people yet compact enough to take out on your own if you’re looking for a solo adventure.
Three inflatable chambers in the port, starboard, and floor of the kayak and a removable skeg keep it stable and upright in all conditions, including both still and choppy waters. It inflates in just eight minutes for quick and convenient setup, with built-in carry handles for easy transportation.
Sixteen self-bailing drain valves and one-way air valves keep you and other passengers safe in the water. The kayak also comes with front and rear spray skirts to keep you and your equipment dry.
If you want to ditch the paddles, the 380X includes a motor mount for an electric engine of up to 15lbs. The kayak can handle up to 34 lbs of thrust thanks to its durable, 1000 denier reinforced build.
#2. Advanced Elements Convertible Tandem Kayak
The AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem is a versatile choice for any kayaking enthusiast. It switches effortlessly between a single-rider and tandem design, allowing you to travel either solo or with a companion. It has a 550 lb weight capacity.
The AdvancedFrame is easy to transport and set up with or without help. Simply unfold and inflate before attaching one or both seats. The design includes user-friendly spring valves and Twistlok valves that are compatible with most air pump designs.
A sturdy aluminum frame keeps the boat stable and upright while improving efficiency moving through the water. It acts as a skeg to allow for smooth gliding on still water. The walls are made of triple-layer polyester material with dual PVC coating for extreme puncture resistance.
The kayak includes plenty of legroom and storage space, making it comfortable for occupants of all sizes. Bungee lacing and D-ring tie-downs ensure that your gear stays in place as you travel.
#3. AIRE Lynx II Tandem Inflatable Kayak
This inflatable kayak from AIRE comes in a choice of five attractive, vibrant colors that are easy to spot out on the water. It comfortably fits up to two adults, with a weight capacity of up to 475 lbs.
The Lynx II boasts a durable, rugged design, with a two-layer Aircell system construction. The outer tubes are 1100 denier PVC, while the flooring is made of even thicker high-quality PVC. Welded seams help to ensure there are no splits or tears with heavy use.
Inside, 14 mm urethane bladders keep the Lynx II kayak stable and afloat. The curved design gives you maximum maneuverability and control in just about any conditions. This kayak is made to handle tough, choppy water, such as rivers, creeks, and even whitewater.
There are three separate air chambers within the Lynx II, all safely sealed with Leafield B7 valves. Self-bailing drain holes ensure that you stay afloat even if you’re taking on water. In the event of a malfunction, the Lynx II comes with a free repair kit for field use.
#4. BKC TK181 12.5′ Tandem Sit On Top Kayak
- 7 Rod Holders: The Brooklyn Kayak Company BKC UH-TK181 Sit on Top Tandem Kayak features 3 articulated fishing rod holders and 4...
- Waterproof Storage Hatches: Stash a wallet, keys, snacks, and more in the twin watertight storage compartments, which are...
- Twin Paddle Rests: The Brooklyn Kayak Company BKC UH-TK181 Sit on Top Tandem Kayak features two secure paddle rests, so you can...
Unlike traditional kayaks, which seat occupants with their legs inside the watercraft, sit on top kayaks offer an open alternative. They’re ideal for those who don’t like to feel cramped or claustrophobic as they paddle.
The TK181 can seat up to three paddlers, with a weight capacity of up to 770 lbs. Seats are soft, padded, and adjustable for maximum comfort. Twin paddle rests allow up to two people to row for greater efficiency.
Inside the boat, inset storage compartments keep everything safe and dry. A secure bungee tie-down system holds everything in place, even in rough conditions. You can also access conveniently placed waterproof storage hats in front of each seat.
This kayak makes an ideal choice for anyone who’s looking for a tandem fishing kayak. It has three built-in, articulate rod holders and four flush-mount holders so that you and a partner can cast multiple lines at once.
#5. Driftsun Rover 220 Tandem Kayak
- Durable & Lightweight - Fully inflates to a full sized kayak in less than 10 minutes and weighs a manageable 28 Lbs. 1000D...
- Stable & Maneuverable - Rigid High Pressure Drop Stitch Floor, Removable Flat Water Tracking Fin, and ample rocker profile deliver...
- Adventure Ready - Whitewater Rating: Suitable up to class III and IV rapids, 8 Self Bailing Ports, Plentiful Tie Down Points for...
The Rover 220 is built for durability, made of 1000 denier reinforced PVC side-tubes with a high-pressure, PVC tarpaulin bottom. The kayak can handle still waters thanks to a removable tracking fin, but the curved rocker profile is also rated to handle up to class IV rapids.
Plenty of tie-down ports keep your gear safe as you travel, whether you’re in still or choppy conditions. If you want to record your adventures, a front camera mount allows you to get unbeatable GoPro footage as you paddle.
Two adjustable, EVA-padded seats allow you to travel alone or take a partner. Each seat includes high back support for maximum comfort during long trips. The kayak can hold a total of 600lbs, allowing it to support both passengers and plenty of gear.
The Rover 200 comes with two free aluminum paddles and a high-power pump. You also get a durable carry bag to keep the kayak protected from wind, weather, and punctures during transportation and storage.
#6. Elkton Outdoor Tandem Fishing Kayak
- BUILT TO LAST: Constructed with a rotomold injected body to ensure your kayak will never crack or puncture and will last for years...
- EASY TO TRANSPORT: Two carry handles allow for convenient transportation. Fits easily in the bed of a truck or a trailer!
- PLENTY OF STORAGE: An air tight compartment, two storage areas located on each end of the kayak along with a designated platform...
The Elkton Tandem Fishing Kayak is built to be tougher than the average kayak. Instead of an inflatable design that’s susceptible to punctures, it boasts a thick, rotomolded injected body. It’s resistant to wear and even cracking with heavy use.
Two EVA-padded high-back seats keep up to two passengers comfortable during travel, with gear storage conveniently located on either end of the kayak. There’s also a dry storage compartment available for valuables and electronics.
This kayak makes a good choice for fishing enthusiasts, as it comes with four built-in rod holders for up to two passengers. There are also molded-in cup holders for beverages and a central console where you can keep your cooler or bait bucket.
This kayak includes two high-quality aluminum paddles free with the set. It also has two carry handles for easy transportation as well as plenty of bungee cords for secure storage.
#7. Ocean 12-Feet Malibu Tandem Sit on top Kayak
- Enjoy sun and surf with a friend or a furry companion with the kayak's three seating positions, which support solo, tandem, or...
- A pair of Comfort Plus seats provide four-way adjustability, generating a custom fit and greater slip prevention over molded...
- Patented overlapping foot wells allow center-seated paddlers to settle in and brace their feet comfortably. Hatches - None
This sit-on-top kayak is suitable for up to two adults and a child or pet. It offers a weight capacity of up to 425 lbs and makes a good choice for family outings, with plenty of legroom and storage space.
Instead of rigid molded seats, two Comfort Plus seats allow for four-way adjustability to mold to the shape of your body. An overlapping design around the footwells lets you kick your feet up or brace them against the boat in the kayak center. No matter how you prefer to sit, you can stay comfortable with the Malibu’s unique seating design.
The Malibu’s design includes two built-in handles for easy carrying as you transport the vessel from your garage to the water. The kayak also comes with a skid plate to ensure that you don’t wear the keel out too quickly, giving you more mileage out of your purchase.
#8. Sea Eagle SE370 Tandem Kayak
The Sea Eagle SE370 can comfortably fit up to three people, boasting a weight capacity of 650 lbs. Despite its rugged design, this kayak is incredibly lightweight, weighing in at just 32 lbs. Along the bottom of the boat, two separate skegs offer improved balance and stability for easy maneuvering.
It takes just ten minutes to set up without any assistance using the free foot pump included with the set. There are five one-way inflation and deflation valves conveniently located around the craft. An open and close drain valve keeps the kayak afloat without taking on extra water.
The SE370 has two deluxe seats that are designed for optimal comfort. Each comes with rigid back support for longer journeys. The kayak also comes with two top-of-the-line paddles included. Each boasts a four-part construction, with an aluminum shaft and asymmetrical blades.
#9. Lifetime Beacon Kayak For 2 People
- Two built-in padded crs + ultra Lite seats. Rear tank well with cargo net lacing for storage
- Skeg wheel for enhanced tracking and easy transportation. Storage hatch for added storage beneath the deck
- Molded-in footwells for comfort and secure foot bracing. Four carry handles to assist in transport
This speedy kayak features a streamlined, molded design that cuts effortlessly through the water. A built-in skeg wheel allows for easy transportation as well as enhanced tracking out on the water.
The kayak has two quick-release seats for easy setup, each with a padded seat and an adjustable back. The design also features footwells for both occupants designed to fit feet of just about any size.
The Lifetime Beacon has plenty of storage space for your gear, including a center storage hatch. There’s also a spacious rear tank well that includes a cargo lacing system to keep your equipment secure in rough conditions.
The body is made of high-density Polyethylene, which holds up well against regular wear-and-tear. It’s UV resistant, so you don’t have to worry about the plastic breaking down with exposure to sunlight.
#10. Intex Explorer K2 2 Person Kayak
- Comfortable for anyone: Kayak includes an adjustable inflatable seat with backrest; Cockpit designed for comfort and space
- Dimensions: Inflated size 10 feet 3 x 3 feet x 1 feet 8 inch; Maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds
- Directional stability: Removable SKEG for directional stability
The Explorer K2 from Intex is designed to handle small, gentle bodies of water. It makes an excellent choice for paddling across lakes, creeks, and slow rivers. Its low weight and built-in grab handles make it easy to transport to the water with ease.
The design includes three separate air chambers for buoyancy and stability. A removable skeg gives you greater control and maneuverability. Along the floor, an inflatable I-beam ensures that you’ll be able to cut through the water quickly and efficiently.
Two adjustable, inflatable seats hold up to two occupants for a maximum capacity of 400 lbs. Both seats include a curved backrest for optimal comfort. There’s also plenty of legroom and storage space for your outdoor gear.
The Explorer K2 comes with a high output air pump for easy setup using one of the kayak’s built-in Boston valves. The vessel also comes with two free aluminum oars and a carry bag for easy storage and transportation.
Conclusion: Which Kayak Should You Buy?
Kayaking allows you to get up close and personal with local wildlife, cutting through crystal clear lakes and tumbling whitewater alike. Unlike traditional kayaks, a tandem kayak gives you the chance to explore the open wilderness with friends and family.
If you’re still on the fence about which one to go for, we’d highly recommend the Sea Eagle 380X. It offers stability and durability, with a rugged design and an impressive 750lb weight capacity. No matter what you’re planning to do out on the water, the Sea Eagle 380x is up to the task. For the best price and to read more reviews click below.