Kayaking is an ever so popular outdoor sport that can be exhilarating and relaxing. Due to the versatility of kayaking, more and more people are taking up the sport. Whether you are new to the world of kayaking, or if you are a seasoned kayaker looking for a new kayak, the ultimate guide to buying a kayak will help lead you on your search.
First and foremost, it is important to decide what type of kayaking you will be doing or interested in beginning. This will depend on which types of waters you will have access to or are willing to travel to. In your area, do you have lakes, rivers, oceans, ponds, creeks, or rapids? In addition to the bodies of water you have access to you need to be aware of the different types of kayaking. Understanding the type of kayaking you want to do will narrow down your choices and ensure that you are purchasing the correct kayak for the style of kayaking you intend to have.
1. Types of Kayaks
4-10ft Long with Rounded Bottom for Navigating Rapids
Durable, High levels of Control
Slower over long distances, yet the current will carry the kayak
Recreational Use on a variety of waters
10-15ft long, lightweight made from PVC
Easy Transport and Storage, More Buoyant than Traditional Kayaks
More Effort to Paddle, Slower and less Rugged than Traditional Kayaks
Touring on Calm, Flat Waters
Aluminum Frames, variety of lengths
Easy to Transport and Store, 15-20 minutes Assembly
Can take time to become familiar with assembly, heavier than other kayaks
Easy Days on Calm Waters
Made of Polyethylene Plastic
Affordable and Easy to Use, hold a straight course
Not for use in open water, heavy rain or strong currents, heavy to transport
Sit On Top
Variety of Waters
Variety of Materials Used
Ideal for those entering and exiting the kayak often, comfortable
Not ideal for people who are tall or have long legs
12 to 17ft
Variety of materials used
Stable, comfortable and excellent tracking, great for beginners
More expensive than recreational kayaks
15ft or more
Variety of materials used
Longer and faster than other kayaks, low in water to reduce cross winds
Harder to transport and store due to length
Variety of Calm Waters
6-10ft, specifically made for anglers
Stable enough for standing and lots of built in storage
Heavy to transport and not ideal for rough waters
Variety of Waters
12ft or more
Variety of materials used
Ideal for racing
Requires skilled paddlers and high levels of balance, more difficult to steer due to length
You should also be aware of the different materials used to manufacture kayaks. The materials used offer different features and vary in cost. The materials used to make kayaks include:
Single Layer Linear Polyethylene: Kayaks will be made of a single piece manufactured, are hard, resistant to abrasion and the weather. This is a very common material used for the creation of kayak and is highly recommended since they are more durable then the three – layer polyethylene option.
Three-Layer Polyethylene: As the name suggests it has 3 layers, the tough glossy exterior with a good slide, the intermediate is more thick making the buoyancy of the kayak better, providing thermal insulation (which is great for sit in kayaks) and the inside layer is non-slip. Lighter than single layer linear polyethylene.
Fiberglass: A very light material that weighs less than a kayak of polyethylene. Its weaknesses include being fragile against impacts and rods, more expensive pricing than one of polyethylene. This material is usually allocated to the closed models or cruise models of fishing kayaks.
Kevlar Carbon: These are extremely lightweight, lighter than the fiberglass and more resistant. Its weaknesses include its high price and how easy it is to break, even though repair is easy.
Now that you have begun to narrow down the types of kayaks and the style of kayaking you want to do, you can begin to search brands. There are several kayak manufacturers on the market and we have gathered some of the best kayak brands for you to compare in one place to make your search for the perfect kayak a bit easier.
Please keep in mind that although the brand ratings may be higher than others, specific kayaks made under a certain brand may be better than others despite having an overall lower rating. The chart below should be used as a rough guide only.
2. Best Kayak Brands
Focuses on designing and manufacturing inflatable kayaks ‘with cutting edge technology’. Performance, quality and portability are the three most important areas for excellent kayaking experience. Currently offer products worldwide at affordable rates. Great for beginners and experts to use on wide range of water types.
Long trusted name for quality and durability. Kayaks are made with stability, ease of use, and longevity in mind. Can be found internationally. Coleman offers a full line of kayaks for every type of kayaking style.
Specializes in recreational and fishing kayaks. Offers sit in and sit on top styles. One of the most popular brands in North America due to durability and ease of use.
Specifically known for inflatable kayaks for all types of kayaking styles. Can make custom kayaks. Focuses on portability, storage, and durability when designing and manufacturing kayaks. Ensures each kayak is light and fast to assemble.
Currently offers 15 types of kayaks specializing in fishing and recreational. High levels of quality and durability are put into manufacturing each kayak. Offers sit in and sit on top styles for a wide variety of water types.
Known for stability. Lifetime kayaks are built from high-density polyethylene plastic which makes them durable and light weight. Different styles available for both adult and kids kayaks.
Uses rotomolding technology to manufacture their kayaks which allows high quality and style at lower costs. Rotomolding allows kayaks to be more flexible in design and shape, which creates unique and high performing kayaks.
Specializes in inflatable kayaks. Provides high quality PVC to each kayak for durability, stability, and rugged use. Can be used on lakes or mild rivers only.
Inflatable kayaks are the focus. Each of their kayaks are extremely durable and lightweight, allowing them to be easier to carry and store without sacrificing stability and safety. Offers several varieties for a wide range of water types.
Offers a wide range of kayak types from children, adults, and even women specific kayaks. Provides a kayak for any type of water or skill level. All kayaks are durable and versatile.
When you are shopping around for a kayak, keeping these name brands in mind will help ensure that you are not disappointed and that you find the perfect kayak.
Now that you are aware of the best kayak brands, let’s take a look at some of the best kayaks specific to the kayaking style.
3. Best Fishing Kayaks
Make and Model
Up to 3
1. Lifetime Sport Fisher Single or Tandem Kayak
The Lifetime Sport Fisher Kayak is a wonderful choice for any fisherman. It is a versatile and sturdy kayak that has several features that assist you on your fishing outing. Although this kayak is a bit heavier and much wider than that of its competitors, you will not be disappointed. The extra width allows for more space and storage, while the weight will allow you to stand up as long as you are in calm waters.
The Lifetime Sport Fisher is well balanced and even beginners find this kayak easy to use. In addition to being sturdy and rugged, the Sport Fisher is also quite comfortable. This kayak is designed for long fishing excursions. That being said, the Sport Fisher is not as speedy as other kayaks as it is specifically for calmer waters such as lakes, ponds, or gentle creeks or rivers. If you are looking for a comfortable, sturdy, and durable kayak for fishing, look no further.
2. Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak
Although the Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak is an inflatable kayak, it is still one of the most popular on the market. The fact that it is inflatable allows for easy transport and storage. The Straitedge Angler features multilayer material, added abrasion pads, and multiple air chambers which provide maximum durability for aggressive conditions. The Straitedge Angler also has a revolutionary removable mounting rail that offers a variety of easy access options.
Advanced Elements is known for its quality and durability and choosing this kayak for your fishing needs will not disappoint. In addition to being known for the name brand quality, this kayak has several attractive key features. They include an ultra-comfortable high back seat with
If you are in the market for an easy to use, easy to transport and store, kayak that has high levels of quality and durability, and several features, the Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler is the one for you.
3. Future Beach Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak
This Future Beach kayak is extremely stable and you can even stand on top of it without it losing balance. This is ideal for the fisherman who needs the extra advantage of standing to bring in a catch. In addition to having great stability, the Future Beach kayak offers excellent tracking which will allow you to maneuver the kayak into narrow and hard to reach places which can enable you to find the perfect secret fishing spot.
The Future Kayak does weigh a bit more than other kayaks which takes away speed, yet speed is not exactly an important feature when you are using a kayak for fishing. What it lacks in speed, it makes up for with high levels of durability since it is rotomolded.
There are also some key features that many fishermen find attractive. The features included in the Future Beach Sit on Top kayak are:
Adjustable seat back 2 flushmount rod holders
Graduated foot weels 12" x 20" elliptical bow hatch
Large stern well with bungees hold 5 gallon pail 6" round dry hatch at stern and center
Side mounted carry handles
Bow & stern carry handles
Integrated drain plugs
Molded in cup holder
If you are searching for a stable and durable fishing kayak that still allows for easy maneuverability, the Future Beach Sit on Top kayak is an ideal choice.
4. Sun Dolphin Excursion Sit-In Fishing Kayak
The Sun Dolphin Excursion Sit-In kayak is perfect for lakes and rivers. The Sun Dolphin Excursion is lightweight and easy to carry. The Excursion tracks and paddles with ease while offering maximum stability. This kayak is made from rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene means that it will last longer.
The Excursion includes two flush mount rod holders and one swivel rod holder for your fishing rods. It has a large open cockpit and an adjustable padded seat and protective thigh pads for extra comfort. The storage compartment gives you plenty of space for all your fishing equipment and it will keep your things dry.
The extra width makes tipping the kayak more difficult, yet you will need to have a longer paddle to reach the water. The Excursion is easy to paddle and has great tracking. The Sun Dolphin Excursion is perfect for beginners or those who are using the calm waters of a lake or mild river.
5. Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak
The Coleman Colorado 2-person fishing kayak is great for those who do not want to go fishing alone. The Coleman Colorado is an inflatable kayak which is great for storage and transport. It only takes about five minutes to inflate and you and your fishing partner will be out on the water in no time.
The Coleman Colorado is easy to steer and maneuver which allows you to take this kayak just about anywhere. It is made from high quality PVC with multiple layers for added durability. Even if you do accidently puncture the kayak, it has multiple air chambers so it will stay inflated even with a puncture.
There is plenty of storage space which allows you to bring all your gear, and then some. Even with the added storage and extra person, the Coleman Colorado is still easy to paddle, yet some may find that they need to have longer paddles it just depends on your height. Overall the Coleman Colorado is a perfect kayak for fishing companions.
4. Best Inflatable Kayaks
Make and Model
7 feet 10 inches
10 feet 5 inches
1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
The Intex Explorer is designed to be lightweight and fast as it will glide gently over the water and allows for easy paddling. The Intex Explorer will inflate and deflate within minutes and comes with a convenient carrying bag so you can take this kayak anywhere. Once you do make it out on the water, you will find that the Intex Explorer is very stable, which is important for getting in and out of the kayak.
Additionally, the Intex Explorer is sturdy and durable enough to be taken out onto mild rivers or creeks. The Intex Explorer is quite difficult to tip over, which is ideal for beginners or those who plan on taking out the kids or bringing along the dog. You and a friend will find that the adjustable seats include backrests that are comfortable enough for the long days on the lake and can adjust to any size.
The Intex Explorer is made with rugged vinyl construction and this sturdy kayak has an inflatable I-beam floor for comfort and rigidity. A removable skeg provides directional stability and even beginners will find that they are able to stay on course. Not to mention the Intex Explorer has bright colors which are easy to spot and is featured with a U.S. Coast Guard I.D., giving you that extra peace of mind when you are out adventuring.
2. Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak
The Sea Eagle inflatable kayak is a lightweight and durable kayak that can accommodate up to three people. Even though it can fit up to three, the Sea Eagle can still be transported and operated by one person. The versatility of use allows for a wide range of kayaking adventures with a few friends or solo journeys.
Out on the water, the Sea Eagle is one of the top performers on a wide variety of water types. This kayak glides smoothly over the water and is easy to control, especially if there are multiple people using the kayak at once. Also, the Sea Eagle is a made of a rugged PolyKrylar hull that is tough enough to withstand dog paws so you can bring along your dog without the worry of them causing a puncture in the kayak. The solid construction will prove to be long lasting and you can have comfort in knowing you do not have to worry about punctures from rocks or debris.
If you are in the market for a versatile, sturdy kayak that can allow you to take your dog or a few friends, the Sea Eagle inflatable kayak is perfect for you.
3. Advanced Elements AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
This Advanced Elements Convertible kayak is known for its comfort and durability. This kayak features built-in aluminum ribs that will define the bow and stern which improves tracking as well as the three layers of material for extreme puncture resistance will ensure you can take it out on a variety of waters without the worry of punctures. Similarly, the seats have high levels of support and are adjustable and padded which provide comfort for hours of paddling.
This kayak allows you to adjust the seats for solo or tandem use in a matter of seconds. The tracking is excellent and you will find it is easy to paddle even if you are solo. Although it is easy to inflate and store, it is a bit heavier than other inflatable kayaks. This does not take away from the speed it can just make transporting a bit more difficult for those who are not used to doing so.
The Advanced Elements Convertible inflatable kayak is an excellent choice for those looking for solo and tandem use. The comfort and durability will not disappoint and you will find yourself paddling for hours before you know it.
4. Advanced Elements FireFly Inflatable Kayak
The Advanced Elements FireFly is super lightweight and easy to transport and store. You will be able to inflate this kayak in minutes which allows you to get out on the water faster. The FireFly can be used on lakes, creeks, and rivers as it is durable enough to go over rocks. The FireFly kayak offers several unique features to improve the durability and performance. Its bow and stern have fixed rigid forms that help cut through the waves and keep you on course while a unique out cover provides added durability.
The FireFly kayak also offers molded rubber-grip handles, bungee deck lacing, a mesh accessory pocket and tracking skeg. The bow and stern rigid forms are built
The Advanced Elements FireFly inflatable kayak is ideal for those looking for a super lightweight kayak that is easy to transport, inflate, and store. It is best used on calmer
5. Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak is a wonderful choice for recreational kayaking. The design and materials rival those of higher end kayaks yet you will not have to spend as much which is great for those looking for high quality but need to stay within a budget.
The AdvancedFrame is a unique hybrid of a folding frame kayak and an inflatable kayak. It will utilize its built-in aluminum ribs in the bow and stern so it can slice through
As well as featuring plenty of on-board storage room for extended trips, the AdvancedFrame sets up in just a few minutes and is compact enough to take along on a weekend adventure. Overall the high performance and ease of use and storage
5. Best Sea Kayaks
Make and Model
1. Tahe Marine Reval Mini LC Composite Rudder/Skeg Sit-In Sea/Touring Kayak
The Tahe Marine Reval Mini LC kayak is designed to be a
The hull of the Tahe Marine Reval Mini LC is designed with rocker and upswept bow and stern to handle more challenging sea conditions.
The Tahe Marine Reval Mini LC kayak is made for ocean use, but you can also use it as a touring kayak, which allows for versatility. Those living near the coastal seas or inlets should look to the Tahe Marine Reval Mini LC for a superb kayaking experience.
2. Necky Eliza Kayak with Rudder
The Necky Eliza kayak is designed with the petite woman in mind. From the width to the size of the cockpit, women with petite frames will notice this kayak fits like a glove. A long, sleek hull makes this boat an efficient day-touring
The Necky Eliza can handle a wide variety of conditions, and you will be kept comfortable throughout the entire kayaking expedition due to the adjustable seats and high levels of stability. The Necky
It is easy to transport and carry the Necky Eliza as it is only 20 pounds which
3. Tahe Marine Wind Composite Sit-In Sea/Touring Kayak
The Tahe Marine Wind Composite is perfect for those looking to tackle waves with speed and agility.
4. P&H Cetus MV Touring Kayak 2013
P&H Cetus MV Touring kayak will give you the extra length, stability, and durability that is required of kayaks that are used in sea waters. The Cetus MV is designed by kayakers for kayakers. This
This cruiser and load carrier
The Cetus MV has four hatches, two in the bow and two in the stern that have easy access. This kayak was designed with a spacious day hatch and deck pod to provide plenty of room for your gear for a day paddle, or an overnight stay at your favorite spot. If you decide to go with the Cetus MV kayak you will not be disappointed.
5. Tahe Marine Wind Sit-In Sea/Touring Kayak
All Wind kayaks in the
The Wind Solo is a good all-around kayak, suitable for a range of experience and a variety of paddling conditions. It is equipped with three hatches and spacious storage compartments for all the equipment you may need. The Wind series comes with a retractable skeg which allows for controlled tracking on even the roughest seas.
6. Best Kayaks for Beginners
Make and Model
Up to 3
8 feet 7 inches
1. Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
The Ocean Kayak Malibu is one of the most popular compact, lightweight tandem sit-on-top kayaks in the world. Stable and versatile, it can be paddled solo or tandem. The Malibu is an ideal choice for family excursions as it can easily fit two adults and one child.
Although the Malibu can hold up to three people, it is still super light. This is handy when it comes time to transport the kayak. When you make it out on the water, whether it is a mild river, lake, pond, or creek, you will notice that the Malibu will paddle with ease.
The ease of use and lightness are two attractive features for beginner kayakers. If you are looking to take out the whole family for a kayaking adventure, look no further than the Ocean Kayak Malibu.
2. Emotion Glide Sport Kayaks
The Emotion Glide Sport kayak is a very stable and durable kayak that can be taken out on a variety of calmer waters. The stability and durability are the shining features so if you are looking for speed, you will need to look elsewhere. However, what it lacks in speed it makes up for in ease of use and smooth and accurate tracking. The light weight design and compact size make this kayak makes it easy to handle on and off the water
The Emotion Glide is the perfect blend of comfort, stability and performance in an exceptionally versatile package. The ST Performance Hull design provides the tracking and maneuverability for just about every water condition you may encounter. From large lakes and bays to slow moving rivers and creeks, this kayak shines.
The Emotion Glide features the CRS Seat (Comfort Rest System) which provides comfort and a drink holder while maintaining fold down convenience. Also included is heavy duty adjustable foot braces for comfortable and secure foot placement. The Paddle Keeper will keep your paddle secure while you are not paddling. The Emotion Glide kayak is great for beginners that are looking for a comfortable, lightweight, and ease to use kayak.
3. Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a great option if you are looking for big fun in a compact kayak. This little kayak is responsive and stable, able to take on the surf, but behaves well on flat water. Due to the length of nine feet, you will be able to maneuver this kayak just about anywhere. The Frenzy is also very light making it easier to carry and transport.
The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is quite comfortable as it features a durable padded comfort plus seat back that provides cushioning, support and 4 way adjustability. This allows for all day paddling and comfort for any body type. In addition to high levels of comfort, there are also great storage options. The storage features are a stern tank well with removable bungees and bow deck bungee.
Additional features of the Frenzy include bow and stern carry handles, molded in side handles, molded-in cup holder, and replaceable rear skid plate for added durability. The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is perfect for a wide range of paddlers from children to adults and you can take the Frenzy on a variety of waters.
4. Coleman Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
The Coleman Quikpak K1 is an optimal choice for the beginner. This inflatable kayak can be set up in just five minutes which lets you spend more time on the water. Since the Quikpak is inflatable it is easy to store and transport and the carry handles make it easy to carry in and out of the water. In fact, the Quikpak features an easy to carry backpack system which turns into the seat and the backrest lets you lean back and enjoy the ride.
Although it is inflatable, it is still durable being made from 21-gauge PVC construction which allows for rugged for lake use. The tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures, but if you so happen to puncture your kayak, the Quikpak has multiple air chambers that allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured.
The Coleman Quikpak also has an Airtight System that is guaranteed not to leak and the Double Lock valves use two locking points for easy inflation/deflation. Once you inflate the Quikpak you will notice the secure storage area that lets you safely store items with bungees, as well as the cup holder which keeps your drink close at hand.
All in all the Coleman Quikpak is an easy to use and transport kayak that will still provide hours of kayaking fun for beginners.
5. AIRHEAD AHTK-2 Montana Performance 2 Person Kayak
The two person Airhead Montana inflatable kayak is great for children to adult beginners. The Airhead Montana is designed for lakes and moderate white water which allows you to experiment with different water types to find out which ones you like best. The Airhead Montana is lightweight, compact, and portable making it easy to transport and store.
The Airhead Montana is made from semi-rigid heavy gauge PVC construction and features a tubular I-beam floor for superior comfort, buoyancy and tracking. The Montana is also very stable and durable and all three air chambers are completely enclosed by rugged 840-denier nylon with UV and water-resistant coatings. There are also durable tri-laminate reinforcements on the bottom giving the Montana extra protection from punctures.
The Airhead Montana is quick and easy to inflate and deflate. On the water you will notice that the Montana has low drag and superior tracking since it has four bottom fins. The ease of tracking is an attractive feature for all beginners. Paddling is a breeze and the Montana can be paddled in tandem or solo. Beginners looking for an easy to use, transport, and paddle kayak, the Airhead Montana is a great place to start.
No matter which brand or type of kayak you end up with, make sure that you have everything you need to get started. Asking yourself the following questions before you purchase a kayak will help to ensure you make the right purchase.
• How often do I plan on using my kayak?
• Where and how will I store my kayak?
• How will I transport my kayak?
• How much can I afford to spend?
• Which water types can I access?
Once you have discovered the perfect kayak for your needs, you are almost ready to start your kayak adventures. There is just one thing that every kayaker needs to get started- a paddle. Although an often overlooked component, a paddle is one of the most integral parts to kayaking as you won’t be going anywhere without one.
7. Best Kayak Paddle
Make and Model
1. SeaSense X-Treme II Kayak Paddle
The SeaSense X-Treme kayak paddle is great for those who need a lightweight paddle with a nice grip. The feathered blade design allows you to glide through the water with each stroke and the support ridge will give you extra strength making each stroke more powerful.
The SeaSense X-Treme paddle will dismantle into two pieces which
2. Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle Rounded 96"
The Shoreline Marine kayak paddle is made from a corrosion resistant aluminum shaft that is also lightweight. The contour molded blade will propel you through the water with ease, and are for durability and efficiency. The Shoreline Marine has foam comfort grip handles, as well as three position systems that will enable you to customize the paddle to fit your style.
The Shoreline Marine paddle is designed to propel the
3. SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle
The SeaSense X-1 kayak paddle is a lightweight and balanced paddle made from a two piece aluminum construction. The
The SeaSense X-1 is quite strong and durable, yet will still be able to float should the need arise. This kayak paddle is reasonably light, which is great for children or beginners. The plastic molded blades are an efficient design letting you get the most out of your paddling.
4. SeaSense X-Treme II Mix Kayak Paddle
The SeaSense X-Treme Mix kayak paddle is another kayak paddle from a line of excellent manufacturers. The SeaSense X-Treme Mix also features a
The SeaSense X-Treme Mix has three locking positions that let you customize your paddle for your style or water type. There is also a support ridge that gives you added strength to each stroke. The SeaSense X-Treme Mix is a great length and is an excellent paddle for beginners. However, it is not known to fully float so attach a leash to prevent you from losing your paddle on the water.
5. Shoreline Marine X-II Kayak Paddle
The Shoreline Marine X-II kayak paddle is made from corrosion resistant aluminum which means this paddle will be durable and long lasting. This paddle also features a high impact handle and a molded blade. These features will allow you to quickly and strongly paddle through any type of water.
The Shoreline Marine X-II is a lightweight design that will allow you to travel greater distances with less fatigue which is perfect for longer journeys or spending several hours out on the water. When you are on the water, you can be rest assured of not losing your paddle as this one floats quite well. After a day of kayaking, you can dismantle the paddle into two pieces and easily store it.
How to Hold a Kayak Paddle
Now that you have had a chance to get familiar with the types of kayaks and what they are made of, as well as getting to know great options in terms of brand names, and kayaking styles, it is time to decide which one is best for you and your needs. Once you make it out on the water you will realize how relaxing and fun kayaking can be and you will look forward to taking your kayak out again and again.