The Ultimate Guide To Buying A Kayak

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.

One of many beaches on the Abel Tasman Coast TrackCredit: Wikipedia

1. Types of Kayaks

Kayak Type

Best For

Specifications

Pros

Cons

White WaterRapids4-10ft Long with Rounded Bottom for Navigating RapidsDurable, High levels of ControlSlower over long distances, yet the current will carry the kayak
InflatableRecreational Use on a variety of waters10-15ft long, lightweight made from PVCEasy Transport and Storage, More Buoyant than Traditional KayaksMore Effort to Paddle, Slower and less Rugged than Traditional Kayaks
FoldableTouring on Calm, Flat WatersAluminum Frames, variety of lengthsEasy to Transport and Store, 15-20 minutes AssemblyCan take time to become familiar with assembly, heavier than other kayaks
RecreationalEasy Days on Calm Waters 

10-12ft long

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

10-12ft

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

Touring

Flat Water,

Ocean

12 to 17ft

Variety of materials used

Stable, comfortable and excellent tracking, great for beginners

More expensive than recreational kayaks

Sea

Open Ocean

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

Fishing

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

Multi-Sport

Variety of Waters

12ft or more

Variety of materials used

Very lightweight

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

Brand Name

Rating

Notes

Advanced Elements

 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.
Coleman 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.

Sun Dolphin

 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.
Sea Eagle 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.
Emotion 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.
Lifetime 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.
Future Beach 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.
Intex 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.
Sevylor 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.
Ocean Kayak 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.

5. Best Sea Kayaks

Make and Model

Length

Width

Weight

People

Capacity

Stand?

 

Tahe Marine Reval Mini LC Composite Rudder/Skeg Sit-In Sea/Touring Kayak

 

16 feet21 inches55 pounds1250 poundsNo

 

Necky Eliza Kayak with Rudder

 

15 feet22 inches20 pounds1275 poundsNo

 

Tahe Marine Wind Composite Sit-In Sea/Touring Kayak

 

17.5 feet21 inches55 pounds1250 poundsNo

 

P&H Cetus MV Touring Kayak 2013

 

17 feet21.5 inches61 pounds1253 poundsNo

 

Tahe Marine Wind Sit-In Sea/Touring Kayak

 

16.5 feet21.5 inches53 pounds1287 poundsNo

 

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 British style sea kayak. This kayak is best used by more intermediate paddlers as it is wider and ideal for rougher water conditions. Although it is a sit-in kayak, it still offers the kayaker plenty of room for easy entry and exit as well as comfort.

The hull of the Tahe Marine Reval Mini LC is designed with rocker and upswept bow and stern to handle more challenging sea conditions. Even on rough sea waters the Reval Mini LC will still prove to be stable and durable. This kayak is equipped with both rudder and skeg systems. The Reval Mini LC has TGC construction–a combination of the high-performance properties of DCPD-based resin and several types of fiberglass reinforcements.

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 rig, while the drop-down rudder and cockpit foot pedals add the control you need for really long paddles.

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 Elilza will give you high levels of performance on the water with great tracking and stability. There is also ample storage in the Necky Eliza kayak. Fore and aft storage keeps your gear dry and secure.

It is easy to transport and carry the Necky Eliza as it is only 20 pounds which allows you to arrive at the water without being worn out from moving the kayak. All in all the Necky Eliza is great for teenage girls and women alike and the attractive fuchsia color will be eye popping on the water.

 

3. Tahe Marine Wind Composite Sit-In Sea/Touring Kayak

The Tahe Marine Wind Composite Sit-In kayak is designed for intermediate to advanced kayakers. The extra length is ideal for more experienced paddlers or those who want to use this kayak for racing. The size of the Tahe Marine Wind Composite is perfect for medium- to large-sized paddlers. The larger cockpit comes with thigh braces which will secure easier entry and provide good grip during paddling. Due to the larger size in volume, the kayak is equipped with two oval hatches for easier storage in compartments and a mini-box for smaller equipment.

The Tahe Marine Wind series is designed for speed. They are the fastest sea touring kayaks in the Tahe Marine line. Winds are an excellent choice for marathons, exercise trips and longer expeditions. The kayak is designed with shallow V-shape, which ensures fast acceleration, speed and maneuverability. The Wind 535 has paddle entry straps on the deck, in order to easy re-enter. The Wind series comes with a retractable skeg.

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 fast paced, responsive and really easy to carve the water kayak makes paddling easy which is attractive for all levels of kayakers.

This cruiser and load carrier is the middle ground for those who want a bit of extra volume with stability and easy long distance paddling. This Cetus MV Touring Kayak comes with the skeg, and has superb stability in all water conditions. Because of the design and the layout, this kayak will make it easy for you to have the confidence and the ability to have remarkable control.

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

The Tahe Marine Wind Sit-In Sea kayak is yet another one in a line of amazing kayaks. This kayak is the high-density superlinear sandwich construction plastic version of the Wind Solo kayak. The Tahe Marine Wind Solo kayak is also designed for speed and stability, yet it is more lightweight than others in the line making it easier to transport.

All Wind kayaks in the Tahe Marine line are an ideal choice for marathons, exercise trips and longer expeditions and the Wind Solo is no exception. The shallow-V hull ensures fast acceleration, speed, and a nice balance between maneuverability and tracking.

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

Length

Width

Weight

People

Capacity

Stand?

 

Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

 

12 feet34 inches57 poundsUp to 3425 poundsNo

 

Emotion Glide Sport Kayaks

 

10 feet30 inches42 pounds1250 poundsNo

 

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

 

9 feet31 inches43 pounds1325 poundsNo

 

Coleman Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak

 

8 feet 7 inches36 inches17 pounds1400 poundsNo

 

AIRHEAD AHTK-2 Montana Performance 2 Person Kayak

 

12 feet20.6 inches36 pounds2500 poundsYes

 

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

Length

Blade Number

Weight

Float?

 

SeaSense X-Treme II Kayak Paddle

 

84 inches22.5 poundsNo

 

Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle Rounded 96″

 

96 inches22 poundsYes

 

SeaSense X-1 Kayak Paddle

 

84 inches22.3 poundsYes

 

SeaSense X-Treme II Mix Kayak Paddle

 

84 inches12.2 poundsNo

 

Shoreline Marine X-II Kayak Paddle

 

84 inches22.1 poundsNo

 

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 enables you to store or transport it more easily. You can also adjust the drip guards to your needs and there are three locking positions. Both of these features let you customize the paddle to suit you. Just be careful in the water or make sure to purchase a leash for the paddle as it does not float.

 

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 paddler easily and is great for long or short trips. On the water the drip guards will help to keep you dry and in the incident of letting go or dropping your paddle, this one will float letting you recover it easily. Off the water the paddle will disassemble into two pieces allowing for easy transport and storage.

 

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 two piece construction lets you store and transport the paddle easily and it is assembled in a very simple way. The SeaSense X-1 has adjustable drip rings as well as ergonomic foam hand grips.

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. Even on longer journeys you will find that the grip area will remain comfortable.

 

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 two piece construction system for easy storage and transport. The feathered blade design lets each stroke be strong and smooth. The SeaSense X-Treme Mix has adjustable drip guards allowing you to stay dry no matter which type of water you are on.

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.

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