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November 16, 2022 17 min read

Kayaks for Lakes

sit-in kayak on a lake

There’s nothing better in summer (or any season if you’re brave enough) than spending a day out on the water. And if your choice of watercraft is a kayak, then you’re in the right place. 

This best kayaks for lakes ultimate guide is going to give you a breakdown of some of the best kayaks suited to leisurely lake paddles. So, if you’re in the market for a new kayak, then keep on reading. You won’t be disappointed. 

Everything You Need to Know About Kayaks for Lakes

Orange whitewater kayak on a lake

First things first, it’s helpful to understand the types of kayaks that are ideal for lake paddles and also their differences to kayaks that are suited to choppier or faster-moving waters. 

The Difference Between Lake and Ocean Kayaks

Kayaks are designed for specific environments and water conditions. And sure, you can paddle whitewater kayaks in a lake, but you’ll find it very difficult.

The environment for which a kayak is designed is where that kayak will perform best, and that’s why it's helpful to purchase a kayak suited to your paddling preferences. 

Lake kayaks are specifically constructed to suit calm flat waters as opposed to ocean or sea kayaks that can tackle waves in waters that are faster-moving. Some ways to tell the two apart include the following: 

  • Length and Width- Ocean kayaks are some of the longest kayaks on the market as their increased length helps them slice through the open waters at faster speeds. Lake kayaks, on the other hand, are far shorter at around the 10-foot mark. Recreational kayaks designed for lakes also happen to be wider to improve their overall stability.
  • Efficiency- A kayak you’ll paddle over a lake has different priorities compared to a sea kayak. Lake kayaks favor stability and comfort, whereas ocean kayaks are built for speed with excellent tracking, so they can cover vast stretches of water extremely efficiently.
  • Storage- As an ocean kayak is far longer than a recreational kayak, they give paddlers more storage space inside their cockpits. This space is for all the extra gear and supplies the paddler would need for hours upon hours out on the open water.
  • Equipment -Ocean kayaks need additional accessories like rudders or skegs to improve the boat’s tracking and performance. A recreational kayak designed for lakes, however, would only need a paddle as you’re simply using it for fun and aren’t too worried about performance.

What Type of Kayak Is Best for Lake Paddling

So, now that you can differentiate lake kayaks from ocean kayaks, the next thing that's useful to know is the type of kayak that is best suited to lakes. 

Sit-On-Top or Sit-Inside

Firstly, there is a huge debate on whether sit-on-top or sit-in kayaks are the best kayaks on the market. And when it comes to recreational lake paddling, we have to admit that sit-on-tops come out well... on top. 

A sit-on-top kayak has an open deck which comes with a range of benefits. The first is that getting on and off of the kayak is far easier than if you were trying to get inside the cockpit of a sit-in kayak. Secondly, with an open deck, you have the freedom to move around. Sit-inside kayaks can sometimes feel extremely claustrophobic, which is a feeling you don’t get with a sit-on-top.

Sit-on-top kayaks also provide their paddlers with a greater amount of storage space for any personal belongings or gear. If you want to take some camping equipment out on your kayak with you, for example, you can do that fairly easily. 

Although it sounds like we’re ruling sit-inside kayaks out completely, they do also have their own benefits, but the choice of the matter is really up to you. If you can’t decide between the two, then it may be helpful to know that the majority of recreational paddlers would opt for a sit-on-top.

Inflatable

Once you’ve figured out whether you want a sit-inside kayak or a sit-on-top kayak, you’ll then have another decision on your hands, and that is whether your kayak should be an inflatable kayak, a recreational kayak, a fishing kayak, or a touring kayak. 

Inflatable kayaks have been increasing in popularity thanks to their extremely compact and lightweight design that allows them to be conveniently folded down into a backpack or duffel bag. These kayaks are great for paddlers who lack storage space and who also don’t want to spend a lot of money on a ‘yak they’ll more than likely only use in the summer.

Recreational

Recreational kayaks are ideal for lake paddling as they prioritize stability and aim to be as user-friendly as possible. They typically have wide decks and will measure in at 9 feet - 11 feet in length. 

Fishing

Fishing kayaks are the best kayak for fishermen if you haven’t already guessed by their names. They usually come kitted out with built-in rod holders, gear tracks, tackle trays, and other useful fishing accessories while also being wider to improve the boat’s stability when casting a line or reeling in a fish. 

Touring

And finally, touring kayaks are the kayak of choice for paddlers who plan to paddle over long distances. These kayaks are long and narrow, allowing them to slice through the water at high speeds and with little effort. 

GILI’s Top Picks: By Budget

Best Budget
Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series, Red
Intex Excursion Pro

If you’re after a budget storage-friendly tandem kayak, then the Intex Excursion Pro is the one for you. This kayak has a stable 37” wide deck, an inflatable I-beam flooring, and all the accessories you’d need to get out on the water.

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Best Mid Range
Perception Tribe sit on top kayak for all around
Perception Tribe 9.5

The Perception 9.5 is an excellent kayak for beginner paddlers and with the padded seat, molded-in thigh areas, and integrated footrests you won’t be complaining about comfort for the entirety of your paddle.

Check Latest Price
Best Premium
Pelican river gorge tandem kayak sit on top kayak
Pelican River Gorge 130X Tandem Kayak

Pelican’s River Gorge is a tandem hard shell kayak equipped with a twin-arched multi-chine hull that gives it incredible stability on slow-moving water. The kayak also two 4” dry hatches and a large storage platform for all of your belongings.

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10 Kayaks for Leisurely Lake Paddles

Intex Excursion Pro

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series, Red

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

12’7” x 37”

39 lbs

400 lbs

Check Price

The first kayak on our top 10 kayaks for recreational paddling is an inflatable kayak from Intex.

Intex’s Excursion Pro is a tandem kayak that can either be paddled by two paddlers or by one paddler if you remove the front seat and reposition the back seat. Most tandem kayaks have this ability, and it makes them far more versatile than solo kayaks, which can only ever be paddled by one person. 

Super-tough laminate PVC was used to create the Excursion Pro, and Intex added a polyester core to create a lightweight but abrasion, impact, and sunlight-resistant kayak that will serve its purpose for years to come. And if that wasn’t enough, they also decided on three separate air chambers so that if you do get a puncture, you will still be able to paddle back to shore. 

The kayak’s stability was also carefully thought about when creating the Excursion Pro. Inflatable kayaks obviously aren’t as sturdy as a traditional hard shell kayak, so to improve the boat's rigidity, Intex added inflatable I-beam flooring which is common in a lot of inflatable kayaks. 

If you’re now thinking about purchasing the Intex Excursion Pro, then there are some mentionable features that may sway your decision in the right direction. First up are the two removable skegs that are suited to deep and shallow water and the two floor-mounted footrests that help to provide optimum comfort out on the water.

Secondly, if you wanted to transform this kayak into a fishing kayak, then you totally can. Intex included two integrated fishing rod holders and a mounting bracket for other fishing accessories such as GPS systems or fish finders. 

And finally, for all your gear and personal belongings, the Excursion Pro has storage space in the front and back sections of the boat. These spaces have stainless steel D-rings, so you can tie down any gear to prevent it from flying off the deck. 

Specifications and Features

  • Tandem kayak
  • Made from PVC with a polyester core
  • Three separate air chambers
  • Inflatable I-beam flooring
  • Removeable skegs
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Integrated rod holders
  • Mounting bracket
  • Comes with a carry bag, a repair kit, two 86-inch aluminum oars, and a high-output pump

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Excursion Pro is extremely versatile as you can paddle it solo or with a passenger.
  • Its 37-inch width makes the kayak extremely stable.
  • If your kayak gets a puncture, you’ll still have two other air chambers to get you back to shore.
  • Intex included an I-beam flooring to improve the kayak’s rigidity.
  • You can not only use the Excursion Pro as a recreational kayak but also as a fishing kayak because it has integrated rod holders and a mounting bracket for further accessories.
  • The carry bag and paddles could be of better quality.

Intex Dakota

Intex Dakota Heavy duty inflatable kayak

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

10’3” x 36”

30 lbs

400 lbs

Check Price

If you’re looking for an inflatable slightly smaller than the Excursion Pro, then Intex also has an inflatable tandem kayak called the Dakota. 

The Dakota is two feet smaller than the Excursion Pro and also weighs 9 lbs less, making it a better option for smaller paddlers or for those who wish to carry the kayak over long distances. 

What the two kayaks do have in common, however, is the fact that they’re both made out of heavy-duty PVC, have three separate air chambers, and have an inflatable I-beam floor for rigidity. 

With the Dakota kayak, Intex decided to keep everything fairly simple. They included two removable and adjustable seats, grab handles at the front and back of the kayak, and two skegs, one long and one short, depending on the type of water you’re paddling in. 

Along with this, the kayak also comes with two 86-inch aluminum paddles, a double-quick hand pump, two dry bags, and a carry bag to help you get out on the water as quickly as possible. 

Specifications and Features

  • Tandem kayak
  • Made from PVC
  • Three separate air chambers
  • Inflatable I-beam flooring
  • Removeable skegs
  • Comes with a carry bag, two 86-inch aluminum paddles, a hand pump, and two dry bags.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Dakota is a great option for smaller paddlers or for paddlers who wish to carry their kayak to remote waterways.
  • Intex designed the Dakota with three air chambers to protect you if a puncture was to occur.
  • The kayak is fairly simple, and for leisurely paddles, sometimes simple is all you need.
  • It is very affordable and won’t break the bank.
  • It comes with all the accessories you’d need to get started.
  • It may be too small for slightly larger paddlers.

Sevylor Big Basin

Sevylor big basin kayak, Blue

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

12’3” x 37”

35 lbs

490 lbs

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The Sevylor Big Basin is a great lake kayak option for small families as it comes with three seats, all of which are removable and adjustable.

This inflatable kayak, like the two we mentioned previously, is made from a heavy-duty PVC construction and has multiple air chambers that’ll keep the kayak afloat even in the event of a puncture. 

Like the Dakota, the Big Basin by Sevylor is a fairly simple kayak, but it does feature spray covers at the front and back to keep you dry and carry handles to get it in and out of the water.

Specifications and Features

  • Tandem kayak
  • Made from PVC
  • Multiple air chambers
  • Spray skirts
  • Carry handles
  • Adjustable and removable seats

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Even though the Big Basin is over 12 feet long and can carry three passengers, it is still fairly lightweight at only 35 lbs.
  • All three paddlers would have a comfortable seat to sit in, which is hard to find in kayaks.
  • The multiple air chambers will save you from getting wet if you get a puncture.
  • The front and back spray skirts will prevent splashes.
  • You would need to buy all your accessories separately. 

Driftsun Voyager

Driftsun voyager inflatable kayak, Aluminum paddles and Double action pump

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

11’ x 35”

27 lbs

450 lbs

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The Driftsun Voyager is one of the lightest kayaks on our list, weighing only 27 lbs. This tandem kayak, which Driftsun constructed from heavy-duty PVC, has multiple air chambers and a reinforced tarpaulin bottom to prevent punctures. And to protect the hull of the kayak even further, Driftsun added a tough 840D coated nylon Oxford fabric top that is rip and tear-resistant. 

The Voyager, which makes a great lake kayak, can also tackle choppy waters thanks to its pointed nose and rocker profile. So, if you’re after a kayak that is versatile and can be paddled on a range of different waterways, then this might be a good pick for you.

Throughout the hull, you’ll find two high-quality EVA padded seats, a rear drain plug for easy draining and cleaning, and front and back bungee rigging to tie down any of your important belongings. 

And finally, Driftsun also included two aluminum kayak paddles, a deluxe double action hand pump, a rear tracking fin, and a travel bag, meaning you have everything you need to get paddling. 

Specifications and Features

  • Tandem kayak
  • Made from PVC
  • 840D coated nylon Oxford fabric top
  • Suitable for lakes, slow-moving rivers, or choppy oceans
  • EVA high-backed padded seats
  • Front and back bungee rigging
  • Comes with two aluminum paddles, a hand pump, a tracking fin, and a travel bag.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Driftsun did all they could to make this kayak as durable as possible.
  • The Voyager also works well in choppier waters, making it extremely versatile.
  • Both of the seats are high-backed, padded, and removable.
  • You can secure your belongings in place in the front or back bungee areas.
  • It comes with everything you’d need to set off paddling.
  • The Voyager can be carried by a single person as it only weighs 27 lbs.
  • It’s more expensive than the other inflatables we’ve listed today.

Elkton Outdoors Cormorant

Elkton outdoors cormorant tandem inflatable kayak, Aluminum paddles

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

10’ x 35”

27 lbs

450 lbs

Check Price

Another incredibly lightweight tandem kayak is the Cormorant by Elkton Outdoors. The Cormorant also weighs just 27 lbs, and although it was designed with fishing in mind, it still makes for an ideal lake kayak. 

Elkton Outdoors constructed their Cormorant kayak from 18-Gauge rip-resistant 1000D PVC, which makes it tear and hook-resistant. And like the other inflatables on our list, they gave the Cormorant three separate air chambers, which can all be completely removed to make them easier to repair. 

The Cormorant kayak is primarily a fishing kayak, so it does include two vertical and four trolling rod holders as well as paddle holders on its side. And, to top it off, Elkton Outdoors included two adjustable high-backed seats, two double-sided oars, a double-action pump, and a carry bag.

Specifications and Features

  • Tandem kayak
  • Made from PVC
  • Three separate air chambers
  • Two vertical rod holders
  • Four trolling rod holders
  • Paddle holders
  • Comes with two double-sided oars, a double-action pump, and a carry bag

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • You can use the Cormorant as a recreational or a fishing kayak.
  • It is extremely lightweight, meaning you can take it to remote waterways.
  • The air chambers can be completely removed to make them easier to repair.
  • Paddle holders down the side of the kayak will secure your paddles in place when they aren’t in use.
  • It comes with everything you’d need to get out on the water.
  • It’s also more expensive than the other inflatables we’ve listed today.

Sea Eagle 370 Kayak

Sea eagle inflatable portable sport kayak with paddles

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

12.5’ x 34”

32 lbs

650 lbs

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The final inflatable kayak to make our list is the Sea Eagle 370, which can not only be used for casual paddling but also for whitewater paddling up to Class III. 

With three moveable deluxe kayak seats onboard, the Sea Eagle 370 is the perfect option for families with young children, and as the kayak has a total weight of 650 lbs, you can also pack on all of your extra gear and belongings.

At the front and back end of the kayak, you’ll find removable spray skirts to protect you against water splashes, on the underside of the kayak are two skegs for better tracking and speed, and down the sides, you’ll also find the bow and stern grab lines to help you get back into the boat if you happen to capsize. 

Additionally, Sea Eagle also included two 4 part aluminum paddles with asymmetrical blades, a foot pump, and a carry bag. 

Specifications and Features

  • Tandem kayak
  • Made from PVC
  • I-beam flooring
  • Removeable spray skirts
  • Two skegs
  • Bow and stern grab lines
  • Suitable for whitewater up to Class III
  • Comes with two paddles, a pump, and a carry bag.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • You can seat up to three people on the 370 kayak thanks to its three adjustable seats and its generous 650 lbs weight capacity.
  • It can not only tackle calm lakes but also whitewater.
  • The front and back spray skirts will protect you and your belongings from any splashes.
  • Sea Eagle included everything you’d need to get out on the water.
  • It’s the narrowest inflatable we’ve mentioned meaning it wouldn’t be as stable as the rest. 

Perception Sound 10.5

Perception sound sit inside kayak for fishing

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

10’6” x 29.5”

45 lbs

335 lbs

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Moving onto traditional hardshell kayaks and we have the Perception Sound 10.5. This 10-foot kayak was created by Perception for fishing purposes, but there is nothing stopping you from using it as a recreational kayak. 

Even though the width of the kayak is fairly narrow, the hull shape of the Sound 10.5, which is a tri-keel stabilizer hull, creates stability and allows the kayak to steer smoothly in calm waters. This hull shape is what makes the Sound 10.5 an ideal option if you’re on the hunt for a new hardshell lake kayak. 

If you are prone to lake fishing, then you’ll love the front dashboard with two mount accessory points, the two molded-in fishing rod holders that allow you to fish hands-free whenever you need, and the large back bungee storage area, which is perfect for belongings or tackle boxes.

But, if fishing isn’t your thing, then you’ll still appreciate the ergonomic seat with an adjustable backrest, the quick-adjust footrests to accommodate paddlers of all sizes, and the molded-in handles for easier transport. 

Specifications and Features

  • Solo kayak
  • Made from polyethylene
  • Two accessory mount points
  • Two molded-in fishing rod holders
  • Large rear bungee storage area
  • Adjustable seat
  • Adjustable footrests
  • Molded-in handles

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The Sound 10.5 has fishing rod holders as well as accessory mount points, so you also have the option to use it as a fishing kayak.
  • Perception designed the Sound 10.5 with a tri-keel stabilizer hull, so it had optimum stability out on the water.
  • There is a large storage area behind the seat for belongings or even a cooler.
  • You can adjust the seat and footrests so the kayak can suit paddlers of all sizes.
  • You would need to buy all of your accessories separately. 

Perception Tribe 9.5

Perception Tribe sit on top kayak for all around

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

9’5” x 31.25”

46 lbs

300 lbs

Check Price

Perception also has a slightly shorter but wider kayak called the Tribe 9.5, which is a fantastic lake and starter kayak for beginner to intermediate paddlers. Unlike the Sound 10.5, the Tribe wasn’t designed for fishing, therefore, doesn’t feature any molded in rod holders or accessory mounts. 

Instead, the Tribe has an adjustable padded seat with molded-in thigh areas for comfort, integrated footrests for both tall and short paddlers, and handles at the nose and tail of the kayak for easier transportation.

On top of all this, the Tribe also features a front and rear tank well with bungee tie-downs to store belongings, a built-in drinks holder to help you stay hydrated throughout your paddles and a center storage dry hatch for important items that can’t get wet. 

Specifications and Features

  • Solo kayak
  • Made from polyethylene
  • Molded in thigh areas
  • Integrated footrests
  • Carry handles
  • Front and rear tankwell
  • Drinks holder
  • Center storage hatch

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • This kayak is suitable for people who are just learning the basics of kayaking.
  • The padded seat is accompanied by molded-in thigh areas and integrated footrests for optimum comfort.
  • You can store larger belongings in the rear tank well and smaller belongings in the front tank well.
  • There is a dry hatch in the center of the kayak for your phone, keys, and wallet.
  • The built-in drinks holder helps you stay hydrated throughout your entire paddle.
  • You would need to buy all of your accessories separately. 

Pelican River Gorge 130X Tandem Kayak

Pelican river gorge tandem kayak sit on top kayak

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

13’ x 34”

73 lbs

500 lbs

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The Pelican River Gorge 130X is the only tandem hardshell kayak on our list, and although it can hold 500 lbs while still remaining buoyant, it is the heaviest kayak we’ve mentioned today. 73 lbs may not be unmanageable with two people carrying it to the water, but if you want to paddle it solo, you may come across some issues. So, keep that in mind.

Aside from that, the River Gorge has some incredible features that make it stand out against other kayaks on the market. The first is the twin-arched multi-chine hull that offers up excellent stability when you’re paddling and for when you’re getting on and off of the boat.

Secondly, both the seats on the River Gorge 130X have padded seat cushions with adjustable backrests to improve support and comfort while paddling. And to aid in comfort even further, Pelican also added molded footrests at different intervals to suit paddlers with different leg lengths.

Some other notable features of the River Gorge 130X are the bottle holder, the four accessory eyelets, the two 4” dry hatches with storage bags, and the storage platform with bungee covers to house your larger gear and belongings.

Specifications and Features

  • Tandem kayak
  • Made from polyethylene
  • Twin-arched multi-chine hull
  • Adjustable backrests
  • Molded in footrests
  • Bottle holder
  • Four accessory eyelets
  • Two 4” dry hatches with storage bags
  • Large tank well with bungee storage

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The twin-arched multi-chine hull gives the kayak excellent stability, which is perfect for new paddlers.
  • Both seats feature padded cushions and backrests to improve comfort while paddling.
  • The front and back seats both have 4” dry hatches for important belongings.
  • Larger gear can be stored in the back bungee area.
  • A small child can also fit in the middle of the kayak.
  • At 73 lbs the River Gorge 130X is fairly heavy. 
  • It is on the higher end of the price scale. 

Pelican Basscreek 100X Fishing Kayak

Pelican sit on top fishing kayak lightweight one person kayak

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

10’ x 30.5”

50 lbs

325 lbs

Check Price

The final kayak on our best kayaks for lakes list is actually a fishing kayak, but again, you can use it for recreational paddling if you so wish. 

Pelican’s Basscreek 100X has a multi-chine flat bottom full that provides a steady ride and a stable platform to fish or relax on. As fishing requires some movement, fishing kayaks are often some of the most stable kayaks available, so they double up perfectly as kayaks for beginners who haven’t yet mastered the balance required for kayaking. 

The Basscreek 100X’s seat is an Ergotfit G2 seating system that is specially designed with thicker padding to cushion the paddler and to also increase airflow. Additionally, Pelican gave their kayak a 4-inch dry hatch with a storage bag, a paddle tie-down to securely fasten your paddle in place when it isn’t in use, and a bottle holder, so your water bottle is at an arm's reach at all times. 

And as this is a fishing kayak, it also features a swivel rod holder, flush mount rod holders, six accessory eyelets, an angler ruler, and a storage platform for tackle boxes or coolers. 

Specifications and Features

  • Solo kayak
  • Made from polyethylene
  • Multi-chine flat bottom hull
  • Ergofit G2 seating system
  • 4” dry hatch with a storage bag
  • Paddle tie-down
  • Water bottle holder
  • Swivel rod holder
  • Flush mount rod holders
  • Six accessory eyelets
  • Angler rule
  • Storage platform

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • The multi-chine flat bottom hull makes the kayak incredibly stable.
  • The seat not only provides comfort but also increases airflow, which is beneficial when paddling for numerous hours.
  • You can store your important belongings in the 4” dry hatch.
  • Your paddle can be securely fastened in place when it isn't in use.
  • The kayak has numerous fishing accessories if you do also want to use it as a fishing kayak.
  • You would need to buy all your other accessories separately. 

FAQ’S

🏆 What kind of kayak Is best for lakes?

Sit-on-top kayaks with flat bottom hulls are the best kind of kayaks for recreational paddling on lakes. These kayaks not only offer the most stability, but they also give the paddler ample amounts of storage and room to move around. 


👍 What type of kayak is best for lakes and rivers?

The best type of kayak for lakes and rivers is sit-on-top kayaks with flat bottom hulls. Flat bottom hulls make the boat incredibly stable, while the open deck of a sit-on-top gives the paddler room to move around and also room to store their belongings


🏝️ What are some top-rated kayaks for lakes?

❓ What type of kayak is the most stable kayak on the market?

Recreational kayaks or fishing kayaks are some of the most stable kayaks on the market. As performance isn’t too much of a priority with either recreational or fishing kayaks, they are able to be made wider, which in turn creates a more stable platform.

Megan Bryant
Megan Bryant

Based in Bali, her favorite SUP spot is the GILI Islands themselves. Travel is another passion of hers - she dreams to see the entire world one day.


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