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November 15, 2022 15 min read

What is tour kayaking?

Yellow touring kayak

Tour kayaking is a type of kayaking that involves paddling longer distances, being as efficient as possible and carrying greater equipment with you than other types of the sport might require. Tour kayaks can be used in a variety of environments, but they particularly excel in calmer waters such as lakes, the ocean and rivers. In this article, we will have a look at some of the best touring kayaks and some alternative options.

Tour kayaks vs Recreational kayaks

Recreational kayaks are typically made of cheaper materials than tour kayaks, such as polyethylene. They are simpler, and have fewer features, but are subsequently a cheaper option, therefore more accessible to new paddlers. Their less complicated design and nature make them ideal to learn the basics and are adequate for bodies of water such as lakes and calm rivers.

If you are not too concerned about performance during your early paddling adventures, then a recreational kayak is an ideal place to start. They are generally heavier than higher spec touring boats and are wider meaning greater stability, but more drag through the water. A recreational kayak is traditionally shorter in length than a touring boat, which makes it more agile and easy to turn, but reduces its tracking stability, which enables the paddles to carve a straight line through rough waters and prevailing winds.

In comparison, most touring kayaks typically utilize a V-shaped hull and are constructed of more advanced, lightweight materials. This increases performance but also cost. The V-shaped hull streamlines the boat, reducing drag, and increasing speed and is accompanied by a shorter width and greater length. This all adds up to improve speed and tracking ability, but reduces lateral stability. In addition, the best touring kayaks boast many features such as storage hatches, deck rigging, adjustable sliding foot braces, carbon fiber hulls and more.

Best Touring Kayak Characteristics

Tandem touring kayak

Capacity

You will need to know how much weight your touring kayak can actually take before it sinks! If you have a larger frame and plan on using all of the available gear storage space, then a higher capacity is a good idea.

Length

The length of a kayak is important for performance characteristics such as the ability to track in a straight line. You will also need to consider how the length of the vessel will affect your ability to transport it.

Height

The height of the kayak is linked to stability and whether or not a 'spray deck' will be required.

Width

The greater the width, the greater the stability. The boat will not be able to roll as easily and will therefore aid lateral stability. This is ideal for beginners and those that may want to do kayak fishing, but the extra width will slow you down and reduce efficiency and tracking performance.

Weight

Weight is important when it comes to transporting the kayak around in lifting it in and out of the water. Once in the water, weight is not so much of a concern. A heavier kayak will require more effort to reach cruising speed, but its momentum will help efficiency over long distances.

Construction

The kayak materials used for each construction can have a significant impact on its performance and price. Some popular options include:

Best touring sit inside kayaks

Fathom Touring Kayak - Eddyline

Fathom touring kayak eddyline

Specifications

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

16’6” x 13.5” x 22”

50 lbs

340 lbs

Check Price

Kayak Overview

The Fathom touring kayak is a wonderful example of what Eddyline produces. This new touring kayak is perfect for extended trips. Its efficient design and features allow maximum comfort and control. The Fathom touring kayak has many sea kayak features making this a truly versatile model. Its V-shaped hull makes it easy to accelerate, as well as its 'rocker' makes turns effortless.

Construction

Constructed of a composite 'ABS' material which resists abrasions, and damage from small impacts and even protects against sun damage. The hull seams are fusion welded ensuring high strength and durability and hand sanded edges for top-quality workmanship.

Safety

Equipped with a fully adjustable seat (Infinity Seat system) with a padded seat and backrest allows you to get that seating position just right. This will prevent any backache, especially on those long weekend trips.

Stability

This sit inside the kayak allows you to perfect your seating position and the thigh braces not only improve performance but also stability. The adjustable skeg system allows you to choose when to deploy it to maximize the tracking ability, particularly useful in windy conditions

Kayak Features

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Check out Eddyline's website and you'll find that they have some of the best touring kayak reviews!
  • Ideal for medium / taller paddlers.
  • Due to this kayak's narrow width, it is not the best model for those looking for a multi-purpose fishing kayak but is certainly an ideal day touring kayak.
  • This is one of the longer sea kayaks on the market, as well as being a completely rigid kayak. This means transportation and storage will have to be sorted out prior to your purchase.
  • Perhaps not the most affordable touring kayak, but you certainly do get what you pay for.

Tsunami 125 Touring Kayak - Wilderness systems

Tsunami touring kayak wilderness systems

Kayak Specifications

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

12’9” x 15” x 26”

51 lbs

300 lbs

Check Price

Kayak Overview

The wilderness systems Tsunami 125 is a new and improved model. It looks great and incorporates useful new features such as removable mesh deck storage bags and internal storage compartments, all ideal features for kayak touring and multi-day trips. Although this touring boat is efficient through the water and is stable, it doesn't lose any performance when it comes to agility, which is great for all levels of paddlers and dynamic environments.

Construction

A single mold construction for simplicity and strength.

Safety

The 'Phase 3 AirPro Tour Seat' is possiblythe most comfortable kayak seat on the market! It is fully adjustable meaning you can fine-tune your seating position and avoid the dreaded bad back from long trips.

Stability

The V-shaped hull flared sidewalls and high volume increase this kayak's stability, with no decrease in straight-line speed or efficiency.

Kayak Features

  • A Rudder system can be purchased and easily installed to improve tracking and stability.
  • A rear skid plate on the lower surface of the hull protects the body whilst dragging it from the front.
  • Bow and stern soft carry handles allow for easy and comfortable transport
  • Bow and stern dry hatches provide ample space to carry all the gear required for long trips and even multi-day trips.
  • A bow and stern sealed bulkhead provide extra buoyancy and ensure your two storage hatches remain dry.
  • The adjustable seat ensures maximum comfort!
  • An under-deck water bottle holder for easy, hassle-free access.
  • External deck gear pockets and bungee deck rigging for easy storage and access.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Replacement parts are available
  • Comes in a range of color schemes: Infinite Yellow, Breeze Blue, Eclipse, and Mango.
  • A more affordable touring kayak option
  • Ideal for larger paddlers
  • Although it has great agility, it is perhaps not as effective at tracking as a longer model.

Castine 140 - Old Town

Old town castine

Kayak Specifications

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

14’ x 15” x 24.75”

59 lbs

375 lbs

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Kayak Overview

The Old Town Castine is a day-touring kayak, with stability and comfort at the forefront of the designer's mind. A sleek-looking touring boat that is available in a variety of sizes, so smaller and larger paddlers are catered for.

Construction

Constructed from 'Single Layer Polyethylene', for greater strength and durability. Although this is not the lightest material, it is much cheaper than fiberglass and composite models.

Safety

The Castine 140 is a highly buoyant and stable kayak. With features such as external deck rigging and T-handles, re-entry from the water is a simple task.

Stability

Internal thigh braces allow the paddler to be firmly seated and connected to the hull of the kayak, meaning balance and therefore stability is improved. In support of this, a rudder kit is available which can be purchased directly from 'Castine'.

Kayak Features

  • The 'ACS2' seat with a low profile backrest provides comfort and support for a long period of time whilst paddling.
  • Storage hatches with an uncomplicated design allow for quick and easy access whilst on the move.
  • Front and back bulkheads provide extra strength and buoyancy.
  • A great little feature is the phone cradle, so you can stay connected.
  • Adjustable foot braces allow the paddler to get the most out of each paddle stroke and improve stability.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • A great-looking kayak with lots of useful features.
  • Only two colors are available: 'lemongrass' and 'sunrise'.

Sit on Top Touring Kayaks

SR Expedition

SR expedition racing kayak

Kayak Specifications

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

19’2” x 13.4” x 18.9”

35.7 lbs

285 lbs

Check Price

Kayak Overview

This kayak is an ultimate blend of traits from the best of the racing kayaks, sea kayaks and composite kayaks. Not only is it a formidable race kayak, but it is also a stable touring kayak for those longer trips.

Construction

  • The construction Options are: Alpha: N/A | Excel: N/A | Multi-Sport: $4,795 | Advantage: N/A
  • Multi-Sport: This construction option includes a hull fabricated from Carbon and Kevlar, for strength, low weight and durability. Not only is it strong, but also flexible. This allows this boat to be used in almost any environment where it might get knocked around in rapids, but will also cut through the water with ease on the open flats.

Safety

  • The Multi-Sport option is fitted with a built-in rudder, for extra control. An 'Anderson Super mini bailer' is also standard with this model, giving you a lifeline if things are not going so well.

Stability

  • The rudder system ensures longitudinal control and maximum power output from paddle strokes.
  • The in-built hull flare and peaked bow which sits above the water line increase buoyancy and therefore stability.

Kayak Features

  • The Spectra Steering system is made from a material which does not rust or stretch, allowing the paddler to get an instantaneous output from even the smallest of inputs, enhancing performance and efficiency.
  • A bunch of great features that allow you to get the perfect seating position, such as a fully adjustable seat and a low hump.
  • A water bottle holder is at arm's length, so you don't have to go digging through all the storage space!

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • It looks great, is truly professional and of the highest quality.
  • A perfect step up for intermediate and advanced paddlers.
  • This high-performance touring kayak will set you back when it comes to price, but you are buying one of the best touring kayaks on the market.

Fusion 480 - Stealth performance products

Fusion best stealth performance product

Kayak Specifications

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

15.75’ x 26.77”

68.3 lbs

485 lbs

Check Price

Kayak Overview

The Fusion 480 is part of the 'Stealth Range' from 'Stealth Performance Products. This affordable new model is an upgrade when it comes to stability when compared to its predecessor, but at no cost to performance or the speed at which it cuts through the water.

Construction

This touring kayak utilizes the 'rotomolded' technology, which reduces weight, yet enhances rigidity.

Safety

A highly buoyant boat due to large internal storage compartments and a rudder system increases stability through choppy waters.

Stability

The natural design of this touring kayak provides stability yet maintains its natural agility, for all levels of paddlers to enjoy.

Kayak Features

Some of the best features include:

  • Carry handles on the bow and stern allow for easy transportation by hand to and from the water's edge.
  • Being an anglers kayak, they have thought about everything and even included drain holes both in the fish hatch and in the hull.
  • A paddle scratch pad prevents damage from abrasion on the hull and elastic enables the paddler to temporarily secure the paddle, so you have your hands free.
  • The Fiberglass lid to the fish hatch is a flat surface which doubles up as a small worktop. Ideal for cutting up bait and securing hooks. Hatch lever locks ensure that the lids are securely fastened. The large central fish hatch has ample storage space for your gear, including rods and all other fishing gear. This is important when you need to concentrate on safely reaching the water's edge, particularly in rough waters.
  • One of our favorite features is the 'Live bait well'. 'Stealth performance products' have thought this one through carefully and have seen the importance of keeping your bait alive for as long as possible, increasing your chance of getting a great catch for the day. The live bait well allows fresh water to enter through one point and older water to exit through another, thus keeping a fresh supply of oxygenated water available at all times.
  • Another fantastic feature is the rudder and pedal setup. The pedal's position is completely adjustable via a rail system inside, ensuring the paddler's comfort. The rudder system means you can get the most out of each paddle stroke and reach the best fishing spots faster with less effort.
  • Two trawling rod holders are attached to the hull, allowing you to successfully catch fish and paddle at the same time!
  • Further rod holders are built into the kayak's design, allowing you to neatly store extra rods, whilst remaining out of the way.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Available colors include Blue, Green, Orange & Yellow.
  • A little less internal storage space than some other touring boats due to the absence of a forward storage compartment.

Inflatable Kayaks / SUP Paddleboards for touring

Gumotex Rush 1

Gumotex Rush best british style kayak

Kayak Specifications

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

11.65’ x 31.89”

26.46 lbs

331 lbs

Check Price

Kayak Overview

This is one of our favorite British-style kayaks! This inflatable touring kayak is a real competitor to the hard hull designs. Its pointed bow allows the hull to cut through the water and pierce waves, making it a high-performing and efficient boat.

To support this, an easily attachable fin can be installed to boost its tracking performance. This inflatable kayak can easily be transformed into a 'sit inside' kayak with an optional cockpit cover. This is perfect for intermediate and advanced paddlers looking to explore rough waters.

Construction

Constructed with Drop- Stitch technology using 'Nitrilon' material. This material is lightweight and strong, allowing the material to withstand high pressures which are required with inflatable boats. Once inflated, this material is rigid, providing good performance through the water. Not only is this material strong, but further benefits include abrasion resistance and UV resistance.

Safety

Multiple inflatable chambers allow for redundancy in case one or more chambers are punctured. In addition to this, multiple external deck rigging features such as safety ropes both on the bow and the stern allow easy re-access from the water.

Stability

Inflatable kayaks are generally very stable and buoyant. In support of this, adjustable footrests, a comfortable seat backrest and a tracking fin boost the stability of this inflatable kayak enormously.

Kayak Features

  • An optional cockpit spray deck can be purchased for more experienced paddlers.
  • External rubber ropes are flexible and durable allowing for easy securing of baggage.
  • The all-important puncture repair kit is included which is vital when it comes to inflatable kayaks.
  • A dry bag which can fit everything into one place is included!

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • A cockpit conversion kit and spray deck are available here
  • Easily portable.
  • There is ample storage space behind the seat for a dry bag or even camping gear for long trips.
  • At £1229, it is not the cheapest option, but certainly good quality.

11'6 Stand up Paddle Board / Kayak Conversion kit - Switch

Inflatable kayak and paddle board package

Specifications

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

11.6’ x 6” x 35.5”

19 lbs

425 lbs

Check Price

Overview

This Stand Up Paddle Board from 'Switch' is a good example of an alternative solution to a touring kayak. This two-in-one combo allows you to get the most out of both paddle boarding and kayaking. The paddle board is a lightweight 11'6 long inflatable package that can be easily inflated and folded down.

Construction

A well-constructed SUP board with a large traction pad on the deck will ensure you feel like you've got great value for money.

Safety

A tough abrasion-resistant body and SUP board deck reduce the risk of tears and puncture considerably, so you can adventure with confidence. Note: this package from 'Switch' does not include safety gear such as a buoyancy aid, so make sure you select this additional option when purchasing from 'Switch'.

Stability

A stable platform with a width of 35.5". The kayak conversion backrest is assisted by the footrests, allowing the paddler to get maximum efficiency from every paddle stroke.

Kayak Features

Items which are included in the package include a Kayak conversion seat and footrest, a four-piece adjustable paddle, hand pump, travel bag, center fin and a blue coil leash. Everything you need to get started!

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • It weighs only 19 LBS, one of the lightest on the market!
  • Although this is a good all-around paddle board and kayak conversion kit, there are some elements to the quality that allow some room for improvement.

12’6” Meno Touring Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board with kayak Conversion Kit

Meno touring inflatable stand up paddle board

Specifications

Dimensions Weight Capacity Check Price

12’6” x 6” x 31”

24 lbs

300 lbs

Check Price

Overview

This 12'6 Meno series SUP board from GILI Sports is a great competitor to the 11'6 Switch SUP board we previously looked at. Another board is available with a kayak conversion kit. As can be seen from the board specifications, the Meno board is longer and narrower than the Switchboard. At a glance, this would enable it to be somewhat more efficient through the water, but perhaps slightly less stable when it comes to lateral stability. So this could be an ideal option for those with previous SUP experience.

Construction

The 12’6 Meno SUP Board has a sleek profile which allows it to cut through the water effortlessly. A carbon fiber rail which runs the length of the board naturally increases rigidity, so you can get the most out of what you put into each paddle stroke. GILI Sports SUP board stand apart from the rest when it comes to quality. If you are looking for impressive detail and durability, look no further! The material of the SUP board is made up of Fusion Dual Layer Technology, making this one of the strongest and lightest SUP boards on the market!

Safety 

All GILI Sports SUP Boards include leash and abrasion-resistant materials which will significantly reduce the chance of tears and punctures, giving you the confidence to explore further than before. A large diamond rear traction pad connects you to the board and prevents you from slipping around on the deck as water splashes over the sides.

Kayak and Conversion Kit Features

  • When checking out from the GILI sports website you can select the conversion paddle which already matches your existing SUP board single-bladed paddle. The kayak conversion paddle is easily attached just by depressing the quick-release pin and locking it into place.
  • The kayak conversion seat is easily installed and removed. When locked into place, you're all set and can enjoy a comfortable ride with the cushioned seat rest and soft traction pad on the deck.

Kayak Package

The GILI sports package is generous and full of top-quality accessories. The bag is large, padded for comfortable transportation and looks awesome! It includes a dual-action pump, meaning it is inflated in a much shorter space of time with less effort. A set of three fins which easily clip into in-built attachment points. A coiled high-quality leash is tucked away neatly. The composite single-bladed paddle is easily extended and retracted simply by depressing a quick-release pin, allowing the desired length to be chosen and secured in seconds.

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • GILI sports offer a 2-year warranty for all of their purchased Stand Up Paddle Boards.
  • You can sleep well knowing that a portion of your payment will be automatically donated to one of the dedicated charities, focusing on saving our beautiful reefs.
  • One of the best things about a SUP conversion kit is its versatility. You can paddle your 'kayak' through the rough waters to an idyllic bay, simply detach your seat, quickly convert the paddle to a single-bladed SUP paddle and stretch your legs, work your core and glide over the reef, enjoying a view from a standing position.
  • Inflatables are naturally more susceptible to tears and punctures, so this will make you a little more vulnerable in shallow waters. You may also find that you will get wet a lot, and be beaten by sea spray, compared to an enclosed sit-inside kayak. Furthermore, you will have to be mindful not to leave it unprotected in the sun as this can damage the glue between the layers of materials and speed up deterioration. Nevertheless, we believe the pros far outweigh the cons and this is a solid choice for those looking for a true adventure!

FAQ’S

🏆 Are sea kayaks and touring kayaks different?

Both share many of the same qualities, such as high stability, a skeg system, optional foot pedal steering, ample storage space and so on. A true sea kayak will usually have a higher ' rocker' than a touring boat, which allows it to cut through oncoming waves with ease. In addition to this, sea kayaks tend to be narrower and have more of a pronounced V-shaped hull.


👍 If I'm a beginner, should I buy a cheap recreational kayak before investing in a higher-performance vessel?

This is completely down to your own personal preference. However, there is no reason why you can't buy the boat of your dreams straight away. Often, the boat that you thought was right for you and looks perfect, just isn't the same when you finally drop it into the water and go for your maiden voyage. It's always a great idea to test-paddle a few different kayaks and explore all of their features before investing. Joining a local kayak club is a perfect way to improve your skills and try out lots of different boats.


🏝️ Can I use my touring kayak on whitewater?

Approach this one with caution! When comparing touring kayaks and whitewater kayaks, there are more differences than similarities. Whitewater kayaks are typically very buoyant, unstable, have a rounded hull and don't have anywhere near as much storage space. They are designed to be easily handled, agile and resilient against persistent knocks and scrapes and naturally deflect away from rocks due to their rounded nose and hull. Although great for fast-flowing water, over short distances, these kayaks will drain your energy over longer distances and require constant steering correction due to poor tracking.


❓ Is a SUP board really a competitive choice compared to a kayak?

Stand Up Paddle Boarding has taken the water sports industry by storm, and for good reason! It has created a new sport altogether. You can get some of the best aspects from kayaking such as the freedom, ability to cover long distances and general satisfaction from paddling through glassy waters. Paddleboarding gives you the option to stand up and change your stance, explore the waters with a different point of view and explore without the sometimes claustrophobic feel of a compact sit-inside kayak. With the GILI sports kayak conversion kit, the transformation is quick and effortless. Naturally, there are some downsides such as a slight reduction in speed and tracking performance when compared to a thoroughbred expedition kayak. Our advice... take the leap of faith and try it for yourself!

Jay Regan
Jay Regan

Chief Paddler - Jay has been surfing and paddling for over 5 years. When he's not dreaming up new stuff at GILI, he's writing articles about paddling, out paddling, or often traveling.


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