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October 12, 2021 29 min read

Best Kayaks for 2021

Choosing the best kayak can be a daunting task with so many styles and varieties to choose from - but we’re here to help! 

We’ll review the different types of kayaks - including sit on top, sit inside, touring, fishing, and even whitewater kayaks, and help you determine the type that fits your next adventure. With a better understanding of the different kayaks, you can review our top picks for the best of the best in each category.

We’ve done the research and found the best of the best for each type of kayak. Whether you’re looking for the best fishing kayak or the best tandem, we’ve sorted through the competitors to find the overall favorite for each style.

Kayaks Size Weight Weight Capacity Reason to Consider Price
Emotion Spitfire

Orange best sit on top kayak emotion spitfire

9’ x 31” 45 lbs 350 lbs Best Sit On Top Kayak Check Price
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

Violet sun dolphin aruba 10 best sit inside kayak

10’ x 29” 40 lbs 250 lbs Best Sit Inside Kayak Check Price
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

Ocean kayak malibu two tandem kayak

12’ x 34” 57 lbs 425 lbs Best Tandem Kayak Check Price
Riot Kayaks Edge

Touring kayak riot kayaks edge

14’5" x 22” 58.2 lbs 325 lbs Best Touring Kayak Check Price
Old Town Predator MX

Old town predator MX best fishing kayak

12’ x 34” 82 lbs 400 lbs Best Fishing Kayak Check Price
Hobie Mirage Passport

Hobie mirage passport pedal kayak

12’ x 34” 83 lbs 400 lbs Best Pedal Kayak Check Price
Advanced Elements

Best inflatable beginners kayak Advanced Elements

10’5" x 32” 26 lbs 250 lbs Best Inflatable Kayak Check Price
Dagger Mamba Creeker 7.6

Best whitewater kayak colorful dagger mamba creeker

7’7" x 25.5” 44 lbs 170 lbs Best Whitewater Kayak Check Price
Ocean Kayak Prowler 13

Ocean kayak prowler 13 fishing kayak

13’4" x 28” 56 lbs 450 lbs Best Ocean Kayak Check Price
Lifetime Youth Wave

Best kids kayak lifetime youth wave

6’ x 24” 18 lbs 130 lbs Best Kids Kayak Check Price
Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10

Sun dolphin bali ss 10 budget kayak

10’ x 30” 44 lbs 396 lbs Best Budget Kayak Check Price
Oru Kayak Bay ST

Best foldable kayak oru kayak bay ST

12’3" x 25” 26 lbs 330 lbs Best Foldable Kayak Check Price
Point 65N Tequila

Point 65N Tequila best modular kayak

 

12’3" x 25” 26 lbs 300 lbs Best Modular Kayak Check Price

The Best Kayaks: Reviewed for 2021

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details of each kayak to determine why each is chosen as the best of its kind. 

Best Sit On Top Kayak - Emotion Spitfire

A sit on top kayak is a great option for recreational use and for beginner paddlers, and the Emotion Spitfire kayak has everything needed for a day of fun. It is a wide and stable kayak that anyone in the family can use and has tons of storage space to pack your cooler or dry bag. 

The seat is comfortable and adjusts to fit you perfectly, and there’s enough deck space that even your dog can join the fun.

Orange best sit on top kayak emotion spitfire

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
9' 31" 45 lbs 350 lbs Price

Performance

The Emotion Spitfire is a recreation kayak designed for stability instead of speed. The wide deck makes it nearly impossible to overturn. The hull is designed with chines and ridges to keep the kayak steady while still being able to slice through small waves and rougher water. 

Durability

The Emotion Spitfire is constructed from high density polyethelene for a durable build to resist mild bumps on rocks and sticks, but is still lightweight enough to transport. It will last for many years of kayak adventures. 

Portability

The lightweight build of the Spitfire makes it easy to load on top of your vehicle or on a kayak rack. It has grab handles on the front and rear to carry it to water.

Additional Features

  • Padded and adjustable seat
  • Well storage area in front and back secured by bungees
  • Central dry hatch to keep valuables dry
  • Molded foot holds to fit your height and paddle comfortably
  • Paddle keeper to store paddle when needed

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Wide and stable
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Easy entry and dismount
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Dry hatch for cell phone and keys
  • Padded seat and backrest
  • Paddle keeper to allow hands-free activities
  • 5 year warranty
  • Tracking not great over long distances
  • Paddle not included

Best Sit Inside Kayak- Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is a great sit inside kayak because it offers the stability for beginners as well as the performance to make it great for lakes and calm waters. The Aruba is affordable so it’s an ideal starter kayak for reluctant users to get a feel for kayaking without breaking the bank.

Violet sun dolphin aruba 10 best sit inside kayak

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
10' 29" 40 lbs 250 lbs Price

Performance

The Sun Dolphin Aruba is a great sit inside kayak because it has a flat, wide base to make it stable for beginners, but it also has a tapered bow and stern to improve tracking and glide. The compact design also makes it maneuver well. 

Durability

The Sun Dolphin Aruba is made with UV stabilized high-density polyethylene to make it durable and lightweight. The Fortiflex material will allow you to enjoy your Sun Dolphin for many years. 

Portability

The Sun Dolphin Aruba is very lightweight and easy to carry, so even your kids can launch the kayak easily. Toggle handles on the front and rear help you easily pull it to the water’s edge.

Additional Features

  • Molded seat with padded backrest
  • Adjustable foot holds
  • Protective thigh pads
  • Front water bottle holder
  • Rear bungee storage

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Stable design perfect for beginners
  • Inexpensive
  • Maneuvers well to turn easily
  • Water bottle holder within easy reach
  • Large rear storage area
  • Thigh padding
  • Paddle not included
  • Might want to add padding in the seat bottom for longer days on the water

Best Tandem Kayak - Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

A tandem kayak is a great option for families with multiple potential paddlers, but a good tandem kayak can include adjustable seats to also allow for solo kayaking. This is the case with the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two because you can paddle solo or tandem, with three potential seat positions. 

The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a sit on top kayak that makes an excellent tandem option with comfortable seats, molded foot wells, and space for a third passenger in between (or your dog)!

Ocean kayak malibu two tandem kayak

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
12' 34" 57 lbs 425 lbs Price

Performance

The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a stable sit on top kayak with a wide deck and plenty of open space for comfort. It is not designed for speed, but as a recreational kayak, it manages well on calm waters with mild chop.

Durability

The Malibu Two will last for years of family fun with its single layer polyethylene hull. It is lightweight and the hull carries a lifetime warranty. 

Portability

You can carry your Ocean Kayak Malibu to the water easily with toggle handles on the front and rear in addition to two side carry handles. The lightweight hull makes it manageable to carry as well as load onto your vehicle. A rear skid plate means you can drag your kayak to the water without damaging the hull.

Additional Features

  • Two Comfort Plus seats can be placed in three potential seat wells. Paddle tandem, solo, or put a third rider between
  • Front and read storage with straps to secure your gear
  • Overlapping molded footwells make for comfortable paddling
  • Four possible color combinations
  • Option for up to three storage hatches

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Wide and stable for family fun
  • Adjustable seat with many paddling options - tandem or solo
  • Plenty of room for your dog or child
  • Ample storage space
  • Comfortable seats
  • Lifetime warranty on the hull
  • Paddles not included with purchase
  • No paddle holder

Best Touring Kayak - Riot Kayaks Edge

The Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 makes an excellent touring kayak as well as ocean kayak due to it’s long, sleek hull designed to slice through the water. It provides plenty of storage space for long-distance touring so you can pack a dry bag, a cooler, and even a tent for camping trips. 

The hull has enough keel and chines to help it cut through the water, and skegs and a rudder improve your overall control.

Touring kayak riot kayaks edge

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
14.5' 22" 58.2 lbs 325 lbs Price

Performance

The Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 is a sit inside kayak that is all about performance. The slim deck and hull profile allow more speed on the water as the keel and chines on the hull’s base slice through waves and chop. 

Both skegs and a rudder can be used on the Riot to improve tracking and give the paddler the ability to maneuver and turn with ease.

Durability

Designed with Cross-Max construction means that the high-density polyethylene is roto-molded for a reinforced hull that is lightweight and durable. The Riot Edge will put up with bumps on rocks and shallows and last for years of use.

Portability

Grab handles on the bow and stern, as well as on the side, make the Riot easy to carry to the water. The longer hull means you might need help to carry it to the water’s edge, so do keep this in mind. 

Additional Features

  • Seat is adjustable for the perfect fit
  • Dry Tech fabric on the seat drains water and keep your seat dry
  • Front and rear 15 inch dry hatch
  • Bungee storage space in front and rear
  • Safety straps on both sides for the paddler to grab
  • Reflective deck lines make it highly visible on the water

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Built for speed with excellent tracking
  • Skeg and rudder compatible for better performance
  • Adjustable padded seat for comfort during long tours
  • Dry Tech seat keeps you dry
  • Tons of storage space for your gear
  • Paddle not included

Best Fishing Kayak - Old Town Predator MX

The Old Town Predator MX is a sit on top kayak designed specifically with fishermen in mind, but it also makes a great all around kayak for recreation. The hull has a high rocker bottom to make it perform better in fast rivers and over waves, yet it’s also a stable kayak for beginners to use on flat water.

What makes the Old Town Predator MX ideal for fishing is the deck setup with fishing rod holders and tons of storage space for your tackle and gear.

Old town predator MX best fishing kayak

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
12' 34" 82 lbs 400 lbs Price

Performance

The Old Town Predator MX has a wide, stable hull perfect for beginners to kayak flat waters, but the hull is designed with a curved rocker-bottom that makes it cut through waves and remain stable in the wind. 

As a sit on top kayak, the Old Town Predator MX is easy to get in and out of and a wide open deck makes it ideal for fishing. There’s plenty of room to stand and cast and to store your gear.

Durability

The rigid hull is crafted with single layer polyethylene to make it withstand the abuse that shallow water rocks might inflict. It has a slip-resistant deck to provide the reassurance that you won’t fall overboard as you reel in a big fish. 

Portability

Molded carry handles at the front and rear make the kayak easy to carry to the water. However,  you might need assistance to load it on a roof rack or to carry it to the water, since it’s heavier than other kayaks. 

Additional Features

  • Stadium style seat that adjusts for comfort
  • Room to stand or for your dog to sit
  • Storage well in the rear with bungee security
  • Front hatch to keep gear dry
  • Foot brace system 
  • Six accessory plates to attach GoPro or fish finders
  • Fishing rod holders on the deck
  • Side mount paddle storage

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Stable kayak perfect for fishing
  • Ample storage with a dry hatch
  • Comfortable stadium-style seat
  • Ability for more speed and better tracking with hull design
  • Room to stand with anti-slip deck
  • Paddle holder for hands-free fishing
  • Heavy to transport and carry
  • Paddle not included

Best Pedal Kayak - Hobie Mirage Passport

The Hobie Mirage Passport changes traditional kayaking because instead of being powered by a paddle, you peddle your way across the water. It’s a great option when you want your hands free for activities such as fishing, using binoculars to view scenery, or taking photographs. 

Hobie has a patented MirageDrive system with fins that kick up to dodge underwater obstacles, and has a Power-Pole bracket to attach a shallow water anchor. This kayak is packed with accessories and extras making it perfect for fishing, yet also a stable kayak for lakes and streams.

Hobie mirage passport pedal kayak

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
12' 34" 83 lbs 400 lbs Price

Performance

The Hobie Mirage Passport boasts hands-free pedal-power propulsion. As you peddle your feet, underwater fins propel the boat, yet the fins avoid damage because they have the ability to retract and kick up if they meet an obstacle. 

A rear rudder helps steer your kayak easily, yet you can stow the rudder when not needed.

Durability

The Hobie Mirage Passport is crafted from thermoformed polyethylene to make it durable. The fins resist damage with the ability to kick up out of harm's way. 

An EVA padded deck provides a stable platform at the base of the kayak and makes it possible to stand to stretch your legs or cast your fishing pole with ease. 

Portability

As a pedal kayak, there is more gear that makes it heavier than non-pedal varieties. The removable rudder and kick-up fins fold down to make it easy to load onto your roof rack to transport to the water, andfront, rear, and side carry handles make it easy for you and a partner to carry to the water’s edge.

Additional Features

  • Breathable mesh seat to avoid overheating
  • Wide cockpit with EVA floor padding to allow you to stand
  • Front and rear bungee storage areas
  • Eight-inch twist and seal cargo hatch to keep gear dry
  • Transducer cavity and scupper holes to attach fishfinder
  • Power-Pole bracket to attach shallow water anchor
  • Two fishing rod holders
  • Accessory tracks to attach more fishing gear
  • Under seat tackle storage

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Pedal powered for hands free activities
  • Perfect for fishing with rod holders, accessory tracks, and tackle storage
  • Ample storage on the deck with waterproof hatch
  • Pole anchor attachment
  • Ability to stand with non-slip floor
  • Heavy to transport and carry

Best Inflatable Kayak - Advanced Elements

Advanced Elements has perfected the inflatable kayak to make it comfortable and easy to maneuver, and almost as durable and resistant to damage as a solid kayak. 

The Advanced Elements single kayak provides comfortable seating and storage space, and is easy to inflate and transport to distant streams or hidden lakes in a convenient duffel bag.

Best inflatable beginners kayak Advanced Elements
Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
10'5" 32" 26 lbs 250 lbs Price

Performance

The Advanced Elements inflatable kayak has the look and feel of paddling a rigid kayak. Builtin aluminum ribs shape the bow and stern to make it more aerodynamic for better tracking. 

The lightweight V-shaped hull and AdvancedFrame build gives it the potential for speed, yet it’s compact and lightweight enough to maneuver. A skeg tracking fin adds to its ability to resist wind and tackle waves.

Durability

Advanced Elements constructed their inflatable kayaks to last for years of use. Three layers of material resist puncture, and it utilizes a BackBone I-beam floor for increased rigidity to improve performance. 

Four inflatable chambers mean your kayak won’t sink if one chamber happens to get punctured, but drop stitch technology reinforcement ensures this will likely never occur. 

Portability

The hallmark of an inflatable kayak is its portability, and the Advanced Elements kayak is no exception. It’s easy to set up as you simply unfold, inflate, and attach the seat. Molded rubber handles on the deck make this lightweight kayak easy to carry to the water. 

Additional Features

  • Adjustable folding seat with back support
  • Open cockpit for easy entry
  • Bungee storage on the deck
  • Internal storage compartment
  • Neoprene paddle guard
  • D-ring tie down 
  • Skeg tracking fin
  • Duffel bag and repair kit included

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Durable inflatable kayak that can travel with you anywhere
  • Skegs and hull reinforcement for good tracking and speed
  • Stable for beginners to use
  • Deck and internal storage space
  • Paddle holder
  • Skeg fin included
  • Easy portability and storage in a duffel bag
  • Inflation pump not included
  • Paddle not included

Best Whitewater Kayak - Dagger Mamba Creeker 7.6

When looking for a whitewater kayak, you’ll want one that is responsive to your movements to tackle rapids and is easy to roll - the Dagger Mamba Creeker 7.6 has all you need. The Creeker has a planing hull to get on top of the waves to maneuver your way downstream. 

It is a stable kayak for even beginners to use, but it is specially designed to respond to the paddler’s movements as you weave in and out of rapids. Extra security features such as security grab handles near the cockpit and thigh and hip padding ensure you’re safe as you zip downstream.

Best whitewater kayak colorful dagger mamba creeker

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
7'7" 25.5" 44 lbs 170 lbs Price

Performance

A whitewater kayak needs to maneuver well, and the Dagger Mamba Creeker does just that. With a short hull, it is more responsive to turns as you ride the waves, and it has adjustable thigh braces and hip pads to be more responsive to your movements as well as protect you from bruising. 

The Dagger Mamba Creeker is incredibly buoyant to rise upon the rapids and the seat’s leg lifters transfer more power from the paddler to the kayak. Grab handles were positioned near the cockpit for added safety for rough waters. 

Durability

The polyethylene hull provides a durable build that is lightweight to maneuver the rapids. Extra attention is given to the seating with padded backrest, adjustable thigh brackets, and hip pads to give you an ergonomic snug fit that helps you maneuver. 

Foam has been added into the stern for increased safety and flotation to keep your kayak on the surface of the water as you weave through the rapids. 

Portability

The Dagger Mamba Creeker is lightweight and easy to transport. It has molded front and rear grab handles, with additional grab handles situated near the cockpit. These help to carry the kayak as well as provide points of stabilization for the paddler to grab in rough water. 

Additional Features

  • Roto molded seating with leg lifters
  • Adjustable padded seat
  • Security grab handles
  • Thigh braces and hip pads
  • Adjustable foot braces

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Excellent maneuverability and responsiveness to the paddler
  • Thigh and hip padding
  • Leg lifter to provide more power to each stroke
  • Planing hull to zip over waves and shallow water
  • Stable design for even beginner use
  • Security handles near the cockpit
  • Slow in the water
  • Paddle not included
  • Not for large paddlers with a 170 lbs weight capacity

Best Ocean Kayak - Ocean Kayak Prowler 13

The Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 is a streamlined narrow kayak perfect to slice through ocean waves and for touring the shoreline. In addition to its ability to perform, the Ocean Kayak Prowler also has the setup as a great fishing kayak with rod holders and ample storage capacity.

Ocean kayak prowler 13 fishing kayak

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
13'4" 28" 56 lbs 450 lbs Price

Performance

The Ocean Kayak Prowler performs well. The long hull with streamlined bow and stern allow it to track well through wind and waves, while remaining stable. It is lightweight to make it easier to maneuver, and a great kayak to tour the ocean coastline.

Durability

It is constructed from a single layer of polyethylene to make it durable, yet still lightweight. Has a high weight capacity to allow for bigger paddlers and lots of gear.

Portability

Front and rear toggle handles in addition to rigid side handles make the Ocean Kayak Prowler easy to carry to the water. As a longer kayak, it will take up more storage space than shorter models, and you’ll need a large enough vehicle to transport to the water. 

Additional Features

  • Comfortable flush seat with adjustable backrest
  • Paddle keep on each side
  • Rear storage hull with bungees
  • Front central and dry hatches to protect gear from water
  • Two mounted rod holders
  • Rod storage under deck
  • Two cup holders for your cold beverage
  • Compatible to attach a transducer for fish finder

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Tracks well and potential for speed
  • Tons of storage space for long tours
  • High weight capacity for more gear
  • Paddle holders on both sides
  • Cup holders
  • Rod holders
  • Great for touring, oceans, and fishing
  • Stadium style seat would be more comfortable for long tours

Best Kids Kayak - Lifetime Youth Wave

The ultimate youth kayak will be stable and maneuver easily on calm or flat waters, and the Lifetime Youth Wave is a sit on top kayak that works well. Designed for small children aged five and up, it is short and lightweight enough to make turns while it remains stable and almost impossible to capsize.

Best kids kayak lifetime youth wave

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
6' 24" 18 lbs 130 lbs Price

Performance

A kids kayak is not designed to win races, but it will keep your child safe and steady on the water. The wide hull has a twin fin base to help with tracking with ability to ride the surf. 

The rear of the Lifetime Youth Wave is sloped to create a swim-up platform for easy re-entry onto the kayak after a swim. 

Durability

The Lifetime Youth Wave is crafted from high density polyethylene (HDPE) for fantastic strength and durability and is backed by a five year warranty. The HDPE is not only durable but provides UV protection so it will fade, crack, or degrade over time.

Portability

Weighing only 18 pounds, the kayak is easy to carry to the water. A front toggle handle and molded finger handles are built into the side making it easy for kids to pull the kayak to the water’s edge, but it’s light enough for mom or dad to carry with ease. 

Additional Features

  • Multiple foot rest positions to accommodate different sized riders, or to grow with your child
  • Molded and contoured seat
  • Rear swim up platform for easy entry
  • Comes with a paddle

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Stable kayak that is easy to use
  • Rear swim up platform
  • Paddle included
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Durable construction to handle a beating
  • Multiple footrests allow your child to still fit year after year
  • Not suitable for large children/teens with a top weight capacity of 130 lbs

Best Recreational Kayak

Finding the best recreational kayak is a tough order because there are different reasons to choose an inflatable kayak, sit on top, or sit inside kayak as we’ve already discussed. 

For general recreation, we chose a best recreational kayak in each category. 

Sit Inside - Old Town Vapor 10XT

The Old Town Vapor 10XT is a great all around recreational kayak with the stability for beginners, yet it also has the performance for experienced paddlers to enjoy a day on the water. 

The molded cockpit has comfortable seating and an adjustable foot brace system, and it even includes a tray and cup holder so you can paddle with your beverage nearby.

Recreational sit in kayak Old town vapor 10xt

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
10' 28.5" 49 lbs 325 lbs Price

Performance

The Old Town Vapor 10XT is a stable kayak for beginners, yet it has a sleek hull design to allow for more speed than sit on top kayaks. It manages flat or calm waters with ease, and has the potential to tackle waves and its increased weight allows it to resist drifting on a windy day.

The comfortable seat with backrest and Support Track foot brace system allow a perfect fit, and thigh pads along the side help you to maneuver. 

Durability

The Old Town Vapor 10XT is built from single layer polyethylene which makes it resist damage from rocks and water obstacles, and a rear skid plate protects the hull if you need to drag the kayak to the water. 

Portability

A front and rear carry handle allow you and a partner to easily carry your kayak to the water’s edge, but the rear skid plate makes it safe for one kayaker to drag the kayak without risking damage. 

Additional Features

  • Comfort Flex seat with padded back rest adjust to fit
  • Support track foot brace adjusts to your height
  • A Quick seal hatch on the rear keeps your gear dry
  • Molded in cockpit tray and cup holder
  • Thigh pads for comfortable paddling
  • Drain plug to easily empty water from the hull
  • Molded in paddle rest

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Stable kayak for recreational use, yet potential for speed
  • Comfortable adjustable seat
  • Large rear dry hatch to keep valuables dry
  • Cup holder and tray for easy to grab snacks
  • Paddle rest for hands free kayaking
  • Lifetime hull warranty 
  • Limited storage options
  • Paddle not included

Inflatable - Advanced Elements

The Advanced Elements wins again! 

See review above at Best Inflatable Kayak

Best inflatable beginners kayak Advanced Elements

Sit on Top - Ocean Kayak Frenzy

The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a great beginner sit on top kayak because it is stable and responsive so you can make turns on mild surf or cruise over flat water. It has storage in the front and rear to throw in your cooler or dry bag. 

The simple design with molded in foot wells and comfortable seat provides for ease of use, and a central cup holder means you can cruise the lake with a beverage within reach.

Sit on top beginners ocean kayak frenzy

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
9' 31" 43 lbs 325 lbs Price

Performance

The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a stable sit on top kayak with a tri-form hull and keel that makes it track well for longer distances, but it’s still maneuverable enough to surf. The wide deck is stable enough to jump off of into the water without capsizing. 

It’s a great kayak for those who want the reassurance of a stable kayak, yet still venture into surfing the shoreline.

Durability

The Frenzy has a molded polyethylene design for lightweight durability. The hull will resist scratches, UV light, and the typical trauma from shallow rocks and sticks, and it will provide years of kayak fun.

Portability

The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is lightweight and easy to load on your car’s roof rack and it will not take up much storage space due to its compact design. Toggle carry handles on the front and rear in addition to molded handles on each side make it easy to carry to the water’s edge.

Additional Features

  • Large molded in seat - but can add seat with back if desired
  • Molded in foot wells
  • Large front and rear storage wells with bungees
  • Triform hull for good tracking
  • Molded in cup holder

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Great recreational kayak for beginners
  • Able to maneuver and surf
  • Large front and rear storage space
  • Cup holder
  • Stable triform hull
  • Would be nice to have included seat with backrest
  • Paddle not included

Best Budget Kayak - Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10

What’s better than finding a great, stable kayak than finding one that is easily affordable! The Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10 is perfect for beginners as well as children with a stable hull designed for recreational use. 

The Sun Dolphin Bali is ideal for calm or flat water and the short hull makes it easy to maneuver.

Sun dolphin bali ss 10 budget kayak

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
10' 30" 44 lbs 396 lbs Price

Performance

The Sun Dolphin Bali is not designed for speed, but the streamlined bown makes it stable in mild chop and lightweight enough to turn easily.

Durability

The Sun Dolphin might be inexpensive, but it’s still a durable kayak option that will give you years of use. It is built from Fortiflex polyethylene for a hull that’s tough to damage. 

Portability

The Sun Dolphin Bali SS is lightweight to make it easy to load on your roof rack and a front and rear toggle handle makes it easy to pull to the water. 

Additional Features

  • Rear storage hatch is removed to float behind the boat (portable accessory carrier), and its underlying space allows more bungee storage on board. 
  • Front bungee storage
  • Padded seat back
  • Side wall padding to protect thighs
  • Paddle holder
  • Adjustable foot braces

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Inexpensive, yet great for recreational use
  • Large open space to sit and move
  • Paddle holder
  • Tons of storage for a small kayak - front bungee, rear bungee, and floatable storage carrier
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Paddle not included
  • No scupper hole plugs - but can be purchased to keep you dry

Best Beginner Kayak - Advanced Elements

The Advanced Elements kayak hits many of our BEST lists including best inflatable, best recreational, and now best beginner kayak. For a great kayak, consider the Advanced Elements inflatable kayak.

Best inflatable beginners kayak Advanced Elements

Best Foldable Kayak - Oru Kayak Bay ST

Who knew that there was such a thing as a foldable kayak? The Oru Kayak Bay ST is a specialty kayak with the unique ability to fold up in origami style into the size of a briefcase so it can travel with you anywhere. Similar to inflatable kayaks, the portability is ideal for kayakers who travel to remote lakes or streams or for those with limited storage space.

Best foldable kayak oru kayak bay ST

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
12'3" 25" 26 lbs 300 lbs Price

Performance

The Oru Kayak Bay ST is a great kayak with impressive stability. It has an easy to access cockpit and comfortable seating. It is very lightweight to make it more responsive and has the speed and agility for intermediate or advanced paddlers.

It can manage smooth lakes but the paddler can also enjoy some ocean surf. An optional spray skirt can be used for open water paddling. 

Durability

It is made from a double layered polypropylene exterior and the kayak folds are not points of weakness. The manufacturer rates the kayak for 20,000 fold cycles and it has a 10-year UV coating. 

Four zipper lines close and seal the deck to make it watertight and solid, and custom grade aluminum latches secure the two halves of the kayak together. The Oru Bay ST is puncture and abrasion resistant and durable for long term use.

Portability

The Oru Kayak boasts that it can be assembled in three minutes and folds down to fit in a handy case that can be carried on the shoulder. You can hike to a remote mountain stream, assemble, and hit the water. Don’t worry about garage storage space or a roof rack, it can store easily in your trunk or closet.

Additional Features

  • The cockpit is large enough for a dry bag or fishing gear
  • Open cockpit that is easy to enter and exit
  • Padded seat with adjustable backrest
  • Removable bulkheads in the rear to give it structure and for storage
  • Bungee deck storage lines to secure gear
  • Three levels of purchase options: Essentials package (includes paddle and pack), Overnighter package (adds in spray skirt and float bags), and Explorer package (adds water bottle and four lights).

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Versatile for many water environments
  • Tracks well
  • Folds down to suitcase size to travel anywhere
  • Lightweight for better maneuverability
  • Storage on deck and within cockpit
  • One-year warranty
  • Expensive

Best Modular Kayak - Point 65N Tequila

Another specialty kayak worth mentioning is the Point 65N Tequila, a modular kayak that can adjust its length to your desired kayak adventure. Designed in Sweden, the Tequila is a versatile and high performing kayak that can be used by a solo kayaker or converted to tandem for multiple paddlers. 

The Tequila is not only unique, but it performs well with the ability to track for more speed. It has the storage room to become a fishing kayak and the capacity to bring your dog.

Point 65N Tequila best modular kayak

Length Width Weight Weight Capacity Price
12'3" 25" 26 lbs 300 lbs Price

Performance

The Tequila is a sit on top kayak designed for the versatility to choose your adventure as a solo paddler or adjust to tandem use. In addition to its stability, it can also maneuver and has the potential for speed with the included skeg.

Durability

The Tequila is designed with 65 Snap Tap technology to adjust the size of the kayak. Snap in the mid-section and your solo kayak is now a tandem rigid kayak for passengers. The rigid kayak can withstand rough water and the usual beatings it takes on rocks and dragging your kayak to the water. 

Portability

The Tequila has the unique advantage of being a rigid kayak that might just fit in your trunk. With separate sections that easily snap into place, you can break it down to its components for easy portability. 

Additional Features

  • Dry seating with AIR seat with a pneumatic adjustable backrest
  • Multiple molded foot rests
  • Cup holder
  • A skeg for better tracking
  • Paddle park for hands-free kayaking
  • Front and rear bungee storage space

Pros & Cons

 PROS CONS
  • Versatile for many water environments
  • Tracks well
  • Folds down to suitcase size to travel anywhere
  • Lightweight for better maneuverability
  • Storage on deck and within cockpit
  • One-year warranty
  • Expensive

Things to Consider When Buying a Kayak

Three kayak on a different color on a beach

Now that you’ve been introduced to the many types of kayaks available, you may still be struggling to figure out which type of kayak best suits your needs. It’s important to check out the different types of kayaks in order to determine which type might be best for the type of kayaking you wish to do.

There are also other considerations that come into play when researching the different types of kayaks available to buy - so let’s take a look at everything you might need to know. 

Research the Different Types of Kayaks Available

Kayaks have evolved over time to become more specialized for different activities. You might want to cruise the lake with friends in a recreational kayak, or zip down river rapids in a whitewater kayak. A fishing kayak can be loaded with your fishing pole and tackle, and a tandem kayak can be used by your whole family. 

Before you can choose which kayak is best for you, let’s review the many kayak options. 

Recreational Kayaks

Recreational kayaks are designed for a fun day on the water without significant speed or multiple fancy accessories. A recreational kayak will be stable on the water and make comfort a priority. 

They are designed for calm waters and they will not be fast, but they are affordable and easy to maneuver.

Sit On Top Kayaks

Sit on top kayaks tend to also be recreational kayaks because they are more stable and easy to use than other varieties, as the paddler sits on top of the kayak instead of down inside a cockpit.

However, the paddler is somewhat open to the elements, and might get wet from splashes, so these types of kayaks are not ideal in a colder environment.

Sit Inside Kayaks

A paddler sits down inside a cockpit in a sit inside kayak, and will keep warm and dry on a cool day. Because you sit lower to the water, you’ll have better control and more efficient paddling for potential speed. 

Sit inside kayaks have better tracking and maneuverability, with covered storage within the cockpit. 

Tandem Kayaks

Man and a woman on a tandem kayak

A tandem kayak is a great option if you have a family of paddlers so you can save on the expense of storage space or buying multiple kayaks. 

Some tandems have the benefit of adjustable seating to allow a single rider, and this provides additional deck space for storage, or for your dog to ride along.

Touring Kayaks

A touring kayak is designed for speed and better tracking, and is long, narrow and less stable than a recreational kayak. 

Touring kayaks have ample storage space and potentially a rudder or skeg to improve tracking in wind and waves, however it’s worth noting that they tend to be higher priced than recreational models. 

Fishing Kayaks

A fishing kayak is a great way to sneak into a cove in stealth-mode to find fish. Some recreational kayaks can be outfitted for fishing, and other kayaks are designed specifically with fishermen in mind. 

Fishing kayaks have rod holders, a stable deck with room to stand and sit, and plenty of storage space for your tackle box and cooler.

Pedal Kayaks

A pedal kayak is powered by pedaling your feet instead of using a paddle. It is a great option when you want to enjoy hands-free activities such as photography, wildlife viewing, or fishing. 

Pedal kayaks  have a pedal powered prop or fins and a rudder to steer. The equipment protruding from the underside of the kayak can inhibit use in shallow water and also adds to its overall weight, so this is something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of paddling for stealth while fishing.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks solve potential problems with portability and transport. If you love to travel, you can deflate and carry your kayak in a convenient backpack to remote streams or mountain lakes. 

An inflatable kayak will be lightweight and easy to maneuver and take up little room when storage space is limited. 

Whitewater Kayaks

Man compete on a green whitewater kayak

A whitewater kayak is designed to maneuver through fast moving waters. They are  shorter and easier to turn, and they’re usually a sit inside kayak for better control and performance.

Ocean Kayaks

An ocean kayak will typically be a touring kayak designed for better tracking and speed. A rudder or a skeg will improve overall control as you cut through waves and wind, and there will be ample storage space for coastline tours. 

Consider Where You Want to Kayak

The environment where you wish to kayak plays a big role in what type of kayak you choose. If your goal is fun weekend paddling with friends, then you will choose a different type of kayak than someone whose goal is tackling whitewater. 

Lakes

For calm lake paddling, you will typically choose a recreational kayak or a sit on top kayak with the goal of comfort and overall stability. If you are on a large lake with winds or waves, then you will want to upgrade to a touring kayak for better tracking. 

Rivers

People kayaking in river between mountains

When kayaking on a river, you want a stable kayak that is easy to turn and maneuver and can track through the current. Options include a shorter recreational kayak or a shorter touring kayak that can maneuver and one that includes a skeg to help tracking. A sit on top kayak is less safe in a river environment because it is more likely to capsize.

Ocean

Ocean kayaking involves wind, waves, and current - and you will be best suited in a sit inside kayak with a rudder or skeg. If you want to surf some waves near the shoreline, a sit on top kayak would suit you well. 

Sit Inside or Sit On Top

Determine if a sit inside or a sit on top kayak suits your skill level and water environment. A beginning kayaker is more likely to want a sit on top kayak for its stability and ease of use, but if it's a cold day in the fall, you’re less likely to get wet within a sit inside kayak.

A sit inside kayak will perform better on the water, while a sit on top kayak is designed for comfort and recreational use. 

Kayak Materials

Kayaks can be crafted from inflatable PVC, solid plastic, or fiberglass. A solid kayak will be more durable for the long term, but an inflatable kayak will be easier to transport and store. 

Solid kayaks are typically constructed from polyethylene, ABS plastics, or composites with composites being the most durable and lightweight. The higher quality the materials, the more expensive the kayak. 

Weight Capacity

Different kayaks on a rack

When determining the appropriate weight capacity, make sure to factor in not only your own weight but that of your cooler, dry bag, tackle box, and gear. If your weight surpasses the kayak’s recommendations, then you are going to sit low in the water and be more likely to capsize.

Length

A longer kayak will track better in the water for more speed and typically have more storage capacity, therefore they are better for touring and long-distances. A shorter kayak will turn and maneuver better in the water.

Width

The width of the kayak's hull determines stability. A wide kayak will be more stable than a narrow deck, but it will move slower in the water.

Seats

When you’re touring long distance or on an all-day fishing expedition, the comfort of your seat can make a difference in your ability to remain on the water. Look at the quality of the seat for padding and the ability to adjust the seat for the best ergonomic fit. 

Some tandem kayaks have adjustable and removable seats that make it possible to paddle your tandem kayak solo.

Portability and Kayak Storage

You might purchase the best kayak on earth and have a great day on the water, but make sure you have the ability to store your kayak in the off season. Certain plastics can degrade with UV exposure, so should not be stored outside in the sun. 

An inflatable kayak offers easy portability and includes a backpack, inflation pump, and all you need to hop on the water. No need to worry about roof racks or garage space when an inflatable kayak folds up easily to throw in your trunk. 

Skegs or Rudders

A skeg is a drop down fin that helps a kayak track straighter in the wind and waves, and a rudder does the same but with the added ability to adjust and steer the boat. Skegs and rudders are more important for touring, ocean kayaking, and water where the wind and waves can cause you to drift off track.

Hatches and Storage Space

Kayaks can store your cooler, tackle box, dry bag, and valuables to keep them dry and safe while on the water. Look for water resistant hatches, covered bungee storage wells, or side pocket storage space to optimize the amount of gear you can bring aboard.

Summary

Red, yellow and blue kayak in the ocean

Once you determine the type of kayak and the features you most desire, you’ll quickly narrow the field to find the best kayak. After our review of the best kayaks, you’re prepped and ready to find your match and paddle into the sunset.

FAQ’S

🏆 What size kayak do I need?

Finding the right size kayak depends on many factors. First, determine what you want to use the kayak for. For long distance touring or high speeds, you will want a long, narrow kayak. For whitewater use, a short kayak that is easy to turn is ideal. 

The weight capacity is the most important factor when choosing the right size kayak. Make sure the kayak can support your own weight as well as the weight of your gear. Beginners or fishermen will want a wider kayak for its increased stability.


👍 Is a sit inside or sit on top kayak better?

It depends . . . a sit inside kayak will allow you to sit inside a cockpit close to the water to keep you warmer on a cool day as well as to make it easier to paddle efficiently. A sit on top kayak is easy to get in and out of and is stable for beginners and recreational use, and you will be cooler on a hot day. 

The preference is based on the weather, skill level, and type of kayaking you wish to enjoy. 


🏝️ How stable are kayaks?

Even beginners can find a kayak that is stable for their first time on the water. The wider a kayak, the more stable the kayak. Sit on top kayaks are easy to board and a great option for reluctant kayakers worried they will end up in the water. 


❓ What size kayak paddle do I need?

When determining the length of your paddle, consider your height as well as the width of the kayak. The wider the boat, the longer the necessary paddle to reach the water. 

An adjustable kayak paddle helps to find the perfect fit, but here are general guidelines”

  • For a paddler under 5’5” a paddle should be 220cm in length
  • For a paddler 5’5” to 5’11” a paddle should be 240cm in length
  • For a paddler over 5’11” the paddle should be 250cm in length.

📦 What is the best kayak for beginners?

The best kayak for beginners will be one that is wide and stable and easy to maneuver. Our pick for best beginner kayak is the Advanced Elements single kayak. It is inflatable and lightweight making it easy to manage on the water for turns and recreational fun. 


📦 What to wear when kayaking?

What you wear when kayaking will depend on your activity. For general recreational use when using a sit on top kayak, you might only need your swimsuit and sunscreen on a hot day. If you’re fishing in the early morning hours, you can kayak with waterproof pants, your fishing vest, and maybe a waterproof fanny pack to hold your favorite lures. 

The appropriate clothes will hinge on the weather and type of kayak. You have the potential to get wet in a sit on top kayak and you’ll have no shelter from the sun. If planning a long day on the water, plan on sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen to keep you safe. And never forget your PDF for any type of kayak adventure. 


📦 Is kayaking safe?

Kayaking has the potential to be a safe sport that can be enjoyed at almost any age or skill level, but it is important to plan ahead. If you’ve never kayaked before, start with a stable, wide kayak and test it in shallow calm water before launching into the middle of the lake. 

A PFD (personal flotation device - or life vest) is always recommended when kayaking in the event of capsizing.

Pat McCaw
Pat McCaw

Author, physician, mom and lover of all things outdoors. If there’s water or a hiking trail nearby, that's her happy place. Throw in family and a couple of dogs and it's paradise!