Tandem kayaks are the perfect way to head out on the water with your friend, your partner, your family, or even your furry friend. These two-seater, sometimes three-seater kayaks give you the freedom to launch your boat on almost any shore so you can not only enjoy some time in nature but also spend quality time with your loved ones.
Kayaks designed for more than two people come in both a sit-on-top and sit-inside variation, and type you choose will depend on the weather, the water temperature, and the type of paddling you wish to partake in.
Sit-on-top tandem kayaks have open hulls that are easy to mount and dismount, whereas sit-inside kayaks have enclosed cockpits that protect the paddler from water splashes or cold and rainy temperatures.
Tandem kayaks are also extremely versatile as they can be paddled by two paddlers or solo if you need some alone time out on the water. All you need to do is remove the front seat, reposition the back seat to a middle position, and you’re good to go.
If you’re on the hunt for a tandem kayak, then you may have also noticed that they come in a hardshell or inflatable variation, with paddles, pedals, or electric motor power options. All varieties have their advantages and disadvantages, but the decision comes down to you and your personal preferences.
For those new to the tandem kayaking world, check out the best tandem kayaks. And if you plan to fish from your tandem ‘yak, then head over to our kayak fishing guide.
Tandem kayaks were designed to accommodate two paddlers, but these versatile ‘yaks can also be paddled solo by simply repositioning the seats and evenly distributing weight. Typically, tandem kayaks will also come with adequate storage space, with some even being big enough to include a third small passenger in the middle.
More often than not, you’ll find scupper holes dotted throughout a sit-on-top kayak’s deck to drain any water that has managed to make its way ontop. Inflatable kayaks will also have air valves that you use to pump up the air chambers inside the kayak. Ideally, you want a kayak with numerous air chambers as if one happens to puncture, you’ll be able to make your way back to shore with the air left in the remaining chambers.
Coming to a decision on a tandem kayak can be difficult and somewhat overwhelming, so we’ve put together a comprehensive guide: How to choose a kayak to help you along with the process.
For those who already have a kayak in mind, keep an eye out for these below features.
Hardshell tandem kayaks are often made from molded polyethylene which is durable and able to withstand the bumps and scrapes of everyday tandem kayak usage. The thicker the density of the polyethylene, the stronger and lighter the tandem kayak will be.
Inflatable tandem kayaks are created from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is sewn together by a process called drop stitching. PVC inflatable kayaks are just as strong as hardshell kayaks, with the added benefit that they don’t dent or scratch when they come into contact with an object.
All kayaks have a maximum weight capacity that should never be exceeded. By overloading your kayak, you’re at risk of it sinking slightly into the water, which will cause the boat to become difficult to maneuver, handle and paddle.
Tandem fishing kayaks luckily have some of the highest weight capacities of all kayaks as they’re created to hold two passengers along with additional gear. Calculate your weight, the weight of any potential passengers, and any gear that you may take on board with you and compare it to the weight of kayaks you’re looking at purchasing.
Tandem kayaks are already fairly long to make room for two passengers inside. The longer the kayak, the straighter it will track and the faster it will go. Shorter tandem kayaks, on the other hand, will be easier to maneuver and considerably lighter and more convenient to transport.
Paddlers who prioritize speed should opt for a longer kayak, whereas recreational paddlers will find no trouble with a shorter tandem kayak.
The width of a kayak plays into the boat's overall stability, so if you’re new to paddling and haven't quite yet mastered your balance, then a wider hull kayak will be your best bet. For experienced paddlers who are looking to upgrade their kayak, then a narrower kayak that slices through the water at faster speeds will provide a pleasant challenge.
The general length of tandem kayaks makes them fairly heavy boats. For the lightest tandem kayak possible, opt for a small hull variety that isn’t kitted out with any accessories. Accessories are only going to weigh the kayak down even further, which in turn makes it even more difficult to transport and carry.
If a heavy weighted kayak is going to be difficult for you to manage, then consider an inflatable tandem kayak. Inflatable tandems typically weigh under 50 lbs and can be packed and stored into a carry bag that you can conveniently place in the back seat or trunk of your car.
Some tandem kayaks are fairly limited with storage as they need to accommodate two seats instead of one. Consider how much additional gear you’ll be taking on board when coming to a decision on which tandem ‘yak to purchase.
If you do need extra storage, then remember that tandem fishing kayaks can also be paddled recreationally, and they often have adequate storage space for fishing gear.
Most kayaks come with or at least give you the option to add on a rudder if tracking is a priority for you. Rudders aren’t entirely necessary, however, and you’ll manage just fine without one.
Many tandem kayaks come with built-in features and additional accessories. The more accessories and built-in features, the heavier the kayak will be, so consider how and what you’ll be using your kayak for, and decide on whether you should opt for a plain and simple kayak or one kitted out to the brim.
Tandem kayaks come in a range of widths, with the wider varieties being more stable. If stability is a concern for you, then opt for a tandem kayak with a width of at least 34”, as these will be stable enough for even beginner paddlers.
Tandem kayaks have a range of benefits, including the fact that you can paddle with your loved ones, you can remove a seat and paddle solo, and you can even go fishing if you so wish.
Many tandem kayaks are sit-on-top which are the easiest types of kayaks to get in and out of. Their open and fairly large decks make mounting and dismounting incredibly simple, even for those with limited mobility.
Sit-inside tandem kayaks, on the other hand, are slightly more difficult to mount and dismount as you have to shimmy your way into the enclosed cockpit. This isn’t to say it's impossible, however, it just takes a bit of practice.
Tandem kayaks are considerably long boats making them slightly more difficult to transport than traditional solo ‘yaks. A tandem kayak on the shorter end of the scale would be able to be transported on a standard kayak roof rack, whereas longer tandem kayaks would require a kayak trailer.
If transportation is an issue, then inflatable tandem kayaks are your best bet. These kayaks can be deflated and packed into a manageable-sized backpack or duffel bag, which you can then place in the backseat or trunk of your car. They also weigh under 50 lbs meaning you can even carry them to the water’s edge with little trouble.