How do you know which kayak is best for you?
Owning your own kayak is guaranteed to bring you a lot of joy. Not only is kayaking a great source of exercise; because it doesn’t sit too low in the water, you will find that it will let you access areas that other boats might not, so that you will be able to find the perfect water-side campsite. And of course, you will be able to experience nature from the water, a view few people get to experience.
In this article we’ll outline the different types of kayak available and how to choose a kayak suited for you.
Choosing the right kayak
When choosing your kayak, consider the following:
- What type of waters will you be navigating?
- How long will you be paddling for?
- What type of weather will you be kayaking in?
- Will you be using your kayak to get to a campsite?
- How many people will you be kayaking with?
The different types of kayaks available
Recreational kayaks are made for calmer and more relaxing outings. These kayaks are stable, affordable and great for casual and beginner paddlers. They are not optimal for open waters where there might be more wind and waves, so consider this type of kayak if you will be paddling mostly on lakes or slow moving rivers
A recreational kayak is usually between 10 and 12 feet (3 to 3.5 m) long and is quite wide; it often has a fair amount of storage space in the stern (this is the back of the kayak, if you are new to boating) and has a lot of leg room. This type of kayak is often made of plastic or composite and can be quite heavy and tricky to transport.
Recreational kayaks are lacking in speed and are not very good at tracking (going in a straight line), but what it lacks in tracking and speed it makes up for in stability and maneuverability. Recreational kayaks require no experience and are great if you are new to kayaking. Simply put, this type of kayak is best suited to the causal kayaker who wants to have fun.
Related Article – The best recreational kayaks on the market
Touring kayaks are essentially more professional kayaks than the other kind of kayaks. They are made for harsher conditions, require more training to master, go faster and track better. These kayaks can be used in more open waters where the currents and winds are stronger.
Touring kayaks are slimmer and longer than recreational kayaks. They do offer storage, often both in the stern and the bow. Since they’re quite long, they can be troublesome to transport.
Some touring kayaks are more stable than others, but generally they require a bit more effort to keep them balanced. They perform great, as they are both fast and track well. Paddling these kayaks is very efficient: less effort is needed to keep the kayak in motion, which makes them great for longer trips. If you take kayaking seriously, go on multi day excursions and like to exercise a lot, this is the kayak for you.
Related Article – The best touring kayaks on the market
The key feature of inflatable kayaks is that they are extremely portable. When they’re deflated they pack nicely into the bag they usually come with, so they’re great when you go on vacations to places where you know the waters are calm. However, most inflatable kayaks do not offer quite the same performance as hard-shell kayaks in the same price range. Despite this fact, they will still provide an enjoyable experience.
Inflatable kayaks come in all shapes and types. You can find inflatable kayaks that are suitable for recreational use, for touring, and for just about every other type of kayaking, even fishing. The kayak often comes with a pump that is made for the kayak, if not you can almost always but one from the manufacturer. Again, they are very easy to transport and require little storage space.
Related Article – The best inflatable kayaks on the market
A sit-on-top kayak is the perfect kayak for fun times in warm, sunny places. You can of course use them in cold places as well; just remember that your whole body is exposed, so be sure to dress appropriately. They are very stable and require little to no experience.
They come in all sizes. Because you are sitting at or slightly above the water level in these kayaks, they are usually very wide – this gives them more stability. Sit-on-top kayaks have a higher weight capacity because they are the preferred kayaks for fishing.
These kayaks are intended mostly for recreational use. They offer stability and are very easy to use. Like other recreational kayaks, they are slower and worse at tracking than the touring kayaks.
Related Article – The best sit-on-top kayaks on the market – Buyers guide
A kayak is a cheap way for a fisherman to get out on the water, so there are kayaks specifically designed for fishing. Their key features are higher weight capacity, lots of storage space, stability and the option to mount your fishing rod. Most fishermen prefer sit-on–top kayaks, but there are sit-in kayaks for fishing as well.
The size and weight of fishing kayaks tend to be the same as for other hard-shell sit-on-top or sit-in kayaks, making this type of kayak more cumbersome to transport. There are some inflatable kayaks that can be used for fishing, and these are of course easier to transport.
Related Article – What makes a fishing kayak the best fishing kayak
Almost every type of kayak is also available as a tandem kayak. So when buying a tandem kayak, you need to consider which features you and your fellow paddler will benefit from the most. If transporting the kayak might pose a problem, go for an inflatable or folding tandem kayak. If you are both experienced and want to go on camping trips, you might opt for a touring kayak.
Tandem kayaks are obviously larger than single person kayaks, which will make them both heavier and more difficult to transport, and also harder to find storage space for, particularly if you have chosen a hard-shell tandem kayak. Tandem kayaks have storage space, and some tandem kayaks also offer a middle seat for when you’re out on the water without a partner.
Paddling with a partner offers much more companionship, especially when you are out on longer trips. Experiencing beautiful scenery is more fun when someone is close by to share it with you. If you are able to paddle in sync with your paddling partner, a tandem kayak will be faster than a single person kayak. However, if you are out of sync, it can be harder to steer, and if you each want to go in different directions, that too can cause problems!
The features of a folding kayak are almost like those of a hard-shell kayak, except that this type of kayak is much easier to transport. If you want to travel and paddle in different places but don’t like the inflatable kayak, the folding kayak is an excellent alternative. This type of kayak costs a bit more, but the overall kayaking experience will more than make up for the higher price.
There are a few different kinds of folding kayaks. One is the skin-on-frame design where you can get or make the parts to build the frame and then attach the “skin” to the frame. Oru Kayak makes folding kayaks that fits into a bag. This type of kayak is not as heavy as a normal hard shell kayak and is easier to transport. Most folding kayaks do not offer a lot of storage space.
As you can see, choosing a kayak can require a lot of thought. One thing we didn’t mention about any of the different kinds of kayaks is their price range. Generally speaking, a more expensive kayak will perform better than a cheaper one. There are of course some exceptions. Make sure to check out our reviews to find out which kayaks we’ve tried and recommend. We look at kayaks in all price ranges.
In summary, consider the following when choosing the kayak that will work best for you:
- Your price range
- How you want to use it: fishing, touring, recreational, camping, etc.
- Where you want to use it: consider the typical water and weather conditions in these areas
- Performance: stability, speed, efficiency, maneuverability, tracking
- Weight and storage capacity: this usually co-relates to how you want to use your kayak
- Kayak size: We will talk more about this in our dimension and design article, link below.
- Your size: If you are taller or larger, you will want to test the kayak for comfort.