The Best Touring Kayaks on the Market

When we talk about buying kayaks at RecVets, a common theme that we bring up is that knowing what you want out of a kayak is essential. Along with this vital knowledge, though, you also need to know about the various different types of kayaks. At the surface, this seems like a simple enough thing. There’re kayaks for fishing, whitewater, and the rest — right? Wrong. That “rest” encompasses a massive group of kayaks, that also have their own subsections. The section we’re discussing today is touring kayaks.

ProductImage of the Dagger Kayaks 14.0 Alchemy
Dagger Kayaks 14.0 Alchemy
Image of the Venture Kayaks Islay 14 LV Light
Venture Kayaks Islay 14 LV Light
Image of the Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV
Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV
Image of the Riot Kayaks Enduro
Riot Kayaks Enduro
Weight51 lbs.54 lbs.60 lbs.44 lbs.
Weight Capacity220 lbs.300 lbs.325 lbs.350 lbs.
Length14 ft.14 ft.14.5 ft.12 ft.
ReviewGo To ReviewGo To ReviewGo To ReviewGo To Review

Think of these a sort of intermediate area between the basic recreational kayak and higher end models. Touring kayaks are suitable for both lazy lakes and rivers and some busier bodies of water. They also have plenty of differences. This ranges from how they are stored to how they are shaped to how they perform. We are going to cover all these areas and more to help you find the best touring kayak.

Touring Kayaks Explained

Compared to the recreational kayak, the first two things you are likely to notice about the touring kayak is that they are longer and more expensive. Both play into their intended purpose. A touring kayak is generally designed for longer kayak trips on bodies of water like open lakes, bays, and the ocean. To help in this regard, there are three main things they focus on providing: strong tracking, comfort, and storage.

The added tracking is key for helping you stay on course wherever you are going without having to exert yourself too much for energy. The vast majority of touring kayaks will either have a skeg or rudder to help you stay in position. Which one is better is largely a matter of preference, but I recommend trying both before making a final decision. To provide added comfort, you are more likely to see extra padding and adjustability in the seating compared to a sea kayak.

For storage, because you may want to pack extra gear in a touring kayak, it’s very likely that there will be added volume in the bow and stern for you to place in these bulkhead sections. Some of these compartments are waterproofed, some are not. Make sure you check before you decide what you want to put in this storage.

The extra storage space and emphasis on tracking come at the expense of quick turning in the water. In addition, while they may feel less stable than recreational kayaks when it comes to entering and leaving, they are actually more stable in rough conditions, providing a bit more flexibility on where and when they can be used.

The Best Touring Kayak — Top Sellers

Touring kayaks cover a wide selection, both the traditional ocean and sea kayaks you may think of as well as some other items. To help start you on your way, we’ve taken some of the top selling touring kayaks out there and tested them ourselves.

Not only will we give you a rundown of how these kayaks handle in the water, we will also discuss their pricing and added features. Every bit can make the difference between what makes a good buy or not.

As we often say, the way you like to kayak will ultimately determine what the best touring kayak for you is. These insights, though, will help you figure out what makes some of these kayaks so popular, and whether they suit you.

Riot Kayaks Enduro

Image of the Riot Kayaks Enduro One of Amazon’s most popular touring kayak selections, this Enduro steers a bit off the beaten path from what you may picture as a traditional touring kayak. To my surprise, it was wider than I initially expected. While the added stability is certainly nice, I was a bit skeptical if this would be a fit for the seas and oceans I associate with traditional touring kayaks.

I have to say, when I took the Enduro out, I was pleasantly surprised. While the speed cannot match some of the higher-cost kayaks that are on this list, it was easy to maneuver, and also had a sizable cockpit for me to relax in. Adjustable footbraces and a custom-fit seating system are also valuable features that add to the comfort.

Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of the Enduro is its storage. This kayak has a front and rear watertight compartment, which is more storage than usual. If you plan on fishing or doing a similar activity from this kayak, this serves as a major plus.

One thing to note is that at a length of 12 feet, it may be a bit below what you expect for a traditional touring kayak. I imagine this is part of the reason why the price for this is relatively low. While I personall still loved the kayak, this is something to consider.

If you want a longer kayak but some of the other features of this sound appealing to you, I have also reviewed the Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV as a part of this article. Read on to see if that is a better match for you.

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Venture Kayaks Islay 14 LV Light

Image of the Venture Kayaks Islay 14 LV Light The major selling point of the Islay is the fact that for its size, it’s actually quite light. I can confirm this firsthand. So if you know that you’re going to be carrying your kayak around between use or have a smaller car to carry it on, this may be what you’re looking for.

When it comes to handling in the water, this kayak was great! At 14 ft in length, it boasts a great amount of speed and was easy to maneuver around. This sleekness is owned to the mid hull design with a slight V shape. While on the narrower side, this design philosophy certainly paid off.

Another thing to keep in mind while you’re looking over this kayak is your own size. This may sound a bit odd, but even Venture Kayaks themselves say that this is a kayak designed for smaller kayakers. While I was relatively comfortable using this kayak for my testing, larger people will be better off looking for an alternative.

If you do fit, though, the seat is adjustable, which may add another level of comfort. For more convenience out of the water, the paddle park and pod are actually removable, which makes for some easy cleaning.

Overall, I feel that this Islay lives up to its promises, being light out of the water while providing great tracking and speed in the water. The one major hang-up about this is the size, but if you have the build to sit comfortably in this kayak, it makes for a very strong choice.

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Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV

Image of the Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LVWhile this Edge instantly draws a comparison to the other Riot Kayaks entry on this list, the Enduro, there’re a bit more differences between the two. Normally, I try to avoid putting multiple kayaks from the same companies here, but they are so different that I felt this warranted an exception.

If you put the two side-by-side, the first of these differences is clear. The Edge has the narrower profile that you come to expect from a touring kayak. This comes into play in the water as well, as I personally favored this kayak’s speed out of the four on this list. This isn’t to slight the other ones, just my personal opinion.

This kayak also comes with an included rudder system to help make maneuvering a bit easier. As rudders go, this is decent, but I have heard that some people have struggled with the location of the pedals for steering purposes.

However, with great handling in the water comes some tradeoffs. Mainly, this kayak is very heavy and bulky. Make sure you have both storage at home as well as proper transport before you buy. Aside from this one issue, this is probably the best touring kayak you will be able to find under $1,000 in this category.

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Dagger Kayaks 14.0 Alchemy

Image of the Dagger Kayaks 14.0 AlchemyThe Alchemy is one of two kayaks above $1,000 on this list, so it stands to reason that I would want to make sure that it earns its price tag. Depending on what you prioritize in a kayak, I would say that it does that and then some.

When it comes to tracking, the Alchemy wins out hands down. It uses a proprietary True Track skeg system. This handled excellently during my test in both the surf and in calmer waters. It was also extremely responsive. While I preferred the speed of the Riot slightly more, this was still very close. This is also not quite as bulky out of the water.

The other major highlight of this kayak is the seating. For a sit-in kayak, this was extremely comfortable. The thigh pads, seat riser, and back band are all adjustable. Between this and the two size options, you’re bound to find an ideal fit.

Overall, for its price, the Alchemy delivers in terms of tracking and comfort. It doesn’t necessarily have the bells and whistles, but can’t be matched in terms of sleek movement. If you are a bit more experienced in kayaking and can meet the price, this is an ideal choice.

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What To Look For in A Touring Kayak

If you’re looking to start off your kayaking hobby or are graduating to a touring kayak from a different type of kayak, the ones we just reviewed are a great place to start. At the same time, though, these only represent a very small part of the huge touring kayak category.

Depending on your needs or where you plan on kayaking, you’re going to want to be certain you’ve weight all your option. Here are the few major questions you should be asking yourself as you shop around for the best touring kayaks.

Am I Willing To Trade Stability For Speed?

The first time you get in a kayak may be a bit unnerving. It may feel like you’re going to tip over if you don’t get in properly (it can happen). Generally, the faster and longer a kayak is, the less stable it is. This means more responsibility is placed on the kayaker to keep things steady.

If you’re a newcomer or have reservations about this, you may either want to get your feet wet with a recreational kayak first. It is also possible to start with a shorter touring kayak  (12-13 ft. long).

Will I Be Comfortable?

It’s in the name — touring kayaks are designed to be used for long trips and excursions. This means that finding a nice comfortable seat is paramount to you having a good time. In addition to testing the seat to make sure that it doesn’t feel too narrow for you, keep an eye out for added conveniences.

These include extra padding, adjustable footrests, and other things that will help you customize how you sit. What feels good in the store may not feel good out on the water. The best way to be prepared is choosing a kayak that gives you as much choice as possible in the matter.

What Exactly Am I Paying For?

You will soon see after starting your shopping how much variance there is when it comes to pricing on touring kayaks. In fact, it can boggle the mind a little bit. The best thing to do is try and figure out what about the kayak is driving the price so high — or low. Two major factors that will play a role are material and accessories.

For material, lightness is key for many kayak users. If you want a material that is both lightweight and durable, be prepared to pay. Most kayaks are either plastic or made with a more expensive compound blend.

In terms of add-ons, extra features will be sure to jack up a kayak’s price. Know what you need before you even start shopping so you don’t end up paying for something you don’t need.

Touring Kayaks in Review

As you can see, dedicated sportsmen and more casual kayaks have use for a good touring kayak. Let’s take a moment to discuss a few of the things that you should consider during your shopping process.

Do I need a touring kayak? Keep in mind, the main purpose of a touring kayak is to better handle rough conditions than a recreational kayak. They also help you go long distances in open water. If you plan on a less intensive style, maybe you’re better off staying with a recreational kayak. This isn’t to say you can’t use a touring kayak — but the higher prices may deter you.

Does my kayak have what I need? From a skeg or rudder to help you track to extra storage space, you’re going to want all the tools you need to be effective, safe, and comfortable while you ride.

Am I getting a proper touring kayak? The hallmarks of a touring kayak are a length of 12 to 17 feet, a larger cockpit, and added safe dry storage. If your selection is missing some of these things, you may not be getting your money’s worth. At the same time, if you’re looking to save and are willing to go without, this may not be that big a problem.

Keep these facts in mind, and you’ll not only know what makes a touring kayak a touring kayak. You are now prepared to find the best touring kayak to add to your experience. Happy traveling!

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