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Kayak Buying Guide

Touring kayaks are built for speed and distance. Kayakers often use them for racing or long journeys on the river or sea.

How to Choose the Best Kayak for You

A touring kayak can be an exciting way to navigate large bodies of water. However, beginners may have a slightly harder time learning on a sea kayak compared to other recreational variations. This is also not an ideal kayak for families or solo kayakers who want to leisurely paddle around a pond or stream. We suggest beginners look at smaller, more accommodating kayaks first.

Whitewater kayaks are for more aggressive forms of kayaking. There are four types of whitewater kayaks — playboats, river runners, creek boats and long boats.

Best Recreational Kayak: A Buyer’s Guide

Playboats are as short as 6 feet in length should be used on standing waves and holes in a rapid, not for traveling down one. River runners are slightly longer and can endure a trip down the river. Creek boats are longer and heavier than river runners to withstand drops. Longboats can be 12 feet long and are ideal for river runs. Depending on the types of rapids you wish to take on, you should consider the length and durability of each of these kayaks. However, we do not recommend purchasing a whitewater kayak if you are a beginner.

How to Choose the Best Recreational Kayak

While all water-based activities have a risk of danger, whitewater kayaking can be more dangerous than a slow paddle in a quiet stream. We suggest that you choose and master a sit-on-top or recreational sit-in kayak before moving on to this advanced vessel. The number one benefit of an inflatable kayak is that it can be stored and transported much easier than any other kayak variation. This kayak is perfect for those who live in smaller areas like apartments or who will need to store their kayak conveniently when not in use.

These kayaks function like all other kayaks, so they are just as susceptible to capsizing or becoming damaged while in use. As a beginner or someone who may not use a kayak as heavily as someone who spends every weekend paddling, an inflatable kayak has numerous advantages. Some features these types of kayak may include are rod holders, pedal propulsion systems which can be motorized and extra cargo storage. Though most prefer a sit-on-top kayak, there are also fishing kayaks that are sit-ins.

These kayaks can also handle more weight than some other recreational varieties, which is crucial if you plan on hauling gear and keeping your catch. Learning how to pick the right kayak can be tricky, especially if you plan on using a kayak for fishing purposes. Instead, it may be better to opt for a general recreational kayak, like the kind mentioned above. However, if you are buying a kayak specifically for fishing, we recommend you look for one that will be able to carry your gear, handle your environment and provide you with the mobility you need.

There are many types of kayaks for beginners but those learning to kayak with a friend, family member or partner may opt to purchase a tandem kayak instead of a single-seater. There are a few advantages to buying a tandem kayak. For instance, a larger sized tandem kayak allows for more storage. However, one challenge is that the increased weight of a tandem kayak makes it more difficult to recover when capsizing. However, we would not suggest this type of kayak if you want to paddle solo or plan on learning on rough waters like rivers or seas.

When discussing the length and width of kayaks, we can place each design into one of three classes — recreational class kayaks, light-touring class kayaks and touring class kayaks. The length, width and weight of your kayak have a direct impact on its abilities in the water. For instance, small and wide kayaks will provide more stability while long and narrow kayaks are faster.

Along with speed and maneuverability, you must also consider factors like storage capabilities, transportation concerns and sizing. Ask yourself these questions:. Instead of rating the kayak on its speed, consider what kind of kayaking experience you desire. Do you want to traverse large distances or stay in a contained spot? Is getting to your destination quickly the goal or do you prefer to enjoy the journey? If you want to race downriver or make it miles down the shore, a touring or light-touring class kayak is better.


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Like speed, the ability to maneuver your kayak is also a factor to weigh. Open rivers, lakes and seas will not have as many obstacles as rivers, creeks or ponds. A recreational kayak is small enough to maneuver around in even the narrowest of waterways. No matter which features of a kayak you desire, safety is always the most vital element to consider when operating a kayak. While recreational or light-touring kayaks are better for children or smaller individuals, light-touring and touring kayaks may provide more comfort and mobility for larger individuals.

A touring kayak may be challenging to store and transport while a recreational or inflatable kayak may be more accommodating. Although you may be able to transport or store a particular type of kayak, you should also consider storage on the kayak itself. Not only does your kayak need to be outfitted to store your essential items, but it must also be able to handle the additional weight these items will add. After identifying the things to look for when buying a kayak, the next step is to select a paddle.

Thankfully, figuring out your correct paddle size is easy.

Questions to ask yourself when choosing a kayak

A kayak that fits you well will give you more stability and control than a boat that is too tight or too loose. Different kayaks are designed for different types of water. There are kayaks specifically designed for rock gardens, surf, flatwater and touring, just to name a few popular disciplines. Where do you paddle most often? Opt for a model that suits the type of paddling you most often do, instead of buying an expedition kayak only suited to bucket-list trips.

Beware of sales pitches claiming one boat can do it all. No design excels in all types of water and there are always trade-offs in performance. Buying a sea kayak can one tricky business with endless options. Feature Photo : Eric Carriere. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Inspiring paddlesports participation through quality coverage of the people, places, adventures, boats and gear, trends and events that make paddling something you'll do for the rest of your life.

Sign in. Log into your account. Privacy Policy. The P. Portable Accessory Carrier can double as either a bait holder or can also be used to hold your catch. It can be towed behind the boat while the tankwell it fits into can be used to store more fishing gear. The only thing that the Journey is missing is the fittings necessary to mount a fish finder without drilling holes in the deck.

While only three rod holders might be too few for a veteran angler, they are more than enough for your first fishing kayak, and the lack of a fish finder is only a minor complaint.

Best Kayak for Beginners 12222

The Perception Carolina makes for an excellent first touring kayak for a beginner. It is stable with its soft-chined hull, but its narrow profile and long length give it a good top speed.

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The Adjustable Zone DLX seat and leg padding keep you stable in the cockpit and make it comfortable enough for longer journeys. Gear storage is taken care of by two watertight hatches and bungee cord rigging on the outer hull.


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  • The narrow hull of the Carolina lets it cut through rough water, making it suitable for both salt and freshwater kayaking. It has a low rocker which cuts down on its maneuverability, but its longer waterline keeps it tracking straight and moving fast.

    Paddling Buyer's Guide [Paddling Buyer's Guide]

    The Carolina has a large cockpit which makes entry and exit easier, but can result in water coming in over the sides of the cockpit during rougher weather. This situation can be rectified by the use of a spray skirt. It might not be the most maneuverable boat on the market, but it tracks straight without the need for constant adjustments and has a great top speed. The Sun Dolphin Aruba is a stable and durable kayak with a wide, comfortable cockpit and spacious hull.

    At 10 feet long and weighing just 40 pounds, it is light enough that one person can attach it to a car rack or get it to the waters edge without too much trouble.

    Storage in the Aruba is taken care of by one large rear hatch and bungee cording on the deck for any bulky items. The adjustable padded seat, adjustable foot braces, and protective thigh pads keep the paddler comfortable on longer journeys and provide the stability for the kayaker to use their lower body to turn the Aruba into tight turns. The more the boat rises at its bow and stern, the less of the hull is in the water and the easier it is to turn the kayak.

    Kayaks with a high rocker are agile and easy to maneuver, but can have trouble picking up speed and tracking straight. How well a kayak tracks is an indication of how well your kayak will continue to move forward in a straight line. Kayaks with poor tracking tend to slip off this forward line and deviate from the course you want to paddle. This can mean the paddler has to make constant course corrections to keep the kayak traveling straight.