Let’s be honest, choosing a kayak can be a confusing process! There are so many kayaks out there, all coming in different shapes, sizes, and colors. While all kayaks are built to do the same thing, they aren’t built to do it in the same places. A kayak designed for white water rafting would not be your top choice if you plan to kayak on a serene lake. Of course if you’re kayaking on a lake or a stream longer trips could mean buying a kayak with more storage space. Like to fish? Kayaking fishing is one of the most-loved ways to fish by people all over the world – and yes, there are kayaks designed specifically for kayak fishing.
At Kayaking.org we’re excited to bring you our very own guide to picking the right kayak for you. We’ve included pictures and video to help you understand the different kinds of kayaks that are available, and which is the best fit for you. Taking the time in the beginning to pick the right kayak will make a big difference in your enjoyment going forward so take your time and help us find the right kayak for you.
Step 1: Where will you be kayaking?
The most important piece of information you need to pick the right kayak for you is where you will be kayaking. Most of the kayak selection process has to do with where exactly you want to kayak, and what you want to do. You will most likely be kayaking in one of four different environments:
- River (slow-moving)
- River (fast-moving/white water rapids)
Now circle one of these four options. In step two you will give one more piece of information, what you plan to do while you’re kayaking. Once you answer this questions you will be on the very last step – picking your kayak from a list of kayaks that meet your exact criteria.
Step 2: What will you be doing?
So you know where you want to go kayaking, now what do you plan to do while you’re kayaking. Once again, to keep things simple we’ve narrowed this down to four basic options.
- Leasurely day trips/family events
- Longer day trips or overnight/camping trips
- Competitive or extreme kayaking
That’s it. Now that we know where you want to kayak, and what you’ll be doing while you’re kayaking we can recommend the best type of kayak for you. Continue onto step 3 and get ready to find the perfect kayak.
Step 3: Find the right kayak for your needs
Below we have a list of the four main types of kayaks, and who they are best suited for. Since you know your answers to step one and step two you can match these directly with a kayak type to find a kayak that meets your exact needs.
For Kayakers Who Like: Lake/River (slow-moving), Leasurely day trips/family events
Sit-On-Top kayaks are a good fit for beginners who are interested in kayaking on calm water. The great things about sit-on-top kayaks is that it is very easy
to get into and out of the kayak. This also makes sit-on-top kayaks one of the best choices for kids and family vacations.
Don’t expect to be a speed demon in a sit-on-top kayak. These kayaks are wider given that the entire top deck is open, the wider a kayak is the slower it tends
to be, it’s that darn surface area mumbo jumbo. While it is hard to tip a sit-on-top kayak, if you do, it is very easy to flip the kayak and get back on.
One of the only downsides to the sit-on-top kayak is that since you won’t have the kayak covering parts of your body it’s easy to become exposed to the elements.
That’s being said, this could also be just about the worst kayak you could imagine for white water kayaking. This is why it is so important to understand where
you plan to kayak and what you’ll be doing when you’re kayaking!
For Kayakers Who Like: Lake/River (slow-moving), Leasurely day trips
Recreational Kayaks are also a great beginner kayak, however like most kayaks, you sit inside the kayak rather than on the deck. These kayaks are not quite as wide
as sit-on-top kayaks which makes them a bit faster, the design also leads to better manuverability.
The only major downside to a recreational kayak is that it can be harder to get out of the kayak if capsized. This is what makes this still a beginner kayak but
definitely more advanced than the sit-on-top kayak which absolutely anyone can use.
We don’t say this to scare you away from recreational kayaks, but instead to help you pick the right kayak for you. Since recreational kayaks are relatively inexpensive
they are great to get started with in a kayak that will prepare you for more advanced designs.
For Kayakers Who Like: Lake/River (slow-moving), Fast-moving rivers, Ocean, Day and Overnight Trips
We like to think of a touring kayak a bit like a mountain bike. This is the kayak for the real adventurer, someone who may want to do more than a day trip, or who
doesn’t mind dealing with some choppy ocean water. Touring kayaks are versatile kayaks that can still be used on calm lakes and rivers but are also great to use
in rough ocean conditions.
Since touring kayaks are capable of handling some of the more rough-and-tough kayaking scenarios they often have fully sealed storage compartments. You are also more
secured in the cockpit when compared to a recreational kayak. This is a good thing if you like to feel connected to the kayak, bad if you’re claustrophobic.
Touring kayaks are also often used for camping trips since they have a better storage capacity than most other kayaks. Touring kayaks intended for multi-day use are
often aptly called multiday touring kayaks. Multiday touring kayaks have the best storage capacity but aren’t as quick or agile as a day touring kayak.
While the recreational kayak is perfect for beginning kayakers, the touring kayak is a great next-step for intermediate or advanced kayakers ready for a bit more. While
these can be much more expensive than a typical recreational kayak, the added speed, storage, and design are worth it as you make you way in the kayaking world.
For Kayakers Who Like: Lake/River (slow-moving), Ocean, Fishing
While you can fight from any kayak-type is your favorite, there are kayaks built especially for fishing. Kayak fishing is a popular sport and has a huge advantage to
kayaking from the shore or a loud motor boat. With a kayak you can sit in silence on a lake or in the open ocean in a way other boats can’t. Also, using a kayak doesn’t
mean you have to give-up all your high-tech fishing gadgetry – you can still use a fish scope to cheat and see where the fish are!
Fishing kayaks often have an easy way to carry and attach your gear to the boat. Many fishing kayaks are simply sit-on-top kayaks modified to work well with fishing gear. You will also commonly see fishing kayaks with pedals that allow you to move the kayak forwards and backwards easily without using your hands! Fishing kayaks are incredibly
stable, so stable you can actually stand on some of them while fishing.
While fishing kayaks aren’t cheap, it’s worth the money to get a kayak made with fishing in mind. The last thing you want to do is flip your kayak or lose the fish you
worked so hard to catch. If you like fishing but haven’t tried kayak fishing yet, give it a shot and maybe start by renting a kayak from a local kayak rental shop.
Thanks for reading our guide to choosing the right kayak for you. If you’ve answered the questions in step one and two and reviewed the list of kayak-types above you should know what kayak-type is right for you. The next step is to buy that kayak, you can use our kayak buying guide to help you pick the kayak of your dreams.