In this Guide
Best Kayak Reviews & Brands 2021
Whether you want to spend a leisurely afternoon outdoors, or you want a fun, action-packed adventure you can enjoy with friends, kayaking is an excellent activity to pursue. This is a very versatile way to enjoy the outdoor scenery, get the best views from rivers, lakes, and the ocean, and even get a good workout. There are so many different ways to kayak, from a slow-paced, relaxing ride, to hitting some heavy water with big waves and a lot of adventure.
In recent years, kayaking has continued to increase in popularity and for good reason – it is an affordable, easy, and unique way to experience your local waterways and nature offerings like never before. It is a great way to stay active and in shape, as well as to spend quality time with your friends and loved ones.
Kayak 101: How to Choose a Kayak – Recommended Video
There is an infographic and set of FAQS at the end of the article to help you.
Types of Kayaks
There are so many different options on the market when it comes to kayaks, and there are tons of different kinds of kayaks that are specially designed for use in a certain environment or for a particular purpose. In this article on kayak reviews, we will briefly discuss the main types of kayaks, and then we will provide a brief review of our pick for the best choice within each subcategory of the kayak. This takes a lot of the work and effort out of your hands, allowing you to choose from a pre-selected range of best kayaks that have been specially picked by experts who have combed through the myriad of available options on the market.
There are two main categories of kayaks include Flat Water Kayaks and Whitewater Kayaks.
For flat water, there are further five types of kayaks available in the market which include
- Inflatable Kayaks
- Fishing Kayaks
- Pedaling Kayaks
- Sit on top Kayaks
- Touring Kayaks
For white water, the kayaks available in the market include
- River Runners
- Creek boats
- Old School
- Play boats
- Inflatable white water kayaks (Duckies)
Kayak Brands to Avoid
It should be noted that there are dozens of different kinds of kayak brands and they are not all suited to the same water conditions, and they come in different shapes and sizes. You want to make sure that you have a good understanding of the different kayak designs, what they are best suited for, and your needs. You will also want to make sure that the kayak is suited to your body type and will actually be comfortable for you to be in. Keep in mind the following points before selecting a kayak:
- The terrain you’ll use the kayak in – calm lake or rough waters
- Type of activity e.g. fishing or rough waters adventure
- Your body type – height, size, weight. Deep hull kayaks are for taller and heavier paddlers.
- Transportation e.g. inflatable kayak is easily movable in the trunk of the car
- Find a wide kayak if you are looking for stability in water
- Shorter length kayaks are easier to navigate, and long kayaks are better with speed.
Top Kayak Brands and their Reviews
What follows is a buyer’s guide to all the types of kayak available on the market – there are niche and specialty types that we have discussed in detailed articles on each category on our website. What follows is a short description of popular and commonly-used types of kayak, as well as a brief description of the best value and quality kayak we found within that category.
Featured Inflatable Kayak
An inflatable kayak is a popular type of kayak for those who are looking for a lightweight, space-saving kayak, that is often a lot cheaper than a hard-hulled kayak. In the course of our research, we found the Advanced Element Inflatable Kayak to be the best choice of value and quality in this category.
The kayak takes up very little space and is incredibly light, making it very easy to store and transport. It can be inflated in about ten minutes, meaning you can hit the water without a ton of prep time. It is a stable craft that is well suited for leisurely rides.
However, it should be noted that this is a very shallow-hulled craft, so it might not be very comfortable for taller riders, and it cannot handle more than 235 lbs., making it unsuitable for larger riders.
Advanced Element Inflatable Kayak
|Easily movable||Not much space for tall paddlers|
|Easy to setup||Tight foot space|
|Strong material||Not for paddlers above 235 lbs.|
|Fills up & deflates in 10 minutes|
Featured Fishing Kayak 2021
For the avid fisherman, kayak fishing is a fun and unique way to enjoy a bit of angling in your free time. There are actually a ton of benefits to using a kayak for fishing, including the fact that, due to their low profile, it is a lot easier to stealthily sneak up on a school of fish than with a traditional fishing boat.
A fishing kayak is also quite a bit less expensive than a fishing boat. You can get a high quality, top-of-the-line fishing kayak for between $500-$3,000, depending on the features you are looking for.
We determined in the course of our research that the best combination of performance and value is the Malibu Kayaks X-Factor Fish and Dive Package Kayak. It is a high-performance fishing kayak that has a ton of added features with the fisherman in mind. It offers a stable ride and can handle a maximum weight capacity of 625 lbs.
It should be noted that, if you have trouble with seasickness, this fishing kayak is probably not going to be the best choice for you, as you feel a lot more of the waves and movement than you would in a traditional fishing boat. For people who are taller or heavier, the size of the hull may be insufficient for comfort.
Malibu Kayaks X-Factor Fish and Dive Package Kayak
|Good stability & comfort||Heavy|
|Weight capacity 625 lbs.|
Featured Sit-On-Top Kayak 2021
A sit-on-top kayak differs from a traditional kayak in a way that it is implied by the very name of this type of kayak. In many kayaks, you actually sit inside the hull of the craft, whereas with a sit-on-top kayak you, well, sit on top. One of the biggest benefits of this type of kayak is that it provides for much great stability and has a shorter learning curve than a sit-inside kayak.
They are easy to get in and out of, which is great for people with limited mobility, or if you want to be able to easily take a dip in the water when you so choose. When it comes to the best value of sit-on-top kayaks, we selected the Perception R15 Pescadors 120 Kayak as our top choice.
This is a lightweight sit-on-top kayak that is easy to carry and transport. It features a tank well with a bungee cord and a keeper’s foot brace that keeps the paddler comfortably secure during the ride. It also boasts a proprietary Comfort Seating System design to provide enhanced comfort to the rider.
It should be noted that the biggest complaint about this kayak is that, especially for taller people, extended riding can lead to back pain as you do not get the support with a sit-on-top kayak that you do with a sit-inside kayak. This is also not the kayak for you if you want to avoid getting splashed a ton during the ride. You will not stay dry on a sit-on-top kayak.
Perception R15 Pescadors 120 Kayak
|Super stable & safe||Seat lacks back support|
|Easy to get in and out of||tight for tall paddlers|
Featured Ocean Kayak 2021
When choosing a good ocean kayak, durability and comfort are going to be two of the most important concerns you have. Most commonly, when it comes to an ocean-going kayak, we recommend a sit-on-top kayak as opposed to a sit-inside kayak, as you get enhanced stability and don’t have to worry about a sit-on-top kayak taking on water.
Depending on what type of ocean activity you are taking part in will determine how long, deep, and wide of a kayak you want, but good quality, a general-purpose ocean-safe kayak will be suitable for a range of different activities. Our top choice for a versatile, ocean-going kayak, is the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak. We would also recommend you to check the Ocean Kayak Malibu series. If you have a dog or pet, we rate the Malibu series as the best kayak for dogs and pets.
This is a kayak that is designed with performance in mind and is even suitable for operation in rougher waters. The craft features a couple of different storage options, whether you are bringing fishing gear or just some refreshments. It can handle a max weight of about 400 lbs., making it suitable even for heavier paddlers.
Some of the biggest complaints associated with this kayak are about the placement of the pre-installed fishing rod holders. There are some fishermen who have noted that the rod holder does not have an ideal placement for hands-free fishing.
Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak
|Good for heavier paddlers||Fishing rod holders not placed suitably|
|Good storage for gears|
Featured Cheap Kayak for Beginners 2021
Not everyone is looking for a top-of-the-line, performance kayak that is rated highly for those who are keen on extreme sports. Some of us are beginners that are just looking for an inexpensive way to (pun intended) dip our toes in a new pursuit. In short, looking for cheap kayaks. We want something that has a reasonably easy learning curve and that provides a stable and comfortable ride and doesn’t have a huge price tag.
When it came time to pick a high quality, inexpensive best beginner kayak who just want to get a feel for the activity, we chose the Sun Dolphin sit-inside kayak. It features a sturdy, well-built design and comfortable seating. It also has an array of storage options if you want to bring refreshments, electronics, and more. The biggest complaint associated with this basic kayak is that it isn’t the most maneuverable kayak available, so it probably isn’t suited to water terrain that has a lot of curves to contend with.
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Sit-in Kayak – Best kayak under 500
|Well-built design||Comparatively average maneuverability|
|Good storage for gears|
Featured Tandem Kayak 2021
A tandem kayak is one that is designed to hold more than one person. Most often, these are designed for two or three people and can be sit-on-top or sit-inside in design. These are popular as they allow you to actually ride in the same watercraft as other people, making it a more communal activity.
When it comes to the best tandem bike for the money, we chose the Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem Kayak. It can seat up to three people and is designed to be able to handle a max weight of about 500 lbs. It is sit-inside in style, making it a lot more comfortable and stable, which is a good thing when multiple people are trying to operate a craft.
The biggest complaints associated with this kayak are that they can take on a bit of water, so don’t expect to stay dry while paddling this craft. There are also some complaints about the placement of fishing rod holders.
Lifetime 10 Foot Sport Fisher Tandem Kayak
|Handle weight up to 500 lbs.||You won’t stay dry of splash|
|Comfortable and stable||Heavy to carry & transport|
|Two double-sided paddles|
|Seats up to three people|
Featured Recreational Kayak 2021
A recreational kayak is a more basic and general-purpose kayak, as opposed to one that is designed with a specific activity in mind (such as fishing or hitting rough water). These are great for beginners and those who want to be able to use the same kayak for a range of different activities.
For the best recreational kayak, we chose the Wilderness Systems Aspire 105 Sonar Kayak. It is a great value and is a lightweight, sit-inside kayak that is well suited for use on lakes, rivers, and the ocean and is a great craft for more leisurely pursuits.
It can hold up to 400 lbs. and has knee and thigh padding for increased comfort for the paddler. It also features a range of storage options, allowing you to bring refreshments and other necessary gear without taking up a ton of space in the craft.
The biggest complaint associated with this kayak is that it is not the best kayak for those who are really tall, as it is a fairly shallow-hulled craft.
WILDERNESS SYSTEMS Aspire 105 Kayak Sonar One Size
|Handles weight up to 400 lbs.||Not comfortable for tall paddlers|
|Knee and thigh padding||Shallow hull|
|Good storage for gears|
Frequently Asked Questions
What brand of kayak is the best?
The advanced elements, Malibu Kayaks, Ocean Kayak, Perception, Old Town Canoes & Kayaks, Sun Dolphin, and Lifetime are some of the best kayak manufacturers.
What is the best kayak to buy?
Again, you have to assess your requirements and activity before choosing a kayak. Some kayaks are for calmers waters and fishing and some are designed and know for tracking and handling in rough waters. The size and space is also something you should consider before buying a kayak.
What kind of kayak is best for beginners?
Beginners should start with kayaks that are not that expensive to gauge their interest in kayaking before buying an expensive one. We would suggest the following kayaks for beginners.
For more options, read our dedicated post on the best kayaks for beginners in 2021.
What is the Best Kayak for the Money?
If you are new to kayaking, or maybe you are looking to try new stuff and you do not want to go buy an expensive kayak that will cause a dent in your budget, we have compiled a list of suitable options for you. Read:
Which Kayak is the most stable?
Stability is one of the most important aspects when you are looking for a kayak. Especially for fishing purposes, you need a good stable kayak that also allows for good maneuverability. In this case, we recommend Malibu Kayaks X-Factor Fish and Dive Package kayak
What is the best sit on top kayak?
For those that would prefer a sit-on-top kayak, we have gone through extensive research and testing and we recommend the following kayaks:
For more options, read our dedicated article on the best sit-on-top kayaks in 2021.
Are Shorter or Longer Kayaks better?
That depends on the difference between the two. If the difference between two kayaks is only a couple of inches, there isn’t a huge difference, however, if the difference is a couple of feet, there are some things you should know. Longer kayaks are typically for cruising. Say that you want to relax for a long time, these will provide you with a lot of space and let you cruise peacefully. The shorter ones have greater maneuverability and will help you turn much faster. Another thing that you should consider is how deep the hull is. If you have long legs, or you carry a lot of stuff with you when you’re kayaking, you should probably go with a kayak with a deeper hull.
How do I Choose a Touring Kayak?
Touring kayaks, as you have probably guessed, should be big. Typically, we are looking for lengths that are 14ft or bigger. However, you should note that the longer the kayak is, the lesser the maneuverability, but at the same time, there is a lot of space for your stuff and guests.
What to Look for When Buying a Kayak?
Construction of the Kayak
One of the biggest differences in the design of kayaks will have to do with the profile and construction of the kayak. If you want a great kayak for slicing through the still waters of a lake, you will want something with a very different aerodynamic body profile and construction than if you want the perfect canoe to hit some white water on a river. It might not seem like there would be a whole lot of difference, I mean, a kayak is a kayak, right? Well, the answer is, of course not. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many different construction options.
When it comes to kayak design, the differences typically fall within the following categories: width, length, depth, and hull (or body) shape. Each of these things will make a difference in what kind of activity it is best suited for and we will briefly describe why you might choose to emphasize one of these factors over another, depending on what you plan to do in your kayak.
Then, there is the design of the hull, or body of the craft. This refers to the shape of the hull, which will be tailored towards emphasizing different qualities. A shallow arch style will have good stability, so you are less likely to tip upon entry, and they are very easy to maneuver.
A shallow “v” shape has a lot of the same characteristics of the shallow arch, except that the hull comes to a “v” shape, which improves the tracking of the boat and can also improve the feel of stability.
With the hard chine type of kayak, there is an edge and angled shape where the hull comes to a point on the bottom. This gives the paddler a much higher degree of stability. A soft chine has a less angular, smoother shape, and is one of the most popular and common shapes of kayak hull that you will find.
The width of a kayak really correlates to the overall stability of the watercraft. The wider a kayak is, the more stable it will be in the water. However, due to the wide profile, it is less efficient to use a wider kayak than a narrow one.
This means that a wider kayak is better suited to those who are looking for a more leisurely ride. It is also a better choice for heavier or taller passengers as it gives you more legroom and gives you a higher center of gravity, which will reduce your likelihood of tipping the kayak.
Next, you will want to consider the length of the kayak. Kayaks that are shorter will be easier to navigate and will be more agile in the water than a longer craft. However, the longer the boat, the more stable the craft will be overall. Also, a longer length kayak will track straight and travel faster and more efficiently than a shorter boat.
Depth is the next variation in kayaks. This is basically about comfort and fit. If you are a taller or heavier rider, you may want a deeper hull, as it gives you more leg and body room, while also increasing the amount of weight the craft can safely carry. For smaller riders, and those who are really looking to maximize performance, the shallower the hull is the less drag it will face from the wind.
Health Benefits of Kayaking
Not only is kayaking a lot of fun and a great hobby for people of all walks of life, whether you live in a rural or urban area, but it is also incredibly good exercise too. A lot of people agree that the best kind of exercise is that which you don’t do for the express purpose of exercising. What we mean by this is that the point of kayaking is that it is fun, and it also happens to be great cardiovascular exercise. Whereas, when we go to the gym, it is just exercise for exercise’s sake, and most of us don’t find it particularly enjoyable. Another great thing about the fitness benefits of kayaking is that it is a full-body workout, working your upper body, core, and lower body, as well as your arms and shoulders, all at the same time, kayaking also burns a huge amount of calories, providing you with a fun way to get rid of those extra pounds.
There are many reasons that so many people love kayaking. It is a unique and unforgettable way to experience your area’s lakes, rivers, and oceans, in a way that is unlike any other outdoor pursuit. In a kayak, you can enjoy a relaxed, leisurely ride around a calm, placid lake, or you can rip the rapids in a sport-style kayak for an exciting, more extreme-type of afternoon fun. Kayaking is a great activity to bring together friends and family, and it provides a full-body workout that is, above all else, a lot of fun.
In this guide, we briefly discuss the benefits of kayaking, as well as some of the differences between different types of kayaks and what they are best suited for. Then, we take a look at some of the most popular types of kayak brands and models available today, along with a short, comprehensive review of the kayak we found to be the best value and quality for the money within each subcategory. We chose to cover the most common types of kayak and to choose a model within that category that was the best combination of value, performance, and quality.
Whether you choose one of the kayaks we review here or use this as a starting point for further research and shopping, we are sure that you will love the varied ways you can enjoy the water and outdoors with a kayak. With the information we provide in this guide, you are now armed with the information you need to choose the right kayak type for the activity you are looking to participate in.
You don’t only need a kayak. To make your experience even better, there are many things that accompany your kayak. Read: