Here’s some things to consider before you buy a kayak. Take some time to learn about the different kinds and their purpose. The following information can help you decide which kayak is suited to your needs. Doing this in advance will not only save you some confusion and money – it’ll also save it from becoming a garage ornament!
Ask youself a few questions.
Where will you use your kayak?
Calm or moving water?
How often will you use it?
Every week, now and then or once a year?
Who will paddle with you? A partner or family activity?
These answers are a smart start to understanding how to buy a kayak.
You may want to consider renting as an inexpensive way to “get the feel” of the various types or practice basic paddling before you buy a kayak.
Enough with the questions – Here’s some answers
When to Buy a Kayak …
Off season is the best time of the year to buy a kayak for price, however, it’s also when the selection is limited. In July or August retailers want to clear their current stock to make room for the new models for next year.
About Type . . . Now this can get pretty confusing – I find that the ads or descriptions for kayaks are written for those who were somehow born knowing all about kayaks! It’s not so apparent for someone new to the sport. To clear away some of that confusion – you need to understand two distinctions . . . “type and brand. Brand is simply the name or style of a kayak – of which there are hundreds.
More importantly, you need to understand type. Type describes the body or hull of the kayak . . . (not your body type – that come into play later). More specifically, the shape and characteristics for the kind of paddling it’s intended for.
When looking at kayak descriptions, you may wonder “what the heck are they talking about?” . . . well, they reference both type and brand. This tends to confuse someone new to the sport – but don’t worry, go to the page titled Kayak Types. There you can click through the different recreational types and find all the details of each kind. I’m sure there’s one that suits you.
A very important tip …I have found that designs that locate the seat in or nearest to the center of the kayak (between the front and back) track (move) and turn more efficiently compared to seats located more aft (to the back) of the kayak. In my experience, centering the weight gives the kayak better balance – so you may want to take note of seat location before you buy a kayak.
About Size . . . Your height and weight determines the length – it’s that simple (almost).
Consider your weight plus a margin to accommodate other paddlers or gear.
Other weight considerations depend on how you plan on using your kayak. For instance, if you plan on an overnight trip – you’re going to stop and camp and then return. You’ll have additional gear and that’s weight … and space to consider.
Your height also determines the cockpit opening – this is a serious consideration. For those who are tall, a more open cockpit is easier getting in and out of. If it’s difficult to get in and out of your kayak (here again) it may end up being a garage ornament. Take some time here to think about this.
The width (or beam) of the kayak determines how much paddle effort will be needed and how stable it is.
A longer kayak will glide smoother with less effort but it will not maneuver as easily
A shorter and wider kayak will be more stable and handle waves better than a longer, narrower one.
Color . . . A final consideration is color – no, not because you want the slickest looking “ride” on the water – there is a real Importance to color … safety. Safety is very serious – so get that in your head right now – (sorry for the tone, tough love).
Bright colors are seen from a greater distance – if you’re in trouble, believe me, you want someone to see you. For those who are into matching things … I’m sure there’s one that will look great with your Jeep!
Cost . . . I have deliberately not discussed the cost of kayaks, it varies so widely between types and brands – since everyone knows their own budget – I’ve left this a personal choice, you can use the link below to compare prices.
- To zero in on your kayak, see: Kayak Types.
- To compare quality and prices of kayaks: Paddling Shop.
- To learn about kayak parts and terminology: Parts of a Kayak.
- To keep your kayak and gear in good condition: Kayak Care.