Kayaking is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational pastimes in the world. In 2017, approximately 16 million people have participated in kayaking activities in the US alone according to a report by the American Canoe Organization.
Whether you are just a beginner or a professional paddler, you know that you need to have the best kayak you can avail. Owning a kayak that fits all of your needs not only better your performance in the water but also improves your boating experience.
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For this reason, we have come up with a list of the best kayaks that are currently in the market. These aren’t just the most expensive kayaks. With this list we’ve taken into account many factors such as quality, cost, reviews, portability and more.
List of the Best Kayaks in 2020
Paddling through rivers, lakes or the ocean can be quite monotonous sometimes. Hence, you may need a kayak that can act as your fishing boat, which is what the Skipjack 90 is best at. At 9 feet long and 32-inches wide, this fishing kayak can carry up to 300 lbs of weight. While it’s smaller than your regular kayak, it’s maneuverable and has great tracking ability, which pairs nicely with a fish finder when you locate those small fishing holes.
The Skipjack 90 has tons of features such as two sealed hatches, bungee side paddle storage, and mounting points for accessories. It also has a deluxe kayak seat which can be adjusted and has a rear pouch. Weighing at only 46-lbs, you can easily tuck it at the top of your SUV or at the back of your pickup.
However, the Skipjack 90 doesn’t track the water quite as well as larger fishing kayaks. The deluxe seat also does not have a fully adjustable backrest which can be inconvenient for people with large builds.
- Lots of customization options
- Extra cargo rooms
- Excellent stability and maneuverability
- Adaptive in different water conditions
- Limited seating for only one person
- Low-quality straps
Beyond your usual fishing kayak, the Pescador pro series is an upgraded version of an angler’s boat. Specs-wise it’s bordering into the Touring segment, which speaks volumes about this sit on top kayak. Its one-piece rotomolded design allows it not only to be stable on water but also to track better. Meanwhile, its stadium-style seat offers optimum proper paddling posture and comfort in either a reclined or upright position.
The Pescador Pro is still considered a mid-size kayak boat at 12-feet long, 35-inches wide and 64-pounds in weight. The boat’s front bow also has mesh-covered storage well instead of a hatch. Additionally, it has a cup holder and accessory holder. The console area is also quite useful for mounting your fish finder.
Two things that are quite inconvenient about this kayak are its finicky rudder and the rod holders which aren’t very snugly. Other than that, the Pescador Pro is a complete kayak for your fishing and recreational needs.
- Very stable
- Stealthy and has Excellent Pilot Drive
- Tons of storage space
- Highly Customizable
- Heavier than other kayaks in its class
- The rudder can be finicky
The bright yellow color of the Explorer K2 may make it look like a floating banana, but don’t judge it solely by its appearance. This inflatable tandem kayak is one of the most preferred kayaks for beginners because of its reliability and affordable price. It’s also made from rigid materials such as 30-gauge vinyl above its 1200 denier nylon shell.
The cabin is spacious enough to comfortably seat its two passengers. Its seats have nifty adjustable backrests which provide optimum seating posture. The Explorer K2 also has ample of storage space on the rear where you can place items such as food, water, and other kayaking equipment. Hence, although it may seem like a basic kayak, you can also use this boat on your angling trips. Furthermore, the boat can carry up to 200-pounds of the load.
While it does come with a pair of 86-inch aluminum paddle oars, they aren’t the length-adjustable ones. Thus, people who have shorter arms or children may have a more difficult paddling experience.
- Complete starter pack
- Comfortable and spacious cabin
- Affordable price
- Quite stable in water
- Black-colored bottom absorbs more heat
- Performs poorly on the ocean and other choppy waters
Sometimes fishing trips take anglers to far-flung places which are quite challenging especially when transporting their fishing kayaks. Fortunately, there are inflatable fishing kayaks now available such as the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame kayak. This boat is built tough and can withstand the conditions of up to class 3 rivers.
The Advanced Frame kayak has a double coated PVC material which is covered by its tarpaulin which allows it to resist punctures. While the kayak only weighs 36 pounds, it can carry up to 300 pounds of load. Kayakers will also love its padded seats which provide extra comfort.
However, there are a couple of issues that you may find about this boat. First, it doesn’t have any accessories included in the package and you have to buy them separately. Second, the seat may be comfortable but you won’t find a suitable inclined position.
- Good performance in rapid waters
- Puncture resistant skin
- Plenty of storage space
- Dries up very slowly
- Lack of additional accessories
There are tons of kayaks that can take you to the sea, but only quite a few of them are well-equipped vessels at less than $1,000. The Sea Ghost 110 is an expensive sea kayak that is lightweight, durable and has an excess of storage space. It also has a rigid rotomolded polyethylene construction and removable skid plate which protects the hull.
Paddlers will also love its comfortable cabin which has a roomy cockpit and has plenty of leg room. The boat also has a 33-inch beam which provides the superb stability that you can even stand on the kayak without fear of tipping over. It weighs 62-pounds and can carry 425-pounds of the load. While it’s considered a heavy watercraft, it’s still maneuverable and nimble on sea waters. Finally, it tracks quite well on water thanks to it’s kneel and toe-controlled rudder.
The downside, however, is that the Sea Ghost 110 lacks some important features for anglers such as rod holders and a slot where they can put their fish finder.
- Quite affordable compared to its rivals
- Lightweight and can be carried alone without help
- Very stable and tracks well in open sea
- Rudder system makes it easier to control the boat
- Some kayakers might still prefer hand control rudders
- Adjustable seats are not comfortable for long trips
One issue with tandem kayaks is they aren’t compact making them harder to transport or store. However, that is not the case with the Malibu Two, as it’s quite portable, lightweight and has a simple profile. The boat can carry a load of 425-pounds which can be two adults plus a small child. The cabin also has ample of space and has extra legroom.
While its hull is made of plastic, you can be assured that it’s still durable and heavy duty. It also comes with stock pad eyes which you can use to attach the third seat for your kid. The vessel is also easy to use and comes in different colors to choose from.
However, it lacks several extra features that you can find with more expensive and upper line models. But, if you are an amateur paddler the boat will definitely give you more than what you bargained for.
- Can be used by couples plus their child
- Large cabin with plenty of leg room
- Comfortable back-supported seats
- Made of durable materials
- Kayak easily gets dirty because of porous plastic material
- Doesn’t have extras like cup holders
If you are looking for an entry-level sit-in kayak then look no further than the 10-foot Sun Dolphin Aruba. Its narrowed bow and stern allows the boat to slice through water which lessens your rowing effort. The manufacturers also chose sturdy materials such as high-density polyethylene which is very resistant to damage.
The cockpit is also spacious enough for you to enter and exit the vessel with ease. The seats have high back support which provides a comfortable seating position during long rides. You can also customize the interior thanks to its adjustable seats matched with leg straps. Moreover, you can take the Aruba 10 to even fast rivers and even some rapids aside from a relaxed cruising trip.
The most disappointing part of the boat, however, is its small storage space. The compartment behind the seat is smaller than a shoe box, which is quite an inconvenience, especially for tall people.
- Affordable price
- Spacious cabin with extra legroom
- Comfortable high back supported seat
- Excellent maneuverability
- Lack of reliable storage space
- Limited to tackling less than one-foot high rapids
If you always end up with a big amount of catch, then you definitely will love the Mirage Pro Angler 12. To start off, it can carry up to 500 pounds of load! Hence, this boat can bear a load of your extra equipment as well as your haul for the day. This boat also has some innovative features like the MirageDrive 180 which allows you to pedal the kayak instead of rowing it.
Another nifty thing about this kayak is its vantage seating position which provides the highest level of comfort. The adjustable seat also has lumbar support and even creates an extra space just in case you would like to stand while fishing. Among its other convenient aspects are dual steering controls, tracking skeg, and horizontal rod storage which can secure six rods at a time.
However, the main reason that may shy you away from buying this boat is its luxurious price. Also, it’s a bit hefty at over 100-pounds.
- Very durable and rust-resistant
- Tons of extra features
- Provides a comfortable fishing position
- Can paddle with your legs
- Will cost you a few thousand dollars more
- A bit difficult to transport because of weight
What to Look for When Buying a Top Rated Kayak
When it comes to buying a kayak, you can’t just simply buy one based on its looks and price tag. There are several things you should consider which can make or break your kayaking experience. Among the things you need to know before choosing a kayak are:
Where will you use the kayak
The first thing that you need to consider is the place where you are likely to use the kayak often. Will you use it on the river, a lake, the ocean? Are you likely to ride on smooth waters or a fast moving one? Many kayak models are made specifically for a certain water condition, while there are also those which excel in more than one body of water. Knowing where you are likely to spend your kayaking trips can help narrow down the kayak model that you really need.
Next up, consider the size of the kayak. Wider and smaller boats are generally much easier to maneuver but slower. On the flip side, slimmer and longer models are faster but are harder to control. Also, you should know the area of the cockpit and how much legroom does it provide.
The kayak’s dimension can also tell you if it will fit on top of your car or if it can be towed by your vehicle. If you are buying an inflatable kayak, make sure you also consider its size when deflated.
Kayaks also come in different shapes and forms, which contributes to how they behave and perform on the water. The hull is essentially what gives the kayak its basic shape. For example, whitewater kayaks usually have a shorter frame, rounded on the sides and has a curved bottom. In contrast, the hull of sea kayaks are long, pointed at both ends and has a flattened bottom. Aside from what was mentioned, some kayaks can have a pontoon or V-shaped hulls.
The kayaks hell can also be shaped depending based on its stability on flat water and when it’s tipped on its side. It can have a rounded or hard (more angled) chine, which refers to how the bottom of the boat meets the sides. Moreover, kayaks can also vary in shape based on its rocker or the curvature of the hull from the stern to its bow.
Perhaps the most important question that most buyers have is how much does an item cost. The same goes for buying kayaks. You want to ensure that you are getting the most value from your hard earned money. Hence, you want to look for a kayak that is not only affordable but also performs well and can last for a long time. It’s also a bonus if you can find a deal where they also include other essential kayaking tools such as the paddle, repair kit and pump.
Kayaks can also be classified based on the material used to form its body. Currently, most of the kayaks in the market are made primarily of wood, fiberglass, plastic (polyethylene), thermoform, or a combination of the said materials. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages.
For example, fiberglass kayaks are known to be fast and responsive because their durable hulls can easily cut through the water. However, they are one of the more expensive types of the kayak. On the other hand, plastic kayaks are the least expensive of the bunch but are known to be heavier and less portable.
Different Kayak Types for Kayaking
Kayaks have different designs based on several factors such as functionality, the activity where it will be used, the number of people it can carry and its portability. Below are the categories a kayak you are looking for will fall most likely into:
Sit on top vs. sit inside kayaks
Many kayaks share the same components and design principle. However, they generally have two types depending on the paddler’s sitting position: a sit inside kayak and a sit-on-top kayak.
A sit inside kayak or SIS has an open cockpit where the paddler sits inside the hull of the boat and his legs rest under the deck. Many SIS have skirts which are used to cover the cockpit and prevents water from entering the kayak. This feature is especially useful when kayaking in cold water areas.
Conversely, sit on top kayaks or SOT has the paddler sitting on top of its deck. Everything from the seat back to the footwalls is on the deck of the boat. Hence, it’s much harder to stay dry while paddling a SOT than a sit inside. The good news is this type of kayak is more suited in warmer climates. The open deck design also allows you to climb back into the boat from the water; something which is hard to do on an SIS kayak.
If you are looking for a kayak that is both portable and easy to store, then you should consider owning an inflatable kayak. Like its name suggests, this boat needs to be pumped with air to attain its shape and be fully functional. When deflated, you can easily carry it on a duffel bag or tuck away in your car’s trunk as you make your way to and from a kayaking session.
Aside from being a recreational kayak, this boat can also be used in fishing because of their great stability in water. They often have very wide beams which allow the paddler or angler to stand up on the kayak. This boat also has a sizeable storage space where you can store the day’s catch. Instead of paddles, some fishing kayaks move using propellers or flippers.
A tandem kayak is a two-person kayak which can either have a sit inside or sit on top design. Paddling together with your significant other, a friend or your children is a great way to spend time with them. When on board, both occupants must paddle in sync so that the boat can move smoothly on water. There are convertible models which can transform from a single kayak to tandem kayak by simply re-arranging the seats on the cockpit.
This type of kayaks refers to those who are designed to provide exceptional boating delight rather than for competitive use. They usually work best at calm waters such as slow running rivers, flat-water streams, and lakes. Recreational kayaks usually have wider beams for better stability and have a larger cockpit so paddlers can easily enter and exit the boat. Moreover, they are easier to handle and is often less expensive.
You can think of touring kayaks as upgraded recreational kayaks. They are thinner, longer and equipped with features that will help you paddle faster and farther. Touring kayaks also have a more aggressive hull design that allows them to track better in fast currents. However, you are trading off speed at the expense of stability. Thus, you need a bit of experience to use this kind of watercraft.
Sea kayaks are designed for the long journeys on rugged open water conditions of the ocean, lakes, and bays. They usually have a covered deck which can incorporate a spray deck. They can hold one to three paddlers together depending on its design. While they are not as maneuverable as other kayaks, sea kayaks have greater cargo capacity, better cruising speed, and excels in straight-line paddling.
This type of boat is used in the extreme sport of whitewater kayaking. The sport revolves around moving the kayak on a fast-moving body of water. Its divided different events such as river running, slalom, creeking, playboating and squirt boating.
Kayaking is here to stay. It serves different purposes from recreation to being a sports activity. Not to mention it’s a great way to be active and have fun alone or with your family and friends. While some may see it as a bit of an expensive hobby, there are affordable options in terms of kayaks and gears which provide the same awesome kayaking experience.
The items listed in this article are just a few of the best kayaks in the market. Do you think we might have missed a kayak model that should have made it in our list? Write us a comment below.