How to Choose a Kayak? – Kayak Buying Guide

How to choose a kayak?

The sport of kayaking is fantastic. It is a low-impact workout that has several advantages for your flexibility, cardiovascular health, level of fitness, and muscular strength, especially in the arms, chest, shoulders, and back.

Your emotional and psychological health will benefit much from it in addition to your physical wellness. Additionally, it is the ideal way to take in the beauty of our rivers.

Regardless of your motivation for taking up the sport, you must choose the ideal kayak for the activities you want to use it for. How to choose a kayak? What works for one individual may not always be the ideal choice for another.

You should consider who will use the kayak, where it will be used, how frequently, their degree of expertise, how to bring it to the water, etc.

Here is the definitive purchasing advice on how to pick a kayak without further ado.

What Is A Kayak?

What is a kayak and why would you want one, to start with the obvious questions.

A kayak is a lightweight boat that you can paddle to explore different waters. You may explore the ocean’s shoreline, access teeny streams and tributaries, or go fishing on a lake in a kayak.

Kayaks come in single-rider and tandem varieties, and many of them have ample room inside for your dog. Kayaking is a calm activity that allows you to exercise and connect with nature.

Almost every river may be accessed by a kayak, so let us assist you in picking the best one for your next excursion.

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Basic Kayak Performance & Features

Most in-boat information on kayak design may be found elsewhere on the website, but let’s briefly go over some of the more crucial elements and how they affect handling and performance. The kayak’s speed, tracking (ability to maintain a straight path), turning, and stability are often most significantly impacted by changes in size and shape.

From 4-foot-long slalom whitewater kayaks to 20-foot-long sea kayaks, the length of a kayak varies greatly. Compared to shorter kayaks, which are much simpler to turn, longer kayaks often go faster and track better.

The kayak’s breadth is also its beam. Wider boats are often slower and more difficult to paddle than small ones, although depending on the circumstances, they could seem more stable. There are two categories of stability. Initial stability refers to the kayak’s steadiness while it is upright and on calm water. The stability of the boat while it is tilting to one side or the other is referred to as secondary stability. A narrow-beamed kayak might seem unsteady when you first slide inside; in general, a wide-beamed kayak often offers a lot of initial stability. The narrower kayak, however, often has more secondary stability: It does not feel as if it is going to capsize while you are being rocked by the waves or your own changing weight.

The cross-sectional form of the boat’s hull is crucial when thinking about stability. Compared to a blocky, hard-angled hull, a rounded hull has less initial stability and higher secondary stability. (The term “chine” is used in relation to hull cross-sections. The term “chine” describes how acutely the sides and bottom of the hull meet. A hull with a hard chine has a sharp angle; hulls with a soft chine are more rounded.)

The amount of slope between the kayak’s keel and the tips in the bow and stern is referred to as rocker. A kayak with a lot of rocker will have a large sweep up from the bottom to the ends; this will make the kayak simpler to turn. The keel of a kayak that doesn’t rock much stays basically level and scarcely bends to meet the bow or stern. Although it won’t turn as readily, that sort of boat will track better and go at a faster pace.

We’ll move on to discussing the various types of kayaks now that we have a better understanding of how boat size and form affect handling. There are also other crucial things to consider when designing a kayak, not the least of which is the kind of material used in its construction.

Kayak Purchasing Guide – The Questions You Must Ask

Here are a few considerations you should make when choosing a kayak for the first time.

  • For whom are you purchasing the kayak? For adults or children? Does it apply to the whole family? Are you going to utilize it to take your pals fishing? What are the users’ height and weights? Which category best describes your level of experience—beginner, moderate, or advanced?
  • What place do you plan to utilize the kayak for? Will you be crossing large calm waters or tight river rapids?
    What time are you going to go kayaking? Will it happen on a chilly winter or a sunny summer day?
  • How often do you plan to use it? Will you be using it on the water every other weekend? Or a few times during the year?
  • To and from the water, how will you travel? Will your automobile require roof racks installed in order to do it? Will you have to pull it with a trailer? Would you like to get one that is small enough to fit in your car’s trunk?

These are just a few of the considerations you should make to make sure you choose the ideal kayak for your requirements. Now that we know what kinds of kayaks are available and what they are used for, let’s examine them.

Considerations to Choose a Kayak

How do you start paring down the list of kayak types when there are so many different models? Kayaks come in sit-on-top, sit-inside, ocean, tandem, and touring varieties. When selecting a kayak, there are a lot of things to think about, but by utilizing these criteria, you can help to focus your search and locate the kayak that’s ideal for your expedition.

Kayak: Sit on top or Sit-inside

Every kayak is available in a sit-on-top or sit-inside design. You may reduce your options by understanding what factors each kind uses to perform better in certain circumstances.

Sit-on-top Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks are often recreational, simple to handle, and excellent starter kayaks. Even in deep water, they are stable and simple to get on and off of. In warm conditions where you could be splashed, they are a better choice.

There is no need to bail since they contain scupper holes that mechanically drain the water. They feature deck space to store gear that is accessible and may be customized with rod holders or other fishing accessories. On a sit-on-top kayak, you often have more room to move about.

It is important to take into account the weight of sit-on-top kayaks while transporting and storing them.

Sit-inside Kayaks

Sit-inside kayaks have a cockpit and come in both recreational and touring models. They are a better choice for long voyages with more gear since they are more maneuverable and track straighter than sit-on-top kayaks. They can also accommodate extra storage compartments that are covered within the hull.

A sit-inside kayak will keep you warmer in colder situations and dryer overall. While you may paddle more effectively and move quicker in a sit-on-top kayak due to its low center of gravity, some individuals find that the cockpit’s limited space makes them feel more constricted.

Destination of Your Kayak

The first important thing to ask yourself is where on the water you want to kayak. Although you can’t classify boats according to where you wish to go kayak, certain kayaks work better in particular rivers.

Lakes, Bays, And Oceans

These locations often see stronger winds and choppy waves. A touring kayak will aid you in tracking better in turbulent water due to its greater length, improved buoyancy, and potential addition of a rudder. A sit-in touring kayak will contain airtight storage spaces for gear and buoyancy aids in case a solitary rider flips over in deep water.


It is simpler to paddle a stable, maneuverable kayak down a river. Depending on how far you want to go, you may want to think about a short, recreational sit-in or sit-on-top kayak for short excursions or a long, sit-in touring kayak for long journeys.

Whitewater kayaks often have a high rocker to rise on top of the waves and are short and simple to operate if you’re interested in whitewater paddling.


Your feet (on the foot brace), knees (on the underside of the deck or thigh braces), hips (on the sides of the seat), and bottom are the points of contact with the boat (on the seat). You ought to feel supported and at ease with all of these ideas. For stability and turning when paddling, you must brace your feet and knees.

The padding on a whitewater boat will provide a snug fit and keep you in the boat during a roll. In comparison to whitewater kayak, touring or sea kayaks are preferable since they have more boat inside for wiggle room during long outings. Make sure your feet fit properly on the foot braces and beneath the deck if you have big feet.


If you already possess a PFD, try it on in the kayak and adjust the seatback as necessary to ensure that it fits comfortably. When they do not cooperate, people feel uncomfortable because the PFD rides up too high or develops a pressure point.

The likelihood of a good fit is quite high thanks to the fact that many PFDs have mesh lower backs and many flatwater and light touring kayaks have height-adjustable seatbacks. Put on your PFD, if you’re going to wear a spray skirt (which is advised for any open-water excursion), then put it on. Once inside the boat, fasten the skirt to the cockpit rim from back to front, leaving the grab handle loop exposed.

Foot Pegs

Whatever kind of kayak you paddle, you’ll need something stable to put your feet up against. A few boats have a permanent bulkhead, while others feature fixed foot pegs, molded-in foot rests, or adjustable foot pegs. Without footrests, you’ll probably sag forward, be uncomfortable in your posture, and most importantly, you won’t be able to utilize your torso rotation to move the kayak ahead.


Gear may be conveniently stored where it is simple to access using the shock rope that spans the deck in front and behind the cockpit. Deck netting comes in helpful for keeping little objects like gloves organized. Effective deck rigging facilitates paddle float rescues. Open water kayaks benefit from the inclusion of perimeter safety lines. Long treks benefit from pumps and built-in compasses.


Few hatches have a seal that is totally watertight! If you roll, hatches need to be able to keep the majority of the water out. Put food and clothes in a waterproof dry bag, and then store it in the hatch compartment, if you need to keep it dry. Huge hatch apertures are required if you want to bring large things. To prevent losing hatch covers, make sure they are well fastened. Strong waves and seas may shatter or blow off hatch covers.


The proper width should fit your hips so that you don’t slide across the seat when you lean the kayak on its side or, conversely, feel like you’re wearing thin pants after a gluttonous Thanksgiving dinner. Sliding causes instability and makes it harder to manage the boat on the water, while squeezing is merely unpleasant.

Weight Limitation

It’s crucial to remember that each kayak has a different carrying capacity. This has to be specified in detail when buying your kayak. The weight of the paddler and any other things in the kayak are included in the capacity. This may include things like coolers and fishing gear.

Tandem or Single?

Do you intend to paddle in tandem or alone? One of the most straightforward inquiries you’ll encounter is this one. A single person may paddle a tandem kayak by themselves, however they must sit in the back while ballasting the front. Although not at its best, the kayak will nonetheless move. On the other side, going out with a companion is a lot of fun, often safer, and typically less expensive than purchasing two boats.

A jump seat is sometimes included between the front and rear seat wells of tandem sit-on-top vehicles. If you wish to paddle both tandem and solo, this seat configuration makes it feasible to balance weight for greater performance during solo paddling.


When deciding which kayak to purchase, consider cost vs. quality:

  • The cheapest but heaviest and most taxing paddles are made of plastic or aluminum.
  • Recreational sit-on-top kayaks are often less expensive than sit-in touring and fishing kayaks.
  • The cheapest and lightest kayaks and paddles are made of carbon fiber.

In terms of how much you ought to shell out for a kayak:

  • An inexpensive kayak might do the job if all you want is something the kids can play with.
  • You get what you pay for since inexpensive kayaks can not last as long as more expensive kayaks.
  • Any money you invest on a kayak now will save you money later on in kayak rentals.
  • Once you get the knack of paddling, you may add accessories for more comfort. To begin, all you’ll need is a kayak and paddle.
  • If you’re just starting out, you won’t spend top dollar on things that you don’t really need.
  • It can be worthwhile to spend a little extra on a high-quality kayak if you plan to go kayaking often for many years to come.

Hull Form

When you sit in a boat with a flat bottom and rock your hips or head and shoulders side to side, the boat won’t seem unstable. They prove difficult to manage in choppy water. While you shake your hips or shift your head and shoulders to the side, a kayaks with a more rounded bottom will follow you.

Deck Height

In order to paddle without cracking your fingers on the cockpit rim with each stroke, deck height is important. The comfort of your feet is also affected by the height of your deck: if you have size 15 feet, you need a high deck so that your large dogs may rest without being forced into a little space.


Kayaking is made simpler and more pleasurable with the appropriate paddle. What kayaking paddle is ideal for you will depend on:

  • Your capacity and distance traveled.
  • Your manner of paddling.

Your capacity and distance traveled. Your arm, back, and stomach muscles are all used while you paddle, so:

  • Invest in the lightest paddle you can find to prevent excessive arm fatigue, especially if you are a strong person.
  • A paddle that is overly hefty may slow you down on long voyages that need thousands of strokes.

Your manner of paddling. You’ll need a paddle with a big blade that is: for speed.

  • Shaped asymmetrically.
  • A little bent to quickly cut through the water.
  • Feathered indicates that the two blades are facing in opposite directions:
  • So that the paddle in the air doesn’t slow you down, this lessens wind resistance.
  • Your wrists will have an easier time with smaller angle variations.
  • Greater inequalities will quickly cut through the water.
  • Some paddles allow you to customize the blade angles.
  • When you’re paddling, hold yourself taller and more vertically in the water.

You want the opposite for slower paddling that is suitable for children and beginners:

  • A blade with symmetry.
  • Angular sides
  • Blades without feathers that face the same direction.


Different materials may be used to make kayaks and paddles, and each one has advantages and disadvantages.

Aluminum or plastic:

  • Are the most economical choices.
  • Both are strong materials.
  • In the winter, it may seem chilly and heavy.
  • Ideal for novices.


  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Long-lasting and durable.
  • For regular paddlers only.

Carbon fiber:

  • The material with the highest strength.
  • For how long it lasts, it is rather light.
  • Ideally suited to avid kayakers who desire years of usage.

Inflatable kayaks are often manufactured from:

  • Very durable PVC.
  • Most recent Kevlar.

Built-in wheels:

  • Make it simple to transport your kayak to and from the water.
  • Some kayaks have wheels built into them to make transfer easier.
  • A kayak trolley is available for kayaks without wheels (sold separately).


Selecting the perfect kayak from the diverse selection on the market can often be guided by financial constraints. However, a limited budget doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or functionality. By understanding the critical balance between the attributes of a kayak, such as its design, utility, and price, you can make an informed decision. This wise choice can result in acquiring the best inexpensive kayak that fits your requirements and is still an affordable investment.

Kayak Category List

Kayaks have evolved through time to become more suited for all types of water settings, making them perfect for long-distance tours or fishing. Many of these many choices are offered in both sit-on-top and sit-inside variations. We will go through the potential alternatives.

A recreational kayak is the ideal water if you want to explore a variety of aquatic situations. These kinds of boats, which are primarily sit-on-top kayaks, are a top choice for weekend adventurers and families with young children.

Most of them include adjustable footrests and several seating positions so that paddlers of different sizes may try them out.

Inflatable kayaks

The kind of kayak you’ll encounter most often is an inflatable kayak. Given how light and portable they are, they are a top choice for kayaker tourers and campers.

In their deflated state, you may carry them in a backpack with ease. They may be transported without trolleys or roof racks. They are remarkably durable and adaptable.

The recreational variants are ideal for usage near to the beach since they aren’t designed to go far quickly. Since they may bounce off obstacles, their more rough and broad variations are perfect for moving rivers. Some are made for serious traveling.


  • Every time you want to use it, you have to manually pump air into it.
    may be inflated and deflated to fit in a trunk or bag.
  • Compared to rigid kayaks, steering is more slower and more challenging.
  • Kayak designed for one or two persons (single or tandem) may be available.
  • Useful on both calm and softly raging seas
  • Possibly not as resilient as hard kayaks

Kayaks for fishing

These are yaks that have been modified or manufactured specifically for fishing, and they often include mounts for fishing gear like chart plotters and fish finders as well as rod and paddle holders. For your fishing equipment, accessories, and most importantly, your catch, they provide plenty of interior storage space.

There are sit-in and sit-on-top variations of fishing yaks. The choice between the two ultimately comes down to the expected water and weather conditions you’ll encounter when fishing. The fact that they are so simple to maintain is what I like most about them. Definitely simpler than a whole fishing boat!


  • Accessible quickly and easily for deep-water fishing
  • They are strong, lightweight, and portable.
  • They include built-in paddle and rod holders, as well as mounts for electrical devices.
  • Although they are available separately, certain versions come with backrests that include built-in rod holders.
  • Has enough capacity for storing your storage gear, bait, and all of your catch.
  • Fishing kayaks that are shorter and broader tend to be easier to steer and provide greater stability while getting in and out of them.
  • Due to their greater speed, longer and thinner ones are better suited for longer distances.
  • Technically, you may fish from any fishing on the water. However, a fishing kayak greatly facilitates, enhances, and enjoys your fishing excursion.

Ocean kayaks

Typically, these are sit-in kayaks. They are speedier than their recreational counterparts because to their small body shape. They often have extra gear and accessories like outriggers, spray skirts, and rudders.

In offshore paddling circumstances, they help to maintain the vessel’s overall stability and keep it on course.


  • They might rocker high or low. The kayak is more agile and is better suited for steep waves with higher rockers. But this also slows them down.
  • They may be low volume, which is better suited for bigger and heavier people, or high volume. Expect a soggy ride since they are often thin and float quite low in the water.
  • Long days spent on the water in them are perfect because of the soft chairs.
  • Since they are thin, they track quite well. So you’ll be able to keep them on the watercourse in a straight line.
  • They could have a rudder or a skeg. Skegs are normally pulled out of the kayak’s rear and deployed in the cockpit. These are useful when youcome attempting to maintain the boat on a straight course, especially in windy weather.
  • Rudders may be dumped into the water after being deployed. After that, you may guide them with your feet. These are helpful for navigating the boat.

Kayaks for recreational use

A recreational kayak is the ideal water if you want to explore a variety of aquatic situations. These kinds of boats, which are primarily sit-on-top kayaks, are a top choice for weekend adventurers and families with young children.

Most of them include adjustable footrests and several seating positions so that paddlers of different sizes may try them out.


  • Suited for those who like to paddle for enjoyment.
  • Typically, they are stable on the water, pleasant, and simple to steer.
  • Ideal for novice kayakers and children
  • Excellent for rivers, lakes, and open coastal waters
  • Recreational kayaks with seats On chilly days, lakes with motionless water and the open ocean are ideal.

Kayaks for Touring

Using a touring kayak is the best option if you want to embark on all-day sightseeing excursions to explore lakes, rivers, and other waterways. They come plenty of storage and comfort and are available in sit-in and sit-on-top styles.

They are thus long for long journeys and days spent on the water. They are a fantastic method to go to remote locations without roads or paths. Just get in your kayak and paddle upstream or downstream to explore the area.


  • They contain an inside waterproof storage compartment that’s great for storing food and other camping essentials.
  • They often have a weight restriction, so before deciding what to pack, weigh your gear.
  • To keep them in position while traveling overnight or while stopping for lunch, you may add an anchor.
  • It is simple to enter and exit the vessel due to their low length.
  • They are broader and give better stability and balance, making them appropriate for both inexperienced and seasoned kayakers on still water.
  • Additionally, some versions have a foot-controlled rudder that makes navigating the boat simple.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

On the other hand, sit-on-top kayaks have an enclosed hull and an open cockpit. Therefore, if they capsize, you don’t have to be concerned about them filling with water.

They are frequently used for fishing and recreational activities and are well suited to a wider range of on-water activities. You’ll particularly like the sensation of extending your legs into the warm air if you live in a hot environment.

Sit-In Kayaks

Traditional kayaks with an enclosed cockpit are known as sit-in kayaks. To keep the water out, you may use them with a spray skirt that is compatible with them and that you wear around your waist. Even with the skirt on, seasoned kayakers can perform a 360-degree roll in the water without any water entering the cockpit.

Sit-in kayaks are preferred by whitewater paddlers and kayakers who frequently paddle in cold water environments due to how warm they are inside when outfitted with a spray skirt.

Kayaks for racing

These are intended to be fast vehicles. Lightweight composite materials including carbon fiber, kevlar, and fiberglass are used to construct them. They are designed for straight-line racing at high speeds on quiet, calm seas.


  • They are suitable for attaining the highest racing speeds since they are long, slender, and very light.
  • They should only be used by expert and very experienced kayakers since they are often tougher to balance and maneuver.

As a result

The performance of the kayak is determined by your body. Most likely, you wouldn’t purchase new jeans without first trying them on. For kayaks, the same guidelines apply. When you test paddle, your main goal is to determine how well the kayak fits you rather than to hunt for technical problems.

Beyond only height and weight, it affects how you balance in a kayak since different individuals carry weight and proportions in various ways. Experts often balance better than novices, but you can always learn how to use various types of kayaks. Just be aware that it will take time and effort, particularly if you choose a specialist kayak.

Read more: Sit On Top vs Sit In Kayak

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