The Best Kayaks of 2021 – Your Complete Guide
Before you go off and buy the next kayak you come across, the two questions you first need to ask are: What do I envision myself doing in the kayak? And how much am I willing to spend on it? Here’s why.
If you’re looking for something to use a couple of times during the summer, then it shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg to get it. This also doesn’t mean you should compromise on quality either. You still need to get the best kayak for the activities you intend to engage in.
On the flip side, if you’re the sort of person who just can’t get enough of the sport, then you should be prepared to spend a decent amount of cash to get a high-quality vessel that can withstand frequent use.
Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak with Paddle, 6 Feet, Green
- Constructed of uv-protected high-density Polyethylene. Multiple footrest positions for different size riders. Stable flat bottom
- Adjustable padded seat back and seat pad for comfort. Two flush mounted fishing rod holders. One top mount fishing rod Holder
- Front and rear shock cord straps. Two 6″ storage compartments in rear and center. One paddlekeeper, one adult black paddle
- Front and rear t-handles for easy transport. Deep hull tracking channels
- Stability chine rails. Durable high-density Polyethylene (HDPE) construction
Intex Excursion 4 (Best Touring Kayak)
- Portable and lightweight
- Easy to store
- Fast and easy to inflate and deflate
- Spacious and versatile
Dagger Mamba 8.6 (Best Whitewater Kayak)
- Outstanding performance in all classes of whitewater
- Comes with built-in safety features
- Suitable for immediate to advanced paddlers
- Ample storage in the back
Sea Eagle SE330
- Comes with two paddles and foot pump
- The seats offer great back support
- Lightweight and highly portable
Perception Hi Life 11 | Sit on Top Kayak - SUP/Paddleboard | Hybrid Boat with Seat Storage/Cooler | 11'
- All the fun of kayaking and stand up paddle boarding combined in one – Made in USA
- Designed for flat slow-moving and calm coastal water types
- Perfect for sharing the water with kids and dogs
- Bronze medal winner of the prestigious 2018 International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) in the sports leisure and recreation category
- Front and rear swim decks with low sides and hand grabs make getting in and out of the water easy
- Elevated seat with supportive fold-down backrest and thick padding throughout
- Convenient drink holder keeps your favorite beverage from spilling
How to Choose the Best Kayak – Buying Guide
The prospect of becoming a kayak owner is exciting – no doubt. But, with all the different options in the market, choosing the right onecan be overwhelming, to say the least.
One of the main things you’ll need to think about is how you’ll be using the boat. Do you intend to do some light paddling out on a lake with calm waters, or will you be venturing out to the open sea to ride the rough ocean waves?
Perhaps you prefer a more relaxed experience gliding gently on the water as you take in Mother Nature and all she has to offer. Either way, you need to get the right vessel for the job.
Here are a couple of tips you can use to help you get the best kayak for the specific experience you’re looking to get.
Kayak Type – Sit-On-Top vs Sit-In Kayaks
Kayaks fall into two general categories – sit-on-top kayaks and sit-in kayaks. Figuring out which of the two will work best for you is the first step toward narrowing down your options.
Sit-on-top kayaks are more user-friendly and well-suited for a relaxed day on the water. They are easy to get on to and off of since you “sit on top” of them – hence their name. They are a great option for beginner kayakers and provide a great level of stability.
Keep in mind though that you will get splashed, which shouldn’t be much of an issue if you live in warm regions.
Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, are the traditional ones designed with an enclosed cockpit. These tend to be more efficient to paddle compared to sit-on-tops given their lower center of gravity.
Contrary to what you might think, they are quite roomy and usually come with built-in foot braces. They also provide shelter and protection against the wind and water. If you like, you can get a spray skirt – which is a waterproof cover you wear around your waist to stop any water from getting into the cockpit while you paddle.
Kayaks are built from several different materials, each of which varies in terms of its durability, weight, and cost. The common ones include hard plastic, wood, framed fabric, fiberglass, inflatable material, carbon fiber, and Kevlar.
Your best bet would be to go with something made out of hard plastic or fiberglass. They are both durable, although hard plastic is heavier but more affordable, compared to fiberglass, which is lightweight but costs substantially more.
Carbon fiber and Kevlar are the most durable of the bunch but come with a hefty price tag attached. They are well suited for advanced kayakers.
On the flip side, if you’re a beginner looking to buy your first kayak, the inflatable variety would be a great option to consider. They are lightweight, relatively durable, and easy to transport. They are perfect for easing you into the kayaking world.
Once your day out on the water is over, all you would have to do is deflate it, fold it up, throw in the trunk of your car, and you’re good to go.
Kayak Hull Type
Once you figure out whether you want a sit-on-top or sit-in kayak, the next step involves choosing a kayak based on the hull design. This refers to the shape of the bottom of the boat. Why is this important, you might ask?
Well, it has everything to do with stability – more specifically, the kayak’s primary and secondary stability. Primary stability refers to how stable it is when you first step into the vessel and sit down. If it is not likely to flip over when you get in, then it is considered to have great primary stability.
Secondary stability, on the other hand, refers to how stable the vessel is once you begin paddling. If you’re not likely to roll over once you start moving through the water, then it has excellent secondary stability.
Now, here’s what the different hull types mean in terms of the level of stability they offer, which is an important element to consider when picking the best kayak.
- Flat hull – These offer great primary stability making them an ideal choice for beginners and recreational kayakers in calm flat waters. The flatter the hull is – the more primary stability it offers.
- Rounded hull – Hulls with rounded edges offer less resistance than their flat hull counterparts making them more maneuverable. They offer a higher level of secondary stability.
- V-shaped – While these may offer a high degree of secondary stability, they have the least amount of primary stability compared to all other types. Their V-shape, however, allows the hulls to cut through the water and move in a straight line, making them ideal for touring, recreational paddling, and long-distance trips on the water.
- Pontoon – These are a combination of both flat and rounded hulls. As a result, they offer the perfect balance of primary and secondary stability. Keep in mind though that pontoon hulls tend to be much slower than other kayak types.
- Chine – “Chine” refers to the way the bottom of a boat meets its sides. It could do this in a rounded or angular way, for “soft” or “hard” chines respectively. The softer the kayak’s chine is – the more secondary stability it offers.
The longer and narrower the kayak – the straighter and faster it will cut through the water. This is something that advanced kayakers look for in a vessel. But, if you’re relatively new to it, you want a shorter and wider kayak since it offers more stability and maneuverability, which is perfect for getting accustomed to the sport. Either way make sure you understand the different lengths of kayaks.
Recreational kayaks tend to be shorter and are generally designed for calm waters like those in creeks, rivers, and small lakes. Touring kayaks, on the other hand, tend to be longer and are built to handle rougher waves in bigger rivers, lakes, or oceans.
Kayak Height and Weight Capacity
Last, but certainly not least, you need to consider the maximum height and weight that a particular kayak is built to handle. These are usually listed when buying your vessel.
Your height is particularly important when buying a sit-in kayak if you want to have a pleasurable experience on the water. If you’re 6 ft. tall, for instance, you’ll find that a 12-foot long kayak will be more comfortable compared to the one that’s 10 feet long.