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Kayaking: A Guide to Choosing the Best Kayak for You

Kayaking: A Guide to Choosing the Best Kayak for You

Kayaking is a fun and exciting way to enjoy the great outdoors, whether you’re paddling on a lake, river, or ocean. Not only is it a great form of exercise, but it also allows you to explore new environments and connect with nature. With so many options on the market, choosing the right kayak can seem overwhelming. In this guide, we’ll go over the different types of kayaks, important features to look for, and how much you can expect to spend.

Types of Kayaks

Kayaks come in two basic styles: sit-in and sit-on-top. The type of kayak you choose will depend on what you plan on using it for and your personal preferences.

Sit-In Kayaks

Sit-in kayaks are more commonly used for whitewater applications, but they can also be used for lake and ocean paddling. They have an open cockpit that you place your legs inside of and may have a skirt that can be attached to block wind and water spray. This makes them a popular choice for cold weather paddling. Additionally, you can brace your legs against the inside walls of the hull, which allows you to put more power into your paddling stroke without sacrificing stability.

It’s important to note that sit-in kayaks can be intimidating for some people. If you flip the kayak, you need to be able to get yourself out of the water and back into the kayak, which takes some practice. They also typically have less storage space compared to sit-on-top kayaks.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks are a popular choice for beginners and are usually only used for lake, ocean, and calm river paddling. They have molded-in or removable seats that are easy to climb in and out of, making them a comfortable choice for all-day adventures. They also often have more room to stretch out and more space for gear, such as coolers. However, they are not ideal for keeping you or your gear dry, so they usually have some form of dry storage compartment.

Important Features to Look For

Back Support

Having back support in your kayak is a smart idea, even if you don’t have back pain. It allows your lower back muscles to relax, helping you stay comfortable during long paddles. Some models also have cushioned seats for added comfort.

Adjustable Footrests

Footrests provide comfort, control, stability, and power when paddling. When they are adjustable, it makes the kayak more accommodating for a wide range of users and helps you achieve the most ergonomic position for your body.

Dry Storage Compartments

It’s likely that everything on your kayak will get wet at some point, so having a dry storage compartment is crucial if you want to protect items like your camera, phone, or map. Many kayaks have small dry storage compartments, but if you need to store larger items like a cooler, look for a kayak with a storage well that has bungee straps to keep your gear secure.


Having a cupholder on your kayak can be convenient for keeping a bottle of water or other beverage close at hand. They can also often be used as mounting places for gear.

Rod Holders

If you plan on fishing from your kayak, rod holders are a must-have. They allow you to put out multiple lines at once and keep your hands free for tasks like using a fish finder or snacking.

Carrying Handles

Most people don’t leave their kayak in the water all the time, so you should expect to carry it from your home to the water and potentially to your car if you need to transport it. Carrying handles make this task easier.

Paddle Parks

Paddle parks provide a dedicated spot to store your paddles when you don’t need them. They should have bungee cords or some other fastening system to keep the paddles secure.

Pedal Drive

Kayaks with pedal drives offer an alternative way to propel your kayak. Instead of paddling the whole time, you can also use your feet to spin a propeller. This is a great option for people who don’t have a lot of upper body strength.

How Much Can You Expect to Spend on a Kayak?

The most affordable kayaks start around $200, but these will typically be low-quality inflatables or basic hard kayaks with limited features that are suitable for short periods of casual paddling. If you plan on kayaking regularly, consider spending at least $600-$1,700 for a kayak that tracks better, is more stable in the water, and has a range of useful features.

Kayaking FAQ

Do I need to wear a life jacket when kayaking?


Yes. It is always important to wear a life jacket when kayaking, even if the water looks calm. It’s also a good idea to bring along a whistle so you can signal for help if needed.


Is kayaking difficult?


The difficulty of kayaking can vary. Kayaking on a lake or ocean on a calm day is relatively easy and can be a fun activity for those with no previous experience. On the other hand, whitewater kayaking is much more challenging and requires practice and, often, time spent with an instructor to learn the basics.


What is the best kayak for beginners?


The best kayak for beginners is a sit-on-top kayak, as they are usually only used for lake, ocean, and calm river paddling and are more comfortable and easier to get in and out of. The Vibe Yellowfin 100 Kayak is a popular choice for its balance of size, features, and performance, while the Kokopelli Moki I Inflatable Kayak is a good option for those with limited storage space.


What is the best kayak for fishing?

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