When the summer is on its way, people tend to move towards the beach. Water activities are common during summer and aside from swimming, kayaking is the most preferred activity for many. If you are thinking of investing in a recreational kayak, then you should do a little bit of research before making your first purchase as there are a lot of factors involved which can change your experience with kayaking.
Before you buy, you must consider the materials used, the ease of use, safety, durability, the shape and the weight limit. Since it is recreational equipment, you must also consider its usability for children as well.
Unlike before, kayaking has now become easily accessible to a lot of people owing to its popularity among the people. There have been drastic changes in the design and materials of kayak over the years which is a result of innovation from well-known companies. For example, now there are sit-in kayaks, sit on top kayaks, tandem, fishing, and recreational kayaks. This article focuses on recreational kayaks and has provided a list of the top recreational kayaks from high-quality brands. Without further waiting, let’s get into it.
Buying Guide for Recreational Kayak:
Before you buy any kayak, we would like to talk about the things you should know before buying it. As it will be an investment for your family, there are a lot of things you should consider. You need to consider the water, type, the materials, transport, durability, speed and stability of the kayak. Here is a detailed buying guide on how to select your kayak. As all kayaks are not the same and are priced differently based on their varying features, this guide will serve as a yardstick for you to gauge out the best possible choice for you and your family.
Some Essentials – How skilled are you?
Before you decide to purchase, it is very important to know how skilled you are. Generally, beginners should avoid long and narrow kayaks as they are not that stable and require a high degree of control. Wider kayaks, on the other hand, are much more stable and will be comfortable and easy to use for a beginner. We recommend wider kayaks for novices. They may not provide good turning, but they have good initial stability and that is all you need if you are just starting. If however, you are a seasoned player, then you can easily go with the longer and narrower kayaks and enjoy the sharp cuts and speed.
Primarily there are three materials that high-quality manufacturers use.
- Polyethene: Polyethene is the cheapest and widely available materials that are the first choice of manufacturers for their budget products. The downside to kayaks made out of this material is that they can change their composition in direct sunlight and experience quality degradation. If you are intending to buy a kayak made of this material, we recommend that you store it in a closed area.
- Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS): ABS is a type of plastic that is a direct solution to the shortcomings of Polyethylene. This material is comparatively better at resisting sunlight and is, therefore, highly durable.
- Composite: This is the most expensive choice for manufacturers and they only use it in their high-end products. The kayaks made from these materials are the most durable and are best at resisting outside elements. They are also very resistant to wear and tear and are very easy to repair.
We highly recommend that beginners choose stability in their training and let go of the speed. The kayaks which provide a high degree of in-water stability are more often used by pros. For a novice, initial stability matters a lot, therefore, we recommend wider kayaks which get you through your learning curve easily. However, if speed is your primary concern, and you are already experienced, then you can go with speedy kayaks. Narrow kayaks have high secondary stability and therefore offer a high speed.
When it comes to stability, you should keep this in mind. There is a bargain between initial and secondary stability depending on the shape and build of the kayak. The wider the kayak gets the higher will be its initial stability. The narrower the kayak, the lower will be its stability. The narrower kayaks will offer you more speed at the expense of stability. So if you are a pro, you may not want to go with the wider kayaks and prefer the long and slim ones. But if you are a beginner, we recommend that you buy comparatively slower kayaks for the sake of stability.
There are two kinds of stability – the initial, and secondary stability. The initial stability is measured by how well you can steer the kayak the moment you put in water. The secondary stability is measured by how well the kayak can lean in the water while in speed. The kayaks which are soft chinned have good initial stability and the hard chinned kayaks are good for secondary stability. Aftermarket devices
If you are into recreational kayaks, then you must get a kayak with a modern look, sleek appearance and a couple of additional features. Hull efficiency is also the primary concern when it comes to recreational kayaks. If you are good at modifying kayaks, then you might want to get something called sponsons. If you need both initial stability of a wider kayak and high speed of the longer kayak then this device is your solution. They balance your kayak while still maintaining the speed.
As we mentioned before that the longer kayaks are the much faster ones while the wider ones are used by people who are at the beginning of their learning curve as wider kayaks are best for stability. Longer kayaks are also bigger in size and hard to control. The wider kayaks have a large surface area which is why they offer high stability. The small size kayaks don’t offer good secondary stability.
Narrower kayaks are best for higher secondary stability and perform remarkably well in flat waters but for open seas with unpredictable waters, they may not be a suitable choice and may require you to use sponsons. Buying a long size kayak, therefore, means that you are sacrificing the initial stability for secondary stability and buying a wide kayak means you are favoring initial stability and slow speed against high speed.
What You May Want (Comfort and luxury features):
Most recreational kayaks come with uncomfortable stock seats. Therefore, they are not suitable for long trips, especially if you are paddling.
If you ask any pro for any advice, the first thing they will ask you is to change your seat. It is always better to invest a little in comfort. Trust me; there is nothing more frustrating than paddling for hours on a seat that is stiff as a board.
Different high-quality kayaks come with many features that promote comfort such as adjustable seats, braces, rolling skegs, and high-quality handles for better control. If you don’t want your kayak to paddle you, do a little research before you buy.
Some high-end kayaks also have extra features such as the storage compartments for your accessories like cups, wallet, line, bottle holder, etc.
While it is true that beginners may not focus that much on performance, the deciding factor in deciding for a kayak or probably any kind of equipment is its performance. There are different sizes available for different types of kayaks. While all of them do perform well, some of them perform better than the others.
The kayaks which are tuned for performance are generally more costly and are manufactured in a way to blend quality with features. This allows the manufacturers to create kayaks with features that give a seamless performance. The basic features such as the hull design and rocker are essential to a kayak’s performance but additional features such as the pedal drives, rudders, and skegs increase the performance even more.
Tracking is also something that has now become essential to many kayakers. It refers to the ability of a kayak to move the boat in the straight line without diverting from its course. This makes paddling easy.
There are a couple of storage features that every kayak is supposed to have while some add other features as well. This gives you the convenience of extra storage. For example, the bungee straps to tie down the gear are essential.
For kayakers, storage is the key feature that affects their preparation for the trip. You are as much prepared as your gear therefore, storage is very important. Kayak storage comes in many shapes and forms. The most common storage option is well storage. It is a compartment that is under the hull and your accessories can stay safe inside. Some of the kayaks also offer much bigger wells and a couple of other storage options as well. When you are buying a kayak, take a closer look at the pods and consider their size. They might come in handy more than you think.
Recreational kayaks also have what they call as bulkheads. It is essentially a separate compartment below the deck that is airtight and won’t allow any water to get inside. They provide more than enough storage space and may also be useful in case your kayak capsizes.
Choose Your Playground Freshwater Kayaking (Still water):
The most important thing for kayaking is deciding your playground. There are different types of water bodies on which you can do kayaking. The still water, for example, can range from very small to very large bodies of water. Small bodies of water may include a lake, a small pond, and streams. For still waters, you must start with fairly good stability. In such cases, a moderate rocker will be good enough. Recreational kayaks are best for this purpose. For large bodies of water, we recommend speed as the water is still and you have got a lot of room to play. In such cases, we would recommend a low degree of rocker.
However, if your ground is moving water we would recommend that you give preference to maneuverability. Moving bodies can be open streams, rivers, etc. In moving water, you may have to face turbid waters and you might have to go against the flow. In such cases, you will have to paddle against the water which means you need a good amount of control. We recommend a high degree rocker and kayaks that have a soft chine and a wider surface area.
Saltwater Kayaking (Inshore Kayaking):
Inshore water means water that has a depth of 70 feet or less. These types of waters generally include flats, inlets, and bays. If you are in a place which is a salty marsh then you would be required to cover long distances. In such areas, you may also be prone to tides and waves arising out of winds. We recommend that in this case, you use a moderate rocker and use a kayak with long and narrow shape. I would personally go with the sit-in type that is narrow and sleek with additional bulkheads to prevent capsizing. They are usually much smoother and don’t require too much effort to paddle. The speed increase is also an added advantage for this type of kayak. But keep in mind that this will decrease the initial stability.
Offshore water is any type of water body that has a depth of more than 70 feet. Most often, the offshore water bodies are at a much longer distance which means that you will be paddling a lot before reaching your destination. These types of water are even more wind and tide prone. The best possible choice is a generous rocker.
I generally prefer long kayaks for offshore kayaking. It also gives you a sense of security as it has a high degree of secondary stability. In my experience, a long kayak is by default the best possible choice for offshore kayaking. Therefore, I recommend long and narrow kayaks with good secondary stability for people who are into adventures.
How We Tested:
We have focused primarily on the speed and stability of these kayaks through their rocker. We paid specific attention to the hull design and how much the hull is curved from the center to provide good stability up to the end of the keel. The longer kayaks with low rocker tend to be much straighter than those which have a high rocker. This process helped us in determining the tracking of the kayak.
While kayaks with a low degree of rockers work best for tracking; they are not so good at making sharp turns. The kayaks with a high degree of rocker were good at turning in our tests but were not good at tracking. We made sure that the products we chose minimize this bargain.
How We Picked:
We have subjected these kayaks to various quality tests. Our teams have handled their quality and durability tests separately. After carefully testing them, we also tested their endurance and performance by using them in different types of waters. We tested their initial, as well as secondary stability and, have chosen for you many different kayaks that come from well known and highly acclaimed brands that are known for their superior quality products. We hope you will be able to choose the best for your needs.
Best Recreational Kayak Reviews:
1. Intex Explorer K2 Recreational Kayak:
Design: Sit on top
Length: 11.5ft (3.5m)
Weight: 35 Pounds
Capacity: 400 lb (182 kg)
The Intex Explorer K2 tops our list owing to its sheer comfort and convenience. This is the best recreational kayak which is suitable for all of the family. We like the backrest seat which is inflatable and you can fit your children easily. Two people can easily fit in as it has a superior weight limit considering it is a recreational kayak.
Another good thing about this kayak is its cockpit. Goodness, it is spacious. It gives you enough space to rest your legs and stretch them and is therefore very comfortable. If you need something that you will have fun with, then this water sport kayak is one of the best choices. It is easy to move around, even more, easy to paddle.
We also liked the removable skeg which you can install for additional stability to keep yourself in a straight line. This increases the tracking ability of the kayak and gives you additional control. It is also very convenient to hold and transport as they have given conveniently placed handlebars.
What we didn’t like was the ability to take sharp turns. It is stable, but not as much as a kayak this size should be.
- Comes at an affordable price.
- Very comfortable.
- Best choice for two people.
- Very spacious.
- Carrying case is a bit bulky.
- Not good for tracking and sharp turns.
2. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Recreational Kayak:
Length: 10 ft
Weight: 19 lbs
Sun Dolphin is one of those kayaks that has the best price to performance factor. I will put it in a mid-range kayak as it is an entry-level kayak. This kayak is very easy to carry around and is very light. In our tests, it was splendid on most of the water types and you can track very easily with this. It keeps a track of where you started and keeps itself in a straight line.
We liked the construction quality of this kayak. The light materials used makes it very easy to carry and keeps it stable. It also comes at a very affordable price that will give a good enough experience to most of the paddlers. If you are a beginner, we would highly recommend this to you to speed up your learning curve.
We didn’t like the seat though. It is not that comfortable and we won’t recommend it if you are going on a long ride. If you do intend to take it, we would suggest to support yourself with additional cushions. The kayak is lightweight therefore, the light materials used are not that durable. The foot pegs are okay but the major design flaw is that the levers are below the cockpit which can be a major inconvenience.
- Portable design.
- Quick setup.
- High-quality PVC construction.
- Leak-less system
- Not available in multiple colors.
- Compartments are not very spacious.
3. Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Recreational Kayak:
Design: Sit in
Weight: 34.76 Pounds
Capacity: 490 pounds
For boating with friends and family, you need a bigger vessel and this is exactly that. This kayak will give you the best performance and will be an extremely good recreational kayak for you and your family. If you want to make sure that everything goes well with your trip, we would highly recommend this kayak. It has a weight limit of about 500 pounds and can fit 3 people easily.
It is the best choice for people who like going on trips in groups. This kayak is very spacious and extremely comfortable. It is compact enough to be stored in any storage space. Whether you are running on inshore waters or are on the coastline, this kayak will remain stable throughout. In our tests, it performed remarkably well on still waters and was just ok on moving water. A great thing about this kayak is that it comes with directional strakes which help you in tracking more easily.
While it looks great and comes with pumps and paddles that will provide you with high performance, it is not that great on moving water. If you want to use something on flowing water, we would advise you to look elsewhere. If, however, your only goal is to stay onshore, or water that moves slowly, this will be a good choice.
- Easily portable.
- Made of high-grade material.
- Very roomy.
- Removable seats.
- Seats could be thinner.
- Not suitable for fast-flowing water.
4. Advanced Elements Recreational Kayak:
Weight: 23.9 lb
Capacity: 220 lb
It is very rare to see a masterpiece like this. The advance element has genuinely earned its place among other kayaks and stands out on its own. The high-quality kayak comes with an aluminium frame and has an awesome exterior made of waterproof fabric. It is inflatable and will glide smoothly on any type of water. In our tests, it was able to perform considerably well in windy and wavy conditions.
It was extremely stable and fast and also provided a good room for your feet. Paddling on this thing is amazing and will give you a smooth ride. Once it is in the water, it gives you a seamless experience compared to most of the other kayaks. This kayak outperforms its price as well as its competition because of its high-quality aluminium frame which incorporates a pointy head and many skegs that are installed underneath. This enables it to make way through the water without any effort and this is also partly the reason why it is so easy to move this kayak.
Due to these reasons, it is considered as the fastest moving kayak for both still and flowing water. Furthermore, even if you do somehow manage to jump out of this kayak, you won’t be able to topple it. This is because it is quite heavy and second the fabric is waterproof which also reduces the drag force and keeps it dry and clean.
- Ultra high speed.
- High-quality fabric.
- Very heavy.
- Cannot be conveniently stored.
5. Ocean Kayak Malibu Recreational Kayak:
Weight: 57 Pounds
Capacity: 400 lb
Ocean Kayak is making its name in the world of recreational kayaks. They have been making high-quality boating equipment and are increasingly beating their competition out of the way. This particular boat is probably the longest and the bulkiest kayak on our list and also the strongest. It is suitable for people from all age groups and is therefore well suited to a family.
We found it to be ultra-stable and highly smooth when it comes to maneuverability. It is awesome in tracking and will glide on the water marvellously. As it has got both initial and secondary stability, it is very easy to get it in the water. When it reaches its full speed, it is very easy to control without requiring any external devices.
As it cuts through the water amazingly, it has a good tracking ability. One thing we liked about this kayak is its space for accessories. It has got plenty of space for just about everything you will need. The two conveniently placed rod holders are our favorite. However, we found that it is a bit troublesome to store this thing and the paddles were not high quality.
- Abrasion proof.
- Stable and nice tracking.
- High stability.
- Extra storage.
- Not easy to store.
- Very heavy.
6. Intex Excursion Pro Recreational Kayak:
Design: Sit on top
Length: 12.8 ‘
Weight: 23.9 lb
Capacity: 43.64 Pounds
This is a high-quality kayak from Intex that is made up of superfine and high-grade laminated PVC. The addition of the polyester layer makes it even more solid and abrasion-resistant. For travelling in shallow waters, it has two large skegs that allow the kayak to cut through the water and allows a smooth experience.
As with all the other kayaks, I prefer the ones with storage as it can be a deciding factor for a seamless experience in kayaking. I liked the built-in fishing rod holders that are conveniently placed. This gives you the room to store your fishing accessories and other things as well.
This kayak is recommended for those users who are into adventurous trips because the material used is very light and you will be able to maneuver it easily; plus it is also scratch and abrasion-resistant, so it can be abused as well. With its two removable skegs, you can increase the stability of this kayak. However, we will advise doing so in still waters as it can reduce the speed.
- Resistant to abrasion and sun.
- Very Stable.
- Comes with a lot of accessories.
- Extremely huge.
- Unstable in flowing water.
7. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 9 Foot Recreational Kayak:
Length: 9 ‘
Weight: 60 lb
Capacity: 400 lb
The good thing about this kayak is that it is not so big and weighs less, therefore, it fits the recreational category. Weighing just over 46 pounds ( yes it is true), this kayak can be handled by even a kid. It is therefore recommended for family use. A single paddler will be able to paddle it without putting too much effort into it.
Another thing we liked is its ability to be stored conveniently in places owing to its small size. It is very portable and you won’t have to deal with the bulkiness that comes with most of the kayaks.
If you do not have a basement, attic, or a garage; then you can store it on your balcony. If you are concerned about transportation, don’t worry as you won’t need any extra kayak rack as it can be stored in your car.
This thing can hold up to 300 pounds and we will recommend that only one person rides this kayak. It would have been better if they could have increased the limit somehow. But since it is a small kayak, there isn’t much to complain about.
- Very lightweight and portable.
- Short in length and easy to move.
- High-quality hull.
- Includes four rod holders.
- Not a fast-moving kayak.
- Low capacity.
8. Lifetime 10 Foot Recreational Kayak:
Weight: 82 lb
I am going to start with the aspect that made us pick this kayak – aesthetics. If you ask me the rocker on this thing is great and the hull is curved which makes it look awesome. Thanks to its color, it is very easy to spot. But that is just about it. As with all other kayaks, durability and stability are the most important. This kayak has come out to be exceptionally good in our tests.
It is made up of strong 1200 denier nylon-shell that has internal tubes for more buoyancy and has an extra-strong 30 gauge vinyl. So we can safely say that it is built for durability and high stability.
That was all the good in it. What we didn’t like were the paddles. It is not that bad. The complaint is essentially that it could have been better at this price. The paddles are just the same paddles that come with cheap kayaks. We would advise you to buy some good paddles for it. Moreover, it is great for still waters but does not remain stable in running water. But I guess that was expected as it is a budget-oriented kayak.
- Highly stable in still waters
- Very durable
- Long lifespan
- Paddles are not something I would wish to use with this kayak
- Tracking is also difficult in running water
9. Perception Rambler Recreational Kayak:
Weight: 82 lb
Capacity: 350 lb
I am not sure where to put this. I knew that recreational kayaks are up to 12 feet and are light and small. This thing is damn huge! Presenting you the holy grail of all kayaks, this weighs about 140 pounds (yes, don’t even think of putting it in the car or carrying yourself), and is very long. Paddling is smooth but you will have to push them harder. Except for that, you will have no problem.
We found this kayak to be very stable in most of our tests. When the water is calm, you can even stand on the kayak and it won’t budge. Because of this, it was very easy for us to get in and out of this boat. We took it to ocean bays and large lakes and even inshore of open oceans and it performed remarkably well. Therefore, it is one of the most carefully designed kayaks.
While it is very stable, it is not so much for speed. The wide form prevents the boat from cutting through and has a high drag force because of continuously crashing into waves. This does slow down the kayak and therefore, we recommend it for beginners who want a high-quality kayak to train them. We would not recommend this if you are in for speed.
Furthermore, as this will crash into waves, this means you are in for a wet ride. But that is nothing to worry about as the drain holes are very good at doing their job. I would say that if you need a kayak for exploring, training yourself or hanging out with your friends, this is a nice choice.
- Highly stable
- High-quality material
- Tracking is good
- Very accomodating
- Paddles are stiff.
- Doesn’t offer much space for your gear.
10. Old Town Heron Recreational Kayak:
Design: Sit inside
Weight: 42 lb
Capacity: 350 lb
This is a versatile kayak that is not only best for recreational kayaking but also for those who are looking to find comfortable ways to explore the waters. With a high-quality build made from durable polyethene, this kayak feels very strong and sturdy. We also like the paddle quality as most of the kayaks come with very basic paddles but thankfully they have been generous enough to give us high-quality paddles that are smooth and require minimal effort.
This particular kayak is a sit-in type and has adjustable seats that flex when you sit on them. The seats are very comfortable and couple that with a smooth paddle and you get a smooth ride that you need for recreational kayaking. It doesn’t hurt your back neither do you get tired from continuous paddling because the seats are amazing.
We also liked the foot straps as they hold your feet tight and don’t let them slip allowing you to effortlessly paddle throughout your trip. Therefore, we recommend this kayak to people who are intending to go on long trips. We are also amazed by the amount of storage given. With ample space, you can store all your accessories like a cup, soda can, and water bottles as well.
We will say, go for it if you are a beginner or just want to hang out with your friends and family. The kayak is good, just not as good as a professional kayak should be. Don’t mind its slow speed as they never intended this kayak to be speedy.
- High quality adjustable seats.
- Seats can be folded.
- Takes very less time to set up.
- High-quality paddle.
- Material isn’t top-notch.
- The handlebar isn’t top-notch.
It is of the utmost importance that you align your needs with your aspirations when buying a recreational kayak. Recreational kayaking is all about the experience. One wrong move to decide your equipment and it can cost you your trip. In this article, we have provided a detailed buying guide so that you don’t have to search and wonder about things you don’t know. This buying guide will be your yardstick in gauging out a potential kayak for yourself.
There are following things you need to keep in mind before purchasing a kayak. Give the utmost importance to comfort, transportation, material and paddle quality. We have also taken into consideration these factors before choosing these kayaks and our team has carefully tested them in their quality and durability tests.
We hope that after reading this article, you will be a pro in choosing the best recreational kayak for yourself.