What Type of Kayak Works Best For You?

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If you’re looking to enjoy a scenic and explorative activity that helps you get in a bit of exercise while you take a look at breathtaking views that you can’t quite get while on land, then kayaking is almost definitely the activity for you.

There can be quite a bit of nuance to picking a kayak that is best suited towards you; something newcomers might not be entirely aware of. However, you needn’t worry, as today we are going to make the process of picking out much easier by explaining how to pick out the best kayak for you.

Some Key Ideas To Keep In Mind

Before we begin looking at the different types of kayaks and such, there are some key factors to keep in mind. There are many ways you can use your kayak, and there are many choices of boats available at your disposal. So before you toss yourself into the deep end, here are some things to think about first.

Consider where you are going to be paddling. There can be quite a significant difference between kayaking on a lake, out off the coast in the sea, or down a river. Knowing your terrain will give you more of an idea and narrow down the options.

Choose between sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks. This is merely a matter of preference, with traditional sit-ins offering you a measure of protection, while sit-on-tops giving you more freedom and openness, which many prefer.

Take into account your budget and kayak weight. The price of the boat is mainly impacted by the materials used in making the kayak. This will, in turn, determine how heavy and how durable it is.

On top of the weight, you should consider the shape and size of the kayak in question. This mainly affects how it will handle the water and how much cargo space you have to work with.

Sit-Ins Or Sit-On-Tops

Kayaks are classified in many ways, but they can be split into two categories based on their primary structure, which we will discuss here.

Sit-in kayaks come in the form of recreational, day touring, and touring models. These move faster, track straighter, and have covered and protected cargo compartments. This makes them better for paddling to and from destinations.

Also, consider the following:

  • Most comfortable when the water and air are cool.
  • More paddle-efficient than sit-on-tops.
  • Greater control as there are more points of contact between your body and the kayak.
  • It will require a bilge pump if you become drenched.
  • You will need to know how to do a wet exit.

Sit-on-tops are, for the most part, recreational kayaks used on lakes and easy-flow rivers. You might find them on warmer coastal waters, and some of the longer variations have more storage for longer trips. These are ideal for people who feel claustrophobic inside a sit-in or don’t want to bother doing a wet exit. Also, consider the following:

  • These are much easier to get on and off of.
  • They’re more comfortable for warmer weather.
  • They have scupper holes to drain water.
  • They have a deck stash and harder-to-access cargo space in the hull.
  • Typically heavier than sit-ins.
  • Often include fishing-rod holders.

Consider Where You Will Use The Kayak

Kayaks aren’t sorted and categorized by the water on which they are used, but knowing where you plan on using them will help narrow down the choices. The three primary kayaking environments are out on lakes, down rivers, and on coastal waters.

When it comes to lake kayaking, we don’t necessarily mean super large bodies of water like Lake Superior. We’re more looking at local lakes that are near the suburbs. When the weather is fair, and the lake is nearby, then either a sit-on-top of any variety or recreational sit-in kayak will do quite well. If whitecaps start appearing, then the more recreational sit-in variety can become overmatched.

A more coastal environment brings in new factors, such as tides, waves, currents, and winds. It would be far wiser to bring a safer sit-in touring kayak with a rudder, dropdown fin, or fixed tracking fin because of all these factors. In warmer environments where you might be more predisposed to enjoy a swim or try out kayak surfing, the sit-on-top kayak may be preferable if you are willing to brave the less predictable waters.

Whitewater rapids aren’t something we’ll be covering as that isn’t something that beginners tend to start with. However, river kayaking can still be quite scenic and tranquil. You’ll want to look at a kayak that’s more stable and sturdy of make that can also turn fast on a river. This can take the form of a shorter, stable recreational sit-in or sit-on-top.

You may want to use a kayak for both lake and river waters, in which case you can settle for a recreational sit-on-top or sit-in that is shorter. These crossover variations will usually have a skeg and setup that will help your turns feel responsive when the skeg is up and track forward better when the skeg is down. A rudder could be an option, but those are typically found on longer boats.

Related: Best Fishing Kayaks


So what type of kayak works best for you? Your first decision should be between the design you want. Sit-ins and sit-on-tops each have the characteristics that make them attractive for different reasons. Make sure you know where you are going to use the kayak and what design you are more comfortable with.

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