Living on a lake makes summer so much fun. If we are not swimming, we are boating. Kayaks have become so popular in the last few years. When I was growing up, I can remember there were only about 2 kayaks on our lake. Now, it seems every family has at least one and most have 2 or more.
Kayaks are easy to transport so that is a big plus for those who like to travel. If you are looking to buy a kayak but feel intimidated because you don’t know where to start, I can help. There are several types of kayaks so the first thing you need to do is figure out how you plan to use it.
Think about what type of water you want to kayak in. Will it be a large lake, fast moving river or do you want to venture out on the ocean? Then you can try to find the best style for your needs. Do you like the idea of going out with a partner? If so, perhaps a tandem or double kayak will suit you best. You will find that the first decision with style is whether you want a sit-on-top or sit-in kayak.
The sit-on-top style kayaks are the best choice for ocean paddling. They tend to be more stable than the sit-in kayaks, so they are better for things like fishing. Another perk of the sit on top style is that most are self-bailing. Sounds good so far but there are some features that may or may not be an issue for you.
They are usually wider to make up for the higher center of gravity of the paddler. That extra width means they are slower and they do not allow the paddler to control the boat with their body the way they can in a sit-in style. Out of the water they will be a little bit bulkier to haul, but nothing too terrible.
An example of an entry level sit-on-top kayak would be the 9’ Perception Access. It is super stable and has straight tracking. It comes with a paddle and has a high back molded seat and molded foot wells. It is very affordable at $379 and available at REI.
The sit-in type of kayaks have a cockpit that the paddler sits in. The sit-in kayak responds very well to the paddler’s body and they can actually use it to control the boat. There is a learning curve here and it takes practice to master it. Since they are more closed, they are drier than the sit-on-top style. They can also be fitted with additional skirts to keep water out when paddling or from waves. These kayaks are not self-bailing so you should always have a way to bail the boat if necessary. The sit-in kayak may feel shaky to a newbie because it is so responsive to body movement. Since they are not as stable they would not make the best choice to use for fishing.
The Lifetime Arrow Kayak is a 10’ sit-in kayak with a larger cockpit and comfortable backrest for long paddling adventures. Designed for stability and safety the Arrow has a stable flat bottom with deep tracking channels and stability chine rails. There are multiple footrest positions and a storage hatch. You can find this kayak at Walmart for $429.
Another big choice to make is if you want a single or double kayak. If you like to paddle with a partner, the double would be a good choice. The double kayaks are longer and that means they are heavier but they can carry more gear. They can be very difficult to paddle with only one person. Because the doubles are larger, they are not as agile as the one person kayaks.
The Old Town Dirigo 155 Tandem Kayak has room for 2 and will carry plenty of gear across whatever body of flat water you launch it in. The cushioned, contoured seats make every outing comfortable while the Glide Track foot brace system and thigh pads ensure a stable and responsive ride. It is a true family kayak and includes a removable child seat. If this sounds like what you need you can find it at Amazon.com for about $1000.
Now if you want a double but like the sit-on-top style, The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL Tandem Kayak is on sale for 15% off at Backcountry. With room for two adults and a child or pet, this kayak can also be paddled by one person easily because the movable Comfort Zone seats can be set up in the center. The overlapping foot wells means there is always something to push against even if you are out alone.
There are more issues to consider but these are some of the biggest ones you will have to make in the process of buying a kayak. If you don’t actually try the boat in water, you will not have a true idea of how they handle and which you like best. Many boat dealers let you try them out so you can make a more informed choice.
Once you do make a decision do not underestimate the importance of choosing the right paddle. The staff where you are buying the boat should be able to help you choose the correct paddle.
It can seem overwhelming when you think about all the options and decisions that need to be made. Take your time, try them out and make an informed decision. Kayaking is an adventure and also great exercise so you want to make sure you end up with a boat you love.