Are you looking for the best beginners kayak? Then you are in the right place! Kayaking is a wonderful activity that allows you to enjoy nature while experiencing total freedom. If you are an experienced paddler, you might need a fully-featured advanced model (which can be pretty expensive). However, if you are just starting out in this exciting world, you’re looking for something different. You’ll need a reliable model to help you progress and develop good technique.
It is very important that you think about how you are going to use your kayak and the features you might need. That’s why the following list is divided into several categories: sit-in models, inflatable models, foldable models, and sit-on-top models. Don’t worry! This article contains everything you need to know to find the model that best suits your needs.
THE BEST KAYAKS FOR BEGINNERS:
INFLATABLE AND FOLDABLE KAYAKS:
ORU COAST XT FOLDABLE
MATERIAL: Corrugated polypropylene
WEIGHT: 36 pounds
LENGTH: 16 ft.
WIDTH: 25 in.
CAPACITY: 400 pounds
USE: Open sea, rivers, and lakes
FEATURES: The Oru Coast has a great advantage: It’s really easy to transport because it folds up into the size of a backpack. Because it’s super compact and lightweight, you can take it anywhere, unfold it, and start paddling. It’s built with resistant polypropylene that withstands impacts. The Oru Coast is a great option for paddlers who want to travel and hike to remote lakes.
WEIGHT: 27.2 lbs
CAPACITY: 220 lbs
FEATURES: This one-person model is spacious, durable and inexpensive. Perfect for those who want to have some fun in flat-water rivers and lakes.
The cockpit feels pretty comfortable and the deck includes a net for gear storage. It includes repair patches. It’s one of the cheapest options in the list.
INTEX EXPLORER K2
WEIGHT: 30 lbs
CAPACITY: 400 lbs
FEATURES: This tandem model provides great overall performance and durability. The two inflatable seats are adjustable so you can find the right fit.
It’s quick and easy to inflate/deflate. If you are looking for an inexpensive two-person kayak, this might be your best option.
SEA EAGLE 370
WEIGHT: 32 lbs
LENGTH: 12.5 ft.
WIDTH: 34 in.
CAPACITY: 650 lbs
FEATURES: This is one of the few inflatable models that you can take into rough water (as long as we’re talking about mild currents, i.e., up to class 3 whitewater). The two comfy seats are easily adjustable.
The kayak includes two retractable skegs that will help you keep a straight line. It’s lightweight and it packs down small, which makes it great for transport.
THE BEST SIT-ON-TOP KAYAKS FOR BEGINNERS:
VIBE KAYAKS GHOST 130
WEIGHT: 75 lbs
MATERIAL: Rotomolded polyethylene
LENGTH: 13 ft.
WIDTH: 33 in.
CAPACITY: 550 lbs
FEATURES: This is a top-end model that includes plenty of helpful features such as rod holders, paddle parks, and spacious hatches. It’s one of the best options for beginners and experienced paddlers who are looking for a fully-featured fishing kayak. It includes a comfortable seat to ensure you have a great experience.
OCEAN MALIBU TANDEM
WEIGHT: 57 lbs
LENGTH: 12 ft.
WIDTH: 34 in.
CAPACITY: 425 lbs
USE: Fishing, recreational
FEATURES: This popular model can be used as a tandem or solo kayak, which makes it one of the most versatile models on the list. It’s perfect for paddlers looking to explore lakes, estuaries, and quiet rivers, as it provides great stability and control. It has a spacious deck with plenty of space to stretch your legs.
DOLPHIN PHOENIX 10.4
WEIGHT: 45 lbs
MATERIAL: High-density polyethylene
LENGTH: 10 ft.
WIDTH: 32 in.
CAPACITY: 250 lbs
USE: Recreational, flat water
FEATURES: This is actually a sit-in model, but it features a pretty open cockpit, which makes it look like a sit-on-top model. It’s a great option for entry-level paddlers because it’s impact-resistant, lightweight, easy to transport, and affordable.
SIT-IN SEA MODELS
EDDYLINE SITKA LT
WEIGHT: 49 pounds
LENGTH: 14 ft. 6 in.
WIDTH: 23.5 in.
CAPACITY: 350 pounds
USE: Sea and touring
FEATURES: Lightweight and easy to control, the Eddyline Sitka is the middle size in its series, a great option for both entry-level and experienced paddlers who want to enjoy the sea and the lake.
The retractable skeg and V-style hull provide great tracking and speed. The seat is adjustable, allowing you to find a comfortable fit. It includes spacious hatches to store your gear.
DAGGER STRATOS 14.5 S
WEIGHT: 54 pounds
LENGTH: 14 ft. 6 in.
WIDTH: 23 in.
CAPACITY: 275 pounds
USE: Ocean, rivers, and estuaries
FEATURES: Designed for smaller paddlers, the Dagger Stratos provides amazing tracking, stability, and maneuverability. It’s a great option for getting started in the open sea, mild-current rivers, and estuaries. It includes an adjustable seat, a retractable skeg, and several hatches to keep your gear dry.
WILDERNESS SYSTEMS TEMPEST 170
WEIGHT: 57 pounds
LENGTH: 17 ft.
WIDTH: 22 in.
CAPACITY: 325 pounds
USE: Sea and lakes
FEATURES: The solid initial stability of the Tempest 170 makes it a great option for getting started in rough-water coastlines. The “Tru Trak” adjustable skeg helps you paddle in a straight line. It includes two hatches to keep your belongings dry. Also, it features safety lines along the perimeter so that it is easily visible.
TYPES OF KAYAKS:
Recreational: Most recreational crafts have basic designs (and not many advanced features), but they are a good option for paddling in calm waters. Keep in mind that most of them are not designed for white water or long trips. Many beginner kayaks fall into this category, as they are great for learning.
Fishing: These models include a bunch of extra features that are really helpful for fishing. They typically have a fairly wide deck so you can move comfortably, and include various hatches, rod holders, bungees, paddle holders, and other accessories.
Touring: This type of craft tends to be longer and wider than other models. It features a closed cockpit, which should include comfortable seats for many hours of paddling. They are fast, include plenty of gear storage, and, above all, provide great tracking, which is key for paddling in a straight line.
Sit-on-top: These boats feature an open-deck design, so you can sit on top of the kayak. You don’t need to keep your legs inside a cockpit, which is great for those with a tendency toward claustrophobia. This type of kayak is really easy to get on and off. Also, it allows you to stretch your legs and stand up if necessary. Sit-on-top kayaks are among the most popular designs for recreation and learning purposes.
Sit-in: Sit-in crafts (like sea kayaks) feature a closed cockpit that gives you greater control, making it easier for you to make turns and navigate the waves. They are recommended for sea adventures and white water.
Inflatable: Designed mainly for recreational use, inflatable models have many advantages: they are lightweight, inexpensive, easy to pack, and easy to transport. They don’t have the same performance as hard-shell models, but they are perfect for having fun with family and friends.
Foldable: This is the case with the Oru Coast XT, which can be folded into the size of a backpack. It’s lightweight and easy to transport, and it performs well. Unfortunately, it’s pretty expensive.
Pedal-powered kayaks: Some models are powered by a pedal system that allows you to keep your hands free. This can be extremely useful for fishing, using your binoculars, or taking photos. On the downside, these models tend to be heavier and more expensive. Also, keep in mind that a pedal system needs regular maintenance (and potential repairs).
THINGS TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT TO CHOOSE A GREAT MODEL:
WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO PRACTICE?
Lakes: A great way to learn how to kayak is to practice in small lakes, where currents are mild and waves are small. If this is your plan, you can use a sit-on-top design, an inflatable design, or a sit-in kayak.
Rivers: You can also improve your technique by paddling in mild-current rivers. You mustn’t venture into white-water rapids, as this can be dangerous if you don’t know how to control and maneuver your boat.
Coasts: Some people decide to learn directly in the sea. If you do this, keep to a bay or along a mild-current coast. Keep in mind that the wind, the currents, and the waves can be much stronger in the open sea. You should opt for a sit-in model that prevents water from entering the cockpit. In addition, the craft should have good secondary stability.
INFLATABLE VS HARD SHELL
Inflatable models are perfect for beginners, as they are compact and easy to transport. Moreover, they are inexpensive.
Rigid models are more reliable, include more features, and have better overall performance. Some models can be affordable and easy to use, but they are not easy to transport and can sometimes be heavy.
SOLO OR TANDEM
Are you going to paddle solo or with friends? Many beginners choose a tandem design that allows two people on the deck. This is perfect for having fun with family and friends. You can even bring your pet aboard on your next trip.
Some models are convertible, which can be a great solution if you still have doubts. Basically, you can place the adjustable seat in the middle of the craft if you want to paddle by yourself or you can place two seats if you want to share your boat with someone.
When we talk about the stability of a kayak, we must differentiate between primary stability and secondary stability.
Primary stability indicates the craft’s ability to remain stable when you are paddling in flat water. If you are planning to paddle on lakes and mild-current rivers or if you want to go fishing, you should choose a model with good primary stability.
Secondary stability indicates the boat’s stability when it’s tipped on its side. If you plan to use your craft in the open sea or along rough rivers, you should choose a model with good secondary stability.
Longer models are designed to provide better performance on touring trips and in the open sea because they provide better tracking and are easier to control in choppy waters.
On the other hand, compact models are perfect for storage and transport. They work very well for beginners, as they are easy to turn and maneuver.
This value indicates the amount of weight the boat can support before it starts sinking. Models with a high weight capacity are designed to withstand several people and plenty of gear.
Slightly wider models are great for beginners, as they provide good primary stability. Also, it’s very easy to get in and out of the craft.
On the other hand, wide models create more friction, which makes them slower. However, if you’re just starting out, this shouldn’t be a big problem.
After paddling for a few hours while sitting in the same position, it’s normal that you will feel some tension in your back or legs. For this reason, you must look for a model with comfortable seats (preferably padded) and with a comfy cockpit design.
DURABILITY AND MATERIALS
A wide variety of materials can be used to manufacture kayaks. The most popular ones are polyethylene, polypropylene, ABS plastic, Kevlar, carbon fiber, and fiberglass.
If you are a beginner or intermediate paddler, you should choose a very resistant material that can withstand shocks and bumps. People who don’t have much control over their boats are very likely to hit their crafts against rocks, branches, etc. Polyethylene and ABS plastic offer good impact resistance and excellent durability.
STORAGE AND TRANSPORT
Unless you live in front of a lake or beach, you will need to transport your craft in your car’s roof rack or use other means of transport. Inflatable models have the advantage of being easily packed and stored in the trunk of the car. This makes them the perfect option for occasional use.
The Oru Coast XT is completely foldable, which makes it the most storage-and-transport friendly option on the list.
OTHER IMPORTANT GEAR TO BRING:
Safety regulations regarding paddling boats vary from country to country. Though some places have no regulations at all, most countries require the use of a life jacket or another safety device.
This is especially important when you don’t have much experience, as in that case, your chances of tipping over are higher. Also, take extra care when kids are aboard the craft.
To be on the safe side, I recommended that you wear a life jacket at all times.
Along with a life jacket, this is another piece of safety gear that you should always use, especially while you are learning. If your craft tips over, your head must be protected so that it won’t hit rocks or other dangerous elements.
You should use a spray skirt if you’re paddling in the open sea or rough water because it will prevent any water from entering the kayak. It’s a key element to keep you dry.
FIRST AID KIT
I recommend that you always have a first aid kit with you in the event you have an accident. Your kit must be equipped with all the essentials.
If you decide to go for an inflatable model, don’t forget to always carry a repair patch kit with you. Inflatable models are a great option for beginner kayakers, but they can be punctured if you hit rocks or drag them along beaches or rough surfaces.
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Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 10 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.