The best kayaks and kayak brands for 2020

Best Kayak Reviews Guide For 2015

kayak boats reviewsKayaking offers a unique perspective to those that enjoy spending time on the water. The low-riding, close to the water feel, the quiet ride and the ability to glide smoothly over the surface of a lake, river or ocean is compelling. Kayaks give users the ability to enjoy many different aspects of water sports without the expense of a boat. They offer convenience and ease of use, but there can be some confusion when it comes to making that final purchase.

What Type Of Kayak Are You Looking For?

Kayaks come in many different styles. So how do you know which style is right for you, and if you are getting a kayak that will best suit all of your needs? At first glance it may seem like an easy decision. The basics of all kayaks are fairly similar, yet upon closer examination it is quickly discovered that there are many variances in the types of kayaks available, from fishing platforms to whitewater rapid adventure kayaks. While just about any type of kayak can be forced into service in each category, they will only perform their best when used in the way they were designed for.

When looking for a new kayak, consider all of the kayak boat reviews for those types in the category you are interested in. That way you will find the best kayak for the money and get one that best fits your personal needs. Whether you are looking for recreational kayak reviews or trying to decide between the top 10 fishing kayaks for your new device, look for information that has comparison charts to make it easy to see what differences exist between each brand as well as in-depth reviews on the qualities and drawbacks of each.

What Type of Kayak Would be Best For Me?

Before putting down hard-earned cash on a kayak, consider what types of water are located in your area. If you live near an ocean, a kayak designed for the tight spaces and quick turns of rivers and streams is not going to serve you as well as a long, more stable touring kayak, or a broad based fishing kayak.

If you love the thought of plunging down a white water rapid on a fast moving river, chances are you are going to be less happy with a sit-on-top kayak. It may even put you in danger in hazardous situations. Instead, a “SINK” the acronym for “sit in kayak” that will protect you from water spray as well as help keep you inside the boat when bounding over shallow falls.

Anyone who loves to fish is going to want to look for an angling kayak. These are set up to offer all an angler needs in easy reach. Most of the top rated kayaks for fishing are “SOTs” which stands for “Sit on Top.” They are open sided kayaks that allow for more freedom of movement, but may not keep you as dry as a SINK style kayak.

Angling kayaks, like others come in a few different styles to best accommodate the type of water they are being used on. Check reviews for kayak ratings when looking for a solid river kayak, or the best ocean fishing kayak to see which will hold up best under your water conditions.

Reviews of the Best Fishing Kayaks

top fishing kayaksKayaks have become extremely popular amongst the fishing community due to their flexibility and close proximity to the water surface. A fishing kayak can get anglers close to the shore, in tight spaces, down narrow inlets or take them out into wide-open water with ease. The top fishing kayaks provide plenty of platforms for attaching rod holders, GPS units and compartments to keep battery packs and tackle dry and still within easy reach.

Keep in mind that there may be some tradeoffs when picking a kayak for fishing. Most kayaks designed for anglers are wider and more stable so there is less chance of tipping when casting or reaching out for the fish. That’s a great perk for a fishing kayak, but the drawback will be that boat is likely to be less responsive in turning and will probably move at a slower speed than a long, lean touring kayak.

Even in fishing kayaks, there is some deviation that will allow users to fine-tune their desires and needs. Some longer, narrower fishing kayaks allow a little more speed while still giving the kayaker the ability to do a little fishing while on the go. A long, fast-moving kayak may not be well suited to a narrow, small river where tight turns are needed, however. That is why it is very important to understand your exact needs before heading out to purchase your first kayak. Picking the right kayak will offer you years of enjoyment, and while even the wrong one will give you freedom and the ability to have fun, it may also add to your frustrations.

When choosing a kayak for your angling needs study the styles you like best and read as many reviews as you can to get a well-rounded view of that particular boat. The best angler kayak will give you lots of equipment storage, allow you easy access to all areas of the deck and some are stable enough to stand as you cast out to your chosen location.

Inflatable kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are available in different forms and styles, with some suited for the ocean and others for slow moving rivers and still others for ponds. Self-bailing kayaks are often used for whitewater, and they have several ports at the bottom. When you come across a fast moving whitewater situation the ports allow the water to go through and back out again, ensuring the boat doesn’t get filled with water. If you like wet rides, then a self-bailing kayak is for you.

A sit-on top kayak has an open design and is ideal for people who have a hard time getting in and out of shells, feel claustrophobic or kayak in warm weather. This design is certainly convenient but you need a spray deck to keep water from splashing in every time.

A sit inside kayak on the other hand, has an enclosed cockpit and a traditional design. It is very popular among many kayakers because it does a great job keeping water out of the boat even when the weather gets cold. You can also hook up a spray skirt on it, providing further protection against water and wind.

A canoe-style kayak has high seats and walls, and they come with canoe-style paddles, meaning the blades are single sided instead of the double sided ones you see on other kayak paddles.

Finally, there’s the open style kayak design, similar to a canoe but with high side walls and low seats. Also, the paddles here are similar to what’s used in traditional kayaks.

Tandem Kayaks

Choosing the ideal tandem kayak for your home waters and recreation needs does not have to be difficult, but patient research will be rewarded with value for the money and good performance on the water. Consider storage and transport first – do not buy a hard tandem boat if you drive a sports car and take an elevator to get home! If you like a high-performance, fully-equipped craft that requires trailering, remember the extra expenses of licensing, insurance, and adding hitch hardware to your vehicle. Next, consider your main purpose for paddling and the waters you will usually be navigating. Paddlers aiming to paddle a tandem ocean kayak along remote coastlines will have very different needs than families who want a boat that the kids can pile into out at the lake.

Most modern tandem kayaks offer decent performance and durability. For maximum capability to handle abuse, choose a roto-molded plastic hull. Composite hulls produce faster boats, but they are also more damage-prone. When looking at inflatables, focus on boats with hard bottoms and other stiffening hull components for the best floatation and paddling performance. Another consideration is hull design: sit-on-top versus sit-in. Sit-on-top kayaks are easy to enter and exit, while sit-ins provide more gear storage and comfort for longer trips. These are just a few of the factors to consider when buying a tandem kayak. The fastest way to cut through the confusion is by reading reviews like the ones that follow, and demoing some boats on the water.

Sit-on-top kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks are in use worldwide for recreational purposes. The design has produced boats that are so inviting and easy to use that SOT kayaks are found at resorts and recreational facilities everywhere. SOT’s offer many benefits and user friendly features that traditional fiberglass sit-in kayaks lack. For one thing, paddlers feel safe and confident because it is impossible to be trapped if an SOT kayak turns over. The roto-molded plastic used to make modern SOT boats is very tough. Scraping over sand or bumping into a few rocks will not hurt the boat a bit. The plastic also allows SOT boats to have many molded-in convenience features such as fishing rod holders, storage bins, trays, and cup holders, as well as hull features that add to a boat’s stability, handling qualities, and speed.

After careful consideration of your needs in a kayak, and the general conditions you will mostly use it in, it should be easy to find a good recreational boat in the  mid-range if you are on a budget. If you would like a more specialized kayak or one fitted with many accessories, then the sky is the limit, particularly considering the fishing electronics that many serious kayak fishermen like to mount. For a first-time buyer, it is probably best to keep it simple and basic, until you really know what you like in a kayak. These reviews will get you started with a few examples of the medium- to low-price boats out there.

Whitewater Kayaks

Your choice of a whitewater kayak will depend on the water type (moderate to high flow, high volume, rocky environment and technical) and also the duration, as there are kayaks for day trips, overnight and day to weekend. Whitewater kayaks today are highly specialized and may be customized to meet the needs of the individual.

For instance, some whitewater kayaks have options for thigh braces for additional control, thigh adjustment, and an adjustable back band for additional support. Hip pads are also available for better fitting as well as foot braces and bulkheads. Situated at a kayak’s bow, bulkheads and foot braces provide strong foot support, and some of the newer models have foam braces for extra customization.

Frame support and construction varies, but the good ones have features like a D-bone welded-in seat track, which provides horizontal stability and hull rigidity. In addition there are safety step out walls that provide rigidity between the deck and hull. Another advantage of this feature is it provides a more convenient exit passage in case of an emergency.

If you are serious about whitewater kayaking, you also need to get your hands on a spray skirt because it provides watertight seal and prevents water from flowing into the cockpit. Aside from the characteristics and traits mentioned here, whitewater kayaks also differ by the number of safety features they have as well as the length. You also need to consider the activities you will do, skill level and the kind of padding you do.

Recreational Kayaks

Recreational kayaks, as the name suggests, are designed for leisure and meant to be used in calm waters. Unlike those designed for whitewater, recreational boats are very stable and recommended for use by novices, anglers, photographers and casual paddlers who want to spend some quiet time in placid lakes and rivers.

For these reasons, recreational ‘yaks should not be used in open water or environments where currents and heavy winds prevail. Recreational kayaks have a smaller storage area or bulkhead because they’re only used for short periods during the day. Although some have long bulkheads, the majority are 10 to 12 feet long, though the cockpit is large so it’s easy to access.

Kayaks designed for recreational use  also have wide beams for better stability, and they usually don’t have a rudder or skeg and are typically constructed from polyethylene. Although they don’t possess the advanced features that other kayaks have, they are affordable, easy to use and very stable. If you’ve never used a kayak before, you will find these easier to handle than other kayaks.

Recreational kayaks can be used in lakes and rivers, but it’s not a good idea to paddle all day because it doesn’t track as well as other kayaks. While recreational ‘yaks aren’t ideal for long trips, they’re the best option if you just want to spend a few hours in the water. Although there are different types available, these are most suited for river day trips, slow flowing bodies of water and even a bit of the ocean.

Looking for the Ideal Beginner Kayak? Go Recreational!

Considering your first kayak purchase? If you are a new paddler, a recreational kayak may best fit your needs. Recreational ‘yaks are designed for use on the calm waters of lakes, ponds, protected bays and gentle rivers. Stable and easy to handle for kids or older people, they are fine for casual paddling, short tours, and activities such as photography and fishing. Reasonably priced, highly durable, and versatile in performance and function, recreational ‘yaks are great for beginners and are the top-selling kayaks on the market.

Modern kayaks that are made for recreational use are designed to be very stable and easily maneuverable, yet not sacrifice much in terms of speed and straight-line tracking capability. Most models offer features such as storage bays and consoles, paddle holders, carry handles, and accessory attachment points. Some include built-in adjustable foot pegs, fishing rod holders, and rudders or skegs. The most durable boats are made from roto-molded polyethylene plastic, a tough material that resists abrasion and impact well. The best light weight kayaks in the recreational line are made from thermoformed ABS plastic.

The right recreational kayak will satisfy the requirements of a first-time paddler while offering capabilities that will be useful as skills increase and longer tours or specialized adventures such as fishing or moving water paddling are attempted. Manufacturers are producing a wide variety of models in both sit-on-top and sit-in styles, and choosing the right one for your needs is just a matter of doing some research and going out for a few demo paddles.

Ocean Kayaks

Some people make no distinction between  an ocean kayak and a kayak designed for recreational usage but I have to disagree. To keep things simple, you can use a sea kayak for recreational purposes, but a recreational vessel cannot be used as a sea kayak because it isn’t designed for fast or rough currents.

If you want to use a sea kayak in fast running water, those made of polyethelene are the ideal choice. Regardless of the material used, all sea kayaks are meant for navigation in open water and are very stable. This makes sea kayaks ideal for long trips. However, I want to point out that sea kayaks come in different lengths, widths and seating capacities, so you need to consider these factors carefully.

The shortest sea kayaks are at least 11.5 feet long, although 16.5 ft. kayaks are also available. The longer the boat, the more stable it is. Longer kayaks are also easier to paddle during long journeys, but it does take more time to set up. But I would still recommend longer sea kayaks because they hold course and track better than shorter ones.

Long slatwater kayaks also maintain speed with no difficulty and they glide more easily too, so if you’re going through open water, a long sea kayak is ideal. As far as width is concerned, it depends on the size of the individual that’s paddling and the amount of gear you plan to bring along. Generally speaking, widths range from 20 inches to 35 inches.

Touring Kayaks

Touring kayaks, sometimes referred to as ocean kayaks, are designed for long distance paddling or kayaking in large areas of water. These boats take performance into consideration, and this is something you can tell just from looking at the design. Touring kayaks for this reason, are narrow, so if you ride one of these for the first time it might feel less stable compared to others.

However, the narrow design actually makes the boat more balanced so it performs much better than other kayaks in rough seas. The narrow beam and the length actually makes this boat faster than it looks, so if you’re looking for speed and balance I would recommend this.

Touring kayaks have well-designed keels for tracking, and edging enhances the turning. Generally, these kayaks have a spacious cockpit so paddling remains comfortable even during long stretches. The majority of these kayaks also have big access hatches and bulkheads for storage. As befits their name, touring kayaks are ideal for lakes, rivers and flat water, assuming the current is gentle to moderate.

Touring kayaks have different features, and some of them have outriggers and rudders, while material choices vary too, ranging from Kevlar, fiberglass, plastic, fabric with frame and inflatable plastic.

Of all these materials, plastic is the most popular since it’s resistant to damage, although it is heavy. Another popular option is polyethylene because it is recyclable. Some touring kayaks are made from fiberglass, and while they are stronger than plastic, it can crack so it’s not widely used.

Touring Kayaks – from The Past to the Present Day

Although the kayak has long been in use as a hunting craft by the native peoples of the far North, it wasn’t until the early 1900’s when craftsmen began to use the same technology as the indigenous peoples combined with modern materials to manufacture folding kayaks that kayak touring became available to the general public as a recreational sport. However, that all changed when a gentleman named Ken Taylor made an expedition to Greenland and, when he returned, he brought with him a native Greenland skin-on-frame kayak. In fact, his native skin-on-frame kayak inspired numerous craftsmen to construct their own versions but, one of the better known variants was a plywood model constructed by an English gentleman named Geoffrey Blackford who later licensed a refined version of a fiberglass model to kayak builder named Frank Goodman who then produced the kayak commercially as the Annas Acuta.

From there, the sport has grown to the point where there is now a global community of paddlers who regularly participate in this fascinating sport on ponds, lakes, estuaries, sounds, bays, and the sea. Fortunately, kayak manufacturers have recognized the need for different types of kayaks for different types of padding as well as varying skill levels and thus, the result is that kayaks are now available in wide range of types and sizes and a wide range of materials and prices to accommodate anyone who has in interest in the sport and/or any intended purpose.

Folding Kayaks

The origins of skin-on-frame kayak technology can be traced back several millennia to the indigenous peoples of Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland who depended on their kayaks to enable them to hunt aquatic mammals to provide much needed protein for their diets.

Consequently, many different modern, individual, craftsmen have used the same technology combined with modern materials to produce their own versions of these ancient craft. However, because the skills required to build a skin-on-frame kayak are beyond those of the average person, it was not until the early 1900’s that the sport of kayaking first became available to the general public with the invention of a successful folding kayak design.

According to recorded history, a gentleman named Alfred Heurich was the first person to create a working skin-on-frame folding kayak design which he named the “Delphin” (German for Dolphin) and which employed a bamboo frame covered with a waterproofed sailcloth skin. However, it wasn’t until 1906 when a German gentleman named Johannes Klepper introduced his “Faltboot” folding kayak that folding skin-on-frame kayaks became commercially available to the average person. Then, in 1924, a Swiss gentleman by the name of Walter Hon developed a series of folding skin-on-frame kayaks which he later patented as “folbots” and produced for the Australian Military after immigrating there in 1928.

Consequently, both Klepper and Folbot are two of the oldest commercial manufacturers of folding kayaks and both companies are still in business today along with several other manufactures such as Feathercraft and Trak.

Kayak Paddles

Kayak paddles come in different styles, and the type you’ll need depends on what kayak you use. The length for whitewater paddles range from 188-203 cm while for inflatable kayaks it is 220-240 cm long. Recreational and touring paddles are around 210-240 cm long.

The paddle shaft refers to the part of your paddle that your hands don’t touch. There are two types generally: bent and straight. Straight shafts are lighter and cheaper, while bent paddles, though more expensive, put less pressure on your body and makes it easier to align strokes. They’re also more comfortable so it’s definitely worth the extra price.

Blade shapes can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Asymmetrical shapes make entry in the water smoother, while symmetrical blades can be paddled with either of your hands because they’re the same either side. The paddle feather on the other hand, is the angle that the blades offset each other, with the most common measurement set at 45 degrees.

Different materials are used for their construction, including reinforced nylon, fiberglass, carbon, plastic and aluminum. In the end, it’s the materials that decide its weight, cost and performance.

The shaft size of paddle blades vary too, and the larger your hands the thicker the paddle shaft must be. There is no “one size fits all” here, and the right size depends entirely on your comfort level. Since people have different preferences, giving recommendations is difficult, although the size guide given here can get you started.

I can’t emphasize enough how important good paddles are. No matter how powerful your kayak is, it’s only as good as the paddles you use so you need to get those that fit the boat.

Kayak Buying Guide

Whether you are looking for angling kayaks, whitewater kayaks, creek boats or ocean touring kayaks there are going to be dozens of brands all proclaiming to be the best for certain features, or the best price. If function is most important to you, and price isn’t an object, make sure that the kayak you are choosing has everything for the type of kayaking you want to do including specifics like built-in rod holders for anglers, or a sail for sporting kayaks. Good  reviews will let you know the nitty gritty about each particular kayak so you will be informed enough to make the right decisions for you. The main categories of kayaks are:

whitewater kayakWhitewater Kayaks: These are often narrow, short kayaks that provide the maximum amount of maneuverability over rough water. They are almost always SINK style kayaks to give paddlers the most protection from the elements as well as from ejection. Whitewater style kayaks are also very good in small, narrow streams even when there are no rapids present because they allow paddlers the ability to navigate tight passageways where a long, narrow kayak wouldn’t be able to go.

Touring Kayaks: Touring kayaks are long, narrow kayaks built for speed. This style of boat is best for large bodies of water where tight turns are not needed.

Fishing Kayaks: Fishing kayaks come in the most varieties, from tandems to inflatables, since the types of water anglers operate in vary greatly. Don’t be afraid of picking the wrong kayak. There are so many affordable options many anglers choose to have several to suit a greater number of locations. If you must narrow the choice to one kayak, pick one that will best suit the water choices nearest you since that is more likely the type of water you will be on the most.

Sporting Kayaks: Sporting kayaks come in the next widest number of varieties. There are flat platforms for surfing, kayaks with sail attachments to glide across the waves with wind power, and pontoon kayaks that give the boat more stability in large waves or let users stand with more security.

There are a few other minor categories of kayaks, but for most common uses, these four categories sum up the decisions a new buyer faces. The best way to get the most from your new kayak is to give yourself plenty of time to research the styles and brands available. Read as many thorough reviews as you can find to be sure you get everything you need at the best possible price.

What is the best kayak for beginners?

Frequently, people think of kayaking as a demanding and rugged sport, typical of the portrayal in sporting events such as the Summer Olympic Games. However, kayaks today offer extreme flexibility in design, structure, and composition in order to cater to both novice and experienced kayakers. Kayaking is a fun way to spend time on the water with friends, get some exercise, find solitude, and enjoy nature. The best beginner kayak delivers comfort, safety, affordability, stability and ease of use. Kayaking may look difficult, but almost anyone can learn, even children, and like anything takes a little practice.

Factors to consider when buying a kayak for beginners are first, the weight of the boat, which affects portability or how to get in and out of the water, ease of transportation and storage. A second factor is cost and depends on the type of kayak. Options such as a rigid, folding or inflatable boat; materials used in construction whether plastic, fiberglass, kevlar, carbon fiber or wood; and the purpose or type of kayaking affect the price.

The third factor to consider when buying a beginners kayak is the type of water surface and location that you plan to kayak on. Often beginners choosing a kayak will be planning to take part in recreational boating on flat water. Ocean or sea kayaks, good for long trips on more open water, have long hulls for ease of tracking, many storage spaces that trap air and keep the boat floating, comfortable seats, and a rudder to help with steering. Single person or double tandem Sit-on-top kayaks have a sealed and wider hull, molded depressions for seats that are above water level, and self-bailing holes. They are hard to capsize, easy to get in and out and great for slow rivers, ponds and lakes. Whitewater kayaks, which are shorter and less stable than other types are specialized for increased response and maneuverability in fast moving water, with sealed sit-in seats or cockpits.

How to buy the best beginners kayak

If you are one of those people that enjoys being outdoors, loves being on the water, and likes exploring new territory, then kayaking is the perfect sport for you. In fact, kayaking is a rapidly growing sport that can be enjoyed by paddlers of all skill levels and is fun way to spend a day in the sun. In addition, due to the high demand, most kayak manufactures produce numerous different models that are suitable for beginners ranging from sit-on-top models, to recreational sit-inside models, to transitional models that fill the gap between dedicated touring kayaks and recreational kayaks. But, with so many different manufacturers and models on the market today, choosing one from among the many can be a daunting task for the new paddler. Plus, such questions as “do I have the strength to paddle a kayak?”, “what if I capsize?”, and “what additional gear do I need?” often arise.

However, rest assured that anyone of average strength and even children can paddle a kayak with ease and, by choosing a kayak with a high degree of initial stability, you alleviate the worry of capsizing. Furthermore, besides your kayak, all you really need to enter the sport is a paddle and a Personal Flotation Device (aka life jacket). Consequently, new paddlers can enter the sport of kayaking with relatively little expense. Last, due to their relatively light weight, most kayaks can be carried on your vehicle’s roof rack; thus eliminating the need for an expensive trailer.