Whether you plan to fish or just spend the afternoon taking in the scenery, a recreational kayak allows you to enjoy the open water in a more personal way.
Kayaks come in different shapes and sizes. Our guide will help you find the right one for your needs and skill level.
Perception Kayak Pescadr Pro
Our top pick for 2020
Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
Ample storage space, comfortable seat and easy to transport
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak
Beautiful design, storage and adjustable foot brace system
The Benefits of Kayaking – And How to Choose One
The Benefits of Kayaking
Feeling like a hamster on a wheel when you go to the gym? Love the great outdoors? Kayaking allows you to enjoy a great workout while getting back in tune with nature.
There are many benefits to kayaking.
A Great Workout
According to the Better Health Channel, kayaking can be an excellent cardiovascular workout and also works several important muscle groups, including:
The upper body workout is all thanks to paddling, but kayaking also works your core and legs. The legs apply pressure, and the core rotates while paddling.
Kayaking is also easier on the joints, so you can enjoy a great workout without putting too much stress on your body.
Relaxing and Meditative
Many people find kayaking to be a relaxing and meditative experience, particularly if you’re out on calm waters.
If you can find a remote location to paddle, the peace and quiet will quickly melt your stress away and may even have you forgetting about the stresses of work and family life.
Connect with Nature
When you’re on your kayak, it’s just you, the water and nature. Connecting with nature is another way to relieve stress, but it may also offer other health benefits.
According to a post from National Geographic, researchers at the University of Illinois discovered that spending time in the woods improves cognitive abilities and boosts creativity.
Being outdoors also allows you to soak up a healthy dose of sunlight, which boosts vitamin D levels. Healthy is the key word here – don’t overdo it, and be safe when out in the sun.
Anyone Can Get Started
One nice thing about kayaking is that it doesn’t require exceptional athletic skills to get started. Just about anyone can hop into a kayak and enjoy a day of paddling on the water.
Because it’s so easily accessible, kayaking may be a great way to make new friends by joining groups that go on excursions.
What to Look for When Buying a Kayak
Buying a kayak can be an intimidating experience just because there are so many options to choose from. While most models are similar in design, some have different-shaped hulls and lengths.
Recreational kayaks, the type we’re talking about in this guide, are best suited for calm waters and are great for beginners, according to REI.
Here are some things to look for when buying a recreational kayak:
Length and Width
The length, width and depth of the kayak will help determine whether the model is best suited for recreational use or touring.
A recreational kayak has a shorter length – between 8 and 12 feet. Wider kayaks offer more stability when paddling on calm waters. If you’re new to kayaking, you might consider a wider boat for better overall stability.
All kayaks have a weight capacity, and this is an important consideration when choosing a model. If the kayak doesn’t offer a high enough weight capacity, it may not stay afloat.
Check the kayak’s product description for more information on weight capacity. Don’t forget to take into account the weight of your gear and anything else you might bring on board (like a dog).
Flat Hull Design
Recreational kayaks typically have a flat-bottom hull because they offer more stability when riding on flat water. Make sure the model you’re considering has this type of hull.
The last thing you want is to buy a kayak and have it break or stop working properly after just a few uses. Look for models made with durable materials – like polyethylene.
Polyethylene (PE) is abrasion- and impact-resistant, which makes it a great option for use on the water.
PE is highly durable, but it’s not indestructible. Sun exposure can cause the material to become brittle over time, and excess heat can cause the material to warp.
With that said, many kayaks made with PE are treated to resist UV damage.
Aside from PE, you will also find recreatioanl kayaks that are inflatable or made with fiberglass, carbon and Kevlar. The latter is referred to as a composite kayak, and these are usually the most expensive models. They’re lightweight and their performance is top-notch.
No one wants to ride in an uncomfortable kayak. Look for models with a snug cockpit. The better the fit, the easier will be to turn and maneuver the boat.
Alternatively, a larger cockpit usually provides more storage space and is easier to get in and out of.
A quality kayak will have an adjustable seat and multiple foot positions. Some kayaks have foot braces that are adjustable, while others have pegs to hold your feet. In either case, make sure the model you’re considering will accommodate your height.
With all of these points in mind, we’re going to share our top picks for the best recreational kayaks this year.
Recreational Kayak Reviews – Our 5 Picks for 2020
Ocean Kayak Frenzy
The Frenzy is a solid, sit-on-top kayak that’s just as sharp looking as it is durable. Designed for one person, this model offers a maximum capacity of 275-325 pounds and weighs just 43 pounds.
The 9-foot length makes this a more stable kayak, which may be a good option for beginners.
The Frenzy offers plenty of storage for day trips, including a bow deck bungee and a stern tank well with bungees. If you plan to spend an afternoon out on the water, the storage well and bungees will keep your gear securely in place and dry.
The Comfort Plus Seat Back is padded for extra comfort, cushioning and support. The Frenzy also offers 4-way adjustability to suit different body types.
Carrying handles are located on the stern and bow, which can make it easier to transport the kayak. The Frenzy also has molded-in side handles as well as a cup holder. The cup holder is a nice addition for those lazy and long afternoons on the water.
- Solid, highly durable
- High weight capacity, which means you can bring more gear
- Comfortable seat
- Molded-in cup holder and side handles are convenient
- While solid, the light weight and carrying handles make it easy to transport
- Removable bungees and storage well keeps your gear dry
- Great stabilization
- Narrow seat
The cushioned seat is a bit on the narrow side, which may be uncomfortable for some people.
Still, Ocean Kayak’s Frenzy offers great stabilization, a higher weight capacity and plenty of storage. If you’re a beginner, these features may make this kayak a good choice for you.
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks’ Vapor model is a single-user kayak that’s designed for paddling on calm waters in ponds, lakes and slow-moving rivers. Highly durable, this kayak is made from polyethylene.
The Comfort Flex padded seat is adjustable and allows for all-day comfort. The cockpit also has a paddle rest, so you can enjoy some peace and quiet while floating out on the water.
Old Town includes some extra features to make this kayak’s fit more comfortable. The thigh/knee pads protect your legs, while the unique Glide Track Foot Brace system allows for more control and a better overall fit.
The stern well allows you to stow away your gear while giving you easy access to all of your essentials.
Designed for stability, the Vapor may be a good fit for you if you’re looking for a calm, relaxed day of paddling.
- Adjustable Foot Brace system and seat allows for a more comfortable ride
- Made with highly durable materials
- Storage in stern gives you easy access to your gear
- Great stability
- Not designed for rough water
If you plan to kayak on rougher water, the Vapor may not be the right choice for you. This model is better suited for quiet waters, like ponds, lakes and slow rivers.
The Vapor is highly durable, provides an ample amount of storage space and is spacious enough to bring a furry friend along for the ride.
Perception Pescador Pro
The Pescador Pro kayak from Perception is a 12-foot long kayak that’s ideal for flatwater paddling and fishing. Offering more storage than the average kayak, this model may be a good fit for you if you plan to fish or spend an extended amount of time on the water.
The stern’s molded-in well provides storage space, while the bungees keep your gear in place. There’s also a molded-in well in the bow that has a mesh gear cover to keep your items dry.
If you want to go fishing, the Pescador Pro has two molded-in fishing rod holders, and the accessory track recesses provide storage space for your tackle box.
On top of all this storage, there is a 5″ stern deck hatch that gives you access to the interior of the hull. Of course, there’s a molded-in cup holder, too.
The bottom of the hull is fitted with a skid plate for added durability. The hull is also constructed with polyethylene, which – according to LandscapeForms – is a highly durable material.
In the comfort department, the Pescador Pro has a removable, adjustable seat with a recessed track. There’s also an adjustable foot brace for better positioning while paddling.
The bow and stern include carry handles that allow for easy transport.
If you plan to fish on your kayak, the Pescador Pro may be a good option for you.
- Designed for fishing, but can still be used for relaxing paddling
- Plenty of storage for gear
- Easy to transport thanks to the molded-in handles
- Adjustable seat and foot brace for optimal paddling position
- Stadium-style seat is comfortable and removable
- Not ideal for rougher waters
Like the Vapor kayak, the Pescador Pro is not ideal for rough waters. Perception designed this kayak for fishing, so it should be used on calmer waters – preferably lakes.
If you plan to do some fishing in your recreational kayak, the Pescador Pro may be a smart option for you. It has plenty of storage space for your gear, rod holders, and a comfortable seat.
Lifetime Youth 6-Feet Kayak with Paddle
Lifetime’s Youth kayak is ideal for kids. It features a six-foot length and a maximum weight capacity of 130 pounds. Available in bright, fun colors and designed with kids in mind, this kayak may be a good choice for you if you have kids who want to join in on the fun.
With a weight of 18 pounds and molded-in finger handles on each side, this kayak is easy for kids to carry. The high-density polyethylene construction also makes this kayak highly durable.
The reverse chine enhances stability, and the swim-up deck makes it easy to get back onto the kayak if the user falls off.
Lifetime’s Youth kayak has dual fins that help with tracking and riding surfs, and there are self-bailing scupper drain holes in the cockpit to keep water out.
The cockpit is ergonomically designed to help improve balance, and there are multiple foot rest positions for a comfortable ride.
- Can be used on the ocean
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Swim-up deck makes it easy to get back onto the kayak if you fall off
- Dual fins make it easier to ride surfs
- Drain holes keep water out of the kayak
- Comfortable ride
- Tracking isn’t ideal
Some of Lifetime’s Youth kayaks have less-than-perfect tracking, which means you have to paddle twice as hard to get to your destination.
With that said, this kayak is highly durable, lightweight and comes with features that nurture a child’s kayaking skills.
If you’re looking for a kayak for the children, this may be a good option for you.
Lifetime Lotus 8′ Kayak with Paddle
The Lotus is a smaller kayak – just 8′ long – but is highly durable (thanks to the polyethylene construction) and designed for greater stability. It’s lightweight, too, at just 38 pounds.
The tank well storage provides ample space for your gear, and the bungee cord lacing keeps your belongings securely in place.
The Lotus has multiple foot rest positions and an adjustable backrest to suit paddlers of virtually all heights. The cockpit also has scupper drain holes to keep water out, and the molded paddle holder allows for hands-free operation.
UV-protected, this kayak is designed not to crack, peel or fade due to sun exposure.
- Solid construction and highly durable
- Shorter length allows for better stability
- Drain holes keep water out
- Accommodates users of different heights
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Gear isn’t easily accessible
- Seat is uncomfortable
The Lotus offers storage space, but the tank well is located at the stern, which doesn’t make it easily accessible during use. The molded-in seat, even with the adjustable backrest, isn’t as comfortable as other kayaks.
With that said, the Lotus may be a good fit for beginners because of its simple, stable design. It’s also lightweight, durable and features drain holes to help keep you afloat.
Which Kayak is the Best?
While all five of these kayaks are great choices, the Perception Pescador Pro takes the top spot. It provides more-than-ample storage space and has the most comfort-enhancing features of all the kayaks on our list.
The stadium seat allows for all-day comfort, the thigh/knee pads keep your legs from rubbing against the hard plastic material, and the adjustable foot brace system helps you find the right position for paddling. And if you do plan to go fishing (which you don’t have to), there are built-in holders for your fishing poles.
The Pescador Pro offers excellent stability and is easy to maneuver, so you can spend more time relaxing and taking in the scenery.