Water activities are popular during the summer. Aside from swimming in the pool and on the beach, kayaking is the next go-to water activity for the whole family. Kayaking has become more accessible for a lot of people in the last decades, leading to its increased popularity. Aside from changes in the materials used, there are now sit-on-top kayaks and kayaks for various other purposes – ranging from clear bottoms and tandem kayaks, to fishing kayaks and ocean kayaks.
Investing in a recreational kayak is something people should put a little bit of work into – we’ve tried to take care of most of it for you with this article.
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding which recreational kayak to buy. Before making your decision, consider the materials used, safety, ease of use, and durability. Since it can be used by any member of the family, it might also be prudent to think about their usability for kids, heavier people. or even for bringing along pets and equipment.
The 7 Best Recreational Kayaks in 2023
There are so many types and brands of kayaks to choose from. There is no one kayak that is perfect for everyone and every situation – it all depends on your individual needs and preferences.
1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, Tandem Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump – The Most Comfortable Option
The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is probably one of the most comfortable kayaks for every member of the family. With its inflatable seat with backrest, even children can easily fit in. It can be used by two persons with a combined weight of up to 400 pounds. The cockpit offers enough space for added comfort on your feet and legs.
If you want to have fun while doing a water sport activity, this easy-to-maneuver kayak is the one for you. It includes a removable skeg for directional stability and control. Grab handles on both ends are provided for convenience.
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 400 pounds
- Dimensions: 123 X 36 X 20 inches (inflated size)
- Weight: 35 pounds
- Material: Vinyl
- Added accessories: Repair patch kit, two 86-inches aluminum oars, carry bag, Intex pump
- Super affordable
- Safe with high visibility for its bright yellow color
- Best used on small lakes, mild rivers, and small bodies of water
Why Should You Choose Intex Explorer K2?
If you are looking for an affordable kayak that can be used by the whole family, this is the boat that you should get. It is easy to set-up and to deflate, super portable, and a comfortable ride as long as you stick to calm waters.
2. Intex Excursion Pro Kayak, Professional Series Inflatable Fishing Kayak – Best For Adventurers
The Intex Excursion Pro Kayak is made of super-tough laminated PVC with polyester core, making it lightweight and resistant to damage. It has two removable skegs ideal for both deep and shallow water. The two built-in fishing rod holders are ideal for fishing activities with friends. The floor-mounted footrests and adjustable bucket seats provide comfort for paddlers.
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 400 pounds
- Dimensions: 151 x 37 x 18 inches
- Weight: 43.6 pounds
- Material: PVC with a polyester core
- Added Accessories: Two Paddles, Intex pump, carry bag, pressure gauge
- Resistant to abrasion and sun damages
- Easy to set-up
- Lots of accessories and room for mods – water bottle holder, dry storage space, thigh pads, etc
- Paddles are not long enough for bigger or taller paddlers
- Small legroom
Why Should You Choose The Intex Excursion Pro Kayak?
If you want a kayak for adventures or intense trips, the Intex Excursion Pro is the best choice. It is made of lightweight material that is highly resistant to scratches, heat, and saltwater – making it the perfect ocean kayak. You can also be sure that it will remain stable on deep or shallow waters using either of the two removable skegs. You can have additional accessories with the removable and adjustable mounting bracket that will allow you to add GPS systems or fish finders for added enjoyment.
3. Airhead Montana Kayak Two Person Inflatable Kayak
For on-water fun with family and friends, get an Airhead Montana Kayak inflatable tandem kayak. You can bring it along during camping, yacht cruising, or going on vacation near lakes and moderate white waters. It is compact and lightweight, making it very portable. It is made with nylon material with coatings for ultraviolet and water resistance and protection.
It has inflatable seats and adjustable backrest for the needed support on your back. It is perfectly designed for use in lakes and moderate white waters. It has two valves to make it easier to inflate and deflate.
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 500 pounds
- Length: 144 inches
- Weight: 36.3 pounds
- Material: PVC
- Safe with high visibility for its bright orange color
- Cannot be used on the ocean and open waters
Why Should You Choose Airhead Montana Kayak?
You can put this kayak in your trunk or suitcase, allowing you to go paddling with your best buddy anytime. It is made more comfortable with the elbow guards. You can secure your gear with the six D-rings at bow and stern. Additionally, the stainless steel and nylon air-chambers won’t quickly corrode. This kayak will also give you superior water tracking with its four bottom fins.
4. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 – Nine-Foot Angler and Recreational Sit-On-Top Lightweight Fishing Kayak
This single-person sit-on-top recreational Vibe Kayak is ideal for fishing and comes with four fishing rod holders. It includes four flush-mount holders and has storage in front and at the back.
Its ergonomic backrest and seat cushion, plus foot braces make it very comfortable even for long hours of use. It is compact, portable, and affordable that can easily fit in your trunk or can be put on top of a car. The four handles allow it to be carried comfortably.
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
- Dimensions: 108 (L) x 32 (W) inches
- Weight: 46 pounds
- Material: Polyethylene
- Added Accessories: With built-in cup holder
- Comes with a paddle
- Can be used on all types of waters and water conditions
- Good for one person only
Why You Should Choose Vibes Skipjack 90?
It can be used in lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, ocean surf, and open waters. The molded foot braces make it easy to use by people of any size, from small children to tall paddlers. It can quickly track on almost any type of water with its sleek hull design.
5. Sevylor Big Basin Three-Person Kayak
This Sevylor Kayak is a big heavy-duty kayak that can be used in rugged lakes. The spray covers can keep you dry even when tracking rough white waters. The adjustable seats can easily fit three people with a combined weight of up to 490 pounds.
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 490 pounds
- Dimensions: 147 (L) x 37 (W) inches
- Weight: 34.8 pounds
- Material: PVC
- Can fit three people
- Can be used on various types of waters and conditions
- Paddles are not included
- No included pump
- Quite expensive
Why Should You Choose Sevylor Big Basin?
Enjoy much water adventure with this heavy-duty kayak. If you want to relax or try new water challenges, try the Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak. It will never let you down from calm waters to rough ones.
6. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak (Paddle Included), Blue, Six Feet
For the size of this Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak, it amazingly offers stability, especially for kids. The molded finger handles on each side make it easy to carry and move around. It also has multiple footrest positions that give comfort for any foot size. Its polyethylene material does not crack or fade quickly.
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 130 pounds
- Dimensions: 72 x 24 x 9 inches
- Weight: 18 pounds
- Material: Polyethylene
- Super lightweight
- Easy to carry
- Ideal for children
- Comes with a paddle
- Not suitable for bigger or heavier persons
Why Should You Choose Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak?
If you want your kids to go out in the sun and enjoy the water, then get this kayak is for them. It is best for children since it is lightweight, easy to use, stable, and has excellent tracking. You can also feel at ease with the available five-year limited warranty.
7. Perception Rambler 13.5, Sit-On-Top Tandem Kayak, Recreational Kayak for Two, Storage with Tie Downs
Whether you are a beginner or highly skilled paddler, you will enjoy the Perception Rambler Kayak. It can be used on ocean bays, lakes, light surf, and mild rivers.
It has a big seating area for two persons and back-friendly seats for comfort, even for long hours of use. It can also be configured to convert into a single-paddler boat. Its built-in buoyancy makes it safe while having you worry less about the probability of capsizing.
You can easily carry this kayak around with its carry handles on the front, rear, and two sides of the boat. You can also carry along some stuff with its ample storage and a maximum weight capacity of 550 pounds. The multiple footrest options also allow small and big paddlers to be accommodated.
- Maximum Weight Capacity: 550 pounds
- Dimensions: 162 x 34 x 15.5 inches
- Weight: 78 pounds
- Material: Polyethylene and one-piece roto-molded construction
- Molded-in seat for kids or dogs
- Stable and safe
- The rear-open storage will keep your things dry
- Does not come with a paddle
- Will need a storage area for its size
Why Should You Choose Perception Rambler?
This kayak is very versatile that it can be used by anyone on any bodies of water. It doesn’t matter if you are just a beginner or a pro paddler since it is a stable sit-on-top kayak. It has spacious padded seats and an extra middle seat for your kid or your dog. It’s made of polyethylene and one-piece roto-molded construction material that is highly resistant to scratches and ultraviolet rays on the sun.
Water activities are fun, especially when you do it with family and friends. With the many available and affordable kayak brands in the market, you will surely be tempted to get one immediately. However, remember that buying a kayak is an investment. You do not want to get something that you will regret in the future.
Whether you are a beginner or a kayak enthusiast, it is prudent to choose a kayak that is appropriate for your body weight and size. Aside from comfort, you also need to determine your ability to control and maneuver the kayak.
Kayaking is a fun family activity, which can be enjoyed by people of any age. Be sure to do it properly to keep yourself and your loved ones safe at all times.
Buying Guide: What to Look for in the Best Recreational Kayak
The best recreational kayak will be something you can use and enjoy with friends and family when heading to the beach, lake, or river. Do not confuse the recreational kayaks with the day touring and touring kayak boats – they are different types of kayaks.
Day Touring Kayaks
Day Touring Kayaks are not for beginners since it is often used for straights and rough waters. They are more efficient and sleeker for excellent navigation and control by experienced kayakers.
Touring Kayaks are designed for long-distance kayaking, especially in the sea. They have featured rudders to deal with strong currents and wind appropriately.
Recreational kayaks are usually more affordable and made out of polyethylene, plastic ABS, or composite materials. Since they are usually made for family use and leisure, they perform well in flat water and not ideal in whitewaters.
Before you look for the best recreational kayak for your family, prepare by learning what to check when it comes to recreational kayaks.
There are three popular materials used in making the best recreational kayaks.
It is one of the cheapest materials one can use for a kayak. However, constant exposure to the sun makes this material break easily. Thus, it is advisable to keep a kayak made of polyethylene in a safe and dry storage area.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
The ABS plastic can resist the heat of sunlight better, though it costs more than polyethylene plastics. An ABS kayak is expected to last longer and easier to repair.
Kayaks made of composite materials are the most expensive but are also the best ones since they are lightweight. This kayak feature makes it out-perform other types. Popular composite materials are carbon fiber and fiberglass.
Sit-In Kayak or Sit-On-Top Kayaks
Sit-in or sit-inside kayaks are the more traditional kayaks. With sit-in kayaks, your legs are fully enclosed in the cockpit. On the other hand, a sit-on-top kayak allows you to sit on top of the kayak deck.
The sit-on-top kayaks are ideal for beginners because they are very stable and easy to get in and out of. However, you will get wet easily when using a sit-on kayak. On the other hand, sit-in kayaks can keep you dry and has space for your things.
If you are going to use a kayak for fishing, you might need to bring along some light gears, food, and beverages. Before deciding to purchase a kayak, you need to determine the things you might be bringing along. Thus, the size of the cargo space can affect your decision on the type of kayak to buy. Since most recreational kayaks have only one hatch, choose the sit-on-top type if you prefer one with large cargo.
Ideal Kayak Size
You have to bear in mind the size, length, width, depth, and cockpit size when getting a recreational kayak. A long kayak has more storage space and cruises efficiently. On the other hand, a short kayak is much easier to turn.
In terms of width, a wide recreational kayak gives more stability, while a narrow one moves faster. Kayaks with deeper hull have more room for long legs, while those with shallow depth cannot be easily disturbed by the wind. For the cockpit size, a large one will let you board and alight the kayak easily. A small cockpit, on the other hand, means more control and protection to the kayaker.
Not all who love to go kayaking are living near the lake or sea. If you live farther away from a body of water, you will need to transport your kayak. Portable kayaks are easy to bring along during family trips. You might also want to have a car rack for your kayak or carry it behind your vehicle. Inflatable kayaks are now gaining popularity for its portability and easy storage. Just make sure to also bring an air pump to help you inflate and deflate an inflatable kayak when you want to use it.
Choose kayak boats that can accommodate your weight and all the things you might be bringing along. You don’t want to be sitting low if it doesn’t have the right weight capacity, thus affecting your paddling experience.
If you are planning to use a kayak for an extended period, you might want to choose one that has a comfortable seat. Even though such a feature can affect its price, a padded and adjustable seat will save you from any physical pain and discomfort from long hours of paddling.
You can get a kayak for as low as $200 to as high as $1,000. Remember that cheaper models may not give you the performance that you want. Determine how much you are willing to spend for comfort, durability, and quality before getting one. An experienced paddler may be willing to pay more for the kayak that is a perfect fit for his or her needs.
Many kayaks are being sold in the market today and the perfect one depends on your needs and preferences. Learn about the different brands and manufacturers of kayaks and do your research on the reliability and quality of their products.
Different people may prefer different brands of kayaks. However, more than the brand, the design, price, built, functionality, and usability may affect your choice of boat. Below are some of the brands known for making the best recreational kayaks:
- Sea Eagle
What is the Best Recreational Kayak for Beginners?
Getting into this tiny boat might be a bit scary and intimidating for beginners. However, if you have found the right match, you will love your kayaking experience.
The first thing to look for if you are a beginner is a sit-on-top kayak. It is user-friendly, very stable, and easy to get in and out of. Also, a sit-on-top recreational kayak does not give an impression of confinement, making you feel more at ease.
A beginner kayaker will benefit more from a wide body. Wider options are slower than a longer and narrower ones, but they will provide more stability. The shape is also an essential factor to consider if you are a beginner in kayaking. Kayaks that are designed with flat hulls give more stability and maneuverability.
Thus, for beginners, get the wide and short recreational kayaks with flatter hulls for stability, smooth maneuver, and control. The same features and options should be considered when you are choosing kayaks for children.
What is the Difference Between a Kayak and a Canoe?
Most people think that kayak and canoe are the same things. However, there are few things that sets them apart from one another.
It is probably the most significant difference you will see between a kayak and canoe. In a kayak, the paddler sits on a low seat with the legs stretched out in front. On the other hand, canoe paddlers either kneel with one or both knees or sit on raised seats.
Both canoes and kayaks use paddles to move through the water. However, there are several differences with the paddles being used between these two water boats. A canoe paddle has only a flat blade on one end. It is usually shorter, with a T-shaped handle for a tighter grip. Kayak paddles are double-ended and longer than canoe paddles. These paddles are also smaller, lighter, and curved.
Kayaks are narrowboats built for a single or two persons only. The one that can be used by two persons is called a tandem kayak. Canoes are designed to fit more than just one paddler.
What to Wear When Kayaking
It would be silly for anyone to go kayaking in cotton t-shirts, jeans, or skirts. If you are going to do any water activity or sport, make sure that you are wearing the appropriate attire.
Polyester or nylon rash guards are ideal since they are comfortable, stretchable, and get dry quickly. They have a high ultraviolet protection factor (or UPF) to protect your skin from the damaging heat of the sun.
You can choose board shorts or quick-dry pants, which will be your best option for comfort while you paddle. Avoid materials that stick to your skin or rough ones that may scrape your skin while shifting on your seat.
If the weather is cold, you can choose a waterproof but breathable jacket and rain pants. Paddling jackets would be nice when it’s raining since it can keep any water out of your body.
You can get paddling booties that are lightweight to protect your feet. Do not use flip-flops or anything that has no back strap, since they tend to come off quickly. You can also wear waterproof socks if you expect colder conditions.
You might also want to wear a hat, sunglasses, and gloves. If you are wearing short sleeved-tops and bottoms, you might need to slather some sunscreen for maximum skin protection. Also, don’t forget a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) for safety. A PFD is a must whenever you go kayaking, whether you are a new kayaker or an expert one.
How to Prevent a Kayak from Tipping
Merely looking at a kayak, it might seem that it would quickly flip and let you fall right into the water. Kayaks are not designed to tip easily. You just have to know the right kayak to use in a specific type of water in particular water conditions. It is almost impossible to flip kayaks on still lakes or rivers, but light kayaks can quickly capsize in rapids.
Of course, a kayak may overturn one time or another. Below are some helpful tips to lessen the probability of capsizing:
- Choose the right weather and water conditions.
- Try to balance your kayak as much as possible.
- Keep your paddle close to your body for a more comfortable paddling experience.
- Keep your feet and heels against the bottom of the kayak and your knees touching the deck. This position will give you more control and can also prevent you from falling off the kayak.
- Choose sit-on-top kayaks that offer more stability, especially if you are a beginner.
- If you happen to fall into the water, hold onto your kayak since it will float no matter what.
- Stay calm, all the time.
How Do I Take Care of My Kayak?
Like any equipment, your kayak must be clean, out of the heat and sun, and properly stored and supported. A kayak that is well-taken care of and kept in good condition can last a very long time.
Since saltwater can cause damage to almost everything, remember to clean your kayak after every use. Make sure to rinse everything off with fresh and clean water. For stubborn grime, you can use a mild detergent and a brush with soft bristles.
Maintenance and Storage
Store your kayak in a dry and safe place, away from the sun. Keep it covered, but make sure to let some air inside. You can also use kayak wall hooks, slings, or hammock. Or you can get kayak stands or racks for proper support. Always read the user manual and follow the instructions to know how to handle your kayak correctly.
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