The Most Important Criteria to Choosing the Best Tandem KayakHere are the factors we consider when putting together these reviews
Materials affect not only its aesthetics but also its performance, durability, weight, storage, and ease of transportation.
Hull shapes are important depending on your use and level of expertise.
Size and Weight
Size and weight determines how easily you can lift the kayak and how you are going to store it.
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
Kayaking is a form of paddling – a group of water sports wherein you need to paddle to propel and steer a vessel through water. It has been known as the fastest growing water sport since the 1990s. Aside from being a great travel activity that allows you to get some sun and enjoy nature, kayaking provides you with many health benefits.
It is a low impact activity and is a great form of exercise. It can improve your strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness. The continuous brisk movement that this activity requires also can increase heart rate, helping improve cardiovascular health.
Since it is largely an upper body workout, kayaking improves your muscle strength, particularly on your shoulders, chest, back, and arms. The constant shifting and turning of your torso also improve your core while the constant squeezing of your leg muscles helps tone your legs. Aside from these physical health benefits, kayaking can also help you relax when you’re stressed or depressed, improving your mood and overall mental health.
Health benefits aside, kayaking is also popular because it is a fun hobby to enjoy with family and friends. It can be as peaceful and meditative or as exhilarating and wild as you want it to be depending on how and where you do it. You can go on a tranquil fishing journey on your own to a placid lake or you can also make it exciting by going on a wild whitewater rafting adventure.
If you plan on buying a kayak though, there are several things you need to consider, the first of which is whether you plan on kayaking mostly on your own or with the company others. Single kayaks are for those who prefer to go kayaking alone while tandem kayaks are meant for two paddlers or sometimes 3.
Tandem kayaks are great for enjoying the activity with someone else. If you have decided that buying a tandem is best for you, there are several other factors that you need to look into.
Choosing the Best Tandem Kayak
We suggest that you consider the following factors when choosing the best tandem kayak for your needs. They are not the cheapest investment and you’ll likely be using the same kayak for many years to come. Putting in the time to figure out what is actually best for you will pay dividends for a long time.
When shopping for the best tandem kayak, you need to consider the materials used for its construction because this affects not only its aesthetic but also its performance, durability, weight, storage, and ease of transportation. A kayak can be made using the following materials:
Polyethylene kayaks are also called rotomolded kayaks. Polyethylene (plastic) powder is poured into a hollow metal mold. It is then heated and rotated in an oven to form a complete kayak. Polyethylene is the most common and cheapest option. Since polyethylene is a resilient plastic, it is exceptionally durable, often dubbed as “Tupperware kayaks”. It can last for many years with minimal care, but it can degrade by UV which means you can’t keep it under the sun too long. It is advisable to treat it with a UV-blocking spray to prevent degradation. Also, take note that even if it is durable, hits from rocks and cobbles can increase drag. They are also significantly heavier than other hard-shell materials.
Kayaks made from carbon fiber, aramid, graphite or a blending of these and other high-tech fabrics are known as composite kayaks. They are made by layering these fabrics and applying them to a mold. Colored gel-coat is sprayed on a separate deck that will form the surface layer of the finished kayak. Foam or honeycomb panels are sometimes added in the deck and hull. Vacuum bags are then applied, as well as resin, to allow the entire series to cure. The deck and the hull are then joined together using fiberglass tape and resin.
Composite kayaks are usually for professionals. They are stiff, which makes them the swiftest and most responsive type. The hulls are also durable. Scratches and abrasions can be easily repaired and will not affect hull speed. However, its stiffness also makes it the most fragile to sharp and direct impact. Also, these are the most expensive type of hard-shell kayaks.
Inflatables are made from strong poly-based fabric that provides the kayak with shape and rigidity. We initially dismissed them because they used to be regarded as simply pool toys.
However, recent improvements in technology have made them stronger. Most inflatables are now super strong and puncture-proof. Its massive appeal has to do with its travel-worthiness. They are lighter, compact, and easier to store. They are also foldable, allowing you to easily fit one in a closet or in the trunk of your car.
These are going to be the best option for most hobbyists and beginners for a myriad of reasons.
Kayak hull designs come in a few different shapes. They are important depending on your use and level of expertise as they will impact the stability of the vessel, how comfortable you’ll be, how much equipment you can carry, and how fast you’ll be able to go.
Flat or planing hulls are the most common. They are wide and are the most stable in calm conditions. They are also quick and easy to maneuver. Flat bottom hulls are used in a variety of purposes including fishing kayaks and play boats.
Rounded or displacement hulls have rounded edges that give the kayak a torpedo shape. They track most effectively which results in increased speed because of less water resistance. They are not as stable in calm waters, but since they tilt toward one side or another, they are great for rough water conditions and almost every ocean kayak will be rounded.
These hulls have a sharper “v” shape that makes them the fastest in a straight line. However, they are less maneuverable than rounded hulls. They are sometimes considered tippy and will feel less stable in calm conditions. You’ll probably want to stay away from these until you’ve got some serious paddling experience behind you.
A kayak’s weight capacity refers to the amount of weight it can hold while still staying afloat and/or avoiding water in the kayak. Different companies may have its own weight capacity ratings. Keep in mind though, that loading the kayak up to its stated weight capacity will make it difficult to paddle and it you will not get its optimal performance. A good rule of thumb is to keep at least 25% away from the kayak’s stated weight capacity.
Size and Weight
Determine the length and width of the kayak that is right for you. When it comes to width, longer ones are more stable. Shorter ones can tip over but are better in rapid waters and can maneuver better. In terms of width, wider kayaks are more stable and may provide you with the ability to stand when you paddle or fish. Narrower kayaks are faster though because it cuts through calm and choppy conditions better.
Size also determines how easily you can lift the kayak and how you are going to store it. Make sure to consider the size of your storage area and vehicle when choosing the right kayak size and weight for you.
When making your purchase, it’s easy to think and say “oh, the transportation will just take a couple of minutes to the car so the weight doesn’t matter as much“.
What you’ll find over time is that you’ll just get lazier and lazier when it comes to actually taking on a trip because of these little inconveniences. It matters, unless you’re always in a 2 person crew, obviously.
Comfort and Storage Compartments
Consider how much legroom is available no matter if you’re short or tall. How big is the cockpit? A small one gives you more control while a bigger one makes it easier to get in and out. Does it have cushioned or adjustable seats? What about removable ones? Does it have a shock cord set up and fishing rod holders? Keep this in mind as this exposes your stuff to the elements. Do they have storage and hatches and are they waterproof? Bigger ones usually have two while smaller or recreational kayaks will only have one.
Warranty is typically used to cover the cost of repairs. However, we feel that most are overrated because nothing is going to happen to most kayaks and if something does, it will most probably be not related to the product.
Kayaking can be safer and more enjoyable with the use of certain accessories. For instance, a spray skirt helps protect you from the water and waves. A skeg, which is a detachable, retractable blade that helps you stabilize by balancing the kayak’s tendency to turn to the wind, can be helpful in windy conditions. A rudder, on the other hand, can be critical because it helps you control direction. Paddle holders can make a long trip more bearable especially with a fishing kayak or ocean kayak.
Why Get a Tandem Kayak
Tandem kayaks have many pros and cons but it all boils down to your preferences. The two main reasons why you might want to consider buying one though are:
Carry More People
If you wish to go kayaking with family and friends, then having a tandem kayak is a must. One person can sit on the front seat, called the bow cockpit, while the other one can sit at the back seat, which is also known as the stern end. There are a lot of other tandems that even have a third space. This space is usually small though and can just fit a small child or a dog.
Sometimes the paddling experience is more fun when there are two of you doing it. Plus, it can be easier too. You can share the job of paddling at the same time or you can take turns so that the other one can take a break. This also comes in handy when you’re multitasking and trying to do other activities, such as fishing or taking photos of the scenery.
Have More Storage for Gear
Alternatively, you can also use the extra space for storage of food, drinks, and equipment. Take note though that there is usually more space in two solo kayaks combined compared to one tandem kayak. But tandem kayaks can still carry around 1.5 times more equipment than a solo and are way more convenient to actually plan a trip with and take out on the water.
It is, however, not advisable to carry too much gear with you because it will just make it harder for you to paddle and to maneuver the kayak around. Again, the weight differences really add up fast and impact your performance.
Sit on Top vs Sit Inside Kayaks
Kayaks come in different types because they are made for different activities and user levels. One of the biggest decisions you will need to make is to choose between two cockpit designs: a sit-on-top or a sit-inside kayak. Both have pros and cons you need to consider.
A SOT or sit-on-top kayak is not enclosed and the paddler has to sit on top of the kayak, making it easier to get in and out. You don’t get a feeling of confinement because it gives you a higher center of gravity. The SOT is more user-friendly and is ideal for kids or more cautious paddlers and when you’re paddling through rough water or during warm weather. It’s also great when you want to swim or snorkel. They have scupper holes that help water drain right through the kayak easily. However, you are more likely to get wet easily in a SOT kayak so it’s not ideal in cold water.
On the other hand, paddlers are enclosed within a sit-inside kayak. This is the best option for those who want to keep their lower body from getting wet. This is because sit-inside kayaks have a lower cockpit and backrests. Spray skirts can also be used. Sit-inside kayaks are faster moving and are good for paddling in cooler water. The protective shell keeps you warm and safe through rough waters. However, the downside is that there is less mobility and it is harder to get in and out. Also, in case you flip, recovering will be more challenging.
Benefits of a Tandem Kayak
There are lots to love about tandem kayaks. Because of its size, it performs and cuts through water better as well as have more space for people and their gear. Below are some of the benefits of using tandem kayaks.
Capability to Bring Family or Friends
Family paddling is fun and easy even with young kids because tandem kayaks are bigger and stable enough to handle their wiggling. You can paddle together but where you sit a child will depend on his or her age and size. You can put one child in the front seat, while you sit in the back seat. Being in front lets your child enjoy the view more while allowing you to still see everything while you’re paddling at the back. Bigger kayaks can even allow you to sit a second child in the middle.
This is obviously one of the main benefits. While going with two kayaks may feel like the same thing, you’ll be more likely to wander off in different directions (even if by just a little bit) and less likely to actually keep a conversation going. Being just a little bit closer and “in the same boat” make the experience that much more personal and leads to amazing, memorable moments.
Capability to Bring a Dog
Instead of kids or friends, you can bring your dog with you instead. It won’t damage the boat at all. Some tandems have a third space where you can fit a handy, removable seat for your dog. You must ensure your dog’s safety though. Make sure that you put her in a pet life jacket. Also, keep the heat in mind and bring some water, food, and blanket among others, to keep her comfortable and to prevent her from getting stressed.
While this may seem a bit weird to some people – it’s quite individual. We’ve seen dogs who freak out, get bored or anxious and don’t enjoy it. My own Jack Russell terrier is one of the biggest fans I’ve ever seen for kayaking and doesn’t want to go home after I wrap up a trip. Give it a try before judging it!
In a tandem kayak, there are at least two paddlers. You can paddle together to share the load or you can paddle in shifts. Paddling in shifts allows one of you to take a break and provides the flexibility to do other things. You can take photos or fish while the other one paddles.
Tandem is the way to go if you want to pick up speed. Since there are at least two of you paddling, your teamwork will really power you ahead. The best way to achieve speed though is for both paddlers to paddle in unison. This way you will avoid clashing of paddles and at the same time help drive your kayak forward the quickest. For more efficient paddling, expertise should also be considered. Ideally, the stronger one sits at the back so that he or she can modify his or her strokes to keep the pace of the weaker paddler who is sitting at the bow.
Stability is key, especially when paddling through rough waters and when paddling with less experienced kayakers. The more stable, the better. In fact, stability is more important than speed when you lack the experience. A tandem is great for this because a much larger kayak is more stable than a smaller one. They can be more difficult to maneuver than single kayaks though, so you might want to consider a tandem kayak with a rudder and pedals for easier control.
You have the option to bring more equipment. However, keep in mind that it is not advisable to pack too much gear because it will slow you down. Remember to take the weight capacity of the kayak into consideration when you bring equipment with you.
A tandem kayak is also a great safety backup. In case you’re out with a group and someone gets too exhausted or sustains an injury for some reason, there is an empty seat for him or her. A tandem kayak can be powered even by just one paddler. This a lot easier compared to towing another single kayak with the incapacitated person on board.
Tandem kayaks are more expensive than single ones. However, it is still a lot cheaper than buying two solos. In the end, you’d have to consider this purchase as a long-term investment.
The 7 Best Tandem Kayaks in 2020
Ready to search for the tandem kayak that’s right for you?
We’ve gone through every model that is common and taken them out on the water. Not only that, we’ve chatted with experts who organize kayaking tours, gotten their feedback, talked with dozens of people from our audiences and had our friends and family help out with the research.
Here are the 7 best options on the market after all of that:
- Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
- Intex Challenger K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
- Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 120T
- Lifetime 10 Foot, Two Person Tandem Sit-on Kayak with Padded Backrests
- Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
- Lifetime 10 Foot, Two Person Tandem Fishing Kayak with Paddles
- Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Sit-in Kayak
1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
This is a yellow-colored inflatable tandem kayak set with aluminum oars and high output air pump. It has an adjustable inflatable seat with backrest, a removable skeg, a Boston valve on each side, an inflatable I-beam floor, a repair patch kit, and a US Coast Guard I.D.
- Lightweight and compact
- Directional stability
- Easy inflation and deflation
- Increased visibility due to its color
We don't like
- Made only for smaller bodies of water
- Storage is limited when two people are paddling
- Paddles are non-adjustable
2. Intex Challenger K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
This is a two-person inflatable kayak set with aluminum oars and high output air pump. It has hard plastic skegs, inflatable seats with backrests, 2 quick-fill and fast-deflate Boston valves and inflatable I-beam floor. It is also US Coast Guard I.D. – TUV approved.
- Lightweight and compact
- Streamlined design for easy paddling
- Increased visibility due to color
We don't like
- Can't be used in strong and rough waters
- Paddles are non-adjustable
3. Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 120T
This is a two-person sit-on-top kayak with 2 paddles and a 3-position hero seat. It includes 2 flush-mount rod holders and 4 integrated gear racks. It comes with a limited lifetime manufacturer’s warranty for defects and a one-year on parts attached to the kayak.
- Can fit up to three people
- Roomy cockpit
- Big storage space
- Bigger weight capacity
- Great for fishing
We don't like
- Very heavy
- Great stability and tracking due to hull design
- Lightweight and durable
- Great weight capacity at 500 pounds
- Comfortable, contoured seats
We don't like
- Durability of paddles are not impressive
5. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
This kayak has three seat allocations and features high support, adjustable padded seats. It has built-in aluminum ribs that define the bow and stern and three layers of material for extreme puncture resistance. It comes already pre-assembled at the factory. This is personally my favorite and definitely deserves the title of the best tandem kayak out of all of the ones we have tested.
- Versatile - can be converted for solo use
- Good tracking
- Durable - aluminum frame makes it very rigid
- Includes a zippable spray skirt
We don't like
- Takes longer to set up and dry
6. Lifetime 10 Foot, Two Person Tandem Fishing Kayak with Paddles
This is a two-person tandem fishing kayak with paddles that can sit up to three. It is made with high-density UV-protected polyethylene HDPE construction. Its features include multiple footrest positions, 2 double-sided paddles, paddle clips, 2 padded backrests, 3 fishing pole holders, and a 6’ storage hatch.
- Extremely stable, allows you to stand
- Great tracking
- Great for fishing
- Great weight capacity
We don't like
- Not very fast
- Heavy for one person
- Possible visibility problems in low light due to its olive-green color
7. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Sit-in Kayak
This is sit-in kayak is made using rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex High-Density Polyethylene. It features a large open cockpit with an adjustable padded seat with high back support. Other features include adjustable foot braces, carrying handles for easier portage and a convenient storage hatch and water bottle holder.
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Great tracking and stability
- Spacious and comfortable
We don't like
- Very limited storage
- Best for flat water only
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