Welcome to my best tandem kayaks review for 2020.

I believe tandem kayaking is one of life’s best outdoor experiences. But man, you can get in REAL TROUBLE REAL QUICKLY with the wrong vessel and equipment.

I’ve put my own life at risk by making stupid mistakes (read my story below), and I’ve seen others put their lives at risk by buying THE WRONG KAYAK.

I put 40+ hours of hands-on research into this review. And all of it is backed by my 5+ years of experience in tandem and solo.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

You DO NOT WANT to get stuck in rough waters with 20mph winds in a 10-foot boat. Trust me.

In this guide I’ll show you:

  • How to choose a boat that keeps you both safe
  • How to determine which boat you need based on simple criteria
  • The rookie mistake that put my and my partner’s lives in danger
  • The top watercrafts on the market plus affordable alternatives
  • A complete buying guide to make sure you choose the perfect vessel
  • Helpful accessories that might come in handy

OK, ready? Let’s find you the perfect 2-person kayak.

My First Tandem Kayak (the Waves Weren’t Supposed to Be That High…)

I’ll never forget my first trip to the outfitters near my home. I had $500 and was ready to do some kayaking!

My girlfriend and I wanted to go together. Actually, I was pretty sure I was going to do the kayaking while she watched birds through her binoculars…but anyways.

We didn’t care that everyone called them “divorce boats.” I was going to be doing most of the paddling anyway, so we’d get along just fine.

The guy asked me “What kind of kayak do you need?”

…I had no idea.

best tandem kayak please

I had been kayaking a bunch of times, but I always just took my dad’s out on the river, so I never gave it a second thought.

I told the guy my budget, and he looked at me and said “You can’t just buy based on your budget. You have to know what you need it for.”

I didn’t know anything about that. I just knew I wanted one of these double boats that’s all.

I shrugged him off and ended up getting some cheap-o recreational Pescador. The thing was barely 10-feet long.

We were staying on a big lake and I’m a fairly strong dude, so I wasn’t worried. Worse comes to worst, we’re close to shore and I love a good swim.

BIG MISTAKE

Guess what?

A 10-foot kayak made for little ponds and creeks doesn’t do so well in a giant lake. Who’d have thought that?

The wind felt like Mike Tyson punching me all over the ring.

The waves WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THAT HIGH!

We could barely keep control of the boat. I’m sure my girlfriend was thinking “divorce boat” the whole time.

My short, chubby little Pescador couldn’t handle the wind and waves. Instead of bird watching, we were watching the floor making sure no water was coming in.

Then the winds kicked up to nearly 20mph. That’s when things got HORRIFYING.

It doesn’t matter how strong you are, you CAN’T overpower winds like that in a short boat.

The water was hitting us fast and we barely had control of the kayak.

Thankfully we were close enough to shore that we never were really in red-alert danger, but things were still very scary. At the very least, our weekend was ruined. If we’d been in-shore fishing or further out into the lake, I might not be writing this article for you.

Long story short, you need to know the right type of kayak for what you want to do, and you need something sturdy and reliable so you don’t get caught in the middle of a lake fighting Mike Tyson-strength winds. You will go down for the count.

OK, enough doom and gloom. Kayaking is a ton of fun, especially if you do it right. Here are my favorite divorce boats…err…double kayaks plus a complete guide to buying the right one for you.

Test Results: The 7 Best Tandem Kayaks 2020 Based on 40+ Hours of Research

TLDR; The 7 Best Tandem Kayaks Are:

  1. Intex Excursion Pro Kayak K2 – the Best Tandem Kayak Overall
  2. Intex Challenger – the Best Cheap Tandem Kayak
  3. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-on-Top Recreational Kayak – the Swiss Army Knife Tandem
  4. Advanced Elements Straightedge – the Best Inflatable Tandem for Serious Kayakers
  5. Intex Explorer k2 Kayak – a Step up From the Challenger
  6. Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 – the Best Tandem Kayak for Families
  7. Perception Tribe 13.5 Sit on Top Tandem Kayak: The Most Comfortable Kayak I Tried

1) Intex Excursion Pro Kayak K2 – the Best Tandem Kayak Overall

Overview: The best starter tandem kayak. The perfect mix of price, durability, comfort, and functionality. Ready to go in 15 minutes, super durable under MOST conditions, and easy enough to paddle without any experience from either driver. You get most of the perks of a $1,000 tandem for half the price, and it won’t tip or sink in most types of water.

Pros

  • Unbeatable value for money
  • Extra strong inflatable raft
  • Convenient and easy to steer
  • Perfect starter set
  • Strong enough for most water

Cons

  • Not as much storage as I like
  • No molded footwells for comfort
  • Paddles cause problems for tall or short people
  • Not as stable as a solid material kayak (obviously)

After 40+ hours of research, the Intex Excursion Pro K2 comes out ahead of all challengers as the best mix of durability, comfort, usability, and ease of transport.

You’ll have everything you need to have a fun and exciting trip on basically any recreational terrain. And it’ll be ready to go “out-of-the-box” in 15 minutes or less. There’s no other inflatable tandem this size that’s ready that fast.

This is not “A” starter tandem kayak. It’s “THE” starter tandem kayak that every group of friends or couple buys on their first try.

Intex is the best name in the inflatable kayak game. They design their vessels to be tough enough to handle saltwater and heavy sunlight, but comfortable enough that you feel like you’re sitting on an ergonomic pillow.

I’ve always struggled with back problems but felt perfectly fine even after 2 hours on rough water.

If you’re looking for the perfect, affordable double kayak for basic recreation and a bit of adventure, just get it now. You’ll be happy you did.

Honestly, it is inflatable, so it’s not perfect.

But here’s why I recommend it over every other vessel:

  • More convenient than all challengers: The set comes with everything you need for your adventure and it’s ready to hit the water in 15 minutes.
  • More resistant to Mother Nature: I’ll never say “this ship can’t sink,” but unlike pretty much every inflatable kayak out there, this is 3-ply rubberized textile instead of plastic. It’s sturdy enough for any conditions and abrasion-resistant.
  • More stable in all waters: This bad boy is 12’7, so no 10-foot worries here. You get a shallow and deep-water skeg to stabilize the boat, so you can fight those Mike Tyson winds on creeks, rivers, lakes, and even shallow open ocean. No divorce attorney needed!

All that extra space leaves plenty of room for some gear, your child, or even a pet (just make sure to bring pet supplies and a cover for the sun, please).

Now for some honest critiques

This is a very affordable inflatable vessel, so it’s obviously not perfect.

Here’s what you might not like:

  • The bow and stern are lacking adequate storage and webbing, so you won’t be able to store much at all.
  • I had no problem with the paddles but there are a few complaints on Amazon.com. The biggest issue seems to be that they aren’t adjustable. That could be a problem, but only if you’re super tall or super small. Please don’t let your kids paddle.

Also, keep in mind that this is a sit-in INFLATABLE raft. It’s not meant to get through the perfect storm, and I highly recommend you do not take this on a serious, rough fishing trip. This is the perfect RECREATION tandem.

If you need something for pros or for fishing in rough waters, keep reading.

Length: 12’7

Max Capacity: 400 pounds/180KG

Type: Inflatable sit-in

Material: Laminate PVC

Paddles: Yes

Check price on amazon

2) Intex Challenger – the Best Cheap Tandem Kayak

Overview: The entry-level model for budget shoppers. Think of it as the cheapest way to get your feet wet without actually getting them too wet (like sinking or tipping over). This is as cheap as you can get while still being seaworthy, safe, and fun. If you don’t expect much, you’ll love it. Perfect for a budget camping trip for beginner kayakers.

Pros

  • Laughably cheap
  • Vinyl but durable
  • Easy to paddle for beginners
  • Perfect for a nice day on the lake
  • Ready to go in 10 minutes

Cons

  • Durable… but vinyl is vinyl
  • Can’t go very fast
  • A bit hard to steer, so not good for complex waters

I’m not a fan of cheap, but I have to make this exception.

The Intex Challenger is cheap, convenient, and very easy to paddle (no divorce!) while still being durable enough to handle most creeks, rivers, and small lakes. And it all comes at a fraction of the price of most other quality models. Buy it, cut your chops, get good, then sell it on Craigslist. You’ll make most of your money back and you can reinvest in a badass one in 3 months.

You get to kayak instantly, spend pretty much nothing, and get an awesome one when you’re ready with more savings. That’s called winning, baby.

Toss it in the back of your car, head down to the lake with a friend, and bring your dog too. There’s plenty of room. You’ll be inflated and on the water in 10 minutes.

You won’t find anything even remotely close to this quality at this price point. I told you Intex was the best name in the game, remember?

If you’re looking for an easy, 100% safe tandem for light recreational use with your family, this is the most popular option.

Don’t listen to companies telling you that you need to spend a thousand dollars to have a fun and safe experience. We were out on a slow-moving creek for a good 2 hours and never lost control or felt in any danger – very rare with cheap tandems. The skeg helps keep you stable even going relatively fast (~3 miles/hour).

Honestly, I’m a bit of a snob, but I’d happily take this out for a few hours on a slow creek or river. Why spend hundreds of dollars more when you don’t have to?

It’s a fairly cheap inflatable vessel, so it’s all about expectations. If you’re looking for an afternoon of leisure where one of you sleeps, it’s a no brainer. If you need something that handles rough waters, skip it.

A few hundred dollars buys you:

  • Plenty of legroom for regular-sized people. My legs never fell asleep like they usually do in small inflatables. Most cheap tandems feel like sitting 2nd-class on a budget flight to Florida.
  • A complete set that’s ready for a long day on the water in less than 10 minutes.
  • Decently comfortable inflatable seats.
  • A skeg to keep you stable in the water.
  • Extra storage space for your dog’s food or a small bit of camping equipment.

Here’s what you need to know before buying:

  • It can go fast FOR A CHEAP TANDEM. But anything over 4mph starts to get squirrely.
  • The material is very durable, but it’s not super puncture-resistant. DO NOT take this in very rocky water and be very careful while inflating it.
  • It’s over 11 feet long but still not strong enough for rough waters or conditions in my opinion.

VERDICT: Perfect for a recreational day out in smooth (not rocky) water with your partner or friend, especially if you’re newbies on a budget. It’s easy to paddle so you won’t kill each other, and it’s stable enough to avoid flipping over in smooth conditions. Just don’t take it into open ocean or rough, complex terrain.

Length: 11’6

Max Capacity: 400 pounds/180KG

Type: Inflatable sit-in

Material: Vinyl

Paddles: Yes

Check price on amazon

3) Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-on-Top Recreational Kayak – the Swiss Army Knife Tandem

Overview: A super stable, durable, and flexible tandem for intermediate to advanced kayakers who want to take on any and all terrain. The super-wide body makes it like a bunker during a tornado—you won’t feel a thing even in tough conditions.

Pros

  • Heavy and stable for peace of mind
  • Hard to tip over
  • Versatile – good in any water
  • Tougher than PVC
  • Comfortable enough to sit in all day
  • Solo/Tandem design

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Hard to transport
  • No paddles included

Behold! The Swiss Army Knife of kayak tandems. This flexible design supports both tandem AND solo paddling (in case your partner kicks you out after fighting all day).

It’s comfortable and spacious enough to laze about on the pond all day and rugged enough to handle any creek, river rapid, lake, and even the open ocean 100% safely.  The polyethylene makes it virtually indestructible in normal conditions.

With the Malibu, there are no boundaries. Take your wife, take your dog, take supplies, or just start living in the damn thing!

We were out all day on a lake full of boats and it barely flinched even in massive wakes. And I took it out solo on coastal waters—still totally fine.

Here’s why…

The extra-wide design and heavier weight keeps it more stable than the Swiss economy.

Getting in? It stays still (no embarrassing and dangerous tip-overs).

Hit a wake? It stays still.

Those Mike Tyson Winds? She’s still. Just keep paddling.

Above all, the Malibu’s best feature is probably peace of mind. There’s nothing like worry-free kayaking, especially when you’re with your partner. Of course, keep things within reason. Don’t go white water rafting with it or jump over waterfalls. For pretty much everything else you’ll be fine.

NOTE: A kayak is only as good as your skill

A wide, stable kayak provides a much safer experience than an inflatable one, but don’t get it in over your head. If you can’t handle the open ocean, don’t do it. Remember, things can get real rough real quick.

My favorite features:

  • You can park a jumbo jet in it: 12 feet long and nearly 3 feet wide leaves plenty of space for a pet, supplies, or extra gear.
  • Holds its course well: This thing tracks like a dream. It takes a major force to knock it off course (that might make it a bit hard to turn sometimes….)
  • The Swiss Army Knife of kayaks: Fishing, leisure, touring, napping, an afternoon drink with the friend—this kayak can do it all. Try it solo, tandem, or even with 3 people.

BONUS: When you paddle solo, there’s so much extra room you can just park it in the shade and take a well-deserved nap.

Now for the downsides

  • It’s heavy: It’s nearly 60 pounds. That’s great when the winds are kicking, but not too fun when trying to lift it on an SUV. Speaking of that…
  • It’s big: It’s NOT EASY to transport. You’ll need a decent-sized car or else you’ll have to park it somewhere.
  • It’s not a set: Paddles are not included.

Length: 12’

Max Capacity: 425 pounds/192KG

Type: Hardshell sit-in

Material: high-density polyethylene

Paddles: no

Check price on Amazon

4) Advanced Elements Straightedge – the Best Inflatable Tandem for Serious Kayakers

Overview: A top of the line inflatable tandem for serious kayakers hellbent on taking on everything from the open ocean to tough rapids. She handles everything from class III waters to coastal bays to rough beach waters without flinching, and she inflates in about 15 minutes.

Pros

  • The rapids killer
  • Extra long
  • Almost as tough as a hardshell
  • Aluminum rib cage for greater stability

Cons

  • Price
  • Tough to handle for beginners
  • Not a complete set

The Advanced Elements Straightedge is by far the best inflatable tandem for serious kayakers, and it’s not even close.

13-feet long, 500-pound capacity, and the first-ever “self-bailing” inflatable with aluminum “ribs” in the bow and stern—this is the perfect kayak for anything from class III waters (heavy rapids) to open ocean.

That means you can pack this thing up, go to the most remote locations, and handle any class III or below waters with improved stability, durability, and trackability, and still get all the benefits of comfort in open waters.

It’s long, durable, and has metal ribs for improved stability—bring on wild nature!

NOTE: The football field-like length makes it the perfect vessel for tall, large, or otherwise awkwardly sized people (I don’t mean fat!). I never felt cramped.

Why you need self-bailing kayaks for rough waters

Self-bailing basically means the boat rids itself of water in white water situations. As you pass through the rapids, any water that spills in from the outside if automatically “filtered” out. Without them, the water would fill up the kayak, and you’d be in a very “get-me-the-hell-out-of-here” situation.

Here are some important notes from my test run:

  • Strong but convenient: Inflates in about 20 minutes or less with a battery-powered air pump.
  • Inflatable but feels like a hard shell: This is as close to a hardshell as it gets in the inflatable market.
  • Thin but stable: The metal ribs in the bow and stern mean you can handle anything from rapids to lakes.
  • Tough but comfortable: The extra-thick PVC keeps you safe and stable, but the foldable seats and extra legroom keep you comfortable even when the waters get rough.

As far as drawbacks, I have to start with the price. It’s quite a bit more expensive than the Malibu. And just like the Malibu, it doesn’t come as a set, so no paddles. But I’m not really sure that should matter, since it isn’t for beginners.

If you want an inflatable brick house that can handle rapids, get this.

Check price on Amazon

5) Intex Explorer k2 Kayak – a Step up From the Challenger

Overview: The Intex Explorer is a solid step up from the Challenger but still cheap enough that anyone can afford it. If you’re on a budget but want to handle rougher waters without losing control, this is for you.

Pros

  • More stable and rugged than the Challenger
  • Handles more types of water
  • Better design than the Challenger
  • More comfortable than the Challenger

Cons

  • Shorter than normal
  • More expensive
  • Lighter than normal

The Intex Explorer is like the Challenger, but it’s a big step up in almost every way.

I found it tougher, more comfortable, and better at handling tough waters (a grade 2 river). And it’s just as easy to inflate. That means you get a better experience and a wider range of options without sacrificing speed or convenience.

If you’re on a budget but need something that can handle rougher waters for longer periods of time, go with this one and not the Challenger.

The inflatable seats feel like milk chocolate on your back. I could handle a good 2 hours before I felt cramped. Plus, the oars are 86” aluminum, so they’ll last longer and make it easier to get around on faster currents.

The reason it’s more durable and stable is you get the I-beam floor for rigidity and a 3rd air chamber. Both contribute to keeping you straight and stable when the waters get rough.

There are some drawbacks though:

  • Shorter than normal: There’s less room, and it might not handle as well with those Mike Tyson winds.
  • More expensive: It’s a good deal more expensive than the Challenger (but still cheaper than the Excursion Pro).
  • Not very Rugged: The 3rd chamber provides stability, but it’s still vinyl, so it’s not good for shallow water.

Verdict: The Explorer is a clear upgrade from the Challenger. It’ll make your experience way more fun and give you more options without sacrificing convenience. The squeeze is a bit tighter, though, and it’s a big step up in price.

Length: 10’3

Max Capacity: 400 pounds/180KG

Type: Inflatable sit-in

Material: Vinyl

Paddles: Yes

Check price on Amazon

6) Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 – the Best Tandem Kayak for Families

Overview: The #1 family-safe kayak. Perfect for a day on the river, camping trip, or any other family outing. Fits the whole family snugly and safely while still keeping things fun and exciting.

Pros

  • 650 lbs capacity for the whole family
  • Dual skegs for greater stability
  • Super easy to handle
  • Plenty of space for your gear

Cons

  • Not the fastest boat
  • Not built for tough water
  • Made for beginners (could be good or bad)

The Sea Eagle 370 is the perfect family tandem and the ultimate camping kayak! Now, your family can enjoy a safe, stable, and ultra-comfortable day on the lake even if you’ve never paddled a kayak before (~0% chance of divorce).

This is the only tandem on my list specifically designed to carry extra weight, add extra space, and be more stable on the water, so you can enjoy a fun-filled day without arguing or worrying about tipping over.

Sea Eagle isn’t about speed or aesthetics—it’s about fitting your family and your gear and giving you a 100% worry-free lazy day on the water with your kids, dog, and a cooler full of…whatever you’d like to put in it. This is the anti-divorce tandem that families need for their camping trips.

Features:

  • Stay safe all day: Tipping? Spinning in circles? Not with two skegs on the bottom you won’t. Genius! Now you can have better tracking, speed, and stability than any single skeg model.
  • Bring the whole family: This big boy can handle 650 pounds of family, so you can bring 2 small kids and the dog (unless he’s a real chonker).
  • Stop worrying about divorce: This boat is sleek and easy to handle, so your relationship won’t teeter over the edge!

Obviously, this isn’t something to take in heavy waters or a vessel I’d want for an experienced kayaker. It’s not going to be as fast or easy to maneuver as something sleeker. But for a lazy family day, there’s nothing better on the market.

Check price on amazon

BONUS MENTION

7) Perception Tribe 13.5 Sit on Top Tandem Kayak: The Most Comfortable Kayak I Tried

Overview: The ultimate comfort experience for taller or larger (not fat!) people. For kayakers who are tired of feeling cramped and want the ultimate in leisure while still taking on some tougher conditions with confidence.

Pros

  • Ergonomic design for max comfort
  • Molded knee and thigh room so you never feel uncomfortable or cramped
  • Extra store tanks with tie-downs
  • Tough enough for coastal bays or beaches
  • Extra legroom – 13.5-feet long

Cons

  • Not thick
  • Fills with water in choppy conditions
  • Expensive
  • Difficult to transport

Attention kayakers looking for the most comfortable all-day kayaking experience.

I give you The Perception Tribe 13.5: the ultimate ergonomic kayak. Designed for max comfort even if you’re tall, fat, square, round, or octo-limbed.

It’s the first kayak I’ve tried with ergonomic backrests, ergonomic molded knee and thigh areas, and integrated footrests for kayakers of all different sizes. PLUS it’s 13.5-feet long, making it longer than any other product on the list.

Here’s what I loved about the Perception Tribe:

  • Finally breathe: The unique Comfort Seating System has BREATHABLE seating. It was such a relief to sweat so little. I never felt sticky.
  • Stay straight: The sleek, hard-shell hull cut through choppy waters with ease. I never worried about tracking.
  • Turns on a dime: I made every bend so easily I didn’t even think about it.
  • Load her up: I had more than enough secure storage for everything I needed. I tried to overload it and couldn’t.

Now, for what you might not like:

Perception says this is fine for beginners, but I think it’s overkill. If comfort is that important to you, then be my guest, but it might be a bit tough to handle or a bit too expensive.

And second, I definitely don’t recommend this for rapids or heavy conditions. It fills up with water no matter what you do.

If that’s not important to you, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Check price on Amazon

Closing Thoughts

As someone with years of experience, I’d buy the Advanced Elements Straightedge or the Malibu.

But chances are, you don’t actually need it. As long as you plan to stick to easy waters, you’ll be fine with any of the Intex models. I highly recommend spending the extra money to get the Excursion Pro—it’s worth every penny. That’s why I put it at #1.

If you absolutely must save the money, then the Challenger will get you on the water as cheap as possible without risking your life or marriage.

You can’t go wrong with any of these models though!

Thanks, and happy kayaking!

Tandem Kayak Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Tandem Kayak

When I went to the outfitters to buy my first tandem, I had no clue what I needed—just a budget and an itch to get on the water.

Big mistake.

That will get you in some DEEP WATER, and I AM NOT BEING METAPHORICAL.

Over the years, I’ve found these criteria to be the most important:

Single Kayak vs. Tandem Kayak: Do You Really Need a Tandem?

Listen, they don’t call them divorce boats for nothing.

You have to ask yourself: “Do I really want a tandem, or are two single kayaks better?”

Single kayaks give you and your friend or partner way more flexibility, and you won’t be getting in each other’s hair all day. If one of you wants to take a break, they can. If you want to go to a different side of the lake, cool let’s meet later. With a tandem, you’re married whether you like it or not.

Actually, I find that a lot of readers tell me they bought an expensive tandem only to wish they’d bought two single kayaks instead. Then they go and spend $800 more on singles.

Don’t make that mistake.

I recommend tandems in these situations:

  • For families with small children
  • When you’re looking for a couple’s activity
  • When you only plan for calm waters (tandems make it easier)
  • When you’ve conquered single kayaking and want a new challenge

Single kayaks will give you a lot more freedom, and they’re a lot easier to transport. Plus, if you’re both good, you can ride side by side anyway.

Think wisely.

Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-Inside: Which Do You Need?

Believe it or not, this is a huge decision. It’s not life or death, but it could determine how much fun your trip is.

In my experience, sit-insides are more comfortable and better for leisure kayaking.

Sit-on-tops are better for fishing and scuba diving. The design makes it easy to jump in and out of and gives an angler a better view of the surrounding waters.

OK, and now for a super important tip:

If you’re going in cold water, I highly recommend a SIT-INSIDE kayak.

You do not want cold water splashing on you all day. There is no way to stay dry with a sit-on-top. Sit-insides will keep your drier and warmer.

PRO TIP: Sit-insides are usually easier to paddle. You can brace your legs against the sides of the kayak and get extra power behind every stroke. Keep that in mind.

Inflatable vs. Rigid: Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

Let’s get this out of the way first: Yes, inflatable kayaks are safe IF you get a good model.

Cheap ones are not puncture-resistant. I’ve seen people puncture their inflatables WHILE inflating them on the river bank.

That sucks…

But if you get one of the better-known models, you’ll be just fine.

Here are a few pros and cons of each:

Inflatables

Pros

  • Cheaper
  • Super easy to transport (cheap to fly!)
  • Pretty much no upkeep aside from puncture repairs
  • In GENERAL, more comfortable

Cons

  • Not as durable
  • Easier to tip
  • Harder to maneuver
  • Takes time to inflate

Hardshell  

Pros

  • Stronger
  • Longer-lasting
  • Easier to maneuver
  • Can handle rougher waters

Cons

  • Maintenance
  • Hard to transport
  • In general, less comfortable
  • Difficult/expensive to store

My general advice is this:

If you’re serious about some real kayaking, get a hardshell. They’ll last forever and give you way more options and protection. If you want to get a tandem for fun, inflatables are just fine.

Tandem Kayak Size: Which One Should I Buy?

Tandem size matters.

What fun is a trip where your partner’s knuckles keep hitting the back of your head every time they row?

Seriously, though. Size affects speed, stability, maneuverability, and storage space. Before you make a decision, make sure you know what to get. Here’s an easy guideline to ensure you get the right size for your trip.

It’s easiest to think of it as a series of questions. Let’s pretend I work for an outfitter.

How tall are you?

Seriously. It’s not a dating app question. I mean it for your tandem.

Because if you’re 6 feet + and your partner is roughly the same size, a 10-foot kayak isn’t going to cut it. An 11.5-foot probably won’t either.

Trust me, even if you fit inside, your legs will fall asleep within an hour and you’re going to have a bad time.

If you’re both relatively tall people, just get a 12+ foot kayak. It’s worth it.

OK, moving along.

  • Where are you going?: If you’re staying in still waters and not fighting an angry Mother Nature, a shorter boat will do just fine. If you want to have a leisurely day on a lake, 10 feet is enough. If you’re going to coastal bays or the open ocean, you need at least a 12-footer.
  • Speed or maneuverability?: Longer boats are faster but also harder to turn. Winding rivers require quick turns, so get a shorter boat. If you’re in the open ocean or a lake and want to go fast, go for 12+ feet.

How long are you going for?: If you’re going for the afternoon, anything will do. If you plan a multi-day trip, a longer kayak will be more comfortable and can fit more supplies.

Tandem Kayak Accessories: What Should I Bring With Me?

I’ve been out enough times to know what you absolutely must bring and what is just a waste of money.

What’s the point of spending hundreds of dollars on a tandem kayak if you’re going to ruin the trip anyway?

Might as well invest a little bit extra and have a great—AND SAFE—time.

Here are a few of the best accessories:

Personal Flotation Device – Must Have!

A personal flotation device could be all that stands between you and a tragedy. They are absolute lifesavers.

Unlike lifejackets, PFDs are made with buoyant material, so there’s no need to inflate them.

This saves time in emergency situations and avoids the risk of a lifejacket not deploying.

It takes a split second for things to go wrong in rough waters. Don’t become another statistic.

The one I use is from Stohlquist. Their men’s PFD is one of the most popular on Amazon. It’s so comfortable you won’t even realize you’re wearing it. Actually, some recreational areas might not even let you on the water unless you have a PFD. Might as well get a comfy and affordable one.

Kayak Rudder

Remember that time I got caught in Mike Tyson winds in a small boat?

I wish I had a rudder.

This little guy attaches to the bottom of your tandem or the stern. It goes side to side AND up and down. That’ll give you way more stability and control.

Controlling a tandem is a lot harder than a single, especially with two novices fighting each other. A rudder on the bottom will help keep you both steady no matter how bad your paddling skills are.

The Borogo kayak rudder is a good cheap one that will cost less than the price of dinner.

Paddles

Hey, the boat’s not going to drive itself.

Most of the paddles that come with cheap kits are just fine, but if you want to have some serious fun, you’ll need a good paddle.

Actually, your paddle is the second most important factor overall. It affects how fast, comfortable, and maneuverable you’ll be on the water.

Here’s what to take into account:

  • Length: How wide is your boat? If you have a long paddle with a skinny boat, it’ll be hard to maneuver. Ditto if your boat is wide and your paddle is short. REI recommends paddles from 220 – 250 cm for “average height” people.
  • Weight: Pick a lightweight paddle. Trust me. Your arms will thank you. Fiberglass is a step up from plastic and still super affordable. If you want a killer paddle that’s light and will increase your speed and driving power, check out this carbon fiber paddle from Best, my favorite paddle manufacturer.

Shape: Bent shaft paddles are way easier to handle and reduce stress on your muscles and joints. That way you won’t be so tired and sore after a day out. Definitely worth the money if you’re going to be out all day.

F.A.Q

Q: Should I buy a tandem kayak?

A: Yes, you definitely should buy a tandem kayak if you want to go out with a friend or partner. They aren’t nearly as bad as their “divorce boat” reputation makes it seem. Just be ready to paddle with another person.

Q: What are the top-rated kayaks?

A: The top-rated kayaks vary from person to person, but the most successful names among seasoned kayakers are Old Town, BKC, Sea Eagle, Lifetime Sport, and Ocean. Personally, I think Intex is the best name in the tandem kayak business.

Q: Are tandem kayaks faster?

A: No, tandem kayaks are not faster. They’re larger and heavier than single kayaks, so it’s hard to go fast unless both paddlers are strong and experienced.

Q: What is the best two-person fishing kayak?

A: The best two-person fishing kayak is definitely the Ocean Malibu. It’s fast, stable, and has plenty of room for storing gear like rod holders. Anglers can take it anywhere from rivers and lakes to the open ocean. Definitely worth the money if you’re going fishing!

Q: Can one person handle a tandem kayak?

A: Yes, one person can handle a tandem kayak if the kayak has a solo option. Tandems typically allow you to remove one seat and position another seat in the middle of the boat, turning it into a single kayak. Make sure to choose a tandem with both tandem and solo options if you want to paddle alone.

Q: How much weight can a double kayak hold?

A: A double kayak can typically hold up to a few hundred pounds, but it depends on the model. Some can handle 400 pounds, but stronger boats can handle up to 600!

Q: Where should the heavier person sit in a kayak?

A: The heavier person should sit in the back to stabilize the tandem better. However, your goal should be to distribute the weight as evenly as possible. That will give you the smoothest ride. So if one person is significantly heavier than the other, try to add extra weight in the front to balance out (e.g. move your supplies to the front of the tandem).