How to Pick a Kayak

Your essential guide to finding the right kayak for your individual needs.

A Kayak is a kayak, is a kayak, right?


A lot of newbies in the world of kayaking want to know how to pick a kayak. The answer to that question could be simple, but only if you’ve done some homework and determined your specific needs and preferences.

In this post, we’ll be showing you how to pick a kayak, what to look for in a great kayak, and how you need to go about the task of investing in the best for your specific style of kayaking. When we’ve given you the most important of information, we’ll also be showing you what our favorite picks of the kayak market look like.

KayakLengthInflatable/Solid RatingPrice
Advanced Elements AE1012-R (AdvancedFrame)10' 5"Inflatable$
Malibu Kayaks Stealth 1414'4"Solid$$
Perception R15 Pescador 12.0 12'Solid$$$
Sun Dolphin Aruba 1010'Solid$

The Different Types of Kayaks

The type of kayak you’ll be investing in should mainly be determined by considering the waters where you plan to kayak, and also the durations of time you’ll be spending out on the water. Obviously, the way you transport your kayak will also be essential to keep in mind.

All kayaks come available in solo and tandem options. Let’s have a look at the various kinds of kayaks available on the market…


1. Recreational Kayaks

These vessels are great for folks that plan on using them for relaxed paddling on calm waters. They’re also budget-friendly and they don’t require you to read a complicated user manual before you can actually use them. Newbies and casual paddlers love recreational kayaks for their stability, but they aren’t the best option for folks that want to take on open waters or nasty weather conditions.

You should keep in mind that recreational kayaks don’t offer a lot of storage space on board, which means that they were made with day-trips in mind. As far as size goes, expect recreational kayaks to measure in at about 10 to 12 feet in length.

Fishing kayaks also form part of the recreational kayak category. The exception to the rule is that fishing kayaks have been designed with anglers in mind, and they sport specific features which make angling from a kayak that much easier. If you’re looking for some pointers regarding the best fishing kayak, head down to our recommendation section of this post.


  • They don’t keep straight lines
  • They can be tricky to bail out when flipped over
  • They are often heavy because they’re mostly made of polyethylene plastics.


These Kayaks Are Perfect For:
  • Newbies
  • Budget-conscious, casual paddlers
  • Folks that don’t need a lot of onboard storage space


2. Touring Kayaks

As the name implies, touring kayaks are the more serious version of recreational kayaks. These vessels are great for paddlers that enjoy excursions on the open waters, and also those who need performance backing them in the toughest of conditions. Do keep in mind that touring kayaks are more expensive than their recreational counterparts, but they’re much more versatile. Measuring in anywhere between 12 and 17 feet in length, touring kayaks have better lift in waves and the rougher water conditions. They also track better because they’re often fitted with either a skeg or a rudder, sometimes both.


  • More expensive than recreational kayaks
  • Longer in length
  • Cockpit may feel confining since it’s built to optimize paddling efficiency
These Kayaks Are Perfect For:
  • Folks that need a lot of storage space
  • Paddlers who prefer kayaks that trek better
  • Kayakers who take on open waters and extended-length trips


3. Modular Kayaks

If you’re always on the move, a modular kayak might be what you need. These kayaks are easy to transport, yet offer you the performance characteristics of hard-shell kayaks. These vessels snap apart in 2 or 3 sections, making them easy to transport and store away when not in use.


  • Modular kayaks don’t offer great trekking
  • They might not be ideal for touring applications
  • They might not be as durable as any of the other kayaks we already discussed
These Kayaks Are Perfect For:
  • Kayakers who need a vessel that’s easy to transport and store
  • Paddlers that don’t have a lot of space for storing or transporting their kayaks
  • Folks who need a versatile and budget-friendly option


4. Sit-On-Top Kayaks

SOT kayaks are generally aimed at the beginners of the kayaking world. With their sealed hulls and molded depressions at the top for sitting, they are comfortable and functional. Boarding these vessels is super easy, but since these kayaks are wider than sit-in kayaks, they might be too big for the more professional paddlers.


  • Sit-on-top kayaks expose the bodies of paddlers to the cold, making them less suitable for colder climates.
  • Some SOT kayaks are very long and wide, making them hard to transport
  • They’re not great for touring kayak expeditions
These Kayaks Are Great For:
  • Beginners who need a stable kayak
  • Folks that require convenient features such as self-bailing drain holes
  • Kayakers that paddle in warmer climates


5. Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatables are growing more popular by the day in the kayaking world, and it’s mostly because of their convenience. Because these kayaks are super easy to transport and store, they’re perfect for recreational use, but might not be the best option for regular use.


  • Not as durable as polyethylene plastic kayaks
  • Not as easy to paddle as regular kayaks
  • Can’t reach the speeds that other kayak types are able to
These Kayaks Are Great For:
  • Folks looking for a light and easy to use recreational kayak
  • Very versatile and comfortable
  • Affordable compared to most other types of kayaks


How to Pick a Kayak

Buying Advice: What to Consider Before Purchasing a Kayak

Aside from deciding on which kayak you’re going to invest in, there are a few other key aspects which you need to keep in mind before purchasing your new kayak. Here’s a summary:

  • Length: Generally speaking, the shorter your kayak, the easier it’ll turn. Longer kayaks might be easier to paddle in open waters, and they also track much better than their shorter counterparts.


  • Width: If you’re looking for good initial stability, your best bet would be to go with a wider kayak. Keep in mind that narrow kayaks have the ability to reach much faster speeds, so you need to decide whether speed or stability is more important to you.


  • Depth: leg room and on-board space are a big deal, even more so if you’re larger than the regular paddler. You’ll have to look for something with taller sides and more depth if you want to ensure that water is deflected from the sides of your kayak. Keep in mind that deeper kayaks do catch more wind, which might slow you down in the long run.


  • Hull Shape: A lot of your kayak’s performance characteristics will rely on the hull shape of your vessel. Most recreational kayaks sport flat-bottom hulls because they offer a lot of stability. If you need more speed and better tracking, opt for a rounded hull, found on touring kayaks. Long-distance expeditions are best left to the V-shaped hulls of selected touring kayak models. These won’t offer a lot of initial stability, but they do recover better when they’re tipped to their sides.


  • Skeg: Skegs are triangular metal plates that sit under the sterns of kayaks, and they can be raised or lowered to help improve the vessel’s tracking abilities. Advanced kayakers should definitely consider investing in a kayak that comes with a skeg in order to help reduce any weather cocking.


  • Rudder: A rudder should be seen as your kayak’s paddle, but the one you can’t see, at the bottom of the vessel, attached to the top of the stern. When lowered, pulled up, or steered either left or right, the rudder will help you turn and steer your kayak in a specific direction.


Top Tip: Before we dive into the recommendation section of this post, we have a little more help at hand. Check out this video which explains how you should go about choosing the right recreational kayak. The video below is also helpful since it aids newbies in making the right choice when buying their very first kayak.



Our Recommendations for the Best Kayaks

We get it: even though we have all the information we need to make a solid choice, sometimes we all just need a little helping hand when it comes to making a final call. We’ve rounded up the top of the crops, and we’ve listed our favorite picks off all the different kinds of kayaks here. Have a look at our list of recommended kayaks, and who knows; perhaps it gives you that touch of inspiration you’ve been searching for all along…


Best Inflatable Kayak – Advanced Elements AE1012-R (AdvancedFrame)

Advanced Elements AE1012-RWhy We Love This Kayak:

The Advanced Elements inflatable is a folding hybrid-frame kayak which perfectly incorporates both performance and portability. With a sturdy frame and its super light overall weight, the AdvancedFrame is kind of like a treat, offering you the best of both worlds. Since this kayak sports metal ribs in its bow and stern, it’ll track nicely and also offer you great speed, something truly rare in the world of inflatables.


Best Fishing Kayak – Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14

Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14Why We Love This Kayak:

The Malibu Stealth 14 is a best when it comes to cargo space, something that all anglers want and need. The great thing about this kayak is that it also offers amazing stability. The Stealth 14 has the ability to take on a wide variety of water conditions, plus it also comes with a live bait tank in its center, something totally unique. Complete with a casting platform, great maneuverability, and the ability to glide smoothly across most water surfaces, this is a great kayak!


Best Sit-On-Top Kayak – Perception R15 Pescador 12.0

Perception R15 Pescador 12.0Why We Love This Kayak:

Rated as one of the best high-end option kayaks out there, the Pescador 12 is also a very affordable option, making it a seriously sweet deal. The Perception Pescador 12 is essentially a sit-on-top vessel, but it was made with anglers in mind. The great thing about this kayak though is the fact that it’s very versatile, making it a great all-rounder. If you opt to go with the Pescador, you can look forward to reaping great benefits such as ease of paddling, a low price tag with very high-performance abilities, responsiveness, an abundance of storage space, and a weight capacity that’s almost unbelievable. We love the great value for money that this kayak brings to the table!

Most Affordable Kayak for Beginners – Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10Why We Love This Kayak:

If you’re a newbie to the world of kayaking, we totally get that you don’t exactly want to blow your budget with your first kayak purchase. This is exactly where the Aruba 10 comes in, offering you a lot of bang for your bucks! The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is a recreational kayak, offering great maneuverability and stability. While the body is wide enough to offer that stability you want and need, it has a narrow front-end and sides, which makes tracking very effective and effortless.


Final Thoughts

This concludes our post on how to pick a kayak. We’ve shown you what your options are, and we’ve shown you the variety of kayaks you’ll be able to choose from when deciding to make that important purchase. We’ve also told you about the factors you need to keep in mind before making the final buying call. Lastly, but not least, we’ve shown you our recommendations for the best kayaks currently available on the market.

We hope that this post has armed you with enough information to make a solid, well-informed decision regarding the purchase of your first (or next) kayak. Remember: your intended applications and your level of experience will always play the determining roles when it comes to purchasing a kayak. As long as you’re keeping those two considerations in mind, you should be able to invest in a kayak that will go above and beyond exceeding your expectations.