How to Choose a Kayak

How to Choose a Kayak: A Comprehensive Guide

Spending a warm afternoon out kayaking is a fun activity for the entire family. If you want to have unlimited bonding time with your family, you may consider buying a kayak of your own. However, before actually buying a kayak, you need to think about some important points. Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes. They are designed to correspond to particular water conditions, paddling goals, and individual preferences. Here are the things for how to choose a kayak.

What are the Different Types of Kayaks?

There are different types of kayaks to choose from. Each type caters to the unique needs of the user. The different types of kayaks you can find in the market include:

Recreational Kayak

The recreational kayak is perfect for use in calm waters. It offers great stability, making it an ideal companion for any kayak newbie, photography enthusiast, or even just occasional paddlers. It typically has a smaller storage area though there are now recreational kayaks that come with a larger storage area. It measures about 10-12 feet in length and most are made from polyethylene.

Why choose it?

Choose the recreational kayak if you’re only looking for something you can use for occasional kayaking. This type of kayak is affordable compared to other types. Its wider beam offers greater stability which is perfect if you’re doing some photography.

Day Touring Kayak

The day touring kayak is built to deal with longer distances and rough waters. It has better stability compared to the recreational kayak. Typically measures 12 to 16 feet long, the day touring kayak comes with a bigger storage area for day tours. It is shorter than multiday boats, making it easier to maneuver. Day touring kayaks can be made from polyethylene, composites, or thermoformed ABS.

Why choose it?

If you’re adventurous enough to kayak beyond the calm water, then the day tour kayak is for you. It is more versatile compared to the recreational kayak, often has bigger storage space, and offers better stability to deal with the rougher water.

Sea Kayak

Similar to the day tour kayak, the sea kayak is usually 12 to 16 feet long. It is also built for both calm and rough water. It can go on longer distances and offers ample storage space. Most sea kayaks have sealed hatch covers, providing dry storage space. It is easier to maneuver even with strong winds and currents.

Why choose it?

Bigger and better storage plus better control are what make a sea kayak a good pick. If you plan to go on both calm and rough water and need better storage for your trip, then the sea kayak will be a good buy.

How to Choose a Kayak

Sit-on-Top Kayak

As the name implies, the sit-on-top kayak has molded depressions on top built for sitting. Its seats are above the water level making it easier for anyone to hop in and get off. It is usually wider compared to the typical kayaks. This makes it a good outdoor companion for any diver, fishing enthusiast, and even swimmers.

The sit-on-top kayak measures about 10-15 feet in length. Most are made from polyethylene and can have single, double, or more passenger seats. The best thing about this type of kayak is that it can easily be flipped back once capsized.

Why choose it?

Its seat placement and structure make the sit-on-top kayak a good buy for any beginner, swimmer, or even fishing hobbyist. It’s easier to get in and out of this kayak compared to the typical ones. The only downside of the sit-on-top kayak is that it’s usually slower compared to the traditional kayak.

Inflatable Kayak

If storage is your problem then the inflatable kayak can be a good option. This type of kayak can be inflated by foot, hand, or with the use of an electric pump. It measures around 10 to 15 feet in length and once deflated, can squeeze into a duffel-sized bag. The inflatable kayak is more buoyant compared to the traditional one but slower to move; it takes more effort to maneuver it.

Why choose it?

Portability is the leading advantage of inflatable kayaks. You can go anywhere with it without having to worry about the size, weight, and space that it’ll occupy. Most inflatable kayaks come with multiple compartments adding to their safety features (compartments trap air so the kayak can still float even if the cockpit is filled with water).

Folding Kayak

When it comes to portability, the folding kayak won’t fail you. Similar to an inflatable kayak, the folding kayak is also easy to store. Most will even fit into a typical-sized backpack. It offers bigger storage and has a tougher outer skin compared to the inflatable type. Many of the folding kayaks come with inflatable chambers that add to the buoyancy and stability.

Why choose it?

The folding kayak is a good buy for anyone who’s looking for a portable kayak without compromising performance and structure. Most folding kayaks have stiff frameworks similar to what can be found on hard-shell types, providing better performance.

Modular Kayak

Another kayak to suit your need for portability is the modular type. The modular kayak comes in 2-3 sections that are easy to put together and can be quickly snapped for storage. Aside from portability, the modular kayak is a good buy if you’re looking for a customizable type. You can easily buy a second cockpit if you want to kayak in tandem. Plus, it is as durable as those made from polyurethane and comes in different designs.

Why choose it?

If you’re tight on space but thinking of a good quality kayak that you can customize anytime, then the modular kayak is your best option. It’s easy to remove and put together sections is its biggest advantage. Whether you opt to ride solo, in tandem, or trio, you can customize your kayak to suit the number of passengers (simply buy additional cockpits). Quality is not a question as it has the same quality as polyurethane kayaks.

Things to Consider How to Choose a Kayak

There are multiple important things that you should consider before purchasing a kayak. These important things to choose a kayak are discussed below.


Kayaks are usually 10 to 16 feet long. Shorter kayaks (those that measure 12 feet and below) are typically the ones that turn easier compared to longer buying a kayak. Shorter kayaks are also easier to maneuver, weigh less, and are affected less by the wind. They are perfect for a newbie, kids, and older users. Longer kayaks, on the other hand, could hold a straight line better, move faster, glide better, and are perfect for longer trips.


Another thing to consider when buying a kayak is the width. Narrower kayaks offer better secondary stability, easier to roll once capsized, and are generally more efficient to paddle. Wider kayaks have the following advantages over narrower ones: better initial stability and is easier to hop in and out. If you value speed then you are better off with a narrower kayak. But if you want better initial stability and comfort in getting in and out of the kayak, then you’ll do good with a wider one.

Weight Capacity

Every kayak comes with a recommended weight limit. So, before choosing a kayak, it’s best to determine the typical number of users who will use it. You should also consider how long and how frequently you’re going to use it.


The cockpit is another thing to look into when buying a kayak. Cockpits can come in different sizes, comfort levels, and features. The too small or too big a cockpit would leave you uncomfortable and could affect the way you paddle your boat. Some cockpits come with padded and adjustable seats while others don’t have these features. There are also cockpits that come with foot pegs for better positioning while some have none.


Kayaks are built from different materials. The most common materials used in building them include polyethylene, thermoformed ABS, composites, and PVC.

  • Polyethylene is the most common material used in building kayaks and is generally inexpensive.
  • Thermoformed ABS creates a glossy appearance but is heavier than composites.
  • Composites are considered to belong to the high-end category. It is more durable and lightweight but expensive
  • PVC is the type of material used in inflatable kayaks. It comes in different thickness levels and is resistant to abrasions or punctures

Leave a Reply