Which Kayak Works Best For You?

advanced-elements-inflatable-kayakNow that summer is in full swing, you’re all set to embark upon your outdoor journey, whether heading to Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts or hiking in the Maroon Bells of the White River National Forest in Colorado. While hiking or spending time at the beach each brings its own fun and adventure, you may be itching to try something different this summer. Why not go kayaking and explore the outdoors from a whole different perspective? Gliding across a still lake or slicing through waves on an ocean bay will expand your horizons.

Right about now you may be asking, “Well, what type of kayak should I consider?”. That’s a valid question, and it’s a good place to start. First and foremost, which kayak you decide to purchase depends primarily on where it is that you intend to use it the majority of the time. Are you planning on spending most of your time on the water, paddling small state park ponds and lakes? Or, do you see yourself enjoying wide open lakes or bays? Or, does the idea of fast moving water intrigue you? Do you plan on using the kayak only during summer months or does the idea of getting out on the water during cooler weather appeal to you? For warm weather/warm water kayaking, a sit-on-top kayak is an easy way to start; hulls are self-draining, allowing water to drain through the kayak. If you’re planning to paddle in cooler water, where the potential to get wet exists, you may want to look for an enclosed design.

To help you conceptualize the different types of kayaks, kayaking can essentially be broken down into four categories:

  • Recreation- If you’re planning to kayak on ponds, lakes or bays, your best choice is a kayak designed for recreational or flat water kayaking. These boats can range in length from 9 feet to over 15. Their primary feature is stability – they do not feel as tippy as narrower, more technical kayaks can.
  • Whitewater- This type of kayak is used mainly to help you navigate and play on moving water with waves, around obstructions, over drops and down rapids. This type of kayaking requires specialized paddling skills and an ability to read the river and understand its features. The best way to see if this is for you is to go out with a reputable outfitter who can teach skills while also ensuring safety.
  • Touring- Touring kayaks, sometimes referred to as sea kayaks, are the best choice if you are looking to paddle any distance on open water that may be subject to wind or waves. Long and narrow but surprisingly fast and efficient, a touring kayak can track, or paddle well in a straight line and is also commonly equipped with plenty of storage space, which comes in handy for those overnight trips.
  • Fishing- Fishing kayaks are designed to allow an angler to get into places that are often inaccessible to larger craft. They are usually a sit-on-top design which allows easy entry and exit, self-draining cockpits and often adjustable seating that can allow fishermen a higher vantage point while angling. A fishing kayak brings you closer to the action in a quiet, stealthy way that cannot be duplicated by motorized boats. Some sit-on-top kayaks like the Hobie Mirage® series allow the kayak to be propelled using pedals, ideal for trolling while keeping your hands on your reel.

Another feature for you to consider when selecting a kayak is its hull construction. The more common versions are rigid or hard hulls, usually constructed of polyethylene, which is extremely durable and can withstand impact. Kayaks constructed of composite materials such as fiberglass or aramid, while lighter and glide more efficiently through the water, can be more vulnerable to damage if not treated with care. Composite materials are often incorporated into touring kayaks, allowing them to glide through the water with little effort. Another type of construction, especially if you lack adequate storage at home but are still eager to get out on the water, is the inflatable. Inflatable kayaks can be packed into a backpack or duffel and then easily stored in a closet or vehicle until ready to be used. Keep in mind, however, that inflatables are not nearly as strong and are more vulnerable in windy conditions than the rigid types.

Ultimately, you should select a kayak that fits both you and the type of kayaking you plan on doing. As with any purchase, you may want to compare various models from each category and consider their weight, size, capacity and the materials used. A little research will go a long way in helping you make a firm decision. We have provided a link below that covers the basics and we hope that you find this helpful:

Still have questions? We also have a great staff on hand in the canoe and kayak department at the one and only Campmor retail store located on Route 17 North in Paramus, New Jersey, along with several of our customer service representatives who regularly kayak and are happy to answer questions via phone or live chat.


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  • Anne

    Good post. I bought a recreational, sit inside kayak. Great for the lakes. Not great on a river with class 1 and 2 rapids. I flipped it and it filled with water. It worked out but something to consider.

  • Comanche Brave

    I have a 14′ Manta Ray by LiquidLogic. It is like a truck on water which suits me very well, even thru some harsh winters.