How To Choose the Right Kayak

Kayaking has grown in popularity in recent years. There are dozens of reasons why; none of which are rocket science. It’s a great, economical way to get on the water and get some exercise. Additionally, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on the purchase and upkeep like you would with a boat. Kayaks can go stealthily where most motor boats cannot go at all. A kayak allows the paddler to see things that most boaters will never experience, except through the National Geographic Channel.

Deciding which kayak is right for you can be a difficult decision. It requires some thought into how you plan to use the kayak, where you plan to use it and many other factors.  Everyone is unique and a kayak that your friend has and loves might not be the right fit for you.

Specific Uses
You should first give thought to what sort of activities you’ll want to do from your kayak. Some of the options include:

  • Sporting/ Angler styles-  hunting and/or fishing models with unlimited options for their sports.
  • Recreational/ Flat- water padding- user friendly, multipurpose, great for the family.
  • Sea kayaking-  offshore excursion ready, fast and long, slicing through the water.
  • Touring/ Expedition- good stable ride with some storage for overnight and day trips.

There are kayaks with very specific purpose, as well as some that are multipurpose. Look at it as buying shoes.  You wouldn’t buy golf shoes to run a marathon or tennis shoes to play soccer but you might buy cross-trainers to play tennis and use on the walking track.

Sit-on-top or Sit-in
Kayaks fall into one of two categories: sit-in or sit-on-top. Which is better? It all depends on your preference or specific need.
If you are going to kayak in Canada in the fall duck season, I would probably suggest that you have  a sit-in. It will be cold and it might rain or snow, and being sheltered from the elements might be a huge plus.  Sit-ins tend to have more inside storage, although not completely watertight, it can keep your stored items away from majority of the water, splash and rain.

A sit-on-top might be preferred if you are going to be kayaking in the summer, packing in camping gear and enjoying the sunshine and a cool breeze. Easy accessible  storage on the deck space might be nice. You will have your legs out to feel the breeze.  A sit-on-top could offer a  more comfortable ride for a person with long legs. The paddler will not be as confined, allowing the knees more room to bend and stretch.

The Capacity of the Kayak
The next step is to address your needs to be safe and comfortable. Manufacturers  list weight capacity for each model of kayak. You’ll need to do some simple math to make sure that the kayak model will accommodate your weight and any gear that you would need to take with you.  You should also take into account your height, how long your legs are, and how much room you need to be comfortable in your seat.  If you plan to paddle on day trips, there will be times when you may be in your kayak for 2-3 hours at a time.  You will want to have some wiggle room if possible.  If you’re not comfortable and can’t wiggle around some, you’re not going to enjoy your time on the water.

There are many factors to consider when buying a kayak. It is not an item to be purchased without a test drive. You can research and research, but  if you physically don’t feel comfortable in the seat, then you won’t be satisfied.


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  2. I’m a SOT kind of guy, but when it’s cold like it is today, I wish I had a sit-in.

  3. Suwannee Refugee I’m with you on that today. I own 8 SOT’s and 1 sit in. I’m thinking if I were paddling today, I would need my neoprene waders on just to keep warm.