Kayaking is a growing outdoor activity that combines some of the best of what nature has to offer: sun, clear water, and beautiful scenery. It’s an easy sport to get hooked on, and first-time paddlers almost always come back for more. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil, smooth tour through the morning fog and yonder or a thrashing, adrenaline-inducing experience through Class VI whitewater rapids, there’s something for everyone. Our guide to the best kayaks of the year should help you find the right kayak to suit your paddling skill and desired application.
Our Top Picks: Best Kayaks
If you’re short on time, here the low-down on our favorite models:
- Best Overall: Old Town Vapor 10. This all-around best recreational kayak is lightweight, ergonomic, durable, comfortable, and great for just about any type of kayaking you can think of.
- Best Eco-Friendly: Eddyline Caribbean 14. This 100% recyclable kayak is manufactured with eco-friendly practices and no-waste processes to put the planet first.
- Best Budget Sit-In: Intex Challenger K1. Do your wallet a favor with this all-inclusive package that takes minutes to set up and makes you water-ready the minute you get it!
- Best Budget Sit-On-Top: Coleman Sevylor QuickPak. If sit-on-top is more your style, but money still doesn’t grow on trees, look no further than the Coleman QuickPak.
- Best Sit-In: Sun Dolphin Aruba. This stable, sit-in ‘yak offers the best comfort and support of any kayak around, and comes in a bunch of fun colors to boot!
- Best Sit-On-Top: Ocean Kayak Trident 13. Ride the waves, rough surf, or navigate choppy rapids with confidence in this stable, durable, powerhouse of a kayak.
- Best Tandem: Coleman Sevylor Colorado. A day on the water can only be made better with a good friend or family member, and this inflatable tandem kayak is here to ensure you and your partner have a safe, comfortable, relaxing adventure.
1. Old Town Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak
The best kayak overall
Manufacturer: Old Town | Weight: 44lbs | Capacity: 325lbs | Length: 10’ | Price: 💰💰
Recreational kayaks are the most common style of kayak. They’re shorter and wider than other types, making them extra-stable and more agile — perfect for everything from cruising around lakes to coursing down rivers.
The best recreational kayak by far is Old Town’s Vapor 10. This lightweight, ergonomic, reasonably-priced kayak weighs in at just under 45 pounds and features integrated handles, making it easy to maneuver all by yourself. You’ll be comfortable all day long in the roomy cockpit thanks to the adjustable flex seat, adjustable foot braces, and built-in thigh pads. The integrated cupholder gives you a secure place to put your morning coffee or afternoon brew, while the dry well keeps your snacks safe and water-free.
Plus, the included anchor makes this kayak great for fishing. You’ll have something to hold you still while you’ve got both hands on the pole! Other features include a paddle rest, skid plate to protect the hull, and a drain plug.
- Adjustable seat and foot braces for personalized comfort
- Good tracking, stability, and agility whether you’re new to the kayak game or an old pro
- Multi-purpose kayak suitable for everything from navigating rapids to speeding over smooth waters to all-day fly fishing
- The drain plug design could be better, and some reviewers had a hard time draining their kayak
- Though on the lighter end of kayaks, the 44-pound weight still might need a kayak dolly or two hands to move around
2. Eddyline Caribbean 14 Angler Fishing Kayak
The best eco-friendly kayak
Manufacturer: Eddyline | Weight: 50lbs | Capacity: 350lbs | Length: 14’ | Price: 💰💰💰💰
Kayaking is already an environmentally-friendly sport, since there’s no motor and no subsequent air pollution. But if you’re hoping to take your eco-friendliness to the next level, check out Eddyline’s collection of specially-crafted kayaks made from their proprietary Carbonlite 2000. This high-performance, co-extruded plastic laminate features a UV-resistant exterior. It performs just like fiberglass, with added qualities like abrasion resistance, impact resistance, dimensional stability, and reduced heat distortion. And it does all this at a lighter weight for optimal agility!
As if that’s not enough, what really makes these exceptional kayaks stand out is that they are 100% recyclable. Eddyline strives to maintain an environmentally-conscious manufacturing process that recycles or repurposes any and all scrap plastic and generates as little waste as possible. The Caribbean 14 Angler combines all the features you need for a successful, fulfilling day on the water with this revolutionary technology.
- Completely recyclable and made with the environment in mind
- Eddyline’s proprietary Cloud 10 Seat is comfortable and supportive
- Extremely lightweight, tracks well and cuts easily through choppy waters
- Sit-on-top design only
- One of the most expensive kayaks on our list
3. Intex Challenger K1 1-Person Kayak
The best kayak on a budget, sit-in style
Manufacturer: Intex | Weight: 26lbs | Capacity: 220lbs | Length: 9’ | Price: 💰
Buying a kayak to enjoy the sport whenever you feel like it doesn’t have to break the bank. The inflatable Intex Challenger K1 is one of the cheapest kayaks out there, and definitely the best kayak under 300 dollars. And it doesn’t sacrifice the features you want and the durable construction of its more expensive counterparts.
This package comes with the kayak itself, an 84-inch aluminum paddle, removable skeg, manual hand pump, and carry case — everything you need to get started! The rugged vinyl construction is tough enough to handle slow-moving rivers, while the cockpit is spacious and designed for comfort. Thanks to the cargo net, you can store some snacks, water bottles, and a beer or two for easy access whenever you’re ready. Plus, there’s an included repair patch, just in case those unavoidable jagged rocks get the best of you!
- Sturdy and durable like a hard-plastic kayak without the weight and bulk
- Inflates quickly (around 5 minutes) and easily with the included hand pump
- Incredibly compact storage design that weighs less than 30 pounds for super-easy travel
- Difficult to repack everything into the storage bag unless the kayak is dry
- There are only two air chambers, so in the off-chance one bursts, the kayak may not work
4. Coleman Sevylor QuickPak Sit-On-Top Kayak
The best kayak on a budget, sit-on style
Manufacturer: Coleman | Weight: 18lbs | Capacity: 400lbs | Length: 8.5’ | Price: 💰
Inflatable kayaks may seem like the cheap, low-rent cousins to the hard, plastic kayaks, but don’t let that stigma fool you — the Coleman Sevylor QuickPak is by far one of the best sit-on-top kayaks available today. The design mimics what you’d expect from a hard kayak without all the added weight and bulk.
Durable PVC construction with a tarpaulin bottom ensures you can traverse rivers, lakes, bays, and more without fear of punctures. Multiple air chambers ensure that your kayak will still be fully functional on the off-chance a puncture does occur. The included paddle doubles as a high-pressure pump and the air intake valves feature dual locking points, making inflation and deflation as easy as possible. The paddle can also be used as storage space!
There’s plenty of room to stretch out thanks to the spacious design, and the padded backrest ensures you feel supported and comfortable. When fully inflated, the kayak can support up to 400 pounds, but weighs in at less than 20 pounds itself, making it easy to tow around. As a bonus, the entire kayak fits down into a backpack-style carry case so you can bring it with you wherever you go.
- Super comfortable seat
- Heavy-duty materials are built to last
- Dual skegs make for excellent, easy tracking
- The included paddle is a little flimsy, but gets the job done
- The backpack/seat combo tends to get wet, making packing up and traveling home a little damp
5. Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak
The best sit-in kayak
Manufacturer: Sun Dolphin | Weight: 41lbs | Capacity: 250lbs | Length: 10’ | Price: 💰💰
Designed for stability over speed, the Sun Dolphin Aruba is one of the best sit-in kayaks available, and definitely one of the best kayaks under 500 dollars.
This reliable watercraft is 10 feet long, making it one of the larger kayaks on our list. Still, it only weighs in at just over 40 pounds, which is lighter than plenty of smaller yaks out there. The polyethylene hull holds up exceptionally well under most water conditions, and the spray-deflecting collar helps keep you dry over choppy waves and rough rapids. Comfort is forefront thanks to the roomy cockpit and adjustable, padded seat that offers superior back support to almost any other kayak you can find. The foot braces are similarly adjustable, giving your feet a comfy place to rest and providing leverage so you can put some elbow grease into paddling. Other features include shock cord deck rigging, carry handles, paddle leash, thigh pads, and a water bottle holder. Plus, it comes in a range of fun colors to choose from!
- Everything a mid-level kayak should be at a great price
- Adjustable seat, footrests, and thigh pads make for unmatched comfort and support
- Plenty of storage space for everything you could possibly need to bring for your day on the water
- Great for casual kayaking, but may not stand up to more advanced use
- Some reviewers reported the edges of the kayak being a little sharp, but nothing a file couldn’t fix
6. Ocean Kayak Trident 13 Foot Fishing Kayak
The best sit-on-top kayak
Manufacturer: Ocean Kayak | Weight: 79lbs | Capacity: 355lbs | Length: 13’ 6” | Price: 💰💰
What makes the Ocean Kayak Trident 13 the best sit-on-top kayak?
First of all, it features a proprietary Support Track foot brace system for comfortable sitting. It’s also outfitted with a paddle holder and rod rest, gunnel accessory tracks, four flush-mounted rod holders, and an extra-long rear storage well! Talk about fully loaded!
Whether you want to meander through large bays, navigate choppy waters, or wind your way through churning rapids, this powerhouse of a kayak has you covered. Superior stability and agility make for excellent tracking and unparalleled control. Though the entire thing weighs in at just under 80 pounds, the Trident 13 comes with integrated carry handles to help ensure you can maneuver your kayak over land with or without assistance.
- Cuts easily through still and choppy waters
- Rides waves, rough surf, and swells better than most kayaks, making it great for ocean kayaking
- Doesn’t lose any capability even when loaded full with gear (scuba, treasure hunting, and fishing alike)
- The built-in paddle keeper, though it works great, blocks some access to storage
- The seat has to be unbolted to access and/or plug the scupper holes, so the seat may get a little wet
7. Coleman Sevylor Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak
The best tandem kayak
Manufacturer: Coleman | Weight: 40lbs | Max Load: 470lbs | Length: 10’ 9” | Price: 💰💰
If you’re looking to spend a day on the water with a buddy, look no further than this inflatable tandem kayak. At just under 11 feet fully inflated and with a 470-pound weight capacity, the Coleman Colorado can handle two ‘yakers at a time.
The wide-stance design is incredibly stable, which is a must when it comes to two-person vessels. Thanks to 1000D tarpaulin bottom, in conjunction with the 840D nylon cover and 18-gauge PVC construction, this is an incredibly durable and puncture-resistant kayak. Plus, Coleman’s proprietary Airtight System prevents leaks in every single air chamber.
Additional features include integrated rod holders for fishers, mesh storage pockets for all your gear and snacks, and paddle holders so you have both hands free to eat, drink, or gesticulate. It also includes d-rings for additional storage and multiple footrest positions to ensure kayakers of all heights are comfortable. There are even integrated motor fittings, if motorized movement is more your thing.
- Ultra-durable materials with Airtight System reinforcements for added peace of mind
- Rigid floor and sides with multiple footrest positions ensure roomy comfort that keeps you dry
- Multiple air chambers to keep you inflated and functional on the rare chance a puncture occurs
- The kayak has to be stored dry to prevent damage, which means lots of drying time
- Tracking isn’t as great as some higher-end tandem kayaks, though the tracking fin helps
What to Look for in the Best Kayaks
With all these different options, how are you supposed to pick the best kayak for you? To help you make this decision, keep these factors in mind:
- Style: Do you want a sit-on-top or sit-in kayak?
- Size: There are single and two-person kayaks to choose from. Either way, be sure the kayak isn’t too big or too heavy to mount on top of your car. Or, you can try out an inflatable kayak so it packs down and fits inside your car.
- Weight: Kayaks are pretty heavy. Do you need to be able to move this kayak by yourself?
- Weight Capacity: Kayaks can only handle so much load. Double-check that whatever you choose can hold you, your partner (if you’re getting a tandem kayak), and all gear, snacks, drinks, and furry friends.
- Maneuverability: If you’re planning on spending time in a bay, you’ll need something stable enough to handle the waves. If you’re paddling down a river, you’ll need something agile to navigate the rapids.
- Bonus Features: Extra features like on-board storage space for snacks and drinks, seat design and adjustability for all-day comfort, and even just color and visual appeal
Remember that any new kayak will take some time to get used to, and you may need to purchase some add-ons or accessories.
For this guide on kayaks, our team spent 5 hours researching the most popular options from over 35 brands and manufacturers big and small. We then read about one hundred and twenty-five user reviews (both positive and negative) to discover what shoppers thought about each kayak. After comparing this data, we narrowed our list down to the top 7 kayaks on the market. You can count on this research to guide you to a mindful purchasing decision.
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