How to select kayak to suit every paddling need

river fishing kayak

Kayaks come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. These include flat-water recreational kayak, touring kayak, sea kayak, river fishing kayak and white water kayaks.

Best recreational kayaks are generally used on calmer waters like lakes, bays and coastal areas. The best recreational kayaks are generally wider and shorter which makes them easier to turn. However, best recreational kayaks do not “track” or travel in a straight line as well.

Sit on top touring kayak is used for long journeys involving camping out for days at a time. The sit on top touring kayak is a bit lighter in weight and handles better than the sea touring kayaks.

Sea touring kayaks are built to ply the choppy water of the ocean. Both sit on top touring kayak and sea-touring kayak are long and very stable with large, watertight storage compartments. They do not turn as easily as the shorter kayaks, but their long, narrow design allows for more speed and better tracking abilities.

Best whitewater kayak is wider with a more rounded design. The best whitewater kayak has a tough outer shell and the turning range is quick and agile to manoeuvre around rock and over rapids. The hull of a best whitewater kayak is usually made of a rugged combination of Kevlar and fiberglass.

The weight of a kayak is directly related to the cost. Kayak hulls made of fiberglass or polyethylene plastic are cheaper, but they are heavy. Fiberglass kayaks are lighter, but more expensive and not as rugged. The lightest, but most expensive and durable kayaks are those made of Kevlar or a Kevlar/fiberglass combination.

Sit on top touring kayak

Comfort should also be a consideration when selecting a kayak. Sit on top touring kayak is made of molded plastic with an indentation on top to accommodate most body shapes and sizes. They are meant for short term, recreational kayaking and do not provide comfort for longer journeys.

For long trips in a kayak, a well-fitted cockpit is an absolute necessity. A snug fit allows the paddler to feel comfortable and secure and at one with the water.

A kayak cockpit should have footrest and backrest adjustments. Thigh braces are also important to provide the paddler with more control and a point of contact with the boat. This is especially important on rough water or when doing rolls and other maneuvers.

If at all possible, go for a test paddle in the kayak to see if it handles well and fits your body style. The weight of the boat should also be considered. A smaller person may want to think about buying a lighter, inflatable kayak.

Best inflatable kayak

Best inflatable kayak is made of a polyurethane, coated cloth. The best inflatable kayak is light and durable and can be folded up to fit into the trunk of a car. They usually come with a foot pedal pump, which inflates the boat in a matter of minutes.

In recent years, best inflatable kayak designs have been greatly improved to provide more stability and better tracking. Some are comparable to their hard shell cousins in terms of performance.

Transporting Kayaks

For transporting hard shell kayaks, there are a number of options available. For those with strong backs, car roof racks are a secure way to carry your kayak. Kayak trailers are available for single, double or more kayaks. They require less lifting, but one should always be aware of backing up distances.

A kayak cart is an excellent piece of equipment if the boat must be carried over a distance to the water. Wheels attach to the underside of the kayak allowing it to be pulled behind like a wagon.

Kayaking is fast becoming a favorite, recreational activity. Whether paddlers chose the excitement of white water kayaking, sea kayaking or a leisurely kayak on inland lakes and rivers, there is a kayak to suit every size, lifestyle and budget.

Anatomy of a Best Sea Kayak

Native kayaks like the one shown in the picture from Nunivak above were the forerunners of the best sea kayak we use today. While they share similar shapes and purposes, little else is similar in their construction, stability, or safety. Generally, best sea kayak is longer and more tapered at the ends compared to their river cousins. A touring sea kayak will be around sixteen feet (4.9 meters) long and have a beam of about 25 inches (63.5 centimeters). Most kayak safety experts recommend using a sea kayak that is at least thirteen feet (4 meters) long.

Construction – Native kayaks used a framework to support the skin used to form the hulls of their craft. Except for folding kayaks, modern sea kayaks use materials that require no internal framework to function. Building materials come in two classes, composites and plastics:

Composites – These are laminated material like fiberglass, carbon fiber and Kevlar bonded together with polyester or epoxy resin. Composite kayaks are expensive and subject to abrasion on barnacle encrusted, rocky beaches. They are however much lighter in weight.

Plastics – Plastic kayaks are roto-molded, that is, formed in slowly spinning molds that shape them. Common plastic materials used in kayaks are linear polyethylene and cross-linked polyethylene. Cross-linked polyethylene is the tougher of the two choices and hold up well in rough beach conditions. Plastic kayaks will weigh more than ten pounds (4.5 kilograms) than a similarly shaped composite craft.

Positive Flotation – Modern sea kayaks are designed with watertight flotation compartments and unused voids in the hull are often filled with foam. Chambers installed forward and aft of the cockpit have watertight hatches and are used to store gear. A touring kayak can easily carry camping equipment and food for a week or more.

Kayak Cockpit – The paddler sits low in the kayak cockpit. Sea kayaks are designed so that the paddler is near the bottom of the hull, which keeps the center of gravity low and improves the stability of the craft. The cockpit has a combing or lip around it to facilitate use of a spray skirt/paddle jacket to keep out water. Many cockpits will have thigh braces that help stabilize the paddler within the kayak. Rudder pedals are located inside the cockpit. There is usually room in the cockpit for a water bottle, a small dry sack and emergency gear like a marine VHF radio.

Deck Fittings – Sea kayaks have a number of important features associated with their decks.

Lifting Toggles – These are handles usually formed of plastic that are attached to each end of the kayak with a short piece of cord.

Deck Bungies – There are bungies installed forward and aft of the cockpit that allow readily accessible gear to be carried on the deck. This can be a spare paddle, a bilge pump or a chart.

Compass – Many sea kayaks have a magnetic compass mounted into the combing forward of the cockpit. Learning to use a chart and compass is an important seamanship skill. They make excellent backups for a GPS receiver with a dead battery.

Watertight Hatch Covers – Watertight compartments will have hatch covers in place to prevent entry of water. Many hatch designs use a neoprene cover that fits under the hatch itself. Hatch covers are usually held in place with nylon straps and buckles.

Rudder Tripping Line – Kayaks equipped with a rudder will have a line running up near the cockpit that allows the paddler to raise and lower the rudder. It is a good practice to raise the rudder before beaching a kayak.

Life Line – Some sea kayaks will have a line running around the outside edge of the deck that provides a grab point for a person in the water reaching for the kayak.