The waterways of the world are the final unconquered frontier on Earth. The allure of the mysteries hidden beneath the waves calls us to explore. Hopping aboard the best kayak, [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’like the Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’3b3ab1ce-3e78-11e8-84ea-e5a188509812′], will give you a level of freedom and access to the almost any water you want. It’s speed and versatility make them fast enough to traverse the water’s surface. Meanwhile, the small size can carry you places where traditional boats can’t go.
Kayaks come in many shapes and sizes, so jumping into just any kayak won’t get you where you want to go. Different kayaks will carry you on different adventures. To make sure you get the full adventure ride, you need to get the right kayak with the right features. Using my 15 years of experience and a fun day of research, I compiled this list of the best Kayaks that are great for all around fun times.
Best Single Kayak: [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’77a41628-3e78-11e8-b74c-5fae54ea608e’]
The first thing you should know is that I prefer to sit on top kayaks over sit-in kayaks. Sit-in kayaks have their uses for rougher water, like white water, where you want to be able to maintain control while reducing the risk of falling out of the kayak when it tips over.
Sit on top kayaks are easier to board and disembark from, and for a taller guy like me, they offer more room for long legs. The Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 90 is the best sit on top kayak I have uncovered through my research. It is a great combination of design and features that let you tackle almost any waterway.
Starting out, [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’the Skipjack’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’8bf50b7a-3e78-11e8-a453-594095a81f9a’] is 9-feet long. The long length may seem excessive to a novice kayaker, but it is like surfboards or skateboards – the longer length is more stable and easy to control than a shorter kayak. In fact, the 9-foot length is on the shorter end of full-size kayaks. Though you will get the performance and stability of large kayaks in a smaller, more portable package.
Even though it is 9-feet long, the weight of the [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’Skipjack 90′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a80a60ad-3e78-11e8-acca-f125f71ec585′] is only 46 pounds, which makes it easy enough to carry from your car to the water. To make it even easier to transport, there are handles at the bow and stern of the kayak that is a cinch to grab and carry with two people. When we take out or kayaks, we like to load our gear onto the kayaks and carry it all at once. With two people hauling, kayaks and gear are almost effortless.
Using this strategy, we have even been able to pack our kayaks into lakes that aren’t close to parking areas. Last summer we packed three kayaks, snorkeling equipment, and picnic goodies over a mile. Thanks to the front and rear handle, we made quick work of the walk and still had energy left over to hit the water.
Speaking of hitting the water, the [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’Skipjack 90′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’da6f127e-3e78-11e8-acfe-97d3c7d29386′] is designed and build to let you cruise the lake while minimizing the physical effort to glide across the surface of the water. The bottom of the kayak has the nice blade shape that tapers to flat edges. This combination lets the kayak slice through the water, while simultaneously using the water displaced by the bow to buoy up the sides of the boat for added stability. The slice and float design keep you moving forward without having to use your energy to keep yourself from tipping or wobbling back and forth.
As you sit on top of the [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’Skipjack 90′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ed5fdbb2-3e78-11e8-bd0d-f797fca3f2a4′], you will feel comfortable and relaxed thanks to the included deluxe kayak seat. It can be adjusted to let you recline at different angles based on your comfort while rowing. The 5-foot placement options work well for kayakers of different heights. Plus, the 300-pound capacity means you don’t have to be wire thin to have fun out of the water.
Vibe markets the [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’Skipjack 90′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’fe8cade2-3e78-11e8-acfa-d1c3e577dc22′] as a fishing kayak, but before I get into all the great features for anglers, I wanted to let non-anglers know why this is still a great kayak.
For people who want to kayak, but don’t fish, a fishing kayak means an easy to maneuver and more stable kayak. Fishermen have to be able to fight hauling in fish and don’t want to have to combat a wobbly and unreliable kayak to get the job done. A fishing kayak will also have additional storage, hauling, and comfort features that you won’t find in your standard kayak. Fishing kayaks are also very durable to stand up against the abuse that fishermen are known to inflict on their gear.
Fishing Rod Holders
The features of the [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’Vibe Skipjack 90′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c79dea70-3e79-11e8-99e0-3f0be33a85f5′] for fishing include two paddle parks with bungees to keep the paddles from falling off and drifting away when you are not using them. No sitting up a creek without a paddle on this kayak.
There are also 4 fishing rod holders that will give anglers options for placement. You can also have more options thanks to the holder mounts that allow the fit an external rod holder, such as a swivel mount.
The [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’Skipjack 90′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0d3a9d12-3e79-11e8-90e4-3da5b10550cf’] has 3 additional storage areas. Two of them are sealed hatches that utilize the hollowed inside of the kayak shell for more storage. These two hatches have bag inserts to help keep your gear protected and organized. The hatches are located directly beneath the legs of the paddler, and the second is in the bow. I have used lots of other kayaks with similar hatches, but they lack the bag option so you end up having to play a fun tilt and grab game to get all your stuff out of the storage areas.
The third storage area is a rear tank well, basically a triangle shaped bowl behind the seat, that has bungees over the top to hold your gear in place. I am a free diver and spear fisherman, and this area is perfect for holding my diving equipment. The leg area also has enough storage that I can fit a scuba tank and gear between my legs without feeling overly cramped or that I have to put my legs over the side.
Vibe has built the [amazon_textlink asin=’B019JH6C4C’ text=’Skipjack 90′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’1edd13c1-3e79-11e8-afd0-939c17a42e35′] out of rotomolded plastic. Rotomolding is a procedure that is used to make hollow structures that have high durability and maintain a lower weight. The rotomolded Skipjack is strong enough to take on almost as much punishment as you can throw at it. Unless of course, you don’t secure it correctly and it falls off the car to be run over by a semi…you’re on your own there.
[amazon_link asins=’B019JGZ68Q’ template=’Custom’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ text=” link_id=’7d6be30b-3e9d-11e8-b9d1-8189cf022cba’]
Best Tandem Kayak: [amazon_textlink asin=’B00HLD45C8′ text=’Ocean Kayak 12-Foot Malibu Two’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’29c5e515-3e79-11e8-9dd8-857a569bde46′]
For those of you who don’t like to have fun all alone, or you have a significant other that wants to play but doesn’t want to handle their own kayak, a tandem option is the way to go. A good tandem kayak lets you ride the water with almost the same effort as a single.
Sound crazy or unbelievable? Well a few years ago I was in the Caribbean with my pregnant wife and we signed up for this kayak tour that ended up being much longer than we anticipated. Long story short, the Ocean Kayak Malibu that we were riding glided so nicely that we finished the tour with mostly just my paddling, and I didn’t feel like I was doing the work of two people by myself.
Since that trip, I have loved the [amazon_textlink asin=’B00QILUMLC’ text=’Ocean Kayak Malibu Two’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’459f1adc-3e79-11e8-a87b-f34f9f56cdc1′]. The smooth glide across the water and super stable platform make this a great watercraft for the aquatic adventuring couple. The Malibu has a maximum capacity of up to 425 pounds. If you are like me and my wife and now have a baby, this turns the tandem into a triple kayak. The point is, with this tandem, no one gets left standing on the shore.
Seating for two or three
What is great about this 12-foot kayak is that you can adjust the seating position so you can even run the Malibu solo. The foot wells in the kayak are placed in three different areas, including a set of wells placed inline with the forward seating position that lets you sit comfortably in the center of the kayak.
The other benefits of having such a wide range of foot placements are that the tandem Malibu will work for almost any sized paddler.
The seats are Ocean Kayak “comfort plus seats” that use adjustable straps to set the perfect angle for your back while paddling. The padded seats make sitting in the kayak comfortable even for long days out on the water. The padded butt is a nice feature that helps prevent a tired seat or a sore tailbone. I hate standing up after an uncomfortable ride feeling like I sat on the toilet too long.
Handling the Malibu Two
Even at 12-feet, the Malibu can be easily carried and transported. There are four total carry handles that allow easy lifting and transporting around to the all the fun places you want to explore. At the bow and stern are handles designed for easy and comfortable lifting to carry around from car to water.
On the sides at the center of the kayak are two thick molded handles that are near perfect for lifting the Malibu up on to a car, or up into storage. The handles are recessed into the molding of the body so they are not in the way while you are using the kayak.
12-feet of kayak space not only fits two people, but you can even use the extra space to haul along some gear for the ride. At the bow, middle, and rear are lateral straps that are in place to secure extra gear that you will want to carry with you. There isn’t as much storage space to haul my scuba equipment easily, but some of our lighter gear is easy to snug in between your legs or at the back of the kayak.
The extra straps help ensure that you don’t have to hold everything together with just your feet. This is extremely useful for the times when the water gets a little rough. Without the straps, you will have to spend your time fighting rough water and the gravity that wants to pull you down into the depths. The straps aren’t secure since they only have a single strap, but I like to use straps built into the equipment to add security and stability to my strapped down equipment.
The durability of the [amazon_textlink asin=’B00QILUMLC’ text=’Malibu Two’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’5b27f45c-3e79-11e8-a5ac-6b2fa55b3307′] is among the top that you will find anywhere. I have been around quite a few kayak rental shops around the Caribbean and the Western U.S. At almost all of them, you find the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two. The dependability of the Malibu makes it a strong and reliable kayak year after year.
Rental companies trust them because they stand up to the frequent and harsh abuse that you would expect from a life spent as a rental kayak. These companies can rely on the kayak to survive year after year in the most brutal treatment you can imagine. If it can survive for them, then it will certainly survive what you can throw at it. If you do manage to damage the kayak, Ocean Kayak has a guide of how to do simple repairs to keep you on the water.
Best Budget Kayak: [amazon_textlink asin=’B001ASRVDK’ text=’Sea Eagle SE370K’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’77ce1793-3e79-11e8-a223-59e0d1d3e98a’]
I’m not a huge fan of the inflatable kayak style, but the Sea Eagle line of inflatable kayaks has given me a reason to recommend going the inflatable route. Most of the time when you get an inflatable, they are cheap feeling, deflate easily, and are a magnet for sharp objects. Sea Eagle has made a kayak that almost completely answers all these problems. Having all the fun of kayaking is completely possible on a budget, thanks to the [amazon_textlink asin=’B001ASRVDK’ text=’Sea Eagle SE370K’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’1519d3a6-3e80-11e8-beca-71574fcbe1e1′].
Building an inflatable kayak that can stand up to riding the various wild waters of the world means that you need a hull that is made from materials that can stand up to rocks, sticks, and crazy kids that have escaped their parents and somehow found an ancient Viking sword buried in the sand (just joking about the Viking sword, of course). The [amazon_textlink asin=’B001ASRVDK’ text=’Sea Eagle SE370K’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’81544b47-3e79-11e8-acea-5b4f0e026b62′] is made from 38mm K80 PVC rubber. This rubber is impact and puncture resistant which prevents the boat from popping or ripping when faced with almost anything (except for maybe the Viking sword).
The K80 PVC feels tough. When the boat is fully inflated, it feels as solid as a plastic. It doesn’t have the bow and bend that you get in the typical inflatable. The outer hull feels almost rough, like a light Kevlar that will keep pestering points from penetrating. The SE370K is even strong enough to stand up to the raking claws of a dog passenger.
The whole boat weighs 32-pounds when fully inflated and water ready. That is only about 10 to 15 pounds lighter than a fully plastic kayak. The 32-pounds in an inflatable kayak isn’t the weight of the air, but rather the thick and quality hull. Thirty-two pounds may seem like a heavy little boat, but you will be grateful when the boat stays strong and full all day.
One-way inflation valves in the three air chambers of the SE370K help make sure the kayak stays inflated during your whole adventure. An inner diaphragm lets you fill the kayak with the included foot pump while keeping the air in. You don’t have to scramble like a kid playing hot potato to close the valve fast enough without losing air.
The [amazon_textlink asin=’B001ASRVDK’ text=’Sea Eagle SE370K’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’8b3f5b3b-3e79-11e8-955f-4133aef52149′] is billed as a two-person kayak, and its 12-foot 6-inch length seems that it will have plenty of room. I have been in one of these with my buddy who is 6’3″ on Lake Tahoe in California. With two 6-footers in the boat, we were a little cramped and my knees were more bent then the Malibu Two. However, I didn’t feel uncomfortable as we cruised the shoreline.
You sit on an inflated seat that has a thick butt and back to it. They sit in the open, canoe-like, body of the kayak. The only thing that really holds them in place is the pressure from the inflated sides. This seems dodgy at first, but they stay pretty secure as long as you aren’t trying to wrestle with them in the boat. Plus, they have a wide range of placement options that allow you to adjust for spacing and leg room. You can even use this as a single kayak more simply than adapting the seating of a traditional tandem kayak.
I want to bring my gear along for the ride. But it’s probably not best with the 370. Because the interior is slimmer, due to the inflated chambers, it doesn’t leave a lot of extra room for taking gear along. If you are running it solo though, you will have ample room in front and behind the seat to pack in a cooler, fishing equipment, or anything else you want to take along with you.
My biggest problem with the inflatable kayaks is that you sit down in them, instead of on top of them. They are still quicker and easier to get into than your typical sit in kayak, but when paddling you have to go over the inflated walls. As I was paddling, my elbows hit the top of the kayak sides which was a little annoying and hard to establish a good rhythm.
That aside, the [amazon_textlink asin=’B001ASRVDK’ text=’Sea Eagle 370K’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’walletpath-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’988db9e7-3e79-11e8-8522-0db7e9e4a869′] moves pretty well through the water. You won’t win any speed records, but the two skegs on the bottom of the kayak make it easy to steer and track. With some budget kayaks, you may experience a swing back and forth as you paddle and may find steering a challenge. The design of the 370 keeps it reasonably straight while paddling and has a quick response when turning and maneuvering through the water.
A Couple Key Things To Know About Kayaking
Before you head off into the waves I wanted to give you a few more general knowledge nuggets to help you in your choice of a kayak. Nothing too crazy or detailed, but things I wish I had known better before I hopped on a kayak.
Look at the shape
Most kayakers are not in it to break speed barriers, but the shape of the kayak will go a long way to help minimize the effort you have to exert in getting around on the water. Ideally, you want to find a kayak that looks like a speedboat without a motor. A pointed tip with a hull that tapers to form a mix of blade and flat will efficiently push the water out of your way as you paddle. Kayaks with a flatter bottom will tend to drag more in the water because they collect the water underneath instead of displacing it as you slice across the surface.
Tracking is the term that describes how well the kayak stays straight as you paddle it forward. The best kayaks will stay true no matter your rhythm. The bow won’t wobble left and right with every stroke. A kayak that doesn’t track well will look a little bit like a drunk clown trying to ride a unicycle. When this happens, you will find yourself exerting more effort to go straight and may even feel like you aren’t going anywhere at all.
A kayak that struggles with tracking will also be harder to turn effectively. The shape of the kayak will go a long way to provide good tracking. Some kayaks, like the Sea Eagle, will have larger skegs and fins below the water to help maintain the tracking and steering of the kayak.
Get Your Feet Wet
I have loved kayaking and kayak tech since I first used a kayak to go abalone diving in Northern California. That first trip enamored me to this watercraft. Over a weekend, I was able to glide into rock reefs and abalone beds that other divers couldn’t get to. On the way back to shore, I was able to ride the waves like a surfer, without having to worry about losing my balance or trying to stand up.
Since that trip, I have kayaked lakes, rivers, mangrove groves, and even the grass in my backyard. I have spent my life on the water and seldom have had as much fun as my days flying across the water on a kayak.