Footsteps in the Forest

Best Kayaks for Beginners

Ratings, Reviews & Buying Advice

Looking for a great way to support your mental, emotional and physical health at the same time? 

Care to do so in a potentially thrilling and surprisingly affordable way?

Kayaking is one of the best forms of low-impact exercise around, and it really does serve as a way to escape from everyday stress.

We know. 

Every new outdoor activity says it does all of these things.  

But kayaking really does check all those boxes.  

And that’s probably why more and more people are jumping at the chance to paddle.

The problem is  the market is overflowing with kayak brands and styles, which makes knowing where to start completely overwhelming.

Don’t stress – we’re here to help.

Below, we’ve broken down the basics of kayaks to make the decision easier. We also share our recommendations for the best kayaks for beginners, whether you’re seeking a fisherman’s ultimate ride or a two-person vessel for adventures with a friend.

In a hurry? Check out our quick picks or skip down to the in-depth reviews.

Best Sit-On-Top Kayak for Beginners
Best Sit-Inside Kayak for Beginners
Best Budget Kayak for Beginners
Best Inflatable Kayak for Beginners
Description:

Stability and durability make this boat a top-notch pick for beginners.

Description:

A brightly-colored sit-in boat with a sturdy design and good tracking.

Description:

An affordable sit-on-top vessel with a lightweight build and a 250-pound weight limit. 

Description:

Tri-layer construction and aluminum ribs provide added peace of mind with this inflatable boat. 


$799.99
$769.00
$419.00
$449.00
Best Sit-On-Top Kayak for Beginners
Description:

Stability and durability make this boat a top-notch pick for beginners.

$799.99
Best Sit-Inside Kayak for Beginners
Description:

A brightly-colored sit-in boat with a sturdy design and good tracking.

$769.00
Best Budget Kayak for Beginners
Description:

An affordable sit-on-top vessel with a lightweight build and a 250-pound weight limit. 

$419.00
Best Inflatable Kayak for Beginners
Description:

Tri-layer construction and aluminum ribs provide added peace of mind with this inflatable boat. 


$449.00
01/31/2023 12:08 pm GMT

Types of Kayaks: What Type of Kayak Is Best for Beginners?

best kayaks for beginners
Unsplash

Kayaks come in many designs for various purposes, from solo excursions across calm waters to high-octane whitewater travel. Choosing the right one is critical, as the wrong boat for your plans is not only frustrating but also dangerous. 

Making the right choice starts with asking yourself basic questions to narrow down what kayak works best for you. We’ll explore some of the most important questions to ask yourself below.

Are you going alone or with a friend?

Do you plan on paddling by yourself or splitting the work with a friend? Either way, that’ll be the first thing you need to consider. 

Single-Person Kayaks

Unsplash

These single-seater boats are made for solo riders. They feature a single seating area toward the rear of the watercraft to give you maximum control.

The majority of entry-level kayakers will want a single-person kayak. 

Fortunately, they make up most of the market. 

Tandem Kayaks

Unsplash

In contrast to single-person kayaks, tandem boats are intended for two riders. 

Usually, the seats are equally spaced across the kayak to distribute weight and make paddling easier. They’re typically longer and heavier than single-person kayaks and have higher weight capacities too.

Next up, you’ll need to consider seating. 

Do you want to sit inside or sit on top?

Either will work for beginning paddlers, though most beginners will likely prefer the freedom a sit-on-top kayak provides. Nevertheless, you’ll want to pick the one that appeals most to you. 

Sit-Inside Kayak

Unsplash

Sit-inside or “traditional” kayaks have an enclosed seating area where a rider’s legs are covered, offering more control and protection against waves or splashing. Unfortunately, this makes them trickier to get into and out of, especially for beginners, and more dangerous if you flip. Sit-in boats may also require a pump to remove excess water from the interior.

Some riders find sit-in kayaks too restrictive, leading to a claustrophobic experience, while others love the secure feeling and coverage when kayaking during chilly or windy weather.  

Sit-on-Top Kayak

Unsplash

Sit-on-top kayaks feature an open deck and are best for newbie boaters, as they’re much easier to board and exit. They offer more freedom to move or position your body as you see fit, too, which comes in handy if you flip since you can simply right the boat and board again without worrying about being trapped in covered seating.

While they lack the confining nature of the sit-in style, some riders hate how exposed you are to splashing or waves. Because of this tendency to take on water, they often have scupper holes on their base for self-draining, keeping you afloat, but it might mean a wet bottom for the rider. The open deck space is also ideal for toting gear or four-footed passengers. 

Next, you’ll need to decide how you intend to power the kayak. You essentially have two options.  

Do you want to pedal or paddle?

The vast majority of entry-level kayakers will be reluctant to cough up the cash for a pedal-powered kayak, but it is worth thinking about. 

Traditional (Paddle-Powered) Kayak

Unsplash

Traditional kayaks are powered by rowing with a paddle. Using a boat like this is a heck of an arm workout, though the motion gets easier with time as you build stamina and strength. The major drawback is that your hands are occupied most of the time, and if you drop your paddle, you’re up the proverbial creek without one.

Pedal Kayak

Viator

Pedal kayaks are powered through the water via a built-in pedal propulsion system, freeing your hands to cast a fishing line, take photos, or whatever else you choose. Unfortunately, they do best in deeper water and can be super heavy compared to traditional kayaks.

You’re almost ready to pick a specific kayak and hit the water, but there’s one other thing you’ll want to think about. The question essentially boils down to your interest level – is kayaking likely to be a serious pursuit for you or little more than a casual hobby?

Do you want a recreational kayak or a touring kayak?  

Kayaks can also be classified by breaking them down into recreational touring categories. 

We’ll dive more into the differences between these kayaks below, but understand that beginners will almost always want a recreational kayak at the outset.

Recreational Kayaks

Pixabay

Recreational kayaks are the shortest and widest category of boat, making them more stable on the water and easier to maneuver than others. The rider’s movements are also more forgivable due to the broad base, lessening the chance of flipping. This makes them ideal for beginners or those looking for a boat that can weather various water conditions.

The shorter, wider frame does make recreational kayaks “track” worse than longer, narrower boats, meaning the kayak doesn’t move in a straight line as easily. They’re also slower, as they don’t cut through the water as smoothly as kayaks with narrower hulls.

Touring Kayaks

Pixabay

Touring kayaks have long, narrow frames with angled hulls that track better and faster than recreational boats, but they are far less forgiving to rider error. This means you’re more likely to tip over in a touring model than you are a recreational model.  

 Touring kayaks are great for traveling through rapids or the ocean, as they offer more control to navigate choppy water, but they require much more effort on the paddler’s behalf to remain upright.

Furthermore, this class is divided into day-touring kayaks and sea-touring kayaks. 

Day-touring kayaks are comparable in length to their recreational peers but have the hallmarks of a vessel for advanced riders, including a narrow, angled hull. Sea-touring kayaks are several feet longer than day-touring ones and are intended to cover large distances. 

Touring kayaks are best left to the professionals or, at the very least, veteran boaters with years of paddling experience in varied conditions.

The 10 Best Kayaks for Beginners: Kayak Reviews, Ratings & More

Unsplash

Picking the best kayak is tough since everyone’s likes, dislikes, and needs differ. We’ve wrangled the best for each boater’s preference, including basic sit-on-top boats and inflatable tandem vessels.

#1 Lifetime Tamarack Pro 103

The LifeTime’s Tamarack Pro 103 is a sit-on-top boat designed for fishing with extras like rod holders and ample storage, but it’s also suitable for the average ‘yak trip. The wide, flattened hull is perfect for beginners, offering plenty of stability, while included storage hatches and bungee-capped compartments provide room for gear.

Best Sit-On-Top Kayak for Beginners
Lifetime Tamarack Pro 103
4.5

Stability and durability make this boat a top-notch pick for beginners.

Features:

  • Durable polyethylene shell
  • Adjustable seat and footrests for maximum comfort
  • Measures 10.3’ long and weighs 57.5 pounds
  • 300-pound weight limit 
Pros:
  • Great stability – a common concern for newbies
  • High weight capacity
  • Comes with a 5-year limited warranty
  • Pricing isn’t too bad, especially with all the extras
Cons:
  • Doesn’t track as well as some boats
  • Heavy to load and unload by yourself
Amazon

Need something slightly different?

Like the Tamarack but wish it looked snazzier or was capable of supporting more weight? Check these alternative options out!

More Eye-Catching Sit-on-Top Option

The Perception Tribe 9.5 is another excellent choice for beginners due to its wide, relatively flat hull.

And it’s perfect for those who value aesthetics, as it’s available in several flashy, multi-color finishes, such as Funkadelic, Déjà vu, and Dapper. It’s also slightly shorter at 9-feet-5-inches long and lighter at 46 pounds, so it’s a bit easier to carry around, but the price tag is higher, especially on specific finishes. That said, it’s made in the USA and offers an impressive 300-pound weight limit.

High Weight Capacity Sit-on-Top Option

Need something that’ll keep more weight afloat? Perception’s 11.5-foot model may be just the ticket!

Capable of supporting 350 pounds of paddler and gear, this sit-on-top yak features everything a beginner could want and performs well on the water.

It does weigh about 52 pounds, so it can be tricky to transport by yourself. The four bright color options are also nice for a bit of pizzazz, but this comes at a cost, as this yak is a little pricey compared to similar options.

#2 Perception Joyride 10

Ride comfortably with Perception Joyride 10’s padded, adjustable seating system and broad, flattened hill for stability. Front and rear handles make carrying a breeze, while a covered storage compartment lets you tote gear away from splashes and a selfie slot helps you nab enviable shots on the go.

Best Sit-Inside Kayak for Beginners
Perception Kayaks Joyride 10
4.2

A brightly-colored sit-in boat with a sturdy design and good tracking.

Features:

  • Durable UV-, impact-, and abrasion-resistant shell
  • Offered in 4 eye-popping multi-color patterns
  • Measure 10’ long and weighs 50 pounds
  • Boasts a 275-pound weight capacity
Pros:
  • More stable than many other sit-in style yaks
  • Tracks well across water
  • Covered storage bin, equipment mounts, and other extras
Cons:
  • No drain plug makes emptying water a pain
  • Pricing is higher than some may like for a beginner boat
Amazon

Need something slightly different?

The Perception Joyride is likely the best sit-inside option for most beginners, but check out these two options that offer something slightly different:

Lighter Sit-Inside Option

The Pelican Argo 100Xr is another excellent sit-in choice, and it’s cheaper, too.

It’s also 10 feet long but lighter at 43 pounds despite its tri-layer shell and impressive 300-pound weight limit. The patterned design isn’t as flashy as Perception’s psychedelic prints, though it’s still unique compared to solid color options.

More Affordable Sit-Inside Alternative

The Lifetime Cruze 100 is a more budget-friendly option than the Perception Joyride 10, making it perfect for entry-level paddlers looking for a first yak.

Featuring a 275-pound capacity, this 10-foot kayak comes with a storage compartment, carrying handles, and a built-in tracking skeg to help keep you pointed the right direction.

#3 Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak

If you’re looking for an affordable boat, Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak is a solid pick, as it delivers a stable base suitable for lake adventures with extras like an included paddle, seatback, and bungee-capped storage space. At only 38 pounds, it’s not too heavy either, making it easy to lift onto roof racks or trailers.

Best Budget Kayak for Beginners
Lifetime Lotus
3.2

An affordable sit-on-top vessel with a lightweight build and a decent 250-pound weight limit. 

Features:

  • Made with a polyethylene shell
  • Multiple footrest positions
  • Front and rear T-handles, plus a center-carry handle
  • Measures 8’ long
  • Holds up to 250 pounds
Pros:
  • Solid option for newbies seeking an affordable boat
  • Comes with a 5-year limited warranty
  • The lightweight design is great for solo excursions
Cons:
  • Not a good choice for waves or chop
  • Doesn’t track as well
Amazon

Need something slightly different?

Interested in some Lifetime Lotus alternatives that are also affordable? Check these two Intex Kayaks out!

Budget-Friendly Tandem Option

Check out Intex Excursion Pro Kayak, a two-person boat at an affordable price point, plus it comes with paddles and a pump.

It’s slightly heavier at 46 pounds but has a solid 400-pound weight limit that can easily carry you and a buddy with some gear. It is inflatable, however, though the PVC shell is tougher than you’d expect. (But we’d still skip this for swampy adventures or use in unfamiliar water!)   

Bargain-Basement Option

See the Intext Challenger K1, an inflatable boat with the basics for a trip onto calm water at a low price.

The blow-up design is a little comfier on the toosh than polypropylene boats, but it’s not a kayak that should be taken where logs, stray fishing lines, or other debris may lurk. It has a 220-pound weight limit and measures just under 9 feet long, which works great for most boaters.

#4 Perception Rambler

The Perception Rambler lets you and a buddy cruise in comfort with its roomy, molded seats and multiple footrest points. The open cockpit design offers plenty of space for gear or stretching out, and the broad base offers much-needed stability while boarding, exiting, and gliding across the water. 

Best Tandem Kayak for Beginners
Perception Kayaks Rambler 13.5
3.9

A two-person vessel with excellent stability and ample room for riders and gear alike.

Features:

  • Molded and assembled in the USA with polyethylene
  • Comes in Dapper and Sunset patterns (different pricing for each!)
  • Measures 13.5’ long and 78 pounds
  • Hold up to 550 pounds, leaving plenty of capacity for riders, gear, or dogs


Pros:
  • Quality and stability get thumbs up from boaters
  • High weight capacity offers excellent versatility
  • Plenty of legroom for taller passengers
  • One-piece shell construction provides added protection against leaks
Cons:
  • Pricey, though it isn’t too steep for a tandem vessel
  • Heavy and bulky to transport
  • Lack of storage compartments is a bummer
Amazon

Rather have an inflatable tandem kayak?

Opting for a blow-up option like the Intex Challenger K2 is great if you’re new to tandem boating or only plan on partaking in it occasionally.

Inflatable boats are also much lighter and more affordable. The model measures over 11 feet long and can hold up to 400 pounds, providing excellent stability and tracking on the water.

#5 Pelican Getaway 110 HDII

The Pelican Getaway 110 HDII is a solid entry point to pedal boats with its adjustable HyDryve II pedal system and rudder you can control right from your seat. Speaking of seats, this boat’s included one is removable, letting you swap what works best for you.

Best Pedal Kayak for Beginners
Pelican Getaway 110
4.7

A pedal-propelled boat featuring water-wicking scupper holes and added flotation. 

Features:

  • Plastic frame with built-in added flotation
  • Included scupper holes for draining excess water
  • Measure 10.5’ long and 59 pounds
  • Holds up to 300 pounds
Pros:
  • Great stability
  • Easy to assemble
  • Allows for pedaling forward or backward through the water
  • Large, open-top layout provides plenty of space
  • Comes with a lifetime limited manufacturer’s warranty
Cons:
  • Expensive, though most pedal boats are far pricier
  • Some riders struggle to reach the rudder from the seat
Amazon

#6 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

A triple-layer construction makes the sit-in AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak by Advanced Elements tougher than your average inflatable with its PVC hull and polyester interior. The dual air channels make for safer travel, too, keeping you afloat even if an area is damaged. 

Best Inflatable Kayak for Beginners
Advanced Elements AE1012-R
3.7

Tri-layer construction and aluminum ribs provide added peace of mind with this inflatable boat. 

Features:

  • Aluminum ribbing shapes the boat for maximum tracking
  • High-backed, adjustable seat padded for rider comfort
  • Measures 10.5’ long and 36 pounds
  • Holds up to 300 pounds


Pros:
  • One of the most durable inflatables around
  • Great water tracking for an inflatable yak
  • Unlike some other inflatables, it looks great
  • Lightweight design perfect for solo excursions
Cons:
  • Not ideal for shallow water or obstacle-ridden areas
  • More expensive than other inflatables
Amazon

#7 Perception Hi Five

The sit-on-top Perception Hi Five is made specifically for kids with its smaller size and nifty swim-up rear deck, letting youngsters board easily. Several footrest positions are molded in, along with an elevated seat position for easier paddling.

Best Kayak for Kids
Perception Hi Five
3.5

A lightweight, petite vessel with a versatile design that’s perfect for kids.

Features:

  • Made in the USA with polyethylene
  • Riders can choose between paddling while sitting down or standing
  • Available in 3 bright patterns at varying price points: Déjà vu, Funkadelic, and Sunset
  • Measures 6 feet long and 21 pounds
  • Maximum weight capacity of 120 pounds


Pros:
  • Size is comfy and easy for kids to maneuver on the water
  • Bright coloring for maximum visibility on the water
  • Affordable pricing is always a win
Cons:
  • Included paddle was underwhelming to some
  • Some owners found the pattern to be duller in color than expected
Amazon

#8 Pelican Maxim 100X

The Pelican Maxim 100X is a sit-in kayak weighing only 36 pounds, making travel and transport far more manageable than most boats. Two storage wells offer room for accessories, while an adjustable seatback and cushion provide much-needed support as you paddle.

Best Lightweight / Travel-Friendly Kayak for Beginners
Pelican Maxim 100X
3.4

An easy-to-tote kayak weighing just 36 pounds despite being 10 feet long.

Features:

  • Three-layer plastic shell construction with floating blocks for added safety
  • Various footrest positions suit riders of all heights
  • Bright yellow coloring offers excellent visibility
  • Measures 10 feet long
  • Maximum weight capacity of 275 pounds


Pros:
  • At 36 pounds, loading and unloading this boat’s a breeze
  • Speedier than most boats due to its light build
  • Affordably priced
Cons:
  • Tracking isn’t as great as some other boats
  • Seat isn’t the comfiest
  • Stability reports were mixed at best
Amazon

Looking for something even lighter?

Save your back and some cash with Sevylor Quikpak K5, an affordable boat whose 25.5-pound frame is easier to transport than most.

It folds into a nifty backpack, making it ideal for hiking excursions, too. This is a sit-inside style vessel, however, and rides high, leading to a stiffer feel on the water than you may like.

However, if you’re looking for one of the lightest, easiest-to-transport kayaks around, this kayak will work perfectly.

Super-Lightweight Option

#9 LifeTime Muskie Angler 100

The sit-on-top design of the LifeTime Muskie Angler 100 offers plenty of room for reeling in a catch, while added accessories like rod holders, front and rear storage compartments, and paddle keepers make your day on the water easier. The broad, flat bottom is designed for stability, letting you focus more on fish and less on flipping.   

Best Fishing Kayak for Beginners
Lifetime Tamarack Angler
4.5

A fishing-focused kayak featuring dual storage zones and built-in rod holders.

Features:

  • High-density polyethylene shell with stability chine rails
  • Multiple footrest positions suit boaters of any height
  • Measures 10 feet long and 52 pounds
  • Holds up to 275 pounds
Pros:
  • Includes wells, rod holders and other fishing accessories
  • Good tracking and stability
  • Included scupper holes drain incoming water as needed
  • Comes with a 5-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
Cons:
  • Some found the storage compartments to be too small
  • Paddle isn’t the best quality
Amazon

#10 BKC FK184 Sit-On-Top Kayak

BKC FK184 Sit-On-Top Kayak’s broad, flat base provides the stability beginners need to learn the ropes and build confidence on the water. It also has heaps of cool extras, like fishing rod holders, paddle parks, and tie down points. 

Most Stable Kayak for Beginners
BKC FK184 Solo
4.6

A wider hull and short length make this one of the stablest kayaks around.

Features:

  • Made of single-piece rotomolded polyethylene
  • Has two waterproof containers for storage
  • Available in Blue Camo, Gray Camo, and Red/Yellow
  • Measure 9 feet long and 44 pounds
  • Maximum weight capacity of 330 pounds
Pros:
  • Broad hull offers excellent stability in all waters
  • Adjustable foot area and seat for customized comfort
  • Quality praised by most owners
Cons:
  • At over $1000, this kayak is expensive
  • Tracking isn’t as great as some other boats
Amazon

Buying Considerations: What to Look for in a Beginner’s Kayak

Pixabay

Browsing kayaks can be overwhelming since the options seem endless. It doesn’t help that contradictory information about what’s best for who can make you second-guess yourself. Let’s dig into the basics and lay the foundation of what’s what.

Style

Unsplash

Sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks have pros and cons; choosing the best one for you ultimately boils down to personal preference. 

As mentioned earlier, sit-on-top models are generally the best idea for beginners, but select a style that works best for you. Don’t listen to what a Reddit rando says about a specific type being for n00bs. Go with your preferences and needs.

A good way to get a “feel” for a style before committing to purchase is to sign up for a kayak tour with a provider in your area. Be sure they use the style you’re interested in trying out and give it a whirl. You never know until you’re in the water. Sitting in one in a store is far different than bobbing out on a lake. 

Stability

Pixabay

Kayaks aren’t created equal when it comes to stability, no matter what a boat’s description states. Broader, flat hulls offer the best stability, while narrow boats with deeply angled hulls are more prone to tipping. Some boaters may erroneously opt for a narrow boat in pursuit of speed and better tracking, only to find themselves treading water and trying to right their yak all afternoon. 

As a beginner, err on the side of caution. Your safety and comfort are worth more than speed. Practice with a safe, stable boat and work up to those speedier picks once you’re more experienced. They’ll still be there waiting when you’re ready.

Material

Pixabay

Kayaks can be made of a host of materials that offer varying levels of strength. They also differ significantly in terms of weight and pricing.

Most affordable kayaks today are crafted of polyethylene plastic or ABS plastic. These are heavier than other options but aren’t always back-breaking to lift. They’re pretty durable but can be damaged by impact or scraping. Polyethylene also experiences fading after repeated exposure to the sun. Of the two, ABS is sturdier but slightly more expensive.

Composite kayaks are much lighter than their plastic counterparts, making them easier to transport. They’re also better at withstanding impact and maintaining color. Unfortunately, they’re also pricier, often costing upwards of $1200 or more.

All that said, the lightest kayaks are inflatable. They also tend to be the least expensive kayaks available. Inflatable boats usually feature a PVC shell with several layers for durability, but they can still pop if snagged on downed logs or fishing gear.

Size

Pixabay

Most recreational kayaks fall between 8 and 10 feet long, though you can find boats shorter for kiddos or longer for tandem adventures. Boats that fall between 8 and 10 feet are the easiest to maneuver, which is essential for beginners just learning the ropes of paddling.

Width also matters as a broader base means you’re less likely to flip your kayak. Most beginner boats are about two and a half feet wide, giving you some slack if you move awkwardly on the water. They’re also easier to climb into and out of without flipping. Narrower boats are made for speed and improved tracking but are more prone to flipping.

The depth of a kayak’s hull is another critical aspect. Most beginner boats feature relatively flat, broad hulls that are more stable. Unfortunately, this also makes them feel a little “boxier” to steer around and affects their tracking. On the other hand, touring boats have a more sharply angled hull that cuts deeper into the water for improved traction and speed.

Weight

Pixabay

Kayaks range from about 35 pounds to over 100, depending on the type of boat and its construction. Weight mainly impacts transport, as loading and unloading a heavy kayak from your vehicle to the water is no small task, particularly when doing it alone. Some nifty gadgets make the job easier, like lift assists, but they’re pricey and don’t always help with every step.

The lightest boats are composite or inflatable, while the heaviest are plastic. Sit-on-top kayaks also tend to be heavier than sit-ins as well.

Weight Capacity

Pixabay

Knowing a kayak’s weight capacity is vital, especially if you plan on boating with significant amounts of gear (or a canine passenger). 

Most kayaks hold at least 250 pounds, though some cut off at 200 or even 150 pounds. Others can hold up to 300 pounds or more, with some tandem-style vessels holding over 500 pounds. Know your boat’s weight capacity and stick to it. Do not overload it.

Cost

Unsplash

Kayaks come at various price points, with the most affordable boats going for as low as $150 and the most expensive being north of $1500. Cost is significantly impacted by the size of the boat, its construction, and the included extras. The priciest boats are large composite vessels for one or two people, while the cheapest are plastic or inflatable for a single rider.

Kayaking costs aren’t always low, but you don’t have to blow your budget on the best boat. Sometimes, the best one for your needs is actually one of the cheapest.

Features

Unsplash

Kayaks can come with nothing but a basic boat shell or loaded with perks like storage compartments, fishing rod holders, and more. 

These added bells and whistles aren’t necessary for every boater, but they can improve your experience on the water if you plan on fishing or partaking in other activities from your boat. Even something as minor as a cup holder helps!

Appearance

Unsplash

Looks don’t matter to everyone, but they’re still worthy of consideration, even if they aren’t a make-or-break point. For one, if you like the design of a boat, you’re more likely to actually use it instead of having it as a dust collector in your garage. 

Besides that, a bright boat provides top-notch visibility for safety, a must if you’re paddling around other watercraft or boating with kids.

Beginner Kayaks: FAQ

Unsplash

Sometimes the simplest of questions can be the hardest to find clear-cut answers to. Let’s get after them and see if we can help.  

What type of kayak is best for beginners?

Beginners usually perform and feel most confident aboard a sit-on-top recreational kayak. These have wider, flatter bases that are less likely to tip, giving you more leeway as you learn the “feel” of a kayak and how to maneuver one on open water. They’re also easiest to board and disembark.

Is a sit-on-top kayak better for beginners?

Yes, sit-on-top or “open-top” kayaks are typically best for beginners as they’re far easier to get into and out of than sit-in boats are. They also allow for more comfortable movement while learning paddling basics. Sit-in boats feel more secure to some, but they require you to learn how to do a wet exit in the event of flipping.

What is the easiest type of kayak to get in and out of?

Sit-on-top kayaks are the easiest to climb into and out of, even when you’re away from shore. The open deck area offers plenty of space, giving even the clumsiest riders a chance to get their bearings. In contrast, a sit-in style boat has less room to work with, and you may find yourself clocking a knee on the shell as you climb in.

What type of kayak is most stable?

The most stable kayaks are those with broad, flattened hulls (generally exceeding 30 inches in width). This large surface area provides more coverage atop the water, making the boat harder to flip. In contrast, narrow, angled hulls cut into the water and have less surface area to balance on, leaving little room for error. 

How much does a beginner kayak cost?

Beginner kayaks start around $250, but the price can stretch over $1000, depending on the brand and type. A good, middle-of-the-road boat will set you back about $500. Extras like storage, rod holders, and fancy seats increase the price.

How much do kayaks weigh?

Kayak weights vary significantly by type, with the lightest being single kayaks at about 35 to 40 pounds. Tandem kayaks for two boaters are a tad heavier at 65 pounds and above, while fishing and some pedal-powered kayaks are the heaviest at over 100 pounds due to added gear. 

What size kayak is best for beginners?

The best beginner kayak sits between 8 and 10 feet, with the best length depending on the type of water you plan to use and your own size. For taller riders, a short kayak may lead to cramped legroom, while too long of a boat can be overwhelming for a small boater. 

Boats 10 feet and under tend to have broader hulls, making them more stable, therefore, better for beginners. They’re also easier to maneuver than a longer boat.

Is it hard to learn to kayak?

Kayaking isn’t as tricky as you’d think. Mastering basic paddling is a breeze with a bit of practice once you get into the water, though it is recommended to begin with small adventures at first, as kayaking is a serious arm workout, especially in choppy water. It’s also a good idea to stick with calm ponds or lakes until you get the hang of going forward, backward, and turning around. Don’t forget your life jacket, either!

If you’re looking for more guidance, look for a kayaking course in your area. The American Kayaking Association can steer you toward the best class for your needs.

***

Kayaking allows you to explore the water without noisy motors, letting you get closer to wildlife (remember to remain respectful!) and see weird and wonderful things you might otherwise miss, leading to epic experiences and potentially amazing photographs. Starting with the right kayak for your needs sets you up for success and fosters a stress-free experience.

Do you own any of the kayaks on our list? Have another that would work great for beginners? We’d love to hear about it.

Footsteps in the Forest is reader-supported. When you purchase products via links on our site, we may receive a small commission.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *