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Which kayak is best for beginners?

Summer is the perfect time to start learning a new water sport. If you want something more intense than swimming or stand-up paddleboarding, check out kayaking. Kayaks have become more affordable and accessible to the masses in recent years, making it a popular summer activity for water enthusiasts. Some kayaks have undergone a significant transformation, including new hull designs and lightweight composition. 

If you’re a beginner, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed about buying your first kayak. You want one that will work well for your lifestyle, whether you’re planning on using it for a single lake vacation or for years to come.

What to know before you buy a beginner kayak

There are three main types of kayaks you should be aware of. Each has its distinctive pros and cons and works best for specific lifestyles. Find the kayak that will work best for your needs.

Kayak types

Recreational kayaks

These kayaks are the most beginner-friendly and often the most economically pleasing. They’re made of polyethylene, which can be challenging to carry with only one person. Most beginners choose to use recreational kayaks in shallow water near land. As these kayaks are wider, they’re less likely to overturn. 

Touring kayaks

Touring kayaks are longer than the previously mentioned recreational kayak. Budget-friendly options are made using thinner polyethylene, while others use ABS plastic that is lighter in weight and UV resistant. This kayak style is used for more difficult waters and is intended for those with a little more experience. You’ll need proper training before getting into a touring kayak. 

Hybrid kayaks

If you’ve got the money to splurge and want to make kayaking a full-time hobby, choose a hybrid model. These are purpose-built with unique materials. You can choose the configuration of your kayak to meet your specific needs.

Features to look for in a kayak for beginners

Sit-on-top kayaks

If you want to sit on a molded seat on top of your kayak, you want to look for a sit-on-top style. These are beginner-friendly as they’re easier to get in and often considerably more comfortable. You can store these kayaks inside as they have a watertight hatch. Some of these styles have an open space at the cockpit that allows you to easily access your phone, cooler, or camera.

Sit-in kayaks

Sit-in kayaks place you inside the hull. A spray skirt keeps the water out of the hull, which fits around where you sit and over the cockpit. There are three popular styles of sit-in kayaks to choose from; canoe, whitewater and touring kayaks. 

Canoes have a wide-open cockpit that allows you to have extra storage. Whitewater kayaks are smaller with a round outer edge and flatter bottom. They are designed for moving through fast-moving rapids. Touring kayaks are longer than their recreational counterparts and give better control.

How much can you expect to spend on a kayak for beginners

The price for a kayak for a beginner can range anywhere from $300-$4,500. The price will depend on its size, purpose, and construction. Inflatable kayaks are the most affordable, with some costing less than $300, while higher-end models can set you back up to $2,000.

Hybrid kayaks are more specialized than recreational models, costing between $500-$900. Recreational kayaks start at under $300, with a child’s model costing around $100. If you don’t want to invest in an expensive model, this might be the perfect solution for you. Foldable kayaks typically cost more than $1,000, while touring kayaks can range anywhere from $600-$3,000 depending on make and model.

Best kayak for beginners FAQ

How active and fit do I need to be before I can start kayaking?

A. Almost anyone can kayak. However, you want to know how to swim and should check with your doctor to see if you have any pre-existing health conditions that you should be aware of. Recreational kayaking is beginner-friendly and intended to be a fun and relaxing experience in calm water.

What is the best way for me to transport my kayak?

A. Most recreational kayaks can be transported on top of your car using a roof rack or crossbars. You can find racks that are made specifically for kayaks. If you own a pickup truck, you can strap your kayak to the best of the truck. Whatever transportation method you use, make sure to pad the hull and secure it to prevent scratching or damage.

What is the best kayak for beginners to buy?

Top kayak for beginners

Aquaglide Navarro 110 Convertible Kayak

Aquaglide Navarro 110 Convertible Kayak

What you need to know: A one-person kayak that will see you through even your wildest of adventures.

What you’ll love: It has a 250-pound capacity with zip-open dry compartments to prevent water damage and mold build-up. The Velcro seat is also easily adjustable.

What you should consider: It does not come with adapters for pump valves or paddles.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top kayak for beginners for the money

Intex Challenger Kayak Inflatable Set

Intex Challenger Kayak Inflatable Set

What you need to know: A budget-friendly inflatable solo kayak that packs a punch for its price tag.

What you’ll love: It’s made using durable PVC that will work against rocks, saltwater, and petroleum exposure. It offers a rigid skeg for steering and has backrest seats.

What you should consider: Some of these kayaks have arrived with leaky seams, and it may not be the best size for taller kayakers. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak K2

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak K2

What you need to know: This Kayak is by one of the most popular brands in the industry and is perfect for beginner kayakers. 

What you’ll love: It has two detachable fins to give you optimum balance. It holds air and inflates quickly while easily deflating. It has a mounting bracket that is equipped for GPS systems and fish finders.

What you should consider: Some owners of this kayak have raised concerns about its longevity. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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David Heiling writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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