Enjoy whitewater rafting or fishing? What about taking long tours along the waterways? No matter how you want to use a kayak, there is a model that is designed especially for your needs. In fact, there are even inflatable kayaks that are ideal for people who don’t necessarily have the space to store or transport them!
We’ve reviewed over twenty kayaks in order to identify and recommend the best ones for you. We considered such factors as the intended use of the kayak, how easy it was to transport, how comfortable it was to use, and how effective it was in the water.
Our top pick, the Sea Eagle SE370, stood out as the best. Suitable for three people to use at once, the kayak is inflatable, comfortable to use, and suitable for white water rapids up to class III. In addition, it offers a smooth experience, no matter how choppy the waters!
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Kayaks
|Best Overall||The Sea Eagle SE370||4.4|
|Runner Up||Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak||4.3|
|Best Budget Buy||Intex Challenger K1 Kayak||4.3|
|Best Sit-In Kayak||Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak||4.1|
|Best Sit-On-Top Kayak||Ocean Kayak’s Malibu Two Tandem Kayak||4.4|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Our Top Pick: The Sea Eagle SE370
Cruise a mirror smooth lake, or race down the rapids in the Sea Eagle SE370; this kayak is suitable for all kinds of adventures including touring, fishing, and skin diving. Weighing just 32 pounds, but able to carry up to 650, this kayak has been designed to provide plenty of room for three people – or two people and a dog – but it’s just as easy to use for solo adventures if this is what you’d prefer.
The Sea Eagle SE370 is incredibly easy to transport, inflating and deflating within minutes. When fully deflated, it can be placed inside the provided storage bag, which also provides enough room for camping equipment and other supplies.
Construction wise, the Sea Eagle SE370 excels. It comes with an I-beam floor for extra rigidity, and a 38 millimeter Polykrylar hull, which is thicker than the majority of kayaks on this list. Also included is a self draining valve, rear and front rope handles, removable inflatable seats, and two molded kegs for speed and tracking. The kayak has also been designed to be tough enough to withstand dog claws and paws.
The Sea Eagle SE370 Key Features:
- Lightweight and portable – it takes just eight minutes to inflate
- NMMA certified
- Contains two skegs for better speed and tracking
- I-beam floor and extra thick Polykrylar hull
- Comes with a self-bailing valve
- Capacity – three people or 650lbs
- Repair kit and pressure gauge included
Our Runner Up Pick: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is a fantastic runner up in our eyes. This 15-foot kayak can be paddled both solo and tandem, with the open-deck design making it simple to get in and out of the boat. You can switch the deck from an open to closed deck kayak, and re-arrange the seating positions to transform the kayak from a two-person to a one-person in seconds.
Like most Advanced Elements kayaks, the design of the AdvancedFrame convertible is sleek and stylish, and comes in an attractive red or lime color. It’s been designed to offer the highest level of performance and comes complete with a number of accessories that can take your experience to the next level. Drop-stitch technology is enabled in the floor, ensuring the kayak remains rigid and can handle high pressure environments. The three layered material on the rest of the boat offers a high level of puncture resistance too.
With a high level of customizability, and a carefully considered design, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is a top choice for those who enjoying fishing or touring the waters.
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak Key Features:
- Versatile seat locations enable you to switch the kayak from solo to tandem within seconds
- Adjustable padded seats with high support offer the highest level of comfort
- Easy set up – simply unfold and inflate the kayak, and then attach the seats as required
- 3 layered material ensures durability
- Built in aluminum ribs in the hull define the stern and bow and improve tracking
- One skeg tracking fin
- Comes with paddle holders and carry duffel bag
- Available in red or lime green
Best Budget Pick: Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
If you’re new to kayaking and looking for a kayak that won’t set you back a lot, the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak is a top choice. This one person kayak is comfortable, easy to use, and suitable for people of all age groups, including youths. It has a striking, yet low-profile design, and is especially suited to those who enjoy touring bodies of water like lakes and slow moving rivers.
The Intex Challenger K1 is an inflatable kayak that can be inflated in as little as three minutes using the high output pump that comes included. Made from heavy duty vinyl, its I-beam floors provide durability and stability, while its cockpit is designed for comfort. Although there is a lot of space in the Intex Challenger, its streamlined design does ensure that it moves quickly and easily through the water.
The Intex Challenger K1 also comes with a repair patch and an 84-inch aluminum oar.
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak Key Features:
- One person inflatable kayak; 220lb maximum capacity
- Inflatable floor and inflatable seat provide comfort and rigidity
- Both ends of the kayak feature a grab line
- Comes with a cargo net on the front for storing extra gear
- Repair patch, high output hand pump, and aluminum oar come included
Best Sit-in Kayak: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak
For those who prefer to sit inside their kayaks, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak is the best choice there is. A hybrid of an inflatable kayak and a floating frame, this boat can be set up within just a few minutes, and is compact enough to carry large distances. The kayak also provides plenty of on-board storage making it ideal for those who like to make kayaking part of a weekend-long camping trip.
Rigid panels, inflation chambers, and an aluminum frame provide this Advanced Elements kayak with an enhanced performance that you don’t often see with other hybrid models. And, unlike most inflatable kayaks, this model is created with multiple levels of material, ensuring its durability. It’s comfortable, hard wearing, and a pleasure to use for long trips as well as short tours.
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak Key Features:
- Solo kayak
- 300lb maximum capacity
- Can be folded down to 30” x 17” x 10”
- Has the portability of an inflatable kayak with the look and technique of a hard-shell model
- Uses 3-layer technology to provide an enhanced level of durability
- Built in aluminum ribs define the stern and bow and provide an enhanced level of tracking
- Comes with a range of accessories including a duffel bag for storage, a repair kit and a folding seat
- Available in green or red
Best Sit-on-Top Kayak: Ocean Kayak’s Malibu Two Tandem Kayak
Ocean Kayak’s Malibu Two Tandem Kayak is touted as the most popular sit on top kayak in the world. It’s lightweight, compact, and suitable for both saltwater and freshwater adventures, making it truly versatile and ideal for all kinds of kayaking.
The construction of this kayak makes it suitable for kayakers of all levels; it’s been designed for stability ensuring it holds firm on both calm and moderate waters. It can also be used both tandem and solo, or solo with a dog. It’s easy to get on board, and the open top design ensures you don’t feel confined or claustrophobic on the water. With adjustable seat options, foam padding, and straps for storing gear, you can rest assured that this kayak will provide everything you need for long adventures on the water.
Ocean Kayak’s Malibu Two Tandem Kayak Key Features:
- 425lbs maximum capacity – suitable for two adults, an adult and a child, or an adult and a dog. Can also be used solo
- Hull design ensures comfort no matter your leg length
- Comes with two Comfort-Plus seats and three different seating positions
- Contains gear straps for storage
- Available in four different designs: Sunrise, Seaglass, Envy and Ahi
Who Should Buy a Kayak
Anyone who plans to kayak on a regular basis would do well to own their own gear, including their own kayak. The reason for this is that there are many different models available, each suited to a different type of kayaking experience. When you hire one from a rental shop, you may not be getting the best kayak for your needs. In addition, when you purchase your own kayak you will get used to how to use your specific model. This can help to improve your skills when out on the water.
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a kayak; we have described these below. You’ll want to keep in mind the type of experience you want to have on the water, how you plan on transporting your gear to your destination, and your budget. No matter the answers to these questions, though, if you plan to go kayaking regularly, owning your own kayak is essential.
Important Features to Consider
A kayak should do several things well to ensure you have a great experience on the water. Here’s what to consider when selecting a kayak:
- Material. When choosing a kayak, you’ll notice that there are both inflatable and rigid options available. Inflatable kayaks are often made from soft shell cloth materials and PVC and tend to be cheaper than the rigid models which are made from strong plastics and fiberglass. Inflatable kayaks are easier to transport and most can be water-ready within ten minutes of using a pump. That said, they don’t tend to be quite as durable as the rigid models. You’ll need to work out whether you have the space to transport a rigid kayak or whether an inflatable model will be more suitable.
- Comfort. Even some of the kayaks specially designed for whitewater rapids are comfortable. And, if you’re going to be spending a long time on the water, this is something you’ll want to pay attention to. Key features to consider here include whether the seats are adjustable and movable, whether the kayak comes with foot rests, and how much room there is in the interior of the kayak for both you and your gear.
- Type. There are three main types of kayak; touring, fishing and whitewater, although you can also find hybrid models which are suitable for more than one purpose. Kayaks designed for a specific purpose usually have additional features that make them more suitable for their designated use. Touring kayaks, for example, will often be designed with the ultimate of comfort in mind. They have a narrower design, are able to handle various types of water, and are created with speed in mind. Fishing kayaks, on the other hand, tend to have plenty of storage space to store your gear, tackle, waterproof backpacks, and anything else you need to take along. They often also have holes for you to rest paddles and lines. Before choosing a kayak, consider what you will be predominantly using it for and determine which features are most important.
- Length. Finally, you should also consider the length of the kayak you are buying. Smaller kayaks are especially suited for children, and they tend to be cheaper as well. With that said, for adults, the longer the kayak is, the more advantages it tends to have. Long kayaks are capable of carrying heavier loads without sacrificing on performance. They also tend to be more stable and easier to paddle as each stroke propels them forward further. Short kayaks are, however, best in narrow environments and in locations that require you to make quick turns.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a kayak and how does it work?
A kayak is a versatile vessel that is used for paddling in different bodies of water. Different types of kayak are available depending on the experience you want to have. Some are wide and short but especially effective at turning, while others are narrow and long and built for speed.
To use a kayak, you will either sit inside a cockpit with your legs extended out in front of you, or sit on top of the kayak in a kind of cockpit seat. You will then use paddles to propel yourself forward and steer.
Is it dangerous to kayak in the ocean?
Kayaking in the ocean is more dangerous than kayaking on a flat body of water like a lake, but this doesn’t mean it’s not something you should try. The thing with the ocean is that it’s unpredictable – the weather can quickly change from warm and sunny to cold and windy, which can change the sea conditions within minutes. When kayaking on the ocean, you’re also usually quite a way from land, which again can cause difficulties if you’re not experienced. Lightning, ships, tide currents, and waves can also make your experience more dangerous.
With all of the above said, so long as you are properly prepared for kayaking in the ocean, have the correct kayak and equipment, and have the appropriate training, kayaking on the ocean is an adrenaline rush that can be safe.
What equipment do you need for kayaking?
In addition to a kayak, the most important piece of equipment kayakers need is a paddle. A lot of thought should go into choosing this based on your height, your fitness level, the size of your kayak, and the type of kayaking you will be taking part in.
Kayakers also require a life vest, often called a personal floatation device (PFD), a spray skirt (to keep the water out of your kayak), and a good helmet. Optional extras include waterproof clothing, a dry bag for your belongings, and an anchor.
Do you need experience to kayak?
No, you don’t need previous experience to get started with kayaking. It’s a simple sport that even a beginner can pick up relatively quickly. As long as you have a good level of fitness and are a reasonable swimmer, you should be able to paddle along waterways as soon as you get into the kayak.
That said, it is always a good idea to get some professional instruction when first starting out. An instructor will be able to teach you how to maneuver the kayak, how to stop, and how to remain safe. If you plan on kayaking in white water or in the ocean, kayaking lessons are a must.
Other Kayaks We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other kayaks. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best kayaks list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your adventures on the water. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
With a cockpit designed for space and comfort, and the ability to inflate within minutes, this is a top choice of portable kayak. This kayak has a maximum weight limit of 400lbs and is suitable for two adults.
- Made from heavy duty vinyl
- Specifically designed for small bodies of water like slow moving rivers and lakes
- Boston valves ensure quick inflation and deflation
- Comes with two paddles, a pump, and a convenient carry bag
The Driftsun Voyager kayak inflates in just five minutes making it a top choice for those who want to get out on the water quickly. It also has a fantastic durable design. Made from heavy duty PVC, it’s resistant to punctures, and its fabric cover is tear and rip resistant.
- Padded seats provide hours of comfortable cruising
- Lightweight – weighing just 27lbs
- Suitable for both solo and tandem kayaking thanks to its adjustable seats
- Comes with two paddles, a rear tracking fin, a repair kit, a hand pump and a travel bag
You can take the whole family out on the water when you purchase the Sevylor Big Basin kayak. Suitable for up to three people, this kayak has been constructed using heavy duty PVC making it suitable for both calm waters and mild white water. Inflation takes less than one minute.
- Heavy duty PVC and strong tarpaulin bottom provides good puncture resistance
- Leak-free Airtight System
- Seats can be adjusted to suit your needs
- Comes with spray covers to keep you dry on choppy waters
Designed for solo adventures, the Sevylor Quickpak takes less than five minutes to inflate, ensuring you can get out on the water in super fast time. Containing an inflatable backrest, and a multi-position foot rest, you’ll be able to spend hours on the water in comfort. The bungee storage area and drink holder further add to the convenience of this kayak.
- Made from 21-gauge PVC and tarpaulin
- Multiple air chambers ensure that one puncture doesn’t ruin your trip
- Multi-position foot rest and backrest designed for comfort
- Comes with a paddle and hand pump
A durable and compact inflatable kayak, the Advanced Elements Island Voyage 2 kayak provides excellent performance on all bodies of water. The adjustable padded seats ensure hours of comfort while the three seat locations make the kayak suitable for both solo and tandem adventures.
- High volume side tubes provide stability on all types of water
- Made from heavy duty PVC and tarpaulin
- Rear drain plug makes draining and cleaning simple
- Comes with repair kit and duffel bag for transportation
For the ultimate hands-free fishing experience, the Sevylor Coleman kayak is a top choice. A two-person kayak, this model comes with adjustable seats, and convenient paddle and rod holders. You can even add a trolling motor to this kayak if you need to move through the water at a quicker pace.
- Made from 18-gauge PVC and a tarpaulin bottom to provide durability
- Comes with quick set rod holders to provide a hands-free fishing experience
- Mesh storage pockets keep your gear safe while the paddle holders keep your paddles secured
- Multiple air chambers ensure the kayak remains inflated even if a puncture occurs
The Sevylor Tahiti Hunt and Fish is an inflatable kayak that has been specially designed for use on lakes. The dark olive color blends perfectly with the shoreline, while the roomy interior will provide plenty of space for any fish or game you catch. The inflatable seats can also be adjusted and/or removed when necessary.
- Made from 21-gauge PVC
- Able to be used for both solo and tandem kayaking; maximum capacity 360lbs
- Double lock valves ensure easy inflation and deflation
- Comes with a convenient carry bag
This sit-on-top kayak from the Brooklyn Kayak Company is the perfect solution for a multi-day river adventure, or a relaxing afternoon on the lake. Well suited to kayak fishing, it can easily navigate currents and choppy waters, and has plenty of room for storing snacks and tackle. The multiple fishing rod mounts also provide a hands-free fishing experience.
- Solo sit-on-top kayak
- Waterproof storage and cargo areas provide enough room for snacks, books, tackle and personal belongings
- Paddle parks keep your paddles securely fastened for a hands-free fishing experience
- Supportive seat ensures comfort on long excursions
The Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 110 offers stability and speed for expert anglers. The toe controlled rubber system will save your energy in tough conditions, while the multiple storage options will provide plenty of room for your belongings.
- Solo sit-on-top kayak
- Includes four integrated gear tracks and two mount-flush rod holders for convenience
- Vibe Hero seat offers a premium level of comfort
- Paddle comes included
This kayak has everything an enthusiastic angler needs to have success on the water. Featuring four storage areas, mounted rod holders, paddle rests and a foot operated rudder, you’ll love the convenience it offers. The BKC UH-RA220 Angler is also stable enough for you to stand up on-board.
- Solo sit-on-top kayak with a 450lb capacity
- A large cargo area and three waterproof storage pockets provide plenty of space for belongings and fishing gear
- Paddle rests will secure your paddle to the hull while the rod holders provide a hands-free fishing experience
- Available in seven different designs
This bright, eye-catching kayak from Vibe is a top choice for families who enjoy spending their weekends on the water. Suitable for three people to use at once, it has a 500lbs capacity and plenty of room for storage. Designed with comfort in mind, you can spend long weekends on the water in the Yellowfin 130T Tandem.
- 3 person sit-on-top kayak; maximum capacity 500lbs
- Includes two flush mounted rod holders and four mounting points for Railblaza, RAM and Scotty rod holders
- Multiple storage options available for belongings
- Very stable on the water
This one person inflatable kayak is ideal for solo adventures. Made from fully-constructed Drop Stitch technology, you won’t have to worry about punctures or tears while out on the water. The adjustable FlexBrace provides maximum control and efficiency while the tapered stern and bow will enable you to speed through the water at a pace that suits you.
- Solo kayak, suitable for capacities up to 250lbs
- Made from reinforced PVC
- Inflates in just seven minutes
- Comes with travel backpack, repair kit, and high pressure gauge
The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is a top choice of kayak for leisurely tours of the waters. Available in seven striking colors, you can choose one that fits your personality as well as your style. With an adjustable padded seat and a large, open cockpit, you’ll feel comfortable all day long in the Aruba 10.
- Solo kayak, suitable for capacities up to 250lbs
- Short cord deck rigging provides a convenient storage space for gear
- Adjustable padded seat provides comfortable back support
- Adjustable foot braces, cup holder and carrying holders add to the experience
This inflatable kayak has an incredibly roomy interior, ensuring that even the tallest of people can enjoy a comfortable day on the water. Well constructed, it is suitable for class II rapids, lakes, ponds and rivers. Easy to use, and practical, it’s a top choice of kayak for beginners.
- Tandem kayak, suitable for capacities up to 350lbs
- Adjustable seats ensure a comfortable experience
- Grab rope and removable fin provide directional stability
- 2 x 86” paddles come included
Made from high quality PVC, the Goplus Inflatable Kayak will keep you safe and stable on the waters, no matter how far you want to travel. The adjustable seats and roomy cockpit will ensure your comfort while the net bag provides plenty of space for storage.
- Tandem kayak suitable for capacities up to 350lbs
- Seats and footrests can be adjusted to provide the ultimate in comfort
- Can be inflated and deflated within minutes
- Paddle, repair kit, and hand pump come included
Lightweight and durable, the Driftsun Rover 220 fully inflates in under ten minutes. It’s suitable for rapids up to class IV and has lots of tie down points, eight self bailing ports, and a tracking fin for the ultimate in stability. There’s even a front action camera mount included so you can record your adventures!
- Tandem kayak suitable for capacities up to 600lbs
- Made from heavy duty PVC tarpaulin and reinforced PVC side tubes
- Suitable for rapids up to class IV
- Comes with a double action hand pump, a travel bag, a repair kit, and a fixed camera mount
The Sea Eagle 300x Inflatable Explorer is buoyant and durable and designed to be able to navigate even the toughest of obstacle courses. Containing 16 self drain valves, you can focus on steering your kayak, while the boat drains off water as quickly as it enters. Suitable for rapids up to class IV, the Inflatable Explorer is a beast and a top choice for those who like their kayaking experience to be extreme!
- Solo kayak, suitable for capacities up to 395lbs
- Skeg can be removed when the kayak is inflated or deflated
- Suitable for rapids up to class IV
- Comes with an ultra light carbon paddle, a travel bag, a repair kit, a foot pump and a three year warranty
The Solstice Flare is whitewater ready and suitable for rapids up to class III. It’s rigid and stable, and has been constructed using super tough 1000 denier nylon to protect it from punctures on the water. With a stylish design, and plenty of room to store belongings, it’s a good choice for long expeditions.
- Solo kayak, suitable for capacities up to 320lbs
- Multi-position foot rests and an adjustable seat ensure comfort
- Suitable for rapids up to class III
- Comes with a carry bag and pump
This 12-foot inflatable kayak from Airhead is a great budget option suitable for moderate whitewater. Able to be used both tandem and solo, it also has plenty of room for storage, and a maximum weight capacity of 500lbs. It’s thick PVC construction will ensure hours of enjoyment without the worry of punctures.
- Tandem kayak, suitable for capacities up to 500lbs
- Removable inflatable seats can be customized for your comfort
- Suitable for moderate whitewater
- Contains front and back spray covers and a threaded drain hole to keep you dry and the boat free of water
This incredibly stable kayak is designed for use in various conditions, and suitable for rapids up to class III. It’s especially ideal for beginners as the aluminum stern and bow have been designed to offer the ultimate in control and performance. Fast to inflate and deflate too, it’s simple to transport without the need for a roof rack or kayak trailer.
- Solo kayak with a maximum weight capacity of 250lbs.
- Made from three layers of PVC tarpaulin ensuring puncture resistance
- Suitable for rapids up to class III
- Comes with a repair kit and carry bag