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Recreational Kayak Buyers Guide

Paddling on the silent water can be the best thing you can do to make your day memorable. You can also paddle a recreational kayak if you are getting a few days off from work, as it is the best way to spend time.

But to paddle, you need a recreational kayak. These kayaks are shorter than other kayaks, as these are ideal for fun. Do you know how to buy a kayak, or have you bought a kayak previously? If not, then this buyer's guide is important for you.

Some expert kayakers can also get confused when choosing a recreational kayak as these are so many options available to choose from. Go through this recreational kayak buyer’s guide to know about the factors you should consider while buying a kayak.

How can this buyer’s guide help you in making the best decision?

We know you might be thinking about how this guide can be a help in buying a kayak! Purchasing a kayak, especially a recreational one, is a bit challenging and needs you to make an informed decision so that you can buy the best kayak for the money.

In this guide, we have discussed the factors you should look for when buying recreational kayaks. Following this guide will help you to make a rewarding choice, and you will have a good time paddling with the kayak.

Factors to consider when buying a recreational kayak

For your ease, we have classified the factors so that you can quickly go through this guide to learn about things you should check before buying a recreational kayak.

Types of recreational kayaks

Not all kayaks are suitable for recreational purposes, so you should choose the kayak wisely. Below we have explained the kayaks that are ideal for recreational paddlers.

Traditional kayaks

Most paddlers also call them sit-in kayak because there is a cockpit that accommodates you to save you from water splashes. Usually, these kayaks are narrower and have a lower center of gravity, so you will be able to steer precisely.

If you want to paddle in rapids, then these recreational kayaks are the best. However, you can paddle the kayak solo as there is not enough space to accommodate two persons.

There are many benefits of traditional kayaks, such as dry storage areas. Also, these are more watertight and keep you warm so you can paddle down in cold water.

However, you will face issues while getting in and out. The kayaks can be heavy, and you will find less storage area.

Sit on top kayak

The deck of the kayak is flat, and you have to sit on it to steer. The rigs are excellent, which makes these kayaks suitable for paddling in lakes. If you want to paddle in quiet waters, then go for sit-on-top kayaks. Beginners will also find the kayaks easy to control and comfortable.

These are among the highest-selling recreational kayaks due to low price and lightweight. You will find solo and tandem models if you want to paddle with your buddy.

The kayaks are easy to get on and off. Also, you can go for a quick swim while keeping your gear on the kayak. Furthermore, the storage space is more compared to sit-in kayaks, and that's another plus point.

The downsides of sit-on top kayaks are the higher center of gravity, and less stability. Also, you will get wet due to splashes, and maneuvering the kayak will be harder in high waves.

Inflatable kayaks

These are another type of sit on the top kayak you can use for recreational purposes. The kayaks take less space, and portaging them is easy, so you will find them useful while exploring the new areas. The lightweight kayaks are made using durable materials so you can rest assured about the longevity.

You will find some tandem options as well, but the kayak will be a little longer than the regular kayaks. The benefits you will get are extreme compactness and ease of use. However, there are some disadvantages as well, like less weight capacity, and chances of getting punctured.

Hull type

Even when you are buying a recreational kayak checking the hull type is essential. The hull can dramatically impact the performance, so go through these hull types to make a good decision.

Flat hull

Kayaks with flat hulls are easy to maneuver and highly stable. The reason why these are ideal for recreational purposes is the ease of control, and that's why beginners love to buy them. Most of the recreational kayaks, such as inflatable and sit on top options, are available with a flat hull.

Pontoon hull

Kayaks with pontoon hulls are also highly stable, just like flat hulls, but the speed is slower, so you will enjoy paddling. Solo and tandem both kayaks are available with pontoon hulls.

Rounded hull

If you love speed, then kayaks with rounded edges can be great. Kayaks with a rounded hull are maneuverable. Also, the stability is excellent. You will find a lot of solo kayaks with a rounded hull. Usually, recreational paddlers don't go for a rounded hull because of the speed.

Chine hull

Chine hulls are not common when looking for recreational kayaks. The hull is hard, whereas the body of the kayak is soft for added stability. You will get good speed with the kayaks, but they can be fairly expensive compared to other hull types.

V-shaped hull

V-shaped hull kayaks cut through the water to get good paddling speeds with fewer efforts. Moreover, you can paddle in a straight line, so maneuvering the kayak won't be an issue. Paddlers love these hulls for recreational, touring, and other purposes.

If you know how to keep the boat stable, then look for v-shaped hulls because keeping them stable can be a task. The kayaks are excellent for long and short trips, and you will find sit-in and sit-on-top options so that you can make the best choice.


The material impacts the performance, durability, and weight of the kayak, so you shouldn't take it for granted. Various materials are used to manufacture these kayaks, such as carbon fiber, fiberglass, and much more.

Choose the material that fits into your budget and serves the purpose so that you can enjoy paddling with the kayak.


If you want to paddle every week, then fiberglass kayaks can be a great choice. The kayaks are lightweight and portable so that you can portage it without any help. Fiberglass is durable and long-lasting. Plus, the material doesn't deteriorate due to UV rays.

However, you have to spend more to buy fiberglass kayaks as the material is expensive.


Plastic is the most commonly used material when it comes to choosing recreational kayaks. The material is durable and highly suitable for beginners. You have to take extra care of plastic kayaks as these are prone to damages if you collide into something hard.

Also, the kayaks are heavy, so portaging will be an issue.


Aluminum is another common material found in recreational kayaks. It is lightweight as compared to plastic and is more durable. The only downside with aluminum kayaks is that the material gets cold due to water, and you will feel it while paddling the kayak.

Carbon fiber

Kayaks made using carbon fiber are lightweight and durable. These kayaks are perfect if you don’t want to carry a heavy boat on the trailer. You have to take extra care of the kayak as the material is prone to damages.

Moreover, carbon fiber kayaks are expensive, but last many years if you do proper maintenance and care.


If you go for inflatable kayaks, then you will find PVC. PVC is a durable plastic substitute that curtails the risks of puncture and is suitable for travelers.

Weight capacity

The weight capacity is how much weight the kayak can handle without drowning. Usually, recreational kayaks are short, so the weight capacity is lesser as compared to touring kayaks. You won't be taking the gear, so don't worry if the weight capacity is low.

If you want to paddle with your friend, then go for tandem kayaks as these have more weight capacity due to the size.


When looking for recreational kayaks, you will find that these are shorter as compared to other kayaks. The maximum length of a recreational can be around 12 feet, so you have to either choose it or the smaller options available under your budget.

The smaller the kayak, the less will be the weight capacity, so you should choose the length carefully. Kayaks longer than 12 feet come under the tourist category and are heavy.

If you want to travel with the kayak, then smaller boats are good since portaging isn't an issue.


The width of the kayak impacts stability and weight capacity. Generally, recreational kayaks are wider; that's why beginners can also paddle them in the waters. You will find multiple kayaks that are 24 inches in width as these are the most stable and easy to maneuver.

Some recreational kayaks have a lesser width, and these are perfect for experienced paddlers.


The weight of the kayak is a critical factor to check while buying one. Recreational kayaks are generally less than 50 pounds so that the paddlers can travel with the kayak. Don't go for kayaks that are heavy, as it can be a hassle to load it over your vehicle or trailer.

No matter if you want to paddle solo or with your friend, the kayak should be lightweight.


Comfort is something you should never compromise with, as a comfortable kayak will make your trip even more comfortable. Check if the seat is adjustable so that you can sit comfortably on it. Some kayaks even allow you to use a yoga mat so that you get added comfort.

Furthermore, a comfortable kayak will let you paddle for a prolonged time, and you can steer with ease.

Cockpit size

The size of cocking is another factor that impacts the comfort. Small cockpits are perfect if you need more control over the kayak. Also, these cockpits keep you dry, and you can understand the kayak better.

But recreational kayaks come with bigger cockpits so that the paddlers can get in and out easily. These kayaks are not for sports activities and other such tasks; that is why you won't see any short cockpits. Check the cockpit size if you are tall and heavy to ensure that you can get in easily without any hassles.

Tracking fin

Tracking fins make the kayak good for tracking, and that's why paddlers go for recreational kayaks to track with ease. You will see the fins on inflatable kayaks, and these are removable. You can remove the fin when you need more control to turn the kayak quickly.


A skeg is just like a racking fin, but it is not removable. You will find skegs in inflatable and other types of kayaks. You will get better control over the kayak even in waves and moving water, and that is why you should check the availability of skegs.


Checking the seat is vital as you will be sitting on it for hours. Don't buy kayaks that have uncomfortable or non-removable seats. Some recreational paddlers buy cheap kayaks and then replace the seat with a comfortable one to save money.

If you are also planning to buy a cheap kayak, then check if the seat is removable so that you can set up a comfortable seat before taking the kayak in the water.


The hatch provides access to the storage space, where you can keep the water bottle or other things you want to take on the kayak. Generally, recreational kayaks come with only one hatch because of the size so that you won't get too much storage space.

Check it beforehand whether the kayak comes so that you can store the stuff with ease.

Depth of the hull

If you are tall, then you need more space inside the kayak to accommodate your legs. Kayaks with deeper hulls have more space, so long-legged paddlers can comfortably paddle the kayaks. However, deeper hulls get impacted by the winds, and you cannot reach up to good speeds.

On the other hand, shallow hull kayaks have less space, but strong winds cannot impact them. You can choose the hull depth based on your height and skill level.


Recreational kayaks with a skid are extra durable as compared to the kayaks without a skid. The skid is a layer that safeguards the kayak from the rocks and other hard surfaces striking the kayak. Recreational kayaks that have a skid are perfect for beginners.

You can even replace the skid if the kayak allows you to do it. Skids are available with hard-shell kayaks only, and you will not see them in inflatable kayaks.


Generally, recreational kayaks are affordable, so you don't have to spend a lot to buy them. The cost of the kayak depends on its material, brands, and other factors listed in this article. With this buyer's guide, you can buy an affordable kayak that's perfect for you.

Accessories you should buy with a recreational kayak.

After selecting the best recreational kayak, you should get some accessories to make the trip enjoyable. We have listed some accessories that every paddler should get.

  • Life jacket

A life jacket will keep you afloat if you fall into the water. Using a life jacket is essential to go kayaking. Go for a branded vest that fits you properly and can handle your weight.

  • Solar charger

How cool things would be if you can charge your phone or camera while kayaking. You will see a lot of waterproof solar chargers that are perfect to use on a kayak.

  • Kayak anchor

So you want to spend some time on a particular spot, but the moving water doesn’t allow that? No worries, you should use a kayak anchor to retain your position. Usually, anchors are preferred by fishers, but you can also get one along with you to stop and adore the scenic views.

  • Kayak light

A kayak light will guide you through the route if it is dark. You can mount the light in front of the kayak for better visibility.

  • Dry pack

With a dry pack, you can keep your stuff protected from water splashes. Recreational kayaks have one hatch only, so keeping a dry pack will be a great help.

  • Kayak cart

Recreational kayaks are lightweight, but getting a kayak cart will help you transport the kayak from your vehicle to the shore.

  • Kayak coolers

If it's hot outside, but you cannot stop yourself from paddling, then get a kayak cooler. These coolers have rechargeable batteries, and you can set it up on the kayak to beat the heat while paddling.

FAQs: Best Recreational Kayaks

Q: Are recreational kayaks durable?

A: Yes, these kayaks are equally durable as other kayaks so you can rest assured the longevity. Make sure to check the material so that you get a better lifespan from the kayak. Also, check if the boat has a skid so that it safeguards the kayak from rocks and other hard objects that can damage the hull.

Q: How much does a good recreational kayak cost?

A: The cost of a recreational kayak depends on multiple factors like the size, brand, and other such things. You will find multiple affordable as well as cheaper options when searching for a boat.

Q: Do I get paddles with the kayak?

A: No, you will not get paddles with the kayak provided that you buy a bundle. Most kayakers prefer to purchase the paddles separately to save money and to buy the best paddles.

Q: Can I fish on a recreational kayak?

A: No, you cannot use recreational kayaks for fishing as these have less weight capacity, and you cannot use fishing rods on them. Go for fishing-specific kayaks if you want to enjoy spending time fishing in the lake.

Q: What are the holes in my kayaks?

A: The holes are known as scupper holes that allow the water to drain from the kayak. While kayaking, some water will splash in the kayak, and the holes will drain the water, so you don't need a drain pump.

Q: How comfortable are recreational kayaks?

A: Recreational kayaks are highly comfortable, and you can paddle for a prolonged time without any issues. However, make sure to check if the kayak comes with a removable seat so that you can fix a new and highly comfortable seat.

Q: Which one is better to sit on top or sit-in kayak?

A: Both kayaks have their own benefits. Sit-in kayaks are perfect for paddlers who want to paddle in cold water and need more control over the kayak. If you are heavy and tall, then it can be a task to get in and out of sit-in kayaks.

Also, you have to check the cockpit's size to make sure that it is highly comfortable. On the other hand, sit on top kayaks offer excellent comfort, and it is easy to sit and get up. These kayaks are ideal for quiet waters, and you can take a dip in the water as getting up the kayak is easy as compared to a sit-in kayak.


With this recreational kayak buyer's guide, you can buy the best kayak that's perfect to paddle for fun and entertainment. You can use these factors to buy an affordable kayak that's highly comfortable and easy to maneuver.

Also, we have listed some accessories as well so that you get everything required while kayaking. Pay extra attention to the weight, hull shape, and material as these have the highest impact on the performance and longevity of the kayak.

Lastly, don’t skip the FAQ section as there you will find some valuable information about the kayaks. / - © Copyright 2020