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Recreational Kayaks

day trip on Loon Lake

day trip on Loon Lake

If you already know what you’re looking for in a recreational kayak and just want to compare makes and models, scroll down to the comparison tables below. If you’re not sure what to look for in a recreational kayak, then read the following sections.

How To Choose the Best Recreational Kayak For You

The most common considerations when choosing a recreational kayak include sit-on-top vs. sit-in, amount and type of cargo you expect to carry, and ease of transportation.

Sit-On-Top vs. Sit-In

Sit-on-top kayaks offer some nice advantages, especially for people new to kayaking. One of the biggest advantages is their exceptional stability. Many sit-on-top kayaks are so stable that, should you find yourself in the water (whether by accident or not), it may be possible to climb back onto the kayak without capsizing.

The primary advantages of sit-in kayaks include a much drier ride for you, the ability to use a spray skirt if you want, more dry storage space for your stuff, and usually an increase in paddling performance or efficiency. In cold water, a drier ride can be a significant advantage if not even a safety issue. When paddling a sit-on-top kayak in cold water, a wetsuit is an absolute necessity (although it’s still a really good idea even when paddling a sit-in kayak in cold water, because you should always dress for immersion). For a comparison of sit-on-top kayaks, see the sit-on-top kayak table below or visit the Sit On Top Kayaks page.


One of the great joys of recreational kayaking is being able to take along some of the comforts of home to enjoy during your outing. These might include your favorite beverages, lunch and snacks, some comfortable chairs for those breaks on shore, and of course your dog. If you plan to take your dog kayaking, you’ll either want to get a sit-on-top kayak or a sit-in kayak with an extra large cockpit to accommodate both of you. Also, please make sure you get a life jacket for your canine family member. Similarly, if you plan to haul around a full-size cooler to share cold beverages with all of your kayaking friends, a sit-on-top will be your best bet. However, keep in mind that large amounts of heavy cargo will slow you down considerably. Generally, I think it’s bet to distribute cargo relatively evenly throughout your group of paddlers. Regardless, think about what you want to carry with you when deciding what type of kayak to buy.


Unless you own waterfront property and never plan to paddle anywhere else, you’re going to need to move your kayak. The first transportation-related thing to consider is the weight of the kayak. If you expect to always have help to lift your kayak onto and off of your vehicle, then weight probably shouldn’t be much of a factor when choosing a recreational kayak. However, if you plan to paddle by yourself but can’t lift your kayak onto your vehicle, you’re not going to get much paddling done. Most people choose to purchase an after-market rack to fit their vehicle and one of the various types of kayak mounts available but, if you don’t want to put a rack on your vehicle or can’t find one that fits, you still have the same transportation challenge. Fortunately, there are a couple of options.

One option is to buy a sports trailer that can be used to carry your kayak(s) behind your vehicle. Since trailers are much lower than the roof of most vehicles, it’s generally much easier to lift a kayak onto a trailer. Unfortunately, trailers can be quite expensive. See the Kayak Racks and Trailers page for additional information about some recommended kayak trailers.

A much more affordable and increasingly popular option is to buy an inflatable kayak. The obvious advantage is that the kayak can be carried inside your vehicle so no rack is required. Disadvantages of inflatable kayaks include the need to inflate and deflate them of course, the possibility that you will develop a leak due to wear or puncture, and generally some reduction in paddling performance or efficiency. For a comparison of inflatable kayaks, see the inflatable kayak table below or visit the Inflatable Kayaks page.

The Best Sit-In Recreational Kayaks

Tips: Click on a product name for more information. Then click on the Comparison tab to find the best price.

Make and ModelHull MaterialLengthWidthDepthCockpit SizeWeightRudder or SkegPrice
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 Recreational Kayakpolyethylene12'29"13"57" x 22"49 lbs.Neither$899
Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T Tandem Recreational Kayak - polyethylene13' 6"31"14"90" x 24"72 lbs.Neither$979
Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayakpolyethylene9' 1"28.5"14.25"38.5" x 22"36 lbs.Neither$449
Dagger Axis 10.5 Kayakpolyethylene10' 6"28.5"16"38" x 21"50 lbs.Neither$809
Perception Tribute 12 Kayakpolyethylene12'24.5"13.5"35" x 19.5"42 lbs.Neither$779
Old Town Vapor 10 Kayakpolyethylene10'28.5"16.75"48 x 19.5"47 lbs.Neither$399

The Best Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Tips: Click on a product name for more information. Then click on the Comparison tab to find the best price.

Make and ModelLengthWidthWeightRudder or SkegPrice
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Sit-on-Top Kayak12' 3"30"63 lbs.Neither$939
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 135 Sit-On-Top Tandem Kayak13' 6"34"71 lbs.Neither$1109
Dagger Roam 11.5 Sit-On-Top Kayak11' 6"30"61 lbs.Neither$959
Hurricane Skimmer 116 Sit-On-Top Kayak11' 6"30.5"42 lbs.Neither$1099
Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11 Sit-On-Top Kayak11'29.5"49 lbs.Neither$599
Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-on-Top Kayak9'31"43 lbs.Neither$499
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL Tandem Sit-on-Top Kayak13' 4"34"68 lbs.Neither$899
Perception Tribe 11.5 Sit-on-Top Kayak11' 5"30.25"52 lbs.Neither$649

The Best Inflatable Kayaks

Tips: Click on a product name for more information. Then click on the Comparison tab to find the best price.

Make and ModelHull MaterialLengthWidthWeightPrice
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayaktriple-layer polyester with double PVC coating and aluminum frame10' 5"34"36 lbs.$539
Tributary Tomcat Inflatable KayakPVC-coated polyester and PVC-coated nylon I-beams10' 3"36"40 lbs.$629
Innova Helios I Inflatable Kayak1200-denier Nitrylon™ & LitePack™, or all-Nitrylon™; environmentally-friendly construction without PVC10' 2"28"24 lbs. LitePack™
29 lbs. Nitrylon™ EX
Innova Sunny Inflatable Kayakheavy duty rubber coated 1,200-denier Nitrylon™; environmentally-friendly construction without PVC12' 8"31"33 lbs.$999
Innova Twist Inflatable KayakLitePack™ rip-stop polyester fabric with a coating of natural rubbers on the interior; environmentally-friendly construction without PVC8' 6"31"16 lbs.$499