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Best Kayaks For Beginners – Our Top Picks & Complete Guide (2021)

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The popularity of kayaking continues to increase as the sport offers the chance for people to get on the water and enjoy the outdoors. Quietly cruising on the water on a clear morning or chilling in your vessel on a calm afternoon is enticing for a lot of people. And if action and getting your blood pumping is your thing, you can also achieve this through kayaking.

Buying a kayak is tricky enough for someone that has some experience. However, for a beginner, it’s downright confusing. There are different types of kayaks and even a lot more different pieces of gear. However, the first thing you need to get right as a beginner paddler is your kayak.

If you are looking for your first kayak, your search ends here as I’ve done extensive testing of different beginner kayaks to bring you the best available right now. I’m a kayaking enthusiast myself and if there’s a chance to be of help to ‘kayaking newbies’, I have to help.

Below, you’ll find my top recommendations for the best beginner kayaks. After that, you’ll find an extensive buying guide that informs you of the things to look out for in a kayak. What makes a beginner kayak good, what are the things to look out for? You’ll find answers to the questions and more.

The 7 Best Kayaks for Beginners in 2021

Perception Tribe 9.5 Sit on Top Kayak

perception Tribe 9.5 | Sit on Top Kayak for All-Around Fun | Large Rear Storage with Tie Downs | 9' 5"

$629.00
$578.25
 in stock
Amazon.com
as of December 3, 2021 4:48 am

The Perception Tribe 9.5 is an excellent starter kayak for most people. The medium size of this vessel means transportation and storage will be easier. It’s a kayak you can comfortably carry from your vehicle to shore and it won’t take up a lot of space back home.

A comfortable seat is key to an enjoyable kayaking experience and the Tribe comes with a molded and padded back seat that provides a lot of support and comfort for a kayaker. Integrated footrests and molded knee/thigh areas provide even more comfort for you during paddling.

The length of this kayak makes it very stable and easily maneuverable, something that beginner paddlers will benefit a lot from. It’s easy to get in and out of this kayak and there’s enough storage space for all your gear.

Thanks to the high-quality material, this kayak is very durable. Also, the fact that this vessel has very few bolt-on parts makes it more durable. This kayak is more suited for recreational use and not touring or long-distance paddling. And there’s a two-piece aluminum paddle in the package.

 Specifications

  • Type: sit-on-top, hard shell
  • Size: 9’ 5” x 31.25 x 16.25 in / 287 x 79.3 x 41.3 cm
  • Kayak weight:  46 lbs / 20.4 kg
  • Weight capacity:  300 lbs / 150 kg
  • Number of paddlers: 1 person

Pros

  • Strong and sturdy.
  • Easy to carry and transport.
  • Very comfortable.
  • Good stability.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • No sealed storage areas.

Other Buying Options:

Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-In Kayak

Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-in Recreational Kayak Kayak 10-Foot Lightweight one Person Kayak Perfect for Recreation, Yellow, One Size

$419.61  in stock
5 new from $419.61
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of December 3, 2021 4:48 am

The Pelican Maxim is another wonderful beginner kayak. It’s a sit-inside kayak (more on this later) and comes with an enclosed cockpit. There are carry handles on this vessel to make lifting or carrying them easier.

This kayak has a narrow hull that makes it very easy to maneuver. The stability of this kayak is also superb which allows beginner paddlers to get on the water with confidence. You can use this vessel on lakes and calm rivers.

Pelican’s adjustable ergoform backrest with seat cushion makes it very easy to sit in this kayak which improves your kayaking experience. There’s a storage hatch that’s spacious enough to accommodate all your gear.

Pelican’s proprietary multi-layer material RAM-X is made of exceptionally durable high molecular weight polyethylene (HMWPE). This confers incredible ruggedness and durability on this vessel and you can be sure of using it for a long time.

 Specifications

  • Type: sit-inside, hard shell
  • Size: 10 x 28 x 14 in / 305 x 71 x 36 cm
  • Kayak weight:  36 lbs / 16 kg
  • Weight capacity:  275 lbs / 125 kg
  • Number of paddlers: 1 person

Pros

  • Very stable.
  • Easy to maneuver.
  • Good tracking.
  • Very comfortable.
  • Adequate storage space.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak

Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle, Blue, 8'

$329.00  in stock
7 new from $329.00
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of December 3, 2021 4:48 am

At 8ft, the Lifetime Lotus is a very compact kayak. It’s easy to store as it’ll occupy very little space even fitting in some closets. Transportation is also easier and carrying this vessel from your vehicle to shore isn’t going to be a burden.

The hull design makes this kayak very stable and difficult to capsize, a feature that’s sure to encourage beginner paddlers to get on the water. The multichine design also improves stability while twin skegs underneath the bottom improves tracking.

I like that the adjustable quick release seat of this kayak is very comfortable. This combined with footrests with adjustable position means you are in for an enjoyable kayaking experience.

Thanks to the durable polyethylene construction, the Lifetime Lotus is very sturdy and durable. There’s also a tankwell storage with bungee cords for storing and securing your items.

 Specifications

  • Type: sit-on-top, hard shell
  • Size: 8ft x 30 x 9.45 in / 244 x 76.2 x 24 cm
  • Kayak weight:  36 lbs / 17.3 kg
  • Weight capacity:  250 lbs / 113 kg
  • Number of paddlers: 1 person

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Superb stability and good tracking.
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Comfortable seat.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • Included paddles are good but could be a bit better. You might consider getting an aftermarket paddle as you gain more experience.

Other Buying Options:

Pelican Sentinel 100X Sit-on-Top KayakOur Top Pick

Pelican Sit-on-Top Kayak - Sentinel 100X - 9.5 Feet - Lightweight one Person Kayak (EXO Neptune White, Recreational) (MEF10P100-00)

$489.99
$425.33
 in stock
4 new from $425.33
2 used from $369.82
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of December 3, 2021 4:48 am

The Pelican Sentinel 100x guarantees a stable and relaxing kayaking expedition on calm or slow moving waters during the warm season. And let’s face it, this is what many beginner paddlers want.

Being a sit-on-top kayak, it is very easy to get in and out of this kayak. And the roomy cockpit allows freedom of movement which is particularly beneficial when fishing. The length of this kayak which makes it very maneuverable makes the Sentinel ideal for beginner kayakers. I also like the tracking of this kayak as it allows you to travel long distances with minimal effort. This kayak will not topple over when you are on the water thanks to the excellent stability.

There are several accessories included in the package such as bottle holders, molded footrests, anti-slip carpet, and so on. I must also mention that this kayak has really comfortable seats which makes your kayaking more enjoyable.

 Specifications

  • Type:  sit-on-top, hard shell
  • Size: 9’6” ft x 30 in / 289 x 76 cm
  • Kayak weight:  41.8 lbs / 19 kg
  • Weight capacity:  275 lbs / 125 kg
  • Person capacity: 1 person

Pros

  • Very rugged and strong.
  • Roomy cockpit makes it easy to enter and exit this vessel.
  • Excellent maneuverability.
  • Very comfortable.
  • Good tracking and stability.

Cons

  • No major shortcomings.

Other Buying Options:

Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump

$152.56  in stock
21 new from $150.00
2 used from $154.95
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of December 3, 2021 4:48 am

You may or may not already know that there are kayaks that can accommodate more than one person. There are tandem (2-person) kayaks and 3-person kayaks. If your preference is a 3-person kayak, then the Intex Explorer K2 is an excellent beginner tandem kayak.
The Intex Explorer K2 is an inflatable kayak and offers unparalleled ease of storage and transportation. If you don’t have enough space in your home to store a hard shell kayak or a car to transport kayaks, you should buy an inflatable kayak.

Thanks to the exterior made of vinyl, this kayak is very durable and capable of withstanding pushing off rocks and debris. As a result, this kayak is resistant to tears, holes, and punctures making a kayak you’ll be using for some time.

Comfortable seats, superb stability and ease of maneuverability are other features of this kayak. The Intex Explorer K2 performs well on the water especially on calm rivers and small lakes. You’ll find it easy to paddle and maneuver this kayak. For increased directional stability, there are two removable skegs under this kayak.

 Specifications

  • Type: sit-on-top, inflatable
  • Inflated size:  123 x 36 x 20 in / 312 x 89 x 50 cm
  • Kayak weight: 30.6 lbs / 14 kg
  • Weight capacity:  400 lbs / 180 kg
  • Person Capacity: 1-2 persons

Pros

  • Lightweight and compact.
  • Stable.
  • Easy to inflate and deflate.
  • Very comfortable.
  • Easy maneuverability.
  • High load capacity.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • Performance on aggressive water is not very strong.

Pelican Sit-on-Top Fishing Kayak

Pelican Kayak BASSCREEK 100XP Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak Kayak 10 Feet Lightweight One Person Kayak Perfect for Fishing

$699.99
$486.21
 in stock
4 new from $486.21
1 used from $899.95
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of December 3, 2021 4:48 am

If you intend to go kayak fishing at some point in the future, it might be a good idea to buy a kayak that’s designed for fishing. This Pelican sit on top kayak has everything you need for an enjoyable kayaking expedition that involves fishing or not.

At 10ft, this kayak is shorter and compact than most other kayaks. This reduction in length brings a lot of benefits such as lightweight design, increased agility, and maneuverability. It’s very easy to maneuver this kayak and it’s also fast while tracking well.

Pelican’s multi-chine flat bottom hull makes this kayak very stable. You’ll get all the stability you need when casting lines and reeling in fish. There’s also ample storage space that will be able to accommodate your essential fishing gear.

I like the ErgoFit G2 seating system that includes a padded seat cushion and an adjustable backrest cushion providing better support. And the two retractable carry handles make it easy to carry or transport this kayak from your car to water bodies.

 Specifications

  • Type:  Sit-on-top, hard shell
  • Size: 10ft x 30.5 in / 304 x 77.5 cm
  • Kayak weight:  50 lbs / 22.7 kg
  • Weight capacity:  325 lbs / 147 kg
  • Number of paddlers: 1 person

Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Excellent maneuverability.
  • Good tracking.
  • Good stability.
  • Ample storage space.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • The short length means it’s not ideal for large people (6ft tall and over 250 pounds).
  • More suitable for small ponds, creeks, and backwaters.

Other Buying Options:

Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump

$146.99
$95.00
 in stock
29 new from $95.00
3 used from $84.95
Free shipping
Amazon.com
as of December 3, 2021 4:48 am

Another excellent inflatable kayak for beginners. As you’d expect from an inflatable kayak, it is easy to transport and store this kayak. There’s an included carry bag in the carry bag to make transportation easier.

Thanks to the hull design of this kayak, the Intex Challenger glides comfortably on water. This combined with the fact that this yak performs well in windy conditions makes the Intex Challenger a great buy for beginners. The smaller design of this kayak makes paddling easy and this makes it easier to maneuver this vessel. And being an inflatable kayak, it is very easy to transport or store this vessel.

The high-quality materials used to manufacture this kayak means it’s resistant to punctures and tears. Overall, it is very durable and can take a bit of abuse.

This yak is also very comfortable thanks to the included adjustable seats that have back support. There is also more legroom in this vessel due to its size and this makes it more comfortable to sit on this kayak. There is also enough space for you to store your gear thanks to the built-in cargo storage net.

 Specifications

  • Type: sit-inside, inflatable
  • Size: 11.5ft x 2.5 ft / 350 x 76.2 cm
  • Kayak weight:  37.7 lbs / 17 kg
  • Weight capacity:  400 lbs / 180 kg
  • Person capacity: 1-2 persons

Pros

  • Easy to transport and store.
  • Excellent performance on water.
  • Comfortable.
  • Sufficient storage space.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • The included hand pump isn’t the easiest to use.

Other Buying Options:

Best Kayaks For Beginners – The Guide 

Now that you know the best kayaks available today for beginner paddlers, let’s see what are the things to take into consideration to make your choice.

What Are The Different Types of Kayaks?

There are different types of kayaks which will be briefly discussed below:

Sit-on-top kayaks: Sit-on-top kayaks are not enclosed and therefore do not have a cockpit like their sit-inside counterparts. Instead, the seat is placed on top of the vessel and you will actually be sitting on top of the kayak since there is no confinement on the kayak. Everything on sit-on-top kayaks from seatbacks to footwells is rigged onto the actual deck of the vessel.

Sit-on-top are ideal for beginners because it is easy to get in and out of them. Also, they are very stable and difficult to capsize.

Sit-inside kayaks: This is the traditional type of kayak and it comes with an enclosed cockpit. You sit inside the kayak and brace your feet on foot rests and knees on the sides of the kayak while paddling.

Recreational kayaks: Are sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks that are affordable, stable, and easy to maneuver. Recreational kayaks are suitable for calm waters and short kayaking trips. And they have just enough storage space for a few essentials.

Tandem kayaks: Tandem kayaks are designed to accommodate two people. They are great for kayaking with a friend, partner, or family member. You can also take kids along on tandem kayaks and they provide a social kayaking experience.

Fishing kayaks: Fishing kayaks are kayaks (especially the sit-on-top kayaks, sometimes inflatable) that are tailored for fishing. They usually come with rod holders, are very stable, and allow the kayaker to move freely.

Inflatable kayaks: This type of kayak can be inflated and deflated. When deflated, they are about the size of a small backpack and are easy to store and transport

Inflatable vs Hard Shell Kayaks

The first decision you have to make when buying a kayak is whether to buy an inflatable or hard shell kayak. Ease of storage and transportation are the key considerations when choosing between inflatable and hard shell kayaks.

You’ll need to have some storage space (garage, barn, shed) in your home to store hard shell kayaks. You may be able to find a place to store smaller hard shell kayaks in your home. However, you’ll need a car to transport your hard shell kayak to kayaking spots. If you have access to a car, no problem.

However, if you don’t have a lot of space in your home or don’t have access to a car, it’d make sense for you to buy an inflatable kayak. This is because inflatable kayaks are about the size of a small backpack when deflated and are easy to store and transport.

Other considerations are price (inflatable kayaks are generally cheaper) and maintenance (inflatable kayaks require more maintenance as you have to wash and dry them after use to prevent foul smell and algae growth). However, ease of storage and transportation remains paramount.
best kayaks for beginners - guide

Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-Inside Kayaks

I have a full article on sit-on-top vs sit-inside kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks are generally considered better for beginners because they offer ease of entry and exit, are very stable, and provide freedom of movement.

Sit-on-top kayaks are also well-suited for fishing as they allow you to move freely and have more storage space. So if you like fishing or hope to go into fishing in the near future, you should consider getting a sit-on-top kayak.
However, sit-on-top kayaks are not ideal for use in colder climates as being exposed to the elements in such conditions is not desirable.

Sit-in kayaks shield you from the elements and can be used in both cold and hot climates. Sit-in kayaks are usually not used for fishing as they have limited storage space and the enclosed design restricts your movement in the yak. However, this type of kayak is ideal for racing activities or if you want more speed (sit-on-top kayaks aren’t fast).

Single vs. Tandem Kayaks

While the idea of going kayaking with someone close to you is appealing, you might want to consider how often the two of you’ll have time to go paddling together before buying one. While tandem kayaks can be paddled solo, they are far more convenient to paddle by two people.

If you have someone you can go kayaking with regularly, you can buy a tandem kayak. If your partner doesn’t have a lot of time for kayaking, buy a single person kayak for your use. If you have the budget, you can also buy a tandem kayak which will be reserved for when you and your partner are ready to go paddling.

What To Take Into Consideration For a Beginner Kayak?

Size and Weight

This size of the boat has an effect on its weight. The longer or wider a kayak, the heavier it’ll be. Most beginner kayaks are usually in the 10ft range. This means most paddlers won’t have a lot of problems when it comes to storing and transporting these kayaks.

Maneuverability and Stability

The longer a kayak, the faster and less maneuverable and stable it will be. Most beginner kayaks are short at 10ft or less. This makes them very stable and difficult to capsize. They are also very easy to maneuver. However, the extra stability and control comes at the expense of speed.

Weight Capacity

You should consider the combined weight of yourself, your partner, and your gear when choosing a kayak. Then go for a kayak that can comfortably carry this load. Going over the weight limit of your tandem kayak will be counterproductive in the long run as the yak will wear out faster thereby compromising its durability.

Comfort

Comfort is key to an enjoyable kayaking expedition. If you are comfortable, you’ll spend more time on the water while discomfort may make you cut your kayaking expedition short.

Kayak seats largely determine how comfortable you’ll be on the water. This is why you should make sure to buy kayaks that have well-padded and cushioned seats as well as an adjustable footrest. If the seat of your kayak isn’t very comfortable, you should consider getting an after-market kayak seat especially if you intend to go on long kayaking expeditions.

Final Thoughts

Kayaking is a fun and interesting sport and deciding to join in the action will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. I know how overwhelming it can be for a beginner to choose a kayak. However, after reading this article, you should be in a much better position to select a kayak.

An adventure to be told begins now…

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