Like any type of outdoor gear, there isn't one kayak that's right for everyone. Your choice will depend on the conditions you'll paddle in and your experience level.
To make your decision easier, we've grouped our kayaks into three categories. We've also included Frequently Asked Questions for additional help.
Our widest and most stable kayaks are ideal for less experienced paddlers, families with young children or anyone who wants to stay close to shore.
There are four major hull types available, as described below. We carry solo as well as tandem models, and some are convertible for either solo or tandem paddling.
Sit-in kayaks come in two styles: closed-top and open-top. Both styles have you sitting low in the hull. In traditional, closed-top kayaks, your legs and feet are under the deck, but they typically have large cockpits without spray skirts, so they're easy to get in and out of. Open-top sit-ins are even easier to get in and out of and have plenty of room for gear storage.
Sit-on-top kayaks have seats and foot rests molded into the deck, so you're sitting higher up. This makes getting in and out very easy, and it provides a great base for snorkeling or surfing.
Folding and/or inflatable kayaks are ideal if you don't have a lot of space to store a kayak or you want to travel with it. They pack up into a duffle bag, fit in a closet and can be checked for airline travel. Most have an open top for easy entry and lots of gear storage with an optional deck for protection from the elements.
Fishing kayaks come in both the sit-in and sit-on-top hull styles and are specially outfitted for anglers with such features as anchors, rod holders and tackle boxes.
Our most versatile kayaks are built for both stability and speed.
Our top-of-the-line boats are designed for experienced paddlers. They're built to provide comfort and storage capacity on long trips, efficiency and speed for covering distance, and steering and tracking control on large bodies of water subject to winds, tides and currents.
Proficient paddlers with the right clothing, a spray skirt and self-rescue training can comfortably paddle expedition kayaks in whitecaps.
Do kayaks feel less stable than canoes?
Wide, recreational kayak seats sit lower than canoe seats, making the kayak feel more stable. Narrow expedition kayaks feel as though they might tip until you get accustomed to paddling in them, much like learning how to ride a bike for the first time.
What are the best conditions for recreational kayaks?
Recreational kayaks are designed for calm, protected waters. Their hull shapes are not suitable for rough conditions.
What is a bulkhead and what are its advantages?
In a kayak, a bulkhead is a wall that separates the cockpit from the bow or stern. This wall creates a dry storage area for gear and reduces the amount of water that can enter the boat.
What is a rudder?
A kayak rudder is a device that can be lowered from the stern of the boat to offset strong winds or currents, and is helpful if you will be paddling on long, open stretches of water. The rudder also helps your kayak stay straight without a lot of corrective strokes.
What are thigh braces?
Thigh braces are found in performance kayaks along the edge of the cockpit where your knees contact the deck. Thigh braces help you "wear" the kayak so you can control its position more precisely.
What is tracking?
Tracking is a kayak's ability to hold a straight line when paddled. A kayak that tracks well will resist tipping over in wind and waves. If you're paddling long distances, a good tracking kayak is an advantage.
Do I need a roof rack to carry a kayak?
To protect the hull shape of your kayak, we recommend a carrier. Many can be easily attached to pre-installed vehicle racks.
Foam block carrier systems work for short trips, but in most cases you'll want a carrying system that spreads the weight of the kayak over a larger surface area.
Don't I want a short kayak that's easy to handle?
It depends on where you plan on paddling. A longer kayak tracks straighter and cuts through water faster, so it's easier to paddle long distances and to manage waves and wakes. Longer kayaks also have more storage space.
How do I size a kayak paddle?
Paddle length is determined by the width of the kayak, your height and paddling style.
Can I paddle in rapids with my recreational kayak?
Recreational kayaks are designed for quiet, slow-moving waters and are not recommended for rapids.
What do I need to paddle on the ocean?
Paddling conditions can change quickly on large bodies of water. The ocean can be especially challenging due to shifting tides.
For paddling in open water, you'll want a full-length touring kayak. These kayaks are 16'-18' long and are outfitted with two or three bulkheads. Other essentials for ocean or freshwater paddling include:
What is a spray skirt and do I need one?
A spray skirt keeps waves, windblown spray and rain out of your cockpit and protects you from the sun and biting insects. It should fit your cockpit properly, with the grab loop visible (this ensures a quick and easy exit). Practicing wet exits before your first trip is also recommended. If there is no possibility of waves where you're paddling, then you can go without one.
What do I wear kayaking?
Dress for water temperature, not air temperature. When the water is cold, a sleeveless neoprene wet suit is most comfortable. You can also layer a wind shell or warm layers over the wet suit.
When the water temperature and air temperature are both warm, nylon and polyester apparel provide sun protection and dry quickly. Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen also help protect you from the sun.
Breathable water-sport shoes with rugged soles drain quickly and protect your feet from rough or sandy terrain.