Struggling To Find The Best Kayak For YOU? You’re In The Right Place
Today, I’ll use my Engineering & Gear Review background to break down what you need to know to find the right kayak.
Because buying a kayak should NEVER be an impulse purchase.
For example, just because you see one on “sale” at a big-box retailer doesn’t mean it’s right for YOU.
Plus, there are so many to choose from today.
- Maybe you’re looking for a damn good fishing kayak
- Perhaps you want one to use as a rescue vehicle in a future floodwater emergency
- Maybe you’re interested in using a kayak for epic backcountry camping trips
- Or perhaps you’ve been thinking about using a kayak as a bug-out vehicle…
But regardless of the type, I’ve got you covered:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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4 Reasons Why You Should Invest In One
1. Recreation / Fun
The number one reason why anyone gets a kayak is they’re fun!
Long days on the water are one of the most enjoyable ways to spend time in the outdoors.
Whether it’s a pristine lake, calm sea, or extreme rapids, they’re a freakin’ blast!
I mean, it would be such a shame to get one and never use it.
So make sure you carve out time on the water every year. And take your kayak out of the garage and out on the water.
2. Remote Camping
With the right kayak, you can go beyond day trips out on the water to overnight excursions.
You can take a lot of essential camping gear with you without carrying everything on your back.
I know many people who love the feeling of freedom and remoteness backpacking provides.
But they don’t want to hike 10+ miles with 35 lbs of gear on their back.
So they’ve taken up overnight kayak trips instead.
It allows you to escape into the REAL wilderness without breaking your back.
Kayaks are becoming more popular among anglers.
Why? Because they are an incredibly lightweight alternative to the traditional aluminum Jon Boat.
I don’t relish the days of yesteryear struggling to maneuver my father’s Jon Boat in and out of the water.
Instead, with a kayak, you get much of the same fishing experience with much less hassle.
You can even go extremely lightweight with an inflatable fishing boat!
Nowadays, many inflatable kayak models are designed with fishing in mind from the ground up.
4. Emergency Rescue Device
We’ve all heard the term “up sh*t creek without a paddle.”
And typically, this famous “saying” is used to describe all sorts of bad situations – not just water-related ones.
Unfortunately, it often becomes a reality in flooding emergencies!
Did you know that the most deadly natural disasters usually involve flooding in the US?
On average, U.S. flooding kills more than 100 people a year — more than any other single weather hazard, including tornadoes and hurricanes, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).
For example, hurricane-induced surges and rain caused unprecedented urban flooding in Houston and New Orleans.
Rising waters swamped homes, decimated businesses, and shut down entire cities.
Not to mention all the chemicals, fuel, sewage, and other dangerous pollutants that are dumped into the rising water.
Many people became instantly trapped, waiting around for rescue.
But those who owned small floating vessels were far better off in the immediate aftermath.
Why? Because they could evacuate, search for supplies, and move around as needed.
But, even much less dramatic flooding happens all across the nation – wreaking disruptive havoc and dangerous conditions.
It only takes a couple of feet of water to cause roads to be impassible for cars, SUVs, and trucks.
For example, during a recent flood in my hometown, the police asked for civilian help.
They needed anyone with boats to evacuate a neighborhood due to just 18 inches of floodwater.
Kayaks, canoes, and small fishing boats saved the day.
It allowed them to get to dry land and move on with their lives until the water receded.
5. Stealthy Bug Out Transportation
A small, discrete boat can get you off the streets and away from crowds in a worst-case emergency scenario.
Moving away from danger to safety is called “bugging out.”
And even the tallest, bulletproof bug-out vehicle can’t overcome deep, dangerous floodwaters. But a kayak can.
It’s a quiet boat that requires no fuel and leaves no tracks behind.
- It slips stealthily through shallow water and floating vegetation.
- You can easily haul it up on shore when you reach a safe camp.
- It can be easily hidden from view by others on the water during a rest stop.
If you want the ultimate in stealth capability, look into duck-hunting setups.
These kayaks become floating blind, camouflaged with netting and woven vegetation.
A well-concealed floating blind can hide you from your prey and anyone who might be hunting YOU!
↓ My Kayak Hunting Blind Setup ↓
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5 Types Of Kayaks You Can Choose
The right kind of kayak for YOU depends upon the following:
- the type of water you’ll be using it on
- how you plan to use it (whitewater, lake, fishing, bugging out)
- how much equipment do you want to bring along
Here’s the deal:
Thousands of unique kayaks are on the market today (making research overwhelming).
But the good news is – they all tend to fit into just a few categories.
So, if you can figure out which category you want, you’ll be able to focus on the right one fast.
Here’s a video that goes over each category in detail (or you can read more about each category below):
↓ Kayak 101: Differences Between Kayak Designs ↓
We’ve all seen videos of extreme kayakers dropping 100+ foot waterfalls and surviving.
Chances are they’re in a very specialized whitewater craft.
These are highly reinforced, extremely durable boats.
But they’re not designed for much more than running whitewater rapids.
Why? Because They’re small (up to 7 feet long), have very little storage, and are not very comfortable in the long term.
Whitewater kayaks require advanced paddling techniques and a lot of focused training.
So this is NOT for you – unless your plans include “extreme sports,” and you can accommodate these drawbacks.
Otherwise, you don’t “need” these capabilities, and a whitewater kayak is NOT the type that’s best suited for you.
If your plans include some lake fun, gentle whitewater (not huge rapids), and fishing, then an inflatable kayak is your best bet.
These 10′-14′ foot boats are designed and built the same way as whitewater rafts, except they include several durable inflatable chambers.
These inflatable chambers provide the main structure and floor of the boat.
Most are also self-bailing, so any water that splashes in can drain out the bottom.
You can load your gear in waterproof drybags and lash it down in the bow and stern.
And, best of all, they can be inflated when needed and deflated when you’re off the water!
Traveling long distances in open water (whether at sea or on big lakes), a touring sea kayak is likely your best option.
These boats are designed for efficient paddling and covering distances quickly.
The sit-inside design keeps your center of gravity low, which helps to prevent tip over.
Sitting low also helps to keep your lower body protected by a spray skirt.
A spray skirt is a waterproof cockpit cover that fits snugly around the waist.
Many models have:
- integrated flotation
- gear tie-downs on the deck for small, frequently accessed items
- sealed cargo hatches over large internal gear compartments
The long (16′ foot and up) and narrow profile make them easily cruise through the water.
And the retractable rudders and skegs keep you tracking straight toward your destination.
One drawback of gear compartments is that everything has to be able to fit through a small hatch.
So you’ll have to figure out how to pack your boat efficiently to ensure everything fits.
Most touring sea options do well with smaller surf.
But not if your coastline has some bigger gnarly waves.
In such cases, a surf kayak is ideal for handling and piloting successfully through large breakers – which is vital when launching and landing in rough seas.
These feature a hull design that’s more agile than a touring boat.
But it still maintains some cargo holds, which are lacking in a traditional whitewater boat.
Again, these are more specialized models and require specific training and techniques.
So don’t expect to pick one up and be a pro the next day.
Finally, a recreational sit-on-top is one of the most versatile types.
These have similar durability and use rotomolded plastics (similar to whitewater boats).
However, the paddler sits on top rather than sitting down inside the kayak.
That’s because the seat is molded directly into the boat’s upper deck.
Now, this seat location does have its drawbacks.
For example, it’s not nearly as stable as other styles, so they are best suited for calm waters.
However, the seat location does make getting in and out of the boat a breeze.
More extensive models feature internal cargo compartments with waterproof hatches.
They also include cargo areas to lash down drybags on deck; some can even carry hundreds of pounds of gear.
There are some models with accessory attachment points.
These attachment locations are ideal for adding a small electric trolling motor and fishing rod holders!
Note: Most fishing kayaks are of the “sit-on-top” variety. I’ve also seen a few decent inflatable kayaks used for fishing as well.
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Best Kayaks On The Market Today
So, what’s the best kind for you?
It depends a lot on your specific usage plans.
But versatility, durability, and ease of use are all things to keep in mind.
Here are a few of the best-rated models out there and what makes them stand out: