How to Choose a Kayak

Sun Dolphin Journey Fishing Kayak – Click to View

How To Choose a Kayak

Kayaks are a great choice as your next watercraft, as they are light, versatile, and smooth. They are excellent candidates as fishing vessels, recreational boats, transportation, and more. They glide smoothly through the water, powered by a simple stroke of a paddle. However, while they make great water vehicles, how do you go about choosing a kayak? There are many options, styles, and more to take into consideration. Here we will go over different styles, dimensions, materials, and hull shape to help you choose the right kayak for your purpose.

You can compare out the best kayaks under $500 here.


There are many different types of styles of kayaks, all serving different purposes. One may be better suited for your needs than others, so there is no real advantages to any one of them over another style. The five main styles are sit-on-top, recreational, touring, inflatable, and fishing kayaks.


Sit-On-Top Kayak – Click to View

Sit-on-top kayaks are exactly what the name implies – you merely sit on top of the kayak. Instead of sliding your feet into the hull, you actually rest your feet on the hull in front of you. These have many benefits – they are often wider and therefore more stable, and they are easy to get out of and in to. These kayaks are ideal for warmer weather conditions, as it gets cold in one if the wind is blowing and you are getting water on your legs unless you are properly dressed. People these are great for include fisherman, beginners, elderly, swimmers, divers, and anyone who might have trouble sliding into a hole in a standard kayak, as well as anyone who will be exiting or entering the kayak constantly.



Recreational kayaks are those that are for spending a leisurely day around the lake – these wouldn’t be used for races or miles-long treks into the wilderness, as they are designed more for stability, comfort, and ease of use. These can be either sit-on-top or sit-inside kayaks. Normally, these will be considerably cheaper than a touring or fishing kayak, but also heavier because of the materials used. These are great for leisure time activities around the lake, so if that will be your normal use, save some money and consider purchasing one of these.


The top dogs in the kayak world, touring kayaks are smooth, sleek vessels that are designed to move quickly, track well, and cover lots of ground. They normally have plenty of storage space and are longer than other kayaks – in general, the longer the kayak, the faster it is, but the harder it is to maneuver. Touring kayaks also are narrower so that they can be speedy, so are not very stable and wouldn’t be a great choice without some practice. These are great choices for more seasoned kayakers, campers, wilderness trekkers, and others who will spend long periods of time on the water. Beginners could also get one of these, but be sure to practice plenty before going a long distance, as it can be a matter of life and death.


Inflatable kayaks are also exactly what they sound like. These often have multiple air chambers so if one pops, you won’t sink. They are often wide and stable, but slow and not excellent trackers normally. They are great for recreational purposes, and what makes them a good choice over others is that they compress into such a small unit. You can hike a ways in with one of these in your backpack with ease, unlike a long, unwieldy hard kayak. They are also very easy on the wallet – you can check out five of them for sale under $200 here. People these are great for include those hiking in a ways to kayak, beginners, and those just looking to save some cash.


Sun Dolphin Journey Fishing Kayak – Click to View

Fishing kayaks are designed specifically for fisherman, and normally are sit-on-top style as well. They come with all sorts of extras like rod holders, paddle holders, tackle space, gear compartments, net holders, and more. They are designed to have plenty of space to cast from, and have to be stable in order to allow you to cast as well as reel in a trophy fish. These are obviously designed solely for fisherman.


There are a few dimensions that are extremely important when it comes to looking for a kayak. These numbers are length, weight, and weight capacity.


Kayaks normally range from about 10 to 15 feet, with some getting up to 18 feet. Length impacts about everything, giving you more or less space for gear, your legs, and how fast the kayak is. Ensure that the space in the cockpit is plenty for your legs if you are a taller person. You will also want to make sure that the kayak has enough room for all your gear, whether it’s a tent, fishing tackle, or clothes.

Another rule of thumb with kayaks is that longer kayaks are faster, but are harder to maneuver than a shorter one. Are you looking for speed, or just reliability? If you want a fast kayak, go with a longer one and put in the practice to learn to maneuver it.


Kayaks can come in all sorts of different weights, with the lightest and most convenient being the inflatables and the heaviest being the longer recreational or fishing kayaks. Sometimes, a kayak may not feel too heavy in the moment, but carrying it even a few hundred yards on a portage is too long, and it could be a struggle getting it on top of the car. Choose one that you can handle by yourself if need be.

Weight Capacity

Weight capacity is another important factor to look at, since you don’t want to overload a kayak. This doesn’t only refer to your weight – don’t forget about any gear you may be stowing. Make sure the kayak can hold your weight plus any gear you will normally bring.


Kayaks are made from many different types of materials, all of which are used to serve a certain purpose whether that is saving money or making the kayak more lightweight. The two main categories are plastics and composites.


The two main types of plastic used for kayak construction are polyethylene and thermoformed plastic. The bottom line is the polyethylene, which is commonly used for cheaper recreational kayaks. It is durable and by far your cheapest kayak option. It doesn’t crack easily, and it is very flexible so it absorbs impacts well, like in whitewater kayaking. This makes it ideal for whitewater kayaking, recreational use, river kayaking, and about anything you’ll do that may be slightly destructive on a kayak. The only downfall to polyethylene is the weight, as it gets heavy quickly. However, for the vast majority of people, this isn’t an issue so they will save hundreds or thousands by going with a kayak built with polyethylene. Thermoformed plastic is a slight upgrade over polyethylene, as it is lighter and smoother so it glides easier through the water. However, it is more expensive, getting close to some composites in price. Many people when looking at buying one made of thermoformed plastic would spend a little more for a composite kayak.


Composite kayaks consist mainly of those made with fiberglass and kevlar. Fiberglass is a light option that can withstand some abuse, but not as much as polyethylene. It is durable and can hold up for years. As far as price goes, fiberglass is slightly more expensive than thermoformed plastic since it is lighter. Kevlar is one of the more advanced options on the market, as it can be made very thin since it is stronger than steel. This makes it very lightweight but also very expensive. In general, both types of composites here are ideal for situations where they aren’t taking a ton of abuse from rocks or shallow water, but rather open kayaking across lakes or the ocean.

Hull Shape

There are a few hull shapes that are found commonly on the water, with some specialty types that are not seen often. In general, these four types are rounded hull, v-shape hull, flat hull, and the pontoon hull. Each of these tracks differently, stabilizes differently, and have different speeds.

Rounded Hull

Rounded hulls are exactly what the name implies – the part of the kayak under water is a semi-circle. These are some of the faster kayaks on the market, and are also very maneuverable. Stability is decent, but may be hard for some beginners. If you are looking for speed, these kayaks are your best bet.

V-Shape Hull

These hulls are shaped like a V, coming to a point at the center of the bottom. Because of the point, these kayaks track extremely well, and are also fairly fast. They are also decently stable, but as you can imagine, rock from side to side easily due to the V-shape. If you want a very good tracking craft combined with speed, these are the way to go.

Flat Hull

Flat hulls are flat on the bottom and are very stable due to this. Often, you will find these on fishing kayaks or recreational kayaks. They aren’t as fast as the above two, and they don’t track quite as well either, but stability is their key. If you are casting from the deck, or taking a nap on the lake, these would be the way to go.

Pontoon Hull

A pontoon hull basically looks like small pontoons on each side of the bottom of the kayak, with an arch up in the middle. This increases surface area on the water, leading to much more stability. They are the most stable out there, but also the slowest because of the drag. If you are looking for a multi-person kayak, or just fishing a small pond, these are a great option as well.


Kayaks come in many different options, and it isn’t always easy to select the right one for you. With these details, it should be a lot more simple to choose a kayak and get out on the water.

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