Best Recreational Kayak Reviews For 2018 – Top Models Compared!
Some kayaks are designed for high performance, and they can be terrific even for rough whitewater conditions. Others are for fishing, and you also have touring kayaks for long trips as well as ocean kayaks for the open seas with large swells and waves.
But what if you just want to kayak casually on a nice placid lake? If that’s the case, you need the best recreational kayak. Of course, nothing’s really stopping you from using specialized boats for recreational trips.
Table of Contents
- Top 5 Recreational Kayak Comparisons
- 5 Best Recreational Kayak Reviews
- Best Recreational Kayak - Buying Guide
- Final Word
Top 5 Recreational Kayak Comparisons
In fact, lots of touring and fishing kayaks are versatile enough that you can use them for relaxed leisurely trips around a clam lake. But the problem with those kayaks is that you’ll have to pay for features that you may not use.
Why pay more for a fishing kayak when you’re not into fishing?
Lots of people are into recreational kayaking. That’s especially true for beginners, but even experienced kayakers like to go on the water for some nice alone time on the water surrounded by mother nature. To really enjoy the experience, however, you’ll want to get the best recreational kayak you can afford.
5 Best Recreational Kayak Reviews
To help you pick the best one out of a multitude of options, here are some of the better choices you can pick from:
1. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Kayak
Many people get into kayaking as a family, with a parent or two getting some kayaking time along with the young child. Others find kayaking an original and yet romantic date idea or you can just go on a leisurely trip with a friend.
If you think you’ll find yourself in any of these situations, then this Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is ideal.
With this you can go alone, and it can probably support your weight even if you’re heavy. Its maximum weight capacity is 375 pounds, although you can test it up to 425 pounds. That’s also good enough for 2 slender adults, or for a couple with a young child.
This already comes with just 2 seats, although there’s a third molded-in space for an extra seat. The seat at the stern is 18.5 inches wide, at the center it is 20.25 inches, and at the bow it is 16.25 inches.
It’s actually very comfy, and even folks who are 6 feet tall (or even taller) will fit in just fine as it comes with adjustable seats and overlapping foot wells. You sit up high, and the design really helps with the stability.
The kayak is 12 feet long, so it’s long enough that you can keep it going in the right direction easily. It’s also 34 inches wide, which is wide enough to help with stability. You may need some help to carry this from your vehicle to the water, as it weighs 57 pounds. But some guys should be able to carry it all on their own.
This doesn’t have any storage compartments, but you can customize it easily enough so you can install hatches for your future storage spaces. This is also durable as and it features a skid plate so you can drag this to the water. You have handles on the bow and stern for that. You should just avoid letting this sit for too long and too often under the hot sun.
- This is extremely stable, and for many nervous beginner kayakers this is very reassuring.
- It’s quite comfy to sit in, even for bigger guys.
- It’s not too heavy that it’s possible for some people to carry alone.
- It’s great for calm lakes, but you can try it out on the ocean if the swells aren’t more than 4 feet or so.
- It’s self-draining.
- It’s very colorful.
- It’s great for families with kids, and you can even bring a pet along.
- You don’t have storage compartments unless you have a hatch installed.
- It’s not built for speed or for agile mobility.
- The kayak shouldn’t be left out in the sun, and it should be stored on its sides.
2. Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor Kayak
This colorful single-user kayak is made of tough polyethylene, and it surely looks festive.
But what sets this kayak apart is how easy it is to use, and how easy it is to find yourself enjoying your time in the water with it.
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor Kayak is just 10 feet long, and it’s 28.5 inches wide and 16.75 inches high. It’s not really all that big at all, and you can handle this easily enough all by yourself if you want. It only weighs 48 pounds, and you have handles at the bow and stern.
However, it is tough enough to support a weight of up to 325 pounds. That should be enough to accommodate your weight plus a few supplies that you might bring along. It has a “Day Well” at the stern of the kayak that lets you get at your stuff quickly.
It’s quite comfortable to sit on this kayak. The cockpit compartment is very roomy, and you can even bring a pet along for the ride. The large cockpit makes it very easy to get in and out.
The seat is nicely padded, adjustable, and comes with the “Comfort Flex” feature that makes it eminently comfortable. At the rim of the cockpit in front of you, there’s a rest handle for you to set your paddle when you want to take a break from paddling.
It offers comfy pads for the thighs and knees so you can fit yourself in much better. It also has the “Glide Track Foot Brace” system that offers you greater control over the kayak.
- This thing is light and compact, and even small folks and the elderly can bring this to the water all by themselves. It’s funny, but some “single user” kayaks can’t actually be carried by a single user, but this one certainly can be.
- The big cockpit is very convenient. It makes getting on and off the kayak much easier. Sometimes getting on a kayak can be problematic, and some people have even been stuck in the cockpit. With this amount of space, you can bring Fido along for the ride and you also have some more room for other stuff.
- However, you already have lots of compartments already for your items. You have storage room under the bow and the stern. The “Day Well” is also great as it allows you quick and easy access to whatever you need from it.
- This can be a smartphone ringing or a camera when you see a colorful bird. This day well doesn’t have a cover (it’s pretty much an open basin) but since you’re moving leisurely and steadily in the water it’s not an issue.
- This is a wide kayak for stability, but it also tracks well despite its width.
- The seat adjustment features make it more comfortable to sit in.
- There’s lots of storage space.
- Some people may feel that the cushioning on the seat is not ample enough. The backrest doesn’t even have a cushion at all. However, you can always buy additional cushioning for a few bucks.
- The paddle holder holds the paddle across the kayak, so that it seems to form a letter “t”. That makes it difficult to get to the side of another kayak.
- The placement of the drain plug is horrible.
3. Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Kayak
This sure is a compact little kayak, and it looks cute. It’s only 9 feet long, and that makes it very portable indeed. It also only weighs just 43 pounds.
You can carry this to the water yourself if you want, as it features handles at the bow and stern. Or you can have 2 people carry it, as it also has handles at the sides of the kayak.
You can also just drag it to the water as it has a skid plate in the rear. This skid plate is replaceable, so when it’s worn out you just get another one. From its design alone, you can probably guess that it’s very stable in the water especially if you’re on a calm lake.
The Ocean Frenzy Kayak is partly due to its 31-inch width. This uses the famous “Tri-Form” hull design that doesn’t just make it stable. It also tacks well and is quite maneuverable. On flat water its behavior is certainly steady, but you can use this on the surf for some exciting fun.
At this length, it’s also obviously a single-user boat, and its single seat should make that clear as well. It offers ample cushioning even for the back rest, and you can also adjust this in 4 ways. This can accommodate a weight of up to 275 to 325 pounds.
You do have some open compartments at the bow and stern. There’s no need to worry that some stuff may go overboard, as you have bungees on top to secure your items. If the water is very serene and you’re not planning on going very fast, you can even remove the bungees so that you can access your stuff more easily.
There’s also a cup holder, so you can have a drink whenever you want. This has 4 scupper holes, but you will need to buy the scupper plugs separately.
- The design of the hull is excellent, and that includes the width. It’s very stable yet it still offers decent tracking and maneuverability. Even children can use this, as it won’t really tip over and it can keep to a straight line.
- There’s lots of legroom here even for taller users, and so you can stretch your legs and feel more comfortable during your ride. With its lots of open space, you can even bring a pet dog along for a ride.
- This is quite portable, and you can bring this to the water all by yourself. You just need to pull it by the front handle and it will slide on the rear skid plate. But 2 people can also carry this with the handles on the sides.
- It’s made with high quality materials, and that includes the materials and the stitching for the seats and the metal handles.
- It looks festive.
- Despite the 325 weight capacity and the 31-inch width of the kayak, it’s not really meant for “plus-sized” folks with ample waistlines. That’s because the seat molding is only 18 inches wide!
- You have to buy the scupper plugs yourself if you need them.
4. Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10-Foot Kayak
This is a very popular kayak, and when it’s available the stocks can disappear very quickly. But it’s easy to understand why so many people buy it when you take a look at its many terrific features.
The sun dolphin bali Kayak is very light and it should be easy to bring along to the water. It only weighs a mere 40 pounds.
This is just 10 feet long, but it is 30 inches wide. That makes it very stable, and indeed the wide center of the boat seems to guarantee that you won’t tip over when you’re in calm, peaceful water. The design allows you to paddle easily as it sits low on the water, and it tracks well enough for its length too.
The open cockpit lets you in and out very easily, and it can accommodate your pet do as well. Unless you’re very heavy and you’re bringing a lot of equipment, you shouldn’t have any trouble with its 250-pound weight capacity.
You’ll be very comfortable here sitting on this kayak, as it offers a large seating area. You also have adjustable foot braces as well as protective thigh pads. When you’re just lazing about on the water, you can also just rest your paddles on the paddle holder.
At the front, you have some deck spaced for supplies which are secured by shock cord deck rigging. There’s a cup holder too. Behind the seat, it also has a portable accessory carrier. You can use this as an additional storage compartment, or you can just tow it behind you.
The performance on the water is good enough for casual paddlers, with adequate tracking and excellent stability. The scupper holes may let in some water sometimes but they do drain the water once the keel is level.
- This is light, compact, and very portable.
- It’s quite tough, even if you do drag it across rocks to and from the water.
- It’s very stable in the water, and it’s excellent for calm lakes.
- The seating area is quite comfortable.
- You have lots of storage space, and you can even tow the portable accessory carrier so the kayak isn’t carrying too much of a load.
- The 250-pound weight capacity doesn’t let you bring in too much gear if you’re already heavy.
- There are no side handles.
5. Lifetime Youth 6 Feet Wave Kayak
Most of the time, even entry-level kayaks can be too big, too heavy, and certainly too expensive for kids to use. Aren’t there any kayaks designed specifically for kids?
Actually, there is and that’s this Lifetime Youth Wave kayak. It has lots of child-specific features besides the bright colorful look.
Adults aren’t really expected to use this, since its weight capacity is just 130 pounds. But that’s okay since it’s really meant for very young kids anyway. Even 5 year-old children can have lots of fun with this.
This has a handle at the front, so a child can pull the 6-foot kayak along since it only weighs 18 pounds. The back end is sloped for this purpose. It’s also easy to transport since it comes with molded finger handles on the sides.
Of course, children can come in many different sizes, but they can all be accommodated anyway. There are many available footrest positions so they can sit comfortably on the kayak.
Despite its small size, it’s actually quite stable in calm waters. It uses what’s called a reverse chine that makes it very stable in the water. It’s even designed to allow children to get into the kayak from the water.
This is a great addition for families who have been using tandem boats with their kids. At some point, they’re going to want try it out on their own. With this one, you have an affordable option that’s comfy and fun for kids, and safe as well.
- It’s not as expensive as your typical entry-level kayak.
- It’s sized for kids so that children don’t have to share it with bigger adults.
- Because of its small size, even the kids themselves can haul this into and out of the water.
- It’s very stable, which can alleviate the fears of young beginners. It’s even stable enough to let kids in from the water.
- It comes with a paddle holder.
- It comes with scupper holes that drain the cockpit.
- It’s a great way to introduce the kids to the joys of kayaking. It’s super easy to use and offers lots of fun. Yet it’s safe too.
- It looks festive, and it can definitely entice kids to use them.
- There aren’t any storage compartments at all, and this can be a problem for children who can’t bear to part with their smartphones. There’s really no place to put even waterproof bags.
- Some kids these days are definitely heavier than 130 pounds.
- Some adults weigh less than 130 pounds, so the kids may have some competition for who gets to use the kayak.
Best Recreational Kayak - Buying Guide
So how do you pick which recreational kayak is the best for you? Of course, the price is always a factor. It’s also nice if a kayak comes in bright colors to emphasize that kayaking is fun, and such colors are easy to find on the water just in case it stops being fun and you need emergency rescue.
However, for the most part you will need to consider the following factors above all others:
Some kayaks are meant for just a single user, and this is great for those who like some alone time while surrounded by nature. But other kayaks are meant for 2 or even 3 people, although the extra seats may be removed so that a single user has more leg room and storage space.
The benefit of tandem kayaks is that they’re designed to accommodate a heavier weight total, so you can remove the extra seat and you’ll be supported even if you’re carrying extra poundage. However, you will have to take the weight of your supplies and extra equipment into account.
Your comfort level depends mainly on how you can sit on a kayak easily. It should fit your body dimensions, and your feet should fit in the space provided for it. Thigh braces help, and the seat must be well-padded and adjustable.
Recreational kayaks don’t have to be extra fast or super-maneuverable, although of course these features are nice. However, they have to be stable. Many recreational kayakers are beginners, and so they want something that won’t tip over easily. In fact, it really helps if the kayak doesn’t feel as if it will easily tip over.
Size and Weight
These combined factors pertain to portability. It’s better if you can carry the kayak all by yourself into the water, especially if you’re going along.
Some recreational kayaks don’t really offer storage space, although you may have enough room to stow some extra stuff in a waterproof bag. However, some of the more expensive kayaks offer watertight compartments.
With recreational kayaks, it’s not about performance or its ability to help you go fishing or go on very long trips. It’s not about surfing the ocean waves either. A recreational kayak is about going on the waters of a calm and peaceful lake, as you relax and have fun with friends and family.
Get the best recreational kayak that suits your needs from our recreational kayak reviews, and you’ll relax more and have more fun!