A Guide to Choosing Your Inflatable Kayak
- Where do you want to paddle? Is it a lake, the seacoast, a river, a little bit of all waterways? This will help you start to narrow your choices. Learn more here.
- Sit-in or sit-on-top? Do you prefer the protection of a traditional sit-in, or the openness of a sit-on-top? If you’re open to either one, that’s fine, too. Learn more here.
- Kayak weight and your budget: Materials, which directly impact the boat’s price, are the biggest factor in the weight and durability of your boat.
- Shape and size considerations: These affect handling and cargo space. It should also be noted that the longer the kayak, the faster it is in the water and the better it holds a straight line (known as tracking).
Our kayaks aren’t necessarily categorized by water type, but it’s still helpful to start here and think about which environment you plan to explore before you choose your kayak.
Coasts: This is where wind, waves, currents, tides and more all come into play. So, having a sit-in touring kayak with a fixed tracking fin, a skeg, or rudder is wise. If you live in a warm environment where you don’t mind going for a swim, or you plan to do some kayak surfing, a sit-on-top can still be a fine choice.
Rivers: If you’re floating on a river (Class 1-2), you want a stable, sturdy craft that turns quickly. That might be a short, stable recreational sit-in or sit-on-top kayak or day touring sit-in kayak. If you’re paddling faster waters with more technical rapids (Class 3+) then you’ll want a sit-on-top designed specifically for whitewater.
Rivers and lakes: If you plan to use your boat in both flowing and still waters, go with a shorter recreational sit-in that can be skirted or a sit-on-top crossover kayak. That setup will help you turn responsively on moving water and track efficiently when on flat water.
Kayaks are classified in many ways, including where you sit in them, how you use them, their structure and whether they are built for a specific purpose. This section should help you narrow down what type of kayak you may like to use.
- Sit-on-tops are easy to get on (even in deep water) and off of, so they’re good for uses such as a swimming or snorkeling platform.
- They’re comfortable when air and water are warm (you’ll always get wet).
- Scupper holes make them self-draining; no need to pump out water.
- They are more affected by wind than a sit-in kayak.
- For those interested in fishing, our StraitEdge Angler series of sit-on-tops include rod holders or at least the option to add them.
- They’re comfortable when air and water are cool.
- You can add a spray skirt to most, but a bilge pump is needed if you get fully swamped.
- They’re more efficient to paddle than a sit-on-top and are much less affected by wind.
Recreational kayaks: Affordable, stable, easy to get in and out of, and simple to turn. They’re for flatwater fun or meandering rivers, not for longer trips, waves or rapids. Storage is typically limited to stash spots for a few essentials.
Expedition touring kayaks (sit-ins): These long, robust touring boats are super-efficient over long distances. They track well and handle wind and currents. You’ll typically find ample cargo space in this category. Also to note, the longer the boat, the faster it is and the better it tracks.