Choosing the right kayak can be a confusing process for beginners, simply because there are so many options out there. From sit-on-top or sit-in, inflatable to hard-bodied, each kayak will make you have a different experience on the water.
The right kayak for you will depend on many factors, like whether you’re going to be using it for recreational or sport, the type of water you want to use it on, and your skill level.
So now you must be wondering “how will I ever find the best kayak for me?”.
Well luckily for you we’ve made this handy list of the best kayaks for beginners. Covering many types of kayaks, we’ve split this list into categories to make it easier for you to find the right one.
OUR TOP PICK
BEST SIT-IN KAYAK
Perception Kayaks are considered some of the best beginners kayaks out there due to their stability and reliability, with the Flash 9.5 being no different.
The Flash 9.5 was designed with simplicity and ease of use in mind. With its stability and easy paddling characteristics, this kayak would be perfect for a leisurely day out on the lake.
Being just over 9 feet long this is considered short by kayak standards. Despite the length, this is a very lightweight kayak making it easy to transport to and store.
The length means that people of all heights can use this kayak, with it featuring adjustable foot braces and comfort seating with a high seat back to accommodate everyone.
Also because of the short length, the Flash has excellent maneuverability making it a breeze to paddle.
If you want to use this kayak for fishing purposes the Flash features handy molded-in rod holders so you can keep them out of the way while paddling.
Built-in features like an easy-access dashboard, a 10-inch space to store gear, and a paddle park to stow your paddle, are all designed to make your kayaking experience easier.
At the end of the day when you’re all paddled out, you can easily drain and dry your kayak out thanks to the drain plug included on the bottom.
All-round this is a perfect simple kayak that will be easy to use for all beginners.
- Molded lightweight design - makes it easy to transport and use
- All the added features - designed to make your experience easier these features are a big help for beginners
- Limited storage space - Though you’ll be able to store a few things other kayaks can come with a much larger space
BEST SIT-IN KAYAK
The LT is one of the most portable kayaks on this list. Weighing only 26lbs it’s one of the most lightweight kayaks you can buy.
Made for casual kayaking on calm waters like lakes, rivers, and bays, despite being labeled as a beginner kayak even experts will appreciate all the features that come with it.
Despite not being an inflatable kayak, the LT is able to fold down small enough to fit in the trunk of your car. No longer will you have to struggle with big and heavy kayaks, which can put many off of trying this hobby in the first place.
Set up is also super easy, you go from bag to water in just five minutes. That’s because the LT kayak works similarly to a pop-up tent, you simply unfold it and, thanks to its origami-like structure, you will have a large kayak ready to go straight away.
Just because it is not made of typical hard kayak materials like polyethylene, doesn’t mean that it is not durable or sturdy.
The kayak goes through a huge amount of quality control and testing before you purchase it to make sure that it is completely durable and safe in the water.
For comfort, the LT features an adjustable backrest and footrest to support paddlers of all sizes and will ensure that you are not sore after a long day on the water.
While the LT may seem like a complicated kayak to use, it is incredibly user-friendly and is an ideal choice for beginners who don’t want to commit to a full and heavy kayak.
- Folds up - this is the biggest selling point of the LT, as usually, only inflatable kayaks have this feature
- Very stable - a very important quality for beginners, this kayak ensures that you won’t tip over in the water
- Not suitable for choppy waters - despite having loads of cool features, if you want to begin sea or rough water kayaking then this isn’t the kayak for you
BEST SIT-ON-TOP KAYAK
This simple and easy to use sit-on-top kayak is perfectly designed to be used on calm waters like lakes and rivers.
Ideal for fishing or a recreational paddle, the Bali is incredibly stable thanks to its multi-chined hull, so you definitely won’t fall off while reeling in a fish.
One of the best things about this kayak is its large amount of storage, making it ideal for long kayaking trips.
There’s even enough room for camping gear, so if you wanted to get away from people for a while you could paddle out to a remote spot and sleep under the stars.
Added features include a large open cockpit for easy entry and exit, and a comfortable seating area with protective thigh pads, adjustable foot bracks, and paddle holder.
If you’re just looking for a simple and stable sit-on-top kayak then you should try giving the Bali a go.
- Lots of storage with extra available - just in case the huge amount of storage in the kayak isn’t enough, the Bali also comes with a portable accessory carrier (PAC) which can be towed behind the kayak
- Very comfortable - the thigh pads and adjustable foot braces make this a very comfortable ride
- Not very maneuverable - the Bali can be a bit slow and sluggish when turning because of the muli-chined hull.
BEST SIT-ON-TOP KAYAK
The Pelican is designed to be used on flat calm water like lakes, bays, and slow-moving rivers, making it perfect for recreational kayaking and fishing.
Being one of the shorter kayaks on this list, the Pelican is only 9’6 and weighs only 44lb, meaning it’s incredibly easy to transport and store.
The short length of the Pelican makes it very agile in the water, and its great tracking ability allows you to easily build and maintain speed with little effort.
While you speed along the water the milti-chine hull will keep you stable ensuring you don’t fall off. Also to add even more stability the Pelican has added increased flotation inside the hull to ensure your kayak doesn’t tip over.
Other added features of this kayak are its removable storage compartment and its adjustable footrests and seats so paddlers of all heights can use it.
This kayak is perfect for beginner paddlers who just want something simple to start out on.
- Very durable - made from patented Ram-X materials this kayak can withstand almost anything and with the right care can last for years
- Very lightweight - one of the lightest on this list the Pelican is incredibly easy to transport
- Not super comfortable - if you’re planning on taking this kayak out for long journeys you may want to invest in some extra padding just in case
BEST INFLATABLE KAYAK
If you don’t have the space at home to store a regular kayak then inflatable ones are a convenient alternative.
The Challenger K1 is a fantastic choice of the inflatable kayak as it packers down to the size of a large duffle bag and as it only weighs 27lbs it’s very easy to store.
Great for lakes and rivers the Challenger K1 comes with everything you need including an 84-inch aluminum oar, repair patch, and high output manual air pump. Inflation is a very easy process and only takes around five minutes so you’ll be out on the water in no time.
Many new paddlers worry about the durability of inflatable kayaks, but the Challenger K1 is made from heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl which is guaranteed to keep you safe out on the water.
The Challenger K1 is a very nimble kayak due to its narrow profile and light weight, and it tracks well and picks up speed quickly. For added stability while you’re speeding along it features inflatable I-beam floors which help keep you balanced.
If you want to test out an inflatable kayak for the first time then this is a safe bet to go with.
- Very lightweight and small - Once deflated the Challenger K1 is small enough to store in any household cupboard or draw
- Some storage space on the kayak - the front end of the kayak features a large storage net to hold any extra gear
- Doesn’t function well in high winds - tracking can suffer in windy conditions and you may be blown off course
BEST INFLATABLE KAYAK
While this kayak has many good attributes, one of the biggest draws of the K5 is its incredibly fast setup speed, and as the name suggests the very little time it takes to pack away.
The whole kayak can fit into the integrated backpack, and once it’s been inflated this bag then turns into your seat. This system lets you be out on the water within five minutes.
The speed of setup isn’t the only advantage of this kayak though, the K1 is also one of the most durable kayaks on the market.
With a 24-gauge PVC construction, it’s very rugged and perfect for lake use, while the tarpaulin bottom and polyester cover protect from punctures.
Even if it does somehow get a puncture, multiple air chambers allow you to stay afloat so you can make your way to land safely.
The K1 also has adequate storage capacity, with bungee cords able to hold down your kit and D-rings for you to attach any extra equipment you may need.
For a safe and speedy ride, the K1 will get you on the water faster than any other inflatable kayak.
- Portability - you can carry the whole thing on your back
- Very safe and durable - though it has lots of puncture protection, should something happen you still have plenty of time to make it to shore
- Not suitable for long distances - while going around a lake or down a short river is fine, the K1 won’t work as well for long trips.
Best Kayak For Beginners Buying Guide
When looking at buying a kayak you need to make sure the one you’re buying will do exactly what you need it to do.
If you’re always going to be out on the lake for example, then buying one more suited to the ocean or rough waters won’t work best for you.
This isn’t the only thing you should consider though as many other features can impact your kayaking experience. These include:
Most kayaks can only hold a certain amount of weight so it’s important to see how much your kayak can hold before you buy. Remember to account for your weight and the weight of the gear you’ll be storing on the kayak
Very important for beginners, stability can vary depending on the kayak and what its main use is. A safe bet is to look for kayaks with primary stability as this means that the kayak should remain stable when you’re sat in a normal position
The size of this will determine how easy it is to get in and out of the kayak. If you’re quite tall then a wider cockpit will be best for you, and if you’re shorter then a thinner one will work fine.
Best Kayak For Beginners - FAQ's
Does The Color Of The Kayak Matter?
Actually yes. Kayaks are often brightly colored to make them easier to spot from far away making it easier for you to get assistance if you need it.
Is Kayaking Easy To Learn?
Kayaking is very easy to learn by yourself, and even easier if you take some lessons. Many people think that it takes a lot of strength to paddle but actually using too much can make kayaking harder.
A mistake beginners often make is relying too much on their arms to kayak. Instead, the proper way is to use your core to propel the kayak forward by putting your paddle in the water and rotating your body core to pull yourself towards the paddle.