How To Choose A Kayak

Kayaking is one of the most versatile sports in the world, and there are a lot of different subcategories of kayaking that are all quite distinct in terms of their demands and what type of kayak is required.

This can make beginners unsure of which type of kayak is necessary for their particular needs, and this can, in turn, result in a far less fun experience, and can sometimes even be dangerous.

Choosing the right kayak doesn’t have to be confusing, and a little bit of knowledge about what kayak is suitable for different situations can make a huge difference to the quality of your trip and the longevity of the kayak you use.

How to Choose a Kayak

In this guide, we’re going to look at some of the key factors to consider when looking for a new kayak, and also run down the main types of kayak to enable you to make an informed decision and find something that perfectly suits your needs.

But first, let’s take a look at some key factors to consider when choosing a new kayak.

Sit On vs. Sit In

This is one of the most key decisions you need to make about your kayak.

Sit on top kayaks are a good beginner choice and are ideal for recreational use, short trips or fishing. They are versatile and stable and are very easy to mount and dismount.

They are also self-bailing allowing water that enters the kayak to drain out easily without any issue. They are however not so suitable for colder environments as it’s highly likely you will get wet or splashed using this style of kayak. 

Sit-in kayaks are much more sheltered and offer much better protection from the water, especially when a splash deck or spray skirt is used.

They offer plenty of space for storage, are sturdy, and are a little easier to paddle with due to how they sit in the water when compared to a sit-on kayak.

The issue is that sit-on kayaks are a little harder to get into and are a little less stable.

Once this key decision has been made you will already have made things much easier for yourself!

Hull Type

The hull is the bottom of the kayak and this can come in a variety of designs, making a huge difference to performance and stability.

There are two types of stability in kayaking and these are;

Primary stability, which is how stable the kayak is when you first board it. It makes boarding much easier and is great for beginners.

Secondary stability is how stable the boat is once you’re actually paddling, and it makes it less likely that the boat will roll over as you’re moving.

Flat Hulls – These hulls are maneuverable and have great primary stability, and are ideal for use in calmer waters by beginner kayakers.

Rounded Hulls – A rounded hull allows the kayak to travel faster in the water and offers it much more maneuverability, as well as greater secondary stability.

V-Shaped Hulls – V-shaped hulls allow you to travel in a straight line more easily as the kayak carves through the water like a knife. These kayaks offer excellent performance for recreational use as well as long-distance tours, but they don’t offer much primary stability while offering decent secondary stability.

Pontoon Hulls – These are a very stable hull type that offers good primary stability and secondary stability and is a good compromise between the flat and rounded hull type. The trade-off is that they are much slower when paddling.

Weight And Capacity

The capacity and weight capabilities of your kayak will vary depending on the style of kayak as well as the details mentioned above and the size of the kayaker.

Make sure to check the max capacity of your kayak to ensure it can handle your weight plus the weight of any gear you decide to bring.


The length of the kayak will vary a lot depending on which discipline it’s designed for.

Generally speaking, the thinner and longer a kayak is the more easily it will maintain a straight course in the water, however, it won’t be as maneuverable or stable as wider, shorter kayaks.

Typically, recreational kayaks are anywhere between 8 feet long to 13 feet long and are ideal for lakes, rivers, and calmer waters of this type. 

Touring kayaks are much longer at a length of 14 feet to 18 feet, and are much more capable of handling the waves of larger lakes, large rivers, or the sea.

It’s also important to ensure that your kayak is long enough to accommodate both you and your required equipment.

There are several different types of kayaking disciplines, from touring to recreational to whitewater, and each of these disciplines requires a slightly different kayak design. You can look at these to get a better idea of what you’ll need for your intended use.

It’s also worth noting that there are other more specific kayak designs such as folding kayaks which are great if you’re traveling with your own kayak over a long distance, as well as inflatable kayaks which sacrifice some durability for even better portability.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many different types of kayak, and while this may seem overwhelming this is actually a good thing as it means there is definitely a kayak out there that’s perfect for your specific needs! 

If you’re unsure, you can even rent a few different kayaks to try them out to see what style of kayaking you prefer and what kayak is best suited to your preferences.

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