Best Lifetime Kayaks

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

10 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
324 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

Buying guide for best Lifetime kayaks

Last Updated October 2019

Lifetime is one of the leading manufacturers of kayaks in the United States, with a range of affordable boats from the simple and safe youth and beginner models to specialty kayaks for the keen angler.

With Lifetime you have huge choice, from sit-in to sit-on-top models, so there’s bound to be a kayak that will meet your needs. The question is, which one? That’s why we’re here.

We’ve been looking at your options in depth so we can help with your buying decision. Our recommendations showcase some of the top models in each category, and in the following buying guide we look at the styles and specifications in more detail.

Though nobody knows for sure, kayaks probably originated in Greenland (though the land mass may have been different then). The word means “man-boat” in the local language.

Key considerations

Construction

While traditional kayaks were made of wood (and you can still buy them, for a price), fiberglass has been popular for years, sometimes layered with Kevlar or carbon fiber.

The most recent development is high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Technically speaking, it’s a thermoplastic polymer, but most people just call it plastic. It’s easier to make HDPE kayaks (which keeps costs down). It’s also argued that with this material you get a more consistent hull structure. In general, the durability is better (these kayaks are less prone to cracking or impact damage), and because the color goes all the way through the material, there’s no paint to chip off.

The only drawback is that plastics are prone to deteriorate in ultraviolet light, but the chemical properties of HDPE can be modified to combat this. All Lifetime kayaks are made from this material, and their strength and durability are underlined by a five-year warranty.

Sleek and functional

Thanks to the sharp bow and rear tracking skeg, the Tamarack will get you where you’re going quickly. The flat-bottomed hull gives you the stability you need for a day’s fishing. Versatility comes by way of three fishing rod holders, front and rear bungees, and two storage hatches. The adjustable seat is padded, and you have multiple foot positions for comfort. We think it would also make a good sea/touring kayak.

Sit-in vs. sit-on-top kayaks

When looking for a kayak you’ll immediately notice two big style differences: you either sit in them (the traditional type) or they are open and you sit on top (SOT).

Sit-in kayaks: These kayaks generally give you more protection from the elements, and if you include a spray skirt, you and any gear you stow can stay completely dry. It’s a more sporting kayak for touring or white-water rafting that’s better suited to rough water. On the downside, sit-in kayaks aren’t as easy to get in and out of. If you do capsize, it can be a struggle to right yourself.

Lifetime is very good at categorizing its models, and the descriptions are pretty reliable. However, you might struggle if you’re looking for what are usually called touring or sea kayaks. It’s not that Lifetime doesn’t make them; it’s that they’re bundled under the same category as fishing kayaks. You’ll soon see by the storage options that these make excellent long-distance craft — you just don’t add the fishing rods! To maximize range and speed, it’s also possible to add an outboard motor to some of Lifetime’s fishing kayaks.

Sit-on-top kayaks: These kayaks are typically used more for leisure activities. Because they’re very stable, sit-on-top kayaks are ideal for beginners. There’s greater freedom of movement, and it’s easy to get off and on if you fancy a dip. On the downside, you absolutely will get wet (though there may be a waterproof compartment for your gear). These kayaks are not designed for rough water, though Lifetime models have a pronounced chine (the part where the hull meets the water) for extra stability.

EXPERT TIP

Lifetime kayaks are unusual in that many come with a paddle included. However, some don’t so check when ordering.


Staff  | BestReviews

Lifetime kayak features

Storage

Storage varies from simple, molded areas behind the paddler (called tank wells) with elasticized straps/shock cords to hatch-covered, below-deck compartments. While these may be waterproof, it’s best to assume that water might get in. If you want your gear to stay completely dry, put it in plastic bags first. Lifetime fishing kayaks have two and sometimes three rod holders.

Comfort

Lifetime kayaks feature multiple footrests, so it’s easy for paddlers of different sizes to get comfortable. Backrests are padded, too, and may offer several positions. In some tandem kayaks, the backrest can be removed and repositioned to allow for solo use.

Weight and transport

The weight capacity of the kayak is important. All kayaks have one and it should never be exceeded. The weight of the kayak itself may be a consideration. All Lifetime’s models have handholds or grips of some kind to aid in transport. Paddle cradles and/or clips make for easier transportation and storage.

EXPERT TIP

Keen kayak anglers might want to invest in a fish finder. Several are now compact enough to use in your kayak. They can show you water depth as well.


Staff  | BestReviews

Kayak accessories

Your Lifetime kayak comes with numerous impressive features, but there are a few extras worth considering:

Paddle: Not all kayaks come with a paddle because many kayakers prefer to choose a paddle that suits their height and stroke style, as well as the type of kayak. One of our favorites is a product from Carlisle Paddle Gear because they are quite lightweight and come in your choice of three colors.

Kayak roof rack: You could probably bungee your kayak to an existing rack on your vehicle, but a proper kayak carrier gives you much more security and protection. TMS makes a budget option that actually includes two racks. Customers have been quite happy with it.

Kayak spray skirt: Also called a spray deck, this piece of nylon or neoprene is designed to fit tightly around you and cover the opening of the kayak to keep your clothing dry and water out of the kayak as you paddle. We like the Seals Sneak Zippered Kayak Spray Skirt for use in flat and ocean waters.

Kayak anchor: An anchor keeps your kayak in one place without you needing to paddle, such as when you’re fishing. Crown Sporting Goods offers a foldable anchor in your choice of weights, so you can customize your purchase based on your kayak.

EXPERT TIP

Get your kayak in the water as soon as possible after purchase. Check everything in case it was damaged in transit.


Staff  | BestReviews

Lifetime kayaks prices

Inexpensive: Entry-level beginners and youth models start at a little over $100 and go up to about $300. Bear in mind that there are good deals to be had if you buy a pair of kayaks.

Mid-range: Between $300 and $500 you’ll find an enormous selection of Lifetime craft, both sit-in and sit-on-top, in a range of sizes and with great features.

Expensive: Above $500 you get tandems and high-quality fishing/touring kayaks. The most expensive model, designed with the possibility of attaching an outboard, is about $750.

Safety tips

  • Wear a life jacket. A life jacket is absolutely vital (and a legal necessity for those under 12 in most states). In an accident, it could be a lifesaver. There are specific models for kayaking that don’t restrict your movement, so you have no excuse not to wear one.
  • Stay safe. When you’re learning how to kayak, never paddle farther from shore than you can easily swim back. Whenever possible, kayak with a friend. If that’s not practical, make sure someone knows where you’re going, and set a call-in or rendezvous time.
  • Dress for the water temperature. If it’s cold, think about wearing a wetsuit. You’ll probably get wet at some point, so keep a change of dry clothes in the car.
  • Load the kayak correctly. If you’re fishing or touring, load your kayak evenly to minimize the risk of capsizing. Practice at home before you head out.
  • Gain experience. Don’t go on a long kayaking trip without considerable experience. Even if you’re fit, kayaking is a different exercise, and building paddling stamina takes time. You’re supposed to be relaxing, so don’t overdo it!

Ideal introduction to kayaking

A pair of Lifetime Lotus kayaks is a versatile way for you and a friend to get out on the water at a bargain price. The hull design provides the stability beginners need to quickly build confidence. There are multiple footrests to accommodate a wide range of body sizes, a useful tank well with bungees, and the paddle is included. Cheap, lightweight, fun. What more could you want?

Other products we considered

If you don’t see what you need in our matrix, we found a couple other products for you to consider. In the spring of 2012, Lifetime acquired Emotion Kayaks of Pennsylvania, adding even more choice to its range. The Emotion Guster Sit-Inside Kayak is a great all-rounder, rated for 275 pounds, and fitted with shock cords and a storage hatch for versatility. The seat is very comfortable, and there’s space for kayakers well over six feet tall. The Emotion Stealth Pro Angler Kayak is a remarkable craft, stable enough to allow stand-up fishing, but with a seat that can be set low for paddling, high for fishing, and reclined for relaxation. It comes with Flambeau tackle boxes, two rod holders, and GearTrac for mounting accessories.

Proper posture and technique are vital for comfort, particularly if you’re going a long distance. You can try to learn from videos, but lessons in the water with an expert are a much better way to get started.

FAQ

Q. How do I take care of my Lifetime kayak?
A.
Salt water is corrosive to just about anything, so if you’ve been in the sea, rinse your kayak when you get home. Otherwise, a quick wipe with a cloth is probably all it needs to remove any dirt. Although Lifetime kayaks have excellent UV protection, it’s a good idea to minimize exposure as much as possible. Store it in a place where it won’t get damp (to prevent mold growth), either indoors or on blocks outdoors so there’s airflow, and cover it with a tarp. if you’re hanging it from straps, make sure the weight is evenly distributed so the kayak doesn’t warp.

 

Q. What are scupper holes?
A.
They are holes in the bottom of sit-on-top kayaks. It sounds like an odd thing to do – you might expect the boat to sink – but in fact they allow the water that gets into the boat (over-splash from paddles or rough conditions) to drain out. Some water in your kayak is natural, but if you’re uncomfortable with that you can get scupper plugs to temporarily stop the holes.

 

Q. Should my partner and I get a tandem kayak or individual ones?
A.
Interesting question! Tandem kayaks are great fun for two people, especially a parent and child our couples. You’ll also likely save money compared to buying two single kayaks. The only real drawback is that some can be difficult to control if one of you wants to paddle solo from time to time. Other than that, it’s a terrific way for kayaking enthusiasts to spend time together.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Karen
    Karen
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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