BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Compact yet sturdy and reliable kayak made from durable polyethylene material. Sizable-volume hull glides smoothly through water and is easy to handle. Ten feet in length with a load capacity of 325 lbs. Stern features a click-hatch closure for dry storage.
Quite an expensive choice, but its durability might be worth the investment.
Beginner recreational kayak with stable multi-chine hull. Tracks well. Lightweight and easy for 1 person to transport and maneuver into the water. Outfitted with bottle holder, compartments for accessories, bungee storage, and carry handles. Footrests are molded rather than adjusted so you can easily reposition.
Sits a little low, so it's easy to take in water from splashes or chop. Back support could be better.
Generously sized cockpit and 325-pound weight limit make this spacious kayak good for taller, larger paddlers. Maneuverable with good tracking. Foot braces adjust for comfort and are a good alternative if you have knee or leg issues. Molded fishing rod holders and cupholder.
Spacious cockpit means there's not much storage in front, and the rear storage hatch is not watertight.
A 10.5-foot kayak designed for use in slow-moving waters like lakes and ponds. Hull and keel are designed to maximize stability when reeling in big fish. Plenty of storage and workspace. Molded rod holder, handles, and cupholder. Includes anchor trolley system. Excellent tracking.
Consider upgrading the seat if you plan to use for extended periods — some complain that it isn't comfortable.
Ten-foot kayak crafted from RAM-X™ multi-layer polyethylene with a twin-arched hull. Molded footrests and ErgoForm seat system provide ultimate comfort. Weight capacity of 300 lbs. Stable and sturdy, built to prevent capsizing. Features removable compartment and bungee cords for storage.
Complaints of the vessel taking on too much water, and that it's hard to drain out.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Sit-inside kayaks have been around for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years — though modern versions have come a long way from those original hide-covered frames. They range from small crafts for waterborne fun to longer boats for fishing and touring.
In general, these have greater storage capacity than sit-on-top versions, plus you can stay warmer and dryer when the weather’s not so nice so they extend the paddling season.
Not surprisingly, there’s plenty of variety on offer, and if you’re new to the sport it can be difficult to choose the right model. We’ve put together a comprehensive buying guide that looks at the important features plus some of the accessories that can add to your enjoyment.
Our top picks shown above offer a good overview of the performance and price options available to you. The following gives a more detailed look at styles and specifications.
There are two major elements that have the biggest impact on your choice: your skill level and the kind of kayaking you want to do.
For anyone new to paddling: If you’re a beginner, a wide kayak of modest length offers the most stability and is safest to learn with. Most kayaks of this kind are very affordable and ideal for fun paddling on relatively calm water.
For intermediate paddlers: As your confidence and skill level increase, you might want to take on rougher waters or longer distances. White-water kayaks remain fairly short but are narrower and more nimble than leisure craft. Touring kayaks, also called sea kayaks, are longer and sleeker, built to travel fast but with plenty of storage space. Fishing kayaks are often similar (though can be broader, again for stability) and will have angling-specific features like rod holders.
For those who want to paddle together: The other option is a tandem kayak, and these come in several styles. There are open boats, similar to traditional native craft, that allow you to carry a lot of gear and perhaps a child or pet. There are semi-open models that have interchangeable seats (you can use them solo or tandem), and there are fully enclosed tandems where each paddler has their own cockpit. These are for the more experienced paddlers looking for rapid, long-distance travel.
You’ll want to consider the material your kayak is made from when thinking about the type of paddling you’ll be using it for.
Polyethylene (or HDPE, High Density Polyethylene), often just called “plastic,” is by far the most common material, though it is a little heavy. Kayaks made from this are the cheapest hardshell models and are pretty durable.
Polythene is used for inflatable kayaks — though most are sit-on, rather than sit-inside. Very low cost and lightweight, these are okay for occasional fun but not for serious paddling. There are one or two exceptions to this, though, like high-quality hybrids that have aluminum spars for strength and shape with inflatable sections for compact transportation. These are an interesting alternative and similar in price to mid-range hard shells.
ABS is a tough plastic also used for things like crash helmets. These kayaks are still relatively light and tough, and they’re mid-range as far as price.
Fiberglass / graphite / kevlar composite kayaks are light, responsive craft popular with experienced paddlers. They’re very strong but at the upper end of price ranges.
There are wooden models available, but while they are beautiful examples of fine craftsmanship, they’re very expensive and need to be looked after carefully.
Length is important not just in terms of kayak performance but also when considering the size of the occupant. If you’re tall, you might struggle to fit in a low-cost 8-foot boat. However, it’s not unusual to find a 10-foot version of the same model is available.
If you’re paddling any distance, you’ll want your kayak to be comfortable. Some seats are very basic, but most are padded and many offer adjustability. Padding might also be added inside the kayak for knees and thighs, and adjustable footrests are another benefit for comfort.
Storage can range from a small area in the stern to both fore and aft compartments. Shock cords or bungees are often added so you can strap gear to the outside of the kayak as well. Some makers claim compartments are waterproof, which might be true, but we recommend you pack things in dry bags just to be sure. A few kayaks have forward platforms for phones or GPS devices.
Paddle holders are a common feature on many kayaks. Carry handles and storage hooks are also useful. Sea and touring kayaks might have a rudder and/or fin (called a skeg) for additional maneuverability and stability to help combat wind and waves.
Kayaking Shoes: If you want secure footing and comfort in and around the water, you need proper kayaking shoes. A thick sole can give your feet more protection from hidden rocks and debris you can't see while walking in murky water. The best shoes for kayaking resist water/sun damage, dry quickly, and hug your feet while allowing them to breathe on hot days.
Kayak Roof Rack: Unfortunately for most of us, kayaking paradise is rarely just outside the back door. That means you have to pack up and drive somewhere, but trying to put a kayak on an ordinary roof rack is awkward and likely to lead to damage. Kayak roof racks are specially designed to hold kayaks firmly in place, and some can even help make the loading and unloading process a little easier.
Floating cooler: A towable floating cooler saves space in your kayak and lets you keep food and drinks cold for the duration of your paddling trip. These are best used in calmer water conditions and are great for a relaxing float with friends.
While you might expect the cheapest sit-in kayaks to be exclusively inflatables, this isn’t the case. There are several hard-shell models in the $300 range, many of which are ideal for beginners.
Better quality kayaks — the sort you’d be comfortable taking on the sea or for touring and fishing — run from around $500 to $1,000. Hybrids also fall into this bracket. Most paddlers will find what they want at this price point.
Those few sit-in kayaks that exceed $1,000 are usually folding hard-shells or long-distance touring tandems. Top models can even reach as much as $3,000.
Always think safety first. Paddle with a buddy whenever possible; otherwise, let someone know when you’re going and your estimated arrival time.
Proper posture and technique make a huge difference in your kayaking experience as well as the amount of time you can comfortably spend on the water. It’s highly recommended that you take a few lessons or learn from an experienced kayaker when starting out.
While you’re new to kayaking, stay close enough to the shore that you could swim back if necessary.
Be patient. Your kayak may be equipped for white water rafting, but at the beginning, you definitely aren’t. Learn to control your boat with confidence before taking on bigger challenges.
A. The law varies from state to state. In most, minors are required to wear a personal flotation device but often adults are not. Our advice would be to wear one regardless of what the law demands. There are life jackets made specifically to give you the freedom you need to paddle, and in the event of an accident, they could save your life.
A: Very little. If you’ve been in the sea, you should rinse off the saltwater, as it’s corrosive and abrasive and can cause damage if left. Other than that, just check fixtures, fittings, and hull integrity before each use. Store it in a garage or shed if possible or cover it with a tarp.
A: Also called a spray skirt, it’s a cover that fits around your torso and extends over the kayak’s opening to keep out any water. They’re not so popular when the weather is warm because they can make you uncomfortably hot, but they will keep you nice and snug once it turns cooler.
Get emails you’ll love.
Learn about the products you’re wondering if you should buy and get advice on using your latest purchases.