Types of Kayaks to Choose

Kayaking is a great way to take in nature and enjoy a day outdoors. When it comes to choosing a type of kayak, you must consider your environment and level of skill.

May 17, 2017

If you’re in the market for a kayak, you’ll notice there are several types to choose from and if you’re a beginner, the process may be a bit overwhelming. Pro Tips is here to help you break down the different options and narrow down your search.

With this in mind, it’s important to know that kayaks are categorized by two styles: sit-in kayaks and sit-on-top kayaks.


You have more options with a sit-in. You can use them in warm weather, but you can also attach a spray skirt and use them in colder, rougher water. You’ll stay drier with a sit-in and they often have more storage and offer more options to store belongings and keep them from getting wet as well. They frequently are constructed with foot braces inside so that you can brace your legs for a more efficient stroke and to get more power from your stroke. Contrary to what some may think, sit-in kayaks are actually quite roomy, rather than confined.


A sit-on-top kayak has a molded-in depression on top that gives you a place to sit. They are versatile and can be used for a recreational day on the water. They are a great option for anyone, including a beginner who is learning the ins and outs of kayaking. They may also be a good choice for someone who is tall, has long legs or is large framed (always check weight capacity specifications when buying). You will get splashed and get wet, so they tend to be best for warm days and warm water. They are reasonably easy to get in and out of, which is great if you plan to swim or are boating with kids or dogs.

Now that you know the difference between sit-in and sit-on-top, let’s break down the types of kayaks from which to choose.

To do so, you want to ask yourself, how do you plan to use the kayak and what type of water and conditions will you be paddling in? Each type of kayak serves a specific purpose, so let’s jump in (or jump “on”).


If you see yourself using your kayak for leisurely trips, are a new paddler or plan to take photos on a calm lake or river, a recreational kayak is a good choice. These kayaks are stable and designed to be maneuverable and easy to use.


Are you looking for something more adventurous, like trips on rougher waters or out in the ocean? Consider looking for a touring kayak. They are built to go in a straight line and because they are usually longer, they are often able to weather rougher water. They are meant for long trips and often offer more comfort options, such as upgraded seats, foot pegs and more storage.


If you don’t have a large storage space at home, you can opt for an inflatable kayak, which folds up completely and can be easily transported. Some fold up small enough to fit into your pack. They are fairly durable, usually made of multiple layers of plastic and fabric. They also can usually be patched and repaired.


There are specific kayaks made just for fishing that come with special storage conpartments. Some models are designed with built-in rod holders, tackle boxes and other extra storage features that an angler would need. One big benefit of fishing kayaks is that they are made to be more stable so that you can stand up on them to cast, or get a better look at the water and beneath the surface. Many recreational kayaks can work for fishing too, just check out the features to confirm they will suit your fishing needs.


Why kayak alone? Bring a friend and don’t worry about keeping up with another person’s paddling. A tandem kayak has seats for more than one person. It will also give you more space if you want to bring along a child or a furry friend. (NOTE: Put a life vest on fido is you do.)


If transportation is an issue, another option would be a modular kayak. These kayaks come apart for storage and transportation. They can also come in handy if you want to be able to use your kayak as a single or tandem, instead of buying multiple kayaks, you can buy an extra piece and expand the kayak, like a leaf on a dining table.

With all of the different options available, make sure you choose the best type of kayak that matches your lifestyle for a joyful experience on the water.