When buying your first kayak, one of the most important decisions is choosing between a sit-in and a sit-on-top model. The type you select can dramatically impact your paddling experience based on factors like comfort, stability, and ease of getting in and out. Here’s what to consider when weighing the pros and cons of each:
Choose Between a Sit-In and Sit-On-Top Kayak Based on Your Needs
Sit-in kayaks offer a more traditional paddling experience where you sit with your legs extended inside the kayak’s closed cockpit. The cockpit rim creates a seal to keep water out, making sit-ins ideal for rougher conditions. Sit-ins also allow you to utilize your core and legs to help steer the kayak, giving greater maneuverability. However, the confined space can feel restrictive for some. Sit-in kayaks may require practice to master gracefully entering and exiting.
With sit-on-top kayaks, you sit above the surface of the kayak in an open cockpit. This gives a greater sense of freedom and makes getting in and out much easier. Sit-on-tops are extremely stable, making them a top choice for recreational paddling in calm waters. However, the open design provides less protection from the elements. Storage space is also more limited without a closed hull. Consider how you plan to use your kayak when choosing between sit-in and sit-on-top designs.
As a beginner, think about your comfort level and needs. Do you want the versatility to handle moving water, or a focus on stability for casual paddling? Will you frequently be getting in and out during your kayaking adventures? Weigh decisions like seating position and entry/exit considerations. Demo both types if possible to experience the difference firsthand.
An ideal first kayak optimizes features that match your paddling intentions. Carefully evaluate sit-in vs. sit-on-top when figuring out the right kayak to start your new hobby. With so many options available, take your time to find the best model to progress your skills while staying comfortable on the water.
When starting out in kayaking, it’s wise to prioritize stability and comfort. The easier it is to find your balance and the more relaxed you feel in the cockpit, the more you can focus on proper paddling techniques and just enjoying your time on the water.
Consider a Recreational Kayak for Stability and Comfort
Recreational kayaks are designed with new paddlers in mind. They offer a wider beam and flatter hull shape for initial stability, making them less likely to feel “tippy.” The wider cockpit opening and seat with plush cushioning also enhances comfort, so you can paddle for longer without fatigue.
Storage hatches give recreational kayaks ample room to pack snacks, water, and other gear for a full day out. The cargo space also provides a convenient spot to stow items you want to keep dry. Footrests, thigh braces, and an adjustable backrest further customize the fit for different body types.
While recreational kayaks may lack the sleek speed of narrower touring models, the improved stability can give beginners added confidence. The easier handling allows you to hone your maneuvering skills at an unrushed pace. And the cushy seat makes it no problem to paddle for hours during all-day adventures.
For casual paddling on calm lakes or rivers, a recreational design has all the features needed for an enjoyable time on the water. The stability keeps you balanced while you get acclimated to kayaking. All the comforts keep you smiling as you explore new waterways or just cruise along the shoreline.
Prioritizing stability and comfort is key for beginning paddlers. Let a recreational kayak provide that forgiving foundation as you progress from kayaking novice to seasoned pro hitting the waves.
Buying a kayak sight unseen can be risky. The specs may seem perfect, but you won’t know for sure until you actually get inside the kayak and take it out for a test drive.
Test Out the Kayak Before You Buy to Ensure a Proper Fit
To avoid buyer’s regret, take any kayak you’re considering for purchase out for a test run first. This is the only way to truly assess if the cockpit dimensions provide a good fit for your body type and paddling needs.
Sit inside the kayak on land to get a feel for the seat size and leg room. See if you can easily reach the foot pegs and find a comfortable paddling position. Move your upper body and imagine how your range of motion would be out on open water.
When possible, actually get the kayak out on a pond or slow river. This will show you how stable the kayak really is and how easily it handles. Take a few paddle strokes to determine if you need to adjust the seat location or foot braces.
Testing a kayak before committing also allows you to evaluate features like storage, rigging, and any accessories. You can get a better sense of the real-life pros and cons of that particular model.
Don’t rely solely on specs, ratings, or reviews. The right kayak fit can be very individual. By test driving options, you’ll know whether a certain kayak model truly suits your needs and paddling style before making an investment.
If you plan to paddle in rivers, streams, or the ocean, maneuverability should be one of your top priorities when choosing your first kayak. Nimble handling allows you to navigate obstacles and changing currents with greater ease.
Prioritize Maneuverability If You Plan to Use It in Moving Water
Kayaks built for moving water have design elements that make them more responsive to steering strokes. The hull shape is optimized to slice cleanly and track straight, while the narrow width increases efficiency and speed.
A rudder can also improve handling, allowing you to correct your course without disrupting forward momentum. Foot-controlled rudder systems enable easy adjustments on the fly to keep you nimble.
The seating configuration affects maneuverability too. Sit-inside kayaks allow utilizing your legs and core to help turn the boat. A shorter kayak length increases agility for twisting through rapids or riding ocean swells.
Storage hatches should be conveniently placed to access gear quickly when needed, without disrupting your center of gravity. Perimeter lines offer secure handholds for maintaining control in surging waters.
When running rapids or navigating ocean rock gardens, precise and responsive handling is a must. Prioritizing maneuverability helps ensure your first kayak has the agility needed for whatever moving water adventures you pursue.
Your height is a key factor when determining the ideal kayak length. Selecting a size that matches your body allows for optimal control and efficient paddling.
Make Sure to Get the Right Kayak Length Based on Your Height
As a general rule, taller paddlers need longer kayaks to accommodate their extra leg room. Shorter kayakers can size down to increase maneuverability. The goal is to find a kayak length that matches your inseam measurements.
When seated with your legs extended, your feet should be able to comfortably reach the foot braces. This allows you to press against them when steering the kayak. There should also be a few inches between your knees and the deck.
Going too short on kayak length compresses your legroom and limits your range of motion. Too long can make the kayak feel unbalanced. The ideal size allows stretching out without cramping or knocking your knees.
Aim for a kayak length that adds about 2-4 inches to your overall height. For example, if you are 5’8″, a 9-10 foot kayak would be optimal. Use sizing charts as a starting point, then fine-tune based on trying out different lengths.
Dialing in the right proportions custom fit to your frame allows exerting optimal power with each paddle stroke. Make kayak length a priority for pairing with your height and paddling efficiently.
If you’re new to kayaking, stability should be a top priority. Choosing a wider kayak model provides a sturdier platform to help build skills and confidence.
Choose a Wider Kayak for More Stability
Wider kayak hulls are less likely to feel “tippy” out on the water. The additional beam offers a broader base of support to keep you balanced. It’s less prone to rocking from side to side if you lean.
A wider cockpit opening also enhances stability. It gives you more leeway to shift your hips and adjust your seating position. The kayak won’t become as wobbly if you need to reach for gear or look behind you.
For paddling on calm lakes and flatwater streams, choose a minimum beam width of about 24″. If you’ll encounter some waves and choppiness, go for at least 28″ of width. More is better for beginners still working on skills.
Keep in mind that increased width can hamper speed and maneuverability. But for new paddlers, stability should take priority over a fast, nimble ride. Get the hang of kayaking first before sizing down.
Selecting a wider kayak hull as your introductory model helps instill confidence every time you hit the water. The enhanced steadiness gives you a stable learning platform as you progress from kayaking novice to expert.
When selecting your first kayak, it’s crucial to factor in weight capacity. Choosing a model rated for you and your gear prevents sinking and allows proper balancing.
Get the Right Kayak Weight Capacity for You and Your Gear
Kayak weight capacities typically range from 250-600+ lbs. First, consider your body weight along with any essentials you’ll have onboard – things like water, snacks, paddles, PFD, etc.
Add your estimated total load. Then look at kayak specs and aim for at least 20-30 lbs above your number. This prevents exceeding limits that can compromise stability and make paddling difficult.
Weight distribution also matters. Try to load gear close to the center to avoid skewing handling. Pack heavy items low and tie down loose gear to prevent sudden shifts.
Stay conservative when estimating your load if you’re new to paddling. As a beginner, it’s better to have more capacity than you need for balance. You can size down for speed later once skills improve.
Getting the right weight rating gives your kayak the buoyancy to handle your heft and cargo. Don’t overload your vessel and sabotage that smooth first maiden voyage.
When selecting your first kayak, construction materials make a big difference in factors like durability, maintenance, and cost. Polyethylene is a top choice for beginner-friendly affordability and resilience.
Pick Materials Like Polyethylene for Durability and Affordability
Polyethylene is a type of rugged plastic that offers an optimal combo of strength, impact resistance, and budget pricing. It’s lightweight and flexible enough to handle dings without cracking.
Poly kayaks hold up well to sun, saltwater, and rough handling – perfect for a new paddler’s learning curve. Their molded construction also maintains shape over years of use with minimal upkeep needed.
While not as sleek-looking as fiberglass or Kevlar, polyethylene excels in stability, grip, and flotation. Bright colors provide high visibility for safety. The textured surface sheds water well and provides traction moving in and out.
For starter boats, polyethylene’s durability and friendly price point enable investing in all the must-have accessories. Save the performance materials for your second kayak after skills progress.
When rigging up as a new paddler, go for polyethylene’s strength, resilience, and cost efficiency. The hardy material will provide years of reliable use as you gain experience on the water.
When kayaking solo, safety should be a top priority. Adding flotation to your vessel helps keep it upright and gives you extra buoyancy in case of capsizing.
Add Flotation for Safety, Especially If Kayaking Alone
Flotation comes built into many kayaks, but adding more can be a wise investment. Foam blocks installed in the bow and stern help prevent the ends from dipping under water.
Inflatable air bags offer adjustable buoyancy to help balance and trim your kayak. They also provide backup flotation to keep you afloat in an emergency situation.
A spray skirt secures around the cockpit to seal out water in choppy seas or rapids. Deck lines give you something to grab if overboard without your boat.
A pump, sponge, and self-rescue training further equip you to drain or re-enter your kayak independently. Always wear a coast guard approved PFD as well.
Alone on the water is no place to scrimp on safety. Extra flotation provides cheap insurance whenever uncertainty lies ahead. Invest to empower yourself with built-in backups and peace of mind.
Beyond the kayak itself, essential accessories include paddles, life jackets, roof racks, and other gear to outfit your vessel. Research must-have add-ons to make your experiences safe, easy, and enjoyable.
Include Essentials Like Paddles, Life Jackets, and Roof Racks
Quality paddles suited to your height and style allow propelling and steering smoothly. Coast Guard approved life jackets provide critical passive flotation if you capsize. Roof rack systems securely transport your kayak to the launch site.
A spray skirt seals the cockpit rim to keep excess water out. Safety gear like bilge pumps, lighting, flags, whistles and flares promote visibility and emergency preparedness.
Look for carabiners, ropes, and straps to rig gear. A dry bag or hard case keeps valuables protected. Always pack sun protection, sustenance, and a first aid kit too.
Researching accessories ensures you don’t overlook key components for comfort, performance, and safety. Test options like paddles for fit and features. Invest in quality for things that directly impact seaworthiness.
The right supporting gear makes time on the water more rewarding. Fill out your setup with research-backed essentials so nothing critical gets forgotten before embarking.
Where you plan to paddle should factor into selecting your first kayak. Researching the conditions and your local waterways will guide choices on hull design, features, and accessories.
Research Where You’ll Kayak for the Features You’ll Need
Flatwater lakes and rivers call for a wider, more stable recreational kayak. For coastal kayaking, a rudder and spray skirt enable handling waves and surf. Navigating narrow marshes and creeks benefits from a shorter, more nimble kayak.
If paddling remote areas, storage capacity for extra food and camping gear is key. Fishing kayaks offer rod holders and open deck space. Consider a sit-on-top model if using warm southern climates.
Factor in weather and water temps too. A skirt, bilge pump, and flotation bags equip for precip and swells. Dress for sun, wind, and the possibility of getting wet based on your region.
Researching your local conditions and needs before buying allows tailoring selections for performance. Test-drive boats on your home turf whenever possible.
Let your kayaking destinations guide priorities like stability, storage, and accessories. Pick features strategically suited for the environments you’ll be paddling most often.
Try Renting First to Get a Feel for Different Kayak Types
1. Consider Your Primary Use
2. Pick a Material: Plastic, Composite, Inflatable
3. Choose the Right Size: Length and Width
4. Pick Plastic, Wood, or Foam for Construction
5. Evaluate Sit-Inside vs. Sit-On-Top Design
6. Get Proper Paddling Gear
7. Take Kayaking Classes
8. Identify Where You’ll Store and Transport
9. Set a Budget for Initial and Ongoing Costs
10. Demo Various Kayaks Before Choosing
Take a Kayaking Class to Learn Proper Technique Before Buying
The 10 Must-Know Tips for Buying Your First Kayak: Get Ready to Paddle on Smooth Waters
Set Your Budget to Get the Best Value Kayak for Your Needs
The 10 Must-Know Tips for Buying Your First Kayak: Get Ready to Paddle on Smooth Waters
Shop End of Season for Best Discounts on New Kayaks
As the end of summer approaches and temperatures start to cool, it’s the perfect time to score great deals on kayaks. Retailers are looking to clear out old inventory to make room for next year’s models. By shopping end of season, you can save big on a brand new kayak as dealers offer deep discounts. If you’re in the market for your first kayak, take advantage of these killer savings. But before making a purchase, keep these 10 must-know tips in mind for buying your inaugural kayak and getting ready to paddle smooth waters.
1. Consider How You Plan to Use It
Kayaks come in different designs suited for different activities. Long, narrow kayaks with V-shaped hulls are fast and efficient for covering distance on rivers or oceans. Short, wide kayaks with flat bottoms are more stable for lazily paddling small lakes or ponds. And some kayaks are designed specifically for fishing with rod holders and tackle storage. Decide how you plan to use your kayak most often, and let that guide your search.
2. Factor in Your Size & Strength
Make sure to select a kayak suited for your height, weight, and strength level. Look for maximum and minimum weight capacities to ensure proper fit. Wider and longer kayaks typically offer more leg room. Storage and transport also depend on size. Ensure your vehicle can accommodate the size kayak you want before purchase.
3. Sit-In vs Sit-On-Top
Traditional sit-in kayaks enclose your lower body inside the hull and use a spray skirt to keep water out. Sit-on-tops are open and allow more freedom of movement. Sit-ins are better for covering distance efficiently in rougher waters. Sit-on-tops are preferred for recreational paddling in calm waters or fishing since it’s easier to get in and out.
4. Hard Shell vs Inflatable
Hard shell kayaks are more durable and perform better in choppy waters, but inflatable kayaks are more portable and easier to store and transport. Inflatables are a great budget option for newbies not yet ready to fully invest. But serious paddlers will want the rigidity of a hard shell.
5. Solo or Tandem
For paddling alone, opt for a solo kayak. But if you plan to bring along small kids or pets, you may want a tandem with room for two. Just keep in mind tandem kayaks are bigger, pricier, and tougher to navigate. Make sure a tandem is necessary before committing.
6. Material: Polyethylene, Composite, etc.
Polyethylene plastic is affordable and impact resistant but heavier. Composite materials like fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon fiber are lightweight yet pricier. Wood is attractive but requires more maintenance. Also consider roto-molded polyethylene for increased rigidity at a moderate cost.
7. Outfitting & Ergonomics
Look for padded, adjustable seats and foot braces to customize fit. Thigh pads that grip and back rests provide comfort on long trips. Convenient accessories like drink holders, storage and gear mounts also increase ergonomics and usability.
8. Maneuverability: Length & Width
Longer kayaks typically track better and go faster in a straight line. Shorter kayaks are more agile and nimble for navigating tight turns. Wider beams offer stability but less speed. Pay attention to these specs based on your paddling environment.
9. Used vs New
As with buying a car, you can often save money by purchasing a used kayak in good condition. Search listings on Craigslist or eBay and thoroughly inspect condition before purchasing. For your first kayak, sticking with new allows learning proper maintenance from the start.
Kayak prices range widely from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars. Consider how often you plan to use it and your long-term paddling goals. Investing more upfront often means higher performance, features and durability. But budget models still allow learning fundamentals.
By keeping these tips in mind and taking advantage of end-of-season sales, you can end up with the perfect kayak for your needs and at a stellar price. Do your research, shop smart, and soon you’ll be slicing through the water with ease. Happy (discounted) kayak hunting!