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The Best Kayak

Last updated on May 28, 2020

We looked at the top 17 Kayaks and dug through the reviews from 69 of the most popular review sites including Board and Kayak Life, Waves Champ, Kayaks Reviewed, BestReviews, Inflatables Master, Arbor Explorer and more. The result is a ranking of the best Kayaks.

The Best Kayak

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Our Picks For The Top Kayaks

Show Contents
Our Take
  Best Overall

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

Intex

Explorer K2 Kayak

Overall Take

Inflatable Two-Person KayakThis kayak is a great entry-level kayak that will be fun to use without breaking the bank.

  Runner Up

Driftsun Rover 120/220 Inflatable White-Water Action Cam Mount Kayak

Driftsun

Rover 120/220 Inflatable White-Water Kayak

Overall Take

Padded SeatsWith padded seats and high back support, this kayak allows you to remain comfortable while you paddle down the river.

  Best for Fishing

Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

Lifetime

Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

Overall Take

Angler's PickIf you're searching for a kayak to take fishing, this model with its two fishing pole mounts is your best bet.

  Best for Travel

Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak

Sevylor

Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak

Overall Take

Easy-to-Carry Backpack SystemMade using a 21-gauge PVC construction, this rugged kayak is designed for use on lakes.

  Strong Contender

Perception Kayaks Tribe 9.5 Sit On Top Large Rear Storage Kayak

Perception Kayaks

Tribe 9.5 Sit On Top Large Rear Storage Kayak

Overall Take

Large Rear StorageWhether you are a beginner or intermediate paddler, this kayak has everything you need for an afternoon of fun.

Don't just take for granted what one reviewer says. Along with our own experts, Simplemost analyzes the top expert reviews of the leading products and generates a score you can actually trust.
24

Products Considered

We identified the majority of the kayaks available to purchase.
17

Products Analyzed

We then selected the leading and most popular products for our team to review.

View All Product Rankings

69

Expert Reviews Included

In addition to our expert reviews, we also incorporate feedback and analysis of some of the most respected sources.

19,691

User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot and 6 others.

The Best Overall

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

Our Expert Score
9.8
Our Take

This kayak is a fun and affordable way to get out on the water and experience kayaking. The construction includes reinforced seams for good durability and there are two paddles included along with a pump.


Our Kayak Findings

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

What We Liked: This kayak is a fun and affordable way to get out on the water and experience kayaking. The construction includes reinforced seams for good durability and there are two paddles included along with a pump.

Driftsun Rover 120/220 Inflatable White-Water Action Cam Mount Kayak

What We Liked: Not only is this inflatable kayak made using an attractive orange and gray pattern, but it’s also designed for your ultimate comfort. The seats are padded, the back provides excellent support and there’s plenty of room for your feet. When it comes to the paddles, they are made out of a durable aluminum and are completely adjustable, so you get the perfect fit.

Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

What We Liked: You’ll be reeling in the fish in no time when you go with this kayak. It’s designed with two fishing pole mounts and two storage compartments. There are also multiple footrest options, front and rear bungee straps and padded seats with an adjustable back.

Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak

What We Liked: You’ll be impressed with this inflatable kayak, as it fits neatly inside a backpack. Once inflated, the backpack portion turns into the kayak’s seat. The unit is designed with multiple air chambers, so that if one chamber becomes punctured, the kayak continues to operate normally.

Perception Kayaks Tribe 9.5 Sit On Top Large Rear Storage Kayak

What We Liked: Designed to be extremely functional, this kayak comes with a small middle storage compartment for your keys and wallet and a large rear compartment for a packed lunch, fishing supplies or a spare pair of shoes. There’s even a built-in drink holder so you always have a bottle of water at the ready.

Our Kayak Buying Guide

Kayaking is a great all-around workout for anyone who loves spending time on the water. Since you have to stay upright and shift your body weight to make turns, kayaking can improve your balance and core strength. You’ll also get a back and arm workout from navigating with your paddles — and you’ll never have to set foot inside of a gym.

Many people think of whitewater rapids and intense trips down speeding rivers when they hear the word “kayak.” In reality, the sport is accessible to everyone, including recreational wave riders and fishermen.

There are two major categories of kayaks: sit-on-tops and sit-ins. Sit-on-tops are recreational kayaks that work well in lakes and calm rivers. They’re easy to get on, comfortable in warm weather and self-draining. Some sit-on-tops have features like rod holders for fishing.

Sit-in kayaks are quick-moving boats that you sit inside of as you paddle. Since you can shift your weight to help you steer, they’re a little more efficient and easier to control than sit-on kayaks. Sit-in kayaks will also keep you warmer during chilly weather. However, you’ll have to make sure that your sit-in kayak has a drain or built-in pump to remove water.

Many kayaks are designed for just one rider. For those times when two is better than one, some kayaks have enough room for you and a friend to explore the water. In some models, there’s even a little extra room for your favorite mutt.  

Fishing kayaks are generally narrower, making it easier to maneuver into tight spaces when you’re on the hunt for your next big catch. Some slim kayaks also come in a shades like a brown camo that’s perfect for blending in with the trees and plants around your fish. You don’t have to sacrifice storage in these sleek kayaks that usually have a front-hatch that offers easy access to bow-to-stern internal storage.

Kayaking can be a great add-on to an outdoor hiking or camping adventure, but lugging a kayak around can limit your explorations. You can carry many collapsible kayaks as a backpack with two paddle slots on each side, and then set it up in a few minutes when you find that perfect spot on the river. Kayaks with rugged construction are perfect for rigorous lakes, D-rings and bungee storage help you carry more gear for more fun.

There are still other considerations to make once you’ve decided what general type of kayak you’d like to buy. Our Tips & Advice will help you iron out the details so you can start paddling.

Simplemost Fun Fact

The first kayaks weren’t used for recreation — they were used to help their owners survive. The Inuit and Aleut people of Arctic North America started building their own kayaks to hunt in frigid coastal waters like the Arctic, North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans.

First, they’d create a wood or whalebone frame that was large enough to hold the kayaker and balanced enough to remain stable in unpredictable currents. They’d use their own arm lengths to determine the correct frame size. Then they’d stretch hearty animal skins, like stitched seal skins, over the frame. The kayak’s paddles were shaped from driftwood.

Today, most kayaks are made in factories in less than a week. We don’t rely on kayaks to feed ourselves anymore, but being on the water is a much-needed escape back to nature.

The Kayak Tips and Advice

  • What are you going to use your kayak for? If you’re interested in casual use for a lakeside vacation home or for your kids, a sit-on-top kayak is a top choice. Kayakers who want a swift solo vessel should check out a lightweight, sit-in option. Fishing fanatics will benefit from a kayak that can store tackle boxes, bait wells and fishing rods.
  • If you plan on taking to the water every weekend, paying for a top-notch choice isn’t a big deal. However, if you’ll only use your kayak every once in a while, look for an affordable option that doesn’t compromise on quality.
  • Kayaking isn’t only about your kayak. You’ll need additional safety equipment if you want to take on rivers, lakes and streams. A Coast Guard-approved life jacket, sun-shielding hats and sunscreen, neoprene footwear and swimwear are all essentials. Many beginner kayakers also choose to wear helmets.
  • You won’t get very far in your kayak if you don’t choose the right paddles. Your own height and your boat’s width will determine the length of your paddles, and paddle weight is also important. Lighter paddles made of carbon-fiber or fiberglass will reduce fatigue, but they’re pricier than plastic or nylon paddles. You can also choose from a variety of shaft shapes, and you can pick from two or four-piece shafts that break down for storage.
  • Make sure you have a safe place to store your kayak when it’s not in use. You can just roll up inflatable kayaks and store them in a cool, dry place. Hard-shell kayaks should preferably be stored indoors. However, if you have to keep your hard-shell kayak outside, find a place that limits your kayak’s exposure to sunlight, moisture and extreme temperatures.
  • Keep your kayak clean for optimal performance and a fresh look whenever you hit the water. You can use special kayak soap or mild soap and water to keep the inside and outside of your boat in tip-top shape. Make sure to give your entire kayak a thorough rinse if you’ve paddled through brackish water or frequently travel through saltwater.

About The Author

Abby Stassen
Abby Stassen 

Abby Stassen is a professional content writer, copywriter and journalist. You can find her work on Salon, Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, Verywell, the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Weekly and more. She's also an award-winning comedy writer and Second City graduate with nine years of experience under her belt. She's a proud University of Michigan graduate, a cat owner, a crossword puzzle enthusiast and a huge ABBA fan.