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Kayak Buying Guide



With the incredible variety of kayak models to choose from, it’s no wonder.  Let us help.  Our Professional Kayak Advisors are available to help you make the right decision when purchasing a kayak. Our Advisors are not commission based sales people. Their goal is to help you select the right boat at the right price. They will also be aware of any special pricing we might have available,or any used boats that might be a good fit.  They are available Monday thru Saturday from 10AM until 6PM CT; and Sunday from noon until 5PM CT. Give us a call and let us know you'd like to speak to one of our Kayak Advisor.  We have also developed the following Kayak Buying Guide,which you might find useful.  

Kayak Buying Guide

When starting your search for a kayak, you should first consider the type of kayak which will be best suited for how you intend to use it. Following is a description of each ofthe major categories.


Whitewater Kayaks

Whitewater boats are designed for a very high level of maneuverability.  They don’t need to be designed for speed, since they typically are used on rivers with a fast rate of current.  The hull (bottom of the boat) is typically very flat and curved up on each end.  Most whitewater boats can practically be spun on their bottom. 

Whitewater boats are NOTgood boats for slow moving rivers or lakes.  Without a strong current moving them forward, they are slow, and are very difficult to keep moving in a straight line.  In other words, they will wear you out.

Touring Kayaks

Touring boats are designed to be used on lakes, oceans, and relatively straight rivers. They are built for distance, speed, and storage.  Their hull design is narrow, with a pronounced “V” shape.  This hull helps the touring boat move very quickly and smoothly through the water, while tracking a very straight line.  Because of their length and V shaped hull, touring boats take longer to turn.  Rudders are very helpful to have on touring boats; they will help the boat turn without as much effort from the paddler. 

Recreational Kayaks

Recreational boats are all-purpose boats that balance speed and maneuverability, and are designed to be more stable than either a whitewater or touring boat.  They can be used on lakes and rivers.  Because of their “middle of the road” design, they are only recommended for up to Class II water.  Because of their versatility, recreational (and their sub-category, Fishing kayaks), are extremely popular.  

Hybrid or Crossover Kayaks 

Hybrid or crossover boats are designed to sit in or between two different categories.  For example, you may have a kayak that is well suited for whitewater, however the kayak has been fitted with a drop down skeg.  When the skeg is down, it serves as a bit of a keel, and will keep the kayak moving in more of a straight line.  This way you have a whitewater boat that will handle like a recreational boat when the skeg is down.  There are also canoe/kayak hybrids.

Fishing Kayaks

I feel it’s important to point at that you can fish out of any boat.  However, certain boats are designed with the primary use of fishing in mind.  They are generally built to be very stable boats.  Some are even designed for you to stand up while fishing.  In many cases, they come with specific fishing gear and accessories (such as rod holders).  Their seats may be adjustable to provide a high seating position to aid in fishing. 


Tandem canoes or kayaks are designed for two paddlers.  Some tandems can also handle well with one paddler.  If you are interested in a Tandem kayak that can also handle well with one paddler, be sure to check the description to ensure it has been designed with both uses in mind.   


In addition to the above categories, you should also decide if you'd prefer a sit-in or sit-on-top kayak. 

Sit-In Kayaks

Sit-In Kayaks have a covered stern and bow, with a “cockpit” opening for the paddler to sit inside the kayak.  Kayaks have different cockpit sizes.  They are typically smaller for whitewater and touring kayaks to support “skirts” that create weather and water protection; or even water-tight protection for those who may be “rolling” their kayak.  Recreational kayaks typically have larger openings and are less likely to use a skirt.  Sit-in kayaks typically provide more protection from the elements (wind, water, etc.), and provide a lower to the water sitting position.

Sit-On Kayaks

Sit-On Kayaks do not have a covered stern or bow.  The top of the kayak is completely open and the kayak seat sits directly on top.  There is no protection from the elements.  "Scupper" holes are designed into the kayak to provide good drainage should you get water inside the boat.  This has become a very popular style of kayak.  It is easy to get on and off, and allows full access to all of your gear and accessories.  All of the kayaks in the Fishing category are designed as sit-on-top kayaks.


More and more boat manufacturers are building certain models with a pedal drive system and a rudder; which allows you to move and steer the kayak while keeping your hands free.  Pedal drives add quite a bit of expense to a kayak, however, there are a lot of benefits.  For one, you can pedal a kayak faster than you can paddle one.  Typically, your legs are stronger than your arms, so you may get less fatigued over time.  It is easier to move against the wind or current when pedaling versus paddling.  And for people who fish, it frees up your hands for fishing; and allows you to move your boat where you want it to be without putting your fishing rod down. 


Size and Weight of Paddler (and gear) Considerations

This is an important factor when selecting a boat.  Make sure you are aware of the maximum weight capacity of the kayak.  The maximum weight will include both the weight of the paddler plus any other gear you will be placing in the kayak.  Don’t push the limits of this number.  If you exceed the maximum capacity of the boat, the boat will not handle well, and will be unsafe.

Price – Why The Big Price Differences?

You will notice a pretty big range of prices for kayaks.  Following are the key reasons:

Less expensive kayaks will have thinner material; will have seams where two or more pieces have been welded together and may handle significantly different (i.e. worse) than a well-crafted and designed hull.

Where They are Made
China can make a much less expensive kayak; however, if you’re looking for high quality design and construction, stick to Made in the USA.

Seats range from just a seat that is molded into the plastic, to a highly comfortable, adjustable seat that can move from a low position to a high position, can be used as a camp chair, and provides great back support for a full day of comfort.  The seat has a big impact on price.  If you’re going to upgrade one thing, you should consider the seat.

Generally speaking the bigger the boat the more expensive the boat.

Accessories and rigging of the boat
following are some additional features that add to the price of a kayak:

·        Storage hatches

·        Built-in rod holders

·        Rudders

·        Drop down skegs

·        Bungee straps,

·        Skid plates

·        More comfortable carrying handles

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