2018 Best Kayak Reviews: Our Top Picks In Each Category Type

Over the years the popularity of kayaking and other paddling sports exploded, and with it a whole bunch of kayak and canoe companies sprouted out of nowhere. This definitely makes it a lot more interesting trying to find the best kayak in the market year after year.

Why are we so obsessed with kayaks? Well, we think kayaking (and stand-up paddle boarding) are the perfect combination of exercise and spending time in nature. You can kayak down a river, through the salty ocean waves, or across a serene flatwater lake.

We took a different approach this year and decided instead of just updating our kayak reviews we broke it down to each category type and highlighted our top pick, with the following ranking as the best:

best kayak reviews is done by a male kayaker paddling through rapids

Whitewater rafting… use only a top rated kayak!

Types of Kayaks

One thing I have learned is this, choosing the right kayak has more to do with the activity you want to participate in than the price you want to pay.

Choosing your adventure is half the fun when it comes to kayaking. Once you know where you want to paddle, then you decide how much you want to spend on one. Prices can range from $100 to upwards of $3,000. So figure out your budget and type of activity first and get the right fit to your water activity.

Below I will go over the different types of kayaks types available, so feel free to scroll down to the one you are interested in most, and skipping the rest.

I split the most common types of ‘yaks into the section below. Check which one is applicable to you and click the specific reviews page link to find out more details on the right gear on your kayaking style.

Here is a short video on basics choosing a kayak for the first time:

Beginner Kayak

types of kayaks available

A selection of different kayaks in red.

If you have never owned one before, an inflatable kayak is definitely the best beginner kayak to start off with. For one they are extremely portable. You can use an inflatable regardless of whether you intend to enjoy some easy paddling or go through white water rapids, as there are specific owns made for each type of level you are in.

They’re usually cheaper than hard sided kayaks and are exceptionally tough and durable, making them an excellent choice for those looking for the best kayak for beginners.

This way you can start getting into this addicting water sport without spending too much money on it or getting too complicated with the different equipment, accessories, and gear options.

Inflatable Kayak

kayaking in blue inflatable kayak at tappan falls

Whitewater rafting at Tappan Falls.

Inflatable kayak prices are lower and thus are obviously great for many as their first ‘yak besides their other benefits, just as their ease in transportation and storage. You can load your deflated folded kayak in the trunk of your car, or take it on an airplane with you, store it compactly at home when it’s not in use, since it’s so lightweight. Inflatables are good on performance too, being pretty stable and secure out on the water.

They’re not likely to sink, unless you manage to somehow poke holes in several of the air chambers. As I mentioned earlier, these are also typically your cheap kayaks option. But like anything else, there are disadvantages to consider.

One thing is that you have to be sure your boat is dried out completely before folding it up, or you’ll be dealing with mildew. You also have to inflate it each time before using it, so that can take a bit of time as well, although, you’ll find that the best inflatable kayaks get pretty good reviews for the ability to quickly inflate and deflate them.

You’re more likely to have to deal with patching and repairs at some point with an inflatable, and it often won’t do as well in windy conditions. It might still be the right option for you, but you should definitely consider all these factors before deciding. A cheap way to find out if its for you, is to always rent some first and give it a try before purchasing.

  • Top pick out of all inflatables: 380x Pro

Recreational Kayak

Extreme kayaking

Where is the GoPro!?

By far, the most popular type of the bunch. As the name suggests, a recreational kayak is designed for people who want to casually paddle out on the lake or stream. You can read specifics on the best recreational kayak reviews throughout our site. But in general they typically have a larger cockpit for ease getting in and out, a wider beam (27-30 inches) for more stability on the water, and usually are less than 12 ft. long, making them slower than longer boats would be.

Recreational ones are lighter, easier to get in and out of the water, and usually less expensive because they’re made of inexpensive materials and don’t typically have the options available or cargo capacity that are found on some other types of kayaks. They also don’t track very well because of a wider hull. Which means its much more difficult to hold a straight course is one of these.

Fishing Kayak

In recent years, kayaks have become popular for sports fishing in both fresh and saltwater because of ease of entry, the fact that they’re less expensive, and a lower cost for maintenance. They can be stored in small spaces and launched quickly, and some fishermen even customize them to fit their angler needs. In fact, the list of kayak accessories you can get to truly make your boat one of a kind, is endless. 

Based on my review of the most popular and best fishing kayaks, top rated fishing kayaks are the ones that are made from polyethylene because of their low cost and durability. Some angler kayaks can be propelled by flippers or propellers with the feet, very conveniently making it possible to operate them hands free.

kayak fishing in falcon lake

Twin hull, or catamaran boats and canoes allow fishermen to paddle and fish while standing, quite a relief from having to sit for hours and hurting your back. Recently I had a chance to review a few high-end fish finders so make sure to read it before choosing your trusty sonar. Lastly, if you are a seasoned angler you know how important having the right bait is for your catch. So don’t forget to fill up your toolbox with plenty of lures for your next trip.

Sit-on-Top Kayak

shored up at the beach sit on top kayak

camping at the shore line.

While these have similar hull shapes to others, there’s a special mold-in depression that you sit on top instead of sitting inside of one. Selecting the best sit on top kayak will largely depend on your kayaking activity and budget. Sometimes they’re made out of fiberglass, but often they’re constructed from tough, molded plastic that is also inexpensive and easier to use.

Some of these sit on top kayaks are considered specialty boats, designed specifically for fishing, scuba diving, surfing, touring, or the like. I have a page on SOT kayaks and which ones are the best one, but most of them are designed as multi-purpose boats specifically with beginners and recreational use in mind. One of the benefits of a sit-on-top boat is pure comfort. Especially for people with larger builds, these are much more comfortable and less confining.

They’re also less likely to become trapped inside if they should tip over, because they have an open instead of enclosed deck. These are a great option for new kayakers or people who don’t plan to be out on long trips.

Sea & Touring Kayak

sea kayaking in the pacific ocean

An example of tandem sea kayak adventure.

Also called a touring kayak, these boats are designed for the sport of paddling on open waters. They are small, seaworthy boats with a covered deck and the ability to incorporate a spray deck. Sea kayaks aren’t as easy to maneuver as the ones designed for use on whitewater, but instead they’re designed for higher speeds, greater cargo capacity, ease of straight-line paddling, and comfort for long journeys. If this is your choice then its important to take some classes on sea safety.

You can find out more with our reviews on the best sea kayak in the market, to get a better idea of which are worth it for you out there. Used worldwide for trips ranging from just a few hours long to many weeks, and able to seat 1-3 paddlers, there is plenty of room in a sea boat for all the necessary gear and supplies. Sea kayak prices can range from $1000 to $4000 and more as much of it can depend on their size which can range from 10-18 feet long (3-5 1/2 meters) for solo crafts up to 26 feet (8 meters) for tandem crafts. They can range anywhere from 21-36 inches (50-90 cm) wide.

Tandem Kayak

tandem kayak in the sea

My friend thinks cheap kayaks are usually damaged. I showed him how to test and find the right one!

Also called ‘doubles’, these are a fantastic option for casual trips out when you’d like to take your child or maybe a pet along for a relaxing excursion on the water. You don’t have to worry about having a skilled passenger, and it’s a great option for people who might be a bit leery of going out.

Choosing the best tandem kayak can be tricky because both of you have to agree on which one to get. On the other hand, if you are interested in speed rather than taking passengers out for a casual day on the lake, tandems are a great way to do that too. The best way to travel quickly in a tandem kayak is for both passengers to paddle in unison.

It’s much quicker that way, and you will also avoid the dreaded clash of the paddles. Because tandem kayaks are usually wider than single kayaks, the paddles you would use are typically slightly longer. Some tandems come with a rudder that aids in maneuvering and making course corrections. Tandem kayaks are one of the most fun and versatile watercrafts that are available for couples. Sit-on-top tandems are also incredibly stable. For more information on the different types of tandem boats for fishing reviews check out our guide throughout the site.

Clear Kayak

Clear kayaks are relatively new to the line of kayaks available. They have become extremely popular the past few years, especially the all clear acrylics that are complete crystal clear throughout the whole shell of the kayak and not only a small see through bottom window.

They are best for recreational as who doesn’t want to chill in a clear kayak feeling like you are floating on water. f course you can also use it for basic fishing but it would be a better fit non-pro use as its not fully rigged nor does it come with proper accessories to accommodate the frequent angler.

Cheap Kayak

Never mind how much are kayaks MSRP price tag, they go on sale all the time, so don’t get over excite or pressured to make a hasty decision.

At first I thought it was cool to see cheap kayaks for sale in every store I went to. I even got a few myself to try them out. Needless to say like everything else, there is cheap and there is bargain.

Sometimes buying cheap really means buying twice, and there is no bargain in that. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any good kayaks when you are on a budget, it just means you have to know which ones are the good ones to roll in the river with and which ones are made for a nice looking mantle to decorate your garage with.

Used Kayak

If you still can’t make a decision, sometimes it’s better to just dive in, even if it means getting a used one at first so you wouldn’t feel bad breaking it in. Believe me when I say there are always used kayaks for sale and in mint condition to boot. There are many beginners out there that just give up after a few times in the water.

And if you are an angler, then even better. You can save on the boat and instead spend more on bait and lures for your next bass fishing trip.

Top Brand

Sea Eagle is one of the most well known inflatable boat brands. These guys have been at it for 50 years now and keep finding new ways to improve their kayaks, making them better, stronger, faster, lighter, and all the while keeping it affordable. These guys live and breath water crafts and it shows.

Their inflatable kayaks can withstand rough waters often times better than their hard-shell counter parts.

We recently had the  chance to collectively try out many of their kayaks, including their fishing rigged ones, river boats, recreational, and touring. And we were not disappointed.

So whatever waters you ride, rest assured there is a well built inflatable ready to take you on to the next level.

Their relentless pursuit of perfecting their kayaks is nothing short of stunning. Which is why we take great pleasure in sharing with you our experience on our pick for the best kayak brand available in the market today.

Thank you for visiting and if you don’t find the best kayak prices for your budget let me which type you are interested in as I am always testing out new ones and update the site with more kayak reviews.

And remember, if you start enjoying yourself too much during a wet exits then you get bit by the paddle bug. It’s the kayaker’s favorite way of having fun.