If you like spending your time outdoors during summer, you can paddle downriver or around the lake. A kayak can help you get an up-close view of the surrounding aquatic life and maneuver where bigger boats can’t. This vessel is versatile and comes in varying shapes and sizes. And there’s a model for every adventurer.
In this post, we’ll review the best rated kayaks of 2021. If you’re in a hurry, you can check out of summary table right below full of the best options out there.
What types of Kayak are there?
Kayaks are built for lakes and slow-moving waters. Here are the types of kayaks depending on the experience you’re looking for.
- Touring kayaks are favored for good carrying capacity and stability. What’s more, they don’t turn easily like shorter boats. And they are certainly not limited to the ocean. You can use them for an extensive wilderness trip. The only downside is that they come with less storage space. But the tradeoff is better maneuverability and lightweight design.
- Recreational kayaks are versatile vessels designed for mild river trips. They can also be used in bays and ponds. And because they are shorter than touring kayaks, paddlers find them easier to turn as they navigate the waters. The disadvantage is that they can’t travel in a straight line.
- These kayaks are engineered to travel quickly through the water. That’s why they are preferred for racing. But because they have a sharp tip, they are not suitable for novice paddlers. It’s quite difficult to turn with a downriver kayak.
- Whitewater kayaks offer unmatched manoeuvrability and can deal with waves much better. They have flat planing hulls and round bottoms. And because they become strained when kayaking on a straight line, these vessels are not the best for touring.
- These vessels are stable and are suitable for advanced paddlers. They are mostly used in seas, estuaries, canals, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. If speed is something you want to consider, you should focus on longer models of sit-on-kayaks. Also, if fishing is your hobby, you can invest in a sit-on kayak. But if you’re looking for something with additional features and performance, you should go for models that offer an unobstructed view.
Things to consider before buying a kayak
Buying a kayak can be an exciting experience. But with so many models out there, choosing the best vessel can be an overwhelming experience. Let’s break down some of the features you should pay attention to ensure you make a worthwhile investment.
Before you buy a kayak, you should look at the dimensions. Longer kayaks come with many advantages – they are easy to paddle. Therefore, you should consider your weight and the kind of gear you want to accommodate.
The size of the kayak will also determine the maneuverability. Kayakers with longer tips enjoy greater efficiency and glide faster with each stroke. If you want to explore the waters with your kids, these are the vessels to go for.
If you plan on kayaking alone, you should consider ease of movement. Most recreational kayaks weigh 30-40 pounds while touring kayaks weigh 70-100 pounds. With such kind of weight, it can be awkward to carry alone. If you plan to take your kayak to a rare spot, you may want to go for a lightweight inflatable kayak.
The cost of a kayak depends on many factors like size, weight capacity, design, construction, materials used, etc. While cheaper kayaks will allow you to spend more time in the water, they are less stable than the expensive counterparts. If you want to enjoy your paddling trip, you should consider more than just the price.
Kayaks with wider haul are stable than narrow kayaks. But stability is not something you can determine by just looking at a kayak- you have to get to the waters. If you are a beginner, you may want to go for wider kayaks until you get accustomed to the waters.
The kayak you choose should come up against rough terrains, so it pays if you can get a durable vessel.
In depth review of the best rated kayaks in 2021
The Explorer K2 boasts of lightweight design and durability. It comes with nice features like two aluminum handles, adjustable seats with backrests, a pump, and a carrying bag.
The kayak features a heavy-duty puncture-resistant material that can withstand scrapes against rocks and debris in the water. Also, there is a separate air chamber that ensures you return to the land without any stress. The Explorer is very rigid and stable in water. Even if two people are sitting on it, the beam will stabilize the construction.
Looking at durability, this vessel will meet and exceed your expectation. If something manages to poke a hole in the material, there’s a patch that helps you with repairs. Coupling with that, if one air chamber is popped, the others will continue working. And because the air chambers are strong, you’ll keep afloat, allowing you to get time to land.
Just like other high-end models, this kayak will perform well in aggressive waters. The Explorer K2 has a low profile, so it’s suitable for recreational kayaking. Furthermore, it has a strong nose that allows for buoyancy. You can be sure nothing will stop you from having peaceful kayaking.
Of course, most features help with buoyancy. The inflatable I-Beam and removable skeg give additional support. You can also move in a straight line and change directions with ease. Besides fishing, you can use the kayak for other activities.
The kayak is designed to accommodate weights of up to 400 lbs. It’s also perfect for all body shapes and sizes. Don’t be afraid to make use of the comfortable armrests.
- Durable and surprisingly spacious
- Easy to inflate and deflate
- Offers comfortable space
- Durable construction
- There are concerns about the quality of the paddle
- Not the best to use in choppy waters
Intex is a sit-in inflatable kayak that doesn’t compromise on quality. It’s made of super-tough laminate PVC that is resistant to impact and abrasion. Also, this kayak is portable, which is good for anglers who want to get offshore. It comes with handy accessories like fish finders and GPS systems.
The kayak features a locking mechanism that makes inflation a breeze. Besides, the high inflation speed provides much-needed stability. And because this kayak comes with three chambers, you have to inflate them within three minutes. With this model, you have to hold the kayak until it’s fully inflated.
Since inflatable kayaks save on storage space, they can be stored almost anywhere. No roof rack is needed or shed for storage.
Intex Excursion Pro has a seating configuration for two paddlers. To ensure your comfort, the seats attach to the kayak and can be adjusted to meet the user’s height. There’s two space for adults to sit comfortably. And the seats allow for three different positions so you can find the perfect angle for sitting.
Another excellent feature that adds to comfort is the footrests. They give the much-needed leverage for paddling.
You’ll also appreciate the fishing rod holders. They feel comfortable and sturdy when casting. Unlike the Explorer K2, the Excursion has upgrades like metal D-rings, accessory bar, footrests, and fishing pole holders.
This is the perfect option for those looking for a lightweight and affordable fishing boat.
- Comes with storage space
- Easy to inflate and deflate
- High weight capacity
- Lightweight design
- The seats look a little cheaper
Challenger K1 Kayak features an easy design for paddling on mild rivers and lakes. If you have kids you need to get afloat, this kayak is a sure bet. Even though it’s at the budget end of a scale, you still get the features you’d expect with larger inflatable kayaks.
The kayak is made of durable welded material that features eye-catching graphics. More specifically, the body is made of high-strength polyester fibers to give additional safety on slow-moving rivers or lakes. Also, this material holds well and is less susceptible to scrapes and punctures. Nevertheless, you should be extra careful when paddling around rocks and other sharp objects.
Once you’re done using the kayak, you should keep it in a cool dry place. This helps to keep the seams strong.
The spacious cockpit adds comfort and provides ample storage space. Another notable feature is this kayak comes with ample leg space. That’s not all – the seat secures to the D-rings on the floor.
The Challenger is without a doubt the most portable kayak ever. It folds into a small package, so you can store it in a compact space.
While this kayak won’t help you break speed records, it tracks well in water. The Challenger has no trouble paddling in a straight line. And you need very little time to propel forward and backward effortlessly.
Easy to set up
On average, it takes 10 minutes to set up the kayak (7 minutes to inflate and 3 minutes to secure the seats). You’ll love the little hand pump. The only downside here is that the pump has no pressure gauge, so you wouldn’t know the air pressure you are in. And after you’re done paddling, it fits well into the bag.
There are no safety concerns when using the kayak. Because it’s stable in water, you don’t have to worry about tipping. Besides that, the kayak comes with two air valves. If one leak, you can use the other to get to the shore.
- Handles surprisingly well
- Comes with everything you need for buoyancy
- Has enough space for luggage and paddlers
- All the accessory you need are included
- Comes with only two inflatable holes
The AE1012-R model combines the best features and dependability that you can’t find in comparable models. It tracks and performs extremely well in water. This is the best kayak for inland waters.
Advanced Elements inflatable kayak features 3-layer construction and high-end components to protect the kayak from scrapes and cuts. Also, it utilizes built-in aluminum ribs that slice through water like a knife.
But what makes this kayak stack up above the competition is the unique air chambers. The main inflation chamber is divided into two and provides optimum safety in the water. To ensure the kayak is 100% waterproof, the chamber is made of heavy-duty 30-gauge PVC.
Easy to setup
On average, the seven air chambers take about 15 minutes to inflate (depending on the pump you use). If one air chamber is overinflated, the performance of the kayak is compromised.
In terms of storage space, you can be sure this vessel meets the needs of every kayaker. There’s plenty of onboard storage to help you with your weekend adventure. Plus, you’ll have enough room for a first aid kit, lunch, and other small items. Finally, the cockpit is wide enough to accommodate your pet.
The AE1012-R comes with invisible red and lime green.
Portability and storage
Advanced Elements is compact enough to fit in the trunk of your car. And there’s no need for a roof rack. Because it’s easy to set up, you’ll be in the water in no time. While it may seem a little heavier than other kayaks in this price range, you’ll have no problem loading and offloading it in your car. Thankfully, the AE1012-R model comes with a duffel carry bag.
The kayak offers decent tracking and will move well in a straight line. It’s also good for recreational paddlers. Also, the built-in aluminum ribs help to improve maneuverability and offers extra rigidity.
- Comes in a compact size
- Features a durable material
- Easy to inflate and deflate
- Offers great maneuverability
- Not the best kayak for rapid waters
If you’re a beginner looking for a recreational kayak, you can’t go wrong with SUNDOLPHIN. It’s a great kayak with plenty of features. And because of the compact size, you can maneuver tight spots and carry it wherever you go.
This kayak boasts of a large seating area and has an adjustable padded seat. And with the foot braces, you can move and get more comfortable. Of course, the padded sides for your thighs gives extra comfort.
At just 10 feet long, this vessel is more stable than narrower kayaks. It works well in slow-moving waters and can handle currents without tipping over.
Despite the small size, this kayak allows for plenty of storage options. Just behind the seat, there’s a storage rack and a storage compartment to keep your gear. There’s also a place where you can store your paddle and rod holders.
In front of the seat, there’s a cup holder and a molded compartment to keep your keys, phone, bungee cords, etc.
- Easy to carry
- The cockpit allows easy entry and exit
- Features adjustable foot braces
- Comes with a portable accessory carrier that gives plenty of space
- Low weight limit
Lifetime is one of the best rated kayaks of 2021. It features an excellent design and comes with everything you need to get started. The 10-feet kayak is incredibly stable, so you don’t have to worry about flipping over. Also, it comes with a backrest that gives extraordinary maneuverability.
This kayak is made of polyethylene material and is best known for stability. If you have kids aged five years and above, this can be a perfect vessel for them. Also, the ergonomic cockpit design help children build their paddling skills.
While this kayak is specifically designed for kids, older children can kayak without any problems. At just 18 lbs., this vessel can withstand more than 130 pounds. And to make movement easier, it has molded finger handles.
Another feature you’ll love about this kayak is safety. It comes with a wide stance and gives your kid a platform to make paddling easy. Plus, the twin-fin design and ergonomic cockpit help to improve motor skills and balance.
It’s worth mentioning that Lifetime Youth Kayak is one of the most stable kayaks out there.
- Has several footrest positions
- High weight capacity
- A kayak paddle is included
- Come with molded finger handles
- Gives extra stability and great tracking
- Available in one color
Sevylor is incredibly lightweight and offers a convenient way to enjoy your favorite water activities.
The body features a 24-gauge PVC construction and polyester cover to ensure the durability of the kayak. It comes with three air chambers, so when one is punctured the other one can continue working. You’ll also find two double-lock valves for easy inflation and deflation. Even better, the bottom of the kayak is reinforced by tarpaulin to make it more resistant to shallow water.
Another impressive feature is rugged carry handles. This means that you can easily carry them in and out of water.
Sevylor Quikpak K5 kayak is easy to transport. With this model, you don’t have to make your garage bigger or buy a spacious car. If you want to transport it, you just deflate, roll, pack, and you’re good to go. It’s also a lot simpler to handle and is great for beginners.
The cockpit has all the elements you need to ensure your comfort. It’s nicely suited to fit one individual and has a spray skirt to keep the cargo dry. Also, the smart design allows you to turn the backpack whenever you need it.
When it comes to performance, you can’t go wrong with Sevylor. Even if you’re an intermediate kayaker, you’ll appreciate Coleman K5. This kayak has a flat bottom and is easy to maintain in a small line. But for the best performance, you should minimize the movement of the upper body.
- Easy to setup
- Sturdy construction
- Gives ample space to store your gear
- Offers unmatched comfort
- Not the best kayak for a beginner
Driftsun is a whitewater kayak designed to take any adventure you have in store. It features a massive 600-pound capacity and has enough room for two adults. Also, the layered PVC floor can withstand debris and rocks in the water.
While Driftsun is built for family use, it also helps with adventure thanks to the corrosion-resistance hardware and high-pressure valves. Besides, this kayak is rated for class 3-4 rapids and has a place where you can mount a camera to capture the moment.
Driftsun excels when it comes to durability. It features 1000D reinforced layered PVC side tubes that protect it from the impacts of whitewater. Also, it’s equipped with high-quality pressure valves that are resistant to leaks. The corrosion-resistant hardware will give many years of durability.
When using the kayak, rapid self-bailing drain plugs should be kept open. These ports help to navigate white water and allow for effortless draining. You should leave it closed when paddling flat water.
- Lightweight and lightweight design
- The camera mount helps to capture the adventures
- Enough room for adults
- Stable and maneuverable
Elkton Outdoors fishing kayaks are designed for different fishing purposes. It’s sturdy, rigid, and has lots of storage compartments. Additionally, it features a 1000D Reinforced Layered PVC and a firm plastic nose.
The EVA seats are adjustable – can be moved forward and backward to accommodate different heights.
Drop stitch Floor
The rigid drop stitch floor allows for proper inflation pressure such that the users feel like they are in a fiberglass canoe.
Elkton kayak is portable, thanks to the sturdy construction. And because it’s designed to be filled with air pressure, it comes with a pump for that task. Interestingly, this kayak has three air chambers. If one needs repair, you can use the other two to get to the shore.
- Comes with great storage spaces
- Has lots of attachment options
Whether you want some adrenaline rush of dropping waterfalls or paddling in whitewater, you need a vessel that suits you best. The above kayaks are a worthy splurge for an outdoorsy person. They come with a unique cockpit-style design, are durable, and have all the features you need to make your adventure a breeze.
You can now take your paddling skills to the next level.