The Ultimate Guide for Choosing the Right Kayak

Whether you’ll be quietly enjoying the waters or finding the best fishing spot, choosing the right boat is crucial when it comes to your....


There's no better way to spend a summer afternoon than with the sun warming your skin as you glide across the water. Whether you’ll be quietly enjoying the waters or finding the best fishing spot, choosing the right boat is crucial when it comes to your comfort and performance on the water. With so many options to choose from, things can get complicated. That’s why we made this handy guide to make finding the right kayak easier.

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Recreational kayaks are some of the most common types of kayaks. Shorter and wider than touring kayaks, recreational kayaks offer better stability which new paddlers often appreciate. For the casual kayaker venturing off on a day trip, a recreational kayak offers stability, versatility, affordability, and plenty of fun.

Green Perception Hangtime 11.0 Recreational Sit-On-Top Hardshell Kayak


Fishing kayaks open up new opportunities for serious anglers, allowing them to fish waters that are otherwise not easily accessed by larger or motorized boats. Additionally, fishing kayaks are typically outfitted with coveted features like rod holders, gear tracks, standing decks, rudders, coolers, and premium storage options.

Grey Wilderness Systems Recon 120 Fishing Sit-On-Top Hardshell Kayak


If you’re more serious about your paddling, a touring kayak may fit the bill. They’re usually narrower and longer than recreational models, measuring at least 12 feet. This makes them much more capable of smoothly cutting through the water.

Blue Pelican Argo 100XR Recreational Sit-Inside Hardshell Kayak

Sit-On-Top vs. Sit-Inside


In a sit-on-top kayak, the paddler sits above the waterline. Many newcomers to kayaking feel more secure in sit-on-top kayaks, so they’re a great choice if the watercraft will be used by a variety of people with varying skill sets (like at the cottage, for example). Hull designs have vastly improved, making them much more enjoyable over long distances compared to other alternatives. In general, this boat style is also easier to climb into and out of throughout your excursions. It’s also easier for folks to climb back in if they do happen to capsize. They cannot fill with water either, making them very safe since they are always floating, even when turned upside down.

However, the main drawback of sit-on-top kayaks is the lack of dry storage space. While they often offer storage areas with bungee rigging, you’ll need to purchase an extra dry bag if you want to bring anything along that absolutely can’t get wet.


In a sit-in kayak, the paddler sits below the waterline, making these kayaks faster and easier to paddle. With more keel below the waterline, navigating in straight lines is more accessible, even when facing rougher waters and winds. Sit-in kayaks come with the advantage of a drier journey. Their higher gunwales (sides) help shield you from the wind, waves, and splashes, making them more enjoyable to paddle in the spring and fall. Aside from comfort, sit-in kayaks typically offer a larger dry storage capacity since their interior is sealed to provide extra buoyancy. With the plastic in the cockpit area cut out, these boats are also lighter — which is very handy for getting them on and off your car’s roof rack.

On the other hand, sit-in kayaks can be more challenging to handle, especially for beginners. Many of them are designed for speed, which means they are narrower. This decreased width can often lead to less stability, which can intimidate inexperienced paddlers and cause them to worry about capsizing when they should enjoy the waters!

Should You Get a Solo or Tandem Kayak?

A tandem is ideal for paddlers looking to enjoy shared adventures on the water. Thanks to the longer keel, tandem kayaks are usually faster and offer better tracking. The added weight and length do make transportation and storage more challenging, though. Paddling a tandem alone is physically demanding and often frustrating. Buying one or two solo kayaks offers more flexibility if you don’t foresee exclusively heading out on the water with a plus-one.

Blue Pelican River Gorge 130XP Tandem Sit-On-Top  Kayak

Kayak Length

Kayaks need enough surface area (length + width) to hold the paddler's weight. Shorter models are often broader to create enough surface area, making them slightly harder to paddle. As you move up to a 10-foot boat, the increased length adds enough surface area to narrow the watercraft. This makes them faster and easier to paddle, even in harsher conditions. Plus, at 10 feet, kayaks are still a manageable length to load and carry. Longer boats are faster and easier to paddle in waves and wind due to their longer keel line. As you increase to a 12-foot length, the watercraft becomes even quicker and more efficient. Generally speaking, a 10 to 12-foot kayak is perfect for many conditions and waterways.

For kids, on the other hand, the width and weight of the average kayak can make them challenging to paddle. Pelican has developed a series of junior kayaks explicitly tailored for young paddlers to fill this void. With safety top of mind, these are more stable and substantially shorter, making them easier to handle and maneuver.

Construction Materials

A boat built with lightweight materials will be easier to mount on top of your car and easier to carry down to the water. Getting their watercraft to the water can cause significant headaches for many new kayaking enthusiasts. Unfortunately, the lighter the materials — the more expensive the boat, with one exception. Pelican’s proprietary design technology allows them to consistently make the most lightweight watercraft on the market at a price that won’t hurt your pocket. Pelican’s RAM-X™ material is known for its high-impact resistance, so you can enjoy your boat for years to come.