Top Kayak Options To Consider
My top choices in choosing a kayak to purchase was considering these options:
|Important Kayak Options|
|Lightweight||To transport to the shore and onto car top||50 lbs max|
|Sturdy||No seams, one piece frame can’t split||One-piece frame|
|Sit-Inside||Lower center of gravity makes it more stable; protects from the elements for colder weather excursions; hull provides room for storage||Lower center of gravity|
|Keel||Ridge line from bow to stern for ease of steering and minimizes being pushed sideways by wind or waves; or avoid a flat bottom kayak and choose a bottom that is contoured downwards||Full length from bow to stern or contoured|
|Hatch||Waterproof hatch for storage of items not to get wet and safe from being dumped if submerged||Waterproof Rubber Seal|
|Carry Handles||To transport to the shore; molded or rope handles||Molded is Best|
|Foot Braces||Adjustable foot braces for stability and ease of paddling||Adjustable|
|Seat Back||Adjustable back rest for seat for different sized kayakers||Adjustable|
|Capacity||Capacity to safely carry up to large adults||275 lbs Max|
|Length||10-12′ ponds, lakes or meandering wide rivers||10’ Max|
|Nice to Have on a Kayak|
|Deck Lines||Bungees or lines to stuff extra coat or similar items||Bungee is best|
|Coaming||Padded cockpit edge||Sturdy Padding|
I am a casual kayaker who goes on multiple trips a season. I mostly like to explore ponds, lakes and reservoirs and occasionally a calm river. I was looking for a kayak that would feel safe and hold up to lots of use over the years, including from kids ages 8 and up, a dog, my husband and friends. I also wanted to reasonably be able to transport it by myself or with one other person and to handle long distance trips to get to exciting new destinations.
I looked for a kayak that was a nice balance of strength, stability and a reasonable weight. I was experienced enough, growing up on the water to know that I also wanted a keel or pointy bottom. I knew that I would want to go paddling farther than just off the beach shore. However, I also wanted to spend as little money as I had to, being aware of budgets and knowing that I wanted to purchase two; one for me and one for a paddling companion. All of these wishes resulted in the options I looked for; a casual kayak.
Lightweight but Long Lasting
It is important, wanting to manage the kayaks by myself or with a friend, for a kayak to be as lightweight as possible but also sturdy. Fiberglass seemed the best option here; it means not flimsy but also a one-piece mold for longevity. Two pieces sealed together will be prone to split at the seams over time, especially if stored for long periods of time outside, with more exposure to the elements. See picture below where the yellow top piece meets the white bottom.
There are a few options for how you are situated in or on a kayak. The sit-in style has a lot more benefits in my opinion. One benefit is a lower center of gravity giving the paddler more security as a result of less tipping. Another plus is that there is more storage within the hull and more capacity for a hatch with a cover and even more room for bungee storage above. A sit-in kayak can be more narrow for easier paddling with less muscle fatigue giving you more strength to paddle longer and farther.
Another favorite reason for this type of paddling situation is more protection from the elements. Hide your legs from the sun underneath as expected, or if you want to, put your legs up to catch some rays to just float for awhile and enjoy the peaceful moment. The cabin in the hull also protects from water spray keeping you warmer, enabling for cooler weather trips, extending your kayaking season. This one may seem obvious, but it is so helpful to be able to put your life jacket and paddles inside this style of kayak while carrying it back to the camp or car and during storage.
Keel or Contoured Bottom
It is also important to have a keel or a pointed bottom going the length of the kayak, from bow to stern, for ease of steering and to minimize being pushed sideways by wind or waves. This gets really important if it’s windy and you want to go a long distance without tiring as quickly. I know, I’m not kayaking everyday, so my muscles are not adjusted to paddling and I prefer to save my strength to go longer distances or if a storm sneaks up and I want to get to shore quickly.
Having a water tight storage compartment for items that either I don’t want to get wet or to have no chance of losing is pretty essential on the water. Water bottles and flip flops are usually fine loosely in the hull but I want my camera, phone, wallet, food or extra clothes to have a safer place.
I have not seen any kayak that did not have handles, but it is something to look at to see how they might better help or hinder you physically when carrying them long distance. I really thought I would like the rope handles best, but they put more pressure on my wrists which is definitely noticeable on those longer treks to the shore.
Amazingly, foot braces make a huge difference when paddling to give support in your efforts to get somewhere, especially when you really want to move quickly or for extended periods of paddling. Of course, they should be adjustable for those with longer or shorter legs.
If you want to have the option for different sized kayakers, then an adjustable seat is nice also. Usually the straps are not the easiest to move back an forth but it’s not necessary to move them much. I do also like to pull them snugly inwards when we are transporting them on the top of the car for road travel when we are driving a distance. This keeps them strapped down from the wind, especially at higher speeds and on the highway.
Check for weight capacity when shopping for your kayaks. Often the weight limit is not much when you have to consider an adult male of 6′ or more that may want to paddle.
The shorter the kayak the less it weighs which is great for transport and is less likely to block some of your vision if you put them on top of your car to get to the lake. Consider, though, that the longer the kayak the more narrow and also easier it is to glide upon the water. Typically longer kayaks are for the sea and shorter ones are for lakes and even shorter ones are the best for rivers and rapids. A 9 1/2 or 10 foot kayak is just right for ponds and lakes.
Most Bang for the Buck
If you’re not interested in buying a professional kayak but want the most for your money, choose a kayak from an outdoor store and not the typical mart. The cost range for the perfect kayak to have for all of your kayaking days and more will be a choice between $500-900. I bought mine at REI at a discount for small imperfections. I see that Amazon has many Perception kayaks available and is a great place to go to window shop digitally or have it delivered right to your door.
I Wish I Had
bought two with all of the options I listed above. After I spent a lot of time researching and looking at kayaks with these specifications, I bought these two Perception kayaks. I wish I had bought two Prodigy’s but I purchased the Sound as well as it was cheaper and thinking maybe we would want a more stable flat-bottom in the back and ridge in the front for kids who might be wary of the water or newbies wanting less of a tippy feel.
But, it drags noticeably and is harder to maintain your direction in the wind and waves and is not that much more stable. However, I do like the molded handles which seem to give more support to the wrists especially when carrying it a distance and I don’t have to worry about replacing any rope handles, although I have not needed to do that.
I have a single person, 10′ Perception Prodigy the sunset color kayak in the picture above and the 9.5′ Perception Sound which is the blue one. Notice the difference on the bottom of each. The blue Perception Sound is flat in the back but does have a slightly contoured, rounded bottom on the front. It is also wider and has a lower weight capacity. The Perception Prodigy has a contoured ridge bottom from bow to stern, making it quicker and so there is less opportunity to be pushed sideways from waves or wind.
The 10′ Perception Prodigy was my top pick!
However, today, the Perception is made differently. The equivalent if you want all of the options discussed above, especially the contoured ridge bottom to help steer the direction you want to go then . . .
the Perception you will want to get is the
and bonus, this version comes with the molded handles!!
Happy Kayaking!! Love it!!