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The 5 best kayaks for 2020

If you’re looking to feed your appetite for adventure, a kayak might be the right choice. If you’re a thrill-seeker, kayaking over waterfalls is about as intense as you can get, but not to worry, if danger isn’t your middle name, a kayak also offers a peaceful and serene way to get in touch with nature — built for smooth sailing and long journeys, kayaks deliver the ultimate sense of exploration.

With many varieties of kayaks, choosing the right one can be quite stressful, but don’t worry because stress relief is probably one of the most cited benefits of kayaking. Research on self-concept, satisfaction, and attitude benefits of recreational kayaking suggests that there are in fact more emotional and mental benefits to paddling beyond stress relief. And if that isn’t enough, we’re here to help.

So whether you’re resting and relaxing on the lake or ready to pump your adrenaline levels on rapids, we researched dozens of options and read through numerous customer reviews and ratings and have provided you with some of the best kayaks around on this list. Here are several models ranging in capabilities, cost, style, and more. (On a tight budget? Check out the best kayak deals.)

At a glance

Manatee 10 Solo Kayak

LL Bean manatee kayak front and side

Why we picked the Manatee 10 Solo Kayak:

Sold by the reputable LL Bean, this kayak was a consistent chart-topper across popular kayaking blogs and we can see why. Made from rotomolded polyethylene, the Manatee 10 Solo Kayak is perfect for peaceful to slightly gustful conditions with features that will float your boat. The 10-foot kayak features a roomy cockpit and adjustable backrest as well as a padded rim that allows you to comfortably rest your legs against the cockpit as you set off on your next adventure. Your fun on the water doesn’t have to spill on to your belongings, with a rear hatch equipped with a dry bag for storing food, clothes, and other belongings. Weighing in at 42 pounds and with two mounted easy-carry handles, this kayak is perfectly weighed for conveniently carrying and solo loading and unloading. The Manatee comes standard with a paddle holder and front and rear bungee cords to securely store your gear away while you wash the day away on the waters.

Reviewers love the size of the Manatee 10 Solo Kayak and say that it’s not too heavy and easy to maneuver in and out of the water. People also agree that the kayak is stable and durable, allowing them to feel safe while paddling about. This kayak is perfect for someone who is new to kayaking, but also has tons of great features that even intermediate kayakers will appreciate.

This kayak is good for beginners, lakes, and oceans.

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak front

Why we picked the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak:

The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is sporty and fun with a streamlined design for easy paddling. With its lightweight and compact design, this kayak a snap to assemble and allows you to take the fun of kayaking wherever you go. Made with rugged vinyl construction, this sturdy kayak has an inflatable I-beam floor for comfort and rigidity. A removable skeg provides directional stability while two adjustable, inflatable seats with backrests are included for comfort. Quick inflating or deflating is a breeze with a Boston valve on each side. A grab line and grab handle at each end is provided for your carrying convenience.

If you’re looking for a top-rated kayak that doesn’t break the bank, the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is perfectly portable and perfectly affordable. This kayak is good for beginners, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Sea Eagle 370 Pro

Sea Eagle 370 Pro kayak side

Why we picked the Sea Eagle 370 Pro:

This affordable inflatable sport kayak is as lightweight and portable as it gets, yet still remarkably stable and durable. Don’t let its light weight fool you, It’s a rugged kayak rated to hold three people or 650 pounds. The Sea Eagle 370 Pro features two movable, super comfortable deluxe kayak seats for improved back support and two paddles, foot pump, and carry bag for convenient transporting. They are great fun for beginners and experienced paddlers alike. With a lightweight design and efficient hull shape, the Sea Eagle 370 Pro is a swift paddling boat and that is easy to handle for young or old alike. You can even bring your dog out on the water — the rugged Polykrylar hull is tough enough to withstand dog paws and claws.

If you’re looking for an inflatable kayak that is dependable, durable, and large enough to hold three people, the Sea Eagle 370 Pro is the perfect choice for you. This kayak is good for beginners, dogs, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 110

OCean Kayak Prowler 13

Why we picked the Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 110:

The Sea Ghost focuses on blending speed and stability for a perfect balance. Kayak anglers want to be able to get to where they are going with less effort and be able to stand when they get there. The Sea Ghost 110 has an extremely customizable work deck and gear space kayak anglers demand, and the 425 pounds of hauling capacity means you can bring it all. With an integrated Rudder System, rigging and storage options, the Vibe Sea Ghost 130 fishing kayak is the most advanced premium angling watercraft of its kind with the greatest assortment of features and storage.

This kayak is quite the catch with Its sleek hull design to ensure fast nimble tracking. The toe-controlled rudder system gets anglers on fish faster while saving you energy during long paddles, windy days, and strong currents. If you’re looking for a kayak that can provide you with a comfortable calm fishing experience, the Sea Ghost is perfect for you. This kayak is good for fishing, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Predator

Old Town Canoes front

Why we picked Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Predator:

The Old Town Predator PDL Pedal Fishing Kayak is the most advanced pedal-powered hands-free fishing kayak of its kind, allowing you to focus on the fishing — not maneuvering your kayak. You can turn this kayak with ease using a rudder control knob for smooth handling and, when desired, lock the steering knob into place using the screw-lock to keep your kayak straight while fishing in windy conditions. Packed with features, the Predator Kayak includes a quick-seal hatch, six accessory plates, an internal battery case and built-in transducer scupper, non-slip EVA foam deck, and one forward-facing and two rear-facing flush mount rod holders.

If you’re willing to dish out a little more, the Predator PDL is loaded with features and offers a stable and comfortable fishing platform, thanks to the Performance Crafted Tri-Hull, adjustable Element seating, anti-slip Exo-Ridge deck, and ample tackle storage. This kayak will provide you with the ultimate experience in the waters. This kayak is good for fishing, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

Which type of kayak is more stable?

A rule of thumb for kayaks is the longer and narrower the kayak is, the faster it will travel and a wider kayak is the more stable but slower it will be. Most sit-on-top kayaks are considered recreational kayaks because they’re wide and ultra-stable.

What should I look for when buying a kayak?

What you should look for depends on a variety of things including: the type of weather you will use it in, what you are using it for, and the type of water it will be used in. Once you determine what type of weather you will use it in and the types of activities you are planning to use it for you can start to look into the specifics of what each kayak provides.

What’s better: Sit-in or sit-on kayaks?

Sit-on-top kayaks are the most user-friendly. They’re very stable, easy to get in and out of and there is no feeling of confinement on them. Sit-on-top kayaks are a great choice for nervous paddlers, for warm climates and for paddling with kids who love to swim. Sit-in kayaks shelter your lower body from the wind, which makes them much warmer. Sit-inside kayaks are great for paddlers who’ll be on cooler water and who want to stay dry while paddling,

Is kayaking good exercise?

Just one hour of kayaking can burn over 350 calories, depending on how hard you paddle. Kayaking builds muscle strength in more areas than just the arms, such as your core, back, and shoulders. One of the best ways to track your kayak activity is with a fitness tracker. Want to know what fitness tracker to get? Check out our post on the best fitness trackers in the market.

Is it OK to drag a kayak?

It really depends on what material your kayak is made of and the terrain. If you have a plastic kayak, it’s possible to drag it, while this option might be good for grass or sand, this may not be suitable for certain types of terrain.  It’s also best not to drag a fiberglass or composite kayaks, as it can cause damage. Inflatable kayaks are also not ideal for dragging.

Is kayaking safe for non-swimmers?

Although it’s better to know how to swim when kayaking, as long as you’re wearing a  personal floatation device (PFD), it is relatively safe.

Do kayaks tip easily?

Kayaks are generally safe to use and hardly tip over. The risk of tipping also depends on the sort of kayak and the type of water where you are paddling. For example, it’s extremely hard to tip over when paddling with a recreational kayak on a relatively calm river. But whitewater (rapid water) paddling with an ultra-light or sea kayak comes with a very high risk of tipping.

What is the best length for a kayak?

Once you decide what you plan to use the kayak for, then you can start looking at optimal lengths. Length is all about maneuverability. The rule of thumb is, “Longer boats cruise more efficiently and offer lots of storage space for overnight touring gear, while shorter hulls turn more quickly.”  The best ocean kayak, for instance, will be 17- to 20-feet long. The best squirt or play kayak for white water is 7- to 9-feet long.

How should I dress for kayaking?

If you’re kayaking in warm weather and warm water, you can wear just about anything that you’re willing to get a little wet. A T-shirt or tank top, a pair of shorts, some old running shoes, and plenty of sunscreen should be sufficient. A good rule of thumb for whether you should wear a wetsuit is to add together the water temperature and air temperature: If it’s below 100 (or 38 for those using Celsius), you’ll probably want a wetsuit. Cold-weather paddling necessitates much more specialized equipment: Gloves, booties, a dry suit, and a hood. Coming into contact with frigid water when the air temperature isn’t far above the freezing point can be downright lethal.

What shoes do you wear kayaking?

Footwear can range from old sneakers with wool socks, to river sandals, to neoprene wetsuit booties, to “wellies”, to dedicated paddling shoes

How do you stay dry in a kayak?

Use a sit-inside kayak with a skirt and wear the proper attire to stay dry.

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