Choosing The Right Kayak
There are many types of kayaks, but they generally fall into a few categories.
- Sit-on-top: These are some of the most popular types of kayaks because they require the least training and offer some of the best safety with holes that allow water to drain out while you paddle and splash around. These are great for recreational kayaking and are a favorite for families. The main downside is that you may sunburn your legs which are usually covered by a sit-in kayak.
- Sit inside: Kayaks that you sit inside of have a cockpit of sorts for you to sit and either storage hatches or netting to put your belongings. You can also put some items inside with you in your seating area. My favorites are snacks and water…just remember that anything you put there could fall out if you capsize. Sit inside kayaks can be hard to drain when water gets in, but keep the sun off of you and get you a little bit closer to the water.
- River Kayaks: River kayaks are very short to be able to navigate around rocks. They are sometimes inflatable but also come in hard shell. River kayaking is much more risky than ocean or lake kayaking because of rocks. Please make sure that you have a helmet and proper training before river kayaking.
- Fishing Kayaks: Kayaks that are designed for fishing tend to have a flat bottom for stability and often come with holes or rings to put your poles in. These kayaks usually come with some amount of storage with easy-access while on the water. And you can even get ones that have foot peddles if you want to sit higher up or have a shoulder injury.
- Ocean Kayaks: These kayaks are meant to handle larger waves and longer journeys. They often come with a rudder and more storage than your average kayak. But they can be difficult to store and transport because they are usually longer. Ocean kayaks are available in single or tandem, but require more training to use safely.
Choosing the right kayak for the conditions that you intend to kayak will help you to be safe and add to the ease of transportation, storage, and use. Here are some pictures to help you learn to spot the differences…
This sit-on-top kayak offers back support and a small storage area behind you suitable for your cooler or other items for a day trip or single overnight. It is not suitable for longer adventures due to lack of storage, but boasts good stability in the water and no adjustment is needed between people of different heights. This is a great family kayak that is also suitable to bring a friend with little or no experience. It has holes to drain any water that gets on top with you, so it is resistant to sinking and is easier to climb back in should you fall out or do something silly.
Pelican kayak company makes a nice sit-inside kayak. It is medium weight compared to the lighter sit-on top model, but offers more storage and moves a little faster in the water due to the bow cut. This kayak comes equipped with a lip around the cockpit to attach a skirt for areas that you risk being splashed, but that does take training to learn to escape from if you flip over. It is reasonably stable and offers water-tight storage in the rear in addition to tie-down in the front. Handles are available front and rear.
This inflatable river kayak allows for one or two people and offers some of the same options as a white-water raft. It has portions that are solid and some parts that are inflatable to give you the most safety and maneuverability in swift-moving water. Please travel rivers with a team and get first aid and adventure training before getting into white-water conditions.
This fishing kayak provides back support, two water-resistant storage hatches, open storage area for water-tight bags or coolers, built-in fishing pole holders, and superior stability. It is meant for people who want to be able to stand up and remain stable so it has a very flat profile. Fishing kayaks are more expensive and heavier, but the amenities are fantastic.
This fishing kayak allows you to peddle instead of only paddling. It has good stability and puts you up above the water to be able to see fish or other points of interest. It makes a great touring option and has storage in both front and rear. You can also paddle if your legs get tired, or peddle to keep your hands free for fishing or taking pictures. It is a more expensive option, but is great for people who have injuries or want to keep your hands free.
Ocean kayaks are generally longer and very narrow. They have a rudder as well as a storage hatch for longer trips, and come in both solo and tandem options. Sea kayaks are much more expensive than the others in this list, which are presented from the cheapest (sit on top) to the most expensive. It is more difficult to store and transport a kayak of this size, but are needed for large waves in open bodies of water. Often people who use these boats replace various parts and custom build their craft.
The key to safe kayaking is being aware. You should be aware of the weather, your friends and families abilities and interests, how to use the gear you have, and doing inventory to make sure that you have everything you need. My recommendation for a packing list is to bring…
- A life jacket that fits you properly.
- The right kind of kayak for the conditions you want to go into.
- A whistle, which you should attach to your life jacket.
- Rope or strap that you can use in emergencies or for tying off at shore.
- Potable water (snack optional).
- Floating waterproof case if you want to bring your phone.
- Spare key for your car hidden safely with a hide-a-key.
- Basic first-aid kit.
- Maps if you are going into back-country.
Know your abilities. Know your gear’s abilities.
And stay safe!