Choosing the right kayak

A kayak is a simple and easy means of transportation on water. There are several types of kayaks to choose from. Alone or with others, it will allow you to travel at sea, on a river or on an interior body of water such as a lake, pond or water reservoir. Today the kayak‘s main use is for sport or leisure. It is propelled using paddles. Canoeing has similarities to kayaking, but a canoe is a separate product that we will not discuss in this guide.

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  • How to choose the best kayak for your activity?

    To choose the best kayak to meet your needs, there are a number of key criteria to consider. The starting point is knowing what you plan on using the kayak for and choosing the type of kayak that best fits that activity. For this reason, we will discuss which kayaks work well for the various intended uses. You’ll need to decide if you prefer a sit-in or sit-on-top one, so we will go through the pros and cons of each. We will also take a look at the construction typologies and number of seats. 

    When choosing a kayak, you need to consider a number of key criteria:

     

    • Type: sit-in or sit-on-top
    • Intended use
    • Construction: rigid, inflatable or folding
    • Number of seats
  • Should I get a sit-in or a sit-on-top kayak?

    While it might seem like a simple choice between  a sit-in and a sit-on-op kayak, there are some points to consider if you’re unsure which will be more convenient for you. For the sit-in, the user is seated inside the boat and protected by a waterproof skirt. For the sit-on-top, the user is seated on the kayak and not inside. Here are some pros and cons of each:

    Skim Kayaks sit-in kayak

    The sit-in kayak protects the user and equipment which can be essential for touring or expeditions. It performs very well in terms of speed and acceleration and is well-suited for use at sea due to the fact that it is less subject to drift when the wind and waves are high. However, it does require some technical knowledge in order to be able to get out of the kayak easily, especially in the event of a rollover.

    • Protects the user and equipment
    • Good performance (speed, acceleration)
    • Well-suited for use at sea
    • Technical knowledge required for exiting

    Islander Kayaks sit-on-top kayak

    The sit-on-top kayak is the unsinkable “ship”, so to speak. Thanks to its double-hull construction, it’s most appreciated for the fact that it can’t sink. It’s ideal for occasional use, in calm waters, rivers and at sea. If you’re taking it out to sea, however, you’ll want to favor good weather conditions: calm sea, light wind. It is also the kayak that is most often found for rent.

    • Very easy to use 
    • Suitable for all audiences
    • No risk of getting stuck in the event of a rollover
    • Less efficient and less comfortable than a sit-in kayak
  • Should I choose a rigid or inflatable kayak?

    Advanced Elements inflatable kayak

    When choosing between a rigid and an inflatable kayak, there are many criteria to consider. Rigid kayaks are very solid since they are mainly constructed of plastic material such as polyethylene or composite materials, allowing for intensive use. Inflatable kayaks are constructed of sturdy canvas into which air is blown by means of a pump or inflator (foot, hand or electric). Some high-end inflatable kayaks use Hypalon® (also called Nitrilon®), a flexible but resistant material with good water repellent qualities.

     

    The rigid kayak:

    • Good performance because its structure transmits the propulsion initiated by the user in a more direct way.
    • Solid construction that allows intensive use
    • No particular maintenance required
    • Heavier than an inflatable kayak
    • Large size, complicated storage and transport

     

    The inflatable kayak:

    • Easy transport and store because once deflated and folded, it takes up little space
    • Lighter than a rigid kayak
    • Ideal for occasional leisure practice
    • Requires more maintenance, the best is to rinse and dry the kayak after each use
    • Some losses in energy transfer which makes it less efficient than a rigid model
    • Its lightness represents a handicap in windy conditions
  • Is there another kind of kayak besides rigid and inflatable?

    Clear Blue Hawaii folding kayak

    There is a third choice when it comes to kayaks: the folding kayak. There are two types of folding kayaks. One has a rigid removable system where the kayak is made up of several parts that are assembled by interlocking. This makes it possible to obtain a rigid boat with reduced bulk. The other type has a flexible removable system where the kayak consists of a wooden structure on which a rigid canvas is stretched. The flexible ones are sometimes called origami kayaks. It’s important to consider the folding size and strength of the model you choose. Companies are working to create more innovative ways to provide easier folding options. Be sure to do some in-depth research on the latest models before making your decision.

  • What about the number of seats?

    RTM Kayaks 3-person kayak

    Kayaks are sold with the option of a certain number of seats, although this number never exceeds four. You will need to know ahead of time whether you plan on using the kayak with multiple people or alone. Once you make this decision, you can choose between a single, a two-seater, a three-seater and a four-seater. It is also important to distinguish between adults and children so that everyone is comfortably seated. Weight and the intended weight distribution for the kayak are important factors to consider. Each kayak model will indicate the possible configurations. If you’re using a three-seater, for example, put the child in the middle. Talk to an expert if you plan on using the kayak with children so that you can learn the best methods.

     

    Warning: Even if it is doable, a two-seater kayak will be much less easy to use on your own.

  • What accessories are available?

    In addition to the paddle and the mandatory buoyancy aid, several accessories will be useful in practice: a pump or inflator, a removable seat, a canister or waterproof bag, skirts and cockpit covers, an aileron or fin and a cart or trailer. A pump or inflator is only necessary when you have an inflatable kayak, while a cart or trailer is important for rigid kayaks so that you can transport them on land. A canister or waterproof bag is important no matter what kind of kayak you have because you’ll want to keep your things dry.

    The most important accessories to think about are:

     

  • What are the regulatory standards, if any?

    There is no homogeneous international regulation. However, for practice at sea, most countries make a distinction according to the distance from the shore while kayaking. A homologation is sometimes necessary, as for a boat. We recommend you look up your local regulations so that you can be sure to adhere to the proper distance from shore. This will ensure that you and other users who may be with you remain as safe as possible.

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