5 Best Tandem Kayaks To Paddle With Friends

Some water-based adventures are better with two! And while there is nothing to stop you going out with a group of paddlers for company, each person in their own personal watercraft, a set up that allows two people to sit in the same boat is often preferable. If you are into kayaks, that means you need a tandem.

Tandem kayaks are faster than single-seaters, and they are easier to paddle because you’ve got twice the muscle power to propel them. They do tend to be heavier than solo boats, but that’s not really a problem as you’ll also have an extra pair of hands to help you lift and carry it. And while tandem kayaks are designed for two people, they can also be paddled alone. This means they are very versatile.

If you are looking for a tandem kayak, or still trying to decide if tandem kayaking is for you, use this guide to help you come to the right decision. Then, once you’ve concluded that you want to buy your very own tandem kayak, check out our reviews of the best tandem kayaks around.

5 Essentials Things To Look For in a Tandem Kayak

It’s time to start thinking about what to look for before you make your purchase. You must buy the right tandem kayak for your needs because, if you buy the wrong type or model, you may find yourself with a boat you just can’t use. Things to consider:

1. Comfort

tandem kayaks are built for spending hours at a time on the water. They can go a long way with minimal effort. Make sure your kayak is comfortable. There is nothing worse than being halfway through a long trip only for your back, legs, or butt to start aching!

Don’t do like them… always wear a life jacket no matter where you go kayaking!

2. Tandem Kayak Length and width

tandem kayaks tend to be quite long and narrow, but they also vary in design. Long, narrow tandems are fast and suitable for covering greater distances. However, they are less stable and more prone to capsizing, especially on rough waters. Wider, shorter kayaks are more stable and won’t capsize so easily, but they are slower and less efficient; you’ll need to use more energy to push them through the water.

Tandem kayaks is a great activity to do with friends.

3. Construction

several different materials are popular for kayak manufacture. The material used to make your kayak will affect its weight, strength, rigidity, and what types of activity it is best suited for. The main options are:

  • Polyethylene – the most common and least expensive material used to make tandem kayaks. It’s cheap, but it’s heavy and can weaken when exposed to UV light. However, it is pretty durable and abrasion-resistant.
  • PVC and vinyl – used for making inflatable kayaks. Single-layer PVC and vinyl are light and cheap but are also easy to puncture. Better inflatable kayaks use multiple bonded layers to increase strength and rigidity.
  • ABS – stronger and more resistant to sun damage than polyethylene, ABS is more expensive, but kayaks made from this material tend to be more hardwearing and long-lasting.
  • Composites – this covers a range of materials, including Kevlar, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Kayaks made from composites are light and robust but are also more expensive. If you are serious about performance and don’t mind spending more money, this is the material for you. On the downside, damaged composite kayaks can be hard and costly to repair.
  • Wood – wooden kayaks are becoming increasingly rare. Wood is long-lasting but can also be heavy and expensive. Kayaks made from wood usually coated with fiberglass or resin to make them waterproof. Some people like to make their own wooden kayaks, but this is a very time-consuming project. Wooden kayaks are easy to damage and are not really recommended for recreational use. They do look good, though!

4. Purpose of your Tandem Kayak

There are lots of different types of tandem kayaks available, so it’s essential that you buy the design best suited to your objectives. The main types of tandem kayak are:

  • Recreational kayaks – these boats are made for short trips and are best suited for calmer, less challenging water. If you are a novice paddler, or don’t intend to use your kayak for camping, racing, or touring, this is a good choice.
  • Touring kayaks – more efficient than recreational kayaks, touring tandems are made for covering large distances while carrying plenty of equipment. They are also faster and tend to track straighter than recreational boats. However, they are usually less stable and more prone to rolling.
  • White water kayaks – if you want to take your kayak down fast-moving rivers or out in the waves, this is the type of tandem kayak for you. Made for rough water, white water kayaks are compact and maneuverable. They aren’t ideal for camping or touring because they tend not to have much storage space.
  • Fishing kayaks – most fishing kayaks are sit-on boats. They are equipped with a host of features designed for angling, such as rod holders and large storage areas. They tend to be quite wide and stable as some people like to stand up to fish.
  • Inflatable kayaks – rigid tandem kayaks take up a lot of space. This can make them hard to transport and store. You’ll need a roof rack or a trailer and probably a garage too. Inflatable tandem kayaks are much more portable and easier to store. However, they are not as stiff or as strong as hard-hulled boats and aren’t usually suitable for challenging water conditions.
  • Folding kayaks – this type of kayak combines the convenience of an inflatable with the performance of a rigid boat. Usually more expensive than other types of kayak, foldable kayaks are a good option if you don’t want to compromise on performance but still want a kayak that is easy to transport.
Inflatable tandem kayaks are great if transportation is an issue.

5. Budget

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a tandem kayak. In fact, you can get out on the water for a very modest expenditure. If you are only going to use your kayak occasionally, and in calm waters, you don’t need a professional standard composite boat.

But, if you want to use your boat for long-distance touring, racing, or on white water, be prepared to pay more. More expensive does not necessarily mean better performance, and there are tandem kayaks to suit most budgets.

The 5 Best Tandem Kayaks Reviewed

Armed with all this information, you should find choosing a tandem kayak much more straightforward. But, to help you on your way, here are our five favorite tandem kayaks tested and reviewed just for you!

1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

A lot of people mistakenly believe that kayaking is an expensive sport. The reality is that it doesn’t have to be. You can get out on the water very cheaply, and even buy your own kayak for the same price as hiring one for a few hours. The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable (vs the K1 which is a 1 person kayak) is easy to transport and paddle. It’s suitable for beginners and families looking for a very budget-friendly way to enjoy calm rivers and lakes.

Key features:

  • Removable inflatable seats with backrests
  • Three air chamber design made from heavy-duty vinyl
  • Open-top design
  • Built-in carry handles
  • 400 lbs. weight capacity
  • Removable skeg
  • Supplied with a pump, carry bag, and two aluminum paddles

The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak is a cheap and cheerful kayak ideal for occasional use on calm waters. It doesn’t offer a whole lot of features but, for the price, this is a decent boat for occasional use on calm water.

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly price
  • Very portable
  • Very light and compact
  • Can carry two people
  • Comes complete with everything you need to get out on the water
  • Easy to handle

Cons:

  • Not suitable for rough water
  • Not ideal for long paddles.

The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak is not a boat for serious paddlers. However, if you are looking for a cheap way to get out on the water, this boat is a viable option. Don’t expect it to last more than a season or two; this kayak is not built to last. But, for budget-friendly, portable, calm water fun, this tandem kayak is hard to beat.

2. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

Sit-on kayaks are easy and fun to use. With no hull to fill with water, you can use a sit-on kayak in rough water and even in the surf. The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak is a great boat for beginners, but more advanced paddlers will also enjoy taking this kayak out into the surf. We’ve also thoroughly tested it in Dominican Republic, check out our Malibu 2 review here.

Key features:

  • Large, open cockpit with two molded and padded seats
  • 425 lbs. weight capacity
  • Molded carrying handles and footrests
  • Built-in paddle holders
  • Twin storage areas with bungees
  • Two small dry storage areas
  • Self-draining hull

The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak is built for fun times in the water. It doesn’t have a massive number of features, but that’s because it’s designed for recreational use rather than camping or touring. If you want a boat that will provide fun on all types of water, for a couple of hours at a time, this one is for you.

Pros:

  • Robust, hard-wearing design
  • Lifetime warranty on hull
  • More than enough space for two paddlers plus a small child/dog
  • Can also be used by a solo paddler

Cons:

  • Not a lot of storage space
  • No paddles supplied
  • Not suitable for camping/touring

The sit-on design of the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Recreational Kayak means it’s easy to use and won’t intimidate new paddlers like sit-in kayaks can. If you just want to have fun with a friend, this tandem kayak is highly recommended. As an added bonus, it’s tough and should survive many years of even the roughest use.

3. Pelican Premium Argo 136XP Tandem Kayak

The Pelican Premium Argo 136XP Tandem Kayak is an excellent two-seater boat that is suitable for beginner, intermediate, and more advanced paddlers too. It’s designed for paddling on calm, slow-moving water, and has storage space to hold enough gear for even short camping trips.

Key features:

  • Made from resin covered polyethylene
  • Keel extension for easy tracking
  • Large cockpit openings for easier access
  • Padded seats
  • Built-in cockpit tables and water bottle compartments
  • Large rear waterproof storage area
  • Second storage area with bungees at the front
  • Two built-in paddle clips
  • Sleek, aquadynamic design

The Pelican Premium Argo 136XP Tandem Kayak is ideal for paddlers who want to explore flat water, covering lots of miles with ease. Think of this boat as a mini tourer. With its 500lbs. capacity, this kayak can easily support two adults plus a reasonable amount of gear. The large cockpits are comfortable and designed for easy entry and exit.

Pros:

  • Stable but streamlined for fast, economical paddling
  • Lots of space for two paddlers and their equipment
  • Very comfortable seats and backrests
  • All storage compartments are within easy reach

Cons:

  • Only really suitable for calm water
  • Large, open cockpits could become flooded in heavy rain
  • No paddles supplied

If you’ve never owned a sit-in kayak before, the Pelican Premium Argo 136XP Tandem Kayak is a good choice. The large cockpits mean it feels like an open-top watercraft but performs like a real sit-in kayak. It’s perfect for longer paddles on calm rivers and lakes.

4. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Not sure if you want a rigid tandem kayak or an inflatable? With the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Inflatable Kayak, you can have both. Its unique design uses an internal aluminum frame to provide extra rigidity to an inflatable hull. This boat comes very close to a fully rigid boat in performance while still being very portable and easy to store.

Key features:

  • Rigid bow with inflatable hull and internal frame design
  • Durable, triple-layer polyester material with double PVC coating
  • Removable, adjustable seats
  • Built-in paddle clips
  • Bungee storage areas plus additional cockpit storage space
  • Compatible with a spray deck – sold separately
  • Fin for straighter tracking
  • 550 lbs. weight capacity
  • Supplied with a carrying bag

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Inflatable Kayak is an excellent choice for paddlers who want a boat that’s easy to transport and store. Despite being an inflatable, it’s tough and rigid and handles much like a regular kayak. While it is best suited for calm waters, you can also take this kayak out on rougher water if you fit a spray deck (not supplied).

Pros:

  • Easy to transport, use, and store
  • Enough storage space for short tours and camping trips
  • Also suitable for solo paddlers
  • Handles much like a rigid kayak

Cons:

  • Could be punctured on sharp rocks or coral
  • Not supplied with a pump or paddles
  • Takes time to inflate and set up before use

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Inflatable Kayak is perfect for apartment dwellers and people with small cars. You can also carry it to out of the way paddling spots that would be inaccessible with a rigid kayak. It’s not suitable for long tours or camping trips, but it’s certainly good enough for short overnight outings.

5. Eddyline Whisper CL Tandem Kayak

The Eddyline Whisper CL Tandem Kayak is a serious watercraft, probably the best tandem you can buy for the money (in my opinion!). It’s designed for long-distance paddling, touring, and camping. If you want to paddle a long way quickly and with minimal effort, this sleek composite tandem kayak is worth considering.

Key features:

  • Foot-controlled rudder for straighter tracking
  • Made from carbonite ABS plastic for lightness, rigidity, and strength
  • Twin watertight storage areas
  • Two external storage areas with bungees
  • Adjustable molded, padded seats
  • Spray deck-compatible cockpits
  • Streamlined bow and narrow beam for speed and efficiency
  • 600 lbs. weight capacity

The Eddyline Whisper CL Tandem Kayak is a narrow, fast kayak ideal for more advanced paddlers. It’s not as stable as some other kayaks and could roll in rougher water. Because of this, the Eddyline Whisper CL Tandem Kayak is most at home on flat water. That said, when fitted with spray decks, it should also be able to cope with rougher waters too. Made from carbonite ABS plastic, for its size, this is a light boat that is also very strong. That said, hitting rocks could damage it, and those repairs could be expensive.

Pros:

  • High performance
  • Lots of carrying space
  • Fast and efficient
  • Ideal for long paddles, expeditions, and overnight camping trips

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Difficult and costly to repair
  • Likely to roll in rougher water; not suitable for beginners

If you take your kayaking seriously, the Eddyline Whisper CL Tandem Kayak could be the boat you are looking for. It’s designed for long-haul trips making it ideal for exploring and camping. If you want your kayak to take you far from home, the Eddyline Whisper CL Tandem Kayak is an excellent choice.

What’s The Difference Between Tandem Kayaks And Canoes?

Let’s clear up one of the biggest areas of confusion – the difference between kayaks and canoes. This is an important differentiation to make and will save you from inadvertently buying the wrong kind of boat!

Canoes are entirely open. You sit inside the boat, usually on benches or seats. Canoeists mostly use single-blade paddles, swapping sides from time to time to maintain a straight line. If two people are paddling, they usually stick to one side each.

Canoes are ideal for calm waters. They are open to the elements and usually quite long, which means they aren’t great on rough seas or in the surf. However, they do have a lot of space for carrying gear, which makes them popular for camping and touring. Canoes tend to be quite heavy, but they make great boats for beginners and families who want something stable and easy to paddle. Most can accommodate two paddlers as well as a couple of passengers.

Canoes are great, but they’re very different than tandem kayaks.

Kayaks, the subject of this guide, come in two main designs – sit-on, and sit-in. Sit-on kayaks are basically shaped rafts, and, as the name implies, you sit on top of them. With sit-in kayaks, your lower body is enclosed by the hull. This protects you from the elements and also puts you closer to the water. This increases stability, speed, and handling.

Sit-on kayaks are ideal for beginners and those who want to play in rougher water. If you capsize, you’ll just fall off your boat and be able to get back on easily. Sit-in kayaks are better for intermediate and advanced paddlers. Getting back into a sit-in kayak after capsizing can be tricky, and most proficient kayakers perform an Eskimo roll so that they can re-right their kayak without getting out.

This is a tricky maneuver to master but worth perfecting if you use your kayak on rougher water, and especially if you use a spray deck or skirt. Spray decks seal the opening on top of kayaks and help keep your lower body dry when you paddle as well as stopping water getting into your boat if you roll. They are all-but essential if you intend to use a sit-in kayak in rough water or heavy rain.

So, to summarize, canoes are fun, but they aren’t really ideal for use on anything other than calm water. Kayaks are more versatile and can cope with a wider range of water conditions. Sit-on kayaks are fun and easy to use, but they aren’t really suitable for long haul adventures. Sit-in kayaks are a little harder to master, but they are also more adaptable. A sit-in kayak can go everywhere a canoe, and sit-on kayak can go. However, the reverse is not the case.

Enjoy The Outdoors With Your Loved Ones!

Whatever you want from a tandem kayak, there is a boat that will suit your needs. Inflatable tandem kayaks are easy to transport and store but may lack rigid kayak performance. Sit-on kayaks are fun and easy to use, and suitable for a range of conditions, but getting wet is an unavoidable part of the experience. Sit-in kayaks are ideal for touring and camping, but you’ll need to learn the Eskimo roll if you want to use your boat on anything but very calm water. You may also want to invest in a spray deck to protect your legs from water.

Still not sure what type of tandem kayak to buy? Try hiring, borrowing, and testing a few different models to see which option is best for you. 

Quest For The Best Fishing Kayak of 2020

Fishing kayaks are watercraft designed specifically for open water fishing. They provide a very easy, economical way to gain access to fishing waters that might otherwise be impossible to reach. They can be used on the sea, in slow-moving rivers, on inland lakes, and on reservoirs. Compared to regular fishing boats, fishing kayaks are cheap, portable, and easy to use. Above all, fishing from a kayak is just plain fun!

While you can hire a fishing kayak, if you want to get out on the water more often, it pays to buy your own. That way, you’ll be able to use it whenever you want and modify it to match your needs. Better still, you won’t have to keep paying out to rent a boat. It’ll be yours, and there won’t be any ongoing costs.

There are lots of different fishing kayaks available, and while they all look similar, some are better than others. This guide is designed to teach you what to look for in a fishing kayak, and we’ve also included reviews of the five best kayaks for fishing.

Kayaking and Fishing… Enjoying the best of both worlds!

8 Reasons Why You Should Try Kayak Fishing

If you have already tried kayak fishing, you already know the answer to this question. But, if you have never been or aren’t yet sold on the joys of fishing from a kayak, here is a brief list of all the things that make this such an enjoyable pastime.

  1. If you like kayaking, or you like fishing, you will love doing both these things together. There is something uniquely enjoyable about kayaking out into the water and casting your line.
  2. It’s relaxing! No noise, no interruptions, no stress – kayak fishing is a great way to unplug from technology and leave your worries behind. It’s also incredibly peaceful. Find an out-of-the-way spot and relax for a few hours. You deserve it!
  3. It’s comparatively cheap. Buying a powered fishing boat is expensive. And you’ll also need to pay things for like mooring, purchase fuel, and then there is the ongoing cost of maintenance too. Fishing kayaks are much cheaper to buy than boats and have none of the ongoing expenses. Kayak fishing is very budget-friendly.
  4. You can explore almost any waterway. Fishing kayaks can go where many other boats cannot. That’s perfect if you want to find a secluded spot or just find less-fished areas. Narrow and shallow waters are no problem in a fishing kayak.
  5. Kayak fishing is easy. You don’t need to be an expert fisherman to enjoy kayak fishing; just watch a few YouTube videos, buy a book, and you’ll be able to start this excellent pastime. With practice, you’ll soon become an expert.
  6. You won’t scare the fish. Fishing kayaks are very quiet, and that means you can get close to shoals of fish without disturbing them. With the right conditions and bait, the fish will come to you!
  7. Convenience: Transporting a fishing kayak is much easier than transporting a larger boat. Just put all your fishing gear in your trunk and put your boat on your roof rack or on a lightweight trailer. You can set up your kayak in minutes and be on the water while the boaters are still queuing to launch their bigger watercraft.
  8. Cover large distances. Contrary to popular belief, you can cover large distances with ease with a fishing kayak. They don’t require a lot of effort to paddle, and you can travel to new fishing spots if you aren’t getting a bite where you currently are.
Kayak fishing is fun!

The 3 Drawbacks Of Kayak Fishing

The truth is there aren’t many disadvantages to kayak fishing. But, so you have the complete picture and can make a fully informed decision, here are the less positive things you should consider before buying your fishing kayak.

  1. Seasickness. Fishing kayaks are small and light, which means you are at the mercy of the waves. You may find yourself bobbing around quite a lot in even a low swell. That said, being so close to the water often means the symptoms of seasickness are much less severe compared to being on a higher boat.
  2. No group outings. Most fishing kayaks are built for just one or two people. You won’t be able to go on a group fishing trip with your family or friends unless they have fishing kayaks too. Kayak fishing is not a group activity.
  3. Exposure to the elements. Fishing kayaks offer no protection from the sun, wind, or the water. You are truly at one with nature. You’ll need to wrap up warm in the winter and slap on the sunscreen in the summer. You may even need to swap one for the other if the weather changes unexpectedly. You’ll also have to accept that getting wet is part of the kayak fishing experience, especially if you capsize.
You can go kayak fishing pretty much anywhere: Lakes, Ponds or out in the Sea.

10 Important Things Look For In A Fishing Kayak

There are lots of different fishing kayaks available, but some are definitely better than others. Here are the features you need to look for in a kayak made for fishing.

1. You Need A Comfortable Kayak

Unless you live right on the water’s edge, going fishing with your kayak will take time and effort. You probably won’t go out unless you are going to spend at least a couple of hours on the water.

Because of this, your kayak must be comfortable. Look for padded seats and also the ability to replace and upgrade your cushion for even more comfort. Adjustable footrests can also make your kayak fishing experience a whole lot more comfortable.

2. Stability

The more stable your fishing kayak is, the less likely you are to capsize it accidentally. It’ll also be better in rougher water. Kayaks automatically become more stable when you are padding but, with kayak fishing, you’ll often be stationary. You may even want to stand up. A narrow racing kayak is not your best choice! Make sure you’re your fishing kayak is wide and stable and won’t tip over, dumping you and all your gear into the sea.

3. Storage

You’ll need plenty of space for all your fishing gear. Make sure your kayak can hold everything you need for a potentially lengthy fishing trip. Look for bungee storage areas, as well as sealed-in storage compartments. A good kayak for fishing should comfortably be able to support you and all your gear, so look for boats with a high weight capacity.

4. Size

Are you a solo fisherman, or do you anticipate going out with a friend? Make sure your fishing kayak is big enough for your needs. It’s better to buy a bigger boat than one that’s too small and that then needs to be replaced, just because you want to go out fishing with a new crew member! Bigger boats are heavier and harder to lift and carry but, if you aren’t on your own, this isn’t really much of a problem.

5. Portability

In all probability, you are going to have to transport your fishing kayak from your home to the water. This can be a tough job, especially if you are going out on your own. Make sure your fishing kayak is portable and has handles to make lifting and carrying it easier. Also, consider the weight of your boat; will you be able to lift it onto your roof rack or trailer, even after a hard day out on the water? Again, this is especially important if you expect to do mostly solo fishing trips.

6. Rod holders

It’s unlikely that you’ll want to hold your rod for the entire time you are fishing, and you may even want to use several rods at the same time. Fishing kayaks have rod holders, and, in most cases, more is better. Make sure the fishing kayak you are thinking of buying has enough rod holders, or there are ports that will allow you to add more. Holders for cups, fish finders, and GPS receivers may also be useful.

Rod holders are essential on a fishing kayak.

7. Propulsion

All fishing kayaks can be propelled with traditional paddles, but some can also be retrofitted with small, electric motors. Motors leave your hands free for fishing but usually make fishing kayaks heavier and more expensive. If you think you might want to add a motor at a later date, make sure your boat can accommodate one.

8. Rigid vs inflatable Fishing Kayak

Most fishing kayaks are rigid. Rigid boats tend to be more stable, hardwearing, and won’t puncture if you accidentally poke it with a fishhook or filleting knife. However, rigid kayaks can also be hard to transport and store, especially if you live in an apartment or have a small car. Inflatable fishing kayaks are not as stable, or as hardwearing, and can puncture if you are careless, but are much easier to transport and store. However, you’ll need to allow extra time to inflate and deflate your boat. An electric pump will make that laborious process much easier.

9. Sit-on vs sit-in Fishing Kayak

Most fishing kayaks are sit-on. This means you’ll have lots of space and can move around comfortably. They have self-draining scuppers and won’t fill up with water. They are ideal for slow-moving, calm waters. However, it also means you are open to the elements. Sit-in kayaks aren’t as roomy, but they are better for rougher water. Paired with a spray deck or skirt, they won’t fill with water. But you’ll have to stay in your seat in a sit-in kayak, and there isn’t as much easy-access storage space. You’ll also need to master the Eskimo roll in case you capsize.

Sit-inside fishing kayak

10. Material

Fishing kayaks are made from a wide range of materials. The type of material used will affect things like rigidity, toughness, weight, and price. Popular materials used for making kayaks for fishing include:

  • Single-layer polyethylene: durable, light, and cheap, this is a good choice for budget fishing kayaks.
  • Double and triple-layer polyethylene: heavier, thicker, and more expensive than single-layer polyethylene, but more robust and likely to last longer.
  • Fiberglass: light and rigid, but also prone to damage if you hit a rock, coral, or anything else hard. Fiberglass can be repaired, but repairs can be expensive. Fiberglass boats usually cost more than those made from polyethylene.
  • Kevlar carbon: the lightest material for making fishing kayaks, it’s stronger than fiberglass, but it’s usually more expensive.

The 5 Best Fishing Kayaks Reviewed

Still not sure how to choose the right fishing kayak for you? Here are our top five recommendations:

1. Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Inflatable Fishing Kayak

Most fishing kayaks are rigid, which means they are durable and virtually unsinkable. However, that makes them hard to transport and store. The Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Inflatable Fishing Kayak is a good alternative if you need a boat that’s easier to transport and store.

Key features:

  • Made from three-ply heavy-duty puncture and abrasion-resistant laminated PVC
  • Removable inflatable seats with adjustable footrests
  • High-pressure I-beam air deck
  • 2-person capacity
  • Two built-in rod holders
  • Handles for easier transportation
  • Interchangeable skegs for better tracking
  • Supplied with a manual pump and two paddles
  • Comes with a handy carry bag and pressure gauge

The Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Inflatable Fishing Kayak is a breeze to transport and inflate. It has a high-pressure deck to help keep it rigid, and the large side tubes make this boat very stable, even in rougher water. It is supplied with two skegs, one for deep water and a small one for shallow water. There is a removable and adjustable mounting bracket for additional accessories, such as GPS systems, fish finders, swivel fishing rod holders, etc.

Pros:

  • Large capacity and will hold up to 400 lbs.
  • Easy to transport and inflate
  • Big enough for two people
  • Stable and easy to paddle
  • Supplied with everything you need to get out on the water
  • Plenty of D-rings for tying down additional equipment

Cons:

  • Only two built-in rod holders
  • Takes 15 minutes or more to inflate
  • Could be holed by fishhooks or sharp rocks
  • Quite heavy

If you are an occasional angler or don’t have the space to store or the means to transport a rigid fishing kayak, this INTEX inflatable is worth your consideration. Despite its budget price, this is a perfectly fine kayak for fishing.

2. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak has everything you need for a successful day of kayak fishing. Unlike a lot of kayaks, which add fishing accessories almost as an afterthought, this boat is made specifically for fishing.

Key features:

  • Made from ultra-durable high-density polyethylene
  • Molded, padded seat with five footrest options
  • Twin fishing rod mounts
  • Two bungee storage areas
  • Two waterproof hatches
  • Built-in paddle holder
  • Flat bottomed hull for increased stability
  • Molded skeg for straighter tracking
  • Self-draining

This fishing kayak has everything a solo fisherman needs. Everything is within easy reach, and there are two of everything important. The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak is a compact fishing kayak that is designed to make your fishing trip as enjoyable as possible.

Pros:

  • Small, light and easy to transport
  • Large capacity
  • Stable but built for speed and easy paddling
  • Plenty of fishing-specific features
  • Very budget-friendly

Cons:

  • Only big enough for one person
  • Available only in one color
  • Quite heavy at 52 lbs.

The Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a cheap but well-equipped kayak for fishing. It’s ideal for first-timers and anyone with a small to medium budget.

3. BKC RA220 11.6′ Single Fishing Kayak 

If you want a fishing kayak with plenty of features, the BKC RA220 11.6′ Single Fishing Kayak could be an excellent choice. It really does have everything a solo angler could ever want on a fishing kayak.

Key features:

  • Foot-operated rudder for hands-free steering
  • Twin rod holders
  • Wide, stable hull
  • Three waterproof storage areas
  • Maximum load capacity 450 lbs.
  • Cut out cubbyholes for fish finders, GPS, etc.
  • Upright back support with aluminum frame
  • Multiple drain ports
  • Three carry handles for easy transportation

This fishing kayak has everything you need to a great day out on the water. With lots of storage space, you’ll have no problem carrying everything you need for even multi-day trips. It’s also wide and stable enough for those who prefer to cast and fish while standing.

Pros:

  • Great for longer trips
  • Very comfortable seat
  • Suitable for rougher water
  • Built to last
  • Available in eight attractive colorways

Cons:

  • A little on the heavy side at 68 lbs.
  • Only suitable for one person

The BKC RA220 11.6′ Single Fishing Kayak is a high-quality watercraft. It’s not the cheapest kayak around, but, for solo anglers, it really does have everything you need for an enjoyable fishing trip. It should also last for many years.

4. Elkton Outdoors Tandem Fishing Kayak

While fishing is often a solitary pastime, it doesn’t have to be. If you want the option of taking a partner with you on a fishing trip, you’ll need a tandem fishing kayak. Bigger than a single-seater, a tandem boat is also ideal for solo paddlers who want more storage space. The Elkton Outdoors Tandem Fishing Kayak is an excellent choice for anyone looking to fish with a friend.

Key features:

  • Ultra-durable rotomolded body
  • Wide, stable hull
  • Twin adjustable seats with padded PVA backrests
  • Four rod holders
  • Two waterproof storage areas
  • Two large open storage areas
  • 650 lbs. carrying capacity
  • Lots of built-in cubbyholes for things like GPS, fish finder, etc.
  • Supplied with two paddles

Kayak fishing is more fun with a friend. With the Elkton Outdoors Tandem Fishing Kayak, there is more than enough space for two people to paddle and fish in comfort. The boat is stable enough to stand up in, and it’s got more than enough storage space to accommodate all your equipment. This sturdy boat is built to last.

Pros:

  • Ideal for families
  • Suitable for one or two paddlers
  • Enough storage space for extended fishing trips
  • Very comfy seats
  • Designed specifically for fishing

Cons:

  • Big and bulky – will be hard to carry alone
  • Quite expensive

The Elkton Outdoors Tandem Fishing Kayak is a good choice for those who want company when they fish or just want more space when paddling alone. This fishing kayak is not the cheapest, but you get a lot of boat for your money.

5. Vibe Skipjack 90 9 Foot Angler

Fishing kayaks come in all shapes and sizes but, if transportability is important to you, smaller is better. Small kayaks are also easier to maneuver. The Vibe Skipjack 90 9 Foot Angler is a light, compact boat that is ideal if you don’t want to have to wrestle a larger kayak on and off your roof rack on your own.

Key features:

    • Very compact design
  • Four rod mounts
  • Waterproof storage hatch
  • Twin storage areas with bungees
  • Molded seat with PVA backrest and cushion
  • Four molded carry handles
  • Molded pockets for a fish finder, GPS, drink bottles, etc.
  • Slip-resistant deck
  • 6 drainage/scupper holes

Fast, light and stable, the Vibe Skipjack 90 9 Foot Angler is a great little boat for solo use. Despite its compact size, you won’t feel cramped in this small fishing kayak, and there is more than enough space for all your gear. If you are looking for a grab and go kayak for fishing, this is an excellent choice.

Pros:

  • Very easy to paddle and steer
  • Stable even in rougher water
  • All-but unsinkable
  • Plenty of features to make for a comfortable fishing trip
  • Sleek, fast design
  • Available in three colorways

Cons:

  • Only one waterproof storage locker

The Vibe Skipjack 90 0 Foot Angler is the perfect fishing kayak for anyone who wants a really light, compact, but still well-equipped and stable boat. It’s small enough that most people should be able to lift and carry it with ease, but still has everything you need for a comfortable and successful fishing trip.

Final thoughts: Picking The Right Fishing Kayak For You

When it comes to buying the best fishing kayak, it’s important to remember that it’s often better to buy the best boat you can afford in the first place than buy a cheap one and then have to try and sell it later when you realize you want to upgrade.

Some features may seem unnecessary when you are trying your fishing kayak. Still, you may realize those features offer a lot of advantages once you’ve been out on the water a few times.

That doesn’t mean you should automatically go for the most expensive fishing kayak around, but cheaper is not always the way to go either. After all, you want your fishing trips to be as enjoyable as possible, and your choice of kayak will have a big impact on that.

Whichever option you choose, remember to enjoy your new fishing kayak safety and always wear the best personal floatation device (PFD).

Canoe vs kayak: What’s The Difference?

Exercise and physical activity are good for everybody’s body! Getting up, out, and moving will have a positive effect on virtually every aspect of your health, including your brain and mood. Physical activity is also linked to increased longevity.

There are lots of different activities you can pursue but, in our opinion at least, getting out on the water is one of the best.

Water-based activities, like sailing, fishing, and paddleboarding, allow you to escape the stresses of modern life and unplug from technology. Reconnecting with nature also seems to have a very positive effect on mental health. Being out on the water can be very calming.

Two of the most accessible water-based activities are canoeing and kayaking. But which should you choose? These activities can seem very similar but, in fact, are different enough that you need to know a little about each one to choose the right one for you.

Let’s explore the differences to you can make an informed decision.

Canoeing basics 

If you are new to watersports, a canoe is an excellent place to start. Canoes are entirely open, which means they are easy to get in and out of, and you don’t need to master a whole lot of tricky skills to enjoy getting out on the water in one.

Canoes have benches you sit with your legs bent and your feet flat on the bottom of the boat. This is a very comfortable position, especially if you have a long paddle planned.

And speaking of paddles, most canoeists use a single-bladed paddle. While this does mean you’ll need to swap sides to keep your canoe going straight, it makes paddling with a partner easier as one of you will mostly paddle on one side while your partner paddles on the other.

Canoes provide lots of space to carry gear. Because of this, they are perfect for touring and camping. There is also plenty of space for your kids or even your dog! Canoeing is the ideal watercraft for families.

Bigger canoes are ideal for families.

If canoes have a downside, it is that they are open to the elements. Waves can swamp your boat, and it could start to fill up if it rains heavily. Because of this, they are best suited to fair weather paddling and using on slow-moving rivers, calm seas, and lakes. This is not a boat for white water rivers!

Canoes come in all shapes and sizes, from single-seaters to much bigger boats that will hold your entire family. They can be heavy, which makes them harder to transport, but two people should be able to lift even a large canoe onto a roof rack or trailer.

Kayaking basics

There are two types of kayaks: sit-in and sit-on. Sit-in kayaks have an enclosed hull, and, as the name suggests, you sit inside them. Some people say this is like “wearing” your boat. You sit on a low seat with your legs outstretched, and your lower body is covered and protected from the elements.

Sit-in kayaks tend to have a decent amount of storage space, which makes them suitable for long-haul trips and camping. However, there are different types of kayak, and some are better for touring than others. Some are made specifically for racing or using in the surf and are not made for longer trips.

Sit-inside Kayak.

Sit-in kayakers often fit their boats with spray decks, also known as skirts. These devices seal the entry port and stop water from getting into the boat. Using a spray deck will keep you dry but also makes getting out of your kayak harder. It also means that, if you capsize, you’ll need to do an Eskimo roll and self-right your boat using your paddle. This is not an easy skill to learn.

Sit-on kayaks are ideal for casual, recreational use. In short – they are made for fun! With a sit-on kayak, you can jump (or fall!) off easily, and your legs are exposed. This means they are easier to use and ideal for beginners. Sit-on kayaks, like their sit-in cousins, come in a variety of designs, but, as a rule, they are not suitable for touring or camping.

Sit-on-top kayak. Easier to get in and out.

You paddle most types of kayak with a double-bladed paddle. This is more energy efficient as you don’t have to keep swapping sides to keep your boat traveling straight.

Kayaks are generally made for one or two people. This means they are not ideal for families unless you are prepared to buy several boats.

Kayaks can be used on most types of water, but you’ll need the right boat for the conditions. Sit-on kayaks are ideal for calm water, but you can also use them in rougher water, providing you don’t mind getting wet when you capsize. They are also a popular choice for fishing. Sit-in kayaks are used for things like racing, touring, and whitewater kayaking.

Kayak vs Canoe: What’s Best and Why?

If you want a watercraft the whole family can enjoy, a kayak is probably your best choice. Easy to get in and out of, and with plenty of space for gear, dogs, and kids, they are an ideal boat for getting out and enjoying calm water.

But, if you are a little more adventurous, want a single or tandem paddling experience, or want to paddle in more demanding waters, a kayak may be the best choice, and in particular a sit-in kayak. Sit-on kayaks are fun and easy to use, but you won’t want to use one for more than a couple of hours at a time.

Conclusion

Whether you choose a sit-in or sit-on kayak, or a canoe, you can be sure that you will love getting out on the water. Remember to put your safety first and always wear a personal floatation device, even in calm waters.

Kayak Safety 101: Essential Safety Rules for Kayakers

Despite the fact that we Humans are conceived and immersed in fluid for the first nine months of our lives, the fact is that water is not our natural element. In fact, if we are immersed in water over our heads after our births for more than a minute or two, we cease to breathe! However, despite the inherent danger that water poses to humans, we are still drawn back to it over and over again like a moth to a flame. In fact, hundreds of people around the world take up the sport of kayaking each year because they feel an innate need to reconnect with nature and experience the sensation of floating on water again. Thus, a kayak is an excellent craft for this purpose since there are a seemingly endless number of kayak designs on the market today that are well suited for every paddler ranging from the beginner to the expert. Plus, they are easy to paddle and they are the perfect stealth craft for sightseeing, fishing, and observing animals in their natural habitat. However, because the water is not your friend, there are several safety rules that you should observe and adhere to every time you enter your kayak.

1. Beware of the weather

Because the weather can change very quickly in many popular paddling destinations around the world, bringing in sudden thunder storms with torrential rains and abundant lightening strikes, it is imperative that you pay close attention to the skies above you. Also, not only should you always watch a weather report for the area where you will be paddling, you should also consider purchasing an Atmospheric Data Center such as those made by Brunton which will keep you appraised of the barometric pressure and alert you to any approaching storms.

2. Beware of tides and the currents they create

In addition to the weather, it is also imperative that you be aware of both the tides and currents in your location. For instance, while some places only have one high and low tide per day, others have two of each per day while, others have a mixed tide. Therefore, it is important to be aware of both the frequency and duration of the tides in your location so that you can use them to your advantage by riding the low tide out to your destination and then ride the high tide back in. However, it should also be noted that both ebbing and flowing tides can create dangerous currents where they pass over or around obstacles and thus, it is also imperative that you either converse with local paddlers about the local currents or purchase copy of a book called a Coastal Pilot for the area in which you will be paddling.

3. Be aware of the direction and strength of the wind

Wind is another factor that should be taken into account when paddling regardless of whether you are paddling on a lake, a river, or an ocean. Because kayaks have bows, sterns, and  gunwales that extend above the water’s surface, they are subject to wind resistance the same as the paddler’s body is. Therefore, strong winds can impede the paddler’s ability to move the kayak in the direction that they want to go and thus, paddling in strong winds should be avoided unless the wind just happens to be blowing in the direction that you want to travel in. Also, when paddling in the ocean, you should be aware that offshore winds tend to push paddlers further out to sea whereas, inshore winds tend to push the paddler in toward the shore and thus, is easier to make landfall in an inshore wind.

4. Dress for the water; not the weather

Also called “dressing for immersion”, unless you are an advanced to expert paddler or, you are paddling a kayak so wide it resembles a barge, then it’s best to assume that you will capsize at some point and thus, unless you are paddling in the tropics, it is a wise idea to dress for the water; not the weather. Consequently, instead of cotton clothing, you should instead wear clothing made from nylon, polyester fleece, or neoprene because these materials will repel water and will dry very quickly if immersed in water while also providing some degree of warmth. Also, there are specialized garments called dry tops, dry pants, and dry suites that are all made from nylon with rubber seals at the openings to prevent water from entering the garment and, they are much more comfortable to wear than a neoprene wet suite.

5. Always wear a Personal Flotation Device

Regardless of how experienced a paddler you are, you never know when you might capsize and be forced to exit your kayak. Therefore, you should wear some type of PFD at all times when paddling. Even if you are an excellent swimmer, staying afloat without a PFD requires effort but, if you are wearing a PFD, then the energy that you would otherwise expend staying afloat can instead be transferred to other tasks such as removing your paddle float from storage and deploying it so that you can reenter your kayak. Plus, if you ever capsize and are then separated from your kayak by rough seas or swift currents, then wearing a PFD will become of paramount importance since the floatation it provides will enable you reach the marine flares, the Personal Locator Beacon, and/or the VHF radio you should carry in your PFD’s pockets.

So, despite the fact that Humans seem to be drawn to the presence of water beyond their need for drinking it to survive, kayaking does present a certain degree of inherent risk to human beings since it is not their natural environment. Therefore, wearing a PFD whenever you enter your kayak will insure that you always have access to the air that you need to survive even if you are bobbing in the water like a cork! Plus, if you choose a PFD with large front pockets and then stock those pockets with marine flares, a personal locator beacon, and a VHF Radio, then you will be well prepared for an emergency even if you become separated from your kayak.

Traditional Greenland Paddle vs Euro-Blade

Although traditional kayak paddle designs tend to differ slightly from region to region, most can be categorized as belonging to either the Greenland or Aleut paddle styles. However, while these two traditional kayak paddle styles served their users very well for thousands of years, it is important to keep in mind that indigenous peoples used their kayaks for hunting marine mammals and for fishing rather than for recreational purposes. Therefore, traditional kayak paddles were specifically designed to provide their users with a high degree of stealth in addition to optimum performance when paddling on the sea. “Euro-blade” paddles on the other hand were designed by the first European whitewater paddlers in order to provide a higher degree of performance in whitewater. So, in the following article, we will examine the differences between traditional and Euro-blade kayak paddle designs as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Euro-Blade Kayak Paddles

Euro-blade kayak paddles are by far the single most popular kayak paddle design available today and they are available with a wide variety of shaft types, shaft lengths, blade designs, and blade sizes. However, unlike either Greenland or Aleut kayak paddles, Euro-blade paddles are characterized by relatively long shafts and relatively short, wide, paddle blades. This design, in turn, causes the paddle blade to have more “catch” (the amount of resistance a paddle blade has when used to propel a watercraft). So, let’s examine the differences between Euro-blade kayak paddles and traditional kayak paddle designs more closely.

Euro-blade paddle shafts

First of all, Euro-blade paddles have relatively long shafts compared to Greenland or Aleut kayak paddles partly because they have short, wide, blades and, partly because they are specifically designed to enable a paddler to spread their hands relatively far apart on the shaft which provides much greater leverage over the paddle blades; thus providing more thrust.

In addition, many brands and models of Euro-blade kayak paddles are available with either straight or bent shafts. However, although Euro-blade kayak paddles with straight shafts are the oldest and most common design, they do not allow the paddle’s shaft to properly align with the paddler’s wrists due to the relatively wide grip used when grasping a Euro-blade kayak paddle. Therefore, some paddlers find that using a Euro-blade kayak paddle with a straight shaft causes a significant amount of strain on their wrists which can become quite painful after an extended period of paddling.

Therefore, in order to alleviate the stress on a paddler’s wrist caused by using a relatively wide grip on a straight shaft, kayak paddle manufacturers invented the bent-shaft Euro-blade kayak paddle. This type of paddle shafts differs from straight shafts in that it features two distinct bends in the paddle’s shaft where the paddler places their hands which, in turn, aligns that particular section of the paddle’s shaft to the user’s wrists and thus, eliminates the stress caused by straight shafts.

Euro-blade paddle blades

In addition to Euro-blade kayak paddles having significantly longer shafts than either Greenland or Aleut paddles, they also have significantly shorter and wider paddle blades. This feature causes them to have much greater surface area than either Greenland or Aleut paddles which, in turn, causes them to catch more water and thus, create more thrust.

In addition, higher quality Euro-blade paddle blades also have both a spoon shape and a dihedral paddle face which provides significant advantages over flat paddle blades. For instance, spoon-shaped paddle blades catch more water than flat blades do and thus, they provide more thrust than paddles with flat faces do. Plus, paddles with dihedral paddle faces cause the paddle to shed water evenly over the surface of the paddle blade which, in turn, prevents the paddle blade from fluttering when it’s drawn through the water.

However, wide paddle blades not only catch more water, the also catch more wind and thus, a strong breeze can often cause the paddler to lose their grip on the side of the paddle shaft that is raised during the paddle stroke and, can even cause a kayaker to unexpectedly capsize. Therefore, single piece Euro-blade kayak paddles usually have one blade fixed at a 30 to 45 degree angle to the opposite blade while, two piece and four piece kayak paddles usually provide the paddler with the option of aligning the paddle faces or “feathering” them in order to prevent them from being forced out of their grip by a strong wind. But, feathering also requires the paddler to rotate the paddle with each stroke in order to properly align the paddle blade which is not only fatiguing, it could theoretically lead to the paddler developing carpel tunnel syndrome.

Traditional Kayak Paddles

Although traditional kayak paddles are not as popular as Euro-blade paddles are, those paddlers who use traditional kayak paddles generally do so because they feel that traditional kayak paddle designs are superior to Euro-blade paddle designs. However, this is not surprising when you consider that the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest, the Canadian Maritime, and Greenland have all had thousands of years to experiment with, and refine, their kayak paddle designs. So, what characteristics define Greenland and Aleut kayak paddles and, why do the paddlers who use them feel that they are superior?

Well, unlike Euro-blade kayak paddles, Greenland and Aleut kayak paddles are characterized by relatively short looms (aka shafts) and relatively long, narrow, blades. Thus, while traditional kayak paddle designs do not provide as much thrust as a Euro-blade paddle does, they are much easier to hold onto in a strong breeze or wind and, because they provide less catch, they also require less energy from the paddler.

Traditional paddle looms

Both Greenland and Aleut kayak paddles are purposely designed with much shorter looms than Euro-blade kayak paddles because the longer blades require a shorter. However, this also enables a paddler to keep their hands relatively close together when grasping the paddle which helps to prevent shoulder dislocation when high bracing and rolling. However, the narrow hand position also provides the paddler with less leverage over the paddle’s blade.

In addition, due to the relatively short looms and narrow blades featured on both Greenland and Aleut kayak paddles, the paddler’s hands are not forced into a single position the way they are with a Euro-blade paddle. Therefore, the paddler is able to easily move their hands across the entire length of the paddle in order to extend it for bracing, sculling, or rolling.

Traditional paddle blades

As mentioned above, wide paddle blades such as those featured on Euro-blade kayak paddles are notorious for catching wind as well as water and thus, being unexpectedly ripped out of a paddler’s hand or, causing them to capsize. Therefore, both Greenland and Aleut kayak paddles are purposely designed with relatively narrow blades in order to prevent this from happening. Consequently, traditional kayak paddles do not require feathering which prevents wear and tear on the paddler’s wrist.

 However, while both Greenland and Aleut paddle blades appear similar in size and shape, they do differ somewhat. For instance, Greenland kayak paddles generally have more narrow blades and, they also have a curved face on both sides of each paddle blade which enables a paddler to use either side of the paddle.

On the other hand, Aleut kayak paddles usually have somewhat wider blades than Greenland paddles do and thus, they also have a distinct central rib that runs the entire length of each paddle blade on one side only which acts as a dihedral to prevent the paddle from fluttering.

Last, Greenland paddle blades generally have rounded ends which enable a paddler to cup the end of the paddle in their hand when high bracing and rolling for greater control and greater comfort. Aleut paddles however generally have pointed ends which can make them uncomfortable when cupping the end of the paddle in the paddler’s hand.

So, as you can see, both Euro-blade and traditional kayak paddles have both advantages and disadvantages which should be carefully considered when choosing a kayak paddle because your paddle is the single most important kayak accessory you can purchase. Therefore, before purchasing any kayak paddle, you should take the time to search out an outfitter who will allow you to demonstrate both euro-blade and traditional kayak paddles while paddling your kayak in order to determine which type of kayak paddle you prefer.

Valley Kayaks Etain Review

Valley Kayaks are a UK based Kayak production-company with a long history of making boats. They can trace the company back to 1959, when Ken Taylor traveled to Greenland to study the indigenous peoples and brought a Kayak back to England, that Greenland kayak, served as the model by which all of their other kayaks have been produced since. Valley Kayaks outfitted the British Norway Expedition in 1975 and can probably claim the longest production run of any commercially available composite kayak with the Anas Acutas. They are fantastic kayaks that enjoy some serious history, pedigree and performance. I can’t recommend them enough. The Etain is considered to be their flagship expedition model and I believe it is certainly worthy of that description.

Valley Kayaks Sirona vs Etain

Where the Sirona is a more playful, day trip model of kayak, the Etain is a full on expedition kayak. This is a Kayak made for long trips in open water. At 17’7” and 17’5”, both models of the Etain are relatively long, fast, stable and react very well to an experienced paddler. As this is a larger kayak, I would say that this is a boat best suited to a Medium-XL paddler. At just over 60lbs, they are a little heavier than smaller kayaks but still manageable.

The Etain is a rigid kayak made from thermoplastic with a neutral-hull shape. This makes it durable, a very balanced kayak and one pretty easy to just get into and get a feel for. It doesn’t feel tippy at all and it tracks unbelievably well in bad weather. In big wind, this is definitely the kayak you want to have with you.

What I Like Of The Etain Kayak

The Etain has a pretty comfortable molded seat, it is sturdy, and however it is unpadded like many other Kayak seats. However the molding is done so well that you really can’t tell. As some friends have pointed out to me, this is a “real” kayak seat, unlike American made kayaks which are apparently “too soft”. I have read past review that have said that cracking in the seat is a concern, but I have never had a problem like that. In addition, the foot pegs while strong, are a bit of a hassle to adjust. You pull a pin and then slide them, which is pretty easy to do on land but is honestly a nightmare if you are on the water and trying to reach down there.

There are four bulkhead compartments on the Etain, which offers a ridiculous amount of storage space. There is one on the bow and stern, as well as a midship bulkhead over your shoulder for quickly reached items and even a small, removable bulkhead pod directly in front of the paddler, which is actually very cool if you want to store things like a camera or go pro in it and then just grab it and go when you get to land. All of this makes for an excellent camping kayak and I think most people would be hard pressed to fill it to the brim. The only negative, is that sometimes the hatch covers are actually quite difficult to close. This is a bit hard to explain if you have never used them yourself, but they are just really tight and require

Last Words On The Etain

It is a really fun Kayak to paddle in. Perfect in open sea, big waves, surfing and it rolls like a dream. At 17+ feet in length, rock hopping can be a little tight, but it can be done for sure. But this is definitely a kayak made for expeditions, as shown when Justine Curgenven paddled the Aleutian Islands in one in 2014. At its price, it isn’t a cheap kayak by any stretch, but you do pay for quality and this is a quality built kayak. Valley makes outstanding boats, have a great history and the Etain is one of their best.

I work as a professional Kayak Guide in Finland, in the Helsinki Archipelago. The Etain was a boat that I really enjoyed paddling from time to time and one that was favored by our larger guides and especially on days when the wind jumped up. It is definitely worth trying out if you have the chance and I believe just about any level of paddler would really enjoy this Kayak.

Valley Kayaks Sirona Review

Valley Kayaks are a UK based Kayak production-company with a long and fascinating history of making boats. They can trace the company back to 1959, when Ken Taylor traveled to Greenland to study the indigenous peoples and brought a Kayak back to England, that Greenland kayak, served as the model by which all of their other kayaks have been produced since. Valley Kayaks outfitted the British Norway Expedition in 1975 and can probably claim the longest production run of any commercially available composite kayak with the Anas Acutas. They are fantastic kayaks that enjoy some serious history, pedigree and performance. I can’t recommend them enough.

Why I Like The Valley Kayaks Sirona

This review is regarding one of their shorter models, the Sirona. The Sirona is a fantastic, playful model that hovers around 16 feet, depending on which model you choose. The Sirona 16-4 is 16’ 4”, the Sirona 16-1 is 16’ 1” and the 15-10 is 15’10”. Which Kayak you choose will correspond with the recommended paddler weight which is all on their website. I found the Sirona 15-10 to be a little tight for me, but my wife absolutely loves it. All of them are less than 60lbs and are pretty easy to manage on the beach no matter which one you choose.

The Sirona is a rigid, composite kayak made from thermoplastic with a pretty sharp V-hull. Which of course ensures it’s durability and longevity. Born on the rocky coasts of the UK, you can be sure that dropping or dragging it on the rocks won’t be something to worry about.

The Sirona, like other Valley Kayaks, has a very comfortable molded seat. It isn’t as plush as a seat from a Wilderness Systems boat, but it is comfortable and my European friends do like to insist that only we Americans would make a recliner in a Kayak. So some may view the seat in the Sirona as a “real kayak seat”, obviously this doesn’t matter at all…it is just comfortable and you should try it out yourself. As for the foot pedals, they are super sturdy and are used with a kind of pin system. You just pull the pin and then you can slide the pedals, easy. However this is difficult to do on the water so you really want to be sure that you have the right measurement before you begin.

Performance of The Sirona

These Kayaks have two bulkheads, on the bow and stern. A midship bulkhead for most used items would be great but it is not a deal breaker. A good PFD with some pockets would fill the same void. The storage capacity is ample, but I think most people would struggle to fit more than just a few days worth of kit in it. One to three days out is probably what most people would be able to squeeze out of this Kayak. As far as performance goes, this is a blast to paddle. The Sirona is super nimble and makes completing technical moves a breeze.

We often use this kayak to teach technique simply because it makes everyone look better when they use it. It is a very quick kayak, you can easily keep up with a group however it just won’t have the same hull speed as a longer kayak, like the Etain, which is also made by Valley Kayaks. The Sirona tracks well enough, but you absolutely need the skeg down in a stiff wind, it is definitely a challenge to keep straight. However, for rock hopping or surfing, this kayak shines. The playfulness and maneuverability afforded by a shorter kayak really makes it fun to paddle. I would say that this kayak would fit just about any level of paddler, it is a little tippy but once a beginner paddler gets their balance, they would find room to develop and become a better paddler. An expert paddler would definitely appreciate the quickness of this boat as well. However I have to add that this is a kayak for smaller or medium sized paddlers. A larger paddler may just not feel that stable or comfortable in this kayak. At its price, this is a pricy Kayak…but the build quality is excellent, the company is excellent and the kayak is a lot of fun to use.

It’s definitely worth trying this kayak if you have the chance!

Ocean Kayak Malibu 2: A Fun way to get in Shape

When you are overweight and you are trying to get those extra kilos off, sometimes you have to get creative to avoid the typical boredom that comes from exercise routine. For me kayaking was going to be my tool to get myself out of the couch and into the wild without feeling disdain towards the workout. Longo ago, during my 20’s I used to practice kayaking in sit-in slalom kayaks in a beautiful Lake in the middle of the Island called “Presa de Hatillo”. That experience taught me to look for a stable and keeled kayak next time around. One of the good things in life is sharing, and I definitely wanted to share this experience with others, so the other conditions that the next kayak had to meet were that it had to be for two people and it had to be under a thousand dollars.

After a while searching, I got hold of a second hand, almost like new, Ocean Kayak Malibu Two. But that only include the kayak and the paddles. For a few more bucks I bought 2 seats and two PDFs and that completed the whole setup. It was time to take it for a paddle.

Paddling an Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

For our first paddle we took the Malibu Two to a very calm lake close to home in the north part of Santo Domingo called “Lago de la Puerta 4”, which is located inside the Mirador Norte National Park. My first impression of the kayak while carrying it to the lake was, “is this 57-pound little boat really going to hold us both?”. It so happens that this single layer polyethylene rotomolded tandem kayak can carry much more than the official 425 pounds. Believe me, my friend and I combined weight around 480 pounds.  Once we got the 2 seats all set and our PDF’s on, we paddled out. When we were in the water everything started felling right. It felt comfortable, the stability in that type of water was great and effortless, staying in track after every paddle was a no brainer and maneuvering it was easier than a bike. I must say, although we never capsized, there was a small sense that you should always be aware of your center of gravity, because the streamlining, which is great to cruise faster through the water and through waves, does add a bit of instability and increases the possibilities for capsizing.

The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two delivers its promise, it’s a paddle only tandem recreational kayak which can be used in lakes, category one rivers and coastal waters. Since it’s a sit on top you can expect to get your pants wet as water comes through its scuppers. You can take this kayak pretty much through any obstacle like rocks, reefs, hard sand and logs without the fear of messing it up. It definitely holds its water against medium bashing. While it excels in the fun and recreational part it totally slacks in the subject of fishing. First of all, its not fishing ready and I strongly recommend not to add any fishing upgrades to it because its very likely that you will jeopardize its overall integrity. The most impressive feature of this kayak is its flexibility and light build, two things that can go out the window if you for example install a fishing rod and a hatch.

But there are plenty more great aspects to go around this kayak still. For example, the seat width is large enough for a chunky guy to feel comfortable. The bow and stern leg length are pretty long and you can place your feet in any of the fixed slots the kayak has built in it. The kayak doesn’t need a rudder because the propulsion comes from paddles not from pedals. Another great aspect of the Malibu Two is that this tandem kayak can be used as a solo kayak. It has a center seat molded into it that allow you to perfectly and comfortably place a padded seat on it and paddle with ease.

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

Let’s start with the little ugly secret of the Malibu Two, which is a defect they know the kayak has, they know they can fix and still do nothing about it. The Malibu Two has a design flaw that can only be explained as a programed obsolescence feature which is the scupper holes’ cracks that form either after extensive use, or if you stand on them on land or if you stack them too high. This nasty flaw can make the kayak flood in a time span of an hour or so depending on the length of the crack. We can name it nasty because you have to be very skilled to fix it. It won’t be as simple as putting a patch on it. The good part is that it only shows after long time and extensive use.

But not everything is bad, this kayak has plenty of positive aspects that makes it a good choice for recreational paddling. First and most important, it’s rookie-friendly. The level of skill needed to paddle on it is almost none when you are in calm waters.  This kayak glides so well above the water that its maneuverability is superb. This kayak is easy to transport, to maintain, it’s stackable if you have several of them, it’s resistant to tear and wear and has a high resistance to discoloration from sun exposure.

I Give This Kayak a 4.5/5 Rating

There are two main reasons why based on my experience paddling this kayak makes me subtracts that half star and they are the following:

  1. Scupper Hole Cracks after Extensive Use
  2. Difficulty to easily upgrade it

Leaving these two aspects behind I highly recommend this kayak because the first one will only show after a very long time of use and the second one depends in the evolution of your kayaking needs. If you only require recreational kayaking this will suffice. I have taken this kayak to open sea conditions, non-other than the Caribbean Sea and it had an excellent performance. Otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this review. LOL. In summary I will say this, it’s fun, it’s light weight, it’s flexible and it’s durable. Recreation guaranteed.

I highly encourage you to read my “Trip Report of El Lago de la Puerta Cuatro”. The closest and most beautiful lake in Santo Domingo, where you will feel an instant detox from the stress of the city life. Join me in a descriptive adventure of all there is to find and enjoy in the Mirador Norte National Park.

Necky Rip 12 Review: A Well-Rounded Kayak

The Necky Rip 12 is a mid-level kayak with features and a design that won’t break the bank. Personally, I’d picked up my Rip 12 with myself being relatively new to kayaking with the intent to eventually do multi-day trips with it. The spacious design and features more commonly found on higher models were major selling points that influenced my decision to purchase this craft. Paired with a lightweight fiberglass ECO-REC LTW paddle the Rip 12 has kept me exploring lakes in the Pacific Northwest of Canada for countless hours.

Necky Rip 12 Specifications

Diving into the specs the Rip 12 measures in at 12 feet long reaching a maximum width of 28 inches. These dimensions give it an edge over most entry-level kayaks to both cruise through the water without sacrificing any stability of the vessel. The Polyethylene craft’s unloaded weight is 50lbs with a maximum capacity of 350lbs. The cockpit is 46.25 x 19.5 inches allowing users plenty of room to load, enter and exit the kayak with the stern’s hatch measuring 16.5 x 10.5 inches.

What’s Good About The Necky Rip 12

Having purchased this kayak with the intention of doing multi-day paddling trips I’m continuously impressed with the storage capacity. To date, my longest trip has been a full week with no opportunities to resupply on the remote and world-class Bowron Lakes circuit. On this particular trip, the Rip 12 held all my gear with ease and handled well in drastically changing mountain conditions.

The cockpit of the Rip 12 is spacious with a wide design offering stability and, as mentioned, plenty of room to enter and exit the vessel. This cockpit is equipped with a foam seat offering comfort and back support for longer paddles. I’ve paddled for up to four hours without ever exiting or experiencing any discomfort with the standard seat. Adjustable foot pedals in the kayak offer users a foot brace to get the most out of their paddling strokes as well. The Rip 12’s wide cockpit would offer a quick exit in the event of a capsize too, luckily, to date I haven’t had the misfortune of this happening largely due to the stability of this craft making it a difficult feat.

One feature of the Rip 12 is a skeg located at the stern of the vessel. As an advocate for working smarter and not harder the skeg gives a huge advantage here. The skeg can be lifted and dropped using a rope running up through the kayak with the handle located next to the seat. I’ve found the skeg to be incredibly helpful in paddling still water of all conditions to maintain a straight path and avoid weathercocking in windy conditions. When strong winds and rough water conditions roll in the skeg can ensure your safe arrival back at your launch point or campsite for the night.

For the Rip 12 one can’t forget the affordability. Depending on your region, the price of this kayak holds great value as a mid-level vessel. You get exactly what you pay for in the Rip 12 bridging the gap between entry-level kayaks and the higher-level vessels available.

What I Don’t Like

As a Polyethylene kayak with plenty of storage, the Rip 12 is a fairly heavy vessel with an unloaded weight of 50lbs. This makes it a little challenging for a single person to load on and off of vehicle roof racks. The heavyweight and wide design also do make this vessel slower than some higher-end models which I’ve noticed when paddling with friends equipped with these more aerodynamic crafts.

As much of a benefit as the skeg is, when compared to the rudders of higher-end models it does lack the ability to steer which also proves as a disadvantage. When the skeg is down turning does require extra effort, and in moving water can push the kayak sideways quite quickly. Due to this, I would not advise one to use the skeg in moving water. If one explores kayak options that are equipped with a rudder, a person is guaranteed precision steering in all bodies of water with minimal effort on their part.

Necky Rip 12: Yay or Nay?

For entry-level to intermediate users, the Necky Rip 12 offers great value for those looking to paddle on still and slow-moving bodies of water. Those looking for a kayak to take on multi-day trips will also be impressed, as I have been, with the Rip 12’s storage capacity and handling while fully loaded. I’ve had my Rip 12 for four years and in that time have recommended it to numerous friends with similar kayak experience and had it serve me well on whatever challenges I’ve put it up to. For what it is, this kayak is an appealing option offering great value to its users.

Best PFDs For Kayaking: 5 Great Life Vests

The earliest example of a PFD being used can be found on a marble carving at the British Museum in London. It depicts a group of Assyrian soldiers swimming while holding onto inflated animal skins. PFDs began to be commercialized in the UK in the early 19th century and Brands such as Mallison’s Seaman’s Friend or Bather’s Companion made their appearance. These early jackets were basically sheets of cork held together by a series of straps, one of which went through the legs. About mid-way through the same century, wooden ships were starting to be replaced by iron vessels. If an iron boat sank, there was much less floating debris. Wooden boats, on the other hand, offered the sailors some chance of survival by hanging onto the planks, masts and spars. So, the need for a commercially viable product was created. After the Titanic sank in 1912, the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention began to regulate PFDs and established a set of guidelines in 1914. This convention paved the way for the creation of the International Marine Organization (IMO) in 1948. The organization has 172 member states and is responsible, among other things, for international maritime safety.

PFDs are essential to stay safe out there.

These days, PFDs can be, on the one hand, life jackets that are designed to keep you afloat, even when unconscious. This is generally achieved with the aid of a foam collar. On the other hand, flotation devices can also be what is known as a buoyancy aid. This is designed to help you to stay afloat and swim. The latter is more commonly used when kayaking as it allows for greater maneuverability. For obvious reasons, life jackets (as opposed to buoyancy aids) are the recommended device for children, regardless of the water sport. 

The 5 Best PFDs For Kayaking Reviewed

Although developments in materials and technology have obviously changed over the years, the essential purpose of the PFD remains the same: to save lives. There have been numerous studies carried out in different parts of the world to analyze the effectiveness of PFDs and although they may differ with respect to how the material was analyzed and the results calculated, there is a common finding in all of this research: wearing a life jacket increases your chance of survival in the water and, if it wasn’t already evident, this is the core reason for buying a PFD. Any other considerations you may want to give the idea of purchasing one should have more to do with the type of use you’re going to give your jacket without overlooking other important factors such as comfort and features. We mustn’t forget that local legislation may make PFD usage compulsory (or not) where you live. As part of a regatta crew on a J24 sailboat, I travel to different parts of the World to compete and I’m always amazed at how some countries are real sticklers for PFDs to the point of being obsessive while others are much more laid-back. In the US, for example, it’s estimated that fewer than 30% of PFD owners actually use it regularly.

Whether it’s for your own personal use or for your family’s, a PFD must be a compulsory part of having fun with your kayak. So, when you’re researching and budgeting, don’t overlook this essential part of your kit.

Here’s the review of my 5 favorite PFDs for Kayaking.

The NRS Zen

What I like most about this type 5 PFD is the amount of movement it gives the user. Your arms are completely unrestricted with no chance of rubbing or getting friction burns. You’ll feel comfortable in it in all environments. Because I live in a very hot climate, I personally appreciate a PFD that lets your body breath and keeps you cool during long expeditions. The padded shoulder straps are very sleek and comfortable. I’d never be tempted to remove it even under the midday Sun! It comes with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a PFD in this price range: a karabiner tow-clip, a strobe attachment and a large clamshell front pocket (with an additional inside zipper pocket) that gives you a decent bit of storage space. The belt has a quick release clasp that’s a bit like an airplane seatbelt so it can be removed quickly if and when necessary. The hand warmer is a nice add-on although I can’t say I’ve used it.  It has its downsides too: the large pocket can be a double-edged sword, in a way: you can actually pack too much stuff in there and it can bulk you up a little but at least you’ll have everything you need at hand. It’s also missing a reflective strip on the back, a feature that should be a must on a device with this price tag and quality materials. As there’s nowhere to really tuck them in, the adjustment straps also tend to just hang there after you’ve tightened them properly but, to be honest, they won’t get in the way or hinder you or affect the safety of the device at all. The 360º padding makes for a comfortable paddle and adds to the overall safety of one of the best PFDs you can buy.

The Kokatat Neptune

This top-end women’s PFD comes with a total of six pockets, which is a lot for a PFD. They’re nicely located in convenient spots around the device I especially like the way the clamshell-like front pocket is divided into two by the main front zipper. Personally I’m not a big fan of huge front pockets because we can sometimes pack them so full of gear (the ‘just in case we need it’ syndrome!) that can add too much bulk and weight to the front of your device and make it virtually impossible to reach anything you may have on the floor of your kayak, in between your legs such as a water bottle. The split down the middle makes for a much more comfortable user experience. The bottom of the device is trimmed with neoprene so, if you’re wearing bikini, you won’t get rub or friction marks on your midriff of back. That’s a really nice detail that other PFDs in the same price range don’t have. The reflective tape on the back may be overlooked by a lot of paddlers but it’s an essential addition, in my view, to any decent PFD and certainly one you’d expect with this price tag. The Neptune has an add-on that a lot of devices don’t: a place to insert a hydration bladder located in a pocket on the back. I think it’s a nice feature but it can get in the way depending on the type of seat you have in your kayak – you may end up leaning on it as you paddle. Blue (‘Reef’) isn’t the best color if you’re paddling in the sea as you don’t stand out and the purple trimmings don’t really offset this issue. Having said that, the Neptune is a very comfy option for long distance paddlers.

MTI Livery Sport

This all-rounder affordable type 3 PFD is ideal for paddlers on a low budget who want to stay safe on the water. Sure, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you’d find on a top-end device but your get what you pay for without any trade-off in personal safety. It does what it’s designed to do: keep you afloat! These are the type of vests you’ll usually see kayaking schools use as they are cheap and light and adapt to pretty much any body shape as long as you get the size right. They’re also very easy to adjust using the three front straps and can be worn by both male and female paddlers. You don’t usually get this amount of adjustment options on such an economical device. One of the things I especially like about this PFD, apart from its price, is how light it is. Its weighs just over a 1lb, which makes it ideal for paddlers who like to combine their activity in the sea with a bit of trekking etc. because it’s so featherweight you’ll forget you’re carrying it. It’s also a pretty durable jacket. If you look after it there’s no reason why you won’t have it for a few years. It comes in a standard range of sizes that are grouped into twos: XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL. That might be a limitation for some users. In any case, the Livery Sport is a perfect PFD for the casual user of for someone (like me!) who needs to have a few extra devices handy for those weekend visits without breaking the bank in the process.

The NRS Ion (for men)

This is a really neat little PFD. I say ‘little’ because it’s a lot less imposing as other PFDs in the same mid-price range. It’s designed with paddlers in mind but it is also suitable for regatta sailing because the amount of freedom of movement it gives the user is a feature a lot of crew appreciate, myself included. One of the things I like most about this PFD is the way its front pocket opens – it has a vertical zipper as opposed to the much more common horizontal zipper you find on clamshell pockets. Granted it’s designed for right-handed users but it’s much easier, I find, to zip up and down rather than horizontally when you’re in a kayak. Personal preference. It only has this one main pocket but I’m not a big fan of stuffing my PFD with bits and bobs so the Ion is a nice, sleek jacket. Another nice feature is the fact that the adjustment straps have what the designers call ‘strap garages’, which is a fancy way of saying that they won’t be hanging down as happens with so many other PFDs, even in the higher price bracket. They tuck away nicely once you’ve adjusted them. Nice feature. This PFD has outstanding ergonomics. If you’re used to wearing a bulky device, you’ll forget you’re wearing this one because it’s light and adjusts well to most body shapes (as long as you get the size right). It doesn’t ride up on you either so it scores high for comfort too. The hand-warming pouch is another nice feature that a lot of users in colder climes will appreciate. Although the device targets paddlers, it’s actually suitable for all sorts of water sports. The Ion is a really good buy if you’re looking for a mid-range PFD that will do its job without being cumbersome or excessively bulky.

Stohlquist Edge

This type 3 (USCG) PFD is popular with sailors and crew on small racing yachts and that is generally a good sign because it’s an indication of flexibility and ease of movement, which are essential features on any PFD whose user is going to be moving around a lot. If it’s correctly adjusted you’ll forget you’re wearing it. The Ion it has a side zipper that stops quite close to the right underarm, so be 100% sure your jacket is the right size for you otherwise chaffing occurs. I personally love this feature but I can see how it might be uncomfortable for some users. I won’t buy a PFD if it doesn’t have some type of reflective material and the Ion doesn’t disappoint – the accents are high-vis so you’ll be easily spotted in the water. It has the standard clamshell pocket with the horizontal zipper that is really quite spacious. In fact, you need to remember not to overload it because, even though you’ll manage to fit quite a lot in there, you’re just making yourself heavier and the device will just be too bulky. Getting the size right is, obviously, basic for any PFD but perhaps even more so with the Ion. If it’s not the right fit it’s quite simple unusable and extremely uncomfortable so be sure to get it right. The shoulder adjustment straps will give you a bit more leeway than other PFDs that don’t have this feature but they obviously won’t solve any size issues you might encounter. The Ion is a comfy, quality PFD that can be used for a number of different water sports that require a lot of maneuverability but I wouldn’t recommend it for users who are slightly bulkier or who have a large chest. It’s too short and can get a little restrictive on your upper body.

How To Choose The Right Life Jacket For Kayaking

Although, in theory at least, any jacket can be used for kayaking, that’s not strictly speaking the case. Some are quite simply too bulky and can severely limit the paddler’s mobility and general comfort when on the water. Thanks to the growing popularity of leisure kayaking in the last 15 to 20 years, the demand for suitable PFDs for the sport has pushed manufacturers to produce a fantastic range of products with the leisure kayaker in mind.

Most adult flotation devices you’re going to find will be collarless buoyancy aids, much like a waistcoat in design. You either slip it over your head and adjust it using underarm side-zips and a belt situated just above your waist or belly or you put it on like a jacket and zip up the front. There’ll usually be a belt too. The PFDs designed for young children should have a collar to support their heads, a grab-strap on the back of this collar and a strap between the legs.

There are two key aspects to take into consideration when choosing a PFD. The first thing you obviously need to consider is who is going to wear it? There is an extensive commercially available range of PFDs for the whole family, the dog included. Once you’ve done your research, the only issue you might possibly be faced with is deciding on a particular color or specific feature.

The second aspect to consider is where is it going to be used? If you live in a hot climate or plan on kayaking under the sun for long periods of time, then you’ll need a specific type of PFD for that type of environment.

If you live beside a body of water that can get rough and choppy, you’ll need to factor that in too. In synthesis, you need to think about the type of water and natural environment you’re most likely to find yourself in when kayaking. This is a consideration I haven’t always given enough thought to in the past and, as a result, I have ended up with jackets that were not appropriate for the type of use I was going to give them. Sometimes they were uncomfortable because they rubbed my inner arms while others appeared to be great at first but restricted my breathing whenever a greater physical effort was required. Getting it right is not easy and a good recommendation is be sure to get some advice from your vendor if you feel you’re not knowledgeable enough. Once they understand how their products are going to be used, they’ll be able to provide you with valuable tips and advice. Remember that most stores won’t allow you to return a used PFD. There’s no ‘trial period’. Try to get it right the first time.

PFD Size Guide

how your PDF fits you will determine how well it actually stays on you and how comfortable you feel when paddling so getting it right is essential. For adults, your chest measurement designates your size while weight is the measurement used for children. Gender is also a factor and most stores will have a range of PDFs for men and women. Don’t forget to take into consideration that you’re going to be in a sitting position when paddling so, if you’re trying a PDF on in a store, try to wear a similar t-shirt etc. to what you would wear when kayaking to gauge the size and sit on a chair to see how well it fits you. Make sure you check the different adjustments available too, such as belts, buckles, straps and zippers. Remember: the shorter the PFD is, the bulkier it’s going to be. Paddlers with a large chest size may feel more comfortable in a longer device. If you use a spray deck, shorter devices will be a better option for you as they leave some space around your waist to accommodate it. When buying online, contact the vendor if you have any doubt at all and be sure their returns policy isn’t too pricy in case you’re not happy with the product when you receive it (you can’t return it once it’s been used). Whatever the case, be sure it fits you and that you feel comfortable wearing it while kayaking.

Make sure you get right PFD… 🙂

Life Jacket Color Choice

These days, PFDs come in every color imaginable. Gone are the days when you could basically choose between a nasty yellowish color and orange. Obviously, the brighter and more visible your device is, the easier it will be to spot you on the water. This is very important if you kayak in a body of water shared by other users in pleasure crafts and Jet Skis etc. I live in a part of the World where the number of boats on the water increases exponentially during the tourist season between the months of June and September and I am very glad I chose an extremely bright PFD with reflective strips because you can see me from quite a distance. Maneuvering through the sea traffic is not as daunting because, notwithstanding the occasional drunk driver, other users see and avoid me. The reflective strips on the back and front are nicely blended into the design of the device if, God forbid, the emergency services needed to look for me in the dark. Just this summer, a large group of kayakers ventured into a very large cave just down the coast from where I live. The weather changed, the sea became rough and choppy and they couldn’t get out of the cave without capsizing. The only option was to stay inside and wait to be rescued. The coast guard later reported to the press that because of the poor visibility inside the cave, the only way they could locate the kayakers (some of them had abandoned their kayak and climbed onto rocks and ledges inside the cave) was by the reflective material on their PFDs. It’s not usually a feature that’s championed by manufacturers but, in my view, reflective strips on PFDs should be compulsory as they are a simple yet effective safety add-on to your device.

Extra PFD Features

The more add-ons, pockets and attachment points a PFD has usually increases its price. In my experience, it’s better to keep it simple as some of these features can become cumbersome after a couple of hours on the water, especially if it’s a hot sunny day. People who fish from kayaks appreciate being able to store their bits and bobs in handy pockets on their PFD but if you’re not planning to catch your lunch while out kayaking, opt for a simpler, sleeker design. Remember: the more pockets full of gear you have on your PFD the heavier you are, which obviously affects buoyancy making it harder for you to move and stay afloat if you do end up in the drink. Some PFDs have other features such as a whistle, a towline attachment, hydration pockets or even a built-in flare.

PFDs to AVOID

These are to be avoided by kayakers. Although they may seem like an interesting option given that, when deflated, they are much smaller and less bulkier than standard PFDs, they’re just not practical. Auto inflate PFDs can inflate when soaked (and not necessarily immersed) meaning it might decide to pop when you get hit by a wave or jump into apparently shallow water to wade the last couple of feet to the shore. I’ve seen it happen. Every time it inflates you’ll have to replace the internal inflation canister before using the PFD again. On the other hand, a PFD that requires the user to inflate it when needed by blowing into a nozzle is just not an option in case of an emergency or unconsciousness.

Life Vest Materials

There are different types of materials used to produce a device and each one has its own characteristics. PFDs have three parts: the outer shell, the inner flotation material and the straps used. The outer shell is usually made of a product called Cordura or nylon. The inner foam (the part that keeps you afloat) can be made of Gaia, kapok or PVC. Gaia is an eco-friendly product that does a good job at regulating air flow and body temperature. Kapok is a sort of fiber from the kapok tree that is water resistant and never loses its buoyancy. PVC is the cheapest, most popular and least ecological given that it contains non-biodegradable chemicals. An increased demand for eco-friendly products will undoubtedly create a more constant and varied supply of this type of PFD from which the user can chose. That can only be a good thing.

Official PFD Classifications

Don’t make any trade-offs on safety or comfort when purchasing a PFD. The vast majority of products currently available have undergone rigorous testing and received certification of some kind. Be sure to check that your PFD is safety-certified wherever in the World you buy it. The price you pay is determined by, among other things, the features the jacket has, the brand and the materials used to make it – not by how safe it is. Of course, technology and materials used on the higher-end devices may render them safer in some circumstances than cheaper ones but there’s no such thing as a bad PFD. What’s important is to know is which one suits your specific needs and requirements, from both a comfort and safety perspective.

Whether or not a device meets a certain minimum level of safety is determined by the following organizations:

  • In the US: US standards, USCG approved
  • International Standards: ISO
  • In the EU: CE ISO 12402
  • Commercial standards: SOLAS (non-leisure PFDs)

With the exception of SOLAS, your new PFD should be approved by one of those bodies. A USCG flotation device is broken down into the following five categories:

  1. All waters
  2. Calm, inland waters
  3. Flotation aids (most commonly used by kayakers)
  4. ‘Throwable’ devices
  5. Special use devices

ISO and EU devices are ranked depending on their buoyancy (measured in Newtons – ‘n’) and are categorized as follows:

  • 50n – Buoyancy aid – for competent, conscious swimmers
  • 100n – Life jacket – for swimmers and non-swimmers, no self-right guaranteed
  • 150n – Life jacket – for swimmers and non-swimmers in most conditions, may self-right
  • 275n – Life jacket – for swimmers and non-swimmers, will self-right

Depending on where you purchase your PFD, you will see one or more of these terms being used so it’s a good idea to become familiar with them or research the standards used in your country if it’s not included in the previously mentioned categories. You want to be sure that your device is going to do its job correctly.

How To Properly Maintain Your Kayaking PFD

You can have a PFD for years if you take the time to look after it. Some kayakers overlook this and forget to give their device the care it requires, which accelerates mildew, rot and general deterioration of this essential part of your kayaking kit. After using it, remember to soak it in fresh water or hose it down thoroughly. Hang it out to dry avoiding direct sunlight and don’t store it until you’re sure it’s 100% dry. Another top tip to ensure you get the longest life possible from your investment in personal safety is not to sit on it. It can be tempting to use as a cushion if you’re on a rocky coastline taking a breather, eating your sandwich or enjoying the views. The issue is that the clasps and attachments can break and the majority of PFDs have no replaceable parts, meaning you’ll have to buy another one. Look after it and it will look after you.

Conclusion: Picking The Best Kayaking Life Vest

Unless your local rules and legislation oblige you by law to use one whether you buy and use a PFD for kayaking may be entirely up to you. Back when I was a kid, I used to loathe wearing them. My Father wouldn’t let us sail with him without one and our Sea Scout troupe would send you home if you turned up sans PFD. Of course, that was back in the 70s and 80s when PFDs really hadn’t developed much at all. In fact, we recently emptied out my Father’s boat of some of the gear he had onboard and were amazed to find some of the jackets we used back in the day. I’m not surprised they were so unpopular! They were bulky, heavy, nasty looking things. ‘Buoyancy aids’ of the same era were a slightly more attractive option but they were still quite uncomfortable for leisure kayakers. These days, that has completely changed: the range of PFDs for every type of water sport imaginable can be really quite mind-boggling for the novice. Now, Instead of being able to choose from just a handful of ugly devices, you’re spoilt for choice. Technological advancements in the sector and more attention to esthetics and safety features on devices mean that the demand for PFDs is greater than ever before and this can only be a good thing.

These devices save lives. This is not an opinion – it’s a statistically contrastable fact. A PFD must be an essential part of your kayaking kit. Wear it, look after it and stay safe on the water.