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Last updated: March 29, 2021
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Do you like going for a short trip in your free time? To make the most of your outing with family or friends, you may want to try nautical tourism. There are several ways to make your nautical getaway, and navigating by a kayak is one of them. For nautical tourism, buying the best touring kayak is essential. In fine weather, there is certainly nothing better than going for a tour on the water with a small boat such as a touring kayak! Economical, straightforward to use, easy to transport – the touring kayak brings together many obvious qualities.
To help you choose the best touring kayak among the countless models on the market, we have conducted our research to present our top picks. You will also find a guide for selecting a rigid or inflatable kayak for your water tourism, with a focus on the type, load capacity, length, weight, warranty, and other important criteria.
"This inflatable kayak features a full kit that includes paddles with asymmetrical blades, a foot pump, and a carrying bag.Suitable for up to Class III whitewater.Two moveable seats.Lightweight and portable."
The Intex Challenger inflatable kayak is generally offered at an ultra-competitive price and is one of the cheapest of the current inflatable kayaks. With a very comfortable seat and inflatable, removable, and adjustable backrests, it is one of the best inflatable kayaks for sea touring here.
It takes about 5 minutes to inflate it, which makes it one of the easiest kayaks to prepare for use. The same amount of time will be necessary for deflation, and you can then store it in a very practical and compact transport bag.
The boat weighs just 27.2 lbs or 12 kg, and it remains light whether folded or inflated. Finally, perfectly solid, it has 220 lbs weight capacity.
The Intex Challenger inflatable kayak is perfect for cruising in calm waters. But it is strongly discouraged on whitewater and at sea when waves are formed or when there is wind. Its use will be perfect for ponds and lakes, and in general, all sufficiently protected water bodies. This inflatable kayak will be suitable for leisure activities, touring, or even fishing.
Why are we impressed? It’s the ideal economic model for beginners, occasional use, or for testing the joys of sea tourism by kayak. Moreover, it’s one of the most lightweight touring kayak models on the market.
What negatives must you be aware of? In the same market where other brands are offering up to 5 years, the 90-day warranty on this model could be better.
If you like water activities like stand up paddleboarding, this Explorer K2 canoe kayak is a good option for a safer water kayak trip. Intex has put on the market a canoe-kayak that seems to appeal to many people. This model is made of PVC, a reinforced and resistant material. Thus, this makes the boat very strong against possible abrasions during water navigation. But with this kayak, it is advisable to practice your nautical leisure activity in calm water. The lakes are thus the ideal places for having the best nautical excursion with the Explorer K2. The canoe-kayak weighs approximately 30 lbs and comes with its carrying bag.
Once inflated, its length is 10’ 3”. Its width is 3’. As for the height, it reaches 1’ 8”. Its oars measure 86”. The EXPLORER K2 from INTEX has a capacity of 400 lbs. Also, this boat is suitable for romantic sailing since it can carry two people. The Explorer K2 canoe kayak has a streamlined design. This will make it easier to move aboard this kayak, and your boat will be very comfortable, thanks to the inflatable seats. Additionally, the seats have backrests that will allow you to be perfectly comfortable during your nautical escapade.
If you are new to water excursions, this model is a good investment. But it is not a kayak for nautical competitions. Inflating takes barely 10 minutes. Some users even get there in 5 minutes.
Why is it special? With the Intex Explorer K2, you won’t have to think about buying oars since they are included in the kit. Your nautical activities will be memorable with its complete and efficient kit. No risk of unpleasant surprises.
What are the flaws? The kayak is not suitable for use in windy situations. It’s only meant for occasional use during holidays.
The TEMPEST kayak series has two variants: 165, 170, and 180. Designed for lightweight paddlers, the 165 has a lower deck and narrower leg position with a shorter footrest to better accommodate lighter weights.
The kayak has extensive equipment and design. These include the Phase 3 Air Pro seat, adjustable knee pads, and adjustable footrest. Next, it has an oval back cover and a round front, with watertight compartments.
It has a relatively narrow 21.5-inch beam and a shallow depth height of 10 and 3/4 inches. So it’s designed to fit smaller paddlers. Depending on how much weight you carry and your paddling skills, at a glance, the build quality is very good.
This kayak has perimeter safety rescue lines that help get you in or out or help your friend get back into their boat. Additionally, it features tamper-proof locking points and three foam bulkheads. The bulkheads provide dry storage. They also add buoyancy to your craft as well.
The sea kayak has a smaller cockpit. It features an ergonomic backrest that bends nice and low. On top of that, there are hip pads that you can adjust in or out to create a better fit. The boat design itself is fish form. This means it has a slightly wider bow. But it does tend to contain a flat wall in the center section. What that does is help provide very good initial and secondary stability. Initial stability is also achieved with a shallow V hull.
Why is it special? It’s ideally suited for experienced kayakers who want to keep improving their skills. Its safety level is impressive, as well.
What are the flaws? It could be better adapted for beginners. But seeing its premium design, you’ll understand this isn’t for beginners.
The Sea Eagle 370 Pro is an inflatable kayak for up to Class III whitewater. As a tandem kayak, it has two movable seats. It inflates well, thanks to the foot pump that comes with it. You can decide to get the electric cigarette lighter plug that’ll pump it up quickly, however. The oars are really fantastic, beautiful, and very functional.
The Sea Eagle 370 Pro comes with everything except the life vest. The benefit of this inflatable is that it’s rugged, and you can fold it up and store it in the back of your car.
Next, it weighs about 32 pounds. It is made in China, but the quality is fantastic because it’s made of really thick vinyl. This beautiful little boat is twelve feet and two inches long. And if you want to leave it inflated up, you can put it on the top of your RV or SUV in a bungee cord. This kayak holds 650 pounds of weight – which is up to three people. It has a three-year manufacturer’s warranty.
What stands out? The Sea Eagle kayak model 370 is easy to inflate and deflate, thanks to the included foot pump. We like the fact it comes with two oars. Not every manufacturer offers this.
What cons did we manage to find? To provide better control in windy situations, it needs a larger and better fin.
The Maxim 100X is a sit-inside kayak for the more experienced recreational paddler. A better performing shallow V chine hull design provides improved secondary stability and speed versus other regular recreational kayaks. With a 275-pound maximum weight capacity, this kayak is designed for lakes and rivers and moderately moving waters. This kayak comes with molded footrests that allow you to easily shift the position of your legs while you paddle throughout the day. Also, it has an adjustable padded backrest, an Ergo based seat pad that is perfect for quick excursions out on the water. The Maxim 100X comes with a storage hatch at the front with a bungee cord, a cockpit table with a cup holder, and a spacious tank well with mesh deck covers that allow you to store any gear you want to bring in. The hull and the deck of this kayak come with a lifetime warranty.
Why is it special? There is a bottle holder molded in, and convenient carry handles to make transporting your kayak easier. Weighing only 36 pounds, this makes the kayak very easy to transport and store.
What are the flaws? Its weight capacity could be higher. While it is sufficient, bigger numbers could ensure better safety and allow you to carry more gear.
The Vanhunks Voyager Deluxe is a tandem day touring kayak with a sit-on-top design. It is made of ultra-resistant plastic that is puncture-proof, unlike the vinyl and PVC materials other inflatable models are made of. Also, this kayak is rather easy to handle and even passes small waves and eddies without hindrance. It accommodates 2 people very comfortably, thanks to its pleasant deluxe padded seats.
Weighing up to 77 pounds, this is not a lightweight kayak. Because of its rigid plastic design, transporting it can be a problem. A bungee cord could have been of help to improve transportability. Nonetheless, it’s a rigid kayak full of qualities that are to be discovered during your next tour at sea or near a lake!
The Vanhunks Voyager Deluxe is versatile enough to navigate waters comfortably, such as rough seas or a river with a decent flow. It has a fairly sporty dynamic and a fairly low line, which allows it to cross small waves and slightly brisk waters. On top of that, the tandem touring kayak is also ideal for fishing.
Just keep in mind that this remains a recreational boat and not for sporting performance: it will not allow you to descend a tumultuous torrent. Being a family kayak with 2 seats, it will be necessary to have at least an adult or an experienced practitioner (this can be an experienced teenager), while on a lake or river tour.
What stands out? This rigid touring kayak doesn’t require inflation. It is perfect for having fun on a body of water or at sea and offers you a fairly high level of safety. Having a rigid construction, it’s the only sit-on-top touring kayak in our touring kayak reviews.
What cons did we manage to find? Because of its rigid plastic design, transporting it can be a problem. A bungee cord could have been of help to improve transportability.
Things to Consider
Are you a kayaking veteran, and you never miss an opportunity to go on water touring adventure aboard your trusty boat? Or are you more of an occasional paddler who enjoys kayaking while having a view of the body of waters? With the information from this section, you will be able to get a model that is adaptable to the users’ skills and characteristics.
Reasons to go for a touring kayak
Well, several reasons push the followers of touring in the middle of nature to navigate in white water. The goal of touring is obviously to get out of your daily routine to experience an exceptional adventure. As a hobby, many prefer outdoor walks, walking in the forest, etc. However, the same applies to sea horizons. It seems that this is not only for the purpose of getting away from it all, but you can also stay active while enjoying your outings.
Canoeing and kayaking allow you to keep fit while having fun. It is always desirable to exercise during the holidays, and kayaking is the perfect activity! Whether you are with family or friends, you can sail together aboard the kayak.
Are you familiar with stand-up paddleboarding, a nautical activity where you will be on a board equipped with paddles? Then, you should know that touring is a very interesting hobby to do along the coast, and it is quite easy. Keep in mind that you may need an instructor, especially if you cannot swim. The professional will remain nearby to make a possible rescue easily practicable.
Kayak touring is a good hobby, except that we do not recommend it for beginners in swimming.
What to look for in a touring kayak?
When the time is right to take the plunge, it is important to take into consideration every aspect of your future kayak that will allow you to find the model that best suits your needs. We will check the aspects to check below.
Kayaks are classified into various types, based on three categories. We have the sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks, the tandem and solo kayaks, the inflatable and rigid kayaks.
Inflatable rigid kayaks: Rigid kayaks such as the Vanhunks Voyager Deluxe are generally the most marine-worthy. They give you impressive control and can be very long, which allows them to glide better. They are often made of plastics, fiberglass, polyethylene, and wood. On the other hand, inflatables like the Sea Eagle 370 Pro are a newcomer to the market. The material currently used (mostly vinyl) are very resistant. While being sturdy, these kayaks remain light and are extremely easy to transport. Of course, they are more difficult to load since space is taken up by the tubes, which cannot be filled with material. It will, therefore, be necessary to pay attention to the wind and navigate in manageable weather. The durable material gives the kayak some rigidity, but its performance (speed) is still significantly lower than other solutions.
The tandem vs. solo kayaks: The solo or single-seater kayak gives autonomy and independence. Moreover, these are generally larger than two-seater models. The single-seater is more maneuverable and more playful. At the same time, the two-seater goes faster. It is often very stable and reassuring. Also, a two-seater is cheaper than two mono, and, apart from the length, it also takes up less storage space. On the other hand, the two-seater is heavier (less easy to load/unload on a vehicle, more complex docking in difficult conditions, more painful to put it back on the beach in the evening, etc.). It has slightly limited storage space for two people. Be careful with polyethylene two-seater. This material is softer than fiber. The two-seater in polyethylene is a little clumsy (slower, more energy lost in deformation), and the sealing of the partitions can be difficult to maintain because of the lack of rigidity of the inter-compartments.
The sit-in vs. sit-on-top kayaks: The sit-inside design is often found in inflatable kayaks like the Intex Challenger. Models like this have a lower deck, while the sit-on-top kayaks are found in rigid models like the Vanhunks Voyager Deluxe.
Max load capacity
Touring kayaks generally have a large load capacity. Depending on the size and the material, the maximum load capacity can reach up to 650 pounds.
As far as possible, the heaviest items should be placed as close to the kayak’s center towards the paddler and as low as possible. Also, make sure to roughly balance the load laterally (there is still a certain margin).
Then, the organization of the boxes will be done with common sense and according to various parameters (more heavily loading a more efficient team member, putting waterproof elements in a box that is not perfectly waterproof, etc.). Put as little as possible on the deck. The wind can make things inconvenient and even dangerous when it gets strong.
Length and width
Touring boats tend to be predominantly longer in comparison to competition ones. And this goes without saying, considering that longer boats have more storage space. During your expeditions, you will need all the space available to store equipment, food, or shelter for camping, for example. Storage needs aside, a longer kayak holds and cuts water better overall. These two factors have an impact on the length of the kayak, which can reach 13 to 16 feet.
Since sea and tour kayaks are generally designed for rough waters, they need to be able to ride through waves. Unlike freshwater kayaks, which can feature rounded and flat hulls, sea kayaks should have a V-shaped hull, ensuring that waves are trimming, whether large or small. V-shaped hulls also aid in the stability of the boat, although rounded hulls are acceptable for certain marine conditions such as crossing creeks in calm waters, coastlines, or estuaries. All hulls are not equal, and each has its pros and cons.
V-shaped hull: These are the most common and efficient hulls for touring kayaks. They are very tapered under the boat and are not rounded like U-hulls. At first, they may seem more difficult to navigate due to their instability, but once you get the hang of it, they are very maneuverable and cut waves like a blade.
U-shaped hull: U-shaped hulls are uniformly round and can change angles at a very precise point. They tilt much more gradually compared to a V-hull. These kayaks are quite unstable at first but are easily maneuverable when you know how to navigate them.
Flat hull: Flat hull tour kayaks are hard to find on the market. A flat bottom is unsuitable for tourism, as they are less efficient and only offer increased stability when it comes to sitting still (for fishing, for example), rather than when navigating them.
The bulk of reputable brand sea kayaks are made of materials capable of withstanding various weather conditions. However, lesser-known brands that offer inexpensive kayaks tend to save money on this aspect; it’s no longer a secret! Don’t be fooled by the brand’s appeal, though, as even pro brands with more budget-priced kayaks tend to use poor quality materials. We must, therefore, remain vigilant.
Be aware of visible steel components and unsealed wood. Also, note that materials such as plastic or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (known as ABS) are materials particularly appreciated for their high performance. Different man-made and natural materials can be used to design a kayak intended for excursions. These materials range from polyethylene to polycarbonate or from fiberglass to wood. Regarding the paddles, we advise you to opt for aluminum.
Depending on various aspects, your kayak will have primary, secondary, or even hybrid stability.
Primary stability: It refers to the stability of the boat in a vertical position, which has a significant impact on the stability of the boat when it is stationary (when entering the kayak, for example, or during a game of peach). It, therefore, refers to the boat’s ability to maintain a straight and level position on the surface of the water.
Secondary stability: It refers to the stability of the boat when it is tilted on one of its sides. A high level of this stability is ideal in rough seas, open water, or white water. For tourist’s vessels, this type of stability is, therefore, less important.
The management of the kayak includes the control of the boat to ease the navigation. While a high level of maneuverability is of paramount importance in confined spaces, it is less so on the high seas. This means that it is necessary to take the level of control into account when choosing your kayak sea.
As earlier mentioned, models for touring or fishing need bigger storage space. The Sea Eagle 370 Pro has a large storage space, for example. We advise you, as a general rule, to take with you only what is strictly necessary.
Just because your kayak has a lot of available space doesn’t mean that it will be easier to maneuver in rough seas if it’s filled to the last millimeter. You might even risk losing some of your belongings forever!
The comfort level provided by a touring kayak is determined majorly by the design of the seats. Adjustable and foam padded seats and backrests with ergonomic designs, for example, are more comfortable than seats made ordinarily of plastics or aluminum.
The difference in the warranty is largely determined by the price range and the brand. While cheaper models, like the Intex Challenger and Intex Explorer K2, are more likely to come with lower warranty coverage (90 days limited), more premium models, such as the Wilderness Systems Tem pest 165, come with an extended warranty ranging from 5 years to lifetime limited warranty.
This might look like a trivial feature to consider, but yes, you should pay attention to the color. This is because, during an emergency, a colorful kayak ensures your safety – you are easier to spot by larger vessels with colorful models that don’t blend with the sea.
For coastal navigation on the high seas, narrow kayaks of medium size offer the best performance. Their reduced width allows them to navigate easily in calm water as well as in more rough waters. Owning a long tour kayak (between 10 and 13 feet) will help keep your boat more stable.
Inflatable touring kayaks are the easiest to transport. They are compact and lightweight, and you just need to deflate them, have them in a big backpack, and inflate them with a pump at the shore of the water you’re excursing. For rigid models, or if you choose to inflate the kayak from home, you can put them on top of your RV or SUV with the help of a bungee cord.
Nautical tourism in a kayak is a daring type of adventure. So, the process of choosing a kayak and the type of model chosen must go through a rigorous process. Among the six models reviewed in this article, the following stand out.
Our editor’s choice and the overall best touring kayak is the Intex Challenger. This model comes with a very comfortable seat, is inflatable, removable, and has adjustable backrests.
The Intex Explorer K2 offers the best value for money. Built for a safer water kayak trip, Intex has put on the market a kayak that seems to appeal to many people.
Finally, the Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 is our Premium Pick. Designed for lightweight paddlers, it has a lower deck, narrower leg position, and shorter footrest position to better accommodate lighter weights. It comes with a 5-years manufacturer warranty.