A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
John is an avid traveler, hiker, and RVer. Moreover, it seems like he knows everything when it comes to fishing and hunting: his father started sharing all the tips and tricks he knew when John was a kid. No wonder we trust his opinion every time a new article is being created.
Last updated: May 16, 2021
Outdoorsly is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
If you are someone who loves being on the water, then you need a kayak in your life. However, as a beginner, you should be careful about choosing the perfect kayak for yourself. A kayak that has been designed for professional users will leave you wondering, and you will not be able to enjoy it. The best kayak for beginners should be easy to manage but not lack any crucial features.
We did our own research to find out the kayaks which are most suitable for beginners. We wanted to ensure that our recommendations are solid, so we created an in-depth review of all the models. The reviews are based on parameters like type and size, stability, kayak weight, and weight capacity. You need to consider these features because they dictate whether a kayak will serve your purpose or not.
"An easy-to-paddle and relatively lightweight sit-on-top kayak that comes at an affordable price, yet ticks all the boxes a beginner might have.Durable triple-layer construction.ErgoLounge Seating System.275-pound weight capacity."
"A tandem kayak that is incredibly portable and easy to inflate and deflate; it also comes at a great price.Removable and adjustable backrests on seats.400-pound weight capacity.Three separate air chambers."
"A sit-in kayak for ambitious kayaking starters who intend to paddle long distances and want a kayak to grow their skills with.Cockpit table with bottle holder.ErgoForm Seating System.Excellent warranty."
"A model perfect for those who intend to start fishing on a kayak, with plenty of features that make an angler’s life easier.Fishing rod holders.Two 6-inch storage compartments and two storage hatches.275-pound weight capacity."
"A perfect kayak for kids aged 5 years and above to start paddling, featuring the swim-up deck design which makes the task much easier.Lightweigh at 18 pounds.130-pound weight capacity.Suitable for calm waters."
"A sit-on-top kayak that sports several features that make it so comfortable for any paddler – from the ergonomic seat to storage compartments and a drink holder.Three storage copartments.UV-, impact-, and abrasion-resistant.300-pound weight capacity."
"A very stable kayak thanks to the inflatable I-beam floor, and also sturdy due to the rugged vinyl construction.400-pound weight capacity.U.S. Coast Guard I.D. – NMMA Certified and TUV approved.Repair patch included."
"An affordable yet safe and stable kayak suitable for use on lakes and mild rivers and lightweight enough to take it with you anywhere without much hassle.220-pound weight capacity.Adjustable inflatable seat.Spacious storage."
Pelican makes exceptional kayaks, and we thoroughly enjoyed testing out the Pelican Sentinel 100X. It comes as a durable unit and sports a paddle and seat. The design makes it one of the best for beginners. Beginners will love the stability offered. It is also very durable, which allows it to survive impacts, knocks, and the elements.
Also, you will love the lightweight form that allows you to carry it around. It is further bolstered by a wide and deep hull that provides more stability than you might expect.
As a sit-on-top kayak, you will love using this during the warm summer months. Their design incorporates a wide, open deck that is a breeze to enter and get out from. Comfort is another good thing here since the kayak has molded footrests.
Why are we impressed?
This might be a compact kayak, but it offers a good weight capacity and a large rear tank well for securing your valuables. It also is one of the best options for any beginner.
What negatives must you be aware of?
Well, it lacks a dry storage. Also, we feel that rod holders should have been added.
Kayaking is an excellent way to have fun without coming in contact with other people. In view of the pandemic, such an activity has proved to be quite relieving since it is not limited by lockdown guidelines. If you are looking to enjoy this pastime, then you need an excellent kayak, and the Intex Dakota K2 is one of the best models available on the market today.
The regular kayak can be a pain to store and transport, which is one way this model excels. It is a relatively lightweight model that offers you plenty of advantages over several other kayaks on the market.
First of all, this is an inflatable kayak. Therefore, it is very lightweight and easy to transport on your own. However, being inflatable doesn’t mean that it is not a reliable model.
Despite the lower weight, it can carry up to 400 pounds of weight.
It is also rich in features as it is designed with a pair of oars and an air pump. Thus, you can set it up whenever and wherever you want.
Part of the appeal also lies in the body and durability of the unit. It will resist impacts and will not be easily damaged in or out of water.
What stands out?
One of the biggest advantages of this model is the relatively low price. It is also remarkably easy to inflate and use.
What cons did we manage to find?
The seats are not to our liking. They tend to move around and need near-constant adjustments.
The Pelican brand is a popular name in the world of kayaking. This brand is renowned for the stability of its products, and the Pelican Maxim 100X is no exception.
This is a sit-in kayak that provides some of the most comfortable seating designs that we have come across.
For example, there are padded backrests and eats. Therefore, you can sit in it for a long time without needing to switch or adjust the seats. If comfort is what you are after, then you cannot go wrong with this option.
In addition to all that, you also get some little features that enhance your overall comfort. For example, you discover there is a holder for your bottles, carry handles, and more.
It is also remarkably stable in nature. Therefore, if you are concerned about your kayak overturning while in the water, you don’t have to be too scared with this kayak.
Performance is also great here. For one, this model offers impressive stability and maneuverability.
In terms of value, this model can carry up the two hundred and seventy-five pounds. As this is a beginner kayak, there isn’t much to complain about here.
What makes it stand out?
The Pelican Maxim 100X is hands-down one of the best kayaks from this renowned manufacturer intended for those who’d like to try sit-in kayaks. It is the best for recreation and long distances.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
The features of this kayak are relatively limited. Therefore, it cannot be used as a fishing kayak. It only seats one person, which reduces the fun if you are with a group of friends.
The market is full of excellent kayaks, and the Lifetime Tamarack is certainly one of them. It is an excellent unit that is available at an affordable price. Choosing the right kayak as a beginner can be an intimidating task, but with models like this, you cannot go wrong.
We say this because this kayak has all the features that you need in your average fishing kayak. Part of the appeal here is that it offers some of the best stability, comfort, and safety at this price.
The comfort level here is what makes this different from most of the others in this price category. You can therefore fish all day long with minimal fatigue. The manufacturer has included footrests in several positions so that you can find the best for you. Additionally, the seats are well-padded and have padded backrests too.
As a fishing kayak, space is one of the more important considerations. Thankfully, this unit offers enough space to keep you comfortable and able to store your valuables and fishing accessories.
The stability of the Lifetime Tamarack makes it a perfect option for fishing too. Also, it boasts of a deep hull that flies through the water quickly and makes it easy to maneuver the kayak.
What do we love it for?
One of the best things we liked is that there are T handles at the front and back which make transportation easier. It is also a very durable kayak that will give years of service.
What were we disappointed with?
Well, the Lifetime Tamarack is only available in one color and can be a bit difficult to carry for long distances.
If you are in the market for a starter kayak that will cater to children, then this is the model you need. This boat has been specifically designed for children 5 years or above in age. It has a 130-pound weight capacity. Before you allow a child to use the kayak, make sure that you convey all the instructions and warnings as clearly as possible. The wide stance of the kayak provides a stable paddling platform so that your child is safe when paddling.
The kayak comes with a sloped back end, and a swim-up step so that the child does not find it difficult to re-enter the kayak. While creating this kayak, special care was taken to make it as secure for children as possible. The boat comes with scupper holes and an adjustable footrest so that the user can get comfortable. This kayak provides excellent stability so that the kids can enjoy recreational kayaking without any worries.
The kayak is lightweight and portable and can be carried from one place to another easily. The molded finger handles also make transportation easier. Crafted with high-density Polyethylene, the kayak is durable. Since the footrest is adjustable, the kayak can be used by multiple users.
What stands out?
We liked how sturdy and durable this kayak is. The twin fin design helps in tracking performance, and the reverse chine adds to the stability. Patented swim-up deck design is also great for beginners.
The Lifetime Tioga is a sit-on-top kayak that is best for anyone looking to get a kayak that is solidly constructed and that will help you to relax while on the water. It is a great fit for beginners as well. Overall, it is a great package that comes at an affordable price.
One of the best things that we loved about this kayak is its incredible stability. If this is your first time kayaking, you’ll need something that offers good stability. Well, that is what you get here. Besides stability, you also get plenty of comfort. The seats are quite comfortable, allowing you to have a good time on the water all day long.
Despite the size, the Lifetime Tioga is a lightweight unit that makes it easy for you to move from one spot to another.
While this model is not stuffed with features, those that exist are just right for the model and will be good for all users. They combine to give a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience.
Kayaking exposes your kayak to several destructive elements, and this model is made of high-quality parts. Therefore, you can rest assured that the unit will last for a relatively long time despite taking a beating from the elements.
Why are we impressed?
The kayak offers you a good spot to store your valuables while on the water. There is plenty of space. Also, we love that this is a durable unit.
What negatives must you be aware of?
If speed is a major consideration, then you might not like the slow Lifetime Tioga.
Recommended for: flat water, including coastal bays and beaches with light waves
Warranty: 5-year limited
More features: front and rear storage with tie-downs; center storage hatch; bow and stern toggle handles; drink holder; adjustable seatback; multiple footrest positions; UV, impact, and abrasion-resistance
The Perception Tribe 9.5 is on top of the list of kayaks that are built for comfort and ease-of-use. This model is great for all users, whether this is your first time or you have been kayaking for a while.
Perception is one of the biggest names in the industry and is responsible for several of the best kayaks on the market. The Perception Tribe 9.5 shows that the brand hasn’t rested on its oars but continues to look for ways to improve the product.
This model is the smallest out of the Tribe line of kayaks. Therefore, it doesn’t offer the same speed and weight-carrying ability as the bigger options. However, that doesn’t mean it is a poor kayak. On the contrary, this kayak has proved to be one of the best for smaller paddles and starters. It might not be great in a large body of water like the ocean, but it is more than adequate for other water bodies that aren’t so big and turbulent.
It has good stability, which is an important feature if you want to swim, dive, or fish.
Despite the smaller size, the deck is very balanced and can allow you to take your pet or kids along. There is also plenty of room to store your cooler and valuables in.
Why did it make our list?
We particularly loved the comfort and flexibility of the Perception Tribe 9.5. the seat is one of the best that we have tested. You can enjoy a full day on the water with minimal discomfort.
What is not ideal about it?
We did not like that the dry storage hatch isn’t watertight.
While the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame kayak is an inflatable model, it boasts of other parts that make it superior to many other inflatable models on the market. For instance, this unit is designed with aluminum ribs, a sturdy exterior, and a superior interior that offers comfort. The durability is one of the best things about this model, which is no surprise considering the manufacturer’s reputation.
The kayak is built for all types of users. It feels right at home in a lake and will also be great on a river. Due to the inflatable nature, this unit is easy to move around. If you want something that can be carried along without plenty of fuss, then this is perfect for you.
One of the features that people look out for when choosing a kayak is tracking. Our tests reveal that this is superb at tracking. Thus, you can get to wherever you are going without the need for constant adjustments.
Due to the design of the ribs, you have a kayak that navigates through the water quickly and on track. Therefore, it comes with a better speed than other inflatable kayaks.
What makes it stand out?
This model is designed with plenty of useful accessories. It is also one of the most durable inflatable kayaks that we have come across.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Well, getting water out of this kayak once it got in was a challenge, which is a con in our book.
One of the best two-person kayaks for beginners on the market, especially if you are looking for an inflatable design, this model has everything you would ever need in a kayak. The model has a rather sporty and fun vibe, and you will enjoy riding it on the water. It has a streamlined design that makes it easy for riders to paddle in the water. If you are someone who loves vibrant colors, then you will appreciate the exterior of this kayak. The bright yellow color and elaborate graphics make the kayak more easily visible in the water and also make it more attractive.
The kayak is perfect for going on a kayaking adventure with your best friend since it can fit two adults easily. The boat is ideal for lakes and mild rivers. You should not take it out on rough waters or the seas. Since the kayak is lightweight and compact, it can be carried from one place to another without any hassle. It takes seconds to assemble the kayak together. The rugged vinyl construction and inflatable I-beam floor add to the safety of the kayak, and you will feel more stable on the waters. The removable skeg helps in directional stability and the inflatable seats add to comfort.
What stands out?
This is one of the safest kayaks we've found. It's incredibly stable and comfortable, and its streamlined design allows for easy paddling.
What cons did we manage to find?
The air pump is not covered under warranty. Also, the paddles the kayak comes with could be of better quality.
This entry-level kayak will fulfill all your needs, and you will be left wanting of anything. One of the best inflatable kayaks for beginners, this model is both sturdy and efficient. Crafted with heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl, it will be durable. You can use it on mild waters and lakes without facing any trouble. There are two separate air chambers that allow the kayak to move smoothly on the water.
Equipped with boston valves that help in quick inflation and deflation, the kayak is easy to use. It comes with an inflatable I-beam floor that makes it rigid and stable.
This boat is nimble on the waters, and you can have a very smooth ride. Made with durable welded material, it will ensure that you are safe when you are on calm rivers. It is ideal for long rides and adventures. The cockpit is designed to provide you with as much space as possible so that you do not feel like you are confined.
You should feel free and fresh when you are on your kayak. The design on the body makes it eye-catching and attractive. The cargo net will allow you to keep all your extra gear safely. The inflatable seat comes with a backrest so that you can relax. Also, the boat comes with an 84-inch aluminum oar and a repair patch.
What are our favorite features?
As the Explorer K2 model above, this kayak is also U.S. Coast Guard I.D. – NMMA Certified and TUV approved, which means it is stable and safe on the water.
What could be better?
This kayak turned out to be not very durable. We would also not recommend using it on heavy waves.
We know that it can get difficult to narrow down the list from all the recommendations above. So, we have created a buying guide, just for you.
What type of kayak will be more comfortable for you if you just begin paddling?
As a beginner, your kayak should be easy to use. More importantly, it should be easy to control so that you do not run into any trouble on the waters. The kayak you choose should provide you with enough stability to allow you to learn. At the same time, it should be comfortable and forgiving of your mistakes when you are just learning. The kayak should be strong enough to withstand the bumps during the learning period. The right kayak for you will also depend on how you are planning to use it.
Recreational or touring?
Recreational kayaks are made with polyethylene most often. They are about 10 to 12 feet long and rather wide at the cockpit. These kayaks are perfect for beginners who want to paddle mostly on lakes and slow-moving water bodies. Recreational kayaks also happen to be cheaper as compared to touring kayaks.
It cannot be denied that touring kayaks are a step up from recreational kayaks. They are longer, faster and more slender. You can take them out on seas and calm oceans as well. These kayaks come with features which will aid you on your kayaking adventures.
You have to choose the ideal type for you based on where and how you will use the kayak.
Sit-in or sit-on-top?
Sit-on-top kayaks are great for beginners because they can be accessed more easily. They allow you to move in and out of the kayak easily. These boats are also designed as self-bailing, which means that they are able to drive out water from the vehicle on their own. This prevents flooding. They give you a better view of the water as well, which means that you have a clearer idea of where you are heading. Sit-in kayaks, on the other hand, are cheaper and will keep you warm on cold days. They have a spray skirt so that the paddler remains dry. However, sit-in kayaks are not ideal if you do not love being enclosed in a space.
Solo or tandem?
Solo kayaks give you a certain degree of freedom and flexibility. You are in control of the ride and the pace. This means that you will not have to abide by anyone else’s rules. Moreover, having a tandem kayak without a stable partner causes problems because you will be uncomfortable every time you go out. If you have a stable companion with whom you will go kayaking for sure, then a tandem kayak is the way to go.
If you are not sure, then you can also go for a conversion kayak with removable seats. This will allow you to change your solo kayak into a tandem kayak when necessary.
Where are you going to paddle?
One of the most crucial determinants of the perfect kayak for beginners is the water body in which they will kayak. You can go kayaking in a lake or a pond if you do not want to be adventurous. On the other hand, white waters are the place to be if you want that adrenaline rush. You can also kayak on the open waters of the sea and the ocean if your kayak can handle the pressure.
Important features to consider before making a purchase
Before you make an investment, these are the features that you should take into consideration.
Kayak dimensions and weight
If you want your kayak to be portable because your kayaking spots are far away from home, then you should opt for a kayak will smaller dimensions. Beginners who cannot store a kayak at their houses often opt for inflatable kayaks. On the other hand, if you do not have storage problems, you can buy a kayak of any type and any size you want.
Kayak weight capacity
Investing in a kayak that cannot even hold everything you need would be a foolhardy decision. You need to make sure that the kayak has enough weight capacity to accommodate you and your gear. If you want to be sure, you should sum up the total weight and then choose a kayak that has more weight capacity than that. It is always better to keep a margin so the kayak is stable at all times.
If you want your kayaking experience to be good, then it is important that you are comfortable during the trip. You will not be able to enjoy if you feel cramped and uneasy. Having adjustable seats is a big plus because you will be able to adjust it according to your wishes. Some kayaks come with cushioned and padded seats along with backrests so that you can take them out for the whole day. Adjustable footrests also contribute to your comfort.
A kayak is not a lightweight investment. It should last you for a long time considering the amount of money you are paying for it. Companies which have faith in the quality of their products will be willing to provide you with a warranty. Having a warranty on your kayak will also keep you from getting too worried when you set out with the kayak for the first time. Some companies offer a lifelong limited warranty while others give a warranty for 5 or 10 years.
Tips for beginner kayakers
You should dress depending on the nature of the water that you will be kayaking on.
Investing in waterproof storage cases is a good idea because you will be able to keep your gadgets and wallet dry.
If you are planning to go down white waters, you should read up on rapid safety practices instead of going unprepared.
Before you actually buy a kayak, you should rent a kayak just to get a feel of it; this will also help you determine what kind of kayak you want.
Learn simple signals related to kayaking so you can communicate with others on the water.
If you are not comfortable carrying your phone for GPS, take a physical map along.
Always check the weather forecast for rain before you set out.
The kayaks we have recommended are stable, and you need not have any fear of them overturning at any point. They are designed to prevent paddlers from accidentally falling into the water. If you use a kayak in the recommended conditions, it is unlikely that the kayak will fall apart. The stability of a kayak refers to its ability to resist tipping.
The kayaks that we love can remain upright even under adverse conditions. You should make sure that you take out the kayak, inappropriate places. A kayak that is made for lakes especially will not survive in oceans.
When you are going on a kayak trip, you need to carry the necessities with you. Carry a paddle and a spare if you can. You should also have a spray skirt if you live in a cold region. If you want to keep your personal items from getting wet, you should carry them in a dry bag. If you are going out for the day, you should carry spare clothes and food in dry boxes.
Always have a headlamp with you just in case you are out after dark. A signaling whistle can also prove to be very helpful. Make sure that your kayak has a bilge pump and a lightweight tent for emergencies.
Yes, kayaks can be used on both lakes and oceans. However, you need to be careful about the fact that you cannot always use the same kayak on both the waters. It is not safe to use a lake kayak in the open ocean. The maker did not protect the kayak against the elements of the ocean, so it will break down easily.
On the other hand, you will be able to use an ocean kayak on the lake because you will get additional protection. A kayak that is built to keep you safe in the dangerous conditions of an ocean will serve the same way on a lake, but the vice versa is not true.
Safety should be your priority, and you should buy a kayak that has a high weight capacity. Remember that you will also be keeping requirement on the kayak, so add the total weight and then compare different kayaks. You should invest in a kayak that has a spacious cockpit where you will not feel cramped.
Traditionally, kayaks were made of wood. However, now we have access to more modern materials which are more durable and sturdy.
Kayaks made with “fibreglass,” a resistant material, are known as composites. They are easy to repair. Rotomolded kayaks have also become fairly popular because of their resilience on the waters. However, they need to have separate sun protection, or they can get damaged by the UV rays. Inflatable kayaks are rapidly becoming a popular choice because of their compact design. They are made with strong poly-fabrics so they can be durable.
All the above-mentioned products are excellent, and you can choose any of them if you just want to have a good time. We stand by all our recommendations.
However, we do have some favorites that we would like to mention.
The Pelican Sentinel 100X is a sit-on-top kayak that is perfect for beginners who want to experiment. You can take it out on lakes, rivers, and even coastal waters. It comes with proper storage areas and an ergonomic seat that will make the journey very enjoyable.
The Intex Dakota K2 is a tandem sit-on-top kayak that is perfect for two people. If you want to share your experience with a friend, then this is the perfect product for you. Intex is known for its well-designed products, and this model is no exception. It is portable and powerful.
You will also love the Pelican Maxim 100X sit-in kayak, which comes with a padded seat and ample storage space. It is versatile and can be taken out on all kinds of waters.