Kayak Buying Guide

A kayaking getaway in the great outdoors is a great way to create lasting family memories. This kayak buying guide covers the bases to help you find the right kayak for your next adventure.

Kayaks 101

A kayak lets you explore calm water and peaceful scenery, enjoy a vigorous workout on the lake or have a fun sightseeing experience with the kids. In choosing a kayak, you should consider a range of factors, including the type of kayaking you intend to do, where you're going, and the time of the year. There are several different types of kayaks, each intended for specific uses. For example, recreational kayaks are designed for paddling on flat water, while white water kayaks are made to run rapids. It's important to get the type of kayak that's right for you, and with a bit of research you’ll soon be paddling your way to a new favourite pastime. 

Types of Kayaks


Recreational Kayaks

If you're new to the sport then a recreational kayak is a good place to start. These kayaks are intended for use in flat water environments, including lakes, ponds and slow-moving rivers and creeks. This makes them a good fit for beginners, and a great way to get a low-intensity workout. A few more pluses for the novice: recreational kayaks typically have high initial stability and large cockpits for easy entry and exit. In general, they're 10 feet to 12 feet in length and well-suited to fishing, photography and casual paddling in calm waters.

Touring Kayaks

Touring kayaks are a good option for longer trips and rougher waters. They’re a few feet longer than recreational kayaks, which makes for greater speeds and more space for storage in the bulkhead. Touring kayaks also have rounded bottoms for increased lift in choppy or wavy water, and some models come fitted with a rudder or skeg to help you steer.

Inflatable Kayaks

If you don’t have room to store or transport a traditional kayak, choose an inflatable model. They’re a little less sleek, but they turn on a dime and are more buoyant than traditional kayaks. Most models are made from durable materials that make them suitable for all types of kayaking adventures, including running rapids. Some models also have rigid frames or stiffening bars running the length of the floor panel to aid performance.

Kayak Safety Tips:

• Always check weather conditions and water temperatures before setting out, especially if you’re paddling in a new area
• Prepare for changes in weather or accidental capsizes by wearing a wet suit or dry suit to stay warm and comfortable
• Compared to sit-on kayaks, sit-in kayaks offer better protection from the elements
• Always follow the local safety rules and regulations for boaters
• Do not exceed the weight capacity of your kayak
• Always check your kayak for wear and tear before going out for a paddle
• If you are new to the sport, take some lessons to learn proper techniques, water safety and even basic first aid
• Always wear a personal flotation device that's specifically designed for kayaking
• Always tell someone your paddle plan, including where you’re going, what you’ll be doing, how long you’ll be gone and how many people are in your party
• Always wear a helmet
• Always bring plenty of water and food for your outing

Kayak Features

Sit-On-Top Kayaks +

The sit-on-top design keeps you on top of the boat. It’s a popular seating style if you don’t know how to do a kayak roll or safely exit a sit-in kayak. It's also practical for activities such as fishing and diving. In addition, sit-on-top kayaks are a good fit for people with mobility or flexibility concerns and those who feel confined by the cockpit-style seating of sit-in kayaks. Another benefit of many sit-on-top kayaks is they're self-bailing, meaning water that comes in over the top drains out the bottom.

Sit-In Kayaks +

Sit-in kayaks feature cockpit-style seating that encloses most of your body inside the boat. This design provides good protection from the elements as well as from water spray. Cockpit seating also allows you to control the boat using your body. The size of the cockpit will depend on the type of boat. For example, recreational kayaks have relatively large cockpits for easy entry and exit, while sea kayaks and white water kayaks have snug-fitting cockpits to keep out water and prevent you from falling out in rough conditions.

Single or Tandem Kayaks +

Most kayaks are made for solo riders, but kayaking can be great fun with a partner or friend. Tandem kayaks seat a second rider behind the first: there’s more weight, but with two sets of arms you can still go faster. From a storage standpoint they’re a little longer than a solo model, but one kayak takes up a lot less garage space than two.

Initial Stability +

Stability refers to how well a boat stays upright in the water. Initial stability, also known as primary stability, is a measure of a boat's stability when it's at rest.

Secondary Stability +

Secondary stability refers to the stability of a boat when it's moving. Good secondary stability helps keep the kayak upright when traveling through rougher water.

Storage Hatches +

Some kayaks are equipped with storage hatches for stowing clothes, food, tackle and other items. Touring kayaks have enclosed storage areas at one or both ends. Some hatches seal airtight so that, in the event the kayak capsizes, the sealed hatch provides additional buoyancy. Hatch lids are made of plastic, neoprene or rubber.

Fishing Rigging +

Some kayaks come rigged for angling. Examples of fishing rigging available on fishing-specific kayaks include rod holders, cargo nets, cooler holders and even built-in tackle boxes.

Cockpit +

When sitting in the cockpit of your kayak, your contact points with the boat should be your feet, thighs, buttocks and lower back. Each of these points should feel comfortable and provide support. If you fit snugly you’ll be able to manoeuvre the kayak more effectively and keep it upright. Larger cockpits are easy to get in and out of and have more room for storage.

Material +

Traditional kayaks are made from a range of materials, including plastic, fibreglass, Kevlar and carbon. Polyethylene plastic, which is inexpensive, recyclable and extremely impact resistant, is the most popular material in use. Fibreglass is lighter and more rigid than plastic but cracks more easily and can’t be recycled. Kevlar and carbon fibre are extremely light but more expensive. Most inflatable kayaks are made from PVC-coated polyester.

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Kayak Maintenance Tips:

• Use mild soap and water to wash your kayak
• After use, especially in water that's dirty or polluted or in salt water, rinse the boat and hardware thoroughly to keep all moving parts operating smoothly
• Check hatch covers, cables, buckles, straps and other moving parts for wear and replace as needed
• Make sure all nuts and bolts are tight and check hardware exit holes for leaks or improper seals
• Check the hull and deck thoroughly once a year
• Avoid dragging the boat across rough surfaces
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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