Kayak Buying Guide – Buying Your First Kayak

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Introduction

Are you new to kayaking?

We know how daunting it can be to try something new. That’s why we created this guide for your first time out on the water. You’ll learn a lot about what you need to know about kayaks, including what type of kayak is best suited for beginners and which accessories are a must-have. Plus, we have some helpful tips that will make sure your experience is as smooth as possible.

So whether you’re looking to get into kayaking or want to brush up on your skills before hitting the water, this guide has the information you need! And if there are any questions left unanswered after reading through it, we’d love to hear from you, so this guide can be updated and made even more helpful.

How to Choose a Kayak

While there are many different kayaks to choose from, these key considerations will help you narrow down the process and find the perfect boat for your needs:

Weight Carrying Capacity: Especially if you plan more than a simple day trip, the weight capacity is important. Add up your boat, your equipment and gear, and you. If it’s less than the stated carrying capacity for your kayak, you’re good to go. Too much weight, and your boat will sit low in the water, making paddling inefficient. It’s worth noting that some kayaks need enough weight to make them sit lower in the water to improve their stability.

Length: A longer boat is likely to be faster and travels more efficiently, making them ideal for multi-day trips. Being larger means they also have more storage capacity. A shorter kayak is more maneuverable and a whole bunch easier to transport on your vehicle’s roof rack system. 

Hatches: Decide how many you need. Some bigger touring kayaks have two or more, while day boats and a few recreational boats usually have one (or even none). More or larger hatches make it easier to pack but different places for water to leak in.

Beam (Width): Wider hulls offer more initial stability, while narrower hulls can go faster. 

Depth: Deeper hulls offer more room for long-legged kayakers, plus a little more storage. Shallower hulls are less likely to get stuck in shallow water.

Material: Plastic kayaks are lighter, more durable, and less expensive than Kevlar/fiberglass composites, but they tend to be slower. Composite materials are more robust and allow for lightweight designs.

Paddles: A kayak’s paddle will vary in length depending on your height. Generally, a longer paddle is better for touring, while shorter paddles are designed for racing.

Where Will You Use Your Kayak?

Lakes:

Water temperature

Seasonal water temperatures will dictate what type of paddling you choose. Warmer temperatures, for example, mean that you should try to take it slow and easy. Cold lakes mean you need to wear a wool sweater if you are just going on a short paddle to conserve heat.

Weather conditions

Lake storms can be much more intense than ocean storms, so prepare accordingly with the right gear and safety precautions.

Coasts: 

The first few things you should consider when kayaking along the coastline are where wind, waves, currents, tides all come into play. You also need to think about what type of access you will have to shore and how easy it will be to get out of the water if something goes wrong.

But before we dive into these factors, there are a few universal things for all coast side kayaking. You’ll want to wear rugged clothing that provides warmth in poor conditions. A wool sweater can be used in cold weather, while a life jacket is essential when you are on the water. It’s also important to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from saltwater.

Rivers:

Large Rivers

Currents

The river’s current will be determined by the size of the river, but as a general rule, stronger currents require more effort to paddle against.

Gradient

The gradient is the pitch or steepness of the river and plays a huge role in how easy it is to propel your kayak upstream.

Wind

The wind can come into play on any waterway, and with rivers, this can dramatically affect currents and waves up and downriver. Take care to assess these conditions before paddling downstream—or if you’ve gone downriver too far, evaluate them before paddling back up.

Small Rivers

Since small rivers tend to be narrower and shallower, they pose different challenges than large rivers. The most significant difference between the two is that small rivers typically don’t have much current, while larger rivers should be approached with caution and experience.

Rivers and lakes: 

If you plan to use your boat in both flowing and still waters, go with a short recreational sit-in or sit-on-top kayak. These crossovers typically have the setup for responsiveness when turned up (with its aid) as well as tracking efficiency downriver without paddling too much as most other longer boats would require due to just their length alone! A rudder may also be available depending on what type of kayak it is. Still, if possible, I recommend going that route because they’re great at turning quickly while maintaining control over direction regardless of how fast things might get choppy from time spent near shallow water.

Safety Tips for when you are using your Kayak

1. Be Respectful

The environment around you is home to many living things, so make sure that you respect them and their habitats. Habitat degradation is a significant problem in the world today, and a lot of times, this is a result of ignorance or carelessness on the part of humans.

2. Stay Prepared

Always be sure to have what you need for any potential situation when out on the water. This includes food, water, an emergency paddle, a first aid kit, warm clothes, a life jacket/personal flotation device (PFD), sunglasses, and more.

3. Take Precautions

Know your limits! If certain conditions seem too dangerous for you to handle, don’t be afraid to turn back. You should paddle safely and get back to the shore, then continue on your journey only to get into serious trouble out in the water.

4. Stay Aware of your Surroundings

Always be aware of your surroundings and watch for any potential hazards such as rocks, logs, large boats, and others using the water. If you happen to get too close and feel something touch your craft, make sure you stop immediately and assess the situation. If you’re sea kayaking, it could be a large animal such as a dolphin or sea turtle!

5. Be Aware of Other People using the Waterway

There will often be other vessels like motorboats and sailboats on the water, which you need to be aware of and any obstacles that they might potentially create. You must take the proper precautions and give them lots of space, especially on narrow waterways where passing can be more difficult!

6. Always let someone know your plans.

Before heading out, let someone know where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. Make sure you contact them when you’re safely back onshore. Doing this will help rescuers if needed and avoid unnecessary work for rescuers if not required.

7. Mobile phone in a dry sack or waterproof cover.

More often than not, you’ll be able to contact emergency services, but if there’s no reception for your phone, then don’t forget 6 above.

Types of Kayaks

There are many kayaks, so it can be complicated to pick the right one for your needs. There are some factors that you have to take into consideration before you buy a kayak.

Recreational Kayaks

Recreational or cottage kayaks are the most popular kayak in the kayaking world. They are mainly used for leisure activities, but they can also be used for fishing, hunting, and even birding.

Touring or Sea Kayak

Touring kayaks are typically longer than recreational kayaks, and they get their name from their ability to go on long journeys without getting too tired.

This is a kayak perfect for longer trips and expeditions. These boats are often designed with the following specifications in mind: high volume, low frontal area, full spray skirts (often with integral hatches), and a rudder. Sea kayaks are designed for ocean touring in large waves and rough water with high-speed boats. Sea kayaks are generally long and narrow so that they can cut through waves more easily. They also typically have a rudder which makes them easier to turn compared to other types of kayaks.

Sit-on-top Vs. Traditional Sit-in Kayaks

If you find yourself in the market for a kayak, you’ll notice that most of them have two different cockpits: sit-on-top and sit-in. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types, which we will go over below.

Sit-In Kayaks

They are typically more stable, safe, and comfortable. Many include a spray skirt that helps you keep dry and, in colder water, it helps keep you warmer. I find the main downside to a sit-in kayak is that it can be challenging to get back into them if you capsize.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

If you do not have a lot of experience kayaking, sit-on-top kayaks are the best option because they are easier to control and more stable. But if you need someplace to store your stuff, you’ll need to invest in some dry sacs or barrels.

If you plan to fish from your kayak, there’s an ever-increasing range of sit-on kayaks with specific features to help.

Specialist kayaks for your trips and activities

Folding kayaks

Folding kayaks are explicitly created for the task of transporting them in your vehicle. They come in many different sizes and can be used in many different conditions. This type of kayak is perfect for when you’re on the go or need to store it away in a tight space like when travelling. In my experience, the downside to folding kayaks is that they are not as maneuverable as other types of kayaks and can be harder to paddle. But then again, some people swear by them. See if you can try one out before buying. They also have little storage space, so dry sacs and barrels might be an additional cost to consider.

Inflatable kayaks

An inflatable kayak is a type of kayak that is made out of an inflatable material. The main advantage to this type of boat is that it is lightweight, small, easy to store away, and convenient for travelling. They are also less expensive than other types of kayaks, but their downside is that they are not as durable or stable when being used in the water.

Invest in a good pump or have a spectacularly good set of lungs.

Tandem kayaks

Tandem kayaks are used when two or more people want to go out kayaking at the same time. These boats are usually equipped with seats for two persons, but not always. Some tandem kayaks have one seat in front of the other instead, much like a canoe. The main advantage of a tandem kayak is that they are great for teaching children how to kayak. The downside is that they cannot carry much cargo, so this may not be a good option if you plan on fishing or hunting while kayaking.

Unless you understand how to paddle a tandem kayak, you might also want to consider the issue of “Tandem Kayaks and Divorce.”

Pedal-powered kayaks

Pedal-powered kayaks are a type of kayak that is propelled by pedals. The main advantage of this type of boat is that it is an excellent workout while on the water. You can get a great upper body workout, and they do not require much effort or energy when paddling. Another advantage to pedal-powered kayaks is that they are easy to control and maneuver, making them great for beginners and children. But there are some disadvantages to these kayaks: They need more maintenance than other types, they can be challenging to travel with because they do not fold up or come apart, and they cost more than traditional hard-shell kayaks.

Just a Few of the Different Types of Materials Used to Build Kayaks

Materials

There are five materials typically used to make kayaks. Which type your boat is created with will affect its weight, cost, and durability.

Polyethylene

This material is lightweight and easy to repair if the boat becomes damaged. The downside is that it doesn’t stand up well in extreme weather conditions like sun or high winds.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass kayaks are lightweight and robust; they do not need much maintenance and easily handle most weather conditions. The downside to fiberglass boats is that they are more expensive than other types and not as durable since they can crack easily under an impact. A repair can be tricky.

Wooden kayaks

Wooden kayaks are constructed out of various types of wood, including cedar and mahogany. Wooden kayaks are stylish and give the user a sense of feeling close to nature while on the water. You will be the talk of the lake or river. The big downside is that wooden boats require more maintenance than other types because they need to be refinished every few years.

Hybrid kayaks

These kayaks are a combination of more than one type of material, such as fiberglass and wood, or aluminum and plastic. They tend to be lightweight but can also be expensive sometimes. One upside is that they don’t need as much maintenance as fiberglass boats do.

Aluminum kayaks

This material is excellent for those types of water with rocks or sand because it can handle the impact of these elements without being damaged. Aluminum is also a cheap and robust material that is lightweight, but there are some downsides to this type of boat: They tend to be very cold in the wintertime, leak, and be noisy.

Weight

Kayaks come in all different sizes and weights, and it is important to know your weight limit before deciding which type of boat to purchase. If you are a larger person or will be carrying multiple people on the kayak, it may be best for you to go with a longer boat; the more room on the kayak, the more you can carry. If you are a smaller person, it is best to buy a shorter kayak because they are lighter and easier to maneuver.

How to Store a Kayak for the Winter

To store your kayak for the winter, it is important to fully dry out the inside and outside of the boat with a rag. This will help prevent any mold growth in your kayak over the winter months. Also, make sure to keep your boat in a dry, safe place during this time of year. If you are not using your boat at all, it is best to deflate the air chambers and store them with the kayak.

It is important to keep in mind that where the water goes, salt will eventually follow; if you live near an ocean or sea, wash off your kayak after every use (or at least once a season) to ensure that your boat will last as long as possible.

What to think about when it comes to the kayaks weight

If you will be paddling alone in a kayak and carrying any cargo, then the boat’s length is not as important. If you are looking to buy a kayak that will carry more than one person or any cargo, make sure to consider the weight limit. If you get a heavier kayak, it may take more energy and effort when paddling. It is important to know the weight limit before buying your boat; this will be listed in the product description of your kayak.

What to consider when it comes to the price of your kayak

Just like with any major purchase, it’s important to know what you can afford before buying your kayak. If you are on a tight budget, there are plenty of affordable options for you to choose from. If you are looking for something more expensive, then read the reviews and do some research on the product to make sure it’s worth the cost.

Here are some considerations when it comes to price:

-What is your budget?

-What features do you want or need?

-Is this type of kayak easy for beginners?

-How often will you be using your boat?

-What type of water will you be in?

-What size is comfortable for you?

-Where is the best place to buy your kayak?

The most important thing to know about buying a kayak is where to purchase it. Many different stores, websites, and manufacturers sell these boats, so it can be challenging to know which one is the best. Here are some things to think about when considering where you want to buy your kayak:

-How much will it cost?

-What type of warranty does the manufacturer/store offer?

-What do other people say about this store or manufacturer? This is important because you want to make sure that the store offers a good product and service.

-Which type of kayak do I need?

There are many different kayaks out there for all other occasions, such as fishing or surfing, so it is essential to know what type you will be using before buying.

Additional Kayak Considerations

We’ve already mentioned weight carrying capacity and kayak length as being essential points to consider. Here are a few more.

Depth

If you are in a shallow area, then a kayak with a small depth might be easier for you—the best thing to gauge the water you plan on being in before purchasing your kayak. If you are in less than three feet of water, it would be best that the boat only has a foot or two of space from the bottom. If that is not enough, you can add floaties or use a paddle float to get back to shore.

Width

It is also important to think about the width of your kayak. If you are looking for a speedy boat, it might be better to get a narrower boat that will allow you to cover more distance quickly. If you want a boat that will be less tippy, you should look at one wider.

Skegs, tracking fins, and rudders: These accessories help a boat track straighter in the wind and keep it from drifting.

A skeg 

The skeg is a blunt keel that projects under the boat, stabilizing and preventing leeway (sideways drift) due to wind. The skeg usually extends 2/3 of the way aft under the boat. Skegs are typically removable, but permanent skeg designs exist as well.

A tracking fin 

A tracking fin is a keel that improves straight-line tracking in waves and wind. It is usually made of rubber or plastic and attaches to the hull near the stern. The fin’s leading edge moves through the water, pushing aside any waves that would otherwise cause a boat to deviate from its course.

A rudder

Rudders are used to help the kayak go in a straight line when there is wind, waves, or currents.

Seats

Take into account the following factors when choosing a kayak seat: 

-Your body type and size. Do you have long legs, short ones, or wide shoulders? What about Thoracic spine (neck) height versus Lumbar sag angle – all of these will affect which fit is best for your shape! You’ll want to find something that fits nicely around both parts of this equation in order not only to be comfortable but also safe while paddling since most seats can’t absorb impacts if there’s anything wrong with its design, so choose wisely!. Important things like budget should come last because it doesn’t make sense whatsoever spending more money than needed just because we love gear, right!? 

Cockpit size:

The cockpit is the hole in the front of your kayak where you insert your legs. You want to make sure that it is not too narrow or too wide, and that it will provide a good range of motion for your legs while paddling. Cockpit size can also vary between different types of kayaks.

Cockpit size isn’t a concern with sit on kayaks

Hatches

Kayak hatches are openings in the deck of a kayak, usually near the center of the boat. The hatches provide storage space for things you take on your kayak or for an emergency kit. You will want to check how easy it is to access the hatch while you’re sitting in your kayak before purchasing it. This can be determined by trying to reach up and over the side of the hatch without having to strain your back or twist your wrists.

Here are a Few Tips for Taking Care of your Kayak

1. Take care of your seat: 

The seat is the part of the kayak where you put your butt and legs. You want to make sure that it is not too narrow or too wide, and that it has a good range of motion for your legs while paddling. The seat can also vary in size between different types of kayaks.

2. Remember to clean the boat thoroughly after every use, both inside and out! Use bleach or other cleaners designed specifically for marine environments if possible.

3. When transporting, always store the thing upside down, so water doesn’t get in through any openings in the hull when it’s turned the wrong way up.

4. It is also important to store items securely while transporting to avoid them sliding around inside the boat.

5. Rinse off any mud or dirt before you get in your kayak after a trip, and check for any damage like cracks, punctures, tears, etc.!

6. Lastly, lightly spray your new kayak with water about once every other week to prevent mold growth.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve read this article, hopefully, you feel more confident in your ability to make an informed decision about the best kayak for yourself.

Visit a few stores and ask questions. With the help of this guide, you should know if they know what they’re talking about.

See if the store will let you try before you buy. Specialist stores usually have this option, especially when buying more than just a cottage kayak. Renting is also a good option as it gives you more time to find out what works for you.

So what are you waiting for? Get on down to the nearest store and find a new kayak today!

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