Best Recreational Kayaks

Share this post

A recreational kayak is one of the most popular kayaks out there. In fact, they consist of the largest segment in kayak sales. This isn’t surprising at all. A lot of veteran kayakers started off kayaking with a recreational kayak. And if you are new to kayaking, chances are your first kayak would be a recreational kayak too. 

It’s easy to guess why. 

Recreational kayaks are the best choice for beginners. Designed for casual or leisure paddling at the lakes, they are very stable and easy to handle. It’s perfect for people who are just getting into kayaking and want to learn the basics first. 

There are many options when it comes to choosing a recreational kayak. If you have never paddled before, you may be wondering what type of recreational kayak is right for you. We have compiled a list of the top 6 recreational kayaks on the market.

But before that, let’s go through what makes a good recreational kayak first;

Table of Contents

How To Choose The Best Recreational Kayak

 

One of the key aspects of a recreational kayak is its versatility. It can be used for various purposes. Therefore, the best boat will ultimately be a matter of personal preference. That’s why, we put together a simple guide on how to choose the ideal kayak for yourself. 

The Type of Kayak: Sit-In VS Sit-On-Top

The first thing that you need to consider is whether you want a sit-in or a sit-on-top type of kayak. Hence, we’ll briefly discuss the unique selling point of each type.

A sit-in type like a canoe is generally more stable due to its lower center of gravity. Furthermore, sitting in the kayak will protect you from the chilly wind. Topped with a spray skirt, it helps to keep you dry as well. Hence, this is the best type if you’re paddling during the cold season too. 

A sit-on-top type is like a raft. Hopping in and out of it is very easy since the deck does not get in the way. And if you like comfort, some sit-on-top kayak has elevated seats. Some are exceptionally stable that you can even stand on it too while paddling.   

The Kayak Performance On The Water

A boat’s performance on the water is highly based on its shape and size. A wide boat is more stable, but that makes it slower as well. For beginner, we generally advise to ignore speed. Stability is the main priority for beginners. 

Another aspect that affects performance is the shape of the hull. A flat hull is more stable, but again it’ll decrease the speed. A V-shaped hull has better tracking capability as the v-shape cut through the water in a straight line. 

If you still like to have better performance on the water, you can consider looking out for features such as tracking fin, skeg or rudder. Those can help to provide better trackability.

Inflatable Or Hard Shell Kayak?

The convenience that an inflatable kayak can offer is truly irresistible. You can easily carry it around and fit it into your car.  No need to drag a bulky kayak around. Plus, you don’t need to buy a kayak rack to transport inflatable kayaks. 

But the downside of an inflatable kayak is they are generally less durable. Many buyers commented that their inflatable kayak lasted for a year or two only before cracks started to appear.  

On the other hand, a hard shell kayak can last you for many years to come. As long as you treat it with tender loving care while transporting. 

Other Matters To Consider

Lastly, consider how will you be kayaking in general. Whether you’re planning to go fishing with it or paddling together with a buddy. If you’re an angler, having some fishing features built-in would definitely be a plus point. 

The same goes if you plan to paddle with a partner. Might as well get a tandem kayak that allows solo or tandem paddling. 

The Top 6 Recreational Kayak

After reviewing various different types of recreational kayaks, these are our top 6 recommendations:

Wilderness System Pungo 120 Specs:

Length: 12’2″

Width: 29″

Max Capacity: 325 lbs

Weight: 49 lbs

The latest Pungo from Wilderness System truly does not disappoint. Wilderness System carried forward the winning factors from the older Pungo models. So, expect to see their patented Phase 3 AirPro seat, SlideTrax to mount your accessories and adjustable footrests. 

This time around, they boast an innovative kayak dashboard in front of the pilot’s seat. It is a removable piece, yet offers a lot of room for customization on it. That includes a detachable dry box, cup holders and a mounting platform. You definitely won’t feel lacking when paddling with the Pungo for sure.  

However, this compact kayak is rather small. So, it’s not recommended for big-sized paddlers. For bigger paddlers who like Pungo’s amazing features, there’s the larger-sized Pungo 125 instead. 

Pro

  • Rich in features
  • Lots of room for customization
  • Has the potential for very versatile use

Con

  • Difficult to reach the rear hatch while on water
  • Not recommended for big-sized paddlers

 

PROS

CONS

  • Rich in features
  • Lots of room for customization
  • Has the potential for very versatile use

 

  • Difficult to reach the rear hatch while on water
  • Not recommended for big-sized paddlers

 

Sevylor Coleman Colorado Specs:

Length: 10’9″

Width: 39″

Max Capacity: 470 lbs

Weight: 41 lbs

This Coleman Colorado from Sevylor is the kayak to get if you want an inflatable kayak or if you want to paddle with a partner. Furthermore, this is also a fishing kayak. So, you’ll find some neat fishing features built-in such as rod holders, storage pockets and D-rings for attaching items. 

We really love this kayak because of its flexibility.

When you’re still unsure how to enjoy kayaking, this is a great start. Low investment since you don’t need to get additional kayak racks or trolleys. Multipurpose since you can go fishing, day touring or even just exploring a lake. Plus, you can do all those with a partner too. 

But from our experience, and many others as well, the rod holders’ positions were poorly designed. For small-sized paddlers, you’ll find yourself hitting the rod holder frequently while paddling. Some people resort to removing it entirely. Especially those who have zero plans to go fishing with it. 

Pros

  • Very convenient to carry & transport
  • Can be equipped with a trolling motor
  • Very versatile

Cons

  • The rod holder gets in the way when paddling
  • No dry storage

 

PROS

CONS

  • Very convenient to carry & transport
  • Can be equipped with a trolling motor
  • Very versatile

 

  • The rod holder gets in the way when paddling
  • No dry storage

 

Perception Outlaw 11.5 Specs:

Length: 11’6″

Width: 35″

Max Capacity: 425 lbs

Weight: 77 lbs

Similarly to the Pungo, the Outlaw is an established series from Perception Kayak. It has a large fanbase already owing to its amazing performance. 

If you are an angler, or if you have any plans to go fishing at all, this is hands down the boat to get. Made with anglers in mind, this kayak is highly rigged for fishing.

A transducer scupper, solo mount recess, double barrel rod holders and a pair of accessories rail that doubles as a side handle. Those are just some of its basic features for fishing and it doesn’t end there.

Many people praise its amazing seat design, and we find it truly impressive too. The seat has a suspended design, making it really comfortable. But the best part is, that it can be folded and stowed away. Thus, transforming the kayak into a wide deck like a stand-up paddleboard. 

So, at any time on the water, you can alternate between standing and sitting. 

Pros

  • Highly rigged for fishing
  • Can double up as a stand-up paddleboard

Cons

 

  • No dry storage

PROS

CONS

  • Highly rigged for fishing
  • Can double up as a stand-up paddleboard

  • No dry storage

Intex Excursion Pro Specs:

Length: 12’6″

Width: 32″

Max Capacity: 400 lbs

Weight: 46 lbs

The Intex Excursion Pro is another inflatable kayak in this review. Similarly to the Coleman Colorado, this is also a 2 person fishing kayak.  

What we like about this kayak is it’s being sold in a complete package. You’ll get a pump, a pressure gauge and even a pair of paddles. Practically nearly everything a new kayak owner needs to hit the waters. The only thing left is to get a life jacket. 

[Also read: our detailed guide on life jackets if you need some pointers about life jackets]

Like most inflatable kayaks, the Excursion Pro inflates and deflates within 10 minutes. It’s really easy to set it up. 

Most inflatable kayak has poor performance. Intex overcomes this by providing a detachable skeg and fins. So, those help to improve the performance of this kayak. Note that it’s still not able to handle rougher waters. 

The most annoying downside of this kayak is its non-standard valve. It’ll only work with Intex’s included pump. This generally isn’t an issue for first-time buyers. Only seasoned paddlers with their favourite air pump may find this annoying.   

Pros

  • Has detachable skegs & fins
  • Comes in a complete package

Cons

 

  • The valve only works with Intex’s pump

PROS

CONS

  • Has detachable skegs & fins
  • Comes in a complete package
  • The valve only works with Intex’s pump

Ocean Kayak Malibu Specs:

Length: 12′

Width: 34″

Max Capacity: 425 lbs

Weight: 63 lbs

Don’t like inflatable kayaks? Presenting, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 – a hard shell tandem kayak. This a very simple-designed boat can comfortably fit 2 adult paddlers. 

It doesn’t come with the bells and whistles you’d typically find on specialized kayaks. But this kayak is still plenty for beginners. It’s very stable and good to use even for veterans as long as your requirements are low.     

This kayak is very durable. We know people who have been using their Malibu 2 for more than 10 years. And it’s still going strong. Many commented that they’ve been paddling with their kids. And that the multiple footrests help their kids to grow with the boat.  

The main complaint about this kayak is the storage space. Many other users brought up this issue as well. The space in the rear is too small and oddly shaped. There are straps included but they aren’t very helpful (too short to hold anything). 

If space is really a concern, fret not. You can still opt for 3 additional hatches which will cost you roughly $60 each. 

Pros

  • Very durable kayak
  • Very stable even with 2 person

Cons

 

  • Lack of default storage space

PROS

CONS

  • Very durable kayak
  • Very stable even with 2 person

  • Lack of default storage space

Pelican Maxim 100X Specs:

Length: 10′

Width: 28″

Max Capacity: 275 lbs

Weight: 36 lbs

The Maxim 100X from Pelican is another popular sit-in kayak for solo paddlers. It has a lot of basic features. But most importantly, those features are done right. 

Firstly, it’s very comfortable. The cockpit area is spacious, it’s easy to hop in and out of it. Then, on top of a padded seat that’s adjustable, there’s also padded knee rest. The Maxim 100X is definitely a boat that you can sit comfortably for hours. 

Secondly, its basic features are well designed. It’s slightly rigged for fishing too. There’s dry hatch storage at the bow and rear tankwell storage with mesh covers. In front of the cockpit, there’s an adjustable rod holder. While at the rear, there’re 2 molded-in rod holders.  

As a recreational kayak, it performs rather well on the water owing to its design. This kayak is built with a shallow v-shaped hull that’s optimized for hydrodynamic efficiency. Thus, it may be a bit tippy for beginners. 

 

All in all, it’s very rich in features for a compact boat.

Pros

  • Compact & lightweight; very easy to carry
  • Performs very well, efficient & highly manoeuvrable 

Cons

 

  • Might be a bit unstable for beginners

PROS

CONS

  • Compact & lightweight; very easy to carry
  • Performs very well, efficient & highly manoeuvrable

 

  • Might be a bit unstable for beginners

Our Verdict

Among the 6 kayaks we reviewed above, our favourite is the Pelican Maxim 100X. It has all the features needed for most paddlers. You won’t find it lacking for a very long time. Furthermore, being a compact kayak, handling should be a breeze.  

However, if you are certain that you’d be fishing, we highly recommend the Perception Outlaw 11.5 since it’s highly rigged for fishing. It may come with a higher price tag. But if you bought an ordinary kayak and rig it on your own, it may cost more.  

Frequently Asked Questions (Faq)

Q: Is a recreational kayak the same as a touring kayak?

A: While both may be similar, a recreational kayak is designed to be stable and friendly for beginners. Touring kayaks are designed with performance and efficiency in mind. 

Q: What are recreational kayaks good for?

A: A recreational kayak is normally designed for a simple day paddling on calm waters like lakes. It’s not recommended for long trips or rough sea waters. 

Q: What’s the best size for a recreational kayak?

A: In our opinion, between 9 to 13 feet is the ideal length for a recreational kayak. That size range is still manageable for beginners. After all, most of the people who buy recreational kayaks are beginners.

Closing Thoughts

 

Recreational kayaks are an amazing starting point for anyone who is about to begin their paddling journey. But, as you grow into kayaking and start paddling longer distances and with more confidence, you will want a kayak that can do better like a touring kayak. For that, we have a more detailed guide on touring kayaks here

Jules and Ken

Jules and Ken

Hi! We are Jules and Ken. We are outdoor lovers, travellers, and writers all rolled into one. You have seen our posts here reviewing lots of different types of outdoor gear, camping equipment, RV equipment, kayaking, to cycling. Our reviews are guided by our years of experience being outdoors. We are happy to share our knowledge with you to make a better choice when you are outdoors.

We hope you enjoyed this article and if you have questions about Best Recreational Kayak or want to leave your own personal comments, feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You May Be Interested