The Best Inexpensive Kayaks
Kayaking can be a great way to explore waterways of all types. Since your rowing controls the pace, it can be as relaxing or as grueling as you want it to be. Before wading into the world of kayaks, it can be useful to learn a bit about the different styles and types available. With some models available for around $100, you should be able to find a good fit for your planned activities without blowing your budget.
Kayaks come in both one- and two-person models. You can also choose sit-in or sit-on models. Sit-in models offer a little bit more stability for beginners and can offer more protection from colder and/or windier conditions.
If you plan to use your kayak for fishing, there are models designed especially for you. They are among the most stable models available and have extra storage space for stowing your gear and, hopefully, plenty of fish.
If you plan on kayaking your way across mostly calm lakes or slower moving waterways, a recreational model will work well for you. They’re a great choice for beginners since they offer more stability than more advanced models, though they usually aren’t as maneuverable.
Touring kayaks offer better performance, but a little less stability. They’re designed to handle faster moving water and longer distances much better than their recreational counterparts.
As you might guess from the name, whitewater kayaks are designed for riding the rapids. They offer the ultimate level of maneuverability and overall performance, but are the least stable overall, making them a poor choice for beginners.
Inflatable models are a great choice for those with limited storage space and for those who want to take their kayaks on camping trips but don’t want to have to tote a rigid kayak along with the rest of their camping gear. In the past, inflatable kayaks weren’t built much better than inflatable pool toys. As technology has advanced, the materials used to make inflatables have gotten much more reliable and sturdy enough to handle some of the toughest conditions. Some inflatable models trade a little bit of performance for easy storage and carrying, but there are more than enough out there that compare favorably to their rigid counterparts that you shouldn’t write them off. Inflatable models are available in all of the same styles and intended uses as rigid models. Some have optional metal inserts available for purchase that can add extra stability. Obviously, this negates some of the easy-carry, easy-stow ability, but can be attractive to some folks.
Considerations for beginners
Generally speaking, the wider a kayak is, the more stability it offers. A more stable kayak is less likely to tip over. More stability generally means less maneuverability and performance. Beginners learning the ropes typically find it beneficial to start with a more stable model. If you’re just starting out, you shouldn’t be planning on heading to the nearest level 6 rapids anyway, so having a more basic model that’s less likely to land you in the water is the best way to build your skills and your confidence. These more stable, more basic models are generally the least expensive, which is also great for beginners. It’s nice to want to jump into a new endeavor head first, but keeping your investment minimal gives you a chance to decide whether you really want to stick with kayaking before sinking too much money into it. The fact that you’re more likely to run your new kayak into a few obstacles during the learning process is another reason to look for the least expensive viable option.
Understanding the basic differences between kayak models can steer you in the right direction to help this new hobby become a lifelong passion. It can also help keep you from being overwhelmed by the many different brands, models, and claims of greatness you’ll come across. Being careful to choose an appropriate model can mean the difference between getting “out there” and enjoying time on the water and having an experience so unpleasant, even frightful, that your investment becomes something else to collect dust in your garage.