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Top 5: Best Recreational Kayak

Updated On July 10, 2020

Nothing says fun quite like a kayak. It’s a great way to spend time with family and get some exercise as well. If you don’t currently own a kayak, it is time to find the best recreational kayak on the market.

There are lots of choices available to you, but it can be confusing which is the best recreational kayak. Not every company makes it clear what their kayak is good for and who should use it. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive review of the best one for you.

Our overall top pick for the best recreational kayak is the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak.

Quick Summary: Top 5 - Best Recreational Kayak


Our seasoned editors have picked and rated these products for each specific category and area of expertise to recommend you the best models and products we can. We receive commission from some of these affiliate links.
Best Overall: 1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
​​The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is a high quality inflatable tandem kayak that comes with a carry bag, 2 paddles, and a manual high output air pump.
Best Inflatable: 2. Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
​​The portable Intex Challenger K1 Kayak features a streamlined easily inflatable solo kayak design, with a surrounding grab line, cargo net for storage, and closed deck to keep you dry.
Best Tandem Kayak: 3. Intex Challenger K2 Kayak
​​Set with the same features as the Challenger K1, this Intex Challenger K2 Kayak is a longer streamlined tandem kayak made from the same durable vinyl rubber material.
Best Group Kayak: 4. Sea Eagle 370 Pro
​​Made from heavy duty PolyKylar material, the Sea Eagle 370 Pro can fit up to 3 people, with a maximum weight capacity of 650lbs. This group kayak is also inflatable.
Best Sit-on-Top Kayak: 5. Sevylor Quikpak K1 Kayak
​​This sit-on-top PVC Kayak for solo kayakers is the Sevylor Quikpak K1 Kayak which comes with a large backpack, paddles, and an air pump.
Top 3 Quick Comparison
Product
Photo
Material
Link
Best Overall
Vinyl Rubber
Best Inflatable
Vinyl Rubber
Best Tandem Kayak
Vinyl Rubber

Our Reviews


Best Overall
The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is a high quality inflatable tandem kayak that comes with a carry bag, 2 paddles, and a manual high output air pump.
Quick Specs
  • Material: Vinyl Rubber
  • Size: 10ft 3in x 3ft
  • Capacity: 400lbs
The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is an inflatable tandem kayak made of a durable puncture-resistant rubber vinyl. Its build is simple, with a length of 10 feet and a width of 3 feet; the kayak provides a good amount of legroom. It also comes with 2 inflatable seats with backrests. If you need more space, you can actually remove the seats or adjust them as you like. 

Inflating this kayak takes around 10 minutes with the included air pump. There are 3 separate air chambers to fill and all are accessible through the Boston air valves that help prevent air from coming out when you pump air in. The 3 interior chambers are also made to prevent the entire kayak from deflating if ever the exterior material is cut. However, the vinyl rubber exterior is a thick and durable material. The floor and backrests are also separately inflatable. 

The Intex Explorer Kayak also comes with 2 paddles, a carry bag, and a removable skeg. The skeg helps the kayak track well. The included paddles are 86 inches long and are easy to assemble. The parts securely lock in with each other so you don’t have to worry about the paddle falling apart while in use. By disassembling the paddles, you can easily fit the deflated kayak, paddles, and air pump into the carry bag. 
  • Portable Inflatable Kayak
  • Air Pump, Paddles, and Carry Bag included
  • Durable Vinyl Rubber
  • Rubber Kayak 
  • Limited Weight Capacity
Product Review
"It was stable and easy to manoeuvre. I used it for fishing. It stayed inflated the whole time. I was on the water for about 6 hours."
Best Inflatable
The portable Intex Challenger K1 Kayak features a streamlined easily inflatable solo kayak design, with a surrounding grab line, cargo net for storage, and closed deck to keep you dry.
Quick Specs
  • Material: Vinyl Rubber
  • Size: 9ft x 2ft 6in
  • Capacity: 220lbs
The Intex Challenger K1 Kayak is a solo ​inflatable kayak It is a sit-in kayak that comes with a comfortable inflated backrest and chair. Some people prefer to not use the backrest since it provides more space but for prolonged use, the soft inflated material gives better comfort. The closed deck will keep your legs dry while you’re in the water. However, if you plan to use it in rapid waters, water may still get in since the seating deck has a large opening and is spacious. The form makes it easy to slip in and out of the kayak. On top of the closed-deck, there is an entire area set for storing cargo. A cargo net keeps things, such as a storage bag, and other items in place. 

The Challenger K1 Kayak is built for 1 person and can only accommodate people weighing less than 220lbs. Its design is streamlined and with the removable skeg, is able to track quite well even if you have limited experience in controlling the kayak. All around the kayak is a grab line which you can attach other items to. The kayak comes with a single 86in paddle, carry bag, and air pump. 
  • Portable Inflatable Kayak
  • Air Pump, Paddles, and Carry Bag included
  • Durable Vinyl Rubber
  • Fits only 1 person
  • Limited Weight Capacity
Product Review
"Have inflated it indoors and been very impressed. Easy to inflate with the two boston valves and comes with a comfortable seat, paddle, pump that works well and even repair patches."
Best Tandem Kayak
Set with the same features as the Challenger K1, this Intex Challenger K2 Kayak is a longer streamlined tandem kayak made from the same durable vinyl rubber material.
Quick Specs
  • Material: Vinyl Rubber
  • Size: 11ft 6in x 2ft 6in
  • Capacity: 400lbs
The Intex Challenger K2 Kayak is a tandem kayak with a similar streamlined design as the Challenger K1. Instead of being a sit-in kayak, it is now a sit-on-top kayak with a closed deck at the front. Like many other Intex kayaks, the Challenger K2 is made from durable puncture-resistant vinyl. While you still need to be careful with sharp objects, like fishing hooks and needles, the kayak is made to withstand sharp rock edges and other rough water conditions.

This kayak also has 2 removable kayak backrests, 2 paddles, a carry bag, and a manual air pump. The back and front decks both have a border grab line. Only the front closed deck, however, has a cargo net that covers the entire area much like the K1 kayak. This feature gives kayakers a place to put small items without taking up any legroom.

Inflating the kayak is easy with the manual air pump and takes between 10-15 minutes. There are 2 separate air chambers to fill, excluding the separate inflatable floor and backrests. By keeping these parts separate, a single hole will not automatically deflate the entire kayak. Spotting holes is also easier since you can identify which area has been affected.
  • Portable Inflatable Kayak
  • Air Pump, Paddles, and Carry Bag included
  • Narrow and Limited Leg Room
  • Limited Weight Capacity
Product Review
"I loved that I was able to sit so comfortably. There was plenty of space behind the seat and in the front to stow gear/lunch/camera...
The seat kept my butt relatively dry"
Best Group Kayak
Made from heavy duty PolyKylar material, the Sea Eagle 370 Pro can fit up to 3 people, with a maximum weight capacity of 650lbs. This group kayak is also inflatable.
Quick Specs
  • Material: Heavy Duty Polykrylar
  • Size: 12ft 6in x 2ft 10in
  • Capacity: 650lbs
The Sea Eagle 370 Pro is a large inflatable kayak. At first sight, it seems like a tandem kayak but it can fit up to 3 people, with a weight capacity of up to 650lbs. Although the kayak only has 2 removable backrests, the seats can be removed or adjusted to fit more people. Sea Eagle kayaks are made of a durable PolyKrylar material which has high frequency welded seams partnered with an I-beam floor construction to give the entire kayak better rigidity. The large size and overall form of the kayak give it a high center of gravity so it feels more like a canoe at times.

There are 2 skegs at the bottom of the kayak, giving it the better speed and tracking, especially when you use the paddles that come with this kayak. However, the paddles are a bit longer so it can be more difficult to control at first. The length of the paddles is no problem when storing them away because these can be disassembled into 4 parts each. The kayak and paddles can fit into the carry bag. The bag is a bit small so it can be difficult placing everything back into it unless fully deflated. 
  • Made of Durable PolyKrylar Material
  • Large Weight Capacity
  • Takes Long to Deflate
  • Small Carry Bag
Product Review
"Surprisingly rigid when fully inflated and feels very stable in lakes and rivers even with motor boat wakes and moderate winds. Pro Seats are comfortable, solid and recommended."
Best Sit-on-Top Kayak
This sit-on-top PVC Kayak for solo kayakers is the Sevylor Quikpak K1 Kayak which comes with a large backpack, paddles, and an air pump.
Quick Specs
  • Material: PVC Rubber
  • Size: 8ft 7in x 3ft
  • Capacity: 400lbs
This kayak is built as a solo sit-on-top kayak. The Sevylor Quikpak K1 Kayak is made from a 21-gauge PVC construction. The material is rugged, durable, and puncture-resistant. The interior of this kayak is made of multiple air chambers that are designed to keep the entire kayak inflated even when certain areas are damaged. The compact size of the kayak makes it quick and easy to inflate. Despite the multiple chambers, there are only 2 double lock valves for inflation and deflation. When pumping air in, one-way valves between each chamber allows the air to fill up the entire kayak.

Along with the inflatable kayak and air pump, a removable backrest, a large storage backpack, and 2 paddles are included. The backpack is big enough to store everything in place as well as leave some room for other items that you might need while kayaking. 
  • Made of Durable PVC
  • Multiple Air Chambers
  • Fits only 1 person
  • Limited Weight Capacity
Product Review
"It is very durable. The material used is very heavy duty. I had no fear of ripping or snagging it."

Things To Consider Before Buying a Recreational Kayak

One of the activities growing in popularity is kayaking. While many people might not want to join in on kayak racing or even fishing, kayaking is a fun thing to do for those living near lakes, rivers, or the beach. Recreational kayaks are becoming more affordable to accommodate the growing market. However, picking the best kayak is still not that easy. Some of the best kayaks have already been outlined above but here are the main things you need to consider before making your purchase.

Kayak Location

The first thing to consider is where you plan to go kayaking. While most kayaks are made for a range of kayaking conditions, some kayaks are better built for use on the beach or a lake. Shorter kayaks are typically better suited for river kayaking while longer kayaks are better for the beach or lake. The shorter kayaks are often easier to control while longer ones offer better stability. Recreational kayaks are typically 8 to 14 feet long with most of the shorter ones fitting only solo kayakers. On the other hand. Kayaks longer than 10 feet are usually tandem or group kayaks.

Price

Kayak prices can vary greatly. There are many affordable kayaks in the market but there are also some highly-priced premium quality kayaks as well. Cheaper kayaks are great for beginners who just want to enjoy the water without having to spend too much but if you plan to use the kayak more often, then getting a higher priced kayak made from a more durable and long-lasting material would save you more in the long run. Also, cheaper kayaks are often less stable and if you’re one looking for speed, then a cheap kayak won’t provide the best kayaking experience.

Stability

When choosing a kayak, stability is key because it can be difficult to maneuver, control your direction, and use the kayak if it is unstable. One of the things to look for in a kayak is the one with a rigid floor since it gives the kayak a good base. Aside from the floor, the sides, width and the form of the kayak also matter. A kayak with larger tubes provides good balance; the same goes with wider kayaks. However, kayaks that are too wide can be difficult to control as well.

Portability

Inflatable kayaks are the most portable options. However, hardshell kayaks can also be portable if you have a kayak rack. The main advantage of a hard shell kayak is durability. However, inflatable kayaks are also made of durable PVC or vinyl materials. Solo kayakers are able to take advantage of portable kayaks because it is usually easier to set up and put back into your car. On the other hand, a large and heavy kayak can be a hassle to get in the water, especially if you don’t have anyone with you to help. (1, 2)

Material and Durability

You might not be able to use your kayak all the time. However, no one wants to buy a kayak for one-time use. Choosing a durable and long-lasting kayak that you can stow away and bring out when you need to will require picking one made from good and high-quality material. Better quality kayaks often cost more but it can be a good investment which will last you years of use. 
Our Top Pick
Best Overall
The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is an inflatable tandem kayak made of a durable puncture-resistant rubber vinyl. Its build is simple, with a length of 10 feet and a width of 3 feet; the kayak provides a good amount of legroom. It also comes with 2 inflatable seats with backrests. If you need more space, you can actually remove the seats or adjust them as you like. 
References
(1) PVC - https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/polyvinyl-chloride-pvc
(2) vinyl - https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/vinyl-plastics

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About the author 

Andrew Bell

Andrew is a seasoned kayaker with 15 years of experience under his belt. He began kayaking as a way to reduce work stress but quickly became an avid kayak fisher and lure expert. He currently enjoys both lake and ocean kayaking and loves to write and share his experiences.


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  1. Perfect recommendation! Thank you! I am trying to find the best recreational kayak for my sister and me. Seems like I’ve found one that would fit us! By the way, great site! A lot of information about Kayaking that I found here, been new to this hobby and I am planning to invest more on this one. Thanks Andrew!

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