The amount of choices available when purchasing a kayak can make for a few difficult decisions, this is why it is important to limit your search to the best brands. The brands we will look at on this list offer the best features in terms of performance, durability, usefulness and have the best kayak reviews. We will then look at the best models of the year, so that buying a kayak can be a breeze.
Let's See the Best Kayaks of 2017
Before we look at the top brands let’s do a quick run-down of the different types of kayaks. It is important to be familiar with these terms so you can make an informed decision on your purchase.
Sea and Ocean
Sea and ocean kayaks are top-of-the-line models that allow you to kayak for long distances on anything up to rough water. They are meant to be used on large lakes, by the shore or even for long-distance ocean kayaking. Generally, a sea kayak will have a long and narrow hull design, heavy weight, a rudder and lots of space for storage. They are also generally the most expensive kayaks because they are purpose built for experienced kayakers making long trips on the water and are made of sturdy materials.
A sit-on-top kayak is a kayak with an open cockpit design. A sit-on-top offers a great balance of performance and comfort and is a good option if you don’t want to sit in a traditional closed cockpit. Sit-on-top kayaks are generally short and wide so that they are very difficult to capsize and track well in the water. If you’re a beginner, a sit-on-top design might be the best option.
Recreational kayaks are generally less expensive than sea kayaks and are made to strike a balance between comfort and performance. A recreational kayak may not be the fastest or have the most features, but they are made to be very versatile. If you’re a beginner kayaker, or plan on using the kayak once or twice a season on many different kinds of water, a recreational kayak may be for you.
An inflatable kayak is the ultimate recreational kayak because it doesn’t take up space in storage and is easy to transport to the water. Modern materials and construction also means that inflatable kayaks are more durable than ever and many will offer a no-leak guarantee. Inflatable kayaks will often fit into a backpack or satchel and can be inflated in 5-10 minutes.
A tandem kayak can be a kayak of any hull design that accommodates two people, sometimes with the ability for a third person in the middle. A tandem kayak is perfect for a family as you can bring another person onto the water with you. Most tandem kayaks, while being designed for two people, can be used by a single person, so there is added versatility to the design.
Like a tandem kayak, a fishing kayak can include many different hull designs, but what sets it apart is the inclusion of fishing specific features. This can include rod holders, dry storage, towing, paddle holders and a place to mount your kayak fish finder. Fishing kayaks are often designed with wide width so that they are hard to capsize.
Best Kayak Brands
The following brands are the top brands in the market. Know that if you buy a kayak from these top 5 kayak brands you will be getting one of the best kayaks that will last for a long time.
Ocean Kayak is a brand that’s been getting a lot of attention lately. Ocean kayak make sit-on-top kayaks with a tri-form hull technology. This construction technique allows for added stability, better tracking and maneuverability. Because of this, Ocean Kayak are some of the most comfortable sit-on-top designs on the market. Apart from this, they are able to fill their kayaks with comfortable and innovative features while keeping costs relatively low.
Two Ocean Kayak models made their way into our top 5 because of their durable designs and excellent reviews making them one of the best kayak brands.
Riot Kayak is a company that caters to the higher-end market with a range of designs and construction techniques. Riot Kayak make excellent ocean kayaks meant to be taken for long distances and far away from the shore. Always looking to innovate, Riot Kayak use special materials and techniques to increase durability and longevity while reducing weight.
If you are an experienced kayaker and want a dependable kayak for any distance, look for Riot Kayak. The excellent reviews for their products show that like-minded people rate them among the very best.
Old Town Canoes and Kayaks is a well-respected company that makes a range of kayaks from beginner to expert. Old Town make some of the best recreational kayaks on the market by focusing on comfort, storage space and ease of use. Old Town also keep to traditional hull shapes and designs, so if you have been kayaking for a while you will feel right at home in an Old Town kayak.
Sun Dolphin is a company that packs a lot of features and reliability into an inexpensive package. For beginners or those on a budget, a Sun Dolphin kayak may be the best choice. Three Sun Dolphin kayaks are on this list because of high review scores on multiple models.
Sevylor USA is a company owned by Coleman that produces high-quality inflatable kayaks. If you’re in the market for an inflatable, Sevylor brings innovation and attention to detail to all of their products. Sevylor has a range of hull designs from open-top fishing kayaks, kayaks build for rapids and everything in between. The addition of molded panels increases durability, making for puncture-proof construction. Their inflatables are also renowned for fitting into a backpack and inflating in around 5 minutes.
The Top 5 Kayaks of 2017
The Frenzy Sit-On-Top Kayak packs many great features into a compact shape, earning excellent reviews from those who have purchased this kayak. The kayak is about 9 feet in length and weighs 43 pounds, meaning the Frenzy is easy to transport and store and be quickly mounted to a car top or in the back of a pick-up.
This has some of the best recreational kayak reviews because of its reliability and comfort. The Frenzy has a very solid overall construction and a well-made hull. The construction details mean it will have excellent stability, tracking and maneuverability in the water. The shape of the hull can also create decent speeds through the water. Creature comforts include a stern tank that has a bungee top, cup holder, side handles and lots of tie-off points. The seat is 4-way adjustable and very comfortable.
The Frenzy has been getting excellent reviews by everyone from beginners to advanced kayakers, making it among out best kayaks.
The Riot Kayaks Edge is a comfortable closed-top kayak that has expert-level features and performance. This kayak is meant to go for far distances and includes features that make for a comfortable, long-distance ride.
The Riot Kayaks Edge has a slim profile and an added rudder system, which makes for easier paddling and tracking. The long shape cuts through the water, even if it is choppy or uneven. The Edge can handle anything from a gentle pond to waves on a shoreline. As for extra features, the kayak has a custom-fitting seat, paddle hook, big bungee tie-down areas and oversized molded compartments so you can store food and gear for long trips.
If you’re planning on touring in the open water this is the perfect option. The kayak is well-made, easy to use and has earned excellent reviews.
Old Town is a trusted name in kayaks and the Vapor 10 is an excellent way to get the quality and attention to detail that the company offers.
The kayak is meant to accommodate a wide range of users, from recreational paddlers to fishermen. This is evident in the high-volume cockpit which is a hybrid sit-in and open top design. The kayak is very comfortable and excels in moderate lakes or rivers. The large storage well in the back of the kayak lets you pack food, gear, fishing supplies or camera equipment out of the cockpit.
If you plan to paddle one weekend then fish the next, this is the kayak for you. Its quality construction and versatility has earned this kayak excellent reviews.
If you want a kayak that delivers comfort and performance but doesn’t break the bank, the Sun Dolphin Aruba is the best option. Beginners and recreational paddlers both agree that the level of construction goes far beyond the asking price.
The Aruba kayak excels on gentle to moderate water. It gives good stability and tracking and feels very secure on the water. The cockpit has adjustable foot braces and a back supporting seat, and the hull has storage space and bungee tie-downs.
For casual paddling and learning how to paddle, this is one of the best kayaks. The range of colors also means you can add a bit of character to your choice.
The Ocean Kayak Malibu is the tandem version of the popular Frenzy design. If you want to bring a friend along for a kayaking adventure, this is the perfect option.
The kayak has two seats with the option of also working as a single-person kayak. The hull has an open sit-on-top design and allows for excellent paddling ergonomics. It is best used on gentle to moderate water, where the stability, tracking and movement is excellent. You can really get this thing flying with two people paddling in tandem.
Tandem kayaks are the best way to share your adventure with someone else or to learn how to kayak. This kayak is simple the best, as noted by its many 5-star reviews.
And the Next Top Kayaks
While not scoring quite as high as the previous 5 kayaks, these next 5 are still excellent choices if you’re looking to compare more kayaks.
The Sevylor Quikpak K5 is an inflatable kayak that has earned some of the highest reviews. Reviewers have noted the ease of use and features set as reasons why this kayak is second to none.
The hull shape has a sit-in design and feel very responsive and quick. This kayak is made of durable polyethylene and has a foam seat instead of an integrated inflated seat. The bottom of the kayak has is layered with tarp and PVC and has multiple air chambers so this kayak is guaranteed not to puncture. The entire kayak fits into an included backpack and can be inflated in around 5 minutes.
Like the Quickpak K5, the Colorado is an inflatable kayak built to very high standards. However, the Colorado is specifically made for fishing and includes a host of fish-specific features that make it stand out.
The Colorado has adjustable seats and multiple pole holders to increase comfort. The thick puncture-resistance sides mean can bring it close to the shore without worry and there is space at the back for a trolling motor if you want added speed. The design is very spacious overall and comfortably seats two people.
If you want the ease of an inflatable kayak and the features of a high-end fishing kayak made for two, look no further than the Sevylor Colorado.
The Sun Dolphin Bali is a sit-on-top kayak with lots of space and storage capacity so you can take it for longer trips on the water. The Bali has a Portable accessory carrier that attaches to the rear of the kayak but can also be used as a tow-behind or as a backpack.
The 12-foot length and smart hull design make for a very stable craft that tracks very well in the water. The hull has a large sitting area with an adjustable seat, thigh padding and foot braces which allow you to maneuver the craft with ease. The added bungee tie down add extra storage ability.
The Lifetime Mantra is an affordable kayak that is getting great reviews because of its simple design and surprising comfort. Meant for short, recreational trips, this is the perfect kayak for a weekend out on the water. The small size and wide width makes this a very stable kayak.
The Mantra is a sit-on-top design that can hold two or three people. The seating areas are molded into the hull and have a backrest and footpads to increase comfort. The front of the kayak has a bungee tie-down area and cup holder.
Weighing just over 60 pounds, the affordable price and easy use makes this is a great choice for beginner or recreational kayaking trips.
The Sun Dolphin Excursion is a fishing kayak that packs a lot of great features into an affordable price.
The Excursion has large, open cockpit so you can move around freely as you fish. There are three pole holders, two in the front and a swiveling holder in the back, so you can have multiple lines in the water at once. The kayak has a wide hull design so it tracks well in the water and is very easy to turn and the polyethylene construction makes for added durability. There is also plenty of storage space including a hatch at the front of the kayak.
What makes this kayak great is its stability and maneuverability. While it is made for fishing, this kayak is also great for recreational kayaking.
Features to look for
When making a decision about which kayak to purchase you need to ask yourself a few questions to narrow down your decisions.
Type of water
If you plan on taking your kayak on gentle water, a beginner-level sit-on top design will fit the bill. For longer distances on moderate water, you will want to look for a design that has a cockpit and drainplug so you can empty the kayak out. If you plan on taking the kayak onto a lake or out into the ocean, then an ocean kayak is necessary. The long length and sturdier materials will make for a smoother ride on choppy water.
Are you a beginner or advanced kayaker? If you are a beginner, you’ll want to purchase a simple kayak that is durable and well-constructed. Sun Dolphin make excellent kayaks for this demographic. You may also want to consider a tandem kayak may so you can bring an experienced kayaker with you. A sit-on-top is also a good choice as they are very difficult to capsize and don’t constrict you into a cockpit.
For a mid-level kayaker, a sit-in version is a good choice. This is also where you can think about specific features like a fishing kayak or ocean kayak. If you’re an advanced kayaker, you will want to look for a larger sea or ocean kayak, which is what a company like Riot Kayaks or Old Town excel at.
Price is a major factor to consider. Lower-end kayaks will often have less features and may be more difficult to maneuver. Cheaper kayaks will also generally use less durable materials to save on costs. Higher-end kayaks become more specific for a particular use, such as fishing or sea kayaking. It is important to pay attention to your budget and plan accordingly so you get the best value for your money.
What are you going to use the kayak for? If you want to fish in a lake, a fishing kayak will have features tailored for you. Do you have family members to bring along? Try a tandem kayak. Do you live in an apartment or small space with little storage? Look for an inflatable kayak.
Ask yourself questions like this to narrow down what will work for you. This way you can make a list of what you need and use it to guide your decision.
In this article, we looked at top kayak brands, types of kayaks and the top 10 models of 2017. We also looked at features to consider based on skill level or budget. Use this guide to make an informed decision about your purchase, knowing that the kayaks on this list have some of the best kayaks based on reviews.