Kayak Types: Which kind of Kayak is Best for You?
When buying a kayak, the purpose of use must also be respected. There are many different kayaks, which are subdivided into different kayak types. But which kayak is right for which purpose?
Between the small kayaks for occasional paddle trips over lakes in the neighbourhood and the kayak for tours lasting several weeks there are worlds in terms of construction, equipment and carrying capacity.
The differences in the equipment are clearly reflected in the price. The price plays a particularly important role for beginners.
A good entry-level model is already available from around 100€. Advanced paddlers with special kayak requirements must expect costs of hundreds to a few thousand Euros for a high-quality kayak.
If you are looking for a kayak, you have to be familiar with the different types of kayaks in order to choose exactly the right kayak for your purpose.
So, then we start right away with the different kayak types. On the one hand we present which kayaks are suitable for which purposes. On the other hand, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
Solo and Tandem Kayaks
In addition to the classic single kayaks, a number of manufacturers also produce tandem kayaks. For someone who often travels with his family or a buddy anyway, this can be an exciting alternative.
Kayaks for one person are light, compact and easy to transport. These kayaks are suitable for short rounds across the lake, longer tours and intensive fitness workouts. With the right model, you can also plunge into white water or the waves.
Compared to tandem kayaks, single kayaks offer less space and are less safe in the water. The transport and storage of fixed one-person kayaks, on the other hand, is less complicated than with two-person kayaks.
-> View solo kayaks
Tandem kayaks offer space for two paddlers. The boats are wider and longer than solo kayaks. The maximum payload is also higher compared to single kayaks. Two kayaks therefore offer more space for equipment and provisions. A camping trip, for example, is also possible. The camping equipment and changing clothes can be easily transported on the kayak.
For beginners, paddling together is initially difficult. The paddling strokes must be synchronous in order to move in a straight line. If one of the two kayakers deviates from the beat, the paddles quickly collide.
-> View two kayaks
Sit-in Kayaks and Sit-on-Top Kayaks
Kayaks are divided into the two categories Sit-on-Top Kayaks and Sit-in Kayaks according to their construction.
We think of sit-in kayaks when we imagine a kayaker. The boats resemble the models that the Inuit have already driven. Sit-in kayaks are narrow and have a closed deck. The paddler enters via the cockpit and sits directly on the bottom of the boat.
Modern Sit-inside kayaks have all kinds of extras. The seat and side walls are typically upholstered. Some models also have storage hatches for carrying equipment, provisions and other luggage, as well as paddle and drink holders.
The enclosed deck ensures that kayakers usually stay dry in a sit-in kayak. With a splash guard for the kayak, water is kept from penetrating the boat’s interior and also traps the warm air. For kayaking in winter, a splash guard or a thick blanket is therefore essential.
It is generally warm in a sit-in kayak. The closed construction keeps the heat inside and offers less surface for the cold air to attack. If you also wear a dry suit or a neoprene suit, you will certainly not freeze.
However, the closed deck of the sit-in kayak also restricts the freedom of movement. However, the arm and shoulder areas are free, so you won’t be hindered when paddling. For paddlers who want to swim or dive more often, the closed deck is annoying. This makes it difficult to get in and out, especially on the water.
Sit-in kayaks are the right choice for trips lasting several days. These canoes offer enough space in the bow, in the stern and with one or more watertight stowage hatches to stow your luggage.
Sit-on-top kayaks differ in one important detail from sit-in kayaks. Instead of the closed deck, Sit-on-Top kayaks with their open deck resemble a Canadian. Sit-on-top kayaks do not have a cockpit, but have a seat attached to the bottom of the kayak.
A sit-on top kayak offers more freedom of movement. This type of kayak offers much more legroom. Getting in and out of sit-on-top kayaks is much easier on land and out of the water. Swimmers and divers will find it safe to do so.
Kayak anglers like Sit-on-Top kayaks because the sitting position can be changed on this type of kayak. This makes it possible to cast the bait without twisting it. You don’t have to wait for hours on one spot, instead you can move back and forth on sit-on-top kayaks.
The higher the seat, the higher the centre of gravity for this type of kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks therefore offer less stability, which is compensated by a wider construction. For beginners, the extra width is especially helpful because these kayaks are safer in the water and capsize less often.
Typical kayak types for different purposes
Kayaks are additionally subdivided into further kayak cards based on the construction method and the materials used. This classification describes which kayak is suitable for which purpose.
Allround kayaks are a good choice for occasional paddlers. If you want to paddle a round on the neighbouring lakes, canals or small rivers, the best choice is an allrounder. For beginners, these types of kayaks offer a wonderful base.
The large cockpit of the all-rounders makes getting in and out easy. Typically, all-round kayaks are shorter and wider, which slows down speed but provides more stability. Newcomers benefit especially from the increased safety.
However, kayaks are not a good choice for rough waters or even white water rafting. Too fast the boats become the plaything of the waves. A straight course is then often no longer possible. For use in calm waters or in waters with weak currents, however, all-rounders are a good choice.
Allrounders are good kayaks for beginners. Many of the models are also quite inexpensive. A disadvantage of real bargains is that you sometimes save on the seat. Therefore, kayakers often replace the seats supplied or upgrade them with additional cushions.
-> view allround kayaks
Touring kayaks are essentially more sporty all-rounders with advantages in terms of stability, directional stability, efficiency and above all speed. The main field of application is kayaking for hours or several days. These kayaks for long trips offer more space for carrying equipment and provisions.
Another effect of the length of touring kayaks is the enormous tracking. Keeping a straight lane is much easier with this type of kayaks. However, touring kayaks do not offer any advantages.
A disadvantage of the length is that manoeuvring with these boats is more challenging. Turning the kayak will require more paddling strokes. When at rest, the relatively narrow boats offer little stability. Getting into the touring kayak is therefore not easy.
Touring kayaks nevertheless offer a high degree of stability. So-called running stability is built up with increasing speed. Once you have reached a certain speed with the touring kayaks, you will be sitting safely on the water. The principle is analogous to cycling. Whoever is riding a touring kayak can hardly capsize the boat.
With touring kayaks specially optimized for performance, the highest speeds can be reached. These kayaks are especially long and therefore even more suitable for straight ahead cruising. More distance is covered with each stroke. These long touring kayaks are often steered by a rudder.
-> View Touring Kayaks
Angel kayaks are mostly sit-on-top kayaks. The reason is that they offer an easy entry and exit. The open deck offers kayak anglers the space to cast the bait and to change their sitting position.
Angel kayaks differ from other kayaks mainly in the range of kayak accessories. When you buy a fishing kayak, there are a number of add-ons included to make your next fishing trip more comfortable or efficient.
Paddle, drink and rod holders are just the beginning. Many fishing kayaks offer additional storage hatches for transporting provisions, fishing equipment and caught fish. Angel kayaks can also be used to attach other equipment.
Similar to other Sit-on-Top kayaks, Angel kayaks are shorter and wider than the average kayak. This construction provides a lot of stability, which is especially beneficial for anglers.
A kayak that is safe in the water is the basis for casting the rod. Its width gives fishing kayaks a high carrying capacity, which is also necessary for the transport of fishing equipment and caught fishermen.
-> view fishing kayaks
Advanced kayakers and real veterans are always looking for new challenges. A rafting trip with rapids, numerous rocks and other obstacles is a real attraction. Not all kayaks are suitable for the demanding routes. Some models lack performance, others are simply dangerous in white water.
At this point white water kayaks come into play. This type of kayak is specially designed for the requirements of different types of rough waters. The whitewater kayaks can be used to navigate rivers and waves.
Whitewater kayaks are made of particularly robust materials. The kayaks withstand collisions with rocks or breaking waves. The construction method varies depending on the concrete area of application.
Those who primarily travel on raging rivers are best advised to use a shorter kayak with which fast turns can be made to avoid obstacles. Longer whitewater kayaks make it easier to reach waves. In addition, long white water kayaks cut through waves and instead of becoming a plaything of them.
In recent years kayaks with pedals have experienced a small renaissance. Old hands are less fond of these boats, but now beginners and amateurs like to choose kayaks with pedals.
Instead of relying solely on strength from the arms and upper body, pedal kayaks also activate the legs. Most kayaks of this type use pedals similar to those of bicycles. Those who also drive the kayak through the leg muscles can take a few photos, take a sip from the water bottle or just let their arms dangle – without having to take a break.
Pedal kayaks are often equipped with better seats, which are adjustable in height and position. The seats therefore offer a better hold and are more comfortable at the same time.
-> view pedal kayaks
Different Materials and Kayak Types
The material has a big influence on the weight, the price and the driving characteristics of the kayak. The material used is accordingly important.
Kayaks made of polyethylene are considered cheap and indestructible. The rather heavy material is stable, durable and insensitive to scratches. When carrying around or soloing the higher weight can become a problem, otherwise PE kayaks are a top choice for beginners. Because the robust material forgives one or the other mistake.
Glass fibre reinforced plastic used to be the standard for the production of solid walking and sea kayaks. Today, however, polyethylene kayaks predominate. GRP kayaks are lighter and allow more sporty designs than PE kayaks.
The disadvantages of GRP kayaks are essentially that the price is higher and the kayaks are more sensitive to collisions. However, the boats are made of glass fibre reinforced plastic and are easy to repair.
Even more expensive materials like carbon weigh even less and are therefore even more suitable for top speeds.
Folding kayaks are made of different materials. The special feature of this type of kayak is the possibility of folding the boats for transport. The kayaks consist of a flexible cover and a laminate or aluminium frame.
The pack size can be reduced considerably for transport. However, the high weight, which corresponds to that of a normal fixed kayak, greatly restricts transport.
Folding boats nevertheless unite two worlds. On the one hand, folding boats offer similarly good sailing characteristics and are as durable as fixed kayaks. On the other hand, the small packing size makes transport easier, as is the case with inflatable kayaks.
-> view folding boats
Inflatable kayaks are mostly made of PVC or polyurethane. Compared to solid kayaks, inflatable kayaks are not solid one-piece boats, but exactly what it sounds like. Only a shell is delivered, which has to be inflated with an air pump before it can be used in the water.
Great advances in production processes have led to the so-called inflatables becoming more robust, more durable and also more similar to the fixed kayaks in terms of driving characteristics. Many beginners and advanced kayakers now prefer inflatable kayaks.
The biggest advantage of inflatable kayaks, however, are the advantages in transport and delivery. This starts with the lower weight. More important is the extremely small packing size. Once the air has been drained, the empty cover can be rolled up and fits into a (larger) backpack without any problems.
The bag with the kayak inside fits loosely into the boot of an average car or on the back seat. Also in the apartment there is enough space for another backpack.
The durability was for a long time a point of criticism for the Inflatables. With current models, however, there is no longer the danger that the air escapes after just a few trips. The high-quality production processes ensure that the canoes are robust, tear-resistant and resistant to wind, weather and solar radiation.
The early comparison with “better air mattresses” is definitely no longer true. Today’s inflatable kayaks are so robust that beginners can hardly distinguish them from fixed kayaks.
With a manually operated pump, inflating and deflating the air always takes some time. Electric kayak pumps are therefore a welcome help, which more and more kayakers do not want to do without.
-> view inflatable kayaks