Best Recreational Kayak Money Can Buy In 2021 – The Seasoned Paddler’s Guide

It is a season of sun and fun, and there is no better way to stay active and explore the outdoors than kayaking. If you have never experienced it before, it is high time you try it out. There are numerous great kayaks out there for beginners and recreational kayakers - you just need to choose one and start paddling.

Although the final choice usually comes down to personal preference and how you feel when paddling the kayak, I have tried out the five currently best recreational kayaks and used the experience to declare the best of the best recreational kayak on the market today.


Things You Should Know Before Buying A Recreational Kayak

Things You Should Know Before Buying A Recreational Kayak

Before deciding on the best recreational kayak for you, consider where you plan to paddle and for how long, the most likely conditions you will be paddling in, and how you are going to transport your boat.

My first recreational kayak came as a gift from my good friend John (with the awesome fishing finder), and after some bumpy rides, the passion for the experience kicked in. Now I’m a devoted paddler, and own more than a dozen of these beauties. I enjoy taking care of them and waxing them in the morning sun.

Recreational kayaks are usually easy to use and offer the initial stability that’s reassuring for casual paddlers on calm rivers or lakes. They are also characterized by a large cockpit for an easy access and wider beam which offers greater stability. These kayaks also offer small storage space so that you can use them for short day trips.

However, recreational kayaks are not a good option for open water or use in strong wind or currents. Moreover, it is harder to hold a straight course in a recreational kayak, and for this reason, you should opt for the touring ones if you want to track.

As far as the equipment you will need for comfortable and care-free paddling is concerned, I recommend that you read an excellent article on that subject.

Types Of Recreational Kayaks

Single VS. Double

Single VS. Double

Obviously, the choice between the two almost entirely depends on personal preference or, to put it simply, on deciding if you like to paddle alone or in a pair. Be careful though, because if your paddling partner bails on you, it will be quite hard to paddle a double kayak alone, sometimes even impossible.

Furthermore, single kayaks are much easier to maneuver, rescue, and pump dry than doubles while the tandem kayaks tend to be more stable. My first recreational kayak was single.

Sit In VS. Sit On Top

Sit On Top style kayaks are more popular with paddlers who want to get perfectly tanned, combine paddling with diving, fishing or surfing. They are easy to paddle and nearly impossible to sink. If the kayak does flip over, you just need to flip it upright, climb back in, and you can continue your way.

However, sit on top kayaks feature a higher center of gravity, and since they are wider, they are also slower and harder to manage on and off the water. They can be used only in summer season as they offer no protection from the cold water.

Sit In style kayaks are primarily more efficient, offer a dryer ride and allow for a longer paddling season as they can be comfortably paddled in cold waters as well. The walls of the kayak limit water infiltration and provide more safety and a dry storage space.

To get more information, you can read at the artcicle "Differences Between Sit On vs Sit In Kayak"

Types Of Kayaks Based On Material

Types Of Kayaks Based On Material

Plastic or Polyethylene kayaks are damage-resistant but the heaviest of all other materials. They can be recycled.

Fiberglass kayaks are lighter, but they cost more than double than the plastic ones. They are more efficient in the water but they also easily crack when they hit something. They cannot be recycled. There are also other unusual materials like kevlar or carbon fiber which are even lighter, but also even more costly. Wood boats are attractive but relatively rare.

The metal frame kayaks are portable as they can be collapsed into a bag you can carry. However, they are the most expensive option.

As the most portable version, inflatable kayaks are becoming increasingly popular. They are also easy to store, but they are not suitable for tracking. (I bought one inflatable kayak recently to introduce my younger son to this world; my older daughter won’t even look at it. So far, it hasn’t delivered the results I wanted, but I’m a believer!)

What Are The Important Features Of A Recreational Kayak?

What Are The Important Features Of A Recreational Kayak?

Stability is an important aspect of any boat. When it comes to kayaks, two types of stability are distinguished- the initial/primary stability and the final/secondary stability. Kayaks can have one or the other.

The Initial Stability is examined when the kayak is at rest. It determines how easy you can enter or exit the kayak and how easy it will tip over in such conditions. Recreational kayaks have a good initial stability.

The Final Stability is the sensation of determines the tipsiness of a kayak when it is underway or in rough conditions.


Foot Pegs are an important feature of kayaks because you need a safe place to push your feet against. Foot pegs can be adjustable, molded in foot rests, or fixed bulkheads.If there were no footrests, you would not have a comfortable posture or be able to use torso rotation to propel the kayak efficiently.


Cockpits should provide you with support and reasonable comfort. The dimensions of cockpit rim opening are important for entering and exiting. Small cockpits are good for rough waters as they reduce the possibility of a large wave flooding the boat. Recreation kayaks usually feature very big cockpits which cannot keep the paddler in the kayak if it turns over.


The weight of the kayak is more important out of the water, and it mostly depends on the material it is made from. Plastic kayaks are the heaviest.


The length of the kayak is an important feature as it determines its efficiency and speed in the water. Longer kayaks are generally faster and track better.


Width influences kayak’s handling characteristics. Wider kayaks are more stable than the narrow ones.


Riggings are practical but also essential for the paddler’s safety. The ones inside the cockpit are handy for storing things where it is easy to reach. Moreover, deck rigging aids rescues and border safety lines are an excellent addition, but also a necessity for open water kayaks.


Hatch compartments are practical if you have items like food and clothes that need to remain dry. However, not all hatches are completely waterproof, and it is always better not to rely solely on the hatch but use additional protection such as a waterproof bag.


Durability depends on the material and the intended purpose of the kayak. Plastic is the most durable although it scratches easier. Kayaks designed for touring are rigid and can be damaged when they hit a rock, while whitewater boats would go by with less damage.


The price of a kayak depends on many different factors. The plastic kayaks cost from $300 to $1500, fiberglass ones’ cost more than $1500, and the other materials even more. It is a general rule that the bigger and longer kayaks are more expensive, but the price also indicates the quality and performance.


Paddles are your connection to the water, and your paddling success and enjoyment depend on their quality. For this reason, opt for the more expensive paddles as the low price usually indicates low quality too. Shape and length of your paddles depend on the type of kayak and your style of paddling. A recreational paddle has a smaller surface area and slightly longer length.

Don’t forget about their size and portability, as they can easily get outside of the kayak, and you might be forced to go in the water to retrieve it. That’s what happened to me when my young boy dropped it accidentally.

The Top Five Recreational Kayaks On The Market – Our Reviews And Recommendations

Last update on 2022-08-31 at 23:54 PST - Details

*Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

Expert Tips

Via Amazon.com

Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak is made from plastic, or more precisely single layer linear polyethylene, which makes it durable. This sit-in kayak weighs around 50 pounds and is 10 foot long, quite wide and its weight capacity is 325 lbs.

The cockpit is pretty large and features a shallow, uncovered cargo bin in the back. Besides the cup holder and a tray at the front, this is the only storage area. There are no ropes to hold anything in if you tip. If you want your belongings to stay dry, there is a cover available at extra cost.

Getting in and out is easy. After kayaking on some flat waters, I have concluded that it is very stable and tracks decently considering the width. The seat and foot rests are adjustable; I had to add a cushion to the seat back as it is not adequately padded.

The only drawback is the position of the drain plug, as it not on it cannot drain the water out of the kayak efficiently, and I had to sponge the most out.

Things I Like:

  • Large cockpit
  • Stability and tracking
  • Affordable

Things I Do Not Like:

  • No secured storage area available
  • The position of the drain plug
Expert Tips

Via Amazon.com

Pungo 120 kayak is a 12’ long, it weighs around 48.3 pounds and its weight capacity is 100 lbs. It is made from GEN2 polyethylene and seems durable enough.

The cockpit is very roomy and has plenty of storage options in the front as well as the rear. I especially liked the console in the front - a removable console with cup holders and a small water-tight compartment. Hatch cover is easy to put on and take off and seals tightly.

The seat is very comfortable even after hours of paddling. Foot braces come with an ergonomic handle and can be easily reset; their shape alleviates foot fatigue. The Pungo 120 is extremely stable and tracks excellent easily reaching very good speeds.

However, the length prevents it from making sharp turns, and it is therefore not convenient for narrow channels and creeks. I have encountered some moderate waves while testing it but the kayak handled them extremely well.

Things I Like:

  • Plenty of storage options
  • Extra comfortable seat
  • Excellent tracking and speed

Things I Do Not Like:

  • Not able to make sharp turns
Expert Tips

Via Amazon.com

Caper Classic Recreational kayak is an 11-foot long sit-on-top kayak made from polyethylene. Its weight capacity is an incredible 425 pounds which makes it excellent for people who are above average height or weight. It weighs only 45 pounds and can be handled out of the water easily, and the padded carry handles provide extra comfort when carrying it.

It features a 19 ½” wide molded-in seat and the Comfort Plus backrest, which allow for an entire day of comfortable paddling. The tank-well also has an elastic bungee cord to secure all your belongings inside and a large bow hatch that will keep your essentials dry and safe. Molded-in footrests allow for maximum power transfer. Moreover, it has quite a large number of features for a decently priced kayak.

For a rather small and light kayak, Caper is very stable in the water and does not feel like it would tip over easily. It tracks excellently and glides on the water easily but is also easy to maneuver. It has proven to steer well against moderate waves as well. Achieving speed and maintaining it is relatively easy.

Things I Like:

  • Performance and comfort
  • Plenty of on-deck storage

Things I Do Not Like:

Expert Tips

Via Amazon.com

Skipjack 90 recreational kayak is 9 foot long and 32 inches wide with a weight capacity of 300 pounds. It weighs only 46 pounds and can easily be handled by one person when out of the water. It is one-piece mold constructed of roto-molded High-Density Polyethylene.

I was immediately disappointed with the seat as it has proven quite uncomfortable after short paddling. On the plus side, it features many storage options such as a drywell directly in front of the seat and the zippered storage pouch on the back of the seat which will keep all your valuables dry and safe. The cargo storage area at the back can also fit a cooler or a crate. It also comes equipped with a paddle, four flush mount rod holders ideal for fishing trips and six scupper holes with scupper plugs.

As it is rather lightweight and small I was worried that it would flip easily, but even when I tried to do it on purpose it would not give in; it can, therefore, be considered very stable as far as initial stability is concerned. Secondary stability is not excellent though. It is maneuverable and tracks well.

Things I Like:

  • Initial stability
  • Variety of storage options

Things I Do Not Like:

  • Uncomfortable seating
  • Quite low weight capacity
Expert Tips

Via Amazon.com

The Lagoon 2 Kayak is unique for two reasons - it is the only inflatable kayak reviewed and the only kayak that can be used by two people. However, it performs as good when paddled by one person, if not better. It is 12-foot long and packs down to the size of a suitcase to be stored or transported easily.

The topside is made from a high denier Polyester with a PVC laminate, and the bottom (Hull) is made with a PVC tarpaulin. It features a Quick-inflating Twistlok and high-flow spring valves which allow easy setup that takes about 10 minutes. I used the optional double action pump though, and recommend that you do too. The 350-pound weight capacity should be taken rather seriously as I loaded it with around 300 lbs. and it was quite low in the water.

It is comfortable, but there is almost no storage space. It does have some unexpected features such as the gear bungees, storage pouch with compass and several hooking grommets.

It does not track or go fast in comparison to other kayaks, but it is surprisingly stable. Getting back in from the water is relatively easy.

Things I Like:

  • Easy to store and transport
  • Quite sturdy and durable for an inflatable kayak

Things I Do Not Like:

  • Limited onboard space
  • Does not track very fast and efficiently

The Best Of The Best

As you can already see the kayaks reviewed all performed very well in our test and you would not regret buying any of them. However, only Ocean Kayak Caper Classic Recreational Kayak has proven fault-free as it has been comfortable, offered many extra features and storage, and, most importantly exhibited outstanding tracking abilities.

For the budget-minded paddler, I would also recommend Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak, as its price vs. quality ratio cannot be beaten.

There is a saying that you do not sit in a kayak, you wear it. For this reason, you should always try out the kayak before you buy it, and find the one that is best for you. One thing is for sure though; you will not make a mistake with any of the kayaks I have tried out for you either.

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Lucas Bryant

Hi, I’m Lucas Bryant and fishing is one of the most important parts of my life. I usually go fishing with my friends and have many fishing competition. That why I like to research and create many tips to get more fishes to win a race. I hope my experience will be useful for you.

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Mitch Moises - a couple of years ago

The further I see, the more the greater your content is.


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