Different types of kayaks | Complete Guide for Beginners

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People say kayaking is fun, and I agree with them. But every kayak lover has gone through the same tunnel while buying a kayak, which is the tunnel of confusion.

One might get overwhelmed while getting a kayak as there are so many different types of kayaks out there.

Kayaks are a pretty versatile vessel. If you choose wisely, you may get a kayak that can be used for multiple purposes. But choosing a kayak that will live up to all your expectations is quite hard.

And that’s why; I am going to inform you about all the kayaks available out there. Thus, you can get the best kayak, which is suitable for you.

Types of kayaks available in the market:

We can sort the types of kayaks into three categories: seating position, specialty, and kayak’s purposes.

Defined by the seating position, we can see two types of kayaks. They are:

  • Sit-on-top kayak.
  • Sit-in kayak.

Sit-on-top kayaks:

Sit-on-top kayaks are the most popular type of kayak out there. It is the first choice of many experienced kayakers. It would be best if you use these kayaks in warm weather.

Sit-on-top kayaks have a simple exit and entry system. You can enjoy the weather and a great view from a sit-on-top kayak. It is a great kayak if you plan to jump on the water for swimming or other activities.

In the moment of capsizing, it’s easier to save yourself if you are in a sit-on-top kayak. Additionally, you can enjoy fishing with this kayak as it comes with additional benefits for anglers.

However, no matter how much you make an effort, you will always get wet in a sit-on-top kayak. That’s the compromise you have to make if you pick this particular type of kayak.

Benefits of Sit-on-top kayaks at a glance:

  • Easy entry and exit system.
  • Offers an outstanding view.
  • Scupper holes for draining excess water.


  • Heavier than sit-in kayaks.
  • Cargo space is hard to excess.

Sit-in kayak:

Instead of sitting on the top of the hull, your seat is protected by the kayak’s outer shell in a sit-on kayak. It is the best one if you don’t like to get wet when you are exploring the waters.

Sit-in kayaks are best for cold and windy weather as they protect you. But as you have to sit inside the cockpit, it won’t be easier to get in and out like the sit-on-top ones.

So, if any accident happens, you may have to face some trouble to protect yourself. Bulky guys should avoid these types of kayaks because the entry and exit process might not be easier.

Benefits of sit-in kayaks at a glance:

  • Lightweight and faster than sit-on-top kayaks.
  • Protects you from water splash.
  • Easier to maneuver.


  • Not easy to get in and out.
  • Some people may find it too congested.

Types of kayaks by their specialty:

If we sort them by their specialty, we find four types of kayaks. They are:

  • Folding kayaks.
  • Inflatable kayaks.
  • Tandem Kayak.
  • Pedal-powered kayaks.

Folding Kayaks:

If you live in a small place or far away from your kayaking spot, folding kayaks are the best option. But they won’t be heavy-duty and rugged for rough waters and weather.

Inflatable kayaks:

Like folding ones, inflatable kayaks do not need much storage space. But unlike folding kayaks, inflatable fishing kayaks are heavy-duty, durable, and able to handle both rough and flat weather. So, you can use them for whitewater kayaking or in bad weather.

Tandem kayaks:

Tandem kayaks are made for group activities. You can get a tandem kayak for sports or normal kayaking with some companions. But if you don’t want to go for a group kayaking regularly, you shouldn’t get this one.

Pedal-powered kayaks:

If you want to do some fishing, photography, or other activities while kayaking and need your hands free, you can get this kayak.

You can drive this by paddling with your legs. It gives you more stability and control over the kayak.

But these sorts of kayaks are not portable and quite expensive. So, think thoroughly before buying this kayak.

Types of kayaks by their purposes:

There are different styles of kayaks based on the purposes they serve. The most common types of kayaks are:

  • Recreational kayaks.
  • Touring kayaks.
  • Whitewater kayaks.
  • Sea kayaks.
  • Fishing kayaks.

Recreational kayaks:

These kayaks are easy to maneuver and very stable. You can use them for kayaking in flat waters, lakes, and small rivers. Avoid rough or salt water if you are using this vessel.

Recreational kayaks

Touring kayaks:

Touring kayaks are longer, faster, and hard-wearing. They come with huge storage capacity and usually have skegs for better steering.

Whitewater kayaks:

Whitewater kayaks are specially made to handle the rough rapids and sharp rocky edges of whitewater. Generally, they are made of robust rotomolded plastic, which is highly durable and able to handle any situation.

Usually, inflatable kayaks are the best for whitewater expeditions as it has better buoyancy.

Sea kayaks:

Sea kayaks are designed with a higher rocker and a narrow V-shaped front to handle the rough seawater and waves. Though these kayaks are not stable enough, they are easier to control and have huge storage space.

Fishing kayaks:

Kayak fishing is a hot topic nowadays. Combining fishing and kayaking was a radical idea, to be honest. For this reason, there are now so many excellent kayaks specifically made for kayak fishing.

This type of kayak is built with features like pole rests and pedal-powered wheels for hands-free fishing. They usually have a flatter hull than any other kayak for superior stability.

Types of kayak materials and their durability:

There are mostly three kinds of materials that are used in the construction of kayaks. These materials are:

  • Polyethylene.
  • ABS plastic.
  • Composites.


Kayaks made of this material are durable, heavy-duty, yet light-weight. It is also abrasion-resistant and the most popular kayak construction material out there.

ABS plastic:

ABS plastic shares the same qualities as the polyethylene. The additional quality of this material is UV-resistant. So, you don’t have to store it in a covered place like you do with polyethylene kayaks.


This material is a combination of lightweight Carbon fiber and fiberglass. Kayaks made of this material offer enhanced performance than other ones. But these kayaks are very expensive, and they are not as durable as they should be.

The ultimate kayak buying guide:

Hopefully, you have gathered enough knowledge about different types of kayaks by now. But there are still some factors that need to be reflected on before buying a kayak. Let’s take a glance at those particulars.

Your favorite waters:

Yes, it is one of the essential things to consider while you are about to get a kayak. What is your favorite kayaking spot?

Where are you planning to go for kayaking? Not all kayaks are suitable for every type of water.

For instance, shorter kayaks are better for whitewater and rivers, and long kayaks are suitable for large open waters. So, always think about the waters before getting your kayak.


If your kayak isn’t stable, what’s the point of using it and putting your life in danger? For greater stability, always buy a kayak with a wider hull.


Portability is one of the vital things to keep in mind while choosing a kayak. If you live far away from the fishing spot, it won’t be a piece of cake to carry a hard-shell, heavy-weight kayak to your favorite fishing spot.

Many kayaks are compact, easy to carry, yet robust. So, pick a portable kayak. Otherwise, you are going to throw your back out every time you transport it.

If, for some reason, you have a heavier kayak, get a kayak cart for easy transportation.

Loading capacity of the kayak:

Every kayak has a different loading capacity. What you want for yourself is your preference. Get a kayak that can take fairly enough weight to take some cargo, additional gear, and accessories with you.


As kayaking isn’t a quick sport, the comfort level of the seats must be checked carefully. A comfortable adjustable seating arrangement with back support and footrests will save you from cramps and severe back pains.

Cockpit size:

Small cockpits allow you to have more control over the kayak. On the other hand, large cockpits have an excellent entry and exit system.

Length, depth, and width of the kayak:

The longer kayaks have great storage capacity, but they can’t go faster. Shorter kayaks are fast but lack in loading capacity.

Deeper kayaks are great for tall people and shallow ones are very good against windy weather,

Wider kayaks provide superior stability, and narrow kayaks are quick.

So, now sit down and figure out all the features you want to have in your dream kayak then buy the one that matches the most.

In conclusion:

Picking the perfect kayak is complicated, confusing, and time-consuming. But I have tried my best to give you proper condensed information about different types of kayaks. Hopefully, now it will be a little easier for you to get the best kayak for yourself.

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