The 6 Best Kayaks of 2021

Hit the lake, pond, or ocean in one of these watercrafts

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Our Top Picks
"Designed for two paddlers, it has a transparent polymer hull that gives passengers a front-row view of aquatic life."
"Designed to be both efficient and UV-protected, this option will provide stability for hours on your next water adventure."
"This recreational choice is equipped to handle calm or more aggressive waters, so you can rest easy no matter the day's elements."
"When you're traveling and every bit of space counts, you'll appreciate this lightweight, inflatable pick that can be shrunk."
"Youngsters can enjoy an option tailored to them, especially those who are new to paddling or still developing their motor skills."
"It features a TruTrak adjustable skeg system that allows kayakers to adapt to different conditions."

Kayaks are small, slim boats that are propelled by double-bladed paddles. (Canoes, on the other hand, are propelled by single-bladed paddles). Kayaks tend to accommodate one passenger at a time, but some are designed to accommodate two or three passengers at once. They can be used in performance (athletic) or recreational settings, as well as in different bodies of water.

There are two primary kinds of kayaks: sit-on-top kayaks and sit-in kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks are relatively shallow, and kayakers can sit on top of them while paddling. Sit-in kayaks tend to be deeper, and kayakers sit inside of them while paddling. Each variation offers unique benefits.

Here are the best kayaks on the market.

Best Tandem: Hammacher Schlemmer Two-Person Transparent Canoe Kayak


The Two-Person Transparent Canoe Kayak is not your average recreational kayak. It boasts a transparent polymer hull that lets kayakers see through the entire boat, giving them a clear glimpse of the wildlife below. This makes the kayak a particularly great choice for clearer bodies of water, like oceans, where it can act as an alternative to snorkeling.

Though the Two-Person Transparent Canoe Kayak is crafted entirely from a clear polymer, it promises to be incredibly sturdy. The kayak’s frame is made of anodized aluminum, and the kayak itself is made of Lexan—a durable material found in the cockpit canopies of supersonic fighter jets. It can comfortably seat two kayakers at a time, and each kayaker can adjust their seat’s position to control the amount of leg room they have. 

The kayak comes with two aluminum paddles and two flotation device pouches, so kayakers can rest assured knowing they’ll have everything they need to take this boat out on the water.

Good to Know

The word “hull” describes the body of the kayak. Longer hulls offer storage space, while short hulls offer nimble maneuverability. Wider hulls offer stability, while narrower hulls offer speed. Deeper hulls offer more space, while shallower hulls offer some amount of protection against the wind. The word “cockpit” describes the portion of the kayak where the kayaker sits, and the word “bow” describes the front of the kayak.

Best Sit-on-Top: Lifetime Angler Sit-on-Top Kayak

Lifetime Tamarack Angler Kayak

The Lifetime Angler Sit-on-Top Kayak is a recreational sit-on-top kayak that promises to be durable and reliable. Features like a flat-bottom hull, tracking skeg, and sharp bow ensure this kayak is optimized for safety and stability, but not at the expense of speed. The result is a kayak that promises to remain comfortably and efficiently on course throughout hours on the water.

It's also designed to offer comfort and convenience, especially for those taking the boat out to fish. The kayak boasts a customizable padded seat and multiple indented footrests, so kayakers can easily adjust their position until they feel comfortable. The kayak’s paddle keeper ensures that its paddle stays attached to the boat at all times, and its three rod holders promise to keep fishing equipment equally secure. 

The Lifetime Angler Sit-on-Top Kayak offers front and rear storage areas, both of which are secured by bungee cords, and it boasts an additional two storage hatches under the deck. 

Best Sea Kayak: Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler Kayak

Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler Kayak

The Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 Angler Kayak is a recreational sit-on-top kayak that offers reliability and efficiency in equal measure. The kayak’s performance hull smoothly cuts through water, deftly handling calm or rough waves. The kayak is also designed to be incredibly stable, making it an excellent fit for those hoping to take it fishing.

The kayak boasts a cushioned seat that promises to contour to the body, keeping kayakers comfortable throughout full days of paddling. The front hatch opens to offer ample storage space—enough to house coolers, fishing rods, scuba gear, and more.

The kayak comes equipped with rod holders, paddle holders, and cup holders, all of which make it easy to keep necessities securely attached to the boat throughout use.

Best Inflatable: Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe Inflatable Sport Kayak

Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe Inflatable Sport Kayak

The Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe Inflatable Sport Kayak is an inflatable recreational kayak designed to accommodate up to three passengers at once. The kayak is shaped like many other sit-in kayaks, but it can easily be deflated and folded up, making it convenient to transport from place to place.

The kayak’s seats are also inflatable and removable, so kayakers can easily adjust the layout to meet their needs. (That said, while the Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe Inflatable Sport Kayak promises to accommodate up to three kayakers at once, it only comes with two seats and two paddles—so it may work better as a two-person option.)

Though inflatable kayaks may seem less sturdy than more traditional options, this one promises to be anything but flimsy. The kayak is crafted from PolyKrylar, a high-density polymer designed to be incredibly tear-resistant. It also comes equipped with two tracking skegs on the bottom, which promise to keep it stably and efficiently on course.

What’s more? It's durable enough to hold up during class III whitewater rafting, which is characterized by irregular waves and often requires complex maneuvers in fast currents. The Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe Inflatable Sport Kayak comes with a foot pump and carry bag, both of which make it easy to transport from place to place. 

Best for Kids: Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak

The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak takes its commitment to safety and security seriously. The kayak is crafted from high-density polyethylene, which promises to be strong and durable. The kayak’s hull is designed to be flip-resistant, and the twin tracking fins on the kayak’s base promise to keep the boat stably on course. With every feature, it is designed to be incredibly reliable—which is important, considering it promises to be suitable for children ages 5 and up (with adult supervision).

The kids' kayak is also designed to be comfortable and relatively easy to use. It is sloped at the end, with a built-in swim-up step that makes it easy for young kayakers to get on and off the boat. It also comes equipped with self-draining scupper holes that promise to keep the cockpit dry.

Since it is designed with multiple indented footrests, it can easily accommodate kayakers of all sizes. This makes it easy for siblings to share, and it also means parents won’t have to buy a new kayak every time their child goes through a growth spurt. The Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak is backed by a 5-year limited warranty. 

Best Performance: Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Kayak

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Kayak is an award-winning, performance kayak designed for those who want to go beyond recreational paddling. The kayak comes equipped with a TruTrak adjustable skeg system, which allows kayakers to deploy skegs as they see fit. This means that kayakers can seamlessly adapt to different conditions—they can deploy their skegs when they crave stability in calmer conditions, and they can reel their skegs back in when they need nimble maneuverability. 

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Kayak is also designed with multi-day adventures in mind. The kayak’s adjustable seat promises personalized comfort and support, while the vented foam it’s crafted from is designed to enhance breathability—keeping kayakers cool during day-long journeys. The kayak’s padded thigh braces further offer comfort, while also giving the kayaker additional control over the vessel. And the Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Kayak boasts a considerable amount of dry storage space, allowing kayakers to pack everything they need for long journeys.

Final Verdict

The Two-Person Transparent Canoe Kayak (view on Hammacher Schlemmer) is a worthy splurge for anyone who loves admiring wildlife as much as they love kayaking.

What to Look for in a Kayak

Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-In

Kayaks tend to come in two primary styles, each of which comes with strengths and weaknesses. Sit-on-top kayaks tend to be better suited for casual and recreational use, and they often lend themselves well to fishing. They’re easy to get into and out of, but they’re not particularly protective, and kayakers who use them will likely get wet. Sit-in kayaks tend to be more versatile, with some options fit for performance use and others more suitable for recreational use. They offer more protection and storage space, and they tend to be more efficient to paddle.


The word “tracking” describes a kayak’s ability to stay on course. Features like tracking fins, skegs, and rudders can lend a kayak “stable tracking,” which really just means it will move forward efficiently, without veering off course. Tracking tends to come at the expense of maneuverability, though some tracking mechanisms (like skegs) are adjustable, so kayakers can get the best of both worlds.


Kayakers navigating rough waters and narrow passages will need to be able to move nimbly. These kayakers should look for a kayak that promises “maneuverability.” Sit-in kayaks, which offer multiple points of contact between the kayaker’s body and the boat, tend to offer more control than sit-on-top options. Shorter kayaks also tend to be easier to maneuver than longer ones.


Even in calmer conditions, kayaks may come up against shallower banks and other relatively rough terrains. In these moments, it pays to have a kayak that’s durable.  


A kayak’s weight can affect its portability. Kayakers who plan to transport their kayaks from place to place should consider weight while kayak shopping. And kayakers who plan to kayak somewhat rarely may be better served by a hyper-portable option, like a lightweight, inflatable kayak.

Weight Capacity

A kayak’s weight capacity affects how much stuff it can hold. Kayakers looking for multi-day adventures may need an option with more storage space and higher weight capacity, whereas those looking for something more casual may not need to pay as much attention to this feature.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a seasoned health writer, Lindsey Lanquist understands how vital quality product recommendations can be. She is careful to recommend products that are reliable, comfortable, and genuinely well-reviewed by those who’ve tried them. She has also done some recreational kayaking, so she understands firsthand how important it can be to find a kayak that’s comfortable and meets your needs.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Whitewater. Safety Code of American Whitewater. Updated 2005.