Best Kayak

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When it comes to water recreation, few things compare to paddling a kayak.  Far from being dugout tree trunks, modern kayaks are incredibly versatile with hundreds of models intended for a variety of purposes. Whether a solo paddling mission downriver or out at the lake with the family, kayaks offer a fun and unique experience you won’t find with any other type of water craft. Below we’ve provided a helpful buyer’s guide with essential information to help you during your search for the right kayak that meets your needs and budget.

Best Inflatable Kayak:

Inflatable kayaks are perfect for paddlers who dont have the room to store a traditional kayak or for trips ashore from a larger vessel. Most inflatable kayaks are made from extremely tough rubber or vinyl. These easy-to-assemble hulls can be used in just about any body of water, including surf and even white water. Whether you are planning a day trip or a weekend excursion, inflatable kayaks are a whole lot of fun in a small and convenient package. The inflatable kayaks on this list were chosen because they are lightweight, affordable and easy to stow and transport.

Hobie Mirage Inflatable Single i12s Kayak

The Hobie Mirage i12S is the only inflatable kayak with foot peddle technology and a sail package, making it an all round choice for any excursion. Hobie specializes in making versatile kayaks. The Mirage is no exception. Extremely maneuverable, safe and comfortable, the Mirage i12S is perfect for weekend family fun. Read Full Review

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    Hobie Mirage Inflatable Single i12s Kayak

    Zoik RF Solo Inflatable Kayak

    The Zoik RF Solo weights only 36 pounds and is easy to carry and inflate. The Zoik RF Solo is a simple design that is easy to maneuver in most any water conditions. Durable and lightweight, this kayak is a perfect pick for recreational paddling and overnight trips. In no time, you can be on the water in this 10-foot, 6-inch inflatable kayak. Read Full Review

    Zoik RF Solo Inflatable Kayak

    Innova Helios I EX Inflatable Kayak

    The single passenger version of the search and rescue kayak of choice by Vancouvers Rangers, the Helios I is an inflatable kayak in a class of its own. Made from Nitrylon, the Helios I is lightweight, dries quickly and is easy to maintain. The Helios I by Innova is a stable inflatable kayak that tracks exceptionally well. Read Full Review

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      Innova Helios I EX Inflatable Kayak

      Walker Bay Airis Sport 6.5 PSI Inflatable Kayak

      The perfect inflatable for families who travel in larger vessels or in RVs, this Airis Sport by Walker Bay is compact, lightweight and fun. Longer and narrower than the Airis Play, the Sport model is designed to track well on longer trips. There is plenty of space on this nearly 11 foot long kayak to bungee down all the gear you would need for extended and overnight trips. Read Full Review

      Walker Bay Airis Sport 6.5 PSI Inflatable Kayak

      Advance Elements Advanced Frame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

      Advanced Elements created the perfect hybrid between an inflatable and a folding kayak with the Advancedframe Expedition. Weighing only 42 pounds, the 13 foot frame makes the Expedition one of the fastest inflatables on the market. The Advancedframe kayak is one of the best tracking inflatable kayaks on the market thanks to the aluminum frame. Read Full Review

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        Advance Elements Advanced Frame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

        Best Recreational Kayak:

        Recreational kayaks are the ideal kayaks for beginners. Wider than most kayaks, recreational kayaks provide added stability and a cockpit that is easier to enter and exit. Both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks can be considered recreational depending on the hull shape. The type of recreational kayak that is best for you will depend on the nature of the water you will most likely traverse, how far you will regularly travel and how much gear you will want to carry. Most recreational kayaks sacrifice speed for stability, but can usually maneuver easier in fast water or surf. The recreational kayaks on this list were chosen because they are affordable, stable and versatile.

        Ocean Kayak Peekaboo Recreational Kayak

        The glass bottom boat of kayaking, the Ocean Kayak Peekaboo is the perfect recreational kayak for family fun on the water. A large viewing window in the hull of this sit-on-top gives you a glimpse of the underwater action as you paddle. Stable and easy to maneuver, the Peekaboo is a recreational kayak that the whole family can enjoy. Read Full Review

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          Ocean Kayak Peekaboo Recreational Kayak

          Necky Rip 12 Kayak

          Spacious and comfortable, the Necky Rip 12 Kayak is built for speed. A sharp keel gives this recreational kayak excellent tracking while the bulkheads add safety and dry storage to this sit-in. The Rip 12 Recreational Kayak has plenty of room for camping and fishing gear, making it perfect for weekend trips. Read Full Review

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            Necky Rip 12 Kayak

            Ocean Kayak Frenzy Recreational Kayak

            The Frenzy is the big brother of the now discontinued Yak Board by Ocean Kayak. This versatile kayak is stable enough to surf and still tracks well on longer trips. This kayak has all the storage space you need for weekend excursions. Lightweight and easy to launch, the Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a recreational paddlers favorite. Read Full Review

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              Ocean Kayak Frenzy Recreational Kayak

              Feel Free Juntos Sit On Top Kayak 2013

              A versatile sit-on-top, the Feelfrees Juntos is true recreational kayak built for fun on the water. Plenty of room for an adult and a child or pet, the Juntos is wide and stable but still tracks well in most water conditions courtesy of the tri-hull design. The Juntos has plenty of storage space for carrying gear on longer trips. Read Full Review

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                Feel Free Juntos Sit On Top Kayak 2013

                Emotion Kayaks Envy 11 Kayak

                Emotion Kayaks Envy 11 is a fast and responsive sit-in recreational kayak. The Envy 11 has plenty of storage and a comfortable seat for longer trips. The hull of the Envy 11 is stable and designed to track well. This easy to maneuver recreational kayak is perfect for paddling lakes and slow moving rivers. Read Full Review

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                  Emotion Kayaks Envy 11 Kayak

                  Best Fishing Kayak:

                  There are plenty of factors to take into consideration when looking for the fishing kayak that meets all of your needs. There are three main qualities you’ll want to find in a fishing kayak. First, you’ll want a stable kayak, perhaps one that is wide enough to stand up on to cast. A good fishing kayak will also have enough dry storage and large cargo space to carry plenty of rods, tackle and a bait bucket or milk crate with your gear. Finally, the kayak should be comfortable. The kayaks on this list were chosen because they meet those standards. Most fishing kayaks come standard with an adjustable seat for lower back support. With that combination in a kayak, the only thing left to worry about is where you’ll find your first catch.

                  Freedom Hawk 12 Stand Up Fishing Kayak

                  The Freedom Hawk Freedom 12 Stand-up is the perfect design for fishing in any conditions. This kayak is stable and fast and has two inline outriggers that can be moved into three different positions to allow for easy paddling, fishing or motoring. This revolutionary design ensures a safe, comfortable and efficient kayak fishing experience. Read Full Review

                  Freedom Hawk 12 Stand Up Fishing Kayak

                  Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 Kayak

                  The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 is an angler’s dream. Perfectly rigged for any fishing expedition with the Hobie patented Mirage Drive system, the Pro Angler 14 can cut through any body of water it is launched into. Read Full Review

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                    Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 Kayak

                    Feel Free Moken 10 Angler Kayak

                    The Feel Free Moken 10 Angler can fish anything from class II whitewater to the still surface of a lake and is easily launched, thanks to the wheel in the keel of the kayak. There is little else to want in a fishing kayak that the Moken 10 Angler doesn’t already offer. Read Full Review

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                      Feel Free Moken 10 Angler Kayak

                      Emotion Grand Slam Angler Fishing Kayak

                      Emotion’s Grand Slam Angler is an ideal kayak for beginning to intermediate paddlers who are interested in more than just fishing. The Grand Slam Angler is equipped with three rod holders and plenty of storage. This fishing kayak is designed for stable tracking in any conditions, making it perfect for everything from fishing to surfing. Read Full Review

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                        Emotion Grand Slam Angler Fishing Kayak

                        Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II Fishing Kayak

                        The Prowler Big Game Fishing Kayak by Ocean Kayak is a stable sit on top design that tracks well for a wider kayak. The Prowler is a great kayak for the paddler who is interested in more than just fishing. This kayak is versatile enough to be launched in any water from a slow moving river to the open ocean. Read Full Review

                        Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II Fishing Kayak

                        Best Sea Kayak:

                        Sea kayaking is for intermediate to advanced paddlers who want to challenge their kayaking skills and push the performance envelope. Sea kayaks are fast, sleek and designed for safe use on the open water. Typically longer and narrower, sea kayaks are created for speed and increased tracking. Time on the water and amount of gear you want to carry can be factors in choosing your first sea kayak. Seasoned paddlers will want to investigate the hull shape and composition. The hull material for sea kayaks can range from the inexpensive polymer to fiberglass and carbon. The sea kayaks on this list were chosen because they are fast, stable, are made from durable materials and track well in any water conditions.

                        Rockpool TARAN Kayak

                        An excellent cold weather kayak, the Taran by Rockpool is an excellent sea kayak for any level of expertise. The Taran is fast, stable and tracks extremely well. With a history of breaking touring records, you dont need to be interested in circumnavigating the UK to appreciate the speed and agility of the Taran. Read Full Review

                        Rockpool TARAN Kayak

                        Necky Elias Polymer Kayak with Rudder

                        The Polymer version of the Necky Elias can be appreciated by a kayaker of any level of expertise. Fast and agile, this 156 kayak tracks well and is designed for require minimal effort in normal conditions. The Polymer layup of the Elias has the option of a rudder system, making the sea kayak track exceptionally well in any conditions. Read Full Review

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                          Necky Elias Polymer Kayak with Rudder

                          P&H Delphin 155 Sea Kayak

                          A sea kayak with a white water hear, the Delphin by P&H Sea Kayaks is designed so that paddlers can comfortably navigate steep waves and fast seas. A weighted stern, quick resurfacing bow and plenty of dry storage make this sea kayak an offshore touring must-have because it tracks well and is a very dry riding kayak. Read Full Review

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                            P&H Delphin 155 Sea Kayak

                            Perception Expression 14.5 Kayak

                            The Perception Expression 14.5 is stable and maneuverable Sea kayak for an afternoon paddle or a week long excursion. This kayak is dry in most any water conditions and tracks exceptionally well with or without the optional rudder. The Expression 14.5 is a comfortable and safe choice for any level of paddler. Read Full Review

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                              Perception Expression 14.5 Kayak

                              Hobie Mirage Adventure Kayak

                              The Hobie Mirage Adventure is a kayak you can grow with. From sea kayaking enthusiast, you can evolve into a sailor in a heartbeat with the optional sail kit. The Hobie Mirage Adventure is a truly versatile sea kayak that tracks well whether you are paddling rivers, lakes or open ocean. Read Full Review

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                                Hobie Mirage Adventure Kayak

                                Best River Kayak:

                                White water kayaking is a fun and thrilling way to spend an afternoon or a weekend. River kayaking can be a hazardous sport however, and you want to be sure that you have the right kayak for the right class of rapids. Maneuverability and surface area are both key factors to consider when choosing a river kayak. The less surface area there is, the faster the kayak will be. The narrower the kayak, the easier it is to roll, which can be a good thing when kayaking rivers. Determining what river kayak is best for you is all about looking at your options, reaching a careful compromise and choosing the white water kayak that's the safest for you. Every white water paddler has a distinct method of paddling that can be as wide ranging as the river kayaks on the market. The river kayaks on this list were chosen because they are stable, self bailing, easy to maneuver and track well in rough water.

                                Jackson Villian Kayak

                                The Villain by Jackson Kayaks is extremely comfortable and safe. Designed for the river paddler with rough water in mind, the Villain is built to take whatever conditions you launch it in and still keep you dry. The high rocker design of the Villain makes this a great tracking, moderately fast kayak. Read Full Review

                                Jackson Villian Kayak

                                Dagger Mamba 8.6 River Kayak

                                Made for the larger paddlers who have a taste for rough whitewater, the Mamba 8.6 by Dagger is designed to roll, surf and spin with ease. The Mamba 8.6 is a great river kayak for the beginner who wants to progress (and paddle) fast. This river kayak tracks well and has an adjustable storage space that can carry plenty of gear for longer paddles. Read Full Review

                                Dagger Mamba 8.6 River Kayak

                                Innova Safari Inflatable Kayak

                                The Innova Safari is perfect for the river paddler who wants to travel whitewater around the world. This compact inflatable kayak has a performance rating that rivals its hard shell counterparts. This versatile kayak tracks well in any conditions flat water to advanced whitewater, thanks to a removable fin that can be used in slow rivers, lakes and open water. Read Full Review

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                                   Innova Safari Inflatable Kayak

                                  Big Dog Storm Kayak

                                  For the beginning paddler who wants to quickly progress, the Big Dog Storm River Kayak offers plenty of comfort for hours on the river. The Storm tracks well in flat water, but has surprising speed and maneuverability for its length. The semi-planing hull is stable and easy to paddle for paddlers new to the rapids. Read Full Review

                                  Big Dog Storm Kayak

                                  AIRE Tributary Sawtooth Inflatable River Kayak

                                  Highly maneuverable on both still and white water, Aire Tributary Sawtooth is an inflatable kayak designed for the rapids. Compact and lightweight, this is the ideal kayak for a beginner who wants a performance river kayak. While the Sawtooth is a solo river kayak, it is longer than many tandem kayaks, meaning there is plenty of room for gear for longer journeys. Read Full Review

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                                    AIRE Tributary Sawtooth Inflatable River Kayak

                                    Best Tandem Kayak:

                                    Built to carry two or three passengers, tandem kayaks provide a safe and easy way to share your favorite spot on the water or teach a beginner how to paddle. Tandem kayaks have plenty of room for gear for an overnight excursion or fishing trip. Design models can range from recreational use to sleek hulls made for lengthy excursions. Where you want to go, the number of passengers and amount of gear you will want to carry are all factors to take into consideration when choosing a tandem kayak. The best tandem kayaks are stable, versatile and affordable.

                                    Ocean Kayak Zest Two EXP Tandem Kayak

                                    One of the fastest tandem hulls available, the Ocean Kayak Zest Two EXP is the perfect kayak for the couple ready to embark on a weekend adventure. Add on the optional rudder system and this kayak can get a couple where they want to go in a hurry. Read Full Review

                                    Ocean Kayak Zest Two EXP Tandem Kayak

                                    Emotion Tandemonium Tandem Kayak

                                    Emotion Kayaks Tandemonium is a highly stable tandem kayak with three seat positions that allow you to paddle solo or with up to two additional passengers. The tri-hull design gives this tandem superb maneuverability for its length in addition to fast tracking. Read Full Review

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                                      Emotion Tandemonium Tandem Kayak

                                      Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Double Kayak

                                      The perfect tandem kayak for a couple with a small child, the Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus is stable, maneuverable and perfect for beginners. This tandem provides ultimate comfort with wide-open cockpits, cushioned seats, foot braces and thigh pads. The Dirigo is an excellent tandem kayak for recreational and beginning paddlers. Read Full Review

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                                        Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Double Kayak

                                        Delta 20T Tandem Kayak

                                        The Delta Kayak 20T is a highly maneuverable and fast tracking tandem kayak. A sea kayak, the 20T is the perfect kayak for the couple with touring in mind. The 20T has plenty of dry storage that a pair could need for a lengthy excursion. Stable and comfortable, the Delta 20T is an ideal tandem kayak for intermediate to advanced paddlers. Read Full Review

                                        Delta 20T Tandem Kayak

                                        Hobie Odyssey Tandem Kayak

                                        The Hobie is the ideal recreational kayak for a family excursion. With seating room for up to three and an optional Bimini top, the Hobie Odyssey can have you and your paddling partners made in the shade. The Hobie Odyssey is an ideal kayak for families who want to enjoy paddling anything from slow moving rivers to open ocean. Read Full Review

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                                          Hobie Odyssey Tandem Kayak

                                          Best Sit On Top Kayak:

                                          Whether you are interested in fishing, diving, surfing or recreational paddling, sit-on-top kayaks are versatile enough to meet all of your demands. Made from molded plastic or fiberglass, sit-on-tops have a traditionally shaped hull, but with an open-deck and molded depression where you sit. It is a perfect design for beginners because of the simplicity. Sit-on-tops are also the comfortable choice for taller paddlers who require more leg room. These self-bailing kayaks are incredibly safe because they do not take on water when tipped over. Sit-on-top kayaks come in a wide range of designs, therefore weight, length and maneuverability vary greatly depending on the style. The sit-on-top kayaks on this list were chosen because they will be maneuverable, versatile and light enough to be easily handled.

                                          Necky Vector 14 Sit-On-Top Kayak

                                          The Vector 14 Polymer by Necky Kayaks is a sleek, yet extremely stable sit-on-top. It boasts many of the features typical to a Necky Touring kayak, the Vector 14 far surpasses your average sit-on-top. Read Full Review

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                                            Necky Vector 14 Sit-On-Top Kayak

                                            Ocean Kayak Nalu 12.5 Paddleboard/Kayak

                                            The Ocean Kayak Nalu is a versatile kayak that you can stand up and paddle or surf, but still holds its own on longer trips. A comfortable and lightweight sit-on-top, the Nalu 12.5 is perfect for a beginning paddler with a taste for breaking surf. Read Full Review

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                                              Ocean Kayak Nalu 12.5 Paddleboard/Kayak

                                              Hobie Quest 11 Kayak

                                              The Hobie Quest 11 is a true multipurpose sit-on-top kayak and an ideal choice for a beginning paddler who might want to try their hand at kayak fishing. It has the room for all the gear you would need for an overnight trip or fishing expedition. Read Full Review

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                                                Hobie Quest 11 Kayak

                                                Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Sit On Top Kayak

                                                Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 is the perfect sit on to kayak for beginning to intermediate paddlers. The Tarpon is wide enough to be stable without being bulky and difficult to carry. The Tarpon has plenty of dry storage for day trips and the capacity to carry enough gear for longer journeys. Read Full Review

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                                                  Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Sit On Top Kayak

                                                  Malibu X-13 Sit-On-Top Kayak

                                                  The Malibu X-13 sit-on-top kayak is an incredibly versatile kayak that is perfect for fishing, recreational paddling or even overnight excursions. The X-13 is sleek in spite of being 29 inches wide, making it quick and responsive without sacrificing stability. Read Full Review

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                                                    Malibu X-13 Sit-On-Top Kayak
                                                     

                                                    Kayak Buyer’s Guide

                                                    The first thing you should determine when looking for a kayak is where you’ll want to paddle and how. Kayak designs vary greatly depending on whether they’re built for the ocean, calm inland lakes and rivers, or whitewater rapids. You should also consider whether you want to fish, camp, or travel with multiple people. A good kayak should also have comfortable seating, plenty of dry storage for gear and a special feature like retractable rudders or a defined keel for increased tracking and stability when traveling long distances.

                                                    Cockpit Design
                                                    The design of the kayaks cockpit will depend on where you want to paddle and your level of experience. However, regardless of the cockpit design, your comfort level is the key to stability while underway as well as entering and exiting the kayak.  A comfortable cockpit should allow your legs to have enough space to stretch while your feet can easily reach the foot braces. 

                                                    Open cockpits or “sit-ins”, are common in recreational kayaks and well suited for nearly any condition including ocean surf. Closed cockpits on the other hand are more common in sea kayaks and models which have been built for whitewater rapids. 

                                                    Stability and Tracking
                                                    The stability of a kayak is best defined as how much the boat rocks side to side when at rest and when paddled. Beginning paddlers will want to look for a kayak with greater resting stability whereas advanced paddlers will want greater underway stability for paddling in cross winds and waves. 

                                                    Tracking is how well the boat travels in a straight line with minimal effort.  A kayak which tracks extremely well usually doesn’t maneuver easily and is better suited for flat water paddling. 

                                                    Construction
                                                    Kayaks are constructed from a variety of materials including plastic, wood, fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon, or inflatable plastic/fabric with the kayaks weight and cost largely depending on what it’s manufactured with.

                                                    Wood kayaks are fairly uncommon and require more maintenance, but have a classic look.  Although plastic kayaks tend to be heavier, they’re more durable as well as the least expensive. Next we have fiberglass which is less likely to scratch than plastic but more likely to be damaged colliding with objects. Finally we have Kevlar and carbon which are the lightest materials used in kayak manufacturing but naturally the most expensive as well.

                                                    Types of Kayaks

                                                    Recreational Kayaks
                                                    These are the most common types of kayak you’ll find, typically featuring sit-on-top as well as sit-in cockpit designs which are usually quite large and unsuitable for open water or whitewater paddling.

                                                    These kayaks are wider and usually sacrifice speed in favor of stability but for beginning paddlers this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Depending on the cockpit design, recreational kayaks are versatile enough to accommodate leisure time activities such as fishing and surfing.

                                                    Sea Kayaks
                                                    Sea Kayaks are made for paddling on open water. These long and narrow kayaks lower in the water to maximize speed while the cockpit is smaller in size to keep the paddler dry. Some sea kayaks have a rudder system or sternward keel extensions (known as “skegs”) to increase tracking.

                                                    River Kayaks
                                                    Also known as whitewater kayaks, river kayaks are designed with no keel and very little surface area, making them fast, and agile. Solo river kayaks are short, narrow, and typically less than ten feet in length with a small cockpit to keep you inside, even if the kayak were to roll over. All river kayaks are rated differently for specific classes of whitewater rapids.

                                                    Fishing Kayaks
                                                    Designed specifically for fishing, these wide kayaks allow for easy line casting with some models even stable enough to stand on. Fishing kayaks typically feature rod holders, bait wells, tackle boxes, adjustable back rests, and ample cargo space. These kayaks will also usually have flat bottoms with very little keel for paddling in shallow water; some designs even feature mounts for outboard trolling motors.

                                                    Sit On Top Kayaks
                                                    One of the most popular kayak designs, sit-on-top kayaks are great for recreational paddling and are versatile enough to surf, fish, and even dive off of. These kayak types are self-bailing and very safe take out since they won’t take on water even if flipped over. Because of their width, these types tend to move slower on the water than sea or river kayaks.

                                                    Tandem Kayaks
                                                    Tandem kayaks are built to safely carry two to three passengers. There are a number tandem kayaks designs which range from sleek sea kayak hulls for longer trips, to wider sit-on-tops for recreational use. Tandem kayaks can also be used to carry gear for overnight camping or fishing trips. 

                                                    Inflatable Kayaks
                                                    Inflatable kayaks are easy to inflate and deflate with a manual or electric air pump, making them ideal for individuals lacking storage space for a traditional hard body kayak. Most inflatable kayaks are made from rubber or fabric with a lightweight frame and available in a variety of designs which include open cockpits, closed cockpits, and sit-on-top.

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