The 7 Best Recreational Kayaks – [2021 Reviews & Guide]

Best Recreational Kayaks

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Plenty of people like the idea of kayaking but don’t want to spend a fortune on a kayak that they’re only going to use every now and then. Not to mention, advanced kayaks that require a well-versed professional aren’t exactly the most intuitive.

So, if you’re looking for the best recreational kayaks to take on trips with your family and friends, here’s a list of the very top-notch options.

Comparison Table

KayakMaximum Weight CapacityDimensionsWeight
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak 400 pounds123 x 36 x 20 inches35 pounds
Sevylor Quikpak K1400 pounds103 x 36 x 30 inches18 pounds
Intex Excursion Pro400 pounds151 x 37 x 18 inches43.6 pounds
Pelican Maxim 100X275 pounds120 x 28 x 14 inches36 pounds
ADVANCED ELEMENTS Inflatable Kayak300 pounds10 x 32 inches36 pounds
Sevylor Big Basin 490 pounds147 x 37 inches34.8  pounds
Oru Foldable Kayak 300 pounds33 x 12 x 29 inches25 pounds

The 7 Best Recreational Kayaks in 2020

After getting an overall view of the available options for the best recreational kayaks, let’s delve into the last detail of all the choices to paint a clearer picture of each of their qualities, pros, and cons.

1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak – Best Overall

Intex Explorer K2

If you’re a person who loves getting value for every penny they spend, you’ll love the Intex Explorer K2. Falling below the $150 mark, the Explorer K2 gives you a maximum weight capacity of 400 pounds, an inflatable seat with backrest, and a spacious cockpit to keep your legs and feet comfortable.

The Intex Explorer K2 is made of vinyl and comes with an I-beam floor that makes it rigid and gives it more stability. Also, there are two separate air chambers, so, in case one of them gets pricked, you’ll still remain afloat with the other. As for inflation and deflation, the processes are super simple, especially thanks to the Boston valves. 

This kayak measures 123 x 36 x 20 inches, weighs 35 pounds, and is equipped with grab handles on each end for convenience, which means that it’s super portable, as an inflatable kayak should be. This is also why it’s so easy to maneuver, besides having a removable skeg that enhances control and directional stability.

The Intex Explorer K2 comes with a repair patch kit, a carry bag to make it even more portable, an Intex pump for easy inflation, and two 86-inch aluminum oars. However, the paddles aren’t the best, so you might want to replace those.

Pros:

  • Very comfortable seat
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Highly affordable
  • Quite visible thanks to its bright yellow color

Cons:

  • Doesn’t suit large bodies of water

Bottom Line

The Intex Explorer K2 is an excellent, affordable kayak that would serve a family well. It’s easy to inflate or deflate, comfortable and is safe for a child or even a pet to get on board.


2. Sevylor Quikpak K1 – Most Portable

Sevylor Quikpak K1

Weighing only 18 pounds and measuring 103 x 36 x 30 inches, the Sevylor Quikpak K1 makes a very great recreational kayak as it’s easy to transport and maneuver. Despite that, it comes with a PVC body and a puncture-resistant Tarpaulin bottom, so it’s quite durable.

Not to mention, it comes with multiple air chambers that keep you afloat if one of them gets punctured, which might happen since a recreational user may not have the most experience. Its adjustable footrest makes it easy for someone new to get used to and enjoy kayaking.

Moreover, the kayak design is quite unique and allows you to bring all the gear you need aboard without compromising speed or directional stability.

The Sevylor Quikpak K1 only takes 5 minutes to set up, which you can easily do with the including pump and the lock valves’ help, making it easy to inflate or deflate the vessel. It also comes with an Airtight system that leaves no room for leaking.

Being a sit-on-top kayak means that it can support all body types and shapes, and the 400-pound maximum weight capacity backs that up.

Pros:

  • Easy and quick 5-minute setup
  • Can be folded into accompanying backpack
  • Very lightweight and portable
  • Solid PVC construction
  • Puncture-resistant Tarpaulin bottom
  • Adjustable footrest

Cons:

  • Customer service may not be the fastest

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a generally affordable and portable sit-on-top kayak for recreational use, you’ll hardly find anything that beats the Sevylor Quikpak K1.


3. Intex Excursion Pro – Best for Progressing

Intex Excursion Pro

If you want to hone your kayaking skills and progress to a more advanced level, the Intex Excursion Pro is the best choice to do so.

Like the previous two choices, it can accommodate up to 400 pounds, but it’s pretty hefty at 43.6 pounds. However, that makes sense with all the advanced features it offers, and it’s still not as heavy as hardshell kayaks.

Firstly, it’s made of a combination of durable laminate PVC and a polyester core, enabling it to withstand abrasions and sunlight without suffering any damage. Not to mention, it’s equipped with an I-beam floor that further enhances rigidity.

Secondly, the Excursion Pro is designed to keep you safe and secure. It comes with a 3-air chamber set up, which means that you’ll still be floating with the other two if one gets punctured. Also, should any water make its way into the kayak, you can use the integrated drain plug to get rid of it.

And in terms of comfort, it comes with seats that you can adjust or remove as well as adjustable footrests and bucket seats. There’s also a skeg that enhances directional stability.

Moreover, the kayak comes with adjustable and removable mounting brackets that you can use to complement your vessel with accessories, including fish finders, swiveling fishing rods, or GPS. And if you’re worried about whether you can use your kayak in shallow or deep water, the removable skews allow you to do both!

Despite its reasonable price, it comes as a full package, including a repair patch, pressure gauge, two paddles, and a carrying bag. It also offers a lot of storage space, two fishing rod holders that allow you to enjoy a hands-free experience as well as place your rods, lures, and baits with precision.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Capacious maximum limit
  • Reasonable price
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Excellent for honing your skills
  • Tough, 3-ply construction

Cons:

  • Oars aren’t of the best quality
  • A little heavy

Bottom line

Not only is it durable and precise, but the Intex Excursion Pro allows you to enjoy kayaking in your time of leisure as well as hone your kayaking skills toward professionalism. For a decent price, you’ll get plenty of features and enjoy a high-end experience with the technologies you can add, like fish finders or GPS.


4. Pelican Maxim 100X – Most Comfortable

Pelican Maxim 100X

The best thing about the Pelican Maxim 100X is how comfortable it is. In fact, it’s easy to see how this kayak was designed with the user’s comfort in mind, which is something essential for a recreational kayak.

The Kayak comes with an Ergo Foam backrest that’s padded as well as a cushioned Ergo Foam seat. It’s also pretty convenient as it’s equipped with a bottle holder and carry handles, so it leaves nothing out when it comes to comfort and convenience.

Its 275-pound maximum weight isn’t that high, but it’s good enough for one kayaker and plenty of equipment. So, the Maxim 100X is a good choice if you’re not planning on taking company to your kayaking adventure.

The Pelican Maxim 100X has a flat bottom with a Shallow V Chine hull that makes it both maneuverable and stable, further qualifying it to be a recreational kayak. Bear in mind, however, that it’s only that. The fact that it doesn’t come with a rod holder means that you can’t use this kayak for fishing.

In terms of durability, the Maxim 100X is made of Ram X, which is a UV-resistant material of multiple layers that’s highly capable of resisting impacts and regaining shape even after heavy hits. 

Pros: 

  • Seat cushioning provides comfort
  • Highly stable
  • Spacious cockpit

Cons: 

Bottom Line

Generally, the Pelican Maxim 100X isn’t an expensive choice, and it comes with plenty of features that not only make it a great recreational kayak but a top-notch choice overall. If you like kayaking solo, it’s the perfect choice for you.


5. ADVANCED ELEMENTS Inflatable Kayak – Best River Kayak

Advanced Elements Inflatable Kayak

The “Advanced” in this kayak’s name isn’t just a name in the title. This kayak comes with four inflation chambers that really ensure that it will stay afloat no matter the rough patches you go through. Not to mention, its inflation and deflation process is super smooth.

It can accommodate 300 pounds and weighs 36 pounds, which is a pretty good proportion. However, the Advanced Elements can be a little bulky. Still, this gives it more stability and the ability to handle abuse without issues, especially thanks to the rigid hull and robust outline.

It’s relatively compact and small in terms of size, which adds to its maneuverability and ability to turn or tack. It’s more reliable than its inflatable rivals and offers better performance than hardshell ones, giving you the best of both worlds.

Moreover, the Advanced Elements is still quite comfortable, thanks to the supportive seat that allows you to give your strokes all the power you can muster.

Pros: 

  • Compact design that’s easily stored 
  • Enhances tracking and turning 
  • Supportive seats for powerful strokes 
  • Excellent performance 

Cons: 

  • No spray cover 
  • The cockpit is a little too confined for some anglers 

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a recreational kayak that you can use for fishing sometimes and that suits use in rivers or lakes, the Advanced Elements is your best bet. It doesn’t take up a lot of space to store or transport, and it’s quite easy to maneuver.


6. Sevylor Big Basin – Best for Weight Capacity

Sevylor Big Basin

If you’re looking for a heavy-duty kayak that allows you to bring company along, you should opt for the Sevylor Big Basin. This kayak can accommodate up to three people as it has a maximum weight capacity of 490 pounds. Still, it weighs as little as 34.8 pounds, which is an impressive ratio.

It’s made of heavy-duty PVC, which is why it’s so effective at resisting punctures, especially when combined with the Tarpaulin bottom. It also comes with double-threaded Boston valves that make its inflation or deflation a breeze. And to add to its portability, it comes with carrying handles.

In terms of safety, the kayak comes with an Airtight system that leaves no room for leaks, and its multiple air chambers give you back up in case something goes south with one of them.

To give you freedom and flexibility in terms of storage area, the Sevylor Big Basin comes with removable seats that you can do without when paddling solo to get the maximum storage space for your equipment and gear.

However, it’s worth mentioning that its bottom is slightly narrow, which means you might need a little squeezing to get in and out of the vessel.

Pros:

  • Easy to pack and transport
  • Seamless inflation and deflation
  • Stable performance and tracking
  • Solid construction
  • Very high maximum weight capacity
  • Extra storage space under the seats

Cons:

  • Low sides make you prone to getting wet

Bottom line

If you have some money to spare and want to get your recreational kayak for group kayaking with family or friends, I’d highly recommend the Sevylor Big Basin. It comes with the highest weight capacity, is quite portable, stable, and easy to handle.


7. Oru Foldable Kayak – Easiest to Assemble

Oru Foldable Kayak

At 25 pounds, the Oru kayak is one of the most lightweight options on the list. Despite that, it can accommodate up to 300 pounds and offers a lot of storage space and reliable stability.

Being a foldable kayak, the Oru is liable to some wear and tear due to folding, but the manufacturer claims a 20,000-fold threshold in the kayak’s lifetime. So, set your mind at ease when it comes to abrasions and how durable this kayak is.

Moreover, the polypropylene construction with UV-protection also adds to this vessel’s durability and its ability to resist abrasion.

It’s equipped with an adjustable seat that keeps you comfortable throughout the trip and is constructed well and able to handle bumps and impact without caving in. The Oru kayak is also equipped with a handle and carrying case that makes it very easy to move around and transport.

With a 30-day money-back guarantee and a year’s warranty, you can rest assured that you get what you pay for and a little more!

Pros: 

  • Sleek design
  • Resists puncture and abrasions
  • Protection against UV
  • Easy to assemble
  • Adequate storage space
  • Easy to transport, even with no roof rack

Cons: 

  • A little pricey
  • May not suit larger bodies

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a reliable and durable kayak that doesn’t require too many steps for assembly and is a walk in the park to transport, you’ll love the Oru foldable kayak.


What to Consider When Choosing a Kayak

When you’re shopping for a recreational kayak, there are some essential factors that you have to bear in mind because you want something comfortable, easy to maneuver, and that doesn’t require too much effort. Here are the most important aspects to consider.

Stability, Tracking, and Anchoring

If you’re getting your kayak for recreational purposes, you probably aren’t the most well-versed with kayaks, and that’s why you want one with reliable tracking and stability. Bear in mind, however, that there’s a trade-off between stability and maneuverability, so try to hit a good balance.

If your kayak has good tracking, this means that it can stay on track when other forces act on it to turn it or so.

Finally, while anchoring isn’t a matter of life or death, it’s an excellent aspect when it comes to how stable your kayak is. If you decide to stop for a while to enjoy nature and get a breath of fresh air, your kayak can be driven away by streams if it doesn’t come with solid and reliable anchoring.

Paddling Experience

For both beginners and recreational users, a wide cockpit is always the better choice. This is to allow more room for movement and experiment with how different weight balancing can affect the vessel’s stability and direction.

Still, some users prefer a cockpit that fits snuggly to give them more control over the paddling experience.

Keep in mind that you should look for something that doesn’t turn too quickly when given input to not compromise stability and give you the security you need during the learning process.

Weight and Portability

It’s not too hard to figure that weight and portability are correlated, and that’s why you should look for a lightweight kayak if you’re planning on using it for recreational purposes. Otherwise, all the fun will be taken out of the experience with the effort you’d have to put in transporting it from one place to another.

Generally, anything in the 25 to the 50-pound range would be good enough for providing enough portability. Still, it depends on whether you’re going to drag your kayak for some distance before getting to the water. If so, you need to find the most lightweight option, and if not, you can get a heavier one with more room for accessories and equipment.

Weight Capacity

As a rule of thumb, you should always go for a kayak with a capacity that exceeds the weights of your body and gear combined by 100 pounds.

If you’re two people going on a kayak fishing trip, go for around 400-pound weight capacity.

Frequency of Use and Maintenance

You’re probably not going to be using your recreational kayak as much as a regular kayaker would, which means that you can compromise some durability for other factors like portability, compatibility with accessories, or maneuvrability.

Still, you’ll need to provide your kayak with regular maintenance, especially if it’s not a very durable one or one that you bought on a budget. This is because the latter may use plastic parts with reinforcements of other materials, making them more prone to wear and tear.

Accessories

Accessories add a lot to how you experience your kayak and how convenient your trips with it are. And while there are many, there are three common and very handy options, which are as follows:

  • Rod Holders: These are important if you’re planning to use your recreational kayak for some fishing, and their purpose is to provide you with a place to keep your rod when you’re in the water or paddling.
  • Paddle Holders: These stop the paddles from drifting if you stop your kayak.
  • Keel: A keel is an extra accessory that prevents your kayak from spinning around and provides it with more stability, especially in deeper waters.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’re done with our reviews on the best recreational kayaks, I hope you’ve come closer to choosing the one that suits you most. If you’re still at a loss, here’s a quick recap.

If you’re looking for the best choice, by and large, the Intex Explorer K2 would definitely be it. It comes with a decent weight to maximum weight limit ratio, is portable, durable, and reasonably priced.

The Sevylor Quikpak K1 would also be an excellent choice for someone whose primary concern is portability, and it still offers a generous maximum weight limit and solid construction for durability.

If you’re looking for a recreational kayak that you can use to progress and become well-versed with kayaking, nothing would beat the Intex Excursion Pro with its durability, adjustable seats, storage space, and ability to add accessories.

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