With such a large selection of kayaks available today, you might not know where to start looking to find the best kayak for your skill level or desired purpose. To help you out, we’ve poured hours of research into finding and reviewing the best kayaks.
After paddling through the vast number of options and considering over 25 different kayaks, we’ve selected the Riot Kayaks Edge LV kayak as the best kayak for 2019. This is a well-rounded kayak that performs well in any water condition.
These small boats offer casual outdoors beginners and experienced adventurers a chance to explore nature and get a good workout while doing it.
Don’t forget to check out the list of our other top kayaks below, accompanied by a kayak buying guide that can help you decide which features you should consider when making a purchase.
- The Top Kayaks of 2019
- Kayak Buyer’s Guide
- Top Kayak Questions Answered
- 1 The Top Rated Kayaks of 2019
- 1.1 #1 Riot Kayaks Edge LV – Best Overall Kayak
- 1.2 #2 Old Town Vapor 10 – Best Value Kayak
- 1.3 #3 Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 – Best Tandem Kayak
- 1.4 #4 Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 – Best Fishing Kayak
- 1.5 #5 Dagger Mamba 8.6 – Best Whitewater Kayak
- 1.6 #6 Lifetime Youth Wave – Best Kayak for Kids
- 1.7 #7 Sun Dolphin Aruba – Best Kayak for Beginners
- 1.8 #8 Ocean Kayak Frenzy – Best Sit-on-Top Kayak
- 1.9 #9 Perception Kayak Hi Life – Best Kayak for Dogs
- 2 Kayaks Buying Guide
- 3 Top Questions About Kayaks Answered
The Top Rated Kayaks of 2019
#1 Riot Kayaks Edge LV – Best Overall Kayak
- Unique rudder system for more responsive tracking
- Slim design works well in any water condition
- Seat includes custom fitting features
- Longer length makes for hard transportation
- Heavier than other kayaks
- No accessories included
The Riot Kayaks Edge LV kayak is well-rounded and makes for a perfect choice for beginners and advanced kayakers alike. It offers a variety of advanced features that seasoned kayakers will enjoy and beginners can easily learn to use, such as adjustable sliding foot braces and integrated thigh braces.
This kayak features an extra-long hull, measuring in at 14.5 feet. This makes it longer than most kayaks, but it also makes it more efficient in the water when it comes to tracking and maneuverability. It also features two sealed bulkhead compartments that can protect your belongings while on the water. These compartments, along with the included bungee cord storage areas, mean you can store more gear for longer trips.
While it doesn’t include any accessories like paddles, it does have an integrated, retractable skeg which you can use or stow depending on where you are kayaking. Remember that the longer hull on the Edge LV might make this kayak a little more difficult to transport on your vehicle and heavier to lug around, weighing in at 60 pounds.
#2 Old Town Vapor 10 – Best Value Kayak
- Large cockpit for more leg room or gear
- Adjustable, comfortable seat
- Roomy storage compartment on the back of the hull
- Doesn’t maneuver as well
- No lashing
- Drain plug inefficient due to placing
The Old Town Vapor 10 offers a lot of kayak for a small price. With a comfortable seat and a foot brace system that can both be easily adjusted, this value kayak can be customized to work well for kayakers everyone.
It also features a large cockpit where you can stretch out and store more gear. If you need more room, you can utilize the roomy and handy storage compartment in the hull behind the seat. Unfortunately, the Old Town Vapor 10 doesn’t include any lashing where you can store additional gear. The hull is 10 feet long and weighs 55 pounds, which makes it easier to transport and carry than other kayaks.
This kayak is very stable in the water. While this is a nice feature for beginners, it can unfortunately lead to a loss in maneuverability that more advanced users may come to expect from a kayak. This loss in maneuverability limits the ways in which you can use the kayak, and as a result we’d rank it as the best recreational kayak.
#3 Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 – Best Tandem Kayak
- Can hold up to two people and a small child
- Best for kayak touring
- Unique, overlapping foot wells
- Two seats included
- Minimal gear storage
- Heavier than most kayaks
- No paddles included
The Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 is a barebones tandem kayak that offers a stable, versatile experience for anyone wanting to kayak with friends or family members.
With a weight capacity of up to 425 pounds, this kayak can fit up to two adults with room to spare for a small child, if desired. When you purchase this two-person kayak, you get two adjustable and comfortable seats in the package.
Each kayaker can use the overlapping foot wells to find the perfect position for their legs. This also eliminates the need for adjustable foot braces that need to be customized and changed between people who use the kayak.
If you’re using the kayak to seat two people, you will have minimal to no room for storing gear, but it you’re kayaking solo, you can use the extra space to store some gear. However, if you’re planning on kayaking solo, you might experience some difficulty carrying the kayak around, as it weighs 62 pounds.
#4 Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 – Best Fishing Kayak
- Unique pedal drive system keeps your hands free
- Super comfortable and ergonomic seat
- Tons of rod storage
- H-rail system allows you to add more fishing accessories
- Very heavy
- Wide hull is harder to maneuver
The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 is made specifically to cater to the needs of serious fishing enthusiasts. With a unique pedal drive system, the kayak allows you to move without using a paddle, therefore keeping your hands free to present your bait more naturally.
This Hobie kayak also includes a comfortable, ergonomic seat that allows you to be out on the lake for longer periods of time. Standing is made easy with a wide hull, at the expense of more nimble maneuverability. However, fishers may not need the traditional amount of maneuverability as found in other kayaks.
When it comes to storing your gear, the Pro Angler 14 is unmatched. It features four horizontal rod holders and two vertical rod holders so you can fish with all your rods.
It also features both lashing and sealed compartments to store additional gear like tackleboxes. This kayak also offers an H-rail system where you can attach additional fishing tools like fishfinders and more rod holders.
#5 Dagger Mamba 8.6 – Best Whitewater Kayak
- Can handle whitewater rapids up to Class V
- Hull designed specifically for stability and spin
- Super comfortable seat
- Best for rivers and creeks
- No accessories included
- Not as maneuverable as other whitewater kayaks
The Dagger Mamba 8.6 was designed to please both beginner and pro whitewater paddlers. With a hull designed to handle whitewater rapids up to Class V and provide extra stability and spin, this whitewater kayak is a great entry point for newcomers or upgrade for veterans.
It features moderate edges, a softer chine, and a progressive rocker profile that all allow you to keep your bow above water and the whole kayak carving through the waves with ease.
The included seat is comfortable and the kayak also includes a reinforced foot brace system that prevents your foot from getting caught in the front of the bulkhead. This additional level of safety helps you protect your feet in the case of a crash.
Weighing in at almost 48 pounds, this whitewater kayak is a little on the heavy side, and it may take some getting used to. However, this shouldn’t affect the overall performance.
#6 Lifetime Youth Wave – Best Kayak for Kids
- Each aspect of the design geared toward kids
- Reverse chine for greater stability
- Paddle included
- No dry storage
- No backrest
- Tracking is not great
If you want to buy a kayak for your kids, look no further than the Lifetime Youth Wave. Each aspect of this kayak’s design is geared toward catering to kids.
It features a reverse chine which gives the kayak much more stability than traditional kayaks. It’s also lightweight and easy to transport. Unfortunately, there isn’t a backrest, which can make the kayak uncomfortable during longer periods of use and it doesn’t include any dry storage.
The Lifetime Youth Wave is easy to use and very stable, which is nice for kids who are likely experiencing kayaking for the first time. However, because of the reverse chine and other design aspects, your kids may experience some difficulty with the tracking.
Overall, this is a great introductory—and cheap—kayak for kids that can introduce them to the world of kayaking before you spend more to buy a more well-rounded kayak.
#7 Sun Dolphin Aruba – Best Kayak for Beginners
- Large cockpit with adjustable foot braces
- Stable and easy to use
- Plenty of storage
- No padding on the bottom of the seat
- Seat is not adjustable
- Slower than other kayaks
The Sun Dolphin Aruba is a great beginner kayak that offers a lot of features new kayakers might look for and enjoy. With a large cockpit, you won’t feel claustrophobic or trapped, and the adjustable foot braces allow you to get comfortable.
The kayak includes a handy water bottle holder directly in front of the seat so you can always stay hydrated. There is also a sealed compartment behind the seat, but it can be a little harder to access, especially if you aren’t very flexible. The seat itself includes back padding, but lacks bottom padding and cannot be adjusted.
This beginner kayak is very stable and offers smooth tracking, but it suffers when it comes to speed. You may find yourself envious of others who can go faster, but it also gives you the opportunity to walk before you run.
#8 Ocean Kayak Frenzy – Best Sit-on-Top Kayak
- Simple design with integrated foot braces
- Plenty of storage space with lashings
- Adjustable and comfortable seat
- Handy bow and stern carrying handles
- Narrow seat may be uncomfortable for some kayakers
- Slower than other kayaks
- Struggles in rough waters
The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a sit-on-top kayak that offers an extremely simple design and decent tracking that works well for beginners and more experienced kayakers alike. It features a comfortable seat that you can adjust to your liking and includes built-in foot braces with several length options that you won’t need to spend time adjusting.
The seat is narrower than other kayaks, and some users may experience discomfort while sitting in it. With a lightweight hull and handy bow and stern carrying handles, you can easily carry, launch, and remove from the water with ease. It also features plenty of storage space for gear while you’re out on the water.
While you’re out on the water, you may experience some struggle keeping up with other kayaks. It also tends to struggle on rougher waters, so if it’s a windy day, you might get more frustrated than anything else. Overall, the Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a great choice for casual kayakers that want a calm day on the lake.
#9 Perception Kayak Hi Life – Best Kayak for Dogs
- Unique combination design
- Includes rear swim deck
- Integrated gear track allows for accessories
- Only appropriate for calm waters
- Minimal storage capacity
- Seat isn’t adjustable
The Perception Kayak Hi Life is the most unique kayak on our list, which is why it’s perfect for our most unique category. This kayak is a combination of a kayak and a stand-up paddleboard. It features a sit-on-top design with a variety of flat spaces where your dog can also sit or lay down, making it incredibly easy to take your best friend with you.
The rear of the kayak includes a useful swim deck that makes it easy for your dog to climb on or jump off the kayak. However, due to this design, this kayak is only appropriate for calm waters. It won’t perform well on rough waters. If you want to add accessories, you can use the integrated gear track that runs down the middle of the kayak.
Unfortunately, this kayak for dogs doesn’t offer much in the way of storage, so your trusty pal might have to go without a lot of treats while you’re out on the water. There is a small storage container underneath the seat, but it can be bothersome to access it while you’re out on the water.
Kayaks Buying Guide
If you’re new to kayaking, the task of purchasing your first kayak can be a daunting one. There are thousands of different varieties, each with its own pros and cons. If you don’t have any experience and you don’t know someone who can help you, finding the right kayak for your needs can be difficult, to say the least.
The following points detail features and applications you should consider when it comes to buying the best kayak for you. If you’re not quite sure what you want, these points of consideration may also help steer you in the right direction. Don’t forget to read past this buying guide to learn the answers to some other, frequently asked questions about kayaks.
√ Type of Kayak – The first point you should consider when purchasing a new kayak for 2019 is the type of kayak you want to purchase. If you read through the list of top kayaks higher up on the page, you know that there are a variety of different categories to consider.
If you’re new to the world of kayaking, you should probably consider purchasing a kayak for beginners or a sit-on-top kayak. But if you have some more experience, you might want to consider a whitewater kayak for more adventurous outings. Regardless of your skill or experience, it’s likely you’ll be able to find a kayak to fill your needs. You just need to determine what type of kayak you need first.
√ Carrying Capacity – Even though they’re commonly advertised as such, kayaks aren’t only for single riders. There are one-person kayaks and two-person kayaks. If you want to get out on the water with a friend or loved one, you’ll definitely want to consider purchasing a tandem kayak, which holds up to two people at a time. These kayaks also typically allow you to remove the additional seat and ride solo, if desired
Some kayaks are designed to only hold one rider, but often include extra room for a pet, if you have adventurous pets. Many people like to bring their dogs on kayaking trips, so there are plenty of kayaks for dogs, if that’s what you want.
√ Design – Another aspect you should consider before making a purchase is the kayak’s design. Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes. Knowing just what to look for in design comes better with experience, but there are a few things you can think about to start.
First, consider how heavy the kayak is. Heavier kayaks are typically more stable than lighter kayaks, and they work well for beginners. However, they’re harder to transport and carry, and they’re much slower in the water. Lighter kayaks are much more maneuverable, but require more skill to handle.
Another design aspect you should consider includes the design of the seats and the foot braces. If you want more control over how you sit in your kayak, consider purchasing a model that allows you to adjust the seat and foot braces.
√ Storage Space – Finally, consider how much storage space you’ll want or need when you go out on the waters. Many kayaks feature lashings in the form of attached bungee cords that you can use to secure your gear safely on the top of the kayak. Many also include storage compartments that can be sealed to keep your gear dry. If you’re looking to use your kayak for longer trips on the water, consider purchasing one with lots of storage options so you can take lunch and other supplies with you.
Top Questions About Kayaks Answered
When you look at kayaks and canoes, their visible differences are apparent. Canoes are taller and sit higher in the water. Riders are typically seated, with their feet flat on the bottom of the canoe. Kayaks are almost the opposite. They are low on the water and riders sit with their legs extended and typically braced. Kayaks also feature closed decks which enclose the rider’s legs for greater stability and bracing. This also helps the kayaker maneuver better using their lower body in tandem with their paddle.
When it comes to utility, canoes tend to excel more. They can carry more gear and more people at the same time. Kayaks are used more for quick movement and traversing more adventurous waters, like whitewater rapids. While they can’t usually hold more than canoes, kayaks are more versatile and flexible when it comes to mobility. They can turn and respond faster to the rider’s actions.
Overall, kayaks are designed to be faster and more agile than canoes. While canoes can get up to the speed as some kayaks, especially when the riders are working well together, they usually can’t keep up with an experienced kayaker.
Crossbars – you can install crossbars to the existing rack on the roof of your car to provide proper support to your kayak during transportation. Crossbars prevent the kayak from scraping the roof of your car.
Padding/Rack System – Next you’ll either need to add padding to your crossbars or purchase a rack made specifically for transporting kayaks. This helps protect your kayak from being damaged during transport.
Cam Straps – Use cam straps to secure your kayak to the roof of your car. You’ll usually need two cam straps to keep your kayak secured. You may need more if you have more than one kayak or your kayak is longer than most.
Bow and Stern Lines – Opinions are varied on if you should use bow and stern lines along with cam straps. However, using them may help further secure your kayak and prevent it from blowing up and down from the wind flow generated while driving.
When it comes time to load up your kayak, you’ll want to be sure you do it carefully. If you’re alone and not able to lift your kayak on top of your car, you may need to purchase a lift system, which can be pricey, or add some rolling wheels to your kayak rack. If you don’t want to purchase anything additional, you can simply use a towel or blanket, rest your kayak on that, and then lift it onto the roof of your car.
Loading a kayak with two people is the easiest way to do it. Simply use the grab handles on either end of the kayak and lift it onto your car. Use your legs to lift it instead of your back and then gently set it down onto your rack.
Transporting and carrying your kayak from your car to the water and back uses similar principles. Purchasing a kayak cart is helpful if you have an extra-heavy kayak that is too difficult to carry by hand. It’s easiest if you have two people to help shoulder the burden, and most kayaks include convenient carrying handles on both bow and stern.
If needed, you can also carry your kayak alone. To do so, simply use the kayak’s cockpit and rest its rim on your shoulder. It’s helpful if you wear your life jacket to help pad your shoulder and use your free hand to help stabilize the kayak as you walk. Whether you’re carrying your kayak alone or with a buddy, remember to protect your back and lift with your knees. It’s not a race to get to the water, either. If you need to take it slow, don’t worry. It’s better to get to the water after everyone else than to not get to the water at all.