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Recreational Kayaks

Top Picks

How we choose: The best recreational kayaks highlighted here were selected based on 55 reviews of 34 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

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If you've used a recreational kayak that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

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Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (4 reviews)

Super stable and tracks well. This is a great kayak for touring around lakes and rivers. Great for beginner paddlers and beyond.

Reasons to Buy

  • Stable
  • Tracks well
  • Easy to adjust foot pegs
  • Seat is comfortable
  • Included kayak console

Reasons to Avoid

  • Water tight hatch not perfectly water tight
  • Kayak console can be in the way of long legs sometimes

I've been a canoer my entire life but decided that my big 15' canoe was a bit too heavy for me to man-handle alone so I sold it and bought the 12' Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 kayak which weighs about 49 pounds (30 pounds less than my old canoe).   I had never sat in a kayak before and I was a little nervous about how different it might be from my canoeing experience. My concerns were misplaced though because this kayak is very user friendly. Getting in and out of it is a breeze. The cockpit opening is HUGE and the boat is so stable I had no trouble standing up in the kayak on the water while holding onto nothing to help me get in/out.

Read more: Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 reviews (4)

Top Recreational Kayak / Sit-on-Top

Old Town Vapor 10

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (6 reviews)

Best for lakes and slow rivers, for anyone wanting an easy little boat with plenty of room for gear.

Reasons to Buy

  • Easy to maneuver
  • Holds a lot of gear

Reasons to Avoid

  • The seat needs padding.

Been out in this 10-foot sit-in kayak for several trips this spring including a short camping trip upriver.  This one has plenty of room for gear including a dry hatch in back with a lockable rubber top that holds a small flexible cooler, a duffle bag, and room for more stuff crammed in the crannies. There's room behind the seat for a sleeping bag, room between your feet for more gear, and a installed criss-cross bungee kit on front of the kayak that can hold two chairs in bags. It has a couple of hooks and smaller little bungees around the cockpit to attach handy things like camera or phone.

Read more: Old Town Vapor 10 reviews (6)

Perception Prodigy 13.5

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

A most excellent kayak for flat and mostly calm waters (rivers, lakes, and bays). Very stable with plenty of room for a companion, whether a larger dog or most tweens and younger. Excels at kayak camping.

Reasons to Buy

  • Overall a really nice, solid, stable, and roomy kayak
  • Plenty of room for your four-legged buddy
  • Tracking is good without a rudder; rudder is bonus and recommended
  • Seat is comfortable and adjustable
  • Rear hatch is great when camping or for items not needed when paddling

Reasons to Avoid

  • Large, heavy, and awkward (land mobility)
  • No spray skirt available (that I'm aware of at this time)
  • Split rails for rudder paddles may not cover optimal location
  • Advertised 'front hatch' is simply open storage accessed from inside the cockpit, no actual hatch
  • Some advertisements list a skeg but there is no skeg available
  • Optional rudder MSRP is as much as adding the same rudder on after-market
  • Lack of accessories

Don't be fooled by the Cons, this is an awesome kayak if you are serious about bringing your buddy with you, kayak camping, or both.  It also works just fine for a short solo paddle as well, although so do plenty of other kayaks. Marketing. I fault copy/paste marketing folks for having bad info out there regarding this kayak. Half the ads I saw and some reviews listed a skeg, when in fact no skeg is available. How can you trust a review that is nothing more than a copy of the company's marking materials in the first place? Accessories.

Read more: Perception Prodigy 13.5 review (1)

Old Town Twin Heron

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Old Town produced a great family recreational kayak in the Twin Heron. Excellent learning kayak and wonderful for a quiet day on lake or stream. I've paddled most of my life and this is the most comfortable kayak or canoe I've had.

Reasons to Buy

  • Stable
  • Easy to control, tracks well
  • Comfortable
  • Lightweight for a tandem
  • Carries easily
  • Lots of room
  • Foot braces
  • Paddle holders and bungee in rear

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not for whitewater
  • No dry storage
  • No built in tie downs in cockpit

Visited the Old Town factory in Maine and found a great deal on a Twin Heron kayak. Couldn't wait to get it in the water! This 60-pound kayak is easy to handle out of the water with two carry handles and lots of places to grab when you lift it onto a vehicle. Unique colors even look good sitting on top. The kayak excels once you get it into its natural environment, a lake, pond, or quiet stream. The Twin Heron is easy to paddle and tracks well, hold plenty of gear, and the seats are comfortable for an extended trip.

Read more: Old Town Twin Heron review (1)

Emotion Kayaks Glide

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

This kayak is fantastic! I wanted a good kayak to get me where I needed/wanted to go and it always has safely. Whether i was going over a dam or over rapids or even in big wide water it's really good and really anything that flips this thing is pretty dangerous water to begin with. Sometimes it seems as if mine will warp but it looks up and running back to normal right away and it also seems that both sides are not perfectly even but it has never affected the performance and i am sure it's just my eye anyway.

Reasons to Buy

  • Durable
  • Safe
  • Fun
  • Not expensive

Reasons to Avoid

  • It sometimes appears as if it is warped, but i think it's just the design.

I went into the kayak company having a little bit of time on canoes and sit-on-top kayaks but when i went in to buy this one it was something else and something i had a feeling i was going to love. i bought it for a very low price considering its quality and when i first took it on the water it was ready to go and take me where i need. As stated in the summary the design sometimes makes it look a bit warped or like the shape isn't quite even on the sides but it has not at all affected it, if that is the case which i am sure my eyes are just tricking me.

Read more: Emotion Kayaks Glide reviews (2)

Dagger Axis 10.5

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Perfect crossover kayak. Just what I was looking for!

Reasons to Buy

  • Versatility — lake to whitewater
  • Comfortable seat
  • Console system

Reasons to Avoid

  • I have yet to find any

I kayak the waters of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, so I wanted a kayak that would do well on lakes or on Class I to III rapids. I found just what I was looking for with this one! I also like to do nature photography, and the skeg makes a big difference in keeping me on track toward my subject. The seat is adjustable and very comfortable, even during a 10-hour float. I am a 57-year-old woman, and I wanted one light enough I could lift by myself. At under 50 pounds, this is one I can handle.

Read more: Dagger Axis 10.5 review (1)

Old Town Dirigo 106

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Great rec kayak for lakes and slow rivers, capable of light overnight trips.

Reasons to Buy

  • Durable
  • Light
  • Stable
  • Comfortable seat
  • Lock down hatch

Reasons to Avoid

  • None that I can think of

Have had this kayak almost three years. I've dragged it, banged it, shot over ice and hit bottom more than a few times. Aside from a few scratches, the hull is perfectly intact.  It's easy to get in and out of, has a very comfortable and well adjustable seat, a fairly big water-tight hatch on the back (enough for a tent and sleeping gear), a little water-tight hatch on the dash for keys or a cellphone (I use this hatch regularly and it hasn't failed), adjustable foot stays, bungee tie-downs on the front top which hold extra gear well, a paddle holder, knee pads, and a good skirt lip.

Read more: Old Town Dirigo 106 reviews (2)

Old Town Heron 9XT

user rating: 4 of 5 (2 reviews)

A lot of boat in a small affordable package!

Reasons to Buy

  • Price
  • Maneuverability
  • Durability
  • Comfort

Reasons to Avoid

  • Front storage
  • Cup holder
  • Drain plug

I should start off by saying that I really love this boat...and every piece of gear (even that you make) is usually a compromise…and the Heron 9XT is no exception. My complaints aren’t so much about a lack of high-end features as it is low-end features…but let’s start with the things that I really dig about this boat. The Good: First…the price…I was working on a very small budget…and did not want to spend a lot of money on a kayak…but still wanted a boat that was capable of soloing trips as long as 10 days or more…so safety (keeping things dry + maneuverability) and comfort (roominess + back-support) were not things I wanted to sacrifice on too much.

Read more: Old Town Heron 9XT reviews (2)

Old Town Camden 120

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

This kayak is very stable and cruises right along! I can't think of anything negative to say about it. I am thrilled to own an Old Town kayak. Quality is king, and Old Town is worthy.

Reasons to Buy

  • Stable
  • Fast!
  • Very comfortable

Reasons to Avoid

  • Notta

I tooled around the edge of a half frozen lake as my first test run, and the Camden performed extremely well. I love how easy it is to keep a steady pace once I reach my desired speed. It coasts for a long time when I stop paddling, which is pretty satisfying! Tons of storage, probably enough for a dome tent in the bow between your feet for overnight trips.Mine is the angler edition so the rod holders and anchor pulley are awesome, though I haven't actually tested them out just yet. All hail Old Town! :)

Read more: Old Town Camden 120 reviews (2)

Elie Sound 100 XE

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

Terrific overall kayak.

Reasons to Buy

  • Features
  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • Comfortable

Purchased new in April 2014 from REI. Wanted to find a good kayak for recreational use that wouldn't break the bank. Settled on two Elie Sound 100XE's at around $600 piece.   Having used three years now, I feel I can give some insight.   Majority of use has been on calm waters—lakes, creeks, and streams. I imagine a high end one can really move, but I have no issues moving quickly in this. Decent balance in width. Creature Comforts—The seat is very comfortable, allows you to recline or sit up straight.

Read more: Elie Sound 100 XE review (1)

More Reviews of Recreational Kayaks

Trailspace reviewers have shared 55 reviews of 34 different recreational kayaks.

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Other Types of Kayaks

Find more kayaks reviewed in these related categories:

Sit-on-Top Kayaks

Touring Kayaks

Whitewater Kayaks

+4 more types

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