You're dying to get out on the water. You want to buy a kayak, but your budget is limited. You know that you want to paddle some lakes and a few rivers that aren't white water, but what kind of kayak do you buy? How do you know you are getting a great deal on a kayak? Will you even want to use this kayak in a year?
First, let's make sure you understand what a recreational kayak is, before we even get to the point of talking about the best cheap kayaks on the market.
As the name implies, recreational kayaks are for the recreational user. They are perfect for the hobbyist who wants to get out on the water for pleasure, exercise, recreation and mental health. I just threw the mental health in there because it sure is true. Kayaking can be a huge stress reliever, but that's a different post for a different day! A recreational kayak is versatile enough to use on flat water and some rivers. It is stable enough for a beginner, and tracks well enough to be used for long paddles. It's a comfortable boat, with lots of storage room for your gear. The recreational kayak is a great choice for 90% of the people who kayak!
Whether you want to get a sit on top or a sit in kayak, there are a few things you should look for. Unfortunately for so many people, a cheap recreational kayak has turned out to be just that - cheap! You truly do get what you pay for when it comes to buying a recreational kayak. Just because I don't recommend getting a cheap kayak, that doesn't mean you need to spend a ton of money. I want you to get the best recreational kayak you can afford, and love using it for a very long time!
5 things to look for in a recreational kayak:
1. Comfortable Seating
Any kayak you buy should have padding on the seat and some adjustments that can be made to the seat. Never, ever buy a kayak with only a plastic roto-molded seat. You will regret the decision halfway through your first paddle. You are stuck with the seat on any kayak that you get, so your money will be well spent by making sure your seat is properly padded and adjustable.
2. Size Matters... not so much
Kayaks come in different lengths for a reason. Generally, the shorter the kayak, the easier it is to turn and maneuver. The longer the kayak, the better it tracks in a straight line. It is important to know what types of water you will be paddling in before you make a purchase. Recreational kayaks are generally between 10' and 12'. There isn't going to be a huge amount difference between a 10' and 12' kayak. Both sizes work great in several types of water, so don't sweat too much over this choice. Don't forget that a larger kayak will weigh more, so make sure you can pick it up by yourself.
3. Storage Space and Deck Rigging
Anytime you are looking at recreational kayaks, you want to pay attention to the available amount of dry storage space built into the kayak. Trust me, you will want to take things out with you that you don't want to get wet, so this space will be extremely valuable. Look at the outside of the kayak. Does it have a paddle holder and other bungee type rigging around the deck for storing items you want to keep within reach? You may think these things are not important, but they soon will be. You need to have places on your boat where you can stow things and attach items that you may want to use during your paddle. You also need to know that deck rigging, paddle holders and other attachments can be added to almost any kayak after you purchase it. However, you this may require professional installation.
Realistically, you should plan on spending $500-$700 on a good quality kayak. There are plenty of name brand models that have good recreational kayaks in this price range. In this price range, you can get good storage space and great seating that you will be happy with for a long time. You can find kayaks much cheaper than $500, but honestly I would not recommend going with a kayak that is at the bottom of the price range. They will be much harder to paddle, they will have uncomfortable seating, and you won't have the storage space to be comfortable while you are out on the water. Remember, we want to get you the BEST cheap recreational kayak, not the cheapest one on the market.
You will never regret purchasing a kayak from a kayak building company. I have seen tons of generic molded kayaks made in factories over seas, that have a label slapped on them and they are widely sold at low cost outlets all over the country. There are a lot of reasons to avoid these kayaks, but the main reason is that they are not made by people who actually kayak. There are several US based companies that were started by kayaking enthusiasts, and they make great kayaks.
I want you to get the best recreational kayak you can, for the cheapest price. It may mean you need to shop around and look for deals. Buying from a kayak making company will mean you get a great recreational kayak that you can use for many years to come.
Jackson Kayaks - Cruise 10
Wilderness Kayaks - Tarpon 100, Aspire 100
Perception Kayaks - Prodigy, Tribute, Impulse
Hobie Kayaks - Lanai Old Town - Vapor 10 XT, Dirigo 106
Sun Dolphin-My favorite! Aruba Series
Finding the best cheap recreational kayak, may not be an easy task, but if you do it right you will have a kayak that you will love for years to come!