Best 300 lb Capacity Kayaks in 2023

Check out our top picks for the best 300 lb capacity kayaks. From the sporty Eddyline Sandpiper to the comfy Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120.

300 lb capacity kayak

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Why trust us?

A kayak’s load capacity can dictate a lot of your paddling adventures. Of course, you never want to overload a kayak, but there are times when you may not need or want to pay for a kayak that can carry huge amounts of gear.

If that’s the case for you, then take a look at our picks for the best 300 lb capacity kayaks. We’ve separated them into various categories with our own honest and researched reviews. For more information, check out our comparison table and buying advice.

If you’re interested in a higher weight capacity, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with articles on the best 400 lb capacity kayaks and the best 500 lb capacity kayaks.

Our Top Picks

If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks. Or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Best Sit-Inside: Eddyline Sandpiper

Length: 12′ | Width: 28″ | Weight: 38 lbs | Capacity: 350 lbs

Eddyline Sandpiper

Sporty and responsive, the Eddyline Sandpiper has a nice, expansive cockpit that is surprisingly roomy for a sit-in kayak of this size. Additional thigh braces make the fit cozier and are great for bracing and edging if you’re up to the challenge. An adjustable and padded seat rounds out this well-furnished cockpit.

Storage space is decent, with the standard bungee cord layout that most sit-in kayaks have. In addition, a pair of dry storage bulkheads can be found in the bow and stern, although the openings aren’t that large at just eight and ten inches, respectively.

The Eddyline provides a nice challenge for more experienced paddlers on the water. The hard chines make steering with your hips a joy, and the low rocker profile makes for an efficient paddle despite the shorter keel compared to other high-end sit-in designs. It’s not the kayak I’d take on big expeditions, but it holds up well on long-day paddles or some overnight adventures.

The Carbonlite ABS plastic material keeps the Sandpiper’s weight down at a reasonable 38 pounds, allowing some solo kayakers to carry it without assistance. If you need a hand, the Sandpiper has retractable and durable carry handles to make tandem portages much more comfortable.

While the cockpit has plenty of room, larger paddlers may want to go with the Sandpiper 130, which is a foot longer and offers more wiggle room.

Reasons to buy:

  • Comfy and spacious cockpit
  • Hard chines to give more experienced paddlers a challenge
  • Multiple dry hatches

Reasons to avoid:

  • Bulkhead openings are on the small side
  • Best for day trips

Best Value Sit-Inside: Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

Length: 12′2″ | Width: 29″ | Weight: 49 lbs | Capacity: 325 lbs

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

Slightly longer than the Sandpiper from Eddyline, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 offers an easy introduction to the world of sit-in kayaks, providing excellent stability and a responsive paddling platform with impressive tracking. It performs well on most lakes and mellower rivers while still capable of taking into protected saltwater.

The load capacity is 25 pounds less than the Eddyline, and there’s less dedicated storage space, with just one watertight bulkhead in the stern and a more straightforward deck bungee layout. However, there’s a nice dashboard in front of the cockpit, complete with cupholders and a space for a lithium-ion battery set-up to keep electronics charged.

There’s also a spot on the dashboard for the SlideTrax accessory system and additional mounting spaces, allowing you to customize your Pungo 120 however you see fit.

The ergonomic seat is well padded with foam, and all the adjustments are easy to make whether you’re on the water or off. In addition, the slightly wider hull provides the Pungo 120 with a little more space if you decide the Sandpiper is too small for you. 

Wilderness Systems offers two other versions of the Pungo, the slightly bigger Pungo 125 and the smaller Pungo 105, if you’d prefer a kayak with similar features but different dimensions. The shorter design is more maneuverable, while the longer 125 is faster and provides more space in the cockpit.

Reasons to buy:

  • Excellent dashboard with plenty of customization options
  • Multiple designs for different body types
  • Padded, adjustable seat

Reasons to avoid:

  • Noticeably heavier than the Eddyline Sandpiper 

Best Budget Sit-Inside: Pelican Sprint 100XR

Length: 10′ | Width: 28″ | Weight: 41 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Pelican Sprint 100XR

A simpler and smaller alternative to the two kayaks listed above, Pelican’s Sprint 100XR is a user-friendly design that’s at its best in protected water.

But the Sprint also has deep chines along the sides, helping it maintain stability if you find yourself in choppy waters. It also allows you to practice edging and steering with your hips.

The Sprint’s storage options are minimal, with a single dry hatch in the stern and some bungee cord webbing along the bow. The seat is well padded and adjustable, although the lower deck will make it feel more cramped, particularly if you have larger feet. 

Built with Pelican’s patented RAM-X material, the Sprint has excellent durability and can handle a lot of rough handling without any effect on its performance. It’s heavy for its size at 41 pounds, but well-designed carry handles make any portages reasonably easy.

If you love the layout of the Sprint but are worried that it will not be big enough, never fear; Pelican has the Sprint 120XR that’s two feet longer and provides plenty of extra wiggle room.

Reasons to buy:

  • RAM-X makes the Sprint one of the more durable kayaks available
  • V-shaped hull provides solid stability in choppy water

Reasons to avoid:

  • The cockpit may be too small for those with larger feet

Best Sit-On-Top: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120

Length: 12′3″ | Width: 31″ | Weight: 63 lbs | Capacity: 350 lbs

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120

Sporting a nice blend of speed and stability, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 is a versatile and reliable sit-on-top and an easy choice for our favorite in the category. It’s a well-crafted kayak chock full of innovative little accessories like a water bottle strap and a small dry box inside the cockpit for water-sensitive personal items.

The seat is well designed with several ways to adjust it, and the boat has an extensive and open cockpit. So paddlers of all shapes and sizes should easily be able to find a comfortable paddling position. There’s also a good amount of storage space, with a sizeable watertight hatch in the bow and an open-air compartment in the stern with a large mesh covering.

The long keel and minimal rocker profile make it surprisingly fast on the water despite being a wider boat. And that additional width means you have plenty of stability as long as you don’t attempt to navigate a river with many rapids or rough ocean conditions. 

For those looking to customize or further accessorize their ride, the Tarpon 120 also comes with a SlideTrax accessory system that allows you to install a GPS, camera, fishing rod holder, and whatever goodies you want easy access to while you’re on the water. 

Like many kayak models, the Tarpon comes in a few different sizes. In addition to the 12-foot Tarpon, you can also find the Tarpon 105 and Tarpon 140 models if you’d prefer something that’s either a little smaller or bigger.

Reasons to buy:

  • Valuable additions like a water bottle strap and dry box for personal items
  • Nice mix of stability, tracking, and speed
  • Big storage compartments that are both open-air and watertight

Reasons to avoid:

  • On the heavy side at 63 pounds

Best Value Sit-On-Top: Perception Tribe 9.5

Length: 9′5″ | Width: 31.5″ | Weight: 48.5 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Perception Tribe 9.5

A significantly shorter design compared to the Tarpon 120, the Perception Tribe 9.5 is a responsive and maneuverable kayak that’s right at home in most recreational settings. Unfortunately, the shorter keel means it has trouble keeping up with longer kayaks. Still, the easy turn radius and excellent stability make it a great choice for casual and beginner paddlers.

The cockpit could be cozier because it had molded footwells instead of my preferred sliding track foot braces. But the seat has decent padding and does an excellent job of wicking away moisture on those hot summer days. 

You can customize your Tribe 9.5 if you want, thanks to the solo mount recess that can let you outfit extra gadgets for paddling or fishing. However, this is more of a day kayak due to the little dry storage outside of a small hatch in the cockpit, and the bow and stern open-air storage areas are on the shorter side.

But it does come with scuppers that are helpful in the wind or waves, and it’s sporty enough to take into mild surf if you’re more experienced. It’s a bit heavy for a kayak this size, but Perception has included additional carry handles on the sides, making it easy to portage with help. 

There’s also the Perception Tribe 11.5, which is two feet longer, providing a better top speed, more storage space, and additional room for bigger paddlers. However, if you’re mostly interested in fishing, Perception’s Pescador Pro 10.0 and 12.0 are specifically designed for angling with custom options and enhanced stability.

Reasons to buy:

  • Maneuverable and easy to paddle
  • Accessory mount for customization
  • Scupper holes for rough and windy water

Reasons to avoid:

  • Heavy for its size
  • Minimal storage space

Best Budget Sit-On-Top: Vibe Skipjack 90

Length: 9′ | Width: 32″ | Weight: 46 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Vibe Skipjack 90

The Vibe Skipjack 90 is a simpler, stripped-down sit-on-top design and a playful kayak that can turn on a dime and is an excellent option for the budget-conscious paddler who’s just getting started or is looking for a fun day on a mellow lake or river.

More experienced paddlers will probably outgrow the Skipjack in a hurry. Still, it’s hard to quibble with the combination of price and stability.

The cockpit is pretty basic. However, I like that the seat’s bottom and back aren’t connected, and the bottom is installed directly onto the hull so that it doesn’t slide back and forth whenever you move. The seatback can be adjusted, and while it won’t provide as much support as some external frame seats, it’s comfortable enough for several hours on the water.

There’s a small storage hatch in the cockpit for personal items and space in the bow and stern where bungee cords can hold more oversized gear. But you’ll be hard-pressed to fit much in either area.

The Skipjack is wide, measuring 32 inches across, which is even more than some of the longer sit-on-top kayaks on this list. You won’t be going anywhere fast, but it’s a fun boat to paddle, thanks to its ability to make tight turns and squeeze into hard-to-reach places. 

Reasons to buy:

  • Easy to paddle
  • A stable and reliable paddling platform for beginners
  • Scuppers for rough water

Reasons to avoid:

  • Best for beginners and casual paddlers
  • Very little storage space

Best Touring: Eddyline Fathom

Length: 16′6″ | Width: 22″ | Weight: 50 lbs | Capacity: 340 lbs

Eddyline Fathom

I’m a sucker for long, svelte touring kayaks, and Eddyline’s Fathom is a gorgeous kayak that’s tailor-made for a rocky coastline while you search for the evening’s perfect campsite. Capable of handling challenging surf landings and efficient enough to paddle long distances, the Fathom is one of the best-designed kayaks at this load capacity.

There are plenty of places to store your gear. A spacious and watertight stern hatch provides enough room for some larger items, while the slightly smaller bow hatch allows you to stuff smaller and slimmer equipment up to the nose of the kayak. A smaller third hatch behind the seat is excellent for day items.

Despite the narrow hull, the Fathom maintains decent primary stability. Still, the secondary stability stands out, making it a joy to edge and manipulate the kayak’s hard chines to make tight turns. It also gives experienced paddlers the control they always crave.

Unfortunately, a sweet paddling kayak like this comes with a hefty price tag. So if you’re not sure how much you’ll be using it, the sticker shock might be more than you’d like. But for the dedicated paddler, few kayaks can compete with the Fathom.

Reasons to buy:

  • Long and narrow hull for efficient paddling
  • Bungee cord deck webbing covers the hull for plenty of additional storage
  • Comfortable and adjustable seat and foot pedals
  • Retractable skeg improves tracking

Reasons to avoid:

  • Pricey 

Best Value Touring: Boreal Baffin P3

Length: 17′7″ | Width: 23.75″ | Weight: 69 lbs | Capacity: 348 lbs

Boreal Baffin P3

Even longer than Eddyline’s Fathom, the Boreal Baffin P3 is a full-sized touring kayak measuring over 17 feet. It’s a little wider, but the extra keel length and minimal rocker profile make it an efficient kayak to paddle. It shines on long-distance trips and can handle a wide range of water conditions.

The benefit to a longer kayak is you won’t have to sacrifice storage space for leg room, making the Baffin a roomier model than the Fathom and a preferable choice for big and tall kayakers. In addition to the extra legroom, the Baffin comes with the standard two storage hatches. However, I wish the hatch size on the stern was slightly larger, but it’s a minor nitpick.

You’ll also find an additional, smaller watertight hatch directly behind the seat, which is an excellent spot for the gear you want close at hand but needs to stay dry.

There are bungee cords in front of and behind the cockpit, giving you no shortage of places to store gear for those long days on the water.

An included skeg helps keep you on course in windy conditions, but the slightly wider and longer hull does make it more challenging to maneuver than shorter designs. So it would be best if you were well acquainted with all the basic kayak paddle strokes before heading out. 

Reasons to buy:

  • Multiple storage options
  • Fast and efficient to paddle
  • Reflective lines for low-light paddling

Reasons to avoid:

  • Heavier than other touring kayaks in this class
  • Can be challenging to maneuver

Best Pedal: Perception Crank 10.0

Length: 10′ | Width: 35″ | Weight: 87 lbs | Capacity: 350 lbs

Perception Crank 10.0

There are many options available for those who would rather pedal than paddle. While most of these are bigger and bulkier, the Perception Crank 10.0 has a smaller profile and fits nicely into the 300-pound capacity class. Although it’s wider than most kayaks of this length, it still moves efficiently thanks to the well-designed and easy-to-use pedal system.

If you’d prefer to paddle, you can certainly do that too. But the pedal set-up is a lot of fun. Steering with the joystick-style rudder on the cockpit’s port side allows the Crank to make tight turns and maneuver into tight corners.

It’s best suited as a day kayak on calm water. Trying to navigate rough water or harsh tidal conditions can be difficult. In addition, there’s a lack of dedicated storage space. You’ll find open-air storage in both the bow and stern with deck bungees stretched over the top, but there are no real dry storage areas to speak of.

The 87 pounds may seem like a heavy kayak, but this is standard for a pedal kayak, as the pedal system can add a substantial amount of weight. It’s a comfortable ride, though, with a sturdy external frame seat that provides ample support and can be adjusted to accommodate a range of paddler sizes.

Reasons to buy:

  • An efficient pedal system gives it an impressive top speed
  • Extra wide design provides excellent stability
  • Super comfortable and adjustable seat

Reasons to avoid:

  • Little dry storage space
  • Best in protected waters

Best Inflatable Sit-Inside: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame

Length: 10′5″ | Width: 32″ | Weight: 36 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame

Inflatable kayaks are at a disadvantage when competing with their hard-shell cousins. They tend to lack rigidity on the water, making them more challenging to paddle and less efficient. But Advanced Elements is doing everything possible to close the gap with its durable and impressive AdvancedFrame kayak.

An aluminum framed hull minimizes the bending and warping on the waves and allows the AdvancedFrame to perform more similarly to a hard-shell kayak. When inflated, the cockpit combing can even accommodate a spray skirt. In addition, a built-in skeg improves tracking and helps the AdvancedFrame handle windier conditions.

It’s not the best for long trips, but it provides extra portability and can easily handle a day on the water. You can find some dry storage space within the cockpit, but that will probably be the biggest challenge if you’re trying to get out for more than a weekend getaway.

Inflating and setting up is simple and intuitive, and the lightweight material makes it perfect for independent kayakers who can’t (or don’t want to) lug a big hard-shell kayak around alone.

Reasons to buy:

  • Lightweight and easy to set-up
  • Rigid enough to handle wind, waves, and tide
  • Included skeg for improved tracking

Reasons to avoid:

  • Minimal dry storage space
  • Not long enough to keep up with traditional touring kayaks

Best Inflatable Sit-On-Top: Aquaglide Chelan 120

Length: 11′3″ | Width: 32.5″ | Weight: 28 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Aquaglide Chelan 120

Longer than the AdvancedFrame but with comparable width, the Aquaglide Chelan 120 is one of the more efficiently designed inflatable sit-on-top kayaks on the market. It also has a drop-stitch kayak floor that improves its rigidity and gives you a more efficient paddle and better top speed than many inflatables.

An included fin improves the tracking, but the longer keel and wider design necessary for a sit-on-top hampers the overall performance of the Chelan 120 to some extent. This makes it best for protected waters where you can stay out of the worst conditions or quickly return to shore.

The cockpit is open and roomy, and Aquaglide has covered the bow area, providing your legs with some protection from the elements. This is overall a positive for me, but those with bigger feet may find it a little cramped. However, shorter paddlers can leverage the space into a dry storage area.

A similar design has been done with the kayak’s stern, providing some rare dry storage options for a sit-on-top kayak. Deck bungees for day gear and an easy set-up process round out the Chelan 120, making it an excellent choice for beginner to intermediate kayakers in warm weather conditions.

Reasons to buy:

  • Impressive top speed
  • Excellent stability
  • Has dry storage space

Reasons to avoid:

  • Best in calm water
  • People with bigger feet may feel cramped

Best Inflatable for Whitewater: Aire Lynx I

Length: 10′1″ | Width: 37.5″ | Weight: 33 lbs | Capacity: 350 lbs


Swift, lightweight, and responsive, the Aire Lynx I can handle the most challenging rivers, take hard collisions, and keep going. Wider than many whitewater kayaks, the Lynx I has fantastic stability but is still agile enough to rip around blind corners and safely navigate hazards and rapids.

The flat hull and low profile side tubes only add to its whitewater capabilities, enhancing the kayak’s maneuverability and allowing more experienced paddlers to push the limits of those hard-to-reach rivers where a hard-shell kayak isn’t practical. 

There isn’t much storage space, but if you have some high-quality dry bags for kayaking, the Lynx I comes with cargo loops so you can safely secure your gear without worrying about losing it should you capsize.

The kayak is self-baling and comes with three independent air tubes, providing redundancy should one of them spring a leak. However, the biggest drawback of this high-performing kayak is the price. If you’re a more casual kayaker, it may not be worth the investment. 

Reasons to buy:

  • Self-baling with three air tubes
  • 12 cargo loops to store gear
  • Fantastic maneuverability for its size

Reasons to avoid:

  • May be more expensive than casual paddlers are willing to spend

Best Value Inflatable for Whitewater: Sea Eagle 300x Explorer

Length: 9′10″ | Width: 39″ | Weight: 30 lbs | Capacity: 395 lbs

Sea Eagle Explorer 300x

Sea Eagle takes their inflatable kayaks very seriously, and the 300x Explorer is no exception. Their calling card is stability, making them great for casual paddlers or newcomers who are hitting the river for the first time and are worried about flipping over. However, that wider design does hamper maneuverability to an extent and means that some class IV to VI rivers should be avoided.

A removable skeg has been implemented into the design, providing the 300x with the flexibility for flatwater paddling too. Of course, that wider hull will still struggle to maintain course in these calm water environments. Still, it’s much nicer in these situations than many kayaks dedicated to whitewater.

Self-bailing floor drains can be left open for rough water or closed for those calm water crossings. Like the Lynx I, the 300x also has three independent chambers just in case the tough, Denier-reinforced material punctures while you’re on the water.

The usual storage shortcomings typical of inflatable sit-on-top kayaks are here. But some D-rings are built into the hull, so you can safely secure your gear for your next whitewater adventure.

Reasons to avoid:

  • Flexibility for whitewater and calm water thanks to a removable skeg
  • Great stability
  • Included D-rings to secure gear

Reasons to avoid:

  • Tracking on calm water can be difficult
  • Not as maneuverable as some higher-end whitewater kayaks

Best Folding: Oru Kayak Beach LT

Length: 12′1″ | Width: 29″ | Weight: 25 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Oru Kayak Beach LT

A relative newcomer to the kayaking world, folding kayaks use an origami-style pattern of folding and unfolding, giving us another lightweight alternative to kayaking if an inflatable isn’t suitable for one reason or another.

Oru Kayak is on the front line of this new field, and their Beach LT is an impressive and innovative design. With similar dimensions to a standard sit-in kayak, the Beach LT weighs a svelte 25 pounds and folds down into an easy-to-carry case that lets you pack it into small spaces with little trouble.

Once on the water, the Beach LT has more rigidity than an inflatable kayak, though still not quite at the same level as a hard-shell model.

Performance-wise, it fits somewhere in between these two materials. The slim hull provides a responsive and efficient paddling experience but can also track in moderate conditions.

Like an inflatable, you’ll have to get creative with storing your gear and will probably have to resort to stuffing it either behind the seat or at your feet. However, I love that they’ve outfitted the kayak with plenty of bungee cords, giving you more chances to squeeze every ounce out of its 300-pound load capacity.

If you have the budget and want to take a step higher from a performance perspective, you can check out the Beach LT’s big brother, the Oru Bay ST.

Reasons to buy:

  • Easy to pack and take from place to place
  • Higher performance than most inflatables
  • A solid combination of tracking and maneuverability

Reasons to avoid:

  • Lack of dry storage space

300 lb Capacity Kayak Comparison Table

KayakUseLengthWidthWeightCapacityCockpit TypeStructure
Eddyline SandpiperRecreational12′28″38 lbs350 lbsSit-inHard-shell
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120Recreational/Fishing12’2″29″49 lbs325 lbsSit-inHard-shell
Pelican Sprint 100XRRecreational10′28″41 lbs300 lbsSit-inHard-shell
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120Recreational/Fishing12’3″31″63 lbs350 lbsSit-on-topHard-shell
Perception Tribe 9.5Recreational9’5″31.5″48.5 lbs300 lbsSit-on-topHard-shell
Vibe Skipjack 90Recreational/Fishing9′32″46 lbs300 lbsSit-on-topHard-shell
Eddyline FathomTouring16’6″22″50 lbs340 lbsSit-inHard-shell
Boreal Baffin P3Touring17’7″23.7569 lbs348 lbsSit-inHard-shell
Perception Crank 10.0Recreational/Fishing10′35″87 lbs350 lbsSit-on-topHard-shell
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrameRecreational10’5″32″36 lbs300 lbsSit-inInflatable
Aquaglide Chelan 120Recreational11’3″32.5″28 lbs300 lbsSit-on-topInflatable
Aire Lynx IRecreational/Whitewater10’1″37.5″33 lbs350 lbsSit-on-topInflatable
Sea Eagle 300x ExplorerRecreational/Fishing/Whitewater9’10”39″30 lbs395 lbsSit-on-topInflatable
Oru Kayak Beach LTRecreational12’1″29″25 lbs300 lbsSit-inFolding

300 lb Capacity Kayak Buying Advice

kayaker resting and enjoying the view

Understanding the differences between kayaks in various categories can be helpful to your selection process. But it can be just as beneficial if you can look at a kayak’s dimensions or material and get an idea of how it will perform.

Our buying advice will show you how to determine many of these characteristics before you even set foot in a kayak.

Kayak Type

The first decision to be made is what type of kayak you’re in the market for. In general, kayaks can be separated into two broad categories, sit-in, and sit-on-top

Of course, there are a lot of sub-categories within both of those, but let’s start with these two main types.

Sit-in kayaks have the sleek, low-to-the-water profile that has been used by several cultures for thousands of years. This design has a seat installed on the bottom of the hull, either just below or at the waterline.

Your feet and lower torso are protected by the kayak’s deck and can be enclosed with a spray skirt. This makes sit-in kayaks preferable for cold or rainy environments where you want to keep water out of your kayak.

Placing you nearer to the water also means the boat’s center of gravity is closer, allowing the kayak to narrow without compromising its overall stability.

This makes them a popular choice for touring kayaks traveling long distances where you’re less concerned with maneuvering tight areas. A sit-in kayak like the Eddyline Fathom may be the perfect option if you want to attempt paddles that involve more than ten miles daily.

Sit-on-top kayaks are more commonly utilized for recreation and general day trips. These kayaks don’t have a covered deck; instead, you’re completely exposed to rain and waves, and the seat is mounted higher above the water.

This means that sit-on-top kayaks need to be wider to maintain stability. This can make some, like the Sea Eagle 300x Explorer, feel almost raft-like with excellent primary stability that is very hard to tip over. However, if a sit-on-top begins to tip, it can be challenging to recover due to the design of the hull.


Most of the hard-shell kayaks you find on the market today are made of a rigid plastic called polyethylene. However, some companies like Eddyline have patented their own unique type of this plastic; in Eddyline’s case, they call it Carbonlite.

Brands will tote their patented material as more durable or superior to generic polyethylene.

While this may be true, I look at most hard-shell, plastic kayaks as similar from a material standpoint. And I don’t let that sway me towards or against a particular brand. Plastic kayaks are all durable and can absorb many impacts with minimal upkeep required on your part.

Inflatable kayaks are also made of synthetic plastic, but one that is thinner and much more flexible. Many brands use a material called Denier.

Folding kayaks from Oru Kayak are made of polypropylene, another synthetic material that may not be as durable as polyethylene. Still, I’d recommend it over an inflatable if the price is no object.


A kayak’s speed is tightly correlated with how long the keel is. While some other variables go into this calculation, like a kayak’s rocker profile, you can examine a kayak’s length and width and get a general idea of how fast the kayak will be.

This gives sit-in kayaks a considerable advantage since they can be slimmer without increasing the risk of capsizing.

Out of the kayaks we’ve reviewed, you’re not going to do better than the Eddyline Fathom for speed. However, sit-in models like the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 and Eddyline Sandpiper will also provide you with an efficient, fast paddle.

Conversely, recreational sit-on-top kayaks, like the Perception Tribe 9.5, are meant more for stability and short-distance paddling, like afternoons on the lake.


How well a kayak can turn is also closely related to the length of the keel. In this case, shorter kayaks have more of an advantage, and the additional width of sit-on-top kayaks isn’t as much of a disadvantage.

Having a rudder system like the Perception Crank 10.0 can also give you a huge advantage. Inflatable whitewater kayaks like the Aire Lynx I are also meant for close-quarters maneuvering and are easier to squeeze into small spaces when compared with the longer sit-in kayak designs.


Fortunately, we have moved past the days when a cheap and flimsy kayak seat is acceptable.

There are various degrees of comfort when it comes to kayaking. However, depending on your body type and flexibility, don’t be surprised if you feel cramped after a couple of hours, regardless of how comfortable your seat is.

That said, my favorite kayak seats are the external frame designs you can find in kayaks like the Crank 10.0. These provide plenty of support, especially for your back, and the mesh material keeps you cool on hot summer days.

For foot braces, I prefer the adjustable foot pegs found in Eddyline’s and Wilderness Systems’ designs. You can make the footwells in some of the more budget-conscious models work, but finding a comfortable and natural fit is challenging. 

Stability & Tracking

Kayaks have two types of stability: primary and secondary. Primary stability refers to how a kayak feels when you’re at rest on the water. Wider kayaks, like many sit-on-top models, have excellent primary stability with little rocking back and forth and don’t require much focus on your part to stay upright.

Sit-in kayaks are narrower, and many have a V-shaped hull that will rock more often when you shift your weight or adjust your position. As a result, you’ll likely have to focus more on your balance, even if the conditions are good. 

However, these kayaks can lean much further without capsizing. Experienced paddlers can leverage this into many bracing techniques and coax a higher performance out of their kayak.

Tracking refers to how well a kayak can maintain a straight line when paddling. Longer keels do a better job cutting through the water on a straight course, another reason why touring kayaks like the Eddyline Fathom and Boreal Baffin P3 have more extended designs.

Many models also include skegs which further improve tracking when the wind is trying to push you off course.

Shorter, recreational sit-on-top kayaks will struggle to keep a straight line in all but the best conditions. It’s another reason these kayak designs should be kept in calm water and close to shore. You’d be amazed at how frustrating and tiring it can be to get a stubby kayak through the wind and safely home.


As discussed above, hard-shell kayaks made of polyethylene are some of the toughest boats available. However, I still suggest you land as gently as possible on beaches that aren’t sandy and try to refrain from dragging your kayak long distances.

Folding kayaks are also reasonably tough, although they can be more susceptible to punctures if you land on a sharp rock or try to drag your boat instead of safely portaging it. And if these kayaks do spring a leak, it can be complicated to repair.

Inflatable kayaks require some upkeep, no matter how careful you are. But as long as you exercise caution, you can trust a high-quality inflatable kayak with most activities.

Portability & Storage

It’s hard to beat the Oru Kayak Beach LT when it comes to portability. Weighing just 25 pounds, you can take it almost everywhere, and while it does take a little longer to set up, not needing a pump is invaluable, especially in the backcountry.

But one benefit to kayaks with a 300-pound load capacity is that many of them are more portable than their bigger cousins. 

The one I’d make an exception for is the Perception Crank 10.0. Of course, pedal kayaks are usually always on the heavier side. Still, at almost 90 pounds, it can feel unwieldy and challenging to move, even if you have an extra person to help.

When it comes to storage space, it’s hard to top the touring models like the Eddyline Fathom and Boreal Baffin P3. These kayaks are built to hold gear and keep it dry, and as long as you pack smartly, you can stuff a lot of equipment in their hatches. Just be sure you don’t exceed the weight capacity, as this can make your kayak more susceptible to capsizing.

The Verdict

With so many unique kayak designs on this list, choosing the best overall isn’t really possible.

If you’re looking to go the recreational route, you can’t go wrong with the Eddyline Sandpiper or Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120.

Several great kayaks also specialize in specific types of paddling, like the Eddyline Fathom and Aire Lynx I

Or, if you’re looking for a kayak that’s easy to transport and store, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame or Aquaglide Chelan 120 might be the better choice for you.