Whether you’re a salty sailor or you’re just getting your sea legs, kayak sailing is easily one of the best ways to travel fast and have fun while on the water.
That being said, kayak sails are also notoriously tricky pieces of gear to shop for because they boast so many different features for you to consider.
So we’ve put together this guide on the best kayak sail kits on the market today, and we’ll offer up some insight into how to select the perfect model for your needs.
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 Overall: Hobie Mirage Sail Kit
- Best Value: Sea Eagle QuikSail Kayak Sail
- Best Foldable Sail: Advanced Elements Rapid Up Kayak Sail Kit
- Best Value Foldable Sail: Dyna-Living Pop Up Kayak Sail
Best Overall: Hobie Mirage Sail Kit
Sail Dimensions: 20.25 sq. ft | Weight: 12 lbs 8 oz
Taking home the top spot as the best kayak sail in its class, the Hobie Mirage Sail Kit is the model of choice for enthusiastic kayak sailors.
Unlike most other kayak sails on the market, the rugged Dacron-based Hobie Mirage is designed to provide you with complete control over your kayak, regardless of whether you’re sailing up or downwind. As a mainsail-style model, the Hobie Mirage comes with its own fiberglass two-piece mast for stability on the water and telltales to help you trim your sail to perfection.
It also features a set of sheet lines that you can use to control the clews (also known as the corners) of the sail. By doing so, you can properly adjust the tension of the Hobie Mirage for your current sailing conditions. What’s more, it also comes with a set of bungees that serve as downhauls on your sail to change its shape for performance sailing.
That being said, while the Hobie Mirage does come with a set of furling hooks for quick set up and take down on the water, it is quite big and heavy. Additionally, the Mirage is relatively expensive, and it’s not suitable for use on inflatable kayaks. But, if performance kayak sailing is your goal, this is one kayak sail that’s tough to beat.
Best Value: Sea Eagle QuikSail Kayak Sail
Sail Dimensions: 14 sq. ft | Weight: 2 lbs
Designed to be used on nearly any kayak, the Sea Eagle QuikSail Kayak Sail is a value-focused sail that’s worthy of your consideration.
This downwind spinnaker-style sail features a nifty collapsible design that allows it to be set up or taken down in just a few seconds. To do so, you simply need to remove it from its included carry pouch, separate the sail’s aluminum stays, and then attach it to the bow of your kayak.
Once the QuikSail is up and running on your kayak, its 14 square foot surface area will quickly catch the wind and transport you downwind at a speed of up to about 7 knots. It even comes with a clear front panel to help ensure that you have full visibility as you cruise down the water.
Do keep in mind though, as a downwind spinnaker, this sail doesn’t allow steering. But, it is designed to be hands-free so that you can steer with your paddle or rudder. Furthermore, the QuikSail is known to be challenging to control in high winds. However, if you need a budget-friendly kayak sail for fun times on the water, it’s hard to go wrong with the QuikSail.
Best Foldable Kayak Sail: Advanced Elements Rapid Up Kayak Sail Kit
Sail Dimensions: 10.37 sq. ft | Weight: 1 lb 3.2 oz
If packability is your chief concern, then look no further than the Advanced Elements Rapid Up Kayak Sail Kit.
Crafted by one of the world’s foremost inflatable kayak companies, the Rapid Up is explicitly designed with compactness in mind. This downwind spinnaker-style sail features a fiberglass frame that can be folded up or unpacked in a matter of seconds. When packed away, the sail is just 18” in diameter, so it’s the perfect size for storing in the cockpit of your kayak.
As far as performance on the water goes, the Rapid Up is no slouch. It is made from rugged polyester ripstop fabric with large see-through mylar panels for visibility as you paddle. It also has a unique curved shape that conforms to the deck of most kayaks while maximizing its total surface area for enhanced speed on the water.
Despite its performance-centered design, however, anyone buying a spinnaker-style sail like this should recognize that it’s only for downwind sailing. Furthermore, the Rapid Up can be difficult to fold away and store if you’re in very windy conditions. All in all, though, this foldable sail is a solid choice for kayakers that want extra speed on the downwind without adding bulk to their kit.
Best Budget Foldable Sail: Dyna-Living Kayak Sail
Sail Dimensions: 9.6 sq. ft | Weight: 14 oz
Providing excellent bang for your buck without sacrificing functionality on the water, the Dyna-Living Pop Up Kayak Sail is a budget paddler’s best friend in windy locales.
This simple downwind spinnaker-style sail features a circular design that maximizes its surface area while also packing down small. Thanks to the Dyna-Living Pop Up Kayak Sail’s flexible fiberglass poles, it can also fold down flat into a small 15” pouch that you can easily store when wind conditions aren’t favorable for sailing.
Meanwhile, this sale is made from ripstop polyester taffeta, which is lightweight and packable enough for frequent adventures. It even has a sizable clear window to help you see off the bow of your kayak as you fly down the water.
However, the Dyna-Living Pop Up Kayak Sail can be tricky to handle the first few times you have it deployed because of its plethora of straps. The sail’s lack of side windows also inhibits a bit of visibility when used on smaller kayaks, and it’s only designed to sail downwind. Despite all of this, though, the Dyna-Living Kayak Sail is a solid option for paddlers that prize affordability.
Kayak Sail Buying Guide
Now that we’ve taken a look at the four best kayak sail kits on the market, let’s talk a bit about the various features you ought to take into account before you purchase a sail for your kayak.
Before you even start looking at the different types of kayak sails that are available today, the first question you have to ask yourself is “What do I plan to use this sail for?”
In reality, what you intend to use your kayak sail for will significantly determine what model you should buy. Additionally, understanding your intended use patterns will go a long way toward ensuring your paddling adventures are as fun and carefree as can be.
First things first, we should mention that kayak sails will not turn your kayak into a sailboat. Yep, that’s right: A kayak sail is not enough to convert your sweet kayak into a fully-fledged sailboat.
Sure, there are some kayak sail models out there that can provide quite a bit of maneuverability that can rival a small dinghy in the right conditions. But you’re not going to be entering your kayak in the famed Vendée Global around-the-world sailing race anytime soon.
With that in mind, many different kayak sails are available, each of which is designed with a specific type of paddler in mind.
For example, as we’ll see when we talk about sail types, models like the Hobie Mirage that can be sailed up or downwind are best for folks that want maximum maneuverability on the water, either for fun or for long-distance adventures. Meanwhile, simpler spinnaker-style sails are ideal for paddlers that want an easy way to add extra speed to their kayak when paddling downwind.
Therefore, determining precisely what you plan to use your kayak sail for is an essential part of the shopping process.
Not all kayak sails are created equal. In reality, there are two primary different types of kayak sails, both of which offer distinct advantages and disadvantages for paddlers on the water. Here’s what you need to know:
Mainsail-style: Like the Hobie Mirage, Mainsail-style kayak sails are designed to act a lot like miniature versions of the mainsails that you might find on a Bermuda-rigged yacht or dinghy.
Of course, these kayak sails do not have a boom, and they are much smaller than their sailboat counterparts. However, they provide much of the same functionality for paddlers as they do for sailors, as these sails allow you to cruise up or downwind.
These sails are also highly adjustable thanks to their integrated rigging lines, so you can trim your sails for maximum performance. What’s more, some of these sails are designed to furl (wrap) around their included masts for storage, making the packing process as simple as possible.
The catch? Mainsail-style kayak sails are very expensive. They also require more skill and experience to handle on the water, even though they can also provide enhanced maneuverability. Plus, these sails are often quite heavy and bulky, so they aren’t suitable for major expeditions where weight savings are a concern.
Downwind spinnaker-style: While mainsail-style kayak sails are designed for up and downwind sailing, downwind spinnaker-style models are your go-to choice for cruising quickly with a tailwind at your back.
As their name suggests, these sails are similar to the spinnakers you might find on sailing boats, particularly during sailing races.
The primary benefit of these sails is that they’re designed to catch the wind when charting a downwind course, allowing you to fly quickly down the water. They also tend to be highly affordable and compact, which is great for paddlers with limited gear storage or anyone on a budget.
As with the mainsail-style kayak sails, downwind spinnaker-style kayak sails aren’t exact replicas of their larger sailing boat cousins. In particular, these kayak sails generally don’t have any system for maneuvering just under sail, so you’ll have to use your paddle or rudder to turn on the water.
Furthermore, anyone considering a downwind spinnaker-style sail needs to recognize that they will only be able to use it when paddling downwind. So, while these sails are fantastic for relaxing when you have a tailwind, they’re not much use when paddling into a headwind.
Ease of Set-Up
As you can imagine, trying to maneuver your kayak and set up a sail simultaneously is no easy task. Therefore, finding a kayak sail that’s easy enough to rig while you’re on the water is of the utmost importance.
As a general rule, spinnaker-style kayak sails are easier to set up simply because they have fewer moving parts than their mainsail-style counterparts.
But, even spinnaker-style sails can be a bit of a hassle to rig in high winds, which can cause the sail to flap around uncontrollably as you try to take it out of its carry case. So, it’s essential to practice rigging your sail in calm weather before using it for the first time with a strong wind at your back.
Materials & Durability
If you’re going to buy a kayak sail, you need to know that it’ll be durable enough to withstand heavy winds and rough seas. That means that you need to be confident that your kayak sail is made from quality materials that can stand the test of time.
Nowadays, kayak sails are made from a select few materials. These include:
- Dacron – Considered to be the gold standard for sailcloth, both for kayaks and sailboats, Dacron is a type of woven polyester explicitly designed for water use. This fabric is tightly woven to be stable enough in high winds without the need to be stabilized by resin coatings, which decreases the fabric’s overall durability. However, while dacron is not an expensive fabric in the greater sailing world, it is pricey for a kayak sail. So, you can expect it only on premium kayak sail models.
- Ripstop Polyester & Nylon – An affordable option for spinnaker-style kayak sails, ripstop polyester and nylon are both highly packable materials that are perfect for outdoor adventures. However, these fabrics are a bit stretchy, so they’re not ideal for use in a mainsail-style kayak sail. They also aren’t as durable as Dacron, which is something to keep in mind before buying. But when you need a mix of performance and value, ripstop polyester and nylon are hard to beat.
- Mylar – The last fabric that you’ll find on nearly all kayak sails is mylar. Simply put, mylar is a type of polyester film that’s prized for its ability to be both strong and transparent. As a result, many manufacturers use mylar to create see-through windows and panels in their sails. However, do keep in mind that despite its strength, mylar is less durable than dacron or ripstop polyester and nylon. So, sails with excessively large mylar panels are more susceptible to wear and tear in the long term.
Weight & Packed Size
Any piece of gear’s weight and packed size are a concern, and kayak sails are no exception. However, when it comes to kayak sails, most paddlers’ chief concern is the packed size of their sail.
Of course, having an excessively heavy sail isn’t ideal if you’re on the water, but a few pounds here or there usually won’t hurt. On the other hand, excessively bulky sails can be challenging to pack, holding you back while on more extended expeditions.
Therefore, paddlers looking to take their kayak sails on long adventures might want to consider the more packable spinnaker-style models instead of the bulkier mainsail-style sails. While these spinnaker-style sails, like the Advanced Elements Rapid Up Kayak Sail Kit, aren’t as versatile, they tend to fold down into smaller sizes, which is excellent for remote trips.
You should also consider how easy it is to pack up your sail while on the water.
The folding spinnaker-style models tend to be relatively straightforward if you’re not paddling in heavy winds. Meanwhile, mainsail-style sails are often easier to handle in windy conditions because they can often furl (wrap) around the mast, eliminating the chance that the sail will get caught in the wind as you try to pack it away.
While there’s no one answer as to which size or type of kayak sail is right for you, it’s important to consider a sail’s packability features before you invest.
Kayak sails have long been a popular accessory for avid paddlers that like to have some fun on the water. But, finding the right kayak sail for your adventures isn’t always a walk in the park.
After reviewing the top kayak sail options available, it’s clear that one model stood out among the competition: the Hobie Mirage Sail Kit.
The Hobie Mirage blew us away with its super functional mainsail-style design and full rigging, both of which allow for enhanced maneuverability on the water. It’s also the only sail in our review that can be sailed up or downwind, and it’s designed to pack away quickly, even in high winds. That being said, the Hobie Mirage is pricey, and it’s a bit bulky for long trips.
Therefore, it’s important to recognize that not all sails work for every kayaker. The crucial thing here is that you get the best possible kayak sail for your upcoming paddles. That way, you can make the most out of your time on the water.