Best Small Kayaks for Easy Transport & Storage

Here are our picks for the best small kayaks on the market. Our reviews cover sit-in, sit-on-top, recreational, and fishing kayaks.

Best Small Kayaks

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Why trust us?

Whether your available storage space at home is tiny, or you simply want a maneuverable kayak, a wide range of small kayak designs are available for your perusal. However, the amount of diversity in this kayak size range can make selecting the best model for you daunting, especially if you’re new to the world of kayaking. 

Our goal here is to make that process as easy as we can. In this article, we’ll review the best small kayaks on the market today, breaking down their pros and cons, so you walk out of the store with the perfect kayak.

So no matter if you’re looking for a sit-in or sit-on-top, recreational or fishing, the perfect kayak for you and your family may be waiting just below.

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-on-Top: Perception Tribe 9.5

Length: 9′5″ | Width: 31″ | Weight: 46 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Perception Tribe 9.5

With a seat that rides higher above the water than many kayaks, the Perception Tribe 9.5 keeps you drier than most sit-on-top designs available. Yet, despite that higher seat, stability isn’t a concern thanks to the wide hull, which is more than enough compensation and ensures that even nervous paddlers will feel comfortable. 

Despite this wider design, the Tribe 9.5 is a reasonable 46 pounds when empty. Handles on the bow, stern, and each side make carrying easy no matter how many hands you have available. 

The wider and stubbier hull means that this is no speedster. But that’s the norm for all small kayaks, as shorter keels mean less speed. The slower pace shouldn’t matter much for day paddles around the lake or in protected coastal areas.

For storage, there are open-air wells in the bow and stern with bungee cords stretched over the top to keep gear secure. There’s not much space in these wells, but it should be satisfactory for short trips. For on-water access, you’ll find a small center hatch with a built-in mesh bag that’ll suit smaller items you want access to while you paddle. 

  • Lightweight kayak and easy to carry
  • Small day storage bag
  • Excellent stability and easy to paddle
  • Seat could be more comfortable
  • Very little dry storage space

Best Budget Sit-on-Top: Lifetime Emotion Spitfire 8

Length: 8′ | Width: 31.5″ | Weight: 39 lbs | Capacity: 240 lbs

Lifetime Emotion Spitfire 8

A tiny kayak measuring just 8-feet, the Lifetime Emotion Spitfire 8 catches eyes thanks to the lime green hull and tight maneuverability. Despite being a foot-and-a-half shorter than the Tribe 9.5, the Spitfire is similar in width. Making it a sporty little kayak capable of sharp turns and surprising responses for a sit-on-top. 

Despite the tiny keel, the Spitfire 8 isn’t as slow as you may think. This is due to the ST Performance Hull that cuts through the water with surprising efficiency and coaxes a little more speed out of the stubby design. However, this still doesn’t make it a speed racer, and most longer boats will have no trouble outrunning it.

You get solid stability thanks to the wide hull, but being shorter means that any waves or choppy conditions can make it feel uncomfortable quickly. So make sure you have an accurate weather forecast and don’t venture too far from shore. 

The seat lacks bottom padding, though the seatback has some and can be adjusted relatively easily. For your feet, there are multiple wells that are common in budget sit-on-top kayaks. It’s nothing special, but the set-up should be enough to keep you comfortable for a couple hours.

Storage is lacking, but that’s not surprising for a boat of this size. There’s a small well in the stern secured with deck bungees, but that’s about it. The load capacity is on the low side, checking in at 240 pounds. Don’t forget this includes your gear, so tall and heavy paddlers may want to look elsewhere.

  • Excellent maneuverability
  • Surprising speed for such a tiny boat
  • Lightweight at just 39 pounds
  • Tiny load capacity
  • Little storage space

Best Sit-Inside: Perception Flash 9.5

Length: 9′5″ | Width: 28.5″ | Weight: 41 lbs | Capacity: 325 lbs

Perception Flash 9.5

Perception knows a thing or two about sit-inside kayaks too. The Perception Flash 9.5 is the same length as the Perception Tribe, but is three inches narrower, giving it better speed and paddling efficiency than its sit-on-top cousin. 

The design of a sit-in and a multi-chine hull means you don’t lose much in the way of stability. So the Flash remains an excellent choice for paddlers of all experience levels. It still turns well, though tracking will suffer in the wind, waves, current, or rapids, so this isn’t a boat for challenging rivers or ocean conditions. 

The Flash weighs less but carries more than the Tribe, and the 325-pound load capacity should be more than suitable for day excursions. Unfortunately, storage space is limited to a watertight hatch in the stern and whatever room you can make in the cockpit. 

I really like the small dashboard built into the deck. This recessed space directly in front of the cockpit has enough room for a water bottle and other odds and ends you want access to while paddling. There’s even a small bungee cord that can be used to secure gear or your paddle. 

Speaking of the cockpit, paddlers over 6’1” or so may find it too cramped for their liking. This isn’t an indictment of the Flash; there’s only so much room available in a sit-in kayak this small. If you’re worried about being cramped but need a small boat, a sit-on-top offers a little more space. 

The seat itself is pretty solid. The back can be adjusted with little trouble, and the bottom is well padded. 

  • Molded handles make solo carries simpler
  • Included paddle holder
  • Spray skirt compatible
  • Will be cramped for taller paddlers

Best Budget Sit-Inside: Field & Stream Blade 80

Length: 7′10″ | Width: 28″ | Weight: 35 lbs | Capacity: 260 lbs

Field & Stream Blade 80

Don’t let the name fool you; the Field & Stream Blade 80 doesn’t even reach 8-feet long, officially measuring two inches shorter than that. If storage space and easy transportation are valuable to you, it doesn’t get much easier than this design. 

That said, Field & Stream has managed to cram in all the standard goodies you’d expect to find in a much larger sit-in kayak. A bungee cord in front of the cockpit serves as a paddle holder, and the seat is well-padded and adjustable. Of course, the same disclaimer applies to the Blade as the Flash; bigger paddlers will have difficulty pretzeling themselves into the cockpit.

A modest storage hatch in the stern and bungees along the bow and stern give it a surprising amount of storage options. Though with a minuscule load capacity of 260-pounds, you’ll be limited with the amount of gear you can take with you. There’s even a similar dashboard to hold small personal items in front of the cockpit.

It doesn’t end there. Self-described action camera mounts give you locations to mount a GoPro or similar device to document your adventures.

Performance-wise it’s slower than the Perception Flash 9.5 due to the smaller keel. But it has excellent maneuverability and stability, making it a fun playboat on lakes and mellow rivers. 

  • Tons of included goodies despite the small hull
  • Great maneuverability
  • Easy to store and transport
  • Subpar tracking
  • Cramped cockpit

Best for Fishing: Vibe Skipjack 90

Length: 9′ | Width: 32″ | Weight: 42 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Vibe Skipjack 90

We return to the realm of sit-on-top kayaks for our pick of the best small fishing kayak. Vibe’s primary focus is kayaks built for fishing. While they’re a relatively new company, they’ve made a name for themselves thanks to several inventive designs. 

Despite the small frame, the Vibe Skipjack 90 jams in many of the toys necessary for a successful day at your favorite fishing hole. Four rod holders and a fish finder mount means there’s no excuse for not catching the big one. 

While casting, the Skipjack’s paddle rest keeps your paddle secure and leaves both hands free for fishing. 

The 300-pound load capacity should be more than enough for day trips, and while not ready for the high seas, the Skipjack holds up surprisingly well if you end up in a bit of chop. However, it’s still not a boat meant for speed, and the tracking will suffer in rough or windy conditions, which can tire you out in a hurry.

Storage is mostly open-air, with the typical tankwells secured with bungee cords. There is a small compartment in the cockpit that’s water-resistant and can fit some smaller items. Passionate anglers will appreciate the well-padded seat bottom and back, which can be adjusted for the perfect fit. 

  • Decent load capacity
  • Four rod holders and space for a fish finder
  • Low top speed limits it to nearby fishing hot spots

Small Kayak Buying Guide

man kayak fishing on a river

A small kayak can open up a whole world of paddling opportunities. But finding the right small kayak for you can be difficult, particularly if you don’t know what to look for as you shop.

Up next, we’ll take a closer look at some key features to look out for, so you can get the best model for your needs.

Kayak Type

Most kayaks can be separated into two categories, sit-in and sit-on-top. While they have roughly similar shapes, their performance and what they’re best suited for vary dramatically. 

With kayaks of this size, the most significant difference is how much protection they offer from the elements. Sit-on-top kayaks like the Perception Tribe 9.5 and Lifetime Emotion Spitfire 8 leave the paddler wholly exposed to the elements. Even in calm conditions, you’ll get the occasional wave splashing against your legs and body. 

If you’re paddling in cold water, this can be…unpleasant. The same concept applies to water falling from the sky. Those living in rainy environments may want more protection than a sit-on-top kayak can offer. 

Sit-in kayaks like the Perception Flash 9.5 have a recessed seat protecting your legs and lower torso. In addition, you can add a spray skirt that encloses the cockpit and can significantly reduce the amount of water that finds the seams in your raingear. 

Sit-in kayaks are more efficient to paddle with a better top speed and tracking. This is thanks to the lower cockpit that places the paddler closer to the water. This lower center of gravity allows the kayak to be narrower while maintaining stability. 


All of the kayaks in this article are made of a hard plastic called polyethylene. While heavier than some other materials used in kayak construction, polyethylene is tough, difficult to damage, and cheaper to produce. 

While there’s still some difference in price depending on overall performance and included features, they all should have similar durability with minimal maintenance.


Kayak speed is strongly correlated with keel length. Since we’re talking about some of the smallest kayaks on the market, none of these boats will be winning a drag race any time soon. 

The narrower, sit-in kayaks will go a little faster than their sit-on-top brethren. And the hull design of the Lifetime Emotion Spitfire 8 provides a better top speed than one would expect from a sit-on-top of this size.

But with that being said, these kayaks will struggle to maintain a decent speed, even compared with other recreational kayaks that are just a couple of feet longer. So if you’re hoping to cover a lot of ground in a day, it’s best to look elsewhere.


Shorter-keeled kayaks have better maneuverability, giving all these models an impressive turn radius. 

The shortest on the list like the Field & Stream Blade 80 can spin on a dime, which can be aggravating when trying to paddle in a straight line. But makes for a lot of fun when weaving around obstacles or in tight quarters. 

Unlike some larger kayaks, however, none of these boats have a rudder or skeg and lack the capability to have one easily added. This does put the responsibility solely on the kayaker’s paddling ability to maneuver. Luckily all these kayaks are responsive, and with a small amount of practice, they are easy to handle. 


Well-padded seatbacks are a given in today’s kayaking market. However, there is some delineation in the comfort of some of the kayaks on this list. 

The Vibe Skipjack 90 has the most comfortable seat with a well-padded seat back and bottom and can be easily adjusted. 

Perception has always done an excellent job designing comfortable seats that will keep you comfortable all day. The Field & Stream Blade 80 has done a similar job. 

The Lifetime Emotion Spitfire 8 falls behind in this category, however. The seatback, while padded, feels a little flimsy, which minimizes the support as you paddle. Meanwhile, the seat bottom isn’t padded at all, which can lead to a sore hindquarter sooner rather than later. 

The shorter designs of these sit-in kayaks will make them feel cramped for taller or bigger paddlers. On the other hand, the sit-on-top kayaks give you more room to stretch out and put your feet outside the hull. 

If you live in a cold or wet region where a sit-on-top isn’t practical, you may want to consider a larger sit-in model that will provide a little more room and comfort.

Stability & Tracking

The stability of all the kayaks on this list is good enough for paddlers of all experience levels to feel comfortable. In general, wider kayaks are more stable, but the width of the sit-on-top kayaks on this list is somewhat offset by the higher center of gravity of the paddler. 

The Perception Flash 9.5 has a wide width for a sit-in kayak. This, combined with the lower cockpit, gives it the best stability on this list, but all can be paddled with confidence. 

Tracking, like speed, is correlated to keel length, with longer keels providing better tracking. This gives the two Perception models the edge, giving them some of the best tracking out of the kayaks reviewed. However, like speed, their tracking will still be subpar compared to longer kayaks. So avoid attempting long crossings or challenging paddles in boats of this stature. 


The plastic hull of all these models can absorb most normal drops and collisions without reducing their performance or requiring serious maintenance. It will take a significant drop to punch a hole in the polyethylene. Long drags can dig grooves and scratches in the hull, decreasing performance over time, so carry your kayak whenever possible.

Portability & Storage

A great benefit of smaller kayaks is that they are easy to store and carry. While they’re probably still too big to fit in a hallway closet like an inflatable kayak, they can be squeezed into tight spots and are easy to keep out of the way.

All the kayaks on this list are lightweight despite their polyethylene construction. Making them comfortable to carry solo by most paddlers. The easiest to carry by yourself is the Perception Flash 9.5, which features molded handles specifically designed to help you move your kayak on your own.

The Flash 9.5 also has the most storage space and the largest load capacity at 325-pounds. In addition, the watertight bow and stern hatches provide a decent amount of room for a kayak this size. You’ll just need to be careful not to overload it, which can decrease performance and be a safety hazard. 

The smallest kayak on this list, the Field & Stream Blade 8 has one of the lowest load capacities (260-pounds). Depending on the size of the paddler, you may not be able to carry much gear, despite the boat having multiple storage options. 

The Verdict

Since each of the kayaks on this list fills a specific niche and your needs are likely unique to other paddlers, selecting a “best overall kayak” isn’t realistic or helpful. 

Those in cold weather or rainy environments are best to steer towards the protected cockpits of the Perception Flash 9.5 or Field & Stream Blade 80 to keep the rain off. These boats will also serve those looking to coax just a bit more speed out of their small kayak and in the case of the Flash 9.5, maximize their load capacity.

For those in warmer environments or taller paddlers that may not squeeze into one of the sit-in designs mentioned above, the Perception Tribe 9.5 makes for a suitable option. The excellent stability and solid load capacity make it a suitable choice for a wide range of paddlers. 

Those looking for a cheaper option should feel confident that the Lifetime Emotion Spitfire 8 will provide a better top speed than you’d expect from a kayak this length. 

While you can certainly fish from any of the four kayaks, the Vibe Skipjack 90 was built to cast from, offering excellent stability along with rod holders and a paddle holder to aid in your angling adventure.

Whichever kayak fits your lifestyle best, hopefully, this article steered you in the right direction so we can see you out on the water soon.