Want to paddle with a buddy? A tandem kayak is just what you need.
With the right tandem kayak, you can enjoy some quality time on the water with your friend or partner by your side. Choose the wrong tandem kayak for your paddling adventures, however, and your outing could turn into a frustrating experience.
Thankfully, we’re here to help you find the perfect tandem kayak for all your paddling needs. We’ve reviewed the best tandem kayaks on the market, and we’ll offer some tips to help you select the perfect boat for all your kayaking 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: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL
- Best Sit-Inside: Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T
- Best Inflatable: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible
- Best Folding: Oru Kayak Haven TT
- Best for Whitewater: Sea Eagle 380x
- Best for Fishing: Jackson Kayak Big Tuna
- Best Pedal: Hobie Mirage Compass Duo
Best Overall: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL
Length: 13′4″ | Width: 34″ | Weight: 70 lbs | Capacity: 500 lbs
Specifically designed with fun in mind, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL is a stable and comfortable sit-on-top kayak that’s perfect for families or adventurous couples.
The Malibu Two XL is made with Ocean Kayak’s proprietary single-layer polyethylene, which gives it a nice mix of durability and weight savings for a tandem kayak. It features a sizeable open-deck cockpit with molded-in footrests, too, for added control as you paddle.
With this kayak, you get two fully adjustable Comfort Plus seats. You can quickly adjust the orientation of these seats to convert the Malibu Two XL into a solo kayak for a single paddler.
Furthermore, the Malibu Two XL comes with molded-in side handles and a set of bow and stern toggle handles for easier transport to and from your car. It also includes a set of paddle holders for added convenience on the water.
We should point out that the standard version of this kayak doesn’t come with a lot of gear storage space, even though it has two deck bungees. However, when comfort is a priority for short paddling kayaking day trips, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL is an excellent choice.
Best Sit-Inside: Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T
Length: 13′6″ | Width: 31″ | Weight: 72 lbs | Capacity: 500 lbs
Perfect for the recreational paddling duo that enjoys spending time on lakes and slow-moving rivers, the Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T is a comfort-focused sit-inside kayak for any outing.
With the best-selling Pamlico 135T, you get a 13’6” long kayak with a wide, rounded hull. This rounded hull helps provide improved stability on the water for you and your partner while also making it easy for you to turn swiftly and efficiently.
Additionally, the Pamlico 135T comes with the company’s proprietary Phase 3 AirPro tandem outfitting system. As a result, it has some of the most comfortable seats on the market. At the same time, you can convert this boat to a single kayak for solo jaunts when your paddling partner isn’t available.
Other notable features include a stern dry storage hatch, a Keepers XL foot brace system, and a set of knee and thigh pads for enhanced comfort. Plus, this kayak comes with a huge open cockpit for additional legroom as you paddle.
Keep in mind that the Pamlico 135T doesn’t quite have enough gear storage for overnight trips. But for daytime adventures with a friend, it’s a solid choice.
Best Inflatable: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible
Length: 15′ | Width: 32″ | Weight: 52 lbs | Capacity: 550 lbs
If you refuse to settle for second best with an inflatable kayak, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible tandem kayak might just be what you need.
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible is built using the company’s classic ultra-durable 3-layer material. It also has built-in aluminum ribs and a skeg to give the kayak a sharper hull design for improved tracking in rough ocean waters.
At the same time, the AdvancedFrame comes with a fully customizable deck configuration that can accommodate up to 2 paddlers in cozy inflatable seats. Or, if you want to kayak alone, you can also adjust the deck layout of this kayak for a single paddler outing. Better yet, you can add an optional deck kit (sold separately) to convert this boat into a sit-inside kayak.
This kayak also comes with some deck rigging for stashing gear on the go. There’s also a set of paddle holders for added convenience when you take a break while on the water.
Nevertheless, the AdvancedFrame is pretty pricey for an inflatable kayak. It also isn’t ideal for paddlers that are taller than 6’2”. But despite these shortcomings, it’s still a convenient and highly functional kayak for a wide range of water-based excursions.
Best Folding: Oru Kayak Haven TT
Length: 16’1″ | Width: 33″ | Weight: 41 lbs | Capacity: 500 lbs
One of the more innovative kayaks in our review, the Oru Kayak Haven TT is a foldable tandem kayak that blends on-water performance and convenient storage into one neat package.
As is the case with all Oru kayaks, the Haven TT is made out of the company’s classic double-layered custom-extruded polypropylene for maximum durability. The kayak is designed to be folded and unfolded well over 20,000 times without weakening the material.
Meanwhile, the Haven TT is the longest kayak on our list, with a 16’1” length. This extra length provides the kayak with exceptional tracking ability, so it’s an excellent option for day touring and other long-distance outings.
If that wasn’t enough, Oru crafted this kayak to have an integrated universal rail track system that you can use to mount fishing rods, GoPros, or even cup holders. While the Haven TT doesn’t have any gear storage hatches, this track mount system makes it a versatile choice for a range of water-based activities.
That being said, the Haven TT’s long length can make it tricky to maneuver for new paddlers, so it’s best for people who are already reasonably comfortable in a kayak. Additionally, this kayak has a maximum paddler height of 6’6”, which is something to consider for tall kayakers. Either way, it’s still a superb choice if you want a portable and functional tandem kayak.
Best for Whitewater: Sea Eagle 380x
Length: 12’6″ | Width: 39″ | Weight: 40 lbs | Capacity: 750 lbs
The Sea Eagle 380x is one of the few kayaks available that can be paddled solo, tandem, or even as a triple boat. It can accommodate up to 750 lbs of weight, and it has an extra-wide 39” width for improved stability when you have multiple paddlers on the water.
Additionally, the Sea Eagle 380x is made with 1000 denier reinforced PVC with glued quadruple overlapped seams for improved durability. It also features 3 air chambers for added safety when paddling in rocky waters.
While this kayak doesn’t have any dry gear storage space, it does have plenty of deck space for equipment. It also comes with two dozen integrated D-rings, so you can easily lash down gear before you start paddling.
However, it can take about 10 minutes to inflate this kayak, even though it has convenient one-way valves. Its very wide width can also make it difficult to paddle on your own or in tandem with a young child. That being said, the Sea Eagle 380x is still a lightweight and functional option for most whitewater and flatwater outings.
Best for Fishing: Jackson Kayak Big Tuna
Length: 14’2″ | Width: 35″ | Weight: 102 lbs | Capacity: 500 lbs
Ideal for the keen anglers among us, the Jackson Kayak Big Tuna is a fully-featured fishing kayak that offers plenty of functionality for 2 paddlers.
The Big Tuna is a uber-durable tandem kayak that offers a longer length and a wider width for improved tracking and stability on the water. It also has an adjustable deck design that lets you paddle the kayak either with a friend or on your own for added versatility.
Like all Jackson Kayaks, the Big Tuna doesn’t skimp on features. It boasts the company’s comfortable Hi Lo Ergo seats, each of which comes with a built-in MOLLE system. As a result, you can attach any MOLLE compatible accessory, such as a water bottle holder, or tackle kit to your kayak for added gear storage and customization.
Furthermore, the Big Tuna features 2 flush-mounted rod holders and 1 adjustable RAM rod holder so you can maximize the number of lines you have in the water. The kayak also features a dry hatch for storing essential gear and a Tuna tank that you can use to keep live bait.
We should point out, however, that this kayak is both expensive and heavy. It also has a somewhat low maximum weight capacity for 2 paddlers who plan to haul in huge catches. However, if you need a fully outfitted kayak for angling adventures, it’s hard to imagine a better option than the Jackson Kayak Big Tuna.
Best Pedal: Hobie Mirage Compass Duo
Length: 13’6″ | Width: 35″ | Weight: 127 lbs | Capacity: 475 lbs
Whether you want to pedal or paddle, the Hobie Mirage Compass Duo can do it all. This innovative new kayak offers unparalleled access to fun on the water, thanks to its sleek MirageDrive technology.
With the Compass Duo, you can paddle like usual in a comfortable sit-on-top tandem kayak. Or, you can set your paddles aside in the boat’s included paddle holders so you can sit back, relax, and pedal your way around the water.
As far as performance goes, the Compass Duo is no slouch, either. It has a sleek, flat hull design that offers exceptional stability on calm waters. It also comes with elevated seats, so you get a better view of the water as you cruise around.
Additionally, the Compass Duo boasts 4 integrated H-Tracks, which you can use to mount a whole slew of accessories. The kayak also has multiple deck hatches and a rear tank well, so you have plenty of gear storage options.
Although this kayak is a solid boat for flatwater adventures, it is very heavy at 127 lbs. It is also one of the more expensive kayaks in our review, and it has a somewhat low maximum weight capacity for a tandem kayak. But if you want the versatility that comes with a pedal kayak, the Hobie Mirage Compass Duo is tough to beat.
Tandem Kayak Buying Guide
Tandem kayaks are some of the most challenging pieces of kayaking equipment to buy because there are so many features that you need to consider as you shop. To help you out, here are some of the most important things to ponder before you make a purchase.
- Intended Use & Kayak Type
- Length & Width
- Maximum Weight Capacity
- Cockpit Space & Comfort
- Kayak Weight
- Additional Features
Intended Use & Kayak Type
Before you buy a tandem kayak, you need to know what you plan to use it for. There are dozens of different types of kayaks on the market, each of which is designed to accommodate the needs of a specific kind of paddler.
As a result, understanding what you want to use a boat for and your paddling style are two essential aspects of any successful kayak shopping experience.
When it comes to tandem kayaks, your most significant decision is whether you want a sit-inside or a sit-on-top kayak.
However, sit-inside kayaks can provide more functionality and performance if you want to venture into coastal waters or if you’re looking for enhanced tracking and maneuverability. But these sit-inside tandem kayaks can be less comfortable for larger paddlers.
Ultimately, there’s no one kayak type that’s best for everyone. However, determining what kind of tandem kayak you want early on in the buying process will make it easier for you to find the boat that’s right for your needs.
Length & Width
The length and width of a kayak have a significant impact on how it performs on the water. Tandem kayaks are no exception.
In particular, the length of a kayak dramatically affects how well it can track over long distances. Most tandem kayaks are naturally longer than solo models, so the length isn’t always a major concern. However, for touring and other long-distance paddles, a tandem kayak with a slightly longer length can be helpful.
At the same time, the width of a kayak has a big impact on its stability and maneuverability. Wider kayaks are usually more stable than narrower kayaks, which is ideal if you have another person in your kayak with you. Shorter, wider kayaks can also be easier to maneuver, but what you gain in maneuverability, you lose in tracking ability.
As a general rule, tandem kayaks that are longer than 13’ and wider than 31” provide a good mix of stability, maneuverability, and tracking for most paddlers. However, if you want more stability, you might opt for a wider kayak. Alternatively, if you want improved tracking ability, a longer kayak could be a better option.
Maximum Weight Capacity
A kayak’s maximum weight capacity is an essential spec that shouldn’t be overlooked. This spec tells you how much weight you can safely load into a kayak, so it’s a vital thing to consider whenever you buy a kayak.
This spec is even more critical for tandem kayaks because you need to ensure that whatever kayak you buy can accommodate you, your fellow paddler, and all of your gear. The anglers among us should also factor in the weight of any fish that they might catch during their outings.
Also note that you should avoid loading a kayak beyond about 80% of its stated weight capacity. For example, a kayak with a 500 lb capacity shouldn’t be loaded too far beyond 400 lbs. This helps ensure that the kayak is easy enough to maneuver on the water.
Cockpit Space & Comfort
When it comes to comfort on the water, the size and layout of a kayak’s cockpit are critical. For solo paddlers, fitting into a somewhat small cockpit might not be a problem, but when you’re sharing that space with a fellow kayaker, you need to ensure that everyone has enough legroom to stay comfortable during your paddles.
As a result, getting a tandem kayak with a comfortable, open-deck, or open-cockpit design is of the utmost importance. This can ensure that no one feels particularly constrained or squished while you paddle.
Do keep in mind that some tandem kayaks (particularly inflatable and folding models) may have maximum height restrictions due to the short nature of their cockpits. Paying attention to this information is important if you or your paddling partner is particularly tall so that everyone can feel comfortable while you’re out and about.
A kayak’s weight affects how easy it is to transport to and from the water. Because tandem kayaks tend to be longer and wider than their solo counterparts, they are usually heavier.
For example, finding a hard-sided sit-inside tandem kayak that weighs less than 60 lbs is relatively challenging. However, in some instances, these kayaks can weigh upward of 120 lbs.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, such as the Oru Haven TT, which weighs 41 lbs. But it’s important to consider how heavy a tandem kayak is before you buy. That way, you’ll be able to transport it easily and lift it onto your vehicle’s roof rack at the end of each paddling trip.
When shopping for a tandem kayak, the last thing to consider is any additional features that you might like to have with you on the water. Things like rod holders, dry hatches, and other similar features can enhance your paddling experience.
One additional feature that can be particularly beneficial for paddlers is converting a tandem kayak into a single kayak. Many tandem kayaks now come with the ability to adjust the seat configuration in a matter of minutes. This feature can be beneficial if you want to go out on the water, but your paddling partner isn’t available for an outing.
However, keep in mind that any additional features that you get on a kayak often result in an increased price and an increased weight. If these features are vital to your paddling experience, they may be worth investing in. But it’s worth taking the time to consider whether you will use a kayak’s additional features before you buy.
A tandem kayak is an excellent choice for anyone that likes to have friends or family with them on the water.
After reviewing the best tandem kayaks on the market today, it’s clear that there are dozens of superb options to choose from. For example, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL provides an excellent blend of simplicity, functionality, and affordability.
At the same time, an inflatable model like the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible makes it easier to store your kayak without sacrificing performance on the water. Better yet, anglers can rejoice with the many fishing-specific features of the Jackson Kayak Big Tuna.
However, regardless of what kind of tandem kayak you decide to buy, what’s important is that you get the right model for your needs. We hope this article helped you learn more about choosing a quality two-person kayak, and we look forward to seeing you out on the water!