Best Touring and Sea Kayaks in 2022

Best Touring Kayak

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Some of the highest quality and most expensive kayaks are meant for ambitious paddles and several days in the backcountry. But before you throw down your credit card, it’s essential to understand the differences between the many makes and models available.

To help you out, we’ve taken a look at the best touring kayaks for various expedition styles. For more information, check out our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.

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: Eddyline Fathom

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

Eddyline Fathom

With a svelte, sleek design thanks to the slender 22″ hull, the Eddyline Fathom is bound to catch some eyes as you cruise along the water.

Some touring kayaks lack the nimble agility of their more user-friendly counterparts. But the Fathom is a little shorter than many sea touring kayaks, making it more responsive and maneuverable. The shorter keel does mean you sacrifice a little in the way of speed, but the narrow hull negates this and helps the kayak slice through the water.

However, the narrow width means the cockpit is on the smaller side, just 31.6 x 16.5 inches. So it’s best for big paddlers to give it a test drive before purchasing. That said, the Fathom is a very comfy ride thanks to the padded and adjustable seat. In addition, you’ll find the thigh braces and foot pegs make edging and bracing a joy.

Because the kayak has a skeg instead of a rudder, you’ll be using the boat’s chines for turning, requiring some pivoting of your hips. This can take a little getting used to, but the kayak feels intuitive once you get the hang of it.

You get the standard issue watertight hatches in the bow and stern. In addition, deck bungees and perimeter lines cover the deck, giving you additional storage space and making potential wet exit recoveries easier.

Reasons to buy:

  • Sleek, sporty design that’s a joy to paddle
  • Durable with Eddyline’s Carbonlite plastic
  • Excellent tracking with retractable skeg
  • Lightweight

Reasons to avoid:

  • Cockpit may feel a little cramped for big and tall paddlers
  • Slower top speed than longer sea touring kayaks

Best for Sea Touring: Boreal Baffin P3

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

Boreal Baffin P3

The Boreal Baffin P3 is a monster of a kayak, measuring 17’7″. It’s narrower than some more beginner-friendly kayaks below, and it may be a tight fit for some larger paddlers. But the svelte shape gives it incredible top speed and allows you to easily cruise across ocean water.

Comfort comes in the way of an adjustable seat and foot pegs that will fit a wide range of paddlers. The Baffin P3 includes a skeg, so the foot pegs are strictly for comfort and bracing.

One advantage to a boat this long is you don’t have to sacrifice storage space for leg room or vice versa. Instead, the kayak has the typical two storage hatches in the bow and stern and an additional day hatch directly behind the seat.

Some more flexible paddlers should be able to access this hatch on the water. But if you’re like me and don’t count yourself among the limber, don’t worry; there are plenty of deck bungees for storage. 

Perimeter lines are there to assist in the event of a capsize. These lines are self-reflecting and, combined with the standard red palette, help you stand out in low-light situations.

Reasons to buy:

  • Excellent top speed
  • Tons of storage space
  • Reflective lines for low-light paddling

Reasons to avoid:

  • Longer keel may make storage and transport more difficult
  • Tight maneuvers can be more challenging for newcomers

Best for Day Touring: Riot Edge 14.5

Length: 14′6″ | Width: 22″ | Weight: 58 lbs | Capacity: 324 lbs

Riot Edge 14.5

A short and sporty touring kayak, the Riot Edge 14.5 is efficient to paddle and an excellent choice if you are looking for a boat suited for day touring.

Despite the small frame, the cockpit is actually quite large checking in at 37″ x 19.3 inches. While this gives bigger paddlers more waist room, the narrow hull may feel cramped depending on your flexibility and shoe size. In addition, instead of a skeg, the Edge 14.5 uses a rudder for steering and tracking, so your legs will require more range of motion. 

The polyethylene plastic weighs a bit more than some other plastics, such as Eddyline’s Carbonlite, but is just as durable. While the load capacity is only 15 pounds less than the Fathom, I prefer more than 324 pounds if I paddle on more extended expeditions. But the weight limit is more than enough for day touring.

Storage is similar to other boats in this class, but there are fewer deck bungees for quickly stashing gear. In addition, there are perimeter lines to assist in self-rescues.

Overall, the Edge 14.5 is a reasonably priced day-touring kayak featuring solid performance and enough capacity for the weekend warrior.

Reasons to buy:

  • Cheap compared to most touring kayaks
  • Competitively priced and performs well
  • Rudder system is user-friendly and great for beginners

Reasons to avoid:

  • Narrow hull may be too cramped for bigger paddlers
  • Can be challenging to carry solo at 58 lbs

Best for Beginners: Dagger Stratos 14.5 L

Length: 14′6″ | Width: 24.5″ | Weight: 57 lbs | Capacity: 315 lbs

Dagger Stratos 14.5 L

Sure, 14.5′ boats are a little slower than the 16 and 17-foot big boys we’ve discussed, but the Dagger Stratos 14.5 L is an easy-to-paddle kayak that newcomers will appreciate. 

The Stratos is a little wider than the previous three kayaks on this list, which slows it down a bit. But the added primary stability the 24.5″ hull provides is invaluable if you’re new to the world of touring kayaks. 

A skeg can be easily raised or lowered from the cockpit and does wonders to improve your tracking when paddling through wind or current. However, the Stratos doesn’t have the same hull shape and chines as the Eddyline Fathom, and edging can be more challenging. So make sure you’re comfortable with your paddle technique before going on a long crossing. 

It’s the seat of the Stratos that I appreciate the most. It takes time to get used to squeezing into a kayak, no matter how big or small you are. But Dagger’s gone out of their way to make this transition as painless as possible.

Not only does the seat come with an ergonomic, floating back band, but there are also adjustable hip pads that are great for bracing. But my favorite part of this feature is the foam seat with leg lifters. I’ve got long legs, and they fall asleep if they lay straight for too long. Having this natural arch keeps the tingling out of my toes and allows me to paddle for long periods.

Reasons to buy:

  • Easy to paddle and great for kayakers of all skill levels
  • Wider hull for added stability
  • 19″ wide cockpit provides lots of room
  • Excellent seat complete with leg lifters

Reasons to avoid:

  • Hatch openings feel a little small, as does the load capacity
  • May be a little more expensive than some beginners are willing to spend

Best Tandem: Eddyline Whisper

Length: 18′ | Width: 28″ | Weight: 73 lbs | Capacity: 600 lbs

Eddyline Whisper

I prefer paddling single kayaks, but when I need a tandem, I’m looking for two things: stability and speed. The Eddyline Whisper has these two in spades.

18 feet long with a relatively narrow hull, the Whisper cruises over the water, especially with two paddlers working in tandem. In calm water, the Whisper tracks well enough to not require the rudder, allowing you to coax even more speed out of it.

While 73 pounds is still heavy, it’s lighter than many tandem plastic kayaks. This means it sits a bit higher in the water but doesn’t compromise its stability. When you sit down in the Whisper, you’ll feel like you’re paddling a battleship. You’ll need to work hard to flip this kayak. But that’s not a challenge to you and your paddle partner.

One drawback to sitting higher in the water is that it makes the Whisper more prone to windy conditions, especially crosswinds. So be aware, particularly when making open water crossings. However, the rudder does help compensate for most bumpy paddles.

The Whisper has plenty of storage space and an enormous 600-pound load capacity. You get the basic bungee cord alignment, but I would have liked a bit more deck storage space.

Reasons to buy:

  • Impressive top speed
  • Massive storage capacity
  • Excellent stability will give paddlers of all ages confidence
  • Fully padded seats and adjustable footpegs for both bow and stern

Reasons to avoid:

  • Weighs 73 pounds, making long portages challenging
  • Minimal storage space on the deck

Best Inflatable: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite

Length: 13′ | Width: 32″ | Weight: 42 lbs | Capacity: 450 lbs

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite

Full disclosure, you’ll always get better performance out of a hard-sided kayak than an inflatable. That said, Advanced Elements has designed a heck of an inflatable with the AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite.

Durability is vital for a reliable inflatable, and the triple-layer polyester and double PVC coating makes the Expedition Elite tough and rigid. However, it’s still more fragile than a plastic boat, so be careful maneuvering around rocks or landing on rough beaches.

Low-quality inflatables feel wobbly, and their hulls can bend when the waves hit. Advanced Elements prevents this by including a high-pressure drop stitch floor and an aluminum frame. Add them together, and you get outstanding rigidity and a level of performance you wouldn’t anticipate.

There’s no rudder, but the boat does come with a tracking skeg that helps in rough seas. Bracing against the adjustable foot pegs is invaluable and helps you maintain your course, and improves maneuverability. 

While the boat is noticeably wider than most sit-in kayaks, it’s necessary for stability. All that extra room also comes in handy for big and tall paddlers. There’s even an inflatable combing that can accommodate standard spray skirts, so you can paddle in comfort regardless of the weather forecast.

The Expedition Elite has an impressive 450-pound load capacity and a decent-sized watertight hatch in the stern. A few bungee cords are also on the deck in front of the cockpit. But you won’t find the perimeter lines featured on some of the other hard-sided boats mentioned above.

Reasons to buy:

  • Intuitive spring and Twistlok valves are easy to use and compatible with most pumps
  • Repair kit and duffel bag for transport are included
  • Excellent rigidity and on-water performance
  • Cheaper than most hard-sided touring kayaks

Reasons to avoid:

  • No pump included
  • Not the same speed or performance as a hard-sided kayak

Best Inflatable Tandem: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite

Length: 15′ | Width: 32″ | Weight: 52 lbs | Capacity: 550 lbs

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite

As the name suggests, you’ll find many of the same qualities and features in the Convertible Elite as in the single-seat Expedition Elite. 

You get the aluminum frame and drop-stitch floor which gives this tandem inflatable kayak reassuring rigidity and performance. The load capacity is even larger, although the actual storage space is less than the single kayak model. This is due to the Convertible being just two-feet longer but adding the second seat.

You have impressive flexibility with the Convertible, as it can be paddled either solo or tandem. However, it doesn’t have the same tough combing, and the seats are situated in one large cockpit divided by the back of the bow seat. 

If you want to paddle with spray skirts, you’ll have to make an additional purchase and get Advanced Elements Double Deck Conversion. Consider this a must-buy if you live in a temperate or rainy environment. 

Overall, the Convertible is an impressive kayak with a solid performance and can be easily stored in your hallway closet.

Reasons to buy:

  • Excellent rigidity and stability
  • Simple to set up with some practice
  • Repair kit and duffel bag included
  • Can be paddled solo or tandem

Reasons to avoid:

  • No individual combing
  • Lack of storage space for longer trips

Best Folding: Oru Kayak Coast XT

Length: 16′2″ | Width: 25″ | Weight: 32 lbs | Capacity: 400 lbs

Oru Kayak Coast X

Combining the performance of a hard-sided kayak with the portability of an inflatable, the origami-style folding kayak is one of the newer additions to the kayak marketplace. One of the more impressive companies in this new-age field is Oru with their Coast XT model.

When folded down, the Coast XT weighs a paltry 32 pounds and is the same size as a large suitcase. So if you’re looking to travel or attempt an ambitious portage that requires a high-performing boat, you’ve come to the right place. Just make sure you have your credit card ready because these unique boats are costly.

Learning how to fold and unfold will take some practice. But, once assembled, the tough, double-layered polypropylene can handle the same collisions as a fiberglass boat and keep going. 

The Coast XT can be folded tens of thousands of times without losing its rigidity or a decrease in performance. As a result, paddlers can handle open ocean conditions with confidence.

I was amazed at the storage space. It can carry up to 400 pounds, and the removable bulkheads make storing all your camping gear simple. And you still get the classic bungee cord alignment running along the deck’s bow and stern.

Like the Advanced Elements Expedition Elite, the Coast XT’s combing is as solid as a traditional hard-sided kayak, allowing you to attach most spray skirts with little trouble. In addition, a fully adjustable seat back and padding on the back and bottom lets you paddle in style and comfort for long periods without back pain.

Reasons to buy:

  • Performance similar to a hard-sided kayak
  • Tons of storage space
  • Comfortable seat and spray skirt compatible

Reasons to avoid:

  • One of the more expensive kayaks on the list
  • Takes more time to set up than other portable kayaks
  • Max paddler height of 6’3″

Touring Kayak Comparison Table

KayakLengthWidthWeightCapacitySeatingCockpit SizeStructure
Eddyline Fathom16’6″22″50 lbs340 lbs131.6 x 16.5″Hard shell
Boreal Baffin P317’7″23.75″69 lbs348 lbs133.5 x 17.1″Hard shell
Riot Edge 14.514’6″22″58 lbs324 lbs137 x 19.3″Hard shell
Dagger Stratos 14.5 L14’6″24.5″57 lbs315 lbs135 x 19″Hard shell
Eddyline Whisper18′28″73 lbs600 lbs235 x 18.5″Hard shell
Advanced Elements Expedition Elite13′32″42 lbs450 lbs130 x 17.5Inflatable
Advanced Elements Convertible Elite15′32″52 lbs550 lbs1 or 284 x 27″Inflatable
Oru Kayak Coast X16’2″25″32 lbs400 lbs130 x 16″Folding

Touring Kayak Buying Advice

couple paddling touring kayaks

We take our kayak recommendations seriously here at Kayak Addicts. We rely on our years of paddling experience to direct you toward the best kayak for you.

Below is a rundown of the various attributes you should consider before purchasing your next touring kayak.

Kayak Type

The majority of kayaks fall into two basic structural categories. For touring, they’re almost exclusively sit-in kayaks. 

Sit-in kayaks can be narrower thanks to the orientation of the paddler. Since the seat is on the hull, your center of gravity is lower. This means you don’t need the wider width of a sit-on-top model to maintain stability. This, along with their longer keels, gives sit-in kayaks the speed paddlers covet when covering long distances.

That longer keel and all that enclosed space also provides much more protected storage space. Sit-in kayaks generally have two watertight hatches to go along with on-deck storage via bungee cords.

Sit-on-top kayaks have their place in the paddling world. But their wider and stubbier design makes them better for recreational day trips or fishing. Storage space is minimal, and their shorter keel makes it harder to maintain course when traveling through adverse waves or wind.

Material

Nothing will affect the price of your touring kayak more than the material it’s made of. Like many recreational models, most touring kayaks are made of polyethylene plastic. In some cases, companies have their own patented interpretation of the material, such as Eddyline’s Carbonlite formula.

In general, plastic touring kayaks share a lot of similarities. The most important of which is that they’re hard to damage. Rigid plastic hulls can handle most collisions, rough landings, and even being dropped. 

This is not to say you should treat your plastic kayak like it’s indestructible. Poor care will damage the hull over time. In addition, frequent scrapes on rocks will leave grooves in the plastic and cause it to peel. This will increase drag and slow you down, the last thing you want on a weeklong adventure.

In recent years, a smattering of inflatable kayaks has cropped up that are suitable for longer paddles. Led by Advanced Elements’ impressive lineup, these inflatables are at least in the same ballpark as hard-sided touring kayaks and tend to be cheaper. You get the added bonus that storage and transportation are more straightforward. 

Folding kayaks aren’t as tough as plastic hulls, but they’re certainly closer to plastic than an inflatable.

Speed

When you’re paddling five or six hours a day, getting even an extra half-mile-per-hour out of your kayak can make a huge difference. While speed has a lot to do with external factors (mostly your paddling technique, weather, wind, and tide), there are a few characteristics you can look for to predict how fast a kayak will go

The biggest of these is keel length. We won’t get into the physics of it here, but the longer the keel, the faster the boat will go. Some of the shorter 14’6″ kayaks in our review have trouble keeping up with a 17’7″ boat like the Boreal Baffin P3.

The width of the kayak can also play a role. Again, this one is intuitive. The narrower your kayak, the less water resistance and the more efficient it should move, especially when traveling against the wind and waves.

Many touring kayaks come with a retractable rudder or skeg. These are great for keeping you on course and maneuvering, especially when moving through adverse conditions. They do create drag, though, so if you’re in calm conditions and feel confident in your paddling skills, raise the rudder to pick up more speed.

Maneuverability

This is one category in which shorter recreational kayaks can literally paddle circles around touring models. 

You won’t be doing too much tight maneuvering in a touring kayak. But if you’re looking for a boat with a little more versatility for close quarters, one of the shorter kayaks, like the Dagger Stratos 14.5 L, will serve you well.

How you steer varies from boat to boat. Some, like the Riot Edge 14.5, use a rudder. This is the most user-friendly and responsive method since turning is as easy as tapping on the foot pedals.

Skegs like the one featured on the Eddyline Fathom help a lot with tracking. But, while they assist with steering to some extent, you’ll be relying on your paddle technique a lot more.

Finally, many touring kayaks use chines or sharp edges where the side of the hull meets the bottom. These boats steer by pivoting your hips back and forth and dipping the chines into the water. Once you get the hang of it, this method is responsive and a lot of fun. It feels like you’re part of the boat.

Comfort

No one likes an uncomfortable kayak. And if you’re going to spend day after day in your seat, it better be plushy. Luckily most kayaks today have well-padded seats that provide plenty of support.

The kayaks in our review all have similar seats. They’re well-padded with adjustable backs to help you find the correct position.

If you can, sit in your kayak before purchasing. Spend some time experimenting with the different seat positions on dry land until you find what works for you. It’s much easier to configure a seat before setting out than trying to fiddle with it on the open water. 

If you’re tall (I’d say over 6’2″) and have large feet, it’s doubly essential you test drive your boat before purchasing. Some sit-in kayaks have lower decks that can’t fit bigger feet without getting crammed against the hull.

Stability & Tracking

Beginners may climb into a sit-in kayak for the first time and be convinced they’re about to tip over. Sit-in kayaks feel more wobbly than sit-on-top kayaks, but this is a feature, not a defect.

Kayaks have two types of stability: primary and secondary.

Sit-on-top kayaks have excellent primary stability. There’s minimal rocking in normal or moderately choppy conditions, and it will take a lot of motion before it feels like the boat will flip. But if you reach “the point of no return,” be prepared to get wet.

Sit-in kayaks have different primary stability. You’ll rock side to side more, and learning to brace against the hull is essential. But their secondary stability is excellent. You can rock a touring kayak on its side, and as long as you maintain your center of gravity, you’ll avoid tipping over.

This is especially key if you’re paddling a boat like the Eddyline Fathom, which uses chines to steer.

Touring kayaks tend to have excellent tracking. Longer keels do a better job of maintaining course in wind and waves. Boats with skegs or rudders also allow new paddlers to paddle a straight line with little trouble. If you want the most user-friendly set-up, a design like the Dagger Stratos 14.5 L will serve you well.

Durability

While I love paddling fiberglass or wooden boats, there’s no competition with a plastic kayak regarding durability. Of course, I’m not condoning that you drag your plastic kayak over rocks or slam it onto the beach. Still, I’ll be impressed if you punch a hole in the polyethylene.

If your paddling adventures will take you to rocky beaches with the potential for high surf, a plastic kayak is the way to go.

You’ll need to treat an inflatable kayak more gingerly. Triple-layer and stitched fabric similar to Advanced Elements’ kayaks are much tougher than you’d expect. But all it takes is one rough landing or a sharp rock to ruin your trip and leave you marooned.

Portability & Storage

While transporting an inflatable kayak is as easy as throwing it in the trunk, a hard-sided kayak will require more planning.

There are plenty of kayak rack options available today, and you should be able to find one that will work for your vehicle.

Kayak carts are available if you need help getting from the car to the water’s edge. There are even special bicycle carts if you want to make your journey fossil fuel free. 

For storage, I prefer to keep my kayaks out of direct sunlight. While the material used in plastic kayaks is UV resistant, prolonged exposure can weaken the hull over time. A climate-controlled environment like a garage is ideal if you have the space.

If you don’t have the space, a basic tarp tent and a couple of saw horses in the yard will do the trick. 

Storing an inflatable or folding kayak is much simpler. But before folding and putting away, ensure all the water has evaporated. Pooling water will cause the material to mildew and mold. A freshwater rinse will help prevent corrosion if you’ve paddled in saltwater. 

The Verdict

Selecting the proper touring kayak for you will depend heavily on how far and long you plan on paddling and what sort of weather you encounter along the way.

For us, the Eddyline Fathom has a great combination of storage capacity, performance, and comfort that makes it our top pick.

But depending on your storage space and the number of prospective paddlers, you may need one of the other boats on our list. Whatever you decide, we wish you luck in your search and look forward to seeing you on the water!