Best Perception Kayaks: Which Kayak Should You Buy?

Find out why Perception Kayaks’ diverse range and 40+ years of expertise distinguish them in a saturated market. Check out our in-depth reviews.

Perception Kayak Reviews

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Why trust us?

With more than forty years of experience, Perception Kayaks has become a mainstay in the paddling world by offering a wide variety of kayaks capable of handling everything from small lakes to the open ocean.

In this article, we’ll provide in-depth Perception kayak reviews in several different categories covering just about every type of kayaking. So it doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a recreational model or planning your next weeklong journey. Perception has made it, and we’ve reviewed it.

Perception Kayaks Overview

You wouldn’t expect Greenville, South Carolina, to be the headquarters of a high-end kayaking company. Still, Perception Kayaks have kept their roots here for over forty years. Perception doesn’t just have its base of operations here; every kayak is designed, molded, and assembled in Greenville.

While Perception has a diverse array of kayaks to their name, they’re also closely affiliated with similar paddling companies such as Wilderness Systems, Dagger, and Mad River. So, if Perception doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you can count on one of these other companies to come through with similar quality kayaks.

What Sets Perception Kayaks Apart?

Kayak companies often go in one of two directions. They either specialize in specific kayak models or offer a wider range of boats in multiple varieties.

Perception falls into the latter category.

The majority of their kayaks can be considered recreational. These boats are best for day trips in warm, protected water. But Perception also offers touring models, more specialized boats meant for fishing, and even some that use a pedal system instead of a paddle for propulsion.

This makes Perception an excellent one-stop shop for prospective kayakers, with plenty of options for newcomers. The drawback is that this lack of specialization does limit their high-end models. So if you’re looking for one of the best touring kayaks, for example, you may prefer to go with another company specializing in these designs.

Perception Kayak Reviews

We’ve taken a close look at fourteen of Perception’s kayaks, including our favorites in several categories. We’ve covered everything from single and tandem models to even Perception’s new paddleboard kayak hybrid and pedal-powered designs. 

Best Sit-Inside: Perception JoyRide 10.0

Length: 10′ | Width: 29.5″ | Weight: 50 lbs | Capacity: 275 lbs

Perception JoyRide 10.0

Sit-inside kayaks are inherently more high-end than their sit-on-top cousins, providing better performance and maneuverability thanks to their design. While this means they can be more expensive and feel intimidating to newcomers, the JoyRide 10.0 has found an outstanding balance of accessibility while keeping more experienced paddlers entertained. 

The ten-foot length limits the JoyRide’s straight-line speed. However, that shorter keel makes it simpler to maneuver, even without a rudder. I love the streamlined design, and the 29.5-inch width provides excellent control when squeezing into tight places. 

Despite this narrower hull, the JoyRide still provides solid stability. Those brand new to the sport may feel a little tippy when they begin, but the JoyRide quickly instills confidence. I’d recommend starting near shore until you get more comfortable.

Perception has snuck a few bonus accessories into the JoyRide too. You’ll find a couple of mounts behind the seat, allowing you to bring along a fishing rod or two if you want. In addition, a cup holder and deck bungee on the front gives easy access to anything you need while you paddle. 

Larger items can be kept in the watertight stern hatch. Since this is a smaller boat, none of these storage spots are huge, and the boat’s capacity is only 275-pounds. This limits the JoyRide to day trips along more protected bodies of water, but it excels in these areas. 

  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Well-built design that is easy to maneuver for all skill levels
  • Comfortable and well-padded seat
  • Shorter keel limits speed
  • Lack of storage space

Best Value Sit-Inside: Perception Flash 9.5

Length: 9′6″ | Width: 28.5″ | Weight: 41 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Perception Drift 9.5

A half-foot shorter than the JoyRide but sharing a lot of similar characteristics, the Flash 9.5 is a cheaper but reliable alternative if you’re looking for a sit-in kayak. 

The same speed issues crop up with the Flash 9.5. Again, it’s not going to break any records and isn’t the type of kayak you want to use if you have a lot of miles to cover. But it’s right at home on protected waterways. 

It has a few of the same accessories as the bigger JoyRide. Two designated rod holders are located behind the seat, and the little dashboard on the front deck can store personal items and keep them secure with a couple of bungee cords. There’s even a built-in cupholder and an additional bungee near the bow that can hold your paddle when you need your hands free.

The Flash is also a very lightweight kayak, measuring just 40 pounds. While there are two molded carry handles on the bow and stern, the lightweight design means that many solo paddlers can carry their Flash without assistance.

The storage set-up is similar to the JoyRide, with a watertight stern hatch for larger items. While the load capacity is actually a little bit higher than the JoyRide despite being shorter, this is still a boat that should be used for day trips only. 

  • Easy to carry solo
  • A few bonus accessories rarely found in budget kayaks like this
  • Some dry storage space
  • Best for day trips
  • Bigger paddlers may be too cramped

Best Sit-on-Top: Perception Tribe 9.5

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

Perception Tribe 9.5

The Tribe 9.5 combines a lightweight frame with reliable stability and an easy-to-paddle design, making it a tremendous grab-and-go kayak. 

Like most sit-on-tops, the Tribe 9.5 provides solid stability and is easy to maneuver in various scenarios. You can take it on lakes, rivers, and gentle ocean surf with little trouble. However, performance decreases in more extensive ocean settings or situations with more wind or tide. 

It’s another shorter kayak from Perception, measuring less than ten feet, so like the Flash, it won’t go anywhere fast. But it’s light and easy to carry. For transportation, you can easily stack multiple Tribes on top of each other without any trouble.

There’s a decent amount of legroom for a boat of this size. However, taller paddlers may still feel cramped, but it’s a lot better than the tight-fitting sit-in kayaks. 

Storage can be found on the open-air bow and larger stern area. Dry storage space is limited to a small, round hatch between the paddler’s legs that can fit a water bottle and personal items but not much else. 

The Tribe has multiple foot wells to accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes and gives you something to brace against. But the real eye-catching feature is the seat. It is well padded, and the tall back provides plenty of support. In addition, it’s easily adjustable and can even be reclined so you can bask in the sun and let the waves take you wherever they want.

  • Comfortable seat with several reclining options
  • Multiple carry handles on the sides, bow, and stern
  • Six built-in scuppers to prevent swamping
  • Small load capacity
  • Relatively Slow

Best Value Sit-on-Top: Perception Access 9.5

Length: 9′ | Width: 31″ | Weight: 42 lbs | Capacity: 250 lbs

Perception Access 9.5

A stripped-down version of the Tribe, the Access 9.5 can be had for a lower price while still providing you with enough features and performance to have plenty of fun out on the water.

It’s a half-foot shorter but similar in width, so stability is no issue, and it’s even easier to steer. However, speed will be a problem, and this is a true recreational kayak that should be kept to protected waters and near the shore.

It won’t stand up to the waves and surf the way the Tribe 9.5 does. So if that is a big part of your weekend warrior plans, it’s worth paying a little more for a more capable boat. But the Access is nice and light, providing many paddlers with the luxury of going out independently without needing assistance from someone else to carry their kayak to the water. 

You wouldn’t expect a lot of extra features in a kayak in this price range, but Perception’s gone the extra mile in this case. A pair of molded-in rod holders can be found behind the seat, while the deck has enough room for a small tackle box and other angling gear. 

The same footwell system found on the Tribe has been included here. And while the seat is comfy and still well padded, it doesn’t have the same adjustment and reclining features you’ll find in the higher-end model. But if you’re just starting out or are on a budget, the Access 9.5 makes for the perfect recreational boat.

  • Lower price than many sit-on-tops of this caliber
  • Built-in fishing rod holders
  • Ample open-air storage space in the stern
  • Can’t handle the surf like the Tribe 9.5
  • Capacity may be too low for bigger paddlers

Best Tandem Sit-Inside: Perception Cove 14.5

Length: 14′6″ | Width: 31″ | Weight: 71 lbs | Capacity: 550 lbs

Perception Cove 14.5

Narrow without feeling cramped, the Cove 14.5 allows you to zoom across the water with your paddle partner. It has a similar width to many sit-on-top kayaks that are five-feet shorter. This, along with room for a second paddler, gives it an excellent top speed, all without compromising the boat’s stability.

Both the seats and sides of the cockpit are well padded, allowing most paddlers to sit comfortably for long sessions without getting stiff.

If you’re going to name your kayak the Cove, it better be capable of handling some salt water, and the Cove 14.5 certainly is. However, the lack of rudder and longer keel means it’s limited to calmer coastal regions without much wind. It’s also not designed for big surf conditions. But as long as the weather is mild, it’ll do great in various locations.

It has a decent load capacity for a tandem of this caliber, but my quibble is with the lack of storage space. There is a dedicated watertight hatch in the stern, but it would have been nice if the opening was a little larger. If one of the paddlers is shorter, you may be able to cram some gear in the bow in front of their feet too. 

Economical packers can probably find enough room for short overnight adventures. Still, you’ll quickly run out of space if you want to do more than that. 

But for longer days on the water or if you’re looking to cover some ground, it’s tough to compete with (or catch) the Cove 14.5.

  • Skid plate provides extra durability during transport
  • Excellent top speed
  • Well padded cockpit
  • Not a lot of dedicated storage space

Best Tandem Sit-on-Top: Perception Tribe 13.5

Length: 13′5″ | Width: 34″ | Weight: 79 lbs | Capacity: 500 lbs

Perception Tribe 13.5

The big brother of our favorite single sit-on-top from Perception, the Tribe 13.5 is four feet longer, providing you with enough room to bring a buddy on your next paddling adventure.

The layout resembles the smaller Tribe 9.5, with the same padded seat and high back.

The longer keel gives it some speed, but the wider hull necessary to make a sit-on-top more stable means it will have trouble keeping up with most sit-insides regardless of their length.

While you can take it on the ocean, it’ll do best if the water is calmer with minimal tide and wind to wreak havoc on the longer and wider hull. It can handle smaller surf conditions, but I wouldn’t try to catch any big waves in the Tribe 13.5.

For storage, two watertight hatches are accessible from both seats. There isn’t much room in these hatches, but it’s perfect for personal items like keys, wallets, and other things you want to keep dry. Larger storage spaces can be found on the bow and the stern, and the load capacity is enough for weekend getaways.

The Tribe 13.5 is a little heavy at 79 pounds, but this is somewhat negated since you’ll have an extra person with you for the portage. Additional carry handles along the side of the hull allow three of four people to carry the Tribe 13.5 if necessary. 

  • Excellent stability that can handle calm ocean water
  • Larger load capacity and storage areas
  • Well padded seat with plenty of back support
  • Fairly heavy
  • Poor performance in surf or strong tidal regions

Best Paddleboard Kayak Hybrid: Perception Hi-Life 11.0

Length: 11′ | Width: 34″ | Weight: 55 lbs | Capacity: 280 lbs

Perception Hi-Life 11.0

As interest in paddleboarding continues to grow, Perception has led the charge in innovation with their paddleboard/kayak hybrid. Why buy two separate boats when you can have one that can do both at a high level?

From a kayaking perspective, the Hi-Life 11.0 is a sit-on-top model, a little longer than most of the sit-on-tops we’ve discussed thus far. The wider beam and keel mean that it doesn’t turn as quickly, but the included skeg improves the tracking and helps keep you on course in mild wind.

For paddleboarding, the Hi-Life has a built-in swim step on the stern, so you can easily climb back on board if you fall off. It also makes for a handy storage area. The deck in front of the seat is well padded, giving you an excellent and comfy spot to safely stand and paddle from. 

The one drawback to this padded section is that there’s no foot brace or footwell system like you commonly see on sit-on-top kayaks. Not having this leverage can make seated paddling for long periods uncomfortable. But the Hi-Life is at its best as a recreational kayak anyway, where covering many miles at once is unlikely. 

The Hi-Life can be customized with the gear track system in front of the seat, enabling you to install various accessories from brands such as RAM, Scotty, and YakAttack. 

  • Excellent flexibility, able to be used as a kayak or paddleboard without having to switch anything out
  • Swim step for easy recoveries
  • Big deck with room for a small child or dog
  • No foot brace or foot well system

Best for Kids: Perception Hi Five Kids’ Kayak

Length: 6′ | Width: 24″ | Weight: 21 lbs | Capacity: 120 lbs

Perception Hi Five Kids’ Kayak

Having your youngest family members fall in love with kayaking can be challenging. In many cases, the size of adult kayaks is too much for kids to comfortably paddle. But with Perception’s small, custom-sized Hi Five, kids of all ages can learn the finer points of paddling.

Measuring just six feet in length, the Hi Five is small enough to handle for most children, with easy maneuverability that will prevent them from getting frustrated.

But more than an easy paddling experience, you want this kayak to be stable, and the Hi Five certainly is. A pontoon-style hull limits speed but gives this kayak incredible stability no matter how much rocking and shifting occurs.

I love that Perception has included an accessory mount system in this design. With this, your kids can outfit their kayaks however they want without you having to run for a drill. 

Naturally, the Hi Five should stay in calm, protected water. If you’re looking to spend a longer, more ambitious day on the water, it’s best to put your youngest paddlers in a tandem with you. But for easy days on the lake or river, the Hi Five is an excellent introduction to the kayaking world.

  • Included accessory mount system
  • Small and easy to handle
  • Lightweight
  • Limited performance, should never be far from shore

Best for Day Touring: Perception Expression 11.5

Length: 11′7″ | Width: 26″ | Weight: 44 lbs | Capacity: 250 lbs

Perception Expression 11.5

Most touring kayaks feel more wobbly to newcomers. While the Expression 11.5 doesn’t have the primary stability of some sit-on-tops, inexperienced paddlers should soon feel comfortable with the design. It’s a marvelous little sit-in kayak with excellent stability.

Once on the water, the Expression 11.5 handles well, with solid maneuverability and a narrow enough beam to make it one of the swifter kayaks in this category. It can handle some more challenging water than most of the kayaks from Perception and can also be outfitted with a rudder (sold separately). So if you plan on more challenging crossings, it may be worth the investment.

For multi-day trips, the Expression has a sizeable stern storage hatch to keep your camping gear dry. In addition, the bow has several bungee cords stretched across the deck, which should provide plenty of room for your day gear.

One drawback is that the load capacity is a little low at 250 pounds. Bigger paddlers or those looking to bring a lot of gear may find it too easy to overload the Expression, making it feel top heavy and more prone to capsizing

Comfort is vital for those long days on the water, and Perception has outfitted the Expression with a cushy seat that can be adjusted with little trouble. While many sit-in kayaks feel cramped, the Expression has a surprisingly spacious cockpit that should fit the majority of paddlers.

  • Rudder compatible, which improves tracking and maneuverability
  • Comfy and spacious seat that can accommodate a spray skirt
  • Reliable stability
  • Load capacity may be a little low for some

Best for Sea Touring: Perception Carolina 14.0

Length: 14′ | Width: 24.5″ | Weight: 53 lbs | Capacity: 300 lbs

Perception Carolina 14.0

An even longer sit-in kayak from Perception, the Carolina checks in at fourteen feet while having a narrower width than the Expression series. This allows the Carolina to glide across the water, making it the fastest and most efficient kayak to paddle. 

It will take more practice for newcomers to get comfortable with this narrower model. The primary stability can feel challenging if you’re unfamiliar with how a sit-in kayak operates. But even if it feels tippy, the excellent secondary stability keeps you from capsizing in a wide range of conditions.

Maneuverability and steering can be more difficult with longer kayaks like this, and it may take some practice to get comfortable. 

Like the Expression, the Carolina can be outfitted with a rudder if you want to improve maneuverability and tracking. In tidal and windy conditions, a rudder can make for a more enjoyable paddling with minimal compensation in your paddle stroke.

Two large watertight storage spaces are available in the bow and stern, giving you ample space to pack for your next big kayaking adventure. The Carolina is another model with a comfy seat and a big cockpit that can accommodate a spray skirt. Taller paddlers may feel cramped, but that’s a common issue for most sit-in designs and not unique to the Carolina.

  • Roomy cockpit
  • Two watertight storage spaces
  • Load capacity big enough for longer trips
  • Beginners may feel uncomfortable with the stability when starting out

Best for Fishing: Perception Pescador Pro 12.0

Length: 12′ | Width: 32.5″ | Weight: 64 lbs | Capacity: 375 lbs

Perception Pescador Pro 12.0

While you can fish from any kayak, having the unique accessories and the stability of a specific fishing kayak can be a real difference maker. The Pescador Pro 12.0 comes with a host of custom features and excellent stability so you can head out in style.

For customization, two gear tracks are in front of the cockpit and another deck plate behind the seat. 

This allows you to outfit the Pescador Pro with various gadgets, from GPS devices and cameras, to specific holders to keep your tackle and lures at arm’s reach. An additional console in the front allows you to outfit a fish finder that can be accessed from the cockpit. Two molded-in rod holders are also built into the hull.

All those goodies won’t do you much good if you’re uncomfortable. But Perception has you covered with a comfy seat that can be adjusted to various positions that suit both paddling and fishing. It can even be easily removed from the deck, giving you a handy camp chair around the campfire at the end of the day.

The big load capacity should be suitable for most trips. There’s no dry storage, but the open bow space has a mesh covering that does offer some protection from the elements. The stern hatch is even bigger and has deck bungees stretched across it to hold larger gear like a cooler or tackle box.

  • Comfortable and removable chair
  • Tons of custom options
  • Excellent stability in calm water
  • No dry storage space

Best Value Fishing Kayak: Perception Pescador 10.0

Length: 10′6″ | Width: 32″ | Weight: 57 lbs | Capacity: 325 lbs

Perception Pescador 10.0

A smaller, more economically priced fishing kayak than its big brother, the Pescador 10.0 still has plenty of features and accessories to get you out on the water in style. 

You still get a decent amount of custom options with this small fishing kayak. Two gear tracks and a pair of rod holders similar to the Pescador 12 are included. There’s also a small recessed console in front of the seat that can be customized. However, you don’t get the natural location for a fish finder, and the accessory plate behind the seat isn’t featured.

Besides that, the loadout is similar. However, the load capacity and weight are slightly less due to the smaller keel length. That shorter keel also means that the paddling efficiency is somewhat decreased.

You get a bit of dry storage space in the bow, which is a nice addition that’s omitted in the bigger model. This may make it preferable if you have more water-sensitive gear that you want to keep dry. The stern hatch is a traditional tank-well design with bungee cords to secure large items like coolers and tackle boxes. 

Stability remains superb, and it’s at its best on calmer waters such as lakes, rivers, and protected coastal regions. However, be prepared to get wet and do some furious paddling if you take it out on a windy day. 

  • Still plenty of custom options
  • Great stability
  • Decently sized dry storage hatch in the bow
  • Nowhere to install a fish finder

Best Pedal: Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0

Length: 12′5″ | Width: 34″ | Weight: 85 lbs | Capacity: 475 lbs

Perception Pescador Pilot 12.0

What if you want a kayak but don’t want to go through the trouble of all that cumbersome paddling? In recent years, there’s been a growing number of pedal kayaks that allow you to propel yourself through the water using a pedal system similar to a bicycle.

Perception’s interpretation of this innovative new design is the Pescador Pilot 12.0. Measuring over twelve feet in length, the Pilot is designed like a sit-on-top but uses a propeller installed on the bottom of the kayak. Capable of going both forward and backward, steering is done with an easy-to-use joystick installed next to the seat. 

While it’s quite a wide kayak, the propeller system allows you to scoot across the water faster than other kayaks of this size, making it ideal for longer trips or big days. In addition, it handles ocean conditions better than other sit-on-top models, and the joystick steering system keeps you on course when you’re battling wind and tide.

Several of the custom options found on other Pescador models have been included. Gear tracks and rod holders also allow flexibility for fishing excursions.

Storage is similar to the Pescador Pro 12.0, with two big open-air storage areas in the bow and stern with a mesh covering over the bow hatch, providing some protection from the elements.

Perhaps the most significant drawbacks to the Pilot are the financial investment and weight. It’s one of the more costly models from Perception due to all the pedal hardware and is also one of the heaviest kayaks. Carrying your Pilot solo can be difficult. 

  • Huge load capacity
  • Excellent top speed
  • Flexibility for all kinds of trips
  • May be too heavy for some to move on their own
  • Fairly expensive

Best Value Pedal: Perception Crank 10.0

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

Perception Crank 10.0

If the world of pedal kayaks intrigues you, but you don’t have the budget for a bigger model, Perception has you covered with the Crank 10.0. The Crank has a shorter profile than the Pilot series but offers a similar propeller and rudder design that allows you to cruise across the surface faster than traditional paddle kayaks.

An adjustable and well-supported seat, appropriately coined “The Captain’s Chair,” awaits you and ensures you’ll be comfortable for however long you’re on the water. While the boat is on the short side at ten feet in length, most kayakers should still be pleased with the amount of legroom.

Unfortunately, you won’t find customization options like gear tracks or rod holders in the Crank. So those that are looking to do some fishing may want to look elsewhere. 

But you do get tons of storage space and the sort of stability that you come to expect from a sit-on-top. While all the storage space is open-air, both the bow and the stern hatches can be secured with bungee cords.

This is another heavy kayak with a similar weight and width as the Pilot series. So plan your long portages accordingly. Well-designed carry handles are on the bow and stern, making tandem carries much easier to manage. 

  • A more cost-efficient pedal kayak
  • Included skid plate improves durability
  • Comfortable and removable chair
  • Lacks the custom options of bigger pedal kayaks

Perception Kayak Comparison Table

Perception KayakLengthWidthWeightCapacitySeatingCockpit Type
JoyRide 10.010′29.5″50 lbs275 lbsSoloSit-inside
Flash 9.59’6″28.5″41 lbs300 lbsSoloSit-inside
Tribe 9.59’5″31.5″48.5 lbs300 lbsSoloSit-on-top
Access 9.59′31″42 lbs250 lbsSoloSit-on-top
Cove 14.514’6″31″71 lbs550 lbsTandemSit-inside
Tribe 13.513’5″34″79 lbs500 lbsTandemSit-on-top
Hi-Life 11.011′34″55 lbs280 lbsSoloSit-on-top
Hi Five6′24″21 lbs120 lbsSoloSit-on-top
Expression 11.511’7″26″44 lbs250 lbsSoloSit-inside
Carolina 14.014′24.5″53 lbs300 lbsSoloSit-inside
Pescador Pro 12.012′32.5″64 lbs375 lbsSoloSit-on-top
Pescador 10.010’6″32″57 lbs325 lbsSoloSit-on-top
Pescador Pilot 12.012’5″34″85 lbs475 lbsSoloSit-on-top
Crank 10.010′35″87 lbs350 lbsSoloSit-on-top

Perception Kayak Buying Advice

It’s one thing to understand the differences between individual kayaks, but having a firm understanding of the different variables that go into kayak design is just as valuable.

We’ll take an in-depth look at these different factors, looking specifically at the Perception kayaks we’ve reviewed.

Sit-Inside vs. Sit-on-Top

The first thing you need to determine when selecting a kayak is what design is right for you. The majority of kayaks fall into two categories, sit-on-top and sit-in.

Sit-on-top kayaks are wider, with the seat built on top of the deck and foot pegs or footwells to brace against. This makes them a super stable platform to paddle from and allows kayakers of all experience levels to feel safe and confident on the water. 

However, they tend to struggle in rougher water as they lack the tracking and speed of the thinner sit-in models. Rarely do sit-on-top kayaks come with an included rudder or skeg, limiting their use to protected waterways like rivers, lakes, and mellow coastal areas. 

The majority of sit-on-tops have big, open-air storage spaces in the bow and stern, though there are a few that have a bit of watertight storage too. 

Because of this, I prefer using sit-on-tops in drier or warmer areas where gear getting wet is not a big deal. If you’re concerned about your equipment getting damaged, I’d recommend investing in some high-quality dry bags for kayaking.

Because of this, most sit-on-tops are marketed as recreational and fishing models that are at their best on day trips or the occasional overnight journey.

Sit-in kayaks are of a more traditional design. They’re usually longer and narrower, with the seat inside the kayak and the top deck enclosing the cockpit and the paddler from the hips down. Since your center of gravity is closer to the water, stability can be maintained with a narrower beam.

This allows for less water resistance and improves the paddling efficiency of sit-in kayaks. They’re faster, and their longer keels enable them to move at greater speeds. 

The cockpit can be fully enclosed with a spray skirt, and most storage areas are watertight to protect gear from the elements. This makes them excellent choices if you’re planning on paddling long distances over more challenging waterways or want to try your hand at more extensive overnight trips. 


Perception uses a dense and durable plastic called polyethylene for all their kayak models. While heavier than materials used in higher-end kayaks like fiberglass, this plastic can handle more bumps and scrapes without long-term damage. It also requires minimal upkeep and maintenance. 


In general, the longer the kayak’s keel, the faster it can go. Of course, there are some variables depending on the boat’s width and hull design, not to mention the paddler’s strength, but looking at the kayak’s length is a good baseline.

Sit-in touring kayaks like the Carolina 14.0 and Expression 11.5 will go faster than the wider sit-on-top models like the Tribe 9.5. They’re designed to cover more ground and require less effort to get up to speed. You can plan on going around three miles an hour in these longer single kayaks in neutral conditions.

Double kayaks have the advantage of an additional paddler, which can make a big difference on the water. Also, like the examples above, the sit-in models like the two-person Cove 14.5 will move quicker than the Tribe 13.5.

An exception is with pedal kayaks like the Pilot 12.0 and Crank 10.0. These pedal systems allow you to use your larger leg muscles, and the propeller set-up is a more efficient method of travel than a paddle. Because of this, they’ll go faster than kayaks of similar dimensions and can easily keep pace with longer boats.


When not taking rudders into account, shorter boats are easier to handle and maneuver. Shorter keels create less water resistance when turning and can squeeze into tight areas. Smaller sit-on-top kayaks like the Tribe 9.5 can be more user-friendly for newcomers and less frustrating if you’re still mastering the basic paddle strokes.

Many of Perception’s longer kayaks, like the Carolina 14.0, can have a rudder installed. The rudder is controlled with foot pedals and helps keep you on course and maneuver into small areas with less trouble. So if you’re planning on going through windy and tidally influenced regions with one of these boats, installing a rudder is a good idea.


Today, there’s no reason to settle for a kayak that doesn’t have a well-padded and adjustable seat. All of Perception’s kayaks come with seats that should fit most paddlers and keep you paddling in comfort for hours at a time.

Some big or tall kayakers may find some of the sit-inside kayaks a little cramped, but this is a common issue regardless of brand. If the JoyRide 10.0 feels too small, consider upgrading to a kayak with a more spacious cockpit like the Carolina 14.0 or a sit-on-top with more room to stretch out.

Stability & Tracking

Kayaks have two types of stability; primary and secondary

Primary refers to how stable the kayak feels in neutral conditions. Kayaks with good primary stability don’t rock as much during your paddle stroke or when you’re sitting still. Sit-on-top kayaks tend to have better primary stability since they’re appreciatively wider than sit-ins. 

For beginners, boats with good primary stability are preferable.

Sit-in kayaks have better secondary stability, though. This means if your kayak begins to tip or rock because of the wind or your paddling stroke, you can lean much further over before actually capsizing. 

Practiced paddlers will be more comfortable with the natural rocking that these kayaks exhibit.

While these two types of stability will feel different depending on the conditions, all of Perception’s boats are manufactured to have excellent stability in the waterways they’re designed for. Make sure to check the reviews above to get a good idea of what kayaks are best for specific types of water.


That rigid plastic hull means that all of Perception’s kayaks can handle drops, drags, and scrapes. Of course, if you can, I’d still avoid rough landings on the rocks. But there’s great peace of mind knowing that hitting a submerged obstacle doesn’t spell the end of your kayak.

If you need to drag your kayak short distances, that’s ok. But I’d recommend carrying it whenever possible. Long drags will cause the hull to scratch and peel, hindering your paddling efficiency over time.

A couple of Perception’s kayaks, like the Crank 10.0 and Cove 14.5, come with keel strips. These provide an extra layer of protection for the hull and serve like a bumper does for a car.

Portability & Storage

Perception offers a wide range of kayak types, so there’s a lot of variability in the weight and portability of their models. 

Big pedal kayak models like the Pilot 12.0 and Crank 10.0 weigh over 80 pounds and require two people or a kayak cart to safely get them to and from the water. 

If you’ll be doing more solo kayaking and want the flexibility of carrying your kayak short distances, there are a couple of options like the Tribe 9.5 and Flash 9.5 that weigh around 50 pounds and are more manageable. 

All the kayaks we’ve reviewed come with reasonable to excellent storage space, though the boat’s load capacities vary greatly. Lighter paddlers or those looking to make simple day trips won’t have to worry much about this. But those planning more extended trips will want to take note. The Expression 11.5, for example, can only hold 250 pounds, limiting its expedition capabilities.

Sit-in kayaks allow for more dry storage space, and the Carolina 14.0 has a pair of watertight dry hatches. The majority of the sit-on-top storage areas are open-air. This won’t be a problem in many cases. Still, it may be worth investing in dry bags if you anticipate being in wet or windy locations.

The Verdict

With such a diverse lineup of kayaks, Perception offers models that should satisfy a wide range of paddling goals. 

We love Perception’s stable and swift sit-in models like the Carolina 14.0 and JoyRide 10.0, which more than lives up to its name. They can handle more challenging water and will be right at home in most situations.

But reliable sit-on-tops like the Tribe 9.5 and Hi-Life 11.0 are great recreational kayaks with excellent primary stability and a shorter learning curve for those just getting started.

Whatever Perception kayak you deem best fits you, we hope this article has helped shorten your research time and will get you on the water soon.