10 Best Tandem Kayaks Reviewed in 2020 ( Top 2-3 Person Kayaks )

teens paddling kayak on a sunny day

In the heat of summer, there’s nothing better than time spent on the water. Kayaking is a great way to pass the time, and it’s a fantastic way to enjoy all that the outdoors have to offer.

A tandem kayak, in particular, is a great choice for people who want to paddle with a partner but don’t want to invest in two boats.

But with so many different tandem kayaks on the market today, it’s certainly difficult to find the right one for your needs. To help you decide on your next two-person kayak, here’s our ultimate review and guide to the best double kayaks around.

 

The 10 Best Tandem Kayaks of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews

Here are our reviews of the ten best two-seater kayaks:

  1. Best Fishing #1: Lifetime Sport Fisher 100
  2. Best Fishing #2: Brooklyn Kayak 125
  3. Best Fishing #3: Brooklyn Kayak Coastal Cruiser 129
  4. Best Sit-On-Top #1: Ocean Kayak Malibu XL
  5. Best Sit-On-Top #2: Perception Tribe 135
  6. Best Inflatable #1: Aquaglide Columbia 145 XL
  7. Best Inflatable #2: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible
  8. Best Lightweight: Intex Challenger K2
  9. Best Touring: Seaward Kayaks Passat G3 Kevlar
  10. Best 3-Person: Sevylor Big Basin 120

 

CategoryBest FishingSit-On-TopBest Inflatable
ProductLifetime Sport Fisher 100
Lifetime Sport Fisher 100

Ocean Kayak Malibu XL
Ocean Kayak Malibu XL

Aquaglide Columbia 145 XL
Aquaglide Columbia 145 XL

Length10 ft25 ft15 ft
Weight60 lbs68 lbs1 lb
Maximum Weight Capacity500 lbs500 lbs600 lbs
Inflatable/HardshellHardshellHardshellInflatable
Best forAvid anglers who want a solid all-around boat for fishing on the lake.Kayakers who want a no-nonsense boat without lots of frillsSmall families that like to spend time on the water together in a kayak
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Tandem Fishing Kayak #1: Lifetime Sport Fisher 100

Lifetime Sport Fisher 100

Purpose built for the anglers among us, the Lifetime Sport Fisher 100 is a fisherman’s best friend on the water. This hardshell kayak is 10 feet long, which makes it easy to turn and maneuver, while also staying stable enough for a relaxing time on the water.

Crafted with a variety of fishing-specific features, the Fisher 100 has two fishing pole holders to ensure you’re always ready to reel in your catch. You can even attach a small outboard engine to the boat for a little extra power.

Oh, and this boat can be quickly converted into a single kayak if you’re paddling solo for the day.

Important Specifications

  • Length: 10 feet (3 meters)
  • Weight: 60 pounds (27 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 500 pounds (226.8 kilograms)
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Hardshell

Pros

  • Great for fishing
  • Can be used with an auxiliary motor
  • Can be paddled solo or tandem
  • Fishing pole holders
  • Quick turning

Cons

  • Short boat, so harder to paddle straight
  • Not good for bad weather
  • Minimal storage space

Who this kayak is for: Avid anglers who want a solid all-around boat for fishing on the lake.

 

 

2. Best Fishing #2: Brooklyn Kayak 125

 

Brooklyn Kayak 125

 

The Brooklyn Kayak 125 is a comfortable yet functional tandem kayak for all your fishing needs. The 125 is a full-featured angler’s kayak with three articulated fishing rod holders and four flush-mounted rod holders so you can maximize your bites for the day.

Thanks to the boat’s waterproof hatches, you can easily store your wallet, keys, and other essentials right in front of your seat. You can even lash down a small cooler with your lunch at the back of the boat in the rear cargo hold for added convenience.

If that wasn’t enough, the Brooklyn Kayak 125 has super-comfortable ergonomic seats, so you can spend the entire day on the water without worry.

Important Specifications

  • Length: 12 feet (3.8 meters)
  • Weight: 68 pounds (30.9 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 440 pounds (199.6 kilograms)
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Hardshell

Pros

  • Comfortable, fully padded ergonomic seats
  • Seven fishing rod holders to maximize lines in the water
  • Waterproof storage hatches in front of each seat
  • Rear cargo hold
  • Light for a hardshell tandem kayak

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Minimal stability in the wind
  • Easy to get wet

Who this kayak is for: Kayakers who value fishing functionality and features above all else.

Learn more about the Brooklyn Kayak 125.

 

3. Best Fishing #3: Brooklyn Kayak Coastal Cruiser 129

Brooklyn Kayak Coastal Cruiser

Do you love to kayak and fish but refuse to compromise your comfort for any reason? If so, then the Brooklyn Kayak Coastal Cruiser just might be what you’re looking for. This 12.9-foot-long (3.8 meters) boat is incredibly stable in calm conditions, thanks to its flat hull, making it perfect for cruising around.

But where this boat really shines is in terms of comfort. The Coastal Cruiser has two oversized seats with highly supportive backrests that make it feel like you’re sitting in a chair, not a kayak.

Plus, the boat has a surprising amount of storage space for a sit-on-top kayak, including a large rear cargo area that can hold a 20-liter cooler full of your food and drinks for a day on the water. What’s not to love?

Important Specifications

  • Length: 12.9 feet (3.8 meters)
  • Weight: 77 pounds (34.9 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 770 pounds (249.3 kilograms)
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Hardshell

Pros

  • Very comfortable seats with back supports
  • Lots of storage space
  • Can be used by two adults and one child
  • Fishing rod holders

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Only good for use on a lake or flat river
  • Expensive

Who this kayak is for: Kayaking anglers who want maximum comfort when they’re on the water.

Learn more about the Brooklyn Kayak Coastal Cruiser 129.

 

4. Best Sit-On-Top Tandem Kayak #1: Ocean Kayak Malibu XL

Ocean Kayak Malibu XL

Simple yet versatile, the Ocean Kayak Malibu XL is a quality sit-on-top tandem kayak for any adventure. The boat is made from a durable plastic shell and features foldable seats for maximum comfort and storage efficiency.

The Malibu XL has enough space for two adults and one child or pet to comfortably spend all day out on the water. Or, if you’re looking for a bit of alone time, it’s quick and easy to convert the Malibu XL into a single kayak for a solo adventure on the water.

Important Specifications

  • Length: 25 feet (4.1 meters)
  • Weight: 68 pounds (30.8 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 500 pounds (226.8 kilograms)
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Hardshell

Pros

  • Can be used as a tandem or single kayak
  • Lots of legroom
  • Comfortable seats
  • Enough space for two adults and a child or pet

Cons

  • Few features
  • Somewhat heavy, especially if paddled alone
  • Small storage areas
  • Little stability in bad weather
  • Expensive

Who this kayak is for: Kayakers who want a no-nonsense boat without lots of frills.

 

 

5. Best Sit-On-Top #2: Perception Tribe 135

 

Perception Tribe 135

 

Perfect for beginner paddlers, the Perception Tribe 135 is a versatile tandem kayak for flatwater excursions. The boat has a nice 13.4 feet (4.1 meters) length, which provides ample tracking abilities for efficiency while paddling.

The Tribe 135 has two comfortable folding seats that are great for long outings, as well as a third jump seat for a child or a pet. Additionally, it has extra storage space in the rear of the boat and two hatches in front of the seats for stashing snacks and other small items.

While the Tribe 135 isn’t full of fancy features, it has everything you need to get out on the water with your family for some summertime fun.

Important Specifications

  • Length: 4 feet (4.1 meters)
  • Weight: 67 pounds (30 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 500 pounds (226 kilograms)
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Hardshell

Pros

  • Longer length is better for tracking
  • Third seat is good for a child or pet
  • Rear storage area
  • Small hatches in front of seats

Cons

  • Fairly expensive
  • For flatwater use only

Who this kayak is for: New paddlers who need a versatile and fun sit-on-top tandem kayak for calm-weather outings.

Learn more about the Perception Tribe 135.

 

6. Best Inflatable Tandem Kayak #1: Aquaglide Columbia 145 XL

 

Aquaglide Columbia 145 XL

 

With enough room for two adult paddlers and a child or a pet, the Aquaglide Columbia 145 XL is an ideal inflatable tandem kayak for a family. The Columbia features a long length and a flat hull, which provides good stability and decent tracking abilities in flat water.

The boat also has super-comfortable inflatable seats with built-in air cushions and high backrests for all-day happiness on the water. If that wasn’t enough, the Columbia even has fishing rod holders so you can enjoy time out on the water with the family while seeking out those bites.

Oh, and the Columbia packs down into a small, easy to transport stuff sack, so it’s great for families with limited space at home.

Important Specifications

  • Length: 15 feet (4.6 meters)
  • Weight: 1 pound (19.5 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 600 pounds (272.2 kilograms)
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Inflatable

Pros

  • Somewhat affordable
  • Can be converted into a single kayak
  • Comes with a carry bag

Cons

  • Huge maximum weight capacity
  • Not stable in the wind

Who this kayak is for: Small families that like to spend time on the water together in a kayak.

Learn more about the Columbia 145 XL.

 

7. Best Inflatable #2: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable

 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible

Designed for kayakers who love day touring on their local lake, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak is a highly versatile boat for a variety of situations. This inflatable kayak is made with three layers of PVC fabric that provides maximum durability and puncture resistance.

Fairly unique among kayaks, the AdvancedFrame Convertible can be either a single or a double kayak, thanks to its interchangeable seats. Plus, the boat can be either a sit-on-top or a sit-in kayak, since it comes with an easy-to-install conversion deck.

Thus, the AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak is a fantastic option for anyone looking to get out on the water in a variety of conditions and situations.

Important Specifications

  • Length: 15 feet (4.5 meters)
  • Weight: 52 pounds (23.5 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 550 pounds (249 kilograms)
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Inflatable

Pros

  • Can be converted into a single kayak with ease
  • Tracks well in flat water
  • Spacious cockpit design
  • Can be either sit in or sit on top with removable deck

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Slight V-shaped hull is more difficult for novice paddlers to use

Who this kayak is for: Kayakers who want a boat that can be paddled either solo or with another person.

Learn more about the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable.

 

8. Best Lightweight Tandem Kayak: Intex Challenger K2

Intex Challenger K2

Designed with weight savings in mind, the Intex Challenger K2 is a highly affordable yet lightweight inflatable tandem kayak. The Challenger K2 is made with durable vinyl, so it’s great for quick trips out onto the lake.

The boat is very compact when in storage and can be inflated in just minutes. As far as comfort goes, the Challenger K2 has a spacious cockpit and an inflatable I-beam floor that feels nice underfoot. The boat even has inflatable seats that provide all-day comfort on the water.

Important Specifications

  • Length: 5 feet (3.5 meters)
  • Weight: 6 pounds (17.9 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 400 pounds (181.4 kilograms)
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Inflatable

Pros

  • Spacious, comfortable cockpit
  • Inflatable seat for added comfort
  • Lightweight
  • Removable skeg for better tracking in the water
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not very stable in rough weather
  • Minimal storage options

Who this kayak is for: Kayakers who want a lightweight, highly portable boat for their adventures.

Learn more about the Intex Challenger K2.

 

9. Best Touring Tandem Kayak: Seaward Kayaks Passat G3 Kevlar

Seaward Kayaks Passat G3 Kevlar

Exceptionally well made, the Seaward Kayaks Passat G3 Kevlar is a top-of-the-line tandem touring kayak. Made from a fiberglass-Kevlar composite, the Passat is designed for performance and elegance.

The boat has two mid-sized cockpits that are comfortable enough for long days on the water. The boat’s three sealed hatches even provide a combined 338 liters of storage space for those extended trips. Plus, the Passat has a built-in rudder for extra steering control and better tracking in rough conditions.

Important Specifications

  • Length: 22 feet (6.7 meters)
  • Weight: 90 pounds (40.8 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: N/A
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Hardshell

Pros

  • Incredibly well built
  • Lots of storage space in sealed hatches
  • Long length provides great tracking ability
  • Provides ample control and responsiveness for expert paddlers

Cons

  • Extremely expensive
  • Heavy
  • Kevlar/fiberglass is less durable than plastic
  • V-shaped hull is not ideal for beginners

Who this kayak is for: Advanced paddlers who want a high-quality boat for big kayak touring trips.

Learn more about the Seaward Kayaks Passat G3 Kevlar.

 

10. Best 3-Person Kayak: Sevylor Big Basin 120

Seylor Big Basin

Built with family fun in mind, the Sevylor Big Basin is a three-person inflatable kayak for summertime adventures. The Big Basin is crafted with heavy-duty PVC, which makes it perfect for use on the lake.

The boat has multiple air chambers, which means it can still stay afloat even if one chamber is punctured.

As far as comfort goes, the Big Basin has adjustable seats, which means you can find the perfect fit for your needs. It also features a spray cover that can help protect you from splashing water as you paddle.

Oh, and it has a convenient carry bag for easy storage and transport to and from the lake each weekend.

Important Specifications

  • Length: 12 feet (3.6 meters)
  • Weight: 76 pounds (15 kilograms)
  • Maximum Weight Capacity: 490 pounds (222 kilograms)
  • Inflatable/Hardshell? Inflatable

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Can fit two or three people
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not stable in rough weather
  • Minimal storage space
  • Not good for open water use

Who this kayak is for: Families that occasionally paddle with their children but only want to buy one boat.

 

 

Single Vs 2 Seater Kayaks

single and tandem kayak paddled side by side on open water

Tandem kayaks are incredibly popular among recreational and casual kayakers. However, you also have the option of choosing to buy two single kayaks instead of one tandem.

While both single and tandem kayaks have their own advantages and disadvantages, it’s important to remember that they each serve their own specific purpose. Here are some of the pros and cons of one-man and two-man kayaks:

 

Pros and Cons of 2 Man Kayaks

A tandem kayak is a two-person boat designed to be paddled with a single double-bladed paddle. Here are the pros and cons of using a tandem kayak instead of two single kayaks:

 

Pros

couple paddling tandem kayak

You get to paddle together. If you like to adventure with a buddy, a tandem kayak makes it possible for you to paddle together. While you can still hit the water with a friend in two single kayaks, being in a double kayak means you literally can’t get separated.

Lower cost. In general, the cost of one double kayak will be less than the cost of two single kayaks. So, if your budget is a concern, you might do well with a tandem kayak.

Less storage space. One double kayak is always going to take up less space in your garage than two single kayaks. This makes tandems ideal for people with limited storage space.

Only one roof rack. If you need to drive your kayaks to a lake, river, or ocean, using a tandem kayak means you only need to buy one roof rack, if you’re planning on using J-style kayak carriers. This won’t save you tons of money, but it is a few hundred bucks.

man and woman paddling kayak

Better for new paddlers. Most new kayakers find that they’re more comfortable in a tandem kayak than in a single. This is especially true when the other person in the boat is an experienced paddler. Having a tandem kayak can be beneficial if you want to introduce your kids or partner to the sport.

Increased performance. Since two-person kayaks are longer than one-person kayaks, you’ll find that they track better in the water. This means it will be easier for you to keep your kayak in a straight line while you’re paddling.

Two people can create more power and forward motion than one person, so a tandem kayak will almost always be faster than a single. Since most of us are recreational paddlers and not performance racers, this isn’t a huge concern, but it does mean you’ll go farther faster and with less effort in a tandem kayak.

 

Cons

two guys paddling kayak

Heavy boat. A tandem kayak can easily weigh up to 90 pounds (40.8 kilograms), so they’re certainly not light, especially if you have to lift the boat onto a car. But if you consider that you will always have a second set of hands to help you lift your boat, then the weight shouldn’t be a huge concern.

You’re stuck together. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it), if you buy a tandem kayak, you’re literally stuck in the same boat as your paddling buddy. This can be great fun until you get annoyed at the other person, in which case, arguments tend to follow.

Less control. When you paddle in a tandem kayak, you will have less overall control over the boat. Indeed, paddling a two-person kayak is all about teamwork, so if you don’t work well with the other person in the boat, it can result in a long, stressful day on the water.

 

When Should You Choose a Tandem Kayak?

adult and kid paddling kayak on river

As you can see, tandem kayaks are fantastic boats, but like any piece of gear, they have their disadvantages. Additionally, tandem kayaks aren’t for everyone and every paddling situation. In general, you should choose a tandem kayak if any of the following are true:

  • You don’t have the budget for two single kayaks.
  • You only have enough space to store one kayak.
  • You generally prefer to paddle with another person.
  • You have children who aren’t ready to paddle on their own.
  • You’re interested in teaching others to paddle.
  • You’re new to paddling and don’t feel comfortable being alone on the water.

If none of those situations seem like they’re applicable to you, then you’d probably be better off with a single kayak instead. In this case, check our:

Guide to best inflatable kayaks

Guide to the best fishing kayak

 

Buying Advice

colorful empty kayaks parked by the shore

With so many different tandem kayaks available on the market today, it’s understandable if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with all of your choices. To help you find the tandem kayak of your dreams, here’s our buyer’s guide to double kayaks.

 

What Type Of Tandem Kayak To Choose?

Choosing a tandem kayak is no easy feat. Here are some of the things to keep in mind as you’re deciding what kind of tandem kayak is best for you:

 

Intended Use

green kayaks parked by the grassy river

Every piece of gear is built with a specific use in mind. Kayaks are no different. When it comes to tandem kayaks, you really need to understand what you plan to use your boat for before you buy it.

Are you interested in touring and camping with your kayak on the ocean, or are you more likely to stick to day trips on your local lake?

Activities such as fishing also call for specialty kayaks, so if you don’t know what you plan to use your boat for, you may end up spending a whole lot of money on a boat that really doesn’t suit your needs.

 

Inflatable vs. Hardshell

In the world of kayaks, you have to make a choice between an inflatable or hardshell model. Both models of kayaks are incredibly popular, but each is best for a specific kind of paddler. This is what you need to know:

Inflatable Kayaks Pros and Cons

Inflatable kayaks, as the name suggests, are a kind of kayak that you can inflate and deflate as you please. These boats are made from thick PVC, which is durable enough for most paddling adventures. These are the pros and cons of using an inflatable kayak:

Pros

kids paddling inflatable kayak

Lighter option. Inflatable kayaks are almost always going to be lighter than a hardshell model of the same size. The only time this might not be true is if you buy a high-end Kevlar-composite boat, which just might be lighter than your average inflatable kayak.

Compact for storage. Since you can inflate and deflate an inflatable kayak, it’s much easier to store them in your home. This makes inflatable boats ideal for people with minimal storage space.

Lots of stability. Most inflatable kayaks have a fairly flat hull, which gives them lots of stability if you’re just paddling forward. This can be quite comforting for new kayakers.

Affordable. The vast majority of inflatable kayaks are cheaper than similarly sized hardshell alternatives, so they’re ideal for people on a budget.

 

Cons

man pumping kayak

Inflating and deflating is annoying. Since inflatable kayaks need to be, well, inflated, you’ll have to spend some quality time before each paddling trip pumping up your boat. This can be annoying, to say the least, and quite tiring.

Difficult to control. When it comes to rough water, an inflatable kayak is less than ideal. Although they’re fine for calm conditions, it’s not great to get caught out in bad weather in an inflatable boat.

 

Hardshell Kayaks Pros and Cons

A hardshell kayak is a kayak that’s made from a rigid material like plastic, wood, fiberglass, or Kevlar composite. These are the pros and cons of using a hardshell kayak:

Pros

ladies paddling kayak on a dam

No inflation necessary. Unlike an inflatable kayak, a hardshell is always ready to go. This means you don’t have to waste any time in the morning before you get on the water.

Better in rough conditions. When it comes to rough water, it’s pretty difficult to deny that a hardshell kayak provides more control and agility. In general, hardshell kayaks are preferred for open water touring because they offer you more control over the boat.

More gear storage. Most hardshell kayaks will have some form of built-in gear storage, whether that be in the form of a hatch (covered hole) or just some bungee cords on the deck of the boat. While inflatable kayaks offer some gear storage, you’ll find way more on a hardshell boat.

 

Cons

two men carrying kayak on both ends

Generally heavy. Unless you invest in an expensive fiberglass or Kevlar-composite kayak, a hardshell is almost always going to be heavier than an inflatable boat.

Lower maximum weight capacity. The vast majority of hardshell kayaks will be able to support less weight than your average inflatable boat. This makes hardshell boats less ideal for larger paddlers.

Take up a lot of space. Since you can’t deflate a hardshell kayak, you’ll need to have a lot of storage space available in your home to keep it safe in between outings.

 

Sit-On-Top vs. Sit-In Kayaks

two kayakers on sit on top kayak top view
Sit-on-top

When you buy a tandem kayak, you get to decide whether you’d rather have a sit-on-top or a sit-in kayak. As you can imagine, both models have their advantages and disadvantages and are thus best designed for a specific kind of paddler.

A sit-in kayak is a type of enclosed kayak where the paddler sits in a cockpit. The cockpit is basically a hole in the deck (upper surface of the boat) where your upper body sticks out. In a sit-in kayak, your legs are fully enclosed within the boat itself.

back view adult and kid paddling on the river
Sit-in

Sit-in kayaks offer more protection for your body from the wind and the waves, which means they’re generally warmer. They’re ideal for anyone who’s planning on spending time out in open water, as they provide more control than a sit-on-top boat.

In a sit-on-top kayak, the paddler sits on top of the deck on the boat and is not enclosed inside a cockpit. While a sit-on-top boat won’t keep you as warm or offer you as much control in rough weather, they are a solid option.

In fact, a sit-on-top boat is ideal for people who are new to the sport since they are easier to get in and out of. Plus, sit-on-top kayaks are the best option for people who don’t like to be enclosed in small spaces.

 

Hull Shape

yellow kayaks on the shore

The hull of a boat is the underside of the vessel. Modern kayaks are built with one of three hull shapes, each of which greatly affects how the boat performs in the water. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Most beginner boats will feature a flat hull. This type of hull provides lots of stability in very calm conditions, which is comforting to a new paddler. However, they will easily capsize in rough water so they should never be used outside of a small body of water like a small lake.

2. Round hulls are faster than flat hulls because they result in less friction. But they are slightly less stable than their flat cousins.

3. V-shaped. V-shaped hulls are found on intermediate to advanced boats and are best suited for confident paddlers. They provide significantly less stability in calm water than a flat-hulled boat but are essential for rough conditions. V-shaped hulls also allow for much more agility in the water but should only be used by experienced paddlers.

 

Other Important Considerations When Buying a Tandem Kayak

When buying a tandem kayak, there are many different features you need to consider. Here are some of the top things to look out for as you shop around:

 

Length

kayakers trying to make a curve on the lake

The length of a kayak has a direct effect on how well it maneuvers in the water. Longer boats will track better, which means they are easier to paddle in a straight line. However, they are slightly more difficult to turn unless you’re an experienced paddler.

Shorter boats are generally preferred for white-water paddling, where maneuverability is key. A small, white-water kayak will turn very easily but is incredibly difficult to paddle in a straight line over a long distance.

Thus, when deciding on a new kayak, you need to think about what length you want for your boat. Most recreational flatwater paddlers in a tandem kayak will prefer a boat that’s 12-14 feet (3.6-4.2 meters) long.

Anyone looking to go on longer kayak touring trips will benefit from a boat that’s slightly longer. Keep in mind, though, that longer boats are heavier and more difficult to store.

 

Width

back view of fishers paddling kayak

The width of a boat affects how comfortable it is for you to sit in, as well as its stability on the water. Narrow boats are not very comfortable for larger people and are less stable, even in flat conditions.

Wider boats, however, are more comfortable and more stable, but they are heavier and more difficult to maneuver.

 

Cockpit Size (Sit-In Kayaks Only)

empty kayaks parked by a dock

The size of the cockpit in a sit in kayak has a major impact on how comfortable it is to paddle for a specific person. Smaller paddlers can get away with quite compact cockpits, while larger paddlers will need something that’s a bit roomier.

It’s often best to sit in a few boats to figure out what size cockpit you prefer.

 

Materials

kayaks and paddles stacked on rack

Modern kayaks are available in three main types of materials. While you can still get kayaks made out of wood or animal skins, these are few and far between. Here’s what you need to know about different kayak materials

Polyethylene plastic. Plastic hardshell kayaks are some of the most durable out there, and the most affordable. They are strong enough to get scraped against rocks, so they’re great for families. However, plastic is heavier than the other options available for hardshell kayaks.

Composites and fiberglass. If a hardshell kayak isn’t made from plastic, it’s probably made from a Kevlar composite or fiberglass. These materials are significantly lighter than plastic but are less durable and much more expensive, so they’re best for dedicated kayakers with lots of experience and who like to head out on long touring trips.

PVC. Almost all inflatable kayaks are made from PVC, which is surprisingly lightweight, durable, and affordable for most paddlers.

 

Durability

men paddling tandem kayak for water rafting

No one likes to spend a lot of money on a piece of gear only to find that it breaks after a few outings. When it comes to kayaks, inflatable and plastic hardshells are going to be your most-durable options. However, keep in mind that inflatable boats can puncture and that hardshell kayaks are quite heavy.

 

Weight

man loading kayak on his car roof

While most recreational paddlers really won’t notice the weight of their boat when they’re in the water, as soon as you have to carry your boat to your car, you’ll be fully aware of how heavy it truly is. Modern tandem kayaks can weigh upwards of 90 pounds (40.8 kilograms), so they can be quite heavy.

Inflatable boats are your most affordable lightweight option, though there are some surprisingly light composite hardshell models out there if you’re willing to spend a bit of money.

Do keep in mind that you can always get a kayak lift system if you’re concerned about lifting your boat above your head and onto the top of your vehicle.

 

Weight Capacity

man legs stretched in a kayak floating on water

Every kayak has a maximum weight capacity, which tells you how much weight it can hold on the water. Tandem kayaks are designed to accommodate two adults, so they usually have quite high maximum weight capacities.

However, you need to calculate the weight of you and your regular kayaking buddy, as well as all of your gear, before you buy a boat to ensure that you’re getting one that’s the right size for your needs.

 

Storage Options

parked kayak with 2 paddles

If you plan to go kayak camping or touring with your new boat, you’ll want to be sure that you have plenty of storage space. Many high-end hardshell kayaks will come with an assortment of different hatches, which are covered spaces at the front and the back of the boat for storing gear.

Hatches are ideal for storing any gear you won’t need until you get to camp. But you’ll want to also look out for a boat that’s got some bungee cord on the deck (top of the boat), as this is essential for storing gear that you need to access while you paddle.

 

Tandem Kayaks FAQ

Here are our answers to your top questions about tandem kayaks:

1. Can you use and paddle a tandem kayak alone?

In general, it’s not possible to paddle a tandem kayak on your own for a substantial distance. Since the seats of a tandem kayak are either too far back or too far forward, you’ll find it’s really uncomfortable to paddle one on your own.

However, some tandem kayaks are convertible, which means you can switch the seating arrangement around to transition them into a single kayak. This is an ideal option for people who don’t always have a buddy available to go kayaking with but want the flexibility of a tandem boat.

 

2. Who steers a tandem kayak?

The primary steering ability for nearly every boat is from the aft (back). This is also true when it comes to tandem kayaks.

In a tandem kayak, the person at the stern (back) of the boat is going to be the one primarily responsible for steering. The person in the fore (front) of the boat, on the other hand, is primarily responsible for propelling the boat forward.

As you advance in your kayaking skills, though, you can learn different ways to steer a boat from the front, which will give you more control over your kayak in rough weather.

 

3. How do I launch a tandem kayak?

Launching a kayak is one of the trickier parts of paddling, especially if you really don’t want to get wet.

If you’re launching from a beach, the easiest thing to do is to walk the boat far enough out so that it’s floating and then just get in one at a time. This involves getting your feet wet, but is fairly easy to do.

If you’re launching from a floating pontoon or dock, you can start by lining the boat up lengthwise along the pontoon. Then, one person in the front will get in the boat as the other holds it steady. The person that’s in the boat will then try to stabilize the kayak by holding onto the pontoon.

The person at the back of the boat will place their paddle behind their seat, perpendicular to the boat so that it rests partially on the kayak and partially on the pontoon.

Pushing down firmly on the shaft of the paddle, the second person can stabilize themselves as they climb into the boat before paddling away.

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