Beginner kayak?
August 20, 2021 7:11 PM   Subscribe

How much should I spend on a starter kayak? I am trying to balance rental costs vs the cost of a starter kayak. What kayaks and price range would you recommend?

This is like a once a week recreational kayak situation. No need for anything ridiculous, just easy enough for me to have fun with. Thanks! (I have seen the previous question but am looking for updated info/more of a target price range. Thanks!)
posted by clarinet to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
What sort of water are you planning to kayak on? Just flat water in shallow lakes and slow rivers, or are you planning on going into larger choppy lakes, or faster water?
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:22 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ah, good question. I live right next to a shallow, calm lake and that's the sort of place I would kayak. Lakes, wetland kayaking trails, mostly for fun/sun more than fitness/adrenaline.
posted by clarinet at 7:30 PM on August 20, 2021

Best answer: My understanding of the kayak market is that you should buy used. This is hearsay, but I’ve heard that a lot of people buy new kayaks, use them once and forget about them, then try to sell them on CL/FB a couple years later.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:41 PM on August 20, 2021 [9 favorites]

Our local rental place has a sale at the end of every season selling some of their rental boats for a few hundred dollars. When I looked carefully into this (but didn't end up buying), I was going to end up spending about $400 for the kayak, plus extras (paddle, etc.).
posted by gideonfrog at 8:06 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I recently bought an inflatable kayak. Intex is known as a good brand. They are perfect for still water, easy to transport, and function surprisingly well.
posted by Amy93 at 8:14 PM on August 20, 2021

I'm a beginner with the same aims as yourself. Living in an apartment, I'd already decided on a folding or inflatable. I followed other people's advice about getting a sit-on kayak and went with the Oru Inlet. At $899 it might be more than you want to spend but I'm very happy after my first 7 weeks with it. It's very stable and I find that I can get it assembled in about the same time as people spend getting their hard shell kayaks off the top of their vehicle. Very light to carry as well and I can keep it in my trunk. Check the YouTube reviews for discount codes.

Go for it though. Getting a kayak is one of the best ideas I ever had and not needing to book a rental means I'm ready to go at any time. I live in Toronto near mouth of the Humber River and in the evenings can pop over for an hour around dusk. I've seen beavers, deer, mink, ducks, cormerants, herons, snowy egrets, terns, kingfishers and more. It's fantastic.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:29 PM on August 20, 2021 [10 favorites]

We bought a couple of Intex inflatable kayaks this summer. Amy93 is correct, they are great on small lakes. We were on a gigantic lake yesterday with very low chop and the kayaks were great. I can't comment on bigger waves and strong wind, unfortunately.

They come with paddles, a skeg, a pump for inflating and deflating. A single kayak is lightweight, will fit into the cargo space of a small car and takes about 10 minutes to put together. We're quite happy with the purchase!
posted by ashbury at 8:33 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In my view, no sit-ons, no inflatables. A real kayak is much better. We bought Neckys about 20 years ago, $600 each at that time, and never regretted it.
posted by yclipse at 8:36 PM on August 20, 2021

Consider a Hobie with Mirage drive if you want leg exercise as well. They're a little spendier, tho you can find them used.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:41 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding look used.

My parents had expensive kayaks they were going to almost give away used, but neighbors managed the sale for them for instead half+ price of new, without much effort. So there's tons of demand but also uninformed sellers either way, less than new.

And if you can buy used, even the going rate you can resell in the future.
posted by TheAdamist at 9:20 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was lent my first kayak for a season. I loved it, so I bought a used one. Mistake. I didn't know there were different kinds of kayaks. The kayaks for whitewater use are not good for lake kayaking, they don't track well and you'll spend your time fighting the kayak and having a lousy time. there are plenty of good used kayaks just make sure you get one for your use. In my time I've purchased several new kayaks, including a cheap inflatable that got surprisingly good reviews. I wasn't impressed, probably because I was used to solid kayaks. I spent around $300 on a new beginner kayak and it has held up well over the years. It's similar to this one. You might also consider a stand up paddle board, the people I know who own them, swear by them.
posted by evilDoug at 9:24 PM on August 20, 2021

If you haven't done so already, try a couple of different kayaks before you buy. It's very different from reading about what is supposed to suit the conditions you will be paddling in. You have to *feel* whether you prefer stability to speed, how easy it is to get back in if you fall out , and so on. You might be surprised at what you actually prefer.
posted by Zumbador at 11:03 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Depending on your weight and the amount of time you want to spend on the water, you could spend as little as $100. You can get a superstore kayak that supports up to 120 pounds. Of course, it won’t be very comfortable, fast, or maneuverable. If you’re covering any distance, a longer one with a more comfortable seat for under $500 is a good option. You might consider putting some thought into the paddles you’re using, too. Have fun!
posted by jumanjinight at 11:46 PM on August 20, 2021

Best answer: Not so long ago, any small boat shop would tell you that only a boat of, say, 17 ft length would do. Since then, shorter kayaks, down to about 10 ft have become popular. The shorter boats are wider giving good stability, and maybe making it easier to get in and out. Also easier to store. The longer boats take less effort to paddle, and are what you need for longer distances and advanced tricks like the eskimo roll (not to be tried without an instructor).

I got a 10 ft boat from a friend. It was originally from Costco, about $600. I bought a paddle with an aluminum shaft and a life jacket (absolutely required) from a boat shop. I was never in the boat for more than an hour, usually more like a half hour, at a time and I was never bothered by the weight of the paddle.

In my area, Craigslist is littered with ads for kayaks. Better to spend money on instruction than on an expensive boat.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:21 AM on August 21, 2021

Best answer: Headwaters kayak has you covered for reviews of cheapish kayaks.

This is a pro kayak outfitter who says "I know, that when people get into the sport, they are gonna go to superstores....that's fine. I want to be the person they buy their second kayak off once they really get into it".


Under $500

under $1k
posted by lalochezia at 8:02 AM on August 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are also FOLDABLE kayaks that fit in a car trunk. They definitely have serious flaws, but they may be worth it for portability..... but the two I looked into are

tucktec and oru.

read a LOT of reviews of these before splashing out (pardon the pun)
posted by lalochezia at 8:03 AM on August 21, 2021

We do not have a big budget to work with, or a car fitted with roof racks, so we got one of these. We have both done a fair amount of kayaking, including on class IV rapids.

I picked this one after weeks of research. I got it because it holds two people plus a child or pet (we wanted a tandem), has a better weight limit than others, and has better seats than the other tandems we found.
posted by crunchy potato at 6:11 PM on August 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

My partner and I have the same boat that crunchy potato has: an inflatable Sea Eagle SE-370. We love the HELL out of it (and will be buying a second to do week-long trips with one boat each).

That said, we had a specific need: we do not have a car or a place to store a solid kayak. And I can report that while it handles well (she laughs at rough water), the overall feeling is nothing like a kayak. Our Sea Eagle is more like being in the most-stable-canoe ever (and thus is terrific for rougher waters and open large lakes - which is what we have). But it doesn't have the same feeling as kayaking in a sit-in kayak, where your centre of gravity is below the waterline (and you feel more like you are moving in the water than on top).

(Sorry that I don't have specifics on prices for beginner daytrip kayaks; we did all of our research looking at trekking kayaks with good cargo space, as that's our main interest. Those start at $2k Canadian, which makes a $700 inflatable a great deal).
posted by jb at 9:39 PM on August 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have a Sundolphin that is about 10 feet. I can portage a good distance and slide it up onto the top of my vehicle by myself. I paid less than $300 when Sears was going out of business. I think the smallest Pelican or Sundolphin are great for the new kayaker. They're stable, easy to store, and easy to use for regular day use. I don't have an additional seat cushion, and I kayak for up to six hours at a time, and it's quite comfortable. Don't go without your PFD.
posted by RedEmma at 1:20 PM on August 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

(And just to add, I'm a 54 yo woman with pathetically lame upper body strength.)
posted by RedEmma at 1:21 PM on August 22, 2021

I wouldn't buy a kayak until you rent a bunch of different boats and see what you like. If you do end up going out once a week - that's a lot of time on the water!

Different strokes for different folks is not only a paddling pun, its true. You *might* like a sit on top for $300 that's short and wide b/c its easy to balance and poke around a flat lake. But if you end up really getting into kayaking, you are going to get bored of the sit on top and realize its a floating piece of plastic. You might actually want a deck boat that you can take long distances, and those cost a ton. You might prefer the meditative elegance of a one person canoe, again a lot. Or if you really are looking to just plop yourself in a lake and chill, get an inflatable which are pretty reasonable. Anyway, try all these out before you commit.
posted by RajahKing at 3:27 PM on August 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hurry up and purchase that kayak!
(Comment added only so that I can append previous list of wildlife spotted on Toronto's Humber River with: deer, coyote, owl)
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:50 AM on August 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

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