The best lightweight kayaks will make the journey in and out of the water a total breeze. It’s always so enjoyable to get out on the water and paddle around without much effort. However, it can be a total pain to lug around a heavy watercraft before and after your kayaking trip.
Justin and I adore kayaking when we travel, whether it’s close to home or somewhere around the globe. We’ve gone kayaking at the 1000 Islands; sea kayaking in Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec; paddling around an island in Put-in-Bay, Ohio; kayaking past manatees in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; through the mangroves in the Key West, and I’ve even written about the best kayaking adventures in Australia.
Once you own your own kayak, it’s much easier to arrange a paddling trip without booking a kayaking tour. You can choose to go kayaking whenever you like. It’s easy to spontaneously drive up to a lake or river and launch your watercraft. But, you’ll soon realize that if you don’t own a lightweight kayak, a paddling trip can become more of a chore than a pleasure.
Here’s everything you need to know about the best lightweight kayaks on the market. I’ll show you which ones are the most portable and lightweight out there. Some of these kayaks fold up and pack easily into the trunk of your car. Some of these kayaks are inexpensive and some of them are a little pricier with more features. Out of this list of the best lightweight kayaks, there’s the perfect one for you (and I’ll help you find it!).
Why Choose a Lightweight Kayak?
While there isn’t a one size fits all approach to choosing a kayak, there are many advantages to buying a lightweight kayak over a heavier model. Transportability is a major factor. You’ll want to be able to easily transport your kayak from the car to the water, especially if you’re venturing out on your own.
As I’m often a solo female traveler, I’m proud to boast that these are some of the best kayaks for women, simply because I’m able to carry them on my own. Similarly, these are among the best kayaks for senior citizens, too!
In addition to being able to easily carry these light kayaks, many of them don’t require a roof rack on your car. The inflatable kayaks and folding kayaks are less bulky and more compact. Throw them into the trunk of your car. Many of them even fold into their own case, meaning that you can fly with them as a piece of checked luggage.
A lightweight kayak will encourage you to explore new terrain. With a heavy kayak, you might be tempted not to lug it to some faraway body of water. These best lightweight kayaks can be carried to more distant lakes or archipelagos you always wanted to explore.
With that said, lightweight kayaks aren’t meant for sea kayaking or paddling through intense river rapids. You will need to use a proper sea kayak for sea kayaking, and a kayak rated for the class of rapids you are looking to pursue. If you’re newer to kayaking, I highly recommend taking a look at these paddling safety tips.
Should you fall out of your kayak, a lighter vessel is a bit easier to tip back over. I’m fortunate that I haven’t had my kayak tip over just yet, but it isn’t much of an issue if it does. You’ll also be quicker to gain speed in a lightweight kayak over a heavier kayak because you’re simply paddling with less weight on board.
Here are the Best Lightweight Kayaks
These are some of the lightest kayaks on the market compiled into one handy list for you. I’ve shared 15 light kayaks in total, starting with the best single person kayaks and moving onto the best lightweight tandem kayaks. Without further ado, here are the best recreational kayaks to consider adding to your arsenal of outdoor adventure gear.
Best Lightweight Kayaks: A Complete Buyer’s Guide
Okay, so perhaps all of the above kayaks seem like great options. But, are you looking to pick the right kayak for you? In this buying guide, I’ve put together a list of considerations that will be specific to your personal needs when purchasing the best kayak on the market.
Types of Kayak and Their Use
First and foremost, consider where you’ll be using your kayak. You should consider a lightweight kayak if you’re using it for recreational purposes, on gentle rivers, lakes, and bays. If you are going to go sea kayaking or ocean kayaking, I would purchase a more heavy duty vessel that can handle the intense waves of the sea. Same goes for whitewater kayaking.
Recreational kayaks are great general purpose watercrafts that are meant for paddling on lakes and gentle rivers. Most of the kayaks on this list are for recreational use. These are not the kind of kayak you should get if you’re going to paddle around the sea, ocean, or any kind of intense rapids. This list of the best lightweight kayaks showcases recreational kayaks, and not anything heavy duty enough to tackle ocean waves or whitewater rapids.
Sea kayaks are equipped to tackle and cut through ocean waves. These kayaks are longer, more narrow, and usually equipped with a rudder or skeg. They are built to handle windy and more treacherous conditions. It is possible to find lightweight sea kayaks. They are usually tandem kayaks as you shouldn’t paddle around the sea by yourself.
There are kayaks on the market built specifically for tackling whitewater rapids. Don’t even think about taking a recreational kayak through the rapids! Whitewater kayaks are sturdy and short kayaks. There are also some inflatable kayaks that are designed to handle whitewater rapids.
Best Lightweight Kayaks: Types and Materials
There are a variety of types of kayaks when it comes to materials. These can primarily be divided into three categories: hard-shell kayaks, inflatable kayaks, and foldable kayaks.
Hard Shell Kayaks
Hard shell kayaks are the classic design that you’ll typically see when you rent a kayak from a tour company or professional outfitter. They are either constructed from plastic or fiberglass. Generally, hard shell kayaks will be heavier than inflatable or foldable kayaks, but they may offer better performance and durability in the long run.
Inflatable kayaks have a couple of key advantages: they are very lightweight, portable, and usually the least expensive of the lot. While they are more affordable, they may not perform as well on the water as hard shell or foldable kayaks. However, inflatable kayaks have improved vastly over the years, so the ones in this list do perform quite well.
You will also need to pump them up each time before you use them, so it will add a little bit of extra time to your trip. Check to see if your inflatable kayak comes with a pump. Many inflatable kayaks will not come with a pump, and you’ll need to purchase one separately. Make sure that the pump you are going to buy works with your kayak.
Folding kayaks can be the best option, offering the advantages of an inflatable and hard shell kayak. They are lightweight and portable, often folding down to the size of a suitcase. They’re usually made out of a collapsible material and a waterproof fabric. The foldable kayaks that I’ve mentioned in this article are extremely high quality and built to last.
Best Lightweight Kayaks: Sit On Top vs Sit In
You can either use a sit on top kayak or a sit in kayak. This is exactly how it sounds. Again, it comes down to personal preference as to which one you choose.
Sit-in kayaks are kayaks that you slide into and you’ll feel a little bit more secure within one of these. Most high performance kayaks are sit-inside kayaks. If you attach a skirt to a sit-in kayak, you’ll be protected from the water. However, you’re less likely to get wet inside a sit-in kayak, unless there are larger waves. Sit-in kayaks are ideal for colder environments as you’ll be a little more protected from the elements.
A disadvantage of a sit-in kayak is that you won’t have the freedom to move about or jump into the water as easily. Taller kayakers may feel too restrained by a sit-in kayak.
Conversely, sit-on-top kayaks are great for tall people because your legs won’t be confined to the cockpit. You will get more wet on top of a sit-on-top kayak, but many of these kayaks are self-bailing and won’t flood.
Overall, sit-on-top kayaks are a little less comfortable for long trips and they won’t perform quite as well as a sit-in kayak. They are a great choice for beginner paddlers or those who are paddling as a newer hobby.
Best Lightweight Kayaks: Main Considerations to Compare
Once you’ve figured out which type of kayak you’re looking to buy (for instance, a recreational kayak that’s inflatable, folding or hard shell), there are a few other key factors to consider before you make your final purchase.
Weight of the Kayak
In this article about the best lightweight kayaks, this may be one of the main features you consider. All of the kayaks in this article weigh 50 pounds or less (there is one coming in at slightly over 50 pounds). You will need to think about the weight that you are willing or able to carry when transporting your kayak down to the water.
If you have issues carrying a kayak that weighs over 30 or 40 pounds, I would certainly consider getting one that weighs less than that. If it’s too heavy for you to carry, you may not end up using it very often.
Durability and Adjustability
All of the kayaks I’ve listed in this article are thoroughly tested and come highly recommended. They are also backed up by fantastic reviews. Keep in mind that some materials are stronger than others. Kayaks won’t last forever. Inflatable kayaks may suffer some punctures and will need to be patched.
Hard shell kayaks will last longer than some of the other types of kayaks. Some kayaks will also be backed by a warranty from the company.
Another factor to consider, especially if you’re taller, is adjustability. It is important to be comfortable, especially for longer paddling sessions. Some kayaks come with adjustable seats and footrests. You may also want to make sure the cockpit is big enough, too. Many kayaks have main cockpits that are very small spaces to get into…keep that in mind!
Weight Capacity of the Vessel
The weight capacity of the kayak is another factor to consider. I’ve listed the weight capacities of each kayak and tandem kayak. Think about the weight of you, your paddling partner, and perhaps even your dog if you’re taking your furry friend on board.
Also, determine the weight of the items you plan to bring on board with you. Make sure that the kayak can hold you and your equipment without exceeding the weight capacity of the vessel. When researching the best lightweight kayaks, it’s important to consider the kayak’s weight capacity.
And finally, it may all come down to the price. You’ll need to ask yourself a few questions. How often will you be kayaking? How much money are you willing to invest in your paddling hobby?
You might want to splurge on a top of the line kayak if you have the budget for it. If you only find yourself kayaking a couple of times a year and you don’t want to spend too much, one of the lower priced kayaks in this list could work really well.
Buying a really cheap kayak without great reviews won’t be your best bet. You don’t want your kayak to break or deflate after only a couple of uses. That’s just a waste of money, time, and you’ll end up buying a new kayak in the end.
I’d invest in a kayak that is built to last many years. Purchase one that works within your budget and the specifications that I’ve mentioned above. There’s a great kayak out there for everyone!
The Verdict: What are the Best Lightweight Kayaks?
What are the best lightweight kayaks? It all comes down to the personal preferences that I mentioned above. When considering the type of kayak, its weight, its price, its construction materials, and more, a lot of that is up to your own choices.
For example, it might be the best hard shell kayak in the world, but if you need a kayak that fits in the trunk of your car, a folding kayak might be best.
In my opinion, my top picks for the best lightweight kayaks are the Oru Kayak Beach LT for its foldability, portability and durability; the Eddyline Sky 10 Kayak for being such a lightweight hard shell kayak (with a sleek design); and the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak for being the best lightweight inflatable kayak on this list.
Best Lightweight Kayaks: Frequently Asked Questions
Have any more questions about the best lightweight kayaks out there? Here are a few quick fire questions in this FAQ section that may help you out.