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Best Tandem Kayak: Top 12 Picks For Paddling With A Partner in 2023

by Assessor
Best Tandem Kayak: Top 12 Picks For Paddling With A Partner in 2023

There are a few things as relaxing as hitting the waters alone on a sunny day. Some adventures are simply better when there’s someone to share them with, though.

That’s where two person kayaks come in:

A two-seater can be a real workhorse that will amp up the entire paddling experience and allow you to explore the waters that you didn’t dare navigate alone, all while sharing the workload with your paddling partner.

So, if you’re looking for the best tandem kayak for you and your paddling buddy, keep on reading!

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Best Tandem Kayaks Buying Guide: What To Look For When Buying A Tandem Kayak?

First things first:

What is a tandem kayak?

A kayak designed and built for two people. The name is a dead giveaway. It’s the kayaking equivalent of a tandem bicycle – that pretty much says it all.

If you ever wanted to go paddling with a partner, tandem kayaks are the way to go – they are a great way to enjoy time on the water with a friend or loved one; especially kayaking with kids or with a pet.

After all, two paddles are better than one!

Double kayaks are also an excellent choice where one kayaker is pregnant – as it allows the non-pregnant person to take over the physical activity, giving the pregnant paddler a break, should they become too tired

All sounds great so far? Ok, lets review all the kayak features and kayak options you should be looking out for? Here’s how to pick the best double kayak!

How & Where Do You Intend To Use It?

There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” kayak. Trust me; I’ve looked everywhere.

What may work for me could turn out to be a completely wrong choice for you – simply because you and I use our kayaks differently. That’s why, ‘how’ and ‘where’ you plan on using your tandem kayak should be the first factor you consider.

Just asking yourself these simple questions can help you zero in on the perfect tandem kayak for your needs.

  • Where do you plan on using your kayak? Are you the type to stick with small bodies of water, such as calm lakes and slow-moving rivers? Maybe you prefer the thrill of open water with the wind and waves? Or, are you planning to try something more challenging, like class III or IV rapids?
  • How do you intend to use your kayak? Ask yourself,will you be a casual weekend recreational paddler? Maybe you have plans to fish, or even camp overnight? If so, how much gear will you need to bring with you?
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Here are a few examples of the most common uses of tandem kayaks:

  • Recreational paddling
  • Touring and kayak camping
  • Fishing trips
  • Ocean or sea kayaking
  • Whitewater kayaking

What Type Of Tandem Kayak Should You Get?

Sit-On-Top Vs. Sit-Inside Kayaks

Tandem kayaks, both hard-shell and inflatable, come in two basic types – sit-on-top and sit-inside.

Traditional sit-inside kayaks feature an enclosed cockpit, with your entire lower body sitting inside, giving you that closer-to-the-water feeling. Rough open water and choppy seas, whitewater paddling, less-than-stellar conditions, and weather; it’s scenarios like these that make you love the enclosed design.

Tandem Sit On Top kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks – If you’re the type of person who feels claustrophobic in a sit-in kayak, then a sit-on-top kayak would be a much better choice for you. With SOTs, you sit on top of the hull rather than being enclosed in a cockpit, which makes it easier to enter and exit the kayak, as well as access your gear. They also tend to be wider and have a flatter hull shape – this provides more stability – making them an ideal choice for beginners or anglers that want to stand and fish.

Inflatable Vs. Hard-Shell Kayaks

To inflate or not to inflate – that is the question. That’s also the main difference between the traditional hard-shells and the modern, inflatable kayaks.

Hard-shells – non-inflatable kayaks made of polyethylene, ABS, wood, or composite materials – are typically faster, more comfortable to maneuver, long-lasting, sturdy, and offer better in-kayak storage options. They’re the definition of traditional kayaks.

But that doesn’t necessarily make them superior to inflatable ones:

Inflatable kayaks, while lighter and cheaper, can be every bit as rugged and puncture-resistant. Plus, they come with one hard-to-beat advantage – they transform from a light backpack into a full-blown watercraft in a matter of minutes.

That’s actually one of the main reasons why this round-up of best tandem kayaks features quite a few inflatables.

Tandem Kayak Length & Weight

The whole point of 2 person kayaks is that they’re longer and broader than their solo counterparts – enough to accommodate two paddlers.

You’re probably thinking:

“No biggie, I’ll only have to deal with the weight for a few short minutes here and there – and I’ll have an extra pair of hands to help.”

That, right there, is a trap:

Tandem kayaks can weigh as much as 100 pounds and reach up to 12 to 16 feet in length. You have to stop and think how this added bulkiness will affect you both in and out of the water, even more so if you’re not always a part of a two-person crew.

Here are a few essential pointers on choosing the right kayak size for two:

  • Transportation – Always check the dimensions and weight of the specific kayak, and make sure that you have the means to transport it – whether on a roof rack or a dedicated kayak trailer. Transporting a 16 foot kayak is no easy task so don’t underestimate it.
  • Length – Longer kayaks – as in, those measuring anywhere between 12 and 16 feet on average – will provide better tracking and speed. While shorter vessels – those measuring 12 feet or less – will be easier to maneuver in rapids and white waters. However, keep in mind that length has a significant impact on a kayak’s maximum weight limit. As a general guideline, the longer and wider a kayak is, the greater its weight capacity will be.
  • Width – Wider kayaks tend to feel more stable, which can be an advantage for anglers, while narrower ones tend to be faster and cut through both calm and choppy waters more efficiently. When it comes to tandems, you generally want to aim for a beam of at least 32 inches – and up to 40 inches wide, especially if you plan to stand up and fish
  • Legroom – You and your partner should have enough leg room to sit comfortably and not feel cramped. A little bit of leg movement and a quick stretch can be more than welcome during longer paddling sessions.
  • Portability – Be sure to check whether the kayak features carrying handles that could make it easier to transport.
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How the kayak’s size relates to your body type is a deciding factor, especially in sit-inside kayaks.

Weight Capacity: What’s The Maximum Weight A Tandem Kayak Can Hold?

You probably know this, but a kayak’s weight capacity isn’t a mere suggestion that you can afford to overlook. It’s the maximum amount of weight that the kayak can hold while staying afloat – and a limit that you should never exceed.

I get that it’s easy to forget about these restrictions with 2 person kayaks because of their overall size.

But believe me when I say it:

When two full-grown adults enter a tandem kayak, each of them bringing their gear, the weight adds up pretty fast.

So, be sure to factor in your weight, the weight of your partner, and any additional equipment you may be carrying with you. Then, find a kayak that can support that kind of load.

A good rule of thumb – for optimal performance, that is – is to keep your total weight at about 75 percent of the kayak’s load capacity limit. While you can pack it to the max, you’ll end up sitting lower in the water, and your maneuverability could suffer, too.

Onboard Storage Space

You’re getting a 2 person kayak, which means you’re also getting twice as much room for gear, right?


Tandem kayaks don’t come with a promise of more space and often fail to provide an adequate amount of onboard storage. You still have to check whether it includes storage compartments, waterproof hatches, bungee deck rigging, and such.

If you generally spend an hour or two on the water, then onboard storage probably won’t be a deciding factor.

However, the longer you stay out – half a day or more – the more room you’ll need for food, water, equipment, and clothing. The same goes for anglers who typically carry tons of additional gear.

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I would say aim for a vessel with a capacity of 500 pounds or above, this should accommodate the average kayaker and any essential gear.

Materials & Construction Quality

Did you know that the Inuit people used tailor-made hunting kayaks constructed out seal skin for thousands of years?

I’m not saying you should get a tandem kayak made of seal skin; I just figured it’s a fun fact worth mentioning.

On a more serious note, the choice of material is of utmost importance in terms of durability. If you want this to be a long-term investment – and especially if you’ll have kids or pets on board – you need something that can stand up to the abuse.

So, what are your options?

When it comes to modern-day watercraft, the choice of construction materials narrows down to:

  • Rotomolded Polyethylene – The so-called Tupperware kayaks are incredibly resilient and cost-efficient – and can last for years with minimal care. Rotomolded polyethylene is highly susceptible to UV damage, but you can address that with a UV-blocking spray.
  • Composite Materials – Fiberglass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber fall into composite materials, all of which are variations of synthetic fabric construction. The stiffness of composite materials makes these tandem kayaks the lightest, fastest, and most responsive options – but they’re also the most expensive.
  • Thermoform ABS – Impact-resistant ABS plastic with an acrylic finish makes for sturdy, lightweight, UV-resistant, easy-to-repair tandem kayaks. It tends to degrade over time, but it’s recyclable.
  • Wood – Wooden tandem kayaks, mostly a product of DIY home builds, can be surprisingly durable and lightweight. Plus, the natural beauty of wood is hard to beat. Hiring someone to make a wooden kayak, however, often comes with a premium price.
  • PVC – PVC, often reinforced for added tear resistance, is the most common material for inflatable tandem kayaks because it’s cheap, easy to patch up, relatively lightweight, and manageable.

Best Tandem Kayaks – Top Tandem Kayak Reviews & Recommendations

Top Rated Tandem Kayaks: A Quick Side-By-Side Comparison Chart

You have seen some of the top-performing tandem kayaks currently available on the market and know what to expect from each ‘yak in terms of performance, load capacity, hull size and weight, and construction quality, among other things.

That may not be enough for you and your paddling buddy to make your final decision, though. In fact, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the options.

So, let’s do a side-by-side comparison and sum up the crucial points – including the advantages and disadvantages of each tandem kayak below:

Wrapping Things Up Best Tandem Kayaks

You probably guessed it by now, but the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak takes the cake as the best tandem kayak in my book. I’m not saying that the others on the list weren’t any good – each of the tandems I talked about today, both hard-shell and inflatable, had something unique to offer.

But here’s the thing:

Tandem kayaks should be about versatility – and no other model offered as much of it as the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame. It’s called the “Convertible,” after all.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re going on full-blown paddling expeditions, family adventures, or a solo fishing trip – this highly convertible kayak has you covered! Plus, it’s built with puncture resistance in mind, performs incredibly well, offers sufficient onboard storage space, and backs all that up with its 550-pound capacity.

The AdvancedFrame Convertible is what top-notch versatility looks like – and what other 2 person kayaks aspire to be!

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