A common question which is asked in our sessions is – what is the correct boat for me? With many kayak choices on the market, there is certainly one out there for you. Before one goes out to the nearest big box store and blindly purchases a kayak, I wish to cover a few areas in which will aid in a better purchase decision.
Cost – Let’s face it, we have a spending limit in mind set before we start looking – if not, have one. There are inexpensive kayaks which may get the job done under $200 and high-performance kayaks which may start at $4000. There is nothing wrong with a entry level kayak which one can get at a big box store. Higher end models are mostly found at select retail stores, which specialize in outdoor gear or kayaking specifically. Big box stores may have the selection and cost factors you are looking for, but attempting to get expert assistance from the staff there, is not going to exist. Specialty stores which have higher end models, have the trained staff who can guide you with a proper kayak for your needs.
Location – Understanding there is a proper paddling environment for your kayak. There are three main classifications of kayaks: Whitewater, Recreational, and Sea . With these three classifications, there are numerous sub-classifications for each. An example would be Sea kayaks – there are touring, surf ski, surfing, and Greenland styles (just to name a few). Each have specific kayak designs designed to work best in their specific paddling environment. A white-water kayak is best suited for dynamic waters which have moving current, rapids, drops, hazards (such as rocks, trees, ledges, etc). Recreational and Sea kayaks are not the best option for this particular environment – they are not designed with this in mind. Much like, a farm tractor wouldn’t be the best option to bring on a Nascar circuit, nor would you bring a race car onto the farm field and expect to function like the tractor. Understand the limitations of the kayak – don’t learn from your mistakes.
Weight/transport – Two additional factors which work hand in hand. The weight of the kayak may be an important aspect, especially when you will eventually have to lift it. Understand how this pertains: bringing your kayak from your garage, to your vehicle, and to the water. Will your method be securing your yak to the top of the vehicle, the bed of a truck, or on a trailer? All methods will involve some form of manual lifting or carrying. Then you may wish to think about getting it from the vehicle to the water. Will you manually carry it yourself, have a friend help carry, or use a kayak cart? There are various devices on the market which will aid your transport needs.
Camping – One last thought about your kayak. Will you ever go on extended kayak paddle trips, maybe an over-nighter, weekend, or extended excursion? Where are you going to place all those items? The deck and the cockpit are not the best places to store all these items, they really belong in a hatch (with the cover on tight).
With so many kayaks on the market, before you make a hasty purchase, go out and test paddle various kayaks. Test them out when renting, outfitters may provide you one during a trip, try out friend’s kayaks, or even find specialty kayak companies which offer demo days. These are all great ways to try before you buy. Think of all the possibilities you could have when you go this route – best of all, you don’t have to worry about transporting, and maintenance of the gear.