How to choose a kayak – our tips

The process of choosing a kayak can last all winter (before the new season), and for some it even takes more than one year. We will try to simplify the process of choosing a kayak for you and tell you about the main types and purposes of kayaks and what you should pay attention to and what you may overlook when choosing a kayak. We will also try to debunk the established myths and fictions about kayaks and make it as easy as possible for you to choose a kayak for your specific tasks.

Types of kayaks and their differences

According to the way the paddler sits in the kayak, all modern kayaks can be divided into two main groups or categories:

  • kayaks where the paddler sits inside the kayak – so called “Sit-In” (literally “sit inside”) and
  • Kayaks where the paddler sits on top of the kayak – so called “sit-on-top”. The Sit-On-Top kayaks are relatively new, but they became very popular especially in warm latitudes.

The main difference between Sit-In and Sit-On-Top is the weight center of the paddler, which we will talk about a bit later.

Sit-In kayaks are traditional kayaks, where the paddler is half inside the hull of the kayak and the legs of the kayaker are “hidden” under the deck inside the kayak.

Depending on the variant of kayak hull design and the materials used, Sit-In kayaks come in the following types:

Collapsible or frame kayaks – actually, they are also commonly referred to as “kayaks” (Note: the term “kayak” is used mainly in the former USSR, in other countries the term “kayak” is more popular and collapsible kayaks are called “folding kayak”).

Usually a folding kayak consists of a strong and light metal or wooden frame and a “skin” which is stretched over the frame. Today the function of the skin is performed by synthetic materials, which are much more durable and do not require such careful maintenance.

The main purpose of frame kayaks, as well as their historical predecessors – is the transportation of significant loads over a relatively long distance from point A to point B. The undeniable advantage of frame kayaks (kayaks) is the possibility of their compact folding, storage and transportation. But, unfortunately, in many cases, all the benefits of kayaks end there.

How quickly can I assemble a kayak?

In order to assemble a frame kayak and prepare it for launching one person needs on average from 0,5 to 1 hour or more time, depending on the experience of the kayaker and the model of kayak used. It will take about the same amount of time or more to put the kayak back in the bag, since you have to clean and dry the hide and all the frame elements before cleaning.

Another disadvantage common to all frame kayaks is that the bow and the stern of the frame may be asymmetrical in relation to the axis when the kayak is already assembled and the pelt is stretched on the frame. Here it is important how the skin is sewn and again – the kayaker’s experience in assembling the frame. Situations when an already assembled kayak is disassembled and reassembled again are not at all uncommon. That’s why very often a kayak is assembled at the beginning of the season, then it is transported on the roof of the car and only at the end of the season it is disassembled again for winter storage.