Whether you’re an experienced or novice kayaker, touring is a fun activity that allows you to see new sights from the comfort of a safe, dry kayak. Many of the best marine wildlife viewing opportunities around the world require the use of a touring kayak. Furthermore, kayak touring will give you the comfort of knowing you didn’t rely on a gas-powered vehicle while also getting a great upper body workout.
In this article, we’ll review ten of the best touring kayaks and outline the most important criteria to consider when selecting a touring kayak. We’ll also explain many of the most common features of touring kayaks so that you can determine which features are truly important to how you intend to use your new kayak.
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Quick Answer –The Best Touring Kayaks
Delta Kayaks Delta 16View at REIAquaglide Navarro 130View at AmazonAdvanced Elements AdvancedFrame EliteView at AmazonBrooklyn Kayak Company SK287 AnglerView at AmazonDelta Kayaks Delta 15sView at REI
Comparison Table– Best Touring Kayak
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Delta Kayaks Delta 16
Aquaglide Navarro 130
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Elite
Brooklyn Kayak Company SK287 Angler
Delta Kayaks Delta 15s
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.
Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.
Reviews– The Best Kayaks for Touring
Delta Kayaks Delta 16
Depth: 12″Length: 16′Weight: 50 poundsWidth: 22″
High abrasion- and impact-resistance hullShallow V hull with pronounced chineAdjustable seatPress-Lock hatch covers
TOP OVERALL TOURING KAYAK
Featuring finely tuned maneuverability combined with excellent tracking, this kayak is ready for your next tour — wherever the waters may take you.
Ample storage is offered throughout three accessible hatches. Thanks to a substantial load carrying capacity, you can easily bring all the gear you need to carry with you out on the water. Adjustable foot and thigh braces make for comfortable and efficient paddling while the shallow, V-shaped hull and prominent chine provide for excellent stability, especially in rough waters.
What I like about the Delta 16 is the easy re-entry if and when you happen to find yourself in the water at any point on your tour.
InflatableDrop stitched floorZip-on decksQuick release fin
BEST FOR: PADDLERS ON A BUDGET
Combining a thoughtful design that fits into a compact package, the Navarro is an obvious choice for an affordable touring kayak.
This lightweight and durable kayak features heavy-duty drop-stitch floors and 600-denier protected pontoons. A hard bottom design provides for extra stability and comfort when you’re out in the water. Weighing in at only 35 pounds and able to fit in the trunk of your car makes this kayak an exceptionally convenient choice for transporting around town.
What I like most about the Navarro 130 are the large storage areas include for stashing paddling essentials.
View at Amazon
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Elite
Length: 15′Weight: 52 poundsWidth: 32″
Tandem/Solo adjustable seat positionsPatented Aluminum Rib-frame technologyAir-lifted deck sheds spray Repair kit & bag included
BEST FOR: TANDEM TOURING
This inflatable kayak optimizes safety and durability thanks to its unique inflatable design.
Integrating a dual air chamber design that encircles the cockpit and heavy-duty drop-stitch flooring, this kayak is unbelievably stable in the water. Advanced Elements’ aluminum ridge frame and removable fin provide for excellent tracking. This kayak’s multi-layered construction provides superb durability for an inflatable style boat.
What I like about most the Elite Tandem are the high back seats that sport inflatable lumber support, providing for all day comfort.
Waterproof storageFlush-mount fishing rod holdersFoot pedal-operated rudderBungee cord cargo space
BEST FOR: CASTING A LINE WHILE TOURING THE WATERS
This touring kayak features all the add-ons an angler would need for your next adventure.”
The Angler is quipped with two waterproof hatches, two rod holders, a pedal operated rudder, and tons of bungee cord storage options sure to come in handy on any fishing excursion. This roto-molded kayak is durable enough to handle any water conditions and is still lightweight, weighing in at just 44 pounds. The sleek design and multi-chined bottom serve to keep your kayak steady and your gear dry.
What I like most about this kayak is how easily the boat maneuvers, assisted by a convientiently integrated pedal-operated rudder.
Low-slung Contour II seatPaddle Park system2 large, accessible dry storage areasPress-Lock hatch covers
BEST FOR: THOSE JUST GETTING STARTED
Perfect for smaller kayakers this kayak is quick, responsive, and easy to navigate.
Delta designed a smaller, shallower cockpit to create for a suitable boat for shorter, younger, and potentially less experienced kayakers looking to further develop skills out on the water. Don’t worry about not keeping up, though — the shallow V-shaped hull, moderate rocker, and cutter bow will keep you tracking smoothly. Delta’s new, one-touch hatch design is a nice upgrade — and an added insurance policy for keeping all your gear bone dry.
What I like most about this kayak is the highly accessible day pod hatch, best suited for stashing essentials and personal items.
View at REI
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A TOURING KAYAK
TOURING KAYAKS: A HELPFUL DEFINITION
Touring kayaks are generally longer and more robust than more traditional sit-on-top or sit-in kayaks. All touring kayaks are of the sit-in variety because they offer more straight line speed and better protection from the elements when you’re spending more time in them. Many touring kayaks also have a skeg or rudder that help them track in heavier winds and when you’re dealing with ocean currents. Touring kayaks also generally provide the most storage space of any kayaks you’ll find.
When it comes to the materials used to create touring kayaks these days, there are generally three types you’ll find. They are polyethylene plastic, ABS plastic, and composites. We’ll briefly run through some of the advantages and disadvantages of all three.
This is the most affordable of the three options and it is reasonably resistant to scratches and abrasions. However, it is also the heaviest of the three options and the most susceptible to UV damage. If you buy a polyethylene plastic touring kayak, make sure to store it in a covered location.
ABS plastic is slightly more costly than polyethylene and very similar in terms of durability. It is lighter and offers better UV protection. Many of the distinct two-tone designs you see have been made from two pieces of molded ABS plastic that have been bonded together to create a watertight design.
Kayaks made of composite materials such as fiberglass and carbon fiber are going to be the most expensive options out there. These kayaks greatly outperform their polyethylene and ABS plastic counterparts, but they can be more susceptible to major impacts against rocks or other hard objects.
Every kayak is rated to fit individuals up to a certain weight. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for each kayak’s weight capacity and be careful to consider the weight of all of the gear that you plan on packing when touring. Add your gear weight to your body weight to get an idea of how much weight capacity you need in a touring kayak.
Your choice on length will largely come down to the type of paddling you intend to do. That said, it’s important to know that longer kayaks generally move through the water more efficiently and offer more storage space. Shorter kayaks, on the other hand, are more maneuverable and easier to transport to and from the water.
When choosing the right length of kayak, you don’t need to concern yourself over a difference of a few inches, but a few feet is a different story. If you plan to paddle for longer distances or take your kayak on multi-day expeditions, you’ll want a little extra length. This will make it easier and more efficient to paddle and it will also give you more storage space for gear. But if you’ll only be using your kayak for shorter day trips, you should consider a kayak that’s a bit shorter.
DEPTH AND WIDTH
The depth of a kayak will tell you how much leg and foot room you’ll have while sitting inside. Deeper kayaks tend to be better for larger paddlers and they also offer more storage space. Shallower kayaks, however, tend to be less affected when heavy winds come up.
The width of a kayak plays a large role in its stability. Kayaks with a wider hull are easier to get into and maintain balance when you’re not moving. However, kayaks with narrower hulls can go faster and offer less resistance once you get moving. Hull design, overall, has a large impact on a kayak’s performance.
Cockpit size can determine your level of comfort when sitting inside a touring kayak. Smaller, more snug cockpits will protect you more in adverse conditions and will give you more control of the kayak’s movement. A larger cockpit, on the other hand, will make it much easier to climb in and out of the kayak.
BOW AND STERN
These are the technical terms for the front and back of your kayak, respectively. You can always remember which is which by remembering that we bow FORWARD and a stern look is the one your mother gives you when you might want to take your actions BACK.
A skeg is a fin that drops down underneath your kayak. It’s major function is to keep your kayak from being blown off course when you encounter a strong crosswind. In most touring kayaks, the skeg can be retracted when you’re not paddling in windy conditions.
Tracking fins serve a similar purpose as a skeg, but they cannot be retracted when you don’t really need them. Tracking fins are found on many types of kayaks, but they are most common on inflatable kayaks. They can generally be removed prior to paddling if you’re confident you’re not going to need them.
A rudder will store on the stern deck of your kayak when not in use and then can be dropped down when needed. Unlike a skeg or tracking fins, a rudder is not in a fixed position and can be moved to help you steer your kayak. In most kayaks, the angle of the rudder can be adjusted using foot pedals so that you can more quickly respond to changing environmental conditions.
Hatches give you access to the interior storage compartments where you’ll want to store any gear that you want to keep dry while kayak touring. The type of closures that are utilized to secure these hatches will largely dictate just how watertight they really are.
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