Best Recreational Kayak in 2020 [Our Reviews & Comparisons]

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Time on the water is the paradigm of an idyllic and relaxing vacation for a reason. Distractions and troubles get left on the shore or dock as you paddle out into a different world, enjoying the sun, waves, and a bit of healthy exertion.

Although there are many to choose from, you will be hard-pressed to find a better maritime occupation than kayaking. On top of the usual enjoyment of a boating trip, a kayak gives nearly unmatched agility and the chance for a crew of only one or two people, allowing for independent adventure or some friendly competition.

Kayaks tend to be relatively easy to control, too. Smaller children can be trusted with a kayak more readily than a canoe or rowboat, giving the whole family a chance to join in the fun.

To make the most of these all-too-rare moments of leisure, you need a quality kayak under you. An inferior model can not only spoil your day, but might actually be dangerous to use. A few moments spent choosing the right one can spare a lot of pain and trouble later on.

As with many sporting goods, there is a healthy range of kayaks to choose from. We’ve narrowed it down to the five best to help you get underway.

Our Best Product Reviews and Comparisons

IMAGE PRODUCT
EDITOR’S CHOICE 1. Old Town Vapor 12XT

  • Cup holder
  • Good stability
  • Waterproof cargo hatch
  • Roomy cockpit
  • Padded seat and leg support
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RUNNER UP 2. Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100

  • Multiple carry handles
  • Plenty of cargo spaces and options
  • Collapsible seat back
  • Paddle included
  • Four fishing pole holders
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3. Sun Dolphin Aruba

  • High durability
  • Waterproof carrier compartment
  • Carrying handles
  • Drink holder
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4. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

  • Patented Orbix waterproof storage compartment
  • Wilderness Systems unique dashboard keeps useful items ready
  • Air-ride seat is easily adjustable to different sizes and shapes of user
  • Integrated skid plate
  • Included fiberglass paddle is shaped for maximum efficiency
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5. Lifetime Tandem

  • Long warranty period
  • Seats two comfortably and can hold a third
  • Fishing pole mounts
  • Two paddles included
  • Superior stability and tracking
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1.Old Town Vapor 12XT

Product Highlights

This kayak is designed larger than most with the intention of being a stable platform for any person or pastime on the water.

Features

  • 12’ long
  • 375lb capacity
  • Open sit-in cockpit
  • Padded back rest and thigh braces

What We Like About Old Town Vapor 12XT

This kayak’s extra length and width make for a smooth and stable ride, whether just out for a cruise or adding a second hobby like fishing or birdwatching.

What We Don’t Like About Old Town Vapor 12XT

The larger dimensions make this kayak difficult to maneuver and harder to fit through a tight reef or rock formations.

PROS

  • Cup holder
  • Good stability
  • Waterproof cargo hatch
  • Roomy cockpit
  • Padded seat and leg support

CONS

  • Low agility
  • Paddle not included.

2.Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100

Product Highlights

A nimble recreational kayak meant to be your key to the open water.

Features

  • 10 feet long
  • 375lb capacity
  • Open deck and framed seat
  • Four accessory mounts

What We Like About Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100

Between the bungee rigging, fishing pole mounts, cargo hatches, and wide open deck, this kayak can carry everything you need for a full day of adventure.

What We Don’t Like About Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100

The kayak’s already tight 10 feet are further compressed by the deck rigging and cargo hatches, making this somewhat cramped for larger users.

PROS

  • Multiple carry handles
  • Plenty of cargo spaces and options
  • Collapsible seat back
  • Paddle included
  • Four fishing pole holders

CONS

  • Less room than other kayaks
  • Handles and rigging are not as sturdy as they could be

3.Sun Dolphin Aruba

Product Highlights

Anyone who has looked into getting a kayak for any purpose has probably heard of the Sun Dolphin line, featuring exceptional durability and affordable prices.

Features

  • 10 feet long
  • Weighs 40lb
  • Sit-inside closed cockpit
  • 300lb weight capacity

What We Like About Sun Dolphin Aruba

As usual with Sun Dolphin kayaks, the hull is built of thicker and tougher materials than usual to make sure this craft can take the wear and tear in storage and in use.

What We Don’t Like About Sun Dolphin Aruba

A small, closed cockpit does not leave much room for adjusting the seats and thigh pads.

PROS

  • High durability
  • Waterproof carrier compartment
  • Carrying handles
  • Drink holder

CONS

  • Hard to adjust
  • Requires additional arrangements to ship

4.Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

Product Highlights

This kayak is packed with the most modern features, keeping you comfortable and connected during your getaway.

Features

  • 12’ from prow to stern
  • 325lb capacity
  • 2’5” wide
  • Open, sit inside cockpit

What We Like About Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

What sets this kayak apart is the dashboard, which includes a waterproof device mount, charging system, drink holder, and more to keep everything you need near to hand.

What We Don’t Like About Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

The dashboard does not come fully assembled, and the batteries for the charging array are sold separately.

PROS

  • Patented Orbix waterproof storage compartment
  • Wilderness Systems unique dashboard keeps useful items ready
  • Air-ride seat is easily adjustable to different sizes and shapes of user
  • Integrated skid plate
  • Included fiberglass paddle is shaped for maximum efficiency

CONS

  • Dashboard does not come ready to use
  • Kayak can be confusing for novices

5.Lifetime Tandem

Product Highlights

A simple and sturdy kayak that’s perfect for enjoying the water with coworkers, family, or even a pet.

Features

  • 10 feet long
  • Seats three
  • Five-year manufacturer’s warranty

What We Like About Lifetime Tandem

This kayak is unusually robust, supporting double the weight of similar models and built to hold up to three passengers.

What We Don’t Like About Lifetime Tandem

The kayak weighs 60lb, far heavier than most recreational models.

PROS

  • Long warranty period
  • Seats two comfortably and can hold a third
  • Fishing pole mounts
  • Two paddles included
  • Superior stability and tracking

CONS

  • Unusually heavy for a kayak
  • Relatively little storage space, especially if using two seats

Final Verdict

Any of these kayaks makes a great choice to get into a fun and refreshing sport. Make sure to pick one suited to your skill level and choice of vacation spot to avoid malfunction or accidents.

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