Feb 28, 2022

What Kayak Types Can You Choose From?

So, you’ve officially fallen in love with the unique beauty and wonder of kayaking. If you’re looking to continue kayaking frequently and in the long run, buying your own kayak may be a practical choice. But as with most things that take commitment, buying a kayak entails significant investment in terms of cost, space, and strategy. In this blog, learn about the different kayaking types to find the best one for you.

man kayaking in Las Vegas, Nevada

Kayaking Types Based on Design

Two primary kayak design categories differ in terms of their functionality, comfort level, and skill level. These two are:

  • Sit-in kayaks: This is an enclosed kayak with a cockpit for the rider to sit in. The efficient positioning of the body inside the boat allows you better leverage and control of the kayak, which will be especially useful when navigating rough waters. Additionally, you can put a spray skirt on the vessel to prevent splashing water from coming in.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks: As the name suggests, this is an open kayak without a cockpit. The vessel is easy to get in and out of and is stable due to its wide design. The lack of a cockpit means that you are likely to get sprayed or splashed, but it's equipped with scupper holes to drain out the water. 

Kayaking Types Based on Function

A kayak’s design impacts when, where, and how it should be used. These are some common kayaking types and their purpose:

  • Day touring kayak – This is a versatile and efficient kayak that tracks straight and is controllable in rough waters. It comes in both sit-in and sit-on-top forms and is shorter than a sea kayak (more on this type later), averaging 18 feet long. This vessel is most suitable for kayaking beginners who want to kayak for longer, as in a day tour. But if you’re looking for something more multi-purpose for other activities, it might not be the best for you.
  • Touring kayaks – This is a long kayak, typically 12 feet long or longer, built for efficient tracking and typically outfitted with a skeg or rudder to manage currents and wind. It's a sit-in kayak designed with a smaller cockpit, which may be fitted with thigh braces that you can leverage to keep the kayak upright. But because it’s a long and narrow vessel, a touring kayak can be challenging to store.
  • Recreational kayaks – This is a sit-in kayak with a large cockpit opening. It’s shorter than a touring kayak, averaging 10 feet or shorter, making it easy to transport and store. It’s designed for stability and steerability, and it comes in both sit-in and sit-on-top forms. Recreational kayaks are ideal for calm waters like flatwater streams and lakes. But it’s not as good at tracking, or maintaining a straight course, and it struggles in rough waters.
  • Tandem kayaks – This is a two-seater kayak that comes in both sit-in and sit-on-top forms. It’s a practical choice for those who frequently kayak with a partner or make kayaking a family activity. It can also be used to kayak with someone of a different skill level – for beginners who want to learn from experienced kayakers. However, because it’s meant to accommodate two riders, it’s extremely heavy and can be difficult to transport.


  • Sea kayaks – This is a sit-in kayak that is built with a high rocker and narrow C-shaped front to better maneuver waves and rough waters. It’s built for easy control, efficient tracking, and minimizes the likelihood of getting swamped by water. However, it’s not as stable on flat water.
  • Folding kayaks – This easy-to-stow option is a practical choice for those who live in small spaces, frequently travel, or plan to travel and kayak in a remote location. It comes in sit-on-top and sit-in forms, lightweight enough to be transported easily, and can conveniently be stored away. The design is inspired by the minimalist skin-on-frame boats in Greenlandic and Inuit cultures. It’s less robust than typical hard-shell kayaks and offers less storage space during a kayak ride, as it normally doesn’t come with internal bulkheads.
  • Pedal-powered kayaks – This kayak is equipped with pedals that push or move the tools that propel the vessel forward. It's steered using a hand-operated rudder and designed wide for stability. There are two types of pedal-powered kayaks – pedal-powered propellers and pedal-powered flippers. But keep in mind that it's equipped with props or fins underneath the kayak, so be careful when navigating shallow waters. Pedaling also restricts you from making quick turns or handling rough waters.
  • Inflatable kayaks – Similar to a foldable kayak, this vessel design is also a space-saver. A purely recreational inflatable kayak isn’t built for speed but is suitable for playing close to shore. These are typically made from tough rubberized nylon and can be inflated with an electric pump or foot pump. Be careful when navigating obstacles as they may cause holes that are known to be difficult to patch up.
  • Whitewater kayaks – There are various kayaking types for whitewater. Some examples of these are the short but maneuverable Playboat, the long and narrow Creekboat, the river-friendly River Runner, whitewater-amateur-friendly Inflatable Whitewater Kayak, and the old school Long Boat.
man and woman kayaking Hoover Dam in Las Vegas, Nevad

Ready to jump in and experience the wonders of kayaking? Doing in-depth research is important, but experience is still the best teacher. To find the best kayak type for your skill level and goals, talk to a veteran kayak guide. Equipped with first-hand experience and practical knowledge, they can help you make informed and realistic decisions so that you can make the most of your kayak. 

With our team of experienced and licensed kayak guides, Evolution Expeditions is happy to show you Las Vegas from a different point of view and share extensive knowledge about kayaking. Contact us today and book your guided kayak tour!

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