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The Best Kayaks for Paddling, Fishing, and Camping in 2021

Rivers, lakes, and oceans have long been places we humans flock to for peace and solitude. The quiet waves lapping on the shore, the shorebirds softly singing in the distance, and the sun sparkling off the ripples in the water — if only we could explore the nooks and crannies of the world’s shorelines without spending a fortune.

Kayaks are the perfect craft for water-based exploration. Small, light, and maneuverable, kayaks are easy to launch from just about anywhere, including shores, docks, and boat ramps. Their draft (the height of the boat that protrudes below the surface) is mere inches, so you can paddle right up to caves or mangroves in the shallowest water. Even catching your dinner with a crab trap or fishing rod is easy from the latest kayaks. We’ve rounded up a few of the latest and greatest so you can start planning your next ocean and lake adventures.

Oru Kayak Bay ST

The Oru Kayak Bay ST is a versatile and portable kayak that is suitable for both beginners and pros alike. Whether you’re using this kayak for day trips or camping adventures, it is built to perform at its best. This kayak has an array of key features that make it stand out. For one, the fairing handles provide a comfortable grip which makes it easier to pull it in or out of the water. Next, this kayak has an adjustable and padded backrest and comfortable seat pad which makes it perfect for longer excursions. Another selling point of the Bay ST is its six zipper channels which make assembly time faster and easier. If you’re looking for a lightweight kayak you can bring to your trips, you’ll get your money’s worth with the Bay ST.

Lifetime Hydros Sit-on-Top Kayak

If recreational ocean paddling is more your speed, you will love the Lifetime Hydros Sit-on-Top Kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks are specially designed for both fitness and adventure purposes. This Lifetime kayak comes with a paddle and is easy to maneuver. It also has a durable design and a rugged, UV-protected high-density polyethylene hull. This makes it perfect to use for years to come. Plus, it comes with a tankwell storage, where you can keep a few essentials like a dry bag or small cooler.

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

This inflatable kayak is a bestseller that is perfect for any outdoor adventure. If you’re wary of purchasing an inflatable kayak, know that Intex is a trusted brand with durable products in their lineup. This kayak is made of durable welded material that provides safety in the water. The cockpit also gives added comfort and great space to anyone who uses this kayak. The Boston valves also make it easier to inflate or deflate for less time spent on assembling and disassembling.

Perception Pescador Pro 12

If you’re looking for a kayak that’s more spacious, the Perception Pescador Pro 12 is one of the best to consider. At 12 feet, it’s the perfect kayak for taller passengers who need a little more legroom. Aside from the large space, this kayak has a removable seat that you can use while sitting by the campfire or hanging out in the tent. The is also adjustable, so it can be lowered for relaxed paddling or raised for better casting. More space means better storage capacity, so you can store your kayak fishing gear for a hassle-free time fishing. You can be reassured that you can store complete gear on this kayak.

Oru Inlet Kayak

Kayaks are big and most take up a lot of room. Why can’t we just fold them up like origami paper? With the Oru Inlet kayak, you can. The Inlet is made from custom corrugated plastic that folds down from an entire kayak to the size of a large briefcase. It weighs just 20 pounds for a 10-foot long kayak that can hold 275 pounds. If you’re wondering about the durability of the folds, the company has tested it to 20,000 folds. That works out to 27 years of folding and unfolding for to-go paddling every single day. All packed up, the boat is 42 inches by 18 inches by 10 inches and has a handle on top. Oru also sells a specially designed backpack with a pocket for a folding paddle, shoes or a water bottle and straps for a life jacket or other gear.

Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 120

Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot 120

The Sportsman AutoPilot 120 from Old Town gives you ultimate control while kayak fishing and you don’t even have to paddle. The small electric motor tucked into the bow is controlled via remote or an app on your phone. Using GPS and Spot-Lock technology, the remote can keep you on the exact same spot to fish regardless of wind or current. No need for a sand spear. The Textilene seat is large and comfortable, sitting higher on the boat frame so you can target your catch better. Plus, the 37-inch-wide hull is stable enough to hold multiple rods with a gear crate in the back, and you can stand up for fishing.

Delta 15.5GT

For kayak touring multiple days, you’ll need a bit more space. The Delta 15.5GT is a generous 15 feet long and 24 inches wide. Standard outdoor backpacks have around 60 liters of space inside, but the 15.5GT Kayak boasts a whopping 238 liters of space for plenty of gear and food on your trip. You may not be able to jam the kitchen sink in there, but a small barbecue could certainly fit. Delta kayaks are made with thermoformed plastic which is injected into a mold. Compared to the standard rotomolded plastic kayaks which can be very heavy, thermoformed boats are considerably lighter while maintaining their bomber durability. You probably won’t want to run your shiny new boat up on the rocks on shore but with thermoformed plastic, you could.

Perception Access 9.5

Perception Access 9.5

Sometimes you just need a smaller boat for tooling around the lake in calm waters. The Perception Access is just 9.5 feet long and made from a single piece of molded plastic. That means no extra parts to lose or malfunction on this one. The seat, footrests, and handles are molded right into the shell of the boat. The rotomolded plastic is near-bombproof and can easily take decades of bashing around on the shore with new paddlers or kids. Bungees on the front and pack hold some gear for a day of paddling. A small hatch in the back keeps gear dry and twin rod holders hold the tools you need to catch dinner.

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

Ocean Kayak - Malibu Two

Paddling by yourself can get lonely. A double kayak like the Malibu Two by Ocean seats two people for twice the fun and paddling power. The seats adjust when your back is getting tired, and one of the seats can be repositioned to the middle for when you’re out solo. Hatches in front of each seat hold wallets and phones to keep them dry. Straps at the bow, center, and stern help hold your lunch bag and extra clothes in the boat. Just remember to sit in the back so the person in the front never knows you’re not paddling.

Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Kayak

Rather than folding like the Oru Inlet, the Advanced Frame kayak from Advanced Elements inflates. Just unpack, unroll, and inflate. Aluminum ribs in the bow and stern help maintain the structure and rigidity. An inflatable ridge around the cockpit lets you attach a spray skirt to keep the water out on longer paddles. With a little bit of storage in the bow and stern, you can even stow enough gear for an overnight trip. When you’re done, deflate, roll it up, and tuck it in your closet.

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