If you’re looking into buying any kind of kayak, it’s important to consider kayak sizing. It can significantly affect the performance and use of your kayak.
Inflatable and hard shell kayaks are broken down into several categories and their typical lengths are given as a quick reference.
- Recreational Kayaks (9-12 feet)
- Whitewater Kayaks (9-12 feet)
- Advanced Recreational Kayaks: (12-14 feet)
- Touring Kayaks (15-18 feet)
- Sea Kayaks (15-18 feet)
Longer = Straighter
The longer your kayak is the straighter it will ride. This is not as important for recreational use in a nearby lake or amiable river. A shorter, wider recreational kayak will adequately suit the occasion.
For camping excursions that require longer water travel or time at sea, a recreational kayak would be impractical, exhausting and unsafe.
Recreational inflatable kayaks are the most popular type of kayak. They are wider and shorter than sea and touring kayaks at between 9 – 12 feet in length. The longest in this category either seat multiple people or are made that way to ensure straighter paddling.
Usually, beginner kayakers start out with one of these models though not only beginners enjoy them. They are the safest and cheapest option.
These two things especially important for individuals just starting out in the hobby. Shorter models also can make turns in the water more quickly and easier than longer ones.
Owners of recreational kayaks that seat two people usually can move their seat if they are operating it by themselves on a particular excursion. This would hold true of kayaks in other categories in most cases too.
Whitewater Kayaks are the same size as recreational kayaks at 9 – 12 feet. However, recreational kayaks are usually wider and deeper. This is due to their different environments and functions.
The extra width makes a kayak slower and harder to turn. Not what you want when your hurtling down the rapids. There are some kayaks that can function as both, but usually you need a specific kayak with some extras (spray skirt, thigh straps, shorter paddles etc, etc)
Cross Over / Advanced Recreational Kayaks
Advanced recreational kayaks are a hybrid between recreational kayaks and touring and sea kayaks. They are of intermediate length (12ft – 14ft) and this means you can handle more challenging conditions, As the name implies “Cross over” fits in-between a recreational and touring kayak.
These kayaks offer a great combination of efficiency and stability. They also have more space since you may need to hold extra gear for an overnight trip.
Touring Kayak Size
A longer kayak, known as a touring kayak, will help you shoot straight and stay on target with less exerted work. They run between 15 and 18 feet in length. The extra length not only gives them more exactness in transit but also more storage.
Touring kayaks are a better choice for long traveling with camping stops in between. An ideal example of where this type of kayak would shine is in the Canadian wilderness. These regions abound with huge mile-long lakes and river systems that are interconnected or can be reached from one to the other via portages.
Inflatable Sea Kayak Size
Inflatable sea kayaks are basically a smaller category of touring kayaks. Their increased size is gives them the ability to handle large waves and swells.
Touring and sea kayaks are narrower than recreational ones. This makes them more prone to tipping. However, those in search of touring kayaks usually aren’t novices, so they know a thing or two about safety and handling.
Longer Means Heavier
It’s important to remember that added length will increase the overall weight of your kayak. This will be most important if you need to manually transport it to the water. Break-down dollies can be attached to one end of the kayak so it can be pulled if needed. This is most helpful when a kayak cannot adequately be backpacked or shoulder carried due to its weight.
Size Does Matter!
In conclusion, the function of your kayak will be the greatest determiner of its size. Figuring out what function you desire in an inflatable kayak will send you in the right direction. Choosing the correct inflatable kayak size will help you handle the boat better and have more fun!