What You Need to Know before Buying a Touring Kayak
In our touring kayak reviews, we introduced you to some of the top-rated models on the market. However, there’s more that you’ll need to know. In our buying guide, we will explore some of the more important topics to help ensure you’re able to make the right decision.
What Is a Touring Kayak?
First, let’s address what may be one of the most basic questions you have – what is a touring kayak, anyway? How do they differ from other types of kayaks out there? Simply put, a touring kayak is designed for longer distance use in a variety of different conditions. They are usually designed to help you carry a lot more gear than other types of kayaks, and do this with both watertight hatches and deck corded storage areas. You’ll find that most of these kayaks also have a wide range of features, such as fishing rod holders, larger cockpits, adjustable seating, and the like. As a note, many of these kayaks are designed for use in both fresh and saltwater.
There are several different materials used to manufacture touring kayak hulls. One of the most common, and perhaps the best suited, is high-density polyethylene, which is what all but one of the kayaks on our list use. The only exception is the Oru folding kayak.
Other materials include polycarbonate plastic, fiberglass, and Kevlar. Note that polycarbonate is second to HDPE in terms of durability and popularity. Fiberglass is used, but is not as well suited as the other two options. Kevlar is an excellent choice, but it can be very expensive. In addition to these, you’ll also find ABS plastic, which is durable but costly, and even carbon fiber kayaks, although these are among the most expensive models on the market.
When it comes to comfort, you’ll find just a handful of factors. The seat is one of the most important. Look for touring kayaks that offer adjustable seating to fit your body perfectly. You should also look for thigh and knee protection/support, and foot braces, which aid in steering and control, but also affect your comfort while on the water. The size of the cockpit will also have an effect on your comfort level. Tight cockpits can be too confining for some, while more open cockpits may feel too “loose” for others.
The size of your kayak includes the length, width, and depth. As a general rule, the larger the kayak, the more stable it will be. However, that stability comes at the cost of maneuverability. Smaller kayaks are easier to handle, but they’re less stable. Ideally, you’ll find the right mix of all three characteristics to suit your skill and experience level, as well as the conditions you will face while on the water. For instance, kayaking a river will require more maneuverability than kayaking on the open ocean. With that being said, longer kayaks deliver the ability to temper turbulence better, and shorter kayaks are affected to a greater degree by rough water.
A touring kayak’s weight affects stability, but it also affects your ability to paddle it through the water, portage around obstacles, and even get it into and out of the water in the first place. Make sure that your kayak can be handled alone in a pinch.
Capacity is a measure of how much total weight your kayak can carry, including you and all your associated gear. Make sure that you plan accordingly. Overloading a kayak is never a good idea. It’s also important to note that simply because your kayak has a certain amount of capacity, that does not mean you can load it however you like. Loading a kayak requires strategy to ensure that you maintain your center of gravity and avoid creating conditions that might make your craft less stable while on the water.
Take a long, hard look at the storage capabilities of the touring kayaks that you’re considering. How many hatches does it offer? How much storage is available within those hatches? Are they watertight? Is there bungee/shock cord storage on the deck? On both decks? How well do the kayak’s storage capabilities meet your anticipated needs? Also consider other storage-related aspects – do you need to carry fishing poles with you? Do you want built-in rod holders to allow you to fish more easily?
Touring kayaks have larger cockpits than recreational kayaks, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. Make sure that the cockpit is wide enough for you to easily get in and out without much trouble.
As you noticed from our touring kayak reviews, not all watercraft come with a tracking system. Some do offer skegs, while others offer skegs and rudders. Which is right for you? Actually, you might be fine without a tracking system at all depending on where you intend to use the kayak. For instance, a rudder is generally only useful in deeper water, such as lakes and the open ocean. Skegs can be useful in more areas, but they are not always required. Most skegs can also be retracted into the kayak in the case of shallower water. Many people actually opt for a touring kayak without any sort of tracking system and prefer to control their watercraft with their paddle.
Ultimately, there is no one kayak that will fit everyone’s needs perfectly. That’s why we assembled a list of the top touring kayaks available on the market. Our list includes a broad cross-section of industry offerings, from long to short kayaks, basic kayaks and more advanced options, all of which have the potential to suit your needs and help you explore the natural world and find the adventure that you crave.