Tell me about kayaks

Right, so I live in the South Carolina low country north of Charleston. I’m near the Santee Canal, Lake Moultrie and endless blackwater swamps.

And I’m thinking of getting a kayak to get some exercise and do some exploring.

Poking around there’s a lot of options. Hard, inflatable, flat bottom and not and so forth.

So I figure I’d ask you find folks what you think about them. Any tips on buying one? I’d like to keep it below $1000 (including roof rack if needed) but otherwise I’m open for something I can tour around recreationally.

Can you narrow it down a bit? What types of water are you going to put it in? Lakes, rapids, what?

Otherwise it’s like saying “Tell me about cars”.

Feh, thought I had up there. Slow moving bodies of water, swamp, slow canals, semi-placid lakes. No ocean or whitewater paddling.

The greatest invention in history* is the Mirage Drive for Hobie Cat kayaks. My friend has one, and it is absolutely incredible. They’re a little over that budget, but just look at the thing. Basically it’s a removable leg-powered paddle system where a bike chain controls the two paddles that propel you from underneath, while steering with your hands by pulling ropes. Approach shallow water, just push forward and they fold up.

*possible exaggeration

I had a lot of fun with my Malibu Two tandem sit-on-top. The disadvantage is the scupper holes that result in you sitting in water. Can be cold and dicey, depending on the water.

It was great for taking friends out and still handled fairly well solo. It also took Class I to III rapids fairly well. If I ever get another, I’d go for the Frenzy. Now that’s a fun little boat, nimble without being beyond the capabiities of newbs.

A lot of kayak stores have beach days where they bring a bunch of models to a local put-in and let people try them out. I’d suggest going to one of those, if possible. I find that sit-on-top kayaks are uncomfortable and give me leg cramps, but lots of people like them. They’re probably intrinsically safer than sit-in kayaks because they’re essentially unsinkable and self-draining. The sit in kayaks are maybe faster and will keep you drier in rough conditions.

Long kayaks will be faster but more cumbersome to turn, especially if you’re exploring little inlets in marshes.

I haven’t tried any of the pedaling kayaks but they look like they’d be excellent for photography purposes. I like to use my sea kayak to try to creep up on various wildlife but it’s hard to be inconspicuous when you’re waving a paddle with two great big white blades on it. (On the other hand, if you’re kayaking in a busy waterway, you want the biggest most fluorescent blades you can find, just so that yahoos in powerboats can see you at a distance.)

Oh, consider weight as a factor as well. SUVs are the very devil to put kayaks on top of, and it’s not a lot of fun dragging a heavy kayak across the rocks at low tide. So lighter is better (but, alas, more expensive as well.)

I have a sit on top for flatwater. I like it but it’s pretty heavy compared to my whitewater boats. Mine is anOcean Kayak Scrambler with two gear hatches for storage. It’s not as fast as a touring boat but it’s easier to use. If you tip in deep water it is possible (with some practice) to climb back aboard and carry on without having to go back to shore to dump the water out. The gear hatches are not totally watertight so stuff that needs to stay dry will need dry bags.

I just went to the site and it looks like they may have dropped the second gear hatch (storage) option. Mine’s well over ten years old.

Take lots of sunscreen if you get a sit on top. You are more exposed to the sun (and cold).

Also, get a paddle with drip guards or you will be dribbling water in your lap.

Tell me about kayaks

Each one is palindromic.

I prefer the sit in kayaks and would probably look at something around 14 feet for the conditions you are looking at paddling in, especially if you are looking at doing some longer day trips or overnights. has a good review section that helped me pick out my kayak (Old Town Cayuga 160). If you are short on space or don’t want the hassle of a roof rack, a friend of mine has been out in an Advanced Elements inflatable and said it was fantastic and I’ve seen very positive reviews.

I’d also recommend getting a kayak cart if you are parking any distance from the put in. I find it makes even a 30 ft trip to the water so much more bearable. You can save your energy for paddling instead of hauling an awkward 50 lbs kayak around.

Lots of people have kayaks in their garage and don’t use them. They are big and can be cumbersome to transport around.

If you are totally new to kayaking I would recommend renting them at first - to both help you decide what kind you want and to ensure it is something you’d like to do. Go to your nearest paddling stores - they often have several demos people can freely check out or rent.

While you’re there, check to see if they have any introductory classes. An hour spent with an instructor showing you the basics like how to properly grip the paddle will probably lead to a more enjoyable experience. You won’t need much help to paddle on a lake though so it is your call.

Kayaking is awesome!

I know a little bit. More canoeing than kayaking but I’ve done both, whitewater and touring. I would get a (relatively) short sit-in sea kayak if you aren’t looking at whitewater. A long boat will track better and carry more stuff but it’s also heavier and more of a pain in the ass to lug around. The smaller it is, the more likely it is that you will toss in on top of the car. And if you aren’t planning on overnight trips, you really don’t need the extra cargo capacity.

For some alternatives, I have these.

Jack’s Plastic Cutthroat.

Fat Cat

They won’t track like a kayak and may be more whitewater oriented than you’re looking for, but you can easily pile 500lbs on either one. They are much lighter than kayaks and can be deflated for compact transportation.

Thanks for the advice, folks. I do want something fairly easy to start with, something that I can haul around and drop in a body of water quickly and simply.

As I said, I have a canal and a giant lake within a few miles of me. I’m figuring that should get me started. Alligators might be a problem in the swamp, though.

I second Good reviews by actual users.

Yeah, but only once. :smiley:

Actually, I see a lot of kayaks in the Okefenokee when we go, but I still prefer my canoe. It has a nice trolling motor!