The Best Kayaks for Families of 2019

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Kayaking is a fun and safe way for whole families to enjoy summer activities and water sports. It's an activity that is enjoyable and healthy, and lets you build special memories together. But not all kayaks are good for the whole family, so it's important to look for a kayak with enough space and the right features to be safe and pleasant for everyone. The key features we looked for in making our selections were: stability, ease of use, comfort, stability, transportability, and of course safety. Without further ado, here are our top picks for the best kayaks for families.

Comparison Chart

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, Yellow, 12 Feet
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak, 15', Red
Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles
Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Double Kayak, Cloud, 15 Feet 3 Inches
Lifetime 90118 Manta Tandem Sit on Top Kayak with Paddles and Backrests, 10 Feet, Yellow
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, Yellow, 12 Feet
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak, 15', Red
Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles
Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Double Kayak, Cloud, 15 Feet 3 Inches
Lifetime 90118 Manta Tandem Sit on Top Kayak with Paddles and Backrests, 10 Feet, Yellow
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, Yellow, 12 Feet
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, Yellow, 12 Feet
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak, 15', Red
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak, 15', Red
Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles
Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles
Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Double Kayak, Cloud, 15 Feet 3 Inches
Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Double Kayak, Cloud, 15 Feet 3 Inches
Lifetime 90118 Manta Tandem Sit on Top Kayak with Paddles and Backrests, 10 Feet, Yellow
Lifetime 90118 Manta Tandem Sit on Top Kayak with Paddles and Backrests, 10 Feet, Yellow

Best Kayaks for Families Reviewed

1. ​Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak 

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak, Yellow, 12 Feet

Review

The Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem Kayak can hold up to 425 pounds, and has plenty of room for two adults and a child. It has three paddling positions so that it can be used by one, two, or three people at the same time. Overlapping molded-in foot wells allow everyone to use the kayak in comfort and safety. The two comfort-plus seats, molded-in handles, and side carry handles provide extra comfort and versatility, no matter how long or short your legs may be.

Even better, the design of the hull and deck of the Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem Kayak are designed for easy stacking, for compact storage and transportation if you need more than one for a growing family. It comes in three colors: Yellow, Envy, and a two-tone Sunrise color.

It is more stable and versatile than other sit-on-top kayaks and has bow and stern carry handles, gear straps, and a skid plate so everything stays easy, safe, and secure. Ocean Kayaks are known for their durability, and the 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem will last for years with proper care.

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PROS

  • ​Easily usable by one, two, or three people with multiple paddle configuration options
  • ​Plenty of room for two adults and a child or pet
  • Hull design allows for easy stacking
  • Has bow and stern carry handles, gear straps, and a skid plate
  • Excellent handling and stability
  • ​Innovative overlapping foot wells provide good stability and leg room

CONS

  • ​At 62 pounds, it is pretty heavy to transport, but then, it is a large, high-capacity kayak

2. ​Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak 

ADVANCED ELEMENTS AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak, 15', Red

Review

For a tandem kayak without all the weight, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak is an inflatable kayak with a capacity of up to 550 pounds. It collapses down into a bag for the easiest transport possible, but, when inflated, the built-in aluminum ribs define the bow and stern for improved tracking. Three layers of material provide sturdy puncture resistance for safety, and it has three paddle positions for solo or tandem kayaking.

When folded, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak weighs 52 pounds and is just 35 x 21 x 12 inches. It is pre-assembled, so you just unfold it, inflate it, and attach the supportive, adjustable padded seats. It has an integrated pressure relief valve, molded low-profile rubber handles, reinforced seams in rip-stop fabric, a skeg tracking fin, and six chambers. D-ring tie-downs and deck lacing provide easy options for gear and transporting the kayak.

For an additional purchase, you can take advantage of AdvancedFrame's different deck configurations and make the most of this convertible kayak, so you can have the open, closed, or tandem decks that suit you best.

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PROS

  • ​Lightweight and portable
  • ​Three seat configurations
  • ​Seat backs are comfortable and adjustable
  • Holds up to 550 pounds

CONS

  • ​Can be time-consuming to deflate, clean, and dry out. The fabric is more difficult to dry and maintain than a hardshell kayak
  • ​It can be difficult to try to get it back into the case, and the action of putting it into and taking it out of the case can mis-set the aluminum ribs, which need to be re-positioned and fiddled with a bit before the next use

​3. ​Sea Eagle Inflatable Sport Kayak

Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles

Review

An inflatable kayak is a great option for anyone who loves to kayak, but doesn’t have the space to store a solid kayak. Even though this kayak can easily hold multiple people, it only weighs 26 pounds, which makes it perfect for a single person to handle on their own without a lot of difficulty.

This kayak comes as part of a set, which is great for anyone who doesn’t have kayaking accessories. It ships with two paddles, two removable seats, a carry bag, and a foot pump. Thanks to the five valves designed for both inflation and deflation, the foot pump can easily pump up this kayak in a short period of time, allowing you to get out on the water as fast as possible.

The hull is designed to resist the corrosive effects of saltwater, which makes this a great kayak not only for use in rivers and lakes, but out on the ocean, as well. The hull is made from PolyKrylar, which can also resist puncture and damage from dogs getting in and out of the kayak. Kayakers can finally bring their furry friend along with them without worrying about nails puncturing the hull.

The grab line on the bow and stern make it easy for a single person to control the kayak and get it in and out of the water. Additionally, it boasts a self-bailing drain valve, making it easy to keep water out of the kayak in choppy or rough conditions.

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PROS

  • ​​650-pound capacity is great for taking up to three people out at a time
  • ​​The two skegs on the bottom ensure great speed and tracking
  • ​Designed to withstand up to class III whitewater rapids without problems

CONS

  • ​​Not as stable in choppy waters

​4. ​Old Town Canoes and Kayaks Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Double Kayak

Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Double Kayak, Cloud, 15 Feet 3 Inches

Review - A Premium Kayak for Families

One of the main benefits of opting for this durable kayak is its low weight, which allows even an average user to easily paddle and control the kayak without problems. Thanks to the great shape of the kayak, it easily tracks and can be paddled quickly, allowing for a lot of speed in the water.

It’s much more rigid than other kayaks on the market, but the seats are still incredibly comfortable. Thanks to the thigh pads in the kayak, which offer easy-grip and security, users will feel like they have complete control when paddling. Additionally, the stable hull ensures that the kayak doesn’t feel flimsy or like it will tip, resulting in a responsive kayak that is easy to maneuver through tight spaces in the water.

The 475-pound load capacity means that not only can two people easily fit in the kayak, but that they can bring any of their gear with them without worrying about the kayak sinking or tipping. The non-confining openings are great for kayakers who want a little extra freedom and movement when on the water.

There is a removable child seat that can easily be replaced when a younger child is going to be joining an adult in the kayak. The tandem design allows the adult to easily control the kayak while keeping an eye on the child and ensuring that they don’t tip or lean over in the kayak.

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PROS

  • ​​Contoured poly seats are designed to be very comfortable for long periods of time
  • ​​Included features, such as cup holders and glove box hatch, make long trips enjoyable
  • ​Three layers of polyethylene foam ensure a stable and durable hull

CONS

  • ​​Shallow design is great for saving energy, but is difficult for larger or taller users to ride in

​5. ​Lifetime 10 Foot, Two Person Tandem Sit-on Kayak with Padded Backrests 

Lifetime 90118 Manta Tandem Sit on Top Kayak with Paddles and Backrests, 10 Feet, Yellow

Review 

The Lifetime 10 Foot, Two Person Tandem Sit-on Kayak is a great choice for a small family. Although it's just 10 feet long, it holds an impressive 500 pounds, and can be used singly or tandem. It has a lightweight design with molded front, and rear carry handles for easy transport. The built-in soft backrests support you in comfort, and the high and dry seating keeps you dry. The tunnel hull design provides excellent stability and tracking, and it's almost impossible to tip over.

It comes in yellow or green, and two 2-piece sports paddles are included with the kayak. While it may not be as fast or as sleek as many other kayaks on the market, that's not what you get this kayak for. You get it because it's a safe well constructed kayak that can easily be used by the whole family. If you're looking for safety and stability, this is a top kayak.

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PROS

  • ​Excellent for use with small children or pets; the non-tip design provides extra stability
  • ​Upturned bow manages waves easily
  • Comes with oars included
  • ​Versatile seating options for solo or tandem kayaking
  • Holds up to 500 pounds

CONS

  • ​Not as fast as other kayaks
  • ​Not as sleek as other kayaks

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have the desire to load up your kayaks and spend the day at your favorite watering hole with friends and family? As kayaking takes off as one of the more popular outdoor activities, many families are taking on this adventure. Kayaks can be seen in the different bodies of water in communities all around, whether they are taking an afternoon stroll on the river or taking on the rougher waters downstream. Local and state parks are often renting out kayak tours for locals and visitors to introduce them to the watercraft and the benefit it provides on the water. 

Because of this excessive presence, many of these families have decided to seek out their own kayaks for their fresh and saltwater adventures. These adventures create a bonding experience between those taking on the water and getting essential exercise, as well. Kayaks can come in a variety of sizes and In order to take that next step and purchase a family kayak, it is important to know exactly what you are looking for in a kayak. 

What Are The Most Common Types Of Kayaks?

A kayak can be used for a number of different reasons. Whether it is just for a leisure ride on the river, racing, or tackling rapids, the design of the kayak is critical to how it will be used. 

  • Whitewater Kayaks
  • Touring Kayaks
  • Recreational Kayaks

For the families that are just getting into kayaking, and taking things at a beginner level, the recreational kayaks are the most recommended options. These kayaks are designed to assist those who are learning to maneuver this type of watercraft. 

The touring kayaks are designed for the longer trips where kayakers will engage the wilderness for several hours at a time, usually on river tours. For those who like to spend long afternoons on the water, this may be the right kayak to consider. 

The whitewater kayaks are often reserved for those who are the most experienced on the water. These kayaks have a design that allows kayakers to manipulate the vessel to fit their direction on rough and calm waters. Named after whitewater rapids found in various rivers, these have a flat bottom and designed to deter waves from the rapids. 

Why Do Kayaks Have Different Designs?

The answer is specifically based upon the experience of the kayaker. For example, the design of the whitewater kayaks is not appropriate for a wilderness tour. The whitewater kayak is not designed to stay in a straight line like touring kayaks. When a kayak is longer in design, it is meant to be directed in a straight line consistently, which aligns with the purpose of the touring kayak. These kayaks are also much harder to turn, so taking them on a rapids adventure may prove to be very difficult and unpleasant. 

The length of a kayak is important for the kayaker. For those who are just starting out, the longer the kayak, the easier they are to paddle and can reach distances faster, as they pick up speed traveling in a straight line. They are also able to carry more equipment. Those who enjoy fishing while on their kayaks tend to favor those with longer designs due to their performance, balance, and stability in the calming waters.

The wider a kayak is, the easier it is to turn on the water. However, they are harder to keep in a straight line, requiring more paddling from the kayaker. They are easier to maneuver in faster water speeds, which is why they are found more commonly on whitewater rapids tours. 

Should I Purchase A Solo or Tandem Kayak?

A solo kayak includes room for one person, while a tandem can either hold two adults or one adult and two small children. Families often migrate immediately to the tandem option as a way to kayak with their spouse or children. It is important to remember that even as a family, a tandem kayak is much longer than a solo kayak, and is much more difficult to turn and maneuver. Should the tandem kayak be used for an adult and two children, the adult should be physically able to paddle more profusely in tandem than in a solo kayak as it will require constant paddling. 

Solo kayaks are much easier to paddle and manage on the water, so many families find themselves purchasing several solo kayaks for their family. For families that are just beginning, solo kayaks are often encouraged. They allow you and your spouse to learn the basics of paddling, as well as build your stamina for the sport.

Is There A Size Difference In Kayaks?

Before your family makes that purchase in a kayak or kayaks, make sure that you are buying the appropriate size kayak. Once you have decided on solo, tandem, or both, depending on the size of your family, you should ensure that you are comfortable. Kayaks can come in both youth and adult sizes. Depending on the type of kayak, the weight limits can vary and should be considered prior to purchasing. These sizes only have enough room for so much equipment and the kayaker, so it is important to purchase them with gear and body in mind. 

Are All Kayaks Symmetrical?

No. However, for those beginning to kayak, it is very important to begin with a symmetrical kayak. This is essential to the balance and sustainability of the kayak, that each vessel be symmetrical from the front end to the back end. Even in tandem kayaks, the hulls are equal in size at each end, with the seats being centered. If the paddler is centered in the kayak, they have the ability to properly manage the watercraft and maneuver it than if they were sitting farther back or closer to the front. This symmetry is why those who are paddling on tandem kayaks should keep their paddling in sync and balanced in order to paddle straight ahead. The asymmetrical kayaks have the ability to waver on the water and require a more experienced paddler. 

​The Verdict

When kayaking with kids and pets, safety is the most important thing. For that reason, our No. 1 recommendation for those with small children and young pets is the Lifetime 10 Foot Tandem Sit-On Kayak. It isn't as fast or sleek as other kayaks and doesn't always track well, and some don't like the exaggerated “banana boat” shape, but it's virtually impossible to tip over and extremely safe for the whole family. It's a great way to have fun, relaxed, safe water outings, even with young children, and ensure that everyone stays safe on the water.

For those with older children or pets, the Ocean Kayak Malibu Tandem is also a great choice. It has a good weight rating, excellent handling, and is perfect for two adults and a child or a pet, even if you want to go ocean kayaking and handle some waves. Kayaking is a spectacular family-friendly activity, whether it's just exploring and playing, or fishing and relaxing, and these kayaks are a great way to do it together, and in safety.

Not all kayaks are good options for the whole family; it\'s important to look for a kayak with enough space and the features to be safe and pleasant for everyone. #kayaking #kayakingessentials

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