I’ve always enjoyed recreational kayaking, but there’s something that stands out about getting into a touring kayak for a big adventure, even as I get older.
When you are experienced and facing the elements, the size, power, and space of a touring kayak take your abilities to the next level.
If you are serious about kayaking, you’ll quickly grow to appreciate your choice to invest in a touring kayak.
Below, we’ll take a look at the major differences between touring kayaks and your standard recreational kayaks, the types of challenges you can tackle with a touring kayak, and important safety guidelines to follow.
Throughout my life, the pleasure of piloting a touring kayak has kept me heading to my favorite summer vacation spots as often as possible.
Differences between Recreational and Touring Kayaks
Every kayak has its purpose, but it’s worth it to understand the difference between these two key kayak types so you know what you’re getting into.
Recreational kayaks are a common purchase for beginner kayakers or for those who are on a tighter budget. They have their place, particularly for short excursions in calmer waters, but they are generally constructed of cheaper materials that make them less durable. They are also wider than most touring kayaks, which adds some stability but also slows them down and leaves them more vulnerable to winds and currents. In terms of length, recreational kayaks are a bit shorter, which has some advantages and disadvantages. It does make them easier to turn, but also harder to paddle in a straight line. Of course, it also means less storage room available for longer trips.
Touring kayaks will typically draw the eyes of more serious kayakers or people looking to upgrade from a recreational kayak. In their design, touring kayaks aim to let paddlers go faster while traveling long distances. They are longer, which adds good tracking but can make them harder to turn. They are also more narrow than recreational kayaks, which lets them cut through the water at faster speeds. The hull is also designed to increase speed, but it can make touring kayaks challenging to stabilize for beginners. You’ll have more room on a touring kayak for storing items with additional compartments like the multiple dry hatches, which are perfect for long trips. To summarize, touring kayaks go faster, let you travel further with less effort, are better constructed, and allow more storage.
Where Can You Paddle with a Touring Kayak?
The short answer is:
A whole lot of places!
Because touring kayaks are so much more versatile than recreational kayaks, there are tons of spots you can use them in.
While a recreational kayak is best used in calm waters, your touring kayak can go from lake to bay, to river with no problems—it’s a maneuverable vehicle that is well-suited in varied scenarios.
The one place where you might want a different kayak is on the open ocean. Sea kayaks are specially designed for ocean currents, though in actuality they aren’t that much different in design from touring kayaks.
In any case, the flexibility offered by touring kayaks means that you can really go explore your surroundings, and you can do so in different environments because almost all touring kayaks use a sit-in style of seating to protect your body.
You’ll be speedy as you cover long distances with ease, and you’ll have the storage to keep extra cargo. If you want to go camping for a few days along with kayaking, it’s another awesome option available with a touring kayak.
Perhaps that’s why they call it that. You’ll be touring the lakes and rivers you ride along with a steady poise. It’s a freedom that everyone should get to experience at some point.
Understand how to be Safe While You Paddle
Because you’ll have the ability to venture into some rougher waters on a touring kayak, it’s really important to understand how to be safe at all times. Overconfidence and inexperience are not uncommon among novices, and unfortunately, those two traits can have dangerous consequences.
Always be smart and honest with yourself about your skill level when choosing appropriate kayaking locations.
Here’s something you can do before you ever head into rough waters:
- Practice recovery techniques, whichever ones you know, in calmer waters until you’ve mastered them. The ultimate recovery technique is rolling, as it flips a capsized kayak right side up, but you’ll need to be taught that maneuver through a course or an instructor.
- If you can’t roll, you’ll have to exit the kayak if it capsizes. You can re-enter it from the water if you have the help of another experienced kayaker, though you should also take a course to learn this technique.
- It’s all about being honest with your abilities. If you don’t have knowledge of these recoveries, you can make sure you always paddle close to the shore, so you can easily swim to safety in case of an emergency.
- Depending on your environment, you should wear a wetsuit for colder waters as hypothermia can come on quick in the case of a capsize.
- There are paddle floats, bilge pumps, kayak hatches, and other safety equipment that can all help to keep water out of a capsized kayak.
- By being prepared and having a plan at all times, you can keep yourself and others safe while you enjoy kayaking at your skill level.
Reviews of Best Touring Kayaks
1. Eddyline Skylark Kayak
Providing a balanced, beginner-focused entry into the world of touring kayaks, the Eddyline Skylark is no slouch on quality or features. It’s an upscale kayak in look and design, with a glossy finish thanks to thermoformed Carbonlite 2000 technology. What makes this kayak so intriguing is how it combines a shorter length (12’) that’s more like a recreational kayak with the compartments, seating room, and performance of a touring kayak.
You’ll appreciate the stability, ease of turning, and comfortable speed you can get on this kayak. For a shorter kayak, it has good tracking as well. You can stuff a whole bunch of supplies in the compartments for a longer trip or perhaps overnight camping. It’s easy to paddle, and a joy to take out on the waters. It’s lightweight, which is a bonus when it comes to transportation. While it won’t cruise at quite the speeds of longer touring kayaks, the Eddyline does so many things well for beginner to intermediate kayakers looking to make an upgrade.
- Upscale appearance and design choices
- Turning advantages of shorter kayaks with the features you expect in a touring kayak
- Lightweight for easier transporting
- Respectable speed and tracking, but not as good as longer touring kayaks
2. Dagger Stratos 14.5 Kayak 2018
The 14’6” Dagger Stratos Kayak is a touring kayak for those whose preference is more towards performance. From the hull shape to the adjustable skeg, the Dagger Stratos gives you the tools to tame it through waters calm or choppy. Stability is strong, as the kayak promises to stay upright through tough waters. While you speedily cut through the currents, the Dagger also boasts robust storage options.
From the bow and stern dry hatches to the bungee and cockpit aft, the Dagger Stratos is well-equipped to store many days of supplies on longer journeys. The Dagger Stratos has a compelling seating arrangement, with a design that aims to merge the performance advantages of whitewater kayak seats with the foam comfort of touring seats. There’s a lot to like on the Dagger Stratos 14.5 Kayak.
- Cuts through waters with ease
- Huge amount of storage space
- High performing and comfortable seating
- Tracking is good, not great
3. Riot Kayaks Brittany Flatwater Touring Kayak
If you prefer your touring kayaks to have the benefits of being long and sturdy, this Riot Kayak should be right up your alley. While it shines more in flat water, the huge 16’5” length gives it excellent tracking, speed, and efficiency once you get up to speed. You’ll cover long distances with few problems when you head out on this kayak. With a retractable skeg and a rudder system, you’ll have more control over steering this giant vehicle, which is pretty important when dealing with this size.
The British style stands out and makes it a looker, but again it’s the details that make it noteworthy. There’s plenty of storage space, safety features, and a custom-fit seating system to round out the package. The Riot Kayak is a long kayak that is built for long days on the water.
- 16’5” length makes it fly and track well
- Skeg and rudder system for more control
- Many useful additions on board including storage and safety
- Longer, heavier kayak makes it somewhat more difficult to transport
4. Perception Kayak Carolina
The Perception Kayak Carolina will fuel your adventurous side with its bold look, padded comfort and set of practical features. The kayak starts with a V-shaped hull that grants you a balance of speed and stability. At 14’ it’s a good size length for tracking and distance paddling. The cockpit is comfortable for the all-day rides you’ll want to take, with ample and thick padding for the back, feet, and legs.
There is bulkhead flotation on the kayak to make it more buoyant and safer, which is helpful in an emergency. There are dry storage hatches on the front and rear, and bungee holders on the top to take a few extra things along. If you’re going to be using your touring kayak often, the Perception Kayak Carolina seems to understand a kayaker’s need for comfort in all aspects of the design.
- Strong performance from the V-shaped hull
- Ergonomic padding keeps your body comfortable on all-day trips
- Bulkhead flotation is safer
- Not best for multiple day trips
5. Necky Chatham 18 Touring Kayak
The most expensive and longest touring kayak on our list, the Necky Chatham 18 Touring Kayak is a high-end model with pure class. This is the only kayak here constructed of composite materials and fiberglass, which upgrades it in terms of lightweight durability. It can be taken out on the ocean, lakes, or slow moving rivers, and despite its size, it has pretty good maneuverability. But it’s the speed and distance where this kayak shines.
Once you get it to speed, you’ll be shocked by how little effort is required to maintain a fast pace. With a big cockpit, there’s plenty of space for bigger people to get in on the action. Transporting the Necky Chatham is easier than most because of the lighter weight. While it lacks a little bit in total storage space, the Necky Chatham 18 succeeds in most of the key qualities of a great touring kayak.
- Superb workmanship with composite materials and fiberglass
- High marks in speed, efficiency, and stability.
- Lighter weight helps you transfer it around
- Not as much storage space as some of our other picks
What’s my Verdict on the Best Touring Kayak?
While touring kayaks are a step up in quality from recreational kayaks, there are differences between touring kayaks that can make or break them as products. In all my picks, I focused on touring kayaks that can give you that performance boost you require.
In my opinion, the Dagger Stratos Kayak 2018 is the best pick for people looking to make that upgrade from a recreational kayak.
It’s versatile, offers some of the largest storage space, and brings speed and control with its hull and skeg. The Dagger also has comfortable seating for all-day stress-free kayaking.
If you want something longer, there’s a 16’ and even an 18’ touring kayak on our list. Or, if you want something with more overall balance, the Perception Kayak Carolina makes a lot of sense.
When you are heading out on the waters, your touring kayak is your best friend. With these touring kayak picks, there are plenty of best friends just waiting to be chosen—a life of paddling adventures awaits the both of you.