Finding The Best Touring Kayak | Exploring In Style With A Top Rated Touring Kayak

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If you want to experience the best adventures that kayaking has to offer, you need to start by getting the best touring kayak available to you. Our list of the top 5 Touring Kayaks for 2018 explores a range of kayaks in both price and ability.

We are here to make sure you find the best touring kayak for your unique needs. From skill level to destination to the type of trip you are planning, there are a lot of factors to consider before you commit to a kayak. One of our favorite recommendations on where to start when you enter the world of kayaking are touring kayaks.

Kayaking offers a chance to try something new and leave the land behind. Getting out on the water can bring peace of mind–or maybe you just want to fish for something awesome. The reason we love touring kayaks is because it does not matter why you want to kayak, or where or when. The best thing about touring kayaks is that they are engineered to be used by every level of kayaker and they allow this awesome sport to be enjoyed by anyone.

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Beginners to the world of kayaking can find as much success in a touring kayak as those who have spent years on the water. That’s because touring kayaks are designed with comfort and ease of maneuvering in mind. As the name implies, they are best for touring or day trips–not necessarily rigorous water adventures. While you will see some on our list that qualify for rough waters, most touring kayaks are made for the fun and relaxing parts of being out on the water.

What should I consider to find the best touring kayak?

When you are in the market for a new touring kayak, whether it is your first or you are a seasoned pro, there are a few things to keep in mind. From destination to body of water to your particular brand of exploring, kayaks are as versatile as the people who use them. So a good place to start is the Internet. Research, read reviews and ask around about vessels you are interested in–especially if you know where you are headed.

Here are some of the basics for starting the decision making process.

Where you will be going?

Not all kayaks, or bodies of water, are created equal. Just like on land, there are vehicles that are better suited for small town driving versus mountain side exploring–there are also better yaks for different conditions. More than any other factor, where you are be taking the kayak out will play the biggest role in what kayak you choose. Different kayaks handle differently in various waters. Let’s look at the main bodies of water.

Lakes

Lake waters tend to be mild, forgiving waters. When the weather is nice and not too windy, any kayak will fare just fine. More often than not, lake water is still so you should look for a hull that has a finned edge, versus the flat-bottomed crafts. Flat bottoms handle better in rough waters and can actually slow you down in water as calm as a lake.

Oceans

If you are headed to open ocean waters, sit-in touring kayaks can suit your needs, but don’t offer much flexibility if you want to do more than kayak. If you play to catch some big fish or some big waves, you should consider a sit-on-top kayak so you can switch from in the kayak to in the water easily.

Rivers

Touring kayaks are good for rivers that are free of rapids. In a current, a day touring kayak can do well, but if the waters get tumultuous from rapids, you may want to consider something larger and more stable than a kayak altogether.

Related: Best White Water Kayak

touring kayaks

What you will be doing?

The purpose of your trip will also dictate a different kayak selection. For instance, ocean fishing for a monster catch will require significantly different criteria than a relaxing afternoon lake jaunt. Kayaks generally fall into one of these categories: whitewater kayaks, touring kayaks and recreational kayaks. As a rule, whitewater kayaks are for high intensity kayaking; recreational kayaks are for fun local small scale ventures and touring kayaks tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a kayak type and the specific kayak within that category:

Weight Capacity

If you are going to be bringing a lot of gear, or plan to fish and bring your catches back with you, a load bearing kayak is a must. However, if you are just exploring around for the sake of sightseeing or being on the water, you may not need a heavy-duty boat.

Related: Best Tandem Kayak

Storage

All kayaks offer some amount of storage, but again, kayak activities (like fishing) would require ample storage, whereas a quick trip on the lake may not warrant anything more than a tube of sunblock and a bottle of water.

Sit-In or Stand-Up

Sit-in kayaks are the most common image of a kayak and for good reason. Stand-up kayaks can be fun for some adventurers, but sit-in kayaks are more versatile and easy to maneuver regardless of skill level. They paddle and handle efficiently, and being inside the craft instead of on top of the craft will give you more control over yourself and the boat.

How much you are willing to spend?

Kayaks can get expensive, but especially if you are a beginner, don’t spend your life savings away. There are plenty of kayaks out there at varying price points that will lend themselves perfectly to your needs. Touring kayaks are more expensive but worth the investment if you are serious about kayaking.

best touring kayak reviews

Touring Kayak

Like we said earlier in the article, your destination will be a huge deciding factor in what kind of kayak to get. We like touring kayaks because they work well in many different water bodies. A touring kayak is a great choice for both beginners and vets to kayaking.

Compared to a recreational kayak, touring kayaks have a longer body and tend to be more slender. Touring kayaks were designed with kayakers in mind, created for more sustainable travel, both in efficiency and distance.

There are two different types of touring kayaks–day touring kayaks and regular touring kayaks.

Day touring kayaks

Also called sit-in kayaks, day touring kayaks run on the pricier side of touring kayaks. These boats offer more efficiency and control in rough waters; and they are shorter than sea kayaks but still have a good amount of storage space. Plus, thanks to their size, they are pretty easy to travel with. Read more about traveling with kayaks in this article.

Touring kayaks (sit-in sea kayaks):

Touring kayaks are also known as “sit-in sea kayaks.” These boats are also efficient, but are longer than day kayaks. Sea kayaks, as the name suggests, are a wise choice for paddlers or anglers heading to coastal waters.

Why We Love Touring Kayaks

Serious kayakers can also benefit from the flexibility of the hull. While we cannot guarantee that you will avoid turtling in every circumstance, the touring kayak lends itself better to kayakers who are prepared to face up against changing waters, and this is to the benefit of experiences paddlers and newbies alike.  In your research, you may come across reviews that claim a day touring kayak is not stable, but remember–that is by design in favor of maneuverability.

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A recreational kayak is not built to withstand the same waters as a touring kayak. As a result, the more agile design of the touring kayak hull seems “flimsy” by comparison, but is actually ideal for keeping a paddler or angler maneuvering accurately and swiftly through the water. The larger hull design of a touring kayak gives paddlers more speed and agility. Fast currents or rougher waters are not as big of an issue in touring kayaks. The feel of paddling a touring kayak may take some getting used to, but the payoff is great for kayakers. A touring kayak can be as stable as its paddler.

Recreational kayaks are steady but easier to turn; whereas touring kayaks, thanks to their long form, excel in accuracy on course, speed and agility. Touring kayaks are also ideal for long trips, boasting more space for storing gear, food and other necessities.

The bottom line is this: we love touring kayaks for their versatility.

Check out the top 5 Touring Kayaks

The final factor in an ideal kayak is quality. For price point, popularity and caliber of craft, these are our picks for the best touring kayaks on the market right now. We have set up an easy comparison for you to help you find the right touring kayak for your specific needs or trip.

1. Perception Kayak Conduittouring kayak

Great for

  • Beginners to kayaking and intermediate paddlers
  • Recreational bodies of water, including lakes, ponds and certain coastal waters in calm conditions; performs well on slow rivers, streams
  • Open ocean water
  • Fresh saltwater

What We Love

The Perception Kayak Conduit is the whole package. The Perception Kayak Conduit comes in either a 13 or 9-foot craft, designed to be durable, stable and high quality. The engineering of this boat series gives paddlers all the maneuverability of a touring kayak with the stability that kayak paddlers love in a recreational kayak. The blend of security and agility that this kayak has makes it easy for new paddlers to hop in an experience the best kayaking has to offer. From local lakes and ponds to rivers and calm sea waters, the Perception Kayak handles very well on most still and flat water.

The larger of the Perception Kayak Conduit series is a 13 foot kayak, and is comfortably spacious, giving paddlers freedom to not feel trapped or claustrophobic while in the boat for long periods of time. Both the 13 foot and the smaller 9.5 foot are easy to maneuver without sacrificing speed or security.

The biggest benefit is ease of navigation. Like a recreational kayak, turns and steering are simple, but the design of this boat helps it stay on course like a touring kayak. We love this for those paddlers who are new to kayaking because it is a great learning kayak. As you progress in your paddling and kayaking skills on the water, you will not outgrow this craft. It will be able to keep up with the skill level of any paddler.

Features

  • Designed, molded and built in the USA
  • Made of proprietary high-density polyethylene
  • Engineered and crafted with an industry-leading rotational molding process
  • Innovative one-piece construction guarantees built-in buoyancy and leak-resistance
  • Easy entry and exit
  • Back-friendly seats with superior cushioning and ergonomic support
  • Large open cockpit for comfortable leg room and in-kayak maneuvering
  • Steady on-water feel and secure paddling experience
  • UV, impact and abrasion resistant
  • Wear-proof colors and graphics
  • 5-Year Manufacturer’s Warranty
  • Permanent U.S. Coast Guard compliant hull identification number

Specs

  • Length: 13′
  • Cockpit length: 38″
  • Width: 26.5″
  • Weight: 51 lbs
  • Deck Height: 12″

Price Range: $$ – $$$


2. Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 12-Foot Sit-in Kayakbest touring kayak

Great for

  • Beginners; leisure or hobby paddlers; kayak fishers and anglers
  • Day trips
  • Calm waters; lakes; ponds
  • Fishing

What We Love About this Best Touring Kayak

The Sun Dolphin 12 Aruba SS can be classified as a recreational kayak, but it fits the qualifications of a touring kayak because of its ample storage and day trip capability. It has been called a “Cottage Kayak” because it handles exceptionally well in calmer or still water conditions. It is not built to succeed in tumultuous waters, so it is best to avoid coastal areas in this craft.

However, what it does on lakes and ponds it does well. This is an incredibly comfortable kayak for a day trip tour. It is built with the comfort of a paddler in mind, not for high risk kayaking. The seat of the Sun Dolphin 12 Aruba SS is lifted slightly, keeping it (and you) dry; and the seat and footpads are adjustable to different paddlers.

The straight and narrow construction make this boat a great for tracking and maintaining maneuverability. Paddlers will have no problem taking this out for a day on the water because of its ease of steering and massive storage capability. There are many compartments that make up this boat, including a Portable Accessory Carrier (called the P. A. C.) that goes easily in and out of the kayak with you. It is an awesome feature to keep some things, like your food, electronics and extra clothes, dry.

This is also a great kayak for fishing. Unlike some touring kayaks, the Sun Dolphin 12 Aruba SS is actually noted for its stability, which makes for a good fishing kayak. You can read more about how to fish from a kayak in this article. Not only is storage great for anglers, but the Sun Dolphin 12 Aruba SS comes with flush mount rod holders built onto the body and a tray in the cockpit that can act as a mini tackle box or staging area for the items you need to grab quickly while fishing.

Features

  • UV0 Stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene construction
  • Paddle Holder and flush mount Rod Holders
  • Protective Thigh Pads
  • Ample storage
  • Adjustable seat and foot braces
  • Bungee Deck Rigging
  • Covered Console
  • Lightweight, easy to carry
  • Tracks and paddles with ease while offering maximum stability
  • Retractable carrying handles
  • Limited Lifetime warranty

Specs

  • Length: 12’
  • Width: 29.6”
  • Weight: 47 lbs

Price Range: $$


3. Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV Flatwater Day Touring Kayakbest touring kayaks

Great for

  • Beginners, intermediate, experienced kayakers
  • Adventure seekers
  • Rough water

What We Love

While touring kayaks are mostly known for their speed and agility, the Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV Flatwater Day Touring Kayak also offers the thrill of danger and adventure because of its stability. The flat bottom of this boat paired with the narrow bow give it a harsh shape that cuts through rough waters without compromising maneuverability or stability–a tough combination to beat.

The Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 comes with a rudder and tracks well. As far as kayaks go, this is one of the most efficient ones out there. Plus it comes in at under 50 pounds, making it easy to store, and transport in and out of the water.

Paddlers get the comfort of a touring or recreational kayak, too. This is another example of a kayak that has customizable options that adjust to different paddlers. The seat is comfortable and offers ample padding, plus an adjustable back band will suit pretty much anyone’s needs. Foot and thigh braces are the icing on the cake of this custom kayak experience; not only are they great for various kayakers but one sole paddler can adjust on the go to minimize soreness later.

Storage is moderate, but additional storage is offered in the form of shock cords for external securing if need be. However, the internal storage that is on this kayak is optimal. The Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 has dual-density hatch covers, keeping whatever is inside (gear, clothing, food, electronics) safe and dry–even when the water is raging.

The Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 is an ideal touring kayak and will work well with both brand new kayakers and kayakers who have been on the water for decades. One interesting note about The Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 is that not only does it handle well in rough waters–it actually prefers them. Its flat bottom design may make tracking in still waters actually more difficult, which sets The Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 apart from most of the others on our list.

Features

  • Flat bottom
  • Flush mount rod holders
  • A security bar and effective lifelines
  • External bungee cords for additional storage
  • Dual density hatch covers to keep food and gear dry
  • Improved buoyancy
  • Customizable seating system designed to allow the cockpit to accommodate a wide range of users
  • High density polyethylene construction
  • Rotomold kayak to ensure a great fit and finish

Specs

  • Length: 14’ 6”
  • Width: 21.6”
  • Weight: 62 lbs

Price Range: $$$


4. Perception Kayak Conduit 13 Xptop touring kayak

Great for

  • Beginners, intermediate, experienced kayakers
  • Choppy and calm waters

What We Love

This is a newer model of the previous Perception Kayak Conduit. While they are largely similar, we still have our favorites things about this one. This “sport” version has been named one of the greatest kayaks in the world. The Perception Kayak Conduit 13 Xp is most noted for its durability. It will hold up well against impacts from rocks or other obstacles, and if it does get a minor dent, it can be easily corrected with light heat and concentrated pressure from an experienced paddler. (Just remember to wear gloves so the hot kayak does not burn you!)

The unique feature of the Perception Kayak Conduit 13 Xp is its additional length and narrow bow and stern. You may be surprised to experience how much better it handles than even its 12 foot competitors. The 13-foot craft is able to cut, not push, the water ahead of you so that you can easily and effectively navigate through still or even mildly choppy water. The Perception Kayak Conduit 13 Xp has a single tracking fin that assists it in tracking accurately and well across most temperaments of water.

Not only is this craft notably longer than some others, but also wider at just over two feet across. As with larger recreational kayaks, the width offers a stability without making this craft overly bulky and cumbersome to transport.

Features

  • Keepers Foot Brace system for more efficient paddling, comfort and control
  • Padded, adjustable seat
  • Two spacious storage areas
  • Seamless, one-piece construction from high density polyethylene
  • Built-in buoyancy and leak-resistance
  • Designed, molded and built in the USA
  • Made of proprietary high-density polyethylene
  • Engineered and crafted with an industry-leading rotational molding process
  • Innovative one-piece construction guarantees built-in buoyancy and leak-resistance
  • Easy entry and exit
  • Back-friendly seats with superior cushioning and ergonomic support
  • Large open cockpit for comfortable leg room and in-kayak maneuvering
  • Steady on-water feel and secure paddling experience
  • UV, impact and abrasion resistant
  • Wear-proof colors and graphics
  • Permanent U.S. Coast Guard compliant hull identification number

Specs

  • Length: 13’
  • Width: 26.5”

Price Range: $$


5. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-Foot Sit-in Kayaktouring kayak reviews

Great for

  • Beginners
  • Rivers and lakes

What We Love

The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Sit-In Kayak comes equipped with all of the accessories you need for touring and expedition. It is built not only for speed and ease of navigation but also paddler comfort. It comes with a paddle leash, adjustable foot braces, adjustable padded seat and protective thigh pads so you will be happy and comfortable while you are on the water.

Its high-density polyethylene construction gives this kayak a durability to combat against scratches, slashes and run-ins with rocks. And in the event of dents to the craft, you can actually repair it fairly easily at home with low heat and remolding–just be sure to wear gloves.

A narrow bow and stern make this boat a great tracker. Unlike many blunt edges, the Sun Dolphin Aruba cuts through the water instead of pushing. It is lighter than many other touring kayaks, so it has increased agility on the water plus outside the water, it is very easy to transport.

Despite its lightweight design, the Sun Dolphin Aruba is actually a good load bearing craft and a very durable one. The Fortiflex® technology will keep your kayak on the road and the water with you for years to come. Most smaller crafts usually have a smaller capacity for carrying and weight, but this yak can hold its own–hauling up to 250 lbs. When you Add that to the ample storage this boat offers, it is no wonder we named it one of the best touring kayaks.

Features

  • Single paddler
  • Sit-in kayak
  • High back support
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Built-in spray deflecting collar
  • Shock cord deck rigging
  • Large open cockpit
  • Front and rear carrying handles
  • Paddle leash
  • Protective thigh pads
  • Adjustable padded seat
  • Storage compartment
  • Water bottle holder
  • Rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex® High Density Polyethylene
  • Easy entry and exit
  • 2-year Manufacturer’s warranty

Specs

  • Length: 10’
  • Width: 30”
  • Weight: 41 lbs.

Price Range: $ – $$


Choosing the Best Touring Kayak For You

The great thing about touring kayaks is that it is hard to find one that is not going to do what you need it to. You do not have to pay an arm and a leg to get the experience of “real” kayaking–reasonably priced vessels like the ones on this list make kayaking a goal within reach for many new kayakers. Even if you have been on the water for a while, there are new advances being made all the time and kayaks are becoming more agile to your needs. Be sure to check out all of our resources on how to make the most out of your kayaking trips.