Best Kayaks for Beginners Complete 2020 Guide Posted in: Outdoors, Product Reviews – Tags: ,

Kayaking is one of the outdoor recreational activities that is increasing in popularity. In fact, based on a report by the American Canoe Organization, an estimated 16 million people have participated in kayaking activities in 2020.

Perhaps the surge is thanks to the kayak’s ability to hit and explore a lake, pond, river, and ocean anytime you want. But just like anything today, you will be surprised to discover that there is a sheer number of kayaks available on the market.

Questions such as “How do you plan to use your kayak?” or “Is your kayak intended for a long journey, competition, or recreation?” Correctly answering basic questions will help you find the kayak that is a good fit to you.

For beginners, your search for your first kayak can be a daunting task. Do not worry though, we have got you covered. Check out the list of the best kayaks for beginners for 2020 on our list below.

1. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 Recreational Kayak

Are you interested in cruising around the river? Or do you prefer to head out fishing alone in a small lake outback? Whatever your choice is, this famous mid-sized recreational kayak is a good option. It is suitable for recreation, day touring, and minimalist camping.

The Wilderness Pungo 120 is 12” long and 29” wide. It flaunts a modest deck rigging, which is perfect for rivers and lakes. This is specially designed for flatwater kayaking. It is made from a polyethylene material, making it one of the lightest kayaks at only 49 lbs. That being said, it is not only durable but also very easy to maneuver and handle.

For those who are always on the move, this kayak is equipped with comfortable carry handles that make this easy to transport. The handle is made of soft rubber with a good hand fill.

Stability-wise, the Wilderness Pungo 120 won’t disappoint. It offers a spacious cockpit and a multi-chined hull design that provides secondary stability to users. It boasts of the Phase 3 AirPro seating system that allows you to stroke without affecting its stability.

Its v-hull and stern and bow features also provide better tracking. This is good for the kayaking Class I river. It also has the SideLock XL foot brace system to adjust for the leg length.


  • Large and open cockpit
  • Orbix Stern Hatch and kayak console for storage
  • Provides extra space via dry bags
  • Adjustable seats


  • Sometimes mistaken as a long camping kayak


2. Ocean Kayak Scrambler 11


This is one of the best overall kayaks for beginners. Although it is not as complex as the kayaks for the pro, it definitely has all the basic features a new kayak enthusiast would need.

For instance, the Scrambler 11 boasts of an extra-stable design to give newbies some room for mistakes and improvements. It boasts of the Tri-form Hull, which allows the kayak to excel in primary stability and combat the surf. It also has an uplifting rocker that allows the kayak’s nose to stay above waves.

The Scrambler 11 is a good choice if you are looking for a recreational kayak that can survive even tough conditions without breaking the bank. It is perfect for diving, fishing, kayak surfing, and day-time paddling as it gives you an ample rear cargo space. It can carry a maximum rated capacity of between 300 and 350 lbs.

Often overlooked by most kayak companies, Ocean Kayak made sure the Scrambler 11 has a GPS holder and bungee strap. It is perfectly positioned within reach so you can easily check your direction and access in case of an emergency.


  • Offers a lifetime Hull warranty
  • Lightweight design
  • Suits almost all kinds of water
  • One of the better kayaks to surf waves with


  • Not built for speed
  • Not recommended for long treks


3. Old Town Canoes and Kayaks Dirigo 106

Comfort is one of the most common issues people have about kayaks. Old Town surely did address that problem by providing an amply padded molded foam seat to its Dirigo 106.

Other than comfort, the Dirigo 106 was also made with quality in mind. This kayak is built using three-layer polyethylene and superlinear technologies. It is also equipped with a drain plug, thigh pads, a spacious cockpit area, an adjustable Active Comfort System seat (2.0), and an adjustable Glide Track foot brace system.

If your hobby is fishing, then you can never go wrong with this Dirigo 106 anglers. It has a hatch and stern bulkhead, retractable carry handles, a deck bungee, a spinning rod holder, two flush-mounted rod holders, and an anchor with a trolley system.


  • Easy to paddle and maneuver
  • Stabil-form three-layer polyethylene construction
  • Accessible storage hatch
  • Cockpit amenities like paddle holder, cup holder, and molded-in cockpit dashboard


  • Inappropriate footpeg location
  • Does not track well


4. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

The Aruba 10 can serve as a good introductory boat before you splurge your money on more expensive and complex kayaks. Its stable and flat bottom hull provides confidence for beginners who are still learning to paddle.

This lightweight kayak allows you to maneuver the water easily, thanks to its pointed bow and stern. It may not have the best seat in the house, but you can find a seat cushion or lining for your bottom.

To ensure durability, the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is made of rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex high-density polyethylene. It is also equipped with necessary features such as a storage area and adjustable foot brace.


  • With UV inhibitor to withstand sun exposure
  • The portable accessory carrier serves as a backpack or storage compartment
  • A wide cockpit that lets you in and out easily
  • Water bottle and paddle holders


  • No drain plugs available


5. Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

For beginners who do not want quality to compromise their shoestring budget, the Intex Challenger K1 is a good option. But before anything else, this is not your ordinary kayak as this is an inflatable one. The package comes with a good pump, a repair tool, and a paddle.

This is suitable for calm lakes and rivers. But if you are more of an adventure seeker and wild bodies of water are your thing, this is not recommended. For recreational purposes though, this is a good buy for its low price.

Setting the price tag aside, the stability of this kayak is exceptional. Unlike most inflatable kayaks, the Challenger K1 helps you stay in control while giving you a smooth kayaking time. Try standing up, and it will really resist. Comfort-wise, you can spend hours kayaking without feeling uncomfortable.

Inflating the kayak only takes around 10 minutes and deflating for about 2 minutes. With that in mind, this sure is the easiest kayak to transport on the list.


  • Lightweight
  • Can accommodate up to 220 lbs of load weight
  • Safe and comfortable


  • Not ideal for choppy water
  • Paddle needs improvement


6. Perception R15 Pescadors 100 Kayak

The word ‘Pescador’ translates to fisherman in Spanish. In case you hadn’t already guessed, the Perception R15 is ideal not only for recreational purposes but also for fishing.

This sit-on-top kayak has certainly been designed with beginners in mind. This kayak is not quite long yet, but it has a good tacking and easy maneuvering system that does not compromise on stability, speed, and space. This is also one of the lightest kayaks, weighing only 52 lbs, and it can carry a load weight of up to 375 lbs.

Although it is not as long as others, there is enough storage provided, including two dry storage compartments. Comfort-wise, the R15 Pescadores boasts of a comfortable seating system, molded-in footwells, a tank well, and a paddle keeper that is found molded into the kayak’s side.

It features a two-level adjustment seat as well. This doubles as a camp chair. You can easily lower it down or raise for more accurate casting.


  • Versatile and easy to maneuver
  • Comfortable and adjustable Vantage VT seat
  • Stable and durable
  • Great fishing kayak for beginners


  • Not ideal for bigger and taller people


7. Emotion Spitfire 8 Kayak

Another kayak that is made with quality and comfort in mind is the Emotion Spitfire 8. It is made from high-density polyethylene, which offers superior strength and durability. Similar to Perception 15, the Emotion Spitfire is shorter than the rest.

However, it boasts of an ST Performance Hull, which provides fast speed and good tracking without compromising stability.

There is plenty of space for your stuff in the Emotion Spitfire. It has a tank well with cargo, padded seat back, and cargo net. It also has a self-bailing scupper plug holes to ensure you are dry inside. Foot placement is a concern for many people, and the Spitfire 8 certainly addressed that problem by incorporating molded-in footwells.


  • Easy to maneuver
  • Comfortable seat with an adjustable back strap
  • Easy to transport and lightweight
  • The seat is spacious and safe


  • For recreational use only
  • Seat cushions would have added to the comfort level


Beginner’s Guide when Buying a Kayak

Buying a kayak that is exponentially difficult for those who are still new to the sport. But do not let this steep learning curve prevent you from getting out on the water. To get you started on the right track, here are some of the features you need to consider most when getting your first kayak.


1. Kayak Stability

Perhaps the most traumatizing experience for beginners is getting capsized in the middle of the river or lake. Although this is most likely inevitable, it is best to get a boat that is designed specifically for stability. However, keep in mind that pursuing stability may also mean sacrificing your speed and maneuverability.


2. Hull Design of your Kayak

The hull of your kayak plays an important role in comfort and ease of use. Try to consider kayaks that offer huge convenience and help to you. These features may include footwells, adjustable and cushioned seats, cup holders, GPS holders, and paddle holders.


3. Various Types of Kayak

They may all look the same, but there are different types of boats available on the market. As presented above, each boat has its own pros and cons, and every boat serves a different purpose. For beginners, however, a sit-on-top kayak is highly recommended. You can soon shift to the fishing or whitewater model once you outgrew it.


4. Gear Storage Inside

If you plan on using your kayak to explore, then an ample storage area for your gears should be included on your list. Consider getting those that offer both dry storage compartments and webbing on the hull’s exterior. This prevents important gears from getting wet, such as cell phones and radios.


5. Budget

Ask yourself how much you are willing to spend on your kayak. There are budget-friendly ones but with poor quality. There are also some that are not that expensive but perform well in the water. Just set a strict budget on it to avoid buyer’s remorse.


How to Fix a Hole in a Kayak?

Holes are problems you need to address immediately. But the solution depends on the type of kayak you have. A small hole can be repaired with duct tape or a special marine silicone.

However, bigger holes may need a thick plastic patch and a heat gun. Simply place the patch on the hole and use the heat gun to melt it. You can use a small spoon to smoothen and even out the sides.


How to Get Out of a Kayak if it Tips Over?

First and foremost, do not panic! Panicking can lead you to make irresponsible decisions. Instead, flip your kayak back by grabbing the edge of the vessel and then pull it towards you. Then sit properly, find your paddle, and approach the shore to drain the water out of the cockpit.


Insufficient knowledge of kayaks can lead to wrong buying decisions and eventually discouragement. Thus, it is advisable to do tons of research and weigh the pros and cons carefully before making your final purchase.