I’ve been kayaking (lake, calm ocean) a number of times with rented equipment and I’m looking to make a purchase. Any pointers on what features are worth the investment and which are not? Thanks, Rich
big question which will guide your options, what is your transportation?
Meaning, can you easily transport something solid or do you need the portability of an inflatable?
I've been in both camps.
Decide what type of kayaking you plan to enjoy as whitewater kayaks make horrible touring boats and sea kayaks don’t do well in river rapids.
What’s your preference - Sit on top or a traditional sit in kayak?
answers to these questions will help you navigate your kayak purchase.
Nice answers already. Essentially figure out your use-case, budget and transportation. There is lot more stuff already out there, e.g. please checkout https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/kayak.html
Some other considerations from our time researching our purchase:
Good luck! We're excited about getting ours this year, too.
First decide on what you want to do with it. As was stated, a WW boat would be terrible for a 5 day trip, and a sea kayak doesnt take class 3 real well (ask me how I know 🙂 but my stuff was still dry )
If you want to float for 5 miles on a Saturday afternoon on a slow river, any flat bottom rounded big box play boat will work. Sit in kayak, or sit on top (sink sot) It will be light for loading and cover everything you do. Unless..
If you want to play in rolling water and flip through rocks, then a WW boat and some learning are for you.
If you want to do that same river, for 100 miles, then you need to look at a sea/touring boat. They are heavier, longer (figure 14-18'), and you wear them like a pair of pants. They have rudders, skegs, rigging, and fore and aft chambers that are watertight so it wont sink. Watch the weight, you are going to carry gear. Some say they are "tippy" not really, takes a bit to get used to and exercise that keeps the hips loose.
If you want to play in the ocean, then for safety, you need to be in a boat with bulkheads and air chambers, or at least a aft bulkhead and a air bag. Sea or touring.
Pond lakes fishing slow water, then the pedal boats or a flat wide sit on top make life nice, but they are heavy.
Some SOT boats are built so that you could do at least weekend camping and are easier to remount if you go over. The boat already has holes in it for the water to drain out, and you dont have to worry about it sinking. You can mount your gear to the boat and head out.