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Kayaking for families - recommendations for a kayak!

We are a family of 3 with an almost 3 year old (size of a 4 year old). We'd really like to get a Kayak so we can all go out. What do you recommend for us? I was thinking having him in the kayak with me and my husband in the other.

Any thoughts or input would be great. We are not looking for Ocean Kayak. We are basically intro to intermediate but want something to last a long time.

Thank You!


5 Replies

Hi there @Jagreenaud06 !

Thanks for reaching out to the Community!  Getting the whole family out on the water sounds like an exciting adventure! There is a great article on this topic in our Expert Advice section. Take a look and in the meantime I am going to tag some of our water experts that might like to weigh in on the topic!

@REI-JohnJ @REI-EricP 

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@Jagreenaud06 Great question!

While my kids aren't quite so little any more (4 and 7 now), we really enjoy our time out on the water. It is such an awesome way to get outside as a family. I did have one question for you: are you looking for one kayak for the whole family or separate kayaks? If you're looking for a tandem kayak that can fit all three of you, your best bet is the Old Town Dirigo 155 Tandem Kayak. It's stern cockpit is big enough to fit an adult and a kiddo.

If you're looking for a pair of solo kayaks then you've got quite a few good options:

All of these kayak options have large cockpits, which is the most important feature when paddling with a kiddo. It gives them room to sit up front, look around, dip their hands in the water, and still allows you the room to be comfortable and operate the paddle. These boats are also wide and stable, in case your kid gets squirmy. Personally, I have the Pungo 120 and it has been an amazing kayak for us. It is big enough to fit everything we need, tracks really well in the water, and is fun to paddle with or without our 4 year old. I've even managed some easy river trips and overnights in it!

Please let us know if you have other questions, hope this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thanks so much for the recommendations. at what age do they start paddling on their own? at least being of help? I wanted to have something we could grow into but also do it without him if we wanted. Generally speaking I like the solo kayak versus all of us in one. About how long would he stay in our laps?

Thanks for your help!



@Jagreenaud06 You are welcome!

My son is almost 5, and he still fits in front of me in the cockpit of our Pungo 120. To say he is 'helpful' would be a very generous interpretation of the word, but he does want to hold the paddle and try, which is good enough for me most days. More often than not he is content to drag his hands through the water (which makes me appreciate the length and tracking of a longer boat) and look for bugs and fish.

Because the Pungo has a very long cockpit (57", if you remove the dashboard) then your kiddo can actually sit on the bottom of the kayak between your legs and not on your lap. That definitely helps with comfort for both of us as we spend time out on the water.

My daughter, who is 7 now, is too big to fit in the kayak with one of us. We have a paddle board that she can ride on the front of as we paddle as a family. We are considering purchasing a short, sit-on-top, kids kayak for her and rigging up a tow-line system for when she gets tired or can't keep up. She also is pretty keen on the paddle board so that might be the route we go with her.

Keep us posted on what you decide and how it works for you. Hope this helps, please reach out with any other questions!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@Jagreenaud06this is so exciting! I think you will love to have your family with you out on the water.

First, if you haven't read the article on choosing a kayak , take a few minutes and check it out. Using a sit-on-top kayak is going to be your best option. As your three-year old grows, I think it also makes sense to use a tandem like Ocean Kayak Malibu Two or this Perecption Pescador. There might be a concern about the kiddo tipping out, so placing them in front of you will be the way to go.

If you are concerned about your 3-year-old being in their own seat, that's totally understandable. But in most cases it can be a little iffy trying to juggle a toddler in your lap while trying to paddle.

Don't worry that one of my recommendations is from the brand Ocean Kayak. Both of these kayaks would do great on flat water, such as lakes, harbors, etc...

With the kiddo in mind, also look at this article on kayak safety. 

Can't wait to hear about your adventures on the water!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.