Have been thinking about getting a kayak or two for a while and with the beaches getting so crowded, seems like it might be a good way to get outdoors socially distant. However, concerned about transport and which kind to purchase. If we got a roof rack, how to get one or two on top of the car as we get older. I have also read that smaller kayaks are problematic even on lakes, if it is windy. OTOH, don’t want something so heavy I have a hard time transporting it from the car to the put-in location.

We have friends with blow-up kayaks which may be a solution which we used on a river in Oregon. But wonder how they would perform on lakes in the NE.

Thanks for any advice based on your experience!

Hi @mom2and ! We have been kayakers for twenty years and love it. We still can get our kayaks onto our roof rack system. We have rollers on the back rack for easier lift–H is tall and just needs to get the end up, then I or we can push it up and toward the front rack, which is more like cradles. It’s a dedicated system that attaches to our roof rack. We are in early sixties and can still do this.

Our kayaks are sit-inside, rigid plastic. I have seen mixed experiences with inflatables; they tend to sink in a little, and are much harder to move forward in. I initially worried about “eskimo rolls” and fancy maneuvers, and thought I would want a big cockpit and short, fat boat. Luckily we tried them out and realized I can get in and out of my narrow boat with small cockpit, and don’t need to learn “rolls”. The longer, narrow boat tracks much better if there is wind or currents, and just is much much easier to paddle.

Our boats are Carolina Perceptions, if you want to picture it.

Many people in our area, most, I think, have sit on tops, which of course are easier to get in and out of. But that limits the season you can use them somewhat, plus again, I think ours are easier to paddle. Also we have hatches and can carry equipment for picnics or even camping.

We have talked about switching eventually to fiberglass ones, which are more expensive, but lighter. As we get older, we might need that.

We also have kayak wheels for transport when we can’t park near the water, though we have perfected a two person system to carry both boats at once.

I love, love kayaking, and hope you do too! Please feel free to ask for clarifications or details!

Just a word of caution that kayaks are really hard to come by right now. It’s like the toilet paper of sporting goods ; ). We ordered a sit on top, tandem, kayak from Brooklyn Kayak in April. It’s still not here. It was originally supposed to take 4 weeks. It finally shipped in June and was supposed to be here ‘no later than’ 7/16. Now they are saying 7/22. I’ll believe it when I see it. We thought about cancelling the order and trying to buy one locally but all the stores within a 40 mile radius said they were sold out and it would be a 9 week delivery window.

We’ve had the roof rack, life jackets, water bag, and garage rack since before mother’s day.

I’d link the kayak but it’s no longer listed on their webpage and I wouldn’t recommend them anyway since it’s been 3 months and we’re still waiting…

Things we considered in choosing a kayak:

stability - we live near lake Michigan and want to be able to take it out so we opted for a sit on top

size - we wanted a tandem kayak big enough that we could take our dog

weight - some kayaks are significantly heavier than others. This was a concern for us but we rented a few last year and made sure we could lift them without too much effort

Seats - upgraded seats were important to us. The kayak we choose is technically a fishing kayak which we’ve found to be more comfortable for longer outings.

Foot adjustments - I wanted molded footrests and not the adjustable plastic kind. I’ve been in too many kayaks where the plastic kind have been broken.

Storage - we wanted two waterproof storage compartments.

We just got two- put in a raincheck in April and got them like 6 weeks later. Sit-in, 10 foot, not expensive ones- Pelican I believe. This is just for casual use on lakes so good enough for us. Then the next matter was paddles! Tried three stores and then ordered from Walmart and had them in two days.

Our first outing we put them in the back of our big pickup but DH doesn’t like to get that out much and DDs won’t drive it. So we actually bought a 5x10 trailer to put them on. DD’19 is the one who will use them the most and DH figured she’d have trouble getting them on the roof at her height. She has a Jeep with a hitch and my Acadia has one too.

I suggest you try different types out before buying if at all possible. Everything is a trade off. Also if you haven’t done it before a few lessons about paddling techniques will go a long way (amazing how stroke technique can save your energy!) A shop usually has lessons and lets you try out different types.

Longer ones are easier to keep on course and cut the water better but heavier, sit-in (drier but harder to get into) vs sit on top (my favorite–Im just more comfortable not being closed in), blow up is transportable but might be harder to manuever , single person vs two person.

We have a two person pedal kayak which is great. It has fins below the water to propel the kayak by pumping with your legs. I love it because I lack some upper arm strength. It is easy even against wind or choppy water. You can use it with paddles or no. Both the pedal and sit on top have ways to attach coolers and hold drinks etc.

We also have a hydro bike which is very stable and a complete blast but not easy to transport (we’re on the water).

I LOVE kayaking!

Like @garland says, the shorter the boat the harder it is to keep on course. Before I actually tried them out I thought “the lighter the better” which of course is a small kayak. But it didn’t take long to realize that it takes some work to keep them going straight. We ended up with a medium one person kayak and the longer two person pedal kayak. Of course if you’re running rapids and want to do eskimo rolls…(not me!).

@bjscheel – what kind of trailer? I’ve been considering one.

There are lightweight kayaks (often used for racing), but they tend to be relatively expensive. Many of them are also narrow for speed, so they may be more difficult in terms of stability for beginners, although many of them are suitable for advanced paddlers in windy or wavy conditions ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAXKloraAt4 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCetKvMh9s4 ).

Even if you are a beginner now, you may be able to get to a much more advanced level with enough practice, opening up a much greater range of kayaking possibilities.

More suitable for beginners and ease of transport, there are also folding kayaks.

https://paddling.com/gear/kayaks/folding/ (list includes inflatables as well)

I have a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140 sit-on-top fishing kayak with a rudder. I’ve had sit-in kayaks as well, but prefer the SOT variety. My kayak is heavy and cumbersome because of the length. I also drive an SUV, so getting it onto the roof rack can be a challenge after paddling/fishing for hours.

Rudders add cost, but they really help with tracking.

I live on a river, and have been interested in getting a kayak, as well. I kayaked a few times in college (waaay back in the day), but that’s the extent of it. I’ve been wondering, is there any kind of licensing requirement for them? Or, do you just throw it in and go?

There is definitely a tradeoff between the size of kayak that you want when you are on the water, versus the size of kayak that you want when you are transporting it. We have a 12’, 14’, 16’, and 18’. This is helpful since we get a range of different size visitors who fit best in different size kayaks.

Our 18 footer that we have is meant for kayakers who are over 200 pounds. It is the only one which is made of fiberglass. Fiberglass is more expensive and more brittle than the plastic that most kayaks are made of. It is however lighter. We would not be able to handle an 18 foot kayak made of the same plastic that our other kayaks are made of.

Our smaller kayaks are much easier to handle. I can easily put one on the top of the car by myself. However, they are not large enough to be particularly good for a 225 pound man – they end up sinking a bit low and sort of plowing through the water.

The rudders are not for steering. You steer with the paddle. The rudders are however helpful when trying to go straight with a cross wind or tail wind. The kayaks have a natural tendency to turn into the wind that the rudders can counter quite easily.

We had trouble putting the larger kayaks, particularly the 16 footer, on the roof of the car. Then my wife came up with an idea. We put old blankets over the back of the car and the back one of the two kayak holders. The kayak can slide on the blankets. That way we only have to get the front of the kayak over the rearmost kayak holder, and I can slide the entire thing forward onto the stands. They I remove the blankets and tie the whole thing down. This might be thought of as a cheap way to approximate the roller carrier that was mentioned above.

I agree with the idea of trying out various kayaks.

We got all of ours used, two from a friend and two from Craigslist. I think you can save quite a bit that way but of course the selection is more limited and it can take a while to find the right one.

Usually you just throw a kayak in and go.

We have two kayaks…one is a Necky Santa Cruze and the other a Riot Edge. We have had them for a long while so who knows if they are still made. They are sit in kayaks, and aren’t all that heavy. We keep them at home, but have a lake at our corner. We have a set of two wheels that we strap the kayak onto and just pull it up to the lake. We have roof racks too, but don’t really take them elsewhere.

Our paddles came from a kayak leasing place. We wanted light weight ones and they are great.

A PSA to all considering kayaking or other water sports: get a life vest and always wear it. Always. Also make sure it is the kind that will not slip off your body if you fall into rough waters. Too many drownings already happened in my neck of the woods. You guessed it - vests were not worn or were the too big.

@gouf78 PM’d you a link.

@mom2and I also live in the northeast. There are lots of different kinds of lakes! I think you need to more look at the usage Of the lake you plan to kayak on. If it’s a huge lake that has no speed limits and no motor horsepower limits, it might attract less kayak users. Might.

Our lake has a 10 horsepower limit and a speed limit as well. Most folks on this lake are on stand up paddle boards, kayaks and are swimmers. There are no jet skis or larger motor boats even allowed on this lake. It also is an inland waterway, meaning it doesn’t connect to a river or the ocean. Again, this might make a difference in your kayak usage.

In addition to life jackets, please learn the boating regulations in whatever state you plan to go to. In our state, for example, you can’t be out on a waterway when it’s dark unless you have a light on your vessel. And no…the flashlight on your cell phone or any other flashlight doesn’t count!

Good luck with your shopping!

Lol. It’s fun. You’ll notice that kayaks can turn into a collection…can’t paddle just one.

I think we got two of REI’s last kayaks in June! Have been switching off with family members – really enjoying so far. Got the $350 ones – decent starter types, I think. So have just done nearby lakes. Will take them to the mountains next month!

We find early is best to see wildlife and beat the heat

If you like to whitewater kayak and are ever in the Charlotte, NC area try out the USNWC, manmade whitewater course. It is a great place to spend the day. DS and I went there today and had a blast, although are still a bit rusty and were not able to roll a few times so spent time in the water chasing boats and paddles…

Thanks so much! Although I am still not sure what to do and it looks like not going to happen this summer (unless we find something used). A trailer sounds interesting.

We have done some kayaking on Lake Tahoe, Cape Cod, in Washington State, and elsewhere. Sounds like the best plan is to rent or borrow various types of kayaks and see what kind we like best. Although rentals are not easy to get these days.

Happy paddling!