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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Lightweight Kayaks For Easy Transportation

Get to the water with minimal hassle and stay mobile with these top-rated kayak brands.

by PITeam

Buyers Guide & Information

Best Lightweight Kayaks For Easy Transportation

Get to the water with minimal hassle and stay mobile with these top-rated kayak brands.

by PITeam

by PITeam

Lightweight kayaks can be lifted and carried by one person, without the help of special equipment. Also, many lightweight kayaks are small enough in dimensions to fit inside a car, rather than needing to be bound to a roof rack or trailer. These lightweight kayak reviews describe the best in the category for a variety of purposes, with emphasis on those that are affordable and suitable for beginners.

What Makes a Kayak Lightweight?

The most important part of a lightweight kayak is lightweight material. There are a variety of plastics (PVC, HDPE, polypropylene, etc.) and composite materials (fiberglass) that allow a hull (body of a boat) to float 200 pounds, and to be only 20 lbs itself.

Another approach that is gaining popularity is the inflatable kayak. These offer the added advantage of being able to be transported in deflated and folded form, taking up the space of a suitcase. The same goes for the even newer technology of the foldable kayak, which is making it possible to carry a large tandem touring kayak in the trunk of your car.


Types of Lightweight Kayaks

  • Sit-On-Top/Sit-Inside
    Sit-inside kayaks are the traditional build: the hull comes up around the paddler in standard boat form. In contrast, sit-on-top kayaks have a more open design: they are more paddleboard-like, all the while having all the functionalities you would expect from a kayak.
  • Recreational
    Most kayakers want this type. They are designed for a few hours on relatively smooth waters (but possibly mild rapids in some cases). Usually, these have a relatively short-and-wide hull design, to make them easy to get into and resistant to tipping over.
  • Touring
    Touring kayaks are designed to go faster in larger bodies of water. They are not necessarily the easiest to control or get into, but they keep a straight course. Most touring kayaks also have more storage space for longer journeys.
  • Sea Kayaks
    In general, a sea kayak is really the same category as a touring kayak. Both usually have a longer, more smoothly-shaped hull that makes them more aerodynamic and hydrodynamic for higher speed. A sea kayak will typically have more storage space to accommodate the personal belongings and emergency gear needed for longer journeys that take the kayak farther from the shore.
  • Whitewater Kayaks
    Whitewater kayaks are not necessarily the easiest to get in and out of, and they might be more likely to tip over in calm water. However, they give the kayaker the fluid maneuverability needed to handle the ups and downs, and even flip-overs, of serious rapids. Usually, these are for advanced paddlers.
  • Fishing Kayaks
    Fishing kayaks usually resemble recreational kayaks structurally (shorter and broader hull). However, fishing kayaks must have the weight capacity and storage space for fishing gear and caught fish. Also, while many fishermen get good at installing rod-holders, it is helpful if these come built into the kayak.
  • Inflatable
    Inflatable kayaks generally fit the recreational category. They are safe, and most users find that inflatables are not puncture-prone. Since most have several air chambers, you are not likely to have the kayak rapidly deflate far from shore. Advanced paddlers might find inflatable kayaks more challenging to maneuver, but most casual paddlers do not even notice.  

The Benefits of Lightweight Kayaks

For single kayakers, lightweight kayaks are generally safer and more convenient. You are less likely to injure yourself lifting the kayak onto a roof rack or carrying it to the water. Furthermore, you are less likely to need racks or trolleys, which take up space, time, and expense.

Also, a lightweight kayak gives individuals with less strength, such as women or seniors, more independence—you do not need anyone's help to enjoy this activity. Similarly, lightweight kayaks are more accessible to children (even though adults should always supervise).


Choosing Top Quality Lightweight Kayaks

Intended usage/Location

Almost any kayak guide you read will start with the question, what do you intend to do with your kayak? For most, the lightweight kayak is just a nice way to get out on the water—and so a recreational kayak fits the bill. However, you might need more weight capacity/storage space if you want a fishing or touring kayak. You might want a more hydro/aerodynamic shape if you're going to paddle fast through open seas.

Kayak Weight & Load Capacity

While lightweight kayaks are, by definition, light for their size, there is still variation. Usually, longer kayaks are heavier, but they often can carry more cargo. If you need a large kayak, but have almost no space for it in your car, consider an inflatable or foldable model.

Dimensions – Short vs. Long kayaks

The shortest kayaks are those for children—sometimes with a hull as short as 6 feet, while adult tandem sea kayak hulls can be as long as 15 feet. The needs of aero and hydrodynamics demand that kayaks have a narrow, tapering shape, and so the widest are only about 34 inches across at the widest point (known as the beam width).

Stability & Speed

Primary stability, which is arguably more important for beginners and recreational paddlers, is the tendency to remain upright as a paddler enters or leaves the kayak. It usually coincides with the tendency to stay upright in calm water.

Secondary stability is the capacity to remain upright when significantly tilted—as in rapids or large waves. Most recreational kayaks have a high beam width and relatively short length, giving them considerable primary stability. Many also have a chine (hull bottom contour) that further increases primary stability.

However, these features create drag and make these kayaks slower and harder to track. (Tracking is the ease with which a kayak can be paddled straight ahead.) Many sea/touring kayak hulls are longer—which gives them more speed, better tracking, and more cargo space—but less stability.

Durability & Comfort

The lightweight plastics used to make these kayaks are very strong, but UV rays have the power to alter the texture and color of these materials. Look for a kayak with UV-resistance treatment—most in this review have this.

In the area of seat comfort: most kayaks in this review have adjustable seat backs and foot grooves, at least. Some even have bottom padding, thigh supports, and footrests, too. Longer or more intense journeys demand better body support for the paddler.

Propellers & Maintenance

In general, you cannot attach a propeller or other motorized component to a lightweight kayak. However, some do have skegs (fins) on the bottom to improve tracking. In many cases, you can remove them, so they are not damaged by rocks in shallow water. Usually, just washing and wiping down a kayak is sufficient maintenance.

Transport & Storage Space

To some extent, this is a personal decision. However, longer journeys usually demand more storage space. Also, those doing other activities—fishing, photography, scientific study, etc.—in a kayak need space for both their specific gear and for any material they collect along the way. If you are new to kayaking, do not underestimate your need for beverages, food, sunscreen, clothing, and first-aid materials.

Budget & Warranty

The kayaks in this review are affordable for almost anyone, with the priciest being a little over $1000 and the least expensive about $60. Most lightweight kayaks come with a 3- to 5-year-long warranty; some have a lifetime limited warranty.

Most warranties apply to cases of demonstrated poor manufacture of the hull only (not any included accessories). That said, most people seem to be satisfied with the customer service and willingness to honor the warranty of kayak companies.


8 Best Lightweight Kayaks Reviewed

1. Lifetime Lotus

Best lightweight kayak (Sit-on-top)

Max Load Capacity

250 lbs.

Body Type (Hull Material)

High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

Kayak Type

Sit-on-top

Dimensions

8 feet long, 30 inches wide, 10 inches high

Kayak Weight

38 lbs.

Warranty

Yes; 5-year

The Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top recreational kayak is the overall best lightweight kayak for most people’s purposes. It tracks so well and is so stable that many users find that it remains upright in harsher conditions than indicated. It is perfect for beginners, with its wide hull that makes the new paddler feel secure—it is stable enough to sustain an energetic dog, too.

While it is not the lightest kayak available, it is light enough for most youth and adults to tote comfortably. It has a groove in the center bottom for the hand to fit for more comfortable carrying. It also fits in most cars, so there is no need to lift it onto a roof rack.

The relaxed paddler will appreciate the molded-in paddle cradle, the adjustable seat back, and spaces to fit smartphones, drinks, and other personal items. This kayak comes at a manageable price: some users complain that the included paddle is cheap, but most beginners find that it suits their purposes.

Pros

  • Very stable—almost cannot tip or swamp
  • Fits in most cars
  • Light enough to carry for most people
  • Easy-to-store size and shape
  • Resistant to sun damage

Cons

  • Not for whitewater situations
  • Not for high-speed kayaking

2. Lifetime Youth Wave

Best lightweight kayak for kids

Max Load Capacity

130 lbs.

Body Type (Hull Material)

HDPE

Kayak Type

Sit-on-top

Dimensions

6 feet, 24 inches wide, 9 inches high

Kayak Weight

18 lbs.

Warranty

Yes; 5-year

The Lifetime Youth Wave is the perfect lightweight kayak for a child or small preadolescent. At 6 feet long and 18 pounds, this kayak is not made for rough water or high speed, but it is very stable. In fact, all of Lifetime’s youth kayaks are so stable that they can double as standup paddleboards for kids. Also, for the youth who loves to go in and out of the water, the Youth Wave has a smooth, ramp-like area on the back to help a swimmer re-enter the kayak.

The molded handles on the sides of the cockpit make for easy carrying and make the nervous paddler feel more secure. The cockpit is ergonomically molded and has multiple foot grooves for kids of different heights. There is no seat padding, but many young people will not miss it. For added convenience, this kayak comes with a youth-size paddle.

This kayak comes in 5 bold colors (pink, green, blue, yellow, or orange); all make the kayak very visible to others on the water, a great safety feature.

For a slightly longer youth kayak designed to carry 150 pounds, look at the Lifetime Dash 66 Youth Kayak.

Pros

  • Resistant to sun damage
  • Light enough for most kids to carry
  • Fits in a car easily
  • Very stable—easy to get in and out of
  • Bright colors increase visibility

Cons

  • No backrest or seat pad included

3. Intex Challenger K1

Best lightweight inflatable kayak

Max Load Capacity

220 lbs.

Body Type (Hull Material)

Heavy-duty vinyl

Kayak Type

Inflatable

Dimensions

9 feet long, 30 inches wide, 15 inches high

Kayak Weight

27.2 lbs.

Warranty

Yes; 90-day

By most criteria, the Intex Challenger K1 is the best lightweight inflatable kayak. At 27.2 lbs. and 2 feet long when folded, it offers the two main benefits of an inflatable kayak—portability and compactness. You might hesitate out of fear that an inflatable kayak is prone to punctures. However, users indicate that they can even have energetic dogs running around on the kayak with no problem.

While it is true that the first inflation/preparation can take as long as 15 minutes, most users find that they get faster and faster at the process until they need no more than 5 minutes to get in the water. With a manual pump, carrying bag, paddle, and repair/patch kit included—this is a high-value purchase.

If you are looking for a lightweight inflatable tandem kayak from the Intex brand, consider the Intex Explorer 2-Person.

Intex has a wide variety of water sport inflatables that adhere to multiple quality standardizations: IOS (International Organization for Standardization), NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association), and ABYC (American Yacht and Boat Council).

Pros

  • Puncture-resistant
  • Great value for money
  • Stable—easy to get in and out of
  • Very light and space-saving
  • Comfortable enough to relax in

Cons

  • Folding the deflated kayak can be tedious
  • Relatively short warranty period

4. Oru LT Kayak

Best lightweight fishing kayak

Max Load Capacity

300 lbs.

Body Type (Hull Material)

Polypropylene

Kayak Type

Foldable

Dimensions

12 feet long, 28 inches wide, 12 inches high

Kayak Weight

26 lbs.

Warranty

Yes; 1-year

At first glance, the Oru Foldable Beach LT might not look like the best lightweight fishing kayak. In fact, it is ideal for almost any quiet water situation, including fishing, touring, or just relaxing. The origami-inspired foldable design is a novelty (it folds up into a 29’’x33’’ structure), and most users find that the kayak evokes curiosity and intrigue in all of those who see it. The Oru foldable design has been featured on such product venues as CNN, Forbes, and Shark Tank.

However, this is not just a showpiece. It tracks well, has an adjustable foldup seat, comfortably accommodates paddlers up to 6'6''; and it has cargo space behind the bulkheads—altogether it can carry up to 300 pounds which is great for your fishing needs while remaining lightweight. It can endure 10 years of sun exposure and 20,000 folds/unfolds and lives up to U.S. Coast Guard recreational boat requirements.

Like inflatables, there is a learning curve: You might need 1 hour to assemble it, at first; but you can get it down to 15 minutes.

Pros

  • Can carry like a giant purse
  • Requires little storage space
  • Very lightweight for its size
  • Innovative build
  • Adjustable cockpit—customized comfort

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • Assembly takes some practice

5. Sundolphin Aruba

Best lightweight recreational kayak

Max Load Capacity

250 lbs.

Body Type (Hull Material)

Fortiflex® high-density polyethylene

Kayak Type

Sit-in

Dimensions

10 feet long, 30 inches wide, 14 inches high

Kayak Weight

40 lbs.

Warranty

Yes; lifetime

The Sundolphin Aruba 10-Foot is the all-around best of the lightweight recreational kayaks. Its length gives you more weight capacity, cargo space, and speed than shorter kayaks on this list, as long as you are comfortable with a sit-in design. If feeling restricted is a concern, note that this kayak is suitable for those over 6' tall and it tends to work for people/cargo heavier than indicated.

If you are a tentative beginner, realize that there are grip handles on either side of the cockpit, which not only give you something to hold on to but also make carrying the kayak easier. This kayak has more leg support than most: there are thigh pads and foot braces.

While this is not the lightest kayak ever, it is light enough that most people can get it onto a car rack and it is short enough that some can even get it into their cars.  

Pros

  • Works for heavier cargo than indicated
  • Resistant to sun damage
  • Fits tall and short people alike
  • Comes in a selection of 5 highly visible colors
  • Great value for cost

Cons

  • Relatively heavy for a lightweight kayak
  • Relatively long for lightweight recreational

6. Sea Eagle 330

Best lightweight tandem kayak

Max Load Capacity

500 lbs.

Body Type (Hull Material)

33-mil K-80 Polykrylar (a type of PVC)

Kayak Type

Inflatable

Dimensions

11 feet, 2 inches long; 34 inches wide

Kayak Weight

26 lbs.

Warranty

Yes; 3-year

The Sea Eagle 330 Deluxe is the best lightweight tandem kayak: It comes at an affordable price, while still including a foot pump, 2 oars, a 4’x2’ carrying bag, and a repair/patch kit. If you like a little more space, this can be converted to a one-person kayak too. One person can easily carry it, as it folds to 2 feet long and is only 26 pounds.

This inflatable kayak can endure Class III rapids and has a self-bailing valve on the aft. With 3 chambers (port, starboard, and floor), a puncture in one will not create a serious hazard. However, this is not likely, since users find that it can even endure the claws of dog passengers. Furthermore, many find that it can actually hold more weight than indicated.

You might need more time to inflate these the first time, but when experienced, you will only need about 6 minutes.

Pros

  • Puncture and sun-resistant material
  • Great value for money
  • Convertible 1 person or tandem
  • Stable easy to get in and out of
  • Potentially holds more weight than indicated

Cons

  • Some find it rather snug for 2 people

7. Sundolphin Aruba SS

Best lightweight kayak for beginners

Max Load Capacity

260 lbs.

Body Type (Hull Material)

Fortiflex® HDPE

Kayak Type

Sit-in

Dimensions

8 feet long, 28 inches wide, 15 inches high

Kayak Weight

27 lbs.

Warranty

Yes; lifetime

The Sundolphin Aruba SS 8-Foot is the perfect lightweight kayak for the adult beginner: It is affordable, unusually lightweight, and easy to carry. It has a high cockpit wall to keep back water spray, and it has a molded-in paddle cradle—both of which alleviate stress for the beginner. It has sufficient cargo space for the casual paddler.

Unfortunately, this might not be the best beginner kayak for large people—users find that it is not so stable for heavier adults. However, small adults and youth generally find it easy to use.

The bright colors this kayak comes in are not only fun, but they also give added visibility, an especially important safety feature for someone new to water sports.

This is a great model for those who want to try out kayaking but are not ready to make a serious investment in the sport.

For an excellent lightweight fishing kayak for beginners, look at the Sundolphin Excursion 10.   

Pros

  • Bright visible colors
  • Easy to lift and carry
  • Comfortable for youth or beginners
  • Inexpensive
  • Resistant to sun damage

Cons

  • No thigh or leg support in cockpit
  • Not so stable, especially for bigger people

8. Ocean Kayak Caper Classic

Best lightweight ocean kayak

Max Load Capacity

325 lbs.

Body Type (Hull Material)

Single-layer polyethylene

Kayak Type

Sit-on-top

Dimensions

11 feet long, 31 inches wide, 18 inches high

Kayak Weight

47 lbs.

Warranty

Yes; lifetime

For those who want an invigorating ocean kayaking experience, the Ocean Kayak Caper Classic is the best lightweight ocean kayak. While it is the heaviest on this list, ocean kayaks generally need to be longer and have more cargo space. At 47 pounds and with side-carry handles, most people still can transport it by arm for some distance.

This kayak is comfortable - it gives you the openness of a sit-on-top unit, an adjustable padded seat (with both back and bottom padding), an option of different foot grooves for different leg lengths, and a right-side paddle holder. It has the most storage space of any kayak on this list: a sealed front hatch for watertight storage, plus a tank well in the back, equipped with bungees. All of this storage makes it a highly versatile kayak. It offers the tracking, speed, maneuverability, and stability needed for hours of paddling on open water.

The sit-on-top design is Ocean Kayak’s specialty. In fact, they even have a lightweight women’s sit-on-top ocean kayak, Venus 10.

Pros

  • Bright splashy (very visible) color
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Easy to control (tracking, maneuvering)
  • Very stable
  • Versatile

Cons

  • Fairly heavy for a lightweight kayak

Lightweight vs. Heavy Kayaks

If you need your kayak to be very long—say, for multiple people—or large enough to carry a lot of cargo, it will need to have more weight to it, even if it is made of lightweight material.

Also, there are reasons you would prefer a heavier kayak. Higher weight makes the kayak less resistant to changes in direction, which ultimately improves its tracking and stability. If transporting the load is no problem to you, you might prefer the more secure, less “tippy,” feel of a not-so-lightweight kayak.


Using a Lightweight Kayak

Position all of your gear and personal belongings. Put water-sensitive items in a dry bag or in the waterproof hatch (if applicable). Also, before you get out on the water, sit in the kayak on land and adjust your seat to suit your preference.

The video below shows how to get in and out of a kayak in a variety of situations. Note how most people use the paddle as a support rail.


Kayaking Safety Tips

Again, with an inflatable, be sure you have inflated it correctly. If you detect a leak, use a repair/patch kit (usually included with kayak) as soon as possible.

Always wear a personal floatation device (PFD) and be sure you protect yourself from the sun—wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and wear clothing that covers your body and head. 

For more intense expeditions, wear a helmet. Also, you could end up getting wet, so dress accordingly.

While lightweight kayaks make solo missions easier than ever, it is best to let at least someone know where you are going and keep your smartphone fully charged and on you at all times.


Care & Maintenance: Taking Care of Your Lightweight Kayak

Most lightweight kayaks can take some abuse, but ideally, you should wipe off any debris and moisture before storage. Store your kayak somewhere dry, out of sunlight, and at a moderate temperature. This goes for inflatable and foldable kayaks, too. (Always deflate an inflatable kayak for storage.)


Frequently Asked Questions

How fast is a lightweight kayak?

Kayakers usually go between 2 mph and 10 mph. Lightweight kayaks generally require less strength to paddle, which could increase your speed.

What is the perfect length for a lightweight kayak?

It depends on what you are using it for, how much you want to carry, if it is a tandem, and how big the riders/paddlers are. If you want to fit it into your car, be sure it is not too long, though. Nine feet is usually a safe bet.

What is the best construction material for a lightweight kayak?

Most affordable lightweight kayaks are made from plastic, most often high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

Can I mount an onboard motor on a lightweight kayak?

​Usually, you cannot.

What is the best way to transport a lightweight kayak?

For large kayaks, the roof rack might still be the best way, but many times, all you have to do is put one or more seats down and carry the kayak in the car. When it comes to carrying it to the water, most people find lightweight kayaks are easy enough to carry with one arm.

What are the disadvantages of owning a lightweight kayak?

Relative to a heavy kayak, there really are no disadvantages. Finding space in their home for storage can create a problem for some people, but an inflatable or foldable kayak fixes that.

Are longer or shorter kayaks better?

A longer kayak will give you more legroom and storage space. A shorter kayak is more likely to fit in your car and is less tedious to carry.


Conclusion

The Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top recreational kayak is the go-to lightweight kayak for an adult or teen. It is affordable, stable, durable, and comfortable—all while being easy to carry and small enough to fit in most cars. Lightweight kayaks open the sport up to people who might otherwise see themselves as not athletic enough. Kayaking also gives many people a new way to get away and relax.

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