For some, there is no better place to be than on the water. Gliding across a lake with just a paddle, supplies, and maybe a furry friend is a heaven for many kayakers. Those who treasure speed love one particular kayak style; the touring kayak.
A touring kayak is designed to cut through lakes, bays, and rivers. Made for calmer waters, top-rated touring kayaks are longer than other styles and have plenty of storage and cockpit room. While they are not best for beginners, touring kayaks are an excellent option for experienced kayakers on family trips, adventures, camping trips, or out for an exercise session.
We scoured many touring kayak reviews to find the best models on the market for you; all you need to do is choose the one that best suits your needs.
Max Load Capacity
156 X 26 X 14.5 Inches
Sit On Top
12 Feet X 34 Inches
Dagger Zydeco 9.0
9.1 Feet X 28.5 X 14.25 Inches
16.5 Feet X 21.75 X 12.5 Inches
Advanced Elements AE1012-G
125 X 32.3 X 9.8 Inches
11.7 Feet X 25.75 Inches
Riot Edge Flatwater
14.5 Feet X 22.5 X 12 Inches
Touring Kayak Types
Sit On Top
A sit on top kayak has open cockpits that do not cover the legs. An open cockpit does not mean that there is no covered storage; touring kayaks often have rear and front storage compartments. This style of kayak is typically best for warmer conditions or for those who want to get in and out of the water quickly.
The opposite of sit on top kayaks, sit inside touring kayaks have enclosed cockpits that cover the legs and can utilize spray skirts. Sit inside kayaks are perfect for those who raft in colder or wetter weather conditions or who require more security in their seating area. Some people find sit inside kayaks to be claustrophobic.
Inflatable kayaks are, as the name implies, inflatable versions of touring kayaks. Inflatable kayaks are compact, easy to use, and often cheaper than hardshell touring kayaks. Inflatable touring kayaks are durable, stable, and easier for beginners to use but can be popped or damaged if not handled carefully.
A tandem touring kayak is a kayak that has two or three seats to allow multiple passengers on one kayak. Tandem kayaks are a great option for friends, couples, or even those with furry friends who want to kayak together without purchasing multiple kayaks. Tandem kayaks can still be rowed by one person the same as single touring kayaks.
Advantages Of Owning A Touring Kayak
- 1Extended Trips
For those who love to get away for weekends or longer trips, touring kayaks have sealed front and rear storage compartments. These compartments are large enough to hold onto plenty of equipment, and some kayaks come with bungee ties for even more storage options.
While touring kayaks are not as flexible as sea or white water kayaks, they make up the difference with their speed. Touring kayaks are longer and thinner than other styles, making them able to glide through calm waters.
If you need a kayak that tracks through the water like a knife, a touring kayak is a perfect choice for you. Often available with a skeg or fin with purchase, touring kayaks cut through the water with ease.
- 4Extra Features
Those who want a flashier kayak will want to consider getting a touring kayak. This style of kayak often comes with a wide range of extras; from navigation tools to rod holders, touring kayaks have you covered.
- 5Easy To Use
For those who like to keep things simple, a hardshell touring kayak may be for you. Unlike with inflatable kayaks which are compact and light but take time to set up, hardshell touring kayaks require being taken off the roof of your car and put on the water.
Choosing Top Quality Touring Kayaks
Usage/Primary Padding Location/ Skill Level
When considering purchasing a touring kayak, it is important to answer the following questions before buying; where will you use your kayak? How often will you use it? Where will you store it? What weather will you commonly kayak in? Knowing the answers to these questions beforehand can save you plenty of hassle in the selection process.
Durability, Design, and Comfort
No-one wants their shiny new kayak to break on its first outing; that is why durability is key. Touring kayaks are typically made of polyethylene plastics, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or ABS. These materials all have their various positives and negatives, but they are durable materials.
In terms of design, kayaks are often decked in bright colors for safety reasons. Choosing one in your favorite colors can marry style and function together nicely.
Size/Dimension, Speed, and Weight Capacity
Touring kayaks typically measure between 10-17 feet long and 22-27 inches wide on average. The longer the touring kayak, the harder it is to control. For beginners, it is recommended that you select a 10-foot long kayak. For those with a little more kayaking experience, 10-12 feet long is good, and 11-15 feet long is perfect for more advanced kayakers.
Depending on wave size and onboard weight, a touring kayak can glide at around six miles per hours. The average user can get to around 3-4 miles per hour while experienced racers can reach speeds of 7-9 miles per hour.
All machines and boats have a defined weight limit that they must stick to prevent damage. Touring kayaks often have a user weight limit that ranges between 250-600 pounds depending on the style and design. Bear in mind that this limit is the sum of the user body weight and the weight of the supplies stored onboard.
Stability, Maneuverability and Safety Features
In kayaking, there are two types of stability: primary and secondary stability. Primary stability is a measure of how stable an unmoving kayak is on flat water. Secondary stability measures how stable a kayak is while moving across a flat water's surface. Because of their hull design and dimensions, touring kayaks are not the best at primary stability but excel at secondary stability the faster they go.
Touring kayaks are light and fast, making them difficult to maneuver in rough water. Rudders and skegs make kayaks easier to control, and a smaller cockpit allows for easier steering.
Some safety features of touring kayaks include:
Storage And Portability
Thanks to their long design, touring kayaks often have at least one dry, enclosed hatch in either the front or the rear. The best touring kayaks have storage in the front and back as well as bungee cords for added storage. Inflatable touring kayaks are typically more portable than their hardshell counterparts because they can deflate to the size of a duffel bag, but kayak frames or trailers can be a simple solution.
Performance And Propulsion
A good tracking system is a key to a kayak’s performance; a skeg or fin must be quality. The tracking system on a kayak makes the kayak go in a straight line for better propulsion and control. The propulsion of a kayak depends on the tracking system, power behind the paddles, and how calm the water is.
Extra Accessories And Features
Some extra accessories and kayak touring available gear include:
Price And Warranty
Touring kayaks can be priced anywhere from $250 - $2,000, with most sitting in the $100-$750 range. The warranty of a kayak lets you know how long the manufacturer expects their product to function or last without damage, but most touring kayaks are built to last 5-12 years. A quality touring kayak can be a worthy investment.
7 Best Touring Kayaks Reviewed
1. Perception Carolina
Best Touring Kayak
Max Load Capacity
156 x 26 x 14.5 inches
Yes, 3 years limited
Available in three funky color options, the Perception Carolina touring kayak is one of the most versatile options out there for kayakers of any age. Not only is there a large sealed dry hatch compartment in both the front and the rear of the kayak but there is also bungee tie downs on top for added storage.
These hatches also have on/off seal covers for easy access from any angle. The width and hull design provides good stability and excellent tracking through the water. There is a side paddle park for when you need to take a break and bask in the glory of nature and adjustable footrests for added comfort and security.
Not only is the seat incredibly cushy and ergonomic, but it also tilts up and down as well as forward and back for incredible comfort anytime. Knee and thigh pads are also in the cockpit for increased comfort while out on the water.
Unlike standard touring kayaks, the Perception Carolina can also be taken out onto calm seas and coastal water as long as users are cautious and respectful of the water. An integrated foam bulkhead makes sure that the kayak stays as buoyant and safe as possible throughout your trip. Overall, the Perception Carolina is a great choice for your next outing.
For more of our favorite kayaks by Perception, check out our full guide to the brand here.
2. Ocean Malibu
Best Tandem Touring Kayak
Max Load Capacity
Sit on top
12 feet X 34 inches
Yes, limited lifetime warranty on the hull
The best sit on top touring kayak out there, this style of kayak is perfect for couples or friends looking to brave the surf together. The Malibu is available in two bright color options and has three seating positions that accommodate single, tandem, or tandem paddling with a small child or furry friend.
The open style cockpit makes getting in and out of the kayak a breeze and is perfect for those who want some fun in the sun. This touring kayak is dog-friendly and is tough enough to withstand scrabbling paws and claws. With four-way adjustable seats and solid footwells, comfort is key in this open cockpit tandem touring kayak.
There are plenty of handles for easy transport and movement while the weight capacity is large enough for multiple people plus gear. A screw-in drain plug can help you keep water out and your gear dry while the skid plate protects your hull from transport damage.
Two seats with comfortable seat backs come with the kayak and come with extra padding for added comfort and support. The extended lifetime limited warranty is a great cushion for when the unexpected happens. In spite of the minimal storage and lack of paddles with purchase, this is an excellent investment for any avid kayaker. We've reviewed more of our favorite tandem kayaks in this article.
3. Dagger Zydeco 9.0
Best Touring Kayak For The Money
Max Load Capacity
9.1 feet x 28.5 x 14.25 inches
Yes, Hull and deck = 5 years limited Parts, etc. = 1 year limited
Available in a beautiful blue, purple, and pink design, the Dagger’s Zydeco 9.0 really brings the heat in the water. Our top pick as best touring kayak for the money, the Zydeco has plenty of bow and stern bungee rigging and D rings on either side of the seat for secure gear storage.
The 9.0 is the shorter of the two Zydeco models; this means that it is lighter, easy to carry, and much easier to maneuver and turn in the water. The cockpit is roomy enough to be comfortable but narrow enough to maintain performance, and the fully adjustable seat is the cherry on top for comfort.
Tracking well is no problem for the Zydeco 9.0, and the footpegs are easy to adjust. The shorter length of this kayak means that it can fit into some models of car for easy transportation. Reviewers have noted that they can carry this kayak alone, is easy to enter and exit, and can get it in and out of the water easily without help.
A few reviewers have noted that this kayak has held up to sudden weather changes making it good in a pinch on a trip or during a training session.
4. Riot Brittany
Best Rated Touring Kayak
Max Load Capacity
16.5 feet x 21.75 x 12.5 inches
Yes, hull and deck = 5 years limited parts, etc. = 1 year limited
An award-winning British style design, Riot Kayaks' Brittany touring kayak raises the bar for touring kayaks everywhere. With a beautiful bright color scheme and a quality custom seating system, the Brittany is designed to be accessible for kayakers of any level.
Thanks to its smooth design and moderate width, this kayak provides the stability that beginners want without getting in the way of the smooth paddling that advanced kayakers need. The pilot rudder system and retractable skeg provide ultimate control and expert handling. In terms of storage, the Brittany has plenty of bungee tie-downs, and three front and rear bulkheads with dual hatch covers to provide as many storage options as possible.
Other features included in this design include a reflective lifeline, paddle hook, safety straps, thigh braces, shock cord storage, security bar, and touring handles for your convenience.
Not only that, but the Brittany is built to provide a safe kayaking experience as there is a compass recess to guide your way and plenty of safety precautions in place. Some reviewers have noted that the kayak is on the heavier side and that the seating and thigh brace design means that not everyone will find this kayak comfortable.
5. Advanced Elements AE1012-G
Best Inflatable Touring Kayak
Max Load Capacity
PVC, aluminum, and polyester
125 x 32.3 x 9.8 inches
Yes, 1 year limited
There is a reason that Advanced Elements is one of the best inflatable kayak brands out there, and the AdvancedFrame kayak really proves why. From the electric green or bold red and grey design with plenty of bungee storage and handles to the ergonomic adjustable seat to the multiple valves, everything about this kayak is convenient and flexible.
This kayak comes with essential features such as storage space, a repair kit, and paddle holders. The built-in tracking fin provides a good tracking system, and the wider than average hull offers a more stable kayaking experience.
For those concerned about puncturing, there are three entire layers of PVC and polyester to prevent small tears or abrasions from damaging the hull. Built-in aluminum ribs are there to give extra shape, support, and definition for increased tracking.
All of this being said, multiple reviews for this inflatable touring kayak stated that this model is not the best choice for exceptionally tall people and is better for those of average height.
Overall, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak is an ideal choice for those who want to get out on the water but may not have the budget or space for a hardshell touring kayak.
6. Perception Expression
Best Light Touring Kayak
Max Load Capacity
11.7 Feet x 25.75 inches
Yes, 5 years limited warranty
Available in three beautiful and bold color schemes, the Perception Expression is an excellent option for those who have never tried a sit-inside touring kayak before. With plenty of storage in the rear with an on/off sealed cover, there is also extra foam to increase the buoyancy and safety of the kayak.
One of the most stable touring kayak models, this provides enough stability to make beginners feel secure while making sure that the width does not interfere with advanced paddlers’ techniques. In terms of seating, the seat is four-way adjustable and fully tilt-able, and the backrest is incredibly comfortable.
There are adjustable padded thigh braces and footrests that give an extra layer of security but do not stop the cockpit from being easy to get in and out of. A sprayskirt can be added to the cockpit rim for increased protection from the elements.
The TruTrak skeg is controllable from the cockpit so that you have maximum control over your trackability and steering. It is possible to add a rudder if you need added control. Reflective safety lines and carry handles make reentry and handling a breeze.
Like with many touring kayaks, this model is also UV, impact, and abrasion-resistant thanks to its material and one-piece construction. All of this plus the long warranty make the Brittany an excellent choice.
To learn more about lightweight kayaks, click here.
7. Riot Edge Flatwater
Best Day Touring Kayak
Max Load Capacity
14.5 feet x 22.5 x 12 inches
Yes. Hull = 5 years limited Parts = 1 year limited
Bold color and slender design merge with the Edge touring kayak. Made of polyethylene, the Edge has drain plugs for easy drying and reflective lifelines for protection and convenience. Bulkhead front and rear compartments with dual density hatch covers and bungee ties provide plenty of storage for supplies.
A well-rounded day touring kayak, this model comes with a custom fit seating system, sliding foot braces, thigh braces, and a retractable skeg for maximum customization, control, and comfort. Fore and aft shock cord storage is available, and there are safety straps, a security bar, and a paddle hook for increased safety and convenience.
While there are plenty of excellent safety and quality of life features, there are some drawbacks as no model is perfect. There is only one color option available for the Edge, and this is the heaviest kayak on our list, making it difficult for some to carry alone.
Some reviewers have noted that their kayak arrived with signs of damage, but others have said theirs were mark free. The extended hull coverage is reassuring in case of abrasion or chipping and the parts being covered for a year will come in handy in a pinch.
Recreational Vs Touring Kayaks
When considering buying a kayak, people often wonder what the difference is between recreational and touring kayaks. Touring kayaks are longer and thinner than recreational ones and are designed for flat or moderate waters.
Not only that, but touring kayaks are almost always sit in style and have an aggressive hull shape and a small rocker. Their design makes touring kayaks faster and harder to turn than recreational ones while providing plenty of storage space.
However, these qualities do not make touring kayaks better than recreational ones; the best kayak is the one that is right for you.
Touring Kayak Vs Sea Kayaks: What Is The Difference?
Another common question is the differences between sea kayaks vs. touring ones. Sea kayaks are more flexible than touring ones, being able to traverse both calm rivers and rough ocean waves. The sea kayak has a more stable hull design with a large rocker and sits lower in the water. A kayak that suits your needs and budget is the best one for you.
Using A Touring Kayak
For hardshell inflatable touring kayaks, simply pack the kayak and all of your supplies into your vehicle and head to your destination. Once there, unload the kayak and carefully fill it with the supplies, checking that they are secure. Remove any debris and place the kayak onto the water. To see more details on how to get into a kayak and how to paddle one, please check out this article.
Care And Maintenance: Taking Care Of Your Kayak
Taking care of your kayak is as easy as pie. Once you are done with your kayak and back onshore, simply remove any debris from the kayak, wash it down with water and mild soap, then hose it down and wipe it with a towel. It is recommended that you also rub some protective spray or salve into the surface of your kayak at least once a month to keep it in top shape.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are touring kayaks easy to steer? Are they best for beginners?
Compared to other styles, touring kayaks are not as easy to steer. Beginners should try a recreational kayak to gain experience before trying out a touring kayak.
How long does a touring kayak last?
A touring kayak’s lifespan depends on how often it is used, how well it is taken care of, and what kind of material it is made of. However, most touring kayaks should last between 12-15 years with proper care.
What other features does a touring kayak include?
The extra features of a touring kayak depend on the model and can include a spray skirt, removable rudder, adjustable seats, and footrests.
What size of paddle should I get for my touring kayak?
Many touring kayaks come with a paddle or two with purchase, but a paddle's size depends on the size of the user and the length of the kayak. For those who are five foot to five foot four inches and have a boat of 17-23 inches, 220-230 cm is enough. Those who are 5 foot 5 inches to size foot 2 inches should get a 230-240 cm paddle. People over six foot three should get a 240 – 250cm paddle.
What are the top-rated touring kayak brands?
In the world of touring kayaks, there are plenty of brands that you can trust to deliver quality yaks. Some of the best touring kayak brands include Riot, Perception, Dagger, and Advanced Elements.
Do I need to wear a PFD? What is the best touring PFD?
Yes, it is always recommended that all kayak users, including animals, should wear a PFD at all times while kayaking. Some of the best touring kayak PFD brands include Stolquist, Astral, and NRS.
As you can see, shopping for touring kayaks does not need to be an overwhelming experience. The kayaks on our list combine style, function, and comfort to allow new and veteran kayakers to put their best foot forward on their next trip across the water.
While we love all of these kayaks, we most recommend the Perception Carolina over the rest. If you would like to see some more space or budget-friendly choices, please see our inflatable kayak article for more options.
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