10 Best Kayak Brands
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Searching For The Best Kayak Brands
Raise your hand if the stunning, clear waters have ever called out for your attention? Sometimes swimming just doesn’t cut it on a nice summer day – sometimes we need to just glide along the water and soak in the sun.
Enter the kayak. Or more specifically, the best kayak brands on the market.
While kayaking often gets lumped into one general idea, there are actually a number of different activities that can be done. From casual lake waters to the rushing rapids, each destination requires a different touch to maintain that dream ride.
Whether new to the field or a kayaker since youth, it’s important to find the right fit for your needs.
We’ve gathered together our list of the top ten best kayak brands in the industry to peruse just what options exist. From lightweight and durable to easily stored and transportable, these brands all have their own specialty just waiting to be seen.
10 Best Kayak Brands
1. Delta Kayaks
Canadian at their core, Delta Kayaks are all about premium crafting. Manufactured in British Columbia, this brand has been serving up sleek and stylish kayaks and accessories for over 35 years. Not only have products focused on fun appearances, but they’re well-established for conquering the calmest rivers to the rockiest rapids.
Working with their advanced thermoform technology, this brand’s construction is all about being built to last. Layering all pieces with both watertight and UV-protected materials, these kayaks maintain color after lasting lengthy spans in the sun, keeping people sitting upright in the roughest waves.
The best part of the build? They’re among the lightest in the market. No more struggling to reach the water.
Ensuring sustainability remains in their minds at all times, Delta Kayaks are crafted from materials that leave minimal impact and can be 100% recycled. Of course, what else could be expected from one of the best kayak brands?
Unfortunately, prices aren’t listed as this brand doesn’t sell directly from their site, but they do have retailers open throughout North America for easy access to their products.
- Lines of adventure, light, touring, and performance kayaks
- Strong, light, and well-crafted
- Available at a wide variety of retailers
- Three-year warranty
2. Pelican International
Nature has been a passion of Pelican International since their launch in 1968. This decades-old brand didn’t actually start in the world of kayaks. Founder Gérard Élie began the business venture in the world of paddle boats, crafting the first molded boat through thermoforming (the term comes up a lot in this business).
Since then, they’ve transformed their love of the outdoors from that single design to a world of outdoor activity equipment.
Featuring kayaks, paddle boats, boats, and even sleds and sleighs, this company is all about bringing joy to the lives of others through quality and innovation. This Quebec-based business wants the best for their buyers, and that means never settling.
Constantly pushing themselves forward has assured Pelican International’s top reputation for sturdy and dependable products that customers can trust.
Not only does this brand want to impact the lives of the buyers, but also that of the world.
Pelican International proudly makes our list of the best kayak brands for their use of recycled plastics and reputation for recycling 99% of plastic waste remaining after the production process.
Keeping clean in terms of not only their manufacturing but also their prices, this brand’s pieces go for roughly $300 to $1,000 depending on the model.
- Wide range of outdoor activity gear and products
- Spectrum of pricing
- Sustainable production
- Free shipping over $100
3. Vibe Kayaks
We get a seriously good vibe about Vibe Kayaks (and not just because of the chill name). Fact is, this company is one of the newer ones on this list.
They got their start in 2013 when founder Josh Thomas launched from the shore with three base models. What made these models stand out? The combo sport aspect.
Making the first quality fishing kayaks designed for any angler with any budget. Promising prices lower than the standard $1,000 minimum often seen for these sturdy designs, Vibe Kayaks took off on making their community first in every decision.
Maintaining quality, durability, and affordability as their three core values, Vibe has since managed to introduce a wider line of fishing gear, paddles, attire, and more under their brand name.
Multi-colored in their designs, this business has always been about showing diversity in their work, staff, and community.
Their steady work has paid off in building a loyal following for their now seven kayak models sitting between $600 to $1,500. Quite reasonable costs considering the nature of the products.
- Extensive line of kayaks, gear, attire, accessories, and more
- Kayaking journals and resources
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Quick start guides for all kayak models
Introducing another family line to this list of the best kayak brands, Eddyline appears from the US, taking pride in their American heritage.
Tom Derrer added this name to the market in 1971 and the business has remained independently owned ever since, staying true to their original mission and values. What values do you ask? Those of innovation, communication, and customer service.
Focusing on a customer-first mentality, this brand has used vacuum bag and thermoforming methods to perfect the balance between lightweight and strong designs. Now featuring lines of kayaks for sea, open water, adventure, and fishing, this business has become all about securing a good time for buyers.
Providing not only top-quality kayaks, but gear and accessories to patch up and lengthen the lifespan of each model, this brand aims to be here not just for a good time, but also for a long time.
Recently, the company moved to new factory facilities, taking advantage of the new expansive space to further their research and development. There’s no point in being stagnant through design when we can keep moving forward.
We do have to note that due to their high-quality materials and methods this brand sits at a higher price point. We’re talking $1,300 to $3,400 depending on the model.
- Decades on the market with their kayaks and accessories
- Some of the lightest kayaks on the market
- Online kayak care tips
- Repair and maintenance guides
It doesn’t get more hardcore than buying from a company called Dagger. Keeping in mind the danger involved (and often overlooked) in kayaking, this company is all about action.
Started up in a basement by Joe Pulliam in 1988, this brand focuses not only on the relaxing rec and tours of riding the waters, but also the rush of breaking through those white-water rapids.
The cool part about this brand comes from their quality. Not only are they assured by the designers, but all models are put to the test firsthand by the Dagger team, paddling through the worst waters to ensure that quality will last time and terrain.
This brand wants their products to handle any waters, whether casually coasting on the lake or looking for a hit of adrenaline in the rapids, so they make sure each model holds up to that promise.
It’s all about the experience with Dagger, so whether buying a lower-end model for $680 or one of their most extreme options for $1,500, a good (and safe) time can be assured. Why settle for less than the best?
- Several high-class kayak models with accessories available
- Blogs and guides available for every level of kayaker
- Replacement parts available for purchase
- YouTube channel with How To’s, new products, and action videos
6. Ocean Kayak
Ever want to try kayaking but fear the requirement of sitting trapped in a tube on open water? We’ve all been there. Instead of freaking out or feeling awkward, go for the freeing options offered by Ocean Kayak. This brand is all about ease of access and avoiding learning how to roll so you don’t drown (terrifying).
Originally conceived in 1971 by the founder carving out a surfboard for seating room and storage space, it didn’t take long for sit-on kayaks to gain headway in the crowds.
Moving from fiberglass to a more durable polyethylene allowed for easier molding of materials to carve out that comfortable sitting space.
With a few changes in location, this brand eventually established themselves in Maine, now claiming the title as one of the top manufacturers for sit-on-top kayaks in the world (therefore making them one of the best kayak brands in business).
Maintaining not only a high standard for quality and material but also for customers, this brand wants all aspects of kayaking to be easy. From getting in and out to managing costs, Ocean Kayak believes this journey should be a good time.
That’s why their prices come in a reasonable range, from $500 to $2,100 for a spectrum of sizes and styles to fit the customer’s needs.
- Wide range of kayaks, fishing gear, accessories, and apparel
- Find Your Fit quiz to help narrow down the selection
- Specializes in sit-on-top kayaks
- One of the top manufacturers worldwide
7. Perception Kayaks
Over 40 years in the industry has taught Perception Kayaks one thing: innovation has no limits. This brand constantly works to be in the best kayak brands on the market, meaning they don’t let success slow or stop their creative efforts.
Perception believes that kayaking needs to be accessible for all skill levels, so they put their full efforts behind a line that works for everyone.
Focusing on quality above all else, this brand wants to secure reliability as their top characteristic. That means providing comfortable, safe, and secure builds for their easy-paddling products.
Aiming for a versatile audience, Perception really perceives (had to do it) the needs of their customers, always existing one step ahead of the demand.
Hand-in-hand with providing an eclectic mix of products for all levels of skill, this brand also understands the limits that cost can place. As a result, they do their best to keep things affordable with starting prices sitting around $400, going all the way up to $2,000 for more exclusive fishing, pedal kayaks. More features equal more cost.
- Extensive range of kayaks and accessories
- Kayak Finder Tool
- Focus on skill-level and inclusion
- Five-year warranty
NuCanoe joins our list of the best kayak brands from a familiar face – that of Ocean Kayak’s founder Tim Niemier. While Ocean Kayak does well on their own, Niemier’s goal to get “a billion butts in boats” required a more universal design than standard kayaks.
His original business focuses on that sit-on-top design while this 2006 business puts forth a more generalized version of a boat for the masses.
Using an open-faced design, NuCanoes are all about a form that can be used for fishing, hunting, rowing, paddle boarding, or any other water-based activities.
Making a boat for the people, this product is all about accessibility for any past time or skill level – anyone who wants to be out on the water can rest easy knowing the Nucanoe is around to make that journey simple.
While it’s a standard idea, that doesn’t mean there’s only one model on the market. In fact, this brand has seven models to date with prices ranging from $700 to $2,000. Move from classic designs into exclusive editions depending on preference.
- Specialized design for easy-access kayaks
- Propulsion models available
- Wide range of retail partners
- Roomy design for storage, dogs, and friends
9. Oru Kayak
Alright, stay with us on this one – origami plus kayak. It sounds impossible and confusing, but somehow Oru Kayak manages the incredible feat and that alone makes them one of the best kayak brands on the market (in our minds at least).
Entering the market in 2012 from the minds of Anton Willis and Ardy Sobhani (and the funds of Kickstarter), this company found a way to connect to nature in light, manageable, and affordable manners.
So, how does it work? Each kayak folds from a compact envelope (with straps for easy carrying) to a full-sized kayak in only three minutes of set-up time. Weighing only 20 pounds, this piece is easily stored and highly portable, tossed in any trunk without a thought.
Despite the folding and minimized storing size, these kayaks remain some of the strongest in the game for rough or calm waters.
Currently, this brand serves up five models to select from. Each has its specific use from beaches to tandem to rapids and high winds. Prices depend on the model (due to differing sizes), but the whole price range goes from $950 to $2,000.
While it’s not the lowest cost we’ve listed in this article on the best kayak brands, it’s also not the highest and we feel like the storage aspect more than makes up for the cost.
- Five kayak models with specified uses
- Affirm payment plans available
- Durable materials and build
- Easily stored and transported
10. Wilderness Systems
We’re ending with a brand born from the 80s (1986 to be specific), Wilderness Systems. This name is all performance, all the time, going so far as to make their motto “Chasing Perfection.”
Based in South Carolina, this business wants to encourage the masses to explore the worlds of water, enjoying the beauty that nature offers us all.
Fun fact about Wilderness Systems, they’re actually owned by Confluence Outdoor who owns two of the other brands we’ve featured on this list.
Both Dagger and Perception fall under this company, each name highlighting different elements of the joy found through coasting along the water. For those wondering why the websites may take on a similar format, this is why.
Their kayaks are all about the category. From family and tandem sizes to fishing and expeditions, there are styles for everything with a range of pricing that covers $450 to $2,660. Basically, there’s something for everyone to find.
- Extensive range of kayaks and accessories
- Direct purchase and retail partners
- Replacement parts available
- Active Experience section with news, blogs, videos, and more
How to Shop for the Best Kayak
It’s not enough to just understand what brands are available. While knowing names is helpful, there are actually a lot of elements to consider when making a purchase this big.
Rather than throw anyone in the deep end, we’re going to go for a general guide of key features to keep in mind when shopping for that perfect kayak.
Brand is a big factor for any purchase. While it doesn’t always equal top quality, the fact remains that some brands stand out for reputation. We’re not saying only shop for big names, but do a quick search (online, word-of-mouth, what-have-you) to find out what’s being said.
Has the brand had any issues in the past with the quality or service? Are they known for customer communication? The more you know, the less there is to worry about later on.
Here’s the thing – there’s no single kayak. As with any sport, variations exist depending on the final product or expectation.
What does that look like for kayaks? Well, there are two main categories with their own subcategories. It sounds like a lot, but stick with us here:
- Flat-water kayaks – these kayaks are best suited for calm waters. Common types seen for this variety are sit-on-top (no closed seating space), recreational (large opening and shorter), touring (long and narrow for lengthy journeys), pedaling (best for those with back and shoulder issues), and inflatable (not super durable, but easy storage and transportation).
- White-water kayaks – these models are best for facing adventure, rushing waters, and waves. Common types are playboats (short and best for waves in a solitary location), creekboats (longer volume for easier resurfacing), river runners (comfortable with storage space), old school (long with small seating space), and inflatable (extra storage space, strong, and perfect for beginners).
We threw a lot of names out here but it’s actually pretty easy to narrow in on what type of kayak to get based on the expected activities. Understand what you’re looking to use the product for and the selection will narrow down as a result.
Similar to type, it’s important to understand the purpose of each kayak. Some function only in calm waters while others work in rougher waves.
Think about exactly what activity you’re looking for and work from there. Beginners may want to start in flat waters to get a handle on the balance and rowing before moving to a faster pace.
Kayaking can be a scary thing for those who haven’t done it – especially when they’re flaunting smaller cockpits for the paddler. Sit-on-top kayaks allow customers to hop on and off with ease, but for those sitting in the pit, there’s another set of rules to live by.
Everyone new to kayaking should be taking a safety course, just in case of the worst. Those buying should always be looking for a storage compartment or space. These slots are useful for storing emergency items such as First Aid Kits, whistles, dry bags, float bags, and more.
The first thing we’re recommending here – look at depth. No one wants their legs to be cramped during lengthy journeys. We’re also adding weight in here, not to insult any individuals, but as a precaution about packing for longer trips. Food, clothes, and emergency items will need to be stored.
Take a look at the skegs, fins, and rutters as these prevent the kayaks from getting pushed aside in rougher waters, making it easier to stay on course. This will also be easier to manage when sitting comfortably (good segue? No? That’s fine).
Check out adjustable and well-padded seats as they’ll be in use for hours on end. We all just want to be comfortable in the end.
As with anything, maintenance is key to a lasting product. We all love the thought of minimal care, but that fact remains that work and dedication are needed to keep things in top condition. Luckily, no matter what kayak is purchased, some simple steps exist to maintain a kayak:
- Clean off build-up on the hull
- Use protectant sprays to reduce sun damage
- Store under tarps or indoors to reduce heat damage
It’s not too difficult to keep things functioning in the top condition – just a bit of time and effort will make a huge difference. Just some quick rinses and proper storage make a huge difference in the end! Not too time-consuming, right?
As with anything, the price needs to be taken into consideration. We won’t go too into detail for this one (we don’t know the personal budget in place, only you do), but we do want to note that generally kayaks sit in the $900 to $2,000 range.
Some cheaper and more expensive options do exist, but the higher costs are for higher performance pieces.
Those new to the world of kayaking may want to check into lower costs for casual kayaking. We’re not writing the rules here. Make a budget, figure out the type of kayak needed, and go crazy, not broke.
Do kayaks flip over easily?
We know that it’s generally a fear that anyone new to the activity has, but we’ll calm the soul by informing the world that kayaks aren’t designed to flip over easily. In fact, it takes a lot to displace the weight of a kayak enough to flip it. We’ll admit that lighter kayaks on rougher waters have a higher chance, but generally, these boats are as steady as anything on the water.
We do want to highlight measures in place. There are techniques in place that paddlers can learn to prevent flipping. These include:
- Low Brace
- High Brace
The rougher the waters, the higher the chance, but most people are safe on those daily rides. Try not to worry and instead enjoy the time on the water.
What are the advantages of a sit-on-top kayak?
Anyone shopping for kayaks will quickly catch on to the different styles available. One of the most popular types on the market is the sit-on-top kayak.
As (aptly) titled, these kayaks require paddlers to sit on top of the boat rather than in the cockpit like traditional types. This makes for the biggest pro – they’re easier to get in and out of.
In addition to their easy access, these kayaks tend to include self-bailing systems, meaning water that ends up in the boat doesn’t have to be bailed out while paddling. It escapes through a system of small holes.
These kayaks seem to be a standard for beginners due to their sturdy designs and freedom in seating.
Should you wax your kayak?
As with any water-based board or surface, maintenance is required. One of the easiest ways to get that done is through waxing it.
These products will strengthen the seal, making kayaks more durable and resistant to sun and water damage. We do want to note that inflatable kayaks don’t need this process – just a UV protection spray will get the job done for those ones!
How do you anchor your kayak?
As with any boat, an anchor is needed to keep slow or steady in a single location. For those who just want to slow their ride, drift chutes are a great method of slowing the speed by creating drag with a parachute that trails behind.
Those looking for a full stop need to look into drop anchors. Ideally, less weight is better (which sounds weird for an anchor). Folding anchors (around 3lbs) are commonly used for kayaking. Make sure there’s enough rope for a bit of give (recommended 7:1 ratio based on how deep the water is), ensure the anchor is firmly tied to either the bow or stern – attached to the sides never ends well – and let that anchor drop.
Is it OK to store a kayak vertically?
We’ve all seen the photos of kayaks lining walls (or is that just us?) but we’re here with an important message – that’s not ideal long-term storage. While it’s fine for a day or two, over time the vertical storage can affect the integrity of the kayak, its shape, and durability.
No one wants a damaged or deformed kayak.
Those who choose to store vertically for short-term purposes should think about balance. Rest it against the wall with the cockpit facing outward and the stern on the ground.
Its slightly wider base will assist in balancing the piece, but it’s always best to use padding, pegs, and a rack to secure the kayak and displace pressure. Also, make sure to cover the cockpit to avoid build-ups of moisture and debris.
We threw a lot of names and information out there, but it’s actually all pretty simple if you think about it. Buying a kayak really comes down to determining its use and going from there.
Once the experience and expectations have been determined, it’ll be easy to narrow down to more specific types, prices, and brands. Go in with a clear mind, set expectations, and don’t settle for less. The perfect fit exists – it just takes some time to find.
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