Best Touring Kayak of 2021: Complete Reviews With Comparisons


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Touring kayaks are perfect for beginner kayakers ready to level up and use something more durable, powerful, and spacious.

While these are an upgrade from beginner-level kayaks, kayakers of all experience levels can easily use them.

The key to having a good experience with one is to make sure you have the best touring kayak that matches your needs.

How do you go about choosing a touring kayak that will work for your needs? Start by getting to know the best models and what they have to offer.

Is Kayaking a Good Workout?

Yes! Getting onto the water in a great kayak is a wonderful way to work out your upper body, in particular, as well as your core.

By doing a few hours of kayaking, you will also be working your cardiovascular system.

Kayaking can be a great way to improve your body’s overall condition while also having a great time on the water.

To help you get started, here are our top five recommendations for the best kayak for touring.

Comparison Chart

Lifetime Tioga Sit-On-Top Kayak

Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak

Lifetime 90479 Youth 6 Feet Wave Kayak 

Perception Kayaks Expression Sit-Inside Kayak for Touring

Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Sport Kayak

Best Touring Kayak Reviews

1. Lifetime Tioga Sit-on-Top Kayak

The Lifetime Tioga kayak is a mid-range option with a wide seat and comfortable back.

It is the perfect sit-on-top kayak for long adventures on the water, but is it the right choice for you?

Review

The Lifetime Tioga kayak is for serious beginners who aren’t afraid of putting in the investment needed to have a great experience.

Experienced kayakers will immediately notice that this wide, sit-on-top kayak remains sturdy and stable.

When going on long adventures, you can keep paddling for a long time without worrying about aches and pains, thanks to the comfortable backrest.

The kayak itself is constructed using high-density polyethylene, which ensures it is durable and relatively impact-resistant.

Even after many trips on the water, you won’t see any noticeable change to how well this kayak tracks, paddles, and moves in the water.

Lastly, it has a simple design with a set of front and rear carry handles that let you easily transport it to and from your launch location.

PROS

  • Sturdy and stable
  • Includes storage hatch and paddle keeper
  • Adjustable footrest for different leg lengths
  • Comfort for long touring adventures
  • Maximum weight capacity of 275 pounds

CONS

  • Durability issues on some of the straps

2. Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak

Next up is the Sun Dolphin Aruba Kayak.

This sit-in kayak is a mid-range option especially popular with those who want to ride quickly and easily.

Review

Regardless if you’re a beginner, someone who does kayaking only recreationally, or a serious kayaker, the Sun Dolphin Aruba kayak is a great choice.

What’s great about this is that it can stand up to a good amount of impact damage.

In addition, it also has the necessary ability to make it through more than just a few seasons.

Very choppy waters are always going to be an issue with recreational kayaks.

Impressively enough, this Sun Dolphin kayak does a great job of remaining stable even in the wind.

It is lightweight enough that beginners can use and maneuver it without major issues and even get it in and out of the water with ease.

Because of its user-friendliness and speed, it’s an excellent touring kayak.

However, if you are on the heavier side or you plan to bring a lot of gear with you, be careful about balancing the weight.

If you can’t get it balanced, you may have to move up to a longer size to accommodate that need.

PROS

  • Very easy to navigate
  • Stable even in windy conditions
  • Good buoyancy
  • Durable
  • Good legroom

CONS

  • Plastic shavings from manufacturing may need to be cleaned out of the kayak
  • Sits low in the back if not balanced with gear

3. Lifetime 90479 Youth Wave Kayak

Shopping for a younger kayaker? The Lifetime 90479 Youth Wave Kayak is a great option.

Is it the right choice for a first-time kayaker?

Review

Younger kayakers often face difficulties using regular kayaks because they are too long, too heavy, and too difficult to maneuver.

Choosing a specialized youth kayak like this one can make it much easier for them to navigate and move quickly.

The Lifetime 90479 accommodates kids up to 130 pounds.

The best thing about it is that it only weighs 18 pounds, so kids may even be able to move it on their own.

Because its features are intended for the youth, the back has the perfect sloped point for easy re-entry.

As you may already know, easy re-entry is very important when learning how to kayak.

It allows the rider to keep kayaking without being stuck in the water or needing to go to land to get back in.

Finally, this kayak has more than one footrest location.

This means that kids can easily adjust where they put their legs as they grow until they grow out of the kayak altogether.

PROS

  • Built-in finger handles for easier transport
  • Built with kids and their needs in mind
  • Includes kayak paddle
  • Great stability and tracking
  • Durable construction

CONS

  • Has a learning curve for all kids to use for the first time
  • Does not include a backrest for long tours

4. Perception Expression 11.5 Light Touring Kayak

The Perception Expression 11.5 Light Touring Kayak is a high-end, light touring kayak.

Are the added features worth the cost, though?

Review

This is a great kayak for those seeking great adventures and the comfort necessary for a longer trip on the water.

Manufacturers don’t often make touring kayaks as well as this one is, and you’ll easily find that it is a high-end option worth considering.

The Perception Expression 11.5 allows the rider to enjoy easy handling, high stability, and a good amount of speed.

It is one of the most versatile sit-in kayaks on the market today.

When you need to navigate easily and store a good amount of gear, this kayak can meet those needs with relative ease.

The dry storage is big enough to accommodate up to a few days journey, though it still handles very well when used for day trips.

Lastly, this kayak has a highly streamlined design.

This design makes it look sleek in the water while being easier to store and transport at the same time.

PROS

  • Does not require much maintenance
  • Resistant to damage by UV rays, impacts, and abrasion
  • Lots of comfy padding for added comfort
  • Dry-skirt compatible
  • Great navigation features

CONS

  • Need to add dry skirt yourself
  • May take a few trips to get the padding situated as you want it

5. AdvancedElements AdvancedFrame Sport Kayak

The AdvancedFrame Sport Kayak is a mid-range inflatable kayak.

With all of its awesome features, does it suit your touring needs?

Review

Let’s be honest: Not everyone will think of an inflatable option when looking for a touring kayak.

This belief is what the AdvancedFrame Sport Kayak wants to break.

The design of this kayak makes it a great lightweight option.

But more than that, it is still able to provide what is needed most in a touring kayak: comfort, space, and navigable speed.

You will notice that the cockpit area is very large, making the kayak easy to get in and out of.

At the same time, it also helps give the rider increased comfort even when touring for long hours.

Even though this is an inflatable kayak, the durability and performance are on par with entry-level, hard-shell models.

This is thanks to the built-in aluminum ribs that ensure the stern and bow keep the shape necessary for great tracking.

PROS

  • Triple-layered, puncture-resistant material
  • Paddles and moves like a hard-shell kayak once in the water
  • Has back support, storage space, and paddle guards
  • Great durability

CONS

  • Can be hard to get back into the storage bag
  • Doesn’t move upstream as well as hard-shell kayaks

What Size Touring Kayak Do I Need?

Figuring out what size touring kayak you need can be a complicated decision process.

There are several factors that will affect how long or wide your kayak should be:

  • Your height
  • How long your legs are
  • How wide of a seat you need
  • How much you need to store
  • What you can comfortably maneuver

To start choosing the size of your touring kayak, begin by keeping in mind your height.

If you are over six-foot-tall, start by testing out 12-foot or 14-foot kayaks and see how they fit your leg length and waist area.

You want to make sure your center of gravity sits in the right place so that you can comfortably maneuver the kayak.

Touring kayaks typically fit more snuggly around the waist. This is fine, but you want to make sure it is the right balance of snug.

You want to be sure you are not sliding all over the place while still ensuring you can easily get out of the kayak if you capsize.

Most people under six feet will be happiest with a nine-foot or 10-foot kayak. However, this will still depend on your exact body structure and power.

Take time to try out your friends’ kayaks, if possible, to find what length is going to work best for you in the end.

What Is the Difference Between a Touring Kayak and a Sea Kayak?

People often wonder what the difference is between the many types of kayaks.

It can get especially confusing because some types are subcategories of other types.

And just like that, you’ve got way too many types to keep track of.

For example, a sea kayak is a subtype of a touring kayak. But what is the difference between a touring kayak and a sea kayak?

Compared to standard recreational touring kayaks, a sea kayak is better equipped to handle waves and rough waters.

It has a bigger curve from bow to stern so that the kayaker can easily crest oncoming waves. It also has a narrower profile.

Together, these features ensure the ability to deal with waves.

Because of these design choices, sea kayaks are also less stable than standard touring kayaks.

As such, it would take more practice to ensure you know how to stay balanced and upright in a sea kayak than a touring kayak.

Beyond that, both kayaks can be found with many similar features, and they all need to be taken care of in similar ways.

How Fast Is a Touring Kayak?

The speed of a touring kayak is going to depend on a few factors.

Some think it’s all in the kayaker’s skill. Others believe it completely depends on how expensive or well-made the kayak is.

If you come to think of it, it’s a bit of both.

New kayakers probably can’t get their kayak going at a steady pace of more than two to three miles per hour.

After all, it takes time to get comfortable moving quickly and keeping things under control when in the water. In time, this can definitely be sped up.

On the other hand, very experienced kayakers with a high-quality touring kayak will find that they can reach six to seven miles per hour.

It is possible to see even higher speeds, too.

However, the final speed will mostly depend on the current, the weather condition, and many other factors affecting the trip.

The best way to plan for your trip based on distance is to overestimate how long things will take so that you don’t run out of light.

Do Kayaks Tip Easily?

Generally speaking, it isn’t easy to tip over a kayak.

Due to the nature of how they are built, it is not easy to flip one over unless you are in rough conditions or make a mistake in how you position yourself.

Short and wide kayaks will be more stable and harder to flip than those that are long and narrow, so that is a factor to keep in mind, too.

Most beginners end up flipping over their kayaks for one of the following reasons:

  • They turn around and shift their weight too far
  • They lean over to try to reach something in the water
  • They paddle into waves with the wrong rhythm

To get used to tipping over and practice how you can get back on your kayak, try to intentionally tip over when in safe waters and with company.

By seeing what causes the kayak to flip, you can avoid this and get ready for the future.

Which Is the Best Kayak for Touring?

Touring kayaks come in many sizes and with a variety of features.

What is going to be the best option for you will depend on what you plan to use it for.

Overall, we have found that the Perception Expression 11.5 stands out as the best touring kayak.

This high-quality option is a great step up from beginner kayaks without going overboard. It stands out in speed and durability as well as space.

Another great option for those who want to try touring kayaks is the Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak.

It has a great amount of space as well as an easy-to-maneuver design that many kayakers will find useful.

Choosing the right touring kayak is hard because there are so many different options on the market.

Remember that every kayak has both pros and cons.

Weigh each one over the other so that you can decide if the kayak you’re looking at is the right model for you.