The 3 Best Kayaks For Camping in 2020 Reviewed
Do you want to explore the great outdoors by kayak? Then you need the right equipment to help you seamlessly glide over lakes, navigate tricky currents, and help you stay comfortable and stable – no matter where the journey takes you. With so many kayaks on the market, it can be challenging to find the perfect fit for your camping needs.
Different campers, different needs. Whilst some campers may only require a basic kayak for leisurely paddling on the lake next to their campsite, others prefer a larger, more durable kayak with extra storage space to bring their gear, enabling them to pitch a tent anywhere along the shore.
For this overview, we’ve chosen to highlight the 3 best recreational kayaks in 3 distinct price ranges: low-budget, mid-budget, and high-budget. Whether you want to spend a little or a lot, there’s a match for every recreational camper in this ‘Best Kayak For Camping’ overview.
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
And here’s an overview of the best kayaks for camping on the market today:
Each recreational kayak on this list ticks the most important boxes: it’s highly-rated on Amazon, great value-for-money, and comes. recommended by other kayaking enthusiasts. Discover our favorite kayaks in each price category (low, mid, and high) below. And upgrade your outdoor gear with this fantastic mode of transportation in the great outdoors!
Best Kayak For Camping
$: Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak
The Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak comfortably accommodates one adult, measures 108″(L) x 30″(W) x 13″(H), and has a 220 lbs weight capacity. The streamlined design features sporty graphics and bright colors, ensuring it is highly visible in the water. The kayak is made with rugged vinyl construction. It features an inflatable I-beam floor, a low-profile deck, and high-buoyance side-chambers for extra stability and comfort. Plus the design’s removable skeg allows for great directional movement.
According to hundreds of 5-star Amazon reviews, the Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak is also very comfortable. The kayak features an adjustable, inflatable seat with a backrest, adding support where needed. Other kayakers also give this product a big thumbs up on ease-of-assembly. Using the kayak’s Boston valve, you can inflate and deflate the entire silhouette in mere minutes.
Maximum bang for your buck
That’s not all, for the price listed, you’ll even receive grab lines, a cargo net for extra storage, a repair patch kit, and an 86-inch aluminum paddle! Even an Intex high-output pump is included with the recreational kayak, allowing for quick inflation and deflation on the go.
This may not be the most heavy-duty, or highest-quality inflatable kayak on the market, but for its super affordable pricing, you can’t beat its fantastic value. Cheap and cheerful: you simply can’t go wrong. The Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak only weighs 27.2 pounds, is easy to transport for car campers, and even comes with a carry bag included for safe storage between uses.
Tip: the Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak is also available in an inflatable tandem kayak version, the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak. This tandem kayak can comfortably fit 2 kayakers and has a weight capacity of 400 lbs: perfect for campers that want to paddle as a duo, opposed to solo.
- Easy to transport
- Can be inflated/deflated in minutes
- Great for beginners
- Not the most heavy-duty
- The inflatable silhouette may puncture
- Not the biggest weight capacity
$$: Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 8-Foot Sit-in Kayak is a great mid-budget option for beginners and recreational kayakers. Because according to Amazon customer reviews, the Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 8-Foot Sit-in Kayak is lightweight (27 pounds), durable, spacious, easy-to-maneuver, and makes paddling easy and fun: sounds good to us!
The Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 8-Foot Sit-in Kayak can fit one adult and measures 96″(L) x 28″(W) x 16″(H). This kayak has a large weight capacity and can handle up to 260 lbs, which is 40 lbs more than the previously listed Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak: ideal for larger campers of those kayakers that want to pack extra gear. For storage space, the design features an open tank well and shock-corded deck rigging.
Lightweight and easy to transport
The Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 8-Foot Sit-in Kayak is suitable for usage on lakes, ponds, and mild-flowing rivers. This recreational kayak comes with a spacious seating area and an adjustable, padded seat to keep you comfortable perched all-day long. Adjustable foot braces add stability, whilst the carrying handles make the lightweight kayak easy to transport. The style also features a paddle holder and a recessed drink holder
This hard-shell kayak has dozens of 5-star Amazon reviews, serving as testimony that it lives up to and exceeds expectations. Do note it’s not the fanciest or most heavy-duty on the market, but for its mid-budget pricing, you get a lot of bang for your buck. If you’re looking for a lightweight kayak that can easily be transported and navigates the water smoothly, this is a great addition to your camping gear.
- 5-star Amazon favorite
- Easy to transport
- Adjustable, padded seat
- Paddle holder
- Recessed drink holder
- Great for beginners
- Not for those on a strict budget
- Not the most heavy-duty
- Not the biggest weight capacity
$$$: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Kayak
If you want premium performance and don’t mind spending top-dollar to get the best camping kayak, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Kayak is a first-class choice. This versatile, sit-on-top kayak offers outstanding performance and stability on lakes, ponds, bays, and other mild-water conditions. This recreational model is also fantastic for anglers and makes a great fishing kayak due to its smart gear storage space, comfort, agility, excellent glide, and smooth maneuverability.
The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Kayak measures 120″(L) x 30.5″(W) x 15.2″(H) and has a weight capacity of a whopping 325 lbs, perfect for taking lots of camping gear or accommodating larger kayakers. This heavy-duty silhouette is made of durable polyethylene and weighs 55 lbs. Do note that this is quite a bit heavier than the previous kayaks on this overview, and makes the Wilderness Systems Tarpon less convenient to transport to and from your kayaking spot, or to fit on a roof rack whilst car camping. That said, it’s added weight is a direct result of its solid, high-quality built, and we reckon it’s a reasonable trade-off for its top-grade performance.
Superb stability and tracking
The highly-rated Tarpon 100 is engineered with a unique hull flare that allows for fantastic stability and tracking while still maintaining superb speed and responsive handling. This 10ft long kayak also features Wilderness Systems’ special ‘Phase 3 AirPro seating system’. The ergonomically designed system enables quick and easy back & leg support, making the Tarpon one of the most comfortable sit-on-top kayak on the market.
Further functionality comes from the kayak’s exceptionally large rear bungee tankwell, which allows for excellent gear storage on long trips, or multi-day camping adventures. The kayak also has two hatches that provide further dry storage below deck.
If you want premium comfort, maximum stability, and a top-grade quality standard, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Kayak may be worth the splurge. Granted, it’s not the most budget-friendly, but when you take proper care of it, this beauty could last you a lifetime.
- Top-grade quality
- Phase 3 AirPro seating system
- Rear bungee tankwell
- Two hatches for dry storage below deck
- Superb stability and tracking
- Made of durable Polyethylene
- Agile and very responsive handling
- Large weight capacity
- Not the easiest to transport
Each kayak in this overview offers excellent value-for-money for the price listed. Which one is ‘the best’ for you, depends on where and when you plan to use the kayak. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly and lightweight inflatable kayak to explore your surroundings from a base camp/campsite, the Intex Challenger could be your perfect, affordable fit. For campers that want more performance and durability, without paying top-dollar, the Sun Dolphin could make a real splash. And for multi-day camping trips and or avid anglers, the Wilderness Systems Tarpon may be their high-end match. It may be the most expensive, but it also comes with many premium perks, extra comforts, and spacious gear storage options.
Rest assured: every kayak on this list is highly-rated in customer reviews on Amazon, and gets a big thumbs up from other kayaking enthusiasts.
Though we love the top-grade design and premium perks of the pricey Wilderness Systems Tarpon and know the SunDolphin kayak has great performance and easy paddling, we simply can’t get over the outstanding value of the Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak. That is why we’d name it as our ‘Winner’, as its value-for-money is difficult to beat.
The Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak may not be the most durable and heavy-duty option on the market, but for recreational kayaking, it’s super convenient. Plus, its inflatable silhouette makes it extra easy to transport, simply deflate it and store it in a gear pocket when car camping. Inflation/deflation only takes minutes, and you even get the pump included, and paddle, included. Granted, for multi-day camping trips or challenging whitewater conditions, the Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak falls short. But for easy paddling on lakes, ponds, and mild-rivers, it keeps you comfy and stable, thanks to its inflatable backrest, inflatable floor, and streamlined silhouette.
As hundreds of 5-star Amazon reviews confirm: the Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak is a fantastic deal, that won’t disappoint!
Best Kayak For Camping – Buying Guide
When shopping for the Best Kayak For Camping, you’ll need to decide first what type of kayak you’re looking for. Though kayaks vary in size, shape, and silhouette, they can generally be divided into 4 distinct types:
One of the most popular types due to its beginner-friendly stability. A recreational kayak is easy to maneuver, doesn’t require a lot of paddling force, and is often the most budget-friendly of all 5 kayak types. These basic but functional kayaks are great for exploring flatwater areas such as ponds and lakes, and can usually also handle mild-flowing rivers. We’d recommend beginners and novices to kayak camping to start with a recreational kayak, as this model gives you the chance to test the waters (literally) before you overspend or overstretch your skills on an expensive, advanced option.
River kayaks are designed to navigate rapidly flowing rivers and strong currents with easy. These kayaks are often shorter in length, allowing you to quickly adjust your course. Though great fun for whitewater conditions, this model is not the most versatile, and we’d only recommend it for those campers that want an adrenaline-filled trip, not leisurely kayak campers.
Touring Kayaks / Sea Kayaks
Touring kayaks, also known as Sea Kayaks, are a fantastic choice for multi-day camping trips, due to their larger size and extra storage space. Touring kayaks are designed for paddling on open waters, and are the ideal kayak type for multi-day trips. Touring kayaks/Sea kayaks often come with a covered deck and are ideal for gear storage. Due to the large storage space underneath the deck, this type of kayak lets you pack more camping gear. Ideal when you want to go paddling from campsite to campsite, pitching a tent anywhere, anytime you want. With this type of kayak, you’ll not have the maneuverability of river kayaks. However, you do get to enjoy a higher cruising speed, more gear storage capacity, ease of straight-line paddling, and added comfort.
Do note that their larger sizing makes them trickier to transport, especially for car campers with smaller vehicles. This type of kayak can also be more pricey than a recreational kayak, due to its larger dimensions and often more heavy-duty construction. That said, for long trips, multi-day adventures, and overnight trips, a touring kayak remains the preferred option of choice for kayakers, due to its large capacity gear storage.
As the name already suggests, multi-purpose kayaks can tackle both flatwater and whitewater scenarios with ease. They combine the straight-line speed of touring kayaks with the maneuverability of river kayaks, giving you the best of both worlds in one, sleek design. Admittedly, you will have to sacrifice a bit on performance to enjoy this versatility. For example, a multi-purpose kayak will be more agile than a recreational or touring kayak, but still doesn’t quite match the maneuverability of a river kayak. Similarly, a multi-purpose kayak will offer better gear storage capacity than a river or recreational kayak, yet it often isn’t as ‘roomy’ as a touring kayak. That said, if you want a kayak that is always compatible with any kind of kayak camping trip: this is your multi-purse match.
When buying a kayak for camping, another important buying factor is a kayak’s length. Most commonly, recreational kayaks measure around 10ft in length. River kayaks/Whitewater Kayaks are shorter, making them more agile. Whilst touring kayaks are often longer for increased storage space. When it comes to width, the general rule of thumb is: the wider the camping kayak, the more stable it is. That said, river kayaks/whitewater kayaks have a narrower width/silhouette to enable maneuverability and ease of paddling.
Investing in a quality kayak is only the first step to enjoy a comfortable kayak camping trip. Once you’ve decided on the perfect fit, and ordered the right kayak, don’t forget to invest in the right kayaking accessories. What accessories to bring on a camping kayaking adventure? That depends on what type of trip you’re taking. For multi-day, longer trips or whitewater conditions, we always recommend investing in aa quality lifejacket, a first aid kit, dry bags, and a refillable water bottle with a water filter. Remember, packing light is key, as every kayak has a maximum weight capacity. When buying kayaking gear and accessories, always keep the maximum weight capacity of your kayak as a guideline, and never exceed the recommended allowance, as this is hazardous to your safety. Pack light and pack smart!
Tip: We’ll be dedicating more posts to kayaking in the future, so keep an eye on our homepage and newsfeed for more product reviews about the top kayak essentials!