If your idea of fun involves long-distance paddling, exploring new locations, and a paddling route that can take several days to “complete,” then yes, it’s time to treat yourself to the best touring kayak.
You want something efficient, swift, and agile – a kayak that allows you to cover large distances with ease – without compromising comfort and convenience along the way.
Not sure where to start your search for a touring kayak?
Well, how about this guide?
I’ve prepared a detailed buying guide – and rounded up my long-distance favorites in one place!
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At A Glance – Here Are Our Top Touring Kayak Picks
Wilderness Systems Kayak Tsunami 145
“The Tsunami 145, is the Swiss army knife of touring kayaks that is all about all-day comfort and improving the paddler’s experience – and who could say “No” to that?”
Perception Carolina 14
“Touring kayaks generally don’t come cheap, but there are always some exceptions – like the stable, agile, budget-friendly Carolina 14.”
Perception Expression 11.5
“If you’re a beginner on a budget, give Perception’s Expression 11.5 – a small, relatively lightweight day touring kayak with an attractive price tag – a shot.”
Tandem Touring Option:
AQUAGLIDE Navarro 145
“An inflatable touring kayak, and a convertible one, for that matter – that is AQUAGLIDE Navarro 145 in a sentence.”
Oru Kayak Coast XT
“If your top priority is getting a highly portable touring kayak, there is no better choice for you than Oru’s Coast XT 32-pound folding ‘yak.”
Eddyline Skylark Kayak
“The Eddyline Skylark is a 12-footer that’s essentially an entry-level recreational ‘yak but, at the same time, packs some features you’d see on a typical sea kayak.”
Perfect For Expeditions:
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Kayak
“You’ve seen inflatables – and you’ve seen folding kayaks. How about a hybrid, though? The AdvancedFrame Expedition offers the best of both worlds.”
Top Inflatable Tourer:
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AirFusion EVO Inflatable Kayak
“If you’re looking for an inflatable touring kayak that’s lightweight, portable, and perfect for day trips, the Advanced Elements’ AirFusion EVO might be the ‘yak for you.”
Sea Touring Pick:
Wilderness Systems Tempest 170
“If you’re a seasoned sea kayaker, perhaps it’s time to treat yourself to a kayak from the Wilderness Systems’ award-winning Tempest series – the Tempest 170.”
Coastal Touring Pick:
Point 65 Whisky 16
“It turns on a dime, holds an edge well, catches waves with incredible ease, and, overall, handles like a dream. In short, the Whisky 16 is perfect for coastal touring!”
Great For Day Touring:
Old Town Castine 135 Kayak
“Stable, responsive, and comfortable, the Old Town Castine 135 should be able to tick all the boxes on your wish list – especially if you’re mostly interested in day touring trips.”
Best For Anglers:
BKC SK287 14′ 9″ Solo Sit-in Travel Kayak
“If you’d like to combine kayak fishing with long-distance paddling, there is no better way to do it than in the BKC SK287 – a touring ‘yak designed with anglers in mind”
In A Rush? The Winner After 40 Hours of Research:
Wilderness Systems Kayak Tsunami 145
Why is it better?
- The ‘yak that can do it all – the Swiss Army knife of touring kayaks. It’s designed to enhance the paddler’s experience on the water, no matter where they go
- Phase 3 AirPro is an industry-leading seating system, offering unmatched comfort
- SlideLock XL foot brace system and adjustable padded thigh braces for a custom fit
- Flared sidewalls and slightly wider beam ensure confidence-inspiring stability without compromising efficiency and speed
- Onboard storage solutions include two removable mesh bags, bow and stern hatches, bungee rigging, and an under-deck water bottle holder
- Fitted with a skid plate to protect the hull when dragging the kayak
- Bow and stern bulkheads add buoyancy and ensure water-resistant storage
- Suitable for a variety of water conditions, from slow-moving waters to calm coastal and open waters
- Comes really to install a rudder system
What Is The Difference Between A Touring Kayak And A Sea Kayak?
Spotting the differences between recreational and touring kayaks is generally easy enough. But when it comes to the differences between a touring kayak and a sea kayak, the lines can be a bit blurred.
Some might say it’s nothing but marketing jargon – the kayak manufacturers’ way of tricking you into buying a kayak you might not need. Proponents of this argument would tell you that touring and sea kayaks are the same thing.
Then again, you have those who believe that, while they share certain similarities, touring and sea kayaks aren’t the same thing.
You see, the phrase “sea kayaks” refers to the conditions that a kayak is meant to handle – and kayak touring may or may not be a part of it. So, in that sense, sea kayaks could be described as sea-worthy touring kayaks.
You’ll hear the two terms used interchangeably – and while that’s not always wrong, you should keep in mind that not every touring kayak is a sea kayak by default. There’s a good chance that it is, but it’s best not to jump to conclusions.
Instead, you can view sea kayaks as a subcategory of touring kayaks that perform exceptionally well in open waters.
I hope that clears up the confusion a bit.
Choosing The Best Touring Kayak: What Should I Look For In A Touring Kayak?
All touring kayaks have a few things in common.
They’re generally longer than traditional recreational kayaks, have a closed cockpit to protect the paddler from the elements, spacious storage, and higher load capacity, and are pretty narrow.
Each of these characteristics is there to achieve the same thing:
Make touring kayaks suitable for long-distance paddling and more-than-a-day trips.
That’s not to say that every touring kayak is the same or that you’ll have an easy time choosing one for yourself, though.
That’s rarely the case with kayaks – especially those you’ll be spending so much time in – but I’ll try to make the process easier with this guide!
What Size Touring Kayak Do I Need?
Most touring kayaks tend to be between 12 to 16 feet long on average – although some can go up to 20 feet. Tandem kayaks are even longer than that; don’t be surprised to find that some can go up to 26 feet in length.
All the while, touring kayaks retain a narrow and sleek silhouette, with a beam that’s about 18 to 28 inches wide.
Speed, efficiency, and superior tracking are must-haves for long-distance paddling, and it’s no surprise that touring kayaks have such long-but-narrow hulls.
Longer kayaks move through the water more efficiently; it’s as simple as that.
But that’s not the only benefit of going with a longer ‘yak. Onboard storage also goes up with an added foot or two in length.
There is a downside to this, though:
Carrying a touring kayak will often be a two-person job – a challenge, to say the least. So, while you’re at it, consider getting a kayak trailer, especially if you drive a smaller car.
Besides the length, another thing to look at when sizing a kayak is the cockpit.
The dimensions – mainly length and width – and the amount of legroom available should fit your body size, allowing you to get in and out with ease, without feeling restricted. You’ll be spending a lot of time inside that kayak of yours, and you want a cockpit that fits you – because a good fit means a more comfortable ride and improved control.
Let’s Talk Comfort
Touring kayaks are designed with long-distance travel in mind. So, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be spending a great deal of your time in one.
Think about weekend trips, for example; is comfort something you’re willing to compromise on in that case? And don’t even get me started on week-long excursions.
What starts as slight, barely noticeable discomfort could turn into flat-out pain by the end of the trip.
So, yes, comfort should be high on your list of priorities when choosing a touring kayak; it’s one of those things that could make or break the entire trip.
And the keyword here should be adjustability:
Everything from the kayak seat to the thigh braces and footrests should be adjustable, allowing you to get a customized fit. That, along with the right cockpit size, will ensure that you stay out on the water longer – and enjoy every minute of it, too.
Weight Capacity & Storage Options: More Is More
That’s a lot of stuff to squeeze into a single kayak, huh?
The problem is that even the best touring kayaks can only carry a certain amount of load at a time – including your body weight plus any kayaking gear you bring with you.
Before you get a chance to ask, yes, exceeding that limit is a bad idea – in more ways than one.
That’s why you always want to check the kayak’s load capacity – and, more importantly, leave some “wiggle room” so that you don’t exceed that limit by accident.
Another thing you can’t afford to overlook is onboard storage.
A touring kayak without enough storage space won’t be of much use on longer trips – meaning it won’t be much of a touring kayak at all.
On that note, the best touring kayaks should feature at least two bulkhead hatches for dry storage – one in the front and one in the back – and bungee deck rigging. Additional D-ring tie-downs, paddle parks, and easy-to-reach water bottle holders are always a plus.
Skeg Or Rudder?
If you’re serious about kayak touring, having a skeg or a rudder system will be a plus in terms of improving your kayak’s tracking performance and maintaining a straight course. And, in the case of a rudder, it can help with steering, too.
A skeg is, simply put, a fin that sticks out from the bottom of your kayak and cuts through the water, which helps you maintain a straight line. It’s fixed – as in, it can’t move side to side – so it doesn’t do much for steering, but some models are retractable.
A rudder is more sophisticated. It can be hand or foot-controlled and can change its direction on the water, meaning it provides additional maneuverability – on top of keeping your kayak on a straight course.
Granted, you can choose to go without either of them and rely solely on your paddling skills for maintaining direction and navigating the waters.
However, if there’s a chance that you’ll end up in open waters or powerful currents, I suggest that you look into skegs and rudders – just in case.
Frequently Asked Questions On Touring Kayaks
What is a touring kayak?
A touring kayak is a kayak that’s narrower and longer than a recreational ‘yak, usually featuring a sit-inside cockpit, and is intended for large bodies of water and long-distance travel – including multi-day excursions. They typically measure 12 to 20 feet in length and have a narrow beam of 18 to 28 inches, which contributes to their speed, efficiency, and tracking performance – and are characterized by a high carrying capacity and ample onboard storage space.
Are touring kayaks good for beginners?
Touring kayaks might not be a good choice for beginners because they require much more skills to be maneuvered correctly. They’re designed to be stable and track well in challenging waters – which is an environment that most beginners will avoid. In that sense, there is no point in getting a touring kayak as a beginner. You’ll have a hard time trying to control it and won’t get much out of its advanced features.
How much does a touring kayak cost?
Depending on the material, the price of a touring kayak can vary greatly. For instance, a plastic day touring kayak cost around $800 to $1,200. But you can expect a high-quality, top-of-the-line composite touring kayak to cost upwards of $3,000.
What is the fastest touring kayak?
There’s no way for this to be determined entirely, primarily because how fast a touring kayak will go depends on many factors – including the kayak’s design, water conditions, and your skills and fitness level. A longer, narrower hull generally translates into a higher maximum speed, though – and Wilderness Systems’ Tempest 170 definitely fits that description.
Can you use a touring kayak in the sea?
Yes, you can technically use a touring kayak in the sea – as long as it is sea-worthy. Sea kayaks, in essence, are nothing more than specialized versions of touring ‘yaks designed to perform well in rough, open waters. A good portion of touring kayaks is fit to be used in the sea – but not all of them are. You need to look for specific features that render a touring kayak sea-worthy.
Are touring kayaks good for rivers?
A kayak – whatever category it may fall under – can be considered “good for rivers” if it is stable, rugged enough to bounce off of stones and other obstacles that may be found in flowing waters, and has the right size to remain maneuverable in narrow waterways. Some touring kayaks meet these requirements – but not all of them do.
Best Touring Kayaks Of 2023 – Top 12 Touring ‘Yaks Reviewed & Rated
How We Tested & Rated Our Top Picks
The touring ‘yaks featured in the round-up below were tested, reviewed, and rated based on the following set of criteria:
- Build Quality – This score is based on how well each kayak was made, the quality of the materials used, how well it can withstand different environments and wear and tear – and the anticipated longevity of the kayak.
- Performance & Handling – This score is based on how well a kayak moves through the water and how easy it is to maneuver and steer in different environments and bodies of water.
- Weight – This score is based on the kayak’s weight compared to similarly-sized models – and how that weight affects its portability.
- Storage & Capacity – This score is based on a kayak’s load capacity – including how the manufacturer’s specified limit holds up in real-world use – as well as the onboard storage options it offers.
- Comfort – This score is based on the kayak’s overall comfort levels when it comes to the size of the cockpit, how easy it is to get in and out of, and how much room you’ll have for moving around inside.
- Value for Money – This score is based on the RRP (Retail Recommended Price) and an estimation of the kayak’s actual performance, features, and overall value compared to its price tag.
Best Budget-Friendly Touring Kayak
Perception Carolina 14
Touring kayaks generally don’t come cheap, but there are some exceptions, like the Perception Carolina 14.
Besides being easy on the wallet, this 14-foot, 53-pound hard-shell is full of convenient features, like the easy-entry cockpit, thigh pads, and quick-adjust footrests, and a paddle park. It’s fitted with bow and stern bulkhead foam, which contributes to its buoyancy – and, in turn, your safety.
And if you look below the waterline, you’ll see a V-shaped bow and stern, with soft chines and a relatively shallow profile, which amounts to a kayak that is stable and forgiving, and offers some much-needed directional control.
That’s what makes it so versatile – and suitable for paddlers of all skill levels, including absolute beginners, and feels at home in calm coastal waters as much as it does in lakes.
Oh, and one more thing:
Perception’s Carolina 14 is rudder capable, which is a feature you won’t see even in some of the more expensive touring kayaks out there.
Now, comfort, as you might know, is a huge factor when it comes to choosing a touring ‘yak, so I can’t miss this chance to talk about Carolina 14’s seating system. I’m afraid the news isn’t good, though:
The Zone DLX seat is relatively comfortable – but it likely wouldn’t be my go-to choice for longer, multi-day trips.
Carolina 14’s capacity doesn’t disappoint, either.
I mean, it’s not a kayak I’d recommend for multi-day excursions, though – not unless you’re fine with packing light.
However, with the ability to carry up to 300 pounds and a range of onboard storage solutions – including the bow and stern hatches and bungee cords – you should have enough room for the supplies you’d need on an overnight trip.
- Hull Length: 14 feet
- Beam (Width): 24.5 inches
- Hull Weight: 53 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
- Spacious, easy-entry cockpit and adjustable outfitting
- Integrated bulkhead foam for extra buoyancy
- Ample storage, including two storage hatches and bungee rigging
- Excellent value for money
- It won’t be the easiest to carry by yourself
- The cockpit sits low in the back and may let in some water
- The Zone DLX seat could be better
Perception’s Carolina 14 is a versatile touring kayak for paddlers of all skill levels – stable, agile, and quite fast. Best of all, it doesn’t cost a fortune.
Best Sea Touring Kayak
Wilderness Systems Tempest 170
Wilderness Systems’ Tempest 170 features the award-winning design that the Tempest series is known for – including industry-leading comfort, excellent tracking, and maneuverability.
I read somewhere that the design of the Tempest 170 is a combination of “British performance” and “North American comfort,” and honestly, after having a chance to test it out, I couldn’t agree more.
Its signature performance – a result of a sleek, 17-foot hull – along with the TruTrak adjustable skeg and integrated foam bulkheads, make it one of the best sea-worthy touring ‘yaks I’ve seen so far.
If you are looking for a performance-oriented kayak that feels right at home in rough waters and waves, this is arguably your best bet.
The comfortable Phase 3 AirPro seating system, padded thigh braces, and SlideLock XL foot brace system only sweeten the deal. I guess that’s where that whole “North American comfort” part comes in.
Before you fall in love with the Tempest 170, though, you should know a few things.
One, it is not the most affordable touring kayak out there. And two, it’s the longest and heaviest kayak on this list, clocking in at 57 pounds. I wouldn’t exactly call that a downside; the weight is more than reasonable for a 17-foot ‘yak. However, it’s something worth noting since it will affect storage and portability.
On the plus side, it boasts a 325-pound capacity and a roomy enough cockpit to accommodate paddlers of all sizes. Moreover, it features a total of three hatches – one at the bow, one behind the cockpit, and a large one at the stern – plus bungee rigging throughout the deck.
So, whether you’re going on an overnight trip or a multi-day excursion, the Tempest 170 has you covered.
- Hull Length: 17 feet
- Beam (Width): 22 inches
- Hull Weight: 57 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 325 pounds
- Phase 3 AirPro seating system ensures all-day comfort
- Equipped with the TruTrak adjustable skeg system
- Features three dry storage hatches and bungee rigging
- Integrated foam bulkheads for buoyancy
- The price tag might be a deal-breaker for some
- Hard to transport due to the length and not-so-light weight
- Not a good choice for beginner paddlers
If you’re a seasoned paddler looking to take sea touring to the next level and treat yourself to a ‘yak from the award-winning Tempest series, Wilderness Systems’ Tempest 170 should be your top choice.
Best Kayak For Coastal Touring
Point 65 Whisky 16 Rocker S
You’d think that a 16-foot kayak wouldn’t offer much in terms of maneuverability – but Point 65’s Whisky 16 Rocker S might just prove you wrong:
It turns on a dime, holds an edge well, catches waves with incredible ease, and overall, handles like a dream. In short, it’s perfect for coastal touring and having fun. It provides a decent level of primary and secondary stability, too, and won’t feel tippy even in more challenging waters.
Even more so, the Whisky 16 is super easy to paddle in a straight line – and when the bow does stray, getting it back on track doesn’t require a lot of effort.
The 55-pound weight is acceptable – and I guess it is something to be expected from a kayak of this size. But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish it were a few pounds lighter.
The 342-pound capacity, along with two large storage hatches, a small day hatch, and the round Whisky hatch, makes this an outstanding ‘yak in terms of onboard storage.
Compare it to the Tsunami 170, and you’ll see it is a foot shorter and two pounds lighter but still has a slightly higher maximum load capacity. I mean, sure, it’s not much of a difference – but it’s there.
I found the placement of the skeg box uncomfortable, though. It presses against your thigh, at the side of your knee, which could become an issue on longer excursions.
Oh, and one more thing:
Point 65 N also offers a “Tourer” version of the Whisky 16 – which has a slightly less pronounced rocker profile and, in turn, better speed and tracking performance. The “Tourer” is undoubtedly a great fit for longer outings.
However, I personally prefer the feel – and, let’s be honest, the price tag – of the “Rocker.”
- Hull Length: 16 feet
- Beam (Width): 22 inches
- Hull Weight: 55 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 342 pound
- Exceptional handling and maneuverability in coastal waters
- Features a spring-loaded retractable skeg
- Four storage hatches and on-deck bungee rigging
- Close-fitting keyhole cockpit and Point 65 air technology for comfort
- The skeg box tends to press against the knee, causing discomfort
- It makes a slapping sound whenever you encounter swells
- Not a lightweight kayak
Ultra-precise handling, on-a-dime turning, and incredible ease of edging and catching waves – take the Whisky 16 out for a spin in coastal waters, and I’m sure you’ll have a blast!
Best Beginner Touring Kayak
Perception Expression 11.5
A few things make Perception’s Expression 11.5 stand out as a great beginner ‘yak for anyone looking for a sleek cross between a recreational and touring kayak.
One, it’s relatively easy on the wallet – well, at least compared to the touring kayaks you’ve seen so far. Two, it’s pretty short and lightweight – for a touring kayak, that is. Just to give you an idea, it’s nearly 10 pounds lighter and 2.5 feet shorter than Perception’s Carolina 14.
That, in turn, makes it a lot easier to manage single-handedly and transport to the water.
And three, it has a stable and maneuverable design – with a roomy cockpit, a 25.75-inch beam, and the TruTrak adjustable skeg. While I’m at it, it actually tracks surprisingly well for a kayak of its size.
The six-point adjustable seat with ergonomic padding adds to the comfort – and that’s always a plus, especially on longer outings. However, due to the positioning of the backrest, I noticed that I couldn’t really use a spray skirt.
That’s not a total deal-breaker – the backrest can easily be replaced – but it is something to keep in mind.
Storage-wise, you’re getting a large rear hatch and front and rear on-deck bungee rigging, with a 250-pound capacity. I found it tricky to snap the hatch cover in place while on the move – but that’s a minor complaint.
However, I do have some concern about the kayak’s rather limited capacity. I mean, if it’s already struggling to handle my weight, how in the world am I supposed to lug around my gear and supplies for the longer outings, right?
But looking on the bright side, this could be a fun chance to really nail down my packing skills and get into the spirit of lightweight adventuring.
- Hull Length: 11.5 feet
- Width (Beam): 25.75 inches
- Cockpit (L x W): 36 x 20.25 inches
- Hull Weight: 44 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 250 pounds
- Beginner-friendly and easy on the wallet
- Sleek but stable
- Roomy cockpit with a six-point adjustable seat for comfort
- The TruTrak adjustable skeg helps with staying on course
- Relatively lightweight for kayak of this size
- The hatch cover is a bit hard to snap in place while on the go
- The 250-pound capacity seems a bit low for a touring kayak
Perception’s Expression 11.5 is a small, relatively lightweight day touring kayak at an attractive price. If you’re a beginner paddler shopping on a budget, give this one a shot!
Overall Best Touring Kayak
Wilderness Systems Kayak Tsunami 145
Wilderness Systems’ Tsunami 145 is a bit shorter and broader than its sibling, the Tempest 170.
To be more precise, it is a 14.6-foot-long ‘yak with a 25.5-inch beam that weighs 56 pounds – only four pounds less than the Tsunami 170. That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you consider the fact that it’s also three feet shorter.
Length- and weight-wise, it’s practically identical to Perception’s Carolina 14.
Don’t worry; the shorter length of the hull doesn’t affect its speed much. It’s still a pretty efficient kayak that picks up and maintains speed well – and you’ll rarely feel like you need to put in more effort to keep up with longer kayaks.
Surprisingly, unlike its bigger cousin, the Tempest 170, this one has a load limit that is 25 pounds greater.
A smaller boat that doesn’t lag behind in terms of carrying capacity; how about that?
As for storage, you’re getting quite a lot of it – including two removable mesh bags, bungee deck rigging, and a pair of hatches. Oh, and it has an under-deck water bottle holder, too. That makes it perfect for extended trips – including weekend camping trips.
But if there’s one thing the Tsunami 145 excels at, it’s comfort:
It features a roomy cockpit, complete with the oh-so-comfortable Phase 3 AirPro seat, as well as the SlideLock XL foot brace system and adjustable padded thigh braces.
And if you’ve paid attention so far, you’ll notice that these are the same features you’d find in the Tempest 170. So, you are basically getting the same level of comfort – but in a shorter and more affordable package.
- Hull Length: 14.6 feet
- Beam (Width): 25.5 inches
- Hull Weight: 56 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 350 pounds
- Phase 3 AirPro seat for unmatched comfort
- Adjustable thigh braces and SlideLock XL foot braces for a custom fit
- Flared sidewalls ensure stability
- Storage options include hatches and removable mesh bags
- It might be a bit pricey for paddlers on a budget
- Not the easiest to lift and transport by yourself
- It doesn’t come with the rudder installed
From the Phase 3 AirPro seat to the SlideLock foot braces and padded thigh braces, Tsunami 145 is all about all-day comfort and improving the paddler’s experience. Who could say “No” to that?
Best Touring Kayak For Anglers
BKC SK287 Solo Sit-inside Kayak
BKC’s SK287 is a touring kayak designed with anglers in mind.
The SK287 comes equipped with two flush-mount rod holders, two water-tight storage hatches, and bungee deck rigging, backed with a 330-pound capacity – enough for your fishing gear and other supplies.
Better yet, it has a foot-operated rudder, allowing for hands-free steering. That alone is a reason enough for anglers to consider this ‘yak; you’ll want your hands free when you’re trying to reel in your catch.
This 14.75-foot kayak is narrow for an angling kayak, measuring 21.5 inches across. That said, it’s not fair to compare it to a typical fishing kayak. The SK287 is not a fishing kayak per se; it is a touring kayak with fishing-friendly features – and that’s a big difference.
How does it compare to other touring ‘yaks, then?
It is actually one of the narrowest kayaks on this list; the Tempest 170 and Point 65’s Whisky 16 come in a close second.
Overall, it performs well in various conditions – and cuts through water like a warm knife through butter. I also wouldn’t say it’s too narrow to be stable; it boasts an excellent degree of secondary stability. However, some might still find it a bit tippy due to the narrow beam.
In that sense, I don’t think that this is a ‘yak for the not-so-experienced kayak anglers, especially those who are used to the extra-wide, ultra-stable SOT fishing platforms.
Plus,a narrower hull usually means a tighter cockpit opening – which could be a potential problem if you’re on the bigger side. If you do manage to squeeze into it, though, you’ll be in for one smooth ride, I promise.
- Hull Length: 14.75 feet
- Width (Beam): 21.5 inches
- Cockpit (L x W): 24 x 18 inches
- Hull Weight: 44 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 330 pounds
- On-deck rigging and two hatches for water-tight storage
- Equipped with two flush-mount fishing rod holders
- Features a foot-pedal-operated rudder system
- Includes a collapsible paddle
- An extremely narrow beam might cause it to feel tippy and unstable
- A smaller cockpit opening can be uncomfortable for larger paddlers
If you’d like to combine kayak fishing with long-distance travel, there’s no better way to go about it than in an angler touring kayak – the BKC SK287.
Best Tandem Touring Kayak
An inflatable touring kayak, and a convertible one, for that matter – that’s AQUAGLIDE Navarro 145 in a sentence. It can transform from a sit-in to an open-deck kayak and switch from a single to a tandem in a few simple steps.
Given that it converts to a two-seater, the 500-pound weight limit shouldn’t come as a surprise – but that doesn’t make it less impressive:
It boasts the highest capacity of all the kayaks – inflatables and hard-shells – featured on this list. The only kayak that manages to come close to the Navarro in this regard is the AdvancedFrame Expedition, with its 450-pound capacity.
In addition to standard bungee rigging and D-rings, it also features a zippered dry compartment.
And here’s the truly mind-blowing part:
It still weighs only 36 pounds.
The hull itself is extra-wide, measuring 39 inches across, which adds stability in rougher waters, although I’ve found that it’s better suited for inland conditions. In any case, the fact that it boasts a 39-inch beam is unusual for a touring kayak – and will probably raise some eyebrows.
I’m concerned about its impact on performance and, more specifically, how efficient this kayak is on long-distance paddles.
I could try to justify the extra width with the fact that it’s an inflatable – but that argument doesn’t hold water. The AirFusion EVO is an inflatable kayak, too – and yet it still boasts a pretty narrow, 24-inch hull.
I was disappointed to learn that it doesn’t come with the zip-on deck cover or the valve adaptors – it’s something you have to purchase separately. That said, the Navarro 145 is one of the more affordable kayaks you’ll see in this round-up, so I guess there’s no room for complaints there.
- Hull Length: 14.3 feet
- Width (Beam): 39 inches
- Hull Weight: 36 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 500 pounds
- Extra-wide beam improves stability
- Converts from an open-deck to a sit-in kayak
- A high load capacity with multiple storage options
- It’s spray skirt-compatible
- It doesn’t include Boston and Halkey-Roberts adaptors needed for inflation
- You need to purchase the zip-on deck cover separately
If you’re interested in tandem touring but would still like to go out solo once in a while, I highly recommend a convertible kayak, like the AQUAGLIDE Navarro 145.
Best Inflatable Day Touring Kayak
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AirFusion EVO Inflatable Kayak
The Navarro 145 has some strong points – but it’s far from the only inflatable worth considering. And with that said, I’d like to introduce you to the Advanced Elements’ AirFusion EVO.
It’s a 13-foot touring kayak that’s ideal for day trips – and given that it weighs only 32 pounds, it’s actually the lightest kayak on this list, weighing four pounds less than the Navarro. Here’s where things get interesting, though:
Oru’s Coast XT – a folding 16-foot kayak – weighs the same as the 13-foot AirFusion EVO. So, if your main concern is portability, you have some great options here.
Advanced Elements inflatable ‘yaks are known for their innovative design that combines several drop-stitch air-filled chambers with an aluminum frame – and the AirFusion EVO is no different in that regard. You’ll find that it rivals skin-on-frame kayaks performance-wise.
Storage options include D-ring tie-downs, bungee deck rigging, and a roll-top rear hatch, which all sound impressive – well, on paper, at least.
But in reality?
Well, unfortunately, the kayak’s weight capacity is limited to 235 pounds, which is beyond low for an inflatable kayak, especially one that was supposedly designed for touring.
It only really works for day trips that don’t require a ton of additional gear. And even then, it can’t accommodate large paddlers; I’m a 230-pound guy, and I could not squeeze myself into the ‘yak without nearly sinking it.
Smaller paddlers will definitely have a blast in the EVO – but I’m just not one of them.
- Hull Length: 13 feet
- Width (Beam): 24 inches
- Hull Weight: 32 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 235 pounds
- Hybrid construction with an aluminum frame improves tracking
- Features tie-downs, deck rigging, and a roll-top hatch
- Compatible with a spray skirt
- Lightweight and travel-friendly
- The weight capacity is somewhat limited
- It doesn’t accommodate larger paddlers
- It’s relatively expensive compared to the average inflatable
- There’s a learning curve assembly-wise
If you’re looking for a day touring kayak that’s lightweight and portable but still tracks well, the Advanced Elements’ AirFusion EVO might be the inflatable touring ‘yak for you.
Best Light Touring Kayak
Oru Kayak Coast XT
If you can’t imagine hauling a touring kayak around everywhere you go – but you’re not a big fan of inflatables, either – you may want to look into folding kayaks.
And on that note, there’s arguably no better choice than Oru.
Oru’s current line-up features six different models of folding kayaks, all categorized according to intended uses and the environment they’re designed for; they essentially have a kayak for every scenario.
The one I’ll be talking about today – Coast XT – is Oru’s efficient, sea-worthy origami-style kayak, built for speed and long-distance kayaking.
Oh, and it’s also easy to roll, meaning you can take it into waves – or even Class III whitewater – and not worry about capsizing.
It’s 16.2 feet long, and yet, it weighs only 32 pounds. And get this; when it’s folded, it turns into a large suitcase that easily fits into the trunk of your car, completely eliminating the need for a roof rack or a kayak trailer.
I’d like to see someone try that with an actual 16-foot hard-shell kayak.
The Coast XT boasts a long and sleek silhouette, with a relatively spacious cockpit and a weight capacity of 400 pounds. On a related note, the removable bulkheads serve as dry storage areas below the deck, while the bungee rigging in the front allows you to secure additional gear.
It’s far from a budget-friendly kayak, though. In fact, it’s easily the most expensive model you will see in this round-up.
Then again, with the 20,000 folding cycle rating, exceptional performance, and portability, I don’t feel there’s a lot of room for complaints value-wise.
- Hull Length: 16.2 feet
- Beam (Width): 25 inches
- Hull Weight: 32 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 400 pounds
- The 16-foot kayak folds down to the size of a large suitcase
- Designed to be easy to roll and suitable for heavy surf
- Has a more-than-decent carrying capacity for longer outings
- The UV protection and 20,000 folding cycle rating ensure longevity
- The assembly process can be a bit time-consuming
- It’s one of the more expensive kayaks featured in this round-up
If your top priority is getting a portable touring kayak, then there is no better choice for you than the Oru Coast XT. By the way, if you’re interested in folding kayaks, check out this foldable kayak round-up for more options.
Best Day Touring Kayak
Old Town Castine 135
I had the pleasure of testing out quite a few different kayaks from Old Town’s current line-up; the motor-powered Sportsman 106, the SOT wonder that is Topwater 120, and the Loon 126, one of my favorite sit-inside fishing kayaks.
And given how impressive each of these ‘yaks was in its own way, I jumped at the opportunity to give Castine 135 a spin, too.
And once again, Old Town didn’t disappoint.
This 13.4-foot ‘yak is actually the smallest in the Castine line-up – which, as it turns out, is one of its biggest advantages. As you’d expect, it tracks well – although it would probably benefit from a rudder – but at the same time, it remains surprisingly nimble and maneuverable.
The best part, though, is that it does so without compromising stability.
Castine 135’s large bulkheads double as storage space and can be accessed through the Quick Seal hatches with CrossLock technology – which is there to ensure that no water will find its way into the kayak’s dry compartments.
There’s also a clever addition hiding inside the kayak’s cockpit; the Slide-Track Day Storage box with a smartphone cradle slides out toward your lap for quick access to your essentials.
That said, the kayak has a 300-pound load capacity, so I’d generally only recommend it to those interested in day touring trips rather than serious, multi-day excursions.
Another thing I have to mention here is the weight:
The BKC SK287 is almost 15 feet long, making it more than a foot longer than the Castine 135 – but it still weighs 10 pounds less than this Old Town kayak. That is to say; there are some lighter options out there.
Then again, it would be unfair to label it as extremely heavy or impossible to handle; 54 pounds is not an unusual weight for a boat of this size.
- Hull Length: 13.4 feet
- Beam (Width): 23 inches
- Hull Weight: 54 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
- The Slide-Track Day Storage box allows for easy access to your essentials
- The two large bulkheads double as below-deck storage
- Provides a decent blend of primary and secondary stability
- It tracks well but still remains pretty nimble and maneuverable
- It doesn’t have a high enough capacity for multi-day trips
- Not the most lightweight kayak I’ve reviewed
- It would benefit from a rudder, especially in crosswinds
Stable, responsive, and comfortable, Old Town’s Castine 135 should be able to tick all the boxes on your wish list – especially if you’re mostly interested in day touring trips.
Best Small Touring Kayak
Eddyline Skylark Kayak
When you think about touring kayaks, “small” is likely the last word that comes to mind. They are characterized by their above-average length and narrow hulls, right?
Well, yes, for the most part – but there are always exceptions to that rule.
And one of those exceptions is the Eddyline Skylark – a 12-footer that’s essentially an entry-level recreational kayak but, at the same time, packs some features you would expect in a typical sea kayak.
The idea is that, as you progress as a paddler, your ‘yak “grows” with you, allowing you to put its more advanced, sea-worthy features to use.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
The Skylark offers a good level of primary stability and has a roomy cockpit that is easy to get in and out of – something that beginners will appreciate. At the same time, it cuts through the water with ease, tracks as straight as an arrow, and boasts amazing edging performance thanks to the hard chines.
It earns some major points in the construction department, too:
Eddyline’s proprietary co-extruded ABS laminate material, known as “Carbonlite,” is lightweight – so this 12-footer actually clocks in at 41 pounds. Even more so, it allows the Skylark to keep the looks and feel of a composite kayak but with the ease of maintenance and durability you usually see in a plastic kayak.
The bulkheads double as dry storage, with two watertight hatches, along with bungee rigging at the front and back, for additional on-deck storage space. The Skylark has a load capacity of 295 pounds. It’s not mind-blowing, but it’s better than what the similarly sized Expression 11.5 has to offer.
- Hull Length: 12 feet
- Beam (Width): 26 inches
- Hull Weight: 41 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 295 pounds
- It’s relatively lightweight for a 12-foot hard-shell kayak
- The cockpit is spacious and easy to get in and out of
- Stable enough for beginners but still performance-oriented for advanced paddlers
- It tracks surprisingly well and doesn’t get affected by crosswinds
- The two bulkheads with hatches provide lots of below-deck storage space
- The load capacity might not work for bigger paddlers or longer outings
If you’re looking for a small touring kayak that’s suitable for beginners but will still help you grow and improve as a paddler, the Eddyline Skylark is the ‘yak for you.
Best Inflatable Expedition Kayak
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Kayak
I’ve shown you some inflatables and Oru’s origami-style folding kayak. Now, how about a hybrid, a kayak that’s a cross between the two?
Enter the AdvancedFrame Expedition – an inflatable kayak that combines an aluminum rib frame with nine separate air-filled chambers to offer you the best of both worlds.
The addition of an aluminum frame to the 13-foot hull improves tracking performance and speed and ensures that it cuts through the water with ease. At the same time, the drop-stitch floor adds much-needed rigidity and defines the hull chine, which further contributes to better tracking.
I did notice that it struggles a bit in stronger currents and winds – although it is still pretty efficient and maneuverable for an inflatable kayak, especially one with a 32-inch beam.
If we compare it to Advanced Elements’ AirFusion EVO – which also measures 13 feet in length – it becomes apparent that the Expedition model is wider and 10 pounds heavier than its sibling.
That said, it features a much higher 450-pound capacity – compared to the AirFusion EVO’s 235 pounds. So, it is a definite improvement in that sense and is, in essence, a multi-day-trip version of the AirFusion EVO.
Of course, a high load capacity won’t necessarily mean much without onboard storage solutions to match. And just like the Navarro 145 and AirFusion EVO, it features a roll-top closure hatch in the back – besides the standard bungee rigging and D-ring tie-down points, that is.
As for the price, it sits somewhere in the middle between the two other inflatable kayaks I’ve reviewed:
It costs a bit more than the Navarro 145 – but it’s cheaper than the AirFusion EVO – and I’m sure your wallet will be happy about that last part.
- Hull Length: 13 feet
- Beam (Width): 32 inches
- Hull Weight: 42 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 450 pounds
- The high carrying capacity makes it suitable for longer outings
- Can accommodate paddlers up to six-foot-eight
- The inflatable lumbar support is actually surprisingly comfortable
- Multiple storage solutions, including a roll-top-closure hatch
- The inflatable coaming allows you to attach a spray skirt
- The low center of gravity contributes to stability, making it suitable for beginners
- Not as lightweight as other inflatables I’ve reviewed
- It can feel a bit slow on the water and struggles in stronger winds and currents
Advanced Elements’ AdvancedFrame Expedition offers the best of both worlds. It combines the features of inflatables and folding kayaks into one portable and spacious 13-foot inflatable ‘yak.
A Quick Side-By-Side Comparison
You’ve gone over quite a bit of information about touring kayaks so far – and that will surely help you decide which one should be your trusty companion on all your future adventures.
I tried my best to share the most relevant, straight-to-the-point information so as not to confuse or overwhelm you. But I’m aware that an extensive round-up like this could still be a bit much to comprehend at once.
And that’s why I’ve made one last effort to help you out – that’s what I’m here for, after all – with a quick comparison table.
It holds the most important information about each kayak I’ve reviewed today, including the pros and cons, so you can quickly skim over it and compare them side by side:
Best Touring Kayak – Final Verdict & Recommendations
Comfortable, efficient on longer distances, responsive, with excellent tracking performance – a joy to paddle, in short – and fitted with lots of storage space. That would be the simplest way to summarize what you should look for in the best touring kayak.
I’d say each of the kayaks you’ve seen today fits that description to a degree, some better than others. However, there’s one that ticks all the boxes and should not be overlooked by long-distance paddlers – the Wilderness Systems Kayak Tsunami 145.
Phase 3 AirPro seating system, adjustable outfitting, 350-pound load capacity, multiple storage solutions, and a hull designed for stability and efficiency; Tsunami 145 will be a reliable touring partner for years to come!
That said, if you’re worried about the logistics of storing and transporting a classic touring kayak, Oru’s origami-style, folding Coast XT could be an alternative worth considering.