Hitting the water in a touring kayak for a day or two of paddling is a great way to get out and have some fun. But it’s not always easy to find the right touring kayak.

This buyers guide will offer you some advice on what to look for in a touring kayak as well as round up some of the best touring kayaks available on the market.

best touring kayak

Advantages of a Touring Kayak

  1. Speed – Touring kayaks are typically longer and narrower than recreational kayaks which makes them faster.
  2. Tracking – Longer and narrower kayaks also have better tracking which means they travel in a straight line rather than swerving from side to side. This makes them more efficient to paddle, especially over longer distances.
  3. Onboard storage – Most touring kayaks have lots of onboard storage space with multiple hatches and deck rigging, which makes them ideal for multi-day excursions.
  4. Resilient – Touring kayaks are designed to be able to handle rougher conditions than recreational kayaks, which makes them better suited to exposed coastal waters and large lakes.

What to look for in a touring kayak

Touring kayaks are typically built for speed, efficiency, and lots of storage space. In staying true to those principles, here are some key areas to consider when choosing a touring kayak.

Kayak Size

Longer and narrower kayaks will generally be more efficient to paddle than wider and shorter ones. They cut through the water and track well in the water, which makes them fast and efficient over longer distances.

But picking up the narrowest and longest boat you can find could be a mistake.

Width (Beam)

Generally speaking, the narrower a kayak is the less stable it is, so you want to strike a balance between efficiency and stability that suits your personal preferences.

Touring kayaks are typically between 22” and 27” wide. If you’re concerned about stability, aim for a touring kayak that is closer to the wider end of the spectrum.

Length

While longer kayaks track better through the water, they’re not as maneuverable as a shorter boat. Exceptional tracking is usually exactly what you want if you’re paddling in open coastal waters or over long distances. But you may want to look for a shorter, more maneuverable touring kayak if you’ll mostly be paddling on lakes or rivers.

Shorter kayaks are also easier to transport and handle outside of the water, so unless you really need the improved tracking or extra storage space, a shorter kayak might be more convenient.

Onboard Storage

Touring kayaks are the ideal choice for extended day trips or overnight trips due to their increased storage capacity, which gives you room to stash your gear.

Even though touring kayaks are longer than other kinds of kayaks, space is still limited. So, you’ll want to consider how long your trips are likely to be  and how much storage space you’ll need.

Storage space in a touring kayak is a combination of dry storage hatches and deck bungees.

Deck bungees are great for items you need access to while paddling like water, snacks, extra clothing layers, and safety gear.

Storage hatches are a bit harder or even impossible to access while you’re sitting in the cockpit so they’re ideal for camping gear and other items you don’t need access to while you’re on the water. They’re also great for heavier items that can destabilize the kayak if loaded on top of the deck.

Skegs and Rudders

Some touring kayaks also use a skeg or a rudder to further improve tracking and help the kayak maintain a straight course. They’re especially helpful in the windy or choppy conditions you can find in exposed coastal waters.

Rudder – Sits on the back of the kayak and keeps the kayak on course. The one big advantage a rudder has over a skeg is that it can be rotated with foot pedals so it can provide some additional maneuverability.

Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV Flatwater Day Touring Kayak (Yellow/Orange, 14.5-Feet)

Skeg – Sticks out from the bottom of the boat and acts like the fin on a surfboard to keep the kayak moving straight ahead.

Riot Kayaks Edge 11 LV Flatwater Day Touring Kayak (Yellow/Orange, 11-Feet)

Top Picks

Best Touring Kayak Reviews

Riot Edge 14.5 LV

Overall Score: (4.6/5)

Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5 LV Flatwater Day Touring Kayak (Yellow/Orange, 14.5-Feet)

Specifications:

Length: 14’ 6”

Width: 22.5”

Weight: 60 lbs

Weight capacity: 325 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable seat, adjustable footrests, rudder, dual storage hatches, deck bungees, deck perimeter lines, thigh braces

Ideal for: Mixed coastal & inshore paddling. Weekend trips. Paddlers that want great value for their money.

 $821.29

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-03-25 at 00:47 – Details)

Review

The Riot Edge 14.5 is a smaller touring kayak with a sleek and efficient shape that’s well suited to covering longer distances.

It has two large storage hatches and both front and rear deck bungees, which gives you plenty of options for stowing gear and should allow you to pack enough gear for weekend trips.

The just over 14-foot hull means that it’s at home in coastal waters but isn’t so long that it’s difficult to maneuver on winding rivers. The included rudder system further improves its sea-worthiness and chops for paddling in less than idea conditions.

The Edge 14.5 does have a slightly narrower hull, so it’s not quite as stable as some of the other options. Though, Riot uses a hard chine along the hull to help improve stability and keep the Edge 14.5 from feeling ‘tippy’ despite its narrower width.

The Edge 14.5 offers some serious value and manages to pack in some features that are normally reserved for high end sea kayaks at an entry-level price.

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

Overall Score: (4.5/5)

Wilderness Systems 9730505054 PUNGO 120 Kayaks, Mango, 12'

Specifications:

Length: 12’

Width: 29”

Weight: 49 lbs

Weight capacity: 325 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Fully adjustable seat, storage hatch, deck bungees, removable front storage console, padded knee braces, adjustable footrests

Ideal for: Day touring with exceptional comfort 

 from $836.10

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-03-25 at 00:48 – Details)

Review

The Pungo 120 strikes a great balance between stability, performance, and comfort. At 29 inches wide, the Pungo sacrifices some speed and efficiency for increased stability and a roomier cockpit, making it popular among larger paddlers.

Its smaller length means the Pungo is a bit more manageable during transportation and when handling it outside of the water. Though it’s fairly short, it still tracks well due to its defined hull shape.

While the Pungo can handle coastal waters on nice days, the lack of a rudder or skeg means it’s not as suitable for coastal paddling in marginal weather.

One key feature that really sets it apart is the Pungo’s seat. It’s arguably one of the most comfortable seats you’ll find for a kayak in its price range.

The seat is a combination of contoured foam and mesh that supports you and provides ventilation. It has multiple adjustment points to help you get the perfect fit for your body, which is great for long days on the water or if you’re concerned about lower back comfort.

It’s a little light on storage space with two smaller deck bungees and a single storage hatch. There’s probably enough room for an overnight trip but might be a bit tight for weekend trips depending on how light you can pack.

The Pungo 120 is a well-balanced kayak that performs well enough for day touring but offers the added stability and comfort of a wider kayak.

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165

Overall Score: (4.5/5)

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 Touring Kayak with Rudder

Specifications:

Length: 16’ 6”

Width: 23.75”

Weight: 66 lbs

Weight capacity: 350 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Fully adjustable seat, adjustable padded thigh braces, adjustable foot braces, rudder, two large storage hatches, small day hatch, deck bungees, perimeter deck lines

Ideal for: Weekend or longer camping expeditions along coastal waters.

 from $1,626.04

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-03-25 at 00:47 – Details)

Review

If you’re planning on heading out on multi-day excursions along coastal waters, the Tsunami 165 could be a good option.

It’s over 16-foot hull and included rudder means it’s very efficient to paddle and tracks well through the water, even in the presence of wind and waves.

It has two larger storage hatches for stashing away your camping gear as well as a smaller day hatch and deck bungees to give you easy access to gear you need while paddling.

The Tsunami’s has the same Phase 3 AirPro seating system the Pungo uses for a customized fit and exceptional comfort. This is particularly nice if you’ll be paddling for several days in a row.

While it’s a bit more expensive than some of the other options, the Tsunami 165 is a capable and comfortable option that’ll allow you to get out and explore some new areas.

Eddyline Skylark

Overall Score: (4.5/5)

Eddyline Skylark Kayak - Pearl Red

Specifications:

Length: 12’

Width: 26”

Weight: 41 lbs

Weight capacity: 295 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features:

Ideal for:

 $1,399.00

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-03-25 at 00:47 – Details)

Review

The Skylark is a compact day touring kayak that is not only a manageable size, it’s also lightweight enough to easily lift with just one person.

It’s hull is built from ABS plastic, which is both durable and lightweight. This makes the Skylark a good fit for paddlers that are concerned about lugging around a heavy kayak.

Even though they’re both 12 feet in length, the Skylark has more storage space than the Pungo with two storage hatches and larger deck bungees.

It’s also a bit narrower than the Pungo, so it does a better job gliding through the water.

The Skylark is a higher end day touring kayak that has enough space for weekend trips. It’s on the expensive side due to the lightweight material used for its hull but is a great option if you want something that’s easy to manage both on and off the water.

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame

Overall Score: (4.4/5)

Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

Specifications:

Length: 10’ 6″

Width: 32”

Weight: 36 lbs

Weight capacity: 300 lbs

Performance:

Stability:

Features:

Value:

Features: Adjustable seat, built-in aluminum ribs, durable 3-layer construction, deck bungee

Ideal for: Paddlers that want the performance of a hard-shell but the exceptional portability of an inflatable kayak.

 $499.00

Buy on Amazon

(price updated as of 2019-03-25 at 00:47 – Details)

Review

The AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak is for paddlers that need something a bit more portable than a traditional touring kayak.

While it won’t perform as well as the other picks, Advanced Elements does a great job delivering something that performs similarly to a hard-shell but still has the exceptional portability of an inflatable.

If you’ve ever paddled in a basic inflatable kayak, you’ll know that many of them perform poorly and tend to swerve from side to side as you paddle through the water. To remedy this, the AdvancedFrame has a built-in aluminum ribs that help it cut through the water.

Weighing in at a dainty 36 pounds and folding down to 30” x 17” x 10” means the AdvancedFrame will easily fit into the trunk of even a small car with room to spare for gear. And when you’re not using it, you can stash it away in a closet, which makes it a great choice for paddlers that are short on storage space.

And if you’re worried about durability, the AdvancedFrame uses three layers of material to provide extra protection against punctures. It’s still not quite as tough as a hard-shell but it can definitely take some serious abuse.

If you like the compromise between portability and performance the AdvancedFrame offers but want some extra storage space or to do some tandem paddling, Advanced Elements also makes a tandem version that can be converted for both solo and tandem paddling.

Wrapping Up

The top pick for best touring kayak goes to the Riot Edge 14.5 LV. While all of the picks are great options in their own right, the Edge 14.5 offers an exceptional balance between performance, features, and overall value.

Its medium-size length means it at home in both coastal and inshore environments and the ample storage space gives you plenty of room for several days worth of gear and supplies if you need it. The included rudder also helps it to tackle marginal conditions and is some great added value for a kayak at its price point.

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