6 Types of Modern Kayak
Since their invention by the Eskimos 1000s of years ago, Kayaks have remained popular and in the last 100 years have evolved quite a bit to meet our modern needs.
What you’ll find is that the advancement in technologies, increase in leisure time and decline in traditional uses have driven the development of a vast range of shapes, sizes and types of Kayaks.
In this blog post, I’d like to discuss the different types you’ll find available so that you know what’s out there and what might suit you!
What you’ll also find is that there is a lot of cross-over within the types of Kayak you can get. I’ve described an inflatable and touring Kayak separately, however, you can also get a touring Kayak that is inflatable.
Sit-in or Sit-on-top Kayaks?
When most people think of a kayak, they think of the traditional sit-in type. These are the original style of boat that was developed by Eskimos and often translated to “clothes to walk in the water” – It’s almost as if you are wearing the Kayak.
A sit-in Kayak will have a cockpit and allow you to sit inside the frame with your legs extended out. You’ll often be sealed in with a stretched piece of Neoprene referred to as a skirt. This keeps you dry and also acts as a wind barrier, so is highly suited to colder places or winter months.
These types of Kayak are usually swift and nimble, so favoured by people who want to explore, or fishermen looking to move fast through the water.
You’ll often see sit-in Kayaks on all types of water including lakes, reservoirs, rivers and around the coast.
Sit-on-top Kayaks on the other hand are a more recent development. As the name suggests, instead of sitting “inside” the vessel, you are essentially sitting on top of it.
These types of Kayak don’t have a skirt and this makes them a lot more popular with recreational paddlers because you don’t need to have much knowledge or skill to use them.
So one big advantage of sit-on-top Kayaks is that they allow for easy getting and out, and this is why you often see them on the coast or places where people are looking for a bit of fun and want to jump in and out of the water. Their ease of use also makes sit-on-top Kayaks popular with kids.
Disadvantages of this type of Kayak are that their shape reduces their speed as they sit slightly higher in the water. This also means that they can be affected by wind as well. They are not so good in colder climates because you can get wet easily, so you’ll typically only see these in the summer or popular holiday destinations in warm locations.
Imagine a lake or calm river where you want to spend some time on the water with friends. Maybe it’s a fishing or camping trip. These types of Kayak are suitable for all abilities and usually have room to carry equipment too!
What you’ll find though is they aren’t designed to be very quick and can often be pushed and pulled around by faster currents. This means that you would want to avoid fast-flowing rivers or rapids.
If you imagine the recreational Kayak and take it up a level, you get a touring Kayak. As the name suggests this type of Kayak is designed to go exploring. They are narrow and fast, plus also allow you to carry equipment too. This type of Kayak is great for expeditions and trips where you want to spend multiple days on the water or have point-to-point destinations while navigating a river.
Touring Kayaks are less stable than others though (being narrower), which makes them less suitable for beginners.
If you love fishing then you’re in luck! Someone somewhere decided to design a Kayak with all the features to give you the ultimate experience. Need somewhere to hold your rod? Done! Need a tank to keep your live fish? Sorted!
These Kayaks tend to be wider too adding to stability meaning you can stand up to cast your line or pull in fish too.
As you can imagine, the sit-on-top style is more popular for fishing Kayaks due to their easy access and no need to fix yourself in with a skirt.
Especially over the last few years, inflatable Kayaks have become very popular for the casual user. There’s no need to have a large space to store them, plus they are also easy to transport, fitting easily into the boot of a car. Even if you don’t have a car, they are usually light enough to carry on public transport on your own, which makes them very attractive to a solo enthusiast.
One negative to this type of Kayak is being softer, they can damage easier than other types, but with a good repair kit, any rips can be easily sealed.
The 6 Types of Kayak Summary
So these are popular types of Kayak that you will come across.
What I didn’t mention was that the type of Kayak you get depends on how you’d like to categorise them…
You can choose to group Kayaks by material, seats, activity type or style (sit-in or on-top).
As mentioned before as well, you’ll often get a mix of features. So you may see an inflatable sit-on-top fishing Kayak, combining several of the categories all into one. Or you may find a hard-shell, sit-in touring Kayak.
Author: Harry Snell
is an outdoor enthusiast who runs the site OutdoorsObsession.com
His main hobbies include travel, cycle touring & hiking. When he’s not outdoors, he works as a nutritionist.