There are many kayak brands available on the market. Choosing the right kayak brand depends largely on your intended use and your experience as well as the price you are willing to pay. While kayak brands share many common features, distinct differences exist and understanding these differences helps in choosing the right kayak for you.
Kayaks are categorized based on purpose such as recreation, whitewater, sea or folding. Within these categories there are many types of kayaks. Recreation kayaks, intended for a casual paddler not interested in performance, include inflatable, fishing, sit-on-top and boats with a larger cockpit and shorter length. Whitewater kayaks are used in fast-moving water and made from rigid plastic. Sea, or touring kayaks, are designed for open water and have below-deck storage for multiday trips. Durable, versatile and multipurpose folding kayaks are used for travel.
The two basic design features for a kayak include stability and maneuverability, or performance. Kayak stability describes the back and forth rocking of a boat or potential to tip. Length, hull structure and width of a kayak determine maneuverability. Depending on the type and category, a kayak that is more stable offers less performance and vice versa.
Kayaks can be made of solid plastic or with fiber and resin. Two main fibers used in kayak manufacturing are fiberglass and Kevlar. Resins include cheap polyester, moderately priced vinyl and expensive epoxy. Plastic kayaks are indestructible, inexpensive and approximately 10 percent heavier than fiberglass kayaks. Not as rigid as plastic boats, fiberglass boats require more attention when paddling. They do not do well in rocky waters and prolonged saltwater exposure will compromise the longevity of the boat. Fiberglass boats weigh less than plastic boats. Kevlar kayaks are lighter than fiberglass boats and as strong as plastic boats.
Design and construction materials factor into the cost of a kayak. According to Kayak Academy, a kayaking school, as of 2013 you'll need to pay at least $1,000 for a new sit-inside touring kayak. A good plastic molded kayak will cost between $1,200 and $2,000. Fiber and epoxy resin kayaks require more skill to build and will set you back at least $3,000.
Determining the type and style of kayak right for you should be based on your desired use. If you plan to use your kayak for multiday trips, a sea or touring kayak would be your best bet. Beginners should consider recreation-style kayaks for stability and to learn basic paddle strokes before progressing to a more performance-based boat. Additionally, weight and material construction will directly relate to your ability to transport your boat from storage to water.
Before purchasing a kayak, visit your local kayak shop and demo as many types and styles available. There are many kayak brands and some are better than others. Spend time researching kayaks by visiting manufacturer websites and reading online reviews. Popular makers of recreation kayaks include Pelican and Cobra. Wilderness Systems, Valley Kayaks and Seda produce quality sea touring and racing kayaks in a variety of styles. Liquid Logic, Dagger and Perception build superior whitewater boats.