Buying a kayak for the first time can be daunting. It’s more difficult to choose now than when I bought my first kayak. Back in 2003, I had one option so I bought it for $200. Now, consumers are faced with kayaks across the financial spectrum that have price ranges from $200 to over $4,000 (and even more if outfitted).
What I always try to recommend is to write down a needs and wants list. I NEED it to be under $1,000 because that’s what I have to spend. I WANT it to be fast, stable because I need to stand to fly fish from it, fully loaded with electronics, and it should make me waffles. By voice command. Once you have your list, it’s time to consider the logistics.
Logistics are simply facts that will factor into the purchase decision. Where will you be fishing? How will you haul the kayak? Do you have any injuries that would prohibit heavy lifting? How tall are you? How heavy are you? The list goes on and on.
Why are both of these lists important? Because no kayak can do all of the things. A kayak that is fast, has a great seat, is easy to stand in, can go offshore, comes fully rigged, and is only $500 is a giant, long-maned Unicron. And I get it. You want to buy a Unicorn. Who wouldn’t freaking want to buy one? Problem is, depending on your belief structure, they either don’t exist, or you have to live in a wizarding world with fairies. The point is, you ain’t gonna find it Bubba.
What these lists will do though is give you a good idea of where your priorities lie. Circle the things that are most important on your wants and needs list. Now go look at the logistics. If you need a 450-pound weight cap because you are a big hunk of man steak, you will need to look at kayaks that will float you. The $200 sit in that lists a 200-pound weight cap is going to be a real struggle to stay moving and floating with you in it. If you are a tall dude, that eight-foot long sit-in isn’t going to be very comfortable with your Kevin Durant frame.
Like this. (Yours may be different)
#1 Money– what available funds do you have for an all in purchase including paddle, lifejacket, noise making device, registration if necessary, transportation (cart, racks, bed extender), and everything else.
#2 Weight Cap– Don’t buy a kayak made for a kid if you’re a full-grown adult. Weight cap is serious business and the closer you get to it the more poorly your kayak will perform. This can include it sinking and/or you drowning depending on conditions.
#3 Where You’ll Be Fishing– A lot of us landlocked folks have dreams of fishing salt water all the time but the reality is, we may be several hours from the ocean. Realistically look at where you will be fishing most often and choose a kayak for that application. If you want to do something out of your norm, rental places are happy to oblige.
#4 Comfort– Will I be able to fish out of this kayak for hours? How comfy is that chair? If your back sucks like mine, comfort is not somewhere you want to compromise. Check out that seat, see if you can stand and stretch, make sure you fit in it or on it.
All the other list and logic items will be on the list somewhere. Once you have them in order, now you can really narrow down your choices. If you only have $1000 to spend, looking at Hobie Pro Angler 14s is a waste of time. Say I only have $3 for lunch, I need to be at McDonald’s, not Outback. If you are fishing swift rivers, a 16 foot long, narrow kayak is going to be a waste.
The biggest struggle in looking for the Unicorn is we want one kayak to do all the things well. It’s just not a reality. It’s the same with cars, planes, fishing lures, and clothing. The reason that variety exists is to cover all the different applications. Pick a kayak that meets the majority of your needs the majority of the time.