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Looking for the best tandem kayak to explore the open ocean with (or lake, or stream, or whatever literally floats your boat)? We’ve found the best tandem kayaks for beginners, experienced paddlers, and all-around options for those who paddle in a duo with both skill sets. First, we’ll cover the best tandem kayaks before diving in what to look for in a tandem kayak and the benefits of owning–rather than renting–a two-person kayak.
The Intex Explorer K2 kayak is one of the most popular kayaks on the market thanks to its versatility and low price point. Being inflatable, it’s also easy to haul from one spot to the next. A major benefit of this model is its soft floor that can adapt to small turbulence in lakes, rivers, and streams.
Its major features and accessories include two watertight storage compartments, inbuilt multiple footrests, six-rod holders, two paddles as well as two deluxe seats with storage pouches on their rears. Seats are easily adjustable. The downside to this model is that it won’t fare well in open ocean or along rocky shorelines.
While marketed as a fishing kayak, this is a prime all-arounder that works well if you plan to pack any picnic, hiking, camera gear, etc on your kayaking trip. Its hull is designed for great stability, this allows paddlers to move around without worrying about tipping over. It also comes with two backrests and multiple footrests for prime relaxation.
This tandem kayak has an olive-green body made from plastic polyethylene for durability. Features include a dry stockpiling compartment for storage, oar mounts, bungee cords for securing items and the set comes with two paddles. Being an inflatable, it’s lightweight where it’s front and rear t-handles allow for easy carrying. The downside? It isn’t the fastest or most agile kayak on the market.
This open cockpit kayak with two adult seats and an extra spot in the front for a child or pet is great for family fun. If you’ve rented kayaks many times before, you’ve likely already paddled around in this model. Your comfort and stability are assured by the tandem kayak’s wide width, a tracking keel for easy maneuvering, three sets of patented overlapping foot wells, and 4-way adjustable seats with backrests. Being 12 feet long, both paddlers can stretch and relax.
This kayak is ideal for all experience levels of users. Its body is quite durable, made from industrial heavy-duty plastic. It can handle a few run-ins with rocks or a gruff drag up the beach. This kayak comes in different colors allowing you to have aesthetic choices. Despite its make, it’s lightweight and easily portable for two. As its name suggests it is good for recreation and fishing in oceans, rivers, lakes, and even surfing small waves. The lack of storage hatches, bow or stern bungees and its slow speed might be a put-off if they are among your priorities.
If you want kayaking convenience, the Sea Eagle SE370 tandem kayak is a top contender. This tandem kayak is one of the only tandem kayaks capable of holding over 600 lbs–most others can take on a maximum of 500 lbs. However, the kayak itself is quite lightweight all things considered. It also has an I-beam floor, 3 air chambers, bow and stern grab lines and skegs for improving speed and maneuverability.
The body is made of durable PolyKrylor material, its seams are well welded ensuring it can withstand harsh sun rays and saltwater. The accessories department isn’t lacking either, you are provided with a carry bag, pump, and two inflatable seats (removable), two paddles as well as lashed down inflatable spray skirts.
The Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135 is another popular choice for keen kayakers. Its hydrodynamic hull helps it paddle quick, making long distances easy to cover. Despite its length, it’s also surprisingly agile. A sturdy polyethylene construction ensures durability and mesh-covered seats keep you comfortable as you paddle. Though the kayak was built for two paddlers, it quickly converts into a one-person kayak within seconds.
The kayak also has a stern hatch and bungy system for storage, and carrying it in and out of the water is easy with bow handles. The con of this kayak is its weight should you decide to paddle it as a one-person vessel.
The Sit on top Vibe Skipjack 120T is a versatile kayak that you can use with a second paddler for touring, recreation, and exploration. It is great for introducing someone to kayaking. It comes with two sealed storage hatches, two built-in cup holders, two adjustable deluxe seats, three-rod holders and a bungee tie system at the rear.
Its high-density polyethylene construction makes it very rugged and durable. Despite lacking a tracking fin, it tracks relatively well and is very stable making it able to handle rivers, flat waters or even some surf. It has four scupper holes for drainage. Because of its shape, paddlers may find it a challenge to paddle through high winds.
The Sundolphin Bali is quite spacious for two to sit in a stress-free fashion. Made with rugged UV-stabilized high-density Polyethylene, you can expect this tandem kayak to last long without much wear or tear. Its hull is designed to cut easily through water and its agility makes it a great choice for touring.
Its padded seats have a wide backrest and adjustable foot braces for improved comfort. Ample storage is provided by a front hatch, middle section, and rear hatch. In addition, you have bungee cords at the stern. Extras include paddle holders and multiple D- rings. Because its designed for all-around paddling, it isn’t the most agile kayak on the market.
The Seyvol Colorado was designed for anglers, keeping comfort, storage, and stability at the forefront of its features.
Its body made of 18 gauge PVC and a double-wall construction making it very rugged and durable. Its bottom is protected from punctures by a 1000D nylon tarpaulin. That’s not all, its multiple chambers will prevent any leaks. It comes with a paddle, rod holders, mesh storage pockets, backpack and it’s equipped with multiple D rings. It’s lightweight and with the amount of features you get, it has great value compared to other tandem fishing kayaks.
If you are looking for a long, comfortable, hard-shell kayak that has a mix between performance and versatility, the Point 65 Tequila sit-on-top kayak is a top choice. Regardless of you and your partner’s kayaking experience, you will both find it easy to use for short recreational day trips and short-distance touring.
It is made of reliable UV resistant polythene. It can easily be transformed into a solo because of its modular design, you only need to remove the midsection. It has three sections that are combined using two ratchet strap locking connectors on each side. This means disassembling is easy for transportation and storage.
Some of its cool and useful features include AIR seats with adjustable backrests, tracking fins for control and maneuver, contoured foot braces, two-rod holders, as well as a molded-in cup holder. One of its put off is that it doesn’t come with paddles and it’s quite expensive
For beginners, this is a very good kayak to start with as it easy to set up and paddle. It’s very stable (35 inches wide), compact and at its price point, you will be getting great a bang for your buck. Its bottom is made of a leak and abrasion-proof tarpaulin, while the rest of its body is made durable by heavy-duty PVC construction. It’s blue, white, grey and black color combination makes it very aesthetically pleasing, unlike most tandem kayaks.
The adjustable padded seats are comfortable and can allow for a change according to your companion feet length. Aluminum paddles, pump, and a repair kit are included with purchase. At 27 pounds, it’s light and very portable. It is perfect for lakes, whitewater, and rivers. It comes with a removable tracking fin for handling choppy waters. Its other features include front and rear bungee compartments and 2 oar holders. This kayak’s cons include the limited storage space and accessories.
Choosing a tandem kayak requires looking for some specific features. Blind shopping can break your bank and lead to a poor kayaking experience.
The durability of your kayak will be determined by its construction materials. Most kayaks are made of UV-resistant polyethylene which is rugged, easy to lift and offers a longer shelf life. More expensive ones are made of composite materials (Kevlar, fiberglass, or carbon fiber) which is lightweight, more rugged and offers top performance. An ABS made kayak is like the middle ground, its weight is close to a composite made kayak but its price skews towards polythene made kayaks. It’s cheaper and more UV resistant.
As a general rule, inflatable kayaks are more fragile and prone to punctures compared to hard-shell kayaks. Inflatable kayaks make for a great option if you’re launching from a mud-shore lake or from a sandy beach, but might not fare well if you’re setting off from a rocky coastline.
The shape of your kayak’s bottom is an important consideration because it influences your stability in water.
Rounded Hull: It offers less water resistance, making your kayak easily to maneuver and turn. In turn, this allows for easier travel making it suitable for touring and recreation.
V-Shaped Hull. This type of hull makes your kayak fast because it can easily cut through water and track on a straight line. V-shaped hull kayaks are great for long-distance touring.
Flat Hull: A flat hull offers more primary stability (stability when stepping in your kayak).They’re easy to maneuver but slow.
For a two-person kayak, it is important to account for the weight of two people, the accessories (gear) or any extras you intend to carry. A good kayak should offer adequate storage for both people.
Sit On Top Vs Sit-Inside Kayaks
A kayak’s cockpit can either be closed or open. Sit on top (open cockpit) are best used by beginners, people looking to get in and out easily, for improved safety or if you get uncomfortable in the water when kayaking. They have scupper holes that help with drainage. In general, they are more stable and but paddle quite slow. They are harder to maneuver as they are affected by wind. Lastly, they provide less insulation against cold which makes them good for only warm-weather recreational kayaking.
On the other hand, sit-inside kayaks (closed cockpit) are those which you climb into a cockpit, which seats you at the waterline with the frame of the boat partially covering your legs. A spray skirt is used to prevent you from getting wet. This cockpit is good for experienced kayakers and insulation against cold weather. Downsides include a harder entry and exit and less stability. They are faster in general hence suitable for touring, expeditions, as well as recreation.
The storage space differs with each kayak. Some have closed hatch compartments on the rear and front while others have cords for fastening your gear. Depending on the amount of time you want to spend on the water, always choose a kayak that has ample storage solutions. Dry, waterproof storage is always better but not many people carry their valuables when going kayaking. You might simply need some space to put waterproof gear and some snacks.
When it comes to portability you should check things like weight, the design, length, form factor (inflatable or hard-shell), kayak carrying handles and backpacks. Weight is mostly influenced by kayak’s construction materials.
If you go kayaking to a nearby water body you can consider a hard-shell since two people can easily carry it. For long trips, you will need a car rack. Alternatively, you can disassemble modular hard-shell and transport the sections easily in your car back. Many people who need to travel to their kayaking spot prefer inflatables as they are lightweight and easy to carry when going for hikes to different rivers and lakes.
Inflatable Vs Non- Inflatable
Choosing between an inflatable or a hard-shell kayak is very important because of things such as your storage space, the kayaks portability, and transportation. When looking at these and other factors, the advantages of inflatable kayaks include;
Pros of inflatable tandem kayaks:
Less storage space required
Easy to transport and carry to the water
More stability because of their buoyancy in easy water bodies
Generally cheaper to purchase and cheaper to repair
Pros of hard-shell kayaks:
More stable in hard waters such as oceans and seas
Ready to use, no pumping needed
Easier to control and track straight
Width and Length
Both the length and width of your kayaks will influence your stability, trajectory, speed as well as maneuverability when kayaking. Generally, two-person kayaks are always longer than solo kayaks.
Longer and narrower kayaks are harder to maneuver and turn, hence it important to go for just enough length. They tend to be to faster than short wide kayaks. As a rule of thumb, if you are a beginner always prioritize wider boats when buying as they are more stable
Gear and Accessories
Extra features like gear and accessories are important to consider because if they don’t come with your kayak, you will have to make additional purchases. Included accessories than can benefit you with a kayak purchase include paddles, cup holders, life vest, foot braces, storage, tracking fins, seat backrests, spray kits (for keeping water out), and fishing extras such as fish 0- meter, rod holders, GPS Mounts.
The Benefits of Owning Your Own Two-Person Kayak
You can explore new places
With your own kayak, you can pack it up and travel to different water bodies to try your kayak out. Since inflatable kayaks can be put in a plane, you can also cross borders to popular rivers, lakes, and oceans.
You can enjoy extended trips
With your own kayak, you can go water touring and exploration too far away places since there is no limit on the time you can use it. This allows you to enjoy kayaking rather than be worried about exceeding the rental duration.
You can customize it to your liking
Purchasing a kayak allows you to customize it according to your needs, adding more gear and removing the thing you don’t need. It also helps you to increase familiarity with your equipment.
You can keep it maintained
Owning your kayaks allows you to properly maintain it for water safety. A renting business may sometimes compromise with features to save on costs or not be aware of some damages.
Cheaper in the long run
Buying will require you to make a large initial purchase but over time this proves cheaper than renting. If you are a frequent kayaker, renting will probably cost you more eventually.
You can recoup your money by reselling
If you bought your kayak and you no longer go kayaking, you can resell it and recoup some of your money back–something you can’t do with a rented kayak.
You can kayak on your own schedule
Rental booths often are open from 9am-5pm–when paddling might be best at sunrise or sunset. With your own kayak, you’re not limited to a specific time of day. Nothing is more fun than kayaking at your own preferred time. This very important for two-person kayaks since you are doing it with another person who might be available or unavailable at different times.
You don’t have to go to a rental shop to get your kayak. Say goodbye to long lines, running to and from your car getting the right amount of cash, and safety briefings.
You’ll progress more quickly
Owning your own kayak can help you and your kayaking partner to progress your skills at any time. This can improve your chemistry and understanding if you plan on participating in competitions. In addition, It allows allowing you work on your paddle fitness at any time
You can lend it to family and friends
Owning a two-person kayak can allow you to lend it to your kayaking partner or another family member when you are not using it.
Disclosure: The Salt Sirens is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. We are also an affiliate of REI.