In this article, you will learn how to choose a kayak based on the length of your paddling trip.
A key question I ask when recommending a kayak is how long your paddling trips will be.
A lot of people don’t think about this when they’re buying a kayak, but it’s a really important consideration.
There’s a big difference in the kayak you would buy if you were going out for an hour or a week!
The main categories I consider are:
- an hour or two
- half days and full days
- multi-day expeditions (which sometimes is multi-week as well)
Depending on the length of your paddling trip, the following features become less or more important:
- Quick set-up
ComfortWithin comfort, there’s a few things to consider, but one of the most important things is support. The kayak on the left is a whitewater kayak from NRS, so you wouldn’t expect a whitewater kayak to be able to let you sit back and relax. That’s not what you’re doing when you’re in whitewater! In terms of support, it’s just got a little cushion to raise your bum a little. It’s not going to support your back.
That’s okay for an hour or so, but if you’re going out for half a day, a full day or a multi-day expedition, you need to be able to relax. You need the kayak to be able to take your weight and let yourself sit back, stop paddling, look around, enjoy the wildlife, enjoy the view, enjoy the rushing water, and take a break. And that’s where you need a supportive seat.
The kayak on the right is a good example of a supportive seat. This is the AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite, and it’s got a high-back seat. It’s contoured and it clips in very high in the inner tube. If you get the back angled forward when you sit into it, it will take your weight.
This is a deluxe model of ours, so it’s got an inflatable lumbar cushion as well. You can blow it up and get some lumbar support while you are paddling!
You could sit in this all day, day after day.
It’s an expedition kayak, so it’s designed to be comfortable for many, many hours at a time.
As soon as you start thinking, “Yeah, I’d like to do a bit of a half-day trip” paddle over to whatever, such-and-such island or cove, have a picnic, and come back, that high-back seat will give you a lot of comfort.
A lot of customers are pleasantly surprised that inflatable kayaks deliver this really well, but it makes sense, because with inflatable kayaks, you’ve also got a cushion under your bum.
Here is Margaret saying “I find it far more comfortable to sit in than a hard shell kayak.”
The other thing to think about in terms of comfort is legroom.
In the picture below, on the left side are examples with tandems. I see this kind of thing all the time in some of the cheaper tandem inflatable kayaks, where people’s legs are bent right up, and you are literally sitting on top of each other.
It’s kind of a joke.
They’re basically single-sized kayaks that they’re marketing as double.
On the right is our AdvancedFrame Convertible, and you can see there’s so much legroom, that the fellow in the back has his legs straight, and there’s a footrest between him and the woman in front.
Heaps and heaps of space – heaps of legroom.
Same thing applies to singles. We have some kayaks that are shorter than others.
Some of our kayaks have heaps of leg room for very tall people. And as we discussed, this matters more for a longer trip.
One or two hours, you could probably put up with your legs being a little bit bent like that. But as soon as you get into half day and absolutely if you’re going for multi-day, you need to be comfortable in the kayak, which means you need adequate legroom.
Another important factor is stability.
An example is the AirFusion Evo on the left above (a brand-new kayak from Advanced Elements that I absolutely love). This is a different beast of a kayak. It’s a narrow kayak – there’s barely 5-10 centimetres either side of my hips here. You can’t see the hull, but the hull is quite rounded. This means it’s fairly tippy – I have to pay attention when I’m paddling.
It’s not hard to stay upright, or anything like that. I’ve never fallen out of either this, the AirFusion Evo or the AirFusion Elite. Never come close really, except when my two-year-old was in it with me and she started to move. It’s not difficult, but you do have to pay attention. And that might be something that’s okay for a half day paddle, but multi-day, you might start to get a bit tired having to have that core constantly switched on.
As opposed to our AdvancedFrame range, which is very stable.
The kayak on the right is the AdvancedFrame Convertible, but the same applies to the AdvancedFrame Expedition, the AdvancedFrame, the AdvancedFrame Sport, and the AdvancedFrame Ultralite. All that AdvancedFrame line and all of our StraightEdge line are exceptionally stable, to the point where my husband and I can have a sleep. We had a big night, we went for a paddle, it was pretty calm. We thought, “You know what? Let’s just stop, float around here for a bit and have a snooze.” That is how incredibly stable it is. I couldn’t pull that off with something kind of narrow beam and rounded hulled like the AirFusion Evo.
If you’re going to go on a big trip, you might want to rest. Stability allows you to sit back, relax, take it all in, have a breather.
It might be that you’re on a multi-day trip or a full-day trip, and there is nowhere to pull up and have a break, but you really to need to eat some lunch and have a drink and put on some sun cream – it’s lovely to be able to stop and do that in your kayak.
This is Carl. He says “these kayaks are super stable. My girlfriend and I both have them and neither of us have fallen out yet. Generally speaking, you can get in and out of one of these and pay zero attention to staying upright”.
“Even paddling side-on to the larger swell has proven completely fine so far.”
And this is just to prove that I am not the only one that falls asleep in the AdvancedFrame. Here’s a picture sent in from one of my happy customers!
Next thing to consider is weight capacity.
This is really for the multi-day expedition. If you’re going out for an hour or so, you don’t need much. Maybe some keys, phone, glasses, water, etc.
But if you’re going out for a full day or half day, you start to need food, sun cream, bit more water maybe. And you might even have a towel, jumper and change of clothes.
It’s when you get into overnight and multi-day, that you start to look a bit like the paddler on the bottom of the picture below.
There are two factors to consider.
- Weight Capacity – the kayak on the bottom is our AdvancedFrame Expedition and it has a whopping 204 kilogram weight capacity. You could be a heavy person and load this thing up with gear, and it would still be very safe and buoyant.
- Deck Space – the kayak on top is the AdvancedFrame Sport. It’s got the same AdvancedFrame design – that lovely bow and stern that cuts through the water. But it’s a shorter model. It doesn’t have anywhere near the same amount of deck space. There is a little bit of deck space behind the paddler, and there is some in front. You could put a bag up there. But what you couldn’t do is stack up multiple bags on top of each other. In terms of internal space, with the Expedition, there’s a hatch behind, and there’s some room under the deck in front of your feet, but you wouldn’t fit much inside the AdvancedFrame Sport kayak.
Quick Set Up
The next thing we’re looking at here is setup time.
A lot of people don’t consider this. They think all inflatables are the same, but they’re not!
The reason it’s important when choosing a kayak based on the length of your trip is if you’re going out for an hour, you don’t want to spend half an hour setting up your kayak. It’s not worth it for the time you’re going out.
If you were going out for a three-week trip or even a full day trip though, it doesn’t matter so much.
This video is our fastest kayak to set up – the AdvancedFrame Sport. You literally unfold it, you inflate the main chamber, then you inflate the floor. There’s a couple of little deck lifts to inflate (they’re literally like one breath of air). There’s some plastic bits that slot into the front, and then you clip the seat in and you’re done.
Four minutes and 10 seconds.
If you’re going out for an hour, I’m pretty sure you can handle a four minute and 10 second setup.
But not all inflatable kayaks are quick and easy to set up.
This is from one of my customers.
“My sister put in an order for a Lagoon ” (one of our kayaks from Advanced Elements.) “She was so impressed with how quick and easy my Dragonfly is to inflate compared to the one she owns. In this photo here is my kayak all ready to go, and she’s still trying to get hers ready.”
The Dragonfly’s an older model that we used to sell from Advanced Elements, and it’s the same simple design as a Lagoon. There’s two main chambers in that one. You just inflate the main chambers and pop the seat in. It doesn’t have an inflatable floor, it has a foam floor. She’s even got a spray skirt on.
So it’s a really big factor to consider, that you have more time to set up if you’re going for a long time. If you are often going for an hour at a time, don’t choose a kayak that takes a long time to set up.