Whether you’re an experienced or novice kayaker, touring is a fun activity that allows you to see new sights from the comfort of a safe, dry kayak. Many of the best marine wildlife viewing opportunities around the world require the use of a touring kayak. Furthermore, kayak touring will give you the comfort of knowing you didn’t rely on a gas-powered vehicle while also getting a great upper body workout.
In this article, we’ll review ten of the best touring kayaks and outline the most important criteria to consider when selecting a touring kayak. We’ll also explain many of the most common features of touring kayaks so that you can determine which features are truly important to how you intend to use your new kayak.
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Quick Answer - The Best Touring Kayaks
- Wilderness Systems Tempest 165
- Delta Kayaks Delta 15.5 GT
- Eddyline Sitka LT
- Delta Kayaks Delta 17
- Eddyline Fathom
Comparison Table - Best Touring Kayak
|Wilderness Systems Tempest 165||16'6"||21.5”||12.5”||55 pounds||$$||4.2|
|Delta Kayaks Delta 15.5 GT||15’6”||24.25”||13.25”||50 pounds||$$$||4.8|
|Eddyline Sitka LT||14'6"||23.5”||13.5”||49 pounds||$$$||4.8|
|Delta Kayaks Delta 17||17’||22.5”||13”||50 pounds||$$$||4.8|
|Eddyline Fathom||16’6”||22”||13.5”||50 pounds||$$$||4.6|
Reviews - The Best Kayaks for Touring
Wilderness Systems Tempest 165
- Depth: 12.5”
- Length: 16'6"
- Weight: 55 pounds
- Width: 21.5”
- Compass Mount (located in the bow for hands-free navigation)
- Reflective Safety Lines (for improved visibility)
- Retractable Carry Handles (in bow and stern)
- Hatch Covers (for watertight storage)
BEST FOR: OPEN-WATER PERFORMANCE FOR SMALLER PADDLERS
The Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 is a great choice for smaller paddlers looking for a kayak that performs well in open water. It includes a recessed compass mount in the front of the kayak where you can mount a compass to help with hands-free navigation on longer paddles. Reflective safety lines help you stay visible to other boaters and retractable carry handles aid in transportation without getting in the way while you’re paddling. Dome-shaped hatch covers give you extra storage space in this kayak’s watertight compartments.
Delta Kayaks Delta 15.5 GT
- Depth: 13.25”
- Length: 15’6”
- Weight: 50 pounds
- Width: 24.25”
- Moderate Hull Design (for a blend of speed and stability)
- Impact-Resistant, UV-Protected Finish (for improved longevity)
- Integrated Rescue System (to make it easier to get back in if you fall out)
- Recessed Deck Fittings and Hatches (for a sleeker, anti-snag design)
BEST FOR: ANY LEVEL OF PADDLER
Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced paddler who is looking for a new touring kayak, the Delta 15.5GT from Delta Kayaks is designed to suit the needs of paddlers of many shapes, sizes, and experience levels. The kayak’s moderate hull design strikes a balance between speed and stability while the finish makes this kayak resistant to impacts and the effects of UV exposure. An integrated rescue system makes reentry and bailing much easier and recessed deck fittings and hatches provide a design that minimizes the possibility of snags when paddling in tighter, more confined environments.
Eddyline Sitka LT
- Depth: 13.5”
- Length: 14'6"
- Weight: 49 pounds
- Width: 23.5”
- Retractable Skeg (with incremental adjustments for fine-tuning tracking)
- Shallow Hull (for easier turning and maneuvering)
- Multiple Backrest Heights (for adjustment to many body types)
- Front and Rear Storage Compartments (for keeping overnight gear dry)
BEST FOR: OPEN-WATER ADVENTURES
The Eddyline Sitka LT is the middle-sized kayak in the Sitka series. It combines ease of acceleration with the ability to carve quickly and maneuver around objects in the water with ease. It offers a retractable skeg that can be dropped down under the kayak to help with tracking when you encounter strong winds or ocean currents. The backrest can be adjusted to multiple heights to fit a wide variety of paddlers and large bulkhead compartments in the front and rear of this kayak gives you plenty of space to store any overnight gear that you need to keep dry while you paddle.
Delta Kayaks Delta 17
- Depth: 13”
- Length: 17’
- Weight: 50 pounds
- Width: 22.5”
- Impact-Resistant Construction
- Low-Profile Front Hatch (for easy access to most-needed items)
- Adjustable Seating System (for a customized fit)
- Lower Back Deck (for easier rolling, if needed)
BEST FOR: MID TO LARGE-FRAMED PADDLERS
The slightly longer version of the Delta Kayak 17 offers more space, better tracking, and more straight line speed if you’re primarily going to be paddling on calm, flat waters. It features impact-resistant construction that also holds up better against the effects of prolonged UV exposure. This touring kayak offers an adjustable seating system that can be customized to fit many different body types and a lower back deck that makes rolling easier, if needed. This kayak also features a low-profile front hatch that gives you a convenient place to store the gear you’ll need quick access to while paddling.
- Depth: 13.5”
- Length: 16’6”
- Weight: 50 pounds
- Width: 22”
- Fast and Efficient Hull (for better acceleration and more overall speed)
- Full-Volume Front Deck (provides ample leg room for long legs)
- Deployable Skeg (for improved tracking in adverse weather)
- Day Hatch (for accessible on-water storage)
BEST FOR: FAST OVERNIGHT ADVENTURES
The Eddyline Fathom is designed for you if you want to take overnight paddling adventures and cover a lot of ground while doing so. This kayak’s hull design allows it to accelerate more quickly and maintain more overall speed. It also makes it very stable and easy to maneuver as conditions change. Speaking of adverse conditions, this kayak’s deployable skeg, which is basically a large fin that drops into the water behind the kayak, will help you track straighter when battling ocean currents or heavy crosswinds. The full-volume front deck provides ample leg and foot room for paddlers with longer legs and the convenient day hatch gives you a great place to store snacks, waters, navigation materials, and other items you want quick access to while paddling.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING A TOURING KAYAK
TOURING KAYAKS: A HELPFUL DEFINITION
Touring kayaks are generally longer and more robust than more traditional sit-on-top or sit-in kayaks. All touring kayaks are of the sit-in variety because they offer more straight line speed and better protection from the elements when you’re spending more time in them. Many touring kayaks also have a skeg or rudder that help them track in heavier winds and when you’re dealing with ocean currents. Touring kayaks also generally provide the most storage space of any kayaks you’ll find.
When it comes to the materials used to create touring kayaks these days, there are generally three types you’ll find. They are polyethylene plastic, ABS plastic, and composites. We’ll briefly run through some of the advantages and disadvantages of all three.
This is the most affordable of the three options and it is reasonably resistant to scratches and abrasions. However, it is also the heaviest of the three options and the most susceptible to UV damage. If you buy a polyethylene plastic touring kayak, make sure to store it in a covered location.
ABS plastic is slightly more costly than polyethylene and very similar in terms of durability. It is lighter and offers better UV protection. Many of the distinct two-tone designs you see have been made from two pieces of molded ABS plastic that have been bonded together to create a watertight design.
Kayaks made of composite materials such as fiberglass and carbon fiber are going to be the most expensive options out there. These kayaks greatly outperform their polyethylene and ABS plastic counterparts, but they can be more susceptible to major impacts against rocks or other hard objects.
Every kayak is rated to fit individuals up to a certain weight. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for each kayak’s weight capacity and be careful to consider the weight of all of the gear that you plan on packing when touring. Add your gear weight to your body weight to get an idea of how much weight capacity you need in a touring kayak.
Your choice on length will largely come down to the type of paddling you intend to do. That said, it’s important to know that longer kayaks generally move through the water more efficiently and offer more storage space. Shorter kayaks, on the other hand, are more maneuverable and easier to transport to and from the water.
When choosing the right length of kayak, you don’t need to concern yourself over a difference of a few inches, but a few feet is a different story. If you plan to paddle for longer distances or take your kayak on multi-day expeditions, you’ll want a little extra length. This will make it easier and more efficient to paddle and it will also give you more storage space for gear. But if you’ll only be using your kayak for shorter day trips, you should consider a kayak that’s a bit shorter.
DEPTH AND WIDTH
The depth of a kayak will tell you how much leg and foot room you’ll have while sitting inside. Deeper kayaks tend to be better for larger paddlers and they also offer more storage space. Shallower kayaks, however, tend to be less affected when heavy winds come up.
The width of a kayak plays a large role in its stability. Kayaks with a wider hull are easier to get into and maintain balance when you’re not moving. However, kayaks with narrower hulls can go faster and offer less resistance once you get moving. Hull design, overall, has a large impact on a kayak’s performance.
Cockpit size can determine your level of comfort when sitting inside a touring kayak. Smaller, more snug cockpits will protect you more in adverse conditions and will give you more control of the kayak’s movement. A larger cockpit, on the other hand, will make it much easier to climb in and out of the kayak.
BOW AND STERN
These are the technical terms for the front and back of your kayak, respectively. You can always remember which is which by remembering that we bow FORWARD and a stern look is the one your mother gives you when you might want to take your actions BACK.
A skeg is a fin that drops down underneath your kayak. It’s major function is to keep your kayak from being blown off course when you encounter a strong crosswind. In most touring kayaks, the skeg can be retracted when you’re not paddling in windy conditions.
Tracking fins serve a similar purpose as a skeg, but they cannot be retracted when you don’t really need them. Tracking fins are found on many types of kayaks, but they are most common on inflatable kayaks. They can generally be removed prior to paddling if you’re confident you’re not going to need them.
A rudder will store on the stern deck of your kayak when not in use and then can be dropped down when needed. Unlike a skeg or tracking fins, a rudder is not in a fixed position and can be moved to help you steer your kayak. In most kayaks, the angle of the rudder can be adjusted using foot pedals so that you can more quickly respond to changing environmental conditions.
Hatches give you access to the interior storage compartments where you’ll want to store any gear that you want to keep dry while kayak touring. The type of closures that are utilized to secure these hatches will largely dictate just how watertight they really are.