15 Best Tandem Kayaks for More Adventures on the Water in 2022

15 Best Tandem Kayaks for More Adventures

Short on time? Our pick for the best tandem kayak is the Elkton Outdoors Two-Person Hard Shell Kayak

Our picks for the best tandem kayaks for outdoor fun with a friend!  

As much as I love being outside, the one thing that always makes it better is friends, which is why the idea of tandem kayaking is so appealing. You get to enjoy the outdoors with half the work! 

Tandem kayaking also has benefits that solo kayaking doesn’t have. The first time I went ocean kayaking, it was in a tandem boat. 

I was super excited to try it, but it turned out that my vertigo got the best of me (yes, I’m very sensitive) and I basically ended up incapacitated. 

I was so nauseous that had my boyfriend not been in the stern to paddle me back, I’m not sure how I would have gotten back to shore. 

It’s strictly lake and river paddling for me now and I’m much happier!

You may not turn green on the ocean like me, but if you’re brand new to paddling or looking for a gift for an older couple or a family, a tandem kayak might be just the thing!

I’ve sifted through a bajillion tandem kayaks and tandem kayak reviews to bring you the best of the best. Read on to find the best tandem kayak for your needs and skill level!

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

Tandem Kayaks

Short on Time? Here’s a Quick Look at Our Recommendations

#1 Sea Eagle 3 Person Inflatable Kayak

Best for Families

Sea Eagle 3 Person Inflatable Kayak

Our rating: 4.6/5
Weight: 44.25 lbs
Length: 12.5’
Weight capacity: 650 lbs

I chose the Sea Eagle 3-Person Inflatable Kayak as the best inflatable tandem kayak for families because it seats three and it packs down small. 

This means your minivan won’t be too crowded on your big family vacay. Plus, this inflatable kayak won’t break the bank. 

If you have siblings or children, you know the competition to do *that fun thing* can be cutthroat. 

Why don’t you make your vacation a little less dramatic by choosing a kayak that can seat three? That way one adult can still be in attendance or up to three youngsters can go at once.

The Sea Eagle 3-Person Kayak is rated for up to Class III whitewater kayaking if you’re that kind of family, but this little beauty will do great on calm waters as well. 

This kayak has two skegs (fins) on the bottom but some people find that they need to glue a third skeg for adequate tracking. 

I do find it a little annoying that there isn’t a way to more easily add a skeg as this is a pretty standard feature on most tandem kayaks. 

There are two paddles, a foot pump, and a carry bag included with this kayak. 

I especially appreciate the paddles because not all kayaks include them, and who has time and money to buy extras?

One con about the Sea Eagle is the quality of the seats. 

They’re a bit uncomfortable and the design for adding a different middle seat is lacking. If you’re a bigger person, the middle seat doesn’t always stay upright. 

PROS

  • Seats three
  • Folds up small (no roof rack needed)
  • Affordable price
  • Up to Class III rapids

CONS

  • Uncomfortable, low-quality seats
  • May need a third skeg

#2 Perception Rambler 13.5

Best for Beginners

Perception Rambler 13.5

Our rating: 4.7/5
Weight: 78 lbs
Length: 13’ 5’’
Weight capacity: 550 lbs

The Perception Rambler 13.5 is the best two-person kayak for beginners because it’s a good-quality sit-on-top kayak that’s reasonably priced (compared to other top-rated tandem kayaks). 

In fact, I like it so much that I also included it in my roundup of the best budget kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks are good for beginners because they’re easier to get in and out of and tend to be wider and thus more stable than sit-inside kayaks. 

This is a roomy kayak, which I like because whenever I’m new to something I inevitably bring way too much stuff the first time I try it. 

There’s an optional center seat and a storage hatch at the stern (back) that’s big enough for a cooler to sit in. 

This rigid tandem kayak is made of one molded piece of high-density polyethylene and is suitable for ocean bays with minimal surf, lakes, and slow rivers.

One of the downsides to this kayak is that there are no adjustable footrests and some people find the built-in ones uncomfortable. 

Additionally, the seats are padded, but if you’re on a long trip, you may want to consider bringing some extra padding or support. 

This kayak is also a bit on the heavy side at 78 pounds, but if you have two paddlers it shouldn’t be too hard to transport. 

Finally, one last con about this tandem kayak is that the paddles aren’t included.  

PROS

  • Can seat up to three
  • Multi-water way optional
  • Large storage hatch
  • Stable design

CONS

  • Paddles not included
  • Footrests can be uncomfortable for some people

#3 BKC TK122U 12′ 6″ Tandem 2 or 3 Person Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak

Best for Fishing

BKC TK122U 12' 6" Tandem 2 or 3 Person Sit-On-Top Fishing Kayak

Our rating: 4.9/5
Weight: 74 lbs
Length: 12.9’
Weight capacity: 770 lbs

If you’re looking for a fishing kayak, go for an option that’s specifically made with anglers in mind. 

The Brooklyn Kayak Company TK122U 12’6’’ Tandem Kayak is a two-person fishing kayak with all the bells and whistles an angler could want. 

This kayak features four fishing rod holders (two of which can be swiveled around) so that you and your kayaking partner have lots of options for rod placement.

I also like the seats in this kayak. Fishing often requires sitting for long periods, so you need a comfortable chair. The seats are raised just a bit off the bottom of the kayak and are designed like aluminum porch chairs. 

There’s also a decent amount of storage space on this fishing kayak, which is needed because anglers often have a lot of gear (or at least a lot of beer). There are two waterproof compartments as well as a bungee tie-down in the stern. 

Additionally, there are four “accessory rails” so you can mount a GPS to the side of the craft.

The weight capacity on this vessel is very high at 770 lbs and the bottom of the kayak is flat, which provides for good stability. 

If I have anything negative to say about this fishing kayak, it’s that customer service may not be the easiest to deal with at BKC. 

PROS

  • Four fishing rod holders
  • Lots of storage space for securing gear
  • Very stable
  • High weight capacity

CONS

  • Customer service is lacking

#4 Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135

Best Sit-Inside Tandem Kayak

Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135

Our rating: 4.9/5
Weight: 72 lbs
Length: 13’6’’
Weight capacity: 500

There are many excellent sit-inside tandem kayaks out there but I eventually landed on the Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135 because it shines in several categories. 

First, this kayak has lots of ways you can customize it to fit your body shape. 

There are adjustable seats and footrests, both of which are padded. 

And unlike some rigid kayaks with molded-in footrests, it has a movable foot brace system to customize the length specifically to you. 

Many tandem kayaks that are “sit-in” have individual cockpits, so you couldn’t paddle solo because you wouldn’t be able to balance the weight properly. Not so with the Pamlico 135!

The seats are universally lauded as very comfortable – they have thick mesh-covered foam and the entire seat can slide forward and back for precise load balancing. 

Another thing I like about this kayak is that you can take one of the seats out so it can be easily paddled solo.

One neat feature about this kayak that I don’t often see elsewhere is that the side of the cockpit is padded so that your thighs don’t get bruised resting against the edge. 

The gear storage on this kayak includes a bungee system and a waterproof storage hatch behind the rear seat. 

I don’t love this arrangement because I find it a little difficult to reach the back storage hatch when I’m paddling, but it’s not a deal-breaker. 

PROS

  • Can be converted into a single kayak
  • Comfortable
  • Padding on sides of the cockpit

CONS

  • Storage hatch may be hard to reach

#5 Intex Excursion Pro

Best Inflatable Tandem Kayak

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak

Our rating: 4.6/5
Weight: 43.64 lbs
Length: 151.2 in
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

The Intex Excursion Pro is not only a great inflatable kayak but it’s also a great budget buy as well. 

One issue with inflatable tandem kayaks is getting the air pressure right. 

Thankfully, this kayak comes with a pressure gauge to measure the air pressure in the kayak to take the guesswork out of inflation.

And it comes with a double-action pump so that you’re inflating with both the up and down stroke, which helps the inflation process go faster. 

The Intex Excursion Pro also comes with a deep and shallow water skeg (super handy so you’re not scraping the skeg fin in shallow water).

It can double as a fishing kayak because it has two fishing rod holders. The middle of the kayak also has an optional mounting bracket for additional fishing accessories like a GPS. 

The skin of this tandem kayak is PVC-coated polyester, which is common for inflatable kayaks and is more durable than PVC alone. 

In terms of storage space, both the stern and bow have stainless steel rings to clip dry bags to and you can generally fit a few things either between your legs or near your feet.

One downside of this kayak is the weight capacity is only 400 pounds, which is relatively low. So, it might not be suitable for two tall paddlers plus fishing gear and coolers filled with ice and drinks.

Additionally, while I appreciate the two different skeg sizes, the skeg holder on the bottom of the kayak isn’t always mounted perfectly straight. This means it could be a challenge to keep a steady direction while paddling in this kayak. 

PROS

  • 3-ply skin provides better durability
  • Built-in rod holders
  • Mounting bar for fishing accessories
  • Fast inflation

CONS

  • Skeg holder may not be perfectly straight
  • Not suitable for two heavy paddlers with lots of gear

#6 Lifetime Tandem 10

Best Tandem Kayak for One Person

Lifetime Tandem 10

Our rating: 4.5/5
Weight: 60 lbs
Length: 10 lbs
Weight capacity: 500 lbs

If your tandem paddling partner ditches you, your kayaking adventure might be put on pause: unless your tandem kayak can be converted to a solo kayak! 

No matter the reason you find yourself paddling solo, it’s not a terrible idea to have the most versatile watercraft you can get. 

And the Lifetime 10’ Tandem Fishing Kayak is about as versatile as you can get. 

It can be paddled solo or with a friend, and it can be used as a fishing kayak or a simple recreational kayak. To be honest, it’s not often you can do all those things in the same boat.  

The Lifetime is a hardshell sit-on-top kayak with a 10-foot length, which is a relatively short kayak length. Short kayaks like this are easy to turn and are certainly manageable for one person. 

One issue with shorter kayaks is that they don’t tend to have great tracking. However, this kayak avoids that problem – the bottom of the kayak has an “M” shape that gives it better tracking.

This two-person kayak can also fit up to three fishing rods, and it has a large storage space in the back for fishing tackle or a cooler.

While most people love this kayak, the one con is that I’ve seen a few people mention is that their kayak came with a hole in it. 

That’s clearly *no bueno* especially for a kayak as pricey as this one, so make sure you check for quality control once it arrives. 

PROS

  • A two-person kayak that can be used for solo paddling adventures
  • Suitable for fishing
  • Three fishing rod holders
  • Good tracking

CONS

  • Quality issues during manufacture

#7 Elkton Outdoors Hard Shell Fishing Tandem Kayak

Best for Camping

Elkton Outdoors Hard Shell Fishing Tandem Kayak

Our rating: 4.9/5
Weight: 72 lbs
Length: 12.2’
Weight capacity: 650 lbs

Camping with a kayak is the best. You can bring all the trappings of glamping and you don’t have to carry any of it on your back.

The one thing you need for a camping kayak is lots of storage space. Trust me, once you try camping with a kayak you’ll never go backpacking again.

I chose the Elkton Outdoors Two-Person Hard Shell Kayak as the best camping kayak because of all the space you get. 

Many tandem kayaks have either a dry storage hatch or a bungee-covered open compartment, but the Elkton Outdoors Two-Person has two of each. Plus, it has a cooler platform in the middle.

This is a very wide (36’’) and stable kayak, too, which is important so that none of your gear goes overboard. And if you like to fish while you camp this kayak has two-rod holders too. 

If there’s one thing to complain about with this kayak, it’s that the seats aren’t very well constructed and buckle isn’t the most durable. 

PROS

  • Lots of storage space
  • Dedicated cooler platform
  • Two fishing rod holders

CONS

  • Seat is not high-quality

#8 Explorer K2 Kayak

Best Lightweight Tandem Kayak 

Explorer K2 Kayak

Our rating: 4.5/5
Weight: 30.4 lbs
Length: 10’ 3’’
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

I don’t know about you but I’m not about to win any weightlifting competitions, nor am I trying to when I go out on the water for fun. 

Kayaks, especially tandem kayaks, can be quite heavy and unwieldy even with two people (especially if you have little sticks for arms like me). 

Maneuvering a big kayak off a roof rack is really tricky, not to mention carrying it to the water or portaging it around obstacles. This is why having the lightest tandem kayak possible is such a luxury. 

The Explorer K2 Kayak is one of the lightest weight tandem kayaks out there at just 30.4 pounds. Think about how many more river beverages you can carry with such a lightweight kayak!

This is a shorter (10’3’’) sit-on inflatable kayak. And while there’s a removable skeg for directional stability, this kayak is best suited for calm waters. 

This kayak comes with all the basics you need to get on the water immediately: two paddles, an air pump, and a carry bag. 

It’s also extremely affordable, making it one of the best tandem kayaks under $500.

Additionally, the seats on this inflatable tandem kayak are removable, which I like because then you can sit facing your paddling partner and enjoy the water. 

The maximum weight on this kayak is a bit low: just 400 pounds (you’d be surprised how fast the weights add up!), but for a budget kayak, I’d still say that’s pretty good. 

With that said, this is a bargain kayak, and I’ve seen a few people complain of leaks. 

There’s a repair kit included and multiple air chambers so you shouldn’t truly sink, but you might be getting what you pay for. 

PROS

  • Lightweight!
  • Budget-friendly
  • Comes with all the basic necessities

CONS

  • Low maximum weight
  • May be prone to leaks

#9 Sea Eagle 380X Inflatable Kayak

Best for Big Guys

Sea Eagle 380X Inflatable Kayak

Our rating: 4.8/5
Weight: 40 lbs
Length: 12’6’’
Weight capacity: 750 lbs

You should never, ever exceed the weight capacity on a kayak for safety reasons. 

But even getting close to the weight capacity will cause the boat to sit lower in the water and will impact maneuverability. 

With the Sea Eagle 380X, you shouldn’t have to worry about exceeding the weight capacity, even with two large humans on board. 

Not only do these inflatable tandem kayaks have a whopping weight capacity of 750 lbs, but they’re rated up to Class IV rapids. 

This is a 12’6’’ long kayak with a 39-inch width (i.e. quite stable) and can seat up to three. The hull is made of 1000 Denier polyester, which means the fabric is very puncture resistant. 

There’s also a “pro package” that comes with this kayak that includes two paddles, two “tall” seats, a hand pump, a detachable skeg, and a repair kit. 

Setup time on this big fella is just 15 minutes, even using a hand pump. Additionally, the weight is almost nothing (40 lbs), especially for such a stout boat. 

While most people love this kayak, I have seen at least one person say that there is a seam weakness under the Sea Eagle badge itself that can be hard to repair.

PROS

  • Very high max weight
  • Lightweight
  • Comes with all the basic accessories
  • Fast setup time

CONS

  • Seam failure possible in one spot

#10 BKC TK219 12.2′ Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak

Best for Stability

BKC TK219 12.2' Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak

Our rating: 4.8/5
Weight: 68 lbs
Length: 12’2’’
Weight capacity: 595

Generally speaking, two factors contribute to the stability of a kayak: width and the shape of the bottom. 

Kayaks over about 30 inches wide and flat-bottomed kayaks have excellent stability. You’ll also tend to find that sit-on kayaks are more stable than sit-inside kayaks. 

Fishing kayaks often incorporate all three of these elements and that’s why the best tandem kayak for stability on my list is a fishing kayak! 

The Brooklyn Kayak Company TK219 is a 12’2’’ long sit-on-top kayak. The 34-inch width and the flat bottom give this kayak great stability. You can use this as an ocean kayak or take it out on mellower rivers and lakes.

The longer kayak length does two things: it creates a boat that stays in a straight line easily and provides deck space for more gear storage (or up to a third person!). 

In addition to the added deck space, there are two sealed hatches and one bungee tie-down behind the stern seat. All of these are nice features for longer-distance trips. 

The seats on this kayak are the aluminum frame type, which I appreciate because I like to have firmer support when I’m sitting for extended periods. 

As I said, this is a fishing kayak. It has six fishing rod holders so you can go fish-crazy on this thing, too. 

Really, the only downside about this kayak is that it’s a little on the pricey side. 

PROS

  • Excellent stability
  • Lots of gear storage
  • Seats up to three
  • Six fishing rod holders

CONS

  • Expensive

#11 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible

Best for Under $1000

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible

Our rating: 4.7/5
Weight: 36 lbs
Length: 10’5’’
Weight capacity: 300 lbs

Top tandem kayaks can be expensive and a good tandem kayak will often be several hundred dollars minimum. 

If you’re in the market for a mid-range tandem kayak, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak is a great choice. 

Admittedly, the AdvancedFrame kayak is *just* under $1000, but if you’re looking for something cheaper, you can check out our article on the best budget kayaks

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak is unique in that it’s a hybrid between an inflatable and a hard shell kayak. It’s an inflatable kayak with a rigid aluminum frame reinforcement in the bow. 

One nice thing about the shape of the rigid frame is that it acts like a skeg, which helps with tracking, but additionally, there’s an extra tracking fin that can be added for improved performance. 

One of the biggest costs of some of the top kayaks is the materials they’re made of. 

This kayak is made of a triple-layer of polyester that’s coated with PVC on both sides to ensure the hull isn’t punctured. 

And in case you do get a hole, the kayak comes with a repair kit. While PVC is quite common on cheaper kayaks, you don’t always get multiple layers of it. 

The carry bag for this kayak is heavy-duty, but one downside is that it doesn’t come with an air pump. 

The manufacturer recommends using a 12V electric pump, and the air ports are compatible with most air pumps. 

Lastly, this kayak has a decent amount of space. There’s bungee rigging on the bow to slide a dry bag under, as well as two zippered compartments in the bow and stern for items. 

PROS

  • Good for flat and moderate river difficulty
  • Lots of storage space
  • Hybrid between rigid and inflatable kayaks
  • Heavy-duty carry bag 
  • Durable, multi-layer materials

CONS

  • Air pump not included

#12 Aquaglide Navarro

Best for the Ocean

Aquaglide Navarro Kayak

Our rating: 4.9/5
Weight: 35 lbs
Length: 13’3’’
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

If you’re looking to enjoy ocean trips with your kayak, you’ll want to look for long, narrow kayaks. This is essentially the description of a touring kayak. 

While most recreational paddlers will do fine with a wide sit-on-top kayak, long-distance ocean paddling requires something a little more serious.

My pick for the best ocean kayak is the Aquaglide Navarro, a convertible open deck/sit-inside 13’ 3’’ inflatable kayak, because it incorporates many of the elements of a touring kayak.

The Aquaglide Navarro is “convertible” in the sense that the top of the kayak has a zip-on cover that can be added to keep you warmer or to keep water off your legs. 

When it’s unzipped, it forms more of an open cockpit in nice weather. 

You can also add a spray skirt. One con about this kayak is that both the zipper cover and spray skirt are sold separately. 

Additionally, the bottom of this kayak has a flat profile. It may not be as speedy as a v-shaped boat, but it makes up for this with stability. 

The hard bottom makes this kayak very stable while still providing good tracking. It also includes a skeg to help improve tracking even more. 

The front bow also has a zippered compartment for storage as well as bungee rigging on the top of the deck. 

PROS

  • Great tracking
  • Convertible open deck/sit inside design
  • Lots of storage
  • Paddle holders to free hands

CONS

  • Convertible cover and spray skirt sold separately
  • Air pump not included

#13 Ocean Kayak Malibu II

Best Sit-On-Top Tandem Kayak

Ocean Kayak Malibu

Our rating: 4.8/5
Weight: 63 lbs
Length: 12’
Weight capacity: 425 lbs

Crowning a kayak the “best of” for a giant category like “ tandem sit-on-top kayak” is a little daunting because there are truly so many great choices out there. 

After reading approximately one billion tandem kayak reviews, however, I went with the Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 because it’s a great all-around kayak at a decent price. 

This is a 12-foot-long, 63-pound hard shell tandem kayak that can be converted to seat one or three. 

First, the kayak length: I like a slightly longer kayak because they tend to track better and have more storage space. 

Second, the weight: 63 pounds is more than I can carry at once, but many people with this kayak report they can get it loaded on a roof rack by themselves. 

This boat also comes with two adjustable seats, plus it can be modified if you want to paddle a tandem kayak solo or add a third wheel. 

The kayak is 34 inches wide, offers good stability, and is reliable in calm oceans, lakes, and rivers.  

Finally, the price. While I wouldn’t call this a bargain kayak, it’s certainly considered reasonable, especially for a tandem kayak. 

If I have one gripe about this boat it’s that it doesn’t come with paddles. 

I know paddlers who often order a custom-sized paddle anyway, so this isn’t a dealbreaker for many people, but I find it annoying. It’s like a toy that doesn’t come with batteries!

And if I’m really being picky, I’d also say the maximum weight is a tad low, but even still, 425 lbs should be plenty for most folks. 

PROS

  • Lots of space on deck
  • Can be paddled solo or seat up to three
  • Good stability
  • Reasonable price

CONS

  • Paddles sold separately
  • Low maximum weight

#14 Driftsun Almanor Inflatable Touring Kayak

Most Comfortable Tandem Kayak

Driftsun Almanor Inflatable Touring Kayak

Our rating: 4.9/5
Weight: 33 lbs
Length: 13’
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

When I was a kid, I’d usually have to fall off something high to hurt myself. Now I’m in my thirties and sitting too long is a dangerous activity. That’s why finding a comfortable boat is so important.

Not to mention, if you’re not comfortable, you probably won’t be having as much fun and isn’t that the whole point of kayaking? 

Plus, if you’re on a longer cruise you *need* to be comfy because you can’t very well get up to stretch. 

In addition to purchasing a kayak with a stellar return policy (REI is particularly good about this) so you can test out the comfort yourself, it’s also good to look for kayaks that were designed with comfort in mind. 

The Driftsun Almanor Inflatable Recreational Touring Kayak is one of the best double kayaks for comfort because of its many cushy features. 

First, I have to address that a “recreational touring” kayak is an oxymoron in most circles. Recreational and touring kayaks are quite different, but the Almanor claims to have the best of both worlds. 

This is a long kayak (13’), which is consistent with touring kayaks, and this boat is designed for long-distance paddles on flat water (or calm seas). 

The width of the boat is more like a recreational kayak. It’s nice and wide (39’’), which gives it terrific stability. 

Many inflatable kayaks can take a while to inflate, but the Almanor can be pumped up in just nine minutes with the dual-action pump! Additionally, this kayak is very lightweight (which makes it *comfortable* to carry). 

Ok, now for the comfort specs: the seats are amply padded with a high back and are highly adjustable. I’ve seen lots of comments about how comfortable these seats are so I know it’s not just hype.

The paddles are also included with this kayak and the customer service is very good as well. 

Frankly, there isn’t much to complain about with this kayak except *maybe* a somewhat low maximum weight. 

PROS

  • Padded, high-back seats for comfort
  • Lightweight
  • Good for long-distance cruises
  • Fast inflation time

CONS

  • Low max weight

#15 Oru Foldable Kayak

Best Foldable Kayak

Oru Foldable Kayak

Our rating: 4.6/5
Weight: 43 lbs
Length: 16’1’’
Weight capacity: 500 lbs

You’ve heard me talk ad nauseam about inflatable kayaks but now I’ve got a surprise for you: there are *foldable* kayaks too! Don’t worry, they’re not as flimsy as you might think. Quite the opposite, actually. 

Foldable, innovative kayaks have a few distinct advantages over traditional kayaks. First, they are the most compact kayaks, even compared to inflatable kayaks. 

The Oru Foldable Tandem Kayak folds up to be about the size and shape of a large couch cushion. The setup is uncomplicated and can be done in around 15 minutes. 

Oru even boasts that you can fly with this kayak if you need to travel with it, which, since it’s under 50 pounds, you can on most airlines.

This model of foldable kayak is best suited for calm waters. While the material the kayak is made of is highly durable (see below), there are a few design issues that make it difficult to paddle in rough water. 

This particular model of Oru kayak is very long (16’) and narrow (28’’), best suited for moving efficiently through the water.

The Oru Foldable Kayak is made of extremely durable 5mm double-layered polypropylene, which makes it about as durable as carbon fiber. 

The material has been treated to be UV-resistant for 10 years and, like carbon fiber, this material is very lightweight. 

Overall, despite the drawbacks it has on choppy water, this is still one of the best tandem kayaks for its portability. 

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Very durable material
  • Great for long-distance paddles
  • Fast setup time

CONS

  • Not suited for choppy water

Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Tandem Kayak

What to Look for in a Tandem Kayak

What to Look for in a Tandem Kayak

Length

Longer kayaks (over 12-13 ft) are well-suited to longer trips since they move through the water in a straight line more efficiently. Also, keep in mind that longer kayaks may have more space for gear storage.

Shorter kayaks may take more effort to go in a straight line, but they can be turned more easily than long kayaks. 

Width

Wider kayaks (over 30 inches) are more stable and are well suited to beginners, kids, fishermen, and older folks.

Hull Shape

The bottom of the kayak will influence how easy it is to paddle. Flat bottomed hulls (like multi-chine) are very stable and are good as fishing kayaks. 

V-chine (v-shaped) hulls are faster and more maneuverable but may feel unstable to newbies. 

These are often what you’ll see on the bottom of touring kayaks, which are built for speed and distance.

Skeg or Rudder

Skegs are fins that are seated on the bottom of the kayak, while rudders can be dipped into the water from the stern (back). 

Skegs help steer the vessel in a straight line as you paddle, whereas rudders, which are often controlled by foot pedals, help steer the kayak in different directions. 

It’s nice to have a removable skeg so you can take it off in shallow water. Bonus points if the kayak comes with a deep and shallow water skeg.

Number/Arrangement of Seats

Many tandem kayaks can seat up to three. They may have detachable seats that can be re-arranged on the deck (e.g. facing one another), while some tandem kayaks have more permanent seating options that can’t be changed. 

Storage Space

No, I’m not talking about the amount of storage space on the kayak (although that’s important too). 

I’m thinking of the space you’ll need to dedicate to the storage of the kayak itself. While many kayaks can sit outside without too much structural damage, they may fade in the sun. 

If you don’t have a dedicated garage or loft space to store a kayak, consider an inflatable or foldable model. 

Types of Tandem Kayaks

Types of Tandem Kayaks

Sit-On-Top

Sit-on-top kayaks are great for beginners because you don’t have to learn any special maneuvers to right yourself if you tip over (unlike a sit-inside kayak). 

Sit-on-tops tend to be a bit wider and more stable than sit-inside kayaks and are ideal for people who want to use their kayak like a swimming platform.

These kayaks are good for warm weather because you’ll inevitably get a little wet just from the paddle drips. 

Sit Inside

People with kayaking experience who want a faster vessel may want to look at a sit-inside kayak. 

Sit-inside kayaks are best for colder water or weather as you can attach a spray skirt and keep all the water off. 

These are better suited for those with a little kayaking experience as the more V-shaped bottom may feel unstable to new kayakers.

Additionally, because you’re sitting inside the kayak, if you flip over, you need to learn how to right yourself. This isn’t a skill everyone can learn or wants to bother with.

Hard Shell

Hardshell kayaks can be made of a wide range of materials. 

Polyethylene is a common material on cheaper kayaks. Polyethylene is not as lightweight as carbon fiber or kevlar, but for the price, it will get you on the water and keep you afloat for many years.

Carbon fiber and kevlar are lighter and more expensive. Don’t forget about old-fashioned wood kayaks too!

Inflatable

Inflatable kayaks are best for those without a garage or storage space to keep a regular-sized kayak. 

These are also ideal if you have a small vehicle or want to travel with your kayak easily. These are sometimes a little lighter than hardshell kayaks.

Foldable

In addition to inflatable tandem kayaks, there are also foldable kayaks. 

One advantage of foldable kayaks is that they can often be packed down more easily into their original small shape. 

There are a few different types of foldable kayaks: origami, nesting, and frame with skin. Some people also consider inflatable kayaks as a sub-category of foldable kayaks. 

Origami-style kayaks use one large piece of material that gets folded out. Nesting kayaks are like hardshell kayaks but they come in multiple pieces that you hook together. And Frame with skin kayaks often have a metal frame that a plastic hull fits over. 

Solo vs. Tandem Kayaks

The main difference between these kayaks is their size and the number of seats.

 Tandem kayaks can often seat up to three people. Conversely, if you’re a bigger person, you can also consider paddling a tandem kayak solo. 

Tandem kayaks are designed to hold more weight than solo kayaks, so if you’re going on a gear-heavy trip, consider a tandem.

Touring vs. Recreational Kayaks

Touring kayaks are intended for serious kayakers with experience. These are longer and thinner boats that are designed to move fast with minimal effort.

Recreational kayaks are designed for people who are just paddling around for fun. These are wider than touring kayaks with flatter bottoms, both of which make the kayak more stable. 

FAQs About Tandem Kayaks

FAQs About Tandem Kayaks

Are tandem kayaks any good?

Just like any other product, there are amazing tandem kayaks and duds. 

Always look through lots of customer reviews (or read our round-up posts!) to get a feel for whether an item is living up to the manufacturer’s claims. 

What is the best length for a tandem kayak?

The best length for a tandem kayak depends on what you want to use it for. 

Longer kayaks (~over 13 feet) are best suited for long-distance paddling, while shorter kayaks are best for recreational paddlers on shorter trips. 

Are tandem kayaks less stable?

Tandem kayaks are not inherently less stable than solo kayaks. The instability of a tandem kayak comes from the challenge of paddling with a partner. 

Novice paddlers may not have good rhythm or technique and may not know how to skillfully navigate challenging waterways. 

Can one person paddle a tandem kayak?

Yes! Some tandem kayaks are designed specifically to be customizable for solo paddling. Look for sit-on-top kayaks with removable seats or sit-in kayaks with an open cockpit. 

Is tandem kayaking hard?

Just like riding a bicycle, or in this case a tandem bicycle, it’s all a matter of practice. 

Most people don’t find tandem kayaking hard. It can be easier than solo kayaking because if you get tired, your partner can keep you moving. 

Where should the stronger paddler sit in a kayak? Who steers a tandem kayak?

The stronger (usually heavier) kayaker needs to sit in the back. It’s much easier to steer a kayak if the weight is distributed evenly or with the heavier person in the back. 

Conclusion: Our Pick for the Best Tandem Kayak

Conclusion: Our Pick for the Best Tandem Kayak

Tandem kayaking is an amazing way to enjoy the outdoors with a partner and it can be a great hobby for anyone, regardless of your size or athletic ability. 

It can also be a great way for older folks, pregnant ladies, or differently-abled folks to enjoy the water with the safety of a partner nearby. 

There are lots of great tandem kayaks out there, so it was hard to choose just one as my top pick. 

However, if I had to go with a tandem kayak for myself, I would choose the Elkton Outdoors Two-Person Hard Shell Kayak

This is my pick for the best tandem kayak for camping, too, and I gave it that designation because it has lots of storage space and is a very versatile kayak. It has two storage hatches, plus a designated platform for a cooler. 

And although this is technically a fishing kayak, don’t be put off if you’re not into fishing. 

Fishing kayaks are usually quite wide and stable (this one is 36’’ wide) and you can just ignore the fishing rod holders. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author bio - Meredith Dennis

Meredith Dennis

Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in 6 states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is *chef’s kiss* next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!


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15 Best Tandem Kayaks for More Adventures on the Water in 2022

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