Wondering what to look for in a touring or camping style kayak? These impressive seaworthy crafts are often looked at as if they were the kings of the kayak world, but what makes them so special? Touring kayaks tend to be much longer, narrower, and more dynamic than regular recreational kayaks, but that’s not all. They are typically built with tracking systems that help them cut through choppy surf with ease. With a bit more space in both the bow and hull, these lanky vessels can house a good amount of gear, making them the ideal pick for overnight excursions and long day trips.
While we recommend securing a demo run before purchasing a new touring kayak, we’ve got all the info you’ll need to safely shop for a touring kayak of your own. In addition to five of our favorite touring vessels, you’ll find a comprehensive kayak buying guide with tips and tricks for finding the perfect boat for all your kayaking adventures
The Best Sea Kayaks Goes as Follows
Touring/Sea Kayak Reviews
The following are my favorite sea kayak brands in the industry right now.
1. Necky Chatham 18-Foot Touring Kayak
Looking for a solid watercraft to tour your way across oceans, rivers, and lakes? The Skeg’s Necky Chatham Touring Kayak is an extremely agile boat that offers a tremendous amount of speed, stability and is the top rated touring kayak on this list. While its slender build makes maneuvers a bit more difficult, all 18 feet of the boat cut through the water with ease. While its tracking is more challenging than its shorter counterparts, this is to be expected. What’s more, its lightweight composite or fiberglass body gives it impressive seaworthiness. Needless to say, the Necky Chatham comes is highly vetted in the kayaking community.
The Necky’s cockpit boasts an adjustable seat, enabling kayakers to personalize their setup for increased comfort and stability. Since the Necky doesn’t force its occupants to cramp up their legs, this boat is a great option for long or lengthy boating sessions. The Necky also features an ergonomic touring seat with a supportive back band. Not only does the back band prevent excess water from entering the cockpit, but it helps fortify your lower back muscles to increase your potential for longer rides.
The Neck Chatham weighs around 53 pounds and comes in a variety of color combos. The boat is extremely slender, measuring a mere 20 inches wide and 18 feet long. Storage is restricted, limited you to one or two-day expeditions at the most. Still, with less onboard items to weigh it down, the Chatham has a tremendous potential to build up speed. With that said, there are plenty of hatches located on the stern and bow. The boat also has a retractable wire skeg that helps improve this slender boat’s tracking.
The Chatham also has three waterproof bulkheads, including two in the front and one in the back. While some users have pointed out that the front-most bulkhead is hard to reach, there’s no reason to question its durability. As such, these vertical walls help fortify the buoyancy of the boat. There is also plenty of deck bungees to hold an extra paddle or gear that you want in arms reach. On top of that, the necks are set low, making for better visibility and comfort.
- Fiberglass and composite models available
- Extremely slender and lightweight
- Custom touring seat with ergonomic backrest
- Retractable wire drop-skeg
- Waterproof bulkheads
- Best Expedition Kayak on this List
- Super speedy with great maneuverability
- Easy to transport
- Great stability
- Difficult tracking
- Small onboard storage
2. Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Eclipse White
The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Sea Kayak is an award-winning touring kayak with incredible performance factors. In fact, the Tempest 170 won the Sea Kayaker Magazine Readers Choice awards for best day kayak and best weekend touring kayak. Starting in the cockpit, the Tempest is designed to provide prolonged passenger comfort. In fact, it features a proprietary Phase 3® AirPro seating system. This seating system helps support boater’s back while relieving their leg tension. As such, it is a great choice for lengthy or challenging expeditions.
In addition to its fully adjustable seat, the Tempest offers unmatched hip and thigh support. Not to mention, it boasts a ratcheting back band for lumbar support. What’s more, this impressive boat has side-lock foot pegs, enabling more comfortable positioning during expeditions.
The Tempest has impressive stability and speed. What’s more, it is super easy to turn. As a matter of fact, the Tempest has an adjustable TruTrak skeg system. As such, boaters can easily switch between tracking and maneuvering modes. In fact, you’ll never have to worry about this boat flipping over in normal water conditions.
The Tempest also has plenty of onboard storage. Front and rear waterproof hatches enable passengers to store enough gear for two to three days. What’s more, the Tempest boasts a midship dry hatch for easy access when on the water. On top of that, the boat features tons of deck rigging for tying down paddles and other must-access gear.
The Tempest is 15 1/2 feet long and 23.5 inches wide. It weighs 54 pounds and has a 35-inch cockpit circumference. As such, the boat can easily accommodate midsized paddlers. The Tempest comes in a wide range of color combinations, including red, lime, mango, saffron, Borealis green, and eclipse. With that said, not only does this touring kayak look great, but it looks great too.
As if that were not enough, the Tempest has plenty of bonus features that help keep passengers comfortable. This includes soft-touch handles for more manageable cartop transportation and carrying. Never again cut or chaff your hands on rough bungees! The touring kayak also has an integrated bow compass recess for onboard navigation. Not to mention, you can purchase a wide range of easy-to-install accessories from Wildness Systems.
- Comes in a wide range of color combinations
- Adjustable skeg for easy tracking
- Ratcheted backrest and adjustable foot pegs
- Suitable for salt water
- 17 feet long
- 18-inch cockpit
- Adjustable padded thigh braces
- Adjustable Phase 3 AirPro XP seat
- 325-pound weight capacity
- Waterproof hatches
- Three bulkheads
- Can be a heavy boat to load and unload from your car
3. Dagger Stratos 14.5 L Kayak
Yet another impressive touring kayak, R.E.I.’s Dagger Stratos 14.5 L Kayak has blown away customers. The boat is somewhat wider than the aforementioned kayaks, as it has a wider hull and large cockpit. As such, this impressive boat easily accommodates midsized to large passengers. The Dagger Stratos 14.5 L Kayak’s cockpit consists of a favorable ConTour CFS Seating System. The seating system boasts a floating ergonomic back band that helps prevent leg numbness. On top of that, it features a seat with soft foam padding, SlideLock extra-large leg lifters, and hip pads. As such, this is one of the most comfortable touring kayaks for long distance paddles.
The ConTour CFS Seating System is also an impressive navigator. It has a height-adjustable TruTrak Skeg System that enables users to adjust their tracking depending on the weather conditions. The skeg retracts directly from the cockpit, making it easy to stay in control of the boat without straining your legs or arms.
The boat is made from extremely durable rotomolded polyethylene, making it an excellent choice for sea kayaking. It measures 14 feet 6 inches and weighs approximately 57 pounds. It has a maximum weight capacity of 315 pounds. While a bit on the heavy side, the Dagger’s soft-touch carrying handles make it easy to carry or load onto a car.
The Dagger also boasts impressive onboard and internal storage. It has a 10-inch bow hatch as well as a full-sized stern hatch. Both hatches have durable waterproof bulkheads that help keep the contents of your storage dry while fortifying the boat’s buoyancy. The hatches have a dual-density cover that ensures 100-percent watertight protection throughout an entire paddling session. On top of that, the Dagger features a generous amount of bungee deck riggings. This enables paddlers to keep their extra paddles and other supplies within arm’s reach.
While this boat is beloved by both beginner and intermediate kayakers, its large width offers plenty of stability of newbie boaters. On top of that, the Dagger’s impressive steering system enables advanced kayakers to navigate through rough waters and natural obstacles with ease. The boat comes in two classic color combinations, including solid red and multicolored “Molten.” Keep in mind that this boat is affordably priced compared to similar models.
- Wide hull for increased stability
- Salt-resistant polyethylene construction
- ConTour CFS Seating System
- Ergonomic backbrace and adjustable foot straps
- Adjustable padded thigh braces
- Dual waterproof bulkhead with double-layered hatches
- Extra on-deck bungee rigging
- Soft-touch carrying handles
- TruTrak Skeg System with adjustable height
- Only two colorways
- Not excessively speedy
4. Eddyline Sitka LT Kayak
R.E.I.’s Eddyline Sitka LT Kayak is an expert midsized touring kayak with plenty of user-friendly features. While narrow touring kayaks can be difficult to navigate, the Sitka LT offers impressive performance, with exceptional maneuverability, tracking, speed, and more. In fact, this boat has a retractable skeg with several adjustment settings, enabling users to find the right tracking in a wide variety of boating conditions. The boat measures 14 feet 6 inches, with a width of 23.5 and a depth of 13.5 inches. The boat is extremely lightweight, weighing in at just 49 pounds. The Sitka LT also has a shallow V-shaped hull that improves the boat’s tracking and turning capabilities.
When it comes to the Sitka LT’S cockpit, things couldn’t be more comfortable. It has a proprietary Infinity seat system that can be slid back and forth for ultimate comfort during lengthy expeditions. On top of that, it has a thin backrest that can be adjusted into varying positions. The backrest helps relieve some of the pressure put on the lower back, making for a vastly more comfortable ride. What’s more, the cockpit features supportive hip and thigh pads that enable tight bracing for efficient rolls. It also has adjustable extra-large foot pedals that are compatible with a wide range of footwear.
On top of that, the Sitka LT is one of the easiest touring kayaks to manage. Metal bow and stern handle loops and users to quickly carry their boat to a designation of their choice. What’s more, a series of retractable soft-touch handles facilitate clean car mounts and carrying.
The Sitka LT also has plenty of onboard storage. In fact, it has a front deck forehatch that is located directly in front of the cockpit. It also has front and rear bulkheads for a generous amount of dry storage space and/or onboard flotation support. Safety should be every boater’s main priority, and this boat does not fall short of heightened expectations. You’ll also find that the Sitka LT has six- and four-point bungee riggings located on the foredeck and stern. These ample storage spaces are great for storing paddles, gear, and safety equipment.
We love that Eddyline’s kayaks are made in the U.S.A. These one-of-a-kind boats have a superb, time-tested construction. Customers rave about the Sitka LT’s seaworthiness and comfort. Not to mention, many mention that the boat has an excellent turning radius and easy-to-use tracking system. On top of that, most say that the Sitka glides smoothly across still water and balances well on waves. The Eddyline Sitka is a great day touring kayak but also great for camping trips.
- Waterproof bulkheads on bow, stern, and foredeck
- 4- and 6-point bungee rigging system
- Retractable carrying handles as well as stern and bow metal grips
- Lightweight (49 pounds)
- Infinity Seat System with adjustable backrest
- Adjustable foot pedals
- 250-pound weight capacity
- Suitable for 2 to 3 day trips
- Fits midsized paddler
- Adjustable skeg
- 14 feet 6 inches long
- Not speedy
- Limited solid color options
5. Delta Kayaks Delta 14-Foot Kayak
Out next pick is a great option for extended weekend trips. The Delta Kayaks Delta 14-foot Kayak is a touring beast with exertional performance factors. Made from thermoformed ABS plastic, the Delta kayak is resistant to most abrasions and impacts. It also has superior UV protection, ensuring that it looks great and retains its value long after your initial purchase. The boat comes in your choice of vibrant lime green or “Sunset” yellow.
Looks aside, the boat is a superb navigator. In fact, it has a V-shaped hull that enables profound speed and stability in open water. Because of its solid feel, it is a great boat for kayakers who are just getting acclimated. With that said, it is also a preferred boat amongst seasoned professionals.
The Delta touring kayak’s cockpit is also extremely comfortable. In fact, it has an adjustable multi-positioned seat with cushioned back and seat support. On top of that, the Delta boasts neoprene leg bracing for added comfort and support during long water expeditions. What’s more, it features adjustable foot braces that fit a wide variety of feet. Not to mention, it has additional thigh braces for extra support.
The boat has loads of onboard storage options too. In fact, there are two extra-large dry storage areas located on the stern and bow. These storage spaces have super secure watertight hatches that ensure your gear stays dry the whole trip through. On top of that, the hatches have a unique press lock system that is easy to use. What’s more, there is a small hatch located on the foredeck that enables paddlers to access gear without mooring the boat.
The Delta also has plenty of on-deck storage. Bungee deck rigging on the bow and stern enables paddlers to storage a vast number of items. There are even nylon perimeter lines that serve as an automatic oar rescue system. How’s that for convenient?
While the Delta does not have a retractable skeg, it does have a foot-controlled rudder that aids in steering and tracking. As such, it is not difficult to keep this boat in a straight line. Overall, the Delta is super efficient, with a potential for speed and accuracy with the right techniques.
The Delta touring kayak is made in Canada. It is representative of some of the top manufacturing standards in the kayaking industry. The boat is 14 feet long and 23.75 inches wide. It is 13.25 inches deep and weighs 45 pounds. It has a weight capacity of 340 pounds.
- Made in Canada
- Made from thermoformed ABS plastic
- Weighs 45 pounds
- lightest touring kayak on this list
- Adjustable padded foam seat
- Maximum weight capacity of 340 pounds
- Ergonomic rubber handles for easy loading and lifting
- Ample bungee deck rigging
- Three hatches and two bulkheads
- Push-lock watertight hatch doors
- Channel-mounted rudder
- Neoprene-padded leg and thigh supports
- No retractable skeg
- Limited color combinations
The Complete Touring Kayak Buying Guide
Wondering what to look for in a touring kayak? Read along for a detailed list of important elements and considerations.
Touring kayaks are made from a wide variety of lightweight buoyant materials. These include but are not limited to polyethylene plastic, ABS plastic, carbon composite, and fiberglass. Polyethylene plastic is a popular choice because of its abrasion-resistant qualities. With that said, it is not usually the number-one choice of intermediate paddlers, as it is rather heavy. Meanwhile, ABS plastic is a step up in terms of quality. It is also abrasion and UV-resistant, making it a strong contender for the great outdoors. With that said, it is not as heavy as polyethylene. Composite materials are the most lightweight options on the market. On the downside, their thin build makes them more susceptible to abrasions and punctures.
It’s super important to consider the dimensions and the weight capacity of a touring kayak. Most manufacturers provide measurements for a boat’s length, width, and depth. Long boats, in the range of 14 feet or more, are preferred by individuals embarking on overnight tours, as they offer more storage. Depending on the kayaks width and depth, these boats tend to offer the greatest storage capacities. Keep in mind that shorter kayaks are easier to turn, but don’t necessarily offer a tracking advantage.
A wider hull translates to more stability. This can be extremely beneficial to a beginner kayaker who needs a little aid in finding their balance. On the other hand, more advanced paddlers often prefer narrow hulls, as they offer more advanced maneuverability and speed.
Paddlers with long legs will want to pay particular attention to the depth of a boat’s hull. Deeper hulls provide more wiggle room for legs and feet. Meanwhile, narrower hulls cut through wind and surf with more ease. Play around with different sizes to determine which one works best for you.
Tracking and Maneuverability
Tracking is a term for how a kayak travels in a straight forward path. A seaworthy kayak needs to have excellent tracking so that it is capable of cutting through thick surf and powerful wind. However, tracking should not stand in the way of a kayak’s ability to turn.
A skeg is the fin-shaped element located on the bottom of a sea kayak. It drops down in the rear of the kayak. Most skegs are adjustable and can be controlled from the kayak’s cockpit. A skeg helps to battle against powerful wind and surf, preventing a kayak from traveling off its intended course.
A rudder system is very similar to a skeg, although paddlers have more control over its movements. Like skegs, rudders drop down off the bottom back of a kayak, helping to battle against the wind and surf. Rudders are typically controlled via foot pedals that are located in a kayak’s cockpit.
Hull shape is very important to a kayak’s overall maneuverability. Kayak hulls may be rounded, V-shaped, and, less commonly, flat. Rounded hulls are great at increasing a vessel’s speed and maneuverability. Meanwhile, V-shaped hulls are extremely popular because of their ability to cut through the water and provide better tracking. While V-shaped hulls are often preferred by professionals, they are very difficult to stabilize. Less angled hulls are preferred by newbie kayakers, as they are far easier to stabilize in rough waters.
A kayak’s potential for speediness is also extremely important. After all, speed indirectly determines how much work goes into traveling any given distance. The design of a kayak’s hull and other factors, including a paddler’s technique and strength, determine how fast a kayak can go in open water. Of course, weather and boating conditions also have an extreme effect on a kayak’s velocity. Speedy boats tend to be long, narrow, and lightweight. More balanced designs with less drag are the frontrunners in the paddling world.
A kayaker’s strokes have a lot to do with how smooth and consistently a boat glides. However, a kayaks touring efficiency is also determined by its shape and construction. For the most part, touring kayaks should offer a solid glide when treading across oceans, rivers, and lakes.
Touring kayaks with shorter hulls are far easier to turn, but that doesn’t make them preferable to longer ones. For the most part, am adjustable skeg or rudder is your best bet a making sharp-angled maneuvers.
One of the biggest advantages of a sea touring kayak is its large storage capacity. These seaworthy crafts have sizeable hulls and bows, enabling more internal deck-side gear placement. With plenty of speed and agility, many paddlers enjoy taking their cruising kayaks on multiday excursions, requiring them to pack a bit more than a spare paddle and a life vest. With that said, read along to explore some of the most common onboard storage options for sea kayaks.
Most kayaks have a number of hatches. These onboard doors provide access to watertight storage spaces located in the hull and bow. Manufacturers use a variety of flush and deck-mounted hatches, providing consumers with usable and aesthetically pleasing storage access.
It’s imperative that hatches be watertight, as storage spaces also serve as added buoyancy. If seams enable water to accumulate inside of a boats internal cavities, a boat will fail to perform as expected. In the worst case scenario, it could even cause a boat to sink on the spot.
While most touring kayaks have hatches located on the bow and stern of the boat, many also have a foredeck hatch that enables paddlers to access some of their gear while on the water. The placement of hatches is very important to seasoned kayakers who don’t want to pull their kayak out of the water just to grab a sandwich or water bottle. With that, watertight hatches can be extremely tight and difficult to release without losing some of your boat’s stability. As such, it is important to practice opening and closing a hatch before you experiment with it on the water. You’ll also want to invest in a few watertight containers to avoid destroying important gear items and, you know, your phone.
Bulkheads are the watertight buoyancy chambers located in the bow and stern of a kayak. While many recreational kayaks do not boast bulkheads, they are a common element of touring vessels. We typically see kayaks with one, two, or zero bulkheads.
Deck rigging is a term for the bungees, straps, and attachments located on the top of a kayak’s deck. Most touring kayaks feature a layout of straps that can accommodate a wide range gear, paddles, and safety equipment. A common type of deck rigging is a six-point bungee consisting of a square with an X in it. Deck rigging is typically attached to the stern and bow of the boat, but it is also sometimes seen on the sides.
Wondering how easy it is to maneuver your kayak out of the water? Whether you are topping your car or pulling a kayak on to shore, its ease of transportation is key to your user experience.
It’s not always easy to mount a kayak on top of a car. You’ll need some sort of rack system to safely and legally transport your watercraft. With that said, some touring kayaks have built-in clips and security points that help you to properly tie down and mount your boat on top of your car.
Carrying a kayak doesn’t come easily. Most kayaks have onboard handles and straps that make it easier to grasp the vessel. While it can be tempting to drag a kayak across to its destination, this is never a good idea. After all, it can cause punctures and abrasions.
Look for kayaks with retractable stern and bow handles. The handles should have soft grips that enable you to carry the weight of the boat without chaffing or injuring your hands. Softy-grip side handles are also necessary when lifting or turning over a boat. With the right straps, you should be able to easily carry two side-by-side kayaks with the help of a partner.
Touring kayaks often emphasize paddler comfort. That’s because these impressive floatation devices are designed for long-distance water travel. Read along to learn more about the different elements of the cockpit.
Always consider the dimensions of the cockpit by weighing them against your own body size. Think about the distance between your feet and the frontside bulkhead wall. What’s more, consider the depth of the cockpit as well as the placement and adjustability of the seat. According to the Kayak Academy, a midsized paddler’s deck should be at least 11 inches. Meanwhile, taller than average paddlers should have a deck that measures at least 13 inches.
Surprisingly, small cockpits are typically more comfortable and easier to navigate. In fact, they tend to give a paddler of a feeling of being one with their kayak. Of course, you still want to have enough room to stretch out your feet and legs. After all, reduced movement and increased stiffness can cause leg numbness and lumbar pain, making long excursions extremely unenjoyable.
We strongly recommend finding a touring kayak with an adjustable seat. Seats that move frontward and backward enable paddlers to custom fit their cockpits. Not to mention, they provide a wide range of positions to choose from. On top of that, we recommend finding a seat with plush padding. After all, a little extra support goes a long way during long paddling sessions and multi-day or flatwater day touring trips.
We are also huge fans of seats with added side support. Oftentimes, side straps enable users to quickly and easily adjust the angle of their backrest. With that said, whatever seat you choose, be sure to opt for one made out of a durable material. Needless to say, kayak seats are exposed to a tremendous amount of salt water, sun, and sweat. You’ll want to find a seat that can hold up to the elements while resisting mold, fading, and tears.
One of the most important features on a touring kayak is the backrest. A decent backrest will help you attain a proper posture while relieving lumbar pressure and increasing your overall comfort. It’s important that you can adjust the tension of your backrest in order to tailor your seating to your personal comfort. When paddling puts too much strain on your back, a quality backrest can be the saving grace that gets you back to shore.
Most intermediate touring kayaks have built-in foot braces. Foot braces help stabilize paddlers, giving them a point of resistance for their lower body. In fact, footrests are considered an important safety feature for intensive surf situations. Keep in mind that a foot brace should adjust forward and backward, enabling paddlers to find a footing that is compatible with their leg length. Footrests should also be large enough to accommodate a wide range of shoe sizes. When looking at foot braces, you’ll want to ensure that your foot firms a strong connection with the surface of the brace. Keep in mind that your foot should not slip or slide on the footrests.
Thigh and Hip Supports
A more advanced feature of touring kayaks is a thigh or hip brace. Integrated thigh and hip braces adjust to create a form-fitted seat within the cockpit of a boat. A tight-fitting support system enables paddles to rotate better, giving them more control over their paddle. Hip supports are generally located directly to the left and right of the seat. Meanwhile, thigh supports are located on the left and right of the cockpit floor.
Budgeting for a Touring Kayak
Touring kayaks are known for their advanced maneuverability and dynamic features. As such, they naturally cost a bit more than run-of-the-mill recreational watercrafts. You can expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 for a decent touring kayak.
We recommend that you consult with an experienced kayak dealer before making a purchase. They can help you find a boat that is the right fit and feel for you. Try finding a kayak rental company that will let you test out prospective models. Ultimately, a good kayak is like a well-fitted shoe. There’s really no telling how comfortable you will be in it until you try it on!
How Long Does a Touring Kayak Last?
A quality touring kayak can last anywhere from 12 to 15 years. Of course, a kayak’s longevity is determined by its construction, high quality inflatable kayaks last for a shorter duration. With that said, its longevity is also directly impacted by how often you use it and how you treat it. In other words, a kayak that is used a few times over the course of a season and stored indoors is going to dramatically outlast a kayak that is used daily and exposed to harsh elements.
While it may be tempting to take a kayak beyond its limits, it is important to consider the safety of older, worn boats. Check for cracks and susceptible spots before taking your boat out on the water.
Benefits of a Touring Kayak
Torn between recreational and touring kayak? We’ve got the biggest benefits of touring kayaks in the section below.
- Take Extended Trips: Have you always wanted to camp out on an island? Touring kayaks are designed for extended use. You can easily pack them with enough gear and supplies for an overnight or extended day trip.
- Seaworthy: The long, slender body of touring kayaks makes them more credible in the ocean. While they can also be used in rivers and lakes, they are well-suited for surf and currents.
- More Storage Space: Are you an avid picnicker? Touring kayaks enable you to pack enough food for you and a buddy. What’s more, their watertight bulkheads will keep your baguettes and crackers super dry.
- Fast: Long touring kayaks are generally pretty speedy. If you’re looking to reduce your paddling tax or move at a faster rate, these are a no brainer.
- More Advanced: If recreational kayaking is no longer challenging, a touring kayak may offer a welcome challenge. While these crafts are more difficult to balance, paddlers can definitely use them to expand upon their kayaking goals. In addition to taking you the distance, touring kayaks are great for paddlers’ cardiovascular health.
There few things that can top a day out at sea in a decent touring kayak. These impressive watercrafts enable paddlers to cut through the water with speed and agility, enabling them to be one with the water. Whether you’re looking to take a boat out for a few hours or a few days, our top touring kayaks are a great place to start your shopping. Happy floating!