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A Guide to Choosing the Right Size Kayak

So you’re ready to go Kayaking. You’ve heard about how fun it is to be out on the open waters, getting a little bit of exercise in as you work your paddle. You have one small problem – you don’t have a kayak yet. Even worse, you aren’t really sure what size of kayak you need to get!

two kayaks on shore

The truth is that it isn’t a one size fits all situation when it comes to buying a kayak. You need to think about the size that’s best for you – and the other people kayaking with you, if that applies.

Thankfully, we’ve got the answers that you’re looking for. Here’s everything you need to know about what size of kayak you will need to get for a successful time out on the waters.

Length of the Kayak

The very first thing that you need to think about when it comes to the size of kayak that you need is the length of it. You may think that this is a rather small thing to consider, but it’s actually the most important thing that you need to think about. 

kayak carrier for car

For instance, if you get a kayak that’s shorter, you’ll have a much easier time moving the kayak around if you’re using it for leisure purposes. 

On the other hand, you will have much better tracking with a kayak that’s longer. As a result, you’ll have much more fun when you’re kayaking for long periods of time. You won’t need to spend quite so much energy to keep it going straight on and to make it travel fast. 

Weight Capacity

When considering the size of your kayak, you also need to think about the weight capacity. You may need a high weight capacity if you have a high bodyweight or if you’re going to be carrying a lot of gear with you when you’re going out on the water.

people in a tandem kayak

It’s always a good idea to take your bodyweight and then add around 150 lbs on top of that to find out what your capacity is. This means that you will have enough weight capacity to account for your gear.


You should take some time to consider the legroom in the kayak too. You will want to have enough space so that you can adequately move your legs around.

happy man kayak fishing in walker county al

Otherwise, it will be incredibly uncomfortable for you while you’re sitting in the kayak. It should also be big enough to allow you to get out and into the kayak with ease.

Too much legroom can also be an issue because it means that you won’t have quite as much control over the kayak, and maneuvering it will be much more challenging.

Width of the Kayak

You can get kayaks in all sorts of different widths, though the width you get will depend on the purpose that they were made for. For instance, if you want a faster boat then you will want to get a narrow kayak.

kayak with a trolling motor

On the other hand, if you can see yourself standing up a lot in your kayak, you will want something stable. In this case, you will need to get a wider kayak. 

The vast majority of ocean kayaks will measure somewhere from 28 to 34.5 inches wide. If the kayak is wider though it is likely that the performance may suffer. If you want performance and width, you could potentially look into skeg or rudder options instead.

Volume of the Kayak

Another thing that you should think about is the kayak’s volume, which is essentially the amount of space that the boat itself actually takes up. You will usually see this measured in terms of the interior capacity of the vessel.

kayak deck bag

This can have a huge impact on the quality of your ride in general. If you have a high volume kayak, you will usually find it a little bit easier to use it. This means that they tend to be good choices for people that are just starting out.

The problem with them is that they are generally much slower and don’t move quite as smoothly as a lower volume kayak. It ultimately depends on what you need, however.

Size of Cockpit

The cockpit is pretty important, since it determines how much space you will have when you’re sitting. Consider the amount of space around your waist area, alongside the legroom that we mentioned earlier.

people kayaking in flatwater kayaks

If you want a slightly more spacious cockpit then it may be better for you to choose a touring or a fishing kayak because they have more roomy cockpits.

The last thing that you need is to be forcing yourself out of the cockpit because it’s too big for you. Kayaks can sometimes overturn, and being stuck inside of the boat is a big problem.

Number of People

When making your decision, it’s important to consider the amount of people that you are going kayaking with, since this can determine the size of the kayak you need.

father and son kayak fishing in northwest arctic borough ak

If you’re planning on kayaking alone, you may not need a very large kayak. On the other hand, a tandem kayak will also give you more space to have more people with you.

There are a lot of great 2 person kayaks out there if you want to bring a friend along for the journey. This, of course, can influence the size though. 

Final Thoughts

Knowing what size of kayak you should get can be a little bit mystifying. There are so many different things to take into consideration in order to ensure that you’re making the best decision for you.

Thankfully though, with a little bit of forethought you can ensure that you make the right choice for you. Happy kayaking, and don’t forget to grab a paddle too!

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