Getting into a single kayak with a child seat is a great way to introduce young kids to the joys of kayaking. Whether your kids are just along for the ride or you want to start teaching them basic paddle strokes, you’ll need the right kayak for the job.
There is quite a bit of variety when looking at the design principles of kayaks. Unique designs allow kayakers to tackle whitewater, light surf, flatwater lakes and river, coastal waterways, and many other marine environments.
When kayaking with kids, however, stability is going to be one of the most important factors in your kayak’s design. That’s why we’ve included some incredibly stable kayaks in our list of the 10 best single kayaks with child seats.
We’ve also compiled a thorough Buying Guide to help you select the right kayak for your needs, as well as a quick Jargon Buster section to provide brief definitions of some important kayak terminology.
- Jargon Buster
- Buying Guide
- Single Kayaks With Child Seats
- Our Pick – Advanced Elements Lagoon Kayak
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Every sport has its specific slang that takes some getting used to if you’re new to it. As you’re sorting through some of the best single kayaks for paddling with a young child, you’ll need to understand these important terms.
The deck is the top of a kayak and it is often outfitted with bungee straps for attaching extra gear. In some kayaks, a large enough deck provides a comfortable and safe place for children to ride on a kayak.
Foot braces are pegs or pedals inside a kayak that give you a comfortable place to rest your feet while sitting inside. They are more common to sit-inside kayaks and are usually adjustable to paddlers of different sizes.
A hatch is a dry storage compartment that’s built right into many kayaks. They are often sealed with hatch covers to provide a safe place for dry gear and other valuables.
A wet exit is a maneuver that allows you to swim free of your kayak if it capsizes. It’s usually a technique that’s only necessary with sit-inside kayaks and it can be more difficult if you’re utilizing a spray skirt to keep the interior of your kayak dry.
Buying a kayak that’s right for you and your child is obviously different than buying a kayak that’s suited only to your needs. So let’s cover some important criteria that will help you select the right kayak for your specific needs.
Stability is arguably the most important factor to consider when searching for a single kayak that’s safe to operate with children. But determining a kayak’s stability before actually trying it out on the water can be a tough task.
Fortunately, we’ll explain the most important factors to help you determine a kayak’s stability. For reference, many gear shops and kayak outfitters in your area should let you rent or test out several models so that you can get a feel for what suits you best, even if you eventually wind up finding the best price online.
1. Length and Width
The dimensions of a kayak are the first two factors that will play a role in its stability. Generally speaking, a kayak that is shorter and wider will be more stable than a kayak that’s longer and narrower.
To put it a little more clearly, let’s imagine this scenario: we are sitting on the beach looking at two kayaks that have exactly the same width, style, cockpit depth, and hull design. But one kayak is nine feet long and the other is 15 feet long.
All other factors being equal, the shorter kayak is going to be the more stable of the two kayaks currently at our disposal. The problem is that all other factors are rarely equal when comparing kayaks.
2. Cockpit Depth
That should be pretty intuitive, but depth and buoyancy also come into play. These metrics will determine how low your body weight sits in the water in relation to the kayak itself and are important to consider as well.
If your body weight is sitting lower in the water, you’ll tend to be less top-heavy and more stable. As a kayak provides more buoyancy and sits higher up out of the water, they can become a little more tippy.
3. Hull Design
The shape of a kayak’s hull is also very responsible for how stable (or unstable) it will be on the water. To simplify things, there are four basic hull designs that most manufacturers use and they are the rounded hull, V-shaped hull, flat hull, and pontoon hull.
Each of these hull designs is best for specific kayaking applications. The V-shaped hull design, for example, provides better straight-line tracking and better secondary than primary stability, which makes them useful for expedition-style kayaks that are meant to cover longer distances.
On the other hand, a flat hull design will provide exceptional primary stability, which is why this design is often used in many fishing kayaks that allow anglers to stand for added casting ability.
When selecting a kayak for paddling with kids, however, a pontoon hull will generally provide the highest degree of stability. It’s important to note that some manufacturers call this a “tunnel” hull, but they are essentially the same design.
The pontoon hull design is made for stability and it also results in kayaks with decent tracking ability so you won’t be swerving back and forth during your entire paddle.
The only downside to this hull design is that it won’t allow you to achieve the top speeds that other hull designs are capable of.
All Factors Combined
The hard part about making an accurate kayak selection is that all of these factors combine to determine a kayak’s stability and performance capabilities. Length, width, cockpit depth, and hull design all work together to determine how a kayak performs on the water.
This is why it’s really important to nail down the specifications in these areas when comparing kayaks side-by-side.
But to help make your decision a little easier, we recommend narrowing down your search to kayaks in the 10 to 12-foot range with a minimum width of 30 inches.
Storage Space Needed
When you finally make the choice to buy one of the best recreational kayaks for paddling with kids, you’ll have to be prepared to store that kayak when you’re not using it.
Unless you and your child are planning on living in your new kayak (which we don’t recommend), you’ll need enough space to store it.
Inflatable kayaks inherently require much less storage space than their hard-sided counterparts. This makes them a great option for folks living in smaller living spaces with minimal garage or yard areas.
But if you have a side yard or garage area where you can store your kayak, space will be less of a concern. Just make sure you study recommendations on how to store your new kayak properly.
Single Kayaks With Child Seats
The body of this kayak is constructed with UV-protected, high-density polyethylene that’s durable enough to handle light bumps against rocks or dragging it across the sand to launch.
On the bottom of the kayak, there are two deep tracking channels. These channels help the kayak track straighter while also making it incredibly stable.
The OC Paddle Ocean Single kayak measures 8.75 feet long and 28 inches wide. It weighs 46 pounds, which isn’t too heavy to handle and it comes with front and rear T-handles to make transportation easier.
And if you prefer, you can also remove the bungee straps over the rear storage compartment to use that as a child seat as well.
The manufacturers of this kayak have equipped the bottom with a combination tunnel hull design. This design allows the Hydros to achieve a great balance between stability and tracking performance.
It comes with a single swivel fishing rod holder in the center if you do want to take your child out fishing. It also offers a molded-in rear swim-up deck that makes it easier for kids to climb back on if they insist on going for a swim on a hot day.
The Hydros Angler 85 measures eight-and-a-half feet long and 29.5 inches wide. Because of the narrower design, this kayak can cover larger distances in shorter amounts of time, and it boasts a maximum weight capacity of 225 pounds.
It also has a covered storage area at the bow of the kayak so you can bring along extra supplies. On top of that storage area, bungee straps allow you to secure additional gear.
The bottom of this inflatable kayak is a solid drop stitch floor, which is actually designed to allow kayak anglers to stand and cast. This degree of stability is precisely what you need when kayaking with small children.
The Steelhead Kayak measures 10 feet, 10 inches long and 39.5 inches wide. The cockpit area is 13 inches deep and this kayak weighs a total of just 40 pounds while boasting a maximum weight capacity of 400 pounds.
The Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 is one of the most beginner-friendly kayaks in the industry. That’s why you’ll see many rental and flatwater kayak guiding companies using these kayaks for their guests.
This kayak offers a large rear area where a child can sit comfortably once the included bungee straps are removed. The cockpit itself is actually large enough for an adult and a small child, which provides a great opportunity to start teaching basic kayaking skills.
Even if you use the stern area for a child seat, there’s another area for gear storage at the bow of this kayak, which includes bungee straps for added security. There’s also a small dry hatch in the center of the kayak for valuables.
The Malibu kayak measures 11 feet, five inches long with a width of 31 inches. The kayak itself weighs 59 pounds and it has a maximum weight capacity of 360 pounds.
The cockpit area itself is large enough for a child to sit at your feet and there’s also an open storage area that can function as a comfortable child seat as well.
Although it requires a bit more setup time because it’s an inflatable kayak, most paddlers report being able to get this kayak set up in as little as ten minutes. It also weighs only 22 pounds, which makes it super easy to transport when you’re still on land.
The floor of the kayak inflates to a maximum pressure of six PSI and the side tubes can hold a maximum of three PSI. The added pressure in the floor of this kayak helps to provide additional stability.
The Rover 120 measures eight-and-a-half feet long and 36 inches wide. It has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds and the cockpit depth of 13 inches helps to ensure a safe ride for small children.
Lightweight inflatable kayaks continue to make our list because of their large, open cockpit areas. The Airhead Montana Kayak is another great option with multiple areas for a comfortable child seat.
Behind the main seat in this kayak, there’s a large open storage area that’s perfect for a small child. But if you don’t feel comfortable with your child sitting behind you, there’s also plenty of space at your feet for a child seat.
This kayak is actually designed to handle flat water and mild whitewater, which means its durable enough to withstand minor hits against rocks or sticks on the water. It also has three air chambers so that it will remain afloat if one chamber is compromised.
The Airhead Montana Kayak measures nine feet, one inch long. It offers low drag for more superior tracking ability and has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds while weighing in under 28 pounds when fully inflated.
In the bow and stern areas of the kayak, you’ll find covered storage areas that are perfect for your gear on a longer day trip.
It also comes with a removable and adjustable mounting bracket that allows you to attach additional accessories, such as one of the best kayak GPS systems.
The high-pressure floor helps this inflatable kayak maintain exceptional stability. The entire kayak is manufactured using super-tough laminate PVC material with a polyester core that makes it resistant to tears, abrasions, and UV damage.
The Excursion Pro measures 12 feet and seven inches long with a width of 37 inches. It also has a maximum weight capacity of 400 pounds and weighs in at just over 39 pounds when fully inflated.
The Driftsun Voyager is another inflatable kayak with a great balance between maneuverability and stability. It has a dedicated child seat in the front, but that seat can also be removed if you want to use this as a single kayak.
One of the best parts about this kayak is that it comes as a full package. It includes a two-piece paddle, high-pressure pump, removable skeg, and compact carry bag for storage and transportation.
The front of the kayak has a raised, pointed bow that helps to improve performance over distance. The rocker profile on the bottom of the kayak ensures a stable ride while also adding a useful degree of maneuverability to the design.
The Voyager measures 10 feet long and 35 inches wide. The cockpit is 16 inches deep to provide extra security when paddling with small children and the maximum weight capacity of this kayak is 400 pounds.
The Advanced Elements Lagoon inflatable kayak is a great option for kayaking with kids. To be honest, Advanced Elements is one of the most trusted brands in the inflatable kayak industry, in general.
The particular kayak has a larger seat in the back for an adult and a smaller front seating area for a child. However, that front seating area is usually large enough to accommodate a smaller adult, so this kayak is adaptable to different paddle partners as well.
In the bow and stern of the kayak, built-in rigid panels provide an extra structure that boosts this kayak’s stability and tracking performance. It’s also equipped with quick-inflating valves so you’re not spending too long just inflating it.
The Lagoon kayak measures 12 feet long and 33.9 inches wide. It has a maximum weight capacity of 350 pounds and a cockpit depth just under 10 inches, which helps you maintain a lower profile when paddling in windy conditions.
The Pescador Pilot 12 from Perception Kayaks is technically a fishing kayak, but it has two large areas in the bow and stern that are perfect to be used as child seats.
An added bonus of this kayak is that it comes with a pedal drive system. This allows you to propel the kayak with your legs rather than having to use a paddle and have your hands occupied the entire time you’re on the water.
The main advantage of this is that your hands are free to interact with your child. The large, lifted mesh seat on this kayak also provides extra strength and comfort if you want your child to ride in your lap for part of your paddle.
The Pescador Pilot kayak measures 12 feet and five inches long. It has a width of 33.5 inches, a maximum weight capacity of 475 pounds, and the boat itself weighs a total of 95 pounds.
Our Pick – Advanced Elements Lagoon Kayak
The Advanced Elements Lagoon Kayak is our pick for the best single kayak with a child seat because it’s short enough to be easily maneuverable by a single adult and spacious enough for everyone to be comfortable inside.
It also gives you and your child separate seating areas so that you don’t have to worry about accidental harmful contact between a paddle and any body parts.
Another reason we picked this kayak is its ability to adapt as your kids grow.
Some of the kayaks on our list might become obsolete once your child reaches a certain age, but this one is large enough to remain useful even once your kids have grown into adulthood.
We also trust the stellar reputation that follows Advanced Elements and their inflatable kayaks. The construction of this kayak is more likely to last for years when compared to other inflatable kayak models.
Finally, we love the fact that this kayak can be inflated and stored in a much more compact space than a standard, rotomolded kayak. This makes it easier to travel with and adaptable to a wider variety of living situations.