5 Worst Kayak Brands To Avoid

5 Worst Kayak Brands To Avoid

Nothing is worse than investing in a new kayak that doesn’t perform how you hoped it would. Worse yet, you purchased a new kayak less than a year ago, and it’s already broken or warped.

While we hope you’ve followed our recommendations for how to build a kayak storage shed, the reality is that certain kayak brands don’t hold up as well as others.

User reviews can be a great tool for seeing how well certain kayaks perform, but aside from that, it’s really important to know which kayak brands to avoid. So that’s exactly why we’ve written this guide for you.

We don’t mean to throw anyone under the bus, but we’ve chosen some of the worst kayak brands to avoid and chronicled them here.

We’ve also provided a comprehensive buying guide to help you choose a quality kayak brand for your upcoming adventures.

Five Worst Kayak Brands

1. WaveSport

WaveSport makes a variety of kayaks for all applications. But their user reviews don’t necessarily sing praises of great performance and exceptional long-term durability.

Many users claim their whitewater kayaks are very slow and difficult to roll when needed. For whitewater specifically, users also reported that these kayaks didn’t hold their line, as well as many others.

However, the main complaint about WaveSport is the extremely slow speed of their kayaks. So, while they might be alright for beginners. They aren’t the greatest kayak brand for a boat that will perform well as your experience level grows.

2. Sundolphin

Sundolphin kayaks

There’s a reason why Sundolphin’s kayaks are always among the cheapest available options.

They might be decent enough for irregular use, but you’ll never want a Sundolphin kayak for daily or longer paddle trips.

Comfort is also a common issue with Sundolphin kayaks, as they don’t include bottom seat cushions. This can irritate your backside if you’re trying to use a Sundolphin kayak for a long day of paddling.

Additionally, these kayaks tend to have relatively low weight capacities. This makes them suitable for kids, teens, and small adults. But they’re certainly limited in offering a comfortable paddling experience for a wide range of body types.

3. L.L. Bean

L.L.Bean kayak brands

When you hear the name L.L. Bean, are kayaks really the first thing you think of? Well, that’s definitely not the case for us, and we have a hard time trusting a company that doesn’t make producing high-quality kayaks it’s first (and maybe even only!) priority.

It’s worth noting that many of L.L. Bean’s kayak products have now been discontinued, which should be a sign in and of itself that making great kayaks wasn’t this brand’s primary concern.

Unfortunately, users of these kayaks have reported that they are relatively slow and don’t track very well because of the lack of a keel.

They might be suitable for the beginner who only paddles on rare occasions. But, these aren’t worth investing in if you plan to make kayaking a more serious hobby.

4. Tucktec

Foldable kayaks can be avoided

While these kayaks might look cool to the uninformed buyer, foldable kayaks are still new to the general kayak market. Aside from Oru Kayak, there aren’t many trusted brands in the foldable kayak industry yet.

Tucktec folding kayaks does make some intriguing designs. But users have complained about the time required to set up once you’re at the water.

With any folding kayak, a little more setup time is involved to ensure the design is watertight.

But folks have also noted that these kayaks aren’t very stable in rough waters. They might be decent enough for super calm lakes and rivers. But, they won’t give you much versatility to paddle on other bodies of water.

5. Field & Stream

Field & Stream kayaks

There’s a reason why the name of this kayak company sounds more like a magazine producer than a kayak manufacturer. And that’s exactly because they are a magazine producer!

While many anglers, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts trust Field & Stream for informative articles on all things outdoors, their kayaks, unfortunately, don’t have the best track records.

Many users have reported issues with handles falling off and screws loosening quickly after just a few uses.

The worst part is that many have experienced less-than-satisfactory customer service when they tried to contact Field & Stream directly about these issues.

How do you pick the right Kayak?

Once you know what brands to avoid, you are most likely on your way to picking the right Kayak.

Before sharing useful tips on buying a Kayak, let me quickly do a refresher on basic kayaking terms. This would help first-timers and all those who are relatively new to paddling.

 

Bow and Stern

Let’s start with the cardinal directions of your kayak. The bow is the term for the front of your kayak. The stern is used to describe the back portion of a kayak.

Hull

To put it simply, the hull is the bottom of your kayak. The design of a kayak’s hull plays a large role in how well it performs in various conditions.

Keel

A keel may or may not be included on the bottom of a kayak’s hull. It’s a fin-like protrusion that impacts how well the kayak stays straight (or doesn’t!) when you’re paddling.

Scupper Holes

Scupper holes are holes that are intentionally included in the hull design of a kayak. They allow water that enters the cockpit to drain out naturally. They are common only to sit on top kayaks.

Cockpit

The cockpit is where you sit in a kayak to paddle. Regarding size, most sit-inside kayaks have smaller cockpit areas than their sit-on-top counterparts.

Rudder

A rudder sometimes comes on the back of a sit-inside kayak or can be installed as an aftermarket part. A rudder can either be operated by hand or by foot pedals. It will help the kayak track straighter in windy conditions or heavy currents.

Also Read: Best Kayaks For Camping

Buying Guide

Kayak buying guide

Next, we will cover all the factors you need to consider to choose a kayak best suited to your specific needs.

Sit On Top Versus Sit Inside

When buying a new kayak, the first major decision is whether you need a sit-on-top or sit-inside kayak. Each has its specific use and comes with pros and cons that you should be aware of.

Sit-on-top kayaks are more commonly used for beginners. This is why you’ll find most recreational kayaks boasting this design. They have scupper holes in the hull to allow water to drain naturally.

They also have a larger, more open cockpit that allows paddlers of varying heights and weights to get comfortable.

The downsides of sit-on-top kayaks include lower top-end speeds, a wetter paddling experience, and less straight-line tracking ability.

However, they make up for their lack of speed by being reasonably easy to maneuver, even if you’re just learning how to paddle a kayak.

On the other hand, sit-inside kayaks will keep you drier while you’re paddling, which is why they’re often used in wetter climates and for ocean kayaking.

They also allow you to add one of the spray skirts to keep your legs (and the entire cockpit) dry and warm.

Sit-inside kayaks also achieve higher top-end speeds and track straighter over longer distances. The best sit-inside kayaks even come with a stern rudder. That gives you a greater ability to keep them pointed in the direction you’re trying to paddle.

But sit-inside kayaks can often be difficult for beginners to balance in. They tend to be narrower than their sit-on-top counterparts. They have smaller cockpits requiring more technical skills to climb back into if you capsize.

Additionally, sit-inside kayaks don’t have scupper holes that allow water to drain naturally if it does enter the cockpit.

So this means you’ll always need one of the kayak bilge pumps (and a sponge) to empty the cockpit if it gets wet.

Inflatable Versus Hard Shell

The next choice you’ll need to make is whether you want an inflatable or a hard-shell kayak. Just like choosing between sit on top and sit inside kayaks, there are pros and cons to choosing an inflatable or a hard-shell kayak.

In recent years, inflatable technology has greatly improved to allow inflatable kayaks to perform more closely to how their hard-shell counterparts perform.

However, it’s widely known that most inflatable kayaks don’t track as well or achieve top-end speeds as hard-shell kayaks.

Inflatables have the advantage of being much lighter than hard-shell kayaks.

This makes them easier to transport to and from the water. When you’re done paddling, they deflate and store in an infinitely more compact space than any hard-shell kayak ever will.

That said, hard-shell kayaks are generally more durable and longer-lasting than their inflatable counterparts. They also perform better on the water and are less susceptible to being blown off-course by heavy winds.

While both types of kayaks need to be stored properly when not in use, hard-shell kayaks are less likely to accumulate mold or mildew when left unattended.

This can be a problem if your inflatables aren’t properly dried before being stored in their bag or box.

The major downsides to hard-shell kayaks are transportation and storage. They are almost always going to be heavier than an inflatable kayak. They also require more storage space at home when you’re not using them.

Additionally, you’ll need some sort of roof rack or kayak trailer to transport a hard-shell kayak. Whereas inflatables can typically be transported in the back of your vehicle when they’re deflated.

Length and Width

The length and width of a kayak will dictate stability and comfort. It should be obvious that larger individuals should look for longer and wider kayaks so that they can feel comfortable inside.

Combined with hull design, a kayak’s length and width also determine its performance. Longer, narrower kayaks are faster (but less stable), while shorter, wider kayaks are more maneuverable (but slower).

Hull Design

There are four basic types of kayak hull designs that you’ll need to decide between when you’re choosing a new kayak. They include the V-shaped hull, flat hull, pontoon hull, and rounded hull.

Most high-performance kayaks have a V-shaped hull because they minimize drag and improve tracking ability.

Kayaks with flat hulls are more common to whitewater paddling because they are super maneuverable and responsive to your paddle strokes.

Most recreational kayaks will either boast a pontoon hull or a rounded hull. These hull designs offer great stability but sometimes require a compromise in terms of overall speed and responsiveness.

The exact hull design that’s best for you depends on whether you’re interested in long-distance touring (V-shaped hull), whitewater paddling (flat hull), kayak fishing (pontoon hull), or recreational paddling (pontoon or rounded hull).

Storage Capacity

It’s also important to look at the storage capacity of a given kayak.

You might not need to bring a lot of gear at first. But, as you become more experienced and passionate about kayaking, your gear requirements may increase.

A kayak with quality capacity will offer open storage compartments and sealed, watertight hatches. This gives you plenty of space for dry storage while keeping certain items accessible above the deck.

Remember that not all kayak storage hatches are as watertight as the manufacturer might claim.

So if you have sensitive gear or clothing that can’t get wet while you’re paddling, we recommend outfitting your kayak with one of the best kayak deck bags.

Versatility

Whether your interest is in whitewater padding, long-distance touring, kayak fishing, or simply recreational kayaks, kayaks these days are designed to fit the precise application you want to use them for.

The problem is that many beginners are still learning which type of paddling they favor. So, when you’re just starting, you must choose a kayak that offers a high degree of versatility.

This requires finding a balance between stability and performance. You want a kayak that will keep you upright in windy or wavy conditions. But you also want something that will make decent time if you’re paddling all day.

If you’re a beginner, we recommend narrowing your search to kayaks labeled for recreational use.

These typically give you the most versatility when you’re just starting. Because they’re stable enough to handle unforgiving weather and also perform decently over distance.

If you already know that you’re most interested in fishing, touring, or whitewater paddling, on the other hand, it’s always worth investing in a kayak that’s made for your intended purpose right off the bat.

This will save you time and speed up your long-term learning curve.

Weight

A kayak’s weight should also be considered before you finalize a purchase. For beginners, the hardest part is often learning how to transport the kayak (and all its accompanying gear) to and from the water.

Depending on where you plan to do most of your paddling, a kayak’s weight could be more or less important to you.

If, for example, you have a lake house where you can keep your kayak regularly stored on a dock, you can get something a little heavier because you won’t have to move it very far when you’re ready to paddle.

On the other hand, if you live several miles from the closest body of water, you’ll need to load your kayak onto a J-rack or some other type of trailer whenever you want to go out. That makes having a lighter kayak much easier.

It will also reduce the time you spend loading and unloading your kayak so you can spend more time on the water. As a good rule of thumb, try to find a new kayak weighing between 40 and 60 pounds.

But if you have to go heavier, consider getting one of the best kayak carts to go along with it. This will make it easy to roll your kayak down to the water and save your muscles for when it’s actually time to paddle!

Price

Ultimately, purchasing a quality kayak the first time will require a larger upfront investment than you might be prepared for.

But you have to factor in how long your kayak is expected to last and the repair/maintenance costs.

Generally, we recommend spending between $600 and $2000 for a new kayak. We know this is a large range, but your ultimate choice will depend on the abovementioned factors.

Most-trusted kayak brands

We come to it again.

As discussed above, brand names can tell you a lot about the quality of construction in a certain kayak. New brands are sometimes attractive because they claim advancements and innovation that older brands don’t.

But an old saying applies to this situation (and many others): “If it ain’t broke, there’s no need to fix it!”. Kayak brands that have been doing it for more than 50 years have perfected their manufacturing process.

Brands that have built a trusted reputation in the kayak industry haven’t achieved that reputation by accident. They make great kayaks that perform well, last long, and are super comfortable paddling in for multiple hours.

For our money, some of the best and most trusted kayak brands in the industry today include Perception Kayaks, Pelican Kayaks, and Ocean Kayak.

If you’re looking for one of the best inflatable kayaks, you won’t go wrong with Advanced Elements, Sea Eagle, or Sevylor.

Kayak Brands To Avoid – Recap

There’s no better way to conclude a post like this than by suggesting the best Kayak we find.

Pelican – The Kayak Brand You Can Trust

Pelican Kayak is one of the most trustworthy kayak brands on the market today. Their kayaks are a great choice for beginners because they are affordable and durable enough to handle a few mistakes when you’re starting out.

With many hard-shell kayaks, dents are nearly impossible to pop out if you happen to drop your kayak or hit it against a rock. But Pelican sought to correct that very issue when they designed their kayaks.

All of their models use a patented RAM-X Technology that makes the kayak much easier to pop back into place if it gets dented. This technology also makes Pelican kayaks less likely to crack if they suffer heavy impacts.

Pelican offers a number of designs, including sit-on-top and sit inside kayaks. They also make kayaks specifically designed for fishing, touring, recreational use, and other common kayaking applications.

They also make some of the lightest hard-shell kayaks that you’ll find out there. Having a lighter kayak is a great advantage for beginners because you won’t get frustrated just moving your kayak around.

And finally, Pelican also manufactures tandem kayaks if you want something, you can paddle with a partner. For more information about this great kayak brand, check out our full Pelican Kayak Review!

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Worst Kayak Brands To Avoid

Picture of Peter Salisbury

Peter Salisbury

Pete is the Owner of KayakHelp.com. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, he grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him skiing in the mountains, reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.

Welcome! I’m so glad you are here :-) I’m Pete. I am the owner of KayakHelp.com. I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, I grew up kayaking, fishing, sailing, and partaking in outdoor adventures around the Great Lakes. When I am not out on the water, you can find me skiing in the mountains, reading my favorite books, and spending time with my family.

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