Best Kayaks for Camping

Picture yourself in the great outdoors, enjoying your camping trip. While hiking, you come across a beautiful lake. Unfortunately, you didn’t bring a kayak along and now cannot truly experience the joy of paddling or fishing in the clear waters of the lake you just discovered. For many camping trips, packing a kayak is an absolute must in order to make the most out of your outdoor experience.

In a Hurry? Here are Our Top Choices

However, with so many great options on the market, it can be a daunting task to select the option that is right for your specific camping needs. In this article, we’re going to be looking at some of the best Kayaks for camping in the market and help you choose the one that is just right for you.

How to Choose the Best Kayak for Camping

When going out to buy a kayak, there is a range of factors one has to consider to determine which kayak is the best. Often there are trade-offs involved and the best kayak for camping may largely depend on which factors you place high on your agenda.

Best Kayaks for camping

Stability vs Speed

If you plan on rowing your kayak across raging rivers or rough seas, good stability is essential. It will help keep you out of the water line and reduce the risk of the kayak tipping over. Flat, wide hulled and water-tight kayaks are best for such purposes. However, this can come as a compromise to speed. If you plan on rowing your kayak across vast distances, narrower and longer kayaks are better as they exert less drag on the water as you paddle along.

Durability vs Portability

Hard plastic kayaks are often the most durable but also weigh the most. There are lighter options on the market such as fiberglass and Kevlar but they are not as robust as their hard plastic counterparts. Inflatable kayaks are the most portable, but also the least likely to withstand sustained abuse.

Comfort vs Performance

Kayaks for recreational purposes are often open on top, feature soft seating and have a wide spacious cockpit. More performance-oriented kayaks, meanwhile, are closed on top and have smaller, less cushy cockpits to reduce weight and maximize maneuverability and speed.

The 6 Best Kayaks for Camping

Of course, selecting a kayak doesn’t always involve choosing between two extremes. Many of the best kayaks for camping try to strike a good balance between the various factors, promising to be a great all-round value purchase.

1. Sun Dolphin Aruba SS

Being highly versatile, comfortable, lightweight yet durable and providing value for money, Sun Dolphin Aruba SS is our top pick when it comes to choosing the best kayaks for camping. Unless you are a competitive touring kayaker, the Aruba SS will fit most of your preferred criteria when you’re out shopping for a camping kayak. The SS version additionally features more storage compared to the original.


  • Lightweight (weighs just 27 lbs)
  • Good storage capacity
  • Great durability
  • Value for money
  • Range of great color options
  • Very maneuverable


  • Cockpit may be small for particularly tall riders
  • Poor stability

2. Sun Dolphin Excursion

Hardshell Kayaks are reasonably expensive camping gear. If you are short on money then the Sun Dolphin Excursion 10-Foot may be a good option worth checking out. It is priced nearly half of what most hard-shell kayaks are listed at. The material quality is great overall but don’t expect the kayak to withstand the test of time as neatly as more its more pricey counterparts.


  • Great value for money
  • Lightweight (weighs 41 lbs)
  • High stability
  • Roomy cockpit


  • Not suitable for rough water conditions
  • Not very durable

3. Intex Challenger K1 Lightweight Kayak

The Intex Challenger K1 is a low-maintenance good quality inflatable kayak, offered at a very reasonable price. For an inflatable kayak, the K1 is highly durable and can withstand a fair amount of punishment. Its small, nimble design makes it highly portable and gives superb maneuverability. However, because of it, the kayak also suffers from poor carrying capacity and low storage space.


  • Low price
  • Very lightweight (weights 21 lbs)
  • Highly portable (can fit in a bag!)
  • Nimble
  • Comfortable cockpit


  • Low load capacity (220 lbs)
  • Limited storage space
  • Poor stability
  • Not as rugged as its hardshell counterparts

4. Ocean Kayak Prowler 13

The Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 offers comfortable seating, healthy storage space, and can withstand a fair bit of wear and tear. Its agile design manages to strike the perfect balance between speed and stability. Overall, this kayak is a highly versatile, all-rounded fishing kayak that you can confidently use in a range of different fishing environments. However, despite its narrow frame, its length and weight can make portability somewhat difficult.


  • Good stability without compromise to speed
  • Comfortable open cockpit
  • Good storage options
  • Sturdy


  • Bulky (weights 57 lbs)
  • Subpar hatch cover

5. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem

To handle the rough open conditions of the seas requires a kayak of a different breed. The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem is one of the best of that breed. The kayak features great stability while its flat-top design makes it ideal for navigating through rough waters.

The Malibu Two Tandem comes with two seats but they are removable, and their position can be rearranged on the kayak’s deck for greater stability or legroom. This gives the kayak added versatility over its competition. Packing plenty of comforts and load capacity, the Malibu Two Tandem is an excellent choice for long-distance travel too.


  • Very stable
  • Comfortable cockpit
  • Versatile
  • High load capacity (425 pounds)


  • Bulky (weights 57 lbs)
  • Poor maneuverability

6. Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100

For those campers new to kayaking, Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100 is a great beginner’s choice. The design is robust and suitable for both recreation and touring. It is also quite stable and has a wide-open cockpit, allowing you to get in and out without much difficulty. Storage spaces are ample and very easy to access. Overall built quality is great and you can expect the Yellowfin 100 to last for a long time.


  • Very stable
  • Good maneuverability
  • Very comfortable
  • Good storage options
  • Beginner’s friendly


  • Bulky (57 lbs)
  • Pricy for a beginner’s option

Our Final Thoughts

Kayaking is an enjoyable and relaxing outdoor activity and can make any camping trip extra worthwhile. The best kayak for your camping needs will depend on your preferences (recreation vs. touring), the places you want to go (ocean vs. lakes vs. rivers), your budget and a whole host of other factors.

Because you want to get the most value out of your money, you should consider buying one that doesn’t just meet a specific need, but is versatile enough for taking out on various kinds of camping trips. The best kayaks for camping are therefore those that manage to strike just the right balance between the various above mentioned factors to be useful in a whole range of different outdoor scenarios.

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