What Size of Kayak Do I Need?

Choosing a kayak may be a tough call because there are different styles for various purposes available in the market. To help you make the purchasing decision, we highlight different factors to consider while choosing the size of kayak that you need, in this article.

Your Demands

1. The Type of Water You Will Kayak

Depending on the calmness or the roughness of the water body you plan to kayak on, you can make a decisive choice of what type of kayak to purchase.

For instance, if you plan to kayak on a calm lake, an inflatable kayak would still work fine but the same would not be ideal for rapids. A short kayak will be better suited in rough waters such as rapids for the sake of easy control and faster turns.

If you plan to kayak sea or ocean waters, a wider and longer kayak will serve the purpose better because it provides better stability and, therefore, a better experience.

Read More: The Best Ocean Kayaks

2. What Type of Kayaking do You Plan to Do?

If you just need a kayak for short leisurely tours, you do not need a big one because then, issues like storage don’t matter as much. However, if you plan to use your kayak for long tours, you will need to consider storage size and more comfortable legroom.

You could also consider the likely number of users at a time. Will you kayak alone or do you intend on having another person riding with you? A tandem kayak is better for two people than a single user one.

3. How You Plan to Store and Transport It

A big kayak will most definitely need more storage space and a more elaborate transportation plan. In this case, hauling it using a trailer is safer and easier, as long as the kayak is well secured to avoid damage.

You may need to use your vehicle’s carrier area or a pick-up truck for medium and small-sized kayaks. Alternatively, you can acquire an inflatable kayak if you do not want the struggle of hauling one around.


The length of the kayak is an important consideration because it influences its stability when in use.

For instance, the longer kayaks (between 13 and 23 feet or more) are more efficient when cruising large water bodies such as an ocean or a sea because they are more resilient against waves and therefore offer a smoother cruise. They are, however, slower to turn.

Shorter kayaks (between 10 and 12 feet long) are more suitable for cruising rough waters at a high speed because of their agility and the fact that they are easier to control in such conditions.

Read More: The Best Whitewater Kayaks

Length also plays a role in the overall space available for storage. A short kayak will have a smaller compartment while a longer one will have a bigger storage compartment.


A kayak’s width determines how easy it is for you to get in and out of the cockpit. Wider kayaks (Between 24 inches and 30 inches or more) have more room at the cockpit while narrower ones (20 to 24 inches) have less room and therefore provide a more snug fit which is ideal especially while cruising rough waters.

Width also influences the stability and speed of your kayak to a huge extent. A wider hull is more stable but slower while a narrow hull is less stable but has a higher cruising speed.


The overall room available in your kayak is its volume. This impacts the comfort of the user because it determines the available legroom, with deeper kayaks providing more of it than shallower ones.

It also points to the available storage space in your kayak for your gear, supplies and any other luggage. For long tours or overnight ones, you will need a kayak that can fit all your essentials.

A shallow kayak is also less likely to be destabilized by wind compared to the deeper counterparts. This is because deeper kayaks have more surface area for wind interference.

Weight Capacity

The kayaks weight capacity is often indicated on its side. When purchasing one, ensure you keep in mind the weight of the user, the supplies, gear and any other requirements needed on your trips.

With this in mind, purchase a kayak of a higher weight capacity than the total anticipated weight. For example, if you anticipate the total weight of the user, gear, and equipment at 200 lbs., choose a kayak that can accommodate at least 50lbs. more.

Leg Room

Your height will be the determinant of how much legroom you need on your kayak’s deck. A shoer person will require less legroom and vice versa. In any case, adjustable footpegs will provide for more comfort.

Some kayaks will require you to adjust the console in order to increase legroom but that also influences the amount of storage room available. Legroom is a factor of the length and the volume of the kayak.

That noted, longer and deeper kayaks have more legroom than the shorter shallower ones. Your level of comfort is highly valuable especially if you intend to take long cruises on your kayak so keep that in mind.

Kayak Body Material

Some common materials used in making kayaks are aluminium, alloy metals, plastic or fibreglass. The kayak’s material of construction is important in determining its durability, safety and weight.

Heavier materials such as aluminium and other metals will be heavier, more durable and safer and are therefore suited for long-haul cruises. They, however, tend to be more expensive.

Kayaks made of plastic may be easier to transport because they are lighter, but they are unfortunately less durable and their safety is easily compromised.


In conclusion, there is no wrong answer when it comes to what kayak size you should purchase!

The most important factors to consider are the type of water you intend to cruise on, the type of kayaking you prefer and how you plan to store and transport your kayak.

That said, here are some helpful pointers for you to look out for:

  • Easy to store and transport.
  • Adequate legroom.
  • Ease of manoeuvring and stability.
  • Strong enough to carry your weight and that of your gear.
  • Comfort level for long cruises.
  • Enough storage space for your luggage.
  • Suitability to the type of water you intend to cruise.


  1. Beginner’s Guide - American Canoe Association
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