Top 14 Best Lightweight Kayaks Reviewed 2020 [Light, Quality Options]
It’s no secret that kayaking is becoming more and more popular.
This is largely due to the advancement of technology in making the craft more accessible and affordable for recreational use than ever before.
However, many would-be kayakers still have their reservations – which often comes down to logistics.
How to get the kayak from your home to the water?
And a large part of this concern is to do with a kayak’s weight, and some models can be particularly heavy.
But it needn’t be the struggle you think it’s going to be – which is why I’ve put together this awesome review to try and find the best lightweight kayak for you.
Everyone should be able to take up this rewarding pastime if they want to – not just the super fit or the super strong.
A buyer’s guide and FAQ section will follow.
- TOP 14 Best Lightweight Kayaks 2020
- Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak
- Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Tandem Kayak
- Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
- Sea Eagle 330 Deluxe 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
- Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle
- Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-In Recreational Kayak
- Advanced Elements Lagoon Inflatable Kayak
- SunDolphin Aruba Sit-In Kayak
- Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Sport Kayak
- Perception Sound Sit Inside Kayak
- Dagger Kayaks Zydeco Kayak
- Ocean Kayak Frenzy Recreational Kayak
- Hurricane Santee 126 Sport Kayak
- Aquacruisers Poke Boat
- What to Look for Before Buying a Lightweight Kayak
TOP 14 Best Lightweight Kayaks 2020
Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak
Review: As you might expect, you’re going to see a lot of inflatables in a lightweight kayak review.
So, kicking us off we have the immensely popular Intex Challenger, a craft that consistently earns good reviews.
It’s made from heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl, with two separate air chambers so you can get back to shore if you do manage to damage one.
It’s packed with features for an inflatable, with a removable seat, grab lines at bow and stern, a forward cargo net for storage and a removable skeg for improved tracking.
The kit includes a paddle, pump and carry bag, and the total weight of the kayak is 27.2 lbs with a 220 lbs maximum capacity. And all this, for a ridiculously cheap price.
- Includes everything you need.
- Super lightweight.
- Amazing price for what you get.
- Performance isn’t going to be the best.
- Limited storage.
- Won’t last forever.
Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Tandem Kayak
Review: Intex also produce this Explorer model – a tandem kayak for splashing about with a partner or friend.
Like the Challenger, it’s built for calmer rivers and lakes, and it still made with the same heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl and dual air-chambers for peace of mind out on the water.
With grab lines, removable skeg, and a removable seat, this kayak weighs just 28 lbs but offers a maximum weight capacity of 400 lbs. Both the Intex inflatables are certified by the NMMA.
- Excellent price.
- Everything you need is included.
- Bright, colorful livery for added safety.
- Limited storage for two people.
- Not the best performance.
Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
Review: The portability of this inflatable sit-on-top kayak from Sevylor is really exciting.
The whole kit reduces down into a backpack (which actually doubles as the seat), with a set-up of less than five minutes to get you out on the water.
This kayak is likely to turn heads as you take it off your back and turn it into a boat in a matter of moments.
With multiple air chambers should one be punctured, it has a 21-gauge PVC construction that is rugged for lake and slow-moving river use.
The airtight system is guaranteed not to leak, and it weighs just 18 lbs while offering an excellent 400 lbs weight capacity.
- Ingenious packing system.
- Pump and paddle included.
- Great price.
- Super portable.
- Not the best for speed or tracking.
Sea Eagle 330 Deluxe 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
Review: Sea Eagle step it up a notch when it comes to inflatable kayaks and if you don’t believe me, check out the video of someone driving a car over one of them.
They’re tough-as-nails kayaks that are put through rigorous testing before being allowed near the water.
This tandem craft is suitable for class three whitewater, and includes two removable seats, stern and bow spray skirts with storage underneath, a repair kit, foot pump and two paddles.
The Sea Eagle has two skegs underneath for improved tracking and speed, and the entire kit can be packed down into a convenient shoulder bag.
It’ll take up to 500 lbs maximum weight capacity, while only weighing 26 lbs itself.
- Quality make and construction.
- Rugged and durable.
- Good value.
- On the small side for larger users.
Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak with Paddle
Review: The first of our hardshells sees this Lifetime sit-on-top kayak that’s a simple, no-nonsense design.
Made from rugged polyethylene, it features a molded paddle cradle, multiple foot positions, a tank well to the stern with bungee cord webbing, and a flip-resistant hull with built-in skegs for improved stability and tracking.
The seat has an adjustable quick-release back, and with a center carrying handle and bow and stern T-handles, transportation couldn’t be easier. The kayaks weight is 38 lbs and can take a maximum weight capacity of 250 lbs.
- No-frills, functional design.
- Paddle included.
- Very stable.
- The seat isn’t the most comfortable – consider extra padding.
- Very slow.
Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-In Recreational Kayak
Review: Pelican Kayaks offer their Maxim model next, a sit-in kayak that is packed with features and manages to balance performance, price and practicality in a prime Pelican product.
This craft has a load of things going for it, including a bow storage hatch, a stern tank well with mesh deck cover, cockpit table with bottle holder, molded footrests and secure foot bracing and a drain plug preventing water infiltration.
There’s a padded seat cushion and adjustable padded backrest, while the overall performance is excellent for a kayak at this price.
Ideal for beginners looking for an improved yet affordable hardshell, this is a stable kayak that can take up to 275 lbs while weighing in at 39 lbs itself.
- Excellent performance/features ratio.
- Affordable for what you get.
- All-round quality construction.
- Choice of colors would have been nice.
Advanced Elements Lagoon Inflatable Kayak
Review: Advanced Elements are known for creating inflatable kayaks that are a significant step up from what you might be used to when it comes to air-filled craft. This is a single-seater kayak, with built-in ridge panels on the bow and stern to improve tracking.
There’s a comfortable, padded high-support seat, molded rubber-grip handles and bungee deck lacing for storing a small amount of gear. It has a 250 lbs weight capacity while itself weighing in at just 23 lbs.
It’s super-compact and easy to inflate in a matter of moments. For ultimate portability and freedom on the water, you could do a lot worse than the Lagoon from Advanced Elements.
- Compact and portable.
- Comfortable seating.
- Easy to inflate.
- Not built for speed.
- Storage is very limited.
SunDolphin Aruba Sit-In Kayak
Review: SunDolphin pretty much have it covered when it comes to lightweight recreational kayaks, regularly offering a great balance of features and performance in their seriously fun kayaks.
The Aruba does not disappoint, a 10-foot sit-in model that has a large open cockpit and adjustable back support.
It’s made from rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex high-density polyethylene, with adjustable foot braces, stern storage hatch and water bottle holder with bungee cord webbing.
The maximum weight limit is 250 lbs, and the product itself weighs 40 lbs.
- Ideal for a beginner.
- Quality manufacturer.
- Choice of colors available.
- Limited storage.
- Actually quite expensive for what you get.
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Sport Kayak
Review: A step up from their Lagoon model, the Sport version from Advanced Elements is targeted more for use in a variety of water conditions. It has an aluminum shell with bow and stern ribs that provide increased paddling performance, maneuverability and control.
Yet even with that added stability and ruggedness, it still only weighs 26 lbs. With a large cockpit for easy entrance and exit, four air-chambers for puncture peace of mind, and a super-fast set up, this is an inflatable kayak that performs comparably to a hard shell without the need for a trailer or roof-rack.
The maximum weight capacity is 500 lbs.
- Excellent performance.
- Roomy cockpit.
- Aluminum shell.
- Limited storage.
Perception Sound Sit Inside Kayak
Review: Based out of South Carolina, Perception Kayaks have been making quality craft for over 40 years. This is their Sound model, which is a beautifully compact and versatile kayak for fun lovers everywhere.
It’s great for the anglers among you, too, with two molded-in fishing rod holders and a large rear open storage area for easy access to a cooler or tackle box.
It offers a tri-keel hull for added stability and tracking, adjustable backrest with a super-comfortable padded seat, and a dashboard console with mounting points for extra accessories.
It has front and rear molded handles for ease of transportation and lockable security.
The Perception Sound weighs in at 38 lbs with a maximum capacity of 300 lbs.
- Very versatile.
- Packed with features.
- Choice of two camo colors.
- No storage hatches.
- Not built for speed.
Dagger Kayaks Zydeco Kayak
Review: Dagger is a US company that specializes in whitewater and recreational kayaks. The Zydeco is a compact 9-foot, sit-in kayak that is built for superior maneuverability and acceleration.
Best suited to choppier waters and for more experienced paddlers, this is a beautifully designed craft that will give you hours of fun on the water.
Featuring a contoured seating system, stern and bow deck rigging, soft-touch handles and a paddle park, this streamlined kayak is super portable and lightweight, coming in at 36.5 lbs with a maximum capacity of 220 lbs.
This kayak will be a real head-turner for sure.
- Excellent maneuverability/performance.
- Attractive design.
- Top-quality construction.
- Name to trust.
- Not suitable for beginners.
- Limited storage for longer trips.
Ocean Kayak Frenzy Recreational Kayak
Review: Ocean Kayaks are up there with the market leaders when it comes to sit-on-top kayaks, as they’ve practically perfected kayaks in this class.
Their Frenzy model is a super-sturdy yet responsive kayak that is packed with features offering a great day out on the water for paddlers of all skill levels.
With a Tri-Form hull which combines primary and secondary stability, and a long center keel to keep you going straight – the Frenzy offers great all-round performance no matter the conditions.
It has large, stern and bow storage tank wells with bungee cord webbing, easy-to-carry molded side handles and front and rear T-handles and a maximum weight capacity of 325 lbs.
It’s not the most ultralight kayak at 43 lbs, but it still warrants inclusion in our lightweight kayak review.
- Excellent build quality and company.
- Good stability over performance ratio.
- Suitable for all ages and skill levels.
- Heavier than other kayaks in the review.
- The seat might be too narrow for some.
Hurricane Santee 126 Sport Kayak
Review: This really is a thing of beauty. Hurricane is a kayak company that specializes in the lightweight craft while not sacrificing performance.
The Santee is a game-changer for this reason, with loads of features packed into every inch of its stunning lines.
With a stern deck bungee cord and storage hatch, paddle holder, large cockpit, AireStream seat and foam thigh pads, molded grab handles, security bar, and a Twist Lock foot brace system – this kayak is ridiculously versatile.
It’s also customizable with a sports console and can easily carry a child or a pet with you on your adventure. It weighs just 39 lbs – which is outstanding considering the performance and features.
- Beautiful design.
- Quality construction and company.
- Outstanding performance.
- Highly versatile.
Aquacruisers Poke Boat
Review: Now to finish we have this rather unusual kayak that I’m including purely because of its uniqueness – and the fact that it only weighs an astonishing 12 lbs.
Probably the most ultra-lightweight kayak available, the Poke Boat is made out of kevlar, isophthalic resin and aircraft-quality fiberglass – hence both its ridiculous weight properties and its exorbitant price.
It’s only 8 feet long, too, surely making it the most portable kayak on the planet.
It has a removable, ergonomic seat, a deep V bow and stern for excellent maneuverability, adjustable footplates, and a maximum weight capacity of 200 lbs.
Each boat is custom made to order. If you’ve got the money and you’re really looking for the lightest kayak you can find – you’ve just found it.
- Quality materials and construction.
- Will last a lifetime with proper use.
- Very expensive.
- Poor storage options.
- Not good for touring/distance kayaking.
What to Look for Before Buying a Lightweight Kayak
There’s a lot more to it than simply “how heavy is it?”.
Take a look at my lightweight kayak buyers guide and FAQ section below so you know what to look out for.
There are a lot of variations when it comes to kayaks, but generally speaking, they can be divided into two types. Sit-on-top kayaks and sit-in kayaks.
Now, we could spend all day discussing the merits of each, but in the interests of keeping things simple and concise, sit-on-top kayaks are generally more stable on the water, whereas sit-in kayaks are built for speed and maneuverability.
Sit-on-top kayaks are usually easier to enter and exit, too.
Of course, it’s not as black and white as all that, but that’s the basics to get you started.
Which one you decide to choose depends on what water-based activity you’re interested in doing the most.
If you’re fishing – a sit-on-top kayak is preferable.
If you’re touring, a sit-in kayak is a way to go.
And when it comes to weight, neither style has a real monopoly over the other.
Most hardshell kayaks today will be made from rugged, UV-protected polyethylene. A very hard and durable plastic.
And while this ensures they can stand up to bumps and scrapes, it’s going to seriously impact the overall weight of the craft.
Inflatable kayaks, on the other hand, aren’t going to be nearly as hard-wearing, but they are going to be considerably lighter and more portable.
At the top end of the scale, kevlar and fiberglass kayaks are going to be ultra-light, but you’ll pay through the nose for it.
In the end, consider what sort of paces you’ll be putting your kayak through and make a decision accordingly.
Size (Length & Width)
More kayak = more weight.
If you’re one of the larger members of the human race, then you might have to suck it up and get a craft that’s a little heavier just so you’re more comfortable in the cockpit.
If that’s the case and you desperately want the lightest, most portable kayak available, I’d seriously look into purchasing an inflatable.
But the size of the kayak isn’t just related to the weight and how comfortable you’re going to be in it.
It will also heavily impact the performance.
Kayaks with a long, narrow keel are built for speed and distance. They’re ideal for touring or overnight excursions. However, this makes them harder to turn.
Shorter kayaks with a V-shaped hull are designed for whitewater. They have superior maneuverability and excellent acceleration and can turn on a dime. They’re much more tippy as a trade-off.
Wider kayaks with a flat or catamaran-style hull are built for stability. Such kayaks are best used for hunting or fishing. To have a look at some examples, you should check out these awesome fishing kayaks.
Again, the size of the kayak you choose will depend on the size of you – and what you’re going to be using it for.
If you look at the lightweight kayaks I included in my review, you might notice a common trend when it comes to storage options.
They don’t have much.
This isn’t always the case, but including tank wells and storage hatches will impact the overall weight of the kayak.
And most of the kayaks here are not designed for long-distance trekking or touring anyway.
If you need more storage and space, take a look at the some of the best lake kayaks (towards the more expensive end of the scale).
Transportation and Storage
Many kayakers or would-be kayakers cite this as their greatest problem or obstacle when it comes to owning their own kayaks.
This is where lightweight kayaks really come into their own.
And without a doubt, inflatable kayaks blow hardshells out of the water.
They’re simply incomparable for throwing into the trunk of your vehicle whenever the notion takes you.
Or storing them at home in the closet if you have limited space.
But you should also consider things like carrying handles, T-handles, grab lines and security features on a kayak.
And if you are investing in a hardshell – are you going to be able to lift and transport it with minimal fuss – especially if you’re going out on your own?
Another thing you might notice, is there isn’t really that much difference between these lightweight kayaks when it comes to cost.
That is, until you suddenly jump up a ridiculous amount of cash to more professional boats, such as those made from kevlar or fiberglass.
Inflatable kayaks are usually cheaper than hardshells, too – just to give your brain something else to ponder over.
Whatever style kayak you choose – buy the best you can afford without having to declare bankruptcy afterwards.
Is a Shorter Kayak More Stable?
Not necessarily – unless they’re much wider. It really depends on the style of the hull.
A shorter kayak with a V-shaped hull will be “tippy” in the water. Not ideal for fishing, but excellent for whitewater rafting where you need maximum maneuverability.
A shorter kayak with a wide hull will be much more stable. This is the kind of kayak you would use for fishing or perhaps for a beginner.
It’s really the hull design and not the length that matters.
Which is Better? A Longer or a Shorter Kayak?
Again, it depends what you’re going to be using it for – and your physical size.
Longer kayaks (regardless of use) are going to be much better for taller individuals.
If the height isn’t your concern, then longer kayaks with a narrow hull are more suitable for touring or going distances on the water.
They will also offer an increase in speed.
Shorter kayaks (depending on the hull shape – see above) will generally be for recreational use.
As a rule of thumb, sit-on-top kayaks tend to be shorter and wider than sit-in kayaks.
Again, that’s not always the case. Just make sure you do your research well!
Do I Need a PFD in a Lightweight Kayak?
You need a PFD in ANY kayak.
Any time you go out on to the water – you should be wearing a personal floatation device.
So, if you haven’t got one, head over and check out these excellent PFDs for fishing and you could end up saving your own life.
Don’t worry that they’re “fishing” PFDs – they have plenty of use for other activities too.
And I do like things with useful pockets and storage in them.
What Should I Wear While Kayaking?
To start with, check out this review on some amazing kayak shoes and make yourself look as professional as possible.
Kayaking barefoot or in any other inappropriate footwear is actively discouraged and can lead to injury.
For everything else, it will depend on the season and common sense needs to prevail.
In summer or in warmer temperatures, shorts and T-shirts/vest tops are usually the recommended way to go.
Just make sure that you’ve slathered yourself in sunblock, and you’re wearing a good hat and sunglasses. The sun can be unforgiving when you’re out there on an exposed body of water.
In the wintertime, consider lightweight, breathable fabrics that are waterproof.
Remember – you’re going to be exerting yourself out there, so something that wicks away moisture from your skin is essential.
You need to layer your clothing – and this is where kayak storage becomes very important. You can take off or add gear depending on the weather conditions or how you’re feeling.
And you’ll need somewhere to put any clothing you’re not using.
Just avoid cotton at all costs – if that gets wet you’re screwed.
What is the Best Lightweight Kayak?
How long is a piece of string?
This is almost impossible to answer, as it will depend on what you’re using it for.
All the kayaks in this review have their advantages and disadvantages. To choose one over all the others simply wouldn’t work.
But if you really insist and I was forced into making a decision based on what I know and what I like in a kayak…
But I prefer sit-in kayaks to sit-on-top – so I’m biassed!
I think you should tell me in the comments below what you think the best lightweight kayak is and why.
I’ve set them up for you here, now you knock them down.
Either way, I hope there’s enough information in the article to give you food for thought, and to encourage you to get involved in this amazing sport.
Good luck and happy kayaking!