Boats

Buyer’s Guide to the 7 Best Touring Kayak Reviewed

Best Touring Kayak Under Sunset

Touring kayaks offer the largest storage space and the fastest speeds. They are great fun, especially for long distances and long trips [R].

Check out our guide to the best new touring kayak models today.

7 Best Touring Kayak Models Today

Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 Touring Kayak: Best Overall

Key Takeaways

  • Impressive speed and tracking
  • Most storage space
  • Best for experienced paddlers

Design

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 Kayaks have 16 feet and 6 inches of length, a width of 21.5 inches, and a depth of 12.5 inches. It weighs 55 pounds.

There is a recessed compass mount in the front of the kayak to help you navigate hands-free on longer paddles. Reflective safety lines help you stay more visible to other boaters.

Performance

If you are a smaller paddler who needs a kayak that can perform well in open water, the Tempest 165 is the one for you. It can pick speed easily and does not take much effort to paddle.

Moreover, despite its speed, it still offers great secondary stability and tracking. It features a Trutrak keg system for balancing between maneuverability and tracking.

Seating and Cockpit

The cockpit is primarily designed for kayakers with smaller body frames to be the best fit for those who are quite tall or large.

Like the other Wilderness models here, the Tsunami 165 also has the Phase 3 AirPro adjustable seat that lets you customize your seat’s fit while also having padded thigh braces that will make steering with your body easier.

Storage

Dome-shaped hatch covers help ensure that the storage remains watertight and gives you extra gear storage space, too.

There are three dry storage hatches at the front and back, including bungee deck rigging with built-in bulkheads.

Is the Tempest 165 Touring Kayak for You?

If you are an experienced paddler who wants the best touring kayak for achieving the highest speeds, excellent tracking, and massive amounts of storage, the Tempest 165 is the boat for you.

Note that this boat is not meant for beginners. 

Pros 

  • Compass mount for hands-free navigation
  • Reflective safety lines for improved visibility
  • Retractable carry handles
  • Hatch covers for watertight storage
  • Plenty of storage

Cons 

  • Expensive

Perception Expression 11.5 Touring Kayak: Best Value

Key Takeaways

  • Excellent for beginners
  • Affordable and excellent value
  • Durable (made of HDPE)

Design

The Expression 11.5 has 11 feet 6 inches of length and 25.75 inches of width at just 44 pounds. It is made with High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and has a maximum weight capacity of 255 pounds.

Performance

The Perception Kayak Expression 11.5 is a fast and light kayak that comes at an affordable price.

It has a rugged HDPE construction that makes it suitable for all types of trips and distances.

It is also durable against impacts. Moreover, the hull design provides excellent balance, making this one of the best sea kayaks for beginners. 

This kayak is one of the best touring kayaks in its length category. It has a TruTrak retractable skeg to give you exceptional speed, maneuverability, and tracking.

Furthermore, this boat is versatile enough for any water type, including slow rivers, calm coastal waters, the surge, and even the open ocean. This makes it one of the most affordable sea kayak models you can get.

Seating and Cockpit

Expression 11.5 has a premium Zone DLX seating system, which promises you hours of comfort.

The seat can adjust in all directions, so both short and tall paddlers can find the perfect position for them. Moreover, it’s compatible with nearly all standard spray skirts. [R]

Storage

This top kayak offers less storage space than other models, but there is still plenty of room for gear you may need for a one or two-day trip.

It has a large storage hatch located behind the seat and bungee cords on the front for securing your bags and other items.

Is the Perception Expressions 11.5 for You?

If you are looking for a good kayak for day touring or even overnight trips and still offers reliable performance as well as good speeds, the Expressions 11.5 will give you the best value.

Its design and feature change the boating game and makes this one of the best touring kayaks for beginners.

Pros 

  • Durable construction
  • Comfortable adjustable seat
  • Easy to use
  • Fantastic on long rides
  • Friendly for any skill level
  • Low maintenance
  • Quick-adjust foot braces for comfort

Cons 

  • Less storage than the others
  • No rudder
  • Can be too small for some

Perception JoyRide 12 Touring Kayak: Best Budget

Key Takeaways

  • Most affordable touring kayak
  • High maximum weight capacity
  • Best for calm waters

Design

The Perception JoyRide 12 is a sleek, streamlined kayak with a length of 12 feet and 2 inches and a width of 27.25 inches. It is 15.25 inches deep and weighs 54 pounds.

It can carry a maximum of 350 pounds, a larger weight capacity than others within the same category.

However, we advise you not to load more than 80 percent of the total loading limit, as it will severely impact its performance.

Like the previously-mentioned Perception kayak, the JoyRide is also made of HDPE, making this a durable day touring kayak.

Touring kayaks from Perception usually have two carrying handles at the bow and stern, and adjustable footrests will keep you comfortable during long rides.

Performance

Its width gives this excellent stability because of its broad shoulders that establish full-body contact with the water.

It can perform well in calm rivers, lakes, ponds, and sheltered coastal waters, as well as moderately choppy open lakes.

It has a low center of gravity that contributes to its stability and makes it more responsive to paddling.

The tracking keel has a narrow bow tip that can cut through the water without any unnecessary friction. Despite its longer size, it is also easy to maneuver and maintain in a straight line. 

Seating and Cockpit

The space measures 51 by 23 inches, offering you plenty of size and comfort.

There is also an innovative dashboard with an integrated two-stage bottle holder, two small-item slots, and a patent-pending “Selfie-Slot” where you can sit on top to take your pictures.

This design allows a two-level height adjustment onto the engraved notches that will let you take pictures or selfies at the right angle.

The dashboard also includes two Solo Mount recesses for adding custom gear, such as swivel rod holders or your GoPro.

The cockpit is comfortable due to its thigh protection padding and Zone Deluxe adjustable seat with leg-lifters to help you achieve the best position.

If you intend to use a spray skirt, the cockpit rim is compatible with most standard sizes.

The bulkhead between the pit and rear storage also prevents water from entering the kayak and improves overall buoyancy for your safety.

Storage

The storage hatch is watertight and located behind the seat. It is an oval, quick-lock hatch that will give you easy access to your gear.

However, fans and kayak reviews have noted the lack of bungee rigging in the front of the cockpit as one of its few flaws.

Is the Perception JoyRide 12 for You?

If you are looking for one of the best touring kayaks that are also the most affordable, the JoyRide is for you. It is jam-packed with features that will make you think you bought it at a much higher price!

Pros 

  • Adjustable seat and footrests
  • Feature-rich dashboard
  • Stable and responsive to paddling

Cons 

  • May need additional lumbar support
  • No bungee rigging in front
  • No retractable keg

Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 (2020) Touring Kayak

Key Takeaways

  • Extremely comfortable seat
  • More stable and comfortable than others
  • No keg or rudder

Design

ThePungo 120 has a length of 12 feet and a width of 29 inches. It weighs 49 pounds and has a weight capacity of up to 325 pounds.

This design means that it is shorter and wider than other touring kayaks.

Performance

With a perfect balance of stability, performance, and comfort, the Pungo 120 is among the best touring vessels on the market.

While it may not be the fastest because of its width, it offers kayakers increased stability, making it one of the most popular choices in touring kayak reviews.

Because of its smaller shape, this touring boat is more manageable, portable, and easier to transport than other touring kayaks. Despite this, it still offers excellent tracking thanks to the defined kayak hulls.

On good days with fair weather conditions, the Pungo can handle coastal waters.

However, the absence of a rudder or retractable skeg means that it is not the most suitable kayak for coastal or open water paddling in marginal weather.

Seating and Cockpit

The Pungo gives you more room to make long rides enjoyable and comfortable. This makes it an excellent touring kayak for taller or larger kayakers who need the extra space.

The Pungo has one of the most comfortable seats you can ever find in a touring kayak in this price range.

The Phase 3 AirPro seating has a combination of contoured foam and mesh to support and provide you with good ventilation.

The seat also has multiple adjustment points to help you get the perfect fit, a plus if you need extra back support.

Storage

This touring kayak does not have the biggest storage space. It has two smaller deck bungees and a single storage hatch, giving you just enough room for an overnight trip.

However, its space may not be enough for weekend trips, unless you pack very light.

Is the Pungo 120 (2020) for You?

If you frequently go day touring with your kayak and have no need for ample storage space, the Pungo is an excellent choice.

You can spend all day out on the water without feeling cramped because of its roomy cockpit and comfortable seat.

Pros 

  • Fully adjustable seat
  • Removable front storage console
  • Padded knee braces
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Easier to maneuver

Cons 

  • Limited storage space
  • Not the fastest
  • No keg or rudder

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 Touring Kayak

Key Takeaways

  • Very comfortable and customizable seat
  • Multiple storage spaces
  • Excellent tracking

Design

The Tsunami 165 is a touring kayak that measures 16 feet and 6 inches in length and 23.75 inches in width. It weighs 66 pounds and has a weight capacity of up to 350 pounds.

Performance

Its combination of a rudder and 16-foot hull shape makes this one of the best sea kayaks you can take for coastal expeditions.

It is extremely efficient to paddle and tracks well through water, even when in the presence of wind and waves.

Seating and Cockpit

The Tsunami 165 uses the same Phasee 3 AirPro seating system in the Pungo, giving you the ability to customize your seat’s fit.

This makes it extremely comfortable to sit on for hours, a welcome feature when you’ve been paddling for a few days in a row.

Storage

With two large storage hatches, a small day hatch, deck bungees, and perimeter deck lines, the Tsunami 165 gives you a lot of storage space to pack for those multi-day trips.

You can store your camping gear in the larger hatches and stash items you need to easily access the deck bungees or smaller-day hatch.

Is the Tsunami 165 for You?

If you are the type of kayaker to go on a weekend or multi-day kayaking trips or camping expeditions, especially along coastal waters, the Tsunami 165 is the perfect kayak for you.

Pros 

  • Fully adjustable seat
  • Adjustable padded thigh braces
  • Adjustable foot braces
  • Rudder for better maneuverability
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Rudder system

Cons 

  • More expensive

Perception Carolina 12 Touring Kayak

Key Takeaways

  • Unique, V-shaped hull
  • Versatile for use in different conditions
  • Suitable for all ages and skill levels

Design

With a narrow design that measures 12 feet in length and 26 inches in width, this kayak is agile and lighter than others.

It only weighs 49 pounds and has a more limited weight capacity than the other kayaks in this guide at just 275 pounds.

Performance

The Perception Carolina 12 is one of the best sea kayak models for calm and coastal waters. This is an agile kayak that is suitable for paddlers of all ages and skill levels.

Shaped like a letter V, the hull design of the Carolina 12 allows it to cut through the water’s surface effortlessly and travels in a straight line.

There are also soft chines [R] on the sides to give you both primary and secondary stability.

The entire hull is made as one solid piece, allowing you to use the Carolina 12 even in harsh conditions without much worry.

It also works just as well in inland waters and coastal surf, making this a great ocean kayak.

Seating and Cockpit

With its wide cockpit opening, it is easy to get in and out of this kayak. It also features a soft DLX seat that is fully ergonomic and adjustable in six different directions.

You will not have to worry about finding the ideal position for you with this kayak.

Storage

Much like other touring kayaks, the Carolina 12 gives you plenty of useful storage space. It comes with two storage hatches, with one each on the bow and stern.

Is the Perception Carolina 12 for You?

If you are looking for an agile and fast kayak that will have no problem performing on coastal and inland waters, the Carolina 12 will have everything you need. It has enough storage for overnight or weekend trips.

Pros 

  • Two large storage hatches
  • Soft chines for better stability
  • Built-in foam bulkheads for safety
  • V-shaped hull that easily cuts through the water
  • Compatible with all standard spray skirts

Cons 

  • Lower maximum capacity than others here
  • No skeg or rudder

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 Kayak (2020)

Key Takeaways

  • Balance of speed and maneuverability
  • Excellent for beginners and intermediate paddlers
  • Good tracking and stability

Design

The Tsunami 125 has a length of 12 feet and 9 inches and a width of 26 inches. It weighs 51 pounds and has a maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds, which should be enough for most users.

Its shorter length makes it a great option for new to kayak touring as it is easier to maneuver. However, it is also adequate for more experienced paddlers, making this one of the top-rated touring boats available.

Performance

This Wilderness product is a light kayo touring vessel ideal for those who enjoy paddling in various water conditions.

The hull has a multi-chine V-shape profile designed for maneuverability. It also costs its speed and stability, providing good secondary stability ideal for ocean waves.

Design-wise, the Tsunami 125 can track well and help you paddle easier, making it great for beginners.

Seating and Cockpit

Like the other Wilderness kayaks, this has a Phase 3 AirPro seat. This is an ergonomic seat with an adjustable back and bottom for better paddling.

The spacious cockpit was maximized for medium to larger users. Inside, there is a handy and secure water bottle holder.

Storage

You can maximize the 300 mount weight capacity with its multiple storage compartments: two storage hatches on the front and rear and two mesh pockets on the deck, best for your essentials you can easily access.

There is even additional storage in the front and rear bulkheads for larger items, as well as bungee rigging at the bow and stern that lets you secure extra gear on your boat.

Is the Tsunami 125 for You?

These top kayaks’ size offers you a good balance of speed and maneuverability. So if you plan to use your touring vessel for both narrow rivers and open water, this is the best model for you.

Pros 

  • High capacity storage
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Good for any skill level
  • Drinks holder
  • Fits medium to large users

Cons 

  • Pricey

What to Look for in a Touring Kayak

Kayak Size

The longer and narrower the kayaks, the more efficient they will be to paddle because there will be less resistance to the air [R] and water. Moreover, they have less drag [R] and a higher hull speed. [R]

However, this does not mean you should get the narrowest and longest boat you can find.

Width (Beam)

Generally, the narrower a kayak, the less stable it is. This is because it is more susceptible to being affected by any swaying motions or any force that may come at it from the left or right.

Strike a good balance between speed or efficiency and stability. This will be affected by your skills and experience, as well as the water conditions you typically kayak in.

Depth and Cockpit Size

A deeper cockpit size on a kayak will be more comfortable and better for larger paddlers. Moreover, they also offer more storage space. However, a shallower kayak will be less susceptible to the effects of heavy winds.

Length

Longer kayaks track better through the water, which means they are less likely to swerve.

However, longer kayaks are not as maneuverable as a shorter kayak. This means that while they are more likely to travel straight, they are more difficult to manipulate.

When travelling in open coastal waters or over long distances, you’ll want your kayak to have excellent tracking.

However, if you’ll be paddling on lakes or rivers, go for a shorter, more maneuverable touring kayak.

Another advantage of shorter touring kayaks is they are easier to transport and handle outside the water.

Onboard Storage

If you love going on multi-day or extended day trips, touring kayaks are the ideal choice for you because of their larger storage capacity.

Deck bungees are excellent for any gear you need to easily and quickly access while on your kayak. This includes your water, snacks, extra clothing layers, and safety gear.

Storage hatches are more difficult to access while you are sitting in the kayak, so they are ideal for camping gear and other items you will not need to use while you are on the boat.

If having a watertight hatch is extremely important for you, check the type of closure that the kayak hatches use.

Skegs and Rudders

Some touring kayaks use a keg or a rudder to improve its tracking further and help the touring boat maintain a straighter course.

They are extremely helpful if you ever find yourself in windy or choppy conditions typical in exposed coastal waters.

The rudder sits on the back of the kayak and helps the boat stay on course.

One big advantage over a skeg is you can rotate it using foot pedals. This means it can provide you with some additional maneuverability and help you steer your kayak.

The skeg sticks out from the bottom of the boat and acts like a fin on surfboards. It also keeps the kayak moving straight ahead, but it is more of a permanent fixture rather than something you can manipulate.

Most touring kayaks have a retractable skeg, so you can choose when to use it.

Kayak Materials

Polyethene Plastic

Polyethene plastic is the most affordable. It is also reasonably resistant to abrasions and scratches.

Its disadvantage is that it is the heaviest of these three and is also the most susceptible to UV damage, so make sure always to store your kayak in a covered location.

ABS Plastic

ABS plastic is a little more pricey than polyethene and has a pretty similar quality. However, it is lighter and offers better UV protection than polyethene.

Most of the unique two-tone designs you will see on kayaks are made from two pieces of ABS plastic that were bonded together to create a watertight boat.

Composites

You can find various options, like a fiberglass kayak and carbon fiber one.

Note that they will always be the most expensive kayak option available on the market. However, it may be worth it for you.

These kayaks can outperform those made of polyethene or ABS plastic.

However, note they can be susceptible to damage from major impacts, such as hitting against rocks or other hard objects on the water.

Final Words

This guide has the top kayak models available on the market today.

There are numerous options for all budgets and skill levels, so we are confident you will find the best touring kayak for you.

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