There’s nothing more fun than kayaking and doing it with a partner! The fun and adventures are better with a partner, and tandem kayaks let you spend more quality time with your friend, partner or child on the water.
However, the enjoyment will be short-lived if you buy the wrong tandem kayak for yourselves. You have to be careful while making your choice as you need to choose the right boat that can accommodate both of you, your supplies and gear. And as tandem kayaks are relatively expensive, this buying guide should help you make the right choice!
Advantages and disadvantages of a tandem kayak
You first need to ascertain that you want a tandem kayak by knowing all about its pros and cons.
• Useful if one person is an amateur
A tandem kayak proves most useful if one person is new to kayaking, and feels insecure about kayaking alone. You can quickly teach your amateur partner the right strokes to use so that they slowly gain the required confidence and experience. The beginner could sit in front at first, and once they are comfortable and grow more experienced, they can sit at the back to learn more about control and steering.
• More power
As two people are paddling in a tandem kayak, you will get more power to pick up high speeds quickly. This proves especially useful if you come across bad weather, and need all the power and strength to return to shore immediately.
• Workload can be shared
Just like the two of you add more power to your paddling, a tandem kayak also lets you share the workload by taking turns paddling. So this means that one of you can rest, relax and enjoy the surroundings while the other paddles!
• Hold conversations
It is difficult carrying conversations with a friend if you go kayaking in two separate solo kayaks. However things are different in a tandem kayak as there’s no need to yell to get attention, and you can also easily converse and share sights.
• Perfect to go kayaking with children or pets
If you don’t feel safe or comfortable sending young children alone on kayaks, a tandem kayak lets you carry them along, and even take your dog’s kayaking.
• Less control
You may find it difficult maintaining control in your tandem kayak since it’s only if you two are in sync with your paddling and steering will you be able to generate extra power. You have more control in a solo kayak as it’s just you doing all the work.
• Less freedom
Sometimes you may not enjoy the other person’s company in the tandem kayak since you can’t make spontaneous decisions and have restricted freedom. You have to make decisions about your direction and participation with your partner, which isn’t as exhilarating as solo kayaking.
Tandem kayaks are naturally heavier, which can be difficult while traveling, and carrying them around.
How to choose a tandem kayak
There are a few aspects to consider while selecting a tandem kayak. And if two of you are sharing the expenses, it’s vital that you both discuss these factors before you make your final choice:
Tandem kayaks are a bit more expensive than solo kayaks, so be ready to spend anywhere between $300 to $1500 for it. It’s better to spend at least $600 since anything cheaper will be of poor quality and come with limited features.
You’ll at least get a boat with sufficient storage space and room for picnics and camping, and it should offer high safety and security. Some people, however, buy tandems because it’s cheaper buying one than buying two separate solo kayaks.
2. Kayaking ability levels
You need to consider your ability levels as new paddlers are better off buying a shorter 10-12 feet boat as they are wide and offer more stability and control. However, expert and advanced paddlers may find the increased width of shorter boats inefficient.
Average paddlers should look for boats between 12-14 feet with the right balance between speed, storage space, and stability. Experts should look for tandem kayaks longer than 14 feet with better hull and keel designs. They make for faster sailing and tracking and have sufficient room for overnight gear and equipment.
Tandem kayaks are either sit-in or sit-on-top where the sit-ins have cockpits as seats where you position your lower body into the gap by sliding in and out. This is better if you have stuff with you as they have open, storage spaces to avoid getting things wet.
Sit-on-tops offer excellent mobility and are somewhat stable and flexible in design.
Regarding the size of the tandem kayak, the shorter ones do not provide as much stability as the longer ones. It is the shorter kayaks that displace less water. Besides, it’s difficult for two people to maneuver smaller and shorter kayaks which also have restricted seating areas.
Tandem kayaks usually weigh between 75 to 100 pounds, which is somewhat cumbersome, if you compare the single kayaks weighing less than 50 pounds. The only option you have if you don’t want to carry such a heavy tandem from the car to the water is to buy an inflatable kayak. But of course, the inflatable versions have their share of cons, which you have to consider before buying.
Stability is an important feature, which is categorized into primary and secondary stability. Primary stability is felt and tested when the boat is at rest, and while you slide in or out of the vessel.
You can thus decide how comfortable you will be with the kayak when in suspended motion while you go sightseeing and fishing.
Secondary stability is seen while paddling which determines how comfortable you will be in tight spots and during rough water conditions.
Tandem kayaks are made using various materials like fiberglass, wood, hard plastic and inflatable plastic where tandems made from HDPE or high-density polyethylene are the strongest of them. While it’s always better to buy a tandem made of hard plastic that’s highly resistant to impacts and collisions, remember that they are also heavy.
8. Hull design
Hull design is vital while making your choice as the U-shaped kayaks offer more secondary stability when compared to the V-shaped kayaks which provide more of primary stability. The best way to choose and decide on the best hull design is based on the type of body of water you will be spending most of your time kayaking on.
While kayaks with U-shaped hull designs are better for kayaking in moving water like rivers and surfing, the V-shaped options are better for calm and flat waters.
It is always better to buy a kayak in a vibrant color as you will be kayaking mostly in broad daylight. Choose a color that’s unique from others, and quickly spotted even from a distance. Examples of colors with better visibility are orange, yellow and red.
Transportation is another feature to consider as you should be able to transport the boat you buy easily. Tandems are more comfortable to carry than other vessels as you will most likely have someone helping you. You’ll have to consider the kayak’s size to ensure it fits on top of your car or in your pickup’s bed.
While it’s possible to squeeze some kayaks into large SUVs, it’s not possible to do this with a tandem kayak! Also, make sure your roof rack will be able to support the boat’s length or you should consider investing in a trailer.
11. Distance between riders
Some people also choose their tandem based on the gap between the two riders when seated in the boat. You may want a tandem kayak with the right amount of distance between you two where you remain comfortable and are close enough to pass items when needed.
12. Additional strapping down surface
Some kayaks have an additional surface for you to strap down your gear and equipment while on a weekend river trip. With your gear strapped in, you know it will remain intact when you reach your destination!
13. Leg space
You have to choose your kayak based on the amount of legroom on its deck. You could perhaps consider adjustable foot pegs which let you dial the distance required for your legs to be comfortable. You may prefer a kayak offering sufficient space for leg movement while sitting and standing.
Wider kayaks are better for some of the improved stability it offers and let you stand while paddling or fishing. However, there is the possibility of your speed and tracking abilities reducing as the width increases.
It is during such situations that you could consider using rudders to solve the problem. Narrower kayaks, however, offer faster paddling as they quickly cut through calm and choppy waters.
15. Weight capacity
As many kayakers love buying all types of gears, you should consider the tandem’s weight capacity. It’s better to add 150 pounds to your bodyweight to decide on the right weight capacity if you plan to carry fishing equipment while kayaking. However, if you plan to go kayaking for recreational reasons, then you need to add only 100 pounds to your bodyweight.
What length of the kayak will you need?
The kayak length is essential to determining whether you will enjoy your trip or be uncomfortable. The shorter kayaks give better maneuverability on rivers and other narrow waterways. The longer kayaks are better options for those who are not particular about changing their kayak’s directions.
This is why longer kayaks are more often used on open rivers and lakes where there are no positional restrictions.
Kayak Length Considerations:
• Speed preferences
You will have to select the length based on your speed preferences. Long and thin kayaks measuring about 17 feet in length are best if your focus is on speed. However, if you are planning a recreational trip, then a shorter, nine-feet kayak is a better buy.
• Amateur or professional
Amateurs are better off buying a shorter, slower model and consider buying faster options only as their skill and ability improve.
• Your size
You also have to choose the length based on your size. While the shorter ones are better for children and shorter adults, it’s also better to consider using a longer vessel for better comfort and mobility. A kayak that is too short can restrict movements and prove dangerous in a capsize.
• Storage and transportation
You’ll have to consider storage and transportation options while choosing your kayak as you should have sufficient space at home to store the kayak when not in use. While the short, 6-feet kayaks can be stored in the corner of a room, the more extended 15-feet kayaks need a back deck or some outer space for storage.
It’s easy for people with car racks to secure longer tandems to the top of their car. Kayakers who don’t have car racks may be able to fit a recreational kayak in the rear of a pickup but may find it challenging transporting larger kayaks.
If you will be making a long trip, it’s better to choose a long kayak. They have various bulkheads and sealed hatch covers to use for storing camping items and gear. These long kayaks measure up to 16 feet in length and are perfect for adventures and overnight trips. The shorter kayaks are okay for short distance trips.
Now you know the advantages and disadvantages of a tandem kayak, and the many features to consider while choosing one, you may not find it so difficult choosing the right tandem kayak for your recreational or sporting needs.
Just remember that despite all this, comfort in the boat is something that cannot be undervalued. So make sure you choose a comfortable kayak as you shouldn’t feel cramped or overwhelmed in it as it may eventually lead to problems. It’s only if both you and your partner are comfortable in the tandem kayak will you two be able to enjoy yourselves riding it!