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Recreational vs. Touring Kayaks

Posted by Brooklyn Kayak Company on

customer using a BKC touring kayak - Brooklyn Kayak Company

If you’re just starting out on your kayaking journey, the process of selecting a boat can be confusing. There are many different types, and it can be tricky to identify the features and style that you need for different boating conditions. The first hurdle you many come to is deciding between a touring and recreational kayak, as both are relatively beginner-friendly.

Recreational and touring kayaks sound quite similar, but they will actually give you very different experiences on the water. Depending on where you’ve kayaked before, you might have experience with a recreational kayak already. Understanding the pros and cons of each boat is helpful in making an investment that will serve you well in your paddling ventures.

Recreational Kayak Specs

If you’ve ever rented a kayak to go out on the lake or down a calm stream, you’ve probably been in a recreational kayak. These kayaks are wider and shorter than touring kayaks, which causes them to move at a more leisurely pace, and be more stable and easy to turn than a touring kayak.

The wider length is what most contributes to the recreational kayak’s stability. This is a great pro for those new to the sport of kayaking, such as those interested in fishing, or taking pictures while out on the water. You are able to focus less on not tipping over and develop your paddling technique more with this type of kayak. Additionally, it allows you to take in the views around you better while you’re out on the water.

This can also be a great type of boat for group travel. Its accessibility opens itself to groups of all ages and skill levels, so if you have more than one you can easily bring a friend or family member out on the water with you. Recreational kayaks tend to be less expensive than other types of kayaks, so there’s even fewer barriers to entering the sport of kayaking with this type of boat.

The only thing to note with this type of kayak is that, because of the extra width, it’s not the best at cutting through waves or maneuvering in strong currents. In this respect, you will want to stick to calmer waters like a lake or low-rapids river. You’ll still reap all the benefits of kayaking in these locations, as it’s a great way to see the nature around you or get in a low-impact workout with a change in scenery.

Touring Kayak Pros & Cons

Touring kayaks are a great pick for more experienced kayakers. These boats are more adept at navigating extreme water conditions, like rapids or ocean waves, so they do require a moderate familiarity with kayaking to be able to balance and steer in them.

Touring kayaks are slightly more narrow and longer than recreational kayaks. In combination with their more angular hull designs, they’re better suited for a more active kayaking session where you’re met with a lot of turbulence and strong currents that you have to navigate. This design also enables them to move faster through water, so you’ll be moving at more than a leisurely pace through these conditions, as well. Fast reaction times, core strength for balancing, and an ability to think further upstream are key for trips in touring kayaks.

What you gain in hydrodynamic ability with a touring kayak, you may lose slightly in stability and ease of steering. The longer the boat, the more challenging it is to make turns, as you have more boat to redirect. So if you’re not used to it, the handling of touring kayaks can have a learning curve. Similarly, since the kayak is narrower, you may need to balance more intentionally so as not to tip over. You can track in a straight line better because of these features, however, which is helpful in staying on course out on the ocean or when navigating strong river rapids.

At the end of the day, the type of kayak you invest in most depends on the environment and experience you’re looking for. Recreational kayaks are a great investment for beginners and those seeking less intensive expeditions, ready to explore the lake and river scenery around them.  Touring kayaks are best for those looking to reap the more athletic benefits of kayaking and challenge themselves to navigate more challenging currents. Either way, you’ll win by getting on the water and enjoying the outdoors! Happy Kayaking!


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