What is a Touring Kayak? Who is it for & Why You’ll Love Them

by | Last updated May 13, 2024

What is a Touring Kayak

Have you ever wanted to paddle beyond your usual lake or explore a coastline?

Regular recreational kayaks just won’t cut it โ€“ they’re slow and lack storage for longer trips. That’s where touring kayaks come in!

These sleek boats are built for speed and distance, with space for gear and a design that keeps you dry in rougher water.

  • A specialized type of kayak designed for longer trips and exploration on lakes, rivers, and even the ocean.
  • Sleek and longer than recreational kayaks for better speed and tracking (going in a straight line).
  • Often have built-in storage compartments (like a little trunk!) for gear.
  • Feature a covered deck and cockpit for the paddler, offering some weather protection.
  • Can be made of plastic, fiberglass/composite, or inflatable.
  • Come in a variety of styles to suit different skill levels and paddling environments.

Defining the Touring Kayak

Picture a kayak, but way cooler.

That’s basically a touring kayak! Also known as sea kayak, they’re the adventure machines of the paddling world.

Here’s what makes them special:

  • Built for the Long Haul: Touring kayaks are long and skinny, allowing them to glide through the water and paddle further without getting too tired.
  • Gear Garage: Most touring kayaks have storage compartments built right in. This means you can pack snacks, water, and even camping gear for overnight trips!
  • Weather Warriors: Touring kayaks usually have a covered top with a special opening for sitting inside. This helps keep you dry and warmer on chilly or windy days.
  • Steering Control: Some touring kayaks have a fin at the back (kind of like a rudder on a boat), which stern helps you steer in a straight line, especially in windy conditions.
A man sitting besides a kayak

Types of Touring Kayaks

Just like there are different bikes for different terrains, touring kayaks come in various styles for different paddling adventures.

Material Matters

  • Plastic Powerhouses: Made from polyethylene plastic, these kayaks are tough and a good budget option. They handle bumps and scrapes better than other types.
  • Speedy & Sleek: Fiberglass and composite kayaks are lighter and glide through the water faster. Perfect if you’re into racing or paddling super long distances.
  • Inflatable Adventurers: Blow them up when you need them and deflate them for easy storage. It’s awesome for people with limited space or who travel a lot.

Sit-In vs. Sit-on-Top

  • Classic Cockpit: Traditional sit-inside touring kayaks offer better protection from the weather and usually more storage space.
  • Open-Air Option: Sit-on-top kayaks are easier to get in and out of. They’re great for warmer weather or if you like fishing from your kayak.

Size Does Matter

Touring kayaks come in different lengths and widths.

This affects how they feel in the water:

  • Stability vs. Speed: Wider kayaks are more stable (harder to tip) but slower. Light weight kayaks are faster but can feel a bit tippier, especially for beginners.
  • Finding Your Fit: The right size also depends on how big you are. Larger paddlers will need bigger kayaks.
Multiple kayaks

Extra: Skeg vs. Rudder

Some touring kayaks have a little fin (called a skeg) that pops down from the bottom at the back.

Others have a rudder, like a mini boat rudder. Both help the kayak go straight, which is super useful in wind or waves.

Who Should Use a Touring Kayak?

You might think touring kayaks are only for super-experienced kayakers tackling wild oceans.

Nope! While they’re definitely awesome for those adventures, touring kayaks have something for paddlers of all levels.

Here’s the deal:

  • Not Just for the Pros: If you’ve paddled a little before and feel comfortable in a basic kayak, a touring kayak could be your next step for more exploring.
  • Adventure Seekers: Do you dream of paddling to hidden beaches, seeing wildlife up close, or maybe even camping overnight from your kayak? A touring kayak is your ticket to those adventures.
  • Fitness Fanatics: Kayaking is a great workout, and a touring kayak lets you paddle longer without getting tired. It’s like a fun outdoor gym!

Important Note: Even if you’re a beginner, there are touring kayaks designed to be more stable and easier to learn in. Feel free to ask at a kayak shop for beginner-friendly options.

A lady kayaking in sea

A Quick Size Check

Remember, choosing the kayak that is the right size is important.

Here’s the basics:

  • Taller or Larger Paddlers: You’ll need a longer and wider kayak for comfort and stability.
  • intermediate paddler: Shorter and narrower kayaks will be easier to handle.

Before you buy a touring kayak, talk to a kayak expert or test out a few different ones to find the perfect fit.

Benefits of Touring Kayaking

Imagine paddling through peaceful waters, the sun on your face, with maybe a dolphin or two popping up to say hello.

That’s just a taste of what touring kayaking offers!

Here’s why it rocks:

  • Exploration Unlimited: Touring kayaks let you go way further than regular kayaks. Discover hidden coves and secret islands, or explore a whole new part of your favorite lake.
  • Nature Connection: Kayaks get you super close to the water, so you can really experience the nature around you. Watch birds diving for fish, spot turtles sunbathing on logs, or chill with the sound of the waves.
  • Workout + Fun = Awesome: Paddling is a fantastic full-body exercise! Touring kayaks let you go for longer paddles, building strength and endurance without even feeling like a gym session.
  • Test Yourself, Grow Yourself: Learning new kayaking skills and tackling longer trips in different conditions builds confidence like nothing else. You’ll surprise yourself with what you can do!
A man is kayaking in a lake

Bonus: Think of a touring kayak as a little adventure vehicle for the water. With all that storage space, you can pack everything you need for awesome day trips or even overnight camping adventures!

Essential Gear for Touring Kayaks

Once you’ve got your awesome touring kayak, you’ll need a few essentials to hit the water safe and ready for adventure:

  • The Basics
  • Safety First
    • Whistle: In case you need help, a whistle will grab attention better than shouting.
    • Navigation: Map, compass, or GPS device, especially for longer trips.
    • First Aid Kit: For those unexpected scrapes or bumps.
    • Bilge Pump: Handy tool to scoop out any water that gets inside your kayak.
  • Extra Gear for Comfort and Convenience

Tips for Choosing a Touring Kayak

Picking the right touring kayak is super important.

Here’s what to keep in mind…

kayak on the sea
  • Think About Your Adventures: Where do you want to paddle? Calm lakes, big rivers, or maybe even the ocean? Different kayaks work better in various environments.
  • Experience Matters: Are you a beginner, or have you paddled some before? Choose a kayak that matches your skill level but leaves some room to grow as you get better.
  • Money Talks: Touring kayaks have a range of prices. Set a budget and see what features and materials fit within that range.
  • Try Before You Buy: The best way to know if a kayak feels right is to test-paddle it! Kayak shops often have demo days or let you try kayaks for a small fee.
  • Ask an Expert: Kayak shop staff are awesome resources. They’ll ask the right questions to help you find the perfect boat.

Don’t Forget: Even the coolest kayak is no good if it doesn’t fit you properly. Make sure you can sit comfortably, reach the foot pedals, and feel in control before you buy!

Getting Started with Touring Kayaking

Ready to hit the water with your touring kayak?

Here’s how to start on the right foot (or paddle stroke!):

  • Start Smart: If you’re new to kayaking, the best way to learn the basics is to take a lesson or join a beginner-friendly tour. This will help you build skills and confidence much faster.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Before heading out on big adventures, spend some time in calmer waters getting used to your kayak. Practice steering, stopping, and even getting in and out of your boat.
  • Adventure in Stages: Start with shorter trips close to shore. As you feel more comfortable, you can gradually paddle longer distances and explore new places.
  • Safety is Key: Things to remember for every kayak trip:
    • Always wear your PFD (life jacket).
    • Paddle with a buddy or group whenever possible.
    • Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
    • Check the weather forecast โ€“ avoid going out in storms or super windy conditions.

The Fun Starts Now!

Touring kayaking is an awesome way to get exercise, connect with nature, and challenge yourself.

It might feel a bit intimidating at first, but with a bit of practice and preparation, you’ll be exploring like a pro in no time!


A lady is kayaking in the sea in front of the mountain

Touring kayaks aren’t just boats; they’re keys to unlocking a whole new world on the water.

Whether you dream of exploring far-off coastlines, paddling with wildlife, or taking epic overnight camping trips, a touring kayak can get you there.

Sure, it takes a little learning and practice, but the amazing experiences you’ll have are more than worth it. So, what are you waiting for?

The world of kayaking adventures is calling!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a touring kayak and a regular kayak?

Touring kayaks (or sea kayaks) are longer and sleeker than regular recreational kayaks. They’re built for paddling longer distances, tracking (going straight) better, and often have storage compartments for gear. Stellar kayaks are also a good choice.

Do I need to be an experienced paddler to use a touring kayak?

Not necessarily! While some touring kayaks are made for advanced paddlers, there are plenty of beginner-friendly models that are stable and easy to learn. Multi-chined hull is important for touring kayak.

Can I use a touring kayak for fishing?

Absolutely! Many touring kayaks have plenty of space and features specifically for fishing. Look for ones with rod holders and ample storage for tackle. Surf skis are good for practice.

How much do touring kayaks cost?

Prices vary a lot based on materials, features, etc. You can find budget-friendly options as well as more expensive, high-performance models. Expect to spend more than on a basic recreational kayak.

How do I transport a touring kayak?

Most people need a roof rack for their vehicle to carry a touring kayak. Some folks use trailers if they need to haul multiple kayaks. Inflatable touring kayaks are great if transportation or storage space is limited.