The 4 best lightweight kayaks
Whether you're a seasoned paddler or are just getting into kayaking, nobody loves lugging around a heavy personal watercraft. The best lightweight kayaks are made from durable, weather-resistant materials and can hold at least 200 pounds while still weighing less than 50 pounds.
The first thing you'll want to consider when shopping around is the material, which will have the most direct correlation to how much the kayak weighs. Inflatable kayaks are often made from durable PVC vinyl, which is puncture-resistant and can be welded (rather than glued) together to ensure a sturdy construction. Other lightweight kayak materials include high molecular weight polyethylene (HMWPE), a composite plastic that's exceptionally sturdy and has a low-friction surface that works well for gliding across the water, and polypropylene, another durable, low-friction plastic.
Kayak length also matters, since the general rule is that the longer it is, the faster it can move across the water. The standard kayak length is around 10 feet, though you can find options as short as 6 feet and as long as 16 feet. You'll also want to think about the maximum amount of weight your kayak can hold, since you'll want to be able to comfortably fit yourself, a paddle, and a bottle of water at minimum.
Finally, you'll want to decide whether you'd prefer a sit-top or sit-in kayak. Sit-top kayaks are perfect for beginners since they're very stable and have self-drainage holes, while sit-in kayaks are ideal for cooler temperatures or longer trips where you might want the comfort and protection of being inside the cockpit. Most kayaks don't come with oars, so you'll likely need to purchase this crucial accessory separately.
If you're ready to get out on the water, keep scrolling for the best lightweight kayaks that you can buy on Amazon.
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1. The sit-top kayak
- Material: high molecular weight polyethylene (HMWPE)
- Weight: 42 pounds
- Length: 9.5 feet
- Max capacity: 275 pounds
The Pelican Sentinel 100X may be specifically designed for fishing, but it's also a great all-around choice for a lightweight, sit-top kayak. This 9.5-foot kayak is made from Pelican's proprietary HMWPE and weighs just 42 pounds. The flat-bottom design offers superior stability, whether you're fishing or just paddling around your favorite river or lake. A removable storage compartment sits perfectly inside the back of the kayak to store gear, and there's an additional personal flotation device that fits inside the hull. This kayak also features molded footrests and carrying handles, a smartphone holder, and two paddle holders as well as several fishing-specific accessories like rod holders and tie-downs. The brand states that this kayak is best used in calm waters, and oars must be purchased separately. If you don't want or need the additional fishing-specific features, a recreational model of the same kayak is also available.
One reviewer wrote: "I LOVE this kayak [...] Been looking for a great affordable kayak with all the basic features I wanted, but stock is low everywhere because of COVID-19. As soon as this came available I gobbled it up quickly before it sold out again. It came quickly, it cruises like a dream, I love the storage container, and bonus that it came with bungee cords. It’s very stable, went over some minor rocky rapids and I never took on water and my open drink in the shallow cup holder never spilled."
2. The sit-in kayak
- Material: high molecular weight polyethylene (HMWPE)
- Weight: 36 pounds
- Length: 10 feet
- Max capacity: 275 pounds
If you're looking for a classic sit-in kayak that won't break the bank, the Pelican Maxim 100x is a solid entry-level option. Made from durable, weather-resistant HMWPE, this 10-foot kayak weighs just 36 pounds but can handle a load of up to 275 pounds. It has several adventure-friendly features, like carrying handles, a cockpit table, a bottle holder, a storage hatch, and a mesh-covered deck storage platform so you can keep all of your essentials on hand when you're out on the water. Both the cockpit seat and footrests have an ergonomic design so you'll stay comfortable for hours, and the drain plug helps to prevent the kayak from getting overloaded with water. Note that this kayak is specifically designed for beginner and intermediate paddlers, and is best used in calmer lakes and rivers. Also, oars must be purchased separately.
One reviewer wrote: "I am new to kayaking and did a lot of research before purchasing this one. I wanted something I could handle on my own length and weight wise. This is perfect. I took her out on her maiden voyage last night to watch the sunset. Very pleased!"
3. The budget-friendly inflatable kayak
- Material: vinyl
- Weight: 27.2 pounds
- Length: 9 feet
- Max capacity: 220 pounds
Over 12,000 Amazon shoppers have given the Intex Challenger inflatable kayak a perfect five-star rating, and it's easy to see why. At just under $125, it's also the cheapest option on this list and it comes with a set of oars, making it a great choice for those who are just getting started with kayaking. This 9-foot kayak is made from durable welded vinyl and can handle loads of up to 220 pounds. It features a cargo net on the deck for gear storage, two grab lines, and an inflatable seat with a backrest for added comfort. Thanks to this kayak's Boston valves and high-output hand pump, it's easy to inflate and deflate, and it comes with a repair patch in case you run into any sharp objects on your adventures. The brand notes that this kayak is best for use in calmer waters, like rivers and lakes. It also comes in a two-person design.
One reviewer wrote: "This kayak is currently with me on a weekend break to Scotland. The first morning I set my alarm for 6.30am, on a Saturday! What could persuade me to get out of bed before 10 on a weekend? This kayak, waiting for me in the boot of the car. I carried it easily down to the water's edge of Loch Etive, the tough bag it comes in large enough to fit in a few extra bits and pieces as well as the kayak, pump and paddle. [...] The kayak was fully inflated in a flash, ready to go with very little actual effort. The paddle clipped together easily, with an adjustable angle on one paddle end for people who know much more about kayaking than I do. Hoisting the kayak under one arm to take it to the water's edge, it was a manageable yet comforting weight. It handled being wriggled awkwardly into admirably; being fairly wide, it feels lovely and stable. The only thing left was to paddle out and enjoy the gorgeous Scottish summer day."
4. The splurge-worthy kayak
- Material: polypropylene
- Weight: 26 pounds
- Length: 12 feet
- Max capacity: 300 pounds
The Oru foldable kayak combines award-winning design with high functionality, and is perfect for those who live in smaller homes with limited storage and don't have a roof rack on their car to transport a standard kayak. This unique origami-style kayak is 12 feet long when it's unfolded — making it the longest and therefore the fastest option on this list — but it condenses down to fit in a 29-by-33-inch box. At just 26 pounds, this beginner-friendly kayak is designed for flat-water paddling and is also the lightest option on this list. It has a roomy cockpit with plenty of space for storing extra gear, and both the footrests and backrest are adjustable for maximum comfort. It assembles and folds back up in just minutes, though some reviewers noted that there is a bit of a learning curve to assembly, and it doesn't come with oars.
One reviewer wrote: "This is an amazing kayak for spontaneous adventures. I'm mostly new to kayaking but I've been doing origami for over 25 years. This was my first sit-inside kayak; I've only done sit-on-top kayaks before this experience. I was a bit wobbly for the first 10 minutes but after I relaxed and got my kayak balance going this kayak was a lot of fun. The manual for the kayak isn't the best so I suggest watching the company's video when learning to assemble the kayak. This kayak definitely makes people notice you too. I live in Arkansas and took this out on a quiet lake. I had two encounters with other paddlers. They were both super friendly and super curious about the kayak. The best part about this kayak is that it literally fits in the trunk of a car. My daily driver is a Honda Accord. It fit in the trunk even with 3 folded up outdoor chairs in there too!"