10 foot versus 12 foot

We are buying our first kayaks. Looking for input on the length. We would mostly use them in rivers or lakes, nothing too rough (hopefully). We first thought a 10 foot for me and a 12 foot for my husband would be fine. But does the 2 extra feet make that much of a difference? If not, we may just get two 12 footers. Thanks for any advice.

What kind of kayaks / what kind of water
My wife and I bought Potomac rec kayaks when we first started for paddling creeks and flat water mostly. The 10ft rides too low with me in it at 5’11" and 230lbs so I had a 12 ft. Other than that, for comparable models, not much difference. Generally speaking longer boats will be faster than shorter boats with all else being equal but I never found the difference to be that much. If my wife and I swapped kayaks I was still faster than her.

I should add that I have a nine and a half foot kayak that floats me just fine and that mostly my wife and I paddle together in 14 ft boats. What make and model are you looking at and what do you want to do with them?

You might consider
going to a shop and trying out a few different Kayaks. That will give you a good sense of the difference and help you make a good decision.

paddling different boat before you buy, and getting good input from somebody that actually paddles is a huge help.

It can be a lot of money in savings getting a higher priced boat now, instead of buying based on price or perceived preferences of different boats.

I personally would have saved a lot of money by looking around a little more. Now is a great time to buy boats in a non-peak time, and most kayak/canoe shops can spend some time with you with less pressure, and prices are favorable.

10 vs. 12
If you’re going to be paddling casually, poking around in no particular hurry, the difference between the 10’ and 12’ might not be that great. But if you’re going be paddling any kind of distance – say, more than a mile or two – then keep in mind that the longer and narrower the kayak, the faster and farther you will go with less effort.

My first kayak was 12’ feet long and 26" wide. Very stable, but it began to feel slow when I wanted to cover distance. My next kayak was 13’ 10" long and 22.5" wide – in other words, a little longer and significantly narrower – and was both easier and faster to paddle. Whereas 10 miles was a lot of work in first kayak, it was (relatively speaking) a snap in the second kayak.

Narrower kayaks are also less stable, which may feel a bit unnerving for a first timer, but it’s something you get used to quickly, and now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you are small and light weight
get the shorter one for yourself.

You should have said the makes and models, and then people that have the same boats might chime in.

Jack L

I’d pay less attention to length and more to beam, depth, cockpit fit, and overall volume. Shorter boats are often wider than longer ones. If you’re a smaller paddler more width is the last thing you need – it just makes it harder to paddle comfortably and efficiently.

A boat that’s too wide or too deep for your build will be uncomfortable. One with too much volume for your weight will be harder to control in wind and waves.

Look here
Under how to buy your first boat.


Also agree with advice to get intro to paddling first then get boat. There may be winter pool sessions around you… where are you roughly?

are storage and transportation
factors between the 2 lengths? If not, as others have posted, many attributes determine the kayak’s character. I also encourage some paddling time in a variety of sizes to see what suits. Whatever you choose, use and enjoy them together and frequently.

How serious are you?
It might be premature to answer the question of how serious you are about paddling, but if you can say that it is something you intend to get serious about, always go for the best quality and longest boat that fits your plan.

speed is a function of length. It also makes boats more seaworthy and adds buoyancy. I like kayaks over 15 feet. Twelve feet is definitely better than 10.

Have you considered
pack canoes? You describe your goal as rivers and lakes, hopefully not too rough. Last spring I bought an Old Town Pack in the Angler edition. I didn’t touch the kayak all summer. 33# v.s. 60# was a no brainer. There is lots of room and access to whatever I take along, no stability issues with the lower seat in the Angler, and it can be carried with one hand. Its easy to car top on a compact, too. Might not fit your initial vision, but certainly worth thinking about.

Length for some
makes skin friction a major issue for smaller paddlers. Longer is not always faster. You need the horsepower to drive the length.

Pack canoes are interesting and while I do enjoy them, the best designs are not the OT Pack which is slow. Some lengthier designs are better like the Placid SpitFire for the smaller paddler and the Spit 13 for the larger. 33 lbs is quite heavy for a pack canoe and the Placids come in the low 20s.

However they are not light on the budget and not for everyone because of that.

You do have to ask yourself
if speed and cost are issues. For me fast isn’t a requirement. My main activity is fishing followed by poking along shorelines exploring and watching for critters. The Royalex hull is a great compromise between cost and weight.

Ten and twelve feet kayaks…
…are on the short side for sure. I’d push you to consider a little longer and to make sure they have front and rear bulkheads and perimeter lines. You also might consider sit on tops too.

my experience is…
whatever you get, make them both the same.

all things considered, the 12’ will simply go faster than the 10’ boat so with his greater strength, he will ALWAYS leave you behind…

…then you are screaming for him to slow down and he is yelling at you for being a slowpoke!

for day-trips, the 10’ is easier to carry and store.

for campoing the 12’ can cary more gear and more gear = more comfort.

Width more important
If you are a good bit smaller than your husband, the width of the boat can make a huge difference in your comfort. Too wide a boat with a shorter person in it, like many women, and the paddler is struggling to get the paddle into the water and getting sore. Meanwhile their often taller and longer armed spouses are having a dandy time.

Sit in these boats and preferably in a pool or demo environment first, find the size that makes for a comfortable reach to the water.