Advice for newbie

I am looking into getting a kayak. I have rented a few in the past but have never owned one. I was wondering if I could get some advice on what i should look for. First, like most newbies, I am on a budget so I would be interested in something under $600, with a target range of under $500…also I am not in a hurry to buy so I can wait for sales. Now the major issues is, i want something that can take on a river and a lake, I live close to many rivers here in Missouri, but i also live close to some lakes. Also, I would like to do some fishing, but I don’t own a lot of gear nor am I a great fisherman, so I don’t need something designed just for fishing. I guess what I am wondering is how long of a kayak should I look at? Some of the rivers around here can be shallow and narrow. I think at this point i am pretty sold on a sit on top style. Any advice would be welcomed, this is a whole new world that I don’t know much about. Thanks!

My novice advise would be to read and reread everything on here there is. And tailor things to what is workable for you.
Everything I had read here before we started looking led us to look within the following parameters
1–lighter weight
2- dual bulkheads
3-- transportable inside the van—meant max of 12ft.

They are right, that you should try CL to buy and that if you get really involved you would be better served with a longer boat.
Your milage may vary however on what is possible for you.

Your budget is too low for a half-decent boat plus equipment to make your paddling safe and enjoyable.

Read this thread for starters. It has most of the info a Newbie needs.

I disagree with Sparky. For $600 you will have to be patient, troll Craigslist regularly, and act fast when a good deal comes up, but you can put together a nice package for $600. Midtempo just picked up a nice 14’ fiberglass boat for $200 on Craigs. You could easily find a decent paddle, PFD, and a couple accessories for the remaining $3-400. ($200 for a decent kayak is a steal, so he was just in the right place at the right time. You may have to wait longer or work harder, but smokin deals like that happen more than you think).

If it were me, I would:

  1. Look for a used boat on Craigs. I’d shoot for a kayak on the shorter side, like 12-15’ long and 23-27" wide. Plastic or fiberglass doesnt matter. If you go shorter, it will be slow and wide, but if that is acceptable to you you can go shorter. The sit-on-top route is a good one to start with. They are inherently more safe and easier to recover from a capsize.
  2. Look for a used paddle or buy a chinese one from aliExpress for dimes on the dollar vs name brands. I have 2 and am very pleased with them. a small to medium blade is fine. Dont be tempted by large blades. use the paddle calculator at to get an idea of what to look for.
  3. Buy a very comfortable PFD, possibly new, but used if you can find the model you’re looking for. Wear it all the time.
  4. Find a group that mentors newbies and paddle with them. Ask them to teach you everything and correct what you’re doing wrong, that is, if you want to learn the right way to do things. Or just watch lots of youtube kayaking videos from reputable authors.

And read read read on the forums here. All the knowledge you need is here if you search for it!

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At that price range look for an SOT on craigslist. Most of the Ocean Kayak brand kayaks you will find for sell will work fine for paddling on lakes and rivers with mostly fishing in mind. Be skeptical of cheap boats in big box stores. You can probably pick up paddles and PFDs in a package deal buying a kayak used. You might also consider buying a canoe, if you mostly want to fish they make better fishing platforms.

Be careful, some not so good info above. Dual bulkhead on a SOT?? 15’
Sot, yes if you want a boat that weighs 70 pounds! 23" wide sot? ?? Lots of good kayaks about 12 ft long that have 350 weight capacity

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You may want to read an article in California Kayaker Magazine on types of boats to help point you in a direction. Can be read for free online at Issue #10. Some of the suggestions above are pointing towards a touring style kayak, where others a sit on top. This article can hopefully help you decide which way you would want to go based on what you expect to do with it.

When you say rivers, what matters is if the water is moving and creating classified white water. If class II or above, you really need a specialized boat for it, and that boat would not work in any reasonable manner in flat water. If there is no white water, then your rivers are basically the same as flat water paddling.

Lee, I started out a few years ago with no knowledge and managed to buy a good used kayak for $350 on Craigslist with a decent paddle. I got a great kayaking PFD also on Craigslist for $40, so under $400 total.

Since then I’ve learned more about what fits me and have traded that kayak for another that suits me much better. I also found one for my husband for the around same price, so it can be done with a bit of patience!

Where do you live? If you’re in a good area you might even find a really nice boat for your price range. Don’t be discouraged.