Beginning Kayaker

Hi. I have recently fallen in love with kayaking and would like to have my own kayak for weekend trips. Problem is I’m a college student paying my way through school. Anyone have tips on a good beginner kayak and were I can find one that won’t kill my wallet?

Depends on the kind of water
you want to paddle. Also, your height, weight, and shoe size can be a factor. And are you talking day trips, or camping? Check out the Classifieds on the left, and your local craiglist for used boats.

I would like to get into whitewater, but I don’t think I’m going to start out with that. And I’m 5’6" and weigh 115 lbs. Size 6 shoes! I’ve checked on craigslist but there hasn’t been many postings in my area.

I can get shot for this here, but check

– Last Updated: Feb-13-08 10:56 PM EST –

at a Dick's .

…thank you for risking your life to help me out! What brands do recommend?

If you want to do whitewater go for it.
You can find a good used whitewater kayak and skirt for about $350.

. PFD and paddle will set you back about $100.

You will need either a wetsuit or drytop to stay warm in cool water.

Look at Riverrunners here for examples …

Craigslist is a good place to find used boats. A better place for info is Also lots of used boats on The average age at this site is about 57, and most of the folks have no clue about paddling whitewater.

Check at your school
I don’t know where you are going to school, but many of the large universities have outdoor programs and canoe/kayak clubs. They are a great source of cheap boats (either inexpensive rentals or beaters) and equipment. They are also great places to meet other paddlers and folks to hook up with for trips and shuttles. Give them a look.


Used whitewater boats are fairly inexpensive. Whitewater boats are usually made in a range of sizes to match the paddler’s weight and size.

For you, something like a used Jackson 2Fun or Dagger Mamba 7.5 would be a good fit, and there are many older models that would also work for you.

For whitewater you’ll need a boat, paddle, skirt, PFD, and helmet, and someone to paddle with.

Camping vs whitewater

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A number of my paddling friends have whitewater kayaks, but none of those boats can carry much more gear than a water bottle and lunch. If you want to start out with a boat you can use for camping, and since PRICE is your main concern, you might aim for a light touring yak (having at least one sealed compartment) but settle for whatever you can find for the price you can pay. If you end up with a rec kayak (no sealed compartments), consider getting a set of float bags which double as gear-storage bags. That way, your gear is kept dry if you flip the boat, and you have floatation too (a swamped rec kayak without float bags is really tough to pull to shore).

Oh by the way, combination float/storage bags are great for use in the front (unsealed) storage space of a boat which has only one hatch (normally in the rear). So unless your boat has front AND rear hatches, the bags are a good idea.

and ??? these

– Last Updated: Feb-14-08 3:29 PM EST –

depending on where you paddle ...
dry top
foot wear

so the sport can get $$$ in the beginning and then you will be buying safety ropes and the list goes on.

What you need to do is give this group more info. Where and what kind of water you want to paddle. If you have friends or know others who paddle there they also will be a good source of knowledge and check the local outfitters (not the big box stores).

used boat
My daughter who is also in college has a white water boat at our home that fits your size and weight.What area are you in ? ( before I go into detail)

camping and whitewater
the problem with camping and kayaking is you’ll obviously need a kayak that’s large enough to hold all your gear. the larger the craft, the more expensive it will be.

you might want to check ebay, just limit the search to within a comfortable driving distance since you’ll probably need to pick it up.

as someone already mentioned, having at least 1, if not 2, water proof compartment, called bulkhead, is probably necessary because:

  1. you want to keep your gear dry,
  2. you don’t want them to sink or float away in case of a capsize,
  3. and you don’t want those gear to impede your quick exit during a capsize.

    as a rough guess, for a kayak with 1 bulkhead, you’re looking at a 12 footer. 2 bulkheads and you’re up to 14+ foot.

    the problem with those $300 kayaks you see on sale at various chain sporting goods stores is they lack the storage capacity and bulkheads to carry your gear.

    some good, moderately priced kayaks are made by old town, perception, necky, wilderness systems.

    regarding whitewater kayaking, that takes more skill and knowledge, initially, than kayaking on lakes or slow moving rivers. the reason is there’s more to know about safety, reading the river, learn a roll, etc. in whitewater.

    the good news is many colleges offer classes. the bad news is a kayak for flat water and camping can’t really handle dedicated whitewater play.