Best Sit in Kayak for Nature Photography

What brand and model do you consider to be the best sit in recreational kayak for nature photography? Stability and light weight being two of the key components. Decent sized cockpit for a small daypack and camera with a fairly big telephoto lens.

I forgot to add that this would be only for flatwater kayaking.

For flat water only…
…and light weight, I’d be looking at Hurricane and Wilderness System’s thermoformed models, and Current Designs’ composites.

If I had to pick just one it would probably be The Current Designs Kestrel 140. It’s a little more expensive than the others but it’s a superb recreational kayak.

Rec boats cater to a wide range of paddler sizes, but if you are at the extreme ends of small or large, then you’d want to consider that.

Having said all this I frequently take a Nikon D7200 with its grip and a 300mm lens into my longer, narrower kayak with a much smaller cockpit. When I’m not using it I put it into a dry bag between my knees. So far I haven’t dunked it!

If you can find one.
An Old Town 138 Loon.

Current Designs
Solstice Titan here. Again, commonly referred to as a PIG by members of the astute forum.

Possible to sit in this world class sea going kayak hull n do tasks other than paddling to stay upright …I’m not good at riding a bike no hands.

We were working with Orca on Haro Strait.

Not being familiar with terms of manufacturing kayaks. What is thermoformed? Any models that stand out among that type? Thanks for the help, chris

Thank you as Old town was one of the types I was researching.

Rec Kayaks
Thanks for responding. I’m limiting my research to the Recreational kayaks as most people tend to be more comfortable in paddling them compared to sea kayaks. Though I know that in the hands of a decent paddler sea kayaks are very stable. A friend has one and it is very stable

Manufacturing methods
Other than folders and inflatables, kayaks are usually made by one of three methods.

  1. Rotomolded from polyethylene. Pellets are put in mold which is heated and spun. This is the cheapest method. Kayaks tend to be heavy but take abuse well. They are a little bit prone to warping and if they are damaged are hardest to repair.

  2. Thermoformed. Made by this method, the upper and lower halves of the kayak are formed in molds under heat from pre-made sheets of various plastics and then bonded together. This produces relatively lightweight and inexpensive kayaks. Ruggedness depends on the materials used.

  3. Composites. These are usually made from resins and mat, which can be fiberglass, Kevlar, or carbon. Frequently, they are made from a combination of 2 or more materials. They are often vacuum formed in molds. And sometimes laid up by hand. This probably produces the lightest kayaks, although they can be - especially with carbon - the most expensive. They are not quite as rugged as poly but are easier to repair and are often very beautiful. Many manufacturers offer all sorts of customization but costs can easily exceed $3-4K.

Old Town Loon 111
I would look for an Old Town Loon 111. It has the same large cockpit as the Loon 138, but is almost three feet shorter and therefore lighter. The large cockpit allows you to store a camera bag in front of your feet and set up a tripod between your knees. The kayak is stable and easily controllable.

rec kayak, regardless of sit in or sit on will work. I shoot lots of images from my various kayaks and my favorite is Malibu X-13 sit on top. Why? It’s more stable than my P&H Capella and Old Town Dirego 14’ in any kind of water, it has a good size hatch right in front of the seat for easy access and storage of gear (also has big front hatch), easy to paddle, excellent glide and tracking, and very comfortable. Stability when shooting is a big issue and sit inside kayaks (SIK) are twitchy in any current. I shoot professionally for a camera mfg who wants high quality wildlife images and my X-13 is my go to kayak every time. So would a SIK work? Sure…but for the reasons I mentioned above, test paddle both a SIK and a SOT in the 12-13’ lengths…longer=more stability, speed, better handling, glide (important when approaching wildlife or actually any scene). The Ocean Kayak Trident/Prowler series have a rod pod that holds lots of camera gear and with easy access. Try before you buy.


– Last Updated: May-27-16 7:39 AM EST –

This year I attended a presentation on kayak wildlife photography at Canoecopia (a mid-western paddle sports gathering).

The presenter, John Van Den Brant, couldn't say enough good things about Native Watercraft brand kayaks as a photography platform. As far as I can see they were all SOTs, looked stable but almost not like kayaks at all - the hulls had two wide bulges with something like a tunnel down the center. They didn't look like efficient paddling hulls at all, but they sure enough looked stable.

As a photography platform that could be camouflaged and parked in a position to capture wildlife shots or drift up on a subject, they looked like they would excel. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Hope this helps.


– Last Updated: May-27-16 7:38 AM EST –

had not thought of this nor seen one on the water but I meet photographers. Photographers all own oil fields.

they ask...nice camera izzat an SX10 ? yup yup SX10

then they drag a $7000 machine from a Gucci Bag...with a big grin off course....

Enter the Jeep Commander Photography Kayak Category:

Van Brant

to further what Jim said
A lot will depend on your abilities and familiarity with the boat. I paddle with a group that includes a guy who uses a DSLR out of a Valley Nordkapp. By all means, not my first choice, but if you know your boat’s behavior and stability limits, and are used to sitting stationary inside it with no paddle, it broadens your horizons.

After that I’d be thinking about access to the gear.

Sit On Top
If stability is the number one factor then I’d agree that just about any SOT will be more stable than a SIN, and that Malibu is a terrific boat.

SOTs are self bailing and pretty much unsinkable and while they offer minimal weather protection that shouldn’t be too much of an issue on flat water in warm weather.

The only downside is that they’re pretty much all poly (with just a few exceptions like Wilderness Systems and Hurricane) which means they tend to be heavy. That Malibu is 60lbs.

CD Whistler
I use mine for just what you outlined. Stable and comfortable. Versatile. Read reviews on this site for the ones under consideration.

I also have a Heritage Featherlite. It is small and wide. Very stable with a large cockpit. Not as versatile as the Whistler as it is a small water boat in my opinion.

I like it for it’s light weight. A beginners boat that can be used by most people.

Lots of models
I do well in my Emotion Glide. There are Freedom Hawk models (if you can spend a lot) that have built in pontoon structures. You can DIY or buy pontoons very cheaply that are retractable for any kayak if you truly want stability. For flat water most rec kayaks work well, but make sure you have either sealed compartments fore and aft or float bags for your safety.

Meantime, I drove myself nuts trying for stable and versatile mounting systems for my Gopro until I found the Railblaza photography mounting system. Look into that too.

Are you closer to 250 or 150 lbs?
What feels stable to a 150lb person may not to a 250lb person.

Everything being equal
A SINK will be more stable than a SOT kayak as your butt will be at or below the waterline.

Paddle a CD Solara 120 then paddle a WS Tarpon 120.