brand new - need advice

I live 1 mile from a small lake. My 11 and 13 yr. olds and I would like to purchase kayaks for some leisurely paddling around the lake. I don’t want to get something too cheap or of poor quality that won’t last, but I don’t want to “over purchase” either. I have no idea where to start. I have seen the inflatable kayaks that appeal for their portability, but I don’t know much about durability. Hard boats might be more difficult to transport, but possibly more durable? There are so many brands, products, and options that it’s a bit overwhelming. I’m not even sure of what are considered essential items! Any advice would be very helpful! Thanks.

some articles
there are some articles you may want to read as a start. They can be read online for free at I’d start with the basic types of kayaks article in issue #10 and kayaking and small living places in #9 for info on inflatables.

Assuming the water is warm and you are just looking to play around on water (as opposed to covering distance and the like), I’d probably go with a sit on top kayak. You could get one large kayak like an Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 XL, which can be set up for 1, 2, or 3 people, or go for individual kayaks. if individuals, you might want to see if you can get used for the kids, as they may outgrow them if you get kids-sized ones.

depends on what the kids like to do
If you expect the kids will mostly want to bash around in circles and jump in and out of the boats while on the water., any cheap inflatable will do. But if, like young kids in my family, they are going to want to be able to race each other across the pond and capsize for laughs, a hard body kid-sized sit in kayak like the $400 Perception Prodigy XS might be more fun for them, also something they could use into their young teens.

So much to choose from. I got on craigslist and found a couple of nice one for a great price. This page is a great place to look at reviews on most yaks. I like Jackson, Liquid Logic, but if your just going to be on flat water, most any yak will do. I agree with staying away from the real cheap ones. Wish I could help more, but there is so much to choose from. I like the sot better than the sit ins.

I’d find somewhere that rents kayaks and take a family trip to play around. The money spent on a rental would be worth the recon! Plus it would be a small family vacation too.

If not, I’d ask around and someone near you likely has a kayak you could ‘test drive’.

Good luck!

Of course you are going to have to have life jackets and paddles, no matter what kind of boats you choose. My advice would be to get familiar with what constitutes suitable and appropriate in the those two categories.

To start with, don’t even look at pfd’s that are not specifically for paddling. They are probably going to be more costly than you might want, but it’s some of the best money you will spend.

Get yourself a decent paddle, but keep in mind it will need to be right for you and whatever boat you choose. For the kids, I wouldn’t spend a lot on paddles, because they will outgrow them–depending on how young they are.

As for the boats, again if the kids are young, it wouldn’t pay to spend a lot, but for yourself, the boat you choose could make a huge difference in your future paddling. My own preference would be for a rigid sit inside kayak–at least 14 feet.

more on inflatables
Most cheap inflatables paddle more like rafts than kayaks, in other words, they are slow and bulky and don’t track straight. They can also be almost impossible in windy conditions on open water. If the lake you plan to paddle in often has a stiff breeze and even small waves, you might not be happy with the low end inflatables (under $600). Another problem for kids is that short inflatables and even most short hard boats are quite wide so paddling with their short arms and skinny behinds can be a struggle since they have to reach so far and sometimes so high over the side of the boat to reach the water.

As others have suggested, if you can find a place where you can test paddle, borrow or rent some different types of boats, that will give you a start on having a feel for them. The major advantage of inflatables is storage and lightness – few but the most costly will perform as well as “hard” boats. Good performing inflatables will cost about as much as decent plastic boats and will require more maintenance. Unless you need inflatables for the storage or transport advantage, it might be most practical to stick to looking for reasonably priced hardshells. Used boats are usually the best way to go to start with. Another advantage besides lower price is they often come with paddles and PFD’s. It’s never a bad idea to start with good PFD’s and paddles because you can keep using them if you move up in quality with subsequent boats. A comfortable well fitted PFD and a better quality light paddle will also greatly enhance your kayaking enjoyment.

Thanks to all for your advice and input! This gives me a great place to start.

Kmart $200.