buying a sit in kayak

I have used sit on kayaks and love it! Time to buy a sit-in, which hull shape is best? I’m 5’5" & 135 lbs. I’ve done river and lakes but ready for bay/ocean when it’s a little choppy. would love to have something that can transport camping gear too. Dick’s, LLBean, Cabela’s & EMS are local. Even Walmart carries kayaks! Where to go…so many choices. I don’t want to spend more than $450-500. Any suggestions would be appreciated or things I should consider. thanks:)

None of the above
If you are serious about attempting coastal waters and chop, nothing you could buy at Dicks, Cabelas or Walmart would be competent or safe. Though EMS would probably have boats that would work, you are not going to get a new model for that price. Bear in mind you need to allocate at least $150 to $200 for a PFD, paddle, bilge pump and sprayskirt as well.

YOur best plan is to buy a used kayak. With a little research and patience most of us started out that way. You will pay one third to half the cost of a new boat (and often get a paddle and PFD thrown in) if you look for a used one on Craigslist or other resources. This site here has used ones for sale in the classifieds, also has user reviews of various models, which is really useful when out of production models show up for sale.

For your size you don’t want too short or too wide of a boat – look for something in the 12’ to 15’ length range that is around 22" to no more than 25" wide and has a standard cockpit (like 34" x 19" or thereabouts) and a semi-vee shaped rather than flat or rounded bottom. Hard chine kayaks are nice for lumpy ocean water (these are models with sharp edges along the hull profile – they make it behave better in waves.)

Another reason to buy used is that you really won’t know exactly what performance characteristics you like in a kayak until you paddle for a while, so it is a waste to spend money on new when you are fresh to the sport. Kayaks usually have excellent resale and you can often sell a decent used one you’ve picked up for not much less or even more than you paid for it, depending on the model.

If you don’t mind telling us what area you live in we can browse the Craigslist ads in your city and suggest which would be worth a look.

In that price range go used.
If you planning on paddling on the ocean take some lessons and learn what styles of kayaks work in your area. You can find a boat on Craigs list used, often people throw in a cheap paddle and PFD.

You’ll need to post more info to get the best help.

If you are sticking to flat water a rec kayak is fine to start.

sea use
Since the OP states she wants to move on to ocean and bay paddling “with chop”, rec boats aren’t a viable option .

Dusk, among features you need to look for on a sea-worthy kayak are sealed front and rear bulkheads to prevent the hull from filling with water in a capsize, and non-stretchy deck rigging to aid you in climbing back in out on the water. The reason for pointing you to longer narrower boats is that they are safer and more stable in rough water and waves, also easier to propel forward in wind and strong current. Short wide boats can be a struggle to get back to shore in coastal conditions. There are reasons why boats called sea kayaks are longer and more streamlined than ones for flat inland waters, and have cockpits that can take a sprayskirt.