Do season Kayak Rentals exist?

After several years spent in Colorado enjoying the mountains, I’m moving to Duluth for the Summer (and maybe longer) to be surrounded by as much water as possible. I’ve kayaked before but am definitely a beginner and want to know if I can rent a kayak for the summer? It seems to me that it’d be great to rent a beginner kayak for a season and then invest in a more advanced one later on. I’m also wondering, do people ever use a recreational for short 2-3 day overnight trips? I’m an experienced backpacker and have done a couple 7 day canoe trips, but have no overnight kayak experience. If anyone has answers or could point me to any other thread etc, it would be greatly appreciated!

Some outfitters do long term rentals. More common seems to be where you subscribe to do as many daily rentals as you want during a fixed period of time. Or you can buy x hours in advance at a lower price and use them up over time. This would require that you go to their site to get boat, but they often are located on spots where you can paddle away from their location without transporting kayak on car.

One way to get the equivalent of an annual rental would be to buy a used boat that you can resell in a year for about the same as you bought it for.

People can use recreational kayaks for short overnights - all depends on how you pack. White water kayakers do multiple night trips out of their short 7-8’ boats, so rec boats are huge in comparison.

Something to keep in mind - recreational kayaks are made for calm, protected waters where you are close enough to shore to easily swim. The designs that make them easy to use for novices make them unsafe for beyond-novice conditions. So they really should not be used on Superior.

@Peter-CA Thanks for the advice! It sounds like I just need to call around to some outfitters, because most of them just list daily rates online. Great to know that whitewater kayakers do trips, so it’s really just a matter of minimalism in smaller kayaks.

Not just “minimalism”, most recreational style boats don’t have sealed bulkheads for storage and, more important, buoyancy (open hulls will flood in a capsize and sink the boat). So packing them for ambitious trips involves investment in dry bags and flotation bags (that inflate to fill the excess space under the deck. Also, rec boats can be fatiguing to paddle for any distance as their size makes them slower and less well tracking than kayaks designed for touring, which tend to be 14’ or longer and 25" or less in width.

You have to consider the value to the outfitter who rents the boats (and I say this as someone who used to manage an outfitter who rented items like cross country skis, snowshoes and backpacking equipment). A kayak rental livery at a modestly popular paddling site can rent each kayak twice a day. Half day rentals are typically $15 to $25 and whole day rentals run $30 to $60 (and up) in most places I’ve been around the US and Canada. If you can make $210 to $420 per week with daily rentals, how much would you have to charge a long term rental customer to make up for that? Tying up a boat that can generate consistent short term daily rental by leasing it for a long period doesn’t make economic sense. Plus, an outfitter who also sells kayaks is going to sell more of them by letting the maximum number of newbies experience kayaking on a daily basis via a one day rental. There would be far less benefit to them in leasing long-term to an individual customer. A lot of outfitters will already allow you to credit a one day rental towards purchase but I doubt anyone would give you more than that – the dealer profit margins on kayaks are actually quite low, usually only about a net of 20% once you account for freight charges.

And on the other side of the transaction, what would YOU consider a fair weekly rental for a decent kayak? $100? $200? Would you pay that much? And if so, why, when you could, with a little effort at watching Craigslist ads, buy a decent used kayak for $300 to $500, paddle it for a season and sell it for close to what you paid for it at the end to buy something more to your liking? Renting is just money down the toilet.

I have bought and sold probably 20 kayaks (all competent touring models except for two whitewater kayaks) over the past 15 years and most were used. Some were for my own use and some were purchased for friends who wanted to get into the sport. Almost all of the plastic used kayaks I have bought were $400 or less and most came with a decent paddle and even a PFD and sprayskirt thrown in. In several cases I used the boats for a few years and sold them for the same price or even a little MORE than I paid for them. So my net cost for owning them was essentially zip.

Note that many higher end kayak dealers (usually the independent shops, not the chains) have demo kayaks that they will loan or rent on a daily basis so that customers serious about buying can “test paddle” different models. These are usually going to be boats that are in the 4 figure price range.

I just took a gander at the Craigslist kayak ads for areas between Duluth and Minneapolis to illustrate some examples. Not knowing your body metrics I don’t know what would suit you but here are just a few listings that are good versatile boats for a price that someone could probably re-sell for at least half and probably more like 75% to 100% of the cost after using them for a season.

@willowleaf That is all great advice! I was coming at it from the ski market in Colorado where you can rent a setup for $25-50+ daily and seasonally for $150-300. I figured it was possible that some outfitters wanted to capture the longer term market in addition to daily, but if you’ve had success buying decent kayaks for down to $400 and you think those touring ones you posted from CL are quality at $600+, it seems like buying/ selling for a season is likely the way to go. Thanks for taking the time to help me out!

I bought a used fiberglass 17’ 2" British sea kayak with paddle for $650. Have been using it for 8 years, and could probably make $100 over what I paid on it when I sell it. Even If I gave it away I have come out ahead. There are some great bargains on excellent boats if you have the time to look. BTW the Capella is a fine sea kayak. I am posting a photo of my wife in a $30 dollar a day rented Capella 16, and me in my North Shore at the coast back in 2011. I later found a stitch and glue kit on Craigslist for $450 and built my second 17’ kayak. So we would have two. I do lots of kayak and canoe camping, and when my knee was good backpacking. You will enjoy a good boat and kayak camping. Be safe and learn the ropes of safe kayaking.

Here are 2 examples outside of your area of monthly or seasonal rental programs:

The second also has a book of 10 hours for $150.

Are you planning on paddling on Lake Superior…or just some inland lakes? Or are you planning on doing rivers? What is your weight /height /build etc. Many outfitters have last years rental kayaks for sale…but size determines fit and rivers or inland lakes or Lake Superior, determines kayak style. A little more information and people can possibly help

IMO, buy the used CD Breeze, it’s a good general purpose boat that will suit a range of body sizes. It’s considered a transitional boat, more capable than a rec boat, not a full sea kayak, works well in a lot of water. If it doesn’t have a bow float bag, make sure you put one in it.

I have the FG version (Pachena) and will never sell it - it’s a great boat and a good loaner for novices. Keep it, use it enough to learn what you like, sell someday for $500 if you get bored with it or keep as a loaner.

What Castoff said. Very true. You would very likely come out way ahead if you bought a used kayak. Keep it if you like it. Sell it at the same price you paid for it if you don’t want to keep it.
I bought a used Alchemy at a great price quite a few years back. I think I could sell it today for nearly what I paid for it… but I won’t. Still enjoying my bargain boat very much.

another thought…rent to do some WW one day and then rent to do a Trip in the Apostles another day, rent a stand up paddle board another day. no car rack or expensive gear needed …the rental supplies the PFD , paddle etc. It will give you a chance to get some instruction and also figure out what kind of water sport you wish to spend time doing.

Best Wishes

Not a bad idea to test the waters so to speak by renting, and get some basic instruction.

If you buy a used boat it will save you even more money if it comes with the gear too, If not your personal gear is a real expense to be considered. Regardless if you are going to camp from your boat you will want dry bags for your gear even with “water tight compartments and hatches” so add that into the cost. If you have done extended canoe trips you probably have some dry bags already, but they may be too big for a kayak. I use mostly 15 liter or smaller dry bags, and small compression sacs for my kayak camping.

For lakes and rivers without white water a sea kayak works fine. I find them versatile, and I like the speed of a longer boat, However, I do like a canoe for river trips and swamps. If you are mostly interested in camping a bigger boat is a plus. For camping tight rivers with class 2 WW I like a canoe, but crossover type kayaks are good too. However an open boat makes packing and unpacking gear for camping and portages much easier than a kayak. No portages a kayak is fine. For open water I much rather have the sea worthiness of a kayak built for that. I haven’t any experience camping from a paddle board, but people do that too.

Thanks for all the advice everyone! This forum is absurdly helpful. I’m definitely interested in everything from small WW to something like the Apostle Islands (been dreaming about doing that since I was a kid), but I’m imagining we’ll be doing mostly lakes and rivers in the area- definitely BWCA. I honestly look at WW and open water on Superior as my second step in kayaking.

@castoff @roym
Any advice one what look for in kayaks for my girlfriend and myself? I’m not really sure what type of specs there are to fit a kayak properly.

Me: 180lbs, 6’1”, athletic build
Her: 125lbs, 5’5”, athletic build

When you actually get to Duluth contact the UMD outdoor club and The North shore paddling alliance. These two should be able to get both of you started with instruction in both WW and Lake Superior and a trip to the Apostles.

Best Wishes

You will have an easier time finding a kayak to fit you than your lady will – more choices in your size range. Smaller people need a lower volume boat for comfort and handling – it can be long but needs to be narrower so the paddler has good cockpit fit. You really “wear” a sit inside kayak – I would recommend she narrows her selection to boats 24" or less in width. I am her height, though 25 pounds heavier, and my kayaks run 20" to 24" … There are some specific models made for medium to small paddlers, some will have LV in the name (low volume) like the Venture brand models (Easky 15LV and Islay 14 LV would be good choices – I LOVE my Easky 15LV and have taken it everywhere from the seacoast to the Great Lakes to class 1 and 2 winding whitewater streams).

There are so many choices and possibilities. You both will want to sit in some, and have someone with experience advise you as to the fit. Most kayakers will use closed cell foam to help fit their hips and knees/thighs for good contact. Some boats have adjustable seats and thigh braces, but a fixed seat isn’t a problem as the foam will work fine. My kayak with a fixed fiberglass seat didn’t require anything more it fit so well. Also you will adjust the foot pedals so you can straighten your legs out with your foot vertical and heels on the hull. this will allow you to bend your legs for contact with the thigh braces, and toes on the foot pegs.
You might want to read a book on how to kayak. A favorite of mine is “Sea Kayaking Illustrated” by John Robinson. It has often humorous drawings of how to kayak and much more. There are lots of others too.


We take a lot of overnight trips on the South Carolina coast where we paddle out from the marina to an island about ten miles out and camp out there for several days then paddle back.

It’s usually a blast but I found that not many outfitters offer more than two nights (maybe due to liability?) and you’ll need to either own a kayak or rent from a host on another platform.

For year-round kayak rentals your best bet is to use a platform like and join the community here: TryTheWILD Community | Facebook