first kayaks for mom, dad, small child

-- Last Updated: Aug-25-08 7:27 PM EST --

My husband and I are looking to buy our first kayaks. We have no paddling experience. We'll mainly be doing short (1-2 hour) trips on calm lakes. We have a 3-year-old son that we would like to bring along with us sometimes. We'd like to get 2 singles and just squeeze him in with one of us. We're looking for something fairly small and inexpensive to start with. It looks like the Wilderness Systems Pamlico or Pungo, the Emotion Edge, or the Old Town Loon might have a large enough cockpit to allow my son to fit in with us. Any opinions on these boats or suggestions for others we haven't considered? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

it’s not exactly a kayak
but how about a canoe?

Thanks for your response. I’m assuming you’re suggesting we all go together in one canoe? I’ve thought about it, but I think we really have our hearts set on kayaks. We also want something that one of us could take out by themselves (and get on and off the car). I wasn’t sure how a canoe would work in that scenario? Also, canoes have always seemed tippier to me (I’m worried about my son standing up or whatever)? But maybe I’ve just been in the wrong canoes?

An inflateable
kayak may be your best option. One person can set it up and packing is very easy

old town loon
is a canoe like kayak or a kayak like canoe—probably would fit your needs

Pungos or Loons
are probably more highly recommended. There are also some tandem boats that are okay, but if you’re trying to keep him close, the large cockpits are probably a better shoice.

You’ll want to have some type of seat to keep him from sitting in water at the bottom of the boat.

A 12 foot Pungo is a very versatile boat.


Dirigo 140
I’ve got a Dirigo 140 that I take my 4 year old daughter paddling with me. She sits (and sometimes stands) up in the front of the cockpit and I paddle. I’ve toyed with various things for her to paddle with.

Hubby would do well in a 140. The Wilderness Systems Pungo 12’ is a great boat that should treat you well.

I have 2 Pungo 120’s and a 16’ canoe.
My 3 year old daughter prefers the kayaks over the canoe (this week, next week…who knows?). I prefer the canoe when we’re all out together…I feel more confident paddling while Mom looks after “the Doodle”. She’s forever hanging out of either boats playing in the water and moving from side to side to see. If Mom is freed up to keep her in check, Dad is happier…even though I’m doing all the paddling.

She complains a little in the kayak about getting wet but the way she sits up under the coaming, she can’t move quite as much – which is a plus. I can kind of hold her with my legs if she gets too excited. She loves the water.

Honestly, I think she just likes the colors of the Pungo’s better than the canoe. I did buy her a little tykes seat to sit in the canoe to get her up off the bottom. Haven’t tried it yet but I think she’ll like that even better. Nowhere for a seat in the Pungo. She sits on a rolled up rug.

Good luck,


Necky Sky
I love my necky sky for quick trips. I toss it in the back of my truck and go. It is short and fat and stable. The cockpit is relatively large and I have paddled with my grandson in the cockpit with me. I friend paddled a tandem boat solo. I forget the brand but the seats moved and he centered one of the seats when he went solo. He is a rather big guy but the boat did not seem that heavy.

I would go cheap!!! The ideal of paddling is not the same as reality. I would check for some used boats. I picked up my Necky Sky for $300 including a nice paddle. The things I like best about the SKy is it’s light weight and short. the big cockpit comes in handy as I use it to fish the river and often get in and out a lot. My Tsunami is faster but it is a lot harder to get in and out of. My Magellan is the best for lake and ocean but it is almost 18’ long and requires a trailer. SOOO more often than not I just throw the sky in the truck and go paddling.

Thanks everyone, your advice is much appreciated!

Get the pungo 12 ft and one regular dirago 12 or 14 which ever suits you…dirago is getting some good reviews…and its a nice stable boat…try them out first befoe you buy …makesure you can paddle with her sitting in front of you…the other options is a sit on top…with her in front and a sit in that either one of you can take out solo…Necky Manitou is a nice boat 13 ft. Some ocean sitons are quite rooming and fun to paddle…a scrambler xt or even a malibu two would fit the bill.

I used when my daughters were younger- the ugly square boat floatation devices, usually bright orange in color. They keep young rears out of the wet and provide enough cushion for a day paddle. They obviously provide another piece of floatation that comes in handy in the event of an unplanned capsize.


– Last Updated: Aug-28-08 6:27 PM EST –

I took my kids out in a Loon 138 to start. Old Town makes (used to make?) a plastic seat that snapped in front of the paddler for the passenger. It was pretty nice and worked out for me.
update: Found an old town price list from 2004 that lists the seat as made by carlisle.

You can not go wrong with a Loon
I have a Loon 138, it was perfect when my kids where younger. It is boringly stable, your kid can lean over the side. The cockpit is big enough for you and the child, just get a cushion for him to sit on. It is easy to paddle with or with out the kid. But it’s on the heavy side. But be forwarned, you child will want his own boat sooner than you think. Also, plan on buying a new pfd every year, or every other year at the most, they have to fit properly to be effective, and like everything else, they will grow out of them quickly.

And be prepared to have fun.