Looking for a good starter kayak

I am looking for a good inexpensive beginner Kayak. I would appreciate any suggestions. I will mostly be using it in Lake Michigan and the rivers and creeks surrounding it. I would also like to be able to spend a few days camping from it.

Thanks for your help in advance.

need more information
We need to know your height and approximate weight. Your actual location would help as well. Also a realistic budget and whether you have ever kayaked before. If the answer to the last question is “no” you really ought to try kayaking first – there are plenty of good outfitters around Lake Michigan from whom you can get introductory classes and/or go out on guided trips.

More info
Sorry here is my info. 5’9" 200lbs. I live in Northwest Indiana. I have very little kayaking experience but, I am a very good swimmer and I was on the crew team in college. I have also done a fair amount of canoeing.

my opinion…

– Last Updated: Apr-26-12 9:44 AM EST –

..since you have already stated U are going to camp with it ...that narrows the choices down to sea kayaks with forward /stern hatches. anything else would not give you the storage capacity for camping gear. So..I'm making a educated guess here and say your going to be in the 16 to 18 ft range of boats. A 15' canoe has more storage area than a 18'kayak in my opinion. and since $$$ is probably a concern ..it'll be a plastic boat. a boat 25" in width is probably the narrowest your gonna want to go for stability reasons. So start and work from there and narrow down the field of boats. always try b4 u buy if possible, seat comfort is a big issue. Scout Craigslist and any other source for used boats.

With very little kayaking experience
it would be a lot better for you to try some out first.

Get to a park or lake where there are outfitters that rent them and try some out. When you find one that seems to suit you, take the rough measurements.

The length, width, cockpit size, and boat weight, and then post them on here, and you will probably get a lot of makes and models to choose from

jack L

wouldn’t rule out 24" wide
My first kayak was a Necky Manitou 14 at 24" wide – plenty stable.

Lake Michigan is Serious Water
Get to some demo days, symposiums (the Great Lakes Symposium has been announced on this site), generally get yourself ready for Lake Michigan. And as trout said - two bulkheads and perimeter lines.

Lake Michigan is very . . .

When you’re planning out how you’re going to spend your $ you may want to think about protection from the cold (minimum a wet-suit - more realistically a dry suit).

I don’t like being a wet blanket, but at least one kayaker has already died on Lake Michigan this year.

He had no protective clothing on.

He was (I believe) an Eagle scout and a proficient swimmer (life guard).

Consider hypothermia before going out on cold water.

one local option
I agree with most of the previous recommendations except that you may have limited choices on rental boats to really give you some exposure to different styles. Can you get to Chicago or take a day trip up to Grand Haven Michigan to visit a good dealer?

BUT If you are really anxious to get into the water cheaply there is a guy on Craigslist in Indianapolis selling an older Dagger Cypress, at around 13’ and with a rudder it would be a passable entry kayak for your usage. I would offer him a bit less than $400 (like $300 to $350) since it doesn’t come with a paddle or sprayskirt. Even at $400 it is not a bad deal if the hull looks solid and is not deformed. The green Perception he is selling looks to have too large of a cockpit for the big lake. Makes it too hard to brace or use a secure sprayskirt.


There are reviews on here of the boat. One even describes its performance in Lake Michigan. It will be slower than a longer kayak, but could be a good beginner touring boat and would be ideal for local rivers and camping.


We started with Cypresses
One unexpected weather turn and we were parked on an island in Muscongous Bay for 3 hours waiting to try and make the last leg home, while discussing the increase in boat length we needed. They are way cool little guys for the right purpose, going distances on Lake Michigan isn’t it unless you stay near shore.

more local used touring kayaks
more on near to Northern Indiana Craigslists:








At any rate, these are the sort of boats you should be looking at for your usage.

I agree
True, I wouldn’t take a 13’ kayak, even with the rudder, out beyond hugging the shore of the Big Lake. But I suspect it would be a decent boat for the small streams and rivers of his area and an economical starter boat to learn basic skills on sheltered coves along the southern shore of the lake. I started in a 14’ x 24’ kayak and quickly reached the same conclusion as you did once I felt skilled enough to take it out in big open water. Wanted something I could push faster and that would tackle the larger waves with impunity.

As we oldsters know, ometimes it takes some time in the cockpit of that sort of more modest craft to teach you what you really want from a boat.

I did locate about a half dozen longer touring kayak models in his neck of the woods and forwarded them. If the poster is really itching to get a boat under himself I would rather see him drop $400 to $600 on one of those than the equivalent on some sporting goods big box bathtub boat. Any of those boats he could turn around for close to what he paid for it once he fine-tunes what he wants from a kayak, or keep it for a buddy boat.

my starter kayak
was somebody else’s.

I took several sea kayaking classes and rented a few times before buying. The first boat I bought was one that was appropriate for big water and kept me happy for many years.

It’s another option.