New and need advice

Hello, I am looking to buy a kayak and want some advice. My husband and I have two boys (5 and 2) and want to take them kayaking with us as well. My question is should we get a tandem kayak and put both boys in the middle or get two single kayaks? I was not sure how long both boys could be in a tandem or each in a single for that matter. Both boys are pretty small for their age :slight_smile:

Also I have no idea what type of kayak to get. We don’t want to spend a fortune and would only use it on lakes and rivers mostly. We would like a sit in kayak. We don’t live right on the water, so a kayak that is easy to transport is preferable as well. Any suggestions anyone has about my sons kayaking with us and a type of kayak would be greatly appreciated. Thaks!

I have both kayaks and canoes.
If I’m taking a child with me in a solo kayak, the child is between my legs and very likely to get in the way. It may be hard to trim the kayak. It may ride nose down.

If I have a tandem kayak, I outweigh the child (or children) by a good bit, and it will be hard to trim the kayak properly. If the child (children) are in front of me, the kayak will tend to be low at the bow.

Neither recreational kayaks nor touring/sea kayaks are designed to carry children.

By contrast, a canoe can often carry two adults and two children, plus gear. Or, it can carry one adult paddling a bit behind center, and a child in the bow. I’ve paddled easy whitewater sitting in the middle of the canoe with the older child behind and the younger one up in the bow where I can see her.

If there are kayakers reading this who have found a way to carry one or two children, please share your approach.

I was thinking canoe also
Some of the recreational tandems may have room for a child, but I don’t think a 5 and a 2 yr old would have much fun and , IME, when a 2 yr old ain’t having fun, nobody else is either.

And by the time you get something big enough to handle that many people you would probably find a canoe better handling and easier to paddle anyway.

If you or the kids don’t enjoy the first couple trips it’s going to be a short lived hobby.

a suggestion

– Last Updated: Jun-18-12 12:10 AM EST –

Many people are not aware of the existence and advantages of folding kayaks. You might want to look into Pakboat Puffins (notice the first photo is of a dad and very young daughter in one, with the deck removed):

The 15' Saranac can be paddled solo or tandem and as an open boat or with the removable deck as a sit inside ( look at the gallery shots on the website for views of them with the decks on.) They are very stable, very light (under 35 lbs with the deck on, under 30 with it off), the inflatable sponsons along the side are offer cushioning for squirmy kids. It takes about 30 minutes to set one up, but you can still store or car-top it without breaking it down.

We own two Pakboats, a smaller 12' Puffin and the narrower XT-15. Very well made and durable boats that paddle comparably to hardshell kayals but are much easier to transport and to store. Plus the option of removing the deck and converting from solo to double offer a lot of versatility. I think children as young as yours would be more comfortable initially in the open boats and you could progress to adding the decks as they grew older. The inflatable seats are very comfortable too. These are sturdy boats -- don't mistake them for flimsy discount store inflatables.

By the way, before you invest a lot of time and money on this, you should take yourselves and the kids on some guided trips through a qualified outfitter. And both parents should take intro to kayaking classes, including all safety precautions and capsize and re-entry practice BEFORE taking the children out on ANY waters in the boats. You need to be fully confident in your abilities to control your boats and to get back in them yourselves so that in the event they do go over your attention can be focused on the child, not being panicked about what to do. Included in your instruction should be lessons on cold water immersion.

Mostly Agree
With what has been posted so far. The old joke about the fastest way to a divorce is for a couple to paddle in the same canoe has some truth in it.

Children must both be able to experience paddling and to do so in does they can tolerate. If the experience is prolonged beyond what they can tolerate, they (and you) will be miserable. It takes a bit of attention to recognize the signs of when they are losing interest, so one has to be able to get them on and off the water on their timetable, not yours. This may mean stopping before you are ready, but this is the price of admission.

I also agree with those that suggest solo kayaks are not a very good choice. Two people in a kayak cockpit, regardless of size, does not work very well and it destabilizes the boat, besides. Tandems will work, perhaps, but the rear paddler will be doing a lot of work. The boat will also not be seaworthy if the cockpits aren’t sealed with a spray skirt, so only a sit-on-top boat would likely serve, at least until the little ones are ready to grab a paddle and serve as engines.

Canoes are probably the best way to go. Many can hold two passengers along with paddlers and a small amount of gear without destabilizing the boat (it will likely be more stable with more weight).

If you really want kayaks, things I did include the following:

A) Put a kid in the front hatch instead of the cockpit, provided the hatch space is large enough. I put a pfd on James when he was 2, put a float bag in the bow and stuffed a filled dry bag for a seat. Since it was flat water on a paddle boat only lake, it was easy to do this with reasonable safety. He loved it, but then, we never went out for more than an hour or so at a time and always went with his favorite family members.

B) Share the experience. Make a point to consistently interact with the child. Long silences are wonderful on the water, but you can’t expect a 2 YO to appreciate them the way adults may. Keep the conversation going, point out things that are interesting, discuss what you are doing and why (this includes reading water, how you control the boat, demonstrations of how the paddle is used to control the boat, etc.). This will often keep the child interested in the activity. Ask the child questions about what they are seeing, what catches their eye, and how they are feeling.

C) A big don’t - don’t point out something in the water and both lean over to take a look at whatever it may be. This is the best way to capsize a kayak and I’ve seen tandem boat go over so many times when one paddler says something along the lines of, “Do you see the seal swimming under the boat?” If you wish to point out something that involves leaning to one side, one person at a time may look, not both :).

Good luck,


Thank you for letting me know about the folding kayaks. They look pretty nice. We have taken both boys out on kayaks numerous tims which is why we are looking into getting one (or 2) for ourselves. My 5 year old absolutely LOVES it, but the 2 year old is still getting used to it. So I am not worried about them liking it or my and my husband’s abilities to paddle. The folding kayak might be the answer. Thank you.

Whereabouts are you in western NY? I spend half my weekends at my boyfriend’s in northern PA, 2 hours due south of Olean NY. He has the Pakboat XT-15 there and I will be bringing the Puffin up in a week or two. If you ever get down to that area (he is 5 miles off I-80 near Clearfield, PA) I’d be happy to show them to you. We are right on a river and minutes from a small lake. Send me a personal email (click on my screename) if interested in that.

The challenge with Pakboats is choosing a dealer – few people stock them. But since they can be shipped in a carton, ordering one is not a problem. Postage runs about $40 from most locations. In fact, when I travel, I am more likely to ship a folding boat ahead of time if I have a destination where they can recieve it, rather than hassle with the airline restrictions and hauling it through airports (though it fits in a large rolling suitcase).

I believe REI stores can still order them – they have a couple of models in their online catalog but don’t list the decks as optional accessories. I’ll be checking with them about that this week since a friend is interested in buying a smaller Puffin and I told her I would determine if REI is a viable source. The 10% annual REI member dividend on purchase of a kayak makes it an appealing option, as does their generous return policy.

As you may already have noticed, the Pakboats are not cheap – they are around the same price as a quality rotomold plastic or even some fiberglass kayaks. But they seem to have good resale value if you decide you don’t want to keep them at any future point. And, in my book, you can’t beat the convenience, light weight and versatility. I can’t think of any other full sized kayak or canoe that the average adult could haul to the car with one hand while carrying a tired toddler on the other shoulder.

Inflatable kayaks
You should also take a look at inflatables. My wife and I have been paddling on a Sea eagle FastTrack 385ft with our 4 yr old and it’s been great. They are wider and more stable for kids and it’s open like a canoe except you use a kayak paddle. It’s also more comfortable to sit for long periods. It’s a little slower than a folder or hard shell, but we can easily maintain 3 mph on it. You are probably not going to go very fast with kids anyway. With 4 people, I would look at the 465ft and put the 2 kids in the middle.

We also have a Pakboat XT16, but we only use it for 2. I haven’t try paddling it open with our kid because it’s lower in the water and narrower. If you are interested in the Pakboats, has good prices on them if you get their 10% discount. The Folders do take more time to assemble, so you need to plan for that. I can usually get the inflatable ready in less than 10 mins.

inflatable kayak
Thank you for the advice. I will look into those as well. I had heard that the inflatable kayaks are a bit slower. However you are right, probably won’t go too fast with 2 kids in the kayak anyway. I will check it out.