Recommendations for Beginner Kayak

-- Last Updated: Jul-11-13 10:19 AM EST --

Hi all,

My wife and I are looking at getting a couple of kayaks and are open to recommendations. We are beginners and are looking for something that is for recreational use and is stable, tracks well, and fairly light as we have a challenge lifting it on top of a Honda CRV. In addition, we have a 20 pound Sheltie that we would like to have enough room that they can sit with us in the cockpit. Any suggestions?

Thanks for any help that you may be able to provide.


The true use of what you want to do with it (poking around in protected backwaters/ponds, padding larger bodies of water, paddling white water rivers, etc.), your body sizes and dimensions, etc. all impact what type of boat you should get. You may want to read an article in California Kayaker Magazine’s Spring 2013 issue on basic types of kayaks (can be read online for free at - starts on page 6) to help point yourself in the right direction (or help point us you in the right direction).

Once you talk bringing a dog, a sit on top or recreational boat (or canoe) are most likely options. Not an option for white water. Rarely for sea/touring kayaks.

I saw a paddler with a dog in a Pungo kayak which has a large cockpit. Not very light weight BUT I would get a kayak rack setup were you dont have to lift the whole kayak just half.A place near me sells these V saddle Gull Wings and a roller that sits in between the crack in the rear hatch which would be perfect for a CRV. I used to have one. Here is a link to both Pungo kayaks and the rack saddles and roller. You still need tha base rack from either Thule or Yakima.

Page down about half way till you see the Gull Wing saddles there is a video showing how it works

Kayak link

Hobie Odyssey

You will have a hard time finding a kayak that will fit both you, your wife and your Sheltie and will still be light. A good kayak that is stable and tracks well, and is very safe because it is easy to re-enter if capsized is the Hobie Odysey. It can be paddled solo from the center seat. Pooch can ride in the middle. You need to buy a set of wheels to move it around and learn how to lift the bow first on to the roof rack. I sold my Hobie for more than I paid for it, and it was an excellent introduction to kayaking when I started. You might want to consider buying two single light kayaks and leaving pooch at home. Our Sheltie hated going in canoes and kayaks, most are not really water dogs, their heavy coats bog them down and they don’t like swimming and getting their feet dirty. Our Sheltie preferred canoes.

Maybe Look at Hurricanes

– Last Updated: Jul-12-13 1:14 PM EST –

One thought is to try out a Hurricane Expedition 140 Sport. A bit more length for better tracking than the small rec boat designs but the Sport model has a stretched cockpit that you probably could get a dog in front of you. At 47lbs they are on the light side for a kayak that is still plastic.

If you want shorter then consider their Santees.

Pungo is another choice for a dog but going weight more.

Considering that your basic requirements of 2 new lightweight kayaks is going to drive the price up to close 2K to start or more. You really might want to consider canoes as well -- some of the more expensive models can be pretty lightweight. If you are always paddling with a partner and a dog they will also give you more room.

You might want to give a price range as well.

Tested some kayaks
Thanks for the replies. Yesterday our local dealer had a demo where we gave a few boats a test ride. Seems like the Santee was favored by my wife and myself. We plan on a couple of Kayaks although there was a discussion about a canoe for a similar price. The catch comes with storage and handling of the canoe as it is going to be larger than one single kayak. Several of the folks at the dealer like the Santee when we mentioned that we would have a dog riding with us.

Stability, beginners and a dog
First, you don’t lift a long boat but slide it to cartop it - unless you want to destroy your back. There are numerous devices from beach towels and clothes pins to fancy rollers to help get a boat on the roof of a car.

Stability is what everyone wants to start, but often with the illusion that “good stability” can fully avoid a capsize. The second part is not reliable. Also, usually beginners mean on flat water type stability, which is anything but a good idea in waves. So the conditions where you plan to paddle make a difference. In dimensional water the factors that make a good rec boat can create a faster capsize than if in a skinny sea kayak.

In a sit-inside kayak you can get two out of three as a good idea, not all three. The only safe way to do any paddle boating is to assume that the boat will capsize at some point and be prepared to handle it, either by being close enough to shore to swim in or via an on water recovery. A 20 lb dog in the cockpit of a capsized sit inside is at great risk.

The safest solution for dog plus paddler is either a canoe or a sit on top. Either of these can be nice solutions, though it is likely the canoe will weigh less. But between sliding the boat and a wheeled cart - you can go cheap or expensive - the weight issue can be made more manageable.

Dog in cockpit
I witnessed a rec boat (fairly large cockpit) flip with a small dog in the cockpit. Paddler came out as the boat turned over. Dog did not. Kayak went downstream long enough that I started sprinting for the overturned boat thinking I was going to do my first hand of God rescue on a dog. Just before I got to the kayak the dog popped up to the surface. Owner was traumatized from watching what she thought was her dog being drowned.

I am not sure exactly how the dog was situated in the cockpit before the flip. If it was sitting up with head above the rim or front paws on the deck then you would have thought it would have come out with the paddler. It may have actually been laying down slightly under the front deck which might be why it did not come with the paddler.

Point of this reply is to encourage you to think in greater detail what might happen with the dog in case of a capsize. Be sure to demo with the dog in the kayak to see where and how they tend to ride in case they want to put themselves in a dangerous position.

Lots of people have paddled many hours with a canine companion so it can be done safely. But the combination of the type of boat, the size of the dog, and how they tend to sit in the boat all have to be considered together.

Good luck.