Tandem or single

My wife and I just bought a house that is on a creek that flows into a river. We want to buy kayaks but do not know which to buy. We thought about buying a tandem but I need to know how hard they are to navigate if I am by myself. Shuld we just buy 2 singles?

Tandems are called
divorce boats :slight_smile: Ours lasted two short trips before we got individual boats.

I would recommend two singles.
They will be easy enough to move along with double bladed paddles that you will be able to keep up with one another fairly well. And, with careful shopping, you can get singles that are fairly light, while the few tandems that qualify as “light” are rather expensive. And solo paddling a tandem doesn’t work well.

What sort of creek do you have? You will be able to paddle back up the creek, I hope?

If you eventually do want a tandem, consider building one of the stitch and glue kits from Pygmy or CLC.

Two singles and
a tandem canoe.



Are we voting? 2 singles.
Easier to learn and you can only take your frustrations out on yourself.

The tandem should be a 2nd or 3rd boat
Seda makes a smallish tandem that is configurable for a single paddler. It makes quite a few compromises.

Without knowing you guys wel…
would recommend two singles. First of all, if it really is a small creek you’ll appreciate the shorter length. And singles don’t require you to work so hard to coordinate your paddling if you are in close spaces with overhanging trees etc.

But more important, is the health of your backs. Once you have boat(s), you’ll likely find yourself putting said craft on top of the car to paddle other places. Unless you absolutely need a tandem, their handling and lifting weight is too much to be worth the strain.

Definitely 2 singles. I have both and use the tandem for myself and son. Wife has her own. But the tandem is really heavy.

2 singles
Tandem kayaks can be fun, and very fast in the hands of two good paddlers, but most tandem kayaks are either very heavy or very expensive, and sometimes both. You can’t take a tandem out easily by yourself, unless it is fitted with a center cockpit, and even then, it is wider and heavier than you would like it to be. For tripping, you can get more gear in two singles, than one tandem. Tandems can be heavy enough and long enough to make car-topping quite awkward, and their length can make storage difficult as well.

It depends on your skills
If one paddler is considerably more skilled or stronger than the other I would go for a tandem otherwise 2 singles work better.

They call 'em divorce boats for a reason

Buddy Boat…
Get 2 singles, then later add the tandem for a buddy boat!

ignore the divorce boat comments
Rent boats and try both.

If you like working together than a tandem might be for you. My wife and I have been riding tandem bicycles together for 12 years, so a tandem kayak made sense too. We’re both happy with the decision.

I don’t really get the “tandems are heavy” comments. Most tandems are lighter than two singles. Our boat (Seaward Gemini) is about 85lbs. Having only one boat to put on the roof makes transportation easier and lets us use roof rack rollers that make loading the boat easier.

I get the impression that most of the people who are replying against tandems haven’t spent much time in them.


Thanks for everyones help. Looks like we will go with singles.

Tandem weights

– Last Updated: Apr-14-09 2:25 PM EST –

I just wanted to say something about tandems being heavy. I know of two couples, one in my own family, who abandoned tandems after a few years due primarily to weight. They still liked the boat, but handling it had become too unpleasant. These guys couldn't afford the fancy composite ones - they were living in the starter boat range so these boats were plastic - and even the guy finally couldn't take it any longer.

Part of the problem is that the wife could provide only limited help. She is slightly shorter than me but still within what is called average, and spots me over two decades. But a decent share of 85 pounds or so, lifting it over your head if no trailer, is a lot more to handle for most women than for most guys. A similar share of a 50-60 pound boat is noticabley lighter, enough that lifting it twice is no big deal.

I will agree that I haven't spent much time paddling them - so I can't comment on what tandems work better with a single paddler and that stuff. But I have heard plenty of owners of tandems complain about their weight, especially paddlers who have the plastic starter boats.

I can only address how much nicer it is to have 2 individual ones. If I want to veer to the the left, right, hang back or go forward, I’m not attached by the hip to hubby.

Being somewhat of a newbie, I don’t even know why a person would get a tandom. Perhaps it’s less expensive than buying 2? If so, is it really worth it?

Have a great time with your new purchase, whatever it may be!


tandem good if one is weaker, etc.
then it allows the two to stay together and less confident to feel better. But to me one of the great things about a kayak is how it can become an extension of your body (much like skiing for me) – you shift a butt cheek, lift a knee, etc. and it responds smoothly. I doubt you can get quite that same feeling in a tandem.

If one is weaker or…

– Last Updated: Apr-14-09 2:37 PM EST –

..less experienced how is that person going to learn and get more experienced attached to someone else? My husband is less experienced than I but every time he goes out paddling he gains more confidence and experience. This wouldn't be happening if he was sitting behind me in a tandem. The best way to learn is to actually get out there and do it yourself.

Plus we are built completely different. I can't imagine that one boat would fit both of us well. It would be a compromise all over. Get separate boats. That way you can also paddle separately if you want to do. You have a lot more flexibility.

IMO Tandems are great if you have young kids and want to bring them along but eventually the kids should get their own boat.

Singles are quick and easy fix
Anybody can get out on the dance floor by themselves. Dancing with a partner takes skill, practice, and is much more rewarding. Tandem boating is much the same.

For starters, I am, of course, with JackL, that you should get a canoe. A fifteen or sixteen footer would be ideal, since it could be easily paddled by one, yet can work for two. However, I think your learning curve on a canoe will be somewhat longer, and if quick and easy is what you like, go for the single kayak. The canoe is way more versatile, which is why I think it should be everybody’s first boat.

Tandem kayaks are expensive, awesome in the wind and a lot of fun. But you don’t even know how much the two of you will paddle. A single can paddle a tandem just fine, but as other posters point out, they can be difficult to transport when off the water.