The best lightweight kayaks are going to be different for everyone, but one thing is certain – the best lightweight kayak will be the one that suits your specific needs and lifestyle. Are you looking for something inflatable that performs like a hard shell? Or maybe you’re on the hunt for a fishing kayak with all the latest bells and whistles.
Whatever your preferences, business is booming in the lightweight kayak industry and you should be able to find a lighter model for practically every type of kayak.
Deciding on a kayak isn’t easy, and even if you’ve narrowed in on wanting a lightweight design, there are still numerous options to choose from.
In this article, you’ll get a full rundown on our picks for the 10 best lightweight kayaks, along with other factors that you may want to consider before your purchase.
Quick Answer: Best Lightweight Kayaks
|AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak||36 lbs||10' 5"||32"||300 lbs||Inflatable Sit-In||View on Amazon
View on REI
|Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS||44 lbs||9' 6"||29.5"||250 lbs||Hardshell Sit-on-Top||View on Amazon|
|Intex Explorer K2 Kayak||30.60 lbs||10' 3"||36"||400 lbs||Tandem Inflatable Sit-on-Top||View on Amazon|
|fetime Lotus||38 lbs||8'||30"||250 lbs||Hardshell Sit-on-Top||View on Amazon|
|Sevylor Quikpak K1||18 lbs||8' 7"||36"||400 lbs||Inflatable Sit-on-Top||View on Amazon|
|Sea Eagle 330 Deluxe||26 lbs||11' 2"||34"||500 lbs||Tandem Inflatable Sit-on-Top||View on Amazon|
|Pelican Maxim 100X||36 lbs||10'||28"||275 lbs||Hardshell Sit-In||View on Amazon|
|Lifetime Youth Kayak||18 lbs||6'||24"||130 lbs||Hardshell Sit-on-Top||View on Amazon|
|Sevylor Coleman Colorado||32.9 lbs||10' 7"||36.50"||470 lbs||Tandem Inflatable Sit-on-Top||View on Amazon|
|Intex Challenger K1||27.2 lbs||9'||30"||220 lbs||Inflatable Sit-In||View on Amazon|
Why Choose a Lightweight Kayak?
Lightweight kayaks are highly sought after for a few key reasons.
They are much easier to load and unload, especially if you are paddling solo. Oftentimes, you won’t even need a roof rack to transport your lightweight kayak.
They are generally less bulky, and many versions can be deflated or folded into a compact carrier. This makes them easy to store, even for those who are living in small spaces.
If you’re hoping to keep a fast pace while paddling, lightweight kayaks are usually easier to get up to speed than their heavier counterparts (and easier to tip back over if you take a spill).
The bottom line is that lightweight kayaks are easier to carry, store, and get up to speed. This will save you time and energy for your time on the water, and give you the freedom to take your kayak anywhere.
10 Best Lightweight Kayaks For All Adventures
Check out our round up of the 10 best lightweight kayaks to take on your next adventure.
AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
Weight: 36lbs | Length: 10’5″| Width: 32″ | Max Capacity: 300lbs
Features: Aluminum Rib Frame Design | PVC Tarpaulin Hull Material | Multi-layer Construction | Multiple Air Chambers
When it comes to the best lightweight kayaks, the AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak tops the list. Weighing in at just 36 pounds, this sturdy choice is both foldable and inflatable, making it a great option for those looking to save on space and weight without sacrificing sturdiness.
Equipped with high-quality materials including built-in aluminum ribs, a re-enforced stern that acts as a skeg, and a three-layered shell made of PVC, vinyl, and polyester, this lightweight kayak has the durability of a hardshell with the versatility of an inflatable.
The AdvancedFrame also boasts a spacious cockpit for an easy entrance and exit. In fact, your whole experience is made easy with this lightweight kayak. Once you take it out of the bag, simply unfold, inflate, attach the seat, and you’ll be ready to glide through almost any body of water.
Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS
Weight: 44lbs| Length: 9′ 6″ | Width: 29.5″ | Max Capacity: 250lbs
Features: Two flush mount rod holders | Adjustable foot braces | Protective thigh pads | Shock cord deck rigging
Those looking for the best lightweight fishing kayak need not search any further. Perfect for gliding across lakes and rivers, this sit-on-top kayak is outfitted with everything you’ll need to reel in a keeper.
The Journey 10 SS features three rod holders (one swivel and two flush mounts), tackle holders, and even a drink holder should you feel the urge to crack open a cold one while you’re out on the water.
The large seat, padded backrest, and adjustable foot braces ensure a comfortable paddle, and you’ll have some extra space for your gear and snacks in the storage compartments and pockets.
Made from UV-protected high-density polyethylene, this lightweight, sit-on-top fishing kayak affords durability at just 44 pounds.
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
Weight: 30.6lbs | Length: 10′ 3″ | Width: 36″ | Max Capacity: 400lbs
Features: Adjustable inflatable seat | Removable SKEG | 3 Seperate air chambers | Inflatable I-beam floor
Tandem paddling is easy with this lightweight inflatable kayak. Coming in at just 30 pounds, it’s one of the lightest two-person kayaks on the market. It’s also light on the pocketbook, which makes it a win-win in our book.
Created with comfort in mind, you can lean back in the inflatable seats as you meander along calm streams and lakes. The kayak is also equipped with removable skegs for easy tracking, grab lines, and two aluminum oars.
You’ll feel safe as well as comfortable in this lightweight option. The kayak is made from heavy-duty materials that boast puncture-proof resilience, and the bright yellow color will make you extra visible to others out on the water.
Weight: 38lbs | Length: 8′ | Width: 30″ | Max Capacity: 250lbs
Features: Self-Bailing Scupper Holes | UV-Protected High-Density Polyethylene | Front and Rear T-Handles | Center Carry Handle
One of the best lightweight kayaks available is this no-frills, sit-on-top vessel from Lifetime. Popular with novices and experts, adults and children alike, the durable, hard-shell design is ideal for those looking for a lightweight, low-maintenance option.
Although not built for speed or whitewater, this 38-pound kayak is shorter and wider, providing a more stable experience for paddlers. It’s equipped with scupper holes in the cockpit, making it easy to quickly drain any water you may take on. It also boasts a molded paddle cradle, ample storage space, and a fitted twin fin.
In addition, paddlers will stay comfortable thanks to the adjustable backrest and multiple footing options. Taller kayakers might want to look for a longer option, as the maximum height for the Lotus is six feet.
Sevylor Quikpak K1
Weight: 18lbs | Length: 8′ 7″ | Width: 36 in | Max Capacity: 400lbs
Features: Easy-to-carry backpack system | 21-gauge PVC construction | Multiple air chambers | Double Lock valves
Weighing in at just 18 pounds, the Sevylor Quikpak is one of the best lightweight kayaks around. Perfect for adventures who are looking to pack light, this inflatable kayak and its equipment fit into a mid-sized backpack that eventually becomes your seat.
The kayak is easy to maneuver and hard to tip, making it great for beginners looking to gain some experience on calm, still waters.
The bottom is made of sturdy tarpaulin, and there are multiple air chambers so that even if you happen to puncture one of the air compartments, the other pockets will keep you afloat.
In addition, this lightweight option is decked out with a cup holder, cushy backrest, and multi-position footrests, almost guaranteeing you a comfortable ride.
Sea Eagle 330 Deluxe
Weight: 26lbs | Length: 11′ 2″ | Width: 34″ | Max Capacity: 500lbs
Features: Self-bailing drain valve | Three deluxe one-way valves | I-beam construction floor | Two skegs on the bottom | Bow and stern grab line
Another top pick for the best lightweight tandem kayak is the inflatable Sea Eagle. This is a stellar choice for pairs looking for a versatile kayak that can take on some rapids AND be folded down into a lightweight pack that will fit in your trunk.
At just 26 pounds, this inflatable sports kayak has a weight capacity of up to 500 pounds. The puncture-resistant material can also take on up to class III whitewater, and the double skegs allow for fast and smooth tracking.
Other notable features include a sturdy, I-beam floor construction, spray skirts with ample storage underneath, self-bailing drain valves, and grab lines on both the front and back.
Although there are two seats on this nine-foot vessel, taller paddlers may want to choose a child or dog to ride tandem with, as two adults may be a tight squeeze depending on their height.
Pelican Maxim 100X
Weight: 36lbs | Length: 10′ | Width: 28″ | Max Capacity: 275lbs
Features: Adjustable Ergoform backrest | Molded footrests | Carrying handles, Bottle holder and Drain plug | Storage hatch with bungee cord
This sturdy sit-in option has easily earned a place amongst the top 10 best lightweight kayaks. Matching maneuverability with stability, this hard-sided recreational kayak is a great choice for beginners.
You’ll paddle in comfort with a padded and adjustable seat, molded footrests, and a drink holder directly in front of you. The storage hatch is large enough to fit all your gear, and an additional mesh deck cover can be found at the rear.
The shallow V chine hull allows for fast tracking and easy turning, and with a weight of just 36 pounds, solo paddlers can easily lift and load this lightweight kayak by themselves.
Lifetime Youth Kayak
Weight: 18lbs | Length: 6′ | Width: 24″ | Max Capacity: 130lbs
Features: Twin Fin Design Assists | UV-Protected | Multiple Footrest Positions | Durable High-Density Polyethylene
Young paddlers will love this lightweight kayak from Lifetime. Known for its no-nonsense approach to making kayaks, Lifetime creates sturdy vessels that are tough and lightweight, and their youth kayak is no exception.
This durable option is great for calm waters and offers unbeatable balance, perfect for those who are new to kayaking. The hull is flat for increased stability, and the twin-fin design makes paddling straight a breeze.
The kayak has everything you’ll need for a successful journey on the water, including scupper holes, a backrest, and a swim-up deck in the back. A paddle is also included with your purchase. The best part is that it only weighs 18 pounds!
Keep in mind that although this is a safe, sturdy option for kiddos, adult supervision is always highly recommended for young kayakers.
Sevylor Coleman Colorado
Weight: 32.9lbs | Length: 10′ 7″ | Width: 36.50″ | Max Capacity: 470lbs
Features: 18-gauge PVC construction | 1000D tarpaulin bottom and 840D nylon cover | Multiple air chambers | Boston Valve is double threaded
One of the best lightweight fishing kayaks has got to be the Sevylor Coleman Colorado. It has everything you’ll need for a great day out on the lake with a buddy, and at just under 40 pounds, it’s one of the lightest fishing boats you’ll find.
Outfitted with paddle holders, adjustable seats, ample storage pockets, and adjustable rod holders for hands-free fishing, you’ll be all set to cast out and catch some dinner. There’s also a mount for a small trolling motor if you want to speed things up a bit.
This inflatable kayak is built with high-quality materials like tarpaulin, nylon, and PVC, making it just as robust as a hard-sided option without the extra weight.
There are multiple air chambers that will stay inflated if you do manage to puncture part of the kayak, and the airtight system guarantees against any leakage.
Intex Challenger K1
Weight: 27.2lbs | Length: 9′ | Width: 30″ | Max Capacity: 220lbs
Features: Heavy duty puncture-resistant vinyl | 2 separate air chambers | Inflatable I-beam floor | Boston Valves
A favorite amongst solo paddlers, the Intex Challenger K1 rounds out our list of the 10 best lightweight kayaks. It’s compact in size, weight, and price – under the $200 mark and just 24 pounds.
The cockpit is designed for maximum comfort and space, complete with an inflatable seat and backrest. Although there is not much in terms of storage space, a large cargo net on the front offers some room for gear.
This inflatable kayak is expertly designed to give you the best overall paddling experience possible. The ergonomic frame allows you to cut through lakes and rivers with ease, while the I-beam flooring ensures maximum stability. There’s also a removable skeg to help with tracking.
The vinyl material is extremely puncture-resistant, and the Boston valves make for quick inflation and deflation. The color was chosen for more than just aesthetics alone, though it does work for that reason too. The bright design ensures that you’ll be seen from afar, allowing you to feel extra safe in this small vessel.
Read More: Best Budget Kayaks: 10 Affordable Options in 2023
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Lightweight Kayak Buying Considerations
Here are some main considerations to keep in mind when it comes to buying the perfect lightweight kayak.
Type of Kayak
In the world of kayaking, there are lots of different models, and deciding which one is best for you can be tricky. The good news is that no matter which kind you choose, you should be able to find a lightweight option. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most popular types of kayaks to help make your decision easier.
These are your typical, all-around kayaks that are perfect for paddling across calm waters with little wind or waves. They are oftentimes more spacious and easier to maneuver, making them great for beginners or those looking for a more stable experience.
Fishing kayaks are generally longer and wider, offering more space and stability for when you cast out. Sit-on-top models are more common in fishing kayaks to allow for easy reeling, though there are various sit-in models available as well. Most fishing kayaks are decked out with all the bells and whistles, including paddle, rod, and even drink holders.
Sea kayaks are usually longer and more narrow than recreational kayaks, making it easy to cut through waves. Most are outfitted with a skeg or rudder to help with tracking, and they tend to have more storage space as overnight trips are common on these vessels. Because of its slim design, beginners may find sea kayaks a bit less stable than other models.
If you’re taking on rapids, you’ll need a tough vessel. Whitewater kayaks are designed to move quickly through rough water and are often shorter and wider than other models for added stability. Most are sit-in options so that your lower body can help balance the kayak through the choppy water. Surprisingly, many inflatable kayaks are designed to handle whitewater and bounce off of rocks with ease.
These are a great option for those looking to travel light. Inflatable kayaks have come a long way in the past few years, and it’s possible to get a lightweight, blow-up kayak without compromising on performance. There are numerous options, from sit-on-top to sit-ins, fishing boats, and even some that can take on whitewater better than their hard-sided counterparts. Most inflatable kayaks can be packed down into a small bag or backpack, making them ideal for those looking to save on space along with weight.
Foldable kayaks are another great option for those who are short on space. These are made with a base of collapsible material (usually aluminum, wood, plastic, or a combination of the three) and covered with a tough, waterproof fabric like vinyl or nylon. Once the kayak has been folded up, it fits into a compact travel bag that can be stored in small spaces.
Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-In
Another factor you’ll need to consider is if you want a sit-on-top or a sit-in kayak. There are pros and cons to each, it all depends on what type of experience you’re hoping to have. One is not inherently heavier than the other, so you’ll have plenty of lightweight options for both types.
Sit-on-top kayaks are oftentimes more comfortable because your legs are not confined to the cockpit. This is especially true for taller paddlers.
With no cockpit to worry about getting into and out of, these kayaks are also usually easier to enter and exit.
Most sit-on-top models are self-bailing, so your odds of flooding the kayak are minimal.
Sit-in kayaks are ideal for colder and rougher waters because they are more secure and offer better protection from the elements.
You’ll sit down in the cockpit, and attached spray skirts will keep you dry and warm.
These kayaks are also usually easier to maneuver, more efficient to paddle, and are oftentimes more high-tech than the sit-on-top models.
All kayaks have a maximum weight capacity, and usually, the more weight your boat can hold the better. But when it comes to lightweight kayaks, you may want to think about packing light if you’re hoping to keep the weight down.
That being said, most lightweight kayaks still have a healthy weight capacity, at least enough for you and your essential gear. Double-check the specifications of your kayak to make sure it can hold all of your equipment if you are planning to pack for an extended tour or camping trip.
Your Own Height and Weight
Although some lightweight kayaks have a high weight capacity, you should still consider your own height and weight when deciding which model is right for you.
If you are tall or more heavy set, you may need to search for a roomier cockpit or a kayak with extra leg space.
Keep in mind that just because a boat is longer or wider, that doesn’t always translate into extra space for your person. Some small boats have bigger cockpits and some short kayaks offer plenty of leg space.
When deciding on a kayak, you’ll need to choose between hardshell and inflatable. Generally, hard-sided kayaks have a better reputation for durability, with rugged UV-protected polyethylene being one of the most common materials used.
But inflatable options have really stepped it up in the last few years with puncture-resistant material, multiple air chambers, and patching kits in case you do incur some damage. This is good news for those looking for a lightweight kayak, as hardshell options are often on the heavy side.
There are some super lightweight hardshell kayak options, like fiberglass or kevlar, but these are almost guaranteed to cost you a pretty penny.
When it comes to storage on lightweight kayaks, you might notice a common theme – there isn’t much.
This can be as much of a blessing as it is a curse because it will force you to pack light and therefore keep the weight of your kayak down.
That being said there are some lightweight kayaks that offer more storage space than others, you just might have to make more of a point to seek them out if this is a huge selling point for you.
Read More: Best Beginner Fishing Kayak: Top 10 Picks for 2023
Frequently Asked Questions about Lightweight Kayaks
If you have any questions or concerns when it comes to buying a lightweight kayak, check out these FAQs for even more expert advice.
Lightweight kayaks are safe, most times even safer than heavy kayaks!
Safety is not to be confused with stability. While heavier kayaks may be more stable, if you do tip, you’re going to have a harder time flipping that bad boy back over than you will with a lightweight model.
One could even argue that with lightweight kayaks you will be less prone to back injuries and other aches from lifting the kayak onto or into your vehicle.
Length is less important here than width and shape. A wider, flatter kayak is going to be more stable than a narrow one.
Yes. You should always wear a PFD in ANY kayak (or any other kind of boat for that matter).
This will always vary from person to person. It all depends if you’re looking for a sit-in or sit-on-top model, an inflatable or a hard shell, a tandem or a solo kayak, wide vs narrow, and many other factors.
That being said, our pick for the overall best lightweight kayak is the Pelican Maxim 100X. It’s a great choice for kayakers of all skill levels, and at 36 pounds it’s light enough to lift alone. It has superior maneuverability and stability, and ample storage space for all your gear.
Besides a PFD, you should always dress in layers while kayaking. Even if it is a warm day, the wind will often cool you down once you get out onto the water. Shoes are also important, as is plenty of sunscreen.
If you’re riding in rougher waters, a helmet is also recommended.
Now that you’ve gotten the rundown on the best lightweight kayaks, you know that you don’t have to decide between weight and quality. In fact, some of the best kayaks on the market are lightweight models.
Now all that’s left to do is decide which lightweight kayak is best for you – happy paddling!
Heading out on an adventure? Read our other guides:
- 10 Best Fishing Kayaks Under $1000 [2023 EDITION]
- Ultimate Guide to the Best Backpacking Tents (2023)
- The Ultimate Guide to the Best Lightweight Sleeping Bags [Updated for 2023]