Best Sea Kayak: 10 Picks for Exploring Open Waters [2021]

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If you’re setting sail into the ocean blue, you’ll want the best sea kayak you can get to explore the open waters. But the best kayak for touring is going to look completely different than the best recreational or fishing kayak. 

Once you’re out at sea, you’ll have to contend with whipping winds, strong currents, and more splashback. For these reasons, you’ll need a kayak that can withstand the harsh conditions of the open ocean. 

We’ve compiled a list of the ten best sea kayaks for your salty adventures, in addition to a guide with all of the key considerations you’ll need to keep in mind before you make your purchase.

Kayak companies are upgrading their models every day to deliver the best design for paddling through rough chop, but these are our picks for the best seat kayaks of 2021.

Quick Answer: Best Sea Kayaks 2021

Name
Image
Weight
Length
Max Capacity
Type
Price
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ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Inflatable36 lbs10' 5" 300 lbsInflatable$
Oru Kayak Bay ST28 lbs12'300 lbsFoldable$$$
AQUAGLIDE Navarro 11028 lbs11' 4"250 lbsInflatable $$
Wilderness Systems Tempest 17057 lbs17'325 lbsHardshell$$$
ADVANCED ELEMENTS Advanced Frame Expedition42 lbs13'450 lbsInflatable$$
Pelican Sprint XR41 lbs10'300 lbsHardshell$$$
Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Fishing Kayak40 lbs10' 10"400 lbsInflatable$$
Sevylor Quikpak K523 lbs10'250 lbsInflatable$
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Convertible52 lbs15'550 lbsInflatable$$
Sea Eagle 393RL35 lbs12' 10"500 lbsInflatable$$

What is a Sea Kayak

All kayaks are not made equally. Sea kayaks (also known as touring kayaks) are made to take on strong winds and big waves, all while keeping you safe and dry. 

The best sea kayaks will differ from the average recreational kayak in a few key ways. From hull shape to length, ocean kayaks have unique features that keep them stable in open water. 

We’ll go into detail about how to choose the best sea kayak below, but first, let’s look at our top ten picks for the best sea kayaks for 2021. 

a rack on the beach showcasing the best sea kayaks

10 Best Sea Kayaks for Exploring Open Waters

If you’re looking for the best sea kayak out there, here’s a round up of the 10 best picks you can find in 2021.

ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Inflatable

Weight: 36 lbs | Length: 10′ 5″ | Width: 32″ | Max Capacity: 300 lbs

Features: Aluminum rib frame design | PVC tarpaulin hull | Multi-layer construction | Multiple air chambers | Adjustable padded seat

This hybrid model from Advanced Elements is one of the best, most affordable sea kayaks on the market. It performs just like a hardshell thanks to its puncture-proof, three-layer construction and built-in aluminum ribs. You’ll get all the durability of a rugged vessel at a fraction of the weight and price.  

This ocean kayak slices through the water with ease, and the V-shaped hull gives it excellent secondary stability and helps with tracking. Measuring ten and a half feet, this is on the shorter end of the spectrum when it comes to sea kayaks. This doesn’t really affect the ‘yak’s impressive stability, however, and it actually makes it more maneuverable – perfect for beginners!

The cockpit is spacious, so even taller paddlers will find that this is a great touring kayak. The comfy seat has lots of support, so there’s no need to worry about numb legs or back pain during long trips. There’s also plenty of room for all of your gear, with bungee deck lacing and air-lifted deck sheds. 

Oru Kayak Bay ST

Weight: 28 lbs | Length: 12′ | Width: 25″ | Max Capacity: 300 lbs

Features: Origami inspired foldable structure | Custom polypropylene & rust-resistant hardware | 10 years of UV protection | Extremely lightweight

Those who are short on space but well-to-do will love this foldable ocean kayak. Although the price tag is a bit hefty, this Oru kayak weighs just 28 pounds and can be folded down into the size of a large suitcase for easy transport (no roof racks required!). 

Not only is it one of the best sea kayaks in terms of portability, but it also offers superior tracking and easy paddling thanks to the V-shaped hull. The double-layered polypropylene shell is extremely durable, and the structural bulkheads provide additional rigidity. 

There’s plenty of space to store all of your gear in the hull, and the comfy cockpit makes long tours a breeze thanks to the foam seat and adjustable back and footrests. 

At 12 feet, this touring kayak affords great stability, even in the choppiest waters. 

AQUAGLIDE Navarro 110

Weight: 28 lbs | Length: 11′ 4″ | Width: 34″ | Max Capacity: 250 lbs

Features: Drop stitched floors & zip on decks | Quick release fin | Velcro seat | Adjustable footrests | Zip open dry compartments | Accessory strap & paddle keeper

Another great inflatable option for those hunting for the best sea kayak is the Navarro 110. Paddlers love it for its easy setup, lightweight design, and reasonable price tag.

This touring kayak is extremely stable thanks to the drop-stitch flooring, and the hex shell material will aid in avoiding any punctures or UV damage. 

Paddlers also love this sea kayak for its adjustable footrest system, but some report that the cockpit may be a bit snug for taller and/or larger kayakers. You will have plenty of space for storage, however, with the bungee rigged decking and a zip-open dry compartment. 

Although over 11 feet in length, this inflatable ocean kayak does not track as well as a traditional hard-sided vessel. That being said, it does have a detachable skeg that helps with this, and the V-shaped hull cuts through waves like a knife, making it easy to get up to speed without wearing yourself out.  

Wilderness Systems Tempest 170

Weight: 57 lbs | Length: 17′ | Width: 22″ | Max Capacity: 325 lbs

Features: Multiple dry storage hatches | Bungee storage | Adjustable padded thigh braces | Phase 3 AirPro XL seating system | Bow compass recess

When you think about what constitutes the best sea kayak, words like speed, stability, tracking, and storage probably come to mind. The Tempest 170 gets an A+ in all of the above, making it a top contender in this category. 

At 17 feet, this is one of the longest ocean kayaks around. This makes it an extremely stable choice, and great for those who are looking for something that paddles easily, even in choppy waters. 

The adjustable skeg gives this touring kayak superior tracking and maneuverability, but the best part about this ‘yak is perhaps the exceptionally comfortable cockpit. Complete with a plush, fully adjustable seat, padded thigh braces, and a slide-lock footrail system, you’ll be able to paddle for hours on end without an ache or pain – you know you’ve found a good kayak when your arms tire faster than your back or legs!

The storage space on this sea kayak is unmatched, with deck bungees on the bow and stern, three dry storage hatches, and bulkhead space on each end. 

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ADVANCED ELEMENTS Advanced Frame Expedition

Weight: 42 lbs | Length: 13′ | Width: 32″ | Max Capacity: 450 lbs

Features: High-back lumbar seat | Aluminum frame | Drop-stitch floor & PVC hull material | Multiple air chambers | Duffel carry bag

Ideal for longer tours, the latest edition from Advanced Elements is easily one of the top ten best sea kayaks. Similar to the basic Advanced Frame model, the Expedition comes with a few notable upgrades. 

There are two more air chambers on this updated ocean kayak, making it even safer against punctures and leakage. The floor is also redesigned with drop-stitch technology for added stability on big waves. 

You can still count on the same incredible performance as the original thanks to the aluminum ribs and V-shaped hull. The expedition is a few feet longer, making it more stable without decreasing speed or maneuverability. 

The longer design also allows bigger and taller paddlers to tour in comfort, in addition to providing more storage space for your gear. The seat has not been compromised and is as comfy and supportive as ever.

You will pay a bit more for this upgraded touring kayak, but it’s still an extremely affordable option compared to some of the other models out there. 

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Pelican Sprint 100XR

Weight: 41 lbs | Length: 10′ | Width: 28″ | Max Capacity: 300 lbs

Features: Deep V chine hull | Stern bulkhead | Adjustable footrests | Bungee storage | Ergoflex G2 seating system w/ adjustable backrest

If you’re looking for a multi-functional ‘yak that can take on all different kinds of water, then the Pelican Sprint XR is the best sea kayak for you. 

Although marketed as a recreational kayak, the V-shaped hull provides great secondary stability and can cut through choppy water with ease. There’s also a built-in keel at the stern for tracking, making the Sprint XR feel like a real ocean kayak. 

This kayak is perfect for touring, with lots of storage space available in the multiple hatches, behind the comfy, adjustable seat, and in the bungee rigged decking.

At ten feet, this vessel is shorter than your average sea kayak, but with the help of the molded thigh pads, this bad boy is more maneuverable, making it a great choice for beginners or those looking to take it out on flat waters in addition to choppy ones. 

Other popular features include a cup holder, adjustable footrests, and ergonomic carrying handles. Another bonus is that for a hardshell kayak, the Sprint XR is extremely lightweight – just 41 pounds!

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Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Fishing Kayak

Weight: 40 lbs | Length: 10′ 10″ | Width: 39.5″ | Max Capacity: 400 lbs

Features: Cargo & bungee storage | Rigid drop stitch floor | Hi-Rise, adjustable EVA seat | 5 hard modular accessory mounts | Removable Skeg | Lightweight breakdown paddle

Anglers hoping to brave the open waters will find this Steelhead fishing boat to be the best sea kayak for reeling in a fresh catch. 

The stable drop-stitch flooring allows you to cast out from a standing position, and the lightweight construction is surprisingly durable against both debris and fish hooks. 

The V-shaped hull allows you to cut through waves with ease, and the removable skeg makes tracking a breeze. It’s just under 11 feet in length, making it a solid option in terms of stability. 

The weight capacity is a whopping 400 pounds, so you won’t have to worry about being overweight once you pack all of your fishing gear. This vessel also has the storage space of a touring kayak, with plenty of room under the spray shields in both the front and the rear. 

The only downside to this ocean fishing kayak is that there are no rod holders included. There are places to fit on pole holders and other accessories, but you’ll have to find your own equipment and make sure that it’s compatible with an inflatable kayak.

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Sevylor Quikpak K5

Weight: 23 lbs | Length: 10′ | Width: 32″ | Max Capacity: 250 lbs

Features: 5 minute set up | 24-gauge PVC construction w/ tarpaulin bottom | Multiple air chambers | Spray covers | Bungee storage

The compact, lightweight options continue with this inflatable touring kayak from Sevylor. Known for making high-quality inflatable ‘yaks, the K5 is no exception. It folds down into a backpack, making it perfect for those who are short on storage space or those who plan on paddling in remote locations.

Although fast she is not, stable she is. This is also a durable option with a combination of PVC, tarpaulin, and polyester to keep you safe against leaks and punctures. The built-in spray skirt also protects you against splashes and sun rays and has rigged bungees to maximize storage space. Additional space can be found behind the seat and in a dry storage compartment in the rear. 

The V-shaped hull does a decent job at cutting through waves, but you probably won’t want to venture too far out into the open water with this kayak. 

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ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Convertible

Weight: 52 lbs | Length: 15′ | Width: 32″ | Max Capacity: 550 lbs

Features: 3 seat locations for solo or tandem paddling | 2 adjustable padded back supports | Built-in aluminum ribs | 3 layers of material | Skeg tracking fin | Deck lacing

The best sea kayak for pairs is this tandem vessel from Advanced Elements. Similar in design to the Advanced Frame inflatable, this model allows duos to take on ocean waters with ease. 

Good tandem ocean kayaks are hard to come by, but this inflatable design has all the features you’ll need for a successful tour. The drop stitch flooring, aluminum ribbing, and multiple air chambers make this model as rugged as a hard shell, and three layers of durable material protect against punctures. 

The V-shaped hull slices through waves with ease, though the tracking is not as good as some of the other models on our list. That being said, it is rather speedy and extremely sturdy, even on open water. 

At 15 feet, this tandem touring kayak offers plenty of storage space and has a maximum weight capacity of 550 pounds. It can also be converted for a single paddler, giving you even more space for your legs and gear.

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Sea Eagle 393RL

Weight: 35 lbs | Length: 12′ 10″ | Width: 28″ | Max Capacity: 500 lbs

Features: Large removable skeg | 2 open & close drain valves | Front & rear spray skirts | Adjustable seat & footrests | 4-part performance paddle

You’d never guess that this touring kayak is inflatable. With narrow sidewalls, sturdy, drop stitch construction throughout, and rigid bow and stern molds, this inflatable ‘yak perform just as well as a hardshell, earning its place on our list of the top ten best sea kayaks. 

It has the classic V-shaped hull that all good ocean kayaks possess, allowing you to cut through waves with ease and speed. Paddlers also report great maneuverability and tracking. 

Other features that make this kayak a winner are the adjustable footrests and extensive storage space. Just be sure you’ve got dry bags if you’re hoping to keep your gear from getting soaked. 

This inflatable kayak may perform just like a hard shell, but it certainly is easier to transport. Once deflated, it packs down small enough to carry on your back and only weighs 28 pounds!

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How to Choose the Best Sea Kayak 

The best sea kayak will have a few non-negotiable features, and some aspects will depend on the paddler’s own skill level and preferences. 

With so many touring kayaks on the market, you’ll want to keep the following in mind before you commit to a vessel. 

different sea kayaks and stand up paddle boards out on the water

Sit-on-Top vs Sit-in-Kayaks 

Nearly all of the best sea kayaks will be sit-in models. You’ll likely be more exposed to the elements while you’re out on open water, and a SIK offers more protection from wind and splashes to help keep you warm and dry. 

Look for a design that has spray skirt compatibility or offers some sort of coverage for your legs. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re comfortable in the cockpit with plenty of legroom. A long tour will feel even longer if you’re squeezed in too tight. 

The exception to this rule is for anglers, who will likely still want a sit-on-top ocean kayak because it’s easier to cast out, reel in, and access all of their gear with ease. 

Skill Level

The best sea kayaks are usually long, narrow, and extremely responsive. If you’re a seasoned pro, this is all well and good, but if you’re a beginner, you’re going to have a hard time maneuvering such a beast. 

Those who are new to kayaking or ocean kayaking, in particular, should look for a wider model with good stability until they’ve mastered paddling in strong currents and winds. 

Primary & Secondary Stability

No matter what type of kayak you have, you’ll have to consider how stable it is. This largely depends on what type of water you’ll be paddling in. 

If you’re staying in flat, relatively calm water, then you should look for a kayak with good primary stability

Those looking for the best sea kayak should consider the secondary stability, as this will keep you steady in the rough, choppy waters that you usually encounter in the ocean. 

Hull Shape

Another aspect that will affect your kayak’s stability is the shape of the hull. Beginners may think to look for a rounded hull, as these are generally thought to be more stable, but this is only true when paddling on calm, flat water. 

Those who are searching for the best sea kayak will need to find a craft that has a narrow, V-shaped hull. This will help you cut through waves, enhance your secondary stability, and improve tracking while out on the open water. 

Length & Width

As we mentioned earlier, the best sea kayaks are longer and more narrow than other vessels. That being said, length is generally more important than width, but keep in mind that if you go for something too narrow, you are more likely to tip over in choppy water. 

Most touring kayaks are at least 11 feet in length as a rule of thumb. This makes for easy paddling and greater stability in waves. 

Storage & Weight Capacity

Storage space is another important component when considering what makes up the best sea kayaks. If you’re going for a longer tour, you will want to find something with plenty of room for all of your gear. You’ll also want to ensure that all of your stuff is protected from splashes, so look for a kayak that has plenty of dry storage space or at least spray skirts to protect your equipment. 

You’ll also want to consider the weight capacity of ocean kayaks. If your vessel is overloaded, you’ll sit closer to the water which will result in a slower paddling speed. 

On the other hand, if you’re a lightweight person with very little gear, you will sit higher on the water and be less stable in rough conditions. 

The sweet spot lies somewhere right in the middle of the two. With the correct weight, you’ll achieve effortless paddling, great tracking, and superior speed. 

Skeg / Rudder

A skeg and or rudder can really aid touring kayaks in tracking. A skeg refers to a fin at the kayak’s hull that helps cut through rough water, while a rudder is a steering system that is usually controlled either by hand or foot pedals. 

Both skeg and rudder will help with keeping your ‘yak on track, though these are not necessarily must-haves for ocean kayaks.

Sea Kayak FAQs

If you still have some lingering questions about the best sea kayak, check out these FAQs for more information.

aerial view of a person on a Yellow Sea kayak

What is the best sea kayak for beginners?

Beginners will want to look for a nice long touring kayak that is wide enough to offer added stability. You should also find a vessel with a V-shaped hull and skeg to help you glide through waves.

You may want to consider buying a budget option, as you’ll likely want to upgrade once you get the hang of sea kayaking. 

We recommend either the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Expedition or the Navarro 110 from Aquaglide for those who are new to sea kayaking. 

What’s the best kayak for sea fishing?

Anglers who are paddling out on open waters will want something that can handle waves while allowing you to access all of your gear with ease. You may even need something that permits you to stand up to cast out or reel in your catch. 

The best sea kayak for these purposes is without a doubt the Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Fishing Kayak. It’s long and stable and has lots of space for all of your fishing equipment. 

Who makes the best sea kayaks?

There are so many sea kayak brands out there, it’s hard to decide which one is the best.

If we had to choose, it would be a toss-up between Wilderness Systems and Advanced Elements.

Wilderness Systems is geared toward more experienced paddlers that need a kayak to match their skill level, while Advanced Elements make extremely lightweight, sturdy, and affordable vessels that are great for beginners. Both make high-quality kayaks and you can’t go wrong with either one.  

What is the most stable sea kayak?

Stability in sea kayaks comes in the form of something long but not too narrow, with a V-shaped hull to aid with secondary stability. Our top pick for stability is the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Expedition, but really all of the options on our list get an A+ in this category. 

Travel Must: At the risk of sounding like your parents, make sure you get travel insurance before hitting the road. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to leave home without. We recommend either World Nomads or Safety Wing, depending on the type of traveler you are.

And that concludes our list of the ten best sea kayaks you can find in 2021! Hopefully this article got you one step closer to your dream ocean kayak, with plenty of information to make an informed purchase.

Happy paddling!


Looking for more kayak advice? Check out these articles:

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