Guided Kayak Tours: When to Join a Group

4 minute read

If you don’t have your own kayak gear, rental companies and tour companies abound. What’s the best choice for your situation: to rent gear or go with a guided kayak tour?

three sea kayakers paddling in a fjord at sunrise
Kayaking a Norway fjord (photo courtesy of Tomasz Furmanek)
Renting the kayak, paddle and PFD (which will come as a package) is undoubtedly the more affordable of the two options. But here are some scenarios when choosing a guided kayak tour is your best option:

On Big Water and Fast Water

One of the most important reasons for going with a kayak tour rather than out on your own is having a trained, experienced guide with you.

This isn’t as important on normal lakes and slow rivers when risk is low. But on big water—the Great Lakes, seas and oceans—the risks go up with the possibility of big waves, currents and tides, rocky shorelines, long distances and unpredictable weather patterns.

The same is true with swift rivers that include rapids with large waves, boulders and fallen trees, low-head dams and other possible hazards.

Guides from a reputable kayak tour company will have plenty of knowledge about kayaking skills and enjoy passing those skills on to you. You can learn a lot from a guide even on a half-day tour that you can take with you into your future kayaking adventures.

Guides have plenty of experience paddling the water you’ll kayak. They’ve already been on it in all kinds of conditions and with people of all experience levels. They help build your confidence on water you haven’t faced yet, and know when it’s best to steer clear of conditions above your skill level.

Guides are trained in basic rescue and First Aid skills in case an emergency situation arises. They’ll be equipped with necessary communication devices in case outside help becomes necessary.

When the risk is higher, going with a guided tour is more safe and more fun.

two kayakers with their kayaks in front of a glacier

Kayaking can take you places you can’t otherwise see (photo courtesy of Neil Irwin)

At a Dream Location to get an Insider’s Take

When you get the chance to kayak one of your dream locations, it’s worth the money to have the inside scoop from a guide. It could be the history of the area, the best spot to catch the sunset, where the wildlife is likely to be, secret spots only the locals know about, or a great spot for lunch or a swim.

Sometimes tour companies have permits to get into wilderness areas where the average person can’t go. They’ll often take photos and/or video along the way that you’ll be able to purchase or get as part of your tour package.

If this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you and you can choose between renting gear or going with a guided tour—a guided tour will give you your best possible experience.

At a New Location You’ll Return to On Your Own

Maybe you’ve just moved to a new location, or you visit a region frequently for work or pleasure. Or it could be you’ve just recently been able to gear up with your own kayak and paddle.

Consider going with a kayak tour company on the water you want to eventually paddle yourself. Tour companies always take their guests on the best waters in their region. So you’ll get the benefits of someone else’s experience with that area first, which you can then apply to your own future kayak trips.

Again, this would especially be true for water that carries higher risk—big water and water with swift currents or tides. But it can also be true for routes that are significant to your area, just to have that inside scoop.

woman at a kayak campsite with kayaks, picnic table and tent

A guided multi-day trip can give you the best possible experience (photo courtesy of Sharon Brodin)

On a Multi-Day Kayak Camping Trip

There are several advantages of going with a guided tour for a multi-day kayak camping trip:

  • The tour company has the right kayaks for the location, plus the other gear you’ll need. They’ll have a list of exactly what you’ll need to bring along, too, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting something important.
  • The tour company will plan the meals, buy the food, have the cook kit, and make the meals. This is a huge responsibility for multi-day trips. Taking that off your plate and letting your guide take care of it will make your trip so much more relaxing!
  • The tour company will know all the best launches, routes, local highlights, campsites (and will have reserved them, if necessary), hiking trails and other details that can ensure you have the best possible trip.
  • The tour company can’t control the weather…but they know the local climate, the best time of year for trips in their area, and generally what to expect and how to prepare weather-wise.

A guided kayak tour is a wonderful option in many situations, especially if you don’t have your own gear. But even if you have your own gear and are an accomplished paddler, there are some instances when a guided tour will give you a better experience.

Happy paddling!

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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