Top 5 Considerations When You’re Ready for a Kayak Upgrade

When you’re ready to graduate from your entry-level kayak to an upgraded model, here are the top five considerations to look for. Or if you haven’t bought a kayak yet but want to get into one your skills can grow with, there are some great tips in the video below, with Aqua Bound ProStaffer, Ken Whiting, and Paddle TV:

There are several key considerations you’ll need to think about when you’re ready to get into an upgraded kayak:

1. Foot Support System

The two main types of foot support systems for the majority of recreational kayaks are foot wells and foot pegs or braces. Why do you want a foot support system to begin with? To provide support for your legs while you’re kayaking. It’s more comfortable, it’s easier on your body and it provides you with more power with each stroke than not having that support.

Entry-level kayaks have either no foot support system or foot wells. Foot wells are molded right into the kayak, such as on the sit-on-top model in the video. Their downside is that there are no other options for length other than what’s built in.

Another disadvantage is how your feet rest in these wells. They don’t fit your feet as well as foot pegs, and your ankles tend to turn as you use your legs for leverage.

Foot pegs are highly adjustable, making it easy to accommodate your leg length to customize the bend in your knees. They’re designed to carry the full weight of your feet rather than just your heels. That gives you better leverage and more comfort.

2. Seating System

Basic seats are right on the kayak floor. Some are padded, some aren’t. With a seat like this you’re almost guaranteed a wet rear every time you paddle. Comfort wise it may be fine for an hour or so, but add any length and it will soon become uncomfortable.

Upgraded sit-on-top kayaks come with a framed seat that gives a couple big advantages. First, you’re sitting slightly above the kayak’s floor and more likely to stay dry. Second, your heels are slightly lower than your seat, giving you a more natural sitting position.

man next to kayak

Kayak seating systems come in many varieties

A framed seat gives you a few more advantages, too:

  • It’s a suspension-style seat that’s more comfortable for people of various body shapes and sizes, and for more time on the water.
  • Many of these seats can be completely taken out of the kayak and double as a camp chair.
  • Many are designed with a high and low position. Kayaks with this option are designed for extra stability to support your raised center of gravity. It’s especially helpful for kayak anglers and even for basic comfort. A higher seat also makes it easier for anglers who want to stand up in their kayak to fish.

As for sit-inside kayaks, there’s also a big difference in seating. Entry level sit-insides offer very basic seats, sometimes padded and sometimes not. Again, comfortable for a little while but not hours at a time and guaranteed to get you wet.

Upgraded seats include much of what we already went over: A suspension-style seat that’s raised off the kayak’s floor a bit for a drier ride, more comfort and adjustability for many hours of paddling. Some seat systems offer extra support for under your legs, too, which can be a big plus for long days.

The seats of touring and sea kayaks are designed to hold you snuggly for top-level performance. As with other types of kayaks, there’s a wide range of seat quality and function available depending on the price point and what you’re looking for. Many include hip and thigh braces for this style of paddling.

3. Materials the Kayak is Made From

This is by far the most expensive upgrade you’ll find for kayaks. The big advantages of kayaks made from better materials are:

  • Lighter weight, which makes it easier to transport.
  • Better performance on the water.

Polyethylene is the most common material for basic kayaks. These are blow-molded plastic. These kayaks are extremely durable but also the heaviest kayaks. Polyethylene kayaks with most of the features we’ve discussed start at around $750.

Thermoformed kayaks are made from ABS plastic, which is lighter and thinner. So your kayak is lighter, but not quite as durable as polyethylene. These kayaks start at about $999.

Composites are made from materials like fiberglass, carbon and Kevlar®. These kayaks are often beautiful, lighter and very stiff for high performance. They need more care than the poly kayaks and are the priciest option. These start at around $2,500.

woman kayaking

A kayak’s material highly influences its price

4. Skid Pads and Integrated Wheels

Kayaks are heavy! When you have a kayak with skid pads on the bottom you can drag it on the ground without damaging the hull. When the skid pads wear out, they’re easy to replace.

An upgrade to skid pads is an integrated wheel, which makes it super easy for one person to tote your kayak over surfaces to your vehicle or to the water.

The most basic kayaks don’t have either skid pads or a wheel. So your only option is to carry it if you want to keep the hull undamaged.

5. Portability

For some people, a kayak that can be easily stored and transported isn’t just a convenience but a necessity. It could be the difference between being able to own one or not.

Portable kayaks will give you that option. Portables come with a higher price tag, though. A portable will cost you more than a comparable hardshell. You also may compromise some performance on the water with a portable.

Portables are often lighter than hardshells. And even when they’re not, they fold up into a pack that can be carried easier than a 14-foot hardshell kayak.

man with a folding kayak on shore

A portable, like this folding Trak kayak, may be the best choice for some

All of these considerations can be overwhelming! Your budget and how you’ll use your kayak will weigh in heavily on that decision. A local paddlesports retailer can help you out, too.

Can our friendly Customer Service Team help you choose your next paddle? Get in touch with them today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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