In this article we’re going to talk about what the best kayaks are for rivers.
What makes rivers different than lake paddling and ocean paddling?
You’re talking about an environment that oftentimes has current. It can be slow moving current, it can be fast moving current or white water.
There are different hazards that they come along with that. Not only the white water itself and rocks, but things like fallen trees, dams and weirs. There’s a variety of factors on rivers that you don’t have to consider for lakes and for the open ocean.
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What Are The Best Kayaks For Rivers?
In general the best kayaks for rivers are ones that are stable, that are shorter so that they’re more maneuverable. Kayaks that can deal with waves and that won’t swamp very easily.
Let’s look at four different types of kayaks that are good for rivers.
Sit On Top Hard Kayak
We’re going to start with the sit on top hard kayak.
This is your traditional sit on top recreational kayak. It’s made of plastic. You sit on top of it. It can’t swamp because any water that comes onto the boat gets drained out through scupper holes, the holes that go right through the kayak and back into the water.
These boats are designed to be very stable, very comfortable to sit in. They have seats that can usually be moved from a high position to a low position, at least in the higher quality sit on tops.
And they don’t swamp. That’s the joy of them. If you flip, you just roll them back upright, climb back on and you’re good to go again.
Because they don’t swamp, they’re easy to drag into shore if you’re not going to get in from the water. You can just swim them to the shore of the river, flip them upright and get back in.
Sit On Top Inflatable Kayak
Next level is the sit on top inflatable kayak.
Inflatables are amazing river boats. They’re extremely comfortable, they’re like big lounge chairs floating around, like those pool chairs that you can get. But they’re very durable, at least quality inflatables are very durable.
They’re designed to take the abuse of being dragged on rocks and on the beach. Of course you do have to be somewhat careful with them, but it’s amazing how much abuse that they’ll take.
The other incredible thing about them is how stable they are. You will be amazed how hard it is to flip an inflatable kayak, even in pretty significant white water.
They are really the four by fours of the kayaking world.
You can get singles, you can get doubles of the inflatables. They’re a great all-around option.
They aren’t though high performance and that’s where some of the sit insides really come into play.
Sit Inside Kayak
You can get a a recreational sit inside kayak.
A sit inside kayak is a kayak that actually you sit inside and not on top of and therefore it can swamp, it has an open cockpit. Iif you tip over, the boat is going to fill up with water and you have to drag it to shore and deal with a boat full of water.
A recreational sit inside kayak tends to have a big cockpit. There’s no real feeling of confinement. If you were to flip over, you just fall out of the kayak. You couldn’t stay in the kayak, if you wanted to.
They’re wide, they’re stable, they don’t tend to be too long. They’re good recreational river runners.
Their limitation is very simple. They don’t deal with any significant white water, because the waves will just fill up your kayak, swamp you, and you’re basically screwed at that point. You’ve got to get to shore and empty them or just swim out of them.
They’re really only designed for very mild moving water. If you want to do anything more than that and you want to sit inside kayak, that’s where you go to a white water sit inside kayak.
White Water Kayak
The white water kayak is the ultimate sit inside kayak. The ultimate in performance for rivers. It can handle everything from class 1 moving water to class 5 waterfalls.
They’ve got small cockpits that are designed to be sealed with the skirt. They’re short, they’re wide, which means they’re stable, maneuverable. They keep the water out. You keep the water out with the skirt.
There are very little limitations. Your own limitations are the limitations of a white water kayak.
So there you go.
You’ve got the sit on top hard kayak. A great option for just general paddling.
Sit on top inflatable kayak. Even better for white water and very comfy.
A sit inside recreational kayak, which is only good for mild current.
And then a white water kayak. A high performance sit inside kayak, which is sky’s the limit on the rivers.