Best River Kayak

10 Best River Kayak 2023 – Thrilling Adventure on the Water

If you’re looking for an exciting outdoor adventure, river kayaking is the perfect activity to try. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, the tranquility of floating down a river while surrounded by breathtaking scenery is a truly unforgettable experience. When it comes to choosing the best kayak for river, it’s important to consider factors such as the type of river you’ll be kayaking in, the size and weight of the kayak, and your budget.

In this article, we will provide you with the information you need to choose the best river kayak 2023 that will fit your needs and help you have an enjoyable and safe kayaking experience.

Buyer’s Guide For Picking The Best Kayak for River

If you’re unsure of how you’ll use the river kayak, it could be challenging to settle on just one. It also doesn’t help that “river kayaking” might signify a lot of different things:

Recreational river kayaking is ideal for taking in the sights and spending time outside with friends and family. Once you add angling, you’ll need fishing-specific equipment, a wide & robust sit-on-top construction, plus storage.

However, if you want to head right for the whitewater thrills, particularly class III and above, you’ll need to invest in a dedicated river kayak.

Do you understand what I’m saying here? It would be perfect if you could find a good river kayak that could be used for a variety of activities – a mixed-use kayak if you will.

But consider this: The good river kayak can glide over calm sections while yet rolling through rapids when necessary.

That’s easier said than done, I know.

However, based on how and where you’ll use it, our buying guide is designed to help you figure out what you need from a river raft in terms of features, specifications, and functionality.

Sit On Top Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks perform in calmer, slower-moving rivers, as well as whitewater — if the rapids aren’t too wild & you do not even mind having wet. In a SOT kayak, I’d feel comfortable attempting class III rapids.

Other benefits for novices and kayak anglers include wide, roomy decks, easy re-entry, plus self-bailing scupper holes. Sit-on-top river kayaks may also be used as stand-up angling platforms and provide more mobility than sit-in kayaks.

However, sit-on-tops have certain limitations, particularly when the currents become stronger and the waters become rougher.

Sit-inside kayaks excel in this situation, providing a safe and dry cockpit, increased control, and improved tracking and agility, even in whitewater.

Long-distance travels usually necessitate a thinner SIK. A shorter, “stubbier,” more versatile sit-in whitewater paddle will become a lot better pick if you’re traveling through class III as well as higher rapids.

Check the Width of the River Kayak

The breadth of the hull, commonly known as the “beam,” is likely the most important component in deciding how stable river kayaks will be. And, simply said, the wider the kayak, the greater stable it is.

When choosing the best river kayak, paddlers, especially novices and fishermen, should keep this in mind.

In terms of speed, broader kayaks tend to be a little slower. So, if you’re paddling upstream, the river’s currents will move the kayak onward.  usually, speed won’t be a concern, but if you don’t care about stability, a smaller hull is a good choice.


Whenever choosing an F, you should have a clear overview of what kind of area you’ll be paddling it in. Whitewater kayaking requires a different type of kayak than river kayaking.

If you want to kayak along a certain river, this should be rather simple because you’ll already be familiar with the landscape.

If you intend to paddle a variety of rivers, conduct some homework before and then prioritize choosing a crossover pontoon that can tackle respectively flat as well as whitewater.


River channels can occasionally become fairly narrow, with several sharp twists or turns based on the topography over which the river travels.

Certain touring & sea kayak types may be unsuited for river paddling due to their 12-14 foot length, which makes them significantly more prone to become entangled in impediments.

A paddle length of 8–10 feet is recommended for most river paddling.

Inflatable Vs Hardshell Kayak

A further consideration when purchasing a riverboat is whether you prefer a hard-shell or inflatable model.

Although your decision should be based in part on your level of knowledge, we would recommend inflatables in most cases.

Don’t be misled by the name or the lighter weight — contemporary inflatable kayaks can take a hammering if necessary, and if you’re traveling at a respectable pace, they’ll likely merely bounce off any impediment.

Storage Area

Many river kayaks, including many of the ones on our list, will offer a storage compartment for your fishing gear and personal belongings. 

As you would expect, this is a significant selling factor for any boat, so you can usually trust whichever online marketplace you’re using to inform you if a kayak has one.

A luggage net and an enclosed chamber a few feet long & broad can be used as storage units. The former is more frequent in smaller, lighter boats, so you’ll have to pay a little more if this is a characteristic that is essential to you.

Even if your kayak doesn’t have a specific storage compartment, you may attempt to make the most of the space you don’t utilize in the cockpit.

One should keep an eye on a boat’s load capacity limit so you can make intelligent verdicts about how much you can transport.

Jargon Buster for River Kayaks


Drops are pretty easy to understand like: rapid height shifts in water. Rocks, a fluctuation in river flow, or indeed a waterfall can cause them.


Openings are framed as water comes over a stone, shaping a waterway huge that adequately drags a pontoon. Playboaters use openings to do trapeze artistry, however, they may likewise be hazardous because they can keep a watercraft set up and ultimately flood it.


Edging (also known as carving) is the process of angling a kayak such that one edge of the pontoon is above water. Carving a turn in a raft raises the amount of fluid resistance on one side, forcing it to spin quickly.


Tracking refers to how effectively a pontoon keeps a straight path while being kayaked.


In kayaking, a chine is an unexpected shift in position in the cross-section of the structure. A “tough chine” is a location with minimal adjustment, whereas a “soft chine” is more modified while still allowing separate planes to converge.

Best Kayaks For Rivers – Top 10 River Kayaks Reviewed & Rated

1. Kayak Intex Explorer K2


  • PVC construction 
  • 10’3″ X 3′ X 1’8″
  • Weight: 30.60- pounds
  • Capacity: 400 lbs

This Explorer K2 sit-on-top double kayak from Intex, the leading maker of affordable inflatable kayaks, does not disappoint.

For parents who wish to introduce their kids to the joys of paddling, it’s a great option.

Explorer K2 is exceptionally light at only 30.6 pounds, despite its above-average length of 10.25 feet, and it carries an astounding 400-pound capacity.

Is it the best option for extended river excursions?

No, not exactly. Back support is minimal with the inflatable chairs. Even so, it’s ideal for novices and casual river days.

Its construction also outperforms its price tag. You may be confident that you’ll get more use out of these inflatable rafts than you would assume.

Reasons to Buy

  • Beginner-friendly
  • Extremely low weight and transportable
  • Low-cost but long-lasting and of acceptable quality
  • Inflates quickly and effortlessly
  • The detachable skeg provides excellent directional stability

Reasons to Avoid

  • The inflatable chairs provide little back support, making them uncomfortable
  • Storage space for types of equipment is limited
  • The paddles that come with the kit are a little small

The Explorer K2 from Intex is an excellent alternative for adults interested in learning to paddle and for families who wish to introduce their children to the sport.

2. Sun Dolphin Journey 10


  • Polyethylene for the hull
  • Length: 10′
  • Width: 30″
  • 44-pound weight
  • Cockpit Dimensions: N/A

This Journey 10 is a recreational paddle with fishing gear that provides excellent performance and stability while also providing a basic fishing kit. The Journey tracks well on the water because its thin bow profile allows it to cut through the water.

It’s a sturdy kayak with a broad beam, so you can cast and sometimes even stand up and cast without fear of an unintentional swim. The strong rocker of the boat keeps it nimble, and also the multi-chined hull provides excellent secondary stability, allowing you to edge it in for rapid spins.

The Journey includes a big and comfy seating area with protected thigh pads plus adjustable foot braces. This seat is simple, albeit it is adjustable, and it can be replaced if you wish to modify it with a different design.

With one tiny watertight storage box for valuables or a P.A.C. (Portable Accessory Carrier) that must be towed behind the kayak, the Journey has plenty of storage room. Towing the P.A.C. opens up a huge back tank well for additional storage.

Reasons to Buy

  • The seating is adjustable and comfortable
  • Paddle storage to keep them out of another way
  • Adjustable foot braces and thigh pads
  • Rod holder with swivel
  • P.A.C. (Portable Accessory Carrier)

Reasons to Avoid

  • There are no extra accessories and rod holders available

This Journey 10 allows you to mix river kayaking and fishing without losing performance. The Journey compensates for its basic fishing package by being steady, tracking well, & turning effortlessly. If you’re lucky with the rod and reel, there’s plenty of room on the Journey to keep your catch.

3. Sun Dolphin Bali SS


  • High-density polyethylene construction sit-on-top kayak
  • 10 ft
  • 44 pound
  • Capacity: 250 lbs

This Bali SS from Sun Dolphin, Aruba 10, a sit-on-top version, is a fantastic option for your upcoming calm river trip.

This kayak will be an excellent partner for a novice paddler keen to learn the pleasures of river paddling.

Please note that, with a capacity of 250 pounds, it’s not the best choice for heavier paddlers with a lot of gear. Even so, the Bali SS has plenty of storage capacity, thanks to the P.A.C., or Portable Accessory Carrier.

The kayak’s 10-foot polyethylene hull is lightweight and small, making it reasonably easy to manage on flowing water.

However, and I realize this may sound nitpicky, compact design has a disadvantage. This kayak will be difficult to steer due to strong gusts and river currents.

Reasons to Buy

  • Extra storage is provided via a Portable Accessory Carrier
  • Foot braces that adjust and thigh pads that protect
  • Simple to operate
  • Backrest with padding for enhanced comfort
  • Tracks good

Reasons to Avoid

  • A cushioned bottom cushion is not included with the kayak seat
  • Larger paddlers have an insufficient weight capacity
  • There are no fishing rod holders on the kayak

This kayak is one of the finest for recreational river use because of its comfort, agility, and storage capacity. It works well in rivers that are protected from the elements.

4. Pelican Prime 100


  • Polyethylene construction by Ram-X
  • 10 x 2.6 ft
  • 49 pounds
  • Capacity: 325 pounds

The Pelican Prime 100 is a river kayak that is 10 feet tall and contains 49 lbs; nothing out of the usual.

It can, however, haul an incredible 325 lbs and has plenty of storage, along with a front tank well plus bungee rigging as well as an instant bow hatch.

Furthermore, the multi-chine flat bottom body of the Prime 100 makes it both extremely stable and – and this is the most astonishing feature – easy to steer. This is what allows paddlers of various abilities to enjoy a secure but agile trip down the river.

In terms of comfort, Pelican’s river kayak boasts the ERGOFIT seating technology, which includes a cushioned seat cushion – however, the back support might be better.

Reasons to Buy

  • 325-pound weight capacity is above average
  • For enhanced comfort, there are footrests and a cushioned seat cushion
  • The hull’s multi-chine flat bottom provides stability
  • Simple to operate
  • Great for all levels of paddlers

Reasons to Avoid

  • Back support is lacking in the ERGOFIT sitting system
  • Long-distance travel is not recommended
  • Some may find it cumbersome and difficult to handle

If you ignore the price, the stability, agility, and outstanding load-bearing capacity of this kayak will undoubtedly play an important role in river paddling!

5. Pelican Sentinel 100X


  • RAM-X polyethylene construction sit-on-top kayak
  • 9.5 x 2.5 ft
  • 42 pounds
  • Capacity: 275 lbs

River kayaks must be as adaptable as feasible to accommodate various paddler types, including fishermen.

On that topic, Pelican’s Sentinel 100X is a small boat with many features for river anglers.

2 flush-mount rod holders, 2 paddle and rod tie-downs, accessory eyelets, and a molded-in center console are included. The ExoPak – a detachable storage section with two extra vertical rod holders – is also included.

It’s also durable, well-made, and, most importantly, steady. Pelican produced the river kayak with a multi-chine flat surface hull and a 2.5-foot beam.

It’s great that it’s just 42 pounds but can only hold 275 lbs. The weight capacity might have been a little more significant, especially with the extra equipment and supplies that fishers require.

The kayak is composed of the company’s distinctive Ram-X material, a greater polyethylene that helps a whitewater boat endure longer. 

This contraption even has an anti-slip carpet, so you can bring your dog or another furry buddy along for the ride!

Reasons to Buy

  • A detachable ExoPak section provides additional storage possibilities
  • Multiple rod holders & two accessory eyelets are included
  • The flat bottom hull with many chines feels stable but agile

Reasons to Avoid

  • The paddle is not included and must be purchased separately
  • The weight capacity of the kayak may have been a little greater
  • It isn’t very comfy because there isn’t adequate back support

Pelican’s Sentinel 100X is a dream come true if you wish to combine two passions. This robust but stylish ‘yak will greatly enhance your paddling experience!

6. Martini GTX Solo


  • Polyethylene for the hull
  • Length: 9′ 4″
  • Width: 27.6″
  • 48.5-pound weight
  • Cockpit Dimensions: 33″ x 18″

The Martini Solo GTX’s key selling point is its mobility and modular construction. The Martini is divided into two pieces, each weighing around 25 lbs and measuring 56 inches in length.

This unique shape makes it possible to store and move it in ways conventional kayaks cannot. And it’s even person portable for short distances because of the reduced weight of the various components.

Another advantage of the Martini is that it will be converted into a tandem boat with the installation of an optional middle section. The unique Snap-Tap mechanism from Point 65 makes connecting the parts a breeze.

It is built to assist a single person to construct and dismantle the kayak without assistance in a short amount of time. This video demonstrates how simple the Snap-Tap method is to use.

The Martini is swift and nimble on the water, with a wide rocker & lots of cockpit room. The Martini has enough storage, although it lacks a watertight locker.

The Martini is great for managing everything the river can throw at you because it can manage both moderate whitewater & gentler parts.

Reasons to Buy

  • Simple to store
  • Simple conversion to a tandem kayak
  • Very simple to move
  • For convenient traveling, it disassembles into components
  • Modular

Reasons to Avoid

  • The tracking isn’t ideal
  • The top speed is low

This Martini is an exceptional river kayak. It’s nimble enough to handle any tight twists & bends, as well as its hard-chined hull allows it to accelerate on flatter stretches.

7. Dagger Zydeco 9.0


  • Polyethylene for the hull
  • 9′ 1″ wide by 28.5″ long
  • 36.5-pound weight
  • 38.5″ x 21.75″ Cockpit Dimensions

This Dagger Zydeco is a compact, compact crossover boat that can tackle almost anything the river has to offer. With a length of 9 feet 1 inch and a weight of 36 pounds, the Zydeco is easy to transport and store without the use of a cart.

The Zydeco’s multi-chined hull, low profile, and short hull keep it nimble enough to handle moderate whitewater. A spray skirt can also be intended to maintain wet out from the cockpit.

It tracks so well on flat water and it can reach a respectable speed thanks to its displacing hull.

The Zydeco’s shorter length and unusually small cockpit may make it uncomfortable for bigger kayakers. This also means that the Zydeco has little storage space, making it unsuitable for prolonged excursions.

Reasons to Buy

  • Lightweight and simple to transport
  • For transport, it is quite portable
  • On the water, it’s quite maneuverable

Reasons to Avoid

  • Only capable of moderate whitewater
  • Storage is limited

Zydeco’s finest feature is its mobility and ease of usage. It is simple to move for one person because of its low weight & tiny size, and it will fit easily on, and occasionally in, most automobiles. This, along with its capacity to adapt to a variety of conditions, makes the Zydeco excellent for spontaneous kayaking.

8. Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10XT


  • Polyethylene for the hull
  • Length: 10′
  • Width: 28.5″
  • Weight: 49 pounds
  • Capacity: 275- 325 lbs

This Old Town Vapor 10XT is a fantastic all-around river kayak, with exceptional performance, plenty of storage, and a comfortable cockpit for lengthy voyages. Its thin hull & hard-chined hull provides outstanding tracking and high speed, but its breadth maintains it stable.

The Vapor 10XT has plenty of storage capacity, including a huge waterproof door in the back, as well as bungee storage for stuff you don’t mind getting wet. When not in use, a paddle holder protects the kayak out of the way and can also be used to keep a spare.

This Vapor 10XT can tackle level 3 whitewater with the addition of a spray skirt. If entered at the appropriate angle, its enormous volume will enable it to bounce outside from smaller holes, but anything larger will require a specialist whitewater kayak.

This Vapor 10XT is the largest of the boats on this list, weighing in at 49 pounds, and not suitable for one person.

Reasons to Buy

  • On the sea, maneuverable
  • Internal & external space is plentiful
  • Excellent tracking

Reasons to Avoid

  • It is difficult to transport alone

This Old Town Vapor 10XT boat is a tiny kayak with good performance. Its compact profile and hard-chined hull keep it tracking straight, but its shorter hull & high rocker make it agile. The big aft hatch has lots of storage room for supplies, as well as bungee cording. The Vapor 10XT’s sole drawback is its size, which limits its portability.

9. Advanced Elements Sport


  • Polyethylene for the hull
  • Length: 10′ 5″
  • Width: 32″
  • 26-pound weight
  • Size of Cockpit: 43″ x 16.5″
  • Capacity: 250 lbs

If you live near a river or other body of water and want a kayak that will allow you to be out on the water at any time without feeling worried about logistics, this Advanced Elements Recreation inflatable boat is a great option!

The Sport is a touch tight for bigger paddlers at 10 ft 5 inches long, and you won’t be able to store much stuff in it, but it consists of its pure portability.

This Sport has only four inflated chambers instead of six when folded down into a container compact that sufficiently fits into the cargo of almost any automobile. This makes it easier to inflate, and Advanced Elements claims that inflation requires less than 11 minutes with the added internal aluminum rib frame.

The Sport has a higher, extra supportive seat in recent versions to assist keep the kayaker comfortable, although it lacks thigh cushioning and footrests.

Despite being advertised as “built to operate in all water situations,” this Sport is not capable of managing whitewater, owing to its lack of a spray skirt.

Reasons to Buy

  • Compact packing size
  • It is extremely light and portable
  • Extremely maneuverable
  • Inflates quickly
  • It has a comfortable seat

Reasons to Avoid

  • Taller paddlers may find it too short
  • There is no spray skirt option
  • Not appropriate for whitewater due to limited gear space

The Advanced Elements Sport’s key selling advantages are its lightweight, mobility, and tiny pack-down size. If carrying & storing a kayak is a concern for you, this Sport will help you to have a boat on hand that is a little larger than a big duffel bag. If you’re extremely tall or don’t leave the house without the most up-to-date gear, you might want to seek elsewhere.

10. Wilderness Systems Aspire 105


  • High-density polyethylene construction 
  • Length: 10′ 6″
  • Weight: 48 pounds
  • 400 capacity

This Aspire from Wilderness Systems is designed especially for kayakers of all levels of ability. To put it another way:

Its steadiness will appeal to beginners, while its adaptability will appeal to more experienced kayakers.

The large, easy-to-access cockpit and Phase 3 AirPro seats will provide plenty of comfort. In terms of storage, this Aspire 105 has a whopping 400-pound maximum, as well as integrated storage possibilities.

It has a molded-in cockpit for a tiny space, a big appropriate storage hatch, and bungee deck rigging in the front and back.

This 10.5-foot kayak has great stability while yet providing the mobility you’d want from one of the greatest river kayaks.

It glides and slices through the water with ease, and it has a TruTrak adjustable skeg for enhanced tracking.

Reasons to Buy

  • There is a dry storage compartment
  • Incredible tracking and stability
  • Phase 3 AirPro seating is adjustable and pleasant
  • Both novice and experienced kayakers will enjoy this trip
  • Designed mostly on flat water, but performs admirably on rivers

Reasons to Avoid

  • Hatch levers of poor quality that are easily damaged
  • Shoulder-carrying is inconvenient and awkward
  • Because it lacks a drain stopper, you must manually drain it lacks

Are you seeking the pinnacle of river adventure stability, comfort, and maneuverability? The Aspire sit-in from Wilderness Systems provides all of this and more.


Q1- Is it possible to use a river kayak in the ocean?

It all depends on the weather and how far you want to go. A whitewater kayak may undoubtedly be used in the sea as long as there is no wind & you stay near the coast.

Q2- What are the finest boats to use for river camping?

To summarize, the smaller the boat is (while still allowing for adequate storage), the better. If you’re fishing and just paddling through, all of it is up to you.

Q3- Is it possible to kayak in sluggish rivers by yourself?

Kayaking with a buddy is always safer than riding solo, according to a decent rule of thumb.

If you have the appropriate style of kayak, you can undertake it alone, but know exactly the river enough and have the necessary emergency kit and training. Also, make sure someone knows about your excursion plans!

Q4- What is the ideal length for the best river kayak?

A length of 8 to 13 ft should be enough. Make sure it’s broad enough to accommodate your handling needs.

Final Verdict for Best River Kayak

River kayaking is enjoyable because of the variety of experiences it provides; no two river adventures are the same. You may spend the day paddling along a leisurely river, running whitewater rapids with excitement pumping through your veins, or catching fish. But that is why selecting the ideal river kayak may be difficult. The key is to plan ahead of time where you’ll paddle and get a boat for the river you’ll be using the most.

This kayak must be tough, versatile, and stable. It can handle flat water & rivers with ease and tracks well owing to the movable skeg, and already has outstanding stability.

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