Kayaking is one of the best ways to spend your day outside, surrounded on all sides by the beauty of nature. Whether you are on the still waters of a lake, some rushing rapids of a river, or exploring the open sea, kayaking can be one of the most intimate and enjoyable experiences you can have on the water.
It’s also, like many other hobbies, an investment. There are a few things required before you launch your boat, and with a variety of ever-evolving equipment, you might not know where to begin when researching prospective price points. So how much does kayaking cost? We’ll be breaking down what you need, what’s nice to have, and what you can expect to pay.
Before You Begin…
The costs can add up fast when you’re just starting out, so before jumping in, make sure that kayaking is something you consider worth the investment. Never kayaked before? There are plenty of ways to find out whether it’s the right fit for you.
One way is to rent a kayak. Check with your nearest public body of water, whether it’s a lake or a beach, and you are sure to find a vendor renting kayaks by the hour. This is a great way to get a feel for it without making a long term investment.
Another option is to try an inflatable kayak ($60-125 for one or two seaters). While these don’t have the solid structure of a traditional kayak, they are a good way to test the waters. Speaking of waters though, you are going to want to steer clear of rocky waters while in an inflatable yak due to the possibility of popping. They are harder to steer, easier to store and transport, and trying an inflatable kayak first may aide in making decisions about what equipment best suits your needs.
These are the items that you absolutely have to have before ever hitting the water.
The most important factor that you have to decide before making your kayak purchase is where you plan to paddle. Different styles of kayaks are built to withstand different types of water.
- Recreational Kayak ($200-$1,000+) – Meant for slow moving or still waters, the recreational kayak is best for the outdoor enthusiast looking to kick back and relax while enjoying the outdoors. They’re typically around 9-12 feet long and are very easy to maneuver. This is perhaps the most popular type of kayak, and whether you’re a beginner or an expert, the recreational kayak meets the needs of any skill level. Most have wide cockpits, making it easy to get in and out of, or some do away with the cockpit all together and have a flat, sit-in top for those who like to fish or jump out and swim.
- Touring Kayak ($800-$2,500+) – Touring kayaks are built for open water like oceans or large lakes. With plenty of storage space, you can easily load up your camping gear and cover great distances on a long trip. They’re longer than the recreational kayaks, and have a smaller cockpit so that you stay seated during your journey.
- Whitewater Kayak ($700-$1,500+) – These boats are built to withstand the bumps and bruises of rough, choppy water. Whitewater kayaking can be rather dangerous, so if you’re a beginner, you may want to start by taking some lessons. Whitewater kayaks are smaller vessels that maneuver quickly in fast moving water around rocks and other obstacles. Keep in mind that a helmet ($80-$180) is a necessary piece of equipment with this kind of kayaking.
Other than the kind of kayak you pick, the paddle is the next most important factor in your performance on the water. Your price will depend on the length of paddle (which is determined by your height and your boat’s width) and the material the paddle is made out of.
Plastic blades with aluminum shafts are the most popular and cost efficient for recreational kayakers ($25-$80). Mid-range is the more lightweight fiberglass blade with fiberglass shaft ($30-$90). Ultra light for a top performance is the carbon fiber paddle, but it also comes with the heftier price tag ($80-$300).
Method of Transportation
Don’t forget that you’ll have to have a way to transport your kayak to the launch point. If you don’t have an open bed truck, the best option would be to buy a kayak rack ($40-$200) for your vehicle so that it can be easily transported on long trips or on the highway.
If you’re kayaking on moving water, you’ll need one vehicle at the launch point and one at the place where you pull out, so you may need more than one vehicle rack depending on where you plan to kayak.
Personal Floatation Device
No matter where you kayak, you NEED to have a PFD. A life vest ($40-$150) is a low cost investment in your safety, and a definite must-have before you hit the water. In many states, a PFD is actually legally required, but regardless of where you live, you need to have one. No matter how strong a swimmer you are, unpredictable things can happen even in very shallow water. Always wear your PFD when kayaking – it can (and has) save your life!
Before you launch your kayak for the first time, be sure to check into your state’s requirements for watercrafts and licensing. Some states, such as Ohio, require that all watercrafts, including kayaks, be licensed (~$25 for a three year license) prior to operation. Failure to comply with your state’s laws could result in some hefty fines.
Extras and Accessories
Once you have the necessities covered, there are always additional ways to upgrade your kayaking experience or things that aren’t technically necessary but nice to have. Such as:
($7-$25) A dry box is watertight and will keep your phone and other valuables secure while on the water. Dry bags can be much larger than the dry box and are great for storing snacks, spare clothes, or other items you don’t want to get damp.
($30-$100) If you’re venturing into faster moving waters (or even some choppy slower water), a spray skirt is designed to keep the splashes from reaching the inside of your yak. They’re a good investment that can save you the time and effort of having to bail out the water that inevitably will collect in the cockpit.
($25-$100) Standard seats aren’t always the most comfortable. You can typically upgrade any kayak seat to a softer, more padded seat if that suits you better.
($40-$300) When you’re not out on the water, you will want to keep your kayak stored somewhere out of the sun and preferably off of the ground, away from any snakes or other curious creatures that might want to make your kayak their new home. Whether you use mounted wall hooks or a freestanding rack, proper storage can help keep your kayak protected from damage and theft.
(Price Varies) Combine two hobbies in one! Kayaking is a great way to get closer to your catch. If you’re looking to fish while on the water, you’ll need your typical fishing gear – rod & reel, line, hook, bait, pliers and other accessories.
How much does kayaking cost?
Well, it will ultimately depend on what kind of kayaking you decide to do, but now that you have an idea of the costs associated with the hobby you can figure out what options best suit your needs. Be sure to think about how you plan to use your kayak, not only now but also in the future, so you are sure to purchase the best yak for the experience. Regardless of what kind of kayak you buy or the material your paddle is made from, one thing is for sure: Kayaking can lead you to breathtaking views, exciting experiences, and a hobby fit for any afternoon or weekend. Go paddle, stay safe!