The 8 Best Tandem Kayaks | Buyer’s Guide & Reviews | 2021
If you prefer to paddle with company, a tandem kayak is the way to go. Hitting the water with a fellow kayaker not only makes for a more social experience, it allows you to embark on more challenging water sport adventures. Paddling in tandem offers plenty of advantages over a solo kayak. For one, each occupant can take turns paddling, providing plenty of opportunity for breaks. Paddling along with a fellow kayaker also allows you to achieve more substantial cruise speeds and stability on the water. Considering upgrading to a tandem kayak? Our guide outlines all the key things you should be thinking about before you buy.
Construction & Durability
If you intend to use your kayak on a regular basis, you should prioritise materials and build quality. The majority of inflatable tandem kayaks are made from durable PVC material, which is usually strong enough to resist abrasion and stave off punctures. For peace of mind, you should think about spending a little bit more on a PVC kayak with an additional coating. Polyurethane is an effective extra layer that will improve abrasion resistance, although the most desirable coating to go for is something like Kevlar. In addition to punctures and abrasion, you also need to consider the impact of sunlight on your kayak material. Constant exposure to UV rays can lead to fading of material, while excess heat can weaken the integrity of any kayak material. UV-resistant materials are therefore advisable if you intend to be outdoors for many hours at a time in hot and bright conditions.
If you are looking to purchase a hardshell kayak, you should think about purchasing one constructed from high-grade composites. Fibreglass is a particularly good material when it comes to kayak construction, combining impressive durability with a relatively low weight. Carbon fibre yields similar advantages, although the difference in price between these materials and more basic ones is substantial.
Although composites are robust and highly resistant to UV rays, they are by no means impervious to damage. Therefore, always pay attention to the construction of any kayak you are interested in buying. Many kayaks start life as separate hulls and decks, before the two components are bonded together. If you are looking to purchase an inflatable tandem kayak, you should look for a design that incorporates multiple air channels. This provides you with a useful contingency in the event of a puncture, providing you with enough buoyancy to remain afloat until you can return to shore and carry out essential repairs.
Tandem Kayak Capacities
In most cases, a tandem kayak will offer a maximum weight capacity of around 400 pounds. This is usually more than sufficient for two users, along with a modest amount of accessories. However, if are looking for a kayak that is to be used for hours at a time, you will need to factor in the additional bulk of extra accessories. If you intend to use your kayak for fishing, you almost certainly want a kayak with a more generous weight capacity. Think about the additional weight of rods, reels (like the PENN Slammer III), bait boxes and other essential items you will need to keep with you after you depart from the shore. You should also consider the stability of the kayak you are buying. If you want the freedom to be able to move around and cast off when fishing, a wider kayak is advisable. A wider design will provide you with enhanced stability, without the worry of you taking on water. If you simply want to paddle, a narrower hull is best as it will facilitate faster speeds.
Skegs & Fins
If you are new to the world kayaking, you may not be fully acquainted with rudders, fins and skegs. However, these are crucial components that will significantly impact how well your kayak handles on the water. A skeg is a simple fin that can be attached or removed to your kayak to help you stay on course. When applied, a skeg will ensure that your kayak remains on a straighter trajectory, even if wind threatens to blow you off course. Using a skeg in windy conditions means you do not have to exhaust yourself paddling to compensate for wind factor. Tracking fins are similar to skegs, but can be removed more easily in the event that you want to turn your kayak with minimal effort.
Adjustable Seats & Legroom
Kayak seats are a key part of any kayak cockpit. As you would expect, tandem kayaks include two individual seats. To ensure you have a kayak that is as versatile and functional as possible, look for models that include seats that can be adjusted or removed. This will allow you to reconfigure the interior of your cockpit at will or transform your vessel into a solo kayak if you are looking to paddle alone (well, with your kayak GPS). Inflatable seats are incredibly common, even with cheaper kayaks. Such seats offer good degrees of comfort and support, with air pressure easily tailored to individual preference.
You should also ensure that each user has sufficient legroom. Many kayaks include overlapping foot wells that ensure each occupant has plenty of legroom when paddling. Additional footrests are also advisable as they ensure each occupant is locked securely in place when paddling, enhancing control of the kayak.
The most streamlined of kayaks usually will not provide you with much in the way of storage. However, you should ensure any kayak you purchase has a limited amount of storage for essentials items you can not be without when out on the water. Bungee cords and mesh net compartments are the most basic of storage solutions, providing you with a convenient place to tuck dry gear and other items when on the water. D-rings are also convenient for securing additional accessories to the outside of your kayak hull. Make sure D-rings are made from durable materials like stainless steel to ensure they avoid rusting, especially if you intend to use your kayak on a regular basis.
If you have the money to invest in a premium inflatable kayak or a hardshell design, you will almost certainly find more comprehensive storage solutions. In the case of hardshell kayaks, this includes secure hatch compartments with locking functionality. These are very handy if you are looking to carry items with you out onto the water that need to be kept dry at all times. If you intend to use your kayak for fishing, you should also think about rod holders and angling mounts.
Portability & Practicality
This is another key factor to think about when selecting a suitable tandem kayak. Inflatable models are arguably the most convenient option for those without a large vehicle or roof rack. When fully deflated, these types of kayak can be packed into compact carry cases that will easily fit inside most trunks. However, you should always ensure such kayaks are made from durable enough materials so regular inflation, deflation and folding does not compromise the integrity of the hull material. You also need to think grab handles and grab lines. These make it easier to get your kayak out onto the water and pull it back onto shore.
Hardshell kayaks are a more desirable option for those looking to enjoy rough waters and high-octane kayak adventures, although they are more difficult to transport. Provided they are made from lightweight materials, kayaks of this type are not all that difficult to lift and carry. However, they should include conveniently placed carry handles at the sides to allow for easy lifting and effortless transportation from your vehicle to the shore. If you are looking to buy a hardshell kayak, you may also want to think about roof rack compatibility.
Best Tandem Kayaks | Reviews
If you are ready to invest in a two person kayak but still need some further inspiration, you might want to consider some of these first-rate tandem kayak models. These quality kayaks are designed to suit every budget, with top products from highly reputable manufacturers.
If you are looking for a tandem kayak that scores maximum marks for versatility, the Solstice by Swimline Durango kayak should fit the bill nicely. This quality kayak offers 2-in-1 functionality, easily converting from a single person to two-person kayak. This makes it a good choice for users who want to use their kayak more broadly. It will comfortably sit two people should you wish to partake in tandem kayak adventures, but is also compact enough that a single occupant can take to the water in comfort. The sturdy design of the Solstice Durango will also appeal to buyers looking for a kayak that will cope well with regular use.
A variety of materials have been utilised in the overall construction. The base itself is made from high-grade nylon, while the top cover is made from a premium Oxford fabric, complete with a polyurethane coating. The interior construction is also finished to a high standard, with K-80 PVC the material of choice. Finally, the adjustable bucket seats have been covered in a robust layer of nylon to ensure the kayak remains in serviceable condition for as long as possible.
This kayak also features stern and bow cover, along with elastic cords and handy D-rings for convenient storage of your essential gear. The Durango also features a V-shaped base, which ensures better tracking performance so you can maintain a straighter path when you are on the water. Getting this kayak ready for the water is also very straightforward thanks to the inclusion of three Boston valves, which makes inflation and deflation quick and effortless. A carry bag is thrown in along with the kayak itself, making it easy to store and transport. In the unlikely event of a puncture, you can also make use of the included repair kit.
The Intex Explorer K2 is one of the more affordable choices in this list, but it offers a good deal of premium features that makes it a serious contender. This inflatable kayak has been designed to offer the user a comfortable experience when on the water. The Explorer K2 tandem kayak includes two adjustable seats, each with their own backrest. This makes it a suitable option for those looking to spend many hours at a time out on the lake or river. The interior cockpit is also generously proportioned, providing ample space so that you can maintain complete control at all times.
This streamlined kayak is a good option for the less experienced kayaker, as well as paddlers looking for something that will demand less effort to get going. The compact design of this kayak makes it easy to transport and store, while assembly and inflation is incredibly straightforward. Although many might be deterred by an inflatable design, this quality kayak includes an inflatable I-beam base that provides exceptional rigidity and stability on the water. This inflatable floor also enhances comfort, even when occupied by two users.
The Explorer K2 includes a removable skeg that, when used, provides better directional stability on the water. The seats themselves are particularly impressive for such a budget-friendly product. Each inflatable seat includes an adjustable backrest t hat will ensure both paddlers remain comfortable for the duration of their time on the water. This kayak is also a good option if you are looking for peace of mind when you are out and about on the lake. The visible yellow trims and vibrant graphics make it easy to spot this kayak, even when you are some distance from the shore. If you are relatively new to kayaking, these basic safety features are a definite plus.
Inflating and deflating this kayak is very straightforward thanks to the inclusion of a Boston valve on either side of the vessel. A reliable Intex pump is included along with the kayak, allowing for automatic inflation. This also saves you having to purchase a pump separately. Grab lines and grab handles at either end of the kayak also make for easy handling. Should you run into any trouble and your kayak suffer any damage or abrasion, you can make use of the included repair patch kit. Another welcome feature of this inflatable tandem kayak is the inclusion of two aluminium oars. Admittedly, this kayak is not suited to advanced elements, but it should hold up perfectly well on a lake or rivers with a mild current.
The Intex Challenger K2 is an ideal choice of kayak for anyone looking for streamlined design effortless paddling. The Challenger K2 makes a great impression with its vibrant green colour scheme, while the vivid branding will enhance visibility in low light conditions. The Challenger K2 should also appeal to anyone looking for a kayak that excels when it comes to durability. This two person kayak is made from incredibly robust vinyl material that is resistant to punctures and will cope well with prolonged exposure to UV rays.
Two individual air chambers provide you with exceptional balance when you are out on the water, while an inflatable I-beam floor provides you with essential rigidity. All this ensures that the Challenger K2 provides you with reliable tracking ability and ensures you rarely stray far from your desired path. The Challenger K2 offers more than enough room for two adult users, with a pair of removable seats included. These inflatable seats feature a curved backrest to provide you with good levels of support and comfort when paddling, while they can also be moved around within the interior of the vessel to provide you with impromptu foot wells and plenty of legroom. The closed deck design of this kayak also means that less water will find its way in, ensuring you always stay well within the 400-pound weight capacity.
Grab lines can be found on either end of this kayak, allowing you to easily pull it out onto the water or retrieve it once you have made your way back to the shore. A cargo net can also be found on one end of the kayak, providing you with plenty of storage space for any essentials you might need when you are out on the water. A removable skeg is also included, allowing you to improve tracking ability if you struggle to paddle straight. The Challenger K2 also comes with two 86-inch paddles, saving you the need to invest in these essential items separately. A high output pump is also included, allowing for automatic inflation and deflation. Finally, you will find a storage bag included, with carrying handles that make transporting your kayak to and from the water a breeze.
The Intex Excursion Pro is definitely the way to go if you are looking for a deluxe kayak with plenty of premium features. This first-rate kayak is made from robust materials that are synonymous with the high-grade manufacturing of Intex products. An incredibly durable PVC and polyester core provides a firm backbone for this kayak, without making the overall design too heavy. The hard-wearing materials also ensure you have a kayak that will cope well with all of your maritime adventures, proving incredibly resilient to impacts and abrasion. The tough material also holds up well against regular exposure to UV rays, making the Excursion Pro a good option for the kayak enthusiast looking to get out and enjoy the water on a regular basis.
This kayak also boasts high pressure inflation that further enhances its overall durability and rigidity. This impressive level of inflation will also aid stability when you are on the water. Spring-loaded valves can be found on either end of the kayak, allowing for quick and effortless automatic inflation and deflation. The Excursion Pro also includes two removable skews designed for use in deep and shallow water, which truly broadens the horizons of this kayak and ensures you can maintain maximum manoeuvrability at all times. This particular model from Intex is a good option for those looking for a reliable fishing kayak, with two integrated fishing rod holders included. Additional storage space can also be found in the bow and stern, while stainless steel D-rings are also included so you can attach all manner of gear and accessories.
This generously proportioned kayak will also provide you with a comfortable experience at all times. Two adjustable bucket seats are included here, with two floor mounted footrests on hand to ensure perfect posture as you paddle. A removable and adjustable mounting bracket is also included so you can attach a wide variety of accessories to your kayak, including GPS tracker systems and a wide variety of fishing accessories.
If you are looking for a kayak that delivers when it comes to versatility, the 4-person Excursion boat from Intex is something to think about. While this is not strictly a tandem kayak, it can be effectively used in certain situations. First and foremost, this is not a good option for those looking or a kayak that will handle challenging elements and whitewater conditions, but it should more than suffice for paddling on calmer waters and fishing excursions. This inflatable boat boasts the same high-grade construction as other products from Intex, with durable vinyl materials and an inflatable I-beam floor that delivers exceptional durability and stability.
This inflatable boat will also impress anyone looking for a more spacious vessel in which to fish from. Unlike conventional tandem kayaks, this inflatable boat features a two larger seats that face inwards to the centre of the deck. Both seats are fully inflatable and boast cushioned backrests for maximum comfort. This is a top tandem kayak pick for those looking to get out on the water with the family or larger groups. With an impressive weight capacity of 725 pounds, this kayak will easily accommodate four average-sized users. The extra-wide cockpit provides sufficient space to stand and move about when you are out on the lake or calmer waters, allowing you to idle away hours at a time in comfort.
This 4-person boat also provides an incredible amount of storage potential and practical features. Fishing rod holders can be found on either end, while gear pouch storage compartments provide a convenient place to house extra items. A gran handle on the bow and stern, as well as an all-around grab line makes getting this kayak out onto the water or back onto the shore simple. Trolling motor mount fittings are also included, as well as paddle holders for keeping idle oars within easy reach. Although not suitable for use on rough waters and water sports applications, this recreational kayak should prove more than suitable for everyday use.
This Sevylor Big Basin kayak offers capacity for up to three users, but thanks to its adjustable configuration it can be used effectively as a tandem kayak. This Big Basin kayak has been made from heavy-duty PVC that makes it more than adequate for use on lakes or milder currents. The tarpaulin base also provides you with sufficient protection against punctures, meaning you will not have to worry about constantly reaching for the repair patch kit. This kayak model features multiple individual air chambers, providing you with better buoyancy and ensuring your kayak remains afloat, even if one chamber suffers a catastrophic puncture. This will provide you with plenty of time to return to the shore before the kayak takes on too much water.
This kayak is also very easy to inflate. Boston valves can be found on the outside of the kayak, with double threads to ensure inflation and deflation is as quick and effective as possible. The Big Basin model also includes an airtight system that ensures as much air as possible is retained at all times, minimising the chance of you losing buoyancy when you are on the water. Another neat feature of this kayak is the inclusion of spray covers. These covers are highly effective at keeping shielding the occupants against splashes, keeping you as dry and as comfortable as possible for longer.
The adjustable seat design makes it easy to switch up the interior configuration of this kayak. You can choose to use it at full occupancy, with three individual users, or remove a seat to provide a roomy interior deck for tandem kayak adventures. Although the basic features are all present and accounted for, the Sevylor Big Basin kayak is lacking frills. Unlike other kayaks on the market, the seat here are rather simple in their design, with no padding and additional support. Footrests are also lacking, but when used in a 2-person configuration, the ample legroom makes up for this. While carrying handles are included to allow you to move in and out of the water with ease, there is no grab line included here. There are also no storage hatches or compartments to be found here, which may limit your use of the kayak somewhat.
If you are happy to transport a hardshell kayak on a vehicle roof rack, the Ocean Malibu 2XL is a premium alternative to an inflatable model. This quality kayak has been designed for larger users in mind, with generous dimensions that make it suitable for taller paddlers. This hardshell kayak has also been engineered to perform better on the water, with the streamlined design allowing you to achieve faster speeds and better tracking. Unlike inflatable kayaks with their inherent shortcomings, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 2XL is built for use on rough water and more challenging conditions.
This tandem kayak can be used comfortably for many hours at a time. The Comfort Plus seats really stand out when you compare this kayak to other options in this list. Although there is plenty of space for two users to use the kayak comfortably, you can easily remove one of the seats to provide a more roomy experience for a single occupant. Overlapping foot wells are also included here, ensuring both user have plenty of legroom at all times. If versatility is something you are after, this kayak will not disappoint.
This kayak also boasts plenty of practical features that will make enjoying rough waters as straightforward as possible. Carrying handles are mounted on either side, making this kayak easy to transport from your roof rack to the water. This more than compensates for the more substantial carrying weight of the model. Deck bungee cords are also included for convenient storage, while paddle holders mean you can rest your oars when you come to a stop on calmer waters. Although considerably pricier than inflatable alternative, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 2XL is worth it if you are someone who truly enjoys water sports and needs a tandem kayak that will perform well in more demanding situations.
If you are looking for a fishing kayak that goes above and beyond the basic criteria, this Ocean Malibu 2XL Angler kayak is something to seriously think about. Compared to many other kayaks, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 2XL is rather wide, which helps improve stability on the water and allow for easier paddling. This generously sized kayak also offers more than enough room for two adult occupants, but provides you with the freedom to reconfigure the interior for a single user. This hardshell kayak will also appeal to those looking for premium build quality, with polyethylene ensuring you have a vessel that will hold up well to the elements when used on a regular basis. It also offers an impressive weight capacity of 500 pounds, which is more than sufficient to keep two adult users and a host of fishing accessories afloat.
With its sit-in hull design, this kayak is the perfect option for those looking to get out and enjoy a spot of fishing. The Comfort Plus seats provide occupants with a comfortable recline, even when out on the water for many hours. Overlapping foot wells are also included, ensuring each user enjoys sufficient legroom. Although many kayaks do not include storage hatches as part of their design, this premium model does. A large storage hatch can be found in the centre of the deck, with a locking function to keep your essentials secure at all times. Four deck mounts and two rod holders are also included, making this an ideal option for keen anglers.
A duck bungee is also included, providing you with additional storage potential. Paddle holders are also included as part of the design, providing you with a secure place to store oars when they are not in use. Carrying handles can also be found on either side of the hull, allowing you to transport the kayak from your roof rack to the water with minimal effort. This hardshell fishing kayak may be the priciest option in this list, but it is certainly worth the premium price and will serve you well for years.
Our Top Kayak Picks
By now you should have plenty of inspiration for your next tandem kayak purchase. If you are looking for something very affordable, the Intex Explorer K2 is probably your best option. This inflatable tandem kayak might be relatively inexpensive, but it does not skimp on practical features and versatility. In fact, it holds up well against most of the other inflatable models we have explored. The Explorer K2 is hard-wearing and robust enough that it will handle everyday kayak adventures, while the inclusion of essential extras and accessories will slash your outgoings further. You also have the option to remove one of the seats and transform it into a solo kayak.
Looking for a kayak that can be used for a wide range of waterborne adventures? The Intex Excursion Pro is a good option. This tandem kayak provides you with all the convenience of an inflatable design, but still provides you with plenty of premium features and additional elements that gives it the edge over more basic models. Not only does this kayak offer more storage potential than other models, it also boasts high pressure inflation that ensures maximum stability on the water.
If you are prepared to spend substantially more on a hardshell kayak, we would definitely advise thinking about the Ocean Kayak Malibu 2XL offerings. Both the tandem and angler models we have discussed bring you the hard-wearing performance of a hardshell design, along with comfortable seats, better handling and tracking ability in the water. However, the angler model definitely takes the crown thanks to the inclusion of deck mounts, rod holders and a secure centre hatch. Both of these hardshell kayaks are also relatively lightweight, with side-mounted handles making them relatively easy to get from A to B.