UPDATE: This Kayak Brands List resource is Paddle Camp’s most popular article! If a kayak brand’s not on this list… Well, chances are we just haven’t found it yet, because it’s hard to find a kayak brand these days that we can’t find a reason to like.
In performing our daily research at Paddle Camp, we decided to create a kayak brands list of lists resource for ourselves to keep track of all the kayaks and kayaking gear we research and review. We built it with convenient links to name brand websites, their kayaks and their kayaking gear.
But after several comments about how this page was the fastest way we had to get back and forth to our favorite brands. And how much faster it made the tough task of gathering information, I had to ask myself, “Why are we keeping this list from the people who probably need it most?”
So, we decided to open up our “mother-of-all” “good”, “top”, “best”, “insanely-awesome” kayak brands list of lists as a resource you can reference in the search for your own personal “best” kayak.
This list resource is a great place to start to find your first, next, or that “last kayak you’ll ever buy”. It’s a work in progress, so all the names may not link to sites yet, but we’re working on it.
At the very minimum this page will help you shortcut the confusing job of researching kayak brands in order to choose your first kayak.
Affiliate Notification: Paddle Camp is reader-supported. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission on the products or services you purchase using the links.
The Best Kayak Brand … For You
But first, let me answer that burning question we all had when we started kayaking:
What’s the best brand of kayak? All around, the best brand of kayak, especially for beginners, is Perception Kayaks. The Perception Kayak brand is wildly popular, very affordable, and offers kayaks in all the different types except whitewater.
I know that’s a bold statement, as there are so many excellent brands of kayaks out there at all levels. But I didn’t want to cop out and give you yet another qualified, tentative answer to a direct question.
Regardless, in all the research we’ve done on kayaks, blending build quality, materials, popularity, availability, budget, and just downright coolness, perception kayaks are … literally everywhere.
Now the qualification. (you knew that was coming)
That being said, the “best” brand of kayak for you will depend on what you plan to do with your kayak—what water conditions you plan to paddle in the most, your budget, and of course what feels “cool” to you. Because, hey, cool counts, doesn’t it?
However, no matter what type of kayaking you plan to do, you’ll want a kayak brand whose manufacturer uses quality materials, has the right price point for your budget, has a good warranty policy, and most of all has a customer support department that’s available, responsive, and friendly.
We hope this list of kayak brands will make your search just a little easier.
Kayak Brand Retailers List
Sometimes, what you need is a one-stop kayak, kayak gear, kayak clothing and “all-things” kayak store. Specifically for those times, these top kayak brand retailers get the job done and then some.
Amazon.com– It’s only fitting to start any online kayak brand retailers list with the 800 pound gorilla in the living room! If you know what you’re doing and know what you want, Amazon’s a great place for kayaking gear. I still don’t know how they deliver a kayak in 2 days.
Austin Kayak – Founded over 20 years ago in central Texas, ACK is a specialty paddlesports and outdoor adventure online and brick and mortar brand retailer. They have a huge online kayaking presence and offer over 300 kayaks/canoes and over 3,500 kayaking accessories. And if you’re in Texas, they have 5 retail stores you can visit to ogle cool kayak gear.
Cabelas – If you’ve been living under a rock or you’ve never hunted or fished in your life, you might not know who Cabelas is. But there’s a whole world of fanatical fans out there that thumb through the Fall Cabelas catalog like Gollum strokes his precious ring. And Cabelas reps Ascend brand of kayaks almost exclusively.
Colorado Kayak Supply – Colorado Kayak Supply is one of the top online paddlesports retailers. The kayak brands they rep are mainly whitewater, and they’re located in the heart of outdoor recreation country in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. They have a warehouse that they ship Internet orders from and a retail store in Steamboat where you can go and touch all the pretty gear.
Dicks Sporting Goods – Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, DICK’S Sporting Goods is a leading sporting goods brand retailer offering an assortment of sports equipment, apparel, footwear and accessories. And they just so happen to sell several great entry-level, beginner-friendly kayaks and kayaking gear both online and in their many retail stores.
eBay – Who of us here isn’t familiar with eBay? In addition to their gargantuan array of products, Ebay sells brand name kayaks … and kayaking gear. New or used, you can find some great deals on kayaks and kayaking gear on eBay.
EMS – Eastern Mountain Sports started in 1967 and is located in North Conway, NH. They retail kayak brands, kayaking gear, and offer instruction through kayak schools.
NRS – Northwest River Supply. Match one 1972 idealistic business professor—Bill Parks—with the goal of taking business theory to the real world, and over 40 years later what do you get? An employee-owned paddling supply behemoth that not only sells anything and everything for paddling, but they have their own brand of inflatable kayaks too.
Sportsmans.com – Once you get past the hunting and fishing gear, you’ll find that Sportsman’s Warehouse has a multitude of outdoor adventure gear, including Kayaks. Look under the menu item “BOATING >> KAYAKS”. They’re only slightly less well known than Cabelas/Bass Pro Shops, they’re in over 28 states, everywhere in the West and expanding fast.
REI – Recreational Equipment, Inc. is one of the most trusted and shopped outdoor adventure and exploration brands on the Internet. And … they just happen to sell several very good kayak brands and a dizzying array of kayak gear to go along with them. (Did I mention they’re gluten-free?)
Walmart – Boom! You knew that was coming, didn’t you. Yep, big box behemoth brand, Walmart, has kayaks and kayaking gear galore. And if you’re a kayaking beginner, preparing to get into a sport that’s going to take some cash to get started, they’re a solid choice for quality budget boats and equipment.
Top 10 Best Kayak Brands List
Let’s define what we mean by “top” kayak brands. This isn’t to say these are the absolute best kayaks available on the market. Rather, these kayak brands are mainstream, enjoy large distribution, have great brand awareness, practice quality manufacturing processes and most of all, are made for the “masses.” And that would be us, because what most of us are looking for is affordability, access, and of utmost importance, fun.
Ranging from entry-level to mid-range to above average to downright awesome, these kayak brands hit the sweet spots of most beginning and intermediate kayakers, and satisfy many advanced kayakers’ needs as well. These companies build for price, performance, portability, and their kayaks are made for the “people.”
1. Old Town – While growing up, the Old Town brand was known as the “Cadillac” of canoes. Paddling our square-back aluminum canoe around, we lusted after Old Town canoes that we’d come across. Now, Old Town, since bought by Johnson Outdoors, has morphed itself into a serious kayak brand as well. They offer top-notch recreation, fishing, touring, sit-on-top, tandem, and even hunting kayaks.
2. Pelican – Pelican Kayaks has been creating quality Thermoform kayaks for over 50 years and it shows. They’re one of the most affordable, innovative and popular recreational kayak brand manufacturers around. Pelican International is considered one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies. If you’re just starting out, it’s hard to go wrong with a Pelican.
3. Perception – Their own website About page pretty much sums it up. “FOR OVER 40 YEARS, PERCEPTION KAYAKS HAS INTRODUCED MORE PEOPLE TO PADDLING THAN ANY OTHER KAYAK MAKER.” They make a wide range of recreational kayaks to fit every adventure and budget. Probably our favorite beginner kayak brand, Perception kayak are cool not costly.
4. Wilderness Systems – Since 1986, Wilderness Systems has been manufacturing kick-ass kayaks and winning awards for it. They’re cool, comfortable, and pretty much the “cock of the walk” in quality recreational kayaks. The Wilderness Systems Pungo sets the standard for upper-end recreational and touring kayaks.
5. Eddyline Kayaks – I went to High School in Mount Vernon, Washington. Little did I know, right across the Skagit river from me was Eddyline Kayaks in Burlington. With the Skagit (Pronounced Ska-jit. The first syllable rhymes with “cat”) river literally right out their back door and Padilla, Samish, and Bellingham bays a mere 30 minutes away, Eddyline has plenty of kayak proving grounds to test their brand.
6. Lifetime Kayaks – Lifetime is a multi-sport brand based in Utah. They have a wide array of entry-level quality sit-inside, sit-on-top, fishing, and tandem kayaks. Stable and affordable, Lifetime is a great kayak brand for beginners.
7. BKC – Brooklyn Kayak Company’s About Page sums it up perfectly – “From built-in waterproof storage compartments to paddles and seats included with every purchase, we tried to think of everything we would want in a kayak ourselves … without adding extra costs … if some other brand was making kayaks this good at prices these fair, we never would have opened shop.” That about covers it. Great kayaks at affordable prices and the only thing you have to left to buy is a life vest.
8. Malibu – Started in California in 1999 by kayak retailing enthusiasts turned manufacturers, Malibu brand kayaks strive to be unique, affordable, and constantly improved upon. Check these cool kayaks out.
9. Ocean Kayaks – In the ever consolidating world of kayak brands, Johnson Outdoors has gobbled up Ocean Kayaks just like they got Old Town. So far, the assimilation has been good and both brands are staying true to their roots. For sit-on-top brand bruiser Ocean Kayaks, let’s hope they get access to more R&D money to help them grow and innovate.
10. Vibe Kayaks – Aptly-named, Vibe Kayaks are another sit-on-top fun, fishing, and finding the joy in kayaking company after our own hearts. If I had one choice for a summertime, get wet, have fun, and still keep my finances in order, I’d get a Vibe sit-on-top. In fact, that may be my next tandem love. (Don’t tell my wife…)
Good Kayak Brands List
What is a “good” kayak brand, anyway? A good kayak brand is one that simply put, gets the job done … for you. Because if you love your kayak, can paddle it well, and you feel comfortable and stable in it, that is a good kayak brand for you.
Oh sure, some of these brands have kayaks that are in that “better” and the “best” category, depending on what they’re used for and how much you’re willing to spend on them. But they’re also recognized as being pretty darn good recreational kayak brands.
Here’s a list of recreational kayak brands that I’d say fall in that “good” category.
- Field & Stream Kayaks – Field & Stream is a brand I’ve known my entire life. They cut their teeth on fishing, hunting and cool outdoor magazines delivered to your door each month. Now they also make some of the best, most affordable, and readily available entry-level kayaks around. Their Blade series is a good case in point.
- Lifetime Kayaks – You can literally find Lifetime kayaks almost anywhere. Walmart, Big 5, Dicks Sporting Goods… They’re, for lack of a better way to put it, pretty darn good.
- Perception Kayaks – (see above)
- Pelican Kayaks – (see above)
- Sun Dolphin – Starting as a small family business in 1982. Sun Dolphin has grown to be “North America’s leading manufacturer of kayaks…” Still American made in Muskegon, MI, Sun Dolphin makes some damn good kayaks.
- Vibe Kayaks – (see above)
- Evoke Kayaks – What do vibrant colors, rotomolded manufacturing, Made in the USA, cool and affordable all have in common? Evoke Kayaks!
Best Fishing Kayak Brands List
Saying anything is the “best” is a purely subjective opinion of any product category. But the “best” fishing kayak? Come on…
In a sport with insane competition, continual innovation, and sometimes vicious brand loyalty, a list of the “best” fishing kayaks is sure to get us into “sharkey” water.
C’est la vie. Here we go.
- 3 Waters Fishing Kayaks – 3 Waters Kayaks is a brand of affordable, stable, comfortable and full featured fishing kayaks, They’re made in Thailand and designed in Australia and the US by a team of designers, craftsmen and kayak anglers who just want to catch big fish … from a kayak.
- Bonafide Kayaks – Another Made in the USA kayak company, Bonafide released their first kayak design in 2016 with the mission to build insanely awesome fishing machines. These are not your run-of-the-mill fishing kayaks.
- EddyLine Fishing Kayaks – Eddyline’s fishing kayaks are styled much like their super popular ocean touring kayaks. These are some true ocean fishing kayaks. Fast, sleek and comfortable.
- FeelFree Fishing Kayaks – Based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, the Feelfree team designs and manufactures Feelfree US brands that include Feelfree Kayaks, 3 Waters Kayaks, Seastream Kayaks, Jonny Boats and Feelfree Gear.
- Hobie Fishing Kayaks – When most fishermen think of fishing kayaks, they can’t help but include Hobie brand kayaks. But most of them would be surprised to know that Hobie produces some of the best pedal, inflatable, recreational paddle, and of all things kayak trimarans around.
- Jackson Fishing Kayaks – Jackson brand kayaks is now Jackson “Adventures” as they’ve branched out into outdoor adventure accessories, gear, apparel, and … kennels. No longer satisfied to be a grand whitewater kayak company, Jackson is going “big brand”.
- Lightning Fishing Kayaks – Made in the USA, Lightning brand kayaks makes premium pedal-driven kayaks that are great for fishing, camping, or exploring.
- Native Fishing Watercraft – User friendly, eco-conscious, life-long outdoor adventure and fishing enthusiasts… What’s not to love about this North Carolina based group of kayak builders.
- NuCanoe Fishing Kayaks – Based in my high school backyard of Bellingham, WA., Nucanoe was founded to help “…people do things on the water – fish, hunt, row, dive, crab, paddle, or just relax.” Nucanoe wants to put “a billion butts in boats.” They’re well on their way.
- Old Town Canoes & Fishing Kayaks – (see above)
- Wilderness Systems Fishing Kayaks – Since 1986 Wilderness Systems has been making cool and kick-ass fishing kayaks to get enthusiasts out on the water in style. They’re as much a fashion brand as a functional brand.
Sea, Ocean, Touring Kayak Brands List
The terms “sea”, “ocean”, and “touring” as it relates to kayak brands are used almost interchangeably. They refer to brands of kayaks that are usually narrower and longer than sit-on or sit-in recreational kayaks. The dimensions on these types of kayaks help them track straighter and truer, especially in ocean waves and rough water.
That means you can paddle them straighter and travel faster than a recreational kayak. And what you’ll sacrifice for that is some primary kayak stability.
But in rough ocean or sea chop, that’s not a bad thing.
Top Sea Kayak Brands
- Dagger Kayaks – Dagger is well-known for its whitewater kayaks, but it has some excellent touring/sea kayaks as well. If you’re sensing a trend in these quick “about this company” paragraphs, you’re not alone. It seems that passionate kayakers, working in a garage with other passionate kayakers, leads to an awesome kayak brand and company at some point. Dagger’s no different—same story, awesome results!
- Delta Kayaks – With manufacturing in Maple Ridge, B.C. Canada, Delta Kayaks builds state-of-the-art thermoformed touring kayaks. And coastal British Columbia is a great proving ground for Delta designs.
- Eddyline Kayaks – Sea touring kayaks are Eddyline’s bread and butter. I’ve got a soft spot for Eddyline—see above.
- Ocean Brand Kayaks – Uh, with a kayak brand name like “Ocean”… Of course they’re on the sea/touring list!
- P&H Sea Kayaks – These guys have been building a variety of excellent sea touring kayaks for over 50 years. You don’t last that long unless you build cool awesome boats. Enough said!
- Point 65N – Wildly innovative, modular sit-inside kayaks, Point 65 makes some uniquely designed and easily transportable kayaks.
- Seaward Kayaks
- Tahe Marine
Best White Water Kayak Brands List
- Bliss-Stick Kayaks
- Dagger Kayaks
- Jackson Kayak
- Liquid Logic
- Prijon Kayaks
- Pyranha Kayaks
- Riot Kayaks
- Wave Sport Kayaks
Sit On Top Kayak Brands List
- Lifetime Kayaks
- Ocean Kayaks
- Wilderness Systems
Canadian Kayak Brands List
- Clearwater Designs
- Delta Kayaks
- Nimbus Kayaks
- Paluski Kayaks
- Pelican Kayaks – Pelican International in Québec, Canada manufactures Pelican’s kayaks.
- Seaward Kayaks
Inflatable Kayak Brands List
- Advanced Elements
- Airhead – Montana Kayak (solo and tandem) – Relative to much more expensive inflatable kayaks, Airhead kayaks are generally reliable, tough, and budget-friendly.
- Elkton Outdoors Kayaks
- Oru (folding)
- Vanguard Inflatables
Pedal Kayak Brands List
- BKC – Brooklyn Kayak Company
- Hobie Kayaks
- Native Watercraft
- Ocean Kayak
- Old Town
- Perception Kayaks
- Wilderness Systems
Best Kayak Brands for Beginners
- Field & Stream
- Lifetime Kayaks
- Sun Dolphin
Tandem Kayak Brands List
- Brooklyn Kayak Company (BKC)
- Old Town
- Advanced Elements
- Ocean Kayaks
High End Kayak Brands List
- Epic Kayaks – Epic brand kayaks are … well, EPIC! Faster than a kayak should be, cooler-looking and uniquely-designed. These kayaks are dedicated to speed, the ocean, and just in general being at the top. Epic kayaks are for those of us who don’t worry about mortgages, retirement, or paying for our kids’ college. If you like a good $100 cigar with a $500 bottle of wine, chances are high you’ll love an Epic kayak.
- Point 65N – Tucked into Rönnskär island, near the Northern City of Skellefteå, Sweden, Point 65N is smack on the jagged edge of extreme kayak country. And out on that edge, they’ve designed and innovated an industry leading modular hull design that allows you to have the convenience and portability of an inflatable with the durability of a hard-shell kayak. They’re truly amazing!
- NC Kayaks – Put a couple of ex-Boeing aerospace engineers to work designing kayaks and add about 20 years of experience and what do you get? Some uniquely designed, very efficient Sea Kayaks, effectively custom built and shipped direct to the customer.
- Stellar Kayaks – This company’s North American Headquarters are in Northfield, Massachusetts, but they’re an international organization with a deep German engineering history. Stellar kayaks is constantly innovating and constantly improving their manufacturing processes in China and elsewhere. And that means they sell some of the best touring, recreational, and race kayaks available.
They’re aptly-named because their kayaks truly are “stellar”. And it’s a good thing, because at the price of a slightly-used commuter car, you’d better be deadly serious about kayaking if you’re going to buy a Stellar Kayak.
Kayak Brands List Wrap Up
There you have it, an exhausting, whew, list of kayak brands lists so you can quickly and easily find anything you’re looking for before your next kayaking adventure.