Are you the type who’s always wanted to get out on the water for some fun and a little bit of exercise but have always been put off by the thought of transporting a big, heavy kayak all over the place?
Time to put away the excuses!
We’ve compiled a list of the best short and lightweight kayaks of 2017 to get you on the water with minimal hassle.
Don’t like reading? Click on the Table of Contents to paddle straight for the review that interests you the most.
There are obvious benefits to short and light weight kayaks, most of which have to do with portability and storage.
It’s easier to haul and carry a light weight kayak, especially if you mostly plan on kayaking solo. Some of us don’t have huge SUVs that can fit all the gear we please but rather a Toyota Prius instead.
Not to mention that we don’t all have single family homes with 2 car garages and a large backyard where we can store all of our outdoor gear. Some people live in apartment buildings with stairs and street parking.
The thought of trying to lug a 14 foot, 65-pound kayak up and down a stairwell every time we want to use it is about as appealing as going skinny dipping in the Arctic Ocean!
With that being said, I know people are short on time as well as space so here’s a brief overview of the best short and/or lightweight kayaks for the money:
- Emotion Spitfire 8 Foot, Sit on Top – Spunky little kayak that can fit in or on top of almost any vehicle. Top of its class for its size.
- Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak, 26 pounds – Lightweight but still durable with a 500 pound capacity. Compact, transportable, and easy to use.
- Perception Sound 9.5 – Great starter kayak that can be used recreationally or as a fishing kayak. Perfect for youth, female paddlers, and beginners of all sizes.
- Old Town Heron 9 – Stable, versatile, and FUN are the words used to describe this one. Another great choice for beginners looking to get on the water with minimal hassle.
- Outdoor Tuff Stinger 3 Inflatable Kayak – At only 25 pounds, this kayak is great for the outdoor adventurer who likes to take the adventure with them, on your back or in the water.
Short Kayaks vs. Long Kayaks
There are some downsides, however, to shorter kayaks.
Overall, they are not as fast as a longer kayak.
You’re not going to get anywhere in a hurry with most small kayaks for numerous reasons related to physics that I won’t go into here but you can read more about here.
The other big drawback to small, lightweight kayaks is tracking. They are less aerodynamic and tend to wag from side to side more than a longer kayak that will paddle straighter.
That being said, they do turn better than most longer kayaks so they are easier to maneuver in smaller waterways and channels if need be.
Like all kayaks, it will ultimately come down to personal choice based on what your storage situation is, your height/weight, the bodies of water you’ll be using it on, and what your ultimate purpose is for kayaking.
Here’s a handy chart of the basic differences between short kayaks vs. long kayaks. This is intended for general purposes only and can vary depending on many factors.
Now that we’ve established the important differences between short kayaks vs. long kayaks, let’s figure out which small lightweight kayak will suit you best.
If you’re looking for a SHORT kayak, here’s our recommendation:
✅Best Short Kayak: Emotion Spitfire Sit On Top Kayak, 8 Ft.
As the name states, this kayak is indeed a little spitfire. This is a great, zippy little kayak for those who don’t mind a no-frills piece of gear and just want something to get around in.
If it’s unavailable, my next recommendation is the Lifetime Lotus 8 ft Sit on Top Kayak. It’s an excellent, yet affordable, short SOT kayak.
With almost entirely 5-star reviews, it is “Amazon’s Choice” for 8 foot kayaks and I fully endorse this product as well.
At only 8 feet long, the Emotion Spitfire can fit in or on top of most cars and trucks fairly easily, which is a huge selling point for many people. Not having to fuss with roof racks or figure out how to lift the thing above their head is worth what they lose in some of the performance factors of having a shorter kayak.
To be sure, it does indeed lack in some key performance metrics.
Users stated over and over again that this little kayak has very poor tracking with one even commenting that it’s like “paddling a square”.
One of the other things frequently mentioned is that this kayak felt a little bit tippy due to its high center of gravity.
And due to its short size, it’s also not a very fast kayak in flat water like lakes but it does turn on a dime, which is helpful for river paddling or small surf.
If you can get over those factors, most people LOVE their little Spitfire kayak. It’s lightweight at only 39 pounds, very transportable, and is suitable for kids and adults alike up to 240 lbs.
If you purchase this for what it is, a fun, small kayak suitable for beginners, kids, and recreational paddlers, you will be happy with this purchase. If size is the most important factor to you in your purchase of a kayak, this is going to be the best small kayak on the market for you.
However, if you have some notion you’re going to get an awesome kayak that performs well in all waters, can keep up with the big boys, cover some serious water, and track just as well as a kayak 4 feet longer and 3 times as expensive, you’re going to be a little disappointed.
Accept this kayak for what it is and you won’t be disappointed!
- Constructed of High Density Polyethylene for superior strength and durability; 240 lb. weight capacity
- ST Performance Hull offers execptional stability and tracking
- Front, rear, and side carry handles for easy transport
- Rear Tankwell with Bungee Lacing for Storage.
- Molded-in freedom footwells for comfort and secure foot bracing; Hull is backed by a 5-year limited manufacturer warranty
Next, up we move on to the best LIGHTWEIGHT kayak. If weight is the most important consideration for you when purchasing a kayak, here’s our recommendation:
✅Best Lightweight Kayak: Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak with Deluxe Package
Naturally, the most lightweight kayak is going to be an inflatable kayak. Inflatables have been taking the world by storm in recent years due to advancements in technology that make inflatable watercraft like iSUPs, rafts, canoes, and even catamarans just as durable and seaworthy as their hard construction brethren.
It used to be that inflatables were little more than pool toys, not serious recreational vessels, but not anymore! Inflatables are fast becoming the go-to model for all sorts of water toys due to their lightweight but durable nature and supreme transportability.
The Sea Eagle SE-330 Inflatable Kayak is certainly no different. While this kayak is lightweight, weighing in at a mere 26 pounds, it inflates up to a length of just over 11 feet long. With a weight capacity of 500lbs, the Sea Eagle is billed as big enough for two people to kayak in.
That being said, due to the inflatable chambers taking up interior space when they are inflated, the actual seating area is only nine and a half feet long and 13 inches wide.
Most people agreed that despite its length and weight capacity, it’s too cramped to comfortably seat two people for long stretches of time. Many recommended that if you are looking for a roomier inflatable tandem kayak to upgrade to the SE-370 version of the same kayak.
Otherwise, most people were very impressed with the sturdiness and ruggedness of this kayak.
Many reviewers even commented after having owned the kayak for 5 years or more just as satisfied as the day they bought it. It’s able to handle up to Class III rapids as well as tracks well in flat water and is super easy all around, including being easy on the wallet.
Not to mention, Sea Eagle offers a fantastic 3-year warranty and superb customer service that left customers very satisfied even if there were some problems with their gear.
The only negative that was oft repeated was that this kayak tends to get blown around a bit by a gusty wind or strong current. Being that it is a lightweight, inflatable kayak, this shouldn’t be surprising. Most said you can overcome this with some stronger strokes, but it’s worth noting if you frequently encounter windy conditions where you paddle.
If kayak weight is the biggest consideration for you when purchasing a yak, then the Sea Eagle SE-330 Inflatable Kayak should be at the top of your list. Lightweight but still able to perform well under various conditions, this kayak will withstand the test of time and give you great bang for the buck.
- Exterior: 11'2" x 34" / Interior: 9'6" x 15" / Deflated: 24" x 16" x 7"
- Hull Weigt: 26 Lbs. / Load Capacity: 2 people or 500 lbs. NMMA Certified
- Tube Diameter: 10" / Chambers: Three ( port, starboard & floor)
- Material: 33 mil Polykrylar / Floor: Inflatable I-beam construction / Air Vales: 5 Deluxe One Way
- Inflation and Assembly Time: 6 Min. Whitewater Rating: Up to Class III / Inflation Pressure: 1.1 psi
If you’re the type of person who wants it all, here are our recommendations for best short AND lightweight kayaks.
✅Best Short AND Lightweight Kayaks
Perception Sound 9.5 Sit Inside Kayak
The Perception Sound 9.5 offers the best of both worlds for those looking for a short and lightweight kayak. Measuring 9’6″ in length and weighing only 38 pounds, this kayak works as a fabulous beginner, recreational OR fishing kayak.
The Perception Sound gets rave reviews across the board.
It fits the bill for any number of paddlers including:
✅ Beginner paddlers
✅ Youth paddlers
✅ Female paddlers
✅ Kayak anglers
✅ Those needing a high-performing short and/or lightweight kayak
I could go on, but the reviews speak for themselves. Here’s what a few happy paddlers had to say [bold emphasis mine]:
“The Sound tracks well and is stable. The bungees and little storage features up front are convenient. And I love how it’s light enough for me to carry to and from the truck myself (my husband isn’t sad about that, either–ha ha!). I’d buy this kayak again in a heartbeat.”
“…This slightly squared off end also makes this boat fit in the back of a smaller pick-up truck nicely. I am a 5’5″ 145 lb female with strong paddling skills, and find I can get this kayak up to a decent speed but it is a bit of work to maintain the speed.”
“My first kayak, purchased three years ago. I am just now moving up to a bigger boat, but the Sound 9.5 has been the perfect starter boat. Tracks well, nice big entry way, and nice and light (able to easily lift it to top of SUV). I will be keeping this for my wife and kids to use, cannot say enough good about how it has served me to date.”
What about the negatives?
Well, there aren’t many but there seems to be mixed reviews about how comfortable the seat is. Some say it’s very comfortable while others were less pleased with it. (Note: If you want guaranteed comfort in a kayak seat, check out these 6 Kayak Seats That Will Make Your Back (and Booty) Say Ahh!)
Others mentioned a lack of storage space being a drawback since there’s no dry storage area. Not enough to affect enjoyment of the kayak, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
But most of these minor shortcomings were overlooked due to its affordability. For less than $500 you can get a lightweight, attractive, and versatile kayak.
There really isn’t much to dislike about the Perception Sound 9.5 kayak apart from the usual caveat that it performs well for a small kayak. Once again, it’s important to adjust your expectations somewhat with small kayaks and understand that you are going to trade off a little in the performance of it in order to get the small, lightweight kayak that you desire.
- The best value in sit-inside kayak fishing for larger paddlers; also great for general recreational use
- The Sound dashboard includes two mounting points for our Solo Mount accessory system
- Tri-keel hull creates ultimate stability and smooth steering
- Extra cushy ergonomic Zone Seat with adjustable backrest for optimal support and comfort
- Quick-adjust footrests accommodate paddlers of all sizes
Old Town Canoes and Kayaks Heron 9 Recreational Kayak
Not to be outdone, Old Town Canoes and Kayaks has their own version of an affordable, comfortable, lightweight kayak with the Heron 9.
The Heron clocks in at 9.5 feet long and 37 pounds, which is still very much on the small and lightweight side of things.
Old Town itself describes this kayak as “Perfect for beginning paddlers who are seeking a stable, light weight kayak that was designed for having FUN on the water.”
And there’s nothing less FUN than having to wrangle your kayak in and out of your car and struggle getting it to its launch point.
In fact, struggling to transport their kayak is a big reason why people lose interest in kayaking. Too much effort takes the joy out of the hobby and people regard it more as a chore than an exciting challenge.
Reputable brands like Old Town (the world’s oldest manufacturer of kayaks) know and understand this.
They created the Heron 9 specifically to address this concern.
The Heron 9 is rated up to 300lbs and it’s responsive and maneuverable (translation: FUN) even for its short size.
Moreover, it has a lifetime hull warranty so you can feel safe and secure anytime and anywhere you paddle.
Bottom line: If you want kayaking to be a pure pleasure without the hassle, the Old Town Heron 9 is big FUN in a small kayak.
- Old Town's rock-solid, single-layer polyethylene hull tracks well, yet maneuvers With ease.
- The adjustable comfort Flex seat includes a supportive seat-back and extra padding for all-day comfort.
- Adjustable Glide Track foot braces create a stable, responsive platform to help you paddle more confidently.
- Use the comfortable molded bow and stern carrying handles to haul the kayak from truck to water and back again.
- Combining technology with tradition, old Town kayaks come in sizes and styles for almost every adventure.
Outdoor Tuff Stinger 3 OTF-2751PK Inflatable One Person Sport Kayak
Last but certainly not least is the Outdoor Tuff Stinger 3 Inflatable One Person Sport Kayak. If you are an outdoor enthusiast who requires the ultimate in portability and performance, this kayak is for you.
This 25-pound yak packs up into a convenient backpack that is included with the purchase and can be carried on your back. The Stinger also comes with a paddle and a foot pump.
It’s the perfect setup if you want to hike into a river or lake or are going on a long adventure road-trip and want to save on space.
The kayak is made of puncture resistant, triple layer PVC and scores high in durability, but you do still have to be careful of sharp sticks and rocks when doing river paddling.
Also, there were mixed reviews on the seat that is included with some saying it is very uncomfortable and others saying they found it to be very comfortable. It might be worth testing out, either inflated at your home before paddling or just doing a short 30-minute test paddle to make sure the seat is comfortable to you.
If you need something lightweight and portable that you can take with you on long hiking or camping trips, the Outdoor Tuff Stinger 3 is definitely worth checking out. It offers great performance and the ultimate in convenience for those wanting a small, lightweight kayak that can literally go anywhere whether it’s on your back or in the water.
- Rigid & Durable: The (3) puncture resistant triple-layer PVC air chambers give this kayak the stiffness and resilience of a traditional kayak
- Ultra Portable: Only 25-pounds and transports easily in the included backpack
- Quick Inflation: High pressure valve and foot pump inflate the board to it's full 9-feet 1-inch by 30.25-inches by 13.5-inches in minutes
- Accessories: Includes an 87-inch lightweight rotatable paddle, an inflatable seat and (2) fins for optimal directional stability and maneuverability
- Warranty: 1 year limited Manufacturer's warranty.Please refer user manual attached below for instructions and troubleshooting steps
If kayak length or size is a deciding factor for you when purchasing a kayak, then consider this the ultimate guide for you. Never stare longingly at another kayak again wishing you could find one that suits your downsized space or wonder how you would ever transport such a big heavy thing.
There are several small, lightweight kayaks on the market today that are suitable for beginners, kids, adults, and even paddlers with disabilities who need something easy to manage.
Put this handy guide to use and put those excuses away!
Last update on 2020-09-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API