Batman and Robin.
Lucy and Desi.
Ren and Stimpy.
No matter the duo, I think we can all agree that life is more fun when you’ve got a partner in crime to experience it with.
That’s why tandem kayaks are such a joy. Double the excitement, double the fun! What better way to enjoy a day on the water than with a friend or loved one to experience it with?
Are you a beginner paddler? Scared of paddling alone?
If so, the overall greater stability of a 2-person kayak is a great way to learn the ropes. Even those uncomfortable with paddling by themselves can find a new appreciation for the sport as a tourist in the bow!
Now that you’ve decided you want to invest in a tandem kayak, how do you know which one to choose?
You’re in luck!
We’ve put together a list of our 5 favorite two-person kayaks, along with a comprehensive list of FAQs and answers to your burning questions.
No matter your criteria, we’ve found a tandem kayak that is right for you. Check out the table of contents below to get started on your next adventure!
Top Tandem Kayaks “Sneak Peak” Previews
If you’re looking for the perfect two top for your paddling pleasure, we’ve picked out some of the top two person kayaks no matter what kind of paddling you’re looking to enjoy.
We know that you’d rather be paddling than reading, so get the brief overview of each kayak below, followed by full reviews further down if you want more information about a specific kayak.
Without further ado, here are the categories of tandem kayaks and our recommended picks for each category.
🔷 Best Tandem “Sit On Top” Kayak: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit on Top Kayak
An extremely popular choice for 2 person kayaks, the Ocean Kayak Malibu fits the bill for dynamic duos looking for a fun, lightweight, stable, and inexpensive kayak. Features 3 seating positions as well as 2 of their signature Comfort Plus Seats for the ultimate in comfort and versatility.
🔷 Best Tandem “Sit Inside” Kayak: Pelican Argo 136 XP
This is the new and updated version of the wildly popular Pelican Premium Unison 136T, which is no longer commercially available. The 13′ 6″ kayak provides plenty of room for 2 people to paddle without clashing or feeling cramped. With handy storage compartments for each paddler, you’re guaranteed a fun and relaxing kayaking experience.
🔷 Best Beginner Tandem Kayak: Perception Rambler 13.5 Sit on Top Tandem
A good value kayak for those just looking for some fun and exercise. This kayak is stylish, stable, and sturdy. The Rambler doesn’t offer many of of the bells and whistles as some other tandem kayaks, but at this affordable price, that can be overlooked.
🔷 Best Cheap Tandem Kayak: Lifetime (Manta) 10 Foot Two Person Kayak
Commonly known as the Lifetime Manta kayak, this is a “tip-proof” kayak that provides the utmost in stability for uneasy paddlers. This is a great kayak for “weekend warriors” who want to get into the sport as cheaply as possible. With 2 backrests and 2 paddles, this two person kayak includes all the basics you’ll need to get started. At only 10 feet, however, you might have to sacrifice a bit of comfort for the sake of affordability.
🔷 Best Tandem Sea Kayak: Boreal Design Esperanto PE Rudder Tandem Sea Kayak
If you’re looking to go on longer excursions in open water, whether in the ocean or in a large lake, you’re going to need a sturdy and reliable kayak whose performance is second to none. With its large rudder and moderate rocker, the Boreal has the responsiveness you’ll need to weather any adventure you’re after.
🔎 Related: Check out our tandem fishing kayak reviews at the link below ↩️
The Undisputed Best 2 Person Tandem Fishing Kayaks
The Complete Tandem Kayak Reviews
Best Beginner Tandem Kayak: Perception Rambler 13.5 Sit on Top Tandem
- Weight capacity: 550 pounds
- Kayak Weight: 78 pounds
- Kayak Measurements: 34 inches x 15.5 inches x 13.6 feet
We want to be completely straightforward — the Perception Rambler is not the best overall tandem kayak.
However, it’s a good value for beginners or recreational paddlers just looking to have some fun. We recommend the Rambler for lakes, calm ocean bays, and slow-moving rivers.
This Perception is made of Rotomolded high-density polyurethane, meaning it is one solid piece of leak-proof construction.
Furthermore, the Rambler has the highest weight capacity of all the 2-person kayaks on our list.
This tandem was made to last. It features water-staying colors, rustproof construction, and UV, impact, and abrasion resistance.
There is also storage in the form of bungee-corded well in the back. However, there is no dry storage and not enough space for overnight gear.
Molded seats make it easy to get in and out of this sit on top, but they aren’t the most comfortable for all-day adventuring. Even the padded seat and adjustable supported backrest could use some extra fluff. There is, however, a molded center seat for a pet or child.
For the most comfortable aftermarket kayak seats, check out this article:
6 Kayak Seats That Will Make Your Back (and Booty) Say Ahh!
Overall, there are some deficiencies that make this fairly inexpensive kayak mostly just for funsies, and they are covered in the cons section.
More serious kayakers should take a look at the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit on Top Kayak featured below instead.
- Multiple footrest positions to accommodate kayakers of different ages
- Made in the U.S.A.
- Bow, stern, and side handles for comfortable transportation
- U.S. Coast compliant hull I.D. number
- 5-Year Limited Warranty
- Will want to install more comfortable seats for use throughout the day
- Middle area requires you mount an additional seat to make it comfortable for the rider
- Pad eyes not included, and will require a rivet gun to install
Best Tandem Sit on Top Kayak: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit on Top Kayak
- Weight capacity: 500 pounds
- Kayak Weight: 68 pounds
- Kayak Measurements: 34 inches x 24 inches x 13.4 feet
The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit on Top is a very popular kayak in the world of 2-person ocean kayaks.
There are a few additional features that set this tandem apart from its competitors. The seats are Comfort Plus, and the foot wells are molded to make for a relaxing water adventure. Paddle holders are also included, so you can take a break and use two hands for pics and snacks.
The Malibu fits two adults, or one adult and a child or pet. If you have small children, you can fit one adult and two kids. That means you can ride solo or tandem — whichever fits your current needs best!
In fact, one happy customer points out there is a “small indentation which acts as a third seat area” and includes “a strap that runs across as a seatbelt”. You can also use it to strap down a cooler in lieu of a child!
If you are interested in fishing, there is no better vessel on this list. There are two rod holders and four deck mounts already included.
The tri-hull construction makes for an extra stable ride for cross-over sports, but at the same time compromises speed. When water gets into your sit on top, simply open the screw-in drain plate and let it out.
Looking to overnight on an island in the sea? There is a center hatch features a buckle system to make reaching your gear more convenient. However, it is not dry storage. If you want to keep your stuff dry, you can purchase up to two Gaspachi hatches for the front and back of the tandem.
- Easy to carry with bow and stern toggle handles and molded handles on each side
- Easy to board
- 2nd lightest on the list
- The front seat can be repositioned to face the back seat
- Made in the USA
- 5-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
- Not meant for speed
- Scupper holes but no scupper plugs included – must install aftermarket if you don’t want water in your yak
- May arrive with damage due to length
- Seats could offer more back support
Best Tandem Sit Inside Kayak: Pelican Argo 136 XP
- Weight capacity: 500 pounds
- Kayak Weight: 67 pounds
- Kayak Measurements: 13.5 inches x 31.75 x 15 inches
The Pelican Argo 136 XP is the updated version of the Pelican Premium Unison 136T, and is probably why the kayak looks so familiar. We recommend using this 2-person kayak in flat water, calm open ocean, and river or creek up to class II.
We also recommend bringing out your furry friend!
Users say “you can fit our small furry friend in the rear cockpit when 2 people are paddling or you can put a larger dog in the front cockpit in lieu of a paddler”.
This sit inside vessel features polyethylene construction covered with a layer of protection to keep your tandem kayak safe from saltwater, UV-rays, and damage from rocks and branches. Not to mention it is lightweight compared to some of the other tandem vessels on our list.
The Pelican Argo 136 XP features adjustable footrests and two ERGOFIT G2 seating systems for all-day luxury.
In terms of storage space, there are bungees on the front, a 4-inch hatch for easy grabbing, and a 60L dry storage bag in the back.
Worried about getting waterlogged and sinking your Pelican Argo? Don’t be! There is a conveniently located drain plug in the bottom for just that very situation.
If you like to take pictures to commemorate your adventures, you will love the paddle tie-down feature. This ensures your water wings won’t float away while you relax in your watercraft!
- Adjustable features for comfort
- Easy to carry with 2 handles: one on the stern and one on the bow.
- Table, compartments, and 2 bottle holders for both seats
- Enough space for a weekend on the water
- Satisfactory weight capacity for 2 people
- No rudder and cannot add a rudder system, meaning tracking isn’t the Argo’s strong point
Best Cheap Tandem Kayak: Lifetime (Manta) 10 Foot Two Person Kayak
- Weight capacity: 500 pounds
- Kayak Weight: 60 pounds
- Kayak Measurements: 120 x 36 x 19 inches
If you’re searching for the best cheap 2-man kayak, look no further than the Lifetime Tandem Kayak. Also known as the Lifetime Manta Kayak, it’s available in both yellow and green to cater to different tastes.
In terms of construction, the low-density polyethylene is Rotomolded and UV-resistant. In plain English, this means the vessel is made of one continuous piece of lightweight plastic complete with protection against the warping sun.
The hull on this Lifetime Tandem Kayak is a tunnel, also called pontoon hull. These are stable, and best for fishing and flat water. In fact, it’s so steady you pretty much have to try to tip it over. That being said, we do not recommend this vessel for whitewater.
The Manta is a sit on top kayak, referring to the design of the seats off of the watercraft floor. Great for either one or two riders, it’s fantastic for fishing with minimalist gear. If you go alone, you can store your stuff in the front seat
This Lifetime Tandem Kayak is a great option if you’re a recreational kayaker looking to spend the least amount of money possible.
Weekend warriors will be happy, but for serious kayakers we recommend something like the Boreal Design Esperanto PE Rudder Tandem Sea Kayak featured below.
- 2 double-sided paddles included
- 2 spongy backrests included
- “Tip-proof” stability
- Handles molded into the bow and stern for easy carrying
- Great for riding with large dogs
- 5-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
- Does not track straight
- Too heavy, short, and wide for advanced yakkers
- Slower than trekkers would like
Best Tandem Sea Kayak: Boreal Design Esperanto PE Rudder Tandem Sea Kayak
- Weight capacity: 260 pounds
- Kayak Weight: 97 pounds
- Kayak Measurements: 19.5 feet x 28.5 inches x 13.5 inches
The Boreal Design Esperanto PE Rudder Tandem Sea Kayak is a fantastic tandem ocean kayak. The long length makes this 2-man sit inside vessel perfect for cutting through the ocean with the greatest of ease. Not to mention the included rudder and rocker make turning in the ocean waves a breeze.
If you and your partner need storage space, there are bungees on the front, back, and a compartment in the middle. You can even fit the middle with a child seat or bulkhead. There is so much room, feel free to take your camping gear for a weekend expedition.
If you opt for the dividing barrier (bulkhead), you will have the benefit of extra flotation power. Not to mention less of a chance of capsizing if water invades your kayak! Furthermore, the two cockpit seats are spaced far enough apart so the two people inside won’t hit paddles.
Constructed from polyurethane, plastic, the front is a V hull. This means rockstar tracking, animated maneuvering, and steady riding. Therefore, we recommend the Esperanto for ocean recreation and touring purposes.
Many beginners find this watercraft perfect for learning and developing their skills. In fact, a few happy users refer to this tandem as “bombproof and forgiving for novice kayakers”, because it is “very stable and maneuverable”.
Most sea kayaks are characteristically long and can be prone to damage during shipping. The Boreal is no different. However, ordering online is still a good option if you don’t live near a specialty store.
- Speedy kayak great for long distances
- Manueverable and responsive
- Ability to be fitted with a bulkhead or child seat
- Perfect for two people with differing abilities
- Enough storage compartment for days out at sea
- Heavy for less strong individuals
- Low weight limit for 2 adults plus gear, child, and/or pet
- Prone to damage when shipping due to length
Tandem Kayak FAQ
Are tandem kayaks faster?
It stands to reason that two people paddling in a kayak would be faster than just one. That logic holds true unless you are going out alone in your tandem. In that case, the extra weight of the 2-person vessel will slow you down.
Can a tandem kayak be used solo?
A two-person kayak can be used solo or with a pet, kid, or other non-rowing entity. While some two man kayaks are convertible to solo kayaks, they may be harder to paddle solo than if there were two of you. If you like to go out with someone else such as a child or pet, you should place them in the front or center. Why? The power and steering come from the back.
How do you paddle a tandem kayak?
There are 3 keys to paddling a double kayak:
- Paddle at the same time
- Put the best paddler in the back for strength and steering
- To turn, the person in the front paddles forward while the person in the back paddles backward
Are tandem kayaks safe?
Tandem kayaks are extremely safe as long as they are used in the water type recommended. In fact, they are typically wider than the solo variety and when used correctly more stable. Always remember to use a personal flotation device (PFD).
Why do they call tandem kayaks ‘divorce boats’?
This tongue-in-cheek term comes from the fact that you and a partner are stuck together for the whole trip and there isn’t a lot of space to move around. If you and your partner aren’t always on the same page, it can lead to arguments — and some claim — divorce! If you want to test your communication skills and teamwork, a 2-person kayak is right for you!
Tandem Kayak Takeaways
No matter your budget, there is a 2-person kayak for you and yours on our list. Although all seem similar, the devil is in the details. This goes double when choosing the best tandem kayak, and we’ve put together a list of 7 takeaways to help:
- Figure out storage space. How much do you need and how much does the vessel offer? If you plan to go fishing, camping, deep sea diving, or on a multi-day expedition, look for a double kayak with plenty of room.
- Add up the total weight of adults, children, pet(s), and gear. Then, compare your number to the craft’s weight capacity. This is one aspect we wouldn’t settle on. If you have an outdoor sporting desire in mind, don’t sacrifice what you love for a lower price tag.
- Consider the comfort of seats and foot rests. Do you plan on spending over half a day in your tandem? If so, you and your partner will want to have back support, padding, and foot rests that actually fit both of your heights (adjustable are best).
- The hull shape actually means something. There are a variety of different front designs, and our list runs the gamut between V hulls, tri-hulls, and pontoon hulls.
- Think about your budget. Two individual kayaks can cost less, the same, or more than 2-man vessels. Really decide whether or not you want the freedom that comes with being solo, or the companionship that comes with being tandem.
- If your child is older or experienced, consider purchasing them a kid’s kayak. Two-persons are great for learning, but children tend to want their independence as soon as they’re able. Purchasing a solo watercraft could end up saving you money in the long run.
- Consider how you are going to transport your larger, heavier tandem to and from your vehicle and the water. Chances are a cart, and two people, will be necessary. If you have a truck, you can use an adjustable kayak rack when going solo.
Setting sail on a tandem kayak can be one of the most enjoyable experiences of your summer. Hopefully our article helped you with your research, and you feel comfortable purchasing the best 2-person kayak for you and your partner in crime!
Last update on 2020-09-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API