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A tandem kayak is the best way to experience kayaking on open water with a friend or family member, giving both of you full control over the kayak’s movements and making it easier for one of you to correct the other’s mistakes.
Not only can it be a fun experience, but it can also be a useful training tool if one of you is trying to teach the other, and a lot of these two-person kayak designs work just as well for hardcore professionals as they do for casual kayak-users who want to relax and take in some sun without staying on dry land.
Here are the ten best tandem kayak designs on the market at the moment, as well as details about why they are the best of the best.
View The Best Tandem Kayaks Below
1. Advanced Elements Convertible Inflatable Kayak
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This inflatable kayak uses a standard tandem design with an elongated front, using built-in ribs made of aluminum to make tracking and steering easier. While you might expect it to be weak, the kayak also has a triple-layered exterior to make punctures much less likely and offers supportive and well-padded seats to help you stay comfortable for long periods.
What is interesting about this design is that it comes pre-assembled but still lets you choose where to attach the seats: there are three locations to choose from, meaning that you can switch between solo or tandem kayaking at a moment’s notice.
+ Puncture-resistant exterior construction.
+ Great seating that offers high support.
+ Pre-assembled and ready to use.
+ Aluminium ribs for better control.
+ Comes with a repair kit.
Why We Like It – This tandem kayak is easy to set up and won’t puncture easily, making it a very low-weight and high-comfort option for all kinds of kayak users
2. Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Kayak
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This recreational kayak uses a carefully-designed tandem shape that has plenty of room for your legs to move and stretch, along with well-designed seats and grippy thigh pads that make it much easier to stay comfortable if you are spending a lot of time on the water. There is also a removable child seat for carrying younger passengers, and the stern seat can be moved forward to turn it into a solo kayak if needed.
The construction is full of hidden features, such as a glove box, safety lines, cup holders, a click seal hatch for use while fishing, and even support for a deck bungee. Alongside this, it also has support for Old Town’s separate foot-controlled rudder to help with steering and uses a three-layered design to massively improve its durability.
+ Designed for comfort.
+ Contains plenty of extra features.
+ Can support two adults and a younger passenger.
+ Efficient and reliable exterior construction.
+ High maximum load.
Why We Like It – This tandem kayak is very versatile, giving you a range of handy features and letting you decide how you can use them best.
3. Intex Challenger K2 Kayak
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This luxury inflatable kayak has three different air compartments that can quickly be inflated or deflated to adjust its buoyancy, all protected by the tough vinyl used in its construction. The addition of extra paddle supports, a grappling rope, and more grip surfaces makes it much easier to handle, and you can even use the removable skeg to stand in for a rudder.
On the front is a cargo net for simple storage, and the rear seat can be easily adjusted as needed if you want it to be a solo kayak instead. Other than that, the entire design is as streamlined as possible, allowing for easy handling of most calm or slow waters without feeling bulky or slow.
+ Streamlined and comfortable.
+ Easy to assemble and inflate.
+ Adjustable air compartments.
+ Exterior grab line and cargo netting.
+ Comes with a repair kit and U.S. Coast Guard I.D.
Why We Like It – This is another kayak that offers some of the best tandem features available while still being useful to all kinds of owners.
4. Sea Eagle 370 Pro Sport Kayak
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This kayak is able to support up to three people in a range of water conditions, using a high-comfort design with two easy-to-move deluxe seats to keep you feeling safe and secure. It comes with its own paddles, designed with asymmetrical blades and tough aluminum shafts, and uses two special skegs on the bottom to help with tracking and speed management.
Unlike a lot of similar tandem kayaks, it not only has five inflation and deflation valves but a simple water-draining valve, making it easier to keep track of your water and air levels at all times. The kayak also comes with its own foot pump and a special carry bag.
+ Easy to inflate and deflate.
+ Comes with paddles and a pump.
+ Tracking-improving bottom skegs.
+ Very comfortable seating.
+ High weight capacity.
Why We Like It – This kayak is ideal for taking on a range of water types and conditions without getting stiff or sore, using comfort to its advantage.
5. Driftsun Voyager Tandem Inflatable Kayak
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This quick-inflating kayak takes less than five minutes to fully prepare, coming with its own high-flow pump to make the process even faster. Its small size and low weight when not inflated hide its incredible durability thanks to the heavy-duty tarpaulin bottom and specially layered exterior, as well as the nylon and fabric top section that is designed to avoid ripping suddenly.
Thanks to the pointed nose, removable tracking fin, and high-quality seating, it is very easy to move around quickly and track properly while staying extremely comfortable, and you even get ergonomic paddles that are designed to work properly with the kayak’s specific design and shape.
+ Inflated quickly.
+ Designed to resist ripping, tearing and leaking.
+ Very lightweight.
+ Uses comfortable EVA seat padding.
+ Easy to store when not inflated.
Why We Like It – Unlike many tandem kayaks, this one mixes low weight and high performance to make it incredibly convenient in every situation.
6. Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak Set
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This inflatable kayak set comes with its own high-output air pump and two durable oars, giving you everything you need to start using it almost straight away. The design is very simple and straightforward: it’s capable of holding two people with a weight limit of up to 160 kilograms in total and uses a basic, easy-to-handle shape that almost anybody can learn to use within an hour or two of trying it.
The exterior is made of a rugged vinyl layer that can resist punctures and other forms of direct damage without weighing it down, and the inflatable seats offer good comfort without being overly supportive or hard to stay relaxed in.
+ Made with durable materials.
+ Easy to use design.
+ Comes with an air pump.
+ Includes a pair of aluminum oars.
Why We Like It – This is a very simple option compared to most inflatable kayaks, giving you a pump, two paddles, and a design that doesn’t take long to adapt to.
7. Sevylor Colorado 2-Person Kayak
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This PVC-based tandem kayak uses a tarpaulin bottom that can offer excellent protection from punctures and slices, as well as multiple redundant air chambers that can keep you afloat even if one gets damaged and leaks air.
The Boston Valve design makes inflation and deflation extremely simple while still making sure that the kayak won’t deflate itself over time, and it even has elevated seats to make paddling and steering adjustments slightly easier without adding more weight to the design. Thanks to the added D-rings on the inside of the main body, you also get extra tool storage space on your boat.
+ Tough exterior.
+ Puncture-resistant bottom.
+ Extra air chambers for increased safety.
+ Includes more storage space.
+ Easy to set up.
Why We Like It – This is another small boat that focuses on simplicity and straightforward support, giving you great durability without overwhelming you straight away.
8. SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Bali
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This high-quality kayak boat contains a Portable Accessory Carrier that doubles as improved storage, working with the dry storage space to give you plenty of room for holding tools and other important items. The large seating area, open design, and accessible rod holders mean that it is incredibly easy to start using the boat straight away, and the extra shock cord rigging can be used for all kinds of custom purposes or storage reasons. Even better are the adjustable foot braces and thigh pads that act as comfort features, and the sit on top design ensures that you are not trapped under part of the body if something goes wrong.
+ Plenty of storage.
+ Low weight.
+ ‘Sit on top’ design.
+ Fairly durable.
+ Simple, comfortable design.
Why We Like It – While most kayaks are focused on being professional, this product is simple, accessible, and very easy to use, making it ideal for beginners.
9. BKC TK219 Tandem Fishing Kayak
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This fishing-focused kayak has four separate rod holders rather than the default two and is designed specifically for tandem use. Unlike many tandem kayaks, the design has two open-topped seating spaces with supportive seating and plenty of gripping pads, as well as an open area between them that can act as gear storage.
The ‘sit on top’ construction means that the entire top surface is opened up, just like a regular boat, and the flat bottom of the hull is meant to keep it stable for longer while also offering a huge amount of protection against all kinds of damage and threats.
+ Flat-bottomed hull construction.
+ Built for maximum stability.
+ Designed like a classic boat.
+ Perfect for fishing.
+ Works well as an ocean kayak.
Why We Like It – This is more of a kayak-style boat than anything else, using an open, ‘sit on top’ design that is built for a high level of stability and reliability.
10. Ocean Kayak Malibu Tandem Recreational Kayak
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This sit on top tandem kayak uses a pair of very comfortable, adjustable seats that can give you a custom fit for better support, as well as overlapping footwells that make it much easier to brace yourself and make sure you are seated properly.
The sides have handles molded into them that make it much easier to exit or enter the kayak, and there is support for three seating setups: solo, tandem, or tandem with a smaller third passenger. The shape is very similar to a regular boat, using a ‘sit on top’ shape that is very easy to handle and allows for free movement with very few restrictions.
+ Designed like an open boat.
+ High weight capacity.
+ Great straps for extra storage.
+ Offers both solo and tandem setups.
+ Comfortable seating.
Why We Like It – Compared to most kayaks, this one is closer to a boat in terms of its weight capacity and open design, making it a very comfortable and convenient choice for casual use.
Tandem Kayaks Buyer’s Guide
Kayaks might all look the same from a distance, but each one can be dramatically different in terms of how they work, what they offer, and even how they are designed at a base level. No two kayaks are guaranteed to be the same, even if they look nearly identical, and one of the best kayaks for one person might be one of the worst for another.
Finding a kayak best suited to your needs isn’t easy, especially if you are looking for the best tandem kayak on the market specifically. But what should you look for, and what are the most important features you can find?
Here are some of the key features, design elements, and factors that you will want to consider if you are buying a kayak, no matter if you are a new user or a seasoned professional. After all, your experience with one kayak design might not translate to other kayaks, even if they are supposedly similar in terms of performance.
Speed isn’t just part of kayak races, it is also an important part of any tandem kayak. The best tandem kayaks are always going to be ones that offer at least a decent level of speed, especially since there will be two people on board that will each be contributing towards how fast it goes. But what actually affects speed, and how can you judge how fast a kayak will go?
In general, look for streamlined designs. The faster water can move past the kayak’s hull, the faster you will move, especially with two people paddling. Some kayak designs even have specially-built sterns that are supposed to force water past at a faster pace, but that is not always the case: others might be boxy so that they can deliberately slow down. Finding a balance you like is important; you won’t always be able to go at full speed but also won’t want to feel like you can’t move as fast as you’d like.
Remember that high speeds can sometimes lower stability since the kayak has to deal with more water rushing past. This is especially true in running water, where the currents can push kayaks around, even if you are not paddling, and might accelerate you to a speed higher than you feel comfortable handling.
Stability is a much more important feature, one that every boat, kayak, and other water vessel relies on to work correctly. Make sure that you pick kayaks that are going to be stable enough to support two people since a 2 man kayak is already going to be much less stable than something that only supports one person. This goes double for an ocean kayak, since you are likely to be far away from land and dealing with stronger waves or currents. There are multiple ways that a kayak can boost its on stability, but you will have to look carefully since they aren’t always clearly advertised.
Rudders and fins can play a large role here since they change how the kayak handles incoming water and how it steers. Some of these will be adjustable, and others will be removable, but you can also find options that are built into the kayak directly. It is up to you which you prefer to use, but most people would get the best benefits out of removable options since they can be taken off depending on the situation. The hull width can also matter here, too: while tandem kayaks are naturally going to have a wider design, even wider constructions will be more stable and less likely to flip over.
Another useful stability feature is the way that the kayaks can handle their air levels. Some will be inflatable in a very basic sense and won’t have any kind of separate air compartments, while others will have multiple redundant compartments that give you extra options over how buoyant each area of the kayak will be. These compartments can sometimes be filled independently and will support one another if one is punctured, which should give you extra time to reach dry land or prevent you from sinking altogether if enough air is still inside.
Many tandem kayaks aren’t exclusively tandem kayaks: tandem and solo options can sometimes be chosen between by adjusting the seats, letting you turn a regular tandem kayak into a solo or three-person option with only a small change. The best tandem kayak for your needs might be one that isn’t just meant for tandem use, so features like this can be incredibly helpful. While it might not seem obvious at first, it can be really hard to use a tandem kayak as a solo boat, since tandem designs rely on two people paddling at once and don’t have the same ‘middle seat’ that solo kayaks do.
The seats of the kayaks themselves can have an impact, too. More supportive and comfortable kayak seats will make the boat much easier to use for long periods since you are not stuck in an uncomfortable situation or forced to cram your body into a space that it is not happy being in. The same can be said for your leg space: the less cramped the kayak feels in general, the more comfortable you will be using it, so the best tandem kayaks are the ones that you personally find comfortable.
Remember, though, that tandem kayaks are meant to be used by two people. This means that the best tandem kayak in terms of comfort might be different from one person to another, so it is a good idea to find a balance if you are going to be using it with a specific person. Adjustable seats are a good option in this case since each person can alter how they feel based on their personal preferences.
Inflatable Versus Solid Kayaks
While most tandem kayak designs appear to be inflatable kayaks, that doesn’t mean that every kayak will be. A large part of the buying process is deciding whether you want a solid kayak or an inflatable kayak since they are completely different in how they work and can offer vastly different things.
An inflatable kayak is easier to transport, doesn’t weigh as much’ can quickly be inflated when needed, taking up much less space and often folding up into such a small size that they can fit into a bag. However, they’re also generally less speedy and need a bit more maintenance or protection, since a puncture will basically end their ability to float unless they are designed in a certain way.
The inflation process can also take time and requires that you bring another tool along that only serves one purpose. Solid kayaks are stronger, faster, and less maintenance-focused, but are also much heavier and harder to move around. Tandem kayaks make this even more noticeable since they’re bigger than regular kayaks and have an even higher level of weight to them.
The best tandem kayaks aren’t necessarily going to be either of these types since it depends on what you are looking for in a tandem kayak and how easy it will be for you to move a heavyweight. The lower weight of an inflatable tandem kayak might not be worth the loss of durability, in the same way, that the higher performance of a solid kayak might not be worth the added weight.
Most of the time, the best tandem kayak designs are going to be the ones with a more open top, like a small boat. This isn’t always the case, but there’s a lot of reasons why people find an open-topped kayak to be the best tandem kayak option, with some exceptions. In most cases, a tandem kayak will have a wider design that most single-person ocean kayaks, especially if they are inflatable kayaks that need extra layers for puncture protection.
Because of this, they might also have an open-topped design, also sometimes called a “sit-on-top” design. These give you much more room to move and avoid the cramped conditions of older kayak designs, which can be incredibly helpful if your tandem kayak is meant for relaxation rather than performance. This is often seen to be one of the more advanced elements of kayak design since it also adds more room for storage and can help the two paddlers stay comfortable for longer.
A kayak is still a boat, so it needs to be protected from water. Weight capacity matters, but an open-top still leaves a lot of room for water to get inside unexpectedly. For this reason, many people prefer a tandem kayak with a mostly-closed top instead, since it minimizes the chance of water getting in and taking you over the weight capacity.
This can be both a good and bad thing: an ocean kayak is less likely to sink with a closed design, but it can also be harder to get out of the ocean kayak if it happens. Open tops are easier to enter and exit, just like a regular boat.
Buyer’s Guide Questions
What are the best tandem kayaks?
It isn’t fair to name a single brand as the “best” source of tandem kayak designs since a lot of them offer different things. In truth, there is no best brand, since it depends on your needs and personal preferences. Because of this, it is important to remember that you should always look for a tandem kayak that suits your needs, rather than going with a tandem kayak design just because it is popular. Be aware of branding affiliate programs, too.
A good example is the Amazon Services LLC associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a participant in the Amazon program with money for linking to Amazon.com. Through the Amazon Services LLC associates program, an affiliate advertising program compatible products will earn money for each time they are linking to Amazon.com, which can obviously lead to biases or unfair reviews. Check to see if a site is a participant in the Amazon program, and be sure to do your research properly. All it takes for a site to sign up is a name, email, and payment details, so there will be a lot of them.
Can a 2 person kayak be used by one person?
A tandem kayak isn’t exclusive to two people, although a lot of its features are built around it. For example, inflatable kayaks built for two people will have twice as many rod holders and seats in different parts. A tandem design is best when it is used by two people, but it is not impossible to use the kayak on your own. Remember that weight capacity, inflatable air compartments, and other advanced elements of tandem kayaks are still meant for two people, so it can be difficult to use them on your own.
That being said, a two-person kayak can be the best choice for casual use if you just want to relax and aren’t taking things that seriously. These kayaks are bigger, have a higher weight capacity, and offer more storage, meaning that you can take one of the inflatable kayaks, load it with drinks and a music player and enjoy the calm waters on your own. Just remember that these kayaks still have their weaknesses and limits.
Are tandem kayaks safe?
Although the designs definitely differ in places, two-person kayak designs are still just as safe as any other kayak, with some minor changes to how they work. You will want to understand how to use them best ahead of time, so be sure to look into how you are supposed to use the kayak before you try and put it on open water.
One thing to be careful of is overloading the storage: too many overestimate stability and end up filling the storage with extra weight, which can be a major cause of sinking or instability. Storage on any kayak type is a very precise feature that has to be used well. Since they’re meant for two people, they might also be slightly imbalanced if only one person is using it, but you can usually slide the seat forward or otherwise adjust it to make it suitable for a single person.
A ‘sit inside ‘ kayak is one where your legs tuck under part of the surface. These can be a great choice if you want a stable kayak, but be wary of tipping: the covered legroom can make it harder to free yourself if you tip over.
Did You Know?
You can sometimes put your name, email, and/or phone number into a kayak site to get updates on new products or articles. This name/email system can be a good way to get an idea of what existing kayak hobbyists are looking at or talking about.
Choosing a new kayak isn’t easy, especially a tandem one, but hopefully, this buyer’s guide and these reviews have given you a starting point for what to look for. Remember that there are hundreds of sites out there to look through with thousands of kayaks between them, each of which might fill a certain niche or work best in a specific situation.
Don’t be afraid to use your name/email to sign up to certain newsletters or news feeds, too: even if it is a throwaway name/email combination to protect your identity, it can be an excellent way of finding brand new information or getting an understanding of the sort of products that are popular at the moment.
At the end of the day, only you can decide which kayak design is best for you, especially since there are so many to choose from. Take your time and look around to see what might suit you: you’re under no obligation to go for a specific product or brand, and there are so many options out there that it can almost seem overwhelming until you get an idea of what you’ll need.