Are you looking for a way to enjoy the beauty of the water with a friend or loved one?
This is where tandem kayaks really shine!
They can be an excellent summer investment for those who love to get out and explore.
For starters, they cost far less than buying two or three kayaks for your family.
They’re also excellent for people who aren’t great at paddling, as you always have a bit of help with you.
Our goal today is to provide you with all the information you’ll need to get your hands on the best tandem kayak around.
The Top 9
Best Tandem Sit-On Top Kayaks
OUR #1 PICK - LIFETIME 10-FOOT SIT-ON-TOP
The Lifetime 10 Foot Manta is an excellent kayak if you want something that can move between tandem and solo! With the 500 lb capacity, you could easily get 3 small people on here if you wanted. The beauty lies in the size though, as you can easily paddle this bad boy by yourself if you ever feel like taking a solo yak trip on the lake. It comes complete with two high-quality paddles, as well as two comfortable and adjustable backrests, making it great for when you’re spending hours out on the water. Thanks to the Sit-On-Top design, you can stay dry as you move.
While there aren’t really any accessories built on for fishing, there is a very large cargo area where you could definitely store some of your gear. You can also put a cooler on board if it’s a “kickin’ it” kind of day. The polyethylene material is both durable and lightweight, giving it the ability to withstand tough conditions, as well as making it easy to transport. From surfing, to sailing, to fishing, and beyond, the Manta is a truly versatile kayak that should make any burgeoning yakker happy.
#2 - OCEAN KAYAK 12-FEET MALIBU
The Ocean Kayak Malibu is an excellent kayak if you’re looking for a tandem kayak with tons of room onboard. Along with its 425 lb capacity, it comes complete with a two-plus-one feature, giving you the ability to lug around a third person (preferably your kid or your dog). This is thanks to the 3 seating positions onboard that are molded into the hull. As for comfort, the Malibu 2 is a provider. You get overlapping footwells for comfort no matter how tall or short you are. You get gear straps for all of your fishing gear or cooler, molded handles to carry and transport your yak, and a simple, stackable design, allowing you to store multiple Malibu kayaks if you buy a few.
The long and streamlined body design makes the kayak easy to maneuver and helps give it more speed as you cut through the water like a knife through warm butter. Even faster or rougher bodies of water, such as ocean waves, can easily be navigated thanks to the stability and control that the Malibu 2 provides.
#3 - SUN DOLPHIN BALI 13.5’
The Sun Dolphin Bali is the longest on our list of sit-on-top kayaks, and can easily hold up to 3 people. There are 3 seats (2 of which come with backrests) meaning you can ride with both your spouse and your child! We love how sturdy this kayak is! It’s truly perfect for any type of current, unless you’re charging rapids of course. Thanks to the 13.5’ length, it provides tons of speed in the water, as well as a boatload of storage space onboard. There are 3 onboard storage compartments, as well as bungee tie down areas for bigger pieces of gear like coolers and tackle boxes.
The footrests are completely adjustable so that anyone can find their most comfortable position onboard. It comes completely with two high-density, molded in paddle holders too, meaning you can take a break from paddling to catch some fish without worrying about losing your paddle to the deep blue. For the size, it’s incredibly inexpensive, making it perfect for those who are on a budget or just entering the world of kayaking.
Best Inflatable Tandem Kayaks
#1 BEST INFLATABLE - INTEX EXPLORER K2
The Intex Explorer 2 is one of the best inflatable kayaks on the market, as it is both inexpensive and packed with tons of top-tier features. This tandem inflatable kayak can hold up to 300 lbs, yet only weighs about 40 lbs, making it incredibly easy to transport. Thanks to the wide beam on the bottom, it has surprisingly good tracking, especially for an inflatable kayak. The high back seats are reminiscent of laZboy chairs, and give you tons of lumber support, making it perfect for longer sessions on the water.
The frame is made from a multi-layered nylon material, giving it strength and durability that will stand the test of time. The multiple air chambers make it safe in the case of punctures while the abrasion pads work to stop punctures from happening at all. For the size, you get a solid amount of onboard storage. It comes complete with two paddle holders and a few rod holders for fishing enthusiasts too. Overall, it’s a solid, all-around kayak choice for just about anyone.
#2 - ADVANCED ELEMENTS CONVERTIBLE INFLATABLE
Looking for a convertible kayak that can be used either for solo kayaking or tandem kayaking? The Convertible Inflatable Kayak is an excellent option! You can easily convert this bad boy to use it for single or double rides in just minutes! The grey and red design gives it an incredibly sleek look out on the water. There are three seating locations onboard with tons of lumbar support for long kayaking sessions. There’s also a capacity of 550 lbs, allowing you to take along your cooler, your fishing gear, and even your pup!
The ultra-durable hull is great in everything from calm lake waters to rougher ocean waves. It cuts through the water like a knife, moving pretty fast for an inflatable watercraft. The durability is due to the aluminum ribs and three-layer construction. These characteristics also help you to track and perform better than most inflatable boats out there. As for accessories, the Advanced Elements kayak comes complete with a duffel bag for storage and transport, as well as a little repair kit for all your safety needs.
#3 - SEA EAGLE INFLATABLE
If you’re looking for the best affordable inflatable kayak, look no further than the Sea Eagle SE370K. It’s lightweight, comes with NMMA certification, and is very budget-friendly. With an inflation time of about 7 minutes, you can spend less time setting up and more time paddling around the lake. From turbulent rivers to calm ripples near the local creek, this baby can do it all!
Beginners can get the hang of it easily while veteran kayakers will love its versatility.
The most astonishing thing about this kayak is that it can hold up to 650 lbs, meaning you and all your gear will have no problem being hauled around. You can even bring on your dog without worry of him scratching it up or poking holes in the hull. This is thanks to the tough Polykrylar that the kayak is made out of. There is more than enough room for all of your camping gear, food, fishing rods, and whatever else you need on your trip. It even comes with a sweet little storage bag for transporting.
Best Tandem Fishing Kayaks
OUR #1 PICK - VIBE KAYAKS SKIPJACK 120T
The Skipjack 120T is an incredibly versatile kayak that can be used for fishing or exploring, either with someone or completely solo. It’s probably the best tandem kayak for fishing overall. For rivers, lakes, and flat waters, this thing excels with its tough, balanced build. The Vibe 120T truly provides everything that you would ever need in a tandem kayak, especially for those who like to fish. It is also incredibly affordable when you compare it to other models on the market with similar features.
The three seating positions are perfect for two adults and one child. Even at just 72 lbs, you can hold up to 500 lbs onboard. There’s even enough room for all of your camping and fishing gear thanks to the numerous storage options. Just check out the storage hatches and bungee tie tankwells. The 4 carrying handles make it easy to carry from your car to the water’s edge, and also make it a bit safer for when you let your kiddos take it out on the water. It is built to be tough and long lasting with high-density Polyethylene material and comes complete with an array of accessories like the two, lightweight aluminum paddles, eight scupper plugs, two paddle plugs, and two rod holders.
#2 - SEVYLOR COLEMAN INFLATABLE FISHING KAYAK
If you want a mix between a great fishing kayak and a great inflatable kayak, look no further than the Sevylor Inflatable Fishing Kayak by Coleman. It is totally outrigged for an inflatable kayak, something we don’t commonly see. It is made from an 18 gauge PVC material that gives it some serious durability, and also has an 840D nylon cover and 1000D tarpaulin bottom for preventing punctures. You even get multiple air chambers for added safety when out on the water.
There are many rod holders built-in, making it perfect for fishing all day when you don’t want to to hold onto your rods. If you don’t want to deal with your paddles, you can stick them into the paddle holders to give yourself a break. The trolling motor can be attached to the installed pre mounting area to make it even easier to utilize too. When it comes to storage, there isn’t a ton of extra room, though you can keep your crucial gear within arm’s reach at all times thanks to the strategically placed mesh pockets.
#3 - VIBE KAYAKS YELLOWFIN 130T
The Vibe Yellowfin 130T is loaded with tons of awesome features that make it a true standout kayak. While it does come at a higher price, if you’re looking for something feature-rich and superbly high-quality, you don’t have to look much further than this. It comes complete with fully adjustable footrests and comfortable mesh seats with lumbar support, giving the ultimate in comfort for long days out on the water. As for storage, there are two sealed dry hatches on the boat for holding all of your important belonging, as well as a few above deck areas with bungee cords for things you want to keep in arm’s reach.
Onboard, you have two flush mounted rod holders for holding onto your fishing rods, as well as a couple cupholders to hold your frothy brews while you’re busy looking for some bass. Beyond that, the boat works well in all kinds of water conditions, has excellent tracking, and is very easy to paddle and turn considering its size. It also comes in cool, bright colors, giving you a funky, standout look while on the water.
Why Choose A Tandem Kayak?
TANDEM KAYAKS ARE GREAT FOR FAMILIES
If you have a family, especially little kids, tandem kayaks are an excellent choice. If your child can paddle and is comfortable taking charge, though still not able to tackle the water on their own, you can both paddle together in a tandem kayak. They can sit at the front of the ya, take in the views of the water, and give you some extra help. Tandem kayaks are even great if you have two kids and you want them to be able to paddle safely together out on the water. It’s also very typical for these tandem kayaks to have third seats in the middle that are perfect for young kids and dogs.
MAKES PADDLING EASIER
When you’re paddling a traditional kayak, the only person in charge is you. If you’re tired, oh well, you need to keep paddling. When you have someone else on-board, you can switch off taking breaks. It also allows for a bit of multitasking. One person can paddle while the other takes pictures, catches some fish, or makes a little lunch.
HELPS YOU TO PICK UP SPEED
Tandem is the best thing if you’re looking to get some serious speed. Plus, the sterns on tandem kayaks are also typically wider, making it easier to go faster as well. If you’re planning on taking longer trips or are just trying to get from point a to point b a bit faster, tandem kayaks are great for the “get to the point” paddlers.
TANDEM KAYAKS ARE MORE STABLE
If you’re not very experienced as a kayaker, it is necessary that you have a kayak that is table. You’re first consideration should be stability, not speed, as mentioned above, even though you may get both. This is even more true if you plan on taking your kayak into the ocean.
TANDEM KAYAKS CAN BE MORE EXCITING!
Being able to share the experience of kayaking with a friend or loved one can make it a ton more exciting. You are able to truly bask in the moment unlike you would be able to in separate kayaks. You can sit in deep conversation, enjoy your surroundings, and even share a bit of romance if you’re riding with a spouse or partner.
Interested in seeing how these pit against our favorite single-rider kayaks? We highly recommend that you check out our Fin Bin guide to see some of our favorites!
How To Choose The Right Tandem Kayak
When you’re dealing with hard-shell kayaks, you will typically find that they are either made out of polyethylene or higher end Kevlar / carbon / fiberglass composites. Polyethylene is both durable and lightweight and does a great job at absorbing high impact hits, meaning it will last you for a long time. That being said, it does tend to become a bit more brittle when left in sunlight for long periods of time. If you’re in a place where the elements are tough, you may want to go for something that is a bit higher end.
Composite, while usually much more expensive, are also much lighter, stronger, and will last you much longer over time, especially in places where the elements aren’t very forgiving.
If you’re looking into inflatable kayaks, don’t believe those who say they aren’t tough. Inflatable materials have come quite a ways over the past decade. The materials usually include high-quality denier or military grade PVC. The beauty of these is that, even though they aren’t as great with tracking or paddling compared to their hard-shell counterparts, they’re perfect for those who don’t have much room for storage or transport.
The length of a tandem kayak is what is going to make it easier or more difficult to control and maneuver. While longer kayaks are typically more difficult to maneuver, especially when you find yourself in tighter situations, they are also typically better at tracking. A short tandem kayak might be easier to maneuver and better for harder to reach areas, though for long journeys, you may find them to be a bit slow.
You’ll no doubt want a kayak that can support your body weight, as well as other gear you may have on-board including your cooler, fishing gear, and other belongings. When you’re choosing a tandem kayak, you must also consider that you’ll be riding with someone else. Essentially, if you plan on going with a partner, you must make sure that the kayak you get is able to support both of your weights. The weight capacity will have a lot to do with the stability of the kayak in the water, so you can most likely conclude that a kayak with a higher carrying capacity is also much more stable.
You’ll typically find that tandem kayaks weigh anywhere from 50-100lbs. Usually, this isn’t such a big deal, as you’ll most likely have two or three people helping to carry the tandem kayak. The problem comes when you’re loading it on your car or truck. Trying to hoist a 100lb kayak above your head and onto your truck might prove to be a bit difficult. If you do end up getting a heavier kayak, you may also need to consider getting a kayak trailer to hitch it behind.
A tandem kayak should have double the room of a traditional, single kayak, right? Think again. A good amount of tandem kayaks lack proper storage, something most people don’t realize until they’re prepping for their camping trip and realize they don’t have enough. Storage comes on a kayak in many ways. One of the most popular, especially when it comes to traditional kayaks, is deck storage. Deck storage can usually be found at the bow or stern, and will typically come complete with shock cord leashing/bungee cords for tie-downs.
While shock cord storage is awesome for those who need to keep things within arms reach, it can leave your gear open to splashes or water damage. If you flip the boat, that’s a whole different story. This is why we enjoy watertight options such as storage hatches. Being able to seal up certain gear, such as your phone, wallet, keys, or lunch, can be awesome if you don’t want to find it at the bottom of the lake.
Sitting for a kayak for long periods of time can be kind of a nightmare if it’s not comfortable. Some kayaks are far more comfortable than others thanks to the special features they have on-board. If comfort is a priority, we recommend looking for kayaks with ample leg room and cushioned seats rather than those molded into the hull.
Comfort has a lot to do with the ability to adjust certain things as well. The seats should hopefully be able to adjust to mold to your back and the footrests should adjust in length to fit someone of any size.
There are many different features that you should keep an eye out for if you’re looking for a tandem kayak. If you’re angling, you should no doubt get one with fishing rod holders on-board. After three hours on the water, you might want to take a break from holding your rods. Rod holders act like arms and allow you to place your rods in them while keeping your lines cast, giving you the option to have your morning cup of Joe while you wait for a fish to come up. They also give you the ability to cast multiple lines at once, increasing the chances of getting a catch.
Another feature that you should consider is getting a kayak with an included motor mount. Many kayaks come with mounts so that you can attach trolling motors to them. Say you want to take a break from paddling and let your motor do the work. Trolling motors are great in that they have a safe, slow speed, are easy to install and maintain, and allow you to go further and faster no matter the conditions.
How To Paddle A Tandem Kayak
Paddling a tandem kayak is a lot like paddling a traditional, solo kayak. Here are a few things you should keep in mind while paddling.
1. PADDLE WITH YOUR PARTNER
Paddling in unison will help you to not only keep from hitting your paddles against each other, but you’ll also move across the water much faster. Once you get into a rhythm with your partner, you’ll notice how much smoother your ride will be. Even if it takes a little viking-style vocalization (“stroke! stroke!”), it’s the best way to optimize your ride.
2. HAVE THE STRONGER PADDLER IN BACK
The stronger paddler should always be placed in the back of the kayak. This is because the person in the back is going to be the one that is responsible for steering and maneuvering your kayak. The paddler that is sitting in the front is the one that is going to choose what pace you are going out, allowing the paddler in back to match that pace.
Turning is probably one of the most “complicated” parts of tandem kayaking, though once you do it a few times, it’ll feel like second nature. The front paddler uses a forward stroke while the back paddler uses a backward stroke on the other side of the kayak.
CAN I KAYAK WITH MY DOG?
Absolutely! Tandem kayaks are great for dogs! The hardshell ones are made of material that is strong enough to deal with their claws, and even many inflatable kayaks have material tough enough to withstand punctures. You’re better off trying to find a kayak that has removable seats so that your dog can move around without the seat getting in the way.
As with a child, it is important to make safety a big consideration when you bring your dog with you on your kayak. You should be completely sure beforehand that your dog is able to swim in case of emergency, and also sure that he/she won’t freak out once you paddle out there. We always recommend bringing along a life jacket for your dog too.
HOW LONG ARE TANDEM KAYAKS?
The majority of tandem kayaks are somewhere between 10 and 20 ft.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO TRANSPORT MY TANDEM KAYAK?
1. Carrying Your Kayak
- To begin, have each person grab one of the boat handles at the bow and stern
- Lift the boat and carry your kayak with each person facing the direction that you are going, rather than having one person backpedal.
- If you’re by yourself with your tandem kayak, squat down, grab the cockpit edge, and pull the kayak up to your thigh edge. Stand up and lift the kayak onto your shoulder.
2. Getting It On Your Vehicle
- Crossbars: Crossbars are one of the best ways to safely attach a kayak to the top of your car or truck. You can install them to the installed bars that already run along the length of your car, or get them installed professionally if you don’t have bars there already.
- Padding: Some kayak systems attach to your crossbars and carry your kayak in V-shaped forms. These are just as great as crossbars and a bit more specific for kayaking.
- Cam Straps: Get two straps that are 12 feet or longer and strap your kayak onto the top of your vehicle. These are what are going to hold your kayak securely to the crossbars.
TANDEM KAYAK VS. CANOE
The most noticeable difference when you compare tandem kayaks and canoes, is that tandem kayaks leave you a lot more open to water. When you’re in choppier water in a tandem kayak, plan on getting wet. That being said, they are much better for rougher waters such as rapids.
Even though canoes and tandem kayaks are pretty similar in length, you won’t find as much resistance from tandem kayaks, as they have lower profile designs. For beginners, paddling a kayak vs a canoe is much easier.
Canoes require far less coordination between paddlers because they track much better than kayaks. Kayaks require two paddlers to be in sync if they want to get anywhere. This means that if you do have experienced paddlers, you’ll most likely be able to hit higher speeds with a canoe than a kayak.
In terms of comfort, canoes can be a bit torturous. Sitting in a canoe is a bit like sitting on a tiny stool for hours at a time. That being said, canoes usually have a bit more room for your legs and are easier to shift around in without tipping over.
Final Thoughts - Which Should You Get?
Everyone should be able to find the best tandem kayak for their needs on our list, though we still recommend going with the Lifetime Manta.
It’s both simple and versatile and has enough pro features and characteristics to get you started without blowing a ton of money.
Whether you are getting a kayak to take in scenery or do some serious angling, it’s truly up to you to decide which one is the best.
Always remember to consider the things we mentioned, and above all, have fun!