Best Tandem Kayak for Family Outings

Best Tandem Kayak for Family Outings

Picking out a tandem kayak for your next family outing can be a challenge if you’re not already familiar with kayak types, features, or paddling vocabulary. Today’s kayaks are more advanced and affordable than ever but, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to spend too much or too little and be disappointed with your choice either way.

I am here to help you understand how to choose the best tandem kayak by working with you to understand the features and functions available in modern kayaks. We’ll talk about some of these features in depth before we review a few of the most readily available tandem kayaks on the market.

Of course, it’s always important to carefully assess your needs and the needs of your group before making a purchase. As always, we strongly recommend that you take a lesson from a trained kayak instructor to ensure your safety and enjoyment of your next trip.

Here's Our Pick of the Best Tandem Kayaks

Product

Weight

Capacity

Dimensions

Price

Our Rating

Ocean Kayak Malibu 2

57 lbs

425 lbs

12' x 34" x 20"

$$

Necky Manitou II

79 lbs

475 lbs

14'8" x 28" x 15"

$$$

Old Town Dirigo

72 lbs

475 lbs

15'3" x 29" x 14"

$$$

Old Town Twin Heron

60 lbs

500 lbs

13'6" x 13" x 15"

$$

Malibu Two XL

68 lbs

500 lbs

13'4" x 34" x 22"

$$

Scroll down to see full reviews!

How to Choose a Tandem Kayak

Let’s review some of the features you’re likely to need to understand before choosing the best tandem kayak for your needs:

Spray Skirt

This is a standard touring and sea kayak accessory which helps to keep water out of the boat when paddling in rough conditions. Some boats come with a spray skirt, others do not. Unless you’re planning to paddle in nasty weather or whitewater, there’s really no need for this.

Skeg

Skegs can be simple or complex. On expensive boats, they can be extended and retracted. The function of a skeg is to help the boat track straight in the water. Skegs are not rudders which we will talk about next. A skeg simply helps prevent zig-zag movement of the boat during paddling.

Rudder

Commonly found on high-end touring boats, a rudder can be adjusted and controlled with foot levers while paddling to aid with tracking or turning. A handy feature for windy days! Rudders are an expensive and high-end feature so be certain of your need before committing to a boat with rudders.

Kayaking Sizing and Shapes

Depth

Generally speaking, depth won’t be an issue. Sometimes deeper kayaks can be found to accommodate more gear or a larger person. Shop around if this sounds like you. If you’re planning to paddle water with extremely shallow depth, you may want to consider the draft of your kayak (depth in the water). This can be an issue during dry weather times in certain areas.

Width

This is usually called Beam by those in the know – it just means width. Wider doesn’t always mean more stable, but for the beginning kayaker, a wider boat is more stable when entering or exiting. On economy-grade kayaks, you may find that the cockpit is quite narrow and may be difficult to accommodate people with wider hips. This is something to consider if that description fits your body type.

Length

This one is simple: the shorter the boat, the more agile it will be. Short kayaks perform better in tighter conditions, and longer kayaks are much easier to paddle straight across long distances. Don’t over think it. If you’re planning to paddle whitewater, you’ll want to give this more consideration - start with our beginners guide to whitewater kayaking.

Capacity

This not only means the size of the storage space (consider this wisely if you’re going to use the boat for camping trips), but every boat also has a maximum weight. Double-check the weight capacity of your kayak before purchasing and don’t forget to consider the weight of any gear you might be carrying with you. Remember that your kayak needs to be able to handle you, your equipment, your partner, and your partner’s gear.

Hull Shape

Hull shape comes in three general flavors:

Flat hulls are featured on sit-on-top kayaks and are the most stable of all hull designs when entering and exiting the boat.

Round hulls are the shape of choice on many economy grade recreational kayaks – they are slightly more efficient when paddling but a little less stable initially. You’re likely to find this design on many entry level tandem kayaks.

V-shaped hulls are often found on touring boats and offer the best stability when under motion – they also tend to improve tracking.

Kayak Construction Materials

Polyethylene

By far the most common boat material, PE is cheap and heavy. Economy grade and recreational boats will be made from PE and it really helps keep the price down!

Store these boats in the shade or indoors to help extend their life as sun exposure will eventually weaken the plastic.

ABS

These boats are more resistant to sunlight degradation and lighter than PE kayaks. More expensive than PE, ABS boats are quite durable and easier to repair than PE boats. These are several major advantages to consider if you’re the type of person who likes to keep nice things for life.

Composite

Most expensive of the categories, these boats are top performers. Kevlar, fiberglass, and carbon fiber are the materials of choice here. Expect to pay through your nose and only look for these boats if you’re seeking top level performance and feather light weight! Treat them gently as they’re not nearly as durable as the PE versions. Be sure you and your partner are ready to get serious about kayaking!

Tandem Kayak Reviews

Product

Weight

Capacity

Dimensions

Price

Our Rating

Ocean Kayak Malibu 2

57 lbs

425 lbs

12' x 34" x 20"

$$

Necky Manitou II

79 lbs

475 lbs

14'8" x 28" x 15"

$$$

Old Town Dirigo

72 lbs

475 lbs

15'3" x 29" x 14"

$$$

Old Town Twin Heron

60 lbs

500 lbs

13'6" x 13" x 15"

$$

Malibu Two XL

68 lbs

500 lbs

13'4" x 34" x 22"

$$

Scroll down to see full reviews!

Ocean Kayak Malibu 2

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Review

This is a sit on top style kayak built for paddling open water. Equipped with side mounted carrying handles, three molded seat wells, and gear straps at the bow and stern, it should have everything you need for a long day on the water with the family. The extra seat well can accommodate a small child or pet.

Keep in mind that the maximum load for this kayak is 425lbs which includes both people and all gear. If you and your partner exceed this limit, this won’t be the boat for you. No skeg or rudder means this boat might be a bit squirrely when paddling but at 12ft long, it should track well regardless.

One year manufacturer warranty covers the 58lbs boat from any defects in workmanship. This way you can relax knowing that your boat is covered as you become more familiar with it and begin to excel on the water!

Necky Manitou II

Necky Manitou II Review

Necky has crafted one of the best two person kayaks in the style of their longer touring models. This is a high-end kayak with features galore.

Streamlined, narrow hull design is stable and tracks true for longer open water paddling on touring type trips. With some adjustability, the cockpit can be modified to accommodate two adult paddlers, or two paddlers and a small middle passenger. Just about everything in this boat can be tailored to fit you from the seat angle to the seat back height.

Included skeg makes this boat the ideal choice for tandem kayakers looking to take longer trips. On top of that, sealed hatch covers mean your gear stays organized and dry no matter what. With bungee cord paddle storage and plenty of room inside the cockpit for gear, this is your long duration trip boat.

Old Town Dirigo Tandem

Old Town Dirigo Tandem Review

This 72-pound boat isn’t necessarily a lightweight choice for tandem paddling, but it is three-layer polyethylene for serious durability and rugged longevity. At over 15ft in length, it’s a behemoth of a boat made for long-legged paddlers and straight waters.

Click seal hatch covers aren’t the most secure so be careful about your gear and make sure to pack everything in sealed dry bags that will float. You know, just in case…

Optional rudder system can add some high-class versatility to this boat, but it’s not the primary goal. Cup holders and deck bungees add some versatility. I will say that the cockpit entrance is quite narrow. I’ve used this model for years and have seen a lot of people struggle to fit wider hips inside. Beware!

Old Town Twin Heron Kayak

Old Town Heron Twin Review

Weighing in at about 60lbs, this boat won’t hold you back, but it’s no feather either. With a max load of 500lbs, most partners should be able to paddle comfortably without overloading this kayak.

Old Town engineered this boat specifically to be able to handle both dual passengers and solo paddlers with lots of gear. This is ideal for the occasional long paddle camping trip and the weekend get away with the family. Kill two birds with one stone and save a little money in the process!

Lacking many of the more advanced and luxurious features of the Dirigo, this boat is meant for more recreational use and would be an excellent choice for those just getting started or looking to keep the budget on the down low!

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two XL Review

We already reviewed the Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 – but not the XL. Sharing most of the same specs as its smaller sibling, the XL is rated to handle a little more.

This is a great choice if you’re a heavier paddler, taller paddler, or if you’re planning to haul some serious gear! The XL rating is two-fold. Not only can the boat handle loads up to 500lbs, but you also gain an extra 16” of overall length in the hull. This means you can stretch those long legs or carry more gear.

One awesome thing about these boats is that the seats can be moved around to several adjustable locations. If you’re paddling with two people or just by yourself, you can locate the seats properly to balance out the weight and keep the kayak paddling flat and in control. Nice!

Conclusion

Tandem kayaks are a great choice for the family getaway. Most of them can even fit a third person (child), so you can get a full family out to enjoy the water in just one or two kayaks. If you’re going to be paddling often, buying a tandem kayak is the way to go. You’ll avoid the cumulative fees of renting or borrowing, and you’ll be able to take the boat to areas where canoe liveries just don’t rent boats.

When choosing your tandem kayak, be sure to fully consider the different designs, shapes, and styles that can impact the performance of your boat. Remember that your friends, partners, or family may not always be the same size or shape as you. It’s important to choose a boat that can accommodate any future passengers you may have along. Enjoy the water on your next family trip with a tandem kayak from our list!

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