There are many choices when it comes to your next (or first) sit on kayak. Different length, widths, hull shapes, max weight carrying capacities and constructions – the list goes on. So how do you navigate confusing marketing spiel and make the right purchase?

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Be honest with yourself

The first question you need to ask of yourself is: what level of paddling skill are you? If you’re a novice, looking to take their first forays into the sport, then it’s not wise choosing a specialist boat with a specific target audience in mind – think Perception Kayaks surf orientated 5-0 or Tootega’s new Catalyst. Both the mentioned are awesome performers but aren’t really applicable to progressing paddler needs. Likewise if you’re a seasoned kayaker who fancies a bit of long distance touring then it’s worth considering relevant boats to this kind of task – such as Perception’s Triumph 13. These are just two scenarios where being honest will pay dividends during the purchasing process.

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Regular put ins

While the above is probably the most important factor when deciding what kayak to purchase you should also consider your regular put in. Even if you don’t reside in close proximity to kayaking waters there are probably a handful of regular haunts you’re intending to (or already) visit. Boats that fit these paddling locations will serve you well. For instance a long touring hull may not be the best option when moving white water is a feature of your local spot. And if surf is prevalent then a wave sliding design, such as Fatyak’s Surf, may be a better choice than a less manoeuvre orientated hull.

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When choosing a new boat many often miss checking the construction techniques utilised during manufacturing processes. Sit on kayaks are wide and varied with their performance attributes as well as each brand having their own individual way of producing. The type of materials, plastic thickness and other traits can also be different between ranges from the same company. Having looked at your most likely selection of put ins you should consider whether the kayak you have in mind is then up to the task. Rocks and other obstacles can take their toll on hulls. This is something that may sway your thinking further.

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Some sit on kayakers require storage aboard their chosen sled. But how much, and the type of storage, will ultimately depend on the type of paddling you’re intending doing the most of.

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Overnight adventure touring will require boats to have increased space for stowing trip essentials. It’s therefore not a good idea to grab yourself a small kayak with the bare minimum of storage options. Something with internal compartments, as well as fore and/or aft tank wells will stand you in much better stead. Fixtures and fittings, such as deck located D-rings, are also worth looking at. You can add further webbing/bungee to your boat with these fixing points which hugely increases the amount of gear you can lug. Just keep an eye on the maximum weight carrying capacity of your kayak…

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Maximum weight carrying capacity

All boats are designed to carry a maximum weight. When choosing your sled it’s worth checking this number out. If you intend loading your sit on kayak up to the hilt then make sure you factor in your own weight also – otherwise you’ll be in for a damp ride. Or worse still, your kayak will become unstable . Maximum carrying weights should also be used as a guide only in certain scenarios. As a case in point when we tested Islander’s Hula our test pilots were well over the weight of intended users. But because of paddling experience we were able to safely pilot the Hula without issue.

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Now don’t get us wrong. We’re not advocating unsafe practices but if you’re a confident and skilled kayaker, and armed with the facts (and understand your chosen put in and its nuances), then sometimes boundaries can be pushed a tad. Just make sure you have a plan B if it all goes awry.

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The above may all sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many paddlers miss some of the above. With this checklist as reference you’ll be well on the way to owning the right boat fit for purpose. Don’t forget to check out our sit on kayak reviews to find out how the boats we’ve tested to date stack up.