Choosing a kayak is similar to choosing a canoe. Both move through the water powered by a paddle and both are used for similar activities. But there are several differences. To begin with, in a kayak you are using a double-bladed paddle, allowing for easier correction and extra speed. And you are sitting much closer to the water, which gives you better stability and allows for a narrower, lighter craft.
As with canoes, it is important to remember that no single kayak can do everything. So choosing the right one for you means first coming up with an honest idea of how you intend to use your kayak. There are a lot of designs out there and some will fit your needs much better than others. Perhaps it might help to break down your intended usage into percentages, such as 80% lake paddling, 10% fishing, 10% ocean day trips, for example.
When you know which models you're most interested in, link to our extensive Dealer Locator search engine. You'll be able to find the Old Town dealers near you that carry the Old Town model you want.
Also in this section is "Kayak Anatomy," a handy primer on the basics of kayak design to help you understand the terminology and technology, and how subtle differences in size, shape and configuration can make a big difference to your paddling experience.
Once you know what you would like to do with your kayak, and you understand the differences in the many kayaks we offer, you're ready to choose the model that will best fit your needs. At Old Town, we're confident that no matter what type of paddling you're into, we have a quality kayak for you.
We've organized our line of kayaks into four distinct categories to help you decide which is best for you:
User-friendly kayaks for those who just want to get out on the water. Recreational kayaks are stable and easy to maneuver, making them ideal for quiet water paddling on lakes, ponds and class I rivers.
These versatile kayaks offer good stability and improved tracking and efficiency. Large open cockpits permit easy entry and exit, and allow you to stretch your legs as well as stow your gear. Day Touring kayaks are a great choice for sportsmen, or simply an enjoyable way to get the family on the water.
Our Tandem kayaks are stable, maneuverable family fun boats designed for two people and sometimes more. Ideal for all-around recreational use — paddling with a companion on lakes, ponds, and flat rivers.
Kayaks specifically designed for sporting use. Lightweight and extremely stable, they're packed with features to make life easier and more enjoyable on hunting and fishing excursions.
Kayak Anatomy: Size & Cross Section
Longer kayaks tend to be faster and track - go in a straight line - better than shorter ones. Shorter kayaks, while not as fast, are much more maneuverable and are generally lighter. So longer kayaks are better suited for cruising and touring on open water, but are a little limited in tighter areas. A shorter kayak would be a great choice for exploring estuaries or small lakes and rivers, but probably won't have enough gear space or speed for longer day trips or an overnight outing.
The width, or beam, of a kayak is measured at the widest part, usually the middle of the craft. Generally speaking, the wider the kayak the more stable it is but the slower it is. A wide boat would better suit someone taking pictures or fishing, while a narrower kayak would cover greater distances with less effort, making it attractive to those wishing to go places.
The cross section refers to the shape of the sides and the bottom of the kayak. How the bottom is constructed plays a big part in the stability of the kayak.
Flat bottom kayaks are very stable in calmer waters but become less comfortable as the waves get larger.
Shallow arch bottoms feel initially less stable but tend to be faster and are better behaved in unsettled water.
V-bottoms improve tracking but may have less initial stability.
Flare, Tumblehome, Straight-sided
The sides of the kayak also have importance. Many wider kayaks have a tumblehome design, meaning the sides actually curve inward as they come up creating narrower beam on the deck. This enables the paddler to more easily reach the water while still having the stability of a wider kayak.
Other kayaks have flared sides, meaning the beam increases the deeper it sits in the water, providing more stability as the cargo weight increases. This design provides increased stability when the kayak is on its side or in unsettled water. Kayaks can also have straight sides, which are a compromise between the two.
HAVE FUN, AND HAPPY PADDLING!