How to Choose a Tandem Kayak for Your Family

Buying a tandem kayak for your family can turn out to be quite the task. You think you know what you want until you see all the models in the market.

They come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. 

So which are the best tandem kayaks for families?

This buying guide will help you pick one that perfectly suits your family.

Paddling with Your Family

kayak vs canoe

Paddling alone is peaceful. It helps you forget about all the craziness going on around for a while. This is something we all need every once in a while.

Kayaking with your family, especially kids, may not be as quiet. But the excitement, and the experience in general, is incomparable. Everyone gets to go outside, enjoy the sun and you make happy, lasting memories. Even the dog can come!

Paddling a kayak is good for your family’s health too. It keeps them active, gently engaging their muscles. And did you know that kayaking burns quite a few calories? And they also get vitamin D from the sun. So don’t hesitate to buy a tandem(s) and bring them all along.

Tandem Family Kayak Pros and Cons

Buying a tandem kayak to use with your family makes sense. Why would you buy two kayaks when one can do?

But you should to know that a tandem has its pros and cons. 

Can you handle the cons? Read and decide for yourself.

Pros of a Family Tandem Kayak

  • A tandem boat allows you to bring small kids and/or a dog. With a single-person kayak, there may not be room for someone else. And younger children cannot paddle their own boat. Tandem kayaks for families ensure that no one is left behind.
  • Paddling a kayak is not as easy as it looks. When kayaking over a long distance, you can quickly get worn out. A tandem kayak has two paddlers. If you get tired, your partner can continue paddling as you rest your arms. You won’t have to stop and you get there faster.
  • Two paddlers do the job more efficiently than a single paddler can. This means more speed. When kayaking alone, you’ll have to use more effort if you want speed. With someone else, you can paddle farther without wearing yourself out. It is awesome for a family touring or camping trip.
  • To paddle a tandem kayak successfully, you and your spouse/partner have to find a rhythm. You need to communicate clearly and work together. If you do this right, it could strengthen your relationship and help you solve a problem or two. There is so much pressure coming from all sides in life. Some time away, just paddling and talking with your partner, can take some of that pressure off.
  • You get to save money with a tandem kayak. Instead of buying two kayaks, one for you and another one for the spouse or kayak for your kids, you can just use one. In many cases, it is the cheaper option.

Cons of a Family Tandem Kayak

  • Have you ever heard of the term “divorce boat”? Well, that is what some people call a tandem kayak. I know I said above that paddling a tandem kayak can strengthen your marriage or relationship. But it can also do some damage. You see, if your paddling is not in sync, you’ll start blaming each other and this may lead to a bad argument.
  • A tandem kayak is bulky. It is bigger to allow for two paddlers and more cargo. If it is a hardshell kayak, transporting and storing it won’t be easy. You will require a roof rack or trailer and this translates to more costs.
  • There is no freedom with a tandem kayak. In as much as paddling with your spouse or kids is fun, you may want to do your own thing every once in a while. But you can’t. You have to check and coordinate with the other person.

Sit-On-Top Vs Sit-Inside Tandem Kayaks for Families

Anytime you are buying a kayak, tandem or not, you have to choose between a sit-on-top (SOT) and a sit-in.

So which one should you get?

a. What Is a Sit-On-Top Tandem Kayak?

As the name implies, a SOT tandem kayak is one where you sit on top of the kayak. You don’t get inside a cockpit and your entire body is exposed.

Sit-on-top tandem kayaks typically have two storage wells, at the front and back, with bungee cords.

b. What Is a Sit-Inside Tandem Kayak?

A sit-inside tandem kayak has two cockpits. Paddlers get in, such that the lower body is inside the hull and not exposed.

Most sit-in kayaks have dry hatches and bungee cords for storage.

c. Which One Is Better?

Now that will depend.

When going kayak fishing, a sit-on-top is best. You will be sitting higher (and some seats allow you to adjust the height), giving you a better point of view. If you get a stable enough boat, one paddler can stand and fish as the other one paddles and controls the yak.

You should also consider a sit-on-top if you expect to jump for quick swims. Kids and dogs, especially, will love this. Sit-on-tops offer ease of exit and reentry. They will enjoy playing in the water and getting back on the kayak freely.

A sit-in kayak would be ideal in colder weather. The enclosed cockpit, plus a spray skirt, will keep you and your paddling partner warm and dry.

It is also suitable for a family of kayak touring enthusiasts, more so, if you have to paddle open waters. With a spray skirt, water won’t fill the cockpits.

Inflatable Vs Rigid Tandem Kayaks for Your Family

This is another key decision you will have to make.

a. What Is an Inflatable Tandem Kayak?

An inflatable kayak is one that you inflate to use and deflate once you are done.

Blow-up boats may not have been reliable when they were first introduced, but they are now, thanks to technology.

b. What Is a Rigid Tandem Kayak?

This is the traditional kayak type—the kind that doesn’t need inflation or deflation. Rigid tandem kayaks can be made of polyethylene, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or wood.

c. Which One Is Better?

This also depends on your situation.

An inflatable tandem kayak would be ideal for the family with limited storage space. Once deflated, they fold into small, compact sizes that can even fit under a bed.

You will also love a blow-up boat if you’re not ready to deal with the transportation of a rigid kayak. You won’t require a trailer or roof rack with an inflatable. It is also very lightweight. 

Besides, the blow-up material isn’t hard. It is comfortable for kids and dogs.

Lastly, inflatable kayaks are cheaper. You don’t have to go broke for the entire family to have some fun in the water. 

Generally speaking, rigid kayaks perform better than inflatable kayaks. So if you are looking for a performance kayak—maybe for family touring—a hardshell would be great.

Tandem Kayak for Families Q&A

Q: Can a Two-Year-Old Go Kayaking?

A: Yes, they can. It’s always a good time to introduce your kid to kayaks. But you should know that it requires extreme caution. Make sure they have their kayak PFD for kids on and are within reach at all times.

Q: Can a Child Ride in a Kayak?

A: Yes. You can buy them a kids’ kayak or have them help you paddle in a tandem boat. 

Q: Are Tandem Kayaks Hard to Use?

A: As long as you and your paddling partner communicate well and work as a team, it will not be hard. It can only get hard when you paddle out of sync and/or start blaming one another.

Q: Tandem Kayak with Child Seat?

A: There are family tandem kayaks that allow for three passengers, two adults at the front and back seats, and a child at the center. These are amazing because nobody will be left behind. The OC Paddle Ocean tandem kayak is a good example.

Q: How Much Weight Can a Tandem Kayak Hold?

A: Every tandem kayak has a set weight limit. It could be 300 pounds, 500 pounds or more. Manufacturers usually include this information along with the boat measurements. So make sure you buy something that can hold your family plus luggage.

Q: Can a Two-Person Kayak Be Used by One Person?

A: Yes, a single person can handle a tandem kayak. However, if you sit at the front, steering it will be very difficult. Sit at the back and put some luggage in the front seat for weight distribution.

Some tandem kayaks allow you to remove the front seat and move the back seat to the center. This will make it much easier to maneuver the boat.

Q: Where Should the Heavier Person Sit in a Tandem Kayak?

A: The heavier person should sit at the back. If they sit at the front, the nose is likely to sink into the water and this makes maneuverability a challenge. It also slows down the boat.

Q: What Are the Best Tandem Kayaks?

A: These are the best tandem kayaks in various categories:

  • Best sit-on-top tandem kayak: Perception Pescador Tandem
  • Best tandem kayak for heavier people: BKC TK122 Tandem Kayak
  • Best tandem fishing kayak: BKC TK219K Tandem Fishing Kayak
  • Best inflatable tandem kayak: Sea Eagle 370 Pro

Q: How to Kayak with a Kid?

A: Where you go and how long your trip will last depend on your children’s age and abilities. You may not be able to go very far with younger ones.

Toddlers will be better off sitting between two adults in a tandem kayak. It is safer and the paddler at the back can keep an eye on them.

Older kids, above the age of 8, can sit at the front seat and help you paddle. They are not very strong so you will be doing most of the work.

Make sure your children are good swimmers and that they always wear a life jacket.


Paddling with your family allows you to spend time with them and catch up. It’s a great opportunity to bond and make beautiful memories. But for this to happen, you have to get a tandem family kayak that is right for you. It could be an inflatable or hardshell, sit-on-top or sit-in kayak. It should have all the features you need. And don’t forget to check the weight capacity.

Do you have any questions about tandem kayaks for families? Feel free to ask us below. Happy kayaking!

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