Rick is a former news reporter who decided that the corporate world wasn't for him and took off to travel the world. He's been to every continent (yes, even Antarctica!) and has tried out a multitude of outdoor gear along the way. From tents to hiking boots, he's probably tested it all. Now, he's one of our full-time product testers and experts.
Bryan is one of our leading experts since he's got a vast expertise in practically everything connected to the outdoors. He's been hiking since he was a young boy, was an organizer of kayaking tours which later led to another passion of his - kayak fishing. Now, he's a part-time expert consultant involved in our multiple product tests and topic research.
Last updated: April 23, 2022
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Kayaking gains in popularity these days, and there are plenty of makes and models to choose from. However, if you’re a woman shopping for a kayak, you must take your specific needs into account. As a woman’s body is shaped differently, you need to find a kayak which accommodates that properly. It’s also a good idea to take note of how much experience you have, how much weight you’re willing to carry, and the type of kayaking you’re looking to perform.
In our search for the best kayak for women, we considered various features, including women’s-specific. First is the kayak type and the purpose it is ideal for. Some may enjoy a lazy row around the lake while others want to go on more intense runs. The kayak weight and dimensions are not only important in terms of how you’ll carry it, but also whether it will fit in/on your vehicle and whether you have room in your home to store it. Finally, we also looked into the weight capacity of the kayaks, as this can make or break your kayaking experience as well.
We’ve spent weeks doing our own research, while also taking our time to look at online reviews of other users to weigh our own experience against theirs. Finally, we read through expert reviews and product specs to ensure we fully understood each product and their purpose. In this guide, you’re going to find a table to allow you to compare each product against the other, individual reviews of each product, and a buying guide to help you decide. We know you’re excited to get out on the water, so without further ado, we present to you the best kayaks for women.
More features: HDPE shell, large open cockpit, back-friendly seat
The Perception Tribute 12 is a recreational kayak perfect for those who don’t want to carry a ton of weight around. It’s technically not the most lightweight design out there, but it is still one of the lightest, at just 42 pounds, which is especially impressive considering its length of 12 feet. Despite being so light, it has a surprisingly generous weight capacity of 240 pounds. Again, not the highest out there, but the weight-to-weight-capacity ratio is very good, thanks to the vertical wall flotation in bow and flotation bulkhead. The women’s-specific ergonomic design is excellent with straight-line tracking and gives reliable performance.
This kayak comes with a comfy, back-friendly seat so you can just relax and enjoy your adventure. It’s so nice, in fact, that it’s cushioned, and adjusts up to six different ways! In addition, you’ll find adjustable footrests and padded thighbraces so you won’t get all cramped up. Talk about luxury.
The Tribute 12 works well in all kinds of “flat” water, such as calm rivers, lakes, and ponds. If you happen to encounter rain, you’ll love the ample dry storage so your personal belongings are safe due to the watertight stern hatch with neoprene seal. The only real downside for us was that it was too small for some paddlers. However, it would be hard to find a kayak which fit every single user out there, so this didn’t affect our rating too harshly.
More features: blow-molded polyethylene shell, large adjustable foot braces and stern floatation bag, seat folds flat for easier transportation
Emotion is a brand which aims to make their products as easy as possible to use, while still retaining a kind of performance edge. This lightweight kayak is incredibly simple and straightforward to operate. If you don’t want to limit your possibilities in where you’ll be paddling, then do give this one a go. You can use it on lakes, rivers, and ponds, as well as some coastal paddling if you feel like it. However, if you’re planning on taking it on longer trips, you may find you have trouble keeping up with more experienced counterparts.
The slight “V-shaped” hull works well to keep everything stable and is great at tracking in comparison to other kayaks of the same length. The paddle keeper ledge lets you switch seamlessly from paddling to hands-free use in just seconds. While it is quite light, the weight capacity of 275 pounds is pretty impressive. We also loved the adjustable padded seat, and the sit-inside style. It has ample space to move around, so you don’t feel constricted. The seat also folds flat to make storage and transportation a breeze. The foot braces are also large enough to fit bigger feet, and are adjustable, just like the seat.
While we did enjoy the Emotion, we didn’t find it was free of flaws, either. Perhaps our biggest “con” was that it lacked any storage hatch or dry storage, so your things will be vulnerable to the elements. Other than that though, we found it was one of the best kayaks for tall women and short women alike!
More features: triple-layer polyethylene shell, low deck profile
We know that women are typically smaller than men, which is why selecting a kayak which suits women’s needs is ideal. The Pelican Sentinel 100X is an excellent choice for smaller paddlers, thanks to its lightweight and excellent maneuverability. Featuring a low-deck profile and seat well specifically made to keep you comfortable and stable, you’ll find it’s one of the easiest models out there to use. So simple, that if you’re just starting out with kayaking, this would make for an excellent beginner boat.
To hop on board, all you have to do is step into it and pop down on the seat. It may seem daunting at first, but thanks to the good amount of balance it provides, you should feel confident. The paddle holder on the right side features a pull tab, making it easy to let go and attach to bungee up to the bungee button. As far as comfort goes, it has a state-of-the-art Comfort Hybrid seating system, which includes an acceptable seat back height for added lumbar support while you paddle. You won’t have to worry about it sliding around as it’s actually attached to the kayak, itself. You can also adjust it to your liking. The sit-on-top style may not be ideal if you’re trying to stay protected from the elements, but it’s great if you find the sit-in style too claustrophobic or restricting.
We did have a couple of complaints, though. One was the fact that the on-deck storage did keep gear well within our reach and secure thanks to bungees, but didn’t offer any protection against water. Secondly, the fact the carrying handles were side-mounted made it kind of awkward to carry as it threw the center of balance off. The car-topping handle system does work well for transporting by vehicle, but not so much by hand.
What stands out?
Easy to maneuver
Low-profile stays balanced and stable
Lumbar support for back
What cons did we manage to find?
Carry handle location can make transportation a bit difficult
More features: large storage compartment and bottle holder, adjustable padded seat back and foot braces
Are you searching for one of the best beginner kayaks for women but are on a budget? If so, your options are a bit limited. However, the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10-foot sit-in kayak is here to save the day. It’s available at only a fraction of the price as the others on our list, yet will still give you a wonderful experience. Even if it didn’t have such an affordable price tag, we think we’d still place it on our list given how much we enjoyed it!
We should first mention that this isn’t the type of kayak you’re going to want to take on rough waters. If you want to relax and enjoy paddling across a lake or down a calm river, then this could be the one for you. However, it is recreational, so you can use it for a bit more than you could some of the cruisers. The rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene ensures durability and will keep you protected from the sun’s rays. Not only that, but your belongings will be safe as well, thanks to the generous storage compartment. You also get shock cord deck rigging to keep your gear handy.
Comfort isn’t an issue with adjustable foot braces and padded seat to keep you paddling all day long. The water bottle holder will ensure you’re hydrated, and the large, open cockpit makes for easy in-and-out. We will mention, however, that the Styrofoam blocks you’ll find on either side of the seat come loose frequently.
More features: HDPE shell, back-friendly seats, large rear open storage
Yes, we’re back again with another Perception product – this time with their Rambler 95. The sit-on-top kayak is versatile enough to use on lakes, ocean bays, light surf, and slower rivers thanks to the easy-to-maneuver design. Even if you’re a beginner, you can take this recreational kayak out and feel confident. The shorter length and relatively light weight makes it easy to carry out, and is easy to store at home as it’s quite compact. It’s not the lightest out there, but it is one of them. The weight capacity is at 250 pounds, so that’s quite good, too.
You’ll find ample storage space behind the seat, where you can keep all of your belongings close. They’re secured by bungee cords, so you don’t have to worry about them coming loose, but they won’t be protected from the elements. The high-grade Polyethylene hull is UV- and abrasion-resistant so it can take a beating. The padded, molded-in seat is quite comfortable, though one of the less comfy of the bunch we have featured on here. However, it is very safe and easy to get in and out of as it’s well-balanced. If you’re taller, you’ll probably enjoy the good amount of leg room.
The biggest downside is the chair, really. It’s quite flimsy, and doesn’t allow for many heavier people to sit comfortably. In fact, some had to sit with their legs crossed so they could properly balance themselves on the boat. Aside from that, we felt it was one of the best ocean kayaks for women.
What makes it special?
Ample storage space
Can do well in various bodies of water
What cons did we find?
Not the lightest
Chair is quite flimsy
No protection from elements for belongings
Things to Consider
Selecting the best kayak for you may not be the easiest thing to do, even with reviews and rating available. However, a buying guide that will take you by the hand and lead you towards success will make sure you’re happy with your choice. Keep scrolling to read through each section!
What type of kayak will be more comfortable for you?
It’s difficult to say one kayak type is generally more comfortable than the other, as it is going to largely depend on you and your preferences. We’ll cover this more in-depth when we talk about sit-in and sit-on-top styles, and comfortable seats.
Recreational or touring?
The two main categories of kayaks are recreational and touring. Recreational can be either sit-ins or sit-on-tops. They’re generally quite affordable, easy to maneuver, and are easy to get in and out of. You’ll typically use these for short trips, and they are great for flatwater runs or lazy rivers. Storage typically isn’t too substantial.
Then, you have touring kayaks, which are typically only the sit-in type. These are typically longer than the former, doing well over long distances and trips. They track very well, and will feature a type of rudder or skeg to keep steady in the wind and current. You’ll find that they have a great amount of storage space, and will keep your items protected from the elements. They’re also usually more expensive.
Sit-in or sit-on-top?
This is often the most difficult part for people to select from. The sit-in kayaks, like the Tribute, generally move more rapidly, track very straight, and feature covered compartments for your belongings. Not only that, but this hull design will also help to protect you from the sun, wind, and rain quite well. Those all make the boat great to paddle to a destination. When you’re in cold wind and water, you won’t feel most of it as you’ll be protected by the kayak.
As you have more points of contact between you and the boat, you’ll also have greater control over the unit.
Sit-on-top, like the Pelican Kayak, has its benefits, too. You’ll typically only want to use these in warmer waters. Storage space varies, but generally will leave your belongings out in the open air. They’re great if the former style makes you feel too claustrophobic or constrained. You also won’t have to learn how to do a wet exit if your boat begins to capsize. They’re also the easiest to get on, making it great for various uses.
Important features to consider before making a purchase
There are many features to take into consideration before you make your final decision. While the kayak style is important, there’s so much more to look at.
Kayak dimensions and weight
This is obviously crucial in making your decision, as you’ll need to store and transport it. The heavier and longer it is, the more difficult it will be to do either. Usually, the less expensive kayaks are going to be a bit heavier. Length will vary and isn’t often consistent with the price.
Kayak weight capacity
Kayak weight will typically correlate with the weight capacity of the model. If you go up in weight capacity it will also often go up in weight, however, it’s not a rule. Think about how much you weigh and how much support you’ll require. Be honest with yourself, because if you’re not, you’re not doing yourself any good!
Comfort is essential when kayaking, or really any sport. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to enjoy yourself the way you should, and it may even deter you from using your kayak at all! What a waste of money that would be! With that being said, look for one with a padded seat and footrests, at the very least. Bonus points, if the seat and footrests are adjustable.
Ideally, your seat will have adequate lumbar support to keep you going the whole day. Also think about how much room you’ll need, both regarding width and length.
You’ll typically find at least a five-year warranty with kayaks. Five years is pretty good. However, there are some with limited lifetime warranties, which is just about as good as you can get! This will also attest to how durable the kayak is, as manufacturers aren’t going to give those kinds of warranties to flimsy models.
There are plenty of accessories to take a look at too before making your decision. First off, you’re going to need a paddle. Most quality ones you can get for less than $50, although there are plenty that are half that price that will do you well. You want to look for support ridges, adjustable drip guards, various locking positions, and floats in case it falls into the water.
Life jackets are essential if you’re going to be doing anything out on the water. They may be a bit expensive, but your life has no price tag. Make sure to find one in the right size, that’s comfortable, lightweight, and durable.
Think about the clothing you’ll be wearing, too. This will vary a bit depending on the temperature of the water, wind, and so on. However, it’s never a bad idea to add in some wetshoes to keep your feet warm and dry, or even a kayak suit to keep you as comfy as possible. This goes double if you’re opting for a sit-on-top style of kayak where you’re definitely going to get wet and be subjected to the elements.
Though women’s kayaks are usually more lightweight than those used by men, there is a chance you won’t be able to carry it to and from the water. In this case, it’s a good idea to have a kayak carrier with you, or simply find a company to go kayaking together.
It’s not absolutely necessary. While some are designed for women, we should expand on this, and note that not all women are created the same. Some kayaks are designed just for smaller women, and these may be too small for others. Ultimately, choose one that you’re comfortable in. Select one that’s wide enough for you to move around a bit in, and ideally, is adjustable to your liking.
You may like the sit-on-top style, as it’s less restrictive. You’re free to move around however you please (although preferably not tipping the kayak over). It won’t confine you to the length or width that the sit-in style cockpit offers.
You’ll want one that accommodates your size. It should be easy to maneuver, be lightweight, and a bit shorter.
Which one of these was the one you want to take on your next adventures? Our personal favorites were the Perception Tribute, Ocean Kayak Venus, and the Emotion Glide. The Tribute had just about everything we could have wanted. It was comfortable, easy to operate, had ample, covered storage space, and an adjustable padded seat and footrests. The Pelican Kayak Sentinel 100X was also very lightweight and easy to maneuver in the water. In addition, it had great lumbar support and adjustable seating. The only downsides were that the storage space was limited and was a bit awkward to carry. The Glide was ultra-comfortable with adjustable, padded seats and footrests. It was easy to maneuver, lightweight, and well-balanced. It also did well in various types of water and environments. The only downside to it, was the lack of dry storage. So, which one of these best kayaks for women will be coming home with you?