Single Kayaks vs. Double Kayaks

Single Kayaks vs. Double Kayaks

Are you in the market to buy a new kayak? Kayaks aren’t a small purchase. Before you decide to go ahead and make an investment, you should be confident in the type of kayak that’s most suitable for you.

The first decision you have to make is choosing between a single kayak vs a double kayak. So, what exactly are the differences between single and double kayaks?

In this in-depth article, you’ll learn the pros and cons of single and double kayaks and their key comparisons. By the end you will be able to ultimately decide which one is the best based on your lifestyle without any doubts or regrets!

Single Kayaks

Intro

Imagine you’re in your single kayak. It’s a sunny day and you’re gliding over the calm lapping of the water as it ripples in the wind. You can go anywhere you like, and when. You can stretch your arms wide and paddle freely without worry. Single kayaks are just that – both freeing and empowering. With them, one can go on the water with ease and where they please without bothering or depending on a second paddler.

This is just one such example of the advantages of a single kayak and why so many are attracted to single kayaks vs double kayaks. But now let’s take a look at all the pros and cons of a single kayak!

Advantages of a single kayak

Control – A single kayak offers much more control than a double kayak. With a single kayak, you, and you alone, are responsible for when and where your kayak points. For intermediate kayakers, there’s the added benefit of learning how to thoroughly maneuver a kayak and especially escape one in case of emergency.

When you opt for a single kayak, you remain in control. Whereas with a double kayak, you handle some of that control and independence over (or at least, compromise on the amount of overall control you have). When you have a single kayak, you can go kayaking when you please without relying on a partner or secondary paddler.

Lightweight & Spacious – Another advantage of single kayaks is that they are known to be lighter and better for storage and space. Some argue that you can go faster as a solo kayaker, but that isn’t always the case as tandem kayaks do help you move quicker as a team. Nonetheless, single kayaks remain speedy.

They are much lighter than doubles, which you’ll need to consider if you have to do all the lifting and transporting on your own. Also, single kayaks are more ideal if you need extra storage space (i.e. for kayak camping).

Specialized – Compared to double kayaks, single kayaks are more suitable for specialized needs and interests. If you plan to fish a lot from the seat of your kayak or intend on going whitewater kayaking, then single kayaks will ultimately provide more options for your needs versus a double kayak.

Disadvantages of a single kayak

Hampers Socialization – There’s no doubt about it – single kayaks don’t allow for much companionship or discussion compared to double kayaks. While this might be actually a perk for some, it’s understandable that if you have a partner or family member or friend who wants to come with you, it’s not really possible and is therefore considered a con.

Of course, a friend could paddle next to you in their own single kayak, but it doesn’t build a bond or strengthen a connection like a tandem does when you need to paddle in harmony with the other person in order to get anywhere.

2 For the Price of 1? – Many people wonder about buying two single kayaks vs one double kayak. Obviously, price is a big factor for most people. Kayaks, especially quality ones, don’t come cheap. Two kayaks will be more costly than the price of one tandem. But before you make price the deciding factor, consider if the savings will be worth it long-term.

Depending on your lifestyle, it might be better to invest in two singles than one double – especially if you prioritize having more independence and flexibility.

If you want to learn more about these key differences, this article will compare in more detail the price, cockpit, gear, storage, length, stability, comfort, and paddling style of both single kayaks and double kayaks below.

But before we do, let’s quickly go over the main pros and cons of double kayaks.

Double/Tandem Kayaks

Intro

Double kayaks, often called tandems or tandem kayaks, are often joked about in the kayaking community as being the “divorce boats.” As you can guess – double kayaks can put a strain on a relationship! Indeed, double kayaks force people to team up to control the kayak.

Oftentimes, this can result in hurt feelings and pointed fingers. But to keep on the bright side – many couples actually prefer the agility and companionship that a tandem kayak brings. That said, there are definitely several advantages and disadvantages to be aware of before jumping in and paddling away.

Advantages of a Double/Tandem kayak

Socializing & Teamwork – As they say, one man’s weakness is another’s strength – or something like that, right? Well, that’s certainly the case here. Double kayaks can also be sweetly nicknamed the “love boats” because they nurture relationships while building new bonds.

Overcoming challenges together only strengthens the connection. Double kayaks are ideal for chatty partners who put their interests together. While one of you in the stern (back) steers, the other in the bow (front) can help things move more swiftly or simply enjoy the view and take out the binoculars to bird watch.

Ideal for Onboarding Friends or Family – More often than not, everyone has a friend or family member who would like to go along for the kayak ride. With double kayaks, that is made possible. After all, that’s what they’re for! Having a double kayak is especially beneficial if you are kayaking with someone who has less experience or who cannot physically kayak themselves.

Also, don’t forget pets are family too! Although it’s not the best to paddle solo in a double kayak, it can be made possible should you counterbalance the weight by bringing along Fido with you.

Stability & Speed – Novices and complete beginners to kayaking usually start out on a tandem because they are more stable. Their stability in the water keeps people safer and prevents accidental capsizing, which is why tandems are great for learning.

Also, while some might consider double kayaks to actually be slower when you’re two – also because they’re heavier – this isn’t always true. Once you are synchronized with a partner, a tandem kayak will actually perform just as fast a single kayak.

The added benefit with a double kayak is that you can reach your destination in less or equal time yet with half the effort. When synced, two paddlers can go much faster than one.

Disadvantages of a double/tandem kayak

Heavy Weight – Double kayaks weigh around 75-100 lbs or more – making them nearly twice as heavy as single kayaks. This isn’t a disadvantage so much as an inconvenience.

Transporting on your car will be more complicated and will require heavier-duty vehicle racks. Double kayaks tend to be longer, too. Although short kayaks exist, they’re not the best option for two people since the paddles often collide with each stride. 

Less Freedom – A common complaint from tandem kayak users is that there’s virtually no independence. With a double kayak, you are always relying on one other person for speed, direction, and overall control of the kayak. This can be either a hindrance or helpful depending on who you ask.

Single Kayaks Vs Double Kayaks

Key Comparisons

In addition to the pros and cons above, there are a few key differences to note between single kayaks vs double kayaks.

Cockpit

Single kayaks have one cockpit, whereas doubles have two. Double kayaks also can have sit-in or on-top options. Sit-ons are better for leisure trips and beginners while sit-ins offer more control and speed.

Stability

Single kayaks offer less stability than their double counterparts. If you are not comfortable with rocky water, or familiar with the procedure to escape a kayak that has capsized, then double kayaks will offer the stability you are looking for.

Comfort

Whether single or double – kayaks with additional features like supporting backrests will be more comfortable. Also consider the length and type of kayak trip you wish to take. If you want to spend all day on the water fishing – take a look at sit-on top kayaks as they will provide more comfort, not to mention ease of entry/exit.

Gear Storage

Both single kayaks and double kayaks offer ample storage for gear, but double kayaks will offer just a bit more in case you need to pack in extra for kayak camping. Also, when kayaking solo in a double, the bow seat can be packed with extra storage and covered for protection.

Length

Kayaks – both single and double – vary in length. Recreational single kayaks are around 8 ft long while recreational double kayaks are typically 10-14 ft long (with the sweet spot hovering at 12-13 ft). Specialized kayaks (i.e. touring, whitewater) can be even longer, around 12-16 ft and up to 23 ft.

Price

As for price, double kayaks often fit into the “2 for 1” category, since they are often cheaper than buying two singles. For recreational purposes, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150-400+ for a single kayak and around $500-800 for tandem kayaks. These prices will vary for specialized purposes such as whitewater kayaks or fishing kayaks.

Paddling 

The paddling technique is the same whether for single kayaks vs double kayaks. What you need to pay attention to, though, is the kayak length should you opt for a tandem. Get too short a kayak and you and your partner’s paddles will only collide together. That’s why 12-13 ft long double kayaks are considered the “sweet spot.”

FAQs

Which is better a single or double kayak?

This question can only be answered by you as it depends on your answers to these questions:

  •       Do you prioritize having flexibility and control to kayak whenever you want?
  •       Are you wanting to kayak with or without a partner?

Single kayaks are better for individuals who want to learn technical kayaking, go fishing, or whitewater/surf kayaking. Double kayaks are better for those who want to share in the experience with a partner while staying more stable and safe.

Should I get a tandem kayak?

You should opt for a tandem kayak if you want to kayak with a partner. If not, single kayaks will offer greater control, independence, and agility.

Can you use a double kayak alone?

Yes, you can use a double kayak alone, although it’s not very ideal. It would be better to opt for a convertible tandem kayak – meaning you can transform it from a double kayak into a single kayak with a middle seat which helps balance and stabilize the kayak.

What is the best 2 person kayak?

The best 2 person kayak will depend on if you are looking for an inflatable or rigid kayak and whether or not it comes included with extra accessories and features. The best 2 person kayak typically are 12-13 ft long, weigh between 55-70 lbs, and have a holding capacity of up to 500 lbs. All of these aspects and more are often found in the following kayak models listed here:

  •       Ocean Kayak Malibu Tandem
  •       Advanced Elements Convertible Inflatable Kayak
  •       BKC UH-TK219 Tandem Sit-On Top Kayak

Where do you sit in a 2 person kayak?

Tandem kayaks, or 2 person kayaks, will have seats for both kayakers – one in the front known as the bow and one in the back known as the steer. The person in the back will be the one who is in control of the direction of the kayak. Weight also often plays into where you sit in a 2 person kayak – with the lightest in the front and the heaviest weight in the back.

Summary

There are many differences between single kayaks vs double kayaks that might seem small on the surface, but will greatly change your kayaking experience. If you are intending to kayak with another person, a tandem kayak will offer more benefits. But beware, it could also be a bust depending on who your kayak partner is.

If you can avoid butting heads, err paddles, then couples will generally love and enjoy the companionship double kayaks bring. On the other hand, if you intend to kayak solo most of the time, a single kayak will be all that you need in terms of weight, space, storage, and portability.

Ultimately, to be on the safe side and to get a better overall kayaking experience, make sure to take plenty of time to choose between a single vs double kayak first before you head to the store or shop online!

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