Best River Kayaks

Choosing the Best river kayaks can be tricky with so many options out there. To help make your search easier, we’ve put together a list of the top best river kayaks on the market right now.

Best River Kayaks

We’ll go over our picks for the best kayak overall, the best budget option, and other great models. We’ve tested and reviewed all of these boats personally so you can trust our recommendations.

Floating down a river in a kayak is one of the best ways to explore these incredible natural highways. Rivers are always on the move, carrying water and carving through the land on their journey to the sea.

 Along the way, you’ll see amazing wildlife, geology, and landscapes.

River kayaking is a blast whether you’re out for a relaxing paddle or charging through whitewater rapids. It’s also an easy outdoor activity that almost anyone can enjoy with some basic gear.

When it comes to finding the perfect river kayak, you’ve got tons of options. Best River Kayaks come in all different shapes and sizes depending on how you use them. There are stable recreational kayaks for beginners, fast whitewater kayaks for experts, plus Best fishing kayaks and inflatable options too.

Most Best River Kayaks are made of durable plastic and are shorter and more maneuverable than touring kayaks. Many also have hulls designed to tilt and edge easily in the water without tipping over.

In this guide, we’ll overview the different types of Best River Kayaks and what to look for when buying one. Whether you want the best kayak for leisurely day trips or an extreme whitewater machine, we’ll help you pick the right boat to make your next river adventure amazing.

Related Article: Best Ocean Fishing Kayaks

Best River Kayaks for 2024

Row NumberNameImagePrice
1Sea EagleExplorer 380xIbeRW7EmWuQlje0LImfp wHZDyuuG0pIUoD75XacD68OenS dq 9Dm0CDYoaUEidZEpWPLGa87i1nRIAqNs2ri LYfh3vQuY7hk46e$919.99
2AquaglideChelan 120Advanced Elements
LY qY4YODSMfWxpdmkdTIGrRpAIhfgNtsnGt8qkO YoLl75acUK8trIcz2ZcXtbxETJp7RlEGJwVBaMQJJZlTDOFIN8iN1E14sBOWVjVEJ cAJWMCgYqrSttgnsC8yrqDtBgG0 yZ9wp4Z5mHm132dw$1029.99
3AdvancedFrame Expedition Eliteny ex FyToQLLe4U4S3eCbMS1hQf 1jk3ln38BLA4s5r2g2HM2UZuAksWgQPUkqyerupUZzJ0Zmpk65vx4pRU4dDYxCBGXYf71QpSZ$1999.99
4PelicanThe Catch 110 HyDryve IIIHxHgj8xqHtzTsqfYTO1yuJWncfYyltX7Cg3R04yQFNXDeTjGBgL8Q7yxAlYVwSikSq5buiWEbQEXsopX2IV0ptwsjk1wgC1qOXJWYGdZpnIoXR6DeVIEuzmBSatLlDsBjF7 Ja 26eSm16 yItuOVc$997.60
5DaggerPhantomnOlmHVcRlk1n3lzyzU3jsAXyNQbyldn7lFH6t5XhdynYOj37tQGsU2WTmQqxjVvh68yc M7c9xybOZ1Csyf DqrVcbxo46LAjhy2aB6eWQ8PmQMt7b6Jr15 DuvnIgHTnsiIDNCNQysYAKqcPGTN4$2099.00
6HobieMirage OutbackcCQDgQcHBZ0iqlQ aSMe7JOdrX5kNRYNtFX65pByPWBChSpS4HUnGeILhASfhLmyUMC 2RfzUHN7kisrOzrNbuCSy3IKLiS7M204MktzOh5fhFQaVTVY sHJcFm7HKZV0EOlJ9isy33GNJ VzlYtTek$3799.00
7PelicanArgo 100XP Angler6QbekuU7yzMkHupQfmmm 8FJg6W03t4H9ByncJTAhJe0bwyMRPnam4SdxvrKPgmOVQUpGiMqZEKRtAuh 1j8tKHezkuuaW8B49WvLGFZEmR3yIe5A9U NQoPx0m 37hJNTS3PIyZh6cREiXW9yVVveE
8AquaglideBlackfoot Angler 160CIGpIOhvwvujWLCFHHlMKS2DSrrXhf53aXh8cHYGNyzEmH72pM kMXFot 6AsCGloSh9zVxKSYL9rZroWwxb00jMiTNPln2mfw ElKRuOPGFuAINzAEfyBz2USYQKagMq2zBS9VzMgHQzUAWdBcLddk$1523.57
9Advanced ElementsAirFusion EVOZ7ErGRoLp3k9g2Wz f4HF2QXoVzpBjcw7dzxhofIEolC6ISJBcm8EeONyaedRKshsCP7AT 5ciJZ0zJZa vK2Zo5RXUT8xwqtaELqEJPD3TD X915GGULJKnP9yld1wiPaxx3DL xxgmN4BmsF4 fv8

Our 5 Top picks of Best River Kayaks

For those seeking quick choices, here are our top recommendations. Alternatively, keep scrolling for a comprehensive list featuring detailed reviews.

Best Overall: Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

12’2″29″49 lbs325 lbs
Wilderness Systems Pungo 120

The Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 takes our top spot for best overall river kayak. It’s the total package for recreational paddling on calm rivers and light rapids.

At 12 feet long and 29 inches wide, it offers a perfect blend of speed, stability, and maneuverability. The Pungo 120 tracks straight but still turns with ease when you need it.

Its standout feature is the super comfy AirPro seat. The padded, breathable, adjustable seat makes all-day paddling a breeze.

The spacious cockpit means easy entry and exit without taking a swim. Lots of legroom too, even for larger paddlers. Adjustable foot braces slide to fit you. Thigh pads line the cockpit rim for extra comfort. Storage is ample with a large rear hatch for overnight camping gear. Bungees let you lash down more cargo.

The removable dashboard keeps essentials at your fingertips. Built-in cupholders, a phone mount, and a waterproof box keep gear secure but accessible.

For a kayak that’s fast, stable, maneuverable, and comfortable on calm rivers, the Pungo 120 can’t be beaten. It’s primed for fun on easy river jaunts or overnight trips.


  • Best River Kayaks is Tracks straight
  • Lots of storage
  • Best River Kayaks has a Comfortable seat
  • Best River Kayaks has an Adjustable fit
  • Good for varied usage


  • Small for tall paddlers
  • The rear hatch is not fully watertight

Best Budget: Pelican Maxim 100X

10’28″36 lbs275 lbs
Pelican Maxim 100X

The Pelican Maxim 100X is the best-budget river kayak. At just 10 feet long, it’s a great value for recreational paddling. The shallow V-hull surprisingly tracks well and maneuvers with ease. It’s stable when moving through rougher water. Beginners can handle it, but it’s fun for experienced paddlers too.

The padded seat is comfy for long trips. The cockpit is nice and roomy for practicing wet exits. Molded footrests fit most leg lengths. Storage space is modest but sufficient. The bow hatch and stern deck provide room for gear and lunch.

At just 36 pounds, it’s light and portable. The durable plastic stands up to bumps on shallow rivers. The Maxim 100X does get tippy when stationary. Getting in and out takes some practice too. But for an affordable, stable river runabout, you can’t beat this little kayak. It packs lots of value into 10 feet of fun!


  • Fast
  • Good tracking
  • Lightweight
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Excellent secondary stability


  • Storage hatch leaks
  • Poor primary stability

Best Sit-on-Top: Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105

10’6″32″55 lbs325 lbs
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105

The Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 is one of the most stable sit-on-top kayaks around. It’s a great pick for calm lakes and easy rivers.

It comes with Wilderness Systems’ cushy AirPro seat. The 3D foam padding and mesh keep you comfy all day. Fully adjustable seat, backrest, and footrests customize the fit. Settings are quick to adjust, so family members can share the kayak. Storage is minimal inside, but the rear tank holds gear in a dry bag.

The Tarpon 105 isn’t the fastest, but moves at a nice clip for recreation. It tracks well and you can add a rudder for steering. The stability shines for beginners and casual paddling.

Accessory rails allow you to mount rods, cameras, and more. A bottle holder and storage box keep essentials handy.

If you want a steady, stable ride that’s comfy for casual paddling and fishing, the Tarpon 105 is hard to top. Its comfort and adjustability make it a family-friendly favorite on mellow rivers and lakes.


  • Good tracking
  • Very stable
  • High weight capacity
  • Adjustable seat and footrests
  • Replaceable skid plate


  • Not very fast
  • Minimal inside storage
  • Heavy for its size

Best Tandem: Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

12’34″57 lbs425 lbs
Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two is a super versatile tandem river kayak. It can be paddled solo, tandem, or with a child or pet in the center! It has three molded seats with comfy high-back padding and footrests. Set it up for solo, tandem, or tandem with a third rider. Plenty of legroom even for tall paddlers.

The 425-pound capacity means a child or dog can ride along in the middle. Or use it to stow a cooler or extra gear.

Despite its versatility, the Malibu Two is extremely stable, even on wavy rivers. It moves at a leisurely pace but tracks decently. At 57 pounds, it’s light for a tandem. However, storage space is minimal without adding hatches. You’ll need dry bags to pack gear on deck.

For a tandem that works great solo and lets you bring a third passenger, the Malibu Two can’t be beaten. Stable, versatile, and family-friendly for river trips!


  • Adaptable seats
  • Lots of legroom
  • Supports high weight


  • No built-in storage

Best Inflatable: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame

10’5″32″36 lbs300
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame

When portability is key, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak is hands-down the best inflatable river kayak out there.

This clever design combines the durability of a hard shell kayak with the packability of an inflatable. It’s made from three layers of puncture-resistant fabric to keep the water out. The multiple air chambers give you time to get to shore if you do spring a leak.

Sure, it takes a bit longer to inflate and set up than a hardshell. But once it’s ready, it performs great on the river, even for full days of paddling. The seat is padded and adjustable for comfort, and you can add a spray skirt to seal yourself in.

The low sitting position cuts down on wind resistance too, so you can paddle farther with less effort. Even in windier conditions, the aluminum frame and pointed bow keep this kayak tracking straight and stable.

At 36 pounds it’s not the lightest inflatable out there, but way more portable than rigid kayaks. With the included duffel or a backpack, you can easily transport this boat in your car, on a bike, or even on public transit. For a sturdy inflatable kayak that packs down small, the AdvancedFrame is a versatile river companion.


  • Easy handling
  • Strong and comfy
  • Conveniently portable


  • Slow to dry
  • Not very light
  • Lacks footrests

River Kayak Buying Guide

Choosing the right river kayak is a big decision, so it’s essential to consider key factors before buying. Here are important things to think about:

  • Your Kayak Use: Think about how you’ll use the kayak on the river.
  • Types of Best River Kayaks: Different kayaks are designed for various activities or conditions.
  • Length and Width: Consider the kayak’s size; length and width impact stability and speed.
  • Extra Features: Look at additional elements like storage, seating, or special designs.
  • Price: Understand your budget and how it aligns with the kayak’s features and quality.

How Will You Use Your River Kayak?

Think about how you will use your kayak. Do you want to go on long trips, fish, or paddle on a river near you?

The kind of river kayak you need depends on what you want to do with it.

A kayak that is 10 feet long, steady, and has a little space for things is good for most people who paddle for fun. But if you want to go on longer trips or take a lot of stuff with you, you need a 

river kayak that goes straight and has a lot of room for things.

Types of River Kayak

  • Choose what kind of river kayak you want first. This will make your search easier.
  • Sit-in or sit-on-top: Sit-on-top kayaks are good for beginners and in warm weather. They are more steady and roomy. Sit-in kayaks are good for fast rivers and rapids. They keep you dry and help you paddle better.
  • Tandem or solo: Decide if you want to kayak with someone or by yourself. If you want both, you can get a kayak like the Ocean Kayak Malibu Two. It has seats that you can move around. You can paddle with someone or alone with one kayak.
  • Hard-shell or inflatable: Think about how you will carry your kayak and how often you will travel with it. Hard-shell kayaks are better, but they are hard to move around. Inflatable or folding kayaks are easier to carry and take on a plane. Inflatable kayaks are not as good as hard-shell kayaks.
  • They can be pushed by wind and water and can break easily. But some inflatable kayaks like the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame are good for calm rivers and rapids. If you want to kayak on rough or shallow rivers, you should get a hard-shell kayak like the Pelican Maxim 100X. It is stronger and smarter.


Best River Kayaks are shorter compared to touring kayaks as they require swift maneuverability in tighter spaces. Our top five river kayak selections range between 10 to 13 feet in length, enabling agility.

Consider your local river’s characteristics. If there are many bends or obstacles, a shorter kayak could be advantageous. Conversely, in larger rivers, longer kayaks might provide better tracking, aiding in navigation


In the world of Best River Kayaks, those designed for recreation tend to boast wider hulls, ensuring remarkable stability on calm waters. The broader the hull, the more stability it offers, making it an excellent choice for beginners. Consider Best River Kayaks with a minimum width of 32 inches if you’re new to paddling.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced paddler seeking higher speeds, the sleeker designs of kayaks like the Pelican Maxim 100X and the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 are recommended options worth exploring. These streamlined models cater to those craving swifter maneuvers and increased pace on the water.

Additional Features

Some other things might be good for your kayak trips.

Some other good things for your kayak are:

  • Places to put your things. You need them if you want to take stuff with you.
  • Ropes on the deck. They are good for holding more stuff on long trips on the river.
  • Things that help you go straight and turn. They make it easier to paddle.
  • Places to put your fishing rod or camera. You need them if you want to fish or take pictures.
  • A seat that feels good and fits you well. It makes you more comfortable.


The last thing to think about is how much money you have. You will see different prices for river kayaks. Some kayaks are very cheap, less than $500. Some kayaks are very expensive, more than $1000.

We have picked Best River Kayaks with different prices for you, starting from about $400. One thing that makes some kayaks more expensive than others is how long they last. More expensive kayaks usually last longer. They also have more things that make them better and more comfortable.


If you want to use your kayak in both rivers with currents and calm lakes, choose a short recreational kayak that allows you to sit inside or on top of it.

Generally, go for a kayak around 12 feet max. Longer ones have problems in rapids over Class III. Class III with rocks or tight turns gets tough with longer kayaks.

Sit-on-top kayaks are well-liked for fun times on the water. They’re stable, comfy, and let you explore easily. They come in different types for relaxing, fishing, or paddling with a friend.

Whitewater kayaking is an exciting sport where you navigate a river using a covered kayak. It has different styles for tackling the rapids.

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