Some adventures can be better when experienced with another person, and kayaking is one of them.
We know that kayaking is a fantastic outdoor activity, but it can be a lonesome hobby, especially when you’re out in deep waters.
The good news is, you have the option of taking your loved one or furry friend in the same kayak.
Tandem kayaks, also known as doubles or tandems, offer the perfect way to share your paddling experience with a partner.
For me, part of the reason I choose a tandem is because I’ve got a little kid to tag along on my water adventures. I mean, who wouldn’t want to make sure their kid is safe while having fun?
I can stay in the back row with the tandem, while little Mike stays in the front seat where it’s easy for me to see him and assist if need be.
But beyond the safety aspect, tandems are beneficial in many other aspects; for instance, a tandem not only allows you to bond over a shared interest, but you also get to share the paddling workload, which considerably improves the overall experience.
To help you choose the best tandem kayak, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide reviewing the market’s top five options. We shall also share with you some of the features to consider when making a tandem kayak purchase.
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The Best Tandem Kayak For The Money
#1 Ocean Kayak Malibu Two - EDITOR'S CHOICE
Topping our list of the best tandem kayaks is the Ocean Kayak Malibu.
It’s a trendy option, fitting the bill for a dynamic duo looking for a fun, lightweight, stable, yet inexpensive kayak.
But is the Ocean Malibu, along with its features, the right option for you and your family?
Features and Benefits
Comfort is perhaps the greatest advantage of the Ocean Malibu.
This sit-on-top tandem model is unusually comfortable thanks to the two Ocean Malibus’ Comfort Plus Seats for ultimate relaxation and versatility.
The seats, along with the footwells, are ergonomically designed and molded to make for a relaxing water adventure.
Another fantastic comfort creature on the Malibu is the four-way adjustment on the seat, which generates a custom fit and optimum amount of space for your needs.
With generous dimensions of 12 feet by 34 inches, Ocean Malibu offers a spacious deck, which can accommodate two adults, or one adult and a child and/or a pet.
If you have small children, you can fit one adult and two kids on the craft.
Either way, it’s a versatile option, allowing you to kayak solo or tandem-whichever fits your needs best.
Some happy users also point out a “small indentation,” which would perfectly serve as a third seat area.
It’s normal for beginners to have a little fear when you step into a kayak for the first couple of times – and that’s understandable.
However, with the Malibu, you’ll feel perfectly safe.
Why is that?
Perhaps it’s because of the extra-safe and durable gear straps and comfortable seats, which will prevent you from slipping or even titling.
More importantly, the tri-hull construction makes for a super stable ride, especially for cross-over sports.
Weight and weight capacity
Tandems are generally heavier than single kayaks, but not the Ocean Malibu.
Weighing 57 pounds, this option is relatively lightweight, meaning hauling it from your pick-up or RV should be easy.
The low weight doesn’t come at the expense of the weight capacity because this option can support up a weight of up to 425 pounds in total.
It’s the largest weight capacity, but it should be sufficient for the average adults; but if you feel you need a larger option, there are possibilities.
Easy to use
You’ll also notice Ocean Malibu is easy to enter and get off as it’s an open, sit-on-top type of kayak, and the ergonomic handles make the job even easier.
If you’re also interested in fishing, there’s no better vessel on this list as the Malibu has two-rod holders and four deck mounts already included.
And for users like me who like overnighting on islands, you’ll love the center hatch with a buckle system that holds your gear tightly. Unfortunately, it’s not dry storage, but if you need to keep your stuff dry, you can invest in hatches for the front and back on the tandem, or just ensure your dry gear is in watertight dry bags.
#2 Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus - Best for Agility
The Old Town is a two-person kayak combining a spacious design and a host of features to enhance your water adventures.
It’s a lightweight, roomy, and speedy option; perhaps the perfect choice for those yearning for greater agility.
Features and Benefits
Signature features of the Old Town Kayak are the spacious cockpits. Both sitting areas are large and extremely accommodating, which not only makes it easier for paddlers to get in and out of the boat, but also improves the overall comfort.
Beyond the spacious design, another comfort feature you’ll love is the nicely padded seats, offering good support and low compression on your hip bones.
The seats are equally easily adjustable, so it’s simple to tune them to suit your own needs.
Thigh pads offer even more support and protection, while the adjustable foot pedals will enhance the overall paddling effort.
Doubles aren’t known for their versatility, but the Old Town breaks this tradition.
The folks at Old Town put plenty of thought into the design and ways this kayak can be used.
To this end, they managed to squeeze in child-size jump seats to accommodate the smaller members of the family or even your furry friend, ensuring no one gets left behind. So, in addition to two adults, this kayak can also hold an extra small person or pet.
Versatility goes beyond the accommodation and extends to the functionality. For instance, the rear seats can slide forward or backward, effectively changing the center of gravity while on the water. This is excellent, as it allows you to paddle the kayak solo should you wish to.
Sure, these are seemingly subtle tweaks which many might ignore during their purchase, but they can make it easier for a paddling family to purchase a single boat everyone can use together.
Weight and weight capacity
The Old Town tips the scales at 72 pounds, which, along with being over 15 feet in length, makes it challenging to get off the water.
With such a hefty weight, we would have hoped the kayak would come with a rudder to help navigate through tough conditions.
However, we were quite impressed by the generous weight capacity of 475 pounds, 50 pounds more than the Malibu Two for the extra weight. Of course, it’s easy to think the difference is small, but when you’ve a lot of gear to pack, you’ll see the benefit of the Old Town.
Old Town outfitted the Dirigo with an array of extras that paddlers will appreciate.
For instance, an integrated bungee cable helps with secure storage, while the sealed glove-box hatch safely stores the equipment you need to keep close at hand.
Bulkiness is perhaps the major quibble with this tandem kayak from Old Town, but beyond that, it’s a fantastic option performing above and beyond expectation in just about every way.
#3 Intex Explorer K2 - Best for Lakes and Mild Rivers
Inflatable kayaks aren’t always popular, but the Intex Explorer K2 stands out from the rest.
It’s fantastic, and though not the most heavy-duty option, it can handle lakes as well as mild rivers.
But is it the right option for you?
Features and Benefits
The biggest appeal of any inflatable kayak is lightness, and the Intex Explorer is no exception as it tilts the scales at only 30 pounds.
So, yes, this kayak could be an inspiring option for those who need a lightweight and portable vessel.
The overall length of the K2 is 10 feet and 3 inches. It’s a bit limited in size, but still offers sufficient space for two adults.
The tradeoff of the shorter length and narrower width is made up for by a deeper seating area space. With a depth of around 15 inches, the K2 offers the perfect room for sitting, giving you ample arms width to move about.
The biggest fear with any inflatable kayak is the material being compromised during paddling. Not so with the K2.
A strong, puncture-resistant fabric shrugs off any abuse, letting the K2 withstand the roughest terrains as you drag it through the water.
The fiber can also weather sharp rocks that may puncture a hole in the kayak.
Often, when kayaking in water, it’s easier for the currents to take your kayak across shallow rock surfaces that can damage your kayak and put your life at risk. But with this option, there’s nothing to worry about.
The K2 also features an inflatable I-beam floor to bolster the overall rigidity and better the performance in rougher waters.
Despite its smaller size, K2 is more comfortable than most doubles.
The deeper sitting area, along with removable/adjustable seats, means it’s easier to use the seat for long periods without unnecessary discomfort.
Easy To Use
Inflating and deflating the K2 are a doddle, with the the separate chambers helping to achieve them.
Additionally, the boston valves on this kayak are standard, so it’s easy to use a universal pump to add air.
#4 Lifetime Tandem Sit on Top Kayak with Backrests - Best for Small Family
If you have a small family and are looking for a comfortable kayak to accommodate everyone, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Lifetime Kayak.
It’s a heavy-duty, durable, and comfortable option, designed to provide a comfortable and enjoyable kayaking experience with your loved ones.
And, like many other kayaks on our list of best double kayaks, it’s versatile, and can be paddled solo or tandem, and can even transport a third small passenger in the middle seat.
Features and Benefits
The Lifetime Kayak is a heavy-duty option, capable of accommodating a weight of up to 500 pounds—the heaviest we’ve seen so far.
Additionally, the kayak is designed for stability, so it’s impossible to get overthrown during kayaking.
What more, the Lifetime Kaya boasts high-quality, low-density polyethylene in a rotational mold for added durability.
If comfort were the only factor to consider when purchasing a tandem kayak, the Lifetime Kayak would certainly top the list.
First, this option features two padded backrests, which can be moved to any of three sitting positions. The backrests are adjustable for different heights, letting you tailor your seat comfort.
Secondly, the Lifetime Kayak has plenty of foot room for added comfort. The extra legroom space is particularly handy for tall people.
The Lifetime Kayak is built for stability and tracking.
For instance, the seats are uniquely designed to keep the riders “high and dry,” away from the kayak’s floor where water can enter.
Additionally, the ditty trays, along with the shock cord straps, help secure any loose items and keep your gear safe from falling into the water.
Despite the generous weight capacity, the 10-foot Lifetime Kayak is both lightweight and compact to make storage and transportation easy.
Of course, its portability isn’t anywhere close to that of the K2, but for the weight capacity offered, you’ll see it as a true bargain.
#5 Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Sports Tandem Kayak - Best for Large Families
The Sea Eagle is a massive, double inflatable kayak suitable for larger couples or large families.
It has immense strength and can hold a massive total weight of 650 pounds.
But the weight capacity isn’t the only winning feature of the Sea Eagle.
Let’s look at some of the other awesome features on this model.
Features and Benefits
Lightweight and compact
The Sea Eagle and the K2 we reviewed earlier share a lot in common, but notably, both kayaks are inflatable.
And as it follows, like many other inflatables, the Sea Eagle is also lightweight, tipping the scale at only 32 pounds.
This is despite having the highest weight capacity on our list.
When deflated, it compacts to a mere 31 by 19 by 8 inches, so it’s incredibly easy to move or even stash it for storage.
The Sea Eagle was originally designed to accommodate two people, but it’s fast becoming popular for its ability to hold up to three individuals.
It’s a large and spacious option, and more importantly, heavy-duty enough to hold two adults and a child or a pet.
The rugged PolyKrylar hull on the Sea Eagle is tough enough to shrug off any abuse, including piercing from dog paws and claws.
Additionally, an I-beam construction floor provides extra rigidity to the kayak for durability and sturdiness.
The Sea Eagle is NMMA Certified, so it’s an extremely reliable kayak for anyone to head out onto the water in.
It’s built to adhere to strict quality guidelines, for the best performance.
Compared with the Intex, the Sea Eagle is slightly more expensive, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from giving it a go.
It has a fantastic weight capacity, and, more importantly, the folks at Sea Eagle have included plenty of add-ons, including an additional puncture repair kit.
Best Tandem Kayak Buying Guide
Tandem kayaks are no different from regular kayaks, save for the level of accommodation.
As their name suggests, the doubles can accommodate up to two people, so there are special considerations to make when choosing this type of kayak.
In the text below, we shall outline the critical factors to consider in your next tandem kayak purchase.
Tandem kayaks are bigger than regular kayaks as they need to create more space for additional users.
A tandem kayak’s weight can be a challenge, especially if the journey from your home to the water source is a long one.
Having to lift it, put it in your truck, and unload it can be quite tiring.
So, in as much as you should expect a bulky kayak, it’s always a good idea to choose a comparatively lighter option.
Of course, the lightest double is incomparable to a regular kayak, but it helps to choose something lighter. A lighter double is easier to paddle faster and requires less effort both in and out of the water.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of weight capacity for a tandem kayak—it’s not a mere suggestion you can afford to overlook.
Considering a double accommodates up to two adults, it helps if you consider the weight the tandem can accommodate.
Overloading the kayak can result in sinking.
Now, believe me when I say two adults, along with gear, can rack up a hefty weight. So, it’s always a good idea to factor in your weight, partner’s weight, and additional equipment.
A good rule of thumb for optimal performance is to keep the total weight to approximately 75 percent of the kayak’s load capacity.
While you can still pack it to the maximum, you’ll end up sitting lower in the water, thus affecting your overall maneuverability not to mention safety.
Length of kayak
The length of a double is crucial as it determines how stable the kayak is on the water.
A big mistake we see with many kayakers is choosing a shorter kayak. Certainly, the shorter kayaks are convenient, less bulky, and easier to navigate, but it is at the expense of stability— there’s a higher chance for the shorter kayaks to flip.
Size of family
Doubles are normally meant for two, but some will allow up to three users. However, the latter is more expensive, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to check on the deck size and compare it with your family’s size.
If you’ve a large family, choose a big double, so no one feels left out.
Location of usage
The location of where you’ll be using your double determines the type of double to choose.
For instance, rivers require durable and sturdy kayaks to withstand the strong river currents. Doubles for rivers should also be narrower to allow easier navigation through the narrow spots.
On the other hand, lakes are calmer and wider but will require much paddling effort as there’re no waves and push factors for the kayak.
If you’re kayaking near the sea, a much more balanced kayak with both the functions should be your ideal purchase.
The presence, or absence, of a paddle rest seems trivial.
But, ask any seasoned kayaker, and they’ll tell you the importance of a paddle rest.
While paddling, there’s always a chance of you losing the paddle, especially when you’re in deep waters. Once it falls, you’ve the option of diving deep to retrieve it or forsake it entirely.
A paddle rest, however, can save you from such inconveniences. It keeps the paddle safe onboard when you want time to lay back and relax. Remember, enjoying the view is as important as kayaking.
The kayak’s storage space is crucial as it offers a convenient and safe place to keep your belongings on board.
See, there’s always the risk of waves running high, which might wet some of your equipment such as phones or cameras.
So, always look for a kayak with ample storage space, and more importantly, safe storage pockets to keep your sensitive equipment safe.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Of the five products, we would most recommend the Ocean Malibu.
We feel it’s a more superior option with better performance.
Of course, it’s not the best in any category, but we love the holistic balance of the functionality.
For instance, both the weight and weight capacity are slightly above average, suiting regular users’ needs.
It’s inexpensive as well, and fits the bill of the average user.
More importantly, however, we recommend it for its fantastic comfort. The Comfort Plus Seats are ergonomically designed to enhance enjoyment and elevate your kayaking experience.