In this Guide
Note: An updated version of these reviews can be found on our Best Sea and Touring Kayak Reviews page.
If you’re an ardent adventurer, there’s no substitute for a great touring kayak. These vessels are your best bet for making long treks across lakes or down rivers, especially if you’re planning a multi-day expedition.
Touring kayaks offer streamlined, superior performance to the advanced paddler. They cut through waves and swells easily, and they maintain their balance in choppy conditions. Think of them as a streamlined version of the saloon car.
Touring kayaks have long, lean bodies which makes them a more efficient paddle for longer trips, and they’ve got plenty of storage space onboard for overnight and camping gear.
On the downside, touring kayaks are also one of the most expensive gear purchases an explorer has to make. Since there’s a lot of money on the line, it’s super important to make sure you’re getting every dollar’s worth!
In this guide, we’ll take you through our three favorite touring kayaks on the market today. We’ve written our own comprehensive reviews of each recommendation, to make sure you get the low-down on why each of these boats stands out from the pack.
Let’s jump right in with a quick glance at our top three:
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Touring Kayak Reviews
Our most budget-friendly recommendation in the touring category offers the smooth, steady performance of a touring kayak in the compact footprint of a recreational kayak.
At just 10 feet, this is a highly portable vessel that performs well above its size and price class. We’re especially impressed with the sheer number of features Riot have included for the price. This is a well-appointed, versatile winner! We highly recommend it to expert paddlers who need something that’s easy to transport without a trailer or a big roof rack.
It’s easy to travel with. It’s only 10 feet long, so it’s easy to fit in the bed of a pickup, the back of an SUV, or on a roof rack. Most touring kayaks are too long to fit easily in a truck bed. Longer boats also require a jumbo roof rack which which is impractical for smaller cars.
The Quest is almost guaranteed to fit your vehicle! We think it’s a great choice for people who like an adventure, but don’t have a trailer or a very large vehicle. It’s also light enough for stronger individuals to carry by themselves, at 64 pounds.
It’s well-appointed. The Riot Quest has two cupholders, and two rod holders. It’s ideally equipped for lounging on the lake, and it’s great for fishing from as well. The flush-mount rod holders are great for durability, since they can’t be broken off or damaged by accidental knocks.
It’s very steady. This one’s almost 3 feet across, which means it’s hard to wobble or knock off course. Previous buyers were extremely impressed with the ride of the Quest. They said it performed extremely well on lakes and smooth rivers, and even handled mild whitewater conditions with ease.
They especially complimented its tracking, which is extremely sure. Since it’s so stable, it makes a great learner boat, as well as a place to perch for fishing.
Even though it has the stability of a touring kayak, it’s still maneuverable. Users reported that the Quest was very easy to turn, and didn’t feel awkward or bulky.
The seat feels very comfortable, and suits the smooth ride of the Quest. It’s designed around Riot’s custom-fit seating system, which you can adjust to find your perfect fit. We love the feel of the seat. It’s compression-molded, which means that its padding won’t pack down or wear out over time.
The footbraces are also adjustable. We particularly like the quick-lock sliders on the footbraces, which are much quicker to use than some of the competition.
There’s a watertight storage space in the bulkhead. The dual-density hatch cover keeps everything securely sealed. Plus, it’s 15”, which makes it easy to fit all your food and other dry gear in the hatch. You also get some shock-cord storage across the top of the deck.
Even though it’s small, it has a very reasonable weight capacity. This one’s good for users up to 350 pounds!
The wide touring design does compromise the Quest’s speed. It’s not as fast as some sleeker models, and we don’t recommend it to anyone looking to zip along. With that said, we’ve found that it performs as well or better than other short touring models, and it steers much better than most.
Even though it’s the cheapest of our recommendations in the touring category, it’s still a sizeable purchase. This one will cost you $600+, which we realize may be inaccessible to some buyers. However, we’ve found that cheaper models had awkward performance and shoddy build quality.
Our favorite midsize touring option is the Riot Edge. It’s a bit longer and sleeker than the Quest, which allows it to be a bit faster and even more true on course. We think it offers a more rewarding paddle for people with more experience, who will be taking their vessel on longer jaunts. It’s our top recommendation to confident adventurers who can’t afford the top-shelf expert models.
The longer design allows the Edge to have more chine and keel than most boats without adding as much width as the Quest. The result is a boat that manages to track even better, while adding some speed too!
Previous buyers said they were very impressed with the stability and smooth tracking of the Edge once they were out on the water. They also said that in terms of speed, it could compete with even longer boats, and easily outstripped other 14.5 footers.
They also remarked that it cut through waves and swells from power boats or winds with ease. Because of its excellent performance potential, we think this makes an excellent mid-price touring boat for advanced paddlers, and a first boat with lots of potential for learners.
There’s double the storage of the Quest. The Edge has watertight storage compartments in both the front and rear bulkheads. You also get the shock-cord storage space on top of the bulkheads. Since the Edge is a longer boat, you’ll have more surface area to work with as far as storage is concerned. All that extra storage space makes the Edge an excellent companion for longer trips, whether it’s an island picnic or overnight jaunts.
It’s actually lighter than the Quest! While the length means it’s still a bit unwieldy for one person to port around, the extra streamlining pays off in a lighter and more manageable boat.
It includes all the key features we love about the Quest, in a larger, sleeker package. There are dual cupholders, adjustable leg braces, a custom-fit seat system, reflective safety lines, and a drain plug.
Previous buyers were extremely pleased with the quality of all the Edge’s appointments. They said it was easy to forgive the extra weight the features added, since they all felt so well-made. In particular, reviewers complimented the hatch covers, which they said felt bulletproof!
The big upgrade on the Edge, aside from the hull design, is the addition of a rudder. Previous buyers said it was helpful for rougher conditions, but that in most weather, the Edge tracked so smoothly that they didn’t even need the rudder! However, in the circumstances when they did need a little extra tracking support, they said that the rudder was very easy to use,and got a quick response from the keel.
As with the Quest, Edge buyers were overwhelmingly pleased with the quality and durability of their vessels. We read lots of reviews from buyers who had been using their boats regularly for years without issues.
While the hull itself is lighter than the Quest’s, the added extras (hatch covers, seats, etc.) make this a pretty heavy boat overall. Plus, it’s an extra 4.5’ long. You definitely won’t be able to haul it around single-handedly. It’s a better choice for people who kayak with a partner, or have a trailer that allows them to cast off solo.
Some people weren’t thrilled with the seat, which has a somewhat higher backrest than others. Those buyers said that it was comfortable, but didn’t offer as much upper body range as they needed. If you’re on the shorter side, you may want to replace it with a seat that has a slightly lower back.
The front of the boat is rather low, and it doesn’t have a spray skirt. Some people found that mid-size to larger waves ended up splashing on their laps. They recommended using a spray skirt, which would be sold separately.
3. Riot Brittany
Riot Kayaks’ flagship sea model, the Brittany, is a shoe-in for our top quality slot. It’s a long, sleek beast of a boat, with excellent speed and unparalleled tracking. We think it offers everything an advanced kayaker could ask for!
It’s stable, rides smooth, has plenty of storage space, and cuts right through wind, waves, and swells. If you’re a strong paddler with lots of ambition for day trips and overnighters, we don’t think you can find a better touring model than this!
It’s the longest and sleekest of our recommendations. At 16.5 feet, this is a full person longer than the Quest, and it has 2 feet on the Edge. Even at that length, it retains the sleekest profile, with a total width that’s the smallest of the three! That allows it to cut through the water like a dagger. It tracks precisely, and isn’t easily knocked off course by water conditions. As far as tracking is concerned, the Brittany is by far the best performer here.
It’s also the fastest traveler. Previous buyers said it was extremely easy to power along. That’s thanks to the narrow width. Plus, the low prow makes it more efficient than other touring options on a windy day or heading into current! Previous buyers said that the Brittany was a much more efficient paddle than other comparable kayaks they’d used.
Previous buyers said that the Brittany was extremely stable, just like the cheaper Riot, and cut through rough, mixed, or choppy conditions better than any kayak they had used before. That’s where that sea kayak pedigree really comes into play!
This might be a touring model, but it’s designed with the best aspects of the British sea kayak tradition in mind. You’ll see that in the shaping of the hull, which looks more like a ship keel than a flat-water kayak hull.
It comes with all the features of the cheaper Riot models, and then some. It has the same custom-fit seating system, dry storage locks, and shock-cord storage above deck.
The Brittany also adds a third dry storage compartment. It’s a “day” compartment, so it’s where you’d keep provisions and necessaries for while you’re on the water. That leaves your main compartments free for your camping and overnight gear, or for a bigger picnic once you’ve landed.
Like the Edge, the Brittany has a full rudder system onboard. It’s easy to use, thanks to the cockpit handles. While you can’t expect a long boat like this to turn quite on a dime, it’s more responsive than other long boats we’ve seen.
While it’s a relatively expensive boat, it’s one of the cheapest skeg and rudder models on the market. We think it performs far above its price class, in terms of both maneuverability and stability.
It’s just as durable and reliable as the other Riot models.
It’s very large, and quite heavy. This isn’t a boat most people can port singlehandedly. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got help to load it onto and off of a vehicle or trailer.
It’s not a good choice for beginners. While the Brittany is a responsive, agile craft, it requires a certain amount of strength to power. That’s simply because it’s so long. It also doesn’t respond well to wobbles and jerks which come with inexperience. The long, lean body is better suited to smooth, expert strokes. Beginners will be better off with a wider boat, which is stable enough to accommodate their learning curve.
It’s very expensive. The Brittany costs well over $1,000. We recommend it only to people who kayak regularly.
Some users weren’t thrilled with the placement of the day hatch. Many other boats place it off-center, so that it can fit closer to the cockpit. The Brittany’s day hatch is centrally-located, and it’s a bit further behind the seat. Some smaller users said it could be difficult to reach without having an unsteady purchase on items in the compartment.
Which is the Best Touring Kayak for You?
The Quest is the clear choice for more casual boaters. It’s the easiest to tote around, since it can fit in the back of a truck or SUV. It’s also simple for one person to manage without help.
We especially recommend the Quest for kayakers on a budget, since it’s one of the least expensive touring options that offers great performance. Fishermen will also appreciate the stable, sturdy hull, which is already outfitted for rods. However, the wider hull makes this one a bit slower overall, and more experienced paddlers might not like the limited storage space for long ventures.
The Edge is our top choice for the average kayaker who’s pretty skilled but can’t pony up $1500 for a high end model. At 14.5’, it has a nice midrange length with an excellent balance of stability and speed.
It’s a good all-around kayak, and it’s great for everything from day trips to overnight adventures. Fast enough to reward skilled boaters, while stable enough to help learners grow, the Edge offers great midrange value for the money. It’s the best choice for people who are fairly confident on the water, and have aspirations to become an expert.
The Brittany is ideally-suited to expert kayakers, and for longer expeditions. While it’s a bit too long and lean for newcomers to handle easily, it offers an extremely rewarding experience for experts. This is one of the fastest kayaks on the market, period!
It also has lots of deluxe features which make it well worth the high price. You get lots of storage, and more watertight compartments than either of our other recommendations. This is a high-end kayak which feels high-quality in every regard. We strongly recommend it to regular kayakers who want something that offers unlimited potential for adventure!
How to Choose the Right Touring Kayak
Decide on your budget:
Touring kayaks can cost anywhere from $500-$1500+. The longer the boat, the more you’ll pay, as a general rule. You’ll also pay extra for deluxe features like customizable seats, watertight storage compartments, and rudder systems.
We suggest that new kayakers or occasional boaters buy something closer to the $500 mark. If you’re an experienced or expert kayaker, you’ll probably have a more rewarding experience with a $1000+ model. If you can afford something closer to $1500, you’ll end up with a premium touring kayak you can paddle for years to come.
Think about your skill level and goals:
If you’re a relatively new kayaker, or a total beginner, you’re probably better off with a shorter, wider boat. Touring kayaks around 10-12 feet still offer plenty of performance on the water, but their shorter, wider hulls are more forgiving of slip-ups and shaky paddling. We always recommend beginners start in a boat with more stability than speed.
If you’re confident but still learning, or are an ambitious beginner with an athletic build, we’d recommend something in the 12-14 foot range. These boats require a bit more strength and finesse, but are accessible enough for paddlers to grow into. They offer a good middle ground between the wide stable hulls of a shorter boat, and the speed and efficiency of the longer models.
For the experts and aficionados out there, boats from 14-16+ feet will offer the best balance of speed and handling. These are the most efficient boats to paddle, though they do require the most strength and finesse to maneuver. Long boats are the best choice for people who are perfecting their technique and getting to the point of making longer trips.
Think about the types of adventures you want to go on:
Each adventure has its own requirements as far as your boat and its amenities are concerned. You’ll want to make sure you’ve the right balance of size and convenience for your average adventure.
If you’re mostly planning on day trips or afternoon jaunts, you’ll want something light and manageable that’s easy to pack up and put away. If you’re planning an overnight trip, you’ll want to make sure you have the storage space to keep everything you need onboard. If you want to fish, make sure you get something with a wide, stable hull, and rod-ports.
Know how you’ll be transporting your boat:
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re shopping for a new boat. You want the biggest, fastest, coolest one you can find, and that’s perfectly alright!However, you want to cool your jets until you know how you’re going to be getting your new kayak to and from the water.
If you’re carrying it on the top of your car, you should probably keep your length within 14 feet. If you have a trailer, or a larger vehicle like a truck or SUV, you’ll be alright with a 16-foot model. If you’re towing boats on a trailer, the sky’s the limit!
In addition to your vehicle, you should think about whether you’ll be kayaking solo or with someone else. If you’re going it alone, you probably want to stay under 12-14 feet. Most of us can’t handle longer boats singlehandedly, and even a 12-foot kayak can be cumbersome without a partner.
Know your own strength level, and don’t be too optimistic about how large a boat you can haul. Remember-you’ll have to lift it after your adventure, when you’re not as spry as when you left!