The 10 Best Kayaks Under $300 of 2021

Kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and explore, but buying your first boat is a daunting experience. There are so many to choose from, so finding the best kayak under 300 dollars is easy.

People looking at a kayak for under $300 are either beginners, or they just want something for the family to enjoy while at the lake. For that reason, we think the Intex Explorer K2 is the best kayak under $300 currently on the market. It’s available at a great price, seats two paddlers, and has a robust construction. It would be an excellent introduction to the sport of kayaking.

The 10 Best Kayaks Under $300:

1. Intex Challenger K1 1-Person Inflatable Kayak

Pros

  • Low price
  • I-beam floor
  • Pump and paddle included

Cons

  • Not much space for tall people
  • Low maximum allowable weight

The Challenger is designed as a sporty one-person kayak that is lightweight and easy for a single person to handle. There isn’t a great deal of space for taller paddlers, but the enclosed seating area gives you a sense of security. 

At the front and rear are storage areas, plus bungee netting on the bow for extra storage. That said, the weight limit is relatively low at 220 pounds, so you can’t load the Challenger up too much.

Constructed from tough PVC, the Challenger is very rugged, but it’s only really designed for lakes and gentle rivers.

As a first single-seat kayak, it is perfect for beginners and intermediate paddlers that don’t intend to hit too many rapids.

2. Lifetime Triton Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

Pros

  • Built-in fishing rod holders
  • Self-bailing drainage
  • Large rear storage area

Cons

  • Low weight capacity of 275 pounds
  • Not supplied with a paddle

Aimed at the anglers among our audience, the Lifetime Triton comes complete with a single adjustable rod holder on one side and two rod holders just by the seat. In the boat’s well are two self-bailing drain holes and, on the rear, a sizeable recessed storage area with bungees.

Underneath, the design features cut-outs and a built-in skeg for straight-line stability. However, the Triton sits quite high on the water and can be blown off course, which suits relatively calm still days. 

The adjustable seat and multiple footrests enable you to find a comfortable position in the padded seat, while the built-in bottle holder keeps your water close to hand.

Overall, an excellent first kayak for beginners.

3. Intex Explorer K2 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

Pros

  • Low price
  • Paddles and hand pump included
  • I-beam floor
  • Strong puncture-resistant vinyl construction

Cons

  • Seats are not the strongest

As the cheapest on the review by some margin, the Explorer K2 is aimed squarely at the family fun market and not the serious paddlers. That said, it could be a great first purchase buy beginners who want to dip their toes in the kayaking water.

Despite the low price of just over $100, it seats two paddlers in relative comfort with storage areas front and rear. The K2 is ideal for exploring lakes and slow-flowing rivers, but it’s not designed to cope with any kind of rough weather or water.

For a low price, you get everything you need except personal flotation devices, getting you out on the water quickly and cheaply.

4. Lifetime Lotus Sit-On-Top Kayak

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Large recessed storage area

Cons

  • Only eight feet long

Lifetime’s Lotus sit-on kayak is just eight feet long but has enough space for you, your gear, and maybe even your dog if you wish. At the rear is a large, recessed storage compartment with elastic cords to hold everything in place, which means you are sitting almost in the middle of the boat. 

An adjustable backrest and multiple footrests allow you to quickly find a comfortable position, while the T-handles at the front and back make moving the Lotus around effortless. At just 38 pounds, it’s easy for one person to move around and get in and out of the water.

If you are looking for a reasonably priced, rigid kayak for one, this could easily fit the bill.

5. Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak

Pros

  • Strong PVC construction
  • Tarpaulin underside to protect from punctures
  • Supplied with everything you need

Cons

  • Seat design not the best

The Sevylor Quikpak K1 is a bit of a hybrid for this review, being an inflatable sit-on kayak, but it could be perfect for a single paddler. It can be quickly inflated and get you out on the water in around five minutes, and when you’re finished, it packs down small enough to fit in the trunk of your car.

Supplied complete with a backpack carrying bag, you can easily reach out of the way lakes and rivers to explore less accessible areas.

On the bow is a cargo area, with elastic netting to keep everything secure, and within reach is a cup holder for your water bottle.

The K1 has grab handles fore-and-aft and with its lightweight, getting in and out of the water is easy.

6. Sea Eagle 330 Deluxe 2 Person Inflatable Sport Kayak

Pros

  • Packs down small for easy transport and storage
  • Supplied with everything you need
  • Lightweight – just 26 pounds
  • Twin rear skegs for good tracking

Cons

  • Not as tough as the hard-shell kayaks

The Sea Eagle 330 inflatable kayak is one of the few two-seat boats in the article, and along with the extra room, it offers some useful extras.

Supplied with two paddles, a foot pump for quick inflation, a repair kit, and a carry bag for storage, you’re all set to get out on the water.

Despite its lightweight, the Sea Eagle has a substantial 500-pound carrying capacity, perfect for two people on a camping adventure. Spacious covered storage areas are provided front and rear, with space to strap more on top if needed.

They improve straight-line stability with the twin rear skegs, saving your effort when paddling.

7. Lifetime Volt Kayak

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Carry handles front and back

Cons

  • No sealed storage area
  • Lower weight carrying capability

Another hard-shell sit-on kayak from Lifetime, this time the slightly shorter Volt model. At a length of just 101 inches, this is a full 19 inches shorter than the Tioga model. You lose storage space at the rear of the boat, but this won’t be an issue for most. What you also lose is weight, and it’s ten pounds lighter than the Tioga.

The reduced size also means you lose out on the larger model’s sealed storage compartment, but there are still elastic cord straps front and rear for your gear.

The more limited storage may be an issue for solo touring, but it will perfect for anyone wanting a little daytime fun out on the water.

8. Lifetime Tioga Sit-On-Top Kayak

Pros

  • Useful storage
  • Adjustable seatback
  • High 275-pound weight capacity

Cons

  • Hard-shell, so more difficult to transport than inflatables

Sitting just a few dollars above our $300 limit, the Lifetime Tioga just scrapes into the review but justifies it with some useful features. 

This is a sit-on style, hard-shell kayak made from high-density polyethylene, so tough enough for any kind of adventure. At the front and rear are T-handles for easy handling, both in and out of the water, plus elastic strap storage areas front and back. You’ll also find a useful storage hatch for valuable items. The company doesn’t claim the storage as waterproof, so you will still need a dry bag, but at least it can’t fall out.

The multiple footrest positions make finding a comfortable seating position very easy, and this could be an excellent boat for all-day touring.

9. Intex 68310VM Dakota K2 2-Person Heavy-Duty Inflatable Kayak

Pros

  • Good value
  • Complete with pump and oars
  • Strong vinyl construction

Cons

  • No rigid hull
  • Direction tracking is not great

Intex is a well-known kayak inflatable brand, particularly in the lower price brackets, and the Dakota K2 is excellent value. At around $200, it comes complete with everything you need, including a hand pump and two oars.

With plenty of room for two people and a reasonable weight limit of 400 pounds, the K2 will be an excellent first kayak for many. The seats have inflatable backrests and are securely attached to the hull with webbing straps. 

Constructed from heavy-duty PVC, this is a kayak that should give years of service. There are three inflatable chambers and floor features I-beams for increased rigidity.

The kit even includes two dry bags, and the only extra item you need is flotation devices for your safety.

10. SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 8-Foot Sit-in Kayak

Pros

  • Lightweight solid design
  • Comfortable seat
  • Storage compartment

Cons

  • Just over our $300 limit
  • It doesn’t collapse for storage
  • Some may find it a little unstable

Okay, hands up, this one is slightly over $300, but only just. We’ve included it as the only hard-shell kayak in the review. It is closer to a standard kayak than the inflatables, as you can fit a spray deck if you wish, giving it an advantage in some circumstances.

The hard-shell build makes it very strong, but it’s also lightweight and can be easily carried by one person. One significant disadvantage of a hard-shell is that you need a roof rack to transport it, whereas inflatables will fit in your trunk.

As a first foray into kayaking, this could be the right choice if you can accept the flighty stability and transport issue.

Wha to look for when buying a kayak

Features

  • Materials Used/Durability. There are two primary choices here. The inflatable style, which is built from vinyl/PVC, or the hard-shell type, which is made from high-density polyethylene. Both are very strong and rugged. The main difference is that PVC can be punctured, whereas polyethylene can be dented.
  • Spray Skirt. Very few kayaks in this price range offer a spray skirt. This is mainly because, at this price point, the kayaks are not designed to tackle the kind of rough water areas that require a spray skirt. 
  • Paddles. Before you purchase, check whether paddles are supplied. In many cases, they are not.
  • Skeg. A skeg is designed to help the kayak track in a straight line. It is a tradeoff since a large skeg gives straight-line stability at the expense of maneuverability. 
  • Rudder. Kayaks are not usually fitted with a rudder, and you use the paddles to steer.
  • Storage Space. The majority of kayaks, particularly at the price range, will only be used for day trips, so storage is not a priority. That said, all the kayaks on review do have space for carrying equipment. The size of the storage is important but also check the maximum allowable weight. This may limit the amount you can take considerably.

Types of Kayaks

Sit Inside

These can be either inflatable or hard-shell kayaks. Sit inside kayaks have the advantage that you are more protected from the water, and many can be fitted with a spray deck. You will generally have more storage space with a sit-in kayak compared to a sit-on.

Sit On-Top

These leave you very much exposed to the elements but may give you better control, as you are not surrounded by the boat’s sides.

Inflatable or hard-shell

First, how will you transport the kayak to the water? Inflatables will fit in your trunk, whereas hard-shells will need a rack or trailer. Second, do you have storage at home? Inflatables will fit in the corner of your garage, but hard-shells will take up a large space. Lastly, although inflatables are getting much more robust, a hard-shell is still the preferred choice if you intend to attack the rapids.

Size

You will find a wide variety of sizes when looking at kayaks. Manufacturers will sometimes reduce the length to keep the price down. Reducing the length of the kayak often reduces the width of the boat as well. If you are tall or of a larger build, check the measurements carefully. 

Price

The review looks at the best kayaks under $300, which is the bottom end of the market. There are some excellent boats at this price point, but there will be compromises somewhere. For example, the manufacturer may not supply paddles or a pump. At the $300, there are some excellent kayaks for trying out the sport before committing to a better boat in the future.

FAQs

Are inflatable kayaks strong?

Yes, modern inflatables are built to be puncture-resistant, and the more expensive specialist models can even be used for tackling white water rapids.

Are sit-in or sit-on kayaks better?

This often comes down to personal choice. Some people prefer the more open experience of sitting on top. Others like the reassuring feeling of sitting in the kayak. You will get wet on either type! One significant advantage of the sit-in is that there usually is more storage.

Is an Inflatable Kayak Safe?

Many people ask this question, as they have concerns over the kayak suffering a puncture and sinking. However, modern inflatable kayaks are made from very strong materials that resist punctures. Also, all inflatables have multiple chambers, so should one deflate, the boat will stay afloat. So yes, inflatable kayaks are safe.

How Easy is it to Inflate and Deflate a Kayak?

The design of inflatable kayaks and particularly the types of air valves used has improved continuously. Using a modern hand or foot pump, it takes only a few minutes to inflate or deflate a kayak. Electric pumps make the job even easier.

Can You Over-Inflate a Kayak?

Yes, it is possible to over-inflate, and the manufacturers provide details of the maximum pressure  for your kayak. Some pumps have gauges built-in, or you can use a pressure gauge to check. Inflating to the right pressure is important for both safety and performance, so it is essential to follow the manufacturers’ guidelines.

Conclusion

Even at the relatively low price point of $300, there are some great kayaks to choose from. Our favorite on this review was the Intex K2 inflatable kayak, based on its features for the price. Whichever you go for, you’ll get out on the water and start enjoying the sport of kayaking before deciding to take the plunge and spend more money on higher-spec equipment.

This article was last updated on January 26, 2021 .

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