Want an inflatable kayak that can take 2 persons on board? In this guide, we will walk you through what you should consider when choosing an inflatable tandem.
Buying your new kayak should be an exciting process, but with so many potential websites and stores to buy from, it can become overwhelming. If you want a breadth of knowledge and a wide array of kayaks to choose from, then web stores and sites are undoubtedly your best option. But if you want to sit in, touch, feel, and really see your kayak before you buy it, then you want a high-quality kayak store.
Even among stores, there are levels. Not all kayak stores are created equally and they do not all offer the same service and levels of advice. Our list of the best kayak stores will make sure you receive quality service and products when you go to buy your kayak.
The best kayak stores at a glance
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- Bass Pro Shops
- The House
- Eco Fishing Shop
Where to buy kayaks: the best kayak stores
Is there anything you can’t buy on Amazon? With perhaps the widest range of kayaks on offer of any retailers on this list and hundreds of thousands of reviews to read for first-hand experiences, it might seem like Amazon is going to corner this market, too.
Amazon has become more discerning in the kayaks that it offers in recent years, but its stock still ranges in quality. As Amazon is not a sole outdoor retailer or kayak retailer, they don’t have the same access to in-depth staff knowledge that other retailers offer, and their information is far more generic. But there are always personal reviews to fall back on.
Amazon is always going to be a popular choice for buying kayaks and kayaking gear, but it’s not a great starting place if you’re not sure what you’re searching for. Many comparison sites will link to Amazon though, because of its competitive deals.
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Dick’s Sporting Goods started in 1948 as a fishing tackle store and has since expanded into 850 stores across the US. Unsurprisingly, given its background, Dick’s Sporting Goods stocks a reasonable number of fishing kayaks. Otherwise, their stock of over 100 styles of kayaks is primarily made up of recreational models.
Dick’s stocks a range of brands, including some top-end brands such as Lifetime, Old Town, and Perception. But they also include a more budget-friendly range for beginners in their lineup, with their cheapest kayaks coming in at around $200. This range of stock gives options for kayakers of all levels, but if you want a more specialist touring, sea, or white water kayak, you may need to look elsewhere.
Dick’s Sporting Goods prides itself on customer support and care. With its roots in fishing and tackle, the expansion into watersports was a natural step and you can expect excellent customer service from Dick’s, whether you shop online or in-store.
REI Co-op is seen as one of the top outdoor retailers in the US and across the world. As well as their own brands of products, REI stocks quality outdoor goods, and also offers an ‘Expert Advice’ section for reviews and information guides.
They only stock just over 30 different styles of kayaks, though. This limited range on their online store equates to a limited range in-store too, and you may have to order in a kayak to see it in the flesh. However, their range does include a selection of quality kayaks, from manufacturers like Eddyline, Hobie, and Wilderness Systems.
REI stocks a reasonable amount of kayak accessories, too. In one place, you can get hold of your kayak, paddle, life jacket, and other equipment. You can even pick up a tent and some dry bags if you want to go kayak camping.
Backcountry is an online-only store that prides itself on only selling the best quality outdoor equipment. Their reach is expansive, with headquarters in Germany and Costa Rico, as well as their main office in Portland. Distribution centers are in Salt Lake City, for the west of the US, and in Christiansburg, for the east.
With well over 100 kayaks available through their online store, there’s no shortage on offer at Backcountry. As part of this range, Backcountry offers an array of recreaitonal kayaks but also touring kayaks from companies like Wilderness Systems, and white water kayaks from Jackson Kayaks. They also stock fishing and inflatable kayaks.
Backcountry also stocks a wide range of paddles, life jackets, and other gear for kayaking. If you get stuck, they have a live chat option, to talk to a member of staff online.
Moosejaw is a predominantly online store, though they do have 11 physical stores across Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, and Boulder. Their customer focus has kept them active and building for 30 years, expanding into a range of outdoor sports. Moosejaw has a relaxed attitude, but it makes for a friendly and personable shopping experience with high levels of customer service.
Moosejaw stocks a supply of predominantly recreational kayaks, from manufacturers like Ocean Kayaks, Dagger, and Old Town. They also stock a few fishing kayaks and touring crossover kayaks for those who want a recreational kayak with a more specialist edge. Moosejaw also stocks a selection of spray skirts, paddles, life jackets, and accessories.
Walmart is one of the largest retail stores across the US. You can walk into a Walmart store and leave with everything you need for just about any sport you want to take up, and kayaking is no exception. Walmart sells an enormous range of recreational kayaks, from inflatables to sit-on-tops, and sit-in kayaks.
As you might expect, the range at Walmart includes kayaks from as little as $100 or less, all the way up to quality fishing kayaks from companies like Lifetime and Sea Eagle. Unlike some other companies, Walmart also offers multipack offers on some kayaks, like the Intex Challenger, which sees you get a discount if you buy multiple kayaks.
Walmart stocks its widest range of kayaks online, but you can walk into any of the nearly 5000 stores across the US and leave with a kayak, paddles, life jackets, splash jackets, trolleys, roof racks, and everything else you need to get started. As Walmart is not a specialist outdoor store, you may want to do a little more of your own research before you head in, as they are likely to sell you what they have, rather than have specialist knowledge.
Bass Pro Shops
Bass Pro Shops is a fishing specialist store and as such their kayaks are all fishing-focused. The majority of their 23 kayaks in stock are from Ascend, a company specializing in broad, stable fishing platforms. The kayaks available at Bass Pro Shops do range from affordable to higher-end models, so there is something to fit anglers of all levels.
Bass Pro Shops has 160 retail stores, between themselves and their partner store Cabela’s. In these stores, you’ll find a range of kayaks, life jackets, paddles, and accessories, but also all the fishing gear you could ever need. As specialists in angling, you can get your kayaking gear and all your fishing gear, as well as all the technical knowledge to help you land your catch, all in one place.
The House has been in business for almost 40 years, with the aim of providing the highest quality outdoor equipment to enthusiasts at all levels. Despite their focus being on mountains and snowsports, they delved into the world of kayaking by taking over what remained of Austin Kayaks when they shut down. The House is primarily an e-commerce platform, but they do have a store based in St Pauls, Minneapolis.
As we write this, The House has 25 kayak models on offer, all of which are inflatable. These vary in quality and price, but as per their mission of only selling quality gear, there are no truly budget options. Some of the higher-end kayaks, from companies like Kokopelli and Aquaglide, make for reasonable angling or touring kayaks, without the hassle of owning a hard-shelled kayak.
Eco Fishing Shop
Eco Fishing Shop stocks over 150 kayaks, with a focus on angling models. Their kayaks are primarily sit-on-top styles, with some of the most stable competition fishing platforms, motorized kayaks, and pedal models on the market. Despite this, Eco Fishing Shop also stocks more budget-friendly models, though these are still fishing-focused.
Eco Fishing Shop has two store occasions, in Camdenton, Missouri, and also Arkansas. Primarily, though, they are an online retailer of all things fishing, including boats, paddles, life jackets, and fishing-specific accessories. Eco Fishing Shop has a live chat option on their website for expert advice, as well as phone numbers, and email forms.
Why should you use a registered retailer?
Registered retailers, like those on our list, hold themselves to a high professional standard. This means that not only do registered retailers stock quality boats that are worth buying, but they do so at a competitive price. What’s more, they will usually offer a warranty on your kayak that is as good, if not better, than what you could get from a manufacturer. Registered retailers have generally been operating for years and have earned the trust of those who shop with them.
What are the advantages of shopping in-store for your kayak
Is there any better way to tell if you really want to own a kayak than getting hands-on? By going into a shop and looking at a kayak firsthand, you get to sit in it, check out the functionality of the features, and see whether the setup works for you. Sure, there might be rod holders or a cooler, but is it where you want it to be?
If you’ve ever shopped online for anything, you’ll know that too much choice can be paralyzing. You have an idea of what you want when you set out shopping, but after a time you realize that you’ve delved into a rabbit warren that you can no longer navigate. Physical shops tend to have fewer choices, but sometimes the choice of two kayaks leaves you a better chance to get the right kayak than having hundreds on offer.
The right retail store will have a depth of knowledge in their staff team and will be more than willing to offer their expertise. Chatting to an in-store assistant can uncover your kayaking ideologies – even those you didn’t know you had – and help you to know if you’ve got the right kayak. The best stores would rather sell you nothing at all than sell you the wrong item, so they shouldn’t push their products if they aren’t right for you.
What are the advantages of shopping online for your kayak
Online shopping takes a little more scrutiny on the part of the shopper. There is a lot of information available online and separating out facts, opinions, and falsehoods can be challenging. Fortunately, there are plenty of reputable sites, like ours, that set out to only offer useful and factual information.
First-hand online reviews from users of the product are a great way to get a deeper insight into what it is actually like to paddle a kayak, rather than simply what the manufacturers state it is capable of. Longer form reviews from experts, like this one of the Isle Switch 2, are often more useful than reviews on websites, where the number of reviews can be overwhelming and where companies may pay reviewers to give them positive feedback.
As well as a breadth of feedback and a number of in-depth reviews, the other key advantage to shopping online is the number of websites available in an instant. This not only opens up hundreds of options for you to get the right kayak but also a quick price comparison so you can get the right deal. Some review sites will offer you some competitive comparisons too, seeking out the best deal for you and saving you time.
Retailers vs manufacturers: which is best?
But you can also buy your kayak straight from the manufacturer, right? Well, you absolutely can, and often manufacturers will offer you excellent customer service and warranty. But they are biased. The main issue with buying straight from a manufacturer is that they only have one company’s kayaks on offer – perhaps more if they’re teamed up with other brands, but still a limited range.
This means that, unlike retailers, manufacturers are likely to try to sell you their own brand of kayak, rather than offering you a selection. With manufacturers tending to only make a limited number of kayaks per style, this can severely limit your options. However, no one knows their kayaks like the manufacturer and if you want a real in-depth technical rundown, there is no better place to go than straight to the source.