Best Three Person Kayaks: Ultimate Guide and Reviews

Good things come in threes, or so they say. Kayaks are no exception. Sure you could squeeze an extra person into a two-person kayak, but then you run the risk of being overloaded. And when there are so many quality three-person kayaks on the market, why would you?

We’ve put together this list of the top ten kayaks for 3 persons, as well as a guide to help you make the right choice when it comes to taking to the water as a trio. Whether you’re a family needing an extra seat for a growing paddler, or a group of friends who want to cruise the river together, we’ve got a kayak for you.

At A Glance: The Best Three Person Kayaks

Best Kayak for 3 People: Perception Rambler Tandem 13.5
Runner-Up: Ocean Kayaks Malibu Two XL
Best Inflatable 3-Person Kayak: Sea Eagle 465 FT
Best for Families: Driftsun Almanor 146
Best for the Money: Sea Eagle 370
Most Budget-Friendly: Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak
Most Feature-Rich: Driftsun Teton 120
Best for White Water: Sea Eagle 420X

Choosing a Kayak for 3 People: What You Need to Consider

As with any purchase, kayak or not, you don’t necessarily want to just buy the first thing that looks as though it fits the bill. Our buyer’s guide will get you asking all the right questions and having all of the right answers so that you pick the right kayak for you.

Two women and a man are in a three person kayak

Capacity

Even the biggest kayaks on the market will sink if you put too much weight on them. The capacity of a kayak is shown in the specifications and this capacity is the point at which the kayak is no longer able to stay above water.

More importantly, an overloaded kayak is never going to perform as it should. There is a rule in kayaking that you should stay below 70% of a kayak’s stated capacity to get optimal performance. This means that if your kayak is displayed as having a capacity of 300 lbs., you should aim to stay under 210 lbs. so that it performs as it should.

Number of seats

But these are three-person kayaks, surely they have three seats? 

Yes and no. 

True three-person kayaks are designed to accommodate three fully grown adults and have seating that allows this. Often, these seats are removable and many of these three-person kayaks can also be used with fewer paddlers.

But, not everyone paddling a three-person kayak needs three adult-sized seats. The 2+1 kayaks fill this gap perfectly for families. This third seat is usually molded into the hull, rather than fully fitted, and suits younger paddlers who are coming along for the ride. 

These 2+1 kayaks keep the hull weight down and make your kayak easier to transport. Equally important, this configuration ensures that your kid remains within easy reach in case of emergency.

А white/blue sit-in three person kayak

Size and Space

Three-person kayaks are naturally going to be on the larger side of things, but they still come in a variety of sizes. The length and width of your kayak will affect things like how fast they go, how easily they turn, and how stable they are.

Longer kayaks tend to be faster than shorter models, with their waterline also helping to keep them tracking straight against the wind. This tracking is also impacted by hull shape, with a defined keel gripping the water more effectively than a rounded hull.

With three-person kayaks, stability often comes in the form of width. Wider kayaks are less likely to tip unexpectedly and they also usually have more deck space so that you can move about and access your gear.

If you’re looking for a kayak that goes further and faster, a longer, sleeker kayak will achieve this. If you want a family-friendly kayak that is stable, easy to paddle and has plenty of space to move around and store equipment on, wider kayaks are usually preferred.

Transport and Storage

There’s no getting around it, large kayaks can be difficult to transport and store. 

Properly storing your kayak means keeping it out of direct sunlight, and bad weather, and avoiding critters nesting in it. A lot of people achieve this by hauling their kayak to the ceiling of their garage with a hoist, building a kayak rack, or using a kayak cover for storage. All of these systems are easier with smaller kayaks. Larger kayaks not only take up more space but weigh more and need stronger systems to be in place.

The weight and size of your kayak also have an effect when it comes to loading it onto the roof of your car, or truck bed. Three-person kayaks are often up to around 14 feet long and weigh upwards of 80 pounds. Loading these isn’t always easy, even with three people. You should also check your roof rack to make sure it’s built to haul this kind of weight or consider a trailer.

What we aren’t recommending here is buying an inadequate kayak just because it’s easy to load and store. Having the right kayak for the task is the most important thing, but it’s important to consider storage and transport to make sure you can safely get your kayak to the water and store it in a way that lets you keep enjoying it for years.

Inflatable vs. Hardshell Kayaks

When you consider what we’ve just said about the size of three-person kayaks, it might come as no surprise to hear that many of them are inflatable. Inflatable kayaks significantly reduce the difficulties with storage and transport and often pack down to fit in the trunk of a car and the corner of a garage easily.

So why aren’t all three-person kayaks inflatable? 

Plastic hardshell kayaks are often cheaper and tend to last longer than inflatables, standing up against beach landings and bashing rocks more effectively. Plastic kayaks also tend to outperform inflatables. They can have deeper keels and more defined hull shapes and can track more effectively, especially against wind and waves, and cover longer distances.

Whether you prioritize the performance and longevity of a hard-shelled kayak or the comfort and storage options that come from an inflatable is up to you. If you choose the inflatable option, check out what type of pump they’re including. A low-quality pump can see you spending more time and effort pumping the kayak to pressure than actually being out on the water. 

Intended use

Where do you want to go kayaking and who do you want to be able to take? 

A family with a young child is going to need a different kayak than three adults who want to go on an overnight trip. Our list of kayaks below covers different styles that suit different environments and will help you to decide whether a white water kayak, a touring kayak, or a family-friendly model is best suited to your needs.


Top Kayaks for 3 Persons Reviewed

Best Kayak for 3 People: Perception Rambler Tandem 13.5

ption Rambler Tandem 13.5

Perception Rambler Tandem 13.5 is popular with parents and grandparents who want their child or grandchild to experience the joy of taking to the water. This is largely due to the enormous stability and ease of paddling that the Rambler Tandem offers.

The seating in the Rambler Tandem 13.5 makes it more of a 2+1 style three-person kayak. The front and rear seats are fitted with Perception’s Harmony seat, which has reasonable back support and some padding. The central seat is molded but does have eyelets fitted so you can add padding and back support if you choose.

The Rambler Tandem 13.5 is a large platform of a kayak and has storage space at the bow and stern for coolers and even camping equipment. You can make the most of this thanks to the enormous 550 lbs. (249 kg) capacity. 

This doesn’t come without bulk though and the Perception Rambler Tandem 13.5 weighs a hefty 78 lbs. (35 kg). You’ll need to have substantial roof bars or a solid trailer to move this kayak and may even want to think about using a landing trolley to get to and from the water.

Pros:

  • Affordable hard-shelled kayak
  • Stable and easy to paddle
  • High capacity

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Basic, no-frills model

Runner-Up: Ocean Kayaks Malibu Two XL

Ocean Kayaks Malibu Two XL

Ocean Kayaks Malibu Two is one of the best-selling two-person kayaks on the market, and the XL model takes this one step further, giving you the necessary capacity to take a third paddler out on the water.

The Ocean Kayaks Malibu Two XL is a similar model to the Perception Rambler Tandem 13.5. It’s a hard-shelled, sit-on-top style kayak that falls into the 2+1 category. It was a toss-up between the two for the top spot, with the Malibu Two XL only missing out due to the slightly shorter length and higher price tag.

The Ocean Kayaks Malibu Two XL is slightly lighter, though, and this coupled with the shorter stature can make it a more suitable choice for those who want a plastic kayak but are limited on storage space. 

The moveable seats inside the Malibu Two XL mean that this versatile kayak can be paddled with anywhere from 1 – 3 paddlers. The bow and stern seats are comfortable, supportive, and adjustable, while the middle molded seat suits youngsters. 

At the bow, the Malibu Two XL has a defined rocker kick, which prevents small ocean waves from crashing into the kayak. The long, defined keel line gives this boat a good tracking ability and makes it easy to paddle even for beginners. 

Pros:

  • Highly stable
  • Easy to paddle
  • Supportive seating

Cons:

  • High price tag
  • Heavy

Best Inflatable 3-Person Kayak: Sea Eagle 465 FT

Sea Eagle 465 FT

Sea Eagle is renowned for making some of the best inflatable kayaks on the market. The Sea Eagle 465 FT is part of their FastTrack series, which features the NeedleKnife bow system. This inflatable keel system is designed to improve the tracking capabilities of the kayak, even in reasonable winds.

What this means is that the Sea Eagle 465 FT is a three-person inflatable kayak that is suited to longer distances and touring trips. The capacity of 794 lbs. (360 kg) means that these touring trips can be turned into overnight adventures, with room for camping equipment onboard.

The floor chamber of the Sea Eagle 465 FT uses drop-stitch technology. This allows the kayak to inflate to higher pressures, giving it a rigid, stable finish. This couples with the outrigger-style side chambers to give you a kayak that just does not want to capsize. 

Sea Eagle 465 FT is suited to calm ocean trips, long cruises on inland lakes and gentle rivers, as well as white water (up to class II). 

Pros:

  • Easy to store and transport
  • Rigid feel hull
  • Good tracking capabilities 
  • Versatile kayak

Cons:

  • High price point
  • Tight fit for three larger adults

Best for Families: Driftsun Almanor 146

Driftsun Almanor 146

When you head to the lake with your family, you want to be able to get everyone out on the water with the same level of comfort, as quickly as possible. The Driftsun Almanor 146 is our family-friendly inflatable of choice. 

Though this kayak fits into the 2+1 category, the +1 is not the afterthought that some kayaks make it. The central seat is padded and comfortable, designed specifically with younger paddlers in mind. This means that you won’t have a child who wants to move about or get out of the kayak early, so you can stay out on the water for longer.

The two adult seats in the kayak are made from EVA foam and feature adjustable back systems. These two seating positions also have adjustable footrests.

The Driftsun Almanor 146 is quick to inflate and features three chambers. The I-beam floor gives the kayak reasonable rigidity and stability, while the side chambers not only make it more stable but comfortable too. 

The skeg on the underside of the kayak helps with direction and speed, but the Driftsun Almanor 146 lacks the hull definition to cope against stronger winds or to cover long distances. This family-friendly kayak is best suited to gentle recreational paddles on sheltered water.

Pros:

  • Comfortable and padded central seat
  • Quick and easy to inflate
  • Lightweight
  • Includes two paddles

Cons:

  • Relatively low max capacity
  • Poor tracking against wind

Best on a Budget: Sea Eagle 370

Sea Eagle 370

The Sea Eagle 370 is a whole lot of kayak for a low price tag. This versatile recreational kayak is suited to gentle ocean swell, exploring your lake, and even moderate white water rivers. 

The I-beam flooring gives the Sea Eagle 370 a high level of stability that makes it suitable for beginners and families taking to the water for the first time. The large side chambers improve this stability even further and the multiple chamber design has additional safety benefits. If you spring a leak, you won’t lose all the air from your kayak and will remain afloat and able to return to shore or seek help.

The Sea Eagle 370 weighs just 33 lbs. (15 kg), light enough to load up and carry to your local lake, or to put into the trunk of your car. Despite this low weight, the hull of the Sea Eagle 370 is durable and able to withstand white water (up to class III) as well as launching and landing on rocky beaches. The PVC finish is designed to withstand saltwater and UV damage, too.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Durable build
  • Versatile design

Cons:

  • A tight fit for three adults
  • Limited storage space
  • Difficult to control in windy conditions

Best for the Money: Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak

Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak

If you’re looking for a three-person kayak that represents great value for money, the Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak is hard to beat. The heavy-duty PVC construction and vinyl flooring are designed to withstand rugged use launching and landing at your lake.

The Sevylor Big Basin is 37 inches across the beam, making it one of the wider kayaks on our list. For beginners, or anyone with mobility or confidence concerns, this extra stability makes taking to the water easier and makes you feel safer. Even in choppy conditions, this is a kayak that feels stable and hard to tip.

Unlike some of the kayaks on this list, the Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak is a true three-seater. With an inflated length of 12 ft. 3 in. (3.7 m), there is plenty of space onboard, but the 490 lb. (222 kg) capacity makes this a tight kayak for three large adults.

The good news is that once you get the Sevylor Big Basin on the water, it’s easy to paddle. This kayak is best suited to calm lakes and gentle moving rivers but can take on some wind and waves if you’re a more experienced kayaker. 

Pros:

  • Value for money
  • A true three-person kayak
  • Durable heavy-duty design
  • Stable and easy to paddle

Cons:

  • Low capacity
  • Spray skirts don’t defend against waves effectively

Most Feature-Rich: Driftsun Teton 120

Driftsun Teton 120

The Driftsun Teton 120 is a versatile three-person kayak with all the additional features you might need for recreational trips or to head out fishing. This hardshell kayak has two full seats and an additional youth seat in the center, suited to families who want their children to experience the joy of kayaking.

The hull of the Driftsun Teton 120 features a defined keel line that runs all the way to the stern, giving the kayak reasonable tracking and directional abilities. This kayak doesn’t have a skeg or rudder system, though, which would help over longer distances.

With a 500 lb. (227 kg) capacity and reasonable balance of length against width, there is plenty of space onboard this kayak for three people. The onboard storage, in the form of bungee storage at the bow and stern and two dry hatches, gives you plenty of space to make full use of this capacity.

The Driftsun Teton 120 features four capped, flush-mounted rod holders as well as paddle parks to stow your paddle and fish. The space inside the kayak means that you’re likely to be too cramped to fish if you have three people on board. However, the fact that you can fish from this kayak and can also take it on family trips means you’re basically getting two kayaks in one package.

Pros:

  • Loads of features
  • Fishing ready
  • Stable and easy to paddle
  • Lots of onboard storage

Cons:

  • Shorter than other plastic kayaks and this limits space and speed
  • High price tag

Best for White Water: Sea Eagle 420X

Sea Eagle 420X

The reinforced 1000 denier build of the Sea Eagle 420X combines with the drop stitch floor to give you a sturdy and stable platform that is perfect for crushing rapids. The side chambers add to the stability of this kayak and also work a little like bumpers to protect you from rocks as you bounce downstream.

The Sea Eagle 420X is easy to paddle. The sides are lower than most inflatables, giving you a full reach into the water to turn and propel your kayak down chutes. The comfortable and adjustable seats are held in place with D-rings attached around the kayak. These D-rings can also be used to attach gear in place.

A reasonable bow kick allows the Sea Eagle 420X to ride up over waves, while the spray skirts stop water from pouring over and filling the kayak. Any waves that do end up inside the kayak are easily drained using the open and close scupper plugs.

Although this is a kayak primarily designed for white water, it can be used recreationally. A large removable skeg at the rear gives it directional assistance for open water or deep channels. 

This is a lightweight, easy to inflate, super-tough white water kayak. It does come with a price tag to match, though, and some of Sea Eagle’s other range is probably more suited if you don’t need a river-ready kayak.

Pros:

  • 1000 denier build to withstand rocks and rapids
  • Lower sides for easy reach
  • Rigid feel floor chamber for stability and maneuverability

Cons:

  • Pricey if you don’t need a river-ready kayak
  • A tight fit for three large adults

Moose started his paddling life on the ponds and rivers in the south east of England. He has slowly worked his way north and has spent the last few years working his way through all things Scottish. As well as being a very experienced and knowledgeable coach and guide across Scotland and the rest of the UK, he spent a summer in Norway and a month in Nepal; apparently they weren’t bad.

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