What Size Kayak Do I Need?

What Size Kayak Do I Need

What size kayak you need depends on how big you are and what kind of water conditions you plan on kayaking in. Adults and youth may have different needs when it comes to the size of the kayak, and the type of water conditions is also important as slow moving water and fast moving water require different kayaks. Keep reading to find out the answer to the frequently asked question: “What size kayak do I need?”

Human Factors You Should Consider to Determine What Size Kayak You Need

Choosing the right size kayak requires you to consider how tall the kayaker is, how wide they are, as well as how heavy the kayak is, and what kind of water conditions you plan on using it in. The size kayak required will largely depend on the size of the kayaker.

These are the most important factors for you to consider about the kayaker when it comes to figuring out what size kayak you need. Thinking about all of these factors before you buy can help you avoid common kayak buying mistakes when it comes to finding the best kayak for you or as a gift.


The height of the kayaker is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to shopping for a kayak by size. The bigger the person, the bigger the kayak necessary. There are a few factors to consider when it comes to the height of the kayaker.

  • Age

For youth kayakers and for child kayakers you will need to buy a smaller size kayak. This is because it will be hard for a child kayaker or youth kayaker to carry and steer a full size kayak. Additionally, kayaks for children may have more safety features built in.

  • Adjustability

In some kayaks the height compatibility may be adjustable. With an adjustable footrest built-in to the kayak, as a child grows the amount of legroom can be adjusted, or the kayak can be adjusted for use by multiple different height people.

  • Foot size

The size of your feet is important as well as the length of your legs when it comes to your height and the size of your kayak. The kayak may have an adjustable footrest feature, but if your feet are above average in size you will need to make sure that the kayak has adequate room for your toes.


Does your experience level have an effect on what size kayak you need? In some cases it could. If you are an inexperienced kayaker then you will find that too large of a kayak may be too hard to paddle. Look for kayaks that are recommended for use by beginner and novice kayakers and you will find that they are typically a smaller size and weight.

What Size Kayak Do I Need

Kayak Features You Should Consider to Determine What Size Kayak You Need

Here is a list of the most important factors to consider about the features of the kayak itself:

Cockpit Size

The cockpit is where you sit in the kayak. When it comes to sit-in kayaks  it is important that the cockpit be the right size for your body. If you are above average or below average in height it may be more important for you to search for the right kayak because your height determines your center of gravity and plays a big role in keeping you upright in the kayak.

  • Width

The width and length of the cockpit are equally important. The width of the cockpit is very important if you are heavy-set. Small kayaks may not have adequate room for a person with very large hips. You should not have to force your body down into the cockpit, and there are plenty of kayaks that you can buy with cockpits over 20 inches wide.

  • Length

The length of the cockpit affects your legs the most. This is the space where your legs and knees will sit, and for tall people it can be harder to find kayaks with enough leg room. While we associate having long legs with being tall, the length of your legs and your height are not always directly correlated to pay attention to the length of the kayak cockpit no matter how tall you are.


The size of the kayak will contribute to the overall weight as well. The weight of the kayak is important for two reasons. The first is for transporting the kayak to and from the water. The kayaker will need to lift and carry the kayak to get it into the water properly, so it can not be too heavy for that person.

Another reason why the weight of the kayak is important in relation to the size of the person is because if the kayak flips over for some reason and the kayaker is trapped beneath it, they may need to be able to move the kayak out of the way. If the kayak is too heavy to be easily moved it could cause a safety hazard in some cases.

What Size Kayak Do I Need

How to Understand Kayak Sizes

When it comes to shopping for a kayak by size it may be hard to understand some of the industry terms that they use. Keep reading to find out more about how to understand what the terminology for sizing means when it comes to kayaks.


A lot of kayak manufacturers will talk about the volume of the kayak. This is how they express the amount of room in the boat. Here is a list of volumes and what they mean when it comes to kayaks:

Low Volume – Low volume kayaks are smaller kayaks that are for short/petite people, youth, and do not have a lot of extra cargo room. Low volume kayaks are good for women, youth, and small adults who are going on day trips that do not require a lot of gear.

Medium Volume – For most adults a medium volume kayak will be exactly what you need. These are made for average sized kayakers and have enough room to carry some extra gear along with you for the trip.

High Volume – High volume kayaks are made for large adults and men. These kayaks are too heavy for youth and petite kayakers, but will be perfect for tall and large adults. These high-volume kayaks can also have space for gear.


The size of the kayak will have an effect on the functionality, comfort, and versatility of the kayak. Having the right size kayak is essential for staying safe on your next kayaking adventure. We hope that after reading this handy guide to kayak sizes that you have a better idea of what sizes of kayak you need.