Kayak Dimensions and Guidelines (with Drawing)

Kayak Dimensions

Like pairs of shoes, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all for kayaks. There are several measurements you must consider when choosing a kayak, such as what you’re going to do and where you’re going to use it.

In terms of averages, you will most likely find a kayak that measures 10 feet (3.04 meters) in length with various width, volume, and weigh figures. If you’re interested in learning in-depth about kayaks, read on.

Kayak Types and Their Dimensions

Kayak Dimensions

The moment you step foot inside a sporting goods store, you might come across dozens of different kayaks. They won’t just vary in terms of color and style, but their measurements (length and width) may also be significantly different from each other.

The size of a kayak will vary depending on what the kayak is used for. Below, I’ll quickly go over the main types of kayaks and mention their measurements.

Recreational Kayaks

Recreational Kayaks

A recreational kayak is the most basic type of kayak available. It’s usable on nearly all kinds of bodies of water. A user requires no prior experience since recreational kayaks are not built for speed. A recreational kayak typically measures between 10 and 12 feet (3.04 and 3.66 meters) long and at least 2 feet (0.61 meters) wide.

Sit-on-Top Kayaks

Sit-on-Top Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks vary from other kayak types by how their design. You will not find an empty space inside of the kayak to slip your feet into. Instead, you sit on top of the kayak—hence, its name—which is great for amateurs since they do not get flooded and rarely capsize. Most sit-on-top kayaks measure under 12 feet (3.66 meters) long and between 27 and 36 (0.69 and 0.91 meters) inches wide.

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Touring Kayaks

Touring kayaks are narrower yet longer than recreational kayaks. Because of their design, touring kayaks can move through the water more easily and quickly. Only experienced kayakers should consider picking up a touring kayak, which is great for kayaking through rough waters. On average, a touring kayak will measure between 12 and 20 feet (3.66 and 6.1 meters) long and between 18 and 24 inches (0.46 and 0.61 meters) wide.

Tandem Kayaks

Tandem Kayaks

A tandem kayak is a type of kayak that can seat at least two people. They’re not built for speed but rather to let multiple people enjoy the open water. Tandem kayaks typically range between 10 and 26 feet (3.04 and 7.82 meters) and measure 18 to 28 inches (0.46 to 0.71 meters) in width.

Additional Kayak Factors to Consider

While the dimensions of a kayak are important to know, they’re not the only factors that should affect which kayak to get. Below, I’ll go over other factors that you should consider when looking at kayaks.


The volume of a kayak refers to how much space it occupies. This figure will let you know how many items it can hold, as well as where you can store the kayak. In general, a higher-volume kayak will be more suitable for beginner-level recreational riders who do not want a kayak build for speed. The rider’s height will also determine what volume kayak to purchase.

In general, the volume of a kayak will help you determine how much legroom and cockpit space there is. A higher-volume kayak may be roomier, whereas a low-volume kayak may be unsuitable for overnight paddling trips.

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Here’s a quick guide to help you determine the ideal kayak volume:

Kayak VolumeUser HeightUser WeightDesigned for:
Low≤ 5’5” (1.68 m)≤ 140 lbs. (63.5 kg)Daytime paddling with little to no gear
Medium5’7” to 5’10” (1.70 to 1.80 m)150 to 180 lbs. (68 to 82 kg)Overnight paddling with simple gear
High≥ 5’10” (1.80 m)≥ 180 lbs. (82 kg)Paddling for longer than 1 day with overnight essentials


The weight of a kayak will vary drastically from model to model. The average weight will be somewhere between 20 and 80 pounds (9.07 36.29 kilograms), but some of the longer, high-volume kayaks can be heavier than 100 pounds (45.36 kilograms).

You should know the weight of the kayak to determine whether or not you can strap it to the roof of your car or rent a trailer. Also, how far you park from a body of water will determine how easy or challenging it can be to transport the kayak from your vehicle/trailer.

Weight Capacity

The weight capacity of a kayak will determine whether or not the kayak is suitable for a rider based on their weight and height but also how much stuff it can carry. For long trips, you should look for a kayak that has larger amounts of storage space.

FAQ About Kayaks

1. What size kayak do I need for my weight?

In general, you can determine the ideal kayak size based on your height and weight by looking at its volume. A low-volume kayak is ideal for people measuring up to 5 feet 5 inches (1.68 meters) and weighing 140 pounds (63.5 kilograms) at most.

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Medium-volume kayaks are suited towards 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-10 (1.70 to 1.80-meter) riders weighing between 150 and 180 pounds (68 kilograms).

High-volume kayaks, which are the best option for multiday trips, are built for riders standing at least 5 feet 10 (1.80 meters) and weigh over 180 pounds (68 kilograms).

2. Can you kayak if you are overweight?

If you’re on the bigger side, you can still take up kayaking. There’s a kayak for everyone, from short and skinny to tall and large. It’s important to note the kayak’s weight capacity to determine whether or not it’s the right fit.

3. Is a kayak better than a canoe?

Kayaks are generally narrower and nimbler than canoes, making them better-suited for high-speed trips. However, canoes are considered safer since they are wider, thus, much less likely to capsize.


Even though the average length of a kayak is 10 feet (3.04 meters) long, that doesn’t mean a 10-foot kayak is the right size for every person. There are several other factors you should consider before settling on a particular kayak dimension.

If you found this article beneficial, I’d appreciate it if you could share it on your socials. Otherwise, please drop a comment and let me know what activity you most enjoy doing in your kayak.


Baron Cooke has been writing and editing for 7 years. He grew up with an aptitude for geometry, statistics, and dimensions. He has a BA in construction management and also has studied civil infrastructure, engineering, and measurements. He is the head writer of measuringknowhow.com

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