Roads Rivers and Trails

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Six Steps to Buying your First Kayak

Finding the kayak of your dreams is intimidating and challenging. Before taking the leap and making that huge investment, you should be sure you’re getting exactly what you want. These six steps to buying your first kayak will make your decision easier.

Step one:

Define your ideal experience. This is often the first question we’ll ask on the sales floor and will consequently eliminate the majority of boats. Imagine your perfect day on the water. Do you have a fishing pole, a whitewater helmet, a canine companion, or a cooler of snacks? Your answer is the start to making it happen. When you know what your goals are, we can show you the kayaks best suited for that purpose and explore what sets them apart. Buying your first kayak should make that ideal experience a reality every time you hit the water. Visit our website to browse available options.

Step two:

Learn the ins and outs of kayak design and features. Each boat is built with a specific paddler or body of water in mind. Looking at the length, width, hull style, cockpit style, weight, and rocker of a kayak tell us its ideal use. Wider boats offer stability, longer boats better tracking, shorter boats maneuverability, and higher rocker profiles perform better in rough water. Talking to experienced paddlers can help you understand the differences between each and pinpoint your favorite few styles. At this point you’ve defined the shape, functionality, and features of kayak models, and it’s time to take the next step.

Step three:

Before buying your first kayak, try out different models on the water. Maybe you have your choice narrowed down, but an online review from somebody with the screen name “” doesn’t have you convinced. Now it is time to compare models side by side. Get the peace of mind you need by trying those models with someone there to teach you the differences. Testing different boats allows you to be confident in your decision and put experience behind the statistics. Specialty retailers like RRT can give you this opportunity either by appointment or at public events.

Step four:

Make the commitment.  At this point, your research has paid off and there is nothing to hold you back from an endless summer of fun! Get the kayak that you love the most and bring that dream day on the water to life. The more you enjoy it, the more you’ll use it, and the more you use it, the better life will be.

Step five:

Get paired up with the right accessories. Car racks, paddles, and life jackets are best purchased with or after the kayak purchase. You’ll need to be paired up with a paddle of appropriate length, decided by your boat’s width and your height. When selecting a paddle, remember that the longer you anticipate being on the water, the more important lightweight, carbon paddles are. Life jackets differ depending on your paddling angle, seat structure, and intended use. Lastly, select your rooftop kayak carrier based off the best loading method for you, your car, and your kayak of choice.

Step six:

Most importantly, be safe. Understand water levels, wear a properly fitting PFD, and understand any equipment requirements before you go out. Be familiar with your route, launch and take-out points, and underwater hazards. Having someone knowledgeable show you the ropes will take a whole lot of stress off your plate. For example, have someone show you the proper way to tie your kayak down before driving away or how to roll your kayak if things go awry. Visit our Little Miami River safety blog or check out the Coast Guard safety checklist.  For more resources local to Cincinnati check our our resource page here.


by: Bryan Wolf