What Is A Tandem Kayak? (Definition, History, Types, Features)

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: December 7, 2022
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A tandem kayak is a type of kayak that is designed to be paddled by two people, rather than just one, typically sitting one in front of the other. Tandem kayaks can come in a variety of styles and sizes and are typically longer and wider than single-person kayaks in order to accommodate two paddlers.

Key Takeaways

  • Tandem kayaks are also known as double kayaks and you can use this type of kayak in lakes, rivers, or large slow-moving streams with enough room to paddle in unison
  • Usually, tandem kayaks range from 18-24 feet in length and they are low profile so you can paddle efficiently
  • Tandem kayaks are the first type of boat that was created and they are around since the Stone Age
  • With a Tandem kayak, you can generate more speed since two people paddle them  

Definition of a Tandem Kayak

A tandem kayak is a type of kayak that has two paddlers side by side. It can be paddled by one person, but it is designed for two people to paddle together. They are often used for touring as they can be easily transported by water. Tandem kayaks are generally long and wide and have a low profile to make the paddling more efficient.

Tandem kayaks are also known as double kayaks. They are common in regions that have lakes, rivers, or large slow-moving streams with enough room to paddle in unison.

Double kayaks are a great way to paddle with friends and family members without wearing everyone out.

Some of them even have some extra space for your kid or a pet. The kayaks range from 18-24 feet in length, and you get to choose what suits you depending on the purpose for which you are buying.

The History Of Tandem Kayaks.

In the early 1800s, explorers and mountain men made their way into the Colorado River, which was full of rapids. Some of them were able to cross using kayaks, but others had to rely on canoes. The best way to get through the rapids was by sitting in a tandem kayak with a rope connecting the two people.

This type of kayak is considered one of the most iconic types of boats in America today and has been used throughout history for whitewater rafting, fishing, commercial transportation, military purposes,

Tandem kayaks are the first type of boat that was created. This kind of Kayaks has been around since the Stone Age. The first kayaks were made from bark or wood and were carved and shaped by humans.

Advantages Of Tandem Kayaks

In general, the best Tandem kayaks on the market have several advantages in comparison with their solo counterparts. You will not have to bear lonely and sometimes boring escapades since you will paddle with your loved ones and get the most out of your voyages. The following are some of these benefits:

Additional Stability

The stability of a vessel is paramount for all kayakers, especially if you do not have enough experience. If you intend to go with your child or even a dog for these adventures, you will require the boat to be stable for you to monitor these loved ones. 

Stability is also vital if the waters are not very calm so that you can paddle the boat quickly. A tandem kayak with a rudder and pedals would be more suitable as they are easier to control.

High Speed

Tandem kayaks have more speed than one-person boats since two people paddle them. The boat is also long, and the stern is full, which means that you tour along the water quickly. You can decide to paddle slower as you enjoy the beautiful scenery, but the choice is entirely yours.


You can carry about 1.5 more pieces of equipment with a tandem kayak than with a solo one. It has additional storage space, which makes it even more convenient when you are two. You can carry enough stuff to enable you to enjoy the escapades. It is, however, advisable not to overload your vessel as this may make it more sluggish.

Spare Seat

The tandem kayak has an additional seat whereby if one of you falls sick or tires out, he or she can relax as the other paddler does the work. It is not the case with solo kayaks where in case one falls ill; the vessel will be towed to the shore. With the spare seat, you can even agree to take turns paddling as well as relaxing.

Disadvantages Of Tandem kayak

The tandem kayaks also have some drawbacks which are work considering

Transport And Storage

Before purchasing a tandem kayak, you should think about how possible it is to move it around. You should find out whether it will fit on the roof of your car as it is more significant than a solo kayak and if you have enough storage space. Since they are also more substantial, it is necessary to know whether you can lift them to the car roof.

Lack Of Independence

Unlike solo kayaks, where the paddler decides which direction to take or the pace to move, with the tandem, you must agree. It may cause friction between the paddlers who are independent-minded and who may want to have it their way.

Essential Features To Consider In A Tandem Kayak


A tandem kayak should be comfortable enough to give you fun on the water. You should have long hours touring the waters without experiencing pain or discomfort in your back, butt, or legs. It would help if you also paddled them with minimum effort and without fatigue.


The materials used in making the kayak affect its strength, rigidity, weight, and efficiency in its performance. You should, therefore, be keen when choosing the vessel to ensure it is useful. The most common materials used in construction include polyethylene, PVC, Vinyl, ABS, composite, and wood. Check to ensure you get the most durable, inexpensive, and efficient.

The Dimensions Of The Kayak

Tandem kayaks are lengthy and narrow, which makes them quick and perfect for covering vast distances. They have varying designs but can be less stable and prone to capsizing on rough waters. The broader and shorter kayaks are more durable and do not overturn easily but are slower and less efficient; hence they need more energy to tour them through the water. You should, therefore, choose the dimensions that suit your needs.

Types Of Tandem Kayaks

There are different types of tandems, and your choice depends on the purpose for which you intend to use them. The following are the main kinds:

Recreational Tandems

These kayaks are suitable for shorter trips on calmer and less challenging waters. They are ideal for novice paddlers who don’t intend to camp, race, or tour.

Whitewater Kayaks

The boats are suitable for paddlers wishing to move down fast-moving rivers or in the waves. The vessels are compact and maneuverable and also ideal for rough waters but are not perfect for touring or camping.

Touring Tandem

Touring tandems are suitable for covering vast distances while carrying more equipment. They are more efficient than recreational boats and are also faster. The boats also track straighter, but they are less stable and are easily prone to roll.

Folding Kayaks

These kayaks are efficient in a performance like rigid boats, but they are also convenient to carry like inflatable ones. They are more highly-priced than other kayaks and are a perfect choice if you do not want to compromise performance. They are also easy to transport and store since you can fold them to the desired size.

Inflatable Kayaks

These kayaks are convenient to transport and store as you will deflate them when carrying them to the water and deflate them after use. You can easily store them in a suitcase or backpack, and they do not need a lot of space. The boats are not as stiff or hard-hulled as the rigid boats and may not be suitable for challenging water conditions.

Final Verdict

Tandem kayaks are the right choice for you if you love expeditions with your family as well as your dog. There are different types of these boats, and you should choose depending on the use and the storage space that you have. The ease of transporting the kayaks is also paramount when picking the right one for you.

Make the right choice and enjoy your adventures!


  • https://www.baysports.com.au/blogs/blog/what-is-a-tandem-kayak
  • https://standuppaddleboardworld.com/kayak/tandem-kayak/
  • https://www.evolutionexpeditions.com/blog/what-is-tandem-kayaking


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