Used One-Man Kayak Buying Guide

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Used One-Man Kayak Buying Guide

Kayaks are smaller than canoes, and the occupant sits in the middle of the boat and uses a double bladed paddle. There are two main types of kayaks: sit in and sit on top. Sit in kayaks more closely resemble the original vessels intended as one-man crafts used by the Inuit people of the Arctic region of North America, which were constructed from sealskin and wood. Modern kayaks come in a range of styles and materials, with different hulls, widths, and lengths.

Buying a used one-man kayak is an excellent way to save money. Firstly, choose the type of kayak required before deciding on factors such as the weight, width, hull design, and other characteristics. The kayak's features affect its stability and manoeuvrability. Finally, know how to evaluate a used kayak and check for signs of damage, and wear and tear. Used kayaks are available from second hand sources and sites such as eBay.

Types of One-Man Kayak

The two main types of kayak available are sit in and sit on top, but special models may be motorised or customised for fishing. For example, stand up kayaks are used mainly for fishing and feature sit on top hulls and pontoons that can be deployed for added stability.

Sit In Kayak

A one-man sit in kayak has enough space for one person to sit inside the boat comfortably. These kayaks usually feature a skirt that goes over the cockpit where the occupant sits, to keep water out. This makes it easier to correct their postion if they are flipped over. Experienced kayakers can roll the vessel over and flip themselves back up without getting into trouble. Sit in kayaks are stable and feel secure as the occupant's centre of gravity is low. They also have more storage space than sit on top models.

Sit on Top Kayak

Sit on top kayaks are perfect for people who do not feel confident that they can roll over and right themselves in an emergency situation as they are easier to dismount. This also makes these kayaks the better option for those who intend to use them for snorkeling or diving. They have a larger deck surface for storing wet equipment and are easier to remount than sit in kayaks.

One-Man Kayak Features and Characteristics

The features and characteristics of a one-man kayak influence its handling and stability. Choose the right combination of features to find a kayak that is fit for the buyer's purpose.

Hull Shape of One-Man Kayaks

The shape of the kayak's hull affects the vessel's initial and secondary stability. The initial stability refers to how stable the kayak feels on flat water, while the secondary stability refers to how stable it feels when the kayaker leans over. Rounded hulls have greater speed; V-shaped hulls provide the least initial stability, but better secondary stability; and flat-bottom hulls have the most initial stability in flat water conditions.

Width of One-Man Kayaks

The kayak's width, known as the beam, also affects performance. Wider kayaks usually have more initial stability than narrower models, but are less efficient.

Length of One-Man Kayaks

Shorter kayaks, up to 3.7 metres, usually turn more easily than longer models of at least 4 metres. However, longer kayaks track and guide more easily. Shorter kayaks weight less, are easier to transport, and are not affected by winds as much as longer models. However, shorter kayaks are not suitable for long trips. Long kayaks are easier to paddle over greater distances, bear more weight without losing performance, and glide further for each stroke. They are best suited for open water.

Cockpit Size of One-Man Kayaks

There are two main types of cockpit in sit in kayaks: open and closed. These are classified according to how firmly the occupant's knees are braced inside the cockpit. In a closed cockpit, the kayaker sits with his or her legs under thigh braces. This makes for better transfer of movement between the kayaker and the boat, with improved balance and a closer connection to the kayak. Many feel that this improves control and performance.

Open cockpits allow the kayaker to get into and out of the boat more easily. These kayaks are prefered by people who use their boats for activities like fishing or photography, as there is more storage space available and freedom of movement because it is not as restricted as a closed cockpit.

Materials for One-Man Kayaks

Contemporary kayaks are made from manufactured materials. Three different types of materials are used: polyethylene, thermoformed plastic, and composites. Other materials are used for inflatable kayaks.

Polyethylene One-Man Kayaks

Polyethylene is inexpensive and impact resistant, making it a popular budget option for kayaks. As this material is not as stiff as other boatbuilding materials, a polyethylene kayak could lose its shape over time.

Thermoformed Plastic One-Man Kayaks

Kayaks made from thermoformed plastics are stiffer and lighter than their polyethylene counterparts. They are also more expensive, but last longer as they are not prone to losing their shape.

Composites One-Man Kayaks

Three types of composites are commonly used to make kayaks: fibreglass, kevlar, and carbon fibre. Composites are made using cloth fibres impregnated with resin. These materials produce the lightest, stiffest, most durable kayaks that are relatively easy to repair. However, they are significantly more expensive than polyethylene models. Most composite kayak owners feel that the higher price tag is well worthwhile as the improvement in performance is significant. Fibreglass is the least expensive, but the heaviest option. Kevlar is stronger and lighter than fibreglass, with higher impact resistance. Carbon fibre is the stiffest and lightest of the three, but lacks impact resistance and is commonly used with another composite to improve this.

Inflatable One-Man Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are usually made of hypalon, which is a type of neoprene; Nitrilon, a type of rubberised fabric; PVC; or polyurethane coated cloth. They are easy to store and can be inflated by hand, foot, or electric pumps. They are usually best suited to calm, flat water conditions. Inflatable kayaks are easy to transport and store, do not dent, and are usually very stable. However, they tend to be slower and less efficient than traditional kayaks.

Weight of One-Man Kayaks

Most buyers prefer lighter kayaks, which tend to be faster, easier to manoeuvre on and off the water, and easier to transport and carry. As lighter kayaks are less trouble to load onto a car and transport to the water, buyers are more inclined to use them frequently.

Stiffness of One-Man Kayaks

The stiffness of the kayak affects its efficiency, life span, and hull shape. If the kayak flexes when the occupant paddles, energy is wasted. Kayaks made from stiff materials are less likely to lose their shape. Stiff materials can be moulded into more hull shapes.

Rudders and Skegs for One-Man Kayaks

Kayaks tend to sail towards other boats, but this can be avoided or controlled with the addition of a rudder or skeg. While they are not essential they do make paddling easier and are usually retractable. A rudder can be used to steer the kayak, normally by using pedals inside the boat. A skeg remains fixed and merely acts as a guide to keep the kayaker on course.

How to Evaluate a Used One-Man Kayak

When buying a used one-man kayak, ensure that it is not damaged. Check for patches in inflatable kayaks, as these can be punctured relatively easily, and in rigid kayaks as they may have experienced an incident that could have caused unseen harm to the integrity of the boat. This type of damage affects performance, durability, and safety. Patches may be visible to the naked eye, but some could be hidden by paint or refinishing, so always ask the seller about any repairs and previous accidents. Obvious colour differences or uneven spots on the hull are usually an indication of patching.

All of the kayak's parts should work, including the skeg or rudder. The skeg should be in place and deployable. The rudder should not be obstructed, and should respond to the controls quickly and effectively. Working parts are more important than cosmetic flaws, so where the choice lies between a use one-man kayak with cosmetic flaws that is in good working order and has never been patched, and one that has been refinished, but has been patched or has mechanical faults, always choose the working, undamaged boat.

Buying a Used One-Man Kayak on eBay

If you are trying to save money by buying a used one-man kayak, eBay is the perfect place to shop. To find the perfect kayak, type a phrase, such as "used single Dagger kayak", into the search field, which is located conveniently on every page, to see the items available from eBay sellers. Refine these results by choosing the most appropriate category and item characteristics. Use the advanced search feature to further narrow or expand your selection.


Buying a used one-man kayak is a great way to save money, but know what to look for before buying. There are two main types of kayak: sit in and sit on top. Choose the most appropriate type, taking into account the buyer's level of experience and comfort, and what the kayak will be used for.

In addition, choose a kayak with the right features for the buyer's requirements. The hull type, length, and width affect the vessel's manoeuvrability, efficiency, and performance. For example, longer kayaks are better suited to long distances, while a wide, flat hull offers greater initial stability on flat, calm water. Also consider the cockpit type and how this influences storage space, paddling, and the buyer's needs and comfort.

The materials used to make the kayak further affect performance and durability. Inflatable kayaks are an excellent choice for casual users, but high end models are made from composite materials that are durable and produce efficient performance vessels. In general, choose lighter, stiffer models with skegs or rudders for added control. When evaluating used one-man kayaks, check for signs of repairs and damage and ensure that all of the boat's parts are working. A number of used one-man kayaks are available from eBay sellers.

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