How to select the right kayak – explained by The Backpacker

Navigating the world of kayaks can be confusing, so we asked the folks at The Backpacker for some advice.

Navigating the world of kayaks can be confusing, so we asked The Backpacker to explain how to select the right kayak.

Brock Miller, a kayak expert with The Backpacker, spoke to us in the store and on the water about all things kayaks.

Kayak vs. Canoe

Brock recommends a kayak over a canoe for three reasons:

  1. Stability
  2. Speed
  3. Rigging Opportunities

Kayaks offer more secondary stability than canoes. Meaning that when you reach the tipping boat in a kayak, it’s designed to push back, unlike a canoe.

How To Select The Right Kayak

What are you going to use the kayak for?

Before you buy a kayak, Brock recommends evaluating how frequently or infrequently you will be using the kayak.

Will you paddle a lake or pond for leisure maybe once every three months? Or do you plan on going fishing with it every chance you get?

It’s an important question you need so you don’t overspend or get a kayak that won’t hold.

RELATED: Canoe, kayak boat launch now open at BREC’s Highland Road Park


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by WAFB’s Louisiana Weekend (@louisianaweekend) on

Leisure Use Kayaks

If you only plan on using your kayak occasionally, Brock suggests a paddle kayak.

There are sit-in style kayaks where the seat in sunken into the kayak and sit-on style kayaks where the seat is elevated slightly above the boat itself.

Paddle kayaks are perfect for recreational use in lakes and ponds. They’re easy to transport and store.

And most importantly, they’re more affordable than the more sophisticated fishing kayaks.

If you want a good kayak that will keep you comfortable no matter what you’re doing, Brock recommends the Tarpon 120 from Wilderness Systems.

“It’s a boat that’s been around for a long time and has really evolved into a great paddling boat. And it still gives you the opportunity to fish, if you like.”

Leisure Use Kayaks

Advanced Use Kayaks

If you plan on spending a lot of time out on the water, like for fishing, Brock recommends a sit-on style pedal kayak.

He says a comfortable seat is crucial. “You don’t want to be getting off the water with a backache every time. You’re also going to want a seat that keeps you dry.”

A pedal drive kayak keeps you dry because you don’t have to move a paddle in and out of the water. It also allows you to go faster on the water.

RELATED: Denham Springs man hikes 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail

Advanced Use Kayaks
Advanced Use Kayaks

Kayaks That Are Perfect For Fishing

Brock knows a thing or two about fishing out of a kayak. Two years ago, he won the Ride The Bull kayak fishing tournament in 2016 at age 16, by catching a whopping 34.56-pound bull redfish.

Brock fishes out of a Hobie Outback, which has the Hobie MirageDrive pedal system.  The Hobie MirageDrive features forward and reserve motion and can go 3 to 4 mph on the water.

Hobie’s other fishing kayak model is the Pro Angler. The Pro Angler is larger than the Outback and has more storage space. It also allows you to stand up and fish from the kayak.

MUST-HAVES No Matter What Kayaks You Have

No matter what kayak you end up buying, there’s something you MUST have on your boat. You are required by law to have a life jacket on your kayak.

However, the folks at The Backpacker ALWAYS recommend you wear a life jacket when you’re out on the water.

Pack PLENTY of water to drink. “It’s 90-100 degrees in the summer. A lot of people don’t realize it but you’re exercising when you’re out on the water. You’re expending a lot of energy and you really need to replenish.”

Another safety item Brock recommends is a visibility flag on your kayak. The flag allows for other boats to see you on the water and prevents collisions.

Many visibility flags come with a 360-degree light. “It is required that kayaks have a 360-degree light on the vessel. It doesn’t always have to be mounted but we do recommend keeping it on a pole,” Brock said.

The Backpacker staff also recommends you wear sunglasses, a hat,  quick dry clothing, sunscreen while out on the water. It also doesn’t hurt to pack some bug spray, especially if you’re fishing in the marsh.

RELATED: Wake up for a SUP ride and a sunrise

How Can I Try Before I Buy?

The Backpacker is a sponsor of BREC’s Sunset Paddles and Paddle Up programs, which are really affordable and fun way to see if kayaking is for you. It’s also a great way to meet other people who are passionate about the outdoors. If you’ve never kayaked before, BREC instructors can give you teach everything you need to know about kayaking. You’ll be confidently paddling in no time.

If you already know you want to buy a kayak you can stop by The Backpacker in Baton Rouge or give them a call to request a kayak demo. A Backpacker staff will meet up with you and a kayak at a local body of water, like the University Lakes.

The Backpacker, (225) 925-266, is located at 7656 Jefferson Hwy, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. Or you can visit their website

How To Select The Right Kayak
A view from a kayak during one of BREC’s Sunset Paddles on the University Lakes.

Kayaks Are Worth It

Kayaks offer outdoor enthusiasts the independence to enjoy the water. They’re affordable, easy to transport, and can be customized for a leisure paddler or hardcore fisherman.

With a kayak, you can paddle a small local pond or fish in the ocean. The opportunities are endless.

Even though Brock has already won a major fishing title, he has no plans to stay onshore for too long.

“Kayaking has given me a lot of opportunities.

I’ve been able to meet a lot of great people, made a lot of great friends, and it’s given me a lot of memories over the years.

I think I’ll kayak for the rest of life,” Brock said.

You can see more of Brock’s kayaking adventures on his YouTube Channel or visit him at The Backpacker.

RELATED: BREC Outdoor Adventure announces Fall 2018 activity lineup

Once You Have A Kayak…

Once you have a kayak, check out these great, accessible spots around Baton Rouge.

And if you’re looking for some good kayak fishing check out:


Other recreation spots to check out:

Click Here To See More Outdoor Stories