If you’re an adrenaline junkie and love all sorts of intrepid adventures, then whitewater kayaking might be just the thing for you. Whitewater kayaking takes water sports to a whole new and thrilling level. That said, as compared to other paddling activities, whitewater kayaking is much more complicated and dangerous, for that matter. So, mistakes are one thing you cannot afford d in whitewater. This is why one of the best things to do is to invest in proper kayaks. The best whitewater kayaks, including brands such as Dagger, Jackson, and Perception whitewater kayaks go a long way in introducing you to the sport and helping you navigate the waters expertly.
With so many brands of whitewater boats to choose from, it’s natural that the choosing process is daunting and intimidating. Luckily, we’ve laid out a handy guide for you, as well as listed some of the best ones in business. To that end, here the 13 best whitewater kayaks, including those from Dagger, Jackson, Perception, and more.
How To Choose The Best Whitewater Kayaks?
One of the most important aspects of choosing a whitewater boat is the design of the hull. Basically, there are two kinds of whitewater canoe hulls – a displacement and a planing hull. Displacement hulls have ruined sections that cut into the water, thus allowing you to pick up speed. The only drawback is that they are slightly less maneuverable. Planing hulls, on the other hand, have flat surfaces that add to their maneuverability and agility. However, they’re not designed for speed.
Chine is the section of the hull that sits beneath the waterline and greatly influences how a kayak is handled. It also features two kinds, soft and hard chine. Kayaks with soft chines feature rounded hulls that add to their stability. However, they’re slightly less maneuverable. Hard chines, meanwhile, have rigid and define contours and offer better agility and control. But, they tend to catch on to obstacles and overbalance the boat. In the end, it’s a decision between what factor is more important to you.
The rocker is the kayaks upward tilt at the stern and the bow. The more rocker a boat has, the more maneuverable it is. The lesser or flatter the rocker, the more speed a kayak can pick up, along with better tracking. The more the rockeries, the more maneuverable the kayak is. Essentially, kayaks with a higher rocker can navigate obstacles and rapids with greater ease. Also, they right the kayak more easily after it lands unsteadily post running a drop.
One of the biggest challenges while whitewater kayaking is that water enters the kayak immediately and at all times. No matter how expert a whitewater kayaker you are, water will enter the kayak at all times. So, look for self-bailing kayaks that feature scupper holes. Basically, they’re holes at the bottom of the kayak that drain the water that enters the kayak immediately. Hence, scupper holes allow you to focus solely on the kayaking process and not get worried.
Weight and portability
Finally, one of the biggest considerations for whitewater boats, and others too, is their weight and portability. For instance, the Jackson Kayak Rock Star 4.0 is one of the most lightweight of Jackson whitewater kayaks, weighing just between 27 and 34 lbs. The same goes for Perception Pescador Pro, yet another of the excellent Perception whitewater kayaks. Lightweight kayaks are not only easily portable but also won’t give you back pain every time you lift them. If you can, go for foldable kayaks.
Which is the most lightweight whitewater kayak?
The winner here is clear – it’s the convertible, heavy-duty Solstice Rogue Whitewater Kayak, which weighs a mere 24 lbs! Despite that weight, it boasts a weight capacity of 360 lbs, making it an excellent overall lightweight kayak. Besides a durable build, the kayak also has two adjustable seats, a rigid floor for stability, a rear spray for staying dry, and Boston compression valves for easy inflation and deflation.
Dagger Katana 10.4
An excellent whitewater boat is the Dagger Katana 10.4. Not only is it one of the Best River Fishing Kayaks, but also it’s amongst the best Dagger whitewater kayaks too. The sit-inside kayak is extremely spacious and even has a ton of storage space. Think reinforced hatches and removable bulkheads, which offer storage space for everything from tents and sleeping bags to smaller gear. Moreover, it also features a very spacious cockpit, just like Jackson whitewater kayaks. So, you can twist, turn and move as much as you want, and you won’t feel constricted. What’s more, the boat even boasts a balanced rocker profile, lending you both the maneuverability and the speed you need in whitewater.
Furthermore, the flared and beveled sidewalls and the well-designed Hull of the kayak lend it oodles of stability. Additionally, the rounded stern sheds water quickly, allowing it to cut across speedily in the water. At the same time, the drop-down rear skeg keeps the kayak paddling straight and true, especially in calm water. It’s no wonder that this Dagger whitewater kayak is also amongst the Best Crossover Kayaks.
- Length: 10 feet 4 inches
- Width: 27.25 inches
- Weight: 56 lbs
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs
- Tons of storage space.
- Perfect for all kinds of waters, including whitewater.
- The protruding screws in the bow can easily tear a dry bag.
- Easy to lose bulkhead nuts.
Perception Carolina 12
One of the best Perception whitewater kayaks is the Perception Carolina 12. The long, long Crossover kayak, despite its size, isn’t difficult to transport either. There are a lot of things to like about the sit-inside Carolina 12, starting with an ergonomically-designed seat. What’s more, it even comes with a padded bottom and back, both of which are adjustable. Plus, the seat can not only be adjusted front and back but also up and down. During winters, you can even add one of the Best Kayaking Sprayskirts for keeping you dry and thus, warm.
What’s great about this kayak is the two sealed dry storage hatches. The larger rear one can even hold tents and sleeping bags. The frontal smaller one can hold many deck bags as well. Additionally, you’ll even find bungee rigging at the bow and stern for stashing extra gear. It’s no wonder that this Perception whitewater kayak is such a favorite with kayakers and paddlers on whitewater.
- Length: 12 ft.
- Width: 26 inches
- Weight: 49 lbs
- Weight capacity: 275 lbs
- The side grab handles are useful for getting in and out.
- Ergonomic and comfortable seats.
- Spacious cockpit.
- Reliable tracking with an easy-to-adjust skeg.
Dagger Katana 9.7
Yet another of the excellent Dagger whitewater kayaks is the stable and sturdy Dagger Katana 9.7, which has one of the most ergonomic constructions on whitewater boats ever, and not just on this list. The kayak features a balanced profile that allows for speeding up in flat water, as well as extreme maneuverability on the rapids. Moreover, it boasts immense stability as a combination of both initial and secondary stability. This is all thanks to the beveled and flared sidewalls of the kayak, as well as the precise hull design. If you’re a whitewater paddler, then you’ll especially appreciate the rounded stern deck that allows the boat to shed water easily, thus cutting across it with agility.
Apart from the great amounts of storage, the nimble, lightweight, and stable kayak also has a rather spacious cockpit. Going further, you’ll also find a good amount of legroom, which is a blessing in a whitewater canoe, and that too this one which feels quite short at 9.7 feet. Rounding up its features on this Dagger whitewater kayak is the leg lifter, the padding on the seats and back, pads on the hips, and the ergo seating system.
- Length: 9 ft. 7 inches
- Width: 27.25 inches
- Weight: 50 lbs
- Weight capacity: 210 lbs
- Ergonomic seats.
- Spacious cockpit.
- Balanced profile.
- Lots of storage.
- Not suitable for those with a heftier body or longer legs.
One of the best whitewater kayaks is the heavy-duty and convertible Solstice Rogue. This canoe has the ability and the agility to cut through even the choppiest and harshest of whitewater smoothly. Made from 26G K80 material complete with radio frequency-welded seams, you can see why this boat holds up so well in whitewater. What makes it extremely comfortable for two kayakers is the two adjustable seats with rear spray so you won’t be splashed with water from the river incessantly. What’s more, the three inflatable chambers and the rigid I-beam floor make the kayak both extremely maneuverable and stable as well.
But, that’s not all. The kayak also boasts convenient Boston compression valves, so you can inflate and deflate it within a matter of minutes. The Rogue is also suitable for rough-tough fishing trips thanks to the two flush-mounted rod holders, the stand-up leash, as well as the non-slip standing pad. Rounding up the features is the removable electronic and sonar pod for fishing as well as the 360-degree coverage on the lures.
- Length: 10.6 feet
- Width: 33 inches
- Weight: 24 lbs
- Weight capacity: 360 lbs
- Adjustable and comfortable seats with spray covers.
- Does not have self-draining valves or scuppers.
Dagger Kayak Mamba 8.6
Yet another of the excellent Dagger whitewater kayaks is the inimitable and matchless Dagger Mamba 8.6 Sit-Inside Creeker. The kayak is especially and particularly well-known for its legendary forgiving rolling, which is a better and upgraded version of the original Mamba that was launched in 2005. Coming to the Mamba 8.6, it’s the largest of the three sizes in the Mamba lineup. The kayak boasts a ton of positives, such as the rotomolded seat as well as the additional length and volume for greater seating comfort. The icing on the cake is the extra stern volume that keeps the kayak floating in a slightly elevated position. So, the ends of the Mamba stay clear of grabby eddylines and dragging water.
The nifty kayak also ends up distributing your weight across the seat evenly, thanks to the thigh braces and hip pads, thus allowing for complete control of your movements. Also, the Mamba 8.6 comes with a whole lot of upgrades such as the extra safety bars that make dragging and carrying the boat easy and the in-molded stern foam wall for stability. Overall, the Dagger Mamba is one excellent Dagger whitewater kayak to buy if you want to be able to explore all kinds of waters.
- Length: 8.5 feet
- Width: 27.5 inches
- Weight: 51 lbs
- Weight capacity: 260 lbs
- Additional comfort and safety features.
- Spacious and voluminous.
- Well-designed, versatile kayak.
- Very heavy.
Yet another of the excellent Perception whitewater kayaks is the Perception Prodigy XS. This one is perfect for all those kayakers who weigh less than 150 lbs and are less than 5.5 feet in height and need a lighter and smaller kayak. Weighing just 26 lbs and measuring a mere 10 feet in length, the Perception Prodigy XS is the right low-cost choice for a smaller sit-inside whitewater boat. made from proprietary High-Density Polyethylene material, the kayak boasts a leak-proof construction that makes it extremely durable and rugged.
Besides this, the Perception whitewater kayak comes with a whole lot of features. These include the drain plugs at the stern, the adjustable seat and backrest for maximum lumbar support, and leg padding on the coaming. The foam is also positioned in the middle, allowing a paddler to rest their legs on the adjustable footrests. Rounding up the features is the bungees in the front for light gear as well as the corded carrying handle at the stern and the bow.
- Length: 10 feet
- Width: 23 inches
- Weight: 26 lbs
- Weight capacity: 150 lbs
- An excellent option for beginners.
- Come with drain plugs.
- The cockpit doesn’t accommodate taller people, especially their legs.
Aire Outfitter I Inflatable Whitewater Kayak
One of the most stable boats on this list is from the AIRE brand – the Aire Outfitter I Inflatable Whitewater Kayak. The well-built, spacious, and sprawling inflatable kayak is capable of handling classes of rough whitewater rapids. What whitewater paddlers will really like about the boat is its lower center of gravity due to the lower seat positioning. It’s what lends it n-water maneuverability, letting you ride the rapids with ease and making it one of the stablest whitewater canoes in the market. What’s more, the combination of the 1100D reinforced PVC and urethane air cells contribute greatly to the kayak’s ruggedness, ensuring resistance to wear-and-tear.
Thanks to the larger tube diameter, the stability is further enhanced. That along with the equally enhanced storage capacity and a comfy cheetah chair with a cargo pocket makes it comfortable for the paddler to sit on it for long hours without discomfort. Besides a weight capacity of 400 lbs, you’ll even find 12 sets of cargo loops for attaching a ton of extra gear, making this the perfect heavy-duty kayak for a professional whitewater savant such as you.
- Length: 9.9 feet
- Width: 40 inches
- Weight: 36 lbs
- Weight capacity: 400 lbs
- Excellent rigidity and stability.
- Lightweight and portable.
- Doesn’t have too many extras.
STAR Raven II Tandem Inflatable Kayak
Another of the best whitewater kayaks is the STAR Raven II Tandem Inflatable Kayak, a rugged, durable, and hard-wearing kayak that leaves nothing to the imagination. For one, it boasts of a self-bailing drop-stitch floor, which means that any water that enters the kayak exits it immediately, leaving you to focus just on the road, or rather the water head. Plus, the insert even inflates to a rigid 8-10 psi, thus lending the kayak stability as well. Going further, the kayak comes with two folding seats that provide a stable and comfy ride for two adult paddlers. Meanwhile, the sleek and continuous curve tubes are what keep the boat extremely maneuverable in whitewater as well.
Made from advanced formula PVC material with state-of-the-art seam welding technology, the kayak is resistant to abrasions, scratches, and punctures. Adding to its durability are the top-quality Leafield C7 valves that also ensure that inflation and deflation are a hassle-free procedure. Moreover, the adjustable seats attach quickly to the D-rings, so even setting up the kayak, as well as folding and storing it is an easy task. Finally, the extra hook and loop fasteners fasten themselves to the floor and keep the seat in a solid and upright position.
- Length: 12.2 feet
- Width: 38 inches
- Weight: 38 lbs
- Weight capacity: 400 lbs
- Bow and stern carrying handles.
- High-pressure drop-stitch floor.
- Comes with a carry bag, pump, and repair kit.
- Three-year retail limited warranty.
- Paddles slow.
Dagger Kayak Zydeco 9.0
One of the best dagger whitewater kayaks is the Dagger Kayaks Zydeco 9.0, which is also one amazingly portable and comfortable crossover kayak. There’s a ton of things that’s impressive about this kayak – it can be handled easily by a single person, it’s lightweight, and it’s compact! What’s more, it even packs down small for a kayak, and can easily fit even in a trunk of a hatchback! Since it’s a crossover kayak, it can handle both flatwater as well as moderate levels of whitewater well, making it the perfect starter kayak for anyone who’s new to whitewater paddling. The best part? The dialed-in cockpit design is spacious and yet doesn’t skimp on performance.
Going further, the kayak’s shorter length allows greater control for twisty movements, especially when you want to turn around in your boat. Aside from being an inexpensive kayak, the Zydeco 9.0 even boasts a ton of additional features such as elastic rope with tensioner and slide lock feet. Just like the best Perception whitewater kayaks, it boasts a super-sleek look that looks fabulous, while being a value-for-money buy at the same time.
- Length: 9.1 feet
- Width: 28.5 inches
- Weight: 36.5 lbs
- Weight capacity: 220 lbs
- Comfortable and spacious.
- Limited storage.
One of the best Perception whitewater kayaks for entry-level whitewater rafters is the Perception Drift. Offering a decent combination of quality, comfort, and stability without breaking the bank, the Drift, as the name suggests, is perfect for slower-moving rivers and gushing waters. Made from the brand’s proprietary high-density polyethylene, the craft is as durable and rugged as it gets. It features a whole lot of features, such as the molded carrying handles for easy transportation at the bow. You’ll also find bungee paddle parks for quickly stowing your paddles.
A molded dashboard with a large cup holder allows you to even sip on your favorite beverage when the waters are on the calmer side. The dashboard even features two inserts for mounts that allow you to even insert the Best Fishing Rod Holders or even the Best GPS Kayaking Units. One of the best Perception whitewater kayaks even on this list, this one is a must-buy for novice paddlers.
- Length: 9.5 feet
- Width: 28.5 inches
- Weight: 40 lbs
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs
- Excellent tracking.
- Good storage options.
- Easy to transport.
- No knee pads.
- No dry storage.
Dagger Axis 12.0
With extra chine and a larger waterline, the Dagger Axis 12.0 is one of the best overall Dagger whitewater kayaks. The craft cuts through the water with surprising agility and speed thanks to the height-adjustable drop-down skeg. It also makes tracking in a straight line an effortless task. Not only is it maneuverable in class I and II whitewater rapids, but it’s also great to paddle on gently cruising flat water. What’s more, the cockpit also has lots of room for stretching your legs, especially for taller and heftier paddlers. Plus, the seat is extremely adjustable for longer journeys, making them comfortable. If that wasn’t enough, the side-locking foot braces and knee and thigh pads provide additional comfort and support.
Since this is a long-use kayak, the large hatch storage and the bulkhead offer tons of space for storing all your gear. The cockpit cover and the mesh deck bungee are excellent for attaching extra kayak accessories to put them within easy reach. Rounding up the Dagger whitewater kayak’s features is the paddle park, which is perfect for stashing your paddles in case you want to go hands-free.
- Length: 12 ft.
- Width: 27.5 inches
- Weight: 55 lbs
- Weight capacity: 350 lbs
- Comfortable cockpit and seat setup.
- Tons of storage.
- An excellent speed with good tracking.
- Not maneuverable in class 3 rapids or higher.
Advanced Elements Attack Whitewater Kayak
occupying the second position on this list is the Advanced Elements Attack Whitewater Kayak, which is also amongst the Best Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks ever. The highly rugged and durable craft stays durable, robust, and resilient against the strongest and harshest of whitewater. Weighing just 33 lbs, the kayak sports a wide, wide width of 35 inches and thus has very good stability even on rapids. So, it’s easily maneuverable as well. Made from 840 D PVC tarpaulin, the craft is all the more robust, strong, and more importantly, long-lasting. Thanks to all the space in the stern cargo hold, you can take along all your gear without leaving anything behind. Since the hatch is also watertight, you can stash even electronic devices without worrying about them getting wet.
Going further, the independent PVC bladders add to the kayak’s thickness, while the self-bailing ports help drain any and all water that enters the craft. Overall, this is one well-designed kayak that’s perfect for taking on even the strongest class III and class IV rapids.
- Length: 9.5 feet
- Width: 35 inches
- Weight: 33 lbs
- Weight capacity: 225 lbs
- The rear cargo area is a dry space for storing sensitive gear such as sleeping bags and electronic devices.
- Made from 840D PVC tarpaulin.
- None, really.
Sevylor Big Basin 3
Sitting atop the list of the very best whitewater kayaks is the Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak, which can easily hold its own against the very best of Jackson whitewater kayaks, a brand with some of the very best kayaks in the market. Not only is it amongst the Best Under $700 Fishing Kayaks, but also it’s one of the few whitewater kayaks that can fit three adults. Basically, it’s an excellent craft for people who’re looking for more surface while navigating rushing and gushing waters. Made from tough, rugged, and heavy-duty PVC tarpaulin, the craft is resistant to abrasions, scratches, tears, and punctures too.
Moreover, it’s extremely stable and tracks just as well as a traditional hardshell kayak. Add to that the three air chamber build, and the kayak is virtually unsinkable, while the front and rear airtight splash guards keep you dry and comfy. In spite of weighing just 35 lbs, this kayak has a whopping weight capacity of 490 lbs! So, it’s only fitting that one of the best value-for-money kayaks for 2-3 people sits on top of this list.
- Length: 12.2 feet
- Width: 36 inches
- Weight: 41 lbs
- Weight capacity: 490 lbs
- Easy inflation and deflation.
- Integrated splash guards.
- None, really!