Tandem kayaks are just kayaks that have two seats instead of the standard one seat. A kayak with one seat, of course, is known as an individual kayak, or often, just a kayak. 

Tandem kayaks offer several advantages over individual kayaks, including, often, a heavier and sturdier build that makes them more conducive to activities like fishing. They’re also more conducive to social leisure kayaking as both kayakers can paddle together or one kayaker can take over in the instance that one kayaker wants a break. 

That said, tandem kayaks are not for everyone. Let’s explore a little more to see whether an individual or tandem kayak is better-suited for you.

What is a Tandem Kayak?

A tandem kayak is designed for two people. Most modern, inflatable kayaks have two dedicated, adjustable seats so that both paddlers are comfortable. The Kokopelli Platte-Plus is a two person inflatable kayak with two adjustable seats that can be moved forward and backwards to accommodate a wide range of people.

Tandem kayaks are often both longer and wider than their individual counterparts so they can more effectively displace water, and therefore accommodate higher maximum weight capacities. Sometimes, for this reason, people who are looking for a kayak with a higher weight capacity choose to buy a tandem kayak to, for instance, load it up with gear and supplies. 

Tandem kayaks vary in their construction. Some are made up of polyethylene or kevlar. Others, like our Moki II inflatable tandem kayak, are made up of high-strength PVC and Nylon.

Benefits of Tandem Kayaks

1. You Can Kayak With a Pal

Need we say more? While some people prefer the control of being the Captain of their own ship, others, who are more social, prefer kayaking with a buddy. If you fall into the latter camp, a tandem kayak could be perfect for you! Tandem kayaks are the preferred choice of many families – especially those with young children – as they can take one along with them and when the kids inevitably get tuckered out from paddling, the parent can take over!

Tandem kayaks are great for paddling with friends, your SO, or your pack of K9’s. Seriously, the best part of a tandem kayak is sharing the experience with a friend. Simple as that. They are also a fantastic choice for families with young children — they pack out well with kids toys, gear and yeah, coolers filled of “snacks…”

2. They Offer More Space & Higher Weight Limits

Some single-person kayaks have high weight limits, but the average single-person kayak accommodates maybe 250-350 pounds. By contrast, the average tandem kayak allows for about double that. Our Moki II for instance, has a 600-lb weight limit.

*More space and higher weight limits … ok… for WHAT? Show don’t tell. 

3. They’re Sturdier Which is Good for Beginners

tandem kayaks tend to be both wider and longer than single-person kayaks, and also, a bit sturdier. This makes them ideal for beginners who may be wary of getting their bearings while avoiding capsizing. 

Drawbacks of Tandem Kayaks

1. They’re Often Heavier

While our Moki II kayak is just 53 pounds thanks to being inflatable, most tandem kayaks weigh somewhere between 65-85 pounds. Individual kayaks often weigh 20-35 pounds, for comparison’s sake.

2. They Can Be More Cumbersome to Paddle Solo

Tandem kayaks, because of the seat placement, can sometimes feel wonky to paddle alone. Think about driving a laden vs. unladen moving van. When it’s full, it drives more stably than when the cab is empty. When the cab is empty, it “wanders” a bit. 

The same is true for kayaks…if you’re a single person in a tandem kayak, unless there’s adjustability to where one seat can go very close to the middle, the center of gravity and weight distribution will be off, making the paddling experience less-than-optimal. 

That said, some people do find the experience enjoyable, and in the right tandem kayak, paddling solo can provide more weight capacity and space for gear.

3. There’s Often a Learning Curve to Paddle In Sync

Paddling a tandem kayak with a buddy can be great. But knocking oars is all too real, especially for beginners. In other words, it can take a little getting used to learning how to paddle in sync with a kayaking partner. 

Once you both learn what your doing (which shouldn’t take too long with the right training), you’ll be home free! Still this is something worth noting.

How to Choose the Ideal Tandem Kayak

As Julien of Exploration Junkie notes in the piece “Choosing A Tandem Kayak: All You Need To Know”, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to picking the perfect tandem kayak. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I need an inflatable kayak to save space and make storage easier, or would I prefer a kayak with a more traditional build that’s heavier?
  • How will I be using the kayak: for recreational paddling around lakes and rivers, or more intense sessions, such as navigating Class IV and V Rapids?
  • How much space will I require inside my kayak? What features am I looking for (adjustable seats, extra-strength materials, splash decks, etc)?
  • Do I prefer the feel of a sit-on-top or a sit-inside kayak? Sit-on-top kayaks are often more “blue-water” capable, meaning they can handle rougher water or even ocean water and activities like Scuba diving. Sit-inside kayaks are better for recreational kayaking.
  • What weight capacity do I need for all passengers and gear?

Shop Kokopelli Kayaks

Interested in finding your perfect kayak now? Check out our Lake Series Kayaks now. 

Want help deciding between options? Here’s our kayak comparison guide, for easy reference. You can also take our quiz “Which boat is right for me?”.
April 28, 2023 — Kokopelli Outdoor