If you don’t like to paddle alone, or if your spouse or significant other isn’t comfortable paddling their own boat, consider a tandem kayak. Tandem kayaks are larger, of course, and more expensive, and harder to paddle solo. But, like a bicycle built for two, tandem boats can be lots of fun, too.
On the plus side, tandem kayaks are a versatile beast. They have lots of storage room, they can be paddled solo in a pinch, and they’re great for teaching a child or a beginning adult kayaker the ropes. And you won’t have the worry of watching a less skilled companion going ahead of you into rapids in a solo kayak.
And if you’re a beginner yourself, there’s not better way to learn the ropes than to share a tandem kayak with a more experienced partner. Paddle for a few months in a tandem with a good paddler, and you’ll be ready to go it alone with confidence and the skills necessary to keep up.
Now it goes without saying that a tandem arrangement will only work if both parties get along and can work well as a team. Nothing’s worse on the water than two paddling companions that are constantly bickering about where to go and how to get there. And kids need to understand that the adult in the boat will be making the important decisions and leading the way.
Another consideration with tandem kayaks is the fact that they’re heavier and less suited for spur-of-the moment paddling runs. And they’re less nimble and maneuverable in rapids, holes, and other whitewater situations. On the plus side, tandem boats make great fishing platforms, and if you go solo, there’s lots of extra room for your fishing gear in the extra cockpit.
If you’re not in the best of physical condition, a tandem can be a good choice. With a tandem kayak, you can let your partner carry the load at times, and visa versa. This is especially helpful during long excursions over open water, or when a nasty headwind or a squall rises up out of nowhere. And if for some reason you get injured or sick during the trip, it’s a lot easier to get out of the backcountry in a tandem than trying to tow out a single boat.
So all in all, a tandem kayak might be the right choice. Just assess your needs – both now and in the future – consult with your spouse or partner, and then take a tandem for a test drive to see if it’s a right fit for you.