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Revisiting the Issue of Tandem Kayaks

Without a doubt, the most controversial blog post I’ve ever written is the post about “10 Things to Consider When Purchasing A Tandem.” That was over 7 years ago, but the number of comments has been staggering and people still continue to read and comment.  At times, I’ve been misinterpreted and accused of being “anti-tandem”, so I think I need to once again summarize the pros and cons of purchasing a tandem kayak.  For more explanation of these points, you will do well to go and read the original post and all the numerous comments that follow.


  • Allows two paddlers to combine their paddling strengths.
  • Keeps two paddlers of disparate strength together.
  • Allows one paddler to take a rest (or take photos) while the other paddles.
  • Typically, more stable than solo sea kayaks (but there are exceptions to this).
  • Works well on the water for situations like parent/child, paddlers with physical challenges, or partners who really don’t want to paddle anyway.
  • Can be a good way to introduce a beginner to the sport when paired with an experienced paddler in the boat.
  • Keeps the paddlers closer together for conversation, although the front paddler often has to turn around in order to be heard by the rear paddler.



  • Tandems are heavy to lift and carry.  You can’t break it into two trips like you can with two solo boats. 
  • Harder to sell than solo kayaks.
  • Harder to rescue after a capsize as the boat can be quite heavy in the water.
  • Limits the opportunities to paddle if your partner doesn’t want to go out paddling with you.
  • Makes it harder to develop certain kayaking skills like edging, bracing, and rolling, among others.
  • Not necessarily cheaper than buying two kayaks, although it can be in certain cases.
  • A rudder is highly recommended for a tandem which will add cost over solo kayaks without rudders.
  • For camping – two solo touring kayaks will generally have more storage space than one tandem, although the tandem may have larger hatch openings to accommodate larger individual items of gear.


Happy Paddling!



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