To Tandem or Not…That is the Question

A Pro/Con comparison between Tandem and Single Kayaks

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard the phrase “I want to buy a tandem so that I can either paddle alone or with my…” only to find that after a few trips, that same person actually finds themselves paddling alone the majority of the time. So what now? Should I have bought a single kayak? Should I keep my tandem and buy single kayak? Should I have simply bought two single kayaks? Can I convert my tandem into a single? The answers: probably, good option, depends and possibly….

As simple as it may sound, choosing between a single or tandem kayak has caused many headaches and in some cases heartaches. Yes, heartaches. It’s an awkward feeling when you’re standing there in front of a couple arguing on whether or not to buy two kayaks or a tandem. Most of the time, one is concerned about money or the fear of paddling alone while the other simply wants the freedom to do what they want, when they want. Either way, it’s hard to pin point who is wrong or right because every situation is unique. So instead of immersing myself into the debate (which I have been known to do) let’s talk about the pros and cons of each option.

Feel Free Corona Tandem Kayak

Tandem Kayaks
Pros – They’re a great way to spend quality time together with a friend, significant other or children. You’ll be engaged in conversation and will get to share the overall experience. Once you get the hang of it, paddling in sync will be efficient and in some cases quicker and if one person tires out, the other can continue on.  While some tandem kayaks can be more expensive than similar single models, you’ll still spend less than you would if you bought two single kayaks.

Cons – The biggest issue seems to be lack of freedom. You run into the situation where one person prefers to paddle in a particular direction while the other may be completely opposed of it. On a similar note, the blame game is also a common occurrence, which basically means the other person is always doing the wrong thing and of course it’s never you (wink, wink). Then of course there is the simple fact that if you want to paddle alone, this can be a little bit cumbersome in some tandem kayaks. Not only will you have a kayak that is off balance, it can be a little harder to control and potentially unsafe. Cargo space can be limiting when paddling with two passengers and last but not least, if you plan to fish on a tandem, well, just make sure you don’t hook each other.

Native Watercraft Manta Ray 12 Single Kayak

Single Kayaks
Pros – FREEDOM to go where you want and when you want. With a single kayak, you have complete control and that alone speaks volumes. You’ll enjoy an argument free paddling experience and always have the option to kayak when nobody else is available. Your kayak is typically lighter so it can be easier to handle when loading and unloading alone. If you like fishing, solo kayaks can be the perfect setup and allows better access to more cargo space for your gear.

Cons – If you have a young child that is not quite ready to paddle on their own single kayaks may not be the way to go. While many do paddle with children in their laps, its not efficient and depending on conditions may not be safe. You may lose an opportunity to bond with your co-paddler. While some prefer paddling alone, most kayakers seem to enjoy the company when paddling tandem. Finally, if you wanted to share the paddling experience with someone else, you’ll obviously need to get two single kayaks, which will result spending more than you would if you just bought a tandem kayak.

Wilderness Systems Pamlico 145T Tandem Kayak with Solo/Tandem Conversion
Hobie Odyssey Deluxe Tandem Kayak with "Jump Seat"

Best of Both Worlds – Tandem to Solo Conversion Kayaks
Nowadays, most of the tandem kayaks available are capable of converting into solos with movable seats and some even have a “jump seat” molded into the kayak. For example, the Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T or 145T both offer true tandem to solo arrangements while the Hobie Odyssey Deluxe Tandem has a molded seat area that can be used by a single paddler or junior crew member.

Pros – The ideal kayak for those who want to enjoy tandem or solo paddling. In some cases, depending on the model and capacity, a 3rd person (usually a child) can sit in the middle position. Also exhibits the same Pros as the standard tandems.

Cons – Depending on the model, the center position may be a bit uncomfortable if only using the molded in seat. Also exhibits the same Cons as the standard tandems.

So there you have it. Like any decision there will be pros and cons (as well as opinions) so it’s just a matter of weighing the options in order to determine which one best suits your needs. Everyone’s scenario is different but if your budget allows, I personally suggest that you get a tandem kayak along with a single. This way you can enjoy a day out on the water with the family or venture into the wild on your own.

Roland J.

School’s Out! Now What? Take the family paddling, that’s what!

Generate fun filled memories that will last a lifetime!

May is one of my favorite months of the year, complete with great weather, good fishing and now that I have a child in grade school, a time to celebrate another school year passed. My daughter is 6 now and it occurred to me that I have yet to really get her immersed into to the world of paddling and what better time than now! It’s easy to want to get away as paddling provides an almost Zen like experience for those wanting to get away from it all. However, nothing compares to the enjoyment and satisfaction a person gets from spending quality time with their kids, nieces, nephews or grandkids in the great outdoors. For most folks, school is either out or preparing to let loose so now is the time to start planning your next family adventure.

Bending Branches Kids Splash Kayak Paddle

Before you head out here are a few tips that may help you experience a safer more enjoyable trip. Start by deciding on using tandem (two person) or single kayaks. This really depends on a lot of factors such as personal preference, water and weather conditions and location but generally speaking if the child can swim, make sound decisions and is strong enough to get a kayak moving, they are probably ready to paddle their own boat. Despite what many adults think, even younger children are fully capable of paddling too. Through my own experiences, I’ve seen children get the hang of paddling quicker than a lot of adults. Paddling can come natural to younger folks because they focus more on going as opposed to making sure they are doing it correctly. So why not get them a paddle that is designed for kids? The key is in finding a paddle with a smaller diameter shaft such as the Bending Branches Kids Splash complete with graphics kids will appreciate. With smaller hands, they’ll have an easier time grasping the paddle. Whether paddling in tandem or on single kayaks, letting kids take control (even if it means that you have to work a little harder) you’ll keep them engaged and will keep them from getting bored.

NRS Vista Youth PFD Life Vest

Speaking of bored, whether 6 or 14 years old, children and teenagers need to be stimulated with experiences that will keep them focused on enjoying the great outdoors. If you plan to go on a 2+ hour paddling trip, it may seem like eternity to a child that is thinking about what the neighborhood kids are up to or teenagers itching to check their text messages. First off, leave their hand held video games at home and instead think of activities that will keep them excited about the next trip. Take a rod and reel and do a little kayak fishing or play a wildlife watching game and reward the person that can spot the most critters with a prize at the end of the trip. If weather and location permits, take periodic breaks to go swimming. And of course, make sure you have plenty of drinks and snacks!

Next you’ll want to make sure everyone is properly outfitted with a Personal Flotation Device or PFD. The number of lives that could have been saved if a person was wearing a PFD is staggering and keep in mind that children under the age of 13 are required by law to wear one at all times while on any watercraft. Make sure you utilize a PFD that is designed with children in mind such as the NRS Vista Youth PFD Life Vest. Planning to take infants? Consider the Stohlquist’s Nemo Infant Life Vest, which has unique wrap-around flotation that turns a child face up in the water. Key point to take-away here though is that a PFD is only as good as the adult that fits it on a child and educates them on what to do if a boat is capsized. In fact, before you launch and if conditions are appropriate, conduct a few tests in shallow water. Have all children get in the water with their vests and advise them on how to keep their heads out of the water.

NRS Guardian Kayak Rescue Throw Bag

Participating in any outdoor adventure with children and teenagers introduces some new dynamics. For instance if you were to capsize, its not just about you anymore, you’ll need to think fast to ensure that everyone is quickly accounted for. If you feel that you’ll be paddling fast moving or rough waters, consider carrying a throw bag with you. If see that a child or anyone for that matter is struggling you can try and assist by throwing the rope their way to help pull them back to shore. Another product you should always have attached to your PFD when paddling is a safety whistle. If conditions are rough or if it is after dark, a whistle can be a lifesaver. River or Dive knives are also handy for a situation where you or someone else gets caught up on a bungee or rope.

Outdoor Research Rambler Sombrero Sun Hat for Kids

Make sure you children are wearing proper attire too. I’ve personally seen many kids get on a canoe or kayak wearing jeans on a hot summer day. Not only are they prone to heat stroke, if they do happen to fall in the water, movement is limited. This is true for adults too! Additionally, kids have sensitive skin. Aside from applying sunscreen, outfit them with apparel that offers protection from harmful sun rays such as NRS Kids HydroSilk Long Sleeve Rashguard shirts and Outdoor Research Rambler Sombrero Sun Hat for Kids. And of course, always keep yourself and everyone else hydrated. Sure you’ll end up with a few more pit stops but at least you’ll have some peace of mind!

Finally, do your best to prepare for any situation you may encounter. Start by creating an emergency plan of action. Create a “what if” checklist. Perform an off the water orientation by detailing what to do in case of an emergency. Pick a spot to meet if you should get separated. Identify specific tasks for the older kids to do and a develop a buddy system that pairs adults with younger paddlers. The chances of encountering an emergency situation are slim but it’s always best to be prepared!

So there you have it, a few tips that will help generate fun filled memories that will last a lifetime and will help beg the question, “when are we going paddling again?” Let us know if you have any tips you’d like to share by commenting below.

Have fun and be safe!