Best Dunham’s Kayaks For 2023

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Box stores are an excellent spot for casual paddlers to pick up a recreational kayak for a great price. Dunham’s Sporting Goods kayaks are meant for those looking to enjoy occasional outings on calm, sheltered water. Consider a Dunham’s kayak if you want to dabble in paddling but have no specific aspirations to develop your skills and progress to anything beyond quiet water and beginner conditions.

Dunham’s Sports kayaks are a good option for families, cottagers and those looking for a fun boat to take to the beach. You will find a variety of recreational kayaks at Dunham’s, including sit-on-top kayaks (with open decks for easy entry and exit), sit-inside kayaks (featuring an enclosed cockpit and deck to protect the paddler from the elements), inflatable kayaks (which are fun to paddle and easy to store in smaller places) and fishing kayaks (with features like rod holders and live wells, specific to anglers). Many are available for under $500, with all models (single and tandem) retailing for under $1,000.

Know The Local Hazards
  • Check navigation charts before you launch.
  • Check with those who have local knowledge of man-made and natural hazards, e.g. low-head dams; sweepers, strainers and undercuts; tides and currents; and rocks and shoals.

Be aware that kayaks at Dunham’s Sports aren’t high performance. While perfectly adequate for use on calm, sheltered water, these boats have serious safety limitations for use in exposed, open water. These entry level kayaks are also less refined in terms of paddling speed, maneuverability, handling and comfort. Furthermore, it’s also important to recognize that Dunham’s sales associates likely do not have the same breadth of kayaking knowledge as a dedicated paddling store.

Simply put, you get what you pay for. With all this in mind, a box store kayak from an outlet like Dunham’s Sports might be all you need. Our review of Dunham’s kayaks will provide you with the essential knowledge to select the best kayak for your paddling needs.

Top picks: Best Dunham’s kayaks for 2023

The following kayaks from Dunham’s Sports have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all Dunham’s kayaks here.

Best Dunhams Kayaks

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Kayaks: Boss 12 ss by Sun Dolphin - Image 2990
Sun Dolphin

Boss 12 ss

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Kayaks: Sound 10.5 by Perception Kayaks - Image 4487
Perception Kayaks

Sound 10.5

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Sun Dolphin

Marquette 10 Angler

Shop Now
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Sun Dolphin

Fiji 8 SS

Shop Now
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PK_19_20_Pescador_10.0_Moss_Camo_Top-first_product_boats.jpg
Perception Kayaks

Pescador 10.0

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Old Town Canoes and Kayaks

Dirigo 120

Shop for Dunham’s kayaks

There is a wide range of kayaks at Dunham’s Sports from well-known manufacturers including Pelican, Perception, Intex and Old Town. All are meant for recreational paddlers, especially families and casual paddlers looking for a budget-friendly kayak to use occasionally in sheltered water locations, such as inland lakes, ponds and quiet rivers.

The majority of Dunham’s kayaks are “hardshell” models (constructed of durable plastic), with a few Intex inflatables, which can be deflated and stored in smaller spaces but often lag behind hardshells in terms of paddling speed.

You can shop for Dunham’s sit-on-top kayaks, which have open decks that are easy to enter and exit for paddlers of all sizes and skill levels and ideal for sunny days and warm water. Most fishing kayaks sold at Dunham’s are sit-on-top models. By comparison, sit-inside kayaks sold at Dunham’s are decked (or partially decked), providing shelter from the environment—though sometimes more challenging to enter and exit due to the enclosed cockpit seating area.

The selection of Dunham’s kayaks will vary between locations in the U.S. and over the months of the year. Expect to find the best selection in the spring; late summer and fall is the best time to find Dunham’s kayaks on sale.

The links below will take you to our comprehensive Paddling Buyer’s Guide, where you’ll find every Dunham’s kayak, including specs, prices and reviews, offering an unbiased view of what’s available from this retailer.



Shopping for a used Dunham’s kayak?

Used Dunham’s kayaks are abundant on buy-and-sell websites like Craigslist, Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace. Dunham’s Sports kayaks offer great value in beginner kayaks for family fun—and many options are available in different styles and from a variety of manufacturers including Pelican, Perception, Intex and Old Town.

Your first step in making a good investment is to research the specific attributes of the make and model Dunham’s kayak you’re considering; our Paddling Buyer’s Guide is the ideal place to start. Once you’ve found a contender, consider the following advice to make a good purchase.

Overall condition

Examine the overall condition of the Dunham’s kayak. Sun damage and soft spots on the hull (apply firm pressure to all parts of the kayak to test for stiffness—it shouldn’t feel spongy) are good ways to determine a kayak’s condition. After that, examine the deck (top) and hull (bottom) for damage including deep gouges (more than 3 mm or 1/8th of an inch deep); obvious abrasion (especially if the worn areas are a different color from the rest of the kayak); and deformities (which will make the kayak paddle less efficiently).

All kayaks sold at Dunham’s are made of durable plastic that’s meant to withstand plenty of abuse; some damage is fine, so long as the shape of the kayak remains intact.

Outfitting

Cheap Dunham’s kayaks from manufacturers like Pelican often feature bare bones outfitting. Take a close look at comfort features like the seat and back rest—is it padded and supportive for your body type? Foot rests are also key to getting a good fit and paddling efficiently, and are often absent in lower-priced Dunham’s kayaks. If they’re present, make sure the foot rests are functional and not damaged by grit or sand. Some sit-inside Dunham’s kayaks are equipped with a bulkhead, a critical feature for safety and seaworthiness that will keep a swamped kayak afloat; make sure it’s solid and intact.

Outfitting is the critical interface between the paddler and kayak, including the seat, back support, thigh rests and foot rests. Often these features lack refinement in budget-priced Dunham’s kayaks. You will find more ergonomic seats and other comfort features in higher-end Dunham’s kayaks manufactured by Perception and Old Town.

Examine outfitting components individually and consider how well they work together as a whole—the easiest way to achieve this is by sitting in the boat (and ideally paddling it) to make sure it feels comfortable. Think about how long you’ll be sitting in the kayak. If it’s uncomfortable in a quick test, how will it feel after an hour? Outfitting often comes down to personal preference; there’s no one-size-fits-all.

Take a close look and consider investing in a more expensive kayak if you plan on more serious paddling. If you’re handy, outfitting is easily modified with some glue, foam and DIY time; consider any upgrades you could make to save a few bucks and get a custom fit.

Dress For Immersion, Not Air Temperature
  • Your body loses heat much faster when immersed in cold water than it does when dry.
  • Avoid cotton clothing like t-shirts and jeans; they retain water and accelerate cooling when wet. Synthetic fabrics, or wool, are generally a better choice. If the water is very cold (60° fahrenheit or less), you should wear a wetsuit or drysuit.

On the water

The only way to fully appreciate the comfort and performance of a kayak is to try it before committing to a purchase. Arrange a meeting place with the seller that allows you to take a few moments on the water. Bring your usual paddle and dress in what you plan to wear while paddling. With a sit-inside kayak, be sure to assess how easy the boat is to enter and exit.

Make a deal

In general (that is, before Covid-19 put a premium on outdoor equipment) the typical starting point for a used kayak in moderate condition was about half its retail price. All that’s changed in the wake of boat shortages brought on by the pandemic, but you can use it as a starting point in haggling a fair price.

Add some accessories

Accessories are key elements of fishing kayaks; if you want to do some kayak angling, make sure you examine features like rod holders, gear tracks and live wells.

If you’re offered a PFD as part of a used kayak sale make sure it’s in good shape, fits properly and is Coast Guard-approved for the location you’ll be paddling.

For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used kayak, read our article on How To Buy A Used Kayak.

Dunham’s kayak buying guide

Experienced paddlers live by the motto, “Try before you buy.” But it’s hard to find water within miles of most Dunham’s Sporting Goods stores, so buying a Dunham’s kayak can be a leap of faith. That being said, test paddling (the best advice for prospective kayak buyers) can be worked around—especially if you have friends who are willing to share their Dunham’s kayak with you for an outing or two. This sort of experience provides a sense of what’s available in Dunham’s kayaks; paddling also allows you to appreciate how different kayak design elements fit your body and perform.

Box stores like Dunham’s will never offer the same expertise as a dedicated paddlesports retailer. If you’re serious about paddling and want to develop your skills and invest in a hobby, you may be better off shopping elsewhere.

Education: Get Some!
  • Take a paddling safety course from the American Canoe Association (ACA), your local paddling shop or outfitter, or other reputable source.
  • Take a boating safety course from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadrons® or your own state’s boating agency.
  • Take on-the-water skills training.

As mentioned earlier, most Dunham’s kayaks make excellent budget-friendly choices for those who plan on paddling sporadically, and only in benign conditions. You’re not going to find high-end, performance kayaks at Dunham’s Sporting Goods, but this reality may fall exactly in line with your recreational paddling needs.

Still have questions? Here are expert answers to some of the most common questions about Dunham’s kayaks.

  • Dunham’s kayak return policy

    Dunham’s Sporting Goods’ standard return, refund and exchange policy applies to kayaks. A receipt dated within 60 days is required for an exchange, in-store credit or refund. The kayak must have Dunham’s ticket attached, as well as all original packaging and accessories. To be considered for a refund or exchange the kayak must be new and unused with no visible signs of wear. Defective kayaks will be exchanged or processed according to the manufacturer’s warranty. Government-issue identification may be required.

Dunham’s kayak reviews

If you can’t find a Dunham’s kayak to take for a test paddle before you head to the store to make your purchase, be sure to read a thorough selection of reviews for the models you are considering. This will at the very least help you determine which kayak will best suit your needs and skill level—and potentially even give you an idea for which boat will fit you best. Find our expert reviews below.

 

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