Best Old Town Kayaks For 2024

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

The Old Town Canoe Company began building wood-canvas canoes in 1898, making Old Town one of America’s original canoe and kayak manufacturers. Their factory in Old Town, Maine, has shipped tens of thousands of boats out of its doors. Today, you’ll find Old Town paddle craft across the country.

Old Town introduced its first kayaks in 1995 and continues to make a range of durable and affordable rotomolded polyethylene kayaks, with both sit-on-top and sit-inside styles available. In 2004, Old Town was acquired by Johnson Outdoors, which also owns Ocean Kayak (along with other popular outdoor brands like Eureka and JetBoil).

New paddlers appreciate the ease and comfort of Old Town’s 10- and 12-foot recreational kayaks. These shorter boats are stable and easy to handle, ideal for casual outings on calm waters. Avid paddlers planning longer tours can also choose from sleeker 13- and 14-foot kayaks made for light touring, and one tandem sea kayak, the Looksha.

Old Town kayak’s angler-specific sit-on-top and sit-inside models have all the features to make kayak fishing fun and accessible, and their pedal-drive option frees your hands for even more fishing action.

All Old Town kayaks are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), keeping costs, maintenance and the likelihood of damage low. Many models are offered in a variety of dimensions to suit paddlers of all different sizes. If you are looking for a reasonably-priced kayak for recreation, light touring or fishing, Old Town has a match for you.

This article will help you decide on the best Old Town kayak for your needs. Here, we’ll give an overview of the types of Old Town kayaks available, as well as some tips for buying new and used. Along the way, you’ll find links to specific models with detailed information and user reviews. Read on to learn more.

Top picks: Best Old Town kayaks for 2024

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

Best Old Town Kayaks

Old Town Canoes and Kayaks

Sportsman Salty PDL 120

Old Town Canoes and Kayaks

Predator PDL

Old Town Canoes and Kayaks

Dirigo 155T Tandem Plus

Shop Old Town kayaks

Browse the Old Town lineup in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide, where you will find every Old Town kayak on the market, along with specs, reviews, prices and where to buy. Use this information to help guide your search, comparing the type of paddling described in the review to what you are hoping to do. You can filter results by type, application, size and stores where they’re available.

Shopping for a used Old Town kayak?

Recently, the most challenging part of shopping for a kayak is often finding one. Supply chain issues and increased demand for recreation equipment have emptied shop floors of new models. If you choose to buy a used Old Town kayak, you’ll save some money that can go towards purchasing quality paddling equipment like a comfortable PFD and lightweight paddle.

Once you do find a promising-looking boat, you’ll want to give the kayak a thorough once-over (and ideally a test paddle) before committing to buying it.

Where can you find used boats?

If you’re looking for a used Old Town kayak, Craigslist, Kijiji or other online classifieds are good starting points. You’ll need to be diligent as boats often sell a few days after they’re posted. Cast a broad net when you search, as sellers may not name the specific model. Set up an email alert for the keywords “Old Town Kayak” or even just “Plastic Kayak” to ensure you don’t miss any postings.

If any outfitters near you use Old Town kayaks in their rental fleet, they may periodically sell off older boats to upgrade. Politely inquire about this, and see if you can arrange to buy one at the end of the season. Renting the kayak is an excellent way to test its comfort, fit and performance before you commit to buying it.

What should you look for?

Old Town kayaks are made with single- or triple-layer polyethylene. This resilient material can withstand repeated scrapes and bumps. You may see scratches on the hull (bottom) of the kayak, but as long as they don’t penetrate the hull, these are just superficial. One of the benefits of high-density polyethylene is that you can make minor repairs by welding new material to it. You can buy polyethylene repair kits from Old Town for touch-ups.

Person paddling recreational kayak on winding river
Photo: Courtesy Old Town Canoes & Kayaks

The most common damage to polyethylene kayaks happens from improper storage. Plastic kayaks warp over time if they are stored in a way that doesn’t support their weight equally. This can occur if they are stored upright on the ground or hanging from their handles. If a kayak is left exposed to direct sunlight for long periods, UV rays from the sun can soften the plastic further.

Improper transport can also damage kayaks. In particular, using ratchet straps tempts the kayak owner to overtighten the straps—listening for their satisfying click, click, clicking—until the plastic hull has bent. Commonly called “oil-canning,” significant dents in a hull will result in reduced efficiency and performance. Check the hull for substantial deformities that are likely caused by this.

Older models

Old Town has been building kayaks for nearly 30 years, and some of the boats you find on the used market may have been discontinued. Don’t shy away from these “legacy” kayaks just because they are no longer made. Models are often discontinued to reflect changes in overall demand or market trends. It doesn’t mean that the kayak in question is not a good one.

Johnson Outdoors, Old Town’s parent company, also acquired Necky Kayaks. When the Necky brand was discontinued, their popular Looksha model continued production under the Old Town name. If you find a used Necky Looksha for sale, many parts are compatible with today’s Old Town kayaks.

The main disadvantage to older models is they may have less refined outfitting (seats, seat backs, thigh braces and foot pegs) than the latest models. If you’re handy, you can replace old, uncomfortable or damaged outfitting with new replacement parts from Old Town. You can also shape and glue closed-cell foam to enhance the padding and comfort of an old kayak. You can source the necessary equipment and supplies for other repairs like resealing bulkheads or replacing bungees at a hardware store.

For more tips on selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.

Old Town kayak buying guide

Old Town’s current range focuses mainly on recreational kayaks and fishing kayaks shorter than 12 feet, with a few longer light touring models also available. Models in the Old Town lineup encompass recreational kayaks, fishing kayaks, day touring and touring kayaks. Kayaks in each of these categories have different dimensions and designs to excel in specific environments. To find the best fit for your needs, match these categories to the type of paddling you do most of the time.

Recreational kayaks

Recreational kayaks make up the majority of Old Town kayaks. They are designed for stability and maneuverability, making them ideal for beginners or casual paddlers. Most Old Town recreational kayaks are “sit-in” style, where the deck covers the paddler’s legs. The wide cockpits are easy to enter and exit, but are somewhat more confining than a sit-on-top style.

Recreational kayaks are 12.5 feet or less; their shorter length allows them to turn easily without the need for a rudder (foot-controlled steering aid). With wide, flat bottoms, these boats are very stable in calm waters. They are perfect for exploring sheltered waterways like cottage lakes and slow-moving rivers. Unlike the cheaper recreational kayaks you’ll find at discount box stores, many Old Town rec boats feature a rear bulkhead for added safety.

Bulkheads are sealed compartments at the ends of the kayak (a rear bulkhead only is common in shorter kayaks), which prevent the kayak from sinking if the cockpit fills with water. Without bulkheads, it’s inadvisable to kayak in cold waters or further from shore than you can swim.

Old Town makes six different recreational kayaks models, which are available in various lengths to suit different-sized paddlers. The Heron and Vapor models are the least expensive; they appear quite similar with one important difference—the Herons have a rear bulkhead while the Vapors do not. The ‘XT’ versions of these kayaks also have a back hatch. Choose these kayaks if you only intend to paddle casually and want a boat at a low price. They are made from single-layer polyethylene, which is durable but less so than other models.

Three-layer polyethylene is used on the premium Dirigo and Loon models. This three-layer material is more resilient to abrasions and sun damage. It costs a bit more and is a few pounds heavier, but will last longer. These kayaks also have cushier seats and more adjustable outfitting. The innovative Loon even includes a removable cockpit workdeck, supplying space for cameras, gear, water and dry storage, with a USB port to keep your gadgets charged.

Old Town’s crossover Sorrento model mimics a touring kayak with a drop-down skeg. This is essentially a retractable keel that helps the kayak keep on a straight course.

If you’re looking to partner up, check out the two-person Twin Heron or Dirigo Tandem Plus. A tandem is a 2-for-1 deal, but you will always need two paddlers to control the boat. This is a great option for couples or parents of children who want to kayak but aren’t big enough to paddle their own boat yet. For youths ready to captain their own vessel, the Heron Junior is a scaled-down rec kayak for pint-sized paddlers.

If you prefer the unrestricted open deck of a sit-on-top kayak, check out the simple and affordable Twister, or look at Old Town’s extensive line of sit-on-top fishing kayaks (see below). These are basically souped-up recreational kayaks with fishing-specific features.

Deciding which length of recreational kayak to choose should be dictated by your paddling goals rather than your budget. Shorter kayaks cost less as there isn’t as much material used, but the length affects performance. If you compare the same kayak model in two different sizes, the longer kayak will be faster. It will also have a higher weight capacity. If you’re buying a kayak to paddle with friends, see what lengths their boats are. You’ll want to choose one that’s a similar size so you aren’t falling behind on the water.

Fishing kayaks

Old Town’s fishing kayaks are a mix of sit-inside and sit-on-top style kayaks. The sit-in kayaks are “Angler” versions of their recreational Vapor and Loon models. Like the rec boats, the Vapor Angler is single-layer polyethylene, and the Loon Angler is three-layer. Fishing-specific features include molded-in rod holders and an anchor trolley system, which allows the user to adjust the anchor length when it is deployed.

Old Town offers a wider selection of sit-on-top style fishing kayaks. The wide, pontoon hull design of these boats gives them lots of stability and a higher weight capacity for bringing along extra gear. The different sit-on-top models available are the Topwater, Predator and Sportsman, but there are many different options to choose from beyond the model.

Entry-level Topwater and Sportsman models are nearly identical, with minimal outfitting to keep the prices low. They still feature the basics needed to enjoy a day of fishing, like rod holders, frame seats and enough stability to stand and cast.

The award-winning Old Town Sportsman series of kayaks are the most diverse, mainly because of the different drive options. Anglers can opt for paddle, pedal propulsion or motor power. Pedal propulsion with Old Town’s PDL system uses a cycling motion connected to a prop under the hull.

The PDL drive allows you to move forwards and backward by pedaling, freeing your hands to fish or take photos. The Sportsman 106 Powered by Minn Kota has a standard electric 12V trolling motor. The high-end Sportsman AutoPilot uses Bluetooth to control the motor and has a “Spot-Lock” feature which keeps the boat set in a specific position, accounting for current and drift.

Old Town makes 10.5-, 12- and 13-foot fishing kayaks. Aside from the higher price of a longer kayak, also think about the area you’ll be fishing. The 13-foot kayaks are more suited to open water, as they move more efficiently and can handle swells easily. Shorter 10.5-foot kayaks perform well in sheltered waters where maneuverability is a priority. Finally, 12-foot kayaks are a compromise between the two.

Touring kayaks

The Old Town Castine and Looksha series touring kayaks have sealed bow and stern bulkheads. These watertight compartments prevent the kayak from sinking if the cockpit fills with water in a capsize. This essential safety feature makes these kayaks suitable for exploring coastal and offshore waters. Paired with deck hatches, bulkheads also function as dry storage compartments for gear. If you want to take overnight or multi-day trips, this style is the type of kayak you need.

The Castine is made in three different sizes, 135 (13’ 5”), 140 (14’) and 145 (14’5”). The design is the same across each kayak. Larger paddlers will have more leg space and a roomier cockpit in the longer boats. That isn’t to say that these are small-medium-large sizes. With the optional rudder, petite paddlers will still find it easy to control the longer kayak. The added volume increases storage capacity, and these kayaks are suitable for short one- or two-night trips. Read an in-depth review of the Castine 140.

For longer expedition-style paddling, the Looksha 17 is the best option from Old Town. This is a reiteration of a classic kayak produced by the now discontinued Necky brand. The Looksha is stable for a sea kayak and has a high volume to store ample camping gear and food. The rotomolded polyethylene construction is strong enough to handle rough landings on cobble beaches. If you’re looking to take that long trip with a trusted partner, consider the tandem Looksha T, another legacy Necky design reborn under the Old Town label.

Still wondering if Old Town kayaks are right for you? Here are answers to some of the most common online questions about Old Town kayaks.

  • Are Old Town kayaks good?

    Old Town kayaks are good quality kayaks at reasonable prices. Old Town recreational kayaks are stable, durable and affordable; while their pedal-drive and motorized fishing kayaks use cutting-edge technology to navigate waterways.

    All Old Town kayaks are made with single- or triple-layer polyethylene. This material is very durable and inexpensive. If lightweight kayaks are a priority, you may want to look at companies that build their kayaks with thermoformed plastics or composites like fiberglass and Kevlar.

  • Old Town kayak models

    Old Town has a range of different kayak models for recreational paddling, fishing and touring. Within these categories, there are various models, which come in at different price points. See “Buying Advice” for a breakdown of each category.

  • Most stable Old Town kayak

    The most stable Old Town kayaks are fishing models like the Sportsman and Topwater. These sit-on-tops feature pontoon-hull designs, making them steady enough to stand up on. Another good metric for determining stability is to look at the weight capacity of each kayak; generally those with higher capacities are more stable.

  • Old Town kayak weight limit

    Weight limit varies by model. Check the manufacturer’s specifications to determine a specific Old Town kayak weight capacity. The usable weight capacity accounts for the weight that can be added after all the options are included.

    This mainly applies to fishing kayaks that have heavy add-ons like pedal-drive systems or electric motors. The usable weight capacity includes paddler(s), gear, dogs, or anything else that you might want to carry.

  • How much does an Old Town kayak weigh?

    Old Town kayaks’ weight depends on their length and outfitting. All Old Town kayaks are made with polyethylene. Some are single-layer, while others have a heavier duty triple-layer build. The advantage of triple-layer polyethylene is that it’s more durable and resistant to wear.

    Among other polyethylene kayaks, Old Town boats are of average weight. Expect them to be anywhere from 50 to 90 pounds. Fishing kayaks with pedal drives or electric motors weigh over 90 pounds when fully outfitted.

  • Old Town kayak material

    Old Town kayaks use high-density polyethylene (HDPE) to make their kayaks. This plastic is shaped using rotational molding (rotomolding), where plastic pellets are poured into a mold that is heated and rotated to evenly distribute the material, producing a durable, inexpensive kayak.

    Some Old Town kayaks are made with single-layer polyethylene, while others have a heavier duty triple-layer build. The advantage of triple-layer polyethylene is that it’s more durable and resistant to wear (but marginally heavier).

  • Why did Old Town stop using Royalex?

    Royalex material was discontinued by the producer in 2013. It was the premier material for bombproof whitewater canoes of nearly every brand. Old Town and other canoe builders who used this resilient plastic had to look for (or develop) alternatives materials when Royalex production ceased. Old Town now makes its canoes with three-layer polyethylene.

  • What plastic are Old Town kayaks made from?

    Old Town kayaks are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This is a commonly used plastic for kayaks. HDPE is durable and inexpensive. It can withstand abrasions and impacts quite well as it bends rather than breaks under all but the most extreme conditions.

    Some Old Town kayaks are made with single-layer polyethylene, while others have a heavier duty triple-layer build. The advantage of triple-layer polyethylene is that it’s more durable and resistant to wear (but marginally heavier).

  • Old Town kayak prices

    How much does an Old Town kayak cost? It depends on the model and outfitting. Old Town kayaks range from under $600 for their basic recreational models to over $4,000 for their motorized angler kayaks. For complete coverage of Old Town kayak prices, check out our Paddling Buyer’s Guide.

  • Old Town kayak warranty

    A limited lifetime warranty covers Old Town kayak hulls. The pedal (PDL) drive systems are covered under a limited five-year warranty. You’ll need to keep your proof of purchase to qualify for the warranty.

  • Old Town kayak dealers

    Discover where to buy Old Town kayaks in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. Old Town kayaks are distributed through online retailers or traditional brick-and-mortar paddle shops. If there’s a shop near you that sells Old Town kayaks, but they don’t have the one you want, you may be able to order it through them.

    Another resource if you’re wondering who sells Old Town kayaks is the dealer locator on the brand’s website.

  • Where are Old Town kayaks made?

    Old Town kayaks are made in a facility beside the Penobscot River in Old Town, Maine.

  • Is Ocean Kayak made by Old Town?

    Ocean Kayak and Old Town are part of the Johnson Outdoors brand family. Kayaks for both of these brands are made in the same Old Town, Maine, factory.

Compare Old Town kayaks

  • Old Town kayak vs Hobie

    Hobie recreational and fishing kayaks are all sit-on-top models available exclusively with their Mirage pedal-drive system. Old Town makes both sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks, with a variety of paddle-propelled recreational and touring kayaks. If you are looking for an inexpensive starter kayak, or a sit-inside and/or non-pedal-driven kayak, Old Town is a great brand to choose.

    If you are keen on a pedal drive kayak, both brands offer solid choices. Old Town pedal kayaks focus on kayak fishing, while Hobie also has options for recreational paddling and even sailing. Some Old Town pedal fishing kayaks also feature advanced electric motor options.

    On the other hand, Old Town presently does not make inflatables, and if storage space is tight, look at Hobie’s inflatable iTrek line.

  • Old Town vs Jackson Kayak

    Both Old Town and Jackson make beginner-friendly recreational kayaks and tricked-out fishing kayaks at comparable prices. Like Old Town, some Jackson fishing kayaks have pedal drives or the option to use an electric motor. Jackson’s FlexDrive pedal system has a convenient feature where the propeller retracts on impact with underwater obstacles. This protects the FlexDrive and gives some peace of mind when exploring shallow waters.

    Also like Old Town, Jackson’s recreational line has some basic sit-on-top kayaks that you can purchase for under $900. Additionally, Jackson’s whitewater-specific kayaks are some of the best on the market. If you’re shopping for a fishing kayak, choose Old Town for a great selection of high-end flatwater fishing rigs; look at Jackson’s line for more challenging open-water conditions.

    The choice between each company’s sit-inside recreational kayaks comes down to personal preference or availability. If you need a whitewater kayak, Jackson is the de facto choice.

  • Old Town vs Wilderness Systems kayak

    Wilderness Systems is another popular U.S.-based brand that is comparable to Old Town. Like Old Town, they also offer recreational, fishing and touring kayaks made of polyethylene. Wilderness Systems sit-inside kayaks are slightly more expensive, starting at around $1,000 USD. Their recreational kayaks have stern hatches and bulkheads and roomy cockpits like Old Town’s rec boats.

    The Wilderness Systems Pungo is an immensely popular recreational kayak, loved for its stability and comfort. Also like Old Town, some Wilderness Systems fishing kayaks are compatible with pedal and power drives, but the drive systems need to be purchased separately. Old Town’s prepackaged Sportsman kayaks are the better choice if you are an angler looking for a one-stop shop.

    Touring kayakers should look at Wilderness Systems for a greater variety of designs, including two full-size sea kayaks, the Tsunami and the sporty Tempest.

  • Old Town vs Perception kayaks

    Perception Kayaks are part of the Confluence Outdoors brand family, along with Wilderness Systems. They make a variety of entry-level recreational kayaks, similar to Old Town’s single-layer polyethylene models. The Perception Drift 9.5 is a good kayak for less than $500.

    Perception also makes more sit-on-tops than Old Town, who leave that category to their sister company, Ocean Kayak. Perception’s Conduit and Old Town’s Castine are both good day-touring options for paddlers transitioning from recreational kayaks to longer touring boats.

    If you’re looking for a kayak under $1,000, both Old Town and Perception offer reasonable choices. Decide between the two by trying them out, or choosing whichever is available.

  • Old Town vs Pelican kayaks

    Recreational kayak giant Pelican produces kayaks that are found on cottage lakes, campgrounds and waterfronts across North America. They are distributed through large retailers like Costco, Canadian Tire and Walmart. Pelican makes sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks for casual users, as well as fishing kayaks that, like Old Town, can be rigged with pedal and motor power.

    Pelican’s stubby, flat-bottomed rec kayaks are extremely stable, and many are priced under $600, cheaper than most Old Town kayaks. If you’re looking for a boat on a budget, these are good options. Most of their mid-range kayaks are lighter than Old Town thanks to Pelican’s proprietary RAM-X polyethylene material. If you only plan to paddle for an hour or two at a time, a Pelican kayak is fine.

    For spending more time on the water, especially for longer tours, Old Town kayaks offer more efficient designs and more comfortable outfitting.

  • Ascend vs Old Town kayak

    Ascend is Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s in-house brand. They offer a small selection of sit-in and sit-on-top recreational fishing kayaks. For more committed anglers, Old Town’s line of fishing kayaks is much more appropriate. Only Old Town offers pedal drive kayaks, favored by anglers because they leave your hands free for casting and catching fish.

    Subtle features also make a difference, like Old Town’s anchor trolley system. For a reasonable price, an Ascend can get you casting a line on the water. You won’t get the same degree of thoughtful features or propulsion options, but you will have an inexpensive, durable kayak.

    Choose an Old Town if you’re willing to spend more money for a more versatile fishing kayak, or if you have your heart set on a pedal drive kayak.

Overhead view of tandem kayak
Photo: Courtesy Old Town Canoes & Kayaks

Old Town kayak reviews

Reviews are helpful tools to understand the kayak beyond the information given by the manufacturer. Our expert reviews will help you decide whether this is a kayak worth considering, or if you should move on to other options. If there are any criticisms of the kayak, consider whether they would be deal-breakers for you or not.


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