“Sit-in” is an all-encompassing term that describes any kayak that isn’t a sit-on-top. Tandem sit-in kayaks include recreational kayaks for casual users on sheltered waters; longer touring (sea) kayaks for camping trips and coastal paddling; as well as fishing-specific two-person kayaks.
A double sit-in kayak is a great solution when two people want to buy (and paddle) just one kayak, or for an adult and child to paddle together. It means that every time you go paddling, you’re right in front of or behind your partner. Two-person sit-in kayaks are a good fit for active couples keen on spending time together, but they can also get people on the water who would not go on their own.
Sit-inside double kayaks are much more stable than their solo counterparts, and can be controlled by the more experienced paddler (typically from the stern, or back, seat), making them well-suited to introducing a friend or family member to kayaking. Families with young kids can paddle together, with the child sitting in the front while the adult paddles (and steers) in the back.
If a 2-person sit-in kayak sounds like a match, check out the ones we feature in this guide. We’ll outline a range of versatile tandems matching various needs, and offer buying advice so you can find the best sit-inside tandem kayak for your paddling aspirations.
Top picks: Best tandem sit-in kayaks for 2023
The following tandem sit-in kayaks have received the highest star ratings by reviewers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide. See and review all tandem sit-in kayaks here.
Best Tandem Sit-Inside Kayaks
Pamlico 145 T
Sport Kayak SE330
Shop tandem sit-inside kayaks
While there are not as many tandem sit-in kayak options compared to single sit-inside kayaks, there are still many diverse two-person models to choose from. Our Paddling Buyer’s Guide showcases every double sit-inside kayak on the market, complete with specifications, prices, reviews and where to buy.
Use the links below to narrow your search for the perfect tandem kayak; sort by type of paddling (recreational, fishing or touring), brand or design characteristics.
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Dagger tandem sit-in kayaks
Delta tandem sit-in kayaks
Jackson tandem sit-in kayaks
Lifetime tandem sit-in kayaks
Ocean Kayak tandem sit-in kayaks
Old Town tandem sit-in kayaks
Pelican tandem sit-in kayaks
Perception tandem sit-in kayaks
Seaward tandem sit-in kayaks
Sun Dolphin tandem sit-in kayaks
Wilderness Systems tandem sit-in kayaks
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Shopping for a used tandem sit-in kayak?
There are a few things you’ll want to pay special attention to when buying a used tandem sit-inside kayak. If you are unsure of which type of kayak you require, check out the “Tandem Sit-In Kayak Buying Advice” below.
Tracking down the tandem
A great place to start your search for a used tandem sit-in kayak is through outfitters or specialty paddlesports retailers. Many shops and outfitters sell off their demo or rental boats at the end of the season, to make way for new stock or refresh their rental fleet.
Buying a used kayak through a shop or outfitter often means you’ll have a chance to try it out before you buy it, which is a major advantage. You and your partner won’t know if the boat is indeed a good match until you get in it and paddle.
You might also have some luck finding a used tandem kayak through your favorite online classifieds. Try Craigslist, Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace, and consider setting up alerts for general keywords like “sit-inside double kayak” to be notified whenever boats are posted.
Once you’ve found a suitable double sit-in kayak, give it a thorough inspection to check for damage or excessive wear and tear. Pay special attention to the hull (bottom) directly under the seats, as this is often where most impacts and abuse occur. Also examine the deck (top) and outfitting (seats, back rests, foot pegs, etc).
Most plastic 2-person sit-inside kayaks are made from rugged polyethylene; scratches aren’t a problem, but watch out for deep gouges that extend more than eighth of an inch (3 mm) into the plastic. Obvious warping in the hull (resulting from prolonged UV damage) is a problem to avoid, too.
Take the opportunity to chat with the owner and ask them what kind of kayaking they used the boat for, where it was stored (indoors or under a tarp is preferable to kayak that was left out in the sun) as well as their reason for selling. Likely, the seller will be happy to share details about their experiences, and it will give you more insight into how the boat performs.
If you’re coming from the world of single kayaks, you may not be prepared for how long and heavy double kayaks can be. Before you decide to buy it, make sure you can safely transport the kayak, and you have enough storage space at home for it.
Taking the kayak for a test paddle with a partner is the best way to find out if the two-person sit-inside kayak works for you, in terms of performance, handling, comfort and fit. But if you discover after purchasing that the boat isn’t as comfortable as you’d hoped, don’t write it off immediately.
Adding foam padding for extra cushion and support can totally change how a kayak feels. If you were set on a tandem fishing kayak but you just can’t find one, you can create a DIY fishing machine by purchasing rod holders, gear tracks and other accessories and mounting them yourself onto a 2-person recreational kayak.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.
Tandem sit-in kayak buying guide
With a tandem, you’re getting one kayak for two paddlers. As long as you always have a partner to paddle with, a tandem will treat you well. Tandems are great options for bringing along kids or nervous paddlers who may not be comfortable in their own kayak. Some shorter tandems can also be paddled with just one paddler, but for optimal performance, you’ll want a second passenger in the front—at least as ballast.
If you’re looking at recreational kayaks, the first choice is often between a sit-in or a sit-on-top. With their open decks, sit-on-tops appeal more to beginners planning on casually paddling exclusively in warm water. Recreational sit-on-tops are not as fast as sit-in kayaks, but they are easier to enter and exit or clamber back aboard after an upset.
Wave- and wind-blocking decks means sit-in kayaks protect paddlers from the elements a bit more than sit-on-tops. Longer sea kayaks are almost exclusively sit-in style, so opting for a shorter recreational sit-inside can be a good stepping stone for anyone who may want to progress to kayak touring later.
Once you’ve decided you prefer a tandem sit-inside (versus sit-on-top), you’ll need to define which type best suits your needs. Double kayaks are specialized boats with design tweaks that match varying paddling styles and aspirations:
Tandem sit-in recreational kayaks
The shortest and widest tandem sit-in kayaks you’ll find are recreational kayaks. These are 16 feet or shorter and designed for casual paddling. They turn readily and may not need a rudder for directional control. Recreational kayaks are characterized by their incredibly forgiving and stable nature—most people can’t flip these boats even if they try. Recreational 2-person kayaks are among the most affordable sit-inside tandem kayaks because of their smaller size, basic outfitting and inexpensive plastic construction.
Tandem sit-in fishing kayaks
Tandem sit-inside fishing kayaks are generally modeled after recreational kayaks, as anglers also require a high degree of stability when moving rods, casting or landing fish. These two-person sit-in kayaks share similar design features to their recreational kayak cousins, but are equipped with angler-specific accessories (like rod holders, gear tracks and tank wells) to make fishing from them even easier. Because of these extras, the cost may increase from recreational tandems.
Tandem sit-in touring kayaks
A longer tandem touring or sea kayak with bulkheads is necessary for safety when traveling on open coastlines. Bulkheads are internal walls within the hull that create watertight compartments that prevent a kayak from sinking if it capsizes. Most tandem sit-inside touring kayaks have two or more bulkheads, but many recreational sit-in double kayaks do not.
If you plan to paddle farther away from shore than you can swim, you need a kayak with this critical safety feature. In addition, the watertight compartments are great for storing gear. Tandem sit-inside sea kayaks are the best option for paddlers taking multi-day trips who require the additional speed, safety and storage capacity these kayaks provide.
Tandem touring kayaks are available in a variety of materials, from durable, affordable plastic, to more expensive and lightweight composites.
Decide on a style of double sit-inside kayak before you set your budget or explore specific models. Doing so will ensure you buy the best sit-inside tandem kayak to suit your needs. Still have questions? Here are answers to some of the most common online questions about tandem sit-in kayaks.
Are there sit-in tandem kayaks?
There is a wide variety of sit-in tandem kayaks, just like solo sit-in kayaks. Tandem sea kayaks provide ample storage space for kayakers looking to take multi-day trips. Fishing-specific sit-inside tandems are equipped with rod holders and other angler-specific accessories. Shorter, cheaper recreational sit-in tandem kayaks emphasize stability and are ideal for new paddlers.
Lightest tandem sit-in kayaks
Some of the lightest tandem sit-in kayaks are the shorter recreational models. These are less than 16 feet long, and they are easier to carry because of their short length. At 17 to 21 feet long, touring sit-inside kayaks will be heavier but faster and have more storage capacity. If you’re looking to shave off additional pounds, look for kayaks made with composite materials (like fiberglass or Kevlar) or thermoformed ABS blends.
Tandem sit-on-top vs sit-in
Sit-on-top kayaks are less intimidating for new paddlers than sit-inside styles. Should you fall off or capsize a sit-on-top, you can simply crawl back on. Sit-inside kayaks may fill with water, and proper re-entry technique—or a swim to shore—is needed if you dump one.
The advantage of a sit-in kayak is the stability and protection the closed deck provides. When a paddler sits in the kayak, their legs engage with the sides of the hull. This connects more of their body to the boat, adding control. The closed-deck also offers protection from the elements and is ideal for cold-water paddling.
Sit-in tandem kayak reviews
Expert reviews will provide you with more insight into where each kayak performs best or any shortcomings of the model that you may want to be aware of. Look no further than the reviews below written by our Paddling Magazine staff for solid advice in selecting the best sit-inside tandem kayak for your paddling dreams.
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- Inflatable Kayak Review: Aquaglide Chelan 155 HB XL