First of all, why a pedal kayak? If you are new to kayaking, or even (perhaps especially) if you are a long-time paddler, you may be asking yourself this question. Pedal-drive kayaks offer some unique advantages over more traditional paddle kayaks, like hands-free kayaking, increased range and stability, and the ability to enjoy both leg propulsion and paddle power from the same kayak.
Pedal drive kayaks have exploded in popularity, particularly among kayak anglers. Being able to control the movement of a kayak without a paddle allows anglers to focus on casting and fighting fish. Some pedal drives allow a kayaker to move forward, turn, reverse, hold position and even travel sideways or diagonally—all without touching a paddle.
The increased efficiency of leg propulsion has also allowed manufacturers to build larger, more stable kayaks for stand-up fishing. These boats are much heavier than basic paddle kayaks, but the pedal drives make them easy to propel despite the added weight. And the appeal of a spacious, stable kayak extends beyond fishing to include families and recreational kayakers who want a kayak that doesn’t feel wobbly in the water.
When buying a pedal-powered kayak, there are some things to keep top of mind. One consideration is price: the complexity of the pedal drive mechanism and the specialized hull designs mean that you should expect to pay more for a foot pedal kayak than a conventional paddle kayak. Read on for our advice for choosing the best pedal kayak for you, whether you are shopping for a new boat or exploring the used market.
Our picks: Best pedal kayaks for 2022
The best pedal kayaks of this year may be kayaks that meet different needs, but they all excel at the tasks and environments for which they were designed. Use this list as a starting point, or for some inspiration.
Best Pedal Kayaks
Topwater 120 PDL
Vibe Shearwater 125 Signature Series
The Catch 110 HyDryve II
Pescador Pilot 12.0
Lure 13.5 Overdrive
Shop pedal kayaks
Different types of pedal drive kayaks suit different destinations and types of kayaking. Whether you are looking to keep your hands free for catching trophy fish, add variety to your kayaking workouts or simply extend the range of your on-water adventures, there’s a pedal-powered kayak to meet your needs.
Explore our Paddling Buyer’s Guide to find specs, prices, reviews and more for just about every pedal kayak on the market. Begin your search by clicking through the links below for filtered results by type or brand.
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Best pedal kayaks
Interested in a particular type or brand of pedal kayak and want to learn more about it? Below you’ll find our articles about more specific types of pedal kayaks.
- Best Tandem Pedal Kayaks For 2022
- Best Hobie Pedal Kayaks For 2022
- Best Fishing Kayaks With Pedals For 2022
Shopping for a used pedal kayak?
Since Hobie permanently revolutionized kayaking with the invention of the original MirageDrive pedal kayak in 1997, pedal powered kayaks have been in a state of constant evolution. New and improved pedal drive systems emerge every few years, with the latest innovations offering more power, lighter weight, better reliability and groundbreaking advancements like the ability to pedal not just forward and reverse, but to also maneuver sideways and diagonally.
Despite ever-changing technology, pedal drive kayaks can last for many years if they are properly cared for. With 25 years of history, there are a lot of options for those interested in a used pedal kayak. You may be able to find earlier versions of the best pedal kayaks of 2022 on the used market. These earlier models can offer great value for anyone just starting out or on a budget while shopping for a high-quality pedal kayak.
With any used kayak purchase, think about what type of kayaking you are planning to do most of the time. Will you be using the pedal kayak for casual exploration and fitness, or more as a dedicated fishing platform? If so, will you fish in shallow water, rivers or offshore waters? The previous owner may tell you what they used the kayak for and how it performed, and you can compare this with your own kayaking goals.
Finding a good foot-pedal kayak on the used market could be as simple as approaching your local outfitters and asking if they have any boats from their rental fleet available for purchase. Another option is to start with an online search, like “pedal kayak Craigslist” or “pedal kayak eBay”. Along with Facebook Marketplace and other online classifieds, you can also reach out to specialized interest groups, such as a local kayak angling club, to help you find fishing-ready, pedal-powered kayaks.
When shopping for a used pedal kayak, be sure to thoroughly inspect the boat, paying particular attention to the pedal drive and outfitting.
Pedal drive mechanisms are designed to be robust, but it’s still important to check a used pedal drive for any wear or damage that could affect its operation. Check to see that the pedals, prop or fins move as they should, and that there’s no binding or unusual sounds. The mechanism should move smoothly without resistance or grinding noises—if the propulsion unit sounds like it’s packed with sand, it probably is.
Also check to see that the pedal drive raises or retracts as designed. Nothing beats an on-water test drive, but if you can’t get the boat in the water, elevate it off the ground so that you can complete a full inspection of the pedal drive in action. Keep in mind that a replacement pedal drive can run upwards of $700, so you want to be very sure that this critical component is working as it should!
As technology has changed, pedal kayak manufacturers have updated features and outfitting to reflect the newest trends. Newer models may have more comfortable seating, better gear tracks and more rod holders. Keep in mind that if the used boat you are considering doesn’t have all the features you want, you can always add or update them later. Aftermarket seats, rigging and accessories are widely available.
For more tips on what to look for when selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.
Pedal kayak buying guide
Even after you’ve read a few articles and spoken with kayakers who love their pedal drives, you may be wondering, Should I buy a pedal kayak? And, if so, what type or brand of pedal kayak? Chat with more experienced kayakers who use pedal drive kayaks in the environments you wish to explore. This will help you better understand which boats are best- suited to these waters, trip lengths and activities.
If you are passionate about fishing, speak with kayak anglers from both paddle and pedal camps to get a sense of which may work best for you. This list will also answer many of the questions you may have when it comes to buying and using pedal kayaks.
What is a pedal kayak?
A pedal kayak is any kayak that uses foot propulsion—by means of a pedal drive that turns a propeller or moves fins under the hull—to power the boat. Most pedal-powered kayaks can also be propelled with a paddle, although these boats tend to be wider and heavier than standard paddle kayaks, making them less efficient and harder to move with upper body muscles.
Some pedal-drive kayaks also have mounts for using a trolling motor or a sail, adding even more versatility to their propulsion options.
How does a pedal kayak work?
A pedal kayak uses an innovative through-hull mechanism that translates the energy from spinning or pushing the pedals to a propeller or pair of fins beneath the hull. Pedal kayak fins are an ingenious example of biomimicry—that is, nature-inspired innovation that copies forms or designs found in the natural world.
In the case of pedal kayaks, the movement and shape of the fins emulate the incredible efficiency of a penguin’s wings as it “flies” underwater.
Can you paddle a pedal kayak?
While it is technically possible to paddle any kayak, including a pedal kayak, the enjoyment you take from paddling (and the efficiency) will have much to do with the width, weight and shape of the kayak. The wider and heavier a kayak is, the more difficult (and slower) it will be to paddle.
For this reason, the largest pedal kayaks designed with standup use in mind are not well-suited to paddling. Look for a lighter, narrower pedal kayak if you’re hoping to enjoy both pedaling and paddling.
Types of pedal kayaks
There is truly a pedal kayak for everyone, with designs ranging from ultimate fishing platforms that cater to the diehard kayak angler, to more generalist models for fitness and recreation. On both ends of the spectrum, users can also choose the material that best suits their needs—whether that’s a durable rotomolded plastic construction, lighter thermoformed plastic layup, or an inflatable design that can be packed into a duffle for storage and transportation.
There are also two types of pedal drives: push pedal and rotational pedal. The push pedal mechanism utilizes pedals that are pushed and pulled in an alternating motion to transfer energy to fins mounted beneath the kayak. A rotational pedal drive is more like a bicycle where the force is applied in constant rotation to turn a propeller. Fins and propellers have different advantages—with passionate fans on both sides—so choosing a system may simply come down to deciding which you most enjoy using.
Pedal vs paddle kayak
Pedal kayaks and paddle kayaks each have their different strengths and environments where they excel. Choose a pedal power kayak if hands-free and/or standup use is important to you, or if you are looking for a stable, efficient sit-on-top kayak for covering longer distances on open water.
If you are looking for a simple, lighter weight, inexpensive kayak with the option to sit on top or sit inside, then a paddle kayak may be perfect for you. Paddle kayaks are also better suited to rivers, shallows and weed-choked lakes.
Pedal boat vs pedal kayak
A pedal kayak is designed for efficient and enjoyable day trips on a wide variety of waterways. Pedal kayaks are available in one-person models, or tandem models where one person sits directly behind the other, allowing for a faster hull shape with greater maneuverability.
A traditional pedal boat, on the other hand, is like a dock with pedals—slow, heavy, awkward to maneuver and best suited to leisurely excursions where speed and distance are not important. Pedal boats are propelled by two people sitting side-by-side, making them nearly as wide as they are long.
Pedal kayak vs trolling motor
Can’t decide between a pedal kayak and a motorized kayak? A growing number of pedal kayaks can also easily accommodate an electric trolling motor. Adding a trolling motor to your pedal kayak is a great option if you are looking to spend longer on the water, extend your range or increase the versatility of your ultimate fishing kayak.
Are pedal kayaks worth it?
Hands-free kayaking, ease of use and greater versatility are just some of the reasons for pedal kayaks’ booming popularity. Pedal kayaks also offer tremendous advantages for anglers, since they allow casting and reeling on the move, and sometimes standup fishing.
When considering whether these boats are worth the added expense, keep in mind that many pedal kayaks also have specialized features that increase their value, such as sophisticated seating, rod holders and other accessories.
Fastest pedal kayak
Lightest pedal kayak
Hobie makes two of the lightest pedal kayaks: the Hobie Mirage Lynx is an 11-foot pedal kayak that weighs just 63 lbs fully rigged (47 lbs without the drive unit). Hobie’s inflatable hybrid is even lighter—the Mirage iTrek 9 Ultralight has a fully rigged weight of 37 lbs.
For anglers, the Slayer Propel 10 from Native Watercraft is the lightest 10-foot pedal drive fishing kayak on the market, weighing in at 62 pounds (without the drive unit).
Most stable pedal kayak
Most pedal drive kayaks are inherently stable as their hulls are wider and heavier than traditional kayak designs. The pedal drive itself also adds stability to the kayak, as it acts something like a daggerboard on a sailboat to steady the kayak in the water. Among the most stable pedal fishing kayaks are the super-sized Hobie Pro Angler 14 and sturdy Old Town Predator PDL.
How fast can a pedal kayak go?
Pedal kayak top speeds will vary depending on the kayak’s length, hull shape, weight and type of pedal drive. For an average pedal kayaker, expect your sustained speed to be about 3-4 mph (5-6.5 kph) with a sprint speed of 7-8 mph (11-13 kph).
Are pedal kayaks faster?
It is a commonly held belief that pedal kayaks are faster than paddle kayaks. In fact, most head-to-head tests have shown that pedal and paddle are similar in terms of average speed. A paddle kayak may actually sprint faster, while a pedal kayak has greater torque for propelling heavier loads faster.
Of course, each kayak’s top speed will depend on the length, weight and shape of the hull, and the proficiency and endurance of the kayaker. For novice kayakers, pedaling is more intuitive and less reliant on technique—therefore, pedal kayaks can be faster than paddle kayaks for beginners.
Are pedal kayaks easier?
For many novice kayakers, pedaling comes more naturally than paddling. It takes practice and instruction to develop good paddling technique and the stamina to paddle longer distances without tiring. Pedaling, on the other hand, uses the larger and more powerful muscles of your legs, so you can go farther, faster.
Additionally, pedal mechanisms also make you more stable. Coupled with a wider hull, this can make pedal kayaks feel less prone to flipping over when you’re still finding your balance.
How far can you pedal a kayak?
How far you can pedal a kayak will depend on many factors, including your fitness, the weather and water conditions, the design of the kayak and more. Start with shorter trips, and increase your distance as you gain fitness and experience.
Pedal-powered kayak price
Pedal kayak prices range widely, from about $900 for a budget pedal kayak to nearly $4,000 for a premium pedal fishing kayak. Specialized pedal sailing kayaks can cost even more, up to $5,300 for a one-person kayak and $8,300 for a two-person kayak.
Why are pedal kayaks so expensive?
Pedal kayaks are more expensive than basic paddle kayaks because of the complexity of the pedal-drive mechanism, and the specialization of the pedal kayak itself. Keep in mind that more innovation, materials and accessories are required to produce a pedal kayak compared to the average recreational paddle kayak.
Pedal kayak brands
Well-known pedal kayak brands with great track records include Hobie, Native Watercraft, Old Town, Ocean Kayak, Wilderness Systems, NuCanoe, Jackson Kayak, Brooklyn Kayak Company (BKC), Propel, Perception Kayaks, Viking Kayaks, Vibe Kayaks, Bonafide, Eddyline Kayaks and Pelican International.
Where to buy a pedal kayak
The best place to buy a new pedal kayak is from your local kayak shop. Check kayak manufacturers’ websites to find your nearest dealer. Entry-level, budget pedal kayaks are also available from many major retailers, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Amazon, Costco and Walmart.
Pedal kayak reviews
Browse these reviews of the top pedal kayaks through the lens of your own interests. Do you relate to the writer? Do their experiences match what you are looking to do? The best pedal kayaks are well designed and comfortable, but they may be aimed at generalist kayakers or a more specialized market.
These reviews will help you find the best pedal kayak to suit your needs.
- Fishing Kayak Review: SeaStream Angler 120 PD
- Fishing Kayak Review: NuCanoe Unlimited
- Hybrid SUP Kayak Review: Hobie Mirage Lynx
- Fishing Kayak Review: Wilderness Systems Recon 120 HD
- Hybrid Fishing SUP Review: Vibe Cubera 120
- Fishing Kayak Review: Vibe Shearwater 125
- Inflatable Pedal Kayak Review: BOTE LONO Aero Apex
- Boat Review: Hobie Mirage Revolution 13 Kayak
- Boat Review: Riot Edge 14.5 Thermo
- Boat Review: Ocean Kayak Malibu Pedal