Best Pedal Powered Kayaks - 2019 Reviews
Pedal kayaks are one of the greatest innovations to hit the paddling world, with no hands needed to propel the boat, you can use them for other activities like fishing and photography.
Most pedal-powered kayaks are easy to use, with a learning curve of only a few hours.
- 1 Our Top Choices for Pedal Kayaks
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
Our Top Choices for Pedal Kayaks
Some pedal kayaks are packed with features like rod holders, fishfinder mounts, and tons of storage space that will make any day of fishing a great one. However, these boats don’t come cheap, so it pays to do your research and find the model is best suited to your needs. Here’s our list of five of the best pedal kayaks for 2019.
Hobie is the undisputed leader of the pedal kayak market, churning out some of the very best boats for anglers. This tandem kayak is one of their most decked out models with a rudder system, four watertight storage areas, comfortable raised seats, and of course, a powerful pedal drive system.
Let’s start with the propulsion system, the MirageDrive. It’s a push pedal system, so there’s no rotation of your legs involved, just alternate pushing the pedals with each foot. This drives a pair of flexible blades (two pairs since this is a tandem) beneath the boat in a flipper kicking motion. Unlike with a paddle, you don’t need to sync up your strokes with your partner to keep it going forward. Only the front “paddler” has access to the rudder controls so no problems with steering either.
The rudder referred to as the “Twist and Stow” is another excellent feature on the Oasis. While most kayaks that have a rudder operate it with the foot pedals, the Hobie isn’t able to do so, since they’re propelling the boat. Instead, a small hand lever on the side of the cockpit controls it, and it’s quite intuitive. If you’re not using the rudder, it can be pulled up and out of the way just by tugging on a cord.
Every boat has its disadvantages though, and the Oasis’s come in two flavors, the first being its size. At fourteen and a half feet and 95 lbs, this kayak is near impossible to move on your own. Without a second person paddling, it’s difficult to get up to speed too. Therefore, this kayak is only recommended if you consistently have a paddling partner with you.
The second problem with the Oasis is its cost. While you might expect a kayak with a feature as innovative as the MirageDrive to cost a little bit more, the Oasis will set you back about four times what a standard tandem kayak would. Sure, all those features that make it a great fishing kayak would have added up as aftermarket upgrades, but the sticker shock is sure to put off a good number of paddlers.
The Hobie Mirage Passport is a scaled-down version of the Oasis that fits just one paddler. It still has most of the great features seen on the Mirage like the “Twist and Stow” rudder, MirageDrive, elevated seat, and watertight storage compartments. Being only ten and a half feet long, it’s also one of the more maneuverable kayaks on our list.
While the Passport has the same type of watertight storage as the Oasis with the eight-inch-wide twist and seal hatches, it has just one of them. The only other storage areas on the kayak are the bow and stern tank wells, which are great for holding a cooler (both spaces have bungees to secure everything) but aren’t very useful for keeping anything dry.
Due to its shorter length, the Passport also doesn’t have a very high capacity relative to other pedal-driven kayaks – just 325 lbs. This could be a deal-breaker for larger paddlers carrying a lot of gear. On the other hand, the Passport’s smaller volume makes it lighter weight – just 65 lbs., which isn’t too heavy to carry without a cart or partner.
One thing it does have going for it is a much better price point compared to the Oasis. With only one MirageDrive, one fully adjustable seat, and a shorter hull, it is priced much lower. It will only set you back a few hundred dollars more than some of the other non-pedal-driven fishing kayaks of the same size.
If you’re paddling solo the majority of the time, the Passport will be a much better option. Unless you have a burning desire to share your boat with another person, it’s probably a better idea to get two of the Passport kayaks, which costs the same as the Oasis. They’re designed to be stackable, so they won’t even take up that much space in your garage.
The Malibu from Ocean Kayak is a mainstay in the sit-on-top kayak market. Not only does it have a novice-friendly hull that tracks well, but it’s wide enough to have excellent stability, but also one of the more comfortable rides with well-cushioned and fully adjustable seats. The pedal-driven version of the Malibu continues this tradition but adds some great features to make it the ultimate fishing kayak.
We’ll start with the PDL pedal drive, which is a little different than the ones on the previously mentioned kayaks. The PDL drive uses a rotational mechanism to power a small propeller beneath the kayak. It’s a little harder to operate compared to the push pedal drives on the other kayaks but is a great option for enthusiasts that want to go fast.
The Malibu Pedal also has an upgraded seat that sits above the top of the cockpit, giving you a birdseye view of your line and anything that might give it a bite. There’s also an easy to use rudder control on the side of the cockpit, which can be operated with one hand while keeping ahold of your fishing rod with the other. Most users will be pleased with the amount of storage space too, with two large tank wells and at the bow and stern along with a sealed hatch under the seat to hold items that can’t get wet. There’s even a jumpseat for kids that can be installed in the stern tank well (though this will feel rather cramped though).
One of the downsides to the Malibu Pedal is that it weighs about a hundred pounds; that’s quite a bit for a solo kayak. You’ll need a cart or a helpful friend to assist you in moving it from your vehicle to the water. Additionally, even with a friend, it’s going to be a hassle loading it on a roof rack, so a kayak trailer might be in order.
The pedal-drive does make the Malibu three times as expensive as its paddle propelled counterpart, but given that the Malibu is already a budget-friendly boat, this is still one of the cheaper pedal kayaks you can buy.
The Pescador from Perception Kayaks is another affordable option from one of the bigger names in touring and recreational boats. At a svelte at 85 lbs., the Pescador is one of the lightest pedal kayaks you can buy, albeit still too much for almost any paddler to carry without a cart or a partner. It’s a bit shorter than some of its competitors, at twelve and a half feet, which makes it easier for novices to maneuver. However, it has a five hundred pound capacity, more than enough for a solo paddler and all their gear.
This is another model that utilizes a rotational paddle drive, so if you’re accustomed to riding a bike, you should be able to operate this boat. One of the best things about the Pescador is how adjustable the seat is, being as it’s mounted on a sliding track that can be fine-tuned to just the right spot for the most comfortable pedaling experience. Its mesh backrest will also keep you cool on the hottest days.
The Pescador also comes equipped with an easy to use rudder that’s operated with a handle on the left side of the cockpit. Even those with no experience using a rudder should figure it out in just a couple of minutes. Where this kayak really shines though is in its customizability. On both sides of the cockpit are a set of “gear tracks”, which can slide things like fishfinder mounts, rod holders, and tackle boxes. There’s also a scupper hole ready to experience a fishfinder transducer should you decide to mount one.
There are not many bad things you can say about the Pescador besides that’s it’s bulky. With a width of almost 34 inches, you can’t expect to go fast with it, no matter how hard your legs are pumping. But if speed is what you’re looking for, no pedal-driven kayak will satisfy your needs.
If you’re not deep in the paddling world, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Brooklyn Kayak Company yet, but they’re quickly gaining popularity in the fishing kayak market. Their UH PK14 is an excellent tandem pedaler with a 14-foot hull that cuts through the water when both paddlers are pumping their hardest. The UH PK14 uses a rotational pedal drive i.e. bicycle pedals, to power the propeller beneath the kayak.
Out of all of the kayaks on this list, this is the one with a hull designed for big water. It’s quite narrow and has a grooved hull bottom, to keep a straight line even when you’re nowhere close to shore. As the designers had long-distance paddling in mind, it also comes with a fair bit of storage and 660 lb. weight capacity. There are three watertight hatches with dry bag inserts to keep your valuables nice and dry. There’s also a tank well in the stern for holding bulky equipment. Fortunately, at just under a hundred pounds, it’s still relatively manageable with two paddlers carrying it.
The padding seats are some of the most comfortable that we’ve seen on a pedal-driven kayak, though they don’t get as much airflow as some of the other models, which can make them feel sticky on hot and humid days. The seat position is fully adjustable though, so you should be able to tweak it to fit you perfectly.
As far as tandems go, the BKC is one of the less expensive options, and it even comes with a collapsible paddle. The paddle isn’t the best quality, so you might need to upgrade sometime in the future. The UH PK14 also doesn’t have as many mounting positions for accessories compared to some of the competition. It still has three flush mount holders though, which should be enough for all but the techiest anglers though.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why would I need a pedal kayak?
Good question given that most of us would consider propelling the boat with our upper bodies the defining feature of kayaking. But for those that want to do other activities without tying their hands up (i.e. fishing), pedal kayaks are a great option. On a good majority of pedal kayaks, you’ll find a variety of fishing accessories like rod holders, space for a large cooler, and a raised seat for a better view of the water.
Are They Hard To Use?
Yes and No. They’re more difficult to paddle in the sense that it uses a completely different set of muscles compared to your usual paddling technique. However, most all of us have more strength in our lower body than in our upper body due to the former being used for moving everywhere while the latter is only occasionally engaged in picking things up and using tools. Your legs have a lot of power and once you’ve grown accustomed to this style of propulsion, you’ll be moving a lot of faster than you did with a paddle.
Are there different kinds of pedal drives?
Indeed, there are two systems commonly in use: rotational pedals and push pedals. Rotational pedals work pretty much the same way your bicycle does, though with your legs out in front of you, so it’s more like a recumbent bike. Instead of rotating a wheel with your pedals, you’re rotating a propeller. These types of kayaks are incredibly fast, but require some strong leg muscles and you’ll need to have a lot of free space around your legs to allow them to move through the pedal cycle.
The other design is the push pedal, which operates a bit like a Stair Master machine. Alternating pushes with your legs move a pair of blades beneath the boat in a motion that’s similar to a snorkeler or diver kicking with rubber fins on. Push pedals require constant motion on the user’s part to keep the kayak moving as those blades exert drag and don’t allow you to coast. However, they’re fairly intuitive to use and won’t cause as much distraction if you’re fishing at the same time.
Do all pedal-powered kayaks use a sit-on-top design?
While it’s not a necessity, the vast majority of them will be sit-on-top for the simple reason that you need a lot of space for your legs to move around and operate the pedals. A sit-in kayak could be designed to fit them, but the hull would have to be so weirdly shaped that it wouldn’t be worth it. Plus, most anglers prefer a sit-on-top as it gives them better access to all their gear.
Are pedal-driven kayaks a good workout?
You bet they are! Most people buy these boats as a way to keep their hands free while fishing or taking pictures, but there’s nothing to say you can’t race around in one. Most models have a fairly wide hull, so it can be difficult to get moving, but you’ll get a great workout either way.