When it comes to buying a new kayak, we tend to associate reduced weight with a heftier price tag. Top of the line composite kayaks, made from expensive materials like carbon fibre, kevlar, and fibreglass, cost enough to make most of us dizzy.
2021 has, however, seen some new tech developed at Bay Sports. Two exciting developments have been:
Although we don't love to toot our own horn, we can't deny that these changes in material and construction have helped to create some of the best lightweight kayaks of 2021.
This blog post will run through the specifics of ABS and drop-stitch tech, before listing our picks of the best lightweight kayaks of 2021.
What is ABS?
ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, which is an impact-resistant, engineering-grade thermoplastic that is considerably lighter than regular plastic. ABS is notable for its rigidity, resistance to abrasion and strain, high stability, and high surface brightness. As a thermoplastic (not a thermoset plastic) ABS can be liquified repeatedly, meaning that it is commonly made from recycled material.
Why invest in an ABS Kayak?
Most kayakers, whether newbies or veterans, can recognise a spectrum here. At one end, we have expensive, lightweight composite kayaks, and at the other, cheaper, heavier plastic kayaks. Between these ends, we find a niche that begs to be filled:
Enter ABS, the Goldilocks material of kayak construction.
ABS is the ideal solution if you are looking for a kayak that is lightweight and high-performance, but also durable and affordable. The acrylic surface of a thermoformed kayak is harder and more scratch-resistant than its high-density polyethylene counterpart.
Put simply, an ABS kayak gives you the lightweight, high-performance qualities of a composite kayak, without sacrificing durability, versatility, or the bank account.
Best Lightweight (ABS) kayaks of 2021
Bay Sports' new range of super lightweight, ABS Thermoformed Kayaks include six epic boats to suit any style of paddler.
Whether you are a kayak fishing aficionado, a long-distance touring paddler, or an underwater explorer, there's an ABS kayak for you.
QUEST 309 - 3.09M SINGLE SIT-IN TOURING KAYAK
- Perfect for: Beginner or intermediate paddlers
- Kayak style: Touring and underwater exploration
- Length: 3.09m / 10"
- Width: 0.73m / 29"
- Weight: 18 kg / 40 lbs
- Maximum weight capacity: 104 kg / 276 lbs
The Quest 309 Superlite is a super lightweight kayak that's got enough volume and stability to carry a bigger load. A transparent, polycarbonate window in the bottom of the boat’s large cockpit makes this an epic vessel for nature lovers, kids, or the otherwise curiously disposed.
The Quest 309 is fantastic for beginners and intermediate paddlers. Its stable multi-chine hull design gives great stability and the long waterline provides great tracking despite its shorter length.
QUEST 442 - 4.42M SINGLE SIT-IN TOURING KAYAK
- Perfect for: Smaller paddlers
- Kayak style: Touring
- Length: 4.42m / 14'5"
- Width: 0.58m / 23"
- Weight: 23 kg / 50 lbs
- Maximum weight capacity: 147 kg / 324 lbs
The Quest 442 Superlite is the best kayak in our ABS Thermoformed range for smaller paddlers. The boat has a narrow beam, low deck height, and light carry weight. This is an incredibly lightweight kayak, coming in at just 23 kgs, making it easy to transport and carry for paddlers who are small to mid-sized.
The Quest 442 Superlite ticks all the boxes from performance to portability. A premium comfort backrest provides excellent support for all-day paddling and is adjustable (forward and back) so you can find your perfect seating position.
QUEST 457 - 4.57M SINGLE SIT-IN TOURING KAYAK
- Perfect for: Small to mid-sized paddlers
- Kayak style: Touring and Sea Kayaking
- Length: 4.57m / 14'12"
- Width: 0.53m / 21"
- Weight: 22.5 kgs / 50 lbs
- Maximum weight capacity: 102 kg / 225 lbs
The Quest 442's longer and narrower sibling is the Quest 475. Its dialled in hull and greater overall length pays dividends when it comes to speed, glide, and tracking through the water. Despite a narrower hull, this versatile kayak is stable, provides storage for all your touring gear, and is a very capable seagoing kayak. On the sea, river, or lakes, this kayak will be a favourite for years to come.
QUEST 518 - 5.18M SINGLE SIT-IN TOURING KAYAK
- Perfect for: Mid-sized paddlers
- Kayak style: Touring
- Length: 5.18m / 16'12"
- Width: 0.61m / 24"
- Weight: 27.5 kgs / 61 lbs
- Maximum weight capacity: 158 kg / 348 lbs
The Quest 518 is the largest single kayak in the ABS range. With an ultra-stable width of 0.61m, mid-sized paddlers are guaranteed a perfect fit for superior hip control and secure bracing.
A foot-controlled rudder system makes this kayak track well while giving you excellent maneuverability. Bungee rigging bow and stern will keep gear secure above deck, while VCP-style hatches (also bow and stern) provide watertight storage for your more delicate gear.
QUEST 556 - 5.56M DOUBLE SIT-IN TOURING KAYAK
- Perfect for: Paddling with a mate
- Kayak style: Touring
- Length: 5.48m (5.56m / 17'12" with rudder)
- Width: 0.77m / 30"
- Weight: 39 kg / 86 lbs
- Maximum weight capacity: 249 kg / 549 lbs
The Quest 556 Superlite is a fast, lightweight, tandem kayak with a stable hull. As with the other boats in the range, the adjustable premium comfort seat means both paddlers can find the perfect fit for excellent support, all-day long.
Despite being the largest boat in the range, Quest 556 comes in at a feather-light 27.5kg, making it easier to transport than most other plastic kayaks of its length. Getting this boat from the roof of your car to the water’s edge will be a breeze. We recommend a dedicated sit-in kayak trolley to keep your boat in tip-top shape.
PEDAL PRO 315 - 3.1M PEDAL-POWERED SIT ON TOP FISHING KAYAK
- Perfect for: All-Rounder
- Kayak style: Fishing and Leisure
- Length: 3.15m / 10'5"
- Width: 0.89m / 35"
- Weight: 23 kg / 50 lbs hull weight or 28 kg / 61 lbs with seat and pedal drive
- Maximum weight capacity: 211 kg / 465 lbs
The Pedal Pro 315 Superlite with Impulse Drive is one of the lightest and most affordable feet propelled kayaks on the market. The Pedal Pro 315 Superlite allows for hands free kayaking with the Impulse Pedal Drive System, which is great for when your arms need a break or you need your hands free for fishing.
The Impulse Drive pedal system is surprisingly straightforward, allowing for seamless and intuitive transitions between forwards and backwards propulsion. A side-mounted hand steering lever allows the paddler to track and maneuver effortlessly. Best of all, the pedal system is fully serviceable by the owner, and (if taken care of) doesn't require any complex maintenance.
Whether you're fishing, swimming/snorkelling, or just going for a paddle, this versatile kayak is great for almost any activity on the water. The lightweight Pedal Pro is loaded with features you'll love, securing it as one of 2021's best lightweight kayaks.
PEDAL PRO 376 - 3.7M PEDAL-POWERED SIT ON TOP FISHING KAYAK
- Perfect for: All-rounder
- Kayak style: Fishing and Leisure
- Length: 3.76m / 12'4"
- Width: 0.87m / 34"
- Weight: 31 kg / 68 lbs
- Maximum weight capacity: 220 kg / 485 lbs
If you're looking for a lightweight sit-on-top kayak with great carrying capacity, the Pedal Pro 376 is the right boat for the job. It's slightly longer than the Pedal Pro 315, but features the same Impulse Drive pedal system. It's still a relatively short and wide kayak, making it stable, versatile, and great as a seated or standing platform for fishing. Thanks to its ABS construction, the extra capacity, stability, and storage space of this sit on top doesn't make it ungainly or heavy. In fact, the Pedal Pro 376 is an excellent lightweight kayak considering the number of features that it packs into a mere 31 kg.
What are "Drop-Stitch" Inflatable Kayaks?
In the past, inflatable kayaks have been criticised for their lack of rigidity and susceptibility to punctures. However, the technology going into them has come a long way. Over at Bay Sports, we've been upgrading our drop-stitch technology to bring our inflatable kayak range as close as possible to the performance offered by a hard shell kayak.
But what on earth is drop-stitch technology?
Drop-stitches are essentially tiny, interwoven fibres that fill the cavity inside an inflated kayak to create the level of rigidity and stiffness that hard shell kayaks are praised for. When inflated, these fibres stand up and interlock with one another to create a hard, stable, and durable paddling surface.
Like ABS, Bay Sports' advanced drop-stitch construction fills an important niche in the kayaking market, providing a lightweight kayak that is high performance and durable, but also able to be packed into the boot of a car.
Best Lightweight (Inflatable) Kayaks of 2021
You'd be hard-pressed to find a material lighter than air, so when it comes to the best lightweight kayaks of 2021, inflatables are a serious category to consider.
Bay Sports' 2022 range utilises the best in drop-stitch technology. For those looking for a compact and high performing kayak, the kayaks listed below will be hard to beat.
2022 AIR GLIDE 410 - 4.10M DOUBLE INFLATABLE KAYAK
- Perfect for: All-rounder, limited storage space
- Kayak style: Leisure, day-trips
- Length: 4.10m / 13'5"
- Width: 0.82m/ 2'7"
- Weight: 16kgs / 35 lbs
- Maximum weight capacity: 220kg / 485 lbs
When it comes to portability in the tandem kayak category, nothing beats the Air Glide 410. The entire inflatable set up– the tandem kayak itself, two paddles, two backrests, the dual-action pump, padded footrests, a 9" slide-in skeg, and an optional rudder system– fit into a high-quality 1680D bag that can be wheeled or carried easily with all-terrain wheels at its base, and backpack-esque straps on its side. All this comes in at a mere 26kg, with the double kayak itself only weighing in at 16kg!
The 2022 Air Glide 410 is essentially an upgrade of its much-loved predecessor. Upgrades include improvements to the super tough 1680D carry bag, the comfort footrests, the aluminium paddle quality, and the replacement of floor drainage valves with a nose drainage bung.
The 2022 Air Glide furthermore builds on the tried and tested features that made its predecessor perform so highly. Advancements in the rigid, molded V-hull, including a clever slide-in skeg, have ensured better tracking, easier paddling, and greater speed than the original 410 was capable of.
To round it off, the 2022 Air Glide 410 is made of super-tough, abrasion-resistant material that most would find difficult to puncture.
2022 AIR GLIDE 385 - 3.85M SINGLE INFLATABLE KAYAK
- Perfect for: Solo paddlers, limited storage space
- Kayak style: Liesure, day-trips
- Length: 3.85m / 12" 6'
- Width: 0.77m / 2'3"
- Weight: 14kgs / 31 lbs
- Maximum weight capacity: 200kg / 441 lbs
The Air Glide 385 features the same tech and upgrades as the 410 but due to its compact size, weighs even less, coming in at just 14kgs. This kayak is perfect for more adventurous solo trips, whether that be on the lakes, river, or sea, with plenty of extra space in the cockpit for gear, food, and water storage. The Air Glide 385 is also great for taking a child along with you, as the adjustable seating can make extra space in the bow end of the cockpit. Like the 410, the Air Glide 385 comes with a bunch of extra gear such as a wheeled backpack-style bag, a double valve pump, hi-back kayak seats, footrests, aluminium paddles, and a quick repair kit. This kayak is one of the best on the market for solo adventures, and the fact that it fits comfortably in the boot of the car (or on your back) makes it just that much better.
If these two don't quite cut it for you, Bay Sports offers a couple of other great inflatables. Check them out here.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR NEW LIGHTWEIGHT KAYAK
It won't be easy to pick from such a great lineup. Check out our Kayak Finder for help choosing the best lightweight kayak for you. Featuring both Bay Sports' ABS and inflatable range, our Kayak Finder will help you decide in just a few clicks.
Check it out here