Wait for just a second here. There’s a kayak out there that can seat two people at the same time? Yep, indeed there is. It’s known as a tandem kayak and as opposed to the kayak that you’re most likely accustomed to, it can seat two people.

For the record, a tandem kayak and a two-person kayak are the same thing and are often just interchanged with one another. But seeing how that type of kayak is designed for more than one person, it begs a very interesting question. Can one person use a two-person kayak?

After all, the reverse to that question is certainly a no. The fact that two people can’t use a solo kayak together (unless it was a really small child or something with an adult). Before we answer that question, though, let’s quickly talk about what a tandem kayak is.

What is a tandem kayak?

Photo by Xiaoyang Ou / Unsplash

Wait for it…a tandem kayak is a kayak that allows two people to enjoy the activity together in the same kayak. Two people can help control just as you would in a canoe or any other boat designed for more than one person. That’s really just one in the simplest of explanations, but there’s certainly more than meets the eye when it comes to a tandem kayak.

If you want a more in-depth description, I've written an entire article covering what a tandem kayak is.

So, what’s a tandem kayak good for?

Let’s just briefly talk about why you’d even want to go out of your way to buy a two-person kayak. Besides the obvious of being able to paddle with someone in the same kayak, there are other advantages as well:

  • Tandem kayaks tend to allow for more speed with more than one person paddling.
  • They allow a beginner a great way to learn if they’re paired with a seasoned kayaker.
  • The second person can act as a “passenger” to just enjoy the ride.

Can one person use a tandem kayak?

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Umm, we kind of just spilled the beans. Did you catch that last bullet point above? Read that one again and you will pretty much have your answer. Can one person use a two-person kayak? Yep, a solo kayaker can go kayaking by themselves even if they’re in a tandem kayak.

So, that’s it, right? Problem solved and now you can go on with your day doing better things…right? As with most everything, there’s certainly more than meets the eye here, and there’s still a lot left to dive into.

Pros and cons of using a tandem kayak by yourself

What better way to dive further into this question than by breaking down some pros and cons of deciding to go solo in a tandem kayak? As they say, let’s just get the bad news out of the way first that way it can end with some good news.


Tandem kayaks are going to be heavier and longer (most of the time) than the typical solo kayak is going to be. This can come into play when traveling. If you know you’re going to be kayaking by yourself, it’s going to be easier (again, most of the time) to just transport a solo kayak instead of one of the two-person variety.

Operating a two-person kayak individually is going to be much harder overall. Kayaking is already a great exercise and a great way to work out your muscles, and doing it this way is going to be even more challenging. When trying to navigate through tight turns and narrow passageways, it’s going to be much more difficult as the kayak is designed for two people to be paddling at the same time.

Outside of being harder to transport, a tandem kayak will also be a little more challenging to handle when getting it in and out of the water. Now, if you’re kayaking with friends or family and they all have their own kayaks, you could still get assistance from them to help alleviate this issue.


The additional space that’s offered from a tandem kayak can come into play if the other seat isn’t being occupied by someone else. So, if you want to bring some extra gear or items (such as coolers) there will be a lot more room to account for stuff like that. It’s not as if solo kayaks have no storage space, but that extra cargo space can be nice to have.

If you have a tandem kayak, at literally anytime you can account for someone who wants to go kayaking with you. Even if you take it out for yourself sometimes, having the ability to seat someone else who might not have their own kayak can be quite beneficial.

How much larger is a tandem kayak?

3 colorful kayaks on a trailer
Photo by Nareeta Martin / Unsplash

If you search the market for kayaks, you’ll end up finding out that their lengths can vary. Even tandem kayaks and solo kayaks can vary quite a bit. Generally speaking, solo kayaks are going to be around eight to nine feet. Meanwhile, tandems will typically be anywhere between 10 to 14 feet. Again, though, these lengths can vary quite a bit.

For the purposes of transporting, just go in assuming that a tandem kayak is going to be longer and heavier. Therefore, assume it will be more challenging to travel with.

Final thoughts

Can one person use a two-person kayak? Yes. Yet, as you can see, the positives don’t outweigh the negatives. Now, you could probably think of a few more pros and cons. But, in general, there are probably more issues that will arise when choosing to operate a two-person kayak individually than just choosing a solo kayak.

It does depend a lot on your own personal preference. The best way to find out is to take a tandem kayak out for a spin by yourself. If you end up hating the experience, then you know that you’re probably never going to buy a tandem kayak for yourself. Who knows, though, you may find out that you don’t mind it. Then, you’ll always have room for a guest! Ultimately, the choice is yours.