When you learned to ride a bike, did you use a set of training wheels?
At least until you got your balance, and became confident enough to take them off.
Well, that’s what kayak outriggers are – but for the water!
And they’re not just useful for beginners, or reluctant paddlers – they can be very beneficial for a fishing kayak, too – adding an extra level of stability for anglers to reel in a monster catch.
Let’s take a look at the best kayak outriggers currently on the market – so you can be sure to stay right side up.
Table of Contents
- Kayak Stabilizer and Outrigger Systems – The Short Version
- TOP 7 Best Kayak Outriggers & Stabilizers 2023
- How to Choose the Best Kayak Outriggers for Your Kayak
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
Kayak Stabilizer and Outrigger Systems – The Short Version
Although we have a full review with a buyer’s guide to follow, we can appreciate not everyone has the time to read through. With that in mind, here are our top three picks for the best kayak outriggers.
Our number one is the Yakgear Kayak Canoe Outriggers (Gen2), the only downside of which seems to be that it’s always sold out.
For a premium, high-end stabilizer system, the Spring Creek Float Package is the way to go.
Read on for all these stabilizers, and more!
TOP 7 Best Kayak Outriggers & Stabilizers 2023
How to Choose the Best Kayak Outriggers for Your Kayak
If you’re new to kayak and canoe outrigger systems, or if you’d like to brush up on what you already know, here’s a handy buyer’s guide to help you choose the right setup for you and your small boat.
What is an Outrigger?
An outrigger is a structure that is attached to a boat, and can mean different things depending on the craft in question.
For kayaking and sailing, it refers to float rigging that extends out from the gunwales (sides) and improves the boat’s stability on the water, and a kayak’s buoyancy.
Outriggers help prevent the vessel from tipping and/or capsizing, and they can be very useful when additional stability is required – such as when you’re kayak fishing, or even whitewater kayaking.
Why You Should Use a Kayak Outrigger?
The first time I got into a kayak, my heart was beating out of my chest. It was a simple, sit-inside craft, but I didn’t feel particularly comfortable, and was unsure of my own ability to balance.
I guess sometimes the best way to learn is to be thrown in at the deep end – but I’d rather have not been thrown in at all!
A good kayak outrigger would have allayed all my fears, and provided a safety net that offers stability and security to the paddler.
Think of a kayak outrigger as training wheels for the water – although they’re not just beneficial to beginners and younger paddlers.
A good kayak stabilizer can boost confidence, and give a kayaker additional peace of mind when trying to focus solely on catching fish.
And they can be ideal for any humans who are on the larger/heavier side, or anyone who feels a little unsure of themselves in a kayak.
With a higher center of gravity, taller men and women can feel a little shaky when paddling a kayak, and a set of stabilizers can be very reassuring.
Speaking of, you can check out this review of the best fishing kayaks for bigger guys and gals if you’re looking for something with extra stability.
Regardless of if you decide to use a kayak outrigger or not, this extra stability should never replace the wearing of a certified PFD. Go here to shop some of the best fishing PFDs available.
Kayak Outriggers – The Negatives
Even the best kayak outriggers are not without their downsides, so in the interests of being fair, here’s a list of their “cons.”
- Kayak outriggers and stabilizers add weight and drag. While the weight might be offset with the additional buoyancy they provide, they can still contribute to a loss of speed.
- As well as adding resistance, a kayak outrigger is going to add width. This can be a problem when putting in/coming out, as well as with portability and storage – particularly for fixed outrigger arms.
- Installation can cause a bit of a headache. Many paddlers are reluctant to drill holes in their kayak, and there’s always a chance something can go wrong and cause permanent damage.
- Incorrectly installed, a kayak outrigger can impede your paddle stroke.
- Kayak anglers already have enough gear on board, and stabilizers can add profile/clutter on deck.
- Buying kayak outriggers for inflatable kayaks is tricky. You can’t drill holes in an inflatable, so you’ll have to think outside the box for installing a stabilizer on this type of craft.
Hardshell vs Inflatable Outriggers
As much as the debate of hardshell vs inflatable kayaks rages on (follow that link for the definitive conclusion), the same can be said for hardshell vs inflatable outriggers.
And the pros and cons are more or less the same.
Inflatable stabilizer systems are highly portable and easy to store – but they’ll take a bit of time to set up, and – although they’re made with durable materials, there’s still a risk of puncture.
Air-filled inflatable floats will always add extra buoyancy to your kayak, and they also happen to be much cheaper than their hardshell counterparts.
Molded PVC floats or hardshell kayak outriggers are more durable than inflatables, and they will also last much longer. Once installed, you don’t need to keep inflating them before your fishing trip.
The trade-off is that they’re more expensive, heavier, and more difficult to transport and store – just like hardshell kayaks.
The best outriggers are fully adjustable, so you can experiment with the optimum width that the floats extend from the port and starboard sides of your kayak.
But for most kayaks, outriggers should be somewhere between 30-36-inches in length from the hull to the float.
Most stabilizers that have independent arms come with universal mounting hardware, and are fixed separately on each gunwale – so your kayak’s size or shape doesn’t really matter.
However, if you’re using a universal receiver arm that goes across the top of the deck, I highly recommend measuring or double-checking your kayak or canoe’s width to ensure it will be compatible.
Which brings us nicely onto the next point.
Installation and Compatibility
Before purchasing a kayak stabilizer system, you must first ascertain how compatible it’s going to be with the kayak you own (or the kayak you intend to purchase).
Some kayaks have pre-installed deck mounts, mounting hardware, or pre-drilled holes that can accommodate such accessories.
However, for the majority of kayaks, you should be prepared to use some basic DIY skills to install an outrigger system – and not everyone likes the thought of drilling holes in a kayak’s hull.
Watch the video below from the YakAttack product – which is a good metric for how to install other kayak outriggers.
Perhaps surprisingly, kayaking outriggers are quite expensive, and most will set you back over $200.
But it’s worth paying a little more for the comfort and security they can provide while out on the water.
And you can always save some money by checking out this article on the best budget-friendly fishing kayaks out there!
How to Make a DIY Kayak Outrigger?
While there are plenty of excellent, ready-made kayak outriggers on the market, there’s no reason why you can’t build your own at home with a bit of thought and some basic DIY know-how.
The video below is a great place to start – although bear in mind that the quality and effectiveness can be hit or miss – depending on how handy you are.
What exactly do kayak outriggers do?
Kayak and canoe outriggers help increase the stability of your craft, and help prevent or reduce the risk of the kayak tipping over.
They can instill confidence in anyone who is new to kayaking, larger/taller/younger paddlers who are a little unsure of themselves, and anglers who would simply like some extra support when reeling in a big fish.
Are outriggers necessary?
No, not at all – they aren’t required for paddlers to enjoy kayaking.
But you will definitely notice a difference in stability between using a kayak stabilizer kit and not; and that can be a very attractive and reassuring prospect for many paddlers – particularly beginners.
And speaking of beginners, this article covers the best fishing kayaks for anyone who is just starting out in this awesome sport.
Are outriggers necessary for fishing?
It depends on what kind of outrigger you’re talking about!
On a fishing vessel, an outrigger is a pole that allows the crew to have more fishing lines in the water, without the risk of entanglements.
And as more lines mean more fish, outriggers are considered necessary for this type of fishing.
For kayak fishing, they have a different connotation.
Most modern fishing kayaks are incredibly stable, like this selection of the best stand-up fishing kayaks – which are specifically designed for anglers to enjoy standing casts and reels.
As such, stabilizers are not necessary for practicing the sport, and you can still catch fish either way.
But if you’ve ever tipped or capsized a kayak, and felt that horrible heart-in-mouth moment, then you will understand how valuable these devices can be.
Had you been using a stabilizer, there’s a good chance your kayak wouldn’t have tipped, and that is an attractive prospect for anyone looking to stay safe, warm, and dry.
Not to mention preventing all your on-board gear and equipment from going in the drink and sinking to the bottom.
How long should my kayak outriggers be?
Experts and kayak professionals recommend that your kayak outriggers should be between 30 and 36 inches long.
Having adjustable outriggers is useful for playing with the optimal width of each arm, either side of your kayak. Experiment in shallow water to find out what works for you.
How do you install outriggers?
It depends on the particular product, but most kayak outriggers are installed in a similar fashion – by attaching a mounting bracket to the gunwales of your kayak, and then adding the outrigger arms.
Care must be taken to ensure the system is perpendicular to the kayak, and, if the arms are independent of one another, they are level across the width of the hull.
With most manufactured outrigger stabilizer kits, full installation instructions should be provided, but there are plenty of YouTube videos and guides out there if you need more assistance.
How stable is a kayak with outriggers?
Extremely stable – especially if you’re adding extra stability to an already stable kayak!
Check out the following footage which shows just how much effort it takes to tip a kayak with stabilizers installed. The particular product shown is the Angle Oar kit which is in our review, above.
Do outriggers slow down a kayak?
Alas, yes, outriggers can slow down a kayak. Adding anything to a kayak is going to increase drag, especially if it consists of two arms and floats extending outwards from the hull.
It’s not exactly streamlined, is it?!
Still, if you’re kayak fishing, you’re not going to be that interested in winning races. In this sport, comfort, security, and stability on the water are far more important than speed.
The best kayak outriggers can really help with balance and stability – no matter the type of paddling you’re enjoying.
I hope this article has helped bust some of the jargon, and you’re more clued-up on what a kayak stabilizer system is capable of.
Let us know in the comments which one you’ve gone for and why.
Stay safe out there, and happy kayaking!