Pelican and Lifetime are two of the most popular kayak brands for beginner and intermediate paddlers. Their affordable kayaks are designed for recreational kayaking on calm waters.
Both Lifetime and Pelican offer a range of kayak models, but which is the best brand?
In this article, I dive into the pros and cons of both kayak companies to determine which of the two brands makes the best kayaks. After researching and comparing both brands extensively, I have to say that Pelican came out top, but not in every category.
Read on to find out more!
Are Lifetime Kayaks Good?
Lifetime has been a stalwart in the outdoor industry for over 35 years. It jumped into the kayak market in 2010 with its acquisition of Dragonfly Kayaks and consolidated this when it bought Emotion Kayaks in 2011.
Lifetime now manufactures its kayaks at its facility in Utah. It targets the budget end of the kayaking market and most of its kayaks are designed specifically for beginners.
The range includes recreational sit-in kayaks and recreational, tandem, and fishing sit-on-top kayaks. Lifetime doesn’t currently manufacture inflatable kayaks. Prices for adult kayaks range from $400 for a basic sit-in kayak up to $1,600 for a pedal-drive sit-on-top.
Is Pelican a Good Kayak Brand?
Pelican is a Canadian watersports company founded in 1968. Its kayaks are made from recycled post-industrial plastic and are manufactured in North America.
Pelican has designed and manufactured hardshell kayaks for decades. It added inflatable kayaks to its line-up in 2021 with the acquisition of Advanced Elements Inc.
Adult hardshell kayaks range in price from $320 up to $1,100 for a high-end fishing kayak. Pelican’s range of kayaks is smaller than Lifetime’s but it includes tandem and fishing models.
Pelican vs Lifetime Kayaks – Head-to-Head Comparison
Let’s dive into the specifics of Lifetime and Pelican kayaks and see which brand is the best!
Kayak Construction and Durability
Lifetime kayaks are blow-molded from high-density polyethylene. This is a tough plastic that’s often used on lower-cost kayaks. The plastic is UV treated for longevity; you don’t have to worry about bumping into rocks – these kayaks will bounce right off..
However, they do pick up scratches easily and can become deformed if you strap them down tightly during transport or storage.
Pelican uses RAM-X polyethylene, a proprietary plastic made from high molecular weight polyethylene. This is a high-grade plastic that’s strong and resistant to abrasion. Most Pelican kayaks are made using a twin-sheet thermomolding process, which means they’re lighter and stiffer than blow-molded or roto-molded kayaks.
The construction also means these kayaks regain their shape even after a significant impact. When Pelican ran over 4 kayaks, including a Lifetime kayak, with a Jeep, the Pelican kayak was the only one to escape unscathed.
Perhaps it wasn’t a totally fair or realistic test (unless you’re a careless driver!), but it does illustrate the bounce-back properties of Pelican kayaks.
Lifetime and Pelican are pretty evenly matched when it comes to durability, but for me, Pelican’s construction has a slight edge.
When you’re lugging a kayak from your garage to your car, loading it onto your vehicle, then unloading it and carrying it to the water, weight matters!
You can get tools such as a kayak cart to help with this, but a lighter kayak makes everything a bit easier.
Kayak weight is determined by a kayak’s size, construction method, materials, and features. Pelican’s thermomolding process makes its kayaks lighter than Lifetime kayaks of a similar size. For example, the Lifetime Cruze 100 weighs 52 pounds and the Pelican Argo 100X weighs just 36 pounds.
The weight difference isn’t as big when comparing sit-on-top kayaks, but Pelican still comes out as the lighter brand overall.
A kayak’s weight capacity is the amount of weight it can carry on top of the weight of the kayak itself. Kayaks with a higher weight capacity are better for larger paddlers and people who want to carry passengers or lots of gear.
Tandem kayaks and fishing kayaks typically have a higher weight capacity than single-person recreational kayaks.
When calculating the weight capacity you need, remember to take into account not just your weight, but your paddle, kayaking gear, and anything else you want to carry on your kayak. For optimum performance, I recommend you stick within 65 percent of the advertised maximum capacity – read this article to find out why.
Pelican and Lifetime kayaks have almost identical weight capacities. However, Lifetime has more kayaks with a higher capacity at the top-end of its range.
Pelican’s high-capacity kayaks mostly have a 325-pound weight capacity (the Strike 120X has a 350-pound capacity), Lifetime has a couple of models with a 350-pound capacity and the Stealth Pro Angler has a 375-pound capacity.
Stability and Performance
Lifetime and Pelican both focus on recreational kayaking and kayak fishing. Their kayaks won’t win you any races, but that doesn’t mean they act like bathtubs in the water.
For recreational kayaking, you want a balance between stability and paddling efficiency. If you’re kayak fishing, you may want a more stable boat, even if this sacrifices performance (unless you’re paddling a long way to your fishing spot).
There isn’t a clear-cut winner in this category. Both Lifetime and Pelican Kayaks track reasonably well and are easy to maneuver. You’re likely to notice a bigger difference in performance between different models of kayak than between kayak brands.
The kayaks I’ve recommended below are all great beginner kayaks with a focus on stability. If you want a more performance-orientated kayak, I’d recommend looking at the Pelican Sprint 120XR.
Winner: It’s a tie!
Comfort and Seat Design
All Pelican kayaks come with a padded seat cushion and adjustable seat back. Several entry-level models including the Argo 100 X EXO and Sentinel 100X EXO have a more padded, advanced seating system.
Lifetime takes a more minimalist approach to comfort. Many of their lower-priced models just have an adjustable backrest, with no seat cushion. This will get uncomfortable pretty quickly! You can add a seat cushion, of course, but this is an additional cost.
Higher-end models in both brands’ ranges have adjustable frame seats. These are more comfortable if you’ll be sitting in your kayak for long periods, for example, while kayak fishing.
Being able to position your feet correctly also impacts your comfort when paddling. Cheaper sit-on-tops of both brands have molded footrests, while pricier models have adjustable foot braces.
Overall, Pelican gets the edge on comfort, as they offer padded seats on all their kayaks.
Storage Capacity and Features
Whether storage and other features are important depends on what you’ll be using your kayak for. Recreational kayaks often don’t come with tons of features, but if you don’t mind doing a bit of DIY, you can add mounting systems, paddle holders, and other accessories fairly cheaply. (Though be warned, this may invalidate your warranty.)
Lifetime has taken a no-frills approach to features. Basic sit-on-top models have tankwell storage with a bungee cord and a molded bottle holder. Sit-in models have bungee rigging on the deck and possibly a rear storage compartment.
For a similar price, you can get a Pelican sit-on-top with paddle holders, a non-slip mat, and a handy removable storage compartment that fits in the tankwell. Pelican’s basic sit-in model comes with a rear mesh-covered storage platform and front-storage compartment, giving you more options than Lifetime’s kayaks.
Pelican’s fishing kayaks also seem to offer more for your money. I particularly like the non-slip mats in some of their models – great if you’re standing up to cast or you want to take your dog out on the water.
I’d always advise thinking about what features you really need before buying a kayak. However, in terms of features for your money, Pelican wins this round.
Lifetime kayaks come with a 5-year limited warranty. You’ll need to provide a dated sales receipt. You don’t have to register your product in advance to get the full warranty, but doing so could speed up your claim.
Pelican offers a limited lifetime warranty on defects related to the hull and deck for twin-sheet thermolded kayaks (most of their sit-inside kayaks). Parts and accessories come with a 1-year warranty.
Pelican’s blow-molded sit-on-top kayaks come with a limited 2-year warranty for the hull, deck, parts, and accessories.
You can also buy spare parts directly from the Pelican website. Each kayak model has a parts list that you can download, which makes it easy to find and replace straps, scupper plugs, and other parts that wear over time.
So, which brand is best? It’s a tough call, as it depends on which models you’re comparing. I love that you can get spare parts for Pelican kayaks, but Lifetime seems to be pretty good at standing by its warranty, so it wins this round!
Pelican or Lifetime – Which Offer the Best Kayaks?
Both Lifetime and Pelican kayaks are great budget-friendly kayaks for beginners and recreational paddlers. In our head-to-head comparison, Pelican comes out on top. Their kayaks are lighter and more comfortable, and you get more features for your money.
That said, I wouldn’t discount Lifetime kayaks, especially as you can often get a good deal on them. As always, the best kayak is one that works for you!
3 Best Lifetime Kayaks
Want a Lifetime kayak? Here are three of the best Lifetime kayaks for beginners.
1. Lifetime Cruze 100
Lifetime has plenty of sit-inside kayaks to choose from, but the Cruze 100 is a great entry-level model. It’s 10 feet long and 30 inches wide – a touch wider than many sit-in kayaks. This makes it feel really stable, even if you’re a beginner.
The kayak tracks well and is easy to paddle on calm lakes. There’s plenty of storage space inside the cockpit, as well as a rear storage hatch and bungee cord on the front of the kayak.
The padded seat and adjustable backrest are comfortable for several hours of paddling. The kayak has various footrest positions, to suit most sizes of paddlers, but no thigh braces – it’s more of a gentle-paddling kayak than a sporty speedster!
2. Lifetime Tioga 100
The Tioga 100 is a basic, sturdy kayak that’s stable enough for paddlers of all sizes. There’s even room for your dog to jump in with you!
Tankwells in the bow and stern give you space to store a cooler or drybags. There’s also a storage hatch in front of the seat, but I’d suggest attaching a dry bag to the hatch, so you don’t lose valuables in the hull of the kayak.
The seat back is adjustable, but it’s not cushioned and there’s no seat pad. I’d recommend this kayak for short, warm-weather paddling trips – unless you upgrade the seat.
3. Lifetime Tamarack Pro 103
This is an upgrade to the classic Tamarack fishing kayak. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s a lot more comfortable. If you’re spending long hours on the water, you will appreciate the adjustable framed seat and adjustable footrests.
The Tamarack Pro comes with plenty of fishing features and storage. There are two flush-mounted rod holders behind the seat and an adjustable swivel rod holder that can be attached to either of the 12-inch accessory rails on the kayak sides.
The center storage hatch includes a bucket for bait, and the deep tankwell easily accommodates a cooler.
3 Best Pelican Kayaks
If you’re after a Pelican kayak, here are three great options.
1. Pelican Argo 100X – Best Sit-In Kayak
This 10-foot kayak weighs just 36 pounds, making it easy to load onto your car or truck. If you have a larger vehicle, you may even be able to fit it inside.
The Argo 100X is Pelican’s entry-level kayak, but you get plenty of features for your money. There’s a large tankwell in the stern with a mesh cover, plus a front storage hatch. You even get a molded cup holder for your water bottle!
The adjustable, padded backrest and seat cushion make for a comfortable ride. On the water, it glides nicely and is very stable – even for tall paddlers.
2. Pelican Sentinel 100X EXO – Best Sit-on-Top Kayak
The Sentinel 100X EXO is a great value, lightweight sit-on-top kayak. It comes with some nice features you don’t get on similarly-priced Lifetime kayaks, including paddle tie-downs, a non-slip mat (great if you take your dog on board), and a padded seat.
I love the removable storage compartment that fits neatly in the rear tankwell. You can keep your kayak essentials packed away and it’s easier to find things than rooting through a dry bag.
The Sentinel weighs just 42 pounds and has a 275-pound weight capacity.
3. Basscreek 100XP Angler – Best Fishing Kayak
The Basscreek 100XP Angler is an entry-level fishing kayak with plenty of fishing features. You get two built-in rod holders behind the seat and a swivel rod holder in front of the seat, between your legs.
The large tankwell in the stern is big enough for a cooler. There’s also a quick-lock hatch in the bow of the kayak and a handy 4-inch hatch (with storage badge) located just behind the seat for small accessories or valuables.
This is a great introductory kayak, but larger paddlers may want to spend a bit more and upgrade to the Catch Mode 110 kayak. It’s wider for extra stability and has a more comfortable seat.
Whether you’re new to kayaking or just want a durable kayak with excellent stability, Lifetime and Pelican kayaks are both great brands to look at.
I pitted these two brands together to see which was best. Pelican kayaks came out top – but not by a huge margin. The big advantage of Pelican kayaks is that they’re super lightweight. They also tend to be better value for money.