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Lifetime Payette 116 Kayak Review: An Awesome Starter Kayak for the Money

Great Beginner Kayak

Lifetime Payette 116 Kayak Review

  • Stability
  • Tracking
  • Maneuverability
  • Weight/Portability
  • Gear storage

Introduction: Lifetime Payette 116 Kayak Review

This kayak will always have a special place in my heart. The first “real” kayak I ever owned, the Lifetime Payette 116 is an accessible, beginner-friendly starter boat that paddles well and offers a lot for the price.
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When we purchased this kayak, my wife and I got it as a two-for-one deal, which made it even sweeter. I remember vividly the first time I pushed out from shore, I was surprised at how easily it handled for a big orange boat.

Truth be told, it’s really not that big. At just 9’6” and 44 pounds, the Payette 116 is a very manageable size for a recreational kayak. My wife was able to very easily maneuver it, and even I was surprised at how quick and lightweight the kayak felt compared to the bulky canoes and kayaks I remembered as a child.

Now that we run a website dedicated to reviewing the best beginner kayaks on the market, I thought American Paddler readers could benefit from our Lifetime Payette 116 kayak review.

Check out buyer reviews of the Payette 116 on

Lifetime Payette 116 Specs and Features



Recreational/beginner (sit inside)




9 ft. 8 in. (294.6 cm)


30 in. (76.2 cm)


250 lb. (113.4 kg)


44 in. L x 22 in. W (111.7 x 55.8 cm)


5-Year Limited


44 lb. (20 kg)


86.6 in. (220 cm)


High-Density Polyethylene

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  • Deep Hull Channels for Tracking Performance and Chine Rails for Stability
  • Constructed of UV-Protected High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Large Cockpit with Seat Back
  • UV-Protected – Will Not Fade, Crack, or Split
  • Easy Carry Handle(s)
  • Paddle Keeper with Shock Cord Straps
  • Multiple Footrest Positions for Different Size Paddlers
  • Enclosed Compartment with Lid and Shock Cord Strap
  • Stable Flat Bottom
  • Kayak Paddle Included
  • 5-Year Limited Warranty
  • Sharp Keel for Speed and Tracking

Reassuringly comfortable and stable for beginners

Like many first-time kayakers, I wanted a sit-inside kayak for all the usual reasons: I liked the feeling of being “in” the kayak, as opposed to being exposed to the elements. Being from Michigan, a lot of our paddling is done in colder weather, so I wanted something that wouldn’t take on a lot of water.

The Payette’s very wide, flat bottom does wonders for its stability and safety, and there’s no way this boat is going to flip. That said, it does sacrifice a bit of speed and tracking as a result — which was fine with me, and it’s not enough to really notice. Maneuverability is pretty darn good, to be honest, as even for a newbie paddler, I was able to easily turn this thing on a dime.

The Payette 116 is a basic, out-of-the-box kayak, but it paddles surprisingly well for a budget boat. Part of this is due to the Payette’s streamlined design that widens as it gets closer to the cockpit, allowing the kayak to cut through waves at the bow while still allowing enough seating room for a bigger guy to feel comfortable.

Roomy and plenty of storage space

The first thing you’ll notice when you climb inside the Payette 116 is that the cockpit is forgivingly large. This makes it a great kayak not only for bigger people, but also those whose physical limitations might present difficulties getting in and out of a kayak.

The Payette 116 also offers a lot in terms of storage. Its rear dry storage hatch ties down with bungees to protect your keys, wallet or cellphone while out on the lake, as well as any medication you might need to bring, such as an asthma inhaler. It’s not watertight if the kayak capsizes (but really, it’s not going to), but it does prevent splashes from getting inside.

At first glance, the Payette doesn’t appear to offer much in the way of “wet storage,” with just a simple bungee on the bow deck. But actually, this kayak does have plenty of space for extra lifejackets, paddle leashes, bilge pumps and other gear under the deck in the bow and behind the seat. You can even bring an extra paddle if you need to.

Video: Customizing a Payette 116 for more dry storage

Durable and customizable hardshell construction

The Payette 116 is made of lightweight, durable high-density polyethylene. While it doesn’t offer a lot in the way of extras, this does mean this kayak is highly customizable, and you could easily drill into the shell to create holes for rod holders or other fishing gear.

The other nice thing about the Payette 116 is that it’s UV-resistant, which means it won’t break down if left outside in the elements. Trust me, as someone who doesn’t have a lot of storage space for a kayak, this is a very good thing.

Seat and comfort

If there’s one negative to the Payette, it’s that the seat isn’t the greatest, but unless you plan on paddling for hours on end, it’ll do just fine. The high-back seat could be a little higher, and there’s no padding on the thigh portions, but unless you’ve got exceptionally long legs, you’re probably not going to notice. The footrest positions are adjustable, but the cockpit leg channel still offers plenty of room to stretch out.

The Payette features carrying handles at both the bow and stern, as well as drain plugs for quick emptying when you’re done on the water (although a bilge pump makes this much easier).

lifetime payette 116 kayak review
Hoisting two Lifetime Payette 116 kayaks onto the car for a weekend camping trip.

Budget price

Honestly, what most paddlers will love about the Payette is the price. That’s what drew me. And given the two-for-one deal we got, it was honestly the perfect kayak for my wife and I to start with. Check the latest price for yourself on Amazon.

Lightweight and portable

Both my wife and I are on the shorter side, but I was able to easily hoist the Payettes onto the roof of our Pontiac Vibe by myself. Since they weigh just 44 pounds, it’s definitely manageable for two people, and one person can do it if need be.

And just for the record, Pontiac Vibes aren’t exactly known for their kayak-hauling capacity, yet our smaller vehicle was able to fit two Payettes on the roof rack with ease.

Tl;dr (Too long, didn’t read)

One of the best starter kayaks on the market, and an incredibly stable one at that, the Lifetime Payette 116 is the perfect way to get your feet wet with kayaking. Lightweight and easily manageable, this kayak is a great sit-in boat with a wide, forgiving cockpit and great maneuverability for first-timers. If you’re a couple looking to purchase your first set together, check for deals on Amazon.

Happy paddling, and please let us know if we can make this Lifetime Payette 116 kayak review better!

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