Best Inflatable Kayaks & 2020 Buyer Guide and Reviews

With the advent of time, kayaks have evolved, in terms of their functionality and overall durability, as well as their overall quality and construction.

This guide aims to help you with your decision making when it comes to inflatable kayaks. For such purpose, we have shortlisted for you the top 10 inflatable kayaks out there in the market.

Do not forget to read on regarding some basic information relating kayaks, key features that you should be considering during your purchase, and lastly, a compilation of certain frequently asked queries from like-minded readers – all of which you may find useful.

It is not an easy task to shortlist a single kayak, out of the countless options that you have available online or at sports stores.

What is the Best Inflatable Kayak?

Based on our review and research, “Sea Eagle 370 Kayak” is one of the best inflatable kayaks. This kayak of 2 persons is the perfect equipment for your upcoming water adventure. Some of the key features include durability, adjustability and state of the art designing and functionalities.

Sea Eagle 370 Series
Best for Beginners

Sea Eagle 385ft Fast Track
Stable, Fast & True Tracking!

SeavEagle 420x
3-Person Kayak

Best Inflatable Kayaks & 2020 Buyer Guide and Reviews
Best Inflatable Kayaks & 2020 Buyer Guide and Reviews
Best Inflatable Kayaks & 2020 Buyer Guide and Reviews

Starting at $299

$899

$999

5/5
4.5/5
4.5/5

Best 10 Overall Inflatable Kayaks – Mix of 1/2/3 Persons

Inflatable kayaks provide a very pragmatic option to those looking to explore new waters around them – thanks to its compact and portable features that can make your expeditions super easy and enjoyable!

You can move around with it pretty much anywhere or as far as you like, and set it up in a matter of minutes. This is something that you could have never achieved with a traditional kayak!

If you are reading this article, the chances are you want a no-nonsense and durable kayak that can be easily stored and transported. We have shortlisted the best inflatable kayaks that are available in the market today. These are shortlisted based on thorough review and research, so you save some time by not doing so. Eventually, you need to ascertain your requirements and usage and then opt for the best one available. Let us go straight to the varying options that you have when it comes to best inflatable kayaks.



Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak

sevylor big basin 3 person kayak

This 3 person kayak is made from the heavy-duty PVC for lake usage and has a rugged tarpaulin bottom that affords the vessel durability and protection from punctures. This ensures that this kayak is apt for anything from a still lake to easy whitewater. It has an ‘Airtight System’ that guarantees there will be no leakages within it.

In the untoward situation of hitting a snag, the kayak’s multiple air chambers will keep the kayak inflated and hence can be lifesavers. This can assure you that you get back to the shore safely.

It has adjustable seats that provide the kayakers with ultimate comfort for those long (or short) water trips. Its specially designed spray covers will block any splashes of water and will help you stay dry and clean throughout the trip. The carry handles on the side make it easy for the kayaker to handle it in and out of the water, and add to its portability.

The ‘Boston Valve’ is designed with double threading so you can easily inflate or deflate the kayak at your convenience and without any hassle.

The kayak is strong enough to withstand a weight of 490 lbs, as certified by the NMMA.

Its inflated dimensions: 12 ft. 3 in. x 3 ft. 1 in. and it weighs 34.8 pounds. It is reasonably priced at $345.71.

Sea Eagle 393RL RazorLite Inflatable Kayak Pro Package

sea eagle 393rl razorlite inflatable kayak

The patented RazorLite High-Performance Ultra Light Kayak takes great pride in being the first and only inflatable kayak that is carved from Drop Stitch Technology completely. In specific, it uses 3″ Drop Stitch material for the floor and 4″ Drop Stitch material for the side walls.

The Sea Eagle FlexBrace is completely adjustable and has an ergonomic foot brace. This brace can guarantee you hours of comfort and take out the stress associated with those long trips in the water. There are 20 different positions to choose from and for varying sizes of paddlers that can be adjusted quickly and easily.

It weighs less than 60 pounds and has 2 open and close drain valves, as well as 3 one-way air valves.

It is a high-performance kayak with key features including removable rear skeg, 4 part performance paddle, tall seat back, backpack for storage and transport, front & rear spray skirts with carry handles, 6 D-rings to secure seat and footrest, and high-pressure pump with inline gauge.

The kayak’s rigid bow and stern molds provide a super speedy entry and exit system by creating lift and reducing friction and drag.

The tapered drop stitch sidewalls give the kayak a firm chine at the waterline and added buoyancy and stability. These features add up to give this kayak an efficient output by gliding swiftly and easily through the water.

ADVANCED ELEMENTS StraitEdge Angler Inflatable Fishing Kayak

straitedge inflatable fishing kayak

This inflatable kayak is designed specifically for anglers and is made out of multi-layer material and patented aluminum rib frame.

Advanced Elements StraitEdge Kayak is a sit-on-top inflatable fishing kayak and designed with kayak anglers and their requirements in mind. The angler’s wide beam affords optimum stability when making those big catches. It has built-in aluminum ribs on the bow and stern to enhance the tracking feature. It is made out of heavy-duty material, has abrasion pads for greater durability, wide beams that enhance the kayak’s stability, and also comes standard with multiple air chambers for greater durability during tough water conditions. The removable Accessory Frame is a revolutionary design that allows you to customize the kayak with rod holders, a fish finder, or any other related equipment.

There is a high back seat that accommodates two-rod holders along with inflatable lumbar support that can guarantee you comfort and ease during those long angling days out in the water.

It has other practical features such as stainless steel d-rings and bungee deck lacing for added storage, and paddle holders that can allow your attention to be fixated on fishing. When you are done for the day, you can roll the angler up and store it in the trunk.

Its dimensions are 29.9 x 10 x 16.9 inches and it weighs 39.7 pounds. It is available in yellow colour only. It has a weight capacity of 300 lbs and comes with a one-year manufacturer warranty.

AIRHEAD MONTANA Kayak, 1 Person

airhead montana kayak

Airhead Performance inflatable travel kayak is ideal for camping, vacationing, exploring remote regions, and cruising yachts. They’re also suitable for paddling enthusiasts who do not intend to travel around with an oversized kayak on the top of their vehicle.

The AIRHEAD kayaks are compact when deflated and can easily into your car’s trunk, a duffel bag or even a luggage case. It is like having a reusable kayak that is available to you whenever you feel like heading to the waters. It is specially designed for use in lakes and moderate white water. They are made from semi-rigid heavy gauge PVC and have durable tri-laminate reinforcements underneath. It also has a tubular I-beam floor that provides the kayakers with the much-needed comfort, buoyancy and tracking.

It is lightweight and portable and can be carried around with ease. The inflatable seats come with an adjustable support backrest and special mesh pocket. The kayak is highly visible and available in orange color so you can be spotted from a distance and enhances your safety too.

It has low drag and effective tracking with 4 bottom fins. The 3 air chambers are fully covered by rugged 840-denier nylon and also has UV and water-resistant coatings for longevity and durability. The tri-laminate reinforcements allow it to be used for a long time and multiple seasons – giving you good value for your money. The elbow guards are made from neoprene and offer superior comfort. It is easy to inflate and deflate and is aided by its 3 Boston valves that have nylon covers.

Some other features include stainless steel and nylon hardware that is non- corrosive, 6 D-rings at bow and stern for tightening the gear, stretch net in bow low drag, 4 bottom fins tracking, grab handles so you can move around with it and in and out of the water with ease, front and back spray covers, and threaded drain plug.

Its dimensions are 26 x 18 x 8 inches and it weighs 27 pounds. It comes with a price tag of $359.99. It has a capacity of 1 person who cannot exceed 300 lbs in body weight. The length of the kayak is 9 feet and 9 inches.

Sevylor Tahiti 3-Person Fishing Kayak

Sevylor Tahiti Hunt and Fish Kayak

Now you can inflate the Sevylor Tahiti within minutes and hit the water right away. That is how quick and easy it is to use – thanks to its Double Lock Fast Valves and Mini Double Lock Fast Valves. The advanced backpack system holds everything you require to get into the water and conveniently slip it under your kayak’s seat. It has a 21-gauge PVC construction and rugged tarpaulin bottom that ensures the lake currents are managed easily so you get a steady and safe experience and that there are no leakages.

In the unlikely event of bumping somewhere or hitting a snag, the multiple air chambers can get you back to the shore safely. The backrest and multi-position footrest cut your work drastically and make the expedition restful and enjoyable. It also comes with a drink holder and bungee storage area where you can store your gear and fluids in an accessible manner.

This inflatable kayak operates similar to a traditional sit-on-top kayak, with the exception that it folds up into its dedicated backpack that comes with the convenience of padded shoulder straps. This bag can also be fitted easily inside your car’s trunk. The design and comfort of this kayak allow you to stretch your legs out and spread your backs and arms too. This takes away the stress and boredom of sitting in a confined spot that people generally associate kayaks with. The cargo net in the front can conveniently hold your packed meals or other gear items that can be accessed easily. The lift handle allows you to carry it around on your shoulder with ease and in and out of the shallow water. The rigid floor, flat bottom and three-chamber design provides the kayak with a sturdy shape and give stability and security when in water, in case of a snag. The length of the kayak is 10 ft. 4 in. x 3 ft. 1 in (2.62 m x.91 m) and can accommodate up to 360 lbs. (163.29 kg). There is a built-in paddle that opens up for more storage and a high-pressure hand pump.

Its dimensions are: 124.8 x 34.8 x 24 inches and weigh 22.8 pounds. It is reasonably priced at $128.02.

Intex Challenger Kayak Series

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak

The Intex Challenger K2 Kayak is sporty looking and fun to use. It has a streamlined design for easy paddling, which is ideal for longer journeys and takes away a lot of stress and tiredness.

The bright green color and sporty graphics are designed for kayaker’s safety and make them visible from a distance.

It has two 86 inch aluminum paddles and an Intex high output pump that makes it super easy for you to inflate or deflate it, at your convenience. There is also a repaid patch kit included in the product, so you can quickly and easily fix any patches if need be.

The rugged and super tough vinyl material makes this product sturdy and resistant from UV rays damage and hence enhancing its durability.

Its dimensions are 12.5 x 23.1 x 16.2 inches and it weighs 35 pounds. It has a weight capacity 400 pounds, making it ideal for kayakers of all sizes to benefit from it.

Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak

This 2-person Sevylor Colorado Fishing Kayak lets you enjoy your catches of the day with your companion. It is made from 18-gauge PVC (NMMA certified), 1000D tarpaulin bottom and 840D nylon cover – affording it durability and longevity for multiple water adventures. It can also reach those out-of-the-way fishing holes that you have been meaning to get to. Airtight System assures you that there will be no leakages.

Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak

In case you hit a snag, the multiple air chambers will help you get back to where you started safely. The multiple air chambers act as a safety valve so that other chambers can stay inflated if one or the other is punctured.

The adjustable seats will keep you comfortable and easy whilst you paddle away in hunt of your fish all day long.

In case you do not want to paddle or want to cut out your physical work, you can also incorporate the Sevylor trolling motor and stow away your paddles in the holders provided for your convenience and ease. The Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders allow you to tweak your pole angle and offer you a hands-free fishing trip that can make your life easy on the waters. The hands-free option can allow you to concentrate on other things or just sit back and relax and enjoy the scenery around, whilst the rods do the work for you.

The Boston Valve is double threaded and allows for convenient and easy inflation/deflation of the kayak. The mesh storage pockets can safely place your gear away and also store the snacks close by in case you feel hungry. The D-Rings are also another easy option that allows you to attach other equipment.

Its dimensions are: 30.1 x 11.6 x 19.2 inches. It is reasonably priced at $385.41.

Sevylor Fiji 2-Person Kayak

sevylor fiji

You can now get up close and personal with water and fish your heart out with a Sevylor Fiji 2-Person Kayak. This inflatable kayak works similarly to a traditional sit-on-top kayak, except that it can be packed and folded into its integrated backpack. It can be set up as quickly as in 5 minutes. The design allows you to stretch your legs, arms and back more conveniently. The cargo net in front and the cup holder can easily and accessibly store your food, fluids and other gear items.

You can easily move around with it and in and out of the water at your pace. The rigid floor, flat bottom and three-chamber design afford the kayak with safety and security features in case of a snag. In case you do with a snag, the air chambers will ensure that you keep afloat and return to where you started from safely.

The thick PVC and reinforced bottom are standard features of the Airtight System that prevent leakages. The Double Lock Fast Valves and Mini Double Lock Fast Valves allow you to quickly inflate and deflate the kayak.

Its dimensions are 124.8 x 34.8 x 35.5 inches and it weighs 23.5 pounds. It is reasonably priced at $119.93. The kayak is 10 ft. 4 in. x 2 ft. 9 in (2.62 m x.91 m) and can accommodate up to 400 lbs. (181.43 kg), making it ideal for a range of kayakers. It also includes a paddle that opens up for a compact storage area and a high-pressure hand pump.

8. Rave Sports Rave Sea Rebel153

rave sports kayak

The inflatable Sea Rebel Kayak lets you enjoy the lake, river or stream at your own pace. It is comfortable equipment that you can rely on for fishing, relaxing, or traversing. It has a recumbent style sling seat with adjustable backrest that affords you tons of comfort and relaxation and hence, ideal for those long water trips. It is lightweight and easy to carry, making it portable for anyone to carry around. It tracks straight with 3 bottom fins and comes with a water-resistant dry bag and a water bottle holder. The product includes a paddle, hand pump, carrying bag, and comes with a limited one year warranty from the manufacturer. The back of the seat has good quality and incorporates a waterproof zip bag to store your essentials.

The kayak is made from thick and rugged PVC and covered with a sturdy fabric cover with added reinforcement on the bottom. It also includes four foam-filled nylon-covered handles with reinforced neoprene that can help you prevent knuckle chafing.

It has decent size at 8’6″ long x 35″ wide, and is ideal for younger ones, teens, and adults alike. It is designed for usage in lakes and flatwater paddling.

It can inflate and deflate easily – thanks to its high-quality one-way air valve and the high-pressure hand pump that can fill it up in a few minutes.

Some of its specifications include heavy-duty 420D nylon-PVC Tarpaulin for slick and easy gliding and an inner bladder that has heavy-duty 24 gauge PVC handles.

Its dimensions include: 103″L x 35″W x 8″H Cover. It rides only 1.

Solstice by Swimline Flare 1 Person Kayak

solstice kayak

This Solstice white-water kayak is ready to use and is convertible with Drop Stitch Floor design. It is constructed from tough 1000 Denier nylon super-tough fabric, has a high-pressure floor, and also has multi-position footrests. The kayak also has convenient screw design drain valves to control the water.

This is a 1 Person inflatable kayak and has one adjustable bucket seat. The overall feel of the kayak is rigid and sturdy and has a strong, wide and detachable skeg for paddling. The bow cover comes with a soft handle and also incorporates elastic cords for cargo. It has replaceable H3 valves. The product comes standard with a pump, carry bag and gauge.

Its dimensions are 114 x 37 x 22 inches and it weighs 29 pounds. It comes with a price tag of $453.81.

Basic Info of Inflatable Kayaks

The options for inflatable kayaks are many, and you will surely be spoilt for choices when you set out to buy one. But before you do, you must understand and appreciate some basic concepts and features associated with these inflatable watercraft. This will help you make an informed decision, and will also make you appreciate the finer details and requirements of this equipment. That way, you are bound to get a more accurate kayak that fits the style and requirements that you have.

The three most important components that you should consider when educating yourself about kayaks include the varying types of inflatable kayaks available in the market, the multiple benefits or merits that you can derive by opting for an inflatable device, and lastly, the quality of the kayak that is reflective of the type of material it is made of. Let us consider all these three aspects in more detail.

Types of Inflatable Kayaks?

Inflatable kayaks (like traditional kayaks) come in varying categories and shapes. It is important to ascertain the specific or day-in-day-out personal usage of this kayak and then decide which type of kayak is best suited to your requirements. We have explained some of the styles of inflatable kayaks that are readily available in the market, and designed for usage in specific scenarios. Let us consider them in some more detail.

Sit on Top Kayak

This is the type that allows you to sit at a higher position as compared to all other styles of a kayak. It is best suited for people who require a long-range view or casting or even for those who are claustrophobic and do not like the feeling of being in a covered shell as if they are trapped. The feet are outside the hull and hence it is way easier to get in and get out of the kayak.

However, bear in mind that you may be exposed to splashes of water and you do not want to get soaked in it at the end of the trip. For such reason, it is suggested that this model is opted for warmer and summer months, and preferably for water that is still and calm. It is also meant to be less stable than other kayak models and hence will require a lot more technical skills and core muscle workout from the kayaker to steady it, time and again.

Sit Inside Kayak

The sit-inside type aesthetically looks similar to a typical kayak and performs in the same manner too. It is ideally designed to keep your body dry, even during the toughest and roughest of weather conditions, as your feet are covered within the kayak. This design permits a more sophisticated bungee system as there is space above your feet to work with. Certain models will also give you the option to add a spray skirt to be used in rougher water conditions and colder days.

Canoe Style

Canoe style kayak is best suited for kayakers looking for a partner. The shape is similar to that of a regular kayak but it comes with the added portability advantages of an inflatable. It comes fitted with two seats and ample storage space and allows you to explore places that are otherwise harder to access with a regular boat. There is an option of using the dedicated canoe paddles (one-sided only), in place of the regular kayak paddles.

Open Style

The open style has higher sidewalls and lower seats (giving it added stability) and is quite similar to the shape of a canoe. These types of kayaks are generally for 1 person and provide for the dedicated kayak paddles. It has a completely open deck allowing you to absorb the outdoor surroundings with ease, and a spray cover usually comes as standard, so you can use it for the high wake.

Water Conditions

Kayaks have specific functionality and features that correspond well to a given type of water condition. So an inflatable kayak that is designed to give you optimum performance in white water conditions will not be able to give you the same performance levels on flat or calm water.

White Water

Inflatable kayak for whitewater is specifically designed for usage in the fast-moving water. It generally doesn’t include a tracking fin due to the danger of hitting rocks or oversteering. These white water kayaks will also come in with the self-bailing option that you will not find in kayaks for flat water use. We suggest you look for options that come with a standard watertight storage option if you have plans to enter class III rapids with appropriate gear.

Open Ocean

Ocean paddlers should always consider buying a longer kayak. This is meant to provide the kayaker with added stability and support for traversing large swells and movements of water in the ocean. An open ocean model will come with higher sidewalls to overcome the effects of rough water and also a spray to protect from high winds.

Lake

Some kayaks are manufactured specifically with a design keeping in mind flat water conditions such as lakes. These have lower walls as the weather is not expected to get rough, and an open concept with tons of storage. This is meant to be a recreational or casual usage kayak, that allows a kayaker to not worry about their safety, stability or keeping dry, but rather focus on the nature around him and just sit back and relax. This is your best bet if you want to be undisturbed in the middle of a lake and just chill out on your own or with friends.

Advantages of an Inflatable Kayak

Apart from being lightweight, easy to store anywhere and portability, some other advantages of an inflatable kayak includes:

  • Versatility – They can be used in lakes, rivers or even whitewater. They are super convenient to store and transport and do not require huge storage spaces.
  • Easy Maintenance – They certainly do not require as much maintenance as a rigid kayak. The inflatable options will bounce off the rocks but may get punctured with harder impacts. For this reason, they come standard with a repair kit. Always dry it up before you fold and pack it away – this keeps mold and mildew at bay.
  • Security – This is a massive advantage of an inflatable kayak, as these can be easily and conveniently stored inside your house or car – without you worrying about it getting stolen when you leave it unattended. You also do not need to worry about going straight home after the trip to drop it off. You can take detours or have as many stops over as you like, with the inflatable kayak now neatly and safely stored in your trunk!
  • Single or More – The kayaks come in options of 1, 2 or 3 persons. These will have dedicated seats for the kayakers, and you should ascertain this requirement or need right at the outset. The benefit of having others with you is that the paddling exercise is much easier and gets distributed, you have company to keep you entertained, and it is always safer and better to have someone with or around you when you are out in the waters for longer durations or do not have much skill kayaking on your own. This type of kayak will also allow you to add more gear, and you can even bring your dog along if you like.
  • Dimensions – Always measure the dimensions of the kayak and compare those with the user/s. If you cannot fit or sit comfortably in it, you cannot use it. It is as simple as that! Your knees shouldn’t be bent when you are sitting inside and you should feel comfortable. You can also measure your legs when in a sitting position, to get the right sitting sizing of the kayak.

Materials of Inflatable Kayak

Given it is your (or your loved ones) lives that are in question here, it is important to establish that your kayak is highly durable and strong. One of the basic qualities that you should look for is the flexibility when you deflate and store it without breaking it when you bend it.

Hypalon – is an exceptionally durable material that isn’t flexible or bendable. Due to this, it is meant to be heavy and can be hard to move around with. For a fabric type material, it is also rigid in texture and retains its shape for a lifetime. For such reasons, it may be appropriate for use in an inflatable, but not that much for inflatable kayaks.

PVC – is meant to be the commonest type of material that manufacturers rely on when constructing inflatable kayaks. It is strong and can easily be inflated to a fairly high PSI. It is also lightweight and can easily be folded and reused, as required. It has seams that can be welded instead of stitching – this gives the kayak a sturdier construction as compared to using glue.

It is also common to use UV protective coatings on PVCs to reduce damage and weakening in the fabric caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to the sun.

Nitrylon – is also a widely used material for kayaks. From a safe environment perspective, it is the preferred choice as it is essentially synthetic and has a coating of natural 1200D rubber. For the mentioned reasons, this material provides a puncture and abrasion resistant system that is easier to patch if needed, and stronger than PVC. It is, however, heavy and for that reason, it is generally used underneath the kayak only, i.e. the surface that regularly touches the ground.

How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak? – Things to Consider

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of kayaks is the ease of travel and the capability to cover long and hard to reach sections of the water. There is something about paddling within the confines of a kayak in open water, on a hot sunny day, that invokes peace and serenity.

Just imagine if you could carry and move around with your kayak in a bag pack, each time you head to the lake, river or a beach. A usual non-inflatable kayak measures around 12 feet in length that makes it difficult to transport or even store at home.

There are quite a few vital features that you should know about before you decide to purchase the one that is right for you. These features can often be at variance with their hard-shelled counterparts, and one should never presume that they will offer the same features, functionalities and experience. Let us look at some of the key features of an inflatable kayak.

Variability

When you have firmed up your choice for a specific kayak model that meets your requirements, you then need to consider its pragmatic and variable features that should also be incorporated into your decision-making. Let us consider some key aspects that bring variability to inflatable kayaks.

Cockpit: Cockpit outfitting is important as it relates to the comfort, safety and control aspect of the watercraft. Also, look for an added thigh brace or backrest that is adjustable to give you more flexibility and optimum comfort whilst paddling for long hours and rough water conditions. Cockpit size is also a key factor as it should be aligned with your body type and dimensions.

Hatches and Bulkheads: can be found at either end of the kayak. Hatch is the opening for storing your gear whereas bulkhead is the elongated wall that covers the compartment and provides a safety element by adding buoyancy to the boat.

Deck Rigging: Deck lines, bungies, and toggles collectively provide safety and convenience for certain kinds of paddling. Some of the accessible items can be easily available on the deck for kayaker’s convenience such as a spare paddle, compass, navigational charts, and other essential items.

Rudder: Is a mechanical device found at the stern of the kayak. It is controlled by foot and can help in steering and tracking.

Drop-Skeg: Is also a mechanical device found at the stern of the kayak, and helps in tracking only. It can be deployed or retracted, as required, with the help of a hand.

Sprayskirts: For those opting for sit-inside kayaks, it can assist in keeping it dry inside, especially for kayakers looking to use it in the sea.

When buying an inflatable kayak, it is also important to ask yourself a few valid questions:

  • What kinds of kayaking activities do you anticipate to be involved in mostly?
  • Do you plan to paddle in calm lakes and ponds, or would you rather prefer doing so in waves and whitewater? How often do you think you will be doing this activity?
  • How far or long do you see yourself doing this activity on a given day?
  • What is your level of expertise or experience in kayaking?
  • Do you plan to go for kayaking alone, with a companion or in a group?

Once you have answered the above questions to your satisfaction, you are then in a position to opt for a kayak that matches your requirement accurately.

There are 3 main categories that kayaks can fall into, depending on their specific use. These kayaks have their corresponding sizes, outfitting, storage capabilities and performance-related functionalities. For your assistance, we have laid these out, in a comparative table below, so you can see the variances and make a decision that suits you and your requirements the best.

Attributes

Recreational

Touring

Sea Kayaking

Types of Water

Ponds, small lakes, bays, slow-moving rivers.

Lakes, bays, moving rivers, currents, limited ocean use.

Lakes, bays, moving rivers, rougher currents, the ocean.

Duration

10 miles or less

20 miles or less

Day or weekend expeditions

Experience Level

Low to intermediate

Intermediate to Advanced 

Intermediate to Advanced

Storage

Low

Moderate

Moderate to High

Once you have narrowed down your specific type of kayaking style, the next step (or comparative table) to look at is the performance characteristics for each of these categories. The chart below will help you understand these characteristics in a comparative form, so you can again make a choice based on your requirements.

Feature

Recreational

Touring

Sea Kayaking

Stability (kayak’s resistance to capsizing in normal conditions)

Best

Better

Good

Controllability (ease of carrying and storing the kayak outside the water)

Best

Better

Good

Speed/Glide (efficiency through moving water and higher velocity potential)

Good

Better

Best

Tracking (ability to keep in a straight line)

Better

Better

Best

Flexibility (precise turning abilities)

Good

Better

Best

Portability

Portability is meant to be one of the best and high-selling features of an inflatable kayak. Although some of them may be heavier than the other models, it is vital to see that they come in a carry bag that is easy to carry; ideally with shoulder straps if possible.

They are lighter and easier to inflate and deflate. When not in use, they can be easily and conveniently stowed away into a small bag. This is an amazing feature to have particularly when you are on the move.

You will appreciate the utility and convenience of this foldable inflatable when you are traveling long distances (on a plane, bus, train or car) or even when flying around from one continent to the other.

Now compare this to the hard-shelled kayak that can only be carried around in the same condition and weight as they are. They are heavier and not that easy to move around. Moreover, they will require to be fixed onto a rack on top of your vehicle. That is an added chore, expense and hassle, each time you plan to hit the waters.

Durability

Inflatable kayaks are generally designed to be tough, sturdy, and highly resistant to punctures. This is obvious from the fact that Navy S.E.A.L.s and professional whitewater guides regularly rely on inflatable boats in the most demanding of situations.

The best quality inflatable kayaks are constructed from super robust materials, have multiple air compartments system, and sporty air-tight valves. These items are usually enclosed with OVC rubber layers that are although not puncture-proof but can be sturdy in the toughest of conditions.

The air-filled feature (that is often mistaken for an artificial and inflated pool toy for kids) can absorb hard impacts that can usually crack a hard-shelled watercraft. These watercraft can also withstand abrasions and hits from rocks, stumps, branches and other impediments. That is why navy assaults rely on these regularly.

The more you are willing to pay, the better the quality you are going to get. This is true for any product that you buy, generally speaking. These watercraft can be long-lasting and resilient, if you care for them and use them appropriately, according to their specifications.

Always make it a habit to inspect your kayak after each use, or even in the shallow waters by paddling and testing the inflation. Just be sure to repair any leakages or patches instantly, rather than sleeping on it.

Having said that, the blow-up options cannot offer you the equivalent longevity and durability that hard-shelled kayaks do that are made with polyethylene.

These days, more and more manufacturers are incorporating aluminum ribs and exterior material coatings in their designing, to give their products more resistance to punctures and scrapes as well as UV protection.

Cost

Generally, inflatable kayaks are meant to be a cheaper watercraft option as compared to the hard shell ones. This is mostly attributable to the cost and construction of materials used in constructing them.

As inflatable ones are more economical and provide similar value and benefit as non-inflatable ones, it makes them more appealing to the masses. In particular, this is an attractive feature for those beginning or new to kayaking or even those who already have a regular kayak but want a 2nd or 3rd one for themselves or family as a back-up or just to diversify their options.

Inflatable kayaks can range in pricing anywhere from $150 to above $1000. This is reflective of the quality of the product and the features and functionalities you prefer. A sweet spot is where you can purchase the entire inflatable kayak package including a pump, carrying bag, paddles, and a patch kit within $550. All these prices are given to provide you with an idea and actual prices will vary depending on the brand, model and features you prefer.

Inflatable Kayak FAQs

Are Inflatable Kayaks Durable?

Yes, they are! As we see more and more people switching to these inflatable devices from the hard ones, the manufacturers are ensuring that they improve their quality on an ongoing basis. More often than not, they are constructed from high-quality military-grade PVC and are meant to last for a long period. This material is so strong that you can even fit in your dog with you on the trip. These kayaks are easier to store and transport and hence less exposed to external damage as compared to the non-inflatable ones.

Moreover, these inflatable kayaks come standard with a patch kit in the unlikely event of it getting damaged or if you hit a snag. This is not reported to happen frequently but it is always better to be safe than sorry. These patch kits contain marine-grade super glue and all the required tools that you need to fix the kayak in no time. Just locate the hole and simply patch it up by applying the glue generously, and you are good to safely go back into the water.

Are They Stable and Safe?

Inflatable kayaks can be safe for a variety of waters and associated conditions. They have an air-filled feature that makes them more buoyant and hence affords them a lot of stability. Having said that, in inclement weather or tricky conditions or for ocean touring purposes, you should play safe and get a more specialized vessel.

Inflatable kayaks are not recommended to be used as sea kayaks or in open waters and volatile outdoor conditions. The high risk with kayaking in the sea relates to the changing winds and particularly offshore. If this happens, it can be super challenging to get back to the shore, and despite your efforts, you can be pushed further into the sea. Never take the risk if you are unsure about your kayaking or kayak’s abilities in high waters, and preferably stay close to the shore and/or go with a guide who has experience and expertise.

They are, however, generally fine to be used in sheltered bays and calm waters, as long as you stay near the coast and have some kind of experience kayaking in different types of weather conditions.

Most inflatable kayaks remain stable in the water and are ideal for use by novice kayakers. If you are slightly more experienced, or looking to get some more pace in the water with more maneuverability, then you will require a narrower and longer kayak (but not so narrow or long that you lose stability and risk the kayak of capsizing).

These blow-ups generally come with wider hulls, particularly those whitewater kayaks. They have a wider base and more erect sidewalls, which adds stability and strength. This comes in handy when the water and wind get rough and you are entirely at the mercy of the quality of your kayak. They are also available with narrower hulls, which are more apt for touring and with a very low chance of tipping over.

Any vessel can let you down in the middle of a river or lake, regardless of its tough composition. The most durable and expensive inflatable kayaks are no less sturdy than those with hard shells. A good quality kayak should have rubber reinforcement on its base, to protect them from punctures.

You should opt for a kayak that has several air compartments. Each such compartment will have a dedicated valve and get inflated individually. So even if a certain compartment gets damaged due to a snag and deflates, you can always rely on other compartments that will remain inflated. This will keep you afloat and be a lifesaver. The moral of the story should be – go for multiple air chambers (as opposed to 1 or 2) to increase the likelihood of staying dry and within your kayak until you reach back to the shore safely.

The abovementioned feature of the best inflatable kayak makes it safe than the hard shell ones. If a hard shell kayak leaks for some reason, the entire piece gets affected – increasing your chances of sinking or swimming back to the shore for safety.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Good for Fishing?

More and more anglers rely on kayaks for an effective and enjoyable fishing trip. There are more models of fishing kayaks today then there were a few years ago. The kayaks are now more specialized and designed with custom-fit features and options for anglers looking to fish and kayak. One of the reasons that anglers enjoy them more than the boats is the maneuverability, storage and the portability. The stability and storage (of fish and other essentials) are other factors that fishermen like about these kayaks.

The sit-on type (or the canoe style) model of an inflatable kayak is the best bet as it lets them move around in the best kayak and easily too when they are looking around the waters or just trying to change or access a gear item.

Conclusion

Kayaks can provide you with an amazing opportunity to go outdoors and enjoy nature’s bounty such as beautiful rivers, lakes, and coastlines. You can soak it all in and relax in the surroundings of the spectacular views on offer. A kayak (which has your preferred paddling) can take you across pristine beautiful seaways, or if you are feeling adventurous, then right in the middle of an adrenalin-pumping rapid.

Kayaking in the outdoors can be a great relaxant, clear your head with those unwanted thoughts and worries and provide you with a brand new perspective on an adventure. It is for these reasons that you should opt for a good quality inflatable kayak so you can make the most of the outdoors.

They are inherently lightweight and portable, making them easy to be transported around and a great choice for solo kayakers or those looking to join in as a group or as companions on a 2 or 3 person inflatable kayak. Given the ease of storage, this can also be an ideal choice for those who are pressed for space or do not have roof racks for holding those non-inflatable ones on the roof of their cars.

Kayaking doesn’t need to be an expensive past time and inflatable kayaks go to prove that. They provide you with the full functionality of a non-inflatable kayak and then tops it up with the added features of its own – durability, portability, ease of use and transport to name a few.

They offer a great alternative to boats, canoes and traditional kayaks for those anglers looking to do fishing or those looking to simply relax and paddle at their own pace and for long distances. You will explore and experience places that you never thought were possible in a kayak. We hope you will find this guide useful and resourceful and we even suggested a particular inflatable kayak, by way of special recommendation; in case you are finding it hard to put your finger on one. Eventually, it is your decision, keeping in mind your circumstances, budget and preferences. Happy kayaking!