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Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe? (Staying Afloat with Confidence)

Mark Armstrong
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Ready to hit the water in an inflatable kayak?

With their compact size and versatility, they’re a top pick for kayakers everywhere.

But with the surge in popularity and a plethora of options available, one question remains – are these blow-up boats safe?

Fear not, we’ve got the answers. Get ready to dive into the truth about the safety of inflatable kayaks!

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe? - Pinterest ImagePin

The Quick Answer: Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

Yes, inflatable kayaks are safe to use in a range of water conditions. They can also be much more convenient for traveling or simply transporting to and from the water.

Modern inflatable kayaks are often extremely durable and can handle knocks and bumps pretty well. This can make them ideal for beginners. As well as being tough, they are also generally very stable as they tend to be wider than most hard-shell kayaks of a similar length.

These types of kayaks also tend to be more buoyant than their hard-shell counterparts. This can make them more suitable for running whitewater rapids or carrying heavier loads.

> The best whitewater inflatable kayaks

However, not all inflatable kayaks are able to handle all types of water. There are some things you need to take into account when choosing an inflatable kayak for your next paddling adventure.

Will Inflatable Kayaks Puncture Or Even Sink?

Yes, inflatable kayaks can puncture and could even sink, just like most boats would if they suffered a hole in the hull. But this is generally not something you’d be likely to deal with in the normal and safe use of an inflatable kayak.

> How to fix a puncture on an inflatable kayak

Multiple Air Chambers

Most quality inflatable kayaks are made with multiple air chambers. This means that if one chamber suffers a puncture, the rest of the chambers are not damaged. So the rest of the kayak should remain afloat.

Usually, with most inflatable kayaks that have multiple air chambers, the sidewalls tend to have separate air chambers from the floor. This means if you were to puncture one of the sidewalls, the other sidewall and the floor should remain buoyant.

Without multiple air chambers, one puncture could essentially cause your entire kayak to sink if the hole is not repaired quickly. So having more than one air chamber is better from a safety point of view.

> Can all types of kayaks sink?

How To Repair A Puncture

Most quality inflatable kayaks often come with a repair kit to allow you to fix a puncture easily and while you’re on the go.

Video: How To Repair An Inflatable Boat Or Inflatable Kayak

A good way to find where your puncture is, if you don’t already know, is to use soapy water and a sponge or cloth. Wipe the soapy sponge over the kayak (while it’s inflated) and gently try to push air out. This should highlight the hole, as bubbles should form where the puncture is.

Once you’ve located the puncture, cut out a suitable size of your patch material (from your repair kit). You may find it easier to draw around a penny if it’s a tiny puncture. This should be a good size to cover the hole and the surrounding area.

Deflate your kayak before you seal the hole with the patch kit.

Use the waterproof adhesive over the puncture and on the piece of material you’ve cut out. If you’re at home, you can use a hairdryer to heat the glue. If you’re on a camping trip, you may not have an option to heat the glue.

Place the patch material over the hole and press it down firmly, making sure there are no air pockets.

You should wait 24 hours before reinflating your kayak, which could mean an extra day at your camp before you can get back on the water.

> Guide to inflatable kayak pumps

What Materials Are Inflatable Kayaks Made From?

Kayaking in Antarctica Between Icebergs with Inflatable KayakPin

Inflatable kayaks are usually made from PVC or a combination of PVC and other materials, such as nylon, polyester, and synthetic rubber or Hypalon.

These are extremely durable materials which are designed to withstand bumps against rocks and other objects.

Many inflatable kayak materials are designed to be resistant to punctures. However, this does not mean that punctures will never happen. It just means that it’s not likely to happen in normal use.

Higher quality inflatable kayaks tend to be made from a combination of materials for added strength, durability, and rigidity. The increased rigidity can help improve an inflatable kayak’s performance on the water, making it perform in a similar way to a hard-shell kayak.

Hypalon fabric generally features on high-quality inflatable kayaks. This is made up of three layers of fabric, including a waterproof neoprene layer, a woven polyester or nylon layer, plus a Hypalon outer coating for UV-resistance.

Drop-Stitch Technology

On some of the more expensive inflatable kayaks, you may notice that they feature drop-stitch technology in the construction. This is a very durable type of construction that creates a rigid exterior similar to a standard hard-shell kayak.

You may have already heard of drop-stitch technology if you have a SUP (paddleboard). SUPs tend to use drop-stitch technology because it provides a flat, hard surface that’s easy to stand on.

When used in inflatable kayaks, it’s often found in the floor of the kayak. However, there are some inflatable kayaks that feature drop-stitch technology in the construction of the entire kayak for increased performance.

Drop-stitch construction means the kayak can be inflated to a higher pressure than standard inflatables, sometimes as much as ten times as high. The higher pressure creates a more rigid platform for increased glide over the water, so it can be more efficient to paddle and faster over the water.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Good For Beginners To Learn?

Yes, inflatable kayaks can be great for beginners to learn to paddle. These are wide, stable boats that can be easy to use and easy to transport.

Stability – Do Inflatable Kayaks Tip Over Easily?

Inflatable kayaks are generally very stable boats. This makes them ideal for beginners.

Most inflatable kayaks are wider than standard kayaks of a similar length. Wider kayaks tend to be more stable on flatwater than longer, narrower kayaks. 

This can make it feel more comfortable initially for beginners, as it can seem less tippy.

> Inflatable kayaking for beginners tips

Inflatable kayaks are often designed to handle whitewater, with many inflatable kayaks being rated for Class II or III rapids (or higher in some cases). While you might not want to take on a Class III river as a complete beginner, it might be more reassuring to know your kayak could handle rough water if necessary.

However, the high level of stability tends to come at the expense of speed. Generally speaking, inflatable kayaks are not built for speed. In fact, they’re often pretty slow over the water compared to their hard-shell counterparts.

Inflatable kayaks with drop-stitch construction tend to be a little faster than standard inflatables. But with the added hull width that comes with most inflatable kayaks, speed will usually still be sacrificed.

Ease Of Use

Inflatable kayaks can be very easy to use. They can be convenient to transport, fitting inside the trunk of your car or sometimes even a backpack if you want to hike to a remote launch.

This means you don’t need expensive roof racks or trailers to take your boat to the water.

They can be inflated at the launch site, usually in just a few minutes. And they don’t tend to require much in the way of maintenance (apart from rinsing with clean water and making sure the boat is completely dry before you pack it away).

High Capacity

Inflatable Kayaks On The Shore Taiga RiversPin

Inflatable kayaks tend to have excellent capacity, often much higher than that of standard kayaks of a comparable size. The increased capacity can make inflatable kayaks ideal for larger or heavier paddlers.

These types of kayaks can also be great for kayak camping where you want to be able to carry heavy gear.


Most inflatable kayaks are pretty versatile. They can be used in a variety of different conditions, including calm, flatwater lakes and moving rivers.

They can also be used for different activities. Many fishing kayaks are inflatable kayaks, as these often have the stability and durability required by anglers, as well as the convenience of easy transportation.

An inflatable kayak can also make a great vessel for an extended river trip, with the capacity to carry lots of gear and supplies for several days, depending on the size of the kayak.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe On The Sea Or Ocean?

Inflatable Kayak on a Sea ShorePin

Yes, inflatable kayaks are safe to use in the ocean. But ocean conditions can change quickly and there are currents to deal with. So you might want to make sure the inflatable kayak you choose is suitable for ocean conditions.

If you have an inflatable kayak with a flat bottom, you may want to paddle only when the sea is calm.

Is Your Inflatable Kayak Seaworthy?

Some inflatable kayaks can be better suited to beach use only as they might not be rated for use in the ocean. This means it can be safer for you to stay close to shore.

Shorter inflatable kayaks (and hard-shell kayaks) can be less likely to be considered seaworthy. Seaworthy kayaks tend to be longer touring kayaks that can cover water quickly and handle currents, waves, and wind.

Wind can be a particular hindrance to inflatable kayaks because they’re lightweight and filled with air. So they can be susceptible to being blown off course.

Inflatable kayaks that have multiple air chambers can be safer for paddling in the ocean than those that only have one. This can provide added buoyancy and safety if damage occurs to one of the chambers.

If you’re unsure whether or not your kayak could handle the ocean, it’s best to stay within the surf zone or designated swim areas.

Rules On The Sea

If you plan to paddle in the ocean in an inflatable kayak, you’ll need to remember to take extra safety precautions because of the added dangers from waves, currents, and other vessels.

Before you head out to the ocean, you need to be aware of some of the additional requirements for paddlers. The U.S Coast Guard requires all kayakers to have a USCG-approved life jacket on board for each person on your kayak. All paddlers and passengers are advised to wear their life jackets for safety.

You may also be required to carry a sounding device, such as a whistle, so you can alert others if you need help.

If you plan to kayak in the ocean, it can be a good idea to paddle with a buddy. It’s generally not advisable to go out on your own.

> Recommended inflatable kayaks for the sea and ocean

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe For Dogs?

Inflatable kayaks can be ideal for dogs. These kayaks are crafted with tough materials that handle rocks and logs, as well as dogs’ paws and claws. This can make them a better option than hard-shell kayaks. And some of the best kayaks for dogs are often inflatables.

Kayaking with your dog is not always the easiest thing to do. But there are ways to make it easier on your dog, such as introducing your dog to the kayak before you begin your adventure.

Comfortable For Dogs

Inflatable kayaks (especially ones with drop-stitch construction) can usually be easier for your dog to stand on compared to slippery hard-shell kayaks.

You’ll usually find the floor of an inflatable kayak has a non-slip deck so it can be easier for your dog to stand comfortably without sliding. This can be beneficial when your kayak starts to move.

You’ll also find that most inflatable kayaks generally have a flat, open deck, which can provide more space for your dog to get comfortable and lay down.

The sidewalls of these types of kayaks are often higher than standard sit-on-top kayaks, which can help to create a barrier between your dog and the water. This can also give your dog added protection from spray and splashes when they’re curled up in their spot.

Generous Capacity

One of the most useful features of inflatable kayaks is the high load capacity. This can be particularly beneficial for kayaking with your four-legged friend. The higher capacity generally shows increased buoyancy over comparable hard-shell kayaks.

This can be ideal for dogs that like to move around before they set up camp in the most comfortable spot.

The higher capacity can also be great if you have a large dog or if you’re feeling brave and want to bring along more than one dog.

Conclusion: Is An Inflatable Kayak Right For You?

If you’re looking for a durable kayak where portability is key, an inflatable kayak could be the right choice for you. These inflatable boats offer versatility, ease of transportation, and a high level of durability.

However, inflatable kayaks may not be everyone’s first choice. If you plan to kayak frequently and have no worries about carrying a hardshell kayak to and from the water, then you could be better off with a traditional kayak.

Similarly, if you’re an advanced paddler and want high performance, an inflatable kayak is probably not going to be the right kayak for you.

Remember to research the kayaks for yourself to make sure you find one that’s suitable and safe for your desired activity and water conditions.

> How to get into and out of inflatable kayaks

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