Best Inflatable Kayak
Anyone taking their first curious looks into kayaking are often surprised to hear there are inflatable options. Thoughts of rips, tears and punctures bring images of sinking kayaks and an unwanted panicked swim for land.
Top Choices: 3 Rated Inflatable Kayaks
(links take you over to the kayak on Amazon - more on the kayaks below)
The truth is, inflatables can actually be incredibly durable, and not only that, track and move around just as well as many of the traditional solid kayaks on the market.
We’re going to take a look at the best inflatable kayaks, and some of the different types. Tandem inflatables, inflatables for the sea, inflatable kayaks that can be fished from, and we'll also take a look at some of the cheaper options.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of An Inflatable Kayak?
Is an inflatable the best choice for you?
It’s really going to depend on your circumstances. As with everything, there are pros and cons. Factors to consider include how far away you live from the water, to the types of water you intend to paddle around.
Easy To Carry & Transport Around
This is probably the most obvious one.
Inflatable ‘yaks are, in general, lighter than their hard shelled counterparts. Not only are they lighter, but they of course deflate and compact away into a small package. So when you are on the move, it folds away so it’s more easy to carry.
And it weighs less, so you don’t necessarily need to be like Arnie at the gym.
Are you traveling long distance? Want to fly to the other side of the continent or the planet? Well, you can pack up your inflatable and check it into the hold-all.
Good luck trying to do that with a traditional hard shelled kayak, haha!
It’s not even just planes either. If you want to travel by bus or train, the only real way you’re going to bring your ‘yak is if it deflates into a portable carrier.
If you’re driving, you can just throw your deflated kayak into the trunk and you’re off on your way. Contrast this to having a hard kayak. You would need to fix it onto a rack on the car/truck. So there’s all the hassle of buying a roof rack. Then each and every time you need to go somewhere, you need to lift the ‘yak onto the rack and affix.
There are many ways to do this, and there are some cheaper ‘cheats’ if you want to take a shortcut. But at the end of the day, inflatables are much more convenient and portable.
They Are Very Stable
A lot of inflatables have generally wider hulls. Think of whitewater kayaks for a moment. These kayaks have the wider base and taller side walls. This makes them much more sturdy and stable. You need the stability as the river throws you around and tries to eject you from your seated position. Yes, Mother Nature does have a cruel side to her!
You can however get inflatables with narrower hulls, which are designed more for touring.
Overall, the chances of tipping over on an inflatable are relatively low.
This is another feature for the safety conscious to consider.
Costs Are Generally Less
Inflatables are, much of the time, less expensive water craft. In most cases this is usually because the materials are cheaper.
As with most aspects of life, costs makes inflatable kayaks more appealing. You’ll find more beginners tending to opt for the blow up option more often. And also regular kayak users who want a second or third kayak, as a backup to their hard-shell.
That’s not to say that inflatables are specifically for beginners, no. Just that you will notice a larger proportion of beginners and novices in inflatable kayaks.
They Can Sink!
Any kayak can sink, whether inflatable or made from tough composites. However, the tougher and generally more expensive inflatables are arguably just as tough as any hard shell.
Video of a Sinking Kayak (warning - contains strong language!)
- We always recommend that you wear a PFD when kayaking
We can’t say the same for the cheaper inflatables, though. These kayaks may not have rubber reinforcement to the base material, and that can leave them more open to punctures. The old saying is that you get what you pay for – so if you’re taking kayaking at least reasonably seriously, a cheaper inflatable kayak maybe isn’t the way to go.
Try to get your hands on an inflatable with several air compartments. Each air compartment has its own valve and is inflated individually. The big benefit of separate air compartments is that if you do run into the unfortunate situation of ripping or puncturing your kayak, only that one compartment will deflate. The others will remain inflated, meaning there is less likelihood of sinking.
Now, if you only have 1 or 2 compartments, and you spring a leak, well then you’re in for an unwanted swim. Probably the last thing you want!
So in essence, more air compartments mean you are much more likely to stay afloat in prickly situations. And it’s a heck of a lot safer too (especially if you’re not the strongest swimmer!).
In fact, in some ways the inflatable kayaks (with many compartments) are actually safer than the hard shells. Why? Well, if the hard shell does actually start leaking in lots of water, the whole kayak is affected. This means the kayak is likely to sink, unless you have a huge bucket on board!
Not As Efficient To Paddle
Inflatable kayaks are almost always going to be less speedy than the best hard edged ‘yaks.
Does this mean that inflatables paddle like dogs? No! Air filled kayaks can be just as much fun as their hard cousins. It’s just that if you are looking for the fastest type of kayak with the highest efficiency rate, saving as much energy as possible….then perhaps an inflatable kayak is not the best choice.
For 99% people out there, who want to paddle around and have fun, and hey, burn off a few calories with a more strenuous outing, an inflatable kayak is just fine.
Just be wary of the wind. Generally speaking, inflatables catch the wind a little more and this can make paddling around harder again.
Takes Time To Setup And Pack Away
Each time you want to paddle, you need to bring the pump and spend at least a few minutes inflating all the compartments.
Then when you’re done, you need to do the exact opposite. It can be annoying for some, especially those with little patience!
It’s also recommended to dry out the kayak before packing away for long periods. So, often you’ll need to think about bringing it home and airing out to dry for at least a day or two before packing away. Something else to think about.
A hard kayak is so much more convenient in this respect. Drag it into the water…and away you go. Finished? Just trail it out again.
The hard ‘yak can also be left tied up against the river bed (make sure you tie it tight!) and left to float. You wouldn’t want to do this with an inflatable (not for any long periods of time anyway).
Durability & Life Expectancy
Sadly, inflatables just don’t live as long as tough hard shelled ‘yaks. They can last a very long time if you look after them properly though.
Make sure that you regularly inspect the underside for damage. Part of this inspection could include test inflation and paddling in shallow waters. If you do happen to find a leak, then repair it straight away. You need to keep on top of any damage as soon as you see it arising.
Top 5 Best Rated Inflatable Kayaks
Advanced Elements AE1012 AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
- Length: 10 ft 5 inches
- Width: 32 inches
- Weight: 36 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
The AE1012 has been around for a few years now. This popular sit-in inflatable has 3 layers of tough material to help guard against any damage or punctures. It’s durable enough to take class II rivers.
Both ends (bow and stern) have aluminum ribs to help shape the hull. This helps with tracking, along with the skeg, making your paddling life easier. Don’t worry, the ribs are pre-built, so you don’t have to actually fit and set these up yourself.
There are 7 chambers in total, helping to keep sinking disasters to a minimum.
There are zipper storage areas to keep your valuables safe and dry. Bungee cords can be used to hold down extra stored gear.
A repair kit, fold-away padded seat and a bag for transportation are included. Note that paddles are not included, so you need to pick these out for yourself separately.
You can optionally fit a spray skirt to keep the water out when you paddle along.
Sea Eagle SE370K_P – (Inflatable Kayak For The Ocean)
- Length: 12 ft 6 inches
- Width: 34 inches
- Weight: 32 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 650 pounds
An old favorite, the SeaEagle SE370K_P, is a kayak that is pretty durable considering it is one of the cheaper options on our list. It’s made from toughened polykrylar, and should be inflated in around 8 minutes.
This kayak does come with everything you need to get going. A double set of paddles, inflatable seats, and a pump (make sure you go for the pump package if you actually need this).
More on what we said about his kayak here
Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak: Great Inflatable Tandem Kayak (Good For Fishing Too!)
- Length: 10 ft
- Width: 39 inches
- Depth: 9 inches
- Weight: 41 pounds (shipped weight)
- Weight Capacity: 470 pounds
This tandem badboy is our pick for the best 2 person inflatable. It's also a fishing kayak.
It is made from super-durable PVC, nylon and tarpaulin to help ensure it is protected against being ripped open. Fish hooks, rocks, tree branches and all other sorts of nasties will try to puncture your ‘yak. The Colorado is best prepared to take all this on.
There are also multiple air chambers to cover you should you be unfortunate enough to get a leak.
This kayak has a lot of neat little features to make your kayak journeys easier. It has D-ring handles so you can drag it around when it is inflated. There are fishing rod holder and plenty of meshed pockets to keep bits and pieces secured. The biggest storage area is at the stern.
The paddle holders mean you can go hands-free when you want to. A Sevylor trolling motor can be attached to the rear (it has the fittings included), if you really want to take a break.
Intex Challenger K1 - (Budget Inflatable Kayak For The Money)
- Length: 9 ft
- Width: 30 inches
- Weight: 24 pounds (Shipping)
- Weight Capacity: 220 pounds
Ok, we’re talking budget here.
The Challenger K1 is by far the cheapest option on the list. As such, don’t expect a top-end experience. Does that mean you should avoid? Not necessarily. It won’t track as well as the other options.
But at the end of the day, it’s an inexpensive option for those who want to try out paddling to see if it’s for them. And if it is, you can always upgrade to a better option and use the K1 as a spare.
And hey, if you’re only going for short paddles every now and then, the K1 could be used on an ongoing basis.
This sit-in kayak has a fairly large storage area on the bow end. A mesh net is used to hold your gear down. Note that it is not waterproofed, so it may get wet depending on your paddling technique.
There are just 2 air chambers, so a sudden, big leak, means you are likely looking at a swim if the worst happens.
A pump, paddles, removable skeg, and grab handles, to carry the kayak around, all come included. That’s pretty good in our book, given the cost.
Sevylor Tahiti - Classic Inflatable Kayak
- Length: 10 ft 7 inches
- Width: 31 inches
- Weight: 24 pounds (Shipping)
- Weight Capacity: 400 pounds
Another tandem inflatable. The Sevylor Tahiti Classic is another popular tandem choice, made of 26-guage PVC.
It has 2 adjustable seats that can be removed. So if you only want to ride solo you can place the one seat in the center of the ‘yak.
The I-beam floor provides stability, but you can also purchase a skeg and attach for increased stability.
2 spray covers are provided to help keep you dry while paddling.
It’s a light kayak, weighing in at only 25 pounds. Don’t let that make you think it can’t carry heavy loads, though. It can take up to 400 pound loads.