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Best Inflatable Kayaks For Whitewater

Mark Armstrong
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Unleash your inner adventurer with this expert guide to top-quality inflatable whitewater kayaks!

These incredible vessels pair convenience with capability, serving up wild rides on heart-pounding rapids and hassle-free portage and stashing options.

Let’s embark upon the whitewater ride!

Need to know the winner now? It’s the Star Viper, thanks to its tough exterior, enhanced buoyancy, and rollability.

Top Picks:

9 Best Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks 

1: Star Viper Inflatable Kayak (best overall)

  • Length: 9 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Weight: 33 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 200 pounds

The Star Viper is a compact whitewater inflatable kayak that’s built for big water. 

This is a durable little kayak that’s made from an advanced-formula PVC, featuring welded seams for high abrasion resistance and air retention. 

The Star Viper is a solo kayak that’s crafted for stability on rough water. Its compact hull means it’s easy to navigate turns on rivers. 

One of the best features of this whitewater kayak is the 4-inch drop-stitch floor, which provides added rigidity for improved performance and stability over waves and rapids. This means it can offer similar performance to a hardshell kayak but without the weight.

Another excellent feature of the Viper is that it can be rolled, which is unusual for a sit-on-top inflatable kayak. This is because it has inflatable bow and stern displacement chambers.

These chambers add flotation and create a top-deck profile, allowing the kayak to resurface quickly.

The stern flotation chamber also acts like a backrest or back band for improved comfort and support. Both flotation chambers behave like bulkheads. 

For riding rough water safely, you’ll find thigh straps to keep you secured to the kayak. These straps are useful if you do want or need to roll the kayak, as they help to keep you in the boat.

This kayak is ideal for experienced paddlers. And the bow and stern carry handles make it easy to carry to and from the water. 

While this is the best whitewater inflatable kayak in my opinion, it’s probably not the best option if you’re a larger or heavier paddler because of the 200-pound load capacity.


  • Drop-stitch floor
  • Rollable inflatable kayak
  • Thigh straps


  • Not great for large paddlers

2: Aire Tributary Tomcat Solo Inflatable Kayak (runner up)

Aire Tributary Tomcat Solo InflatablePin
  • Length: 10 foot 10 
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Weight: 34 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 375 pounds

The Aire Tributary Tomcat Solo is an excellent inflatable whitewater kayak for all skill levels, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced paddler. 

The Tomcat Solo offers a high level of stability in both rough and flat water, making it a versatile kayak for a range of rivers. It’s also easy to maneuver on tight turns despite its longer length.

Being just under 11-feet long, this is a relatively large solo whitewater kayak. This means there is space if you want to bring gear with you. There are tie-down points at the bow and stern to help you secure dry bags to the deck. 

Being a spacious inflatable kayak with a decent weight capacity, this can also be an ideal choice for larger paddlers. There’s enough room to accommodate long legs.

You’ll find an inflatable backrest with four straps to adjust the level of support. The kayak is also self bailing, with a mesh drain system. 

It features durable vinyl bladders and PVC construction with three air chambers for added safety and increased buoyancy. 

One of the things this inflatable kayak lacks is a drop–stitch floor. This means it may not be as quick over the water. It will also generally feel less rigid than other kayaks with drop-stitch technology.


  • Space for gear
  • Great for larger paddlers
  • Ideal for all types of water


  • No drop-stitch technology

3: Sea Eagle 420X Explorer (best for river trips)

  • Length: 14 foot
  • Width: 39 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 855 pounds

The Sea Eagle 420X is a 14-foot inflatable kayak that can handle all types of water, including flat water and up to Class IV rapids. 

With the extra length offering additional space and a huge capacity, this Sea Eagle boat is the best inflatable kayak for whitewater river trips where you’ll also be paddling on sections of flat water.

This is a large kayak, with space for three people, making it ideal for kayak camping trips. It can also be padded solo. 

One of the advantages of this inflatable kayak is the removable drop-stitch floor. This means there’s a separate outer layer of fabric floor for added durability, allowing the kayak to safely bounce off of rocks and logs without damaging the interior drop-stitch floor.

Another great feature of this Sea Eagle inflatable whitewater kayak is that it has 16 self-bailing drains that can be closed when it’s time to paddle on flatwater. There’s also a removable skeg you can add for improved tracking on open water.

This is a spacious kayak with cargo space at the bow and stern, as well as spray covers with bungee rigging for storing extra gear.  

However, this is not a particularly lightweight kayak, which could make it more awkward to carry in the included duffel bag.


  • Incredibly versatile
  • Great for river touring
  • Rated for Class IV rapids


  • Heavier than most whitewater inflatable kayaks

4: Sea Eagle 300X Explorer (best for larger paddlers)

  • Length: 9 foot 10 inches
  • Width: 39 inches
  • Weight: 30 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 395 pounds

The Sea Eagle 300X is a compact whitewater kayak with a roomy interior and a generous capacity that makes it a great choice for larger paddlers. But it can also be ideal for beginners and recreational kayakers looking for stability and ease of use.

This is a wide and stable kayak that’s engineered for performance on moving water. It can easily take on up to Class IV whitewater, as long as you have the skills. 

It’s also designed to offer stability on both rough water and flatwater, giving you the versatility to paddle in slow-moving rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, and even the ocean (it’s great in the surf). 

This is not the fastest kayak when you hit the flatwater sections of the river.

A great feature of this Sea Eagle kayak is its durability. This is designed to bounce off rocks and other obstacles with ease.

The drop-stitch floor adds rigidity and increased stability. You could even stand up on it if the water is calm. I don’t recommend standing on it on whitewater rivers.

This is a self-bailing kayak with 16 drains – ideal for whitewater paddling. And there are D-rings to secure loose gear to the deck.

There are several packages to choose from, with options including an inflatable seat and packages that have a high-back seat. All packages include a paddle, pump, and carry bag.


  • Great for larger paddlers and beginners
  • All-water kayak
  • Compact and easy to maneuver


  • Not the fastest kayak

5: Aire Tributary Tomcat Tandem Inflatable Kayak (best tandem whitewater) 

Aire Tributary Tomcat Tandem Inflatable KayakPin
  • Length: 12 foot 9 inches
  • Width: 38.5 inches
  • Weight: 42 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 450 pounds

The Aire Tributary Tomcat Tandem is the two-person version of the runner-up pick. In terms of durability and stability, this is the best inflatable whitewater kayak for tandem kayaking.

This is a great length for a tandem kayak when it comes to running whitewater, as it’s easy to maneuver around rocks and hazards, and it turns quickly.

Featuring the same durable construction as the solo version, this Tomcat Tandem is designed to handle bumps and scrapes with tough vinyl bladders and a PVC outer shell. It also features three air chambers for safety and welded seams for reassurance. 

If you want to bring gear, there are D-rings to secure items to the deck. However, space for gear is limited if there are two of you in the boat. 

It can be easily paddled solo if you want to use the extra space for camping gear. 

While this excels on whitewater rivers, this is not the most efficient kayak when it comes to sections of flatwater. It’s a little tricky to paddle in a straight line, if you’re new to inflatable kayaks.


  • Easy to maneuver 
  • Durable construction 
  • Great for two paddlers


  • Tracking not the best

6: Airhead Montana Two Person Inflatable Kayak (best budget option)

Airhead Montana Two Person InflatablePin
  • Length: 12 foot
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Weight: 36.3 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 500 pounds

The Airhead Montana is a budget-friendly tandem inflatable kayak with an I-beam floor. It’s a stable boat designed for mild to moderate whitewater, as well as lakes and recreational waters. 

This affordable kayak comes with two seats with tall backrests, similar to standard recreational kayak seats. But it can also be paddled by a single paddler if you want to load it with gear for day trips. 

In terms of storage space, this has a decent amount of cargo space considering its short size. There are bungees at the bow and stern to help keep your gear secure. However, there’s not much leg room for the front paddler if you store gear at the bow. 

On the plus side, the bungees at the bow and stern can be removed, so this can give the front paddler a little extra room if necessary.

This whitewater inflatable kayak is made from 840-denier nylon and features three air chambers. The exterior fabric has a UV-protective coating for added durability.

The Airhead Montana can be a great beginner-friendly kayak, as it’s easy to use and can be paddled tandem or solo in a range of waters up to Class III whitewater rapids. It’s also bright orange in color for enhanced visibility and safety on the water.


  • Budget-friendly inflatable kayak
  • Great for beginners
  • Two high-back seats included


  • Not for more than Class III rapids

7: Advanced Elements Attack Pro

Advanced Elements Attack Pro Whitewater Inflatable KayakPin
  • Length: 9 foot 9 inches
  • Width: 35 inches
  • Weight: 25.5 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 225 pounds

The Advanced Elements Attack Pro is a lightweight inflatable kayak that’s easy to transport and comes with a duffel bag with shoulder straps for convenience. 

This compact kayak is built for big water. It can handle all classes of whitewater, making it an excellent choice for advanced paddlers looking to take on challenging rivers.

With a high-pressure drop-stitch floor, this little kayak is built for high performance. It can turn quickly, allowing you to navigate rocky rivers easily and safely.

This self-bailing kayak also benefits from having a 12-inch rocker hull for riding over big whitewater. It features PVC tarpaulin constriction for durability and abrasion resistance. 

A great feature of the Attack Pro is the thigh straps. This helps to keep you secure in the kayak while riding over the roughest conditions. You’ll also find adjustable foot pegs, so you can stabilize yourself in the kayak.

The seat has a high backrest for support and the seat bottom benefits from having a thick foam layer to raise you slightly off the deck without compromising your center of gravity.

While there is some covered cargo space at the stern, this is not really designed to hold a lot of gear. 


  • Ideal for experienced kayakers
  • Drop-stitch floor
  • High rocker hull


  • Not much room for gear

8: Driftsun Rover 120 Whitewater Kayak

Driftsun Rover 120 Inflatable Whitewater KayakPin
  • Length: 8 foot 6 inches
  • Width: 36 inches
  • Weight: 22 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 300 pounds

The Driftsun Rover 120 is a whitewater inflatable kayak that’s built to handle up to Class IV rapids. 

It’s a very compact kayak that can be ideal for all skill levels, as it’s easy to maneuver on small rivers. It also has a high degree of rocker for better performance on whitewater and during turns. 

This is a durable inflatable kayak made from double-layer PVC and it also benefits from having a drop-stitch floor.

This self-bailing  kayak comes with a padded adjustable seat. It also comes with an aluminum paddle, hand pump, and a backpack-style carrying bag, so it offers good value for money. You’ll also find an adjustable foot rest to help you stabilize yourself in rough conditions. 

There are D-rings for securing gear, with front and rear spray covers offering a little protection. However, because of the short length of this kayak, you may find there’s not much space to bring a lot of gear. 

It’s also not the best choice if you’re a large or tall paddler because of the short length and reduced leg room.

This is a lightweight inflatable kayak that can be easy to hike into remote locations to find the best rapids. It also features four carry handles so it’s easy to carry to and from the water when inflated.

The Rover 120 is a stable kayak that can be a versatile boat. The tracking is not great on flatwater. But it does come with a removable fin to make it a little easier to paddle on lakes.


  • Drop-stitch floor
  • Backpack included
  • Rated for Class IV rapids


  • Not the best for tall kayakers

9: Aquaglide McKenzie 125

Aquaglide McKenzie 125Pin
  • Length: 12 foot 2 inches
  • Width: 34.5 inches
  • Weight: 30 pounds
  • Weight capacity: 600 pounds

The Aquaglide McKenzie 125 is a lightweight tandem whitewater inflatable kayak. It’s designed as a hybrid kayak so it’s able to handle recreational kayaking as well as whitewater.

This can be a versatile inflatable whitewater kayak for both new paddlers and experienced paddlers.

This is a pretty spacious kayak that can be paddled by two paddlers or on your own. If kayaking on your own, you can make use of the extra storage space for gear.

It comes with two seats with backrests for back support. But it lacks foot braces.

The EvoBeam technology in the floor adds a degree of rigidity but it’s similar to I-beam construction rather than drop-stitch construction. It features Duratex material for added strength and abrasion resistance. 

It also benefits from having four mesh drains to help bail water from the deck during whitewater runs. 

As well as performing well on whitewater rivers, this can also be a good choice for lakes and surf. There’s a tracking fin included that can help keep you heading straight on open water. 


  • Tandem whitewater kayak
  • Hybrid design 
  • Good for all skill levels


  • No foot braces

Why Use An Inflatable For Whitewater?

Increased Buoyancy

Inflatable kayaks are typically more buoyant than their hardshell counterparts because of the air-filled chambers. This means that inflatable kayaks are generally more adept at staying afloat in rough water.

> The best whitewater kayaks overall

This is because you need more buoyancy to stay afloat in rough water compared to calm water.

This makes inflatable kayaks ideal for running whitewater, as they’re generally able to ride above and over the waves. And when submerged, they can resurface quickly.


Most inflatable kayaks have features that aid maneuverability in rough water conditions. Most whitewater inflatable kayaks will have rocker hulls to help ride above the water and make turning easier.

Added rocker can have a negative effect on tracking performance but good tracking is usually a feature you look for on kayaks built for flatwater conditions, not an inflatable kayak for whitewater. 

Some inflatable kayaks will come with removable skegs or fins that can be attached to the hull if you plan to paddle in calm waters – once you’re done riding the whitewater, of course. 

You’ll also find that inflatable kayaks are generally quite short compared to recreational kayaks, which makes them easier to control in narrow rivers, for example.

However, you may find they’re not quite as short as some of the hardshell whitewater kayaks and playboats. 

Stability On All Waters

Inflatable kayaks generally have much wider hulls than comparable hardshell kayaks. This gives them extra stability, which can be useful for whitewater kayaking as well as flatwater paddling.

The large rounded side walls help to improve stability, making it difficult (but not impossible) to capsize an inflatable kayak. 


Inflatable whitewater kayaks are built to be extremely tough and durable, sometimes more so than some hardshell kayaks. 

They are usually made from either PVC or nylon and are designed to be resistant to punctures and abrasions. 

This means you can accidentally hit rocks or logs and the kayak will generally remain undamaged. This is because of the flexible materials in an inflatable kayak’s construction that allow the kayak to bounce off of obstacles. 

Inflatable kayaks are also tough enough to withstand dogs’ paws and claws, and fishing trips. 

Another feature that adds to the durability of an inflatable kayak is that they have multiple air chambers. This means that if one air chamber suffers a puncture, the rest of the chambers will remain unaffected. So you can paddle safely to shore to fix your puncture.

Additionally, inflatable kayaks can be easily fixed using a repair kit (which is usually included with the best inflatable kayaks). This lets you make a quick repair to a puncture so you can get back out onto the river to finish your adventure.

Video: How To Repair An Inflatable Kayak

Convenient For Transportation And Storage

One of the best things about inflatable kayaks is that they’re extremely portable. When deflated and packed, they can be easily transported in a small car. And they can be stored easily in a closet at home, unlike a hard shell kayak

Inflatable kayaks are also usually lighter than most plastic traditional kayaks, which makes them easier to carry to and from the water, especially if you’re on your own.

Some of the more compact inflatable kayaks can even be carried in a backpack for added convenience.  

Before You Buy: Top Features To Look For

Multiple Air Chambers

A high quality inflatable kayak will usually always have several air chambers. Most inflatable kayaks have more than one air chamber, as this is beneficial for safety and can improve buoyancy. 

This means you can continue to paddle if one of the air chambers suffers a puncture, giving you time to get to safety so you can repair the damage. 

Drop-Stitch Construction

If you’re looking for increased performance in your inflatable whitewater kayak, a drop-stitch floor is a good feature to have. 

High-pressure drop-stitch construction provides a more rigid surface. And this is usually found in the floor of some of the best inflatable kayaks, just like on most paddle boards. 

A drop-stitch floor can improve the rigidity of the kayak, which can mean better glide, speed, and stability. It can also mean better resistance to rough water, as the kayak can maintain its shape more readily.

Comfortable Seat

For all types of kayaking, a backrest can be essential. This can give you support and help you to maintain a comfortable paddling posture, whether you’re riding rapids or floating down a lazy river. 

Foot braces can also help you to stabilize yourself in the kayak, which is important during whitewater runs.

Some kayaks will also have additional features to help you control the kayak in rough whitewater conditions, such as thigh straps. Straps can help to essentially lock you in the kayak, so that you don’t get thrown out in big rapids.  


A self-bailing hull can be an essential feature to look for in a whitewater inflatable kayak. This means the kayak can drain water through the floor automatically, so your deck doesn’t fill with water.

Not all inflatable kayaks will have this feature but inflatable kayaks made for whitewater should be self-bailing.

FAQs: Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks

What Paddle Should I Use?

The best kayak paddle length will usually depend on your height and the width of your kayak. Shorter paddles can be better for the high angle paddling strokes used in whitewater kayaking. 

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe For Whitewater Rapids?

Yes, inflatable kayaks are safe for rapids as long as they are designed to handle those conditions. 

More on inflatable kayak safety here.

Can You Repair Holes In An Inflatable Kayak?

Yes, holes can usually be easily repaired using the patch kit that (usually) comes with your kayak. 

Find out how to repair inflatable kayaks.

How Do You Care For An Inflatable Kayak?

Allow it to dry completely before you pack it away to prevent mold and mildew from building up. It’s also a good idea to clean it regularly to keep it free from dirt and sand that could damage the materials over time. 

Check out our guide on how to clean and dry an inflatable kayak.

Kayak Vs. Raft For Whitewater?

Most rafts are designed to carry multiple people, although you can get solo rafts. Kayaks, on the other hand, are usually built for just one or two paddlers. 

Rafts are usually much wider than inflatable kayaks, offering increased stability. This makes rafts suitable for beginners and family whitewater trips. 

Inflatable whitewater kayaks will typically require some advanced whitewater paddling skills to navigate challenging rapids.  

Final Words

Choosing an inflatable whitewater kayak will ultimately come down to your skill level and whether you want to use it for other types of water as well as whitewater. 

The best inflatable whitewater kayak, in my opinion, is the Star Viper. This little kayak performs almost as well as hardshell whitewater kayaks. It offers excellent maneuverability and can even be rolled, making it a fantastic choice for advanced kayakers.

If you don’t need your whitewater kayaks to roll, the runner-up pick, the Aire Tributary Tomcat Solo is an ideal choice. This is stable, easy to maneuver, and has space for gear. 

Another great option, if tandem kayaks are more your thing, is the Sea Eagle 420X. This is perfect for longer paddling trips, with comfortable seats, a spacious deck, and the ability to handle almost every type of water.

Best Inflatable Kayaks (And Rafts) For Whitewater - PinterestPin

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