Inflatable kayaks are extremely versatile and fun, but there are tons of options out there. If you are looking for the best kayak for your needs, you have come to the right place.
Why Opt For An Inflatable Kayak?
Having your very own inflatable kayak or canoe gives you a lot of flexibility and freedom when you want to go on a trip. You don’t have to rely on renting a kayak from a nearby store, and you can always be ready to go.
Inflatable kayaks, like hard kayaks are extremely versatile, and can be used on nearly every type of water. They are light, easily portable, and have specific types of kayaks for different use cases.
So, if you have decided to get a kayak, how do you determine whether to go with an inflatable kayak, or a regular kayak?
Inflatable Kayak Vs Regular Kayak
Pros of Inflatable Kayaks
1. Easy to Carry, Transport, & Store
The first and foremost reason people choose to use inflatable kayaks is because of how lightweight and portable they are.
When you go camping or trekking, carrying a huge and heavy kayak is probably the last thing any of us would want to do. But with an inflatable kayak, you could even fit it into your backpack!
If you’re going on a road trip that would involve some fun activities, you could always just store the kayak in the trunk of your car. While hard kayaks can be carried by even small cars, often times the ability to carry an inflatable kayak longer distances, or simply fit in your car without a kayak holder is enough reason to go with an inflatable kayak.
If you live in an apartment, in the city, or just simply don’t have much storage space, an inflatable kayak might be the best option for you. Hard kayaks will need significantly more storage space than an inflatable kayak that could fit in a drawer, care trunk, or closet easily while a hard kayak likely will need to be hung up on a wall or ceiling in a garage or shed.
3. Versatility & Stability
Nowadays, inflatable kayaks are just as versatile as hard kayaks. Some inflatable kayaks are designed for class 3 and 4 rapids and can handle extremely rough waters just as well as many hard kayaks. Really, either kayak type is extremely versatile, you just have to make sure that you are purchasing a kayak rated to the type of water it will be used in.
Generally, inflatable kayaks are less expensive than hard kayaks. You will find cheap hard kayaks, however, generally the materials needed to build an inflatable kayak are less expensive than the hardshell materials.
Cons of Inflatable Kayaks
Although there are plenty of great things about inflatable kayaks, there are some downsides too.
1. Slower Than Hard-Shell Kayaks
A first disadvantage of inflatable kayaks is that they are a little slower in speed than regular kayaks.
Regular hard shaped kayaks have a streamlined bottom, which cuts through water easily and offers good speed and better hydrodynamics. But an inflatable kayak is wider and sits on the top layer of water. If you are going to be paddling on advanced waterways, then maybe reconsider an inflatable.
The wider base of an inflatable kayak can often make them more stable, but generally, they are less streamlined than regular kayaks.
To be honest, a well made inflatable kayak can be incredibly durable, but generally, any item that needs to be blown up has the potential for abrasion or holes to cause leaks. Because of this, we would consider inflatable kayaks slightly less durable than hard shelled kayaks.
How To Choose An Inflatable Kayak For You?
Once you have decided to go with an inflatable kayak, you’ll need to understand some key considerations in order to make the right purchase. Here, we explain those considerations.
What Water Will You Be Kayaking In?
Depending on what kind of kayaking you’re into, the type of kayak will differ. You see, there are inflatable kayaks specially designed to withstand the roughest of waters. If you plan on doing any whitewater kayaking, you’ll want to find an inflatable kayak that is rated for white water. If you plan on consistently being on lakes or ponds, you’ll want to select a kayak that can track straighter, deal with waves, and wind. During your buying process, the descriptions and reviews of these process will help give you this information.
This one is very straightforward. you need to decide if you want to get a tandem, or a single person kayak. Maneuvering a tandem by yourself can be difficult, so if you are going to be going out on your own, we recommend a single, or two single person kayaks to go with two people. With that being said, parents with children, and some other use cases, might get a ton of value out of a tandem system.
A heavier kayak can potentially be harder to maneuver in the water, and more difficult to transport between bodies of water. Heavier kayaks may also be able to handle wind a bit better than other kayaks. Pay attention to the weight of your kayak. If you want a lighter system to easily transport, and carry to the water, opt in for a lighter kayak.
Longer kayaks have a harder time turning, but they also track straighter in winds or in waves. Depending on your use case, you may want to opt for the most maneuverable (shorter) kayak, of opt in for a longer kayak for lake kayaking and such.
Sit In or Sit On Top
Inflatable kayaks often come in two types of version when it comes to sitting position. Sit on top kayaks position kayakers above the water, and often feature comfortable chairs. These kayaks are often less streamlined, more comfortable, and better suited for activities like fishing.
Sit in kayaks place kayakers within and more enclosed in the kayak. These kayaks tend to be more streamlined and faster, still comfortable, but often less comfortable.
Paddle Holder / Paddle Rest
You are definitely going to want a place to hold your paddles. Most kayaks have this, but some don’t. We recommend looking for that feature.
Kayaks with solid storage often have a waterproof storage section, and areas to strap on packs and such. Depending upon the use case of your kayak, extra storage could be a must. Be sure to check out the storage features before making your purchase.
Kayaks can come with seating features, storage features, fishing attachments, and a litany of other types of features. If you know what you want to use your kayak for, then these features become pretty important. Simply pay attention to the additional features before making a decision.
Best Inflatable Kayaks On Amazon
Here, we have listed out some of the most well reviewed inflatable kayaks on Amazon to help start your buying process.
Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak
This kayak has hundreds of positive reviews, is lightweight, enclosed, and features plenty of straps for external storage. This has a backpack carrying system making transportation easy. This is an awesome all around kayak with great comfort features like an adjustable seat, and footrest.
Hull Design: Built-in aluminum ribs define the bow and stern and improve tracking.
Light-Weight: Simple inflation chamber design combined with light-weight materials for an ultralite kayak.
Easy To Set Up: Simply unfold, inflate, and attach the seat.
Durable: 3 layers of material for extreme puncture resistance.
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
This two person kayak is one of the best tandem inflatable kayaks on the market. It has adjustable seats to help with comfort, and you are also able to adjust a seat so this operates well as a single person kayak. The adjustable seating and upright design makes this super comfortable.
This design also comes with a deck that can cover kayakers legs to make this kayak enclosed.
Hull Design: Built-in aluminum ribs define the bow and stern and improve tracking.
Durable: 3 Layers of material for extreme puncture resistance.
Easy To Set Up: PreAssembled at the factory. Simply unfold, inflate and attach the seats.
Comfortable: High support, adjustable padded seats provides comfort for hours of paddling.
Versatile: 3 Seat locations allow for paddling solo or tandem.
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
This is the same kayak as above, but the single person version. It has incredibly good ratings, and the design is superior to other inflatable kayaks in this price range. If you are looking for a single option, be sure to check this one out.
- Aluminum Rib Frame Design
- PVC Tarpaulin Hull Material
- Multi-layer Construction
- Multiple Air Chambers
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AirFusion Evo Inflatable Kayak
This is one of the top inflatable kayaks in the market. The long design enables this to track really straight even in rough and windy water. It is lightweight still, features a carrying pack, and is extremely durable.
- Hybrid aluminum frame and high pressure drop-stitch air chamber design
- Inflatable coaming for spray skirt attachment
- Roll-top rear storage access hatch
- Packs small enough to fit in your car
- Carrying duffel bag w/shoulder straps included
Intex Challenger Kayak Series
This is one of the least expensive inflatable kayak options on the market. It is not super advanced, but you will be able to float and get around the water, and it is durable. If you are looking for a simple setup at a low cost, this is a great option.
- Comes with pump and paddle
- 220 pound capacity
- Large cargo net storage area
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
This 2 person kayak has an absurdly large number of quality reviews. It is incredibly inexpensive, and comes with paddles, a pump, and everything you’d need. It is large, can handle 400 pounds between two individuals, and is durable enough for a lot of use. This is best utilized for calm small waters like lakes, or very slow rivers.
- 30.6 Pounds
- 400 Pound Capacity
- 10’3″ X 3′ X 1’8″
- 13,000+ ratings
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about