Ever wished you could own a kayak that lets you enjoy time out on the water but isn’t a complete pain to handle and transport? Do you love kayaking but don’t have the space to store a behemoth kayak in your apartment?
Enter: the inflatable kayak.
In recent years, inflatable kayaks have seen a huge boom in popularity, thanks to their ease of use, compact storage size, and comfort. That being said, there are so many different inflatable kayaks out there, that it can be difficult to determine which one is best for your needs.
To help you decide which inflatable kayak you’ll take out on your next adventure, we’ve created this guide to the best inflatable kayaks. Coming up, we’ve got reviews of the best inflatable kayaks you can buy, as well as a complete guide to choosing the right one. Here we go!
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Best Inflatable Kayaks
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
This super comfortable two-person kayak from Intex is designed to get you out on the water in style. The Explorer K2 kayak has a cockpit designed with space and comfort in mind. With adjustable and inflatable seats, backrests, a removable skeg, and plenty of leg room, there’s a lot to love with the Explorer K2.
The Explorer K2 also comes with a set of aluminum paddles, as well as a high-output air pump, so you have everything you’ll need to get out on the water – just don’t forget your life jackets! This kayak is best for smaller bodies of water, such as lakes and calm rivers, so it’s a great inflatable kayak for a relaxing day on the water!
- Comes with paddles and pump
- Not great in rough water
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If you want a kayak that’s nimble and quick in the water, but is durable enough to handle whatever you throw at it, then the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak might be for you. Built with a durable welded material made from thousands of super high-strength polyester fibers, the Challenger K1 is designed to last.
This kayak has a low profile design with a large cockpit, an inflatable seat, and an inflatable floor for extra comfort. Plus, you even get an aluminum paddle and a hand pump with the Challenger K1 kayak, so what’s not to love?
- Highly durable materials
- Comes with paddle, repair patch, and hand pump
- Cargo net to store gear
- Inflatable seat and floor for comfort
- Best on calm water
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Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Sport Kayak Pro Package
Lightweight and portable, yet stable and durable, the Sea Eagle Inflatable Sport Kayak bridges the gap between performance and convenience in the kayak world. This boat can hold up to 3 people and can be used for up to Class III white water, so it’s one of the more versatile inflatable kayaks out there.
The Sea Eagle Inflatable Sport Kayak features an open and close drain valve to easily bail out the boat as well as a sun and saltwater-resistant hull material. The boat even comes with inflatable spray skirts, so it’s great for taking out on moderate white water rapids. Plus, the Sea Eagle Inflatable Sport Kayak is a package deal that also includes two aluminum paddles, two inflatable and moveable seats, a foot pump, and a carry bag.
- Durable yet lightweight
- Can be used on Class III whitewater
- 3 person maximum capacity
- Saltwater and sun-resistant hull
- Relatively expensive
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ADVANCED ELEMENTS Advanced Frame Sport Kayak
Designed specifically with a day touring and recreational boating in mind, the Advanced Elements Advanced Fram Sport Kayak is a lightweight boat with aluminum rib-frame technology for increased performance and design. Built with a large cockpit opening, this sit-in kayak is easy to get in and out of, but also performs well in moderate conditions.
The Advanced Frame Sport Kayak combines the packability of an inflatable boat with the quality of a hard shell model, so it’s really the best of both worlds. Plus, it’s got a removable skeg for better tracking in up to Class II rapids, so it’s a great boat in a variety of conditions.
- Sporty, durable design
- Large cockpit for easy in and out
- Aluminum rib-frame and skeg for better performance
- Can be used in Class II rapids
- Comes with hand pump
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Driftsun Rover 220 Inflatable Tandem White Water Kayak
Do you want to take on white water rapids with a friend in tow? Then the Driftsun Rover 220 Inflatable Tandem White Water Kayak might be for you! This ready-for-adventure kayak can carry two people on flat and rough water. With a combination of high-quality materials and a performance-oriented design, there’s a lot to love with this inflatable kayak.
Designed with a traditional river rocker profile, the Driftsun Rover 220 can handle an impressive Class IV whitewater rapid with impeccable speed and control, all at the same time. Plus, the Driftsun Rover 220 has 7 self-bailing drain plugs to keep you afloat in whitewater as well as a removable rear tracking skeg that can help with tracking performance in flat water.
- Rocker profile and design can handle Class IV whitewater
- 7 self-bailing drain plugs
- Removable rear tracking skeg for performance
- Removable padded seats with high back support
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Driftsun Voyager 2 Person Tandem Inflatable Kayak
If compactness and ease of transport are your number one priority, then look no further than the Driftsun Voyager 2 Person Tandem Inflatable Kayak might just be for you. The Voyager can be used for either tandem or solo paddling with its large, easy entry cockpit.
With a V-shaped hull, full rocker profile, and removable tracking skeg, the Voyager is versatile enough to handle moderate rivers, lakes, and streams, Plus, the Voyager inflates quickly and easily with the included deluxe double action hand pump, so you can spend less time pumping and more time paddling with this boat.
- Can be a tandem or solo kayak
- Large, easy entry cockpit
- Full rocker profile for river use
- Deluxe action handpump for quick inflation
- Not great for difficult whitewater
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Airhead Montana Kayak Two Person Inflatable Kayak
Designed specifically for compactness and portability, the Airhead Montana Two Person Kayak is made from 840-denier UV and water-resistant nylon that can handle lakes and moderate whitewater with style. Plus, four bottom fins provide superior tracking capabilities with minimal drag so you can keep paddling forward with minimal effort.
Inflatable seats, an adjustable support backrest, neoprene elbow guards, and a mesh pocket round out the boat’s list of comfort-oriented features, making the Airhead Montana a great inflatable kayak option for new and experienced paddlers, alike.
- High visibility orange color for safety
- Inflatable seats and adjustable support backrest for comfort
- High-strength materials for long-term durability
- Not great for rough white water
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Why you need an inflatable kayak
Although many avid kayakers swear by the traditional hard shell kayak as the ultimate means for water-based transportation, inflatable kayaks have taken the paddling world by storm in recent years. But what makes inflatable kayaks so special? Why should you get an inflatable kayak instead of a hard shell?
The fact of the matter is that hardshell kayaks, while fantastic, do have some serious downsides to them, especially for people who don’t own a large home, lots of land, or a large car. Hard shell kayaks are big, heavy, and bulky – three things that are problematic for many people who just don’t have the luxury of extra space.
That’s where the inflatable kayak comes in. There are four main reasons why someone might choose an inflatable kayak over a hard shell model:
- They don’t have the space to store a hard shell kayak
- They don’t want to or can’t tie a kayak to the top of their vehicle to transport it
- They travel often and like the convenience of an inflatable kayak for packing into a checked bag or RV
- They don’t have lots of extra space but want a spare kayak for friends and family
Thus, an inflatable kayak is a nice middle ground for those of us for whom a hard shell kayak would just be an inconvenience and take up too much space. Ultimately, an inflatable kayak is a great option for anyone who wants the joy of being out on the water without the added difficulties of having to store and transport a 14-foot long plastic or fiberglass kayak.
Everything you need to know about inflatable kayaks
While inflatable kayaks might seem simple (they’re just pool floaties, right? – wrong!), they’re actually really complex pieces of gear. So, to help you make an informed decision about your next inflatable kayak, here are the things you ought to know:
Inflatable kayaks are a versatile bunch. Before you head out and buy an inflatable kayak, be use you know what you’re going to use it for. There are different inflatable kayaks for whitewater paddling, fishing, and sea kayaking, each of which performs best in those specific situations. Thus, you should look for an inflatable kayak that’s specifically designed for the type of paddling you’ll be doing.
Thankfully, inflatable kayaks are quite easy to maintain. However, to keep an inflatable kayak in good working order, there are a few things you’ll need to do frequently:
- Clean your inflatable kayak every month, if you use it frequently, or at least once a season if you use it sparingly.
- Never use strong detergents or silicone-based products to clean an inflatable kayak. Only use soap and water.
- Never use high-pressure cleaning equipment to clean an inflatable kayak.
- Rinse off your inflatable kayak with clean water after every paddle in salt water.
- Store your kayak in a cool, clean, dry place whenever possible. If you need to store it outside, cover your inflatable kayak to keep it out of the sun and ensure that all saltwater has been sprayed off before storage.
Inflatable kayaks are usually made with three different types of materials – PVC, Hypalon, and Nitrylon. Let’s look at them here:
PVC is usually used as a coating for either nylon or polyester. It makes a good coating because it increases the strength and tear resistance of a fabric without adding much cost or maintenance into the mix. However, it’s not very chemical-resistant and high temperatures can damage it. Additionally, there is some controversy over whether or not PVC is harmful to the environment.
Hypalon is probably the most popular exterior coating on inflatable kayaks. This is because it’s one of the most durable options available and it’s fairly resistant to UV rays. Plus, it’s not known to have serious negative environmental factors, which is great for all of us who love spending time outdoors. However, it’s one of the most expensive materials out there, so it usually adds some cost to the kayak.
In an attempt to help the environment, many manufacturers have started moving away from PVC and toward Nitrylon instead. Nitrylon is known to be a more environmentally-friendly material that’s also more durable than PVC. That being said, it is also heavier than PVC, so there are some downsides.
Inflatable kayaks come in many different sizes and people-carrying capacity. Ultimately, the capacity of the kayak you choose will depend on whether or not you like to kayak solo or with another person in the boat. Let’s look at the difference between solo and tandem kayaks here:
Solo inflatable kayaks are best for people who are confident with their paddling skills and who like to be in their own boat out on the water. They are almost always lighter and smaller than tandem inflatable kayaks (because they have fewer people to hold) but these size advantages don’t make a difference if you’re not comfortable paddling alone. Thus, you should really only consider a solo inflatable kayak if you feel comfortable with your own ability to maneuver a boat in a variety of situations.
Tandem inflatable kayaks can hold two people, who need to work together to move the boat. They’re a great option for people who are less confident in their paddling abilities or if you just don’t have the space to store two boats. Tandem inflatable kayaks can also be great if you’re looking to take younger kids out on the water who just aren’t ready to paddle on their own.
Types of kayaks
There are two main types of inflatable kayaks – sit inside and sit on top. Each of these types has its own specific set of advantages and disadvantages, so we’ll discuss them here:
A sit inside boat is the original type of kayak. In a sit inside kayak, one sits directly in the cockpit of a kayak, which is surrounded by the coaming – or edges of the cockpit. Sit inside cockpits are ideal for paddling in rough conditions because they give you more control of the movements of the boat. However, some people find that they feel quite claustrophobic inside a sit inside kayak, so they prefer a sit on top model. Alternatively, some people have difficulty getting in an out of a sit inside kayak, so for them, the sit on top kayak is the better option.
Sit on top
Unlike in sit inside kayaks, with a sit on top kayak, the paddler sits, well, on top of the kayak. There is no true “cockpit” in a sit on top kayak as the seat of the boat is located right on top of the deck. Generally speaking, sit on top inflatable kayaks are best for calm water. People with limited mobility or who don’t like being squeezed into the cockpit of an inflatable sit inside kayak often like the extra space of a sit on top model.
Where can I use it?
Inflatable kayaks can be used in a wide variety of different places, from lakes and calm rivers to white water rapids. The capabilities of an inflatable kayak really all depend on the model you purchase an on your own kayaking skills.
How comfortable are they?
Inflatable kayaks are some of the most comfortable kayaks on the market because you don’t feel like you’re being squeezed into a hard-sided piece of plastic like you are with a traditional hard shell kayak. Thus, many people feel much more comfortable in an inflatable kayak than they do in a hard shell model.
Are they easy to inflate?
Inflatable kayaks can be easy to inflate, but they can also be difficult to inflate. Usually, this comes down to the quality of your pump and the kayak in question. Some kayaks take ages to inflate, while others can be ready for the water in just a few minutes.
Is self-bailing important?
While it might seem important to have a self-bailing kayak, it turns out that it’s not really an essential feature for an inflatable kayak. Generally speaking, this “self-bailing” feature is just a hole in the hull of a boat that allows water to drain out. However, many self-bailing inflatable kayaks don’t track well int he water and tend to be made of cheaper materials. Instead, it’s probably best to get a non-self-bailing kayak that performs well and just bring along a big sponge to bail your boat out with as you need to.
Is there a weight limit?
All kayaks have a weight limit of some sort, but this should not discourage you from getting out on the water. While most inflatable kayaks will have a weight limit around the 350lbs range, there are quite a few models available that can handle 500lbs or more. These inflatable kayaks that can handle a lot of weight are also great for kayaking expeditions where you might have a lot of gear you need to transport!
Are the seats removable?
Some inflatable kayaks have removable seats, while others don’t. A removable seat can make it easier to pack your inflatable kayak and can also allow you to better customize it to your needs. Thus, if this is something that’s important to you, then you might want to consider buying an inflatable kayak with this feature.
Is it ok to use on the sea?
Yes, and no. There are some inflatable kayaks that are designed to be used on the sea, while others should probably never leave a lake. Since the main difference between the ocean and most lakes is that the ocean has bigger water and more severe weather, not only do you need an inflatable kayak that can handle the ocean, you need to have the skills to paddle it in adverse conditions. So, while your inflatable kayak might be okay to use on the ocean, you need to make sure you’re a competent enough paddler to self-rescue should anything go wrong.
Does it come with a pump?
The vast majority of inflatable kayaks come with a hand pump that can be easily transported in small spaces. You can also choose to buy a foot pump, which many people prefer to use because they don’t tire your upper body out before you even get into the kayak! Additionally, you can buy an electric pump if you’d rather not manually inflate your kayak, though these tend to be bulkier and more expensive.
How long do they take to inflate?
The amount of time it takes to inflate an inflatable kayak is really dependent on the kayak in question and the person doing the inflating. If you have a quality kayak and a good pump, you might be able to get your kayak inflated in just under 5 minutes. A cheap kayak and a cheap pump, however, could mean more than 10 or 15 minutes worth of inflation.
Inflatable kayaks are a fantastic option for anyone who loves to spend time on the water but doesn’t have the space to store or transport a hard shell kayak. There are many different inflatable kayaks out there, so before you buy your next model, be sure to consider our tips and tricks for picking the inflatable kayak that’s right for you!