Kayaking is a fun and enjoyable outdoor activity. Nothing beats the feeling of hitting the water and rowing your arms out as you enjoy the ocean breeze. However, not everyone can afford the luxury of a hard shell kayak. Others don’t have a vehicle capable of transporting such a large piece of hardware.
Thankfully, inflatable kayaks are there to save the day. These affordable water-rafting devices are perfect for people with small vehicles or less money to burn.
However, while their performance might not reach the levels of their hard-shelled counterparts, inflatable kayaks still offer plenty of adventures and fun with the additional benefit of transportability.
When and Why Do You Need an Inflatable Kayak?
One of the biggest questions we get is, why would you need an inflatable kayak if there are better models available. However, the key aspects to remember are the ease of storage and transportability.
If you own a regular-sized or small car, it’s easy to think that you can transport the kayak on the roof of your vehicle. Strapping it safely via the use of foam blocks until you reach your destination, however, this isn’t the best idea possible. Foam blocks aren’t stable enough to keep the kayak safely in place. You’ll inevitably find it shifting around your roof as the wind pushes and lifts it, not to mention the reduced visibility.
Furthermore, you’ll also have to deal with the weight of the hard-shelled kayak, which often requires two people to lift correctly without damaging your vehicle.
At this point, you most likely think that you can simply buy a trailer to solve the issue. But, this is not easy for people without money to spare. Indeed, you won’t have to lift your kayak over your head, but can you afford to purchase one plus the cost of your kayak?
Not to mention, the storage or the trailer, and additional insurance costs of owning/using one. All of these expenses will accumulate quickly, leaving a substantial dent on your monthly wages.
If these problems sound like a real issue to you, then you need to start thinking of owning an inflatable kayak.
You can take these kayaks anywhere as long as you have a pump (preferably electric) and they are storable in almost any location you can imagine. Whether you live in a trailer, RV, large home, tiny apartment, or a share house, you can bet that you will find the perfect place for storing your inflatable kayak.
Moreover, once you do start making trips to the lakes, rivers, and beaches, you’ll learn how easy it is to inflate one. Just pull out your inflatable kayak from its storage container, take out the pump, and inflate it within minutes. You’ll be in the water in less time than it would take you to unstrap and safely remove the hard-shell from your vehicle’s roof.
Finally, consider the following, you can use an inflatable kayak in almost any outdoor situation that involves water. Whether you’re a fan of whitewater rafting, camping, beach going, or fishing, you can use one to your heart’s content.
After all, the keyword for describing an inflatable kayak is convenience. It’s convenient to store, transport, and set-up regardless of where you go.
How to Choose the Right Inflatable Kayak for You!
You need consider several factors before purchasing an inflatable kayak. Please read below to find out more information on each aspect.
The average inflatable kayaks weigh an average of 18 pounds when deflated. At that weight, it is easy to store and carry even if you’re hiking. However, keep in mind that they will approximately double in weight once you fill them up.
Are you capable of carrying a full-sized inflatable kayak at this weight? If the answer is not, consider purchasing a lighter model instead.
Sizing is another factor to consider before making your purchase. An inflatable kayak shouldn’t exceed 14 feet in length. If they’re longer than that, you will risk tipping over regardless of its material build. It might seem tempting to go for a longer one, but you’re going to be sacrificing stability and safety in the long run.
Ironically, longer kayaks tend to be more stable, however, on inflatable kayaks the curve peaks at 14 ft. Smaller kayaks, however, are always better for younger folk and lighter bodies.
However, do keep in mind the size of your body and overall mass. If you’re a larger/taller individual, don’t buy a small kayak. These don’t offer the leg space necessary to fit your body properly, and you might exceed the weight limitations.
Key points to remember:
- Short kayaks: These kayaks range from eight to eleven feet and are agile, easily taking sharp turns. These work better for whitewater rafting or rivers with sharp twist or turns
- Long kayaks: Twelve to fifteen feet long and are faster overall and easier to navigate in straight lines. Open and larger bodies of water are suitable for this type of kayak
The term rocker describes the curvature of the kayak. Some people describe it as how similar it is to a banana. A high rocker helps you deflect waves and serves to prevent water from coming in. Alternatively, a flat rocker means that you can get better speed in calmer waters.
What you’re planning on doing is ultimately the primary determining factor into the type of kayak you’ll be purchasing.
Before buying an inflatable kayak consider the following:
- Where are you going to use it? Rivers, beaches, oceans, or lakes?
- Do you plan to bring someone along for a tandem ride, or going solo?
- Are the waters fast or calm?
- Do you plan on going fishing or simply paddling for a few hours?
- Are you planning to complete long trips or are you a short burst sort of individual?
- Are you an avid kayaker, or more casual?
Once you have answers to these questions, choosing the right model will be simpler.
5. Weight Limitations
Inflatable kayaks’ weight capacity ranges from 350 to double that amount (around 700 pounds). You’ll need to consider the size of your body and your companions before purchasing one. Not paying attention to the limits puts your life at risk increasing the chances of tipping over.
6. Seating Capacity
Inflatable kayaks can range from single-seaters to triple-seaters models. If you’re kayaking by yourself, a single-seater will be just fine. However, do consider purchasing a double-seater for those moments when you want some company.
Alternatively, if you’re an angler looking to go kayaking we suggest getting a double-seater for the additional storage/space for your cooler.
The following are the most common materials used for building inflatable kayaks are the following:
- Hypalon: Expensive, but super advanced. This material is extremely durable and strong. Additionally, it offers better resistance to abrasions and ultraviolet radiation. However, it’s bulky and heavy. You will usually find this material bonded with PVC, lowering the overall costs of the kayak
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Lightweight, economical, and easy transport. This material is known for its strength and durability. However, you shouldn’t leave it lying in the sun as it does not take well to ultraviolet radiation nor does it withstand extreme temperatures. Finally, keep in mind that PVC is not good for the environment
- Nitrylon: A higher-tier material than PVC, but less advanced than Hypalon. This material offers better protection, higher durability, and increased resistance to abrasions and punctures than the aforementioned material. It is, however, considerably heavier than PVC
You can find inflatable kayaks anywhere from $100 to $1200. But, a decent package will cost you closer to $400 or $600. At that price range, you’ll be able to get the full package, including the tools necessary to perform maintenance and inflate the raft (and life vests).
Consider how much use you will get out of your inflatable kayak before purchasing one. If you’re going to be rafting often, consider a high-end model for their durability.
9. Type of Kayak
You cand find inflatable kayaks in the same types as hard-shell ones. Continue reading below to learn more:
- Sit-in: As the name implies you will place your legs inside the kayak. These offer better protection from the elements than other types and offer additional legroom
- Self-bailing: This type of kayak is made for white water rafting and rapids. You’ll find these have holes in the bottom that let the water drain out to prevent taking in too much water. They’re fairly economical but also specialized in their particular field
- Sit-on kayaks: People who don’t like placing their legs inside a raft will benefit from these. Unlike the sit-in types, these normally bring a seat with a backrest. Additionally, it’s easy to enter and exit these types of kayaks. Anglers, in particular, enjoy using these as they allow for easier access to their tools. However, they don’t offer nearly as much protection from the elements
- Canoe: This type of inflatable kayak is better for groups of people. They have a flat bottom, deep seats, higher walls, and large storage space. Anglers also favor using this particular type
Inflatable kayaks usually come with the basic kit needed to use them. However, you should keep in mind that certain manufactures will try to entice you by offering unnecessary accessories. Don’t fall for these tricks, however, as the key features you need are the paddles and pump.
Other useful items are the life vests, and rod holders if you’re an angler. If you’re not interested in any of these, don’t bother falling for their ploy.
Top 8 Best Inflatable Kayak Reviews for 2020
Sea Eagle 370
Best Tandem Kayak
Advanced Elements Lagoon 1
Best Calm Water Single Seater
Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person
Best Triple Seater
Best Beginner Tandem
AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite
Best High-End Performance
Intex Explorer K2
Sevylor Coleman Colorado
Best Fishing Kayak
We want to preface by saying that we’ve chosen then best Kayaks in each category listed. This will give you the best chances of finding one that is right for you! Now without further ado, here are the best inflatable kayaks of 2020.
1. Sea Eagle 370 Inflatable Kayak – Best Tandem Kayak
Kayaking with your friends and family is one of the best feelings in the world. However, not every inflatable kayak is stable and tough enough to carry two fully-grown adults safely and a pet/kid. Thankfully, the Sea Eagle 370 is the solution to this conundrum.
At twelve feet six inches, this kayak is capable of holding 650 pounds comfortably. Meaning you can bring your significant other and a child or pet easily! It’s also versatile enough to handle rapids or brisk trips around a calm lake.
A tough PolyKrylar hull gives it incredible durability. Making it perfect for trips with the family pet, as their claws will not pierce the material.
- I-Beam build gives it a rigid/tough feel
- Includes 2 seats and can fit another person in the middle
- Excellent weight capacity
- At 32 pounds, it can be a beast to carry when fully inflated
2. Advanced Elements Lagoon 1 – Best Calm Water Single Seater
Sometimes you’ll just want to go riding solo in a high-performance kayak. For those moments take a quick look at the Advanced Elements Lagoon 1!
This high-performance inflatable kayak is built for one person, but it makes up the lack of space for pure raw power. Having a 250-pound weight capacity means, it can fit even a decently large body comfortably. Additionally, at eight feet four inches, you’d have to be a giant not to fit in properly.
The bow and stern are rigid, keeping them stable by cutting through the waves; a tracking fin provides additional help on staying in track. You’ll have people begging to know the secret of your technique!
Additionally, the orange coloring helps you stand out from the crowd and gives it a stylish look!
- Lightweight even when full
- Perfect for lakes and slow rivers
- Not for choppy waters
3. Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person – Best Triple Seater Kayak
While the majority of large inflatable kayaks can fit three people, not every single one can do so adequately. But, if you’re set on riding with three people comfortably take a look at the Sevylor Big Basin! This triple seater inflatable kayak can fit everything and the kitchen sink!
A heavy-duty PVC build makes it tough and durable, capable of handling anything the lakes might throw at it. But, if you’re still worried about a puncture, the multiple air chambers will keep you afloat until you reach safety. Once you’ve gotten to the shore, replacing the bladder is a simple matter of opening the zipper and placing the new one.
The seats are also adjustable, letting you move them to properly accommodate the body of all the riders.
- Comfortable seats that properly accommodate three people
- Fills up in approximately quickly even with a foot and handpump
- Tough, durable, and easy to fix
- International customers might have a harder time buying replacement parts
- The sides ride low to the water, making it hard to keep the water out
4. Advanced Elements Inflatable Kayak – Best Convertible Kayak
If you’re looking to get a high-performing inflatable kayak that also looks stylish, look no further than the Advanced Elements. True to its name, this kayak is for high-level riders as it’s fifteen feet frame means you have to understand the ins-and-outs of balancing in the water.
This kayak is fast, capable of reaching high speeds quickly, a skeg tracking fin helps you maintain control easily too! Additionally, this kayak is a convertible model, meaning you can convert its frame into three different designs to suit your specific needs. Built-in aluminum ribs provide additional performance, and the overall design helps you stay on track.
Finally, it’s strong and durable, as its three-layer build gives it additional durability, without hindering performance.
- Unique and stylish look
- High-performance in all categories
- Heavy at 52 pounds when fully inflated
5. Driftsun Voyager – Best Beginner Tandem
If you and your family are looking to get into the basics of kayaking, look no further than Driftsun’s Voyager. This inflatable kayak is perfect for those who are looking to buy a beginner-friendly kayak. At ten feet long, its short profile helps you master turning and steering.
Additionally, the rocker makes it perfect for calm waters, but it is suitable for choppier rides as well. Heavy-duty PVC gives it ample damage protection and offers a decent degree of puncture resistance.
Finally, it comes with everything you need in the package including the paddle, a hand pump, and a tracking fin!
- A good package deal
- Perfect for beginners
- Fairly versatile
- No scupper holes, it will fill with water if the waters are rough
6. AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite – Best High-End Performance
Once you’re ready to tackle the challenges of rougher waters, give the AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite a look! Brought to you by Advanced Elements, this is a hybrid inflatable kayak that offers extreme performance and durability.
Additionally, it has ample storage space, helping you keep everything you need with you! An aluminum rib keeps it lightweight and easy to carry. But, it’s the combination of panels, chambers, and the frame that give it high-levels of maneuverability and tracking.
The hull is made out of PVC Tarpaulin, which is tough and resistant to damage. Multiple air chambers will keep you afloat even if you puncture one, letting your reach shore safely!
Sitting at 13 feet long, it strikes the perfect balance of length and balance, keeping it within our recommended length suggestions.
- Comes with a repair kit
7. Intex Explorer K2 – Best Budget Fishing
If you’re just looking for a kayak to go on a fishing trip without breaking your bank, look no further than the Intex Explorer K2. This budget ride comes with everything you need to quickly head over to the lakes with the hopes of catching a big one.
The main draw of this inflatable kayak is how comfortable it is. The adjustable seats are large and have a decently sized backrest. You can simply sit and wait for the fish to bite as you lay comfortably on your kayak.
The bright yellow colors ensure you stand out regardless of where you are, and with a weight capacity of 400 pounds, you’ll be able to catch plenty of whoppers.
It’s fairly durable too, featuring heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl. But, even if something did get through, the three air chambers will keep you afloat.
- Decent weight capacity
- Perfect for drifting along calm waters
- No rod holders
8. Sevylor Coleman Colorado Fishing Kayak – Best Fishing Kayak
If you’re looking for a fishing kayak that comes with all the bells and whistles, look no further than the Colorado! This inflatable kayak is perfect for the anglers looking to make the best of their fishing trip without sacrificing comfort, storage space, rod holders, and everything else you’d want from a fishing raft!
The Colorado offers plenty of stability even in choppy waters, and it even has space for a trolling motor if you’re looking to go the extra mile. One of the biggest draws of this inflatable kayak is its durability; with an 18-gauge PVC it is tough!
Capable of resisting punctures better than most rafts. Moreover, it features multiple air chambers for safety.
- It offers everything you need for a successful fishing trip.
- Can tackle rough and choppy waters
- Strikes a good balance between performance and purpose
- The rod holders don’t do well with heavier rods
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I bring my pets?
As long as your pets don’t have sharp claws and they enjoy water it is absolutely possible to bring your pets along for the ride. A dogs’ nails aren’t sharp enough to puncture an inflatable kayak and it’s easy to bring them along for the ride.
2. Can my kids ride in it by themselves?
Kids can ride in kayaks with adult supervision, but keep in mind that anything can happen. You need to ensure they’re wearing their life vests properly, and that you don’t take your eyes off of them (especially if they’re younger).
3. What’s a skeg?
A skeg is the name of the retractable blade that serves as a rudder on your kayak. The biggest difference is that skegs don’t pivot, unlike a rudder that moves from side to side. They’re controlled via a slider that is mounted to the thigh of the rider.
4. How durable is an inflatable kayak?
While the durability of an inflatable kayak will be the exact levels of their hard-shell cousins, they’re still tough. Their inflatable nature also means they can take bumps and bruises better, but punctures are the real threat.
Keep an eye out for anything that might pierce them in the water as your kayaking. Furthermore, as the material quality continues improving, it will not be surprising to see the day, they’re as equally tough.
5. Where do I sit on a tandem kayak?
The rule of thumb is the heavier individual should sit in the back. This will let you get better speed and control. The opposite is true on windy days, as the heavier individual will prevent the kayak from lifting from the front.
If you’re riding by yourself, just sit in the middle. But, if you’re more comfortable sitting in the back, simply place your gear and equipment in the front to act as a counterweight.
6. How safe is kayaking?
As with any water sport, kayaking involves the risks of serious injury. You should always take preventative steps to mitigate any potential dangers. Wearing your life vest and dressing in bright colors to maximize your visibility. Additionally, you shouldn’t purposely tip or try to rock the boat as they say in the United States. These actions might seem fun, but they risk the lives of you and your passenger if you do topple.
Kayaking is fantastic, and with your new inflatable companion, you’re ready for new adventures! Inflatable kayaks offer you the opportunity to enjoy this sport even if you don’t own a large vehicle. However, remember to look for the specific qualities that will make your trip a great one. Technological advances have made inflatable any enjoyment out of the experience with one.
Remember the key to any sport is having fun, as long as you make the best of your day, it’s been a great success. We hope that our list will help you choose your perfect kayak! After all, these are all great, but there can only be one.