Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe? (An Inside Look)

Are inflatable kayaks safe? This post will look at inflatable kayaks and discuss safety questions. If you are interested in an inflatable kayak and safety is a concern, please stay tuned.

People often have misconceptions when it comes to inflatable kayaks.  Yes, there are a lot of cheap blow-ups at your local big box store.  Regardless of what people may think, inflatable kayaks are very safe.

I can tell you that not all inflatable kayaks are created equal.  Inflatable kayak safety includes things like the quality of materials and durability.

The materials used and how well constructed the boat is play a factor in how safe the kayak is. Also, water conditions play a safety factor. We are not talking about taking a pool toy on a raging river.

We will get into all of this and more. If you have concerns about the safety of inflatable kayaks, let’s get right to it.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

Inflatable kayaks have been on the market for a long time, and their popularity is growing. More and more people are choosing these kayaks because they are affordable, easy to store, and, most importantly, safe.

But what makes an inflatable kayak safe? This article will explore the materials used in inflatable kayaks, how they are built to be stable, and some other features that make them popular for paddlers of all levels.

What Are Inflatable Kayaks Made Of?

With the help of modern materials, inflatable kayaks can withstand a lot.

Kayaks are constructed with different materials that promote strength and performance. Most kayaks are generally made of materials like PVC (Polyvinyl chloride), CSM/Hypalon®, Nitrylon, or polyurethane-coated cloth [1].  These materials are robust and flexible and work well for inflatable kayaks.

PVC is an economical material, so it is often used in entry-level kayaks.  The negative for PVC is that it is more susceptible to breaking down under UV rays.

Hypalon® was discontinued by DuPont in 2009 and was reformulated as CSM (Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene Rubber). Read more about these different materials.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Durable?

Punctures are the first thing that comes to mind when discussing inflatable kayak durability.  Yes, punctures can happen. But, the heavy-duty outer shell allows most kayaks to bounce off rocks and tree branches without problems.

The kayak materials are durable and stand up well to different conditions, including water, weather, and obstacles.  With multi-layer construction and multiple air chambers, you can safely get back to shore even if the kayak is punctured.



But you get what you pay for. If you buy a cheap inflatable kayak from a big box store, those are made for calm water, like enjoying a day on the lake or a quiet river.

If you want a kayak for a whitewater or the ocean, you need to buy an inflatable kayak designed for that type of use.  Yes, inflatable kayaks are durable and, depending on the model, can stand up to dog claws, tree branches, rocks, etc.  Use the kayak for its intended purpose, and you will have a lot of fun.

If you take good care of your kayak by drying it out thoroughly before storing it and checking for any damage before using it, it will remain sound and durable for many years.

Inflatable Kayak Safety

Some basic common sense can go a long way regarding safety with an inflatable kayak.  There are factors within your control that play a role in kayak safety. I have touched on some of these previously, but let’s take a more in-depth look.

Don’t put yourself in harm’s way.  If you have a cheap inflatable kayak designed for clam water, don’t go where you know trouble lurks.  A cheap inflatable on whitewater is not a good idea.  Don’t drag your $50 inflatable over sharp rocks on the way to the water; you are likely to puncture the boat.

In some of the places I go kayaking, the entry points are very rocky. Just getting in and out of the kayak can present some challenges to avoiding puncturing the vessel.

Be prepared when you go kayaking. Make sure you have a repair kit and know how to use it. Be aware of your surroundings. Do the necessary maintenance on your inflatable kayak.  Simple steps can make your experience safe and enjoyable.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Stable?

Many inflatable kayaks have a wide hull, which helps make them very stable. Some inflatables are more stable than a hard-shell kayak.  Inflatable kayaks are designed with high-quality materials, stitching, and valves to be inflated to high pressure.

The key is to make sure the kayak is inflated correctly. Follow the owner’s manual to inflate your kayak correctly. To answer the question, yes, inflatable kayaks are very stable. You can even stand up in some models.

Do Inflatable Kayaks Puncture Easily?

You get what you pay for.  You can’t expect a cheapo inflatable kayak to tackle obstacles like rocks and tree branches as a more expensive kayak will.  The quality of materials and design of the vessel play a role in how easily a kayak will puncture.

For normal use, on calm waters like lakes, you will probably be able to avoid many obstacles that would puncture an inflatable kayak.  Many kayaks can handle fishing hooks, even your dog’s claws, without popping.  Heavy-duty outer shells will bounce right off rocks or tree branches most of the time.

Be sure the kayak is designed for whatever you think you will put it through, and keep a repair kit in your boat, just in case.

How Long Do Inflatable Kayaks Last?

It is essential to understand inflatable kayaks, including the materials used in their construction, and how to care for them properly if you want your investment to last as long as possible.

Inflatable kayaks are built to last. With proper maintenance, inflatable kayaks can last for years.  The materials used to make kayaks can take a beating. You can enjoy using your kayak for years with regular wear and tear.

If you take care of your boat, storing it away from sharp objects, ensuring it’s dry before you put it away, and adequately inflating it, your kayak can last a long time. Some materials, like PVC, are susceptible to UV rays, so you don’t want to store your kayak in direct sunlight.

What Happens if Water Gets in the Kayak?

Water will get in your kayak, but most of the time, it’s not a big deal. Some inflatable kayaks are designed with self-bailing drains.  There are holes in the bottom that allow water to drain out.

Some inflatables have a drain plug.  You need to ensure the drain plug is closed so you don’t take on water while kayaking.

Do Inflatable Kayaks Track Well?

Will an inflatable kayak go where you want it to go?  This can get a little dicey.  Even cheap inflatable kayaks come with a removable tracking fin that helps keep you going in the right direction.  A well-built inflatable kayak will track and maneuver very well.

If you are in windy conditions in a run-of-the-mill inflatable, you may have difficulty keeping it on track. Skegs (tracking fin) do help, though. Higher-end inflatable kayaks allow you to use different-sized skegs for various conditions.

Inflatable Kayaks vs. Hard-Shell Kayaks

You need to ensure you are using your kayak in the conditions it was designed for. When it comes to safety, both inflatable kayaks and hard-shell kayaks are safe when used correctly.

An inexpensive recreational hard-shell kayak is not suited for pounding on rocks in whitewater.  In a case like this, many inflatables would bounce right off the rocks.

Another example, it’s not easy to get back in a sit-inside hard shell kayak if you tip over. In contrast, inflatable kayaks are stable and pretty easy to get back in.  And an entry-level hard-shell kayak will probably track better than a cheap inflatable from your local retail store.

When it comes to safety, using your kayak as it was designed is your best bet.  Know the limitations of your vessel and your paddling ability.

One reason people love inflatable kayaks is how easy they are to store. You don’t need a fancy kayak storage rack, rather you can store an inflatable kayak in a closet or on a shelf in your garage.

Finally, transporting an inflatable kayak is so simple! You don’t have to invest heavily in a special roof rack, or an expensive kayak trailer. Inflatable kayaks can easily fit in the trunk or your car or back of an SUV.

Inflatable Kayak Weight Capacity

It’s important to pay attention to the kayak’s weight capacity, like how much weight it can safely hold. Make sure you and your gear don’t exceed what your kayak can safely handle. It’s harder to control and paddle a kayak if it is weighed down.

The last thing you need is to weigh down your inflatable kayak with too much gear. Each kayak is different. Some kayaks can handle over 500 pounds, while others are rated for about 250 pounds.

What Activities Can You Do With an Inflatable Kayak?

Kayaking is a great way to get outdoors and experience nature. Many people use inflatable kayaks to go camping, which requires enough cargo space on your boat. Other people enjoy kayak fishing or just exploring.  My wife loves to paddle around aimlessly, LOL!

People love to take their dogs in their kayaks.  You can do many things with an inflatable kayak, camping, fishing, or just exploring the great outdoors.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Good for Beginners?

Inflatable kayaks are great for beginners.  You can buy many boats from large online retailers or your local big box store. These boats often come with paddles, a pump, a repair kit, and a carry bag.

Then all you need to do is drive to the water, pump your kayak, and you are ready to paddle. You don’t need an expensive roof rack or trailer to get your kayak to the water.  Storing an inflatable kayak is very easy.  All of these reasons make inflatables great for beginners.

These ready-to-go models are a great way to introduce yourself or your family to kayaking. If you decide you are ready for an upgrade, you can do that later.  For fishing, exploring, or just enjoying a day on the water, inflatable kayaks are excellent for beginners.

Can You Take Your Dog in an Inflatable Kayak?

Absolutely!  Even entry-level models are durable enough to handle dog claws. Of course, this depends on the dog, the claws, and the kayak. But generally speaking, inflatables are durable enough to handle dogs. Make sure you don’t exceed the weight limit with you, your dog, and your gear.

Also, remember that not all dogs will be comfortable on a kayak. But, many people take their furry friends with them on an inflatable kayak.


So, are inflatable kayaks safe?  Yes, they are very safe.  As we have discussed, to make the experience as safe as possible, here are a few quick tips:

  • Use the inflatable kayak as it is designed
  • Always keep a repair kit with you
  • Make sure the inflatable kayak is appropriately inflated
  • Wear a lifejacket
  • Don’t overload the kayak with too much gear
  • Maintain your inflatable kayak so that it will last a long time
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Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.