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10 Best Inflatable Kayaks (2021 Reviews And Guide)

If you are searching for the best inflatable kayak, welcome!  In this post, we will discuss what to look for to find an inflatable kayak that is best for you.  We will also answer some questions you may have before you make your purchase.

Inflatable kayaks are extremely popular because they are versatile, easy to store, and transport.  You don’t need a lot of extra equipment to take your kayak on the road with you.

If you are you are pressed for time, take a look at these top sellers.

Driftsun Voyager 2 Person Tandem Inflatable Kayak, Includes 2 Aluminum Paddles, 2 Padded Seats, Double Action Pump and More
  • INFLATES QUICKLY: The Driftsun Voyager Kayak inflates to a full size kayak (10ft. x 35” x 16”) in less than 5 minutes with the included deluxe high flow double action hand pump. Go from garage, to trunk, to water in no time!
  • COMPACT & MANEUVERABLE: When deflated for transport this inflatable kayak measures only 26”(L) x 16”(W) x 8”(H) and fits nicely into the included carry bag. It’s lightweight design makes it easy to handle by one person, weighing in at only 27 lbs.
  • DURABLE DESIGN: Heavy-duty PVC Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures, Double Threaded Boston valves are guaranteed not to leak, and tough 840D coated nylon oxford fabric top cover is rip and tear resistant.
  • SUPERIOR PERFORMANCE: Rocker profile and pointed nose entry (bow) delivers excellent performance in both calm and choppy waters, Removable deep fin provides responsive tracking, rear drain plug for easy draining/cleaning and High Quality EVA padded seats offer High-back support for hours of comfortable cruising.
  • EVERYTHING INCLUDED! – Driftsun Voyager Inflatable Kayak, (2) Adjustable EVA padded seats, (2) Aluminum kayak paddles with ergonomic grip handles, Deluxe double action hand pump, Rear tracking fin, and Travel bag.

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 10:27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles
  • 3 person/650 lb capacity, weighs 32 lbs, suitable for up to Class III whitewater
  • 370 Deluxe Kayak Package features two movable, super comfortable Deluxe Kayak Seats for improved back support and 2 paddles, foot pump, and carry bag
  • 2 AB30 7'10"" 4 Part Paddles with asymmetrical blade and aluminum shaft
  • 2 skegs on the bottom for better tracking & speed
  • Open and close drain valve, 5 deluxe 1-way inflation/deflation valves

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 10:27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best inflatable kayak

Inflatable kayaks offer many features and benefits and we will get into all of that next. With that said, let’s get right to it.

#1 ADVANCED ELEMENTS StraitEdge Angler Inflatable Fishing Kayak

ADVANCED ELEMENTS StraitEdge Inflatable Kayak
  • Built-in aluminum ribs define the bow and stern and improves tracking
  • Set-up as self-bailing in bigger waves, and close ports in calm or cold water
  • Pre-assembled at the factory; simply unfold, inflate, and attach the seats
  • High support, adjustable padded seat provides comfort for hours of paddling
  • Heavy-duty PVC Tarpaulin material for extreme puncture resistance

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 11:49 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:1
Weight Capacity:300 Pounds
Kayak Weight:34 Pounds
Length:9’8″
Width:35″
Material:Heavy-duty PVC Tarpaulin
What’s in the box?High back folding seat, carrying duffel bag, repair kit, two rod holders

The StraitEdge comes with a high backed adjustable seat that will provide excellent support and comfort for hours on the water.  The seat is equipped with two rod holders, so it’s perfect for fishing.  The inflatable lumbar support is good news for your back.

The included accessory frame is an excellent addition to this inflatable kayak.  You can add aftermarket accessories like rod holders, a fish finder, or whatever else you have in mind. The bungee deck and self-bailing ports help to round out this impressive kayak.

There is plenty of room behind the seat and on the bungee deck for your gear.  The kayak is rated for a capacity of 300 pounds.

PROS

Easy to set up
Versatile – you can add aftermarket accessories to the mounting bar
Comfortable – high back seat with lumbar support
Durable

CONS

Does not come with paddles or a pump

Summary

The ADVANCED ELEMENTS StraitEdge is a well-equipped kayak that you can take with you just about anywhere you go.  This kayak can even be paddled in class III whitewater.  There is a lot to like about this model with its unique hard edge bow and stern design. With the StraitEdge you get a comfortable, durable, versatile kayak that is easy to set up and transport.


#2 Driftsun Rover 220 Inflatable Kayak

Driftsun Rover 220 Inflatable Tandem Kayak Inflatable White-Water Kayak with High Pressure Floor and EVA Padded Seats, High Back Support, Action Cam Mount, Aluminum Paddles, and Pump
  • Durable & Lightweight - Fully inflates to a full sized kayak in less than 10 minutes and weighs a manageable 28 Lbs. 1000D Reinforced Layered PVC side tubes, Heavy-duty PVC Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures
  • Stable & Maneuverable - Rigid High Pressure Drop Stitch Floor, Removable Flat Water Tracking Fin, and ample rocker profile deliver unmatched stability and control in rough and flat water
  • Adventure Ready - Whitewater Rating: Suitable up to class III and IV rapids, 8 Self Bailing Ports, Plentiful Tie Down Points for Gear and Front Action Camera Mount
  • Package Includes - (2) Adjustable EVA Padded Seats with High Back Support, (2) Adjustable Aluminum Kayak Paddles, Deluxe Double Action Hand Pump, Rear Tracking Fin, and Travel Bag
  • Kayak Specifications - Exterior: 12.5’(L) x 38”(W) x 13”(H) / Weight: 28 Lbs. / Capacity: 600 Lbs. 2 Adults + Child, Gear, or a Furry Friend / Inflation Time: 9 Mins. / Inflation Pressure: 3 PSI Side Tubes & 6 PSI Floor

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 10:38 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:2
Weight Capacity:600 Pounds
Kayak Weight:28 Pounds
Length:12’6″
Width:36″
Material:Reinforced layered PVC
What’s in the box?Two padded seats, two adjustable aluminum paddles, double action hand pump, travel bag, skeg (tracking fin)

Two high back seats give you plenty of support for your day on the water. The seats are fully adjustable and offer excellent support. A good kayak seat is often overlooked, so it’s nice to see that these are included.

Storage is no problem with the Driftsun Rover 220.  With a 600 pound capacity, there is plenty of room for your gear.  You can carry two adults and even a child or a dog with you.  There are tie-downs to secure your equipment.

PROS

Durable PVC material
Easy to setup
Plenty of room for gear
Multiple carry handles

CONS

Seats are a little low

Summary

Bring it on.  This highly-rated inflatable kayak is durable and ready to take on rocks, logs, and other obstacles.  This kayak can handle class III and IV rapids.  It’s rated up to 600 pounds, and there is plenty of room for two people, a dog, and your gear.  This lightweight kayak has multiple carry handles and tie-down areas.  The seats are adjustable for all-day paddling.


#3 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

Sale
ADVANCED ELEMENTS AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak, 15', Red
  • Built-in aluminum ribs define the bow and stern and improves tracking
  • Three layers of material for extreme puncture resistance.Folded size 35 X 21 X 12 inches. Max Weight-550 pounds. Weight-52 pounds
  • Pre-assembled at the factory; simply unfold, inflate, and attach the seats
  • High support, adjustable padded seats provide comfort for hours of paddling
  • Three seat locations allow for paddling solo or tandem

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 16:26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:1 or 2
Weight Capacity:550 pounds
Kayak Weight:56 pounds
Length:15′
Width:32″
Material:PVC Tarpaulin
What’s in the box?Carrying duffel bag, two folding seats, owner’s manual, repair kit

Versatility is the name of the game with this convertible inflatable kayak. There are three seat locations for solo or tandem paddling.  The seats themselves are adjustable high back seats and give you plenty of support for paddling all day.

The kayak included paddle holders, bungees, and tied downs.  Depending on if you are using solo or tandem, your storage capacity will vary.  With a 550 pound capacity, even if you paddle tandem, there is plenty of room for your gear.

PROS

Offers the ability for one or two paddlers
Durable PVC
Storage and weight capacity
Tracks well
Easy setup

CONS

Heavy to carry

Summary

The AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is very well constructed and has built-in ribs that add rigidity to the frame, which rivals a hardshell kayak.  The ability to paddle solo or tandem is what sets this kayak apart from its competitors.

The AdvancedFrame is durable and versatile to fit your kayaking needs. Three layers of material make this a very durable kayak, no matter what you encounter.  The only drawback is the weight. At 50+ pounds, it’s not easy for one person to tote around.


#4 Driftsun Almanor Inflatable Recreational Touring Kayak

Driftsun Almanor 146 Two Adult Plus one Child Inflatable Recreational Touring Kayak with EVA Padded Seats with High Back Support, Includes Paddles, Pump, Child Seat
  • Touring and Recreational Inflatable Kayak - The Almanor series is designed with a long waterline for speed and long glides. Great for distance paddling, best on flat water and mild ocean chop
  • Hull Design - Hull is made with rugged 600d polyester for long-life fun and UV protection. Uses industry best 24 gauge air bladders.
  • EVA Padded High Back Seats - Save your rear and your back.Our seats provide a high level of cushion and support, and can be adjusted for just about any seating position.
  • Package Includes - (2) Adjustable EVA Padded Seats with High Back Support, (2) Dual Blade Kayak Paddles, (1) Child Seat, (1) Deluxe Dual Action Pump, (1) Quick-Release Fin, (2) Foot Rests, and (1) Travel Bag
  • Kayak Specifications - Exterior: 14.5’(L) x 40”(W) / Weight: 33 Lbs. / Capacity: 600 Lbs. 2 Adults, 1 child, Gear, or a Furry Friend / Inflation Time: 9 Mins. / Inflation Pressure: 1 PSI Side Tubes & 2 PSI Floor

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 11:49 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:1
Weight Capacity:300 pounds
Kayak Weight:23 pounds
Length:11′
Width:34″
Material:600d Polyester
What’s in the box?Adjustable padded seat, paddle, pump, quick-release fin, footrest, travel bag

The adjustable high-back seat provides plenty of cushion and support. The seat can be adjusted to any position that fits you best.  With a comfortable seat that is well balanced in the kayak, you can enjoy hours of paddling.  The I-Beam PVC floor gives the kayak excellent stability.

There is ample storage behind the seat for fishing and camping equipment.  Use the bungee storage to tie down any additional gear you have. There is even room to take a small dog with you.

PROS

Easy to setup
Tracks well
Ample storage onboard
Comes with everything you need
Stable
Durable

CONS

Doesn’t track as well when it’s really windy

Summary

The Driftsun Almanor is super lightweight and comes with everything you need to get on the water fast.  It includes a paddle, dual-action pump, a quick-release fin, and a travel bag, so you can toss this kayak in your trunk and take it everywhere.  The adjustable high-back seat gives your back and butt support for hours.  All of these features make this one of the best inflatable kayaks at an affordable price.


#5 Sea Eagle 370 Pro Inflatable Kayak

Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles
  • 3 person/650 lb capacity, weighs 32 lbs, suitable for up to Class III whitewater
  • 370 Deluxe Kayak Package features two movable, super comfortable Deluxe Kayak Seats for improved back support and 2 paddles, foot pump, and carry bag
  • 2 AB30 7'10"" 4 Part Paddles with asymmetrical blade and aluminum shaft
  • 2 skegs on the bottom for better tracking & speed
  • Open and close drain valve, 5 deluxe 1-way inflation/deflation valves

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 10:27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:Up to 3
Weight Capacity:650 pounds
Kayak Weight:32 pounds
Length:12’6”
Width:34″
Material:38 mil PolyKrylar
What’s in the box?Two kayak seats, two paddles, foot pump, carry bag

Here is where this kayak excels, seating room for up to three passengers.  You can have two paddlers and still take your dog if you like.  The seats are movable and provide excellent back support.  You will enjoy hours of paddling while sitting in comfort.

If you are looking for an inflatable kayak with lots of room for storage, look no further.  The Sea Eagle Pro 370 has plenty of cargo space for camping gear as well as other supplies.  The kayak is spacious enough for fishing, and you can take it on class III whitewater. The PolyKrylar hull takes a beating, even dog claws.

PROS

Lightweight
Tons of storage
Handles up to 3 paddlers
Great for camping
Easy to setup
Portable

CONS

Gigantic kayak for one person

Summary

The Sea Eagle 370 Pro packs a lot of punch for such a lightweight kayak. With a capacity of up to 650 pounds, you can carry up to 3 people, or a lot of gear. Feel free to take your dog along with you.  This inflatable kayak is great for camping.  This kayak is great for beginners or experienced paddlers.

This highly-rated kayak is spacious, durable, and comfortable.  You will enjoy many kayaking trips with the Sea Eagle 370 Pro.


#6 Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Inflatable Kayak

Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak
  • Heavy-duty PVC construction is rugged for lake use
  • Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures
  • Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured
  • Airtight System is guaranteed not to leak
  • Boston Valve is double threaded for easy inflation/deflation

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 13:24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:Up to 3
Weight Capacity:490 pounds
Kayak Weight:35 pounds
Length:12’3”
Width:37″
Material:Heavy-duty PVC
What’s in the box?Repair kit, pressure gauge

With seating for up to three people, this a great inflatable kayak for families.  The adjustable seats are great for different people and allow you to get just the right fit.  No matter how far you decide to explore, these seats will keep you comfortable.

Carry handles are great for transporting the kayak to the water.  The kayak is designed with plenty of room for storing your gear.  You can pack camping, or fishing gear, plus lots of other stuff.  There is a lot of room for a small cooler for day trips.

PROS

Great for families
Adjustable and movable seats
Tarpaulin bottom for added durability
Spray covers to keep you dry

CONS

No paddles
No pump

Summary

If you are looking for the best inflatable kayak, this makes the cut with enough room for people, equipment, maybe even your dog. If you are looking for an excellent family kayak to get your kids on the water, this is a great option. With easy setup, convenient carry handles, and plenty of room, this is worth a look.


#7 Aquaglide Navarro 130 Inflatable Kayak

AQUAGLIDE Navarro 130 Convertible Inflatable Kayak with Drop Stitch Floor- 1 Person Touring Kayak without Cover, Green
  • TOURING BOAT: Navarro is equipped to handle the unknown. With industry leading drop stitched floors, zip on decks, & Hex Shell covered pontoons, this durable lightweight inflatable handles it all.
  • CREATE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE: Our inflatable kayaks are designed to play as hard as you do. Portable, lightweight & built to last, they're created for rapid waters and touring.
  • BUILT TO PERFORM: Features quick release fin, drain plug, Velcro seat and footrest adjustment system, zip open dry compartments for storage, accessory strap, paddle keeper, molded handle and D ring.
  • SPECIFICS:L 13'3" x W 37" (L 404cm x W 94cm). Weight: 35 lbs. Capacity: 300 lbs. (136 kg) 1 Person. Includes: Kayak, seat and storage bag. Warranty: 1-Year Limited. Optional cover available, not included.
  • AQUAGLIDE: Our passion for water sports drives us to engineer some of the best boating technologies available so you get the performance you want combined with the hassle-free portability you need.

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 13:24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:1
Weight Capacity:400 pounds
Kayak Weight:35 pounds
Length:13’3”
Width:37″
Material:1000D
What’s in the box?Seat, storage bag

This is a one-person convertible open deck, or sit inside kayak. The seat features a thick padded seat cushion and an adjustable high back for excellent support. The seatback also keeps your back cool with breathable panels. Easily install the seat in seconds with quick-release buckles.

There is easy access to storage in the bow, and included bungees for storage above the deck. Paddle holders on the tubes are great for fishing or other activities.  Side handles make the kayak easy to carry for one person.

PROS

Stable
Comfortable
Tracks well
Lightweight for easy transport
Lots of accessories available

CONS

No paddles
No pump

Summary

If you are in the market for an excellent convertible kayak, check out the Navarro 130.  This is a versatile kayak and can be used as an open-top, or sit inside kayak.  To use as a sit-inside kayak, you need to purchase the optional zip-in deck.

Depending on your needs, there are many accessories you can buy to go along with this kayak.  That is what makes this model so versatile.


#8 ADVANCED ELEMENTS AirFusion Evo Inflatable Kayak

ADVANCED ELEMENTS Airfusion Evo Inflatable Kayak, Orange
  • Hybrid aluminum frame and high pressure drop-stitch air chamber design
  • Inflatable coaming for spray skirt attachment
  • Roll-top rear storage access hatch
  • Portable - no roof rack needed! pack in the trunk of your car or fly it to remote destinations
  • Carrying duffel bag w/shoulder straps included

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 13:24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:1
Weight Capacity:235 pounds
Kayak Weight:32 pounds
Length:13’
Width:24″
Material:Heavy-duty PU Tarpaulin
What’s in the box?Carrying duffel bag, folding inflatable seat, repair kit

The inflatable seat is adjustable to fit you.  The bulkhead on the bow is adjustable, and so is the seat position. Hence, paddlers of different heights have adequate legroom.  This is a lightweight, high-performance kayak that is great for taking with you on the road.

There is a roll-top storage hatch on the back, and plenty of legroom for paddlers up to 6’3″ tall.  The hybrid design, aluminum frame, and high-pressure drop stitch air chamber helps this inflatable kayak paddle like a hardshell kayak. The bungee deck lacing is great for tying down your gear.

PROS

Durable
Portable, no roof rack required
Easy to setup
Rubber handles

CONS

No pump included
No paddle included

Summary

The AirFusion Evo is an excellent high-performance kayak for traveling.  Put this inflatable in your RV or the trunk of your car.  With plenty of storage and legroom, this is a kayak that you can take with you just about anywhere you want to kayak. You will not be disappointed in the performance of this inflatable kayak.


#9 Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak

Sale
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
  • Comfortable for anyone: Kayak includes an adjustable inflatable seat with backrest; Cockpit designed for comfort and space
  • Dimensions: Inflated size 10 feet 3 x 3 feet x 1 feet 8 inch; Maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds
  • Directional stability: Removable SKEG for directional stability
  • Increased visibility: In case of emergency, bright yellow color helps visibility
  • Made for smaller bodies of water: Explorer k2 is made for smaller bodies of water including lakes and mild rivers

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 13:24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:1 or 2
Weight Capacity:400 pounds
Kayak Weight:31 pounds
Length:10’ 3″
Width:36″
Material:Heavy-duty vinyl
What’s in the box?2 paddles, hi-output pump, carry bag, removable skeg, inflatable seats

With seating for two paddlers, this is an excellent inflatable kayak for beginners.  The two inflatable seats are adjustable and removable.  You can adjust the backrest for just the right fit.

There is a good amount of storage for two people and gear, including a small cooler.  The kayak can handle up to 400 pounds, which includes paddlers and gear. With three separate air chambers, if something goes wrong, you won’t be left stranded.  The I-Beam floor adds stability to the vessel.

PROS

Comes with everything you need
Easy to setup
Lightweight
Easy to transport
Room for two people and gear

CONS

More difficult to paddle than higher-end kayaks

Summary

The Intex Explorer K2 comes with everything you need to hit the water, and it’s at an affordable price. This is a great entry-level kayak with all you need to get started.  If you occasionally go out on the water, this might be a great kayak that doesn’t break the bank.  This is one of the best inflatable kayaks for beginners.


#10 Sevylor Quikpak K1

Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
  • 5-minute setup lets you spend more time on the water
  • Easy-to-carry backpack system turns into the seat
  • 21-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use
  • Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures
  • Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured

Last update on 2021-03-05 at 16:26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Number of Paddlers:1
Weight Capacity:400 pounds
Kayak Weight:18 pounds
Length:8’ 7″
Width:36″
Material:21 gauge PVC
What’s in the box?Backpack, air pump, paddle

This unique design has a backpack system that turns into the seat. The adjustable backrest lets you lean back when you want to relax. Complete with adjustable footrest, it’s easy to adjust your paddling style and stretch out your legs.

One thing this kayak lacks is ample storage. There is bungee storage on the front of the boat, and that’s about all you get.

The thing that makes this kayak unique though, is its compact size. It has everything you need to get started. You can toss it on your back and take it anywhere you want to go.

PROS

Compact
The backpack makes it very portable.
Comes with everything you need to get started
Multiple air chambers

CONS

Lack of storage
If it’s windy, you may get pushed around

Summary

This is a great solo, entry-level kayak.  I love the fact that it fits into a backpack, so it’s easy to transport.  There is not much storage, so keep that in mind. This boat is excellent for paddling a few hours on the lake, but you are not going camping with it.


What’s best, a tandem or solo inflatable kayak?

Choosing a tandem or solo inflatable kayak will depend on several factors.  When my wife and I were in the market for kayaks, we considered both options. Let’s take a look at the benefits of both.

Benefits of tandem inflatable kayak

  • You only need to buy one kayak. Tandem kayaks are made for two people, so you only need to buy one
  • You only have to store one kayak.
  • You have twice the paddling power!
  • You can fit more gear like a small cooler on a tandem inflatable kayak in some cases
  • You might be able to take your dog and your friend
  • A great way to spend time with the person you are kayaking with, like a friend or significant other
  • You can pick up for each other if someone gets tired of paddling

The one major negative of a tandem kayak is that no matter how fast you paddle, you can’t get away from the other person in your kayak LOL.

Benefits of solo inflatable kayak

  • You each have your own space to do your own thing
  • You have the freedom to go where you want to
  • Argument-free paddling (well in theory)
  • A solo kayak is more nimble than a tandem kayak
  • If one person wants to fish, and the other wants to explore, you have the freedom to do so

Inflatable kayak vs. hardshell kayak

Another hot topic is about an inflatable kayak compared to a more traditional hard kayak. When you are deciding which type of kayak is right for you, there are benefits and drawbacks to inflatable kayaks. Let’s get into that next.

Benefits of an inflatable kayak

  • Inflatables are easy to transport, you can put the kayak in your trunk and take it wherever you go.
  • You don’t need an expensive roof rack, or truck to transport your kayak
  • You can be up and running in a matter of minutes
  • Inflatable kayaks are lightweight
  • Storing an inflatable kayak is much easier than a hard-side kayak. You can store the kayak in a closet or on a shelf in your garage. You don’t need a special setup to store an inflatable.
  • Inflatable kayaks are very versatile, meaning you can use them on different bodies of water. Depending on the model you choose, you can take a kayak on the lake, ocean, or even some rivers (depending on rocks and other sharp objects).
  • An inflatable kayak can also be easier to carry than its hardshell counterpart.
  • Portability is a crucial consideration when choosing an inflatable kayak. They are easy to pack up, take down, put in your car, and are easy to store.

Drawbacks of inflatable kayaks

  • The major drawback of an inflatable kayak is that they can rip and leave you stranded if you don’t’ have a repair kit.
  • Inflatables are typically not as fast as hardshell kayaks
  • You have to inflate and deflate the kayak
  • They can be difficult to drain water out of the inside

Benefits of a hardshell kayak

There are some benefits to owning a hardshell kayak.  You don’t have to inflate or deflate the kayak.  A hardshell kayak isn’t going to rip and leave you stranded. Of course, you could puncture a hole, it’s less likely. Hardshell kayaks, for the most part, are faster on the water.

Best inflatable kayak – what to look for

Yes, there are a lot of factors to consider when looking for the best inflatable kayak.  Let’s take a look at what to watch for.

Durability

Look for a kayak that is well-constructed with durable materials, especially if you slide over rocks and sticks that you may not be able to see underwater.  Imagine dragging your inflatable kayak across things like a rocky beach, or a parking lot when full of gear. You can see why durability is vital.

Not to mention the elements your kayak will be exposed to, like the sun and wind. Over time these elements can break down plastic and rubber materials.  You will want quality materials so your kayak will last.

What’s it made of?

Materials vary, and the performance can vary as well.  Some materials are heavier, increasing drag on the water.  Some materials will get completely soaked through, which will weigh you down. Check out my post here for more information on what inflatable kayaks are made of.

Amount of storage on the kayak

One of the weaknesses of kayaks is the lack of available storage.  Different activities will require different levels of storage.  Extra storage, to keep items close by, but out of the way, can be hard to come by.

You may need to bring things like lunch, fishing gear, or a jacket. Of course, you will also have things like your cellphone, maybe your wallet and car keys.

You want to look for dry storage for the items you don’t want to get wet.  Some inflatable kayaks will have a dry storage cover on the front and/or rear of the kayak.  Some will have bungees where you can tie your stuff down.  Bungees are very handy for strapping down dry bags, or extra clothing.

You may find a storage pouch behind the seat as well.  Any extra storage on a kayak is great to have. These are all things to look for and consider when you are shopping for a kayak.

Comfort

Being uncomfortable when you are kayaking sucks, I am speaking from experience. You will be exploring different places, some far off, and you want to be comfortable while doing so.  If you plan to spend hours on end in your kayak, comfort is of utmost importance.

Your comfort level will depend on how comfortable the seats are and how long you are going to paddle. Comfort can be measured by your ability to stretch out your legs if you need to.  For me, adjusting my posture while I am kayaking is critical.

Think about whether a tandem kayak will comfortably fit two people.  Is there enough room for you and your gear to fit comfortably?  These are some things to keep in mind when you are looking for the best inflatable kayak.

Seating

Part of the comfort metric includes the kayak seats.  You want to have a comfortable seat when you are kayaking. With inflatables, you may not have many options, especially at the entry-level.  You will sit on the inflatable seat that is part of the vessel, and you will like it!

Things you can look for with kayak seats, are things like on a tandem kayak, are the seats spaced out appropriately.  Will you be able to paddle without hitting your partner? Does the seat spacing lend itself to efficient paddling?  Some tandem kayaks will allow you to rearrange the seat configuration so you can paddle solo.

Look for an inflatable kayak with adjustable seats or a removable seat that you can replace with a better model.  You may not have many options at the entry-level, but many inflatable kayaks will have a removable seat.  Then you can replace the seat with a better aftermarket option.

If you don’t have a choice on which seat you have, there are still some things to consider.

Back support

Back support on an inflatable kayak kind of falls in line with seats, you don’t always have a lot of options. With an entry-level kayak, you will get what you get when you purchase the kayak.

When you are looking for a kayak, consider whether or not the seat has an adjustable backrest.  An adjustable backrest is essential for a comfortable day on the water.  Ideally, you will be able to change your seated position throughout the day.  If you are actively paddling, you want to be in a more upright position. If you are just chillin’ on calm, flat water, you might want to lean back and relax.

Many kayaks will come with an adjustable seat. You might be able to remove the existing seat and replace it with one better suited for you. Even if you don’t have back problems, your back can get tired from being in the same seated position all day.  Solid back support will pay dividends over time.

Weight capacity

Be sure to check the weight capacity of the kayak before you buy one. You will need to factor your body weight and any gear you will take with you. Equipment can add up in a hurry. You want to make sure you don’t have any problems when you are on the water.

Taking your dog, a cooler, and other supplies can get heavy.  Make sure the kayak is rated for what you need or think you will need. The inflatable kayak is designed for the weight to be distributed evenly in the kayak also.  You don’t want to pile everything in the middle.

Accessories

Inflatable kayaks come with pretty much everything you need to get rolling. Included accessories are beneficial since you don’t have to spend a lot of money on extras.

That is one of the benefits of buying an inflatable kayak. They usually come with most everything you need.

Some accessories to keep your eyes out for are:

  • A repair kit. You don’t want to forget to have a repair kit when you need it the most.  The last thing you want is to be stuck on the water with a deflating boat and no way to stop it.
  • A pump. It is crucial to have a high-quality pump. Whether you prefer a hand pump, foot pump, or an electric pump, you need to make sure you have one.
  • A paddle or paddles. Yes, this seems so obvious, but can be overlooked. If you buy a tandem kayak, make sure it comes with two paddles. These might not be the best quality or fit you just right, so you may want to upgrade them.
  • Fishing accessories. If you plan to use your kayak for fishing, you can look for things like rod holders, and a holder for a fish finder or GPS. Rod holders are great, so you can maneuver the kayak while your line is in the water.
  • Carry bag. You need a way to tote the kayak around, keep it contained and store it. Make sure the boat comes with a bag that will serve this purpose.

Weight of the kayak

Inflatable kayaks are lightweight, and that is one of the benefits people love.  Just make sure you can lift and maneuver the kayak.  A lightweight kayak is portable, and hopefully, you will take it with you and use it a lot.

You will need to put the kayak into your car, get it out of your vehicle, etc.  You also need to be able to store it somewhere. If you keep the kayak on a shelf in the garage, you need to be able to lift it up. Although inflatable kayaks are usually lightweight, you will need to be able to lift it.

The bigger the inflatable kayak, the more it’s going to weigh (in most cases).

Stability

When you are out for a day on the water, you want a stable kayak.  Most people want to stay upright when they are kayaking.

Inflatables are great for beginners because they are pretty stable.  Many people new to kayaking will buy an inflatable since they are lightweight and come with most of the accessories you need, so this is a good fit.

Inflatable kayaks have rigid supports, which helps increase stability.  Same as hardshell kayaks, a wider, shorter kayak will be more stable than a long, narrow kayak. If your boat is inflated correctly, you should be good to go.

Portable/Transport

As we have discussed, one of the big draws toward an inflatable kayak is how portable they are.  Inflatable kayaks are lightweight and don’t take up much room, they are very compact.  Compared to a hardshell kayak, inflatables are portable and can go with you wherever you go.

You don’t need any special equipment, like a roof rack to transport an inflatable. You can pack up your boat, put it in your car’s back seat, or in your trunk. They are super easy to take with you and carry to the water. You won’t need a kayak cart (more information) or another way to get your boat from the parking lot to the water.

With a hardshell kayak, it’s not as easy.  You need a pickup, a trailer, or a rack for your car.  When you buy an inflatable, you don’t have to spend extra money to transport your new vessel.

Handling

Traditionally, an inflatable kayak does not handle as well as a hardshell kayak.  Of course, there are exceptions.  If you buy a high-end inflatable and compare it to an entry-level hardshell, that’s another story.

The lightweight nature of an inflatable is a double edge sword. Lightweight makes the kayak easy to transport, but also makes it susceptible to wind and waves.  Wind and waves make it harder to paddle and hamper your ability to keep the kayak going straight.

Many inflatable kayaks do offer a skeg to help improve handling.  A skeg is a rudder that fits your boat’s bottom to help you track a straight path. You can buy inflatable pontoons if you want even more stability, think training wheels.

Storing your inflatable kayak

One of the many benefits of owning an inflatable kayak is how easy they are to store. You don’t need a fancy rack in your garage, or some DIY contraption.  You can store your inflatable kayak in a closet, a shelf, no matter how small your place is.

Be sure that the kayak is completely dry before you store it away, though. One bummer part is that you may have to leave it out to dry for a few days before you roll it up and put it away.  You want to prevent mildew or mold from building up inside a wet kayak.

This can mean unpacking it after your trip, and repacking once it’s completely dry. Once the kayak is dry, you can fold it up and put it in the carry bag for easy storage.

How to clean and maintain your kayak

To clean your kayak, you can spray it down with water. This helps to get any unwanted materials off the boat before your store it.  Hose the kayak down while it’s inflated. You may want to use a boat cleaner.

Wipe off whatever water you can with a towel. Then, let your kayak completely dry in your garage or other shaded areas. Try to keep your kayak out of the sun. The sun can cause fading and even contribute to the materials breaking down over time.

There are a lot of places for water to hide in an inflatable.  To piggyback on the previous topic, before storing your boat, make sure it’s completely dry.  This simple maintenance will help your boat last longer.

To sum it up, wash your kayak and let it dry thoroughly before you put it away for good.

FAQ’s

Are inflatable kayaks safe?

Safety is the number one priority when you are kayaking.  You should always wear a lifejacket when you are on the water. If properly inflated and used correctly, inflatable kayaks are as safe to use as their hardshell counterparts.

One of the interesting things about many inflatable kayaks is that they have multiple air chambers.  This means that if your kayak gets damaged, you can make it back to shore.

You also want to make sure that you and your vessel are equipped for the conditions.  Make sure you are not venturing into territory you and your boat can not handle.

Can I take my dog on an inflatable kayak?

With the right kayak, weight rating, and materials, you can absolutely take your furry friend along. Most inflatables are made with tough exteriors, but you still need to make sure the kayak can stand up to your pet’s claws. Look for a kayak made with PVC.

You need to make sure the kayak can handle the weight load, there is enough room for your dog, and the materials are strong enough to hold up to claws.

Is an inflatable kayak hard to paddle?

Inflatable kayaks are pretty easy to get around in.  Entry-level models are designed with beginners in mind. Inflatables are not as easy to paddle as a hardshell kayak but will get the job done.  Many inflatables come with a skeg, which helps you keep going straight.

How do you clean an inflatable kayak?

We touched on this a bit ago, but the best way to clean your kayak is to hose it down before you put it away.  This might mean you go out for a paddle, deflate the boat, and put it back in your car when you are done. When you get home, rinse it off really thoroughly and leave it out to dry.

Make sure the kayak is completely dry before you store it away.  You don’t want any water lingering, or you might get mold or mildew, which can damage the kayak.  You can also use an inflatable boat cleaner.

What happens if you fall out of an inflatable kayak?

Well, you should get back in!  Okay, that’s obvious, I know.  If you are unlucky and go overboard, don’t panic.  Hopefully, your paddle is nearby.  If the kayak is flipped over, you can pretty quickly flip it back from the front or back of the boat.

Once you have the kayak flipped over, put your paddle inside and grab onto the pontoon.  Now the tricky part is to kick your legs and use your arms and upper body to kind of flop back onto the kayak. Thankfully inflatable kayaks are very stable, so hopefully, you stay inside.

Can I fish from an inflatable kayak?

Yes, you can fish from an inflatable kayak.  You may need to add some accessories like a rod holder, or fish finder holder. Make sure you have a repair kit on board just in case you accidentally hook your kayak instead of a fish.

Kayaks are great for fishing because you can get into tight spots that other boats may not be able to reach.  Some kayaks are better for fishing because of the seat position, and access to fishing gear. Make sure you have plenty of room to cast a line.

How to repair an inflatable kayak?

If you do find your kayak has a hole in it, you will want to repair it ASAP.  Inflatables are easy to repair.  Your inflatable should come with a repair kit and instructions.  You may want to purchase a backup just in case.

Wrapping up

Best inflatable kayaks - Blue inflatable kayak ready to launch

There are a lot of things to consider when you are in the market for the best inflatable kayak. If you are just getting started, you may want to go with a model that includes everything you need. As you advance, you will figure out what is most important when it comes to features.

Thanks for stopping by. Let me know if you have any questions.

Steve Morrow Founder of Paddle About
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steve is an avid kayaker and founder of Paddle About. When he is not on the water, Steve enjoys outdoor activities, including fishing, camping, and hiking with his family. Read more.