Although most inflatable kayaks don’t perform as well as hard-shell models, they offer plenty of advantages that, lately, have made them extremely popular. They are lightweight, comfortable, easy to fold and transport, abrasion-resistant, easy to repair in case of a puncture, and really versatile.
Forget about storage and transportation nightmares! Unpack your kayak, set it up in a few minutes, and paddle across lakes, rivers, and even white water.
There are plenty of models with different designs and features, which might make your choice a bit difficult. No worries! Today, I’m going to talk about types of kayaks, materials, stability, design, and other important features you should consider to find the right model!
THE TOP 10 INFLATABLE KAYAKS:
ADVANCED ELEMENTS ELITE
WEIGHT: 42 lbs.
CAPACITY: 450 lbs.
FEATURES: This hybrid of a folding frame kayak and an inflatable kayak stands out for its greater length, capacity, and stability.
This model is reinforced with aluminum ribs, which makes it almost as solid as a hard-shell kayak. It provides great tracking, rigidity, and speed. Thanks to its triple-layer construction, it’s very durable and shock-resistant. This is the perfect option for those looking for an craft with advanced features.
SEVYLOR K5 QUICKPACK
WEIGHT: 23.4 lbs.
WIDTH: 2’ 8’’
CAPACITY: 250 lbs.
FEATURES: This model is probably the best value for the money.
It would be hard to find a kayak that performs this well and that contains these features for such a great price. The kayak is easy to pack into a useful backpack system, making it very easy to transport. The laminated PVC construction is reinforced with a polyester cover to improve puncture resistance. It has an easy and fast inflation/deflation system and is a great option for solo paddlers.
WEIGHT: 27.2 lbs.
CAPACITY: 220 lbs.
FEATURES: With a basic but durable design, this solo kayak is one of the cheapest on the list.
It offers a spacious inside cockpit for greater comfort and comes with a useful net on the deck so that you can store your extra gear. Repair patches are included. This kayak is a good option for enjoying a few days in front of the lake.
SEA EAGLE 370
WEIGHT: 32 lbs.
CAPACITY: 650 lbs.
FEATURES: Although this kayak is designed mainly for flat water, it can do pretty well up to class 3 whitewater.
The two comfortable seats are movable so that you can find the right fit. It comes with two skegs to improve tracking and speed. It’s not as lightweight as other models on the list, but it packs down small for easy transport. This model can hold up to three people, though it is more suited for two people. It is easy to inflate and set up in less than 10 minutes.
INTEX EXPLORER K2
WEIGHT: 30 lbs.
CAPACITY: 400 lbs.
FEATURES: A comfortable, inexpensive model for two people.
It provides good abrasion resistance and durability and includes two comfortable inflatable seats that are adjustable. The kayak is fast and easy to set up. Overall, it’s an excellent option for those looking for a tandem kayak without spending a fortune.
SEVYLOR BIG BASIN 3 PERSON
WEIGHT: 34 lbs.
LENGTH: 12’ 3’’
WIDTH: 3’ 1’’
CAPACITY: 490 lbs.
FEATURES: This model is designed for three people, making it one of the best options for sharing fun with family and friends.
The heavy-duty PVC construction is quite rugged, resistant, and durable. The bottom is reinforced with tarpaulin to improve impact resistance. In addition, it’s built with multiple air chambers to guarantee that the craft will remain inflated in case one chamber is punctured. The seats are adjustable to ensure that all paddlers have a comfortable experience.
INTEX EXCURSION PRO K2
WEIGHT: 39 lbs.
LENGTH: 12’ 7’’
WIDTH: 3’ 1’’
CAPACITY: 400 lbs.
FEATURES: This two-person model offers better quality and resistance at a great price.
It includes two aluminum oars, some fishing rod holders, two removable seats, plenty of storage space in the bow and stern, high-pressure valves for easy inflation, a directional skeg, and a shallow-water skeg. It is built with several layers of PVC and reinforced with a polyester core to improve durability and abrasion resistance.
WEIGHT: 41 lbs.
LENGTH: 10’ 9’’
WIDTH: 3’ 3’’
CAPACITY: Two people
FEATURES: This is your best option if you are looking for an fishing kayak.
It comes with built-in resistant PVC and is reinforced with a 1000D tarpaulin and resistant nylon in the bottom. The kayak is also equipped with several fishing rod holders, mesh storage pockets, paddle holders, and D-rings to which you can attach other equipment. The seats are adjustable and comfortable. It has plenty of room for two people and some extra gear.
WEIGHT: 36 lbs.
CAPACITY: 500 lbs.
FEATURES: A lightweight, compact, and reliable two-person model for flat water and moderate white water. It’s built with three air chambers that are completely enclosed by resistant nylon, and reinforced with a UV coating. It’s a bit more expensive than other models on this list, but it provides great resistance, stability, weight capacity, and rigidity.
ADVANTAGES OF INFLATABLE KAYAKS
Ultralight: The main advantage is that they are lightweight and compact enough to easily be carried in the trunk of your car or even inside a backpack.
Easy to store: When you are not using your craft, you can just deflate it and keep it in your closet or garage.
Travel-friendly: Once you’re ready for a new adventure, you can easily transport the kayak and use it almost anywhere, including places where dragging a rigid kayak would be really tricky. If you’re an avid traveler, take it with you on your next trip, as the kayak can be checked along with your luggage.
Easy set-up: You might think that one of the main disadvantages is that you’ll need to inflate your kayak and spend a lot of time setting it up. However, today’s models feature advanced inflating systems. You’ll be surprised to see how quickly they can be inflated/deflated.
Versatile: Although these crafts are designed mainly for flat water, you can use some models for touring and whitewater, too (as long as you’re talking about moderate currents).
Fun: Some models include two or three seats, plenty of storage room, and even a spot to bring your dog along on your adventures. These models are perfect for having fun with your family and friends.
Unfortunately, there are a few disadvantages that you should consider:
First: Though some models are reinforced with aluminum ribs, they don’t provide the same rigidity as traditional hard-shell crafts. Some get close but it’s hard to beat the rigid ones.
Second: Despite all the improvements in materials and bottom reinforcements, these kayaks are susceptible to punctures. Make sure that you don’t trip over sharp rocks or other pointy objects. On the upside, these punctures are very easy to repair. Some models include patches so that you can fix them in a matter of minutes.
In these models, the floor of the kayak features several holes to drain out any water inside the kayak. Although this feature is not important when you are kayaking in flat water, it can be really helpful if you’re planning to venture into white water (moderate currents). Keep in mind that most inflatable models are not designed for rough water, though.
Sit-on-top kayaks don’t feature an enclosed cockpit, which means that you will sit on top of the open deck. They are great for flat-water navigation and fishing, as they provide plenty of space for stretching your legs and keeping your gear close at hand. You’ll find many of this type on the list.
These are the most popular models for touring and sea kayaking because they feature a proper cockpit, which prevents water splashes from entering the craft. They are not so common in inflatable models but you’ll find some of these on the list.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO USE IT FOR?
We were talking about versatility before because these models can be used for several activities. However, it’s important to think about the intended use of your kayak.
For instance, fishing models include helpful features such as extra storage space, fishing rod holders, and other equipment holders.
SOLO OR TANDEM?
This is a key factor in choosing the right model. Are you going to kayak solo or with a friend? If you’re not sure and you’re planning to use your kayak for recreation only, you’d better get a tandem model.
These models tend to feature adjustable seats, so when you want to go by yourself you can move your seat to the middle position to find the right fit.
The experience of the paddler is important in determining which model is best for each person. The good thing about inflatable models is that, with a few expectations, they tend to be suitable for both beginners and intermediate riders. Check out this article if you are looking for beginner models.
FLAT WATER OR ROUGH WATER?
Some designs provide the necessary stability to venture into moderate rapids and even the open sea. However, these are just a few models (usually the most expensive ones).
Please make sure that your kayak can handle rough water before you get into the ocean or rapids.
PRIMARY STABILITY VS SECONDARY STABILITY
Primary stability indicates the capacity of the craft to remain stable when it’s resting in flat water. You want your model to have great primary stability when you’re navigating along calm rivers, lakes, and estuaries.
Secondary stability indicates the kayak’s stability when the craft is tipped on one of its sides. This is a key factor when navigating in the open sea.
MATERIALS AND CONSTRUCTION
PVC: This is the most used material in the manufacture of inflatable models because it’s lightweight, inexpensive, easily foldable, and abrasion-resistant. The bottom of some PVC models includes a special reinforcement to improve puncture resistance.
Nitrylon: Another widely used material, it provides greater abrasion resistance and puncture resistance than PVC. The main disadvantage is that it’s quite a bit heavier. It’s often used as a reinforcement on the bottom and sides of the craft, where many of the impacts take place.
Hypalon: This provides greater impact resistance, abrasion resistance, and UV resistance than the previous ones. On the downside, it’s much heavier and more rigid (it’s difficult to bend), so it’s very uncommon in these models.
In rockered models, the endpoints are raised off the horizon. When it comes to kayaks, the bow and stern lift slightly off the water, making them less submerged and, consequently, making it easier to turn.
Inflatable crafts that are designed for whitewater can feature some rocker, as it improves maneuverability through the waves. On the other hand, models designed for flat water often don’t feature a rockered shape in order to reduce the zigzag effect.
LENGTH AND WIDTH
The right length for your craft depends on how you will be using it. Models that are designed for touring are usually longer, to improve tracking. Also, a longer length makes it easier to paddle in choppy water.
The most common length is from 10 to 16 feet. Many models are about 12 feet – a length that provides good stability while providing enough space to fit two people and some extra gear.
Wide models provide good primary stability, which is very important for beginners paddling in flat water or going fishing. Narrower models provide greater maneuverability.
Most models come in a pack that includes the necessary elements so that you can transport the kayak and set it up on your own. This helps you avoid having to spend money on other accessories.
Make sure that your package includes the following items:
- Adjustable seats that allow you to find a comfortable fit.
- One or two paddles built from strong, lightweight, rust-free materials.
- Depending on the model and use, look for skegs, which will help you paddle in a straight line.
- If you’re planning to go fishing, look for models that include fishing rod holders, D-rings, and other useful fishing accessories.
- Most models don’t come with life jackets but you should bring one for every person on the boat.
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Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 12 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.