Inflatable Kayaks: Portability Meets FUN

We enjoy nothing more than taking our kayaks down to the water and spending a few hours cruising the waterways. Some of us prefer to go further afield and take our kayaks camping whenever our schedules allow.

Kayaking is good for your body and mind and provides the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the office. But, while we love kayaks, they are not the easiest thing to transport and store.

If you don’t live right next to the water, kayaking invariably involves loading up your boat on a roof rack or tying it to a trailer. That’s because even compact kayaks are around nine-feet long, and tandems can measure 12-feet or longer. Most kayaks are rigid and, while you can buy folding kayaks, they can be a little on the expensive side.

In short, if you want to get into kayaking, you need to consider how you are going to get your kayak from your home to the water’s edge. Otherwise, you could end up with a kayak you can’t even get to the water!

The Storage Problem With Rigid Kayaks

Storage can also present a problem. Even the toughest kayaks can be affected by long-term exposure to sunlight and the elements. Subsequently, you need to keep your kayak undercover when you aren’t using it. That’s especially important if you won’t be using your boat for a few weeks at a time, such as during the winter.

Rigid ayaks need a lot of storage space. If you don’t have a large garden shed or garage, you may find that you don’t have anywhere suitable to keep your kayak when you aren’t using it. Most kayaks are just too big to fit through a standard-sized doorway, and impossible to navigate through narrow passageways. And if you live in an apartment, there is literally no way you’ll be able to store a full-sized kayak. That’s why a lot of kayak owners keep their watercraft in boat sheds near the water.

Don’t underestimate inflatables: they can be used anywhere, in total safety!

The good news is that these problems are not insurmountable. A good inflatable kayak is both portable and easy to store and can be kept very secure in the trunk of your car or even in a closet at home. If you want an easy to use kayak that you can carry and store just about anywhere, inflatables are an excellent choice.

There are lots of things you need to consider before buying an inflatable kayak. To help you make the best possible choice, we have created this buyer’s guide and also included reviews of our five favorite inflatable kayaks.

How To Choose The Best Inflatable Kayak

Inflatable kayaks vary a lot in design, features, construction, and what they are fit for. Before buying one, make sure you familiarize yourself with all of these variants to ensure you choose the right one for you. After all, even the best kayak won’t be much use if it’s not fit for the type of paddling you want to do.

1. Type of Inflatable kayak

Like rigid kayaks, are there several different types of inflatable kayaks to choose from. These include:

  • Self-bailing white-water
  • Sit-in
  • Sit-on
  • Fishing inflatable kayaks
  • Tandem inflatable kayaks
  • Canoe-type inflatable kayaks

Each one is made with a specific purpose in mind, so make sure you buy the right one for the type of padding you want to do. Most are versatile enough that they can be used for a range of activities, but if you’re going to do something specific with your inflatable kayak, make sure you buy one that’s appropriately designed. For example, a sit-on inflatable kayak is not really suitable for anything other than easy paddling on very calm water.

2. Weight capacity and seating

Are you a solo paddler? Will your kayak only need to carry you and a drinks bottle over short distances? Or do you want a boat that can hold your whole family or transport camping gear over long distances? Make sure your kayak can carry whatever you need it to. Kayak carrying capacity is usually measured in pounds and varies from 250 up to 700. If you are unsure about this, choose a kayak with a higher capacity. It’s better to have more than you need and not use it than not have enough and wish you did.

Regarding seating, inflatable kayaks usually have one, two, or three seats. Like weight capacity, it’s often a good idea to have more seats than you need, so you can take friends or family members out on the water.

3. Weight and pack size

How far do you expect to carry your inflatable kayak? If it’s just a few yards from your car to the water, weight and pack size are not really an issue. But if you want to hike into the wilderness with your deflated kayak on your back, then lighter and smaller is best. Tandems are usually heavier than solo inflatable kayaks, but weight is also dependent on the materials from which the boat is made.

The INTEX Challenger K1 is also a great inflatable kayak.

4. Inflatable Kayaks Materials

Inflatable kayaks are usually made from one of three types of material. Some have a single layer construction, which is generally lighter and cheaper, while multiple layers are more hardwearing. The main material choices are PVC, Nitrylon, and Hypalon.

PVC is cheap, light, and weldable. It’s typically bonded to nylon to make it tougher. However, PVC is not very environmentally friendly and can be weakened by UV light and very high temperatures.

Nitrylon is eco-friendlier than PVC, and it’s also more robust and more puncture-resistant too. Nitrylon is made from synthetic rubber coated with 1200D fabric. On the downside, this material can be a little on the heavy side.

Hypalon is arguably the best material for inflatable kayaks. It’s both strong and very hardwearing. However, it can be expensive, and multiple layers of Hypalon are very heavy.

5. Accessory packages

With some inflatable kayaks, all you get when you buy one is the boat itself. That’s okay, providing you don’t mind spending additional money on the other things you’ll need to get out on the water. Other kayak inflatables come as full packages and contain additional accessories and gear.

To use your kayak, you’ll need:

Some packages contain a few of these items, while others may include all of them. Others won’t have any of these essentials, and you’ll need to purchase them all separately. Make sure you know what comes with your kayak so that you have everything you need for your paddling adventures. There is nothing worse than having a new inflatable kayak but not having paddles, a pump, etc.

A pump is essential to inflate the kayak.

6. Budget

there are cheap inflatable kayaks, and there are expensive inflatable kayaks. More expensive kayaks tend to be more versatile and hardwearing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of fun in a cheaper boat.

When buying an inflatable kayak, it’s a good idea to start with your budget and then look for boats that you can comfortably afford. Going over your budget might mean you get a better kayak. Still, if you don’t make use of the additional features you paid for, there is no benefit to spending more money. Choose your budget and stick to it to make sure you are comfortable with your purchase.

Our 5 Favorite Inflatable Yaks: Quality + FUN!

Now you know everything you need to about inflatable kayaks. Armed with this information, choosing the best one for you should be a breeze. But, to help you on your way, we’ve tested and reviewed dozens of inflatable kayaks, and these are our five favorites.

1. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

Some hardcore kayakers think that inflatables are not suitable for demanding paddling situations. They assume that inflatables are not much better than airbeds and are only meant for casual use on very calm water. The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak disproves this theory. It’s inflatable and can do virtually everything that a rigid kayak can do, but it’s also easy to transport and store.

Key features:

  • Rigid bow with removable internal aluminum frame
  • Sit-in design
  • Triple-layer PVC-coated polyester body
  • 5 feet long, 34 inches wide, 11.5 inches deep
  • High back seat
  • Twin storage areas with cargo nets
  • Molded, low-profile carrying handles
  • 300-pound capacity

The AE AdvancedFrame has all the features that you’d expect on a rigid kayak. It can even be fitted with a spray deck. Despite this, it only weighs 36 pounds, which means it’s easy to transport.

Pros:

  • Ideal for extended paddling trips
  • Very streamlined design
  • Internal frame and rigid bow mean it tracks and handles like a rigid boat
  • Also available as a tandem

Cons:

  • Pump and paddles not supplied

If you want an inflatable kayak that feels and even looks like a regular sit-in kayak, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak is an excellent option. It has all the advantages of a regular kayak, but none of the drawbacks. It’s also very competitively priced.

2. Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe

This inflatable is more canoe than kayak. That means you sit in it, but the top is open. While the Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe does leave you exposed to the elements, it makes this boat easy you get in and out of, and also gives it has a high weight capacity. This is the ideal inflatable watercraft for families and anyone who wants to take their dog paddling. It’s also rated for grade III white water.

Key features:

  • Three person/650 lb. capacity
  • Twin movable inflatable seats
  • Twin molded skegs for straighter tracking
  • Supplied with two paddles, foot pump, repair kit, and carry bag
  • Five I-beam tubes for stability and buoyancy
  • Enclosed forward and aft storage areas
  • Rope carrying handles on the front and rear
  • Open and close drainage valves

This easy-to-inflate kayak is a blast! It’s suitable for almost any navigable body of water, right up to grade III white water. Its large capacity means it’s ideal for long solo paddling trips but can also accommodate your family.

Pros:

  • Everything you need to get out on the water
  • Paddling fun for all the family
  • Very stable, buoyant design
  • Well-priced

Cons:

  • Quite heavy
  • Front seat is not very supportive

This inflatable kayak is robust and versatile enough to cope with almost any paddling adventure. It’s at home on calm water, but you can also take it out in the surf and even use it for whitewater fun. It’s big enough that it can accommodate three people but light enough that you could still use it as a solo craft. For the price, you get a lot of inflatable kayak for your money. The addition of paddles, pump, repair kit, and carry bag means this is an excellent value package.

3. STAR Rival Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayak 

Sit-on kayaks are ideal for beginners. They are easy to get in and out of, even in deep water should you capsize. In addition, they are suitable for things like fishing and cruising as they allow you to move around your kayak easily. That’s something you can’t usually do with a sit-in kayak. The STAR Rival Kayak is an excellent option for a host of water-based activities and is especially useful for angling.

Key features:

  • Large twin side tubes for buoyancy and stability
  • 450 lb. weight capacity
  • Central drainage port
  • Daisy chain webbing rigging for attaching accessories
  • Twin storage areas with bungees
  • Removable aluminum folding chair
  • Attachment mounts for GPS, fishing rods, fish finder, etc.
  • Removable tracking fin
  • Supplied with a pump and repair kit

The best way to think of the STAR Rival SOT Inflatable Kayak is as a moveable platform. Its stable design means you can stand on it for fishing, but you can also sit and paddle it for easy exploration. It’s bigger than the average sit-on kayak, and that means there is plenty of space to carry your gear. Made for calm water, this sit-on inflatable is easy to use, and ideal for beginners and leisure paddling.

Pros:

  • Wide, stable design
  • High weight capacity
  • Light and easy to transport

Cons:

  • Paddle and carry bag not supplied
  • High price point

While this inflatable kayak is quite expensive, it is made to last. It’s not really suitable for long-distance paddling but is ideal for casual paddling on calm waters. It’s especially good as an angling platform, and there is more than enough space and carrying capacity for even the most well-equipped fisherman.

4. Aquaglide Chelan 155 HB XL Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Most inflatable kayaks are ideal for short trips and messing around near the seashore or on small lakes, but they aren’t really suitable for touring and camping. The Aquaglide Kayak bucks this trend! It’s a tandem inflatable kayak that can also be paddled solo, and it’s perfect for long-distance excursions. It can easily be paddled by one person, but also big enough for two adults and a child or dog.

Key features:

  • 15-feet long, 36-inches wide.
  • Self-draining deck
  • Covered storage areas forward and aft, plus open storage areas with bungees
  • Twin movable, removable, adjustable seats
  • Molded carry handles
  • Removable rear skeg for straighter tracking
  • Supplied with carry pack
  • Lots of accessory attachment straps

Pros:

  • Easy and efficient to paddle
  • Suitable for long-distance paddling, touring, and camping
  • Can be used solo or as a tandem
  • Big enough to carry additional passengers or equipment

Cons:

  • Pump and paddle not supplied
  • Not as maneuverable as a shorter kayak
  • Quite expensive

The Aquaglide Chelan Inflatable Kayak is the perfect boat for paddlers looking to get plenty of miles under their belts, but who also want a kayak that is light, portable, and easy to store. This is a lot more than a sit on and paddle inflatable; it’s perfect for serious paddlers looking for an alternative to rigid kayaks.

5. Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak

Sevylor specializes in making inflatable watercraft, from paddleboards to fishing dinghies. The Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak is their solo standout inflatable kayak. It’s portability, combined with the sit-in design, make this the ideal inflatable kayak for solo travelers who want to explore well off the beaten track. It’s a well-priced product that is suitable for beginner, intermediate, and advanced paddlers.

Key features:

  • 24-gauge PVC construction with tarpaulin bottom for durability
  • Multiple air chambers for maximum buoyancy and stability
  • Built-in skeg for better tracking
  • Forward and aft storage areas with bungees
  • Fitted with spray covers
  • Built-in carry handles
  • Supplied with pump, paddle, and carry backpack

Just strap this kayak onto your back and hike to your paddling destination. Pump it up in about five minutes and then convert the backpack into a comfortable, space-saving seat. With plenty of D-rings and storage space, you’ll have no problem carrying all the equipment you need for even a long-distance paddle. While you won’t confuse this kayak for a rigid boat, it handles well enough on calm, flat water and is also usable on rougher white water and the sea.

Pros:

  • Very portable
  • Lots of legroom
  • Very comfortable
  • Easy to maneuver

Cons:

  • Prone to being blown off course; not suitable for use during strong winds
  • Takes practice to pack down to fit into the backpack
  • Supplied paddle is not the best quality
  • Skeg cannot be removed if damaged/not required

While you may want to replace the paddle with a better quality one, the Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak is ready for the water right out the box. Easy to set up and use, this is a great kayak that will carry you many miles in comfort. Perfect for apartment-dwellers and compact car owners, the Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak is very easy to live with.

Portability + Fun = Inflatable Kayaks!

If you thought that kayaking was impractical or too expensive, you’ll be delighted to hear that, with an inflatable kayak, this is not really the case. Yes, some inflatable kayaks are more expensive than others, but there are also plenty of cheaper boats that will get you out on the water for much less money.

With a choice of sit-on, sit-on, fishing kayaks, solos, and tandems, you should have no problem finding the best inflatable kayak for your needs, as well as your budget.

Rigid kayaks may have better performance, but the gap between inflatables and rigids is closing fast. Some of the boats on review are almost indiscernible from their rigid counterparts. And, because they are easier to transport and store, inflatable kayaks have advantages that rigid boats cannot match.

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