Inflatable Kayak vs Hardshell — Which Option is Best for you ?

Outdoor and recreational activities are much important to rejuvenate your mindset after a hectic and tiresome work-life routine. Kayaking is considered to be one of the best activities to retract your mind for nature. Well, there are a lot of options available in the market regarding the Kayaks to discover lakes and other water bodies. Today, we will be discussing the difference between an inflatable kayak and hardshell kayak.


A kayak is a small water vessel that uses two-bladed pedals as a propeller. The traditional kayaks have a cockpit to accommodate one paddler. It is sometimes covered with a spray deck, which protects it from water and stops water to enter it.

A spray deck is basically a water-resistant cloth. Spray decks are pivotal, especially in rough waters. Modern boats have made significant changes yet they claim it to be Kayaks.

Modern boats have the capacity to accommodate a number of people while traditional kayaks have the capacity to accommodate only one person. Further improvements include the inclusion of automatic propulsion systems like engines, electric motors, replacing single hull with two hulls, etc.

Two of the most widely used kayaks include inflatable Kayaks and Hard-shell Kayaks.

Read More: How to Kayak for Beginners- A Simple Guide For Amateurs

Inflatable Kayak

  • Physical Composition

Kayaks are made up of a wide variety of materials. The best inflatable kayaks available in the market are made up of synthetic rubber and plastic polymer. Inflatable Kayaks are assembled in two ways.

In one way it is made by inserting tubes that are filled with air just like in a bicycle tire.

While the other uses airtight material which is directly inflated with air just like a tubeless tire.

It provides durability and the ability to stay afloat on water. These Kayaks are much lighter in weight. Their weight is around 25 pounds. The Kayak is filled with air which keeps it afloat on water.

  • Pros of an Inflatable Kayak

Inflatable Kayak has the ability to handle more weight as it uses air to get inflated. An inflatable Kayak may itself have a weight of around 25 pounds but its threshold weight that is the maximum weight that it can carry in water may be up to 500 lbs.

This less weight of Kayak adds another benefit to its name i.e. it can be taken to water by an individual. Unlike heavy material made Kayaks that require usually 2 to 3 people to take it to water.

Furthermore, it is available at affordable rates and provides sufficient durability. It has become famous among beginners who could not afford the expensive ones. One of the biggest advantages of an inflatable Kayak is that It can easily be transported. Once deflated it can be easily carried to all places.

  • Cons of an Inflatable Kayak

Safety is one of the biggest concerns for those who go to water. Though the material used in the construction of Inflatable Kayak is reliable but it is not as dependable as other hard material Kayak like Hard shell kayak in rough waters.

Another con of inflatable Kayak is that its maneuverability is not as good as other Kayaks. One of the biggest disadvantages of an inflatable Kayak is it’s shorter life span as compared to more resilient hard shell Kayaks. It is also difficult to get repaired as it may get complicated to resuscitate all the punctures. Besides this, a repaired inflatable Kayak always poses a risk of getting punctured again.

Hard Shell Kayak

  • Physical Composition

Hard-shell Kayaks are made up of an amalgam of substances which include wood, fiberglass, plastic, and other materials such as Kevlar.

Hard-shell kayaks all heavy and their weight around 55 pounds. The outer layer of hard-shell Kayak is covered by a colored gel coating that forms the surface layer of the Kayak. This not only provides protection but also enhances beauty.

The fiberglass and Plastic used are of specialized nature, which not only provides extra protection and safety but keeps the Kayak from getting too heavy.

  • Pros of Hard Shell Kayak

The hard-shell Kayak is considered relatively safer. They are composed of strong material that has the ability to withstand rock water and its strong currents.

Since safety is considered of utmost importance that is why it is preferred to use hard-shell Kayak where possible. Rough waters also require greater maneuverability because one has to avoid rapidly emerging water currents and pointed stones.

Another important benefit of hard-shell Kayak is that it is a long term investment as compared to inflatable Kayak because it is less prone to weathering and has a longer life. It is a bit expensive but it provides the benefit of long term use.

  • Cons of Hard Shell Kayak

There are many cons also of a hard-shell Kayak. Most importantly it is difficult to carry a hard shell Kayak from one place to another since it is not foldable and requires relatively greater space. It hinders movement to congested places like jungles and lakes.

Another disadvantage of hard shell Kayak is that it is expensive as compared to inflatable Kayak so it requires more investment.

It requires multiple people to carry it to water. This makes it less attractive to single individuals. The storage of hard-shell Kayak is also an issue. For people who go on vacation how to enjoy in lakes, may find it quite difficult to keep it safe in hotels where they live. Lastly, the weight that it can carry in water is also less than the inflatable Kayaks can carry. Thus, it has reduced the ability to carry more people.


Both types of Kayaks has its own pros and cons.

One must identify his/ her needs and then choose a suitable type. Those individuals who often visit lakes with strong water currents should keep their safety of utmost importance and may choose a more resilient Kayak while those people who prefer calm waters and want to avoid the hassle of movement of heavy Kayaks may go for inflatable ones.

Investment required also plays a pivotal role in the type of Kayak to buy. Inflatable Kayaks are less expensive as compared to Hard shell Kayaks so people with limited budget can enjoy water and the beauty of nature by using inflatable kayaks.