The Best Inflatable Kayak Reviews [2019 Buying Guide]
Inflatable Kayaks Have Come A Long Way In Recent Years, I Think They Are Great!
Check Out My Reviews Of The Best Inflatable Kayaks Below
Are Inflatable Kayaks Any Good?
The pioneers of kayaking used the name to mean “man’s boat” or ” boat of a hunter” , but in our days kayaks are used by all, men and women of all ages , as well as children. Inflatables have become quite popular as they make the sport more accessible to many, those with a smaller budget, and those without adequate storage space for a full sized hard shell. Our buying guide will tell you all you need to know about the best inflatable kayaks on the market and help you decide which one is right for you
It depends on what you want to get out of it but with the advancements of technology and materials inflatable kayaks are definitely ‘good’
In this article we reviewed the following Inflatable Kayaks as we found them to be the best:
Kayaks Have Come A Long Way
Not used as seal hunting boats anymore, inflatable yaks of all types give you a more relaxed paddling or fishing experience. They are extra user friendly, and you can spend quality time alone or with your family and friends, for longer or shorter periods of time. Inflatable kayaks were introduced in the late 1950s. Together with plastic watercraft, inflatable rubberized fabric boats were the forerunners of modern kayaks that are arguably built for multi-purpose use (all rounders).
A Truly Durable Inflatable Kayak
The AdvancedFrame kayak from Advanced Elements might be one of the most unique inflatables out there right now. In addition to its seven air chambers, which keep it afloat should any of them become punctured, it also has aluminum ribs that can be inserted into the bow and stern sections to give the boat extra rigidity. One of the biggest issues with inflatables is that they don’t track (paddle in a straight line) as well as a hardshell, and this little feature overcomes that problem to give similar performance characteristics.
A Sleek Hulled – High Performance Inflatable Kayak
The kayak’s sleek hull also allows us to sit lower in the water, which improves tracking but hampers maneuverability to a certain extent. Most inflatables ride high in the water, which makes turning easier as there’s less drag to overcome. The aluminum ribs also make the boat weigh a bit more – 36lbs, which is more than most inflatables.
The insert-able ribs also increase the AdvancedFrame’s setup time – not to the extent that a folding kayak with an entire frame needing to be assembled, but still longer than a standard inflatable. You’ll need to budget five minutes or so extra for setting up and taking down.
The Best Inflatable Kayak For Sea Use – But Don’t Stray Too Far From Land
One of the biggest oversights with the AdvancedFrame though is its carrying case. The kayak weighs 36 lbs and yet the carrying case is a simple duffel bag with a shoulder strap. Inflatable kayaks are great for accessing remote mountain lakes and rivers, sometimes with trails that are a few miles long. Had Advanced Elements utilized a backpack for the carrying case, this AdvancedFrame would be much more comfortable on backcountry adventures. As it is, you probably won’t want to carry it for more than a few minutes so if you get yourself a big enough backpack to carry it in you will overcome this issue
The AdvancedFrame is a very capable kayak, and its superior handling makes it one of the best inflatables to take on fast-moving rivers or even in the open ocean (though it’s only 10.5 feet long, so don’t stray too far from land). It has a few negative points, mostly related to the extra weight and time required to set up the aluminum ribs, but overall it’s probably worth it for paddlers that want an inflatable with great tracking.
The Best Inflatable Kayak For Rivers
Sevylor has been one of the more budget-friendly manufacturers in the inflatables market, and the Quickpak K5 is no exception to the trend. The K5 offers great value for beginner paddlers that don’t want to spend too much money on their first kayak but still want something that will last them a few years while they get experience paddling down rivers.
Though the Quickpak K5 falls on the budget end of the inflatable kayak spectrum, its outfitted with a fairly durable hull made of 24-gauge PVC. This makes it fairly puncture resistant; at least it is when used in the relatively calm waters that the K5 was designed for. The hull is easy for novice paddlers to maneuver and resistant to tipping over. However, it’s not that fast and because it’s so wide (36 inches) it can be difficult to keep a straight line with it.
A Great Pump Included For 5 Minute Inflation
One unexpectedly good feature of the K5 is that the pump is a cut above what is included with most inflatable kayaks, it takes around 5 minutes to inflate. Most users report being able to pump up the K5 in less than five minutes, which is fairly impressive given that there are three separate air chambers. The included paddle is another story though; it’s a three-piece design that’s intended to be easy to transport when taken apart but doesn’t provide much rigidity when it’s assembled – flexible paddles make for poor paddle strokes. Given the K5’s lower price point, it shouldn’t be surprising that an included accessory isn’t top-shelf material though.
A Great Budget Friendly Inflatable Yak
If you’re thinking about taking the K5 on longer paddling trips though, you may want to reconsider. The seat is not exactly comfortable; the backrest is too short and doesn’t have the cushioning seen in some of the other budget inflatables. This feels like a big oversight on Sevylor’s part as the K5 would otherwise be a fantastic boat for all-day cruising or fishing.
The K5 is most likely to appeal to paddlers that get out a fair amount and need something that performs well, but while keeping costs low. With proper care, the K5 will last several years and so long as you’re not spending all day on the water, you’ll probably find it to be comfortable enough.
A Cheap Inflatable Kayak That’s Not ‘Cheap’
Sometimes you just want a kayak that’s comfortable and cheap to use on a lake or slow-moving river. That’s the Challenger K1 in a nutshell: one of the least expensive inflatables that can be used in open water that doesn’t feel a pool toy.
At nine feet in length, it’s one of the shorter recreational inflatables, but less length keeps it lightweight (only 24 lbs.) and easy for novice paddlers to maneuver (less water pushing against you on a turn). Admittedly, the hull construction is a bit lacking; made from vinyl the K1 feels flimsy, and you’ll need to be extra careful when getting in and out of it to avoid sharp rocks. If possible, you should probably only beach this boat on soft sand.
A Nice Comfortable Kayak For Long Paddles
Where the K1 succeeds though is in the comfort department, thanks to a large inflatable seat and high backrest. The seat has minimal adjustment, but for most users, this seat will feel good for several hours at a time, which is more than you can say for most kayaks.
The Intex Challenger K1 also has a decent amount of storage, a rarity with inflatables. There’s a large cargo net covered area in the front for holding necessities like a water bottle and gloves and there’s also a tank well behind the cockpit that’s large enough for a small cooler. Don’t get too crazy with gear though, as the K1 only has a weight capacity of 220 lbs. Even without the extra gear, this could be too low capacity for larger paddlers.
A Great Budget Inflatable Kayak
The Challenger K1 is one of the best options for budget-conscious paddlers, especially those that are new to the sport or don’t see themselves going on that many outings each year. It’s comfortable, lightweight, and even if you do trade it in after a year or so, you won’t be out much cash.
The Best Inflatable Kayak For Whitewater
Inflatable kayaks get a bad rap and are sometimes stereotyped as glorified pool toys. However, just because some models are made from thin plastic doesn’t mean you can’t have one that’s tough enough to charge through some rapids. Case in point, the Rover 120 from Driftsun. This boat is as whitewater capable as they come, with features rivaling any hardshell or raft.
One of its most important features for running rapids is the fact that it’s self-bailing. Now that doesn’t mean it scoops the water out of your cockpit, but rather that there’s a drainage hole in the rear of the boat, and when you’re paddling forward the hull tilts up slightly to let that water drain out the back. You still end up with a small amount of water in the cockpit, but self-bailing will prevent the boat from sinking after a big wave splashes on your deck.
Top Maneuverability And Durability From This Inflatable
Whitewater paddlers will also be impressed with the hull on the Rover; made with a thick PVC bottom, this kayak is made to take big hits without puncturing. The hull’s shape is also incredibly maneuverable, which is very important when you’re paddling a fast river and need to make quick course corrections. The Rover comes with a removable aluminum fin, which helps it keep a straight line on bigger rivers without you needing to make constant adjustment with your paddle strokes.
A Great Inflatable Kayak For Advanced Paddlers
Unfortunately, this excellent kayak is not the easiest boat for paddling novices to handle. It has low primary stability; meaning when you lean to one side, there’s a very real possibility of the Rover flipping over. This is a feature for more experienced paddlers, as it enhances maneuverability, but if you’re new to the sport, it will only be a source of irritation. The Rover’s seat is also not very comfortable. This might be due to it being a whitewater boat and Driftsun assuming paddlers wouldn’t be sitting in its cockpit all day.
Overall though, the Rover 120 is an excellent choice for paddlers that have a few years of experience under their belt and want a kayak that can take on some rapids with ease.
A Cheap Inflatable Kayak To Have Some Fun With
The Goplus inflatable kayak is another good option if you’re looking for an inexpensive kayak to use infrequently or for a short while when you’re getting into the sport. It doesn’t have a lot of features and it certainly won’t perform at the same level as something like the AdvancedFrame or Driftsun’s Rover, but it has its place as a budget-friendly option for entry-level paddlers.
One of its high points is Goplus’s inclusion of a very comfortable seat. The backrest and seat cushion are inflatable, so you there’s not really any adjustments to be made with it, but you can’t argue with how well-cushioned it is. The Goplus also comes with a cargo net over the bow that’s quite useful for storing gear, though this is its only storage space. There are also some convenient paddle holder clips on each side of the cockpit should you decide to float with the current or do some fishing.
Not Too Bad For The Money
But you can’t expect a kayak that’s priced under $100 to be free of downsides and the GoPlus’s most obvious one is its fragile hull. You will need to be extremely careful entering and exiting this boat because any sharp rock has the potential to puncture its thin skin – there’s a good chance you’ll need to use the repair kit that comes with it. Though if your favorite paddling locations have sandy beaches at the put-in point, this won’t be a problem.
You’ll Need To Upgrade The Paddle
There’s also the issue of the flimsy paddle that comes standard with the Goplus. It’s simply not going to hold up to anything but the calmest waters and its bendiness will be a drag on each stroke. If you’re buying this kayak as a starter boat and plan to upgrade, a better paddle should be your first piece of new gear.
Admittedly, this doesn’t sound like the most positive review of the Goplus, but the kayak has its purpose. Many paddlers don’t make it out on the water that often or they have friends that they’d like to take with them on rare occasions. This is a great option for those situations because you shouldn’t be spending hundreds of dollars on a boat you don’t use often. If you plan to paddle every weekend though, look for something that’s built a bit better.
Learn All You Need to know with our inflatable kayak buying guide
How to choose the best inflatable kayak
No inflatable kayak will fit all purposes, and if there were one that did, it would probably be so costly that you’d be paying good money for features you wouldn’t have any use for.
How Much Should You Spend On An Inflatable Kayak?
Speaking of cost, inflatable kayaks can set you back anywhere from $50 to over $1000. If you are willing to spend no more than 200 bucks, inflatables are really your only option, as there is nothing else in that price range . You can find great deals in the $100-200 range, without compromising quality one little bit. You wouldn’t be expecting too much performance wise, but some of these boats might surprise you.
Especially when you are a novice kayaker, you can develop your skills as you go paddling, fishing or sightseeing, while, at the same time you and your company take in the sights and sounds of the great outdoors. My advice is for you to find your bearings, before potentially moving on to an upgraded model that will best meet your needs.
What Should I Be Looking For In An Inflatable Kayak
The characteristics, features, and qualities you should look for in inflatable kayaks are, more or less, the same as those of any other type of kayaks.
Stability, floating ability, tracking, speed, material, comfort (especially for larger people), seating options, storage room, weight capacity (250 pounds minimum), safety features, accessories/package (carrying bag, patch kit, pump , paddle, skeg), self-bailing system, roughness, sea and whitewater compatibility, protection from elements, transportation and storage, as well as probably a dozen more criteria.
Inflatables are a kayak hybrid, and comparing them to other types of hard shell craft is meaningless.
In general terms, they are less dynamic (sporty), not as fast (max around 3m/h), and tend to be on the bulky side; these are maybe their con’s. Their pro’s by far outweigh their partial (if any) under performance, and will be highlighted in the process of our presentation.
What Performance Can I Expect From My Inflatable Yak
Inflatables are normally not as fast as hardshells, but they are quite stable, as well as easy to handle and master. They are generally lightweight and portable, quite spacious, but with limited (or no) watertight storage.
Though spacious, Inflatable Kayaks aren’t meant to be modified, so in most cases your stuff will have to be carried in backpacks, and dry bags. They are sort of tricky to paddle, but you get used to them quickly (practice makes progress), and a standard skeg will improve tracking.
What Are Inflatable Kayaks Made Of?
Affectionately referred to as duckies, they are made of neoprene (Zodiac Hypalon), PVC, Nitrilon (a rubberized fabric), or polyurethane coated cloth. Multiple compartments in most models drastically increase safety.
Where Can You Use Your Inflatable Kayak
While most inexpensive inflatables are best suited for use on calm water, the higher end kayaks are designed to be hardy, seaworthy vessels, often featuring aluminum ribs and frames (like the advanced Frame Kayak Above), and feeling more inflatable Kayak hardshells.
Inflatable Kayaks Have Vastly Improved Over The Years
Over recent years, there have been amazing advancements in inflatable kayak technology, and inflatables today are designed and built to a highest standard -nothing like the toy boats we used to know, when we were kids.
Ease of inflation is paramount, so check hand or foot pump, as well as electric pump options.
Before starting your search, you really must determine your “kayaking profile”.
Consider Your Size Before You Buy
Inflatable Kayaks are usually designed for males 5΄8΄΄ tall, weighing around 150 lbs., which is less than the mean (average) weight of men in the US today. Look for a model that fits your body type.
Understand your level of fitness, together with your paddling skills. See what activity you’ll be pursuing, and go for a more specialized model.
Finally, put a ceiling in your budget.
Solo Or Tandem Inflatable Kayak?
Are you going solo or with others? There are Inflatable Kayaks that can accommodate up to 3 adults, plus a child or a pet, often with enough weight capacity to carry supplies and gear for 2 days. Always check the weight capacity (max 400 lbs for this model). For this post I chose to focus on the solo inflatable kayak models, I have dedicated a whole post to the best tandem inflatable kayaks so if that is what you think you want check out the guide.
Do You Want To Do More Than Just Paddle In Your Inflatable Yak?
Do you enjoy fishing, camping, pic nics with the family, whitewater rafting, rapids or sea cruising? Inflatable Kayaks come with all bells and whistles of modern kayaks, and there’s more than one to face any challenge. Are you up to it? If you like the idea fishing from your inflatable kayak I have a post dedicated to the best inflatable fishing kayaks.
What are the advantages/benefits of inflatable kayaks?
Inflatable kayaks are unique for their portability (can usually be transported by hand using a carry bag), durability (they don’t dent), as well as their convenient storage (they can fit in the trunk of your car).
What makes Inflatable Kayaks truly special is their price, together with their excellent value for money. For under $200, you can buy a high-quality Inflatable Kayak, light enough to carry on your back, and go anywhere you want to go, with absolutely no hassle.
No Storage Space? No Problem!
If you live in an apartment or generally have limited room in your garage, you can load an Inflatable Kayak in the trunk of your car, and go spontaneous kayaking whenever and wherever you choose. The sense of freedom these babies provide is absolutely remarkable.
What’s the best way to use an inflatable kayak?
It is true that there used to be widespread controversy over the safe use of Inflatable Kayaks, as opposed to hardshell jobs. In some ways, this is understandable, as for a very long time, people knew inflatables as toys, and not recreational watercraft. Many people still steer away from inflatables, and won’t even consider them as an option.
Well, you know what? Things have changed, and our buying guide is here to set the record straight.
So Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe To Use?
To begin with, technology has made tremendous breakthroughs in discovering materials whose properties are equal, if not superior in some ways to those hardshells are made from. Of course this is easier said than proven, since each “ side” have their own arguments. Is PVC safer than polythene? Beats me..
I am no mechanical engineer, but I believe that research will get you anywhere. Besides, inflatables are becoming more and more popular, and no safety issues have been known to exist. I trust , if that were the case, the media, together with “word of mouth” would have revealed all the dirty details.
Not only has disbelief stopped no one, but also Inflatable Kayak models for use in whitewater as well as the deep blue, traditionally considered strictly hard shell territory, are now being recommended as safe and affordable options.
Go paddling, spend time with your family, fish, go for a picnic, or even sailing and rafting. Have fun!
Share the experience of these people, and have no fear or stress. You will only ruin your mood, and probably worry others for no serious reason.
The best way to use an inflatable kayak is making the best of it, responsibly, but with a wild heart…
Prerequisites/precautions for using inflatable kayaks
Built with extra tough materials, designed to have firm, unyielding structure, and uncompromising seating, inflatable kayaks are almost as safe and easy to use as any other type of kayak. Despite the fact that problem inflatable Kayak leaks and punctures are uncommon, they sometimes do happen. In no case should that be your worst nightmare, if you are well prepared for it.
Here is a list of requirements and precautions
- Always be alert and sober-never ride a boat intoxicated
- Wear a safety vest at all times. Kayaking is not safe in any type of water, especially the ocean.
- Know how to unpack, set up, and pack your kayak
- Learn how to get in and out of your kayak (technique is the same for all kayaks)
- Getting back into your kayak safely is crucial
- Watch your paddling in whitewater. If with company, pick out the more experienced paddler
- Don’t get separated from your Inflatable Kayak. Don’t move away from the shore.
- Practice your patching skills. You’ll find numerous tutorials in YouTube
Waving biased disbelief, Inflatable Kayaks have managed to establish a stronghold in the market, due to their impeccable track record in the last 10-15 years. Initially interest came in their low, low price (or was partially hindered because of it). Honestly, it is hard to believe that you can purchase a perfectly designed and built watercraft, that will take you anywhere in calm waters, for the cost of a day’s (4-5 hour) rental. I had to see it with my own eyes to realize that this boat costs $ 62,50
The next notable feature that makes Inflatable Kayak’s extraordinary is their practicality in setting up, carrying and storing. Whether you are parked right next to the lake, or a couple of miles (or more) into the wilderness, it really makes no difference, as you can easily carry your Inflatable Kayak on your back, and do some Inflatable Kayaking at the same time. You then unpack, inflate, set up, and you’re on your way. Isn’t that awesome?
Finally, testing your Inflatable Kayak along with a hard shell, you may get astonished by the results.
We hope our guide has been of some help!