Updated on: January 14, 2024
Hard shell kayaks can take up a lot of room, especially if you live in a small space or don’t have a vehicle to transport it safely. An inflatable kayak could be the answer to your problems! They are compact enough to fit into a storage area of your house, easy to maintain, and easy to transport. But which inflatable kayak would be perfect for you?
When choosing an inflatable kayak, you need to consider a few factors: whether you want a tandem kayak or a single person kayak, your budget, what you’ll be using it for, and so on.
In our in-depth review, you’ll be sure to find an inflatable kayak that fits all of your needs and wants. We’ll go over what you need to consider before buying an inflatable kayak, the best tandem inflatable kayaks, and the best singular inflatable kayaks. Keep on reading to find out our top picks of each category!
As mentioned before, there are a few things you need to consider before you purchase your chosen boat. Here we’ve broken these factors down to help you gain the best understanding.
I’m sure it’s crossed your mind how durable an inflatable kayak can actually be. Can one sharp rock or branch tear a hole and ruin the kayak forever?
Inflatable kayaks made of materials like PVC and Hypalon can last for several years, depending on how you use them. Drop stitch technology is also used, which allows for higher inflation and pressure than a standard PVC floor, making inflatable kayaks more rigid with an enhanced paddling performance. If damage has been inflicted, repairs can usually be made and can give your kayak a new lease of life.
Modern inflatable kayaks are made using a tough outer fabric that’s coated in plastic or rubber. The durability, however, varies from kayak to kayak, and it also depends on the purpose it is intended for.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): PVC is the most common material used in inflatable kayaks. It is the least expensive and is usually bonded to nylon for extra tear resistance. One problem with PVC is the sun will degrade the fabric over time, so you’d need to store your kayak out of direct sunlight.
Hypalon: Hypalon is another popular material used to create inflatable kayaks. This material, however, is more expensive than PVC, but it is also more UV resistant and abrasion-resistant.
Nitrylon: Nitrylon is a newer material being used and is mid range in price. It is a combination of nitrile synthetic rubber and natural rubber, making it more eco-friendly and puncture-resistant than PVC.
Kayaks can also be made of a mixture of these materials to help save on costs but keep the quality as high as possible.
An important feature of inflatable kayaks is these boats have multiple chambers. If your kayak happens to get punctured while you’re on the water, the boat will stay afloat even if one of them is compromised. Your kayak will never just “pop”, should there be a problem, the air would slowly leak, and your backup chambers will allow you to get back to shore and make repairs.
One of the great things about an inflatable kayak is how portable they are. Just like an iSUP, inflatable kayaks deflate and can be stored away neatly in a storage bag. On average, a solo paddler kayak weighs roughly 13.6kg (30 pounds), and a tandem kayak weighs 18.1kg (40 pounds), making them easy to transport to any destination. Say goodbye to trying to lug a hard shell kayak from the car to your chosen body of water.
As inflatable kayaks are so portable, they will also fit nicely into the back of your car so you won’t be needing any additional roof racks.
Kayaks range in length, and the length influences the kayak’s performance and handling.
Kayaks shorter than 12’ are best suited to rough waters because they’re easier to maneuver. So, if you’re looking for a recreational inflatable kayak or one to take in rough waters, then a kayak less than 12’ would suit you.
Kayaks longer than 12’ are suited for longer paddling days or fishing. They provide more storage for fishing gear and are more stable. Long kayaks are more efficient and faster on flat water.
The shape of the hull of your kayak can also play a part in handling. If you’re in rough or whitewater, you will want a more pronounced hull to help cut through these types of waters. Whereas if you want to spend the day paddling on flat waters such as lakes and slow-moving rivers, you’d want a flatter bottom hull.
Maintaining an inflatable kayak is fairly straightforward, which is why they’re a great option if you’re a beginner and want to get into kayaking.
Before inflating your kayak, clean the valves of any debris, which could cause a blockage during inflation and potentially cause a rupture. You should also ensure you’re not exceeding the maximum air pressure in your kayak. You can purchase a pump with a built-in pressure gauge if your kayak isn’t supplied with one.
After you’ve finished kayaking for the day, you will again need to remove any debris from your kayak and dry your kayak to prevent mold or mildew growth, these steps will help keep your kayak’s UV protection intact. It’s best to store all inflatable kayaks deflated in a cool, dry place.
Pumping up an inflatable kayak isn’t a difficult process and won’t take you a long time. With a foot or hand pump, you will expect to inflate your kayak after 5-8 minutes, and with an electric one, it will inflate in around 2 minutes. Inflatable kayaks usually come with a pump and can be inflated in areas with sufficient room.
Another factor to consider is whether you want a singular kayak or a tandem. Will you be paddling alone or with a family member/friend?
Tandem kayaks are great for couples, and most can even accommodate a small child in between the seats. Tandem kayaking can also be a great way for you to teach your partner the basics of kayaking if they’re new to the game.
Tandem kayaks can also be paddled alone, giving you the extra weight capacity and storage space for gear if you wanted to use your kayak for fishing.
Singular kayaks, however, are great for solo paddlers who want a lot more speed and maneuverability. If you want to get out on rough and whitewater, then this one's for you!
You will also need to consider the weight capacity of the kayaks. Calculate the combined weight of all passengers inside the boat and ensure you’re purchasing a kayak that meets this limit.
The last factor you need to consider is the environment you want to use it in. Do you plan on paddling in rough or calm waters? Will you be taking your kayak on lakes, down rivers, or in oceans?
In calm waters, you may want a kayak that’s comfortable with a large storage capacity, and in rough whitewater, finding a kayak that will allow you to gain speed but also remain stable would be the perfect fit.
It’s best to evaluate everything you want to use your kayak for and find the answers to all these factors before choosing which inflatable kayak would suit you. Once you’ve gathered all this information, it’s time to choose your kayak!
We will discuss the features of these kayaks, their pros, cons, and everything else in between.
To make things easier, we have also included GILI’s top 4 picks. The best overall singular inflatable kayak, the best overall tandem inflatable kayak, the kayak which gives you the most bang for your buck, and the best kayak for experienced paddlers.
|Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable
|10'3" x 3' x 1'8"
|Advanced Elements Convertible Inflatable Kayak
|15’ x 32”
|Sevylor Coleman Colorado Fishing Kayak
|128.25” x 36.5”
|Sea Eagle 370
|150” x 33.8”
|Driftsun 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
|120” x 35”
|Sevylor Quikpak K5
|120” x 36”
|Intex Challenger Kayak K1
|108” x 30”
|Advanced Elements Firefly Inflatable Kayak
|94” x 35”
|Advanced Elements Packlite
|94” x 35”
|Sea Eagle RazorLite Inflatable Kayak
|154” x 28”
|Sea Eagle 300x Explorer
|118” x 39”
As stated in our top picks, the Intex Explorer K2 inflatable kayak comes in at number one.
It features a streamlined design and a bright yellow color, making the kayak highly visible in the water. Boston valves are located on both sides of the kayak, meaning it is easy to inflate and deflate. The Intex Explorer K2 also has a removable skeg which provides you with directional stability, and its two adjustable and removable seats are designed for comfort.
The Intex package comes with two paddles, an inflation pump, a carry bag, and a repair kit should you need it.
The Intex Explorer K2 is a fantastic kayak if you’re just starting out in the kayaking world and looking for something inexpensive but reliable.
With the Advanced Elements Convertible Inflatable Kayaks, you’re really getting the best of both worlds. This kayak can be for single paddlers or be converted into a two-seater kayak. Extra add-ons can be purchased with the kayak to turn it from an open deck design to a closed deck kayak in a matter of seconds. The Advanced Elements Convertible also has aluminum ribs at the bow and stern to improve its tracking and stability.
The Advanced Elements Convertible comes with a carry duffel bag, 2 folding seats, and a repair kit. The pump, however, is sold separately.
Although with a slightly higher price point than other kayaks we will cover in this post, you do get the option of it being single or tandem, which could suit you if you’re wanting it for multiple purposes. You also have the option of adding drop stitch flooring to increase its performance for more experienced paddlers.
Although it is classed as a fishing kayak, the Sevylor Coleman Colorado can be used for fishing or recreation purposes. Its portability allows you to take the kayak to remote rivers or lakes that you couldn’t have accessed otherwise. These tandem inflatable kayaks can also be converted into a solo kayak,r making it great for a larger passenger or if you have a lot of fishing gear.
Sevylor also separately sells trolling motors, which can be attached to the back of the kayak for easier movement. Paddles and a pump are not supplied with the kayak and need to be bought individually.
If you’re looking for an inflatable kayak that you can take on your remote fishing trips, then the Sevylor Coleman Colorado, might be for you. The option to add on additional products to fully customize your boat to your needs could be highly beneficial and not something you can do with most inflatable kayaks.
The Sea Eagle 370 is a sit-on-top inflatable kayak that is stable and durable. It’s designed to fit two people, but a third can be added between the two seats. It features an I-beam construction floor and 2 skegs for better tracking. Its one-way valves mean air can be pumped in and won’t escape during closing.
The Sea Eagle 370 package includes 2 paddles, 2 inflatable seats, a foot pump, a repair kit, and an easy shoulder strap carry bag. These features are why this kayak ended up on GILI’s best bang for your buck.
The Sea Eagle 370 is a great kayak for beginners or even experienced paddlers. The ability to carry 3 passengers makes it perfect for family recreation and is a fantastic price for everything you get included.
The Driftsun 2-person Inflatable Kayak is another boat that can be used tandem or singular. It has a removable tracking fin, a pointed nose entry, and a ‘V’ shape hull, giving it excellent performance in both calm or rough waters. It also has adjustable seats and a splash guard to keep you dry and comfortable.
The Driftsun 2-person package includes two paddles, a quick-release skeg, a travel bag, and a high-pressure pump with a pressure gauge.
The Driftsun inflatable is a great recreational boat for entry-level kayakers. As previously mentioned, it’s on the higher cost end of the inflatables we have listed, but its quality and comfort reflect that price.
The Sevylor Quikpak K5 made it onto GILI’s top picks for one-person kayaks thanks to its durability, quick inflation time, and backpack carry bag, which turns into the kayak seat.. Spray covers help you stay dry, and with D-Rings and bungee storage areas, you can carry more gear that is easily accessible.
The Quikpak K5 package includes a paddle, a backpack carry bag, and a pump.
Although the paddle included isn’t the best quality, the portability, ease, and comfort of this kayak are incredible and worth taking note of.
The bright green Intex Challenger K1 is next on our list because of its similarities to the Intex Challenger K2. The K1 model, however, is a solo kayak and can be used for both recreational and whitewater kayaking. It has an inflatable I-beam floor, puncture-resistant vinyl, and a closed deck to keep you as dry as possible on the water.
Like the K2 model, the K1 comes with a paddle, pump, carry bag, and a repair kit.
The K1 is a low-cost solo kayak that can easily be transported to remote lakes or rivers, perfect to take on all your kayaking trips and adventures.
The Advanced Elements Firefly is a compact, durable, recreational kayak that is great to use on slow-moving water. It features a bungee laced deck, mesh pockets, and is made with PVC Tarpaulin. Its bright red color makes it visible on the water, and its landing plate and tracking fin improve performance.
The Firefly comes with a paddle, a foot pump, a heavy-duty duffel bag, and a repair kit.
The Firefly is a great boat for beginners or if you’re looking for a lightweight and compact kayak. Take into account its maximum paddler height and whether you want to use it in windy conditions.
Another Advanced Elements solo kayak has made it onto our list, and that’s the AE Packlite. Coming in slightly cheaper than the Firefly, the Packlite model is designed to be taken to the most remote lakes and rivers and weighs just 4 pounds! Although very basic, it is without a doubt that this kayak can be carried anywhere and is great for flat water kayaking.
Unlike the Firefly, the Packlite only comes with a carry bag, repair kit, and inflatable seat. Other accessories would need to be purchased separately.
The Advanced Elements Packlite is the lightest boat on our list, making it an excellent contender if you’re looking for a basic kayak that you can take on hikes or to remote waters. If you’re looking for a more complex kayak, then the Packlite may not be for you.
The Sea Eagle Razor Lite is a contender because of its fully constructed drop stitch hull, which allows the kayak to cut through waves easier than other kayaks. This sit-on-top boat has a sharp, hard-nose bow and stern, which aids in the kayak’s speed and ability to move sharper and straighter. Due to its performance ability, the Sea Eagle RazorLite is recommended for people at an intermediate level and above.
Sea Eagle RazorLite kayaks come with a paddle, a tall backrest, moveable footrests, a backpack, and a pump.
Although the Sea Eagle RazorLite is on the higher cost end of inflatable kayaks, it reflects this cost in its performance levels. If you’re a more experienced kayaker looking for an inflatable to carry around to out of reach waters, then the Sea Eagle RazorLite could be the one for you!
The last inflatable on our list is another boat from Sea Eagle. The 300x is designed to tackle whitewater, open water, and surf, so it’s one of the best boats for every adventure. It has 16 fast self-bailing drain valves which can be left open for whitewater activities and also comes with a removable skeg to improve its tracking. 18 D-rings are located all over the boat, giving you the ability to attach extra gear, meaning you can even take these kayaks fishing and touring. Its separate drop stitch floor supplies rigidity when you’d need it most.
The Sea Eagle 300x kayaks come with a paddle, pump, repair kit, and bag.
If you’re looking for a single boat that works well on all waters, the Sea Eagle 300x could be a strong contender.
It is without a doubt that there are many inflatable kayaks on the market, each having unique features and capabilities. Figuring out what you need and want in a boat is the first step in deciding which one would suit you best.
Hopefully, after reading our reviews of these 11 different kayaks, you better understand what to look out for when purchasing inflatable kayaks.
Yes! Like traditional kayaks, inflatable kayaks are safe, reliable, and durable. Inflatable technology is forever expanding and making them just as good at traditional kayaks.
The best way to find a leak in your boat is to inflate it slightly and take a wet sponge to wipe over the area you think the hole is in. If there is a leak, small bubbles will appear and you can go ahead and repatch it.
Once you have transported your kayak home, you can clean it with soapy water and a soft sponge. Then, rinse it with clean water. You can do this while inflated or deflated.
If you’re cleaning your boat whilst it is inflated, you will need to remove its floor to get to every inch. Cleaning whilst deflated, however, provides a more thorough clean.
Wipe dry as best you can with a clean towel and set it aside to fully dry out.
If you’re using it in salt water, it is best to clean or wipe it down after each use. If you’re only using it every now and again, then you should also be cleaning it after each use to prevent mildew or mold growing whilst in your storage space.
The best way to get into your inflatable kayak is to take it out into shallow waters, straddle the width of the boat and gently sit your bum down.
If you don’t have access to shallow water, then try to keep the boat as stable as possible and your weight evenly over the center line
Getting in and out does take some practice, so don’t expect to be a pro on your first attempt!
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