With the improvements in technology and materials, inflatable kayaks are the best they have ever been and can be used for everything from fishing to whitewater rafting. You’re never going to get the same performance out of an inflatable kayak as you would out of a hard shell kayak, but then again you can’t put a hard shell in the boot of your car unless it’s a folding kayak.
There are quite a few differences between the types of inflatable kayaks available and it’s tricky to work out which one would be best for your needs. Luckily, I have put together this collection to help you find the best inflatable kayak for you. Most of the inflatable kayaks come with paddles and a repair kit, so bear that in mind while you read.
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This inflatable kayak from Advanced Elements is designed for 1-2 people and is as close to a hard shell as you’re going to get. It has been made with safety and stability in mind with a low center of gravity plus aluminum ribs that make it very rigid. Combine this with 6 inflatable chambers and you have a stable, quick, and safe vessel.
The seats can be put in 3 different positions and are very comfortable. You can paddle for hours without any worry. It comes with a lot of storage capacity and is the perfect vessel for a day trip or even a week-long expedition.
The Advanced Elements kayak is easy to maneuver and tracks well making for efficient paddling rather than going off course all the time.
It’s also hand for fishing thanks to all the bungee tie downs but it doesn’t have any rod holders as it’s not specifically designed for fishing.
There are a few drawbacks to this model from Advanced Elements, one of which is that it needs to dry before you store it. Not ideal when you’re lakeside and it’s raining. You’ll have to store it and take it out again to try when you’re home. You can also scrape your hands on the zips while paddling and it sags when only one of you is using it.
This inflatable kayak is one of the few on the market that fits 3 people but to be honest, 3 will be a squeeze, it’s better for two adults and a child.
It’s very stable and tracks almost as well as a normal hard shell kayak. This is thanks to two-directional stakes (rudders) that keep you going straight no matter the situation.
It’s made from heavy-duty PVC and has a tarpaulin bottom. This makes the inflatable kayak very durable and will withstand bumps on the bottom with getting punctures. It’s also thick enough for your dog to join and won’t be punctured by any claws.
The air chambers do seem to leak after a while and the sides are very low. If you’re paddling on a windy day, water will come in over the side and make for a bit of a wet paddle.
This is one of the cheapest 2 people inflatable kayaks on the market and comes with 2 83″ aluminum paddles and cargo nets for storage. It’s made for 1-2 people and is the perfect lake or slow-moving river kayak.
The Intex Challenger is made from super strong vinyl making it tough and very durable. It’ll bounce around and won’t tear or leak easily. The cockpit is spacious and will fit anyone comfortably but there are no footholds to help you paddle.
It’s very easy and quick to inflate and deflate but the valves can begin to leak after a while and the grey color gets very hot in the sun. The seats are comfortable and come with a backrest for supported paddling.
The Sea Eagle SE370 is one of the best tandem inflatable kayaks on the market and has a reasonable price. It’s made for 1-3 people, comes with two 84″ aluminum paddles, a covered front to stop splashes getting in, and rear storage.
This tandem inflatable kayak is very well made and can be used for anything from whitewater rapids or gentle lake paddles. It’s made from a 38mm PolyKrylar hull which is super durable and will take a lot to puncture and tear. Even your dog can come along, no claws are going to get in there.
One amazing thing about this kayak from Sea Eagle is how light it is at 32lbs while its weight has a capacity of 650lbs. This is thanks to its I-Beam construction that makes it almost as rigid as a solid kayak. It comes with 2 skegs that help keep it straight and give you maximum efficiency and speed. That being said, it’s not the most stable kayak.
There are 2 seats in the Sea Eagle, both inflatable and removable which are super comfortable. It rides lows and splashes easily end up in the kayak, luckily it has a front and rear self-draining valve.
The tandem kayak is super easy to inflate and you’re fully inflated after 100 pumps of the foot pump that is included. You can be on the water in under 10 minutes from opening the trunk of your car.
This inflatable kayak is made for just 1 person, so if you’re into escape kayaking and love going solo, this may be the one for you. It comes with an 84″ paddle but it is a little fragile, plus covered front and rear storage.
One of the best features about this inflatable kayak is that it folds up into a backpack and can be carried up a mountain to remote lakes and rivers. It’s very easy to set up and you can go from the backpack to on the water in 10 minutes and after some practice in 5 minutes. How much easier could it get?
The back has a zipped storage compartment and there is space to lash things down at the front with bungee cords. It comes with easy-to-carry handles and features a ridged flat floor, a 3 chamber safety design and it’s good at maintaining its shape and tracking straight.
It’s 10 ft long but there are reports of it feeling short but I’m not sure why. It is also hard to drain the water from the inflatable kayak which is not ideal if it keeps coming in. You’ll have to pull over and empty it out.
This inflatable kayak is specifically made for fishing and comes with 6-rod holders and paddle holders. It’s made for 1-2 people and has a max weight capacity of 450lbs. It doesn’t just have to be used for fishing though and is great for recreation activities too.
The seats and comfortable and adjustable for an easy, relaxed fishing experience. It’s made from 18-Gauge rip-resistant 1000D PVC and is thick enough not to be punctured by any hook, so you won’t have to worry about that.
Usually, fishing kayaks have a lot less storage than a normal kayak but that’s not the case with this one. It does have a little less but the front mesh storage area will hold a lot of gear and the stern has a good storage area too.
The bottom is made from thick tarpaulin and will protect the inflatable kayak from abrasion and tears. You can fish in rocky water and near oyster beds without worries.
It comes with 2 aluminum paddles and removable skegs. The rod holders do get in the way a bit when paddling and the seats sit low, you’ll need a cushion under there to get a bit higher for better paddling.
This is an inflatable fishing kayak that comes in at an amazing price. It’s made for 1-2 people and has a max weight capacity of 400 lbs. It’s has designed with a lot of thought for fishermen and both the bow and stern have a lot of room for storage of fishing tackle. It comes with a mounting bracket for a GPS or fish finder and comes with rod holders.
It’s exceptionally rigid thanks to its I-beam construction, it’s, therefore, safe and stable. The skegs, which are removable, give you great tracking and the footrests make for powerful paddling. The seats are comfortable for long fishing days and the D-ring attachment points mean you can take everything you might need with you.
The inflatable kayak is made from 3 air chambers for safety and is made from a 3-ply PVC that is hard to tear and puncture, perfect for shallow waters. It’s not that durable and there are some reports of leaks.
It does come with an 86″ paddle which people say is a bit short but it’s actually quite a good length. The inflatable kayak is also said to not have much legroom.
This is what to look for when you’re buying a kayak.
Kayaks today are made from these materials each with its own benefits.
PVC: Polyvinyl Chloride is the most often used material used for inflatable kayaks. It is usually bonded to nylon for extra tear-resistance and is fairly UV resistant but will break down if in the sun for long periods of time.
Nitrylon: This is a combo of nitrile synthetic rubber and is more eco-friendly than PVC. It is more abrasion and puncture-resistant than PVC.
Hypalon: This is a more expensive choice as it’s harder to work with and requires more labor. It’s better at handling UV than PVC and is more abrasion resistant than both Nitrylon and PVC. Some inflatable kayaks are made with PVC and a Hypalon coating to reduce costs and increase durability.
You can fish from any floating vessel but one that’s designed for fishing will make life a little easier. If you plan on fishing from your inflatable kayak then there are a few types to consider. A sit-on model will let you turn and move around easily for quick casting and landing fish. A canoe style kayak is also handy as they are wider, more stable and have more space for storage, and let you carry a lot of equipment.
Some kayaks can handle whitewater and ocean waves and others are made for calm lakes or slow-moving rivers. If you’re planning on going into rougher waters, you’ll want a sit-inside kayak whereas a sit-on kayak may be fine for calm lakes. Be sure to pick your kayak based on where you want to use it.
Remember to check the dimensions of the kayak to suit your weight and height. This will make using the kayak far safer and more comfortable.
Are you planning some week-long expeditions or just a weekend paddle? Make sure to get a kayak that can handle what you need. If you’re planning a camping trip, be sure it has storage and can handle the weight of all the gear you need.
If you think you may struggle to get in and out of a kayak then maybe a sit-on-top kayak is best for you. These are much easier to get in and out of but they are less stable and tip more often. Their center of gravity is higher than sit-in kayaks which makes them more likely to capsize.
Inflatable kayaks are known for bad seats but that isn’t always the case. There are some with good seats out of the box and you do get what you pay for. You can usually improve a bad seat by replacing it with the one you buy separately. Just be sure to get a kayak with removable seats in the first place.
Seats with high backs clash with bulky lifejackets and make life uncomfortable. If you want a highbacked seat, be sure to get a seat-friendly PFD life jacket to make life a little more pleasant.
Self-bailing kayaks have holes in the base to allow water to drain automatically while you paddle. It will never drain it all and there will be residual water leftover but it does mean you won’t sink. These are usually used in whitewater or rough ocean conditions and are not necessary if you’re going to be in a calm area all the time.
Most kayaks sit between 6 and 15 feet in length. Short kayaks in the 8-12ft range are more agile but slower to paddle and harder to paddle straight. Short kayaks are better in rivers where you need to be agile especially if you’re in whitewater.
Long kayaks or 12-15ft are more efficient, faster, and track a straight line better as they have more contact with the water. They are more stable and of course, more spacious. They are great for long journeys and fishing.
The all-rounder prize goes to Advanced Elements Expedition Kayak. It’s well made, durable, comfortable and you can trust it to go down the river for a week-long camping trip. What more could you want from an all-rounder?
The best on a budget kayak is the Intex Excursion Pro K2 Inflatable Fishing Kayak. This kayak will have you spending fund days on calm waters for an amazing price.
The best of the bunch is the Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Kayak Pro Package. This inflatable kayak can go down rapids, in rough seas and will manage anything you can throw at it. It’s got great storage, it’s durable and comfortable.