Ranking The Best Inflatable Kayaks On The Market
Intex Explorer K2 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
Sea Eagle SE 370 Pro 3-Person Kayak
Aquaglide Columbia XP 145 XL Tandem Inflatable Kayak
Updated on March 5, 2020. In Reviewsby
An inflatable kayak is a great way to enjoy the nation’s waterways and coastal regions without breaking the bank. They’re cheap to buy, easy to store, and highly portable. Unlike regular boats and other marine equipment, these small kayaks are fairly commitment free: you can buy one, give it a try, and even if you decide that kayaking around your local lake isn’t for you, you haven’t spent too much money on it, or invested thousands of dollars in additional gear, transportation, and expensive mooring costs.
Modern inflatable kayaks are tough, durable, and very affordable. They can be used for a wide range of applications, from gentle paddling around bodies of freshwater, cruising down rivers, and exploring coastal bays. They’re also popular choices for thrill-seeking white-water enthusiasts, as well as dedicated fishermen who prefer to land a catch from the water, rather than the shoreline.
If you’re looking for a robust and versatile watercraft, then one of these inflatable, collapsible, and easily-transportable kayaks is worth considering. But before we look at the best options on the market, we’ll just answer this quick question:
Are inflatable kayaks good?
The word “inflatable” used to be more associated with kid’s toys and floaties, but thanks to advanced manufacturing techniques and the development of highly durable materials, modern inflatable water craft are tougher and more durable than people give them credit for.
Of course, the idea of tearing your hull or getting a puncture when you’re out in the middle of the water is a scary thought, but rips, tears, and punctures, are problems rarely encountered these days. The best inflatable kayaks are seriously tough and can endure a lot of punishment. Some are even used for white water rafting!
While an inflatable will never be as tough and durable as a hard-shell kayak, they’re very hard wearing, incredibly practical, and most importantly: they’re comparatively inexpensive. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the best inflatable kayak products available on the market!
The Ultimate Inflatable Kayak Buying Guide
Buying an inflatable kayak requires more thought than you might think. On the surface, you’re just buying a blow-up boat, but there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s going to be a reason that you’re opting for an inflatable kayak rather than a solid-hull version, so you need to make sure that any kayak that you buy meets all of your criteria.
It’s got have all of the advantages of a collapsible kayak, but without compromising on quality and usability, whilst simultaneously being affordable and under your budget. Before we look at the main features an inflatable kayak should have, let’s take a look at the main reasons people search for them in the first place:
Dragging a full-size hard-body kayak around isn’t easy. To move them from A to B, you’re going to need a special roof rack on your car, or a special trailer. An inflatable model can pack down to a small size, easily fit in a backpack or in the trunk of a car, without any hassle at all. No special equipment necessary!
Similarly, the storage of an inflatable is much easier when it’s not in use. A hard-body kayak will need to be kept somewhere where it won’t get damaged. It might need to be kept in a shed, or a garage, taking up valuable space. A compact inflatable is ideal for outdoors enthusiasts who have limited storage space!
Despite being made of air-chambers, these blow-up kayaks are remarkably stable. They have wider hulls than most regular kayaks, with taller side walls. They take a lot od design cues from whitewater rafts and kayaks. This helps the to be more stable. Having a stable ride is an essential for a beginner kayaker, otherwise you’re not going to enjoy your first experiences.
This is important, because seasoned kayakers will already know exactly what they’re looking for in a kayak and probably won’t need to consult a buying guide like this one. Since inflatables are more budget-friendly, they’re aimed more at entry-level kayakers who want to explore the waterways, but don’t feel like investing thousands of dollars. That’s why it’s important that they have a safe, stable, and fun ride from day one!
Like most things, the price is one of the biggest factors that encourages customers to choose one style of product over another is the price. Inflatable kayaks are generally cheaper than solid-body kayaks. They’re made of cheaper materials, they’re easier to ship, and since they’re easier to store, there aren’t huge warehousing costs for retailers—and all those savings are passed on to the buyer.
Since they’re cheaper, they’re excellent for first-time kayakers. They don’t require massive investment, of time, effort, or cash, so if it turns out that you don’t take to the water as well as you’d hoped, there’s not much to lose.
They aren’t just for beginners though. They offer affordable solutions for professional kayakers too, as back-up vessels, or as a different style of kayak to add some variety.
Important Details To Consider When Shopping Around
Now that you know the main reasons why people buy these kinds of kayaks, let’s take a look at the most important things to look out for when shopping around:
What Are You Planning On Doing With It?
There are different kinds of kayaks available, designed for different purposes. Here are the most popular types of kayak available, with a quick overview of the features they offer:
Recreational or leisure kayaks are relatively inexpensive and perform well in a wide range of conditions. Since they’re the most popular type available, there are a few bad products out there on the market, so do your research before investing. These kayaks are for casual paddlers who aren’t looking for much more than a bit of fun on the water.
Whitewater kayaks are specially-designed for tackling tough and choppy conditions over fast water. These are not for the beginner kayaker! Since they’re designed to tackle tricky conditions, they’re built with sturdier materials and generally cost more to buy. Performance is key with these kayaks, and they can handle fast moving water, and have excellent maneuverability.
Ocean-going kayaks are designed for navigating saltwater coastal bays. Since they have to deal with the negative effects of saltwater, they are built to a higher standard using top-notch components. They are much more expensive than other kayaks. Though, you wouldn’t want to be heading out into the ocean with anything less than the best, really.
One of the most popular types of kayaks out there is the inflatable fishing kayak. They’re designed with all of the necessities that fishermen require: from rod holders, storage compartments, comfortable seating, and more. Many even have specific mounts for trolling motors too. Though they’re geared towards fishing, you can enjoy them without taking a rod along with you.
Considering that you’re investing in something that’s designed to float, keep you dry, and transport you safely across the water, the materials used in the construction of your kayak should be of interest to you. It needs to be durable, strong, puncture resistant, and tough enough to withstand everything that mother nature throws at it, from strong winds, to harsh sunlight. It also needs to be able to hold air to a high PSI, and endure being inflated, deflated, and folded away over and over again! Here are some of the most common materials to keep an eye out for:
PVC is the most commonly used material in the construction of inflatable kayaks. It’s tough, strong, and lightweight. It can handle a high volume of air pressure, and it can easily be folded down into a small package. Traditionally, it uses welded seams rather than stitching and glue, which promises a tougher seam with no weak spots. It’s waterproof, and when combined with other materials, can be abrasion and puncture resistant.
Hypalon is often combined with PVC to boost PVC’s abrasion-resistance. It’s a very tough and durable material, but it’s not particularly flexible or pliable—which isn’t that useful for an inflatable kayak. However, when it’s blended with another material, it makes for a tough and hard-wearing, UV-resistant coating. Many kayaks have Hypalon features, but it’s very rarely used as the main material.
Nitrylon is another popular material used in the construction of inflatable kayaks. It’s a more eco-friendly material than PVC, but it shares similar qualities. Essentially, it’s a manmade fabric that’s made up of a combination of synthetic and natural rubbers that coat a tough 1200D fabric. It’s abrasion and puncture resistant, doesn’t tear easily, and it’s easy to patch. All in all, it’s superior to PVC in every way…but it’s much heavier. It’s often used with PVC, adding reinforcement to the sidewalls and bottom.
Inflatable kayaks come in a wide range of sizes. They can be up to and over 12 feet in length, with different widths, and different depths. Like hard-bodied kayaks, they come in different sizes for a reason. Longer, narrower kayaks offer superior speed, being able to cut through the water more easily. Though, longer isn’t always better, since they can be harder to maneuver.
Wider vessels offer greater stability, but sacrifice performance. Also, without any splash skirts, wider kayaks are just begging to be filled up with water. You might want to bring a hand-operated bilge pump with you!
Similar to the size and dimensions of a kayak, you should also consider the weight capacity and the amount of people it can handle. While bigger sounds like it’s better, it’s not always the case.
Larger kayaks, which can handle two or more people, are generally designed in such a way that you always need two or more people to operate them. This is great if you’re always out on the water with your friends and family, but not so great if you like the occasional solo adventure.
Smaller kayaks obviously can’t handle more weight, but they’re usually easier to store, are nimbler in the water, and cheaper to buy. However, they’re not that cheap if you end up having to buy two of them. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping around
Portability & Storage
The most appealing feature of inflatable kayaks is their portability. Before investing in one, take a moment to research just how portable they are. Many kayaks can deflate and pack down into a small carrier, but some of them are deceptively heavy and impractical to carry around. Fortunately, most are quite manageable, but it’s always worth double-checking.
Similarly, the packing dimensions are also worth a glance. While most can easily fit into the trunk of a car, some have odd dimensions that can make (what should be) a straightforward task more complicated than necessary.
What About A Self-Bailing Kayak?
While searching, you might have read the term “self-bailing” in a few product descriptions. A self-bailing kayak is a type of kayak with special holes in the hull that actively drain water when you’re on the go. Self-bailing kayaks are great for whitewater applications and over rapids, since they stop water accumulating in your vessel. However, they can let water in too. This isn’t ideal if you want to paddle around calmer waters and keep dry.
There are some self-bailing kayaks with one-way valves in them, but they’re not as common as you’d think. Our advice is to get a self-bailing kayak only if you’re planning on mainly tackling whitewater courses. If you aren’t planning on hitting the rapids, then you can totally ignore this function altogether.
The more extra features that a kayak has, the more appealing it’s likely to be. While it’s important to invest in a top-quality hull that floats, it’s also a good idea to look at what other bonus features a kayak has, and what free equipment the manufacturer decides to throw into the deal.
Paddles are pretty important, but take note! Not all kayaks will come with paddles included. You may have to buy your own. Similarly, pumps and inflation devices are likely to be sold separately, along with pressure gauges, personal-floatation-devices, and in some extreme cases, puncture repair kits
If you’re into fishing, keep your eyes open for kayaks with rod holders, or trolling motor mounts. If you want a highly maneuverable kayak, make sure your ideal kayak comes equipped with a removable skeg.
Packing bags, stowage areas, storage straps, and paddle locks are all cool add-ons that could improve your kayaking experience.
Finally, the most important feature to pay attention to is the price. Most of the time, it’s always recommended to buy the best item that you can afford. However, we recommend purchasing a kayak that you can get the most use out of. If you’ve got a big budget, a top shelf racing kayak looks appealing, but if you’re a beginner, it’s not going to be fun to use. If it’s no fun to use, it’s no good to you at all.
We recommend buying something appropriate for your skill level, as well as your budget. Always pencil in extra expenses too, such as replacement paddles, a better pump, and waterproof accessories—these might make your experience more enjoyable!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?
Marine equipment manufactured by reputable companies face strict safety tests before they can be sold. Inflatable kayaks use tough and durable materials, with separate air compartments for maximum floatation even in the event of a puncture. They are just as safe as regular kayaks—however, always exercise caution when boating, as accidents can happen.
How Long Do Inflatable Kayaks Last?
A well-maintained inflatable is likely to last much longer than one that has been neglected. In general, a well-maintained inflatable kayak can last 10 years or longer.
In Summary: What Is The Best Inflatable Kayak?
There’s no one-size-fits-all inflatable kayak that will please everyone. However, we think the suggestions that we’ve made above will point you in the right direction. However, if we had to choose three standout kayaks, the best of the best, here are our recommendations:
For boaters on a tight budget, there’s one clear choice: the best budget inflatable kayak has to be the Intex Explorer K2. It’s a tough and robust kayak that can be used in a wide range of conditions. It’s remarkably stable, fun to use, and incredibly cheap to buy. It has a cheap price tag, but it’s big in features. It comes with paddles, a hi-output pump, a carry bag, U.S Coast Guard ID, and it’s approved by the National Marine Manufacturers Association using ABYC standards.
If you have deeper pockets and you’re looking for something a little more advanced, we’d have to recommend the Aquaglide Columbia XP 145 XL Tandem Inflatable Kayak. It’s a very sturdy kayak designed for two fishermen to travel the waterways with ease. It features all of the necessary accessories that make for an enjoyable fishing trip, from rod holders to cooler storage. What’s more, it comes with a one year warranty. It’s not even that expensive considering how much kayak you get for your money. Still, it’s our top premium choice.
Lastly, if we had to choose the best inflatable kayak that offers the right balance of performance, durability, practicality, and affordability, then we would choose the Sea Eagle SE 370 Pro 3-Person Kayak. It’s a tough, durable, and incredibly capable kayak that has a capacity of up to three people. It’s actually one of the few affordable inflatable whitewater kayak models out there, since it’s rated for Class III whitewater. If you’re looking for an all-round top performer that won’t break the bank, then this is the one you need.