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Ranking The Best Inflatable Kayaks On The Market

Best Budget Choice
Intex Explorer K2 2 Person Inflatable Kayak

Intex Explorer K2 2 Person Inflatable Kayak

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Best Overall Choice
Sea Eagle SE 370 Pro 3-Person Kayak

Sea Eagle SE 370 Pro 3-Person Kayak

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Best Premium Choice
Oru Beach LT Kayak

Oru Beach LT Kayak

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Joe Appleton by Joe Appleton Updated on April 28, 2020. In Reviews

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!

Best Budget Choice

1. Intex Explorer K2 2 Person Inflatable Kayak

Intex Explorer K2 2 Person Inflatable Kayak

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If you’re looking for a budget-friendly kayak that’s highly-portable, easy to setup, and perfect for traversing small bodies of water and gentler rivers, then this is the ideal choice. It has a low price but it’s high in quality, designed for ease-of-use, practicality, and comfort. The Intex Explorer K2 is the perfect entry-level kayak.

The Intex Explorer K2 is made from a heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl material, with three independent air chambers to ensure that your kayak stays afloat even in the unlikely event of a tear. An inflatable “i-beam” floor adds extra buoyancy and stability too. This Intex inflatable kayak boasts Boston valves for quick and easy inflation and deflation. The Explorer K2 has also been thoughtfully manufactured from bright yellow materials for increased visibility.

Other cool features include removable and adjustable seats—just in case you feel like a solo voyage instead of a tandem trip—grab handles on both ends of the kayak, and a perimeter of grab lines. It also has a removable skeg, which can be used to increase directional stability on the water.

Every purchase comes complete with 2 86-inch paddles, a hi-output air pump for quick inflation, and a very useful carry bag. It also has a U.S Coast Guard I.D, along with a puncture repair kit.

This excellent budget-friendly kayak is certified by the National Marine Manufacturers Association using ABYC standards, so you can be sure that you’re investing in a product that won’t let you down.

Pros

  • Passenger Capacity: 2
  • Weight Capacity: 400 lbs
  • Kayak Weight: 39 lbs
  • Maximum Dimensions: 10’3” x 3’

2. Sevylor Quikpak K5 Kayak

Sevylor Quikpak K5 Kayak

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Next, we have the Quikpak K5 from Sevylor. This is one of our favorite inflatables on the list. It’s relatively inexpensive, manufactured to a high-standard with top-quality materials, and it performs excellently in a wide range of circumstances. It’s a packable and portable kayak that works well out of the box, for any occasion.

The Svylor Quikpak K5 is manufactured from 24-gauge PVC, with rip-stop qualities. It has a tough tarpaulin bottom, and a useful polyester cover that can handle all most conditions with ease, and help protect against punctures. It has multiple air chambers that will keep you afloat even in the unlikely event of a puncture. The main body also features double lock valves, which makes inflation and deflation as simple as possible.

It’s comfortable to paddle around, and it can handle anything from mill-pond lakes to fairly fast-moving water. You can navigate the Rio Grand with one of these with no problems at all. What’s more, it can easily be transported around, with no unsightly roof racks required. Simple throw the pack in your trunk, and inflate it at your destination!

You get a lot of kayak for your money. Even better, this Sevylor inflatable kayak comes complete with everything you need to get kayaking straight away. Each purchase includes a paddle (though it’s not the greatest paddle in the world) and a handy pump for quick and easy inflation. All you need is a sense of adventure and a touch of enthusiasm.

Pros

  • Passenger Capacity: 1
  • Weight Capacity: 250 lbs
  • Kayak Weight: 26 lbs
  • Maximum Dimensions: 10′ x 34″
Best Overall Choice

3. Sea Eagle SE 370 Pro 3-Person Kayak

Sea Eagle SE 370 Pro 3-Person Kayak

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This is the Sea Eagle SE 370 Pro: a three-person inflatable kayak that handles like a solid hull vessel, with plenty of cargo room for comfortable and uncluttered fun on the water. It can be inflated in 8 minutes, and deflated just as fast, fits into a small transport bag, and doesn’t cost the word either. It’s one of the best inflatable kayaks out there for a reasonable price tag.

This Sea Eagle inflatable kayak is manufactured from a 38mm PolyKrylar material (also known as K80 PVC), with high-frequency welded seams, 3 separate air chambers, and an inflatable I-beam floor. It features 5 advanced one-way air valves for quick and easy inflation, and a self-bailing drain valve. It’s a tough and durable kayak, which is NMMA certified, and approved for Class III whitewater.

Other nice features include tough and rugged grab lines on both the bow and stern, inflatable spray skirts to help keep you dry, 2 skegs for improved stability and speed, and the nice and thick floor which can resist punctures from rocks, but most importantly, it can withstand you four-legged friends sharp claws too! Yep, it’s totally dog-friendly.

It’s advertised as a three-person kayak, and since it has a maximum load capacity of 650 lbs, having three people aboard isn’t an exaggeration. However, we recommend trading in your third wheel friend for a dog, or more luggage. It’s more comfortable that way!

A pair of paddles, a pressure gauge and a puncture repair kit are also included with every purchase.

Pros

  • Passenger Capacity: Up to 3
  • Weight Capacity: 650 lbs
  • Kayak Weight: 26 lbs
  • Maximum Dimensions: 12′ 6” x 30″
Best Premium Choice

4. Oru Beach LT Kayak

Oru Beach LT Kayak

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Ok, this one is a bit of a wild card. It’s not actually and inflatable kayak, but it shares most of the features that customer’s searching for an inflatable look for. It’s tough, durable, lightweight, and packs down to a convenient size. No roof racks are required on your car, and no dedicated storage places are necessary. It’s a collapsible, fold-down kayak that will fit in a car, can be carried easily, and has performance that’s comparable to regular, solid-hull kayaks.

The Oru Beach LT is made from a durable, tough, double-layered polypropylene material, which is designed to resist tears, punctures, and abrasion, whilst boasting an even more unique feature: it’s ridiculously foldable. Since it’s a fold-down kayak, the Oru Beach LT has been designed with complex origami in mind, and the polypropylene hull can be folded down easily, and it can withstand up to 20,000 fold-downs.

Its collapsible nature is what makes this an interesting alternative to regular inflatables. Assembly takes less than 3 minutes, and packing down takes no time at all. You can throw it into your car with ease, carry it on your back, take it on a plane, you name it! Plus, there’s no pump required. It truly offers an incredibly unique kayaking experience.

An adjustable cushioned seat and a cushioned footbrace feature in the open cockpit, with plenty of room for a tackle box, a cooler, and a small furry friend if your dog feels like exploring the waterways with you!

The Oru Beach LT one-person kayak meets all U.S Coast Guard recreational vessel requirements, and it ships with a full 12-month warranty, along with a 30 day money-back guarantee.

Pros

  • Passenger Capacity: 1
  • Weight Capacity: 300 lbs
  • Kayak Weight: 26 lbs
  • Maximum Dimensions: 12’ x 28″

5. Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak

Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak

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Sevylor was actually bought out by Coleman, so any Kayaks you see wearing the Sevylor or Coleman name are from the same company these days. Now, we’re here to talk about this Coleman inflatable kayak: the Colorado. This is a 2-person fishing kayak, made specifically for fishing trips.

Constructed from a tough and durable NMAA certified 18-gauge PVC material, this kayak features a 1000D tarpaulin bottom, with an 840D nylon cover that resists punctures and prevents tearing. Underneath, it holds multiple air chambers, designed to keep you floating and above the water even in the unlikely event of a puncture. It’s also fitted with an airtight system that’s guaranteed not to leak air and deflate over time.

It’s ideally suited for fishing, and comes with plenty of special features to help make your next fishing trip as hassle-free as possible. It’s got Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders, which are fully adjustable and can easily position your rod where you need it, allowing for a hands-free experience. Paddle holders are also included to keep your paddles well out of the way when you’re fishing. This kayak is also compatible with trolling motors too, if you need a little extra power.

Other cool features include mesh pockets, D-rings for easy attachment and fastening. Take note though: paddles aren’t included and you’ll have to buy those separately.

Pros

  • Passenger Capacity: 2
  • Weight Capacity: 470 lbs
  • Kayak Weight: 41 lbs
  • Maximum Dimensions: 10′ x 39″

6. Driftsun Voyager Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Driftsun Voyager Tandem Inflatable Kayak

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Next up, we have the Driftsun Voyage. This inflatable tandem kayak is perfect for instant, out-of-the-box fun. It’s a two-person kayak that can handle up to 450 lbs of weight, with everything included for you to get out on the water straight away. It’s fun, inexpensive, and holds up remarkably well in a variety of conditions.

This rugged and durable kayak is made from tough reinforced PVC that resists punctures, tears, and rips, offering top-level protection. The floor section is made from PVC Tarpaulin, while the top section features 840D coated Nylon Oxford fabric. There are three separate air chambers, equipped with double threaded Boston valves. Inside, the kayak has removable EVA padded seats, a rear drain plug, splash guards with integrated handles, and bungee strap storage.

In terms of performance, this compact kayak is highly maneuverable, with a pointed bow that cuts through the water with ease. There’s a removable tracking skeg, which aids stability, and makes for responsive handling on the water. This kayak is great in both calm and choppy waters.

Each purchase comes with everything you need. Two aluminum paddles are included, with a double-action hand pump, the removable seats and skeg fin, and a handy travel carry bag. This is an excellent kayak for those looking for a simple and reliable experience. It inflates in less than five minutes, stores easily in a trunk, and doesn’t have a huge price tag.

Pros

  • Passenger Capacity: 2
  • Weight Capacity: 450 lbs
  • Kayak Weight: 37 lbs
  • Maximum Dimensions: 10’ x 35″

7. Aquaglide Columbia XP 145 XL Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Aquaglide Columbia XP 145 XL Tandem Inflatable Kayak

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Pros

  • Passenger Capacity: Up to 3
  • Weight Capacity: 600 lbs
  • Kayak Weight: 42 lbs
  • Maximum Dimensions: 15’ x 40″

8. Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak

Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak

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Next, we have this tiny little kayak from Advanced Elements. If you’re looking for a comfortable kayak with all the bells and whistles needed for a leisurely day on the water: this isn’t it. Instead, this is portable kayak that you can take anywhere, quickly inflate, and use to explore lesser known spots.

Consider it as more of a reconnaissance boat rather than a full-on kayak.

Manufactured from a reinforced Polyurethane material with welded perimeter seams, rubber molded carry handles and features, with military valves, this little kayak will get you from A to B on the water, providing that you’re not facing any tough conditions.

This isn’t a heavy-duty kayak, but it’s not designed for tackling rapids or fast-moving water. Instead, it’s for gentle paddling over calm waters, away from any tricky obstacles or hazards, for lazy paddling and relaxed exploration. It might not be as robust as other kayaks on the market, but we like this one because it’s incredibly small and portable.

It only weighs 6 lbs, which is absolutely nothing. Because it’s so light, it’s easy to transport and you can carry it without breaking a sweat. It’s an ideal boat to carry with you on a hike, so that you can explore any little waterways you stumble across, without having to tow a trailer or lug a heavy boat up a hill. This Advanced Elements inflatable kayak is lightweight, compact, and practical. That’s why we like it.

Pros

  • Passenger Capacity: 1
  • Weight Capacity: 250 lbs
  • Kayak Weight: 6 lbs
  • Maximum Dimensions: 7’6″ x 2’11”

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:

Portability

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!

Stability

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!

Price

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:

Recreation Kayaks

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

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 Kayaks

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.

Fishing Kayaks

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.

Construction Materials

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

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

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

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.

Size

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!

Weight Capacity

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.

Available Accessories

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.

Your Budget

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.

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