Best Inflatable Kayak

Kayaking is a fantastic sport that can be enjoyed by all ages. It gets you out and about in the fresh air in beautiful places; it is a great form of exercise, and it can either be very social or offer a quiet time to reflect, depending on what you enjoy.

Most inflatable kayaks feature three air chambers: a bottom or floor chamber and two side chambers. Inflatable kayaks can be filled with air using a foot or and pump, or an electric pump.

There are two main types of kayaks – flatwater and whitewater kayaks. There are five different types of flatwater kayaks, including:

  •       Sit-on-top
  •         Recreational
  •         Touring
  •         Inflatable
  •         Pedaling kayaks

There are four types of kayaks for whitewater, including:

  •         Playboats
  •         River Runners
  •         Creek boats
  •         Old School
  •         Inflatable (Duckies)

Inflatable Flat-Water Kayaks

An inflatable flat-water kayak is simply a kayak that is blown up with air and is lightweight, easy to transport and store, and very durable if looked after correctly. Inflatable kayaks are available in a variety of types designed for different activities and water conditions, including fishing, recreational, and touring kayaks.


An inflatable flat-water kayak is simply a kayak that is blown up with air. 

Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks (Duckies) 

Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks (Duckies) are inflatable kayaks that are specifically designed for the rough-and-tumble white waters of a fast-flowing river. They have a short, wide design and no tracking fin and they are very stable in the water.

The shape of an inflatable whitewater kayak allows for excellent maneuverability in Class 1 to Class IV rapids. Spray skirts can be attached to sit-in inflatable whitewater kayaks to keep the interior dry.


Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks (Duckies) are inflatable kayaks that are specifically designed for the rough-and-tumble white waters of a fast-flowing river. 

Pros and Cons of Inflatable Kayaks

Before deciding on an inflatable kayak, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of these types of kayaks. You can then weigh these up against those of a foldable or hard-shell kayak and make your decision.   

Pros Cons
Lightweight and easy to carry Performance – best suited for recreational purposes
Compact and easy to store Longer launch and pack up time due to inflation/deflation
Almost “unsinkable” with three air chambers More susceptible to wind and waves

 

Stability Drying time – they take longer to dry than hard-shell kayaks
Durability  
Versatility  
Budget-friendly  

What to Look for When Buying an Inflatable Kayak

When shopping for the best inflatable kayak, you may want to consider these aspects before buying one:

1. Intended Purpose

The type of kayak will depend on what you plan on using it for – do you want it for fishing, white-water riding, ocean touring, or simply leisure and recreational purposes? There are various kinds of inflatable kayaks on the market, ranging from fishing and sea kayaks to sit-on-top kayaks, touring kayaks, and whitewater kayaks and the type you buy will depend on your activities.

2. Material

Inflatable kayaks are made from one of three materials namely: Hypalon, Nitrylon, and PVC.

Hypalon

Hypalon is a synthetic rubber that is used in the manufacture of higher-end kayaks. This material is very resistant to chemicals, UV rays, and other extreme weather and is highly durable.

Nitrylon

Nitrylon is an eco-friendly material used in the construction of inflatable kayaks and is resistant to abrasion and punctures. This material also performs well in cold environments.

PVC

Derived from vinyl polymer plastic, PVC is a cost-effective option for inflatable kayaks but is not as durable as Hypalon.

3. Weight

The weight capacity of an inflatable kayak is important, particularly if you plan on carrying the kayak around. The thicker the material from which the kayak is made makes it more resistant to damage, however, slightly heavier to carry, so weigh up what your needs are going to be to purchase the right weight.

4. Seating

Inflatable kayaks have three seating options: single, double, or triple seating and the style of seating will depend on your needs. Touring kayaks generally have three seats, while white water kayaks are solo with just one seat.

5. Accessories

Some accessories are essential for kayaking and it is best to check whether these come with the kayak or separately, such as paddles, repair kits, air pumps, and personal flotation devices (PFDs). Top tip: Go for high-quality paddles and dual-action air pumps which inflate and deflate the kayak.


The weight capacity of an inflatable kayak is important, particularly if you plan on carrying the kayak around.

Best Inflatable Kayak

We hit the water to test a variety of inflatable kayaks and came up with a list of the best on the market and here they are: 

Best Overall: Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak

The Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak is a tandem (two-person) made from rugged vinyl that is durable and sturdy. This lightweight kayak is compact and easy to assemble and while it may look like a banana, it is up there with the best of the high-quality kayaks.

The kayak has an l-beam floor that provides rigidity and a removable skeg provides stability. Two built-in inflatable seats can be adjusted to a comfortable and personalized fit. Handles at each end of the kayak helps to stabilize the vessel if it becomes unbalanced and it comes with two paddles, a high-output air pump, and a carry bag. The Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak has a weight capacity of 400 pounds.

Pros

  •         Made from durable and sturdy vinyl
  •         Quick and easy to assemble
  •         Adjustable, removable seats
  •         Comes with paddles and a high-output air pump
  •         Bright yellow color is good for visibility

Cons

  •         Not suitable for large paddlers
  •         Not suitable for rough conditions

Best for Choppy Water: Driftsun 2-Person Inflatable Kayak 10

The Driftsun 2-Person Inflatable Kayak 10 is a sturdy kayak for two people with a pointed nose, a rocker profile, and a removable tracking fin that makes it ideal for choppy waters. Made from a combination of EVA, PVC Tarpaulin, and 840D Nylon, the Driftsun 2-Person Inflatable Kayak 10 kayak weighs 27 pounds and provides a solid and stable base in the water that is long-lasting.

The kayak has padded seats and comes with paddles that can be adjusted between 0 and 60 degrees. There is ample storage space with a bungee cord system for security and removable skegs. The Driftsun 2-Person Inflatable Kayak 10 has a weight capacity of 450 pounds.

Pros

  •         Very durable and sturdy
  •         Comfortable padded seats
  •         Ample storage space with bungee system
  •         Removable skegs
  •         Includes

Cons

  •         Best for beginner or recreational kayakers

Best for Space: Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe Inflatable Kayak

The Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe Inflatable Kayak is a great option for a three-man kayak as it has plenty of space and is super stable in the water. This inflatable kayak is made from heavy-duty molded plastic and has a weight capacity of 650 pounds so it can accommodate up to three people and extra gear.

Weighing just 32 pounds, the lightweight kayak has two skegs made from molded plastic so they can withstand rough conditions and rocky riverbeds. A five-tube I-beam floor allows for different speed changes while kayaking.

Features of the Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe Inflatable Kayak include two movable and removable padded seats, a foot pump for manual inflation, two ergonomically designed paddles with aluminum shafts and asymmetrical blades, and a carry bag.

Pros

  •         Ideal for three people
  •         Lightweight and easy to carry
  •         Quick to inflate and deflate
  •         Ample room for gear with a secure bungee system

Cons

  •         The stability is not great in windy conditions

Best for Durability: Airhead Montana Inflatable Kayak

The Airhead Montana Inflatable Kayak is a brightly colored kayak that can be used for a range of activities from recreational to touring. The 12-foot kayak is very spacious with plenty of legroom for paddlers and extra gear.

Made from heavy-duty 840D Nylon and stainless steel, the sturdy kayak is coated with a UV water-resistant layer that protects the vessel from harmful UV rays and inclement weather. The Airhead Montana Inflatable Kayak has six D-rings and a stretch net at the bow and stern of the boat for securing gear and tracking grab handles for easy entry and exit into and out of the kayak.

Movable seats make it easy to find a comfortable position for long excursions and neoprene elbow guards offer extra comfort when paddling. The bright orange exterior provides high visibility and the kayak has a weight capacity of

Pros

  •         Excellent durability
  •         Elbow guards provide additional comfort

Cons

  •         Not suitable for windy weather conditions

Best for Beginners: Advanced Elements FireFly Inflatable Kayak

The Advanced Elements FireFly Inflatable Kayak is ideal for beginners and recreational kayakers. Easy to inflate and weighing just 16 pounds, the kayak is lightweight and portable and can be deflated and stored within minutes.

Made from 600-Denier Polyester material, the rugged exterior is resistant to the elements and it has built-in rigid panels for smooth tracking. Twistlock and spring valves make inflating quick and easy and the kayak can accommodate weights of up to 250 pounds.

Other features of this kayak include molded rubber-grip handles for easy entry and exit into the vessel, a tracking skeg, and a bungee cord system for securing gear.

Pros

  •         Rigid panels ensure super stability in the water
  •         Made from rugged, weather-resistant material
  •         Molded rubber-grip handles
  •         Bungee system for securing gear

Cons

  •         Prone to tipping
  •         Low weight capacity

Best for Fishing: Elkton Outdoors Fishing Kayak

The Elkton Outdoors Fishing Kayak is the go-to kayak for anglers and fishermen and women. Originally built for fishing, this kayak is ideal for fishing in shallow and deep water and brackish and salty waters.

Crafted from multiple layers of durable 1000-Denier reinforced PVC, the kayak has five hard modular mounts that provide ample space for storing fishing gear like downriggers, rod holders, and bait trays.  

Hi-Rise EVA seats are adjustable for a comfortable and personalized fit and an adjustable footrest provides extra space for tall paddlers. Other features include removable tracking segs and a cargo storage area with a bungee system. A solid drop stitch floor allows paddlers to sit or stand. The Elkton Outdoors Fishing Kayak measures 10 feet in length and has a weight capacity of 400 pounds.

Pros:

  •         Adjustable padded seat and footrest
  •         Ample storage space for fishing gear
  •         A dual-action hand pump for quick inflation
  •         Drop stitch floor for sitting and standing
  •         One-year warranty

Cons

  •         Poor instruction manual

Best for Quick Inflation: Rave Sports Inflatable Kayak

The Rave Sports Inflatable Kayak is the perfect choice for a quick-and-easy-to-inflate kayak for a spontaneous weekend away. Made from 423-Denier Nylon with a weight capacity of 200 pounds, the kayak is extremely stable and sturdy and ideal for the flat waters of lakes, rivers, and the sea.

A 500-Denier Tarpaulin bottom provides excellent stability and a single sling seat has an adjustable backrest for a comfortable fit. Weighing only 22 pounds, the Rave Sports Inflatable Kayak can be inflated and deflated quickly, it’s easy to transport in small spaces, and can be stored without any hassle.

Pros

  •         Lightweight
  •         Very easy to inflate, deflate, and store
  •         Durable and sturdy in the water
  •         One-year warranty

Cons

  •         Low weight capacity

Best for Rough Water: Driftsun Rover Inflatable Tandem Kayak

The Driftsun Rover Inflatable Tandem Kayak is a good option if you enjoy riding the rough waters of a churning river. Built with the traditional outline of a river runner, the Driftsun Rover inflatable tandem kayak can handle rough waters and bad weather conditions and is fast!

Measuring 12 feet in length and made from layered PVC and tarpaulin, the kayak has a high-pressure drop-stitch floor that makes it rigid and stable, but still lightweight, and maneuverable. EVA seats and footrests are adjustable for a comfortable and personalized fit.

The Driftsun Rover Inflatable Tandem Kayak can accommodate two people with a weight capacity of 600 pounds and is quick and easy to inflate, deflate and transport. The kayak comes with a rear tracking fin, aluminum paddles, a hand pump, and a travel bag.

Pros

  •         Lightweight and very stable
  •         High-pressure drop-stitch floor
  •         Adjustable EVA seats and footrests
  •         Plenty of storage space

Cons

  •         The fin is difficult to remove

Best for Convenience: Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak

The Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person kayak model is a great choice if you don’t want to spend a lot of time assembling your water gear. It takes just five minutes to inflate the kayak with a high-pressure hand pump and you are ready to hit the water. It comes with an integrated backpack with padded shoulder straps that allows you to carry it with ease wherever you go.

Built from 21 gauge PVC fabric, the bottom of the kayak has a tarpaulin floor bottom which is strong and sturdy, and resistant to tears and damage. Multiple air chambers also work against punctures and tears and keep the kayak afloat should a tear arise.

The kayak has a multi-position back and footrest, allowing you to find the most comfortable position while paddling. The kayak measures eight feet, seven inches, weighs 18 pounds and has a weight capacity of 400 pounds.

Pros

  •         State-of-the-art airtight technology prevents leaks
  •         Multi-position back and footrest
  •         Quick inflation
  •         Comes with an integrated backpack

Cons

  •         Poor tracking

Best Folding Frame Kayak: Advanced Elements 10’5” Inflatable Kayak

The Advanced Elements 10’5” Inflatable Kayak is a hybrid of an inflatable kayak and a folding frame kayak that can be set up in a matter of minutes. The solo kayak boasts three-layer construction made from a combination of aluminum, polyester, and PVC tarpaulin, and weighs 36 pounds with a weight capacity of 300 pounds.

The Advanced Element inflatable kayak’s hull is robust and made to last. Built-in aluminum ribs and an integrated skeg make for good tracking and inflation chambers prevent punctures and tears. There is plenty of storage space for extra gear, and the lightweight kayak is easy to carry for overland trips.

Pros

  •         Built-in aluminum ribs make for good tracking
  •         Padded adjustable seats for comfort

Cons

  •         Not suitable for heavier kayakers

Best for Portability: Sea Eagle RazorLite Inflatable Kayak

The Sea Eagle RazorLite Inflatable Kayak is a high-quality, super lightweight sit-on-top inflatable kayak for one person that weighs just 33.5 pounds and has a weight capacity of 500 pounds. The kayak is constructed from a drop-stitch PVC material and features an adjustable seat and foot braces for a personalized fit.

A removable skeg offers excellent tracking and spray skirts prevent spray from wetting your legs and gear. The kayak is fantastically spacious with ample storage space for gear and comes with a double-paddle oar, an air pump, a repair patch kit, and a carry bag.

Pros

  •         Stiff bow and stern molds enable quick and easy entry and exit
  •         Lightweight and fast
  •         Removable skeg for good tracking
  •         Spray skirt prevents the interior from getting wet

Cons

  •         Not suitable for heavier kayakers

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does tracking mean?

A: Tracking refers to the ability of a kayak to move in a straight line without steering it. A kayak with good tracking means that it is easier to steer. Tracking can be improved with the use of the rudder and skeg.

Q: What are the different kinds of kayaks?

Kayaks have specific hull designs according to their designed activity or the environments they will be used in. There are kayaks for a range of activities and environments, including:

  •         Recreational boating
  •         Kayak fishing
  •         Kayak surfing
  •         Ocean touring
  •         Whitewater rapid riding

Recreational Kayaks

Designed to be used in calm water, recreational kayaks have flat bottoms and are very stable. These are a good choice for beginner kayakers as they are usually wide and stable and have very little rock.

Fishing Kayaks

A fishing kayak is designed for fishing on calm waters. These kayaks have flat bottoms that make them very stable, and an elevated swivel seat similar to those found on bass boats. The outstanding stability of these fishing kayaks allows for good casting and stand-up fishing and many have extra features like rod holders and additional space for catch and equipment.

Surfing Kayaks

Surfing kayaks are specifically designed for surfing waves in the ocean and are generally short in length with rounded hulls to handle rough water. These kayaks tend to rock a lot so would not be suitable for a beginner kayaker. The best type of kayaks for this activity would be sit-in kayaks, however, sit-on-top touring kayaks are also available.

Ocean Touring Kayaks

Ocean touring kayaks are designed to cover help long distances in the ocean. The best type of kayaks for this activity would be sit-in kayaks, however, sit-on-top touring kayaks are also available.

Whitewater Kayaks

Whitewater kayaks are specifically designed for surfing waves in the ocean and are generally short in length with rounded hulls to handle rough water. These kayaks tend to rock a lot so would not be suitable for a beginner kayaker. The best type of kayaks for this activity would be sit-in kayaks, however, sit-on-top touring kayaks are also available.


Kayaks have specific hull designs according to the activity they are designed for or the environments they will be used in. 

Q: How does an inflatable sit-on-top kayak compare with a non-inflatable one?

Inflatable Non-inflatable
Stability They can be less stable due to the lack of weight. They are more stable and can be easier to maneuver.
Speed They may be slightly slower than non-inflatable. They are more stable and hence faster.
Maintenance May require major maintenance Minimal maintenance
Portability Very portable as they can be inflated and deflated to carry and travel Not as easy to carry and transport
Seaworthy Some of them may not be sea-worthy due to their material quality and puncture possibility. Solid ones are more seaworthy because of their durable material.
Readiness They need to be inflated before use Quick and easy to use

Q: What are the different parts of an inflatable kayak?

The cockpit is where you sit down and paddle.

The seat is placed in the cockpit. On a sit-on-top kayak, the seat is higher than in a sit-in kayak.

The cockpit rim is the border around the cockpit.

The deck is the front part of the kayak.

The bow is the front of the kayak.

The stern is the back of the kayak.

The rudder is an optional part of the boat that can help with tracking.

The grab handle sits in front of the bow of the kayak.

The drain plug is used to drain the water from the kayak.

The foot brace is where you place your feet.

The hatch is a storage compartment to keep gear dry.

The bungee shock cords or the deck lines are cords that are on the bow of the kayak.

The hull is the underside of the kayak.

The bulkhead is an optional part of a kayak that keeps the water away from the storage area.

The hip pads give the paddler more movement from side to side and control.

The perimeter lifelines are found in some models that enable someone to grab the kayak from the water in case of emergency.

Q: How does an inflatable kayak compare with a rigid kayak?

Inflatable Non-inflatable
Stability They can be less stable due to the lack of weight. They are more stable and can be easier to maneuver.
Speed They may be slightly slower than non-inflatable. They are more stable and hence faster.
Maintenance May require major maintenance Minimal maintenance
Portability Very portable as they can be inflated and deflated to carry and travel Not as easy to carry and transport
Seaworthy Some of them may not be sea-worthy due to their material quality and puncture possibility. Solid ones are more seaworthy because of their durable material.
Readiness They need to be inflated before use Quick and easy to use

Q: What should I bring when I’m going kayaking?

  •         Comfortable and waterproof outdoor clothing
  •   Wet gear bag for supplies
  •         An extra change of clothes and socks
  •         Windproof or waterproof jacket
  •         Sun protection gear, such as sunglasses, hat, sunblock, and a towel
  •         Water bottle and drinking water
  •         First aid kit
  •         Personal floatation device or any buoyancy vest
  •         Map for you to navigate, or a GPS device

Q: How many calories do I burn on average when kayaking?

125 lbs 283 calories per hour
150 lbs 340 calories per hour
200 lbs 454 calories per hour

Q: What’s the difference between a kayak and a canoe?

Paddlers are seated in a kayak and use a double-bladed paddle to pull the vessel through the water by paddling on alternative sides of the kayak. Paddlers kneel or sit in a canoe and use a single-bladed paddle to propel the boat forward.


Paddlers kneel or sit in a canoe and use a single-bladed paddle to propel the boat forward.