When you think of a kayak, you probably imagine a stiff, awkward, hard shelled vessel. It’s rigid, large enough to be cumbersome and more than a little awkward to store. Yet, did you know there’s another option? The inflatable kayak. While it might sound strange, inflatable boats are rapidly gaining in popularity right now for one simple reason.
They are much more convenient than a hard shelled vessel. With an inflatable kayak, you get the same performance, but none of the problems associated with transport and storage. You can simply shrink the boat down when you’re done and pack it away in a small case. There’s no need to worry about straps, ties, or car racks because inflatables fit right in the trunk.
If you’ve never kayaked in an inflatable before, you may have reservations about their strength and safety. However, there are many situations in which they are more secure than hard shelled alternatives. For instance, flexible, air filled vessels are less likely to crack if they hit obstacles in or out of the water.
To help you get familiar with inflatable kayaks, we’ve put together a list of the best products on the market right now.
Inflatable Kayak Comparison Table
|Model||# Of Riders||Type||Price||Our Score|
|Advanced Elements||1||Aluminum Rib Frame||$$$$||9.6||Check Price|
|Intex Challanger K1||1||Inflatable Sit-In||$||7.4||Check Price|
|Advanced Elements 2||2||Aliminum Rib Frame||$$$$||9.5||Check Price|
|Intex Explorer K2||2||Inflatable Sit-In||$$||7.5||Check Price|
|Sevylor Coleman||2||Inflatable Sit-In||$$$||8.4||Check Price|
|Sevylor Big Basin||3||Inflatable Sit-in||$$||8.7||Check Price|
1. Advanced Elements – Best 1 Person Inflatable Kayak
The impeccably designed Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Kayak is our pick for best 1 person vessel. It is expertly put together, extremely comfortable and it offers a number of key safety features to ensure maximum enjoyment and security. While it isn’t the roomiest of products, it provides a smooth ride to anybody under six foot.
One standout feature is the aluminium ribbed stern and bow construction. This is something you don’t usually see on inflatable kayaks, so it sets the product apart from market rivals. In fact, its tough aluminium bow allows the vessel to handle almost as skilfully as a hard shelled boat. It slices through the water with a remarkable speed and elegance.
The rest of the kayak is made out of strong polyester laminate and coated with what is known as Diamond Ripstop fibres. They provide the outer surface with extra protection from impacts and obstacles. Although, if you want to max out this protection, you’ll have to buy a separate drop stitch insert for the floor.
Advanced Elements recommends you have this insert, but it doesn’t include the accessory with the inflatable kayak. You do get a pressure relief valve, on the other hand, and it’s another uncommon feature. Instead of paddling back to shore to adjust an over inflated boat, you can simply toggle the valve and release air while still on the water.
- Unique aluminium ribbed stern & bow
- Pressure valve for fixing over inflation
- Takes just 10 minutes to inflate
- Super tough Diamond Ripstop coating
- Only suitable for short trips in calm waters
- Likely to be too cramped for taller people
- Several items must be bought separately
2. Intex Challanger K1 Kayak – Best 1 Person Budget Option
If you’re looking for a kayak that’s reliable without breaking the bank, try the Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak. It’s our alternative pick for best 1 person vessel. It doesn’t quite match the quality of Advanced Frame boats, but it is a fraction of the price. For a budget product, it’s surprisingly sturdy and great for short day trips on calm waters.
The K1 manages to be so affordable because it’s constructed out of super lightweight vinyl. It’s a cheap building material, but it offers an impressive degree of durability. The kayak is both puncture and UV damage proof, so it can withstand moderately heavy impacts with little effort. As it is a budget product, however, it doesn’t perform well outside of slow moving rivers.
It’s extremely lightweight which, again, makes it more suitable for calm, relaxed trips. You’ll have no trouble hauling this boat into the water, though it is capable of supporting up to 220lbs of rider. One of our favourite features is the I-Beam support floor as it increases the natural buoyancy and stability of the vessel. This makes for smoother, more predictable handling.
In fact, the K1 inflatable kayak is so stable that you can stand up without tipping it over. It’s a useful feature, particularly if you hit a snag or obstacle while on the water. Although, you shouldn’t need to stand for long. The inflatable seat offers extra comfort and support and there’s a handy cargo net for neatly locking down your luggage.
- Brightly colored for max visibility
- Very stable (can stand up safely)
- Lightweight & easy to transport
- Protected from punctures & sunlight
- Not designed for long trips (slow tracking)
- Accompanying oar is fragile/flimsy
- Harder to paddle than more expensive kayaks
3. Advanced Elements 2 – Best 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
This next product is our favourite 2 person kayak. After all, many people like to share time on the water with friends and family. The Advanced Frame Convertible Kayak has much in common with its smaller, more compact sister product, the Advanced Frame Kayak. It too has an aluminium ribbed bow and stern for superior tracking and handling.
They give shape and heft to the ends of the vessel so that it cuts through the water like butter. Unlike lesser products, it’s easy to steer and keep this one true. It won’t waver off course, even in windy conditions and you don’t have to heave to push it forward either. While this inflatable kayak won’t withstand white water rapids, it is suitable for use on moderately heavy waves.
We love the fact that the seats are fully adjustable. There are two seats, but they can be fitted in any one of three positions . This allows the owner to paddle tandem or remove the second seat and head out on a solo trip. Both seats come with extra padding for maximum comfort and, we’ll be honest, they stayed satisfying even after many hours on the water.
The only major downside is the price tag. The Convertible Kayak doesn’t come cheap. It is not a good choice if you’re hoping for a casual trip every now and then. This is a vessel for enthusiasts, as you’ve got to take your hobby seriously to pay for what is one of the priciest kayaks on the market. One thing is clear though, you’re guaranteed extraordinary quality.
- Aluminium bow for better tracking
- 3 Way Adjustable Seats
- Extra padding for comfort on long trips
- Impeccable build & design quality
- Extremely pricey (top of the line)
- Not designed for strong rapids
- Can be a little cramped with two
4. Intex Explorer K2 – Best 2 Person Budget Option
The Intel Explorer K2 Kayak is one of the most surprising products on the list. It’s our pick for best budget 2 person kayak. However, despite its low price tag, it performs better than many high end boats in strong currents and choppy waters. It’s unexpected because, like most inflatables, this vessel is designed for short trips in calm conditions.
While it’s not strictly suitable for use on rapids, many users have done so and given reports of excellent performance. This is all for the fraction of a top of the line kayak. It probably has something to do with the quality of its construction. The K2 is made out of super tough 30 gauge vinyl stretched over the top of a nylon shell. It is built to be extremely durable.
The body of the kayak is given extra stability with a bisected design. There are two separate air chambers, so the boat will stay afloat even in the unlikely event of a puncture that penetrates the bottom. It is an unlikely scenario, considering the bottom is protected by a reinforced panel. This also allows the kayak to safely carry more weight.
We loved the amount of space on offer in the K2. Again, it’s a surprise considering the relatively low price tag. Even many of the high end vessels get a bit cramped. However, this one has room enough for two people to stretch out and store their bags. With adjustable backrests on both seats, users never have to put up with being awkwardly positioned.
- Amazing value for money
- Fully adjustable seatbacks
- Comes with two high quality oars
- Tough enough for choppy waters
- A little too easy to overinflate
- Seats are on the low side (not ideal for tall users)
- Sides can bulge in strong sunlight
5. Sevylor Coleman Colorado – Best Fishing Kayak
It’s easy to assume that all kayaks are, essentially, the same. This isn’t the case, however, as fishing kayaks tend to be constructed differently from regular paddlers. It’s why we’ve picked a product specially designed for this purpose. The Sevylor Coleman Colorado is our favourite inflatable for fishing, as it’s beautifully designed and can withstand tough conditions.
We love that it is specially built for tracking and hunting fish. It’s remarkably quiet when out on the water, so you won’t accidentally scare your catch. We must point out though that it doesn’t come with a pump. This is quite unusual, considering it’s a vital part of preparing it for use. It’s a major oversight, in our opinion, that’s only just sweetened by the quality construction.
At least there’s no need to worry about punctures, even from stray hooks. The 18 gauge PVC is practically impenetrable and can survive rocks, branches and other sharp objects with little effort. The outer shell is covered with a strong nylon coating and the bottom is reinforced with thick tarpaulin. Plus, there are two air chambers, so even a puncture can’t sink this ship.
The missing pump almost counted the Sevylor Coleman Colorado out, but we couldn’t resist its handy extras. Unlike most 2 person fishing kayaks, this vessel comes fully equipped with rod holders, paddle holders, trolling motor fittings, D rings, and mesh pockets for storing small items. We think this kind of offsets the cost of having to buy a separate pump.
- Designed for tandem fishing
- Super reinforced for safe casting
- Comes with lots of extra features
- Very silent & elegant in the water
- Does not come with a pump inflator
- Can get a little cramped (not ideal for tall users)
- Rod holders are awkwardly positioned
6. Sevylor Big Basin– Best 3 Person Inflatable Kayak
The first thing to say about this Sevylor Big Basin Kayak is that it’s a shame the manufacturer doesn’t include a pump with its product. Sevylor kayaks tend to be very well designed, but we can understand why some would be put off by the omission. With that being said, it’s an impressive piece of kit that manages to stay sturdy even when carrying three people.
This inflatable kayak can hold up to 490lbs which is pretty remarkable. It is constructed from a mix of PVC and tough tarpaulin that lends itself to shallow paddling. You can stick close to the shore without worrying about puncturing the bottom on hidden obstacles. With three fully adjustable seats, everybody is free to ride in the way they feel most comfortable.
As you can imagine, the Big Basin is a fair size. It is surprisingly lightweight at just 35lbs, but you will need a quality pump to get it up and running quickly. With a medium to large size pump, it should inflate in under fifteen minutes. The kayak comes with a pressure gauge so you can make sure it’s not overinflated.
After all, the last thing you want to do is paddle all three riders back to shore to make pressure adjustments. We’re fond of this vessel because it tracks much better than expected. It is extremely stable and you can use it on moderately strong currents without fear of drifting far off course. Although, we did find the self-draining and drying function to be rather lacklustre.
- Impressively roomy, but not overly heavy
- Great tracking, easy to paddle
- Comes with a handy pressure gauge
- Quick to inflate with a decent sized pump
- Does not come with a pump inflator
- Self-draining function doesn’t work well
- Keel is not securely tied down
Criteria Used In Our Review
If you’re shopping for your first inflatable kayak, you may be unsure about which features to prioritise. In fact, even experienced kayakers can be a bit nonplussed when it comes to inflatable products. While they’re very similar to hard shelled boats, there are new considerations such as base durability, the speed of inflation and tracking accuracy.
Here are the criteria we considered when putting together this list of the best inflatable kayaks.
Number of Riders
It’s tempting to instantly opt for a solo kayak, but we recommend thinking about a larger product. Tandem boats are not for everybody – some people love to paddle alone – but it’s worth remembering that they offer flexibility. The best 1 and 2 person kayaks have adjustable seats that can be stored flat or removed entirely.
So, even if you never plan to paddle with company, you have the option to dramatically increase storage space. This is a major perk for fishing enthusiasts and users who take their boats on multi day trips. On the other hand, if you’ve got a fairly small stature, a 1 person kayak could fit you very comfortably. It really depends on how you plan to use your inflatable.
Size and Weight
Obviously, the bigger the kayak, the more it will weigh. If you are shopping for a 2 or 3 person boat, expect it to have a bit more heft than a solo vessel. Then again, inflatable kayaks tend to be much lighter than their hard shelled counterparts anyway. They are a great option for anybody who is tired of transporting and storing bulky boats.
The vast majority of inflatables can be packed small enough to fit into the boot of a car. It means they never have to be tied to roof racks or transported on trailers. Just make sure to check the maximum weight capacity before you buy. Taller, heavier set people are unlikely to tip the scales, but it’s better to be safe than soggy.
This is perhaps the most important consideration of all. Kayaks are built for many different conditions and you need one that suits its environment. It’s a safety issue as much as a matter of convenience, so choose carefully. While some inflatable kayaks can withstand rapids and rough waters, we advise the use of a hard shell boat in extreme conditions.
Ultimately, inflatables aren’t designed for rough waters. They perform best on calm lakes and rivers with gentle to moderately rough tides. If you plan to paddle in vast, open bodies of water, it’s best to use a kayak with multiple air chambers. That way, if you get a puncture while far from shore, your boat will stay afloat until you make it back.
We were surprised to find some inflatable kayaks don’t come with an air pump. It seems rather short sighted and even a little mean considering you can’t use these boats without one. In some cases, we decided to add the product to our list anyway because we were so enamored with its build quality and design.
Nevertheless, we want to remind you to check for an air pump when shopping. Always check before you buy because you may need to pick one up separately. If you’re looking for extra bang for your buck, pick a kayak with handy accessories. Common extras include oars, oar holders, rod holders, storage pockets and, less frequently, personal flotation devices.
Other Important Things to Consider
Strictly speaking, inflatable kayaks aren’t designed for use on white water rapids. However, if you’re determined to test an inflatable in extreme conditions, opt for a self-bailing design. These kayaks are built very differently to standard calm water vessels. They have specially designed holes inserted in the bottom.
These holes let out excess water and prevent the kayak from sinking while on rapids. Although, the laws of physics mean that water comes back in through these holes when the boat is on a calm surface. Therefore, you can’t really use a self-bailing kayak for calm water paddling or a standard kayak for white water rapids.
High Pressure vs Low Pressure
Some paddlers see no need or use for standing upright while on the water. If this sounds like you, it won’t matter much whether your boat has a high or low pressure design. Low pressure products tend to be more affordable because they can only withstand as much as 2 PSI. High pressure alternatives are safe to use with as much as 6 PSI.
Both are capable of excellent performance in calm to moderately choppy conditions. The big difference is what happens when you try to stand upright. High pressure kayaks are much sturdier and can even function as makeshift standing paddleboards. This is useful for those who like to get stuck in and build up some serious speed.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s important to keep an inflatable kayak dry between uses. If it is allowed to remain damp, mildew will accumulate and start to eat away at the fabric. Fortunately, this job is pretty easy. While inflated, use a large towel to mop up as much excessive water as possible. You won’t get all of it, but this will save you time later.
Carefully deflate the boat and remove all detachable components (seats, pockets, bags, oar clips, etc.) Tip it over to allow excess liquid to run out of the gutters and side bladders. Once you’ve mopped up as much as you can, hang the deflated kayak somewhere safe. It should be up high enough for the last bits of water to continue running off.
The larger the kayak, the longer it will take to delate. However, the quickest way to do it is by reversing the flow on your air pump. Most pump devices come with this feature. It lets you suck air straight out instead of pumping it in. You should have the kayak fully deflated within a couple of minutes with this technique.
If you can’t reverse your pump, unlock all the air valves and gently squeeze the fabric with your hands. As long as you’re not wearing a belt or any other jagged item, it’s okay to lay flat out on the boat and deflate it with your body weight. Consult your instruction manual for tips on the best way to fold and pack it away.
The optimum way to inflate a kayak is with a bellows foot pump. You may assume that an electric pump is the better option. However, it is very easy to overinflate and burst a boat with an uncontrolled airflow. If convenience is a big deal for you, inflate it most of the way with an electric device. Then, top it up to the required PSI with a foot or hand pump.
That way, you don’t risk pushing the air chambers too far. Some inflatable kayaks come with compact pressure gauges so you can test the quality of your work before you head out on the water. This is useful because not all boats are adjustable while afloat. Checking the pressure means you won’t have to return to shore with a kayak that isn’t performing properly.
|1||Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump||4,064 Reviews||$73.15||Buy on Amazon|
|2||Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump||3,091 Reviews||$68.38||Buy on Amazon|
|3||Intex Excursion Pro Kayak, Professional Series Inflatable Fishing Kayak||218 Reviews||$219.98||Buy on Amazon|
|4||Intex Challenger K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump||1,310 Reviews||$87.59||Buy on Amazon|
|5||Ztotop 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Inflatable Boat,Two Aluminum Oars and High Output Air...||66 Reviews||$59.99||Buy on Amazon|
Last update on 2020-02-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API