Are you still searching for the best inflatable kayak? These days, kayaking is no longer confined to sporting aficionados as it’s now a popular leisure activity. Nowadays you can buy an inflatable kayak online with just a few clicks, but which one is the best option?
All kayaks will of course claim they’re the best, but we both know that’s not the case. To help first time buyers, we reviewed the top inflatable kayaks and present them here. We’ll take a look at their features, the pros, cons and who they’re best suited for. I’ve also prepared a buyer’s guide. If you want to have a look at the other inflatable models online, you may use the information below to guide you.
Our Top Inflatable Kayaks for 2017
- Intex Challenger K1 1-Person Inflatable Kayak
- Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
- Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
- Advanced Elements FireFly Inflatable Kayak
- Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak
- Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
- Intex Explorer K2 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
- Intex Challenger K2 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
- Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak with Pro Package
- Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak with Deluxe Package
Inflatable Kayak Buying Guide
What are the Benefits of an Inflatable Kayak?
- Easy to Store: once you’re done on the water, you just deflate and roll it up. You can put it in the closet or a bag (some kayaks come with one). If you took the kayak out camping, you can put the whole thing in the trunk. The volume you can deflate varies, but most of them can fit in a bag or suitcase
- Portability: an inflatable kayak is lightweight and compact, which means you can take it anywhere. A large, rigid kayak is difficult to carry around, and securing it to the roof of your vehicle can be a hassle. With an inflatable, it’s just as simple as carrying a bag.
- Easy Setup: it on takes few minutes to inflate, and deflating is just as easy. A rigid version, on the other hand, takes a lot more time.
- Ideal for Beginners: inflatable kayaks are quick to get into, easy to control and have lots of space. These kayaks are also forgiving and safe. For these reasons, inflatable models are ideal for a weekend family outing.
- Versatile: you can use them for fishing, exploring, rafting or just have a quiet time in the waters.
- Low Maintenance: these types need very little maintenance. Provided you don’t use the kayak in situations it’s not meant for, it should last a long time. Most are resistant to punctures and come with a repair kit so you can apply a patch. They are are easy to clean too, as you just rinse it after use. Let it dry, fold and it’s done.
- Efficient Operation: they are not as fast as their rigid counterparts, but with proper handling, they should do fine in moderate waters and lakes. As long as the wind isn’t that strong you can get decent speed out of an inflatable kayak.
- Tracking and Speed: tracking, speed and turning are usually three areas that inflatable kayaks are weak at. Get a rudder so the paddler gives you better control when changing directions. For tracking, you’ll need a skeg. This is a device you attach to the kayak so it doesn’t drift around.
- Comfortable: they are comfortable to sit on but they’re also made of durable material. For the best results you have to inflate the kayak according to the pressure recommended.
- Durable and Dependable: contrary to what some believe, inflatable kayaks are made of robust material, able to resist abrasion and puncture. The more expensive versions are built out of nylon layered in rubber.
How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak
- Usage: how do you plan to use the kayak? Will it be for a whitewater adventure or to spend some quiet time on a lake? Think first how you intend to use it and look for a kayak that’s built for that purpose.
- Equipment Storage: do you kayak light or heavy? All kayaks have some sort of storage compartment, but the space offered ranges from spacious to very little. The larger the kayak the more storage space is available.
- Valves: the valves determine how easy or difficult the kayak is to inflate and deflate. The best ones use Boston valves.
- Weight Capacity: the weight limit for solo kayaks usually maxes out at 300 lbs. Tandem and family sized kayaks have a weight capacity limit of 600 lbs. or more. There are those who’ll say the limits manufacturers label is on the conservative side, but it is better not to go beyond the stated capacity.
- Material/Durability: the most commonly used are hard vinyl, polyethylene and other types of hard plastics. Manufacturers also create synthetic plastics. Look for kayaks that are puncture resistant and have multiple air chambers for extra durability. The anchor joints and valve durability are among its most important components so check those out too.
- Cost: buy the best one you can afford. If you’re a beginner there’s no need to buy the most expensive kayak, but make certain it’s functional and serves your needs.
There are other features and factors you may want to look for depending on how you intend to use the kayak. A tracking fin is located on the kayak’s underside, allowing the kayak to paddle in a straighter manner and avoid side drift.
A short and light kayak may end up wagging, that is turn back and forth in the last paddle’s direction. However, this can be avoided by going with easier, shallower strokes and placing more weight on the hull.
The term low pressure refers to kayaks that are inflated from 1 to 2 PSI. These often come with PVC floor bladders and I-beams. High-pressure kayaks can be inflated to 3 to 6 PSI and uses drop stitch technology.
High-pressure kayaks have thousands of threads linking the bottom and top layers. This produces a dependable link that allows it to withstand greater pressure and makes the platform more rigid. However, this is more costly than low-pressure model.
Types of Inflatable Kayaks
There are many types of inflatable kayaks, and the following are the ones you will most likely come across.
- Solo Inflatable Kayaks: these are for a single rider. These are made from different materials, with some designed for serious whitewater adventures while others are for leisurely use.
- Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayaks: the sit on top looks a lot like the usual kayak except for the raised cockpit. Because you’re on top, you have more room and more convenient access to your gear. A sit on top kayak is more suited for large riders or those who don’t like the feeling of being inside a sit-in boat.
- Sit-In Inflatable Kayaks: this is the most traditional design, with a cockpit and high walls surrounding the rider. You don’t have a lot of room like on a sit on top, but it is more suited for whitewater kayaking. A sit-in kayak does a good job keeping water out of the cockpit especially when there’s water and wind.
- Stand-Up Inflatable Kayaks or ISUPS: these are fairly new kayaks and they’re rigid enough you can stand up while paddling. While some use this for down river rafting or racing, most use an ISUP for leisurely paddling.
- Canoe-style Kayaks: these sport an open design, with higher seats and high walls. Rather than the usual double sided kayak paddles, canoe-style use single sided blades.
- Open Style Kayak: this is a variant of the canoe style. The seats are lower compared to that of a canoe style but its walls are higher compared to a sit on top. This unique design makes it a good choice for those who want a more convenient design and easier entry. Open style kayaks prevent excess water from getting in, but you give up additional enclosure. To make up for this, spray decks are available for purchase.
Best Inflatable Kayak Reviews
The K1 is built from strong, welded material, and it is stylish to boot. Designed for leisurely use, the K1 has a streamlined shape that allows it to move through water smoothly. Special attention has also been paid to the cockpit so it’s easy to get in and out of it.
A high-quality hand pump is included as well as an 84 inch oar. There is also an inflatable I-beam floor so the K1 remains stable while you’re using it. The inclusion of a cargo net is also a nice touch as it gives you room to store gear, and they’re easily accessible too.
The Challenger K1 is for those who like kayaking in slow moving waters and lakes. It’s not the most feature packed kayak but in terms of performance is a match for the more expensive models. If you’re the type who likes their kayaks nimble and cost effective, the K1 is going to fit the bill.
Advanced Elements has always been known for their quality kayaks, and the AE1007 is no exception. This is a 15-foot kayak that can be used for solo or tandem paddling via the optional double and single decks. The chief strength of this model is the way it incorporates the rigid stern aluminum frame and bow into the design.
The combination of the frame, bow and its inflatable design gives it an edge over the rest. Its 550 lb. capacity is superior to most other kayaks and it has a repair kit as well. This is stable, solid kayak, but it’s good to know a repair kit is readily available just in case there’s a problem.
If you’re after a good, no frills kayak, the Advanced Elements is a good choice. The solid build, flexibility and comfort are right up there with the best I have come across in this range. This is also one of the most durable versions on the market and once you get used to the setup, you’ll enjoy using this.
The Advanced Elements AE1012-R is equipped with aluminum ribs which enhance its tracking and it also has multiple layers for puncture resistance. Another advantage of the AE1012-R is it is pre-assembled. What this means is you just have to unfold it, inflate and join the seat. Do that and it's ready to go.
The AE1012-R has a comfortable padded seat so you’ll be comfortable even for long periods. The seat comes with high support and it’s also adjustable so you can sit just the way you like. I also have to point out that while the AE1012-R is inflatable, it paddles like a hard rigid kayak.
The Advanced Elements AE1012-R would be an exceptional purchase. It is solidly made and with a capacity of 300 lbs. it’s more than enough for a single person. One of the ways you can tell how well-made a kayak is by the number of chambers, and this has 7. Any way you look at it, the Advanced Elements AE1012-R is for the uncompromising kayaker.
The Firefly is equipped with durable panels for better tracking, at the same time defining the stern and bow. A tracking fin is also built in for enhanced tracking. There is a landing plate as well as a high flowing spring valve. The combination of the spring valve and the Twistlok valves makes for a quicker setup time.
The Firefly is ideal for leisure and recreational activities, and its unique features and compact design lead to superior performance and stability. The fixed stern and bow assists in going through waves and ensure you’re on course. The Firefly also has an out cover for additional protection.
The Firefly is the type of kayak beginners will love. Setup is quick and you can have an adventure in the water without worrying about leaks. It’s not as fancy as other kayaks, but when it comes to performance and stability the firefly holds up fine. With other features like a tracking skeg, mesh pocket and rubber handles, the Firefly does what it’s supposed to.
The Quikpak shares many features with the other Quikpak series like its quick setup and durable construction. Since it only takes a few minutes to set up, you’ll be able to spend more time actually kayaking. The Quikpak K5 is built from 24 gauge PVC and is more than capable of handling frequent lake kayaking.
Inflating and deflating is straightforward, and the valves use high-quality locking points. Like the other Quikpak kayaks, the K5 has anti-leak protection. Furthermore, each one comes with multiple air chambers so it doesn’t deflate. Overall, the construction is solid and allows the K5 to last a long time.
The K5 is for anyone who wants a convenient, easy to set up and lasts. The 24 gauge PVC construction is tough and the air chambers provide extra durability. I also like the bungee storage and D-rings as they allow you to carry your gear. Its position is very accessible so that’s another plus.
The Sevylor K1 has earned a lot of praise for its design, and it only takes a few minutes to set up. There is a backpack included which you can turn into a seat. The process is a bit more complicated that setting up the kayak itself. However, the seat is comfortable and there are foot rests as well.
21 gauge PVC is used for the K1, and it’s good enough for use in any lake. The durability extends all the way to the bottom thanks to the tarpaulin bottom. There are also several air chambers so the kayak won’t sink even if there’s a puncture. For extra protection the K1 also has the AirtTight System to prevent leaks.
The K1 is an excellent boat that shows you how fun kayaking can be. It is durable, comfortable to sit on and offers enough storage for your bungee. Aside from being easy to deflate and inflate, the backpack/seat shows how convenient an inflatable kayak can be.
The Explorer K2 is designed for riding on mild rivers and lakes, with a low profile but visible graphics so it’s highly visible. The detachable skeg helps improve directional stability, and the inflatable seat is adjustable. Ideal for kayaking with a friend, it is easy to set up and should not take more than a few minutes.
The Explorer K2 is made of tough vinyl, and its I-beam floor provides extra rigidity and thanks to the comfortable seats you’ll be at ease as you paddle. A repair patch kit is included and you also get a Coast Guard ID. The package also comes with an Intex high output pump and a couple of 86” aluminum bars.
The Explorer K2 is a good kayak for beginners, easy to setup and with fully functional paddles. If you’ve never tried a kayak before, the Explorer K2 is an excellent option. It takes very little effort to inflate this, and as long as you use this in lakes and other calm locations, then the Explorer K2 will do just fine.
The Challenger K2 is one of the best inflatable kayaks as it provides space and comfort for two people. Designed for easy paddling, the K2 is also portable so you can easily take it to lakes and slow moving rivers. The K2 is constructed out of Intex’s Super Tough vinyl which is UV damage resistant and puncture-proof.
A lot of focus went into the cockpit design as it offers space and comfort at the same time. The graphics design is not only flashy but makes it easy to see in the water. The K2 design also has the approval of the US Coast Guard, and the streamlined approach to the design helps simplify paddling.
The Challenger K2 is a great choice if you’re looking for a two person kayak that’s easy to paddle. The cockpit design makes the K2 comfortable to ride on, and the pump makes inflation and deflation quick. Rugged, resistant and with a 400 lb. weight limit, the K2 Challenger is one of the best in its class.
The Sea Eagle 370 is NMMA certified, built with capacity and durability in mind. It can hold up to three people and has a weight limit of 650 lbs. There are two 7’10” paddles, a repair kit and a carry bag. A foot pump is included too, and it takes just 8 minutes to fully inflate.
Other features on the 370 are tracking and speed skegs, high-performance valves, self-bailing drain valve and heavy duty hull that is saltwater and sun resistant. Overall the 370 has a very robust design and comparable to most commercial grade versions sold online.
The Eagle 370 is great for new and old riders. Setting up is easy and the instructions are clear. Taking it down is just as fast and everything fits nicely in the back of your SUV. If you’re looking for a commercial level model at a lower price, the 370 is a top candidate.
The Sea Eagle 330 is a two-person model with a weight capacity of 500 lbs. However, it only weighs 26 lbs. so it’s easy to carry. The hull is made of extra-thick K-80 polykrylar, and it is extra thick for protection against punctures. This Class III whitewater also has a carrying bag, a foot pump, a couple of oars and inflatable seats.
The Sea Eagle 330 is ideal for a white water adventure, your heart flying and water everywhere. At the same time it’s versatile enough for use on a serene lake. Whichever route you go, the Eagle 330 has cargo space where you can carry camping gear. Because of its thick hull, it can last longer than its competitors.
The Sea Eagle 330 is the ideal weekend boat, be it for a quiet day fishing or a whitewater adventure. It is built like a solid kayak but is as flexible as any inflatable. There are also a couple of skegs for speed and tracking, and it’s these two that help the 330 move smoothly.
Questions to Ask Before Buying
Q: Do you like to paddle alone or with someone?
A: Go with a solo version if you like to paddle alone. If you want to have a solo/tandem, look for a kayak with multiple seating options. This lets you move a seat to the middle for solo paddling. If your kayak has fixed seats, you can sit on the back well and place weight in the font. If you’re thinking of bringing along your kid or pet, a tandem kayak is better.
Q: Where will you kayak?
A: A heavy duty version works well in whitewater, rivers, lakes, coastal waters, surf etc. However, a lightweight inflatable type is only for lakes and recreational use. Where you paddle also determines whether you should go for an enclosed or open cockpit. The more extreme the water and winds are, the more enclosed you have to be.
Q: How much weight will the kayak carry?
A: We don’t just refer to the rider’s capacity but also the gear you plan to carry. Look over the carrying capacity carefully. Check also the space available for the rider. Tall riders, for instance, need more leg room than the average individual.
If you’re going to carry a lot of gear, look for an inflatable kayak with a sizeable storage compartment. Or look for one with attachment options so you can clip bags on the hull. If you can paddle a tandem kayak alone, the extra space will come in handy.
Q: How long and how often will you use the kayak?
A: If you’re a beginner, a lightweight inflatable kayak will do fine. Your goal at this point is to enjoy kayaking so there’s no need to bring a lot of gear. If you’re an experienced kayaker or plan to go on an extended camping trip, you’ll need a good-sized boat. Either way it should be easy to get in and out of.
Q: When do you plan to use the kayak?
A: As long as it’s in fair weather and in still waters, even a beginners’ kayak will do. If you’re looking for some action, you’ll need a sit inside kayak with a spray skirt. It’s not a good idea to paddle during a storm, winter or strong winds. But if you do go for it, get a spray skirt, hook it up to the cockpit and your chest. That should keep some of the spray water out.
Q: When is the best time to use a self-bailing kayak?
A: Self-bailing kayaks are best suited for whitewater. As you go in the rapids, the water that gets insidd the cockpit is drained out of the holes. There are also self-bailers with plugs that you can close and open.
Bottom line: if you’re into whitewater kayaking, a self-baling model is ideal. If you’ll be kayaking on calm rivers and lakes, self-bailing won’t be necessary.
Q: How light should the kayak be?
A: It depends on how you plan to carry it. The good thing about inflatables is that you can deflate them easily. Since they usually have a carry case, it becomes even more convenient.
Inflatable kayaks have come a long way and they’re now the ideal choice for beginners and enthusiasts. Unlike wooden kayaks, inflatables are lighter, flexible and easy to control. Even if you haven’t paddled before you’ve seen how much fun they can be. Deciding what the best inflatable kayak is tough, but I can say that with the models we spoke about above, you’re bound to have lots of fun.