Inflatable kayaks have taken the kayak world by storm thanks to their lightweight and portable designs that allow paddlers to transport their ‘yak to almost any waterway across the globe.
What makes inflatable kayaks even better is their relatively low price points that give even those on a budget the chance to get out on the water and enjoy everything that kayaking has to offer. And, before you even begin to question their durability, we’re here to tell you that with proper care you could have your treasured inflatable kayak in your possession for years to come.
Inflatable kayaks come in both sit-inside and sit-on-top variations that both have their perks and benefits. Sit-on-tops offer more space to move around and are easier to mount and dismount, but a sit-inside protects you from cold water and cold weather paddling while also giving you the ability to paddle at faster speeds.
If you think the ease and lower price point of an inflatable kayak is the best option for you, then check out the best inflatable kayaks. And, if you’re into kayak fishing, then there are also inflatable fishing kayaks designed specifically with fishing in mind.
Inflatable kayaks, more often than not, have fairly simple designs that are constructed to provide optimum comfort for the paddler.
Sit-on-top inflatables will offer bungee storage areas for your gear, with some even being large enough to accommodate pets or other paddlers. Adjustable and removable seats on a sit-on-top inflatable kayak make them a one size fits all for riders of different heights and sizes.
Sit-inside inflatable kayaks, on the other hand, will have limited storage space, but they offer greater protection against bad weather or cold water thanks to their covered-over decks.
Inflatable kayaks of all types will feature air chambers and air valves that you use to inflate your kayak on shore. Ideally, you’d want to purchase a kayak with numerous air chambers so if one does happen to puncture, you’ll have others to get you back in one dry piece.
Making any large purchase can be overwhelming, and that is no exception for your inflatable kayak. To help you along, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to choose your first inflatable kayak.
If your mind is set on an inflatable ‘yak, then pay close attention to these features below.
Inflatable kayaks are constructed from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that is fused together by a process called drop-stitching. The higher the density of the PVC, the stronger and more durable your kayak will be.
Weight capacity is a big thing to keep in mind when purchasing a kayak of any description. Kayaks all come with a recommended weight capacity that you shouldn’t exceed at any cost.
Before you purchase your inflatable kayak, it is best to add up your weight, along with the weight of any other passengers or gear that you’ll take on board with you, and compare it to your chosen kayak’s limit. Ideally, you want to be 25% under the limit otherwise, you’ll risk compromising the kayak’s maneuverability and speed.
Some solo inflatable kayaks can hold over 400 lbs in weight, but if that isn't enough for you, then you can opt for a tandem or a fishing inflatable kayak.
Many tandem inflatable kayaks can hold up to 600 lbs, and you can even paddle them solo by removing the front seat. Inflatable fishing kayaks, on the other hand, have large weight capacities to accommodate excess fishing gear, making them an ideal option for larger paddlers.
When it comes to kayak length, the longer the kayak, the faster it will be. Longer kayaks also have the advantage of better tracking, making them a great option for paddlers who prioritize speed.
Shorter kayaks, however, can still reach reasonable speeds while also maneuvering more efficiently than longer kayak varieties. Your decision will entirely come down to the type of paddling you wish to do. For longer excursions where you want to cover vast stretches of water, opt for a longer kayak, but for recreational paddling where speed isn’t an issue, opt for a shorter kayak.
Width is another thing to keep in mind when purchasing a kayak, as it will ultimately affect how stable your inflatable kayak will be. Wider kayaks offer greater stability to paddlers but their increased width, unfortunately, slows the kayak down.
More experienced paddlers would find no trouble in a narrower inflatable kayak, but for those just starting out in the sport, then a wider kayak may be the better option.
One of the biggest benefits of an inflatable kayak is the fact that they’re extremely lightweight and easy to transport. The weight of inflatable kayaks can range from 50 lbs all the way down to 4 lbs making them the perfect option for hikers, travelers, and adventurists.
If you are planning to carry your kayak to remote waterways, the lighter it is, the better. 50 lbs may not sound like a lot, but once you’ve been walking for 30 minutes, the weight will surely take its toll.
Sit-on-top inflatable kayaks generally offer bungee storage areas so you can tie down your gear at the front or back of your kayak. Sit-inside kayaks sometimes also have this feature, but paddlers mainly store their gear at their feet.
If you have a lot of gear and are worried that a regular inflatable kayak won’t be sufficient, then think about purchasing a fishing or tandem inflatable, as they can hold more weight and typically have more storage space.
Many inflatable kayaks have the option to add on a rudder, and although rudders aren’t an essential piece of kayaking gear, they do come in incredibly handy when you want your kayak to track straight.
If you don’t have the budget to add a rudder on when purchasing your kayak, then don’t worry, you can always add it on at a later date when performance becomes more important to you.
Manufacturers design their inflatable kayaks to be fairly basic in order to keep them as lightweight and portable as possible. Ideally, you’d want your inflatable kayak to at least come with a pump, paddle, and carry bag, but all of these things can be purchased separately if needs be.
A common misconception about inflatable kayaks is that they aren’t durable and won’t last a long time. Manufacturers use PVC materials when designing inflatable kayaks to make them as sturdy and durable as hard shell kayak varieties.
As long as you take proper care of your inflatable kayak by keeping it out of the sun, away from sharp objects, and by cleaning it regularly, then it will last you for years to come.
Inflatable kayaks are a great option for those on a budget, for people who have limited storage space, and for individuals who wish to take their kayak to remote waterways that aren’t accessible by car.
Thanks to advancements in inflatable technology, inflatable kayaks are now as durable and sturdy as hard shell kayaks, making them just as good, if not better.
Inflatable kayaks come with a huge list of benefits, with the main ones being easy transportation, low price points, and compact storage.
As inflatable kayaks can be deflated and packed down into a backpack or duffel bag, you can easily store them in a cupboard or under your bed, and when it’s time to paddle, then you don’t need to worry about roof racks or trailers as you can conveniently place your ‘yak in the back seat of your car.