Inflatable kayaks are often met with a raised eyebrow among expert kayakers, especially those who are into fishing or hunting. They are often seen as “toys” or “newbie options”. While it’s true that they tend to be a bit more delicate than regular solid polyethylene kayaks, their reputation for flimsiness is largely undeserved.
As we move towards smaller flats and fuel-efficient cars, many of us now require portable sports gear as well. Because of this, a new generation of premium-tier inflatable kayaks has propped up, ready to offer a degree of sturdiness and maneuverability that was unheard of until very recently.
The brand has developed its own high-grade Polykrylar material. This provides its products with an extended life and a strong resistance to surrounding branches, rocks, and road bumps. It is also equipped with an I-beam floor coating, which ups the vessel’s capability to handle even type 3 rapids.
A great option for those who like to chase adrenaline, the SE330 can seat 2 people comfortably. The seats are soft, but firm enough to keep your back in good posture. It comes equipped with a good set of smooth aluminum oars and a foot pump.
An aerodynamic and fast option for two people, the Driftsun Voyager looks as sleek as it is slim. A great option for beginner and experienced recreational kayakers, this vessel is designed to withstand long distances quickly and reliably. Made from tough PVC with a tarpaulin bottom, it is very stable and durable and, thanks to its detachable fin, it also tracks remarkably well.
For an inflatable kayak, this model also offers a fair deal of customization options. Not only are both seats detachable and adjustable, but the bow and stern handles allow for quick movement off the water, and can easily be adapted to secure your belongings wherever convenient. The double threaded Boston valves and multiple air chambers provide a priceless peace of mind. You will be able to paddle back to the shore should any accidents happen.
The kayak’s deluxe accessory package includes two adjustable aluminum oars and paddles, ergonomic grips, a carrying bag, and a pedal-powered air pump.
A great option for deep water lovers, the Colorado sits two people and is especially rugged for navigating lakes. Compared to some of the other options on this list, the Colorado looks understated, both in colors and in design, but this does not make it any less reliable or maneuverable. It is definitely a kayak for those who prefer practicality and performance over flashy designs.
A UV-resistant nylon cover and a thick tarpaulin bottom reinforce the 18-gauge PVC make and prevent any accidental holes. It has a large carrying capacity and enough storage space to lug around two person’s worth of gear and catch, plus several dry compartments for your valuables and snacks. It’s also fully compatible with Sevylor motor fittings, should the paddling get too intense.
The full package includes a carrying bag, pressure gauge, and foot pedal pump.
Spacious, thick, and comfy, the Elkton Outdoors Comorant is great for lakes and seawater alike, although it is not graded for rapids. It provides a very pleasant sailing experience though. It is easy and quick to assemble and to inflate, and thanks to its six separate rod holders – which include two vertical holders, two full motion holders, and two angled ones – the choice of how to navigate it will always be left to you.
The vessel can comfortably sit two people, although if the planned trip is going to be several days’ long, storage space can get a bit tight. However, the 18-gauge PVC and no-skid bottom will provide a blessing for anglers and for anyone who likes to stretch and stand up during their ride.
Thanks to its durability, the Comorant is good enough to please any connoisseurs, although it is a superb purchase for any beginner. As it comes with all the basics included (oars, paddles, repair kit, pressure gauge, and pump), it will help any first timers avoid suffering surprises during their first trip.
This model goes above and beyond its original goal to provide the closest thing to a solid vessel that can still be carried in a duffel bag. This is achieved through its aluminum ribs, which act as a hidden corset for the kayak’s triple-layer PVC structure.
Thanks to its hidden ability to keep in shape, as well as its 3-layered resistant material, the Expedition gets to keep excellent tracking and can reach very high speeds. This is no toy for newbies. It can and it will resist rapids and white waters as only most polyethylene kayaks could.
The seats are large and have high back rests, providing extra stability to the riders as well. Storage is spacious and allows for several days’ worth of camping gear. There are also six separate air chambers, just in case a puncture does happen.
Fishing kayaks usually require a whole new level of gear and add-ons, but the NRS Pike does a great job of including them in an inflatable, light package.
This kayak is not a favorite of anglers yet, but we are confident that it will become so. In addition to good stability, even when standing up, thanks to the high-grade 40 oz PVC with rigid insert, the vessel includes sturdy bungee laces to secure your dry box or cooler. Several mounts and attachment points will let you position your rod holders and fish finders the way you see fit.
They have even managed to include two removable tracking fins, which improve stability while keeping the overall deflated kayak easy to store. In addition, there is a series of D-rings, coated in stainless steel, surrounding the vessel’s edges.
Simply unzip it, blow it into full shape, and the backpack’s cover will become the seat’s padding. Thanks to the foot pump that comes with it, the whole process can be done in as little as 5 minutes — and less than 10 even if it’s the first time you are attempting it.
The kayak itself is stable and sturdy thanks to its 21-gauge PVC and tarpaulin cover, which protects it from holes and UV radiation alike. Bungees and footrests all add an extra layer of comfort, which will allow you to paddle harder even after a good sweat on your own two feet. It measures 9 by 3 feet and can carry up to 400 pounds.
This is a great kayak for lakes and coastlines alike. Thanks to its solid construction and its removable fin, it tracks remarkably well even when facing currents. It will not suit rapids, however, as it’s an eminently recreational model.
Nevertheless, it’s self-bailing and easy to maneuver, in addition to being very comfortable. The Core seats are adjustable, and thanks to its hard-bottom floor with a non-skid cover, it will allow you or your passenger to move around and stand up comfortably. Molded handles, light oars, and several strategically-placed drain plugs will keep you relaxed and dry during your trip.
The Duratex does not come in a great variety of colors, but it is very smooth and easy to dry after your sail. And thanks to its spacious storage and optional “basic kayak system” kit, it comes equipped with almost everything you need: oars, paddles, pressure pump and gauge, foot rests, and stainless steel D-rings. Snacks and drinks, unfortunately, are sold separately.
Kayaks that can resist white water rapids are rarely the least expensive on any list, and compared to other inflatable options, the Lynx is definitely on the premium-tier end of the spectrum. However, you will be getting your money’s worth as this kayak is equipped with top-notch features and made with very high quality and resistant materials.
Let’s start with its capacity: already far larger than any other 2-person kayak on this list, the Lynx II can also carry up to 100 pounds more than its solo-kayaker cousin, the Lynx I. Thanks to its double-layer PVC construction, it can cross big waves and rapids up to class III, and resist most rocks that it may encounter on its way. The bottom of the kayak, after all, is reinforced with an additional layer of 1100 denier PVC.
In addition, the vessel has tightly-welded seams and inner urethane bladders to keep the tracking at its best. It also has Leafield B7 valves, which can keep air pressure better than the regular Boston valves used by most inflatable kayaks. This is the kind of kayak that can become a faithful companion for years, and it should be kept on the shortlist for anyone who enjoys facing rapids. While it can be a bit sluggish while cruising, it steers quickly and almost effortlessly when facing tough spots.
The seats are adjustable and equipped with their own storage pockets, which complement over a dozen cargo loops and ergonomic carry handles. Although paddles and oars are not included, a repair kit is, and at this level, your kayak probably deserved its own set of custom oars anyway.
Swimline is seeking to make a name for itself in the watersports industry with each and every one of its products, and this model is no exception. Specifically designed for whitewater kayaking, this model is equipped with a highly-resistant non-skid floor, bottom fins, and bulky, yet spacious seats — for two people!
As an added bonus, this model comes with two sets of high-quality paddles, so you can plan your budget accordingly. Oar holders are also included, just in case you are planning to sail solo and need a second to rest your hands. The oars are not one-piece or collapsible, as they opted for a lighter build that allows them to be split in two. When not assembled, they fit comfortably on a side of your backpack.
Whitewater kayaking is the high-adrenaline cousin of the paddling family, so in most people’s minds, it is completely incompatible with the concept of an inflatable kayak. The Attack by Advanced Elements successfully proves this idea wrong. It is graded to resist rough waters and rapids up to class IV with its 840 denier PVC and tarpaulin-reinforced hull.
The Attack is equipped with a series of security features that improve its maneuverability and safety in such scenarios. Two self-bailing ports and three different air chambers will complement your life jacket perfectly in case of rupture, unlikely as it is. The PVC construction and the tarpaulin layer make a puncture unlikely enough. It also has adjustable seats, which are very rare n inflatable models, but have been seamlessly installed here thanks to a clever Velcro-based attachment.
With 35 inches of width, this is a nimble kayak that still provides a fair degree of space for its rider. The size allows for quick steering and lightning fast reactions.
The Sports Nomad is a very sturdy inflatable option. It was built to be carried around, as its name indicates, and to travel in less than stellar conditions. Made from 24-gauge PVC with patented air-tight seals and three separate air chambers, the Sea Nomad will travel comfortably even in mangroves full of tricky plants and jagged surfaces.
The oars are also superb, conveniently made into a one-piece construction and made from light aluminum. The model also hides two bottom fins, which provide an extra layer of stability for those who want to face rough currents. Blue Wave has also hit all the security checkboxes for this model, equipping it with a foot pump for quick inflation, a patch kit, and anti-leak welded edges.
Those of us who spend time researching our kayaking options know how rare it is to find a 3-person model, and how incredibly expensive and heavy these usually are. The Sevylor Big Basin shatters these stereotypes completely. This is a great value kayak, even if it weren’t inflatable, and can be carried around in its own bag by one person.
Tracking is superb, to the point that it almost feels like a hard-shell model. Despite the lack of a metal internal structure, the high-grade PVC material and three separate air chambers provide the Big Basin with a very good, solid structure. Meanwhile, the tarpaulin reinforcement on the bottom will keep you from any embarrassing slips, and it’s thick enough to allow for a dog to accompany you on your trip.
The paddles have 2 directional strakes, which act as rudders to provide the vessel with extra stability. While three full grown adults may find space a little tight inside, it’s clear that Sevylor still wanted everybody to be comfortable. There are cup holders and storage compartments in smart places, while it still will let you make the most of your leg room.
The only downside is that a pump is not included, and because of the kayak’s size, you will need to invest in one that can fill it quickly.
This sit-on-top model provides the tracking abilities that anglers often dream of, but won’t even think of looking for in an inflatable model. This is achieved through strategically placed fins, a sturdy PVC construction with a hidden aluminum skeleton, and a slim hull design.
It is also safe and sturdy, as it is equipped with separate air chambers and abrasion pads to help it better resist rough or aggressive water conditions. The model is designed to sit just one person, but it ensures the comfort of said lone rides. The seat is spacious with ample leg room and a padded back rest. This back rest is also high enough to accommodate tall people or those who need an extra reminder to keep their back straight.
When it comes to customization options, there is a series of stainless steel D-rings from which to attach rod holders and fish finders. In addition, the deck is laced with a bungee net to provide extra safety for the gear you are carrying with you.
Your next trip to the Caribbean or the South Pacific coasts will not be complete without the Sea Rebel somewhere in your luggage. In addition to being light and portable, it is also comfortable. The paddle handles are foam filled, which ensures a pain-free grip, and the high-grade nylon and tarpaulin coating on the bottom makes it faster but will keep you from slipping.
In addition to good seawater and UV resistance, the Sea Rebel just looks cool: the design is all sleek lines and radiant colors, and is sure to catch a few envious glares from fellow beachgoers. Meanwhile, its superior steering and maneuverability will trigger similar feelings from fellow kayakers, even those carrying much more expensive models.
Why Should You Consider an Inflatable Kayak?
There are many inflatable kayaks available designed for almost every demographic — from those who are simply seeking a recreational paddle-fueled trip to those who want specialized anglers.
While any kayaker may find that they can opt for an inflatable model, there are some users among the kayaking crowd who should consider them to be their first option.
First and foremost, if you are currently renting a place or have moved to the city, where a tool shed and garage are too much of a luxury, the possibility to just roll down your kayak and keep it under your bed during the off season will make it a lot easier on your home décor.
In addition, people who are fond of adventurous treks, rappelling, and camping can take great advantage of an inflatable kayak. Spending a few days in a national park may put a few irresistible rapids on your path — but they won’t be anywhere close to the parking lot. So, why not carry your deflated kayak along with you for just such occasions?
Furthermore, those of us who are fond of traveling, but can’t exactly haul 13 feet and 80 pounds worth of plastic in a commercial flight’s luggage cabin can easily take their inflatable kayak with them on any flight. You also won’t need to buy a rack for your car. Sure, you can always rent equipment once you reach your destination (and take a chance at finding only low-quality or uncomfortable gear) — or you can ensure that you have the model you like and are used to at all times.
What Makes a Great Inflatable Kayak?
Inflatable kayaks, as a general rule, tend to be less expensive and easier to transport than hard shell models. However, they still come in a wide variety of qualities, so it may take a keen, knowledgeable eye to identify the best options.
This is why we have separated the wheat from the chaff for you. Listed below, you will find a series of highly-rated models that will satisfy the demands of experienced kayakers while still keeping in mind the needs of those who are still starting to enjoy the sport.
Before buying an inflatable kayak, it’s important to take a look at its materials. High-grade PVC is now available in many brands. The bottom of the vessel should still be reinforced, though, to add an extra layer of security when facing rocky riverbeds.
Even when deflated, not all inflatable kayaks offer the same ease of transport. While some simply offer a box with a shapeless bag of PVC inside, there are many other models with special carrying bags or backpacks designed specifically for trekkers and campers. When you are on the go with your inflatable kayak, you also want a model that it’s easy to assemble. It should, whenever possible, have a compatible pump and easy-to-follow instructions. There is no point in wasting an hour fighting with your own vessel before hitting the water.
And accessories can always make or break a kayak, regardless of the type. A pair of collapsible paddles is always a good investment, and there are many lightweight paddle options that don’t sacrifice quality. Other accessories, such as chairs, covers, bungees, or holders will prove invaluable for those who are fond of fishing or seawater expeditions.