When you think of a kayak, you probably think that a hardshell rigid kayak is the only way to go if you want to have a good time on the water. You may be surprised to learn that with technological and design innovations, there are plenty of options for inflatable kayaks that are lightweight and portable, while still giving you a reliable boat to paddle in. Of course, they will not emulate hardshell kayaks to a tee, but they are still pretty impressive considering their construction.
If you’re new to the inflatable kayak world, or you’re just curious about how they work, we are here to break down what makes up the best inflatable kayaks and what you should look for if you’re planning on buying one. Here are our 5 best inflatable kayaks.
View The Best Inflatable Kayak Below
1. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
This is a great two-person kayak that will work well on calm lakes and rivers. It is made of puncture-resistant vinyl, it is really easy to inflate and deflate, and has two adjustable seats for you and one of your friends or family members, or you can use the extra seat for storing your gear, or the pump you used to inflate it.
It has an inflatable I-beam floor to give the structure rigidity and a removable skeg which helps you to stay straight and offers navigational aid. There are two grab lines on each end on each side for you to stay positive on the kayak.
+ Puncture resistant vinyl
+ Removable skeg
+ Inflatable I-beam
+ Good for casual paddling
Why we like it – This is a perfect kayak to paddle around calm lakes and rivers with a close friend.
2. Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
This is one of the best inflatable kayaks if you want to take on a little more speed and heavy conditions. It also has a highly durable vinyl construction that is puncture resistant and UV resistant.
It has two removable and adjustable seats for you and a friend to enjoy, 2 Boston valves that make inflation easy, and a streamlined design that helps you to cut through the water a little bit easier. A removable skeg and inflatable I-beam add to the integrity and strength.
+ Streamlined design
+ Good for more intense paddling
+ Durable vinyl
+ Removable and adjustable seats
+ Easy to inflate
Why we like it – If you’re looking for a good beginner’s kayak that fits two people and can give you a little more of a high-performance experience, the K1 is a great option.
3. Ztotop 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
This is another great inflatable kayak for two people that is durable and easy to inflate. It has a non-removable skeg which helps you keep your line, a foot pump for easy inflation, and adjustable cushion seats for you and another paddler.
It has strong puncture-resistant vinyl and comes with two aluminum paddles. The weight capacity is 400lbs and only weighs only 30 lbs itself. Great for casual paddling and lightweight easy transport.
+ Durable and puncture-resistant
+ Easy to inflate
+ Included oars
+ Casual paddling
Why we like it – This is a great kayak for casual paddling and is tough enough to handle the sun and transport to and from the lake.
4. Driftsun Rover 120
This is one of the best inflatable kayaks for more rugged paddling. It fits one person, is made of highly durable PVC and comes with self-bailing chambers to allow water out. It weighs 22 pounds and inflates in less than 5 minutes. It has a rigid high-pressure drop-stitch floor that is strong and durable.
Tracking is easy with this kayak since it has a flatwater tracking fin. A padded seat with high back support offers you comfort. This is a really versatile and high-performance kayak that can be taken on rougher waters.
+ Built for performance
+ Durable PVC
+ Easy to inflate
Why we like it – If you want a kayak that can handle rougher waters and gives you higher performance, this is an excellent option. It is also lightweight and easy to maintain and inflate.
5. Sea Eagle 370
The Sea Eagle is a class lll whitewater kayak that has room for three people, a weight capacity of 650 lbs and only weighs 26 lbs. It is durable and high-performance for high-intensity paddling. It has removable and adjustable seats, comes with two aluminum kayak paddles, a foot pump, and a carry bag.
Double skegs on the bottom offer a ton of stability and tracking ability. It has an open and close drain valve as well as 5 inflation vales for easy blow-ups. If you want a durable and high-performance kayak for you and two others, then the Sea Eagle is perfect for you. Put on your waterproof water
+ Room for 3
+ Class lll whitewater rated
+ Durable design
+ Drain valves
+ Lightweight and easy to inflate
Why we like it – For a larger kayak option that can handle rougher waters, the Sea Eagle is perfect. It is large, durable, and high-performance enough for you to enjoy a hectic time of the water.
Inflatable Kayak Buyers Guide
Why use an Inflatable Kayak?
There are a few advantages to using an inflatable kayak over a hardshell. If you’ve got the space to store a hard kayak, don’t mind hoisting it onto your car or trailer, and want the extra performance, then a hardshell kayak is right for you.
However, if you don’t have a lot of space, want to be able to take your kayak anywhere with you, and are mostly using it for casual or relaxed use, then an inflatable kayak is right up your alley. Inflatable kayaks these days are made out of high-quality materials that are fairly resistant to punctures and will last a long time.
They are not flimsy or low-quality. They can handle themselves pretty well on the water and feel quite sturdy. Of course, you can fully deflate and inflate your kayak in minutes. Another advantage of inflatable kayaks is that you can take them absolutely anywhere and store them super easily. You no longer need to have a truck or a big car or trailer to get to the lake. You just put your deflated kayak in your hiking daypack, head to the lake and inflate it right there on the spot!
Types of Inflatable Kayaks
There are a few types of inflatable kayaks that can be used for various purposes.
You have self-bailing kayaks that have devices built into the bottom to allow water to leak through. These types of kayaks are generally used on rougher waters and have even been seen on white water rafting runs. They are built strong and can handle a rougher passage.
Sit on top kayaks are a little more suited for easy paddling around the lake or easy waters and you sit atop the kayak with nothing really covering you. They are one of the more simple and easy to maintain designs.
Sit inside kayaks emulate the shape of a traditional cockpit kayak where your legs are submerged inside the kayak. These designs are great for a little rougher river water and help you stay a little drier and protected even if things get rough. They are slightly tougher to get into but the extra strength and protection can be worth it.
How big should your kayak be?
Based on how large of a person you are, or how many people you want to paddle with, you will have a few options available to you. There are plenty of kayaks available that can fit more than one person. As far as the size of your party is concerned, make sure that there is actually enough room for the number of people you want to fit into the kayak.
A 3 seater kayak may be able to hold three people, but that may not mean 3 adults. Finding product dimensions and specs will be helpful at this stage.
What are you using your kayak for?
Are you planning on doing casual paddles around calm waters or are you looking to conquer treacherous white water? Sit on top kayaks and canoe style kayaks offer you lots of room to move around if you’re going on casual trips or if you like to fish from your vessel.
You won’t need a super protective kayak to shield you from the elements if you’re just taking it easy. If you are looking to get more extreme, then find a sit-inside kayak or a self-bailing one that is more meant for heavy-duty riding.
Now you have a basic outline for what you should expect when looking for the best inflatable kayak. Remember to keep in mind the factors we have discussed and you’ll be all set and ready to paddle.
Always properly store your inflatable kayak. They are a little more fragile than hardshell kayaks and therefore should not be left out in the sun or in an area where they can be damaged. Storing them in a cool dry place away from where they can be ripped or punctured is always best.
Did you know?
Kayaks were originally developed by Inuit people to help them navigate northern rivers lakes and oceans. The first kayaks were constructed of seal skins or other animal skins stretched over wooden or whalebone frames.