Years ago, inflatable kayaks were cheap and useless.
They were the kind of kayaks that we bought for our kids when they were young, to paddle around on calm lakes or the pond in the backyard.
However, technology advances every year and inflatable kayaks are not what they used to be.
In fact, there are many inflatable kayaks with high price tags that are absolutely worth the price. They’re built to be just as strong and durable as hard plastic kayaks.
That being said, those cheap kayaks we once bought for our kids still exist.
So, if you’re shopping for a high-end inflatable kayak, how can you tell which is right for you?
I learned the hard way how to avoid cheaply-made kayaks, and today I’m going to share my experiences with you. We’ll also discuss some of the best inflatable kayaks currently on the market.
I Thought I’d Found a Deal on a Good Kayak
After reading about the merits of inflatable kayaks (which we’ll discuss below), I checked Amazon. Immediately, a reasonable-looking kayak popped out at me for less than $100, and it had plenty of good reviews.
I thought about how proud my ever-frugal wife would be when I told her about the amazing deal I had found. In less than a minute, the purchase was made and the kayak was on its way to me.
The first time I took it out on the water, I was delighted to see how quickly it inflated, and how easy it was to carry to the water.
However, I soon learned those were its only good points.
My Cheap Kayak Was Worth What I Paid
Unfortunately, the cheap price tag was exactly what the kayak was worth.
Just three trips into Algonquin Park rendered the device absolutely ruined. I noticed the seams starting to come apart on my second trip, and my third trip it started to rip when I got on.
Disappointed, I complained to the company, and eventually I was able to get my money back.
But I was still intrigued by the portability of the inflatable kayak, and wanted to try again. To do so, I realized I had to change my expectations of price range.
What Should You Pay for a Good Inflatable Kayak?
Obviously, less than $100 is not going to be a very durable kayak. For it to have the right materials and construction, an inflatable kayak should cost at least $300.
However, a very good inflatable kayak that will last you years will cost upwards of $600. As we’ll see below, there are some extremely well-constructed kayaks for higher prices that are comparable to hard top kayaks, but with all the benefits of being inflatable.
The Best Material for Inflatable Kayaks
This is the most common material used to make inflatable kayaks, due to the fact that it’s durable yet affordable. It provides low drag and makes the kayak easier to handle. However, it is much more affected by UV rays than other materials, which may lead to problems down the road.
The best always comes at a price. Hypalon is extremely effective for inflatable kayaks, making them nearly indestructible. This material is resistant to extreme weather conditions and UV rays.
Why Buy Inflatable?
Easy to Carry
Inflatable kayaks normally weigh under 50 lbs., and some come in at under 20 lbs. This makes them extremely easy to carry and get around. Since inflatable kayaks can retract their size, they’re also great for storing in limited space.
Easy Setup and Takedown
With a manual pump, setting up an inflatable kayak should take about 15-20 minutes. With an electric pump, you can lower that time to less than 5 minutes.
Takedown is just as easy. Once you finish your ride, simply open the air hatches and let the kayak deflate. Then you’ll be able to fold and store wherever needed.
More Expensive Models are Very Durable
As we said above, cheap inflatable kayaks can be flimsy. However, the more expensive models use material that is much more durable, and will last you for years to come.
Lightweight Means Easier to Paddle
Since inflatable kayaks are so lightweight, they’re also much easier to get from point A to point B. Anyone can handle an inflatable kayak, even those of us who aren’t as fit as we used to be.
The lightweight design gives you a much greater range when kayaking on lakes or rivers, allowing you to keep going for longer without tiring out.
Types of Inflatable Kayaks
This is the most common type of inflatable kayak, where the paddle sits on top with an open deck. This style often offers you a greater amount of storage space, and space for any four-legged friends you’d like to bring along.
While not as common, there are some sit-inside inflatable kayaks available on the market. This classic-style kayak is best suited for those who are looking for better control over the kayak in rough waters.
Canoe style inflatable kayaks have flat floors and high walls, almost combining the sit-on and sit-in styles. While dry storage is a bit of an issue in this type of kayak, the canoe style will give you a lot more open space to move around and place gear or coolers.
Normally, canoe style kayaks fit 2 or 3 people. This is my preferred style of inflatable kayak for when I want to bring my dog Patton with me for a ride.
The Best Inflatable Kayaks That Money Can Buy
Aquaglide Chinook XP Tandem XL
This tandem kayak is big enough to fit you, a friend or family member, plus a child or pet! While the floor is PVC, the kayak’s hull is built with Duratex and 600D polyester, with the goal of making it more resistant to UV rays and damage.
The included seats feature high back rests, and are quite comfortable. The width of the kayak also helps with stability, making it possible to stand without tipping over.
While it is a fairly durable kayak, the Chinook XP would probably be best for beginners who are kayaking in calmer waters.
Length: 12 feet 10 inches
Width: 36 inches
Kayak Weight: 31 lbs.
Weight Capacity: 550 lbs.
- Fin improves tracking
- Comfortable seats
- Not meant for advanced kayakers
- Better in calm waters
- Driftsun Voyager
This lightweight kayak is easy to maneuver and store. For an inflatable kayak, the Voyager is very stable. It also makes inflation and deflation easier than ever, taking less than 5 minutes to pump with the hand pump that is provided.
While its bottom side is made of PVC Tarpaulin, the top cover is 840D coated nylon fabric, which is very resistant to tearing.
The Voyager includes two high-back padded seats, two paddles, a removable fin, as well as the hand pump. It can be used as a tandem kayak, or as a single-person kayak.
Length: 10 feet
Width: 35 inches
Kayak Weight: 27 lbs.
Weight Capacity: 450 lbs.
- Comes with everything you need to go hit the water
- Very easy to set up and deflate
- Good tracking in smooth or rough water
- PVC is not the most durable material
Advanced Elements AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible
This company has begun to provide some of the most elite inflatable kayaks on the market. Against this line of top-end inflatables, hard tops begin to look like artifacts of another era of kayaking.
The AdvancedFrame is built with aluminum ribs and multiple layers of their double-coated, rip-stop fabric. This unique design makes the kayak nearly indestructible, as well as extremely stable on rough seas.
For an inflatable kayak, the AdvancedFrame does weigh quite a bit. However, this weight is just a testament to the sturdy design and lasting features. With multiple chair positions and tons of space, you’ll be able to use this kayak as you please.
Length: 15 feet
Width: 32 inches
Kayak Weight: 56 lbs.
Weight Capacity: 550 lbs.
- Designed to last a long time
- Included seats offer high support and extra padding
- Convertible design means you can have an open deck or closed deck, for one person or two
- Sleek on calm or rough waters
- Slightly heavier than our other options
Sea Eagle Razorlite 393rl
If you’re looking for speed, the Razorlite is an excellent choice. With a rigid bow and stern, it glides easily even through choppy water. Its seats as also built for comfort, with high-back, wrap-around padded back and a contoured seat.
Using drop stitch technology, this kayak’s design gives it an incredible durability which will last a long time. This specialized stitching is done with 1000D reinforced PVC.
Sea Eagle also makes a two-person version of the Razorlite, which weighs just 42 lbs. and has an incredible maximum weight of 750 lbs.
Here are the specs for the single-person Razorlite:
Length: 12 feet 10 inches
Width: 28 inches
Kayak Weight: 33 lbs.
Weight Capacity: 500 lbs.
- Built for maximum speed on any kind of water
- Reinforced, drop stitch PVC is extremely durable
- High weight capacity for a single person kayak
- Room for you and all your gear
- Smaller width means slightly less stability, possibly a problem for beginning kayakers
Advanced Elements Straitedge
Designed for fishermen, this inflatable kayak has everything you need to get out on the water and catch the big one! There’s plenty of room for your gear, or a cooler, and you’ll find two rod holders already installed. The removable mounting rod also gives you the flexibility to add more equipment to the Straitedge.
Built for durability in the toughest of situations, this kayak features underside abrasion pads and multi-layer fabric. Its comfortable seat is prepared for long journeys on the water, and the width makes it extremely stable, even when riding with pets.
Length: 9 feet 8 inches
Width: 35 inches
Kayak Weight: 41 lbs.
Weight Capacity: 300 lbs.
- Everything an angler needs, without the hassle of a hard-top kayak
- High-back seat with inflatable lumbar support
- Plenty of space for gear
- Excellent tracking and stability
- Not built for speed
Choosing the Best Inflatable Kayak
So, how do you know which is the best inflatable kayak for you?
It all depends on what you need:
If you’re an advanced recreational kayaker who wants a blend of durability and lightweight design, the Sea Eagle Razorlite is absolutely the best choice. Its drop stitch design ensures long-lasting durability. It is also very light to carry around, and has a high weight capacity.
For anglers, I highly recommend the Advanced Elements Straitedge. Although this kayak won’t win any races, it is highly functional for the angler who wants to remove the hassle of a heavy hard-top kayak from his life.
So, who’s ready to hit the water?