One of the rapidly-growing trends in the kayaking industry involves the use of inflatable kayaks. Inflatable kayaks are simply kayaks that you can fill with air to enhance their portability and buoyancy. Every aspect of inflatable kayaks makes them a worth-while investment for your next outdoor camping adventure.
For reasons we’ll discuss, inflatable kayaks are extremely versatile. They are comfortable, convenient, durable, and safe. However, not all inflatable kayaks are the same. If you are going to invest the money, be sure to choose the best inflatable kayak for your budget and needs.
Due to the wide variety of inflatable kayak options available, we’ve made it easier for you by compiling a well-researched list of the best inflatable kayaks in the market right now.
If you have the time, we strongly recommend you read this guide in its entirety so you can make an informed decision. Also, be sure to check out our list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) at the end of this guide.
However, if you’re short on time, the next section offers our top picks, with some key features so you can be sure you’re choosing the best inflatable kayak for your needs.
10 Best Inflatable Kayaks for Camping
Here is the short-list of our top 10 picks of best inflatable kayaks. An in-depth review on each inflatable kayak listed is available further below, so keep reading for more information.
What to look for in an inflatable kayak?
Inflatable kayaks were originally a standard size pool toy’ that didn’t put a lot into consideration. As technology keeps expanding, so do new ways of doing stuff, including having fun. The majority of kayak owners use them for not only paddling but also accessional fun fishing.
If you plan on buying one, you should familiarize yourself with several considerations. Read on to find out what you should look for before buying.
The length or size of a kayak affects the speed and stability of the vessel. The smaller ones, usually up to 12 feet are ideal for shallow waters, or for anyone wanting to exert more control over the vessel. The longer ones are usually faster, and therefore ideal for covering longer distances.
Longer kayaks provide better legroom and, can have up to three individuals onboard, and can carry extra luggage. Unlike shorter vessels which tend to drift sideways as you paddle, the longer ones are more stable and comfortable, thus ideal for family fun.
Inflatable kayaks are primarily portable. This doesn’t mean you can carry any inflatable type- some especially the longer ones are hectic to carry around in high winds. Try to carry several types and sizes to arrive at the ideal weight for you. Consider the distance you’ll cover carrying that luggage from the car to the point of use.
You do not wish that your kayak be stranded in the water to the point of throwing some luggage to avoid an imminent disaster. Instead, always check the weight limit of the kayak. A two-paddler kayak may fail to sustain the weight of two individuals if each of them is too heavy.
The total weight of the paddlers and their luggage should not exceed the indicated weight limit of the kayak. If unsure of the limit, be sure to ask at the store.
There are three main types of material used to manufacture inflatable kayaks, namely PVC, Hypalon, and Nitrylon. As you’d expect, PVC is the most affordable material and can be used in all water conditions.
Hypalon is a premium quality synthetic rubber used in high-quality kayaks, while Nitrylon is the most resistant to wear, cold, and punctures.
There are several styles and designs for inflatable kayaks. Each has an ideal application, but generally, they’ll all do what a kayak is supposed to do. Check below for one that matches your main kayaking need.
These kayaks are constructed with holes on the bottom to drain any water that splashes into the kayak. This is an ideal design if you expect a wet ride, something like white water rafting, and ocean use.
The absence of a tracking fin makes them unideal for lake kayaking, or flat waters. Water would also get in through the floor plugs unless these plugs can be closed.
Sit inside kayak
This probably an embodiment of the traditional kayak. The cockpit is enclosed to keep water out of the vessel. Sitting in such a kayak would be rewarding in the cold season or when you want to keep the cold water at bay. A spray skirt can also be attached to further protect against winds and splashing water.
However, if you have lots of luggage, you may experience a hard time loading your gear into the kayak while on the move.
Sit on top kayak
As the name suggests, this open design kayak requires the crew to sit on top. The main advantage is that getting in and out of the kayak is extremely easy, and claustrophobics can finally be at peace inside a sit-on-top kayak. The kayak also makes a perfect choice in warmer waters and offers a good range for fishing.
It may be easy to get into the kayak, but the chances of tipping over are higher because of the raised center of gravity. Without a spray deck, you should expect more water to splash in.
A canoe-style kayak utilizes single-sided blades, just like a canoe, instead of the double-sided peddle normally used on kayaks. It would be hard to paddle on both sides due to the relatively higher walls and a deeper seat.
If you have some considerable luggage, this kayak provides you with room for all that. Besides, you have more space to move around within the vessel, making fishing quite enjoyable from the kayak. The bigger storage room can also hold a relatively big catch.
This design lies somewhere between a canoe-style and a sit-on-top design kayak. The kayak’s sidewalls are higher than in a sit-on-top design, but the seats are lower than in the canoe-style design.
The open style is great for people seeking easy entry and exit from a rather open design kayak. Some variants also come with spray decks to prevent water from getting in.
These are lightweight inflatable rafts that hardly weigh above 10 pounds. If you plan to kayak in a rather remote area, this may be a perfect solution for you since you can roll up the craft into a backpack to the remote site.
10 Best Inflatable Kayaks – Full Review
Now that you know what to look for in an inflatable kayak, we’ll provide our complete review of the best inflatable kayaks available in the market today.
#1. Advanced Elements Convertible Kayak
The Advanced Element Convertible Kayak combines the features of an inflatable kayak and a foldable kayak. It’s a seamless model built with lightweight rubber and aluminum, which eases portability. Its removable seats provide for comfortable back support while in water.
- PVC hull material that is lightweight and durable.
- Multiple air chambers for optimum safety
- 3-layer puncture-resistant material made of bungee racing
- Drop-stitch technology floor that enhances kayak rigidity
- Adjustable and padded seats
- Extremely stable and tracks better than any other inflatable kayak tested
- Can be converted from a tandem kayak to a solo kayak
- Durable construction system
- This is an expensive inflatable kayak
- It’s heavier than other inflatable kayaks
- Its storage bag has short, difficult-to-adjust straps for a person for an average person.
#2. Intex Excursion Pro
Made from resilient PVC, the Intex Excursion Pro will survive the roughest impact from abrasion and resist UV from the sunlight better than most other PVC material inflatable kayaks. The mounting bracket allows you to attach a GPS system (or maybe a fish finder, a swivel fishing rod, etc.) so you can explore deeper waters.
- Tough 3-ply PVC construction
- High-pressure inflation with spring-loaded valves
- Removable skegs, floor footrests, and fishing rod holders
- Adjustable seats
- Removable mounting bracket
- A high weight capacity of up to 400lbs.
- Adjustable and removable mounting bracket provides attachment for other accessories.
- Ample storage space in the stern with metal rings to attach bags
- Strong PVC material, resistant to salt and petroleum products
- Removable skegs allow usage in various water bodies
- Extraordinarily comfortable and reliable seats
- The oars supplied are not the best
- Not very suitable in rapid waters
#3. Driftsun Almanor Inflatable Kayak
If you like starting out immediately you get at the lake, the Driftsun Almanor Kayak would be an excellent start. It fully inflates in 10 minutes, significantly cutting down on the wait time. If you also happen to come by rapid waters, rest assured that this kayak will get through.
- Removable rear skeg
- Closable self-bailing drain plugs
- Strengthened PVC build
- Has a rocker profile for navigating through rapids.
- Reinforced PVC construction makes it adequate for all waters, durable, and lightweight in nature
- Self-bailing drain plugs ensure the kayak can be in both still and rapid waters
- The removable rear skeg allows the vessel to steer straight when paddling
- Adjustable seats add to the overall kayaking experience
- Rocker profile provides the needed stability when rowing through turbulent waters.
- The removable skeg is not all that easily removable.
#4. Elkton Steelhead Kayak
Looking for a fishing kayak? The Elkton Steelhead Kayak is designed for a better fishing experience. It has a solid drop stitch which allows the rider to cast bait expertly. You can firmly stand on the floor as you cast the baits without risking tipping over into the water.
- Tough PVC build
- Solid drop stitch floor
- Bungee storage system
- Self-bailing drainage plugs
- Easy to carry, set up, deploy, and even store
- Tough 1000D reinforces PVC is ideal across all types of water
- Front bungee offers ample storage room
- Rigid mounting points can support various items, including navigational tools
- It’s sometimes hard to keep the kayak straight
#5. Driftsun Voyager Tandem Kayak
The Driftsun Voyager is a high quality inflatable kayak, weighing approximately 27lbs. too, and ideal for two people. You can tell the portability by the way the package arrives- in a travel bag! What makes it really cool is the clever and convenient combinations of the features against the price.
- High-flow hand pump
- Industrial-grade PVC tarpaulin on the bottom
- Rocker profile
- Adjustable padded seats
- Tracking fin
- The rocker design allows smooth gliding through calm waters
- Tracking fin can be removed to move through moderate-white waters
- Heavy-duty tarpaulin ensures the bottom is protected against punctures
- It can be easily deflated and stored or transported
- The double-acting pump can fill it in just five minutes
- The kayak’s onboard storage is minimal
#6. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
With a maximum weight capacity of 400lbs, the Intex Explorer K2 is one of the most comfortable inflatable kayaks. It comes with an inflatable seat that can be adjusted to your desired comfort.
The kayak comes with light aluminum oars to reduce overall weight and improve portability and usability.
- Adjustable seat with backrest
- A removable SKEG on the underside for stability
- 3 independent air chambers
- Vinyl puncture-resistant material
- High-performance pump
- Comfortable adjustable seats
- Very rigid and stable due to the inflatable I-section floor
- Three separate air chambers for reliability
- Puncture-resistant construction for durability
- Not ideal for fishing
- A smaller back seat means less comfort for the second rider.
#7. Airhead Montana Two-Person Kayak
Your next camping or vacationing experience should include some kayaking experience, in which case the Airhead Montana Two-Person Kayak would be an ideal option. The kayak is designed for calm and moderate rapid waters and is very light, guaranteeing effortless portability.
- Triple air chambers
- UV resistant exterior coating
- Neoprene elbow guards
- Spray covers
- Double hull design improves durability
- Good tracking on water hence better stability
- Has storage facilities for your gear
- Adjustable seats and elbow guards improve crew comfort
- Somewhat absorbent, thus takes time to dry
- Doesn’t come with a pump nor paddles
#8. Sevylor Big Basin Kayak
You and your two friends can now embark on a kayaking trip aboard the Sevylor Big Basin 3-person kayak. It is not just a kayak, but one built of tarpaulin on the bottom side to adequately resist abrasion and punctures.
- Tough PVC construction
- A tarpaulin material on the bottom part
- Spray covers
- Adjustable seats
- Has spray covers to keep splashing water at bay
- The adjustable seats mean more comfort for the crew
- The Boston valve allows fast inflation and deflation
- Heavy-duty PVC material allows use even in rocky waterways
- Multiple air chambers reduce the chance of the whole kayak deflating
- Not ideal for a solo ride
#9. Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak
Do you like solo kaya excursions? The Intex Challenger is a visually attractive and striking vessel, one easily identifiable along a water channel. With the impressively comfortable cockpit and a cargo net right above the rider’s legs, this is one kayak you should try out at least once in a lifetime.
- Cargo net
- Dual air chambers
- Boston valves
- A repair patch
- High-performance hand pump
- Tough vinyl construction
- Low center of gravity, thus better stability
- Quite affordable
- The removable skeg aids in stability when paddling
- Collapsible oars are easily portable
- A provided repair kit is handy for repairs and welded material for safety.
- Double hull is not as strong as triple hull design
- Thick sidewall inhibits paddling
#10. Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe kayak
Weighing a surprising 26lbs, the Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe has a maximum weight capacity of 650lbs, equivalent to three adults. The kayak has two motile seats and a carry bag to add to the convenience.
- 2 rear skegs on the underside
- A drain valve and 5 single way inflation/deflation valves
- A foot pump
- Rugged construction
- Easily inflatable with the foot pump
- Has an inflatable I-beam floor for better perseverance
- Has a high carrying capacity
- Very light and easily portable.
- No tie-down ropes on the sides
- The two skegs are still not enough, especially when a strong wind blows.
Inflatable Kayaks – FAQs
Here we will answer some of the frequently asked questions regarding inflatable kayaks.
Do inflatable kayaks puncture easily?
A good quality kayak should not puncture easily. This however doesn’t mean that the kayaks don’t puncture; if mishandled, they could puncture faster than you expected.
With the right care and maintenance, your kayak can serve you for many years without necessarily tearing or puncturing. If the inflatable kayak punctures, repairing it is quite easy.
Can you fish in an inflatable kayak?
Ultimately all inflatable kayaks are designed with fishing-friendly properties. Although there are models of inflatable kayaks that are specifically designed for fishing, the normal models also do a pretty good job when it comes to fishing.
They are versatile and may be used in different locations such as rivers, ponds, lakes, or even sheltered oceans.
How to store your inflatable kayak?
Inflatable kayaks can be store either inflated or deflated. It’s recommended that if you have enough space, you’d better store it inflated. Additionally, if you’ll be using your kayak regularly, the best way to store it is when inflated.
A kayak stored in the inflated state must be laid in the original position as it would be in the water. Deflating an inflatable kayak may also be done before storage. This allows it to fit into the storage bag originally purchased with the kayak.
Whether inflated or folded, be sure to store your inflatable kayak in a cool dry place. Additionally, avoid putting other materials on the kayak because the extra weight can cause damage.
How to clean your inflatable kayak?
Like many other tools, cleaning is an important maintenance procedure that enhances durability and functionality. For inflatable kayaks, the cleaning process is quite simple. Get water into a hose or in a bucket and wash off any dirt, including sand, debris, algae, or any residue that has accumulated on the kayak.
Using mild soap solution or inflatable kayak cleanser and a soft piece of cloth, wash off grease and any remaining stains/dirt. Rinse the inflatable kayak thoroughly with clean water and then place it in a shade to dry.
Note that the inflatable kayak must not be dried in direct sunlight.
How to repair your inflatable kayak?
Should your inflatable kayak puncture or have an air leak, you should start by locating the leak/puncture. You do so by applying soapy water to the kayak while in the inflated state. This should be done in a quiet place so that you can see bubbles popping on the affected area.
If you’ve already located the area that needs attention, deflate the kayak and begin the repair process. Depending on the size of the puncture, you may need to use glue alone or add a material (from the kayak) to seal the puncture.
Begin by cleaning the area and then dry it using a dry piece of cloth. If the puncture is small, apply glue to seal. Be sure to use glue that is thick enough not to get into the kayak’s inside. For larger punctures, get a patch from the extra kayak material, apply glue on it and stick it on the affected area.
Allow it to dry for at least thirty minutes before you can inflate it halfway and apply more glue to the area. Finally, allow it to sit for approximately 24 hours for complete curing.
We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive guide to the best inflatable kayaks available right now. If you did enjoy it, we think you may find these articles interesting as well:
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