Kayaking has become a go to past time for the summer months. A traditional hard shell kayak can be pretty expensive.
Hard shell kayaks can also be difficult to store and transport. Inflatable kayaks are a great alternative. Not only are they less costly, but they are also easy to move around. Quality inflatable kayaks are also very safe, dependable, and durable.
Now all you have to do is go out and purchase the kayak of your choosing. “But what if I don’t know how to choose a kayak?” You ask. Fear not. This guide will help you decide which kayak is best for you.
Top 9 Inflatable River Kayaks
In this guide we will review and discuss the 8 best inflatable kayaks on the market today. Here’s a quick preview of the list:
- Advanced Elements Straight Edge
- Coleman Colorado
- Advanced Element Firefly
- Intex Explorer K2
- Coleman Quick Pak K1
- Intex Challenger K1
- Advanced Element Advanced Frame
- Sevylor Big Basin
- Bic Nomad -2 HP
Advanced Element Straight Edge
The advanced straight edge is the best overall inflatable kayak. It is designed with a durable aluminum frame that defines the bow and stern. Hard core kayakers complain about inflatable kayaks not being able to track properly, but the aluminum frame on the Straight Edge allows it to track in a straight line.
The Straight Edge is made out of PVC Tarpaulin material which makes it extremely puncture and scratch resistant. If you were to take a fishing rod out on the water with you, you would’t have to worry about deflating you kayak. It is equipped with a self bailing port that only activates in high currents, and can be closed when you are using it in non-moving water like lakes and ponds. It can be handle up to class lll rapids and can traverse well through fast moving waters. This kayak is stable and comfortable. Its the best option for 1-person kayaking.
- Aluminum Ribs
- Heavy duty PVC tarpaulin material
- Adjustable padded seats
- Rod holders
- Rubber carrying handles
- D- rings for rope attachment
- weighs 47.09 lbs
- Supports up to 300 lbs
The Coleman Colorado- 2 person kayak is the best inflatable kayak for fishing. It is very durable as it is made out of 18 gauge PVC material, with 1000 D Tarpaulin bottom and 840 D nylon. It’s spacious enough to fit 2 adults and fishing equipment comfortably inside. There are rod and paddle holders, as well as d-rings for ropes or other attachments.
The Coleman Colorado has the gives you the option of using the Sevylor trolling motor, which expands fishing capabilities. This is where the paddle holders come in handy, allowing you to move hands free and focus on fishing. It can maneuver through lakes with ease; even the shallow portions. It has multiple mesh pockets for storage. It folds up pretty easily and comes with a carry bag for convenient transport.
- Rod holder
- Sevylor trolling motor fittings
- Pressure gauge
- Paddle holders
- D- rings
- Adjustable seats
- Carry handles
- Weighs 40 lbs
- Supports up to 470 pounds
- 1 yr warranty
Advanced Elements Firefly
The Advanced Element Firefly is the best light weight inflatable kayak. It only weighs 22 pounds and it’s very compact and easy to move around. Although it may be small, it has plenty of space on the inside. The purpose of the Firefly is to be light, but durable and recreational. The perimeter seams are welded, reducing risk of leaks.
The rigid form bow and stern are built into the cover which enhances its performance, and a skeg to maximize tracking capabilities. It can raft, but being so lightweight I wouldn’t suggest it in fast moving water. Also be mindful that the weight limit can’t exceed 250 pounds. This could be detrimental to performance and safety.
- Twistlok and Spring valves for quick set up
- Landing plate
- Tracking skeg fin
- Mesh pocket
- Rigid form bow
- Bungee deck lacing
- Heavy PVC main chamber
- Rubber grip handles
- Welded perimeter seam
- Weighs 22 lbs
- Supports up to 250 lbs
Coleman Quick Pak K1
The Coleman Quick Pak K1 is the best inflatable kayak for beginners. This kayak is designed to ease new comers into the sport. The inside is spacious enough for just about anyone, and it has multiple foot rest positions for increased leg room. There’s a cargo net attached to the front for storing personal items.
The seat is comfortable enough to go on long rides, and it also doubles as a back pack that the rest of the kayak can fold down into. In case you may want to bring a drink, there are is a cup holder. The double lock valve makes set up quick and easy. Puncturing is not an issue as it is made out of 21 gauge PVC with a tarpaulin bottom. It weighs 16.5 pounds and supports up to 400 pounds. I advise that you don’t use this to raft, because it’s only designed for calm water kayaking.
- 21 gauge PVC material
- Tarpaulin bottom
- Cargo net
- Cup holder
- Multiple air chambers
- Airtight leak proof seal
- Seat that converts into back pack
- Carry handles
- Double lock valve
- 16.5 lbs
- supports 400 lbs
Intex Explorer K2
The Intex Explorer K2 is the best budget kayak for 2 people. The Intex Explore K2 is designed for easy paddling. It is made out of Super-Tough 30 gauge vinyl, which goes over a 1200 Denier nylon shell to prevent tears and punctures. In the event that a tear or puncture does happen, it has 2 separate air chambers.
The bright yellow color makes it easier for boats to spot it while your’re kayaking. It is even U.S. Coast Guard approved and comes with a U.S. Coast Guard repair kit. This kayak also comes with a reinforced inflatable I-beam floor for comfort and rigidity. The skeg is removable witch maximizes directional stability.
The inflatable, adjustable seats with back rests add comfort to this already luxurious kayak. Having Boston valves on each side and an included pump makes inflating and deflating simple. It has carrying handles on each side. The biggest plus for this kayak is the price.
At just under $120 it has the best value for its price amongst all kayaks. It also Supports up to 350 pounds, and it is only meant for use on lakes and mild rivers. Some users report being able to raft, but I would not advise it as it is not built to withstand or traverse fast moving water. It is also a popular choice when buying a kayak in the UK.
- Inflatable, adjustable seats with back rests
- 86 in aluminum oars
- Grab line and carrying handles on both sides
- Air pump
- Super-Tough 30-gauge vinyl material
- 1200 Denier nylon shell
- Inflatable I-beam floor
- Removable skeg
- U.S. Coast Guard repair kit
- Boston valves on each side
- Separate air chambers
- weighs 30 lbs
- Supports 350 lbs
Advanced Element Frame
The Advanced Element Frame is the best all purpose kayak. Designed to work in universal waters, it is perfect for rafting in the rapids or simply coasting through the lake.
This is one of the best inflatable kayaks reviewed for 2017. The Frame is designed with an aluminum rib formed into the bow and stern coated in PVC Tarpaulin material. It is one of the most durable inflatable kayaks on the market. With 4 different air chambers it’s almost virtually impossible for it to sink if a puncture were to happen.
The aluminum rib gives it an enhancement in paddling performance and maneuverability. The tracking fin allows it to slice through water like a shark. The performance of this kayak is comparable to that of a hard shell kayak. The seat is removable and can be adjusted to your comfort. It weighs 32 pounds and can support up to 250 pounds. Transporting and storing it is a breeze because it’s very compact and light weight.
- Tracking fin
- Heavy duty duffle bag
- Tracking fin
- Bungee deck lacing
- D-ring tie down
- storage space below deck
- Velcro paddle holders
- Aluminum rib covered in PVC Tarpaulin
- Open cockpit
Sevylor Big Basin
The Sevylor Big Basin is the best large sized inflatable kayak. Not only is it one of the only 3 person inflatable kayaks on the market, but it’s one of the best. It’s tough, made with PVC covering and tarpaulin bottom, it isn’t easy to puncture. If it does puncture there are 3 separate air chambers to keep it afloat until you can reach safety.
In addition to it is equipped with Airtight technology to keep it from leaking if it gets punctured. Like the Advanced Element Frame it can perform almost like a hard shell kayak. The Big Basin is relatively closer though. Two directional strakes keep it paddling in a straight line, even if you were to go out on the water alone. It has a few luxurious features like the adjustable seats or the 3 cup holders for each passenger. There is a decent amount of storage space in the back of the kayak as well.
Another luxurious feature is the guard located in the front of the kayak which prevents splash water from getting on passengers. It weighs 44 pounds and can hold 490 pounds.
- 3 air chambers
- 3 cup holders
- 2 strakes
- Splash guards
- Adjustable seats
- Pressure gauge
- Airtight technology
- Carry bag
- 1 yr warranty
Bic Nomad 2 Hp
The Bic Nomad 2 HP is the perfect luxury inflatable kayak. It’s large enough to fit 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 kids (perfect for family outings). Staying dry can be quite the obstacle with most inflatable kayaks, but with the Nomad it’s a non-factor. This is thanks to the high pressure floors which, along with the integrated keel system, also help it perform like a traditional hard shell kayak. One of the features that stands out about it is the dual paddle options.
You can choose to paddle with the cockpit open or put on the attachable deck cover for a traditional kayak experience;. The best part is that you don’t have to buy anything for this kayak. It is the only top-tier kayak that comes with everything essential to running it properly, including the pump and hull. Comfort isn’t an issue either.
All of the seats have back rests and foot rests for maximum comfort. The deck also offers protection just in case the weather gets a little ugly while your’e out with your family. This is one of the most expensive inflatable kayaks on the market, but all of the quality features that it’s equipped with makes it well worth it.
- High pressure floor
- Integrated keel system
- Back rest
- Foot rest
- Transport bag
- Mesh front and rear for storage
- Paddle attachment
- Repair kit
Why Should You Buy an Inflatable Kayak?
Inflatable kayaks are good alternatives to traditional hard shell kayaks. Hard shell kayaks will always be able to out perform inflatable kayaks, but for someone who may not have the space for one really benefits form buying an inflatable kayak instead. Having an inflatable kayak also means not having to worry about when and where you can take it. Inflatable kayaks, even the bigger ones, are pretty light for the most part. All inflatable kayaks can be deflated and folded down into a compact enough size to virtually fit anywhere. Buying an inflatable kayak can also be way less costly than buying a hard shell kayak. With a traditional hard shell kayak you run the risk of your kayak falling off of your car if it’s not secured properly. you could even have it stolen. With an inflatable kayak there is no risk and no hassle. They are vulnerable to puncturing but this is unlikely to happen, and even if it does most kayaks come with at least a 1 year warranty.
What Type of Kayak should You Buy?
The type of kayak you should buy all depends on your needs. If you want a kayak that can be used in both calm and fat moving water then you should get a sit inside kayak. If you plan on using your kayak for fishing you should get a sit on top kayak. There is plenty of room for equipment and some come with motors to allow you to use your hands for fishing.
For white water rafting it would be best to get a self bailing kayak. The bailing ports release water as it comes in to prevent the kayak from filling up with water. Canoe style kayaks are ideal for multiple people and extra equipment due to the large interior space.
You should also think about the size of the type of inflatable kayak you want to buy. If you plan on taking trips with your family then you should get a 3 person kayak. On the other hand if you plan on just going kayaking with a few friends or by yourself, then a 1 person kayak is the best option. If you have a significant other or you plan on kayaking with only 1 other person, a 2 person inflatable kayak is your best bet.
About the author: Chris loves the outdoors and has developed a love of gadgets and inflatable toys, from kayaking and paddle boarding to relaxing in his hot tub at home. The founder of WhichInflatable and has been the editor for 7 years.