Canoes & Kayaks

Inflatable Kayaks – The Complete Buyer’s Guide

Chris King

Inflatable kayaks are an excellent choice for adventurous outdoor enthusiasts looking for a versatile watercraft that can be easily transported to remote locations. These lightweight kayaks are made using high-quality materials that allow them to be inflated until they are rigid, providing the same level of stability and performance as traditional hard-shell kayaks

Inflatable Kayaks – The Complete Buyer’s Guide

Whether you’re an experienced paddler looking to take your adventures to the next level or just starting out on your journey towards becoming a true outdoors expert, an inflatable kayak is the perfect investment. With so many different models available on the market today, it can be challenging to figure out which one is right for your specific needs and skill level.

To help you find the perfect boat for your adventures, this guide will offer a complete overview of all things inflatable kayaks. From materials and construction to portability and storage, you’ll find everything you need to know about these incredible watercraft in this comprehensive guide. So what are you waiting for?

Inflatable kayak: Buying guide

Dive in today and discover why inflatable kayaks truly are the future of adventure!

Why Should You Use an Inflatable Kayak?

Rigid kayaks are great and I’ve nothing against them. In fact, I used to have one too. However, inflatable kayaks are a complete game-changer.

Inflatable kayaks come in all shapes and styles similar to rigid kayaks, and you can use them for almost any purpose a rigid kayak delivers. Moreover, most inflatable kayaks are usually much more affordable than a hard-shell kayak.

Since price isn’t a factor to consider, here are some of the convenience benefits you get with almost any kind of inflatable kayaks.


While you might be thinking that inflatable kayaks might not be durable enough, they’re surprisingly tough and rigid. In fact, some of the materials used in making kayas make them more enduring than hard-shelled kayaks.

Inflatable kayaks are dense, strong, and resists wear and tear, which makes more people shift towards inflatable kayaks rather than other kinds.


Contrary to kayaks with hard shells, you can easily deflate them to a size as small as a bag. This makes them a breeze to store anywhere when you don’t need them. Unlike hard shell one which just sits there collecting dust.

Ready in No Time

Even when you want them ready again, all you have to do is take them out of storage. Inflate them with an electric pump, and they’re all clean and ready to go.

While in the case of hard-shelled kayaks, it’ll take you a lot of time to take get them cleaned and hooked on the roof of your car. All that in addition to the time needed to take it off the roof.


This takes us to the next point. No matter how big the inflatable kayak might be, you can carry them anywhere you want with ease. This allows you to paddle in places where you can’t take a rigid shell kayak.

You can also fit them in your backpack, take in on a trip, and even take them on a flying trip to your vacation. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about spending extra money on a trailer or a roof rack for transportation.

Easy Maintenance

Although kayaks open the door for holes and puncture possibilities, they still closed it against scratching, chipping, and cracking. As long as you avoid sharp objects, inflatable kayaks are durable enough to avoid tears.

Moreover, maintaining a kayak is a piece of cake. All you have to do to keep them clean and ready is fold them and pack them away without excessive washing, polishing, or waxing.


As you’ll discover shortly on the types and classifications sections, inflatable kayaks always have multiple uses. Whether it’s fishing, whitewater paddling, rafting, or touring, an inflatable kayak is always the answer.


Since you can easily keep an inflatable kayak inside your house, in the back of your car, or inside your backpack, they’re less likely to be damaged or stolen like rigid kayaks.

What Are the Types of Inflatable Kayaks in the Market?

You can classify kayaks in more ways than you think. Inflatable kayaks come in different types according to purpose, features, and design. Here’s a list of some common inflatable kayak types that you might encounter.

Sit-Inside Kayak

If you think of the most traditional and original looking kayak, then you’ve most likely thought of a sit-inside kayak. As its name suggests, in this type, you rest your lower body inside the kayak with an enclosed cockpit.

Consequently, you should expect your legs and feet to stay as dry as possible because you’re protecting them from exposure to splashing waves and water elements.

In exchange for protection, these kayas are usually tighter than other types. This might make you feel a bit uncomfortable compared to a sit-on kayak.

These kayaks are the ideal choice for harsh conditions and cold weather when being dry is highly valued, making it great for choppy waters whitewater paddling. Thanks to the room they give over the feet. However, you should go for an extra spray skirt for maximum protection.

Self Bailing Kayak

These inflatable kayaks have some kind of holes or ports on the bottom of the kayak. This feature plays the role of draining the water out of the kayak when it splashes inside. With these pots, a self-bailing kayak can save you from pulling up this task yourself.

This type of kayaks is most commonly used in whitewater kayaking conditions, as it’s specially designed to take on river rapids.

It’s important to know that these kayaks usually lack a fin for tracking. This makes them not the most perfect type of kayaks for a lake or a river, as they don’t do well on paddling.

Since these types have holes on the bottom of the kayak, you should be expecting some water at the bottom of them. This means that despite being great for tough conditions, they don’t provide the best dryness while kayaking.

However, most of the self-bailing kayaks come with plugs to block the ports whenever you’re in a calm lake or a river.

It’s clear to say that this type of kayak is for paddling in choppy conditions. This means that if you aren’t into this kind of kayaking, other kinds of comfy kayaks might serve you better.
Sit on Top Kayaks
Remember the sit-inside kayaks? These are the total opposite.

If you don’t fancy the confined build and restriction of motion, you should consider a sit on top kayak.

In these types of kayaks, the enclosed cockpit is removed. This means that you’ll sit on the top of the kayak.

The kayak usually features a full-sized seat with a backrest, allowing your feet to get in and out with ease and comfort.

However, this kayak is only suitable for warm weather and relatively dry conditions such as calm rivers and lakes, as they don’t provide protection against cold water splashes. Sevylor Quikpak is a good sit on top kayak for 1 person.

These types of kayaks are preferred by fishermen because it allows them to reach for their gear easily. But more on that later.

Canoe Type

As simple as its name, these inflatable kayaks have a close resemblance to canoes. These kayaks usually come with a wide flat bottom, higher walls, and deeper seats.

This allows for more space to work with, and therefore, a room for more than one user and ample storage space. If you’re going for this type of kayaks, you should always consider those who come with dedicated paddles to maximize the performance.

Similarly, this type is also a good contender if you’re considering a kayak that you can go fishing with.

What Are the Materials Used in Kayaks Construction?

Various manufacturers use different materials in the construction of inflatable kayaks. These materials differ in durability, features, and price range. Let’s check out the most popular ones.


Polyvinyl chloride is one of the most commonly used plastics in the modern industry. This comes due to its wide array of benefits. They’re extremely lightweight and can be welded and folded easily.

They’re also recyclable and comes at very cheap prices, allowing for more budget-friendly options. They sometimes lack the needed strength to work on kayaks. However, they’re usually bonded with nylon to give it extra tear resistance.

PVC has some controversies about its usage, as PVC is relatively harmful to the environment. Additionally, you should always take great caution while using PVC inflatable kayaks, as they can’t tolerate chemicals, higher temperatures, or UV rays.

This means that you shouldn’t leave PVC inflatable kayaks directly under the sun for a long period, or store them near erosive materials.

Nitrile Rubber (Nitrylon)

In an effort to solve PVC’s problems, many producers started using nitrylon in the manufacturing of inflatable kayaks. It’s a lamination of nitrile synthetic rubber and natural rubber over low stretch polyester. The polyester is usually 1200 Denier, which is an extremely durable fabric.

This material is characterized by being stronger than PVC, puncture-resistant, abrasion-resistant, and performs better in tough weather.

The only side effect of Nitrylon is that it’s relatively heavier than PVC. this makes it more suitable for the bottom and sides of the kayaks, as these areas are the most to come in contact with outer environment elements.


The final and most advanced material on our list is Hypalon. This synthetic rubber is a combination of chlorinated and sulfonated polyethylene.

If you compare Hypalon with the previous two materials, you’ll find that Hypalon is heaps stronger and more durable than both of them. Additionally, it has a better resistance against abrasions and UV rays.

Moreover, Hypalon retains its shape for a much longer time compared to other synthetic rubbers.

As you might’ve expected, this flawless material is remarkably expensive compared to PVC and Nitrylon. However, you’ll be delighted to hear that some companies are now coating bonded PVC with the external Hypalon layer. This made Hypalon inflatable kayaks a bit more affordable than before.

Classification of Kayaks According to Their Purpose

As we mentioned above, kayaks can be grouped according to many categories. One of the best ways to group kayaks is by classifying them according to their purposes.

Due to the vast differences in their designs, some kayaks are more suited for specific jobs than others. However, you can still use any kayak for any other purpose, which adds to its versatility and multifunctionality.

Whitewater Kayaks

Whitewater kayaking ranges from an active sport to being a highly demanding and extreme sport. For that reason, sit-inside kayaks are the best-suited kayaks for this job, with self-bailing kayaks coming as a close second.

Whitewater kayaks are usually a bit costly. However, they provide excellent performance for their purpose.

Recreational Kayaks

Recreational kayaks are primarily meant to be fun. This means that they should be highly comfortable and provide a relatively wide space for movement and storage. “Sit on top” and “canoe-style” inflatable kayaks seem to fit this criterion the most.

Besides being affordable, they also deliver high levels of comfort and space, which is all you need to enjoy your time on the kayak. However, you should expect any kind of exquisite performance in harsh conditions.

Sea Kayaks

Kayaking in the sea requires more than what an average inflatable kayak can give. With consistent high waves and salty water, sea kayaks offer everything from maximum protection against water to superb control.

They usually come at roaring prices as they require top shelf quality.

Fishing Kayaks

You can use any kind of kayaks for fishing. However, some types can give you more control and efficacy while fishing than others.

The “sit on top” model is usually regarded as the best option among fishermen. This preference comes due to its wider interior and full-sized seat, which allows fishers to move around easily and reach for their fishing gear. Additionally, they offer the storage space needed for such tools.

Canoe style kayaks claim the runner up spot for the best inflatable kayak for fishing. With their wide and deep bottom and higher walls, you can even move inside them. These features allow canoe-style kayaks to pull off the trick perfectly.

3 Things to Keep on Your Radar While Shopping for Your Ideal Kayak

In addition to the previous aspects, there are 3 additional aspects that I’d carefully check in any inflatable kayak before I pick my favorite.

Weight Capacity

Weight capacities in inflatable kayaks vary according to many circumstances. The main controlling factor is seating capacity. This makes inflatable kayaks range between 350 pounds for solo inflatable kayaks and 700 pounds for tandem kayaks.

The fact that double-seat kayaks don’t cost a lot more than single-seat ones makes me go with them. You pay a little bit extra, but you get much more convenience and flexibility.

Two-seat kayaks allow you to take extra weight on a kayak trip. This means you can take a friend or a pet with you. Moreover, You can use the extra weight and space to bring a cooler or fishing gear with you.

The Kayak’s Net Weight

It’s important to put the kayak’s deflated weight into consideration as well. Always check the specifications of kayaks to make sure that you can handle them. Keep in mind that heavier kayaks are harder to maneuver and get you tired quickly, so it’s important to factor all that in.

The Kayak’s Length

If you’ve got into kayaks with different lengths, you’ll know how important the kayak’s length is. Kayak can start with as short as 6 feet, and extend up to 16 feet.

Short kayaks tend to have more agility in the water. However, being less streamlined makes them slower and more difficult to paddle in a straight line.

Longer kayaks range from 8 feet up. They’re faster and more efficient in terms of space. Additionally, it’s always easier to keep a long kayak in a straight line.

Length is a major factor in the volume equation, which means that the longer the kayak, the bigger it should be. A bigger kayak means more than one person, more gear, and possibly more fun.

Length also affects how hard to paddle a kayak. This makes a shorter kayak better for whitewater paddling, while longer kayaks stay a better option for straightforward mild rivers.

Going for a medium length kayak, mostly 10 to 13 inches, can also give you an overall decent performance if you don’t want to miss out on length features.


While choosing a kayak, What should I base my decision on?

There isn’t a definitive answer to this question. However, there are some aspects that can help in shaping your decision. It’s essential to decide whether you want to go solo or you want a tandem kayak.

Additionally, you should decide the purpose of your kayak. Is it for sea kayaking, fishing, or white water rafting?

Moreover, you should be considering the kind of water you’re going to use the kayak in, whether it’s calm or rough. By keeping the answers to those questions in mind, you can narrow down your selection to your ideal fit.

Can I take animals with me on a kayak?

Technically, it depends on the safety of that animal in the water. For example, dogs can go on a kayak just fine as long as they’re accustomed to staying in on board. You should take animal claws into consideration with inflatables.

Wrap Up

With the end of this guide, you should get a hold of everything you need to know before picking your ideal inflatable kayak.

When I think of a kayak, I want it to be durable, easy to control, and spacious for family and friends. For that reason, Sea Eagle 370 ProInflatable Sport Kayak seems perfect to me. In addition to being a perfect kayak for calm rivers and likes, it can also ace a class whitewater kayaking.

However, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak can do the trick for you. It gives you a spacious and stable kayak for a price that won’t poke a hole in your wallet.

History points out the canoe was a hollowed out wooden water vehicle used by American Indians and other cultural natives like Hawaiians. Kayaks were fashioned by the Intuit people in the Artics. Both cultural canoes and kayaks were used for short distance travel, fishing and hunting. Modern day canoes and kayaks are manufactured in a variety of strong, durable materials. They are designed for extensive uses, mainly connected to recreational games and various sport induced water activities.

Inflatable canoes and kayaks have hit the outdoor sporting environment in an exponential way. The main reason that blow up inflatables have become so popular is one word – “portability.” Inflatable canoes and kayaks can easily be transported on a plane, in a car, on a bike or on any type of mobile vehicle, not to mention a backpack. As easy as these inflatables are to carry, they are just as easy to store away.


Depending on where you live, canoes and kayaks can mean the same thing. The difference between the two is pretty slight. Of course, at a glance, the difference is noticeable. Canoes are designed with an open deck which is uncovered and kayaks are designed as a closed decked boating style. Also, people sit on a seat in a canoe and in kayaks people sit on the bottom with outstretched legs. Canoes are used more for fun and recreational activities. They can carry more people than a kayak. Their paddles are different – the canoe uses a single blade feature and the kayak uses a double bladed paddle.

Paddles are very important in both a canoe and a kayak. Yes, the skills of a rower goes a long way in defining the paddles in either a canoe or a kayak. A double paddle for use in a kayak allows a person to sit low and comfortable, slightly above the waterline. There is less time between strokes with a double paddle than with a single bladed paddle. This is a big factor in why kayak are swifter in hull speed than a canoe.

A single bladed paddle is designed to be closer to the hull which keeps the canoe in a steady pace even though you still must switch sides with each stroke. Each stroke with a single bladed paddle requires less energy and gives more efficiency in paddling. This accounts for the reason that canoes, very slightly, can out pace kayaks over long flat water runs.

The combined likeness between an inflatable canoe and an inflatable kayak, includes their weight. Their weight is very light and they both are great on most bodies of water, including shallow rivers and lakes. The kayak’s sleek design makes it a faster and more agile moving vehicle, which is quite noticeable in the whitewater rapids competitions. The modern technology for kayaks and canoes keeps their similarities about the same. However, inflatable canoes are better known for their spacious roomy features and their greater stability. Their stability on the water is balanced when carrying passengers, but not passengers and their gear. For several years and around the world, many specially designed inflatable kayaks have been used on the ocean and on sea surfaces



Your choice of an inflatable canoe and kayak is a personal decision. Price wise, a plastic craft is more expensive and requires more maintenance over its lifetime. The price tag for inflatable crafts is less than plastic canoes and kayaks, plus overtime, maintenance costs are less than that for hard plastic and other harder material crafts. Plastic crafts carries less equipment and accessories than an inflatable canoe or kayak. Inflatables can carry lots of weight, like two or more persons, including their gear, yet it is light enough to carry by hand. Returning to the subject of portability and storage, a plastic canoe and kayak takes up a large amount of room and is a lot heavier than inflatables. Canoes and kayaks made from plastic are very easy to maneuver and to paddle, while inflatable kayaks and canoes have better stability without an unnecessary rocking motion.


A common question about inflatable boats, kayaks and canoes is about their safety. Inflatable kayaks are very safe if you are safe with them, many are designed with chambers so that if you do puncture your canoe it will only effect one chamber helping you to keep afloat. A common worry is that you hit a rock and sink, with an inflatable you tend to bounce off rocks without any damage, however if you do get a puncture then with a kayak with multiple chambers you won’t just sink.


With advances in materials and technology things have come a long way in the inflatables world, more robust and durable materials are used, clever design makes them easy to inflate, deflate and store. So the simple answer is yes, inflatable kayaks are good, and they also have many benefits that make them a great investment.

  • Built from strong durable material
  • Easy to deflate and store, taking up less space
  • No need for a roof rack to transport
  • Great for advanced kayakers and beginners
  • Well priced and good value


Canoes – These are great for a number of different activities.

  • Recreational – flat water paddling for fun activities.
  • Multi-Purpose – can handle long trips, multiple passengers and their gear.
  • River – enjoy running rapids and swift rivers.

Kayaks – When it comes to kayaks there are a lot of different styles, types and designs.

  • Recreational – 10 to 12 feet long; large storage space; good for short trips; smooth water surfaces.
  • Touring – good for long trips; 12 to 17 feet long; hulls are designed to increase lift in waves and rough water.
  • Sit-On Top – can hold 1 or 2 passengers; 10 to 15 feet long; self-draining holes; very stable.
  • Sit-Inside – traditional kayak design; enclosed cockpit;
  • Open Style – similar to the canoe style; higher sides than a sit-on top style; easy to enter into; uses a double sided paddle.
  • Standup – newest style; can be pumped up to 10 to 25 PSI; paddlers stand up while paddling.


When looking at purchasing a inflatable canoe there are a number of things to look for.

  • Built from a strong and durable.
  • You want multiple ‘chambers’. If one chamber gets punctured then it won’t just sink.
  • The hull should be protected with a separate strong covering to add further protection to the inflatable sections.
  • High quality Boston valves will make inflating and deflating quicker and easier.
  • Look for a rubbing strake to protect the hull from wear, when paddling.
  • Once inflated these can be very heavy, so look for carry handles.
  • Expensive vs Cheaper Inflatable Canoe

Some inflatable canoes are very expensive, but are they worth it? What are the differences and what are the benefits?


Due to the increased interest and popularity in blow up canoes and kayaks and other water body crafts, they have evolved into high-tech specialized watercrafts that can rival even the hard bodied crafts. If you are seeking fun on your local river or pond in an inflatable canoe or kayak, then there are many less affordable crafts that can be purchased. For fishing, hunting, racing and more active events, the better brand names for water crafts are companies that manufacture both canoes and kayaks. A few of the best inflatable canoes & kayaks brand names, can include the following, Sea Eagle, Coleman, Wilderness, Sun Dolphin, Old Town, Lifetime, Intex, Malibu Tandem and White Water.

Manufactures for inflatables gives users a myriad of styles and accessories for canoes and kayaks. When checking out inflatable kayaks for sale there are a few questions you need to ask yourself, such as:

  • how will you use the inflatables;
  • how much time are you spending on the crafts;
  • what type of paddling can you handle;
  • how far will you travel;
  • how many people will be seated;
  • what will your water conditions be like;
  • how much weight will be carried by the inflatables;
  • do you want to sit up high in the water or lower in the water.

Other options includes models that are designed just for women and children. Today’s inflatable canoes and kayaks are great fun for all level of water-sports enthusiasts. Inflatable kayaks and canoes provide strength, durability, flexibility and safety. The best inflatable canoes & kayaks are a fun time on the water with family, friends or an alone time. For beginners and first timers there are many great cheap inflatable kayaks for sale that you can choose from.

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.

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