Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe? Everything You Need To Know

by Jason | Last Updated:   June 6th, 2022
Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe? Everything You Need To Know
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If you’re on the hunt for a new kayak, you’re probably wondering, “Are inflatable kayaks safe?” and it’s a good question!

Here’s the thing:

For years, people have regarded inflatable kayaks as a cheap pool toy that you can pick up from your local store. And in the early years, people weren’t far from the truth, but things have changed significantly since they first hit the market.

Of course:

Not all inflatable kayaks are made equally (you can check out the 6 best inflatable kayaks here), which means you need to be careful about which one you choose.

So, in today’s article, I’ll be talking about the features and materials used in modern inflatable kayaks that determine how safe they are.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, so don’t go anywhere as I dissect everything you need to know about inflatable kayaks.

So, are inflatable kayaks safe?

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe? Ultimate Guide

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe

With inflatable kayaks growing in popularity in recent years, I think it’s a good idea to help you understand how safe they are.

And I suppose the best place to start is to talk about what makes inflatable kayaks safe to use.

So, in this section, we’ll be talking about the materials they use, how durable they are, how easy they are to fix, and so much more:

What Are Inflatable Kayaks Made With?

The first thing I want to start with is the materials used to make an inflatable boat and how much they can withstand. So, let’s talk about the materials:

Most inflatable kayaks are made with PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) because it’s cheaper to produce, making it excellent for entry-level kayaks. The downside is that PVC is more susceptible to breaking down due to UV rays.

For this reason, you can also find inflatable kayaks made with:

  1. CMS/Hypalon
  2. Nylon 
  3. Polyurethane coated cloth

These materials are incredibly robust and flexible, perfect for your inflatable kayak. Not only this, but they also provide more protection from UV rays, which, you can argue, makes them the better material.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Durable?

People are often concerned with the durability of an inflatable kayak, particularly how easy it is to puncture.

And, of course, inflatable products can puncture; it just comes with the territory. Luckily, most inflatable kayaks are strong enough to withstand punctures from fishing hooks and tree branches. 

But punctures aren’t the only reason you need to be thinking about durability:

The materials used in an inflatable kayak are also built to withstand varying water and weather conditions.

Not only that:

But they come with multiple air chambers to make it back to shore even if you pick up a puncture.

One of the most important things to think about when you’re on the hunt for a quality inflatable kayak is to make sure you choose the right one for the job.

If you’re going to go whitewater kayaking, there’s no point in getting an inflatable kayak built for calm lakes.

Another thing to remember is you get what you pay for; if you go for the cheapest option, it’s probably not going to last very long. 

You also need to look after them to get the maximum use out of them. This means cleaning and drying them before you pack them away. You’ll also need to keep them out of direct sunlight and check them for damage before you head out.

Do Inflatable Kayaks Puncture Easily?

We’ve spoken about getting punctures briefly in the previous section, but I feel like it needs more explanation.

Not only about how likely you are to get a puncture but how to find and fix the leak.

If you’re getting a cheap inflatable kayak, it’s not going to hold up to punctures very well. And this is because the materials used just aren’t strong enough to withstand rocks or tree branches.

If you’re paddling on calm waters where you can easily avoid obstacles, you might be okay with a cheaper kayak. But…

If you need your inflatable kayak to withstand things like your dog’s claws (How to kayak with your dog) or fishing hooks, you will have to invest in a high-quality kayak.

The heavy-duty materials on the inflatable fishing kayak will have no issues transporting your dog or protecting you from fishing hooks.

But, will your inflatable kayak sink if you do get a puncture?

Well, luckily most kayaks come with multiple air chambers, which means you can still float even if one has been popped.

But just in case, let’s take a look at how to find a leak:

How To Find A Leak In An Inflatable Kayak?

If God forbid, you ever get a puncture in your inflatable watercraft, you’ll need to know how to find the leak. So, in this section, I’m going to be running you through two of my favorite techniques:

Technique #1: Listen For The Leak- One of the most straightforward techniques you can use to your advantage is to listen for the leak. 

For this method, you’ll need to find a quiet place so you can inflate your kayak and listen.

Start at the valve air and position your cheek and ear close to the kayak and see if you can feel any air blowing against your cheek or hissing in your ear.

If there’s no movement near the valve, work around the kayak, checking the walls and the seams. 

Move around the kayak and grid of the areas. If you don’t find anything the first time, you’ll have to pay closer attention the second time.

When you find the hole, make sure you mark it, so you don’t lose it when you go for the repair. And if you still can’t find it, you’ll have to move over to the following method.

Technique #2: Use Soapy Water To Locate The Leak – Some people like to hold the kayak underwater to find the leak. But, if you don’t live near a river or a beach, you can find it tricky to locate the hole.

And this is why I prefer to use soapy water to locate the leak. To do this, you will need to inflate the kayak as usual. 

Once the kayak has been inflated, you need to combine water with liquid soap. I prefer to use dish soap because it’s not harsh enough to damage your kayak.

Use a sponge with soapy water and cover a small area of the kayak. If you see any bubbles forming, you’ve found the leak.

Make sure you go around the entire kayak using this method and mark any holes you find.

How To Fix A Leak On An Inflatable Kayak

Once you’ve found the leaks, you need to be able to fix them, so in this section, I’m going to go through the steps you need to take to repair your inflatable kayak.

Depending on the size of the hole, you might have to make an inside patch and an outside patch.

But in this section, I’m only going to cover an outside patch, which you can use for holes under 50mm:

  1. Cut down your patch so it can cover the damage to your kayak, and add an additional 30 mm on each side.
  2. Using light grit sandpaper, clean up the hole to provide a better stick.
  3. Clean the area, so there’s no grit left on the kayak.
  4. Mix the two-part adhesive as required by the instructions on the container.
  5. Brush a thin adhesive layer on both the patch and the kayak; leave it for 30 minutes to dry.
  6. Apply the second coat to both components and leave them to dry for a further 5–10 minutes until it’s tacky.
  7. Position the patch in place so it covers the hole and smoothes out any bubbles using a roller.
  8. Make sure the edges have been adequately affixed. 
  9. Let it sit for at least 6 hours before applying pressure to the kayak, and 48 hours for a complete cure, but seven days will provide maximum strength.

How Long Will Your Inflatable Kayak Last?

When you’re thinking about staying safe in your inflatable kayak, you must know how long it will last so you can think about getting a replacement.

And you’ll be happy to know that when you take proper care of your inflatable kayak, it can last for years.

So, make sure you take good care of them and store them away correctly to get the maximum life span out of them.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Stable?

Thanks to the wide hull of inflatable kayaks, you’ll find they are very stable, making them pretty safe for beginners. That being said, some inflatable kayaks are a lot more stable than others, so you’ll have to do some research.

The key to stability is ensuring the kayak is inflated correctly, which means following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Do Inflatable Kayaks Track Well?

Having a kayak that can track well can keep you safe because you won’t go off course with every stroke. But are inflatable kayaks good at tracking?

Most inflatable kayaks come with a removable skeg that helps you track in the right direction, even if you’re using a cheaper model.

And a well-built inflatable kayak will track relatively well. That being said, all inflatable kayaks struggle in the wind, so it’s something to be aware of.

Inflatable Kayak Weight Capacity 

All kayaks are limited to a maximum weight capacity, even inflatable ones. For this reason, you need to make sure you and your gear do not exceed that weight.

The last thing you want to do is weigh down your kayak.

Most inflatable kayaks can hold anywhere between 250 and 500 lbs, so you need to check the manufacturer’s specifications before you purchase the kayak. You can learn more about increasing your kayak’s weight capacity here.

What About Intended Use, Purpose & Water Conditions?

I hope this article has helped you understand that inflatable kayaks are reliable and safe. But, we should talk about some of their limitations before we leave you.

And the main thing is, you need to make sure you get a kayak built for the job at hand. Here’s the thing:

You can’t make a jumbo jet do a loop d loop.

And the same is with kayaks. You wouldn’t be able to take a kayak built for calm water on whitewater, you’ll need inflatable whitewater kayaks for that. They just wouldn’t be able to withstand the conditions, and you’ll put yourself in danger.

In other words, inflatable kayaks are built for specific situations because they have to perform in different environments.

To help you understand, let’s talk about inflatable kayaks in the ocean:

Can You Use Inflatable Kayaks In The Sea?

One of the questions I get asked a lot is whether you can use an inflatable kayak on the sea; I thought I’d answer the question,

You shouldn’t have any issues kayaking on the seawater with a well-made kayak that uses heavy-duty materials.

That being said:

If you’re kayaking somewhere with strong waves, you’re going to be a lot more likely to get flipped over in an inflatable kayak. To make it worse:

You’re also going to struggle in strong winds or currents, so you need to be more cautious when using an inflatable kayak on the sea.

Inflatable Kayaking Safety Tips: Dos & Don’ts

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe

By now, you should have a good idea that inflatable kayaks are safe. But, there are still some dos and don’ts you need to follow if you want to stay safe.

And I want to introduce inflatable kayak safety tips:

Inflatable Kayak Do’s

  • Make sure you tell people where you’re going and what time you will be coming back.
  • Make sure you pack your pump and a repair kit with you just in case.
  • Try to stay close to the shoreline; if heavy winds pick up, you’ll struggle to make it back.
  • Try to evenly spread the weight across the kayak if you’re taking things with you.
  • Make sure you always inflate the kayak to the total capacity. If it’s not inflated correctly, it will be very slow.
  • Make sure you have plenty of drinking water, especially on a hot day.
  • Bring a hat to protect your face from the sun or rain.
  • Make sure you have your phone with you to call for help.
  • Bring a whistle with you; if your phone has no signal, you might be able to get someone’s attention.
  • Make sure you wear sunscreen to protect you from UV rays.
  • Bring plenty of layers with you; you never know when you might need them.

Inflatable Kayak Don’ts

  • Try not to kayak into or near sharp objects.
  • Don’t drag your kayak over rocks or gravel unless you absolutely have to.
  • Never bring alcohol with you while you kayak; it can lead to dehydration and many other problems.
  • Don’t try and stand up and swap places if you’re using a tandem kayak; you’re probably going to fall in.
  • Don’t fall asleep in your kayak; you never know where you might end up.
  • Don’t drink the water from the lake; you’ll get ill, so always bring your own drinking water.
  • Don’t leave your kayak too close to the water’s edge if you’re taking a break; it might be gone by the time you look again.
  • Leave the wildlife alone; they don’t want to be bothered.
  • Don’t get too close to motorboats.

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

I hope this article has helped convince you that inflatable kayaks are a lot safer than they used to be.

But…

That doesn’t mean you kayak around willy-nilly; you still need to make sure you follow the rules, which is why I left you with a list of dos and don’ts.

Remember, when you’re choosing an inflatable kayak, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  • The material it’s made with
  • What the intended purpose of the kayak is
  • How much weight it can carry
  • And how stable will it be

If you get these four things right and follow the rules, I have no doubt in my mind that you’re not going to run into trouble while you’re using your inflatable kayak.

If you’re looking for more information, check out this article about inflatable vs hard shell kayaks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use Inflatable Kayaks In The Ocean?

Despite what people think, inflatable kayaks are very durable and usually don’t have any issues with the ocean. That being said, people do struggle with them in tall waves or strong wind conditions.

How Durable Are Inflatable Kayaks?

Again, new inflatable kayaks are incredibly durable compared to what they used to be. And this means they are built to withstand punctures, so you don’t sink. In fact, most of them have multiple air chambers, so if one pops, you can make it back to dry land. 

Do Inflatable Kayaks Need To Be Registered In PA?

It really depends on the state you are paddling in and the National Park/Forest you’re visiting. Your best option is to check the local state law before getting a kayak. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to get it registered anyway.

How To Remove A Skeg On An Inflatable Kayak?

Removing the skeg from your inflatable kayak can vary from model to model, but here is the basic idea behind it. Press the clips at the front of the skeg on either side of the blade. You should be pinching both sides with your finger and thumb. You need to push it down and forward, which will release the skeg from the kayak.

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Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.