The 5 Best Inflatable Kayaks Under $500: Review & Guide

inflatable whitewater kayak on mountain river
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So, you decided to purchase your first kayak, but you’re not keen on spending a thousand dollars… don’t worry, it’s understandable. 

But here’s the thing:

You don’t have to spend that much money to get a great kayak. So, if you’re looking for the best inflatable kayak under $500, keep reading; I have a great selection for you!

IN A HURRY? HERE ARE OUR TOP PICKS…

What Are The Best Inflatable Kayaks Under $500?

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

The nimble “sit-inside” kayak is great for someone that’s not planning on doing anything crazy. It comes in a complete set and is a very reasonable price. At first impressions, you’ll notice the kayak is pretty compact, making it very easy to store, travel with, and carry.

Once you unpack the kayak, you’re ready to pump it up. The inflatable sit-on-top kayak has two separate air chambers, which can be inflated using the Boston valves.

The cockpit was designed for comfort, which is why you’ll find an adjustable inflatable seat with a backrest. And to make sure your paddling experience is as easy as possible, you have a skeg to help you stay in a straight line.

At the front of the recreational kayak, you have a cargo net for storing extra gear. I recommend not putting anything there that can’t get wet. You’ll also notice a grab line on either side of the kayak, so you can tie it up if you stop for lunch.

Included in the package, you get an 84-inch paddle which is more suited to a smaller paddler. On top of that, you get the pump and a repair patch kit just in case. 

Pros
  • The heavy-duty vinyl means the sit-on-top kayak can take quite a beating without the fear of it popping.
  • The skeg at the bottom of the kayak significantly increases the tracking, so you remain in a straight line.
  • Having a net at the front to store gear is a massive benefit; it can hold tents, food, and much more.
  • The kayak felt very steady on the water, even in high winds and waves.
  • Setting up the kayak was fast and easy, and the same is said with deflating the kayak and putting it away.
Cons
  • The vinyl attracts heat, making it too hot to rest your arms on the kayak when it’s in direct sun.
  • If strong winds come in, you have to be pretty strong to control the kayak due to how light it is.

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak

There aren’t many inflatable kayaks that can keep up with it when it comes to building quality. The three-ply laminate PVC with a polyester core is super lightweight and resistant to abrasions and sunlight.

When pumping the inflatable sit-on-top kayak up, you need to use the three air chambers, starting with the floor panel. You shouldn’t have any problems inflating it with the handpump include in the set. To ensure you’ve pumped the recreational kayak up with the correct pressure, they include a pressure gauge that connects to the valve quickly.

You also get two removable seats that have backrests to guarantee you and your partner stay comfortable throughout the trip. You can also adjust the footrests so you have the optimal kayaking position. The skegs work excellently at keeping you on track while you’re paddling. And the company made a nice touch by offering two skegs; one for shallow water and one for deep water.

As for the paddles, you get two of them in the set. They’re 86” in length and detachable making them simple to pack away. Other features include an integrated drain plug, two fishing rod holders, and a mounting bracket to house your fishing accessories.  

Pros
    Cons

      Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe

      The Sea Eagle 370 kayak is rated to carry 650 pounds and claims to hold three people comfortable in it; there are only two adjustable seats, which can be an issue. The deluxe Sea Eagle sit-on-top kayak seats are a pleasure to sit in, and the backrest is exceptionally comfortable, providing excellent back support.

      The two-seater kayak is perfect for day trips along the river, over the ocean, and on lakes. And thanks to the durability of the material, it’s ideal for kayaking with your dog. It’s made with a 33 mil Polykrylar material, which helps to protect your Sea Eagle kayak from punctures and tears. One of the best things about the kayak’s durability is it’s rated for Class III whitewater.

      To ensure you stay safe while paddling, they included a bow & stern grab line, which you can use for rescues. The Sea Eagle 370 inflatable kayak also comes with a foot pump; unfortunately, it’s not very efficient and doesn’t come with a pressure gauge.

      The set includes two aluminum paddles that offer more strength and durability, but they are pretty heavy. You can split the paddles into four parts, which helps packing down and transportation. At the bottom of the kayak, you have two skegs which help to provide better tracking while you’re paddling or when the weather is getting rough. 

      Pros
      • The kayak is very suited for people who want to start kayaking or people who want to tackle white waters.
      • You can remove the seats so you can paddle it solo and can be controlled smoothly and comfortably.
      • Thanks to the multiple skegs at the kayak’s bottom, it’s straightforward to keep it going in a straight line.
      • The “I” beam construction in the Sea Eagle 370 kayak adds lateral stability and increases the kayak’s comfort.
      • It comes in a very compact design which makes it very easy to store and transport.
      Cons
      • There are no footrests or thigh braces which can make it very hard to generate power while you’re paddling.
      • It doesn’t come with a pressure gauge, which means you don’t know how much to pump it up.
      • The paddles aren’t the best quality; they do the job but seem to rattle when you use them.

      Sevylor Quikpak K1

      If you’re looking for an inflatable kayak that doesn’t take up much room, the Sevylor Quikpak might be the best option. It’s made with 21 gauge PVC construction, which isn’t the best at repelling punctures, which is why this is more suitable for lake use.

      At the bottom of the Sevylor Quikpak kayak is reinforced with a tarpaulin bottom, which helps protect the kayak from submerged sticks and rocks. The Sevylor Quikpak kayak uses multiple air chambers to assure you that you can make it back to shore if one pops. Thanks to the double lock valves, they also add an airtight system, so you don’t have to worry about air leaking.

      One of the most significant advantages of the Sevylor Quikpak K1 is the time it takes to set up. It takes around 5 minutes to set up and get it in the water. It’s also one of the lightest inflatable sit-on-top kayaks out there, making it great for transporting but not the best in strong winds. And this is probably the biggest downfall of the kayak; it just doesn’t perform very well.

      Included in the set, you get a hand pump, a collapsable aluminum paddle, and a storage backpack which makes it super easy to transport. 

      Pros
      • If you’re just starting, the price of the kayak should be very attractive for any beginner.
      • The tarpaulin flooring ensures the Sevylor Quickpak K1 is strong and durable against punctures and rough surfaces.
      • Considering the sit-on-top kayak is so small, it’s got a substantial maximum weight capacity which means nearly anyone can paddle in it.
      • The double lock valves make it easier to inflate and ensure no air escapes while you’re pumping it up.
      • The foam seat and backrest provide excellent support, which prevents backache when paddling long distances.
      Cons
      • Due to the kayak being so light and the skegs very small, it doesn’t track very well. Trying to keep it going in a straight line can be very tricky.
      • The Sevylor Quickpak K1 is not good in rough water. If you’re planning to paddle whitewater, then this is not the kayak for you.
      • The material feels weak overall and doesn’t feel like it will be able to repel any punctures, which is a massive downside.

      Intex Dakota K2

      It’s another excellent addition to the list by Intex. The Dakota K2 is an upgraded version of previous models, and it really packs a punch. The kayak is made with premium puncture-resistant material, three separate air chambers, and an inflatable I-beam floor to prevent perforations.

      Intex built the sit-on-top kayak to hold two people comfortably while focusing on the stability of the kayak. The inflatable seats can be removed easily and are connected to the kayak with straps to ensure they don’t move around.

      They wanted to design an inflatable kayak that could travel at high speeds and have agility over the water. And this is why they included two different skegs, a short one for sharp turns and a long one for tracking. 

      The Dakota K2 comes with two 86” oars, which can make it tricky to paddle if you’re a taller person. It also comes with a high output pump, which reduces its time to inflate the kayak. A nice touch was including two dry bags into the kayak set. You can use the dry bags to store equipment you don’t want to get wet. To make it better, there’s plenty of space to keep the bags inside the kayak.

      Pros
      • The grab handles on the bow and stern make it easy to transfer the kayak from land to water.
      • Having two skegs gives you the option of speed or agility; a Long one for speed, a short one for agility.
      • It’s made with very heavy-duty puncture-proof vinyl, which also helps to protect against UV rays.
      • The kayak comes with plenty of extras which adds to the value. The additions include a high output pump, two paddles, two dry bags, and a carry bag.
      Cons
      • Some people might find the kayak too heavy for just one person, making it tricky for solo journeys.
      • The paddles are pretty wobbly at the connection points, which can make it hard to paddle with.
      • Some people claim the kayak swings at the front end, which can make it hard to handle.

      Our Top Choice

      Okay, you’ve got the end of the article and realized inflatable kayaks are far more than pool toys. But which is the best inflatable kayak under $500? Looking at the list above, it’s a tough choice, and all I can give you is my opinion.

      For me, the best inflatable kayak has to be the Intex Dakota K2. The kayak is made of extremely strong material and doesn’t feel like it will puncture easily. 

      I also loved that you could adjust the kayak from a two-person to a one-person kayak quickly and efficiently. 

      Another great benefit was switching from agility to speed by changing the skegs at the bottom of the kayak.

      If I had to pick one lousy point, it would probably be the paddles; they felt slightly flimsy at the connection points. 

      Things To Consider When Purchasing An Inflatable Kayak

      sunset over mountain river with an inflatable whitewater kayak

      The key to finding the right inflatable kayak for you is knowing what makes a good inflatable kayak and what you should consider.

      To help you make the right decision, I’ve created a quick list of things you need to consider when purchasing the best inflatable kayak under $500:

      Material 

      When it comes to material, you have three choices, and which one you choose will play a massive part in the overall cost and quality.

      Single Layer – They are usually the more affordable of the three styles, but the single-layer also makes them susceptible to punctures. Single-layer kayaks are more suited to light use; you shouldn’t use them for more than an hour or two.

      Multi-Layer – A lot more versatile than single-layer kayaks due to the extra protection they offer the paddler. The multi-layers protect the kayak from abrasions, punctures, and UV light.

      Because of the extra protection, you can use them longer and have less fear of them getting damaged. Some multi-layer kayaks can even handle grade two rivers.

      Heavy Duty – This kayak style is usually made with more robust materials such as rubber or PVC. They are far more durable than any other style of inflatable kayak. The problem is they tend to be far more expensive.

      Floor Construction

      The floor of your kayak is one of the most important factors for maintaining its structure in the water. The two best styles of floor are I-beam and drop-stitch floors.

      But, if I had to choose one, I’d probably sway more towards drop-stitch floors. The design allows the floor to hold more pressure, which means more rigidity and performance.

      Length

      Deciding the length of your kayak will determine what type of paddling you’re going to be doing. 

      If you are looking for an agile kayak that you maneuver easily, you should look for shorter kayaks. A shorter kayak is excellent if you’re going through rivers where you need to dodge rocks.

      If you’re planning on taking long trips in your kayak, you should probably be looking at a longer kayak. They are far more efficient on long journeys and reach higher top speeds.

      Your Height And Weight

      One of the most important factors of buying an inflatable kayak is making sure you can fit in it, and it holds your weight. 

      If you’re taller than most people, you should look for a kayak with an extended hull or adjustable footrests to ensure your knees aren’t in your chest.

      When looking at the weight, you should buy a kayak that exceeds your weight by at least 50 pounds. This will ensure the kayak can hold your weight and gives you extra wiggle room for food and gear.

      Seats

      Kayak seat
      Kayak seat

      You might think inflatable seats would be comfortable, but over time they can be pretty irritating. If you’re paddling regularly, try and find a slightly firmer seat, you’ll be thankful in the long run. You could also purchase a seat cushion to add extra comfort.

      Quality Of The Paddle And Pump

      Women inflating kayak on the beach near the camper

      Many inflatable kayaks come as part of a set, and while the kayak may be of excellent quality, the same can’t be said for the accessories.

      We highly recommend running through the reviews to see what people thought about the paddle and pump. If the pump is terrible, you can probably get by in the short term.

      But your paddle needs to be suitable for the job and your own safety.

      Storage

      You need to think about how much room you have to store the kayak. Heavy-duty kayaks tend to take up more space, which makes them harder to store. On the other hand, single-layer kayaks are usually lighter and take up less room.

      Cleaning

      Cleaning the kayak is probably the most overlooked factor for many buyers. Leaving dirt and grim on your kayak can damage the material in the long term. And this is why it’s essential to find a kayak that’s simple to clean.

      Single-layer and heavy-duty kayaks are usually the easiest to clean; it’s a case of whipping them down and leaving them to dry.

      Multi-layer kayaks tend to be harder to clean because the grim seeps in the fabric and becomes smelly over time.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      Are Inflatable Kayaks Worth It?


      It’s a common question I hear, and it’s no surprise when so many people compare them to pool toys. But my answer is yes; inflatable kayaks are worth it. 

      Nowadays, inflatable kayaks are a lot more robust than they used to be a few years ago. But their main advantage is how easy they are to transport. 

      If you’ve been looking at kayaks for a while, but don’t think you have the room, then an inflatable kayak is the perfect option.

      And transporting them is even easier. With a hardshell kayak, you need a roof rack or a trailer to get it to the river. But with an inflatable kayak, you can simply stick it in the boot and won’t have to worry about someone stealing it.

      Although inflatable kayaks are worth the money, they do have a few cons we should speak about. 

      Most people think inflatable kayaks are cheaper, but that’s not necessarily true for a good one. If you are looking for a high-performance inflatable kayak, you might have to pay more.

      The other con is having to inflate and deflate the kayak every time you want to use it. It’s time-consuming and needs to have the correct level of air inside if you want it to perform well.

      Do Inflatable Kayaks Pop Easily?


      It really depends on the material and the brand. Most reputable companies will use strong material to make the kayak, which reduces the chance of popping. 

      The problem is when you go for the cheaper option. Cheaper kayaks are made with inferior materials, increasing the chance of a rock or stick piercing the kayak. 

      Sometimes accidents happen, and even the most robust kayaks will falter. If this happens, you’ll find a puncture repair in the set. 

      Jason
      Jason
      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.

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