Better than a hard shell kayak? The 6 best inflatable kayaks

senior paddler carrying inflatable whitewater kayak
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The thought of getting hardshell kayaks to and from the water can make your otherwise enjoyable expedition tedious. This is especially true if you don’t have a kayak cart to help with transportation. 

This is where inflatable kayaks pose a great go-to solution. Not only are they highly portable and handy, but also come at an affordable price. If you are worried about them having poor performance then you’ve come to the right place. We made sure that our best inflatable kayak review consists of durable and leak-proof kayaks.

IN A HURRY? HERE ARE OUR TOP PICKS…

Best inflatable kayak review 

Best tandem inflatable kayak

The Intex Excursion Pro Kayak is made from super-tough laminate PVC, and it has a polyester core that helps to make it lightweight and highly resistant to impact damage and sunlight. It comes equipped with a removable skeg which makes this kayak an excellent choice for deep and shallow water, and it comes with 2 integrated recessed fishing rod holders to make any kayak fishing trip more comfortable.

This tandem kayak comes with 2 adjustable bucket seats that make it excellent for kayak fishing trips, and it has a weight capacity of 400 pounds, but this includes the weight from your gear and the two people taking the kayak out. Finally, it is an inflatable tandem kayak with storage space located in the bow and stern to help keep important things dry while out on the water.

Pros
  • Built for performance: The two skegs ensure optimal maneuverability through deep and shallow waters
  • Quality design: Comes with an inflatable booster pad for elevated seating, which is ideal for short people
  • Versatile: It has built-in features that allow for kayak fishing, recreational kayaking or kayak camping.
  • Lightweight: Despite being a two persons inflatable kayak, transporting, inflating and deflating is possible by one single person.
Cons
  • Not designed for whitewater kayaking: The structure isn’t sturdy enough to handle rapid and has poor tracking on waters with strong current.
  • Quite narrow: The inner dimensions are quite narrow so be mindful when packing your gear.
  • Budget paddles: The delivered paddles are decent for paddling 2-3 hours but aren’t equipped for long kayaking adventures

Best inflatable kayak for whitewater

This deluxe kayak was designed with a ton of room, and it has a high weight capacity of 650 pounds, which is more than the majority of available inflatable kayaks. It comes with an easy-to-use foot pump and a carry bag that makes storing the kayak and taking it from one place to another a breeze. It beats most hardshell kayak designs because of its easy-to-carry kayak. It also has several kayak advanced elements like 2 skegs on the bottom, which help with speed and tracking.

Plus, it comes with an easy-to-open and close valve that helps with inflation and deflation. This kayak only weighs approximately 26 pounds, and it is suitable for taking on up to Class III whitewater rapids, which might be essential for you to reach your final fishing destination. Finally, if there is ever any damage to the kayak it can easily be repaired with a repair kit, but it is important to purchase one separately, and it is important to note that this regular kayak model does have a removable skeg.

Pros
  • Designed for whitewater kayaking: Two molded rear skegs give exceptional tracking and speed while staying stable even in class III whitewater due to the beam floor that keeps it rigid.
  • High max. weight capacity: The kayak is lightweight, but can hold as much as 650lbs allowing you to bring all the necessary accessories with you for kayak camping or fishing.
  • Dog friendly: The blow up kayak is durable enough for withstanding dog nails
Cons
  • Poor back support: The middle seat has no back support making it difficult to sit upright. You can consider purchasing deluxe seats for exceptional back support
  • Not spacious enough for 3 people: Although the kayak is designed to accommodate 3 people, it is best suited for 2 people if you plan on kayaking for long hours.

Best tandem inflatable fishing kayak

The Coleman Colorado 2 Person kayak is classified as an inflatable tandem kayak, and it is suitable for two-person fishing trips. This kayak comes equipped with Berkley Quick Ste Rod holders that are meant to provide a hands-free fishing experience when needed. It has a PVC tarpaulin bottom that helps to provide the kayak with a durability factor that many other tandem kayak models do not have.

The Coleman Colorado 2 has multiple air chambers that will allow it to still float even if a single chamber is punctured, but the overall kayak does have an airtight system that is guaranteed not to leak from normal circumstances. However, it is important to note that this model does not come with paddles or a pump to inflate it. Finally, it is important to note that it is important to carry a repair kit on your fishing trip on the off chance one of the chambers is punctured while out on the water.

Pros
  • Portable: Since it weighs only 41lbs and easily folds into a 3 x 3 x 10 inches carrying case, the kayak is highly portable. Besides, you can easily take a flight with it if you plan to fish on an exotic land
  • Dog friendly: The 1000D tarpaulin bottom and 840D nylon cover make this kayak highly robust for handling dog nails. Assuming you are being reasonable with the kayak, you can drag it over weeds and bushes and rocks while also taking a fishing trip with your dog.
Cons
  • Poor performance: The tracking is not the best so it will be harder than usual to paddle forward when facing medium to strong currents. Therefore, it might not be a good idea to use this kayak in fast moving water such as the sea or rivers with strong currents.
  • Paddles & pump not included: Paddles and pump are not included upon purchase of the kayak. You should buy an electric pump to save you time from pumping the kayak by hand.

Best inflatable kayak for children

If you are looking for something other than an inflatable tandem kayak, this is a single-person kayak that still provides a number of excellent features that will make solo fishing trips easier and more comfortable. This kayak comes with carry handles to make it easy to get it from one place to another solo, and it has a PVC tarpaulin construction that helps to keep it protected from punctures. There is a handle on the bow and stern, and it is designed to make self-bailing easy if required.

It is made with double lock valves that have two locking points that make inflating and deflating the kayak easy. This kayak is only capable of holding approximately 300 pounds, which means the person using it shouldn’t weigh more than 250 pounds in order to have enough weight left for their gear. Finally, it comes with everything needed to get going, except for a repair kit.

Pros
  • Fast and easy to inflate: A dual-action hand pump makes it easy to inflate and deflate, saving you time.
  • Lightweight: This blow up kayak weighs only 18 lbs making it also portable for children.
  • Ideal for children: Besides being very light, the front handle allows for towing the kayak in case your child is tired.
Cons
  • Poor performance: The kayak goes left and right with each stroke especially against the wind or up river. If you just want to paddle around and enjoy nature then it shouldn’t be a problem. However, you will have hard trouble keeping up with people using hard kayaks.
  • Lack of storage space: Given the design of the kayak, there is no hull which could allow for storage space. This makes it difficult to carry a lot of equipment when planning a long trip

Best inflatable kayak for cold weather

This kayak is designed to be easy to set up, and it only takes approximately 5-minutes to get it up and on the water. The backpack actually turns into the seat, and it is made from 24-gauge PVC material that helps with durability when out on rugged waters, like a lake. The bottom is made from tarpaulin, and the cover from polyester, which both help to protect the kayak from punctures.

The bow and stern are both covered with the tarpaulin material, which helps to keep it protected, and it has an airtight system that helps to guarantee that the kayak will not leak. Finally, it has several air chambers, which means that if any of the chambers are ever damaged or punctured, the kayak will still stay afloat until you can make it to land.

Pros
  • Folds to a backpack: Once deflated, this blow up kayak can be folded into a backpack allowing you to continue your adventure on land.
  • Ideal for cold weather: This sit-inside inflatable kayak keeps your lower body warm even when kayaking during chilly weather.
Cons
  • Paddle not ideal for long adventures: The provided aluminum paddle is quite heavy for enjoying long kayaking adventures.
  • Fragile skeg: The integral skeg might bend when rolling the kayak for packing, thus be careful when packing.

Best inflatable fishing kayak

The Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler inflatable fishing kayak is covered by a one-year manufacturer warranty, and it comes with a high-back seat and two-rod holders that will help with most fishing excursions. The seat also comes with inflatable lumbar support, and it has a weight capacity of 300 pounds.

For maximum durability, this kayak comes with abrasion pads, and it is made from a multi-layer material with a patented aluminum rib frame. Finally, this kayak has an open design that makes self-bailing easier if the need ever arises while out on the water.

Pros
  • Built for kayak fishing: Comes out the box with rod holders and aluminum mounting rail for additional fishing accessories. Also, the wide beam makes the vessel highly stable for reeling in a big catch.
  • Very safe: This blow up kayak is designed with 5 separate air chambers instead of 3. This significantly reduces the impact of a puncture on your kayaking experience.
  • Designed for whitewater kayaking: This inflatable kayak is tough enough to withstand up to Class III rapids without tipping over.
Cons
  • Takes time to dry: Difficult to dry before storage as water collects around bottom drain plugs. It would be best to open it when home and let it air dry before keeping the kayak.
  • Pump & paddle not included: The pump is not included, so you should consider buying an electric one to save you the time of having to blow the kayak by hand .
  • Poor design: The accessory bar is fixed to move towards the bow which makes it difficult to gain access to your mounted accessories when sitting on the kayak

Our Top Choice

When choosing the best inflatable kayak, we made sure to choose one that is suitable for a variety of activities. Whether you are in the mood for a kayaking adventure with your loved one or just want some alone time while kayak fishing. 

We are confident that the Intex Excursion Pro Kayak will live up to its expectations. Despite being a 2 person kayak, it can easily be carried and operated by just one person. The inflatable kayak seats are also removable providing more space for extra gear for camping, fishing, or just your dog.

How to choose the best inflatable kayak

inflatable whitewater kayak on mountain river

Compared to hard shell kayaks, inflatable kayaks stand out in the following aspects:

  • Portable: You don’t have to invest in a kayak cart or kayak racks to transport blow-up kayaks.
  • Easy to store: You can quickly deflate the vessels to fit a backpack
  • Simple to set up and repair: You can easily set up the inflated kayaks on the shore. If there is a puncture, you can repair your vessel with the repair kits provided.
  • Affordable: Unlike hard-shell kayaks, the inflatable kayak is much more affordable and offers excellent performance that matches and sometimes even exceeds traditional kayaks


So what type of kayak is best? Well, there are a lot to choose from out on the market. To help you make your decision easier, these six factors will be important when choosing an inflatable kayak:

Type of material

PVC kayak layer
Layers of a Hypalon fabric kayak

When it comes to material, PVC, Hypalon, and Nitrilon are the most popular choices for kayaks. Each provides several benefits. PVC is less expensive but more prone to damage from sunlight or heat. Hypalon is more durable and UV resistant but also more expensive than PVC. Nitrilon sits in the middle as a cheaper, yet still lightweight and durable material. If you are an environmentalist then Nitrilon fabric is ideal due to its non-pollutant nature and strength.

You should buy an inflatable kayak made of Hypalon fabric to get the most value for money. Even though a Hypalon kayak is expensive, it will last a lot longer than a PVC inflatable kayak and is more resistant to scratches and tears.

If you’re looking for the most affordable solution yet still want to get a durable and quality inflatable kayak, buying PVC is your smartest option.

Type of activity

As with any other boat, the first step is to get a kayak that will serve the intended purpose. Are you planning to use an inflatable kayak for fishing, camping, rafting, or simple leisure activities? Do you plan to kayak in flat water such as calm lakes or whitewater with class IV rapids?

Sit-on-top inflatable kayaks are the best for calm-waters and kayak fishing, while sit-ins are an ideal option for whitewater. In the end, your comfort is paramount when kayaking. Rough waters present danger, and a kayak that is easy to get in and out would be the best. Alternatively, you can buy a versatile yak like open kayaks that serve several purposes.

For more information have a look at our article on the different types of kayaks depending on intended usage.

Amount of paddlers

What better reason to head out on the water than paddling side by side with a loved one or a furry companion? And when it comes to selecting an inflatable kayak, there’s more to consider than just its capacity.

The number of paddlers is one of the main factor that determines the type of kayak you should buy. If you’re going to kayak solo, then a single passenger vessel is your best bet, but if your heart is set on kayaking as a duo or in a trio, then tandem inflatable kayaks are what you need.

Weight Capacity

What’s more, before buying your kayak, you also have to be mindful of its weight.  You should choose a kayak that can generate enough power to propel itself forward while having enough room for your equipment in the process. You don’t want to end up with a kayak that is far too heavy for you and your equipment.

So, once you get the perfect kayak, ensure that it has the ideal weight capacity. Most vessels can hold up between 350-700 pounds. As long as the weight of the paddlers and equipment stays under this weight, you’ll be fine. Therefore, if you plan to kayak with a lot of equipment, such as when kayak fishing or camping then definitely invest in a kayak with a high load capacity. Some would even consider buying a 2 person inflatable kayak, even if they plan on paddling alone. This is because tandem kayaks can carry more weight than solo kayaks to compensate for the extra passenger.

Ease of storage

It is also best to consider where you plan to store your inflatable kayak once done kayaking. In this regard, you should check the weight and the length of the inflatable kayak when deflated to ensure it fits well in your storage bag or designated closet. Keep in mind that the length of the kayak also affects its performance. A long kayak has better traction in the water so you can go faster. However, they lack stability since they are often narrow. A wide kayak on the other hand provides better stability but lacks in performance.

Ease of inflating

When it comes to the inflatable kayak, there are two main options – speed and comfort. Depending on what your particular needs are, you can choose between a pump-up model that takes up to 10 minutes to inflate or a slow but high-performance inflatable kayak that takes longer to inflate. This has to do with having more air chambers to inflate before it can be used, which is a security measure so that inflation is guaranteed even if a chamber is punctured.

Inflatable Kayaks FAQs

How long do inflatable kayaks last?


Some people have a misconception that inflated kayaks are for temporary use. On the contrary, inflatable kayaks have a lifespan of between 5 and 10 years. Ultimately, determining the exact life of an inflatable kayak depends on the materials used, maintenance, and water conditions of your kayak location.

Can I leave my inflatable kayak inflated?


Proper storage of inflatable kayaks is essential and should never be stored in an inflated state. Leaving the kayak out of the water inflated for a long time can put stress on the outside of your kayak and damage the valves. Temperature changes can also cause the internal septum to rupture as the air in your kayak expands.

How do I increase the lifetime of my inflatable kayak? 


When inflating the kayak, you should take the following precautions:

  • Clean the valves to avoid clogging during inflation
  • Clear the area where you want to inflate the kayak to give it room to grow
  • Do not exceed maximum pressure during inflation as this can damage the internal septum which may not be repairable.

When done using the kayak, do the following:

  • Remove all debris in and out of your kayak
  • Rinse off any residue 
  • Dry your kayak to prevent mildew and mold growth during storage

When storing, take the following precautions:

  • Deflate your vessel before storage
  • Fold/roll your kayak differently each time you store it
  • Keep the kayak in a cool and dry place
Ally Mash
Ally Mash
Ally is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent most of his free time backpacking through South America, Iceland, Vietnam, and Europe. He loves sharing his experience through blogging. His mission is to get more people in the mindset of protecting our planet by sharing its beauty.

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