One of the major upsides of having an inflatable kayak is its ease of transport. Almost all of them come with a carrying bag suited for the kayak. As a result, all you have to do is carry the bag, a paddle and a pump to the shore and be on your way.
Advanced Elements AirFusion Elite
AdvancedFrame Inflated Kayak MODEL AE1012-R
Coleman Quikpak(TM) K5
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
|Weight||32 lbs.||36 lbs.||25,5 lbs.||24 lbs.|
|Weight Capacity||235 lbs.||300 lbs.||250 lbs.||220 lbs.|
|Length||13 ft.||10 ft. 5 in.||10 ft.||9 ft.|
Easy To Inflate
Easy To Inflate
Easy To Inflate
Easy To Inflate
|Review||Go To Review||Go To Review||Go To Review||Go To Review|
However, you need to know that you trade the comfort of having an easily transportable kayak against some performance. The tracking and speed are not quite on par with the hard-shell kayaks. But for some, transport and storage are a major issue, and that’s where inflatables shine.
Like all other types of kayaks, choosing the best inflatable kayak comes down to two main factors — where and how are you going to use your kayak. We’ve included some kayaks which we’ve enjoyed and tried out though our kayaking experience, saving our favorite for last.
Remember to think about what you want from your kayak! Price range, where you can paddle, how experienced you are — all these things should be considered and taken into account.
Evaluating the Kayaks
Inflatable kayaks are kind of a niche within the niche of kayaking. They are kind of in their own secluded category, at least as we see it.
We mainly use inflatable kayaks as a secondary kayak when going to far-off locations where you have a hard time bringing your hard-shell. If that is what you’re looking for, then ease of transport might be more important than overall performance.
While the above is not the case for us, do take a serious consideration on where and how you want to use your kayak. While cheaper than most hard-shells, this convenience still comes at a premium when it comes to price.
We feel that stability is more important when you’re new to the sport. When you get comfortable with your kayak and have some experience you’ll know how to handle it.
It is, however, comfortable even for an experienced kayaker to have a stable kayak. We encourage especially for beginners so that you need to get comfortable on the water.
In terms of inflatable vs. hard-shell, stability doesn’t differ too much. It’s more based on the design of the kayak than the material. So, if you want a stable kayak you can easily find an inflatable that serves your needs.
The steering ability of these kayaks is mainly determined by the same factor as hard-shells, which is the length of the boat. Longer kayaks are not as maneuverable as short ones.
How much you want to factor maneuverability into your choice is actually very situational. Being able to steer lets you play around more with your kayak, for kids, extra maneuverability is great!
If you focus on workouts or quick transport when it comes to kayaking, then you want to focus more on tracking. Having a kayak that tracks well often comes at the cost of steering ability.
Durability is one of the areas where hard-shell really differentiates from soft-shells. Most of the time hard-shells only wear out over time, while soft-shells usually break due to lack of care or lack of situational awareness.
For example, if you’re unlucky, a sharp stone or twig can poke a hole in your inflatable kayak. Luckily there are repair kits, hopefully, you won’t need to use them too often, but they work quite well when needed.
Durability is something that’s determined by the material, so if you’re worried about ripping your boat apart, look for a kayak with a durable material. Even with inflatable kayaks, some materials are more durable than others as.
Tracking and maneuverability are often co-dependent. Great maneuverability can often come at the downfall of losing a lot of tracking ability, and vice versa.
From our experience, inflatable kayaks usually tend to lean more towards being maneuverable. This doesn’t mean that they’re all bad at tracking, just that they’re usually not the best.
Tracking is especially something you look for in a kayak which you want to tour with over several days. Having to keep course takes energy, and for longer paddles, you want to avoid wearing yourself out.
Since that is the case, tracking is not as important in inflatable kayaks as touring kayaks. The main reason for this is because you usually don’t want to go touring with an inflatable.
Speed and Efficiency
Again, these two factors play a greater role on longer paddles. Speed might not be the most important, it’s mainly something that plays into the fun of your kayak experience. Efficiency, however, is one of the most important features for a kayak you’re going to tour with.
You still want to look for speed and efficiency from your inflatable kayak as well, even if you only paddle for maybe a few hours at a time. Efficiency and speed simply make for a more fun and enjoyable paddle.
To clarify again, if you’re a beginner, and haven’t read some of our other articles on the site, efficiency refers to the amount of effort needed to get your kayak going and keeping it in motion.
If you’re serious about kayaking, you don’t sit in your kayak for 10 minutes at a time. You will probably plan out your sessions in 1-3 hour chunks, even more, if time and daylight allow.
This whole idea makes comfort a crucial part of kayaking. You need a kayak that fits your size and has a comfortable seat.
Inflatable kayaks usually have inflatable seats as well. Some are comfortable, others aren’t, just like hard shells. Sitting in an inflatable seat for several hours can take a toll on your posture and back, though, so keep that in mind.
Inflatable kayaks don’t have hatches, at least not the any of the ones we’ve come across. So storage options are not optimal, they most often only have bungee laces in the stern of the bow for storage.
On some of the kayaks, there is a small space behind the seat where you can put some packing, but you won’t find much more than that.
At this point, we’ve stated several times that inflatable kayaks don’t do well on multi-day trips. While a lack of storage is another example of this, it also makes storage less important since you don’t need as much equipment when you’re out only for a few hours.
Another thing to keep in mind with the storage that is available on inflatable kayaks is that they do not protect from water. Grab a waterproof bag if needed.
While you won’t have any problem with transportation, there is one little extra thing you need to do before you can paddle. You need to inflate and prepare the kayak.
For the most part, this is no problem, but sometimes, it can be more of a hassle than you’d like. If you’re an impatient person, having an easy to set-up kayak is important. Otherwise, you’ll only get irritated a lot.
All kayaks come with instructions with best practices on how to prepare them. Follow these guides and you’ll likely have no problems. Some kayaks also include a pump when you buy them, remember to make sure if they do before you buy. If not, they can be bought separately.
The Best Inflatable Kayaks – Our Picks
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
- Kayak Weight: 24 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 220 pounds
- Length: 9 feet
The Intex Challenger K1 Kayak is a one person inflatable kayak made for casual, recreational kayaking. It’s a sit-in kayak with bungee cords in the front for storage and has an inflatable seat with a backrest. The kayak is not the most beautiful boat around but it does come at the most affordable price you can get a kayak for.
It’s very portable, weighing around 25 pounds when deflated, so you can easily carry it in a bag over your shoulders. If you buy it from Amazon, you get a nice carrying bag as well as a paddle and a pump, so it’s a great starting kit for first-time kayakers. It’s also very easy to inflate, taking about 10 -15 minutes to get the kayak ready for takeoff.
We would only recommend using this kayak in calm lakes or slow moving rivers, getting into heavier waters, this kayak will struggle to meet your needs. It has poorer tracking ability and is also quite slow, but the stability and maneuverability are great, making it perfectly enjoyable. The weight capacity sits at 250 pounds, so remember to account for your own weight plus the weight of anything you choose to pack.
- Super Cheap
- Easy to inflate
- Very Portable
- Seat is a little bit uncomfortable
- Bad tracking
- Quite slow
This is a great kayak if you’re a newcomer to the sport! It’s extremely cheap, easy to transport and you will feel safe right from the start.
You get an easy to use hand pump, paddle and a carrying bag. So it’s the whole starter kit to get you going. It also has great maneuverability and stability which are both great qualities for a beginner’s kayak.
It does have some downfalls, in terms of tracking and speed this is not the best kayak. The seat is not too comfortable either, so plan for shorter one-day trips in calm waters and good weather conditions.
Having said all this, we do feel that this kayak has great value even for experienced kayakers. You get a fully functional, enjoyable and portable kayak at one of the lowest costs you will find. So if you’re looking for a cheap inflatable kayak, this one is perfect.
Coleman Quikpak(TM) K5
- Kayak Weight: 25,5 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 250 pounds
- Length: 10 feet
The Coleman Quikpak(TM) K5 is a sturdy sit-in kayak made for recreational use. It has a tarpaulin bottom and a polyester cover, both which provide protection for punctuation. It has bungee cords to provide storage and has a spacious cockpit and comfortable seat. It also has a spray cover to keep you from getting wet.
It comes with a carrying bag and weighs around 25,5 pounds, so it’s nice and easy to transport, the backpack actually turns into the seat when it’s time to paddle. Aside from the backpack you also get a paddle and a hand pump, the paddle is, unfortunately, very bad. So we recommend you add a separate paddle instead of going with that one when you get in the water.
The inflation is very easy and fast, taking about 5 minutes. The kayak is made primarily for easier conditions in calmer waters, but can be used in waters where there are more currents as well. Be aware that, like most inflatable kayaks, the tracking is not the best.
The stability and maneuverability, however, is great, that combined with the overall comfort makes for a pleasant kayak.
- Easy and fast inflation
- Paddle that comes with it is very bad
- Tracking is not the best
Overall we find this kayak very enjoyable, transportation and storage are easy and you will have no problems setting it up for paddling. It’s more of a beginner’s kayak, offering more overall stability and focusing less on tracking and speed. That does not make it a bad kayak but it’s good to keep in mind.
The price of the kayak is very affordable, keep in mind that you will need a new paddle, the one you get when you buy it on Amazon is awful so take the price of a new paddle into account.
You sit very comfortably and have room for your legs. It’s made for recreational use so don’t plan to go on top much of an adventure. If that’s what you want and you’re set on an inflatable, take a look at the two kayaks below in this article.
If you, however, need a kayak that’s great for recreational use at a good price, this one will definitely serve your needs.
AdvancedFrame Inflated Kayak – MODEL AE1012-R
- Kayak Weight: 36 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
- Length: 10’5 feet
The AdvancedFrame Model AE1012-R is a high-quality kayak. All the AdvancedFrame models from Advanced Elements are sort of hybrids, being inflatable kayaks with an aluminum frame to strengthen the bow and the stern. It has 3 layers of material to hinder puncture, bungee cord storage by the bow and a small storage compartment behind the seat.
It’s a little bit heavier than the previously mentioned kayaks, weighing about 36 pounds. But the duffle bag that comes with the kayak is great so you will be able to transport it with ease. The seat that comes with the kayak is comfortable, but the cockpit is quite small, so taller kayakers might feel a bit uncomfortable after longer trips.
It inflates easily, you need to follow the instructions so the first time can be a bit of a hassle, but when you get a feel for it the process takes about 10-15 minutes. The stability is also great and since it’s only 10’5 feet, it maneuvers easily in the water. The tracking and efficiency are not bad, especially for an inflatable kayak, but when comparing it to hard-shell kayaks it comes up short.
- Seat gives you great posture
- Easy to inflate
This is a multipurpose kayak, which is very nice for an inflatable because you can bring it with you anywhere. You’re able to use this kayak in just about any water, aside from white water, but then again, you’d rather have a hard-shell for that.
The aluminum frame enhances the tracking and efficiency to give a more pleasing paddle. It offers good weight capacity but lacks in storage possibilities. It specializes in features where inflatable kayaks mostly lack, which makes this kayak step ahead of many of the others in the category.
Taller kayakers can feel cramped inside the cockpit after longer trips, so if you are tall you might want to consider AirFusion Elite (see below) as that one is larger. The weight of the kayak is also a thing that needs to be mentioned. Dragging a 36-pound kayak for a long walk will get tiresome, but it sure is more convenient that tugging a hard-shell around.
For touring, this kayak does not quite compete with the hard-shells, in strong currents, you will have to put in more effort than you would with a hard-shell. Compared to other inflatable kayaks, however, it’s one of the best on the market!
Advanced Elements – AirFusion Elite
- Kayak Weight: 32 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 235 pounds
- Length: 13 feet
The AdvancedFrame Expedition is an excellent kayak. Again, this serves as a hybrid between a folded and inflatable kayak. Having the aluminum frame for the bow and stern adds extra performance for the kayak.
Like the Model AE1012-R, this kayak has 3 layers of material to strengthen against punctures. The inflation is easy if you read the manual that comes with the kayak, after a few tries you’ll get really fast at it.
While the kayak is longer than the other inflatable kayaks, they’ve still managed to keep the weight down. This is mostly due to its very narrow design. The seat is extremely comfortable and you can adjust it to fit your needs.
The length of the kayak makes the tracking and overall efficiency of paddling great, being on the same level as many hard-shell kayaks. Length also comes with a little bit of a cost, it’s not as maneuverable as the smaller kayaks. The stability is good, and combined with comfort and efficiency, this kayak is viable for longer trips.
- Easy to inflate
- Very durable
- Low Max Weight
- Storage Options
This is the best inflatable kayak we have tried. It’s an inflatable kayak that almost performs on par with hard-shell kayaks in the same price range. It tracks great and is comfortable for people of all sizes.
It works like a charm in currents and winds and will be comfortable for you to paddle for several hours. I do have to mention that it has limitations when it comes to white water, and Advanced Elements does not recommend that the kayak is used in class 3 rapids or higher.
If you stick to day touring at sea or other larger lakes this kayak will be more than enough. It’s also nice to have a quality kayak that you don’t have to strap on and off the roof of your car every time you need it.
As far as the price goes, this one is well worth the money. Remember that you have to account for the cost of the pump and the paddle as well. If you live in colder areas, a spray skirt will help to keep you dry from the cold water.