What is an inflatable kayak?
Inflatable kayaks, regarded by some as the first gen versions of sit-on-top kayaks, go back to the days of government issued surplus rubber rafts that were used for traveling in whitewater when recreational paddling was still a new thing.
The years have seen them evolve into packable kayaks that range from high performance sea touring / river running models, to several kinds of simple recreational ones. Solo as well as tandem versions of these vessels are easily available.
Also known as ‘blow up kayaks’, are considered ‘soft shell’ vessels whereas plastic/glass kayaks are regarded as ‘hard shell’. They are also frequently abbreviated as IK. There are three main types of inflatable kayaks, touring, whitewater and general purpose.
- What is an inflatable kayak?
- Touring kayaks can be used in both ocean and freshwater. Long and narrow in shape, they are well suited to flatwater, when used with rudders. Some of the best inflatable kayaks may have the capability to include optional rudders too.
- Whitewater IKs are wide and short, a shape which makes them suitable for tackling rapids. The water current is considered an inherent propellant in their design. Both ocean touring as well as whitewater kayaks are manufactured to meet high standards. As indicated by inflatable kayaks reviews, there may be options for extra features like scupper holes for draining the cockpit, tie-down loops for securing baggage, knee straps to enhance control etc. They may have a cost comparable to hard shell kayaks, depending on the manufacturer and the quality.
- General purpose kayaks are usually dual duty – for milder river running, and calmer ocean waters. They can be thought of as proverbial ‘jack of all trades, ace of none’ vessels. This type of IK may pack certain features found in specialty kayaks, but normally tend to be basic. However, they cost less than specialty kayaks too.
Besides being comfortable and easy to paddle, inflatable kayaks are highly stable, something that is much valued by rookie paddlers, especially those who learnt it the hard way by trying out a professional ‘hard shell’ vessel their first time around.
The latter are sleek, narrow and unstable – sure they give much better performance, but they can only be handled by pros.
Another reason why beginners should consider them is that they are a very small investment, typically around $200-$500, as compared to hard shell kayaks which cost $1,000 and beyond.
If, upon trying out the IK, the beginner finds out that kayaking isn’t their thing, they won’t have lost a lot of money in the process.
Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak
Race downriver, or cruise on calm, smooth lakes in the mornings in the Sea Eagle Sport kayak, with a price tag of $339. With a weight holding capability of max. 650 lbs. and its own weight a mere 26 pounds, this kayak is highly portable, can carry three people in addition to their gear, and requires just one adult to transport and handle!
You may even take your dog with you on a trip – a hull comprised of robust PolyKrylar will take the punishment dished out by your pet’s claws and paws.
The SE370 inflatable sea kayak can easily be fit into a storage bag, but still has storage space in it for camping equipment, etc. You can use it for fishing, paddling, skin diving or yacht tending. It is also capable of handling whitewater as high as Class III.
- 38mm Polykrylar hull
- I-beam construction floor that provides enhanced rigidity
- Removable inflatable front/rear seat (i.e. it is an inflatable kayak 2 persons or 3 persons can fit in, but it works with one just fine)
- Inflatable spray skirts, front/rear rope handles
- A drain valve that is self-bailing
- Two molded kegs are also present for speedy, smooth tracking across water
- The high frequency welded seams combine the material into a single solid piece
The user reviews for this kayak have been generally favorable with only one person having a problem with ocean touring, where the wind caught the inflated edges a little too much, causing difficulty in control.
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, priced at a mere $78.82, with an approximate inflated size of 108’’ by 30’’ by 15’’, and including aluminum oars as well as a hand pump, is a durable, nimble kayak made from robust welded vinyl material that is painted with eye catching graphics to provide extra safety on the slow-moving river / lake.
A streamlined craft, it can gracefully slip through the water thanks to easy padding, and the cockpit is made for maximized space and comfort. It can carry a maximum weight of 220 pounds.
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- Single person kayak with low profile construction
- Cargo net for storing additional gear
- Grab line present on either end of craft
- Inflated I beam floor for rigidity and comfort
- Sea is inflated and has backrest
- Included 84 inch aluminum oar, hand pump plus repair patch
- Hard skegs beneath the vessel give directional control
- Own weight just 27.2 pounds
The reviews are generally in favor of the product with very few people having problems with early hole development. A large majority of users consider it one of the best inflatable kayaks.
Sevylor Tahiti Classic
This is the same vessel which traveled the whole length of the Amazon river, and it is now ready for adventures around the globe. It is available at the low price of just $141.80. Originally released in 1963, it has kept its design, for the large part, after all these years.
It is made from a highly rugged 26 gauge PVC, packing in a couple of air chambers for security as well as an I-beam floor for extra stability. It is very comfortable because of the special made inflatable seats that give back support when most needed.
The Tahiti features an exclusive airtight mechanism, which guarantees against leaks (just as all other Sevylor inflatable boats, and also has two protective spray covers, an optional skeg for the best navigation, Boston valves and a repair kit.
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- National Marine Manufacturers Association certification
- 400 pound 10’x7’’x2’7’’ craft can hold 2 people
- Double lock valve prevents accidental loss, and allows for easy inflation/deflation
- 26 gauge PVC provides durability
- Two air chambers for buoyancy, I-beam floor construction for stability
People have had problems with the new mechanism for the air valve which has led to accidental leaks, as well as trouble inflating the vessel. This could be a result of the recent revision to the Tahiti inflatable boat design, since some users are having trouble giving up the old one.
Advanced Elements FireFly
Optimal for family excursions on the water, this compact recreational kayak offers a number of exclusive features for enhanced durability and performance.
With a bow and stern having rigidly fixed forms to help cut through the water waves and maintain straight course, and a special out cover for extra durability, this is vessel is worth its cost of $220.
This kayak also has molded rubber grip handles, a mesh accessory pocket, bungee deck lacing as well as tracking skeg. With the bow / stern forms incorporated into the cover, the kayak has enhanced performance while in the water. It can easily be setup thanks to the high flow Spring valve as well as Twistlok valves.
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- Sophisticated inflation valves
- Landing plate
- Rigid form bow/stern to cut water
- Mesh pocket
- 600D polyester covering
- Welded perimeter seam
- Splash diverter
- Durable PCB main chamber
The only complaints, which have been few and far between, are about its relatively small seat size.
Intex Excursion 4 Boat Set
The Intex 4 Excursion 4 Inflatable Boat, at a price of just $134.12, is meant for casual water trips. It comes ready for action with a couple of aluminum oars alongside a high performance air pump to rapidly inflate it and start the paddling fun.
Comprising of a tough vinyl construction and packing several features e.g. inflatable seats, room for four passengers and all-around grab line, this inflatable fishing Kayak is all set to give you a summer of water based fun.
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- 2 holders for fishing rods
- 2 inflatable seats that also have backrests
- The inflatable floor gives both rigidity and comfort
- Oar holders and oar locks
- All round grab line
- Bow has grab handle to allow for easy carrying
- Rapid fill, quick deflate Boston valves
- Fitting of motor mount
- 880 pound top weight limit
- Repair patch, oars and pump included
The reviews for this product are highly favorable, with a very rare complaint about a leak developing which cannot be fixed.
[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Conclusion”] There is no single way to define the best inflatable kayaks. Depending on your situation, you’ll need to go for a particular type. For example, if you want to have a trip with family/friends, you will obviously need to consider the weight of several people before making a purchase.
On the other hand, a person who seeks solace in kayaking should try their hand at a single person inflatable kayak. Excellent examples of all types of inflatable kayaks have been detailed above.
Looking for other outdoor activities check out our guide here. [/thrive_text_block]