Choosing The Best Inflatable Kayak – How To Be Mobile While Paddling In Style
Whether you enjoy a serene paddle on a tranquil lake or you prefer testing yourself against raging torrents, the problem with kayaks is that they’re not exactly easy to transport.
Modern day inflatables can solve this problem and there are now inflatable kayaks suitable for almost any type of paddling. Here is a short guide to choosing the best inflatable kayak so you can hit the water without having to worry about transporting a heavy hard-shelled boat.
There are now many types of inflatable kayaks on the market all designed for different purposes. Before deciding which kayak to buy, you need to consider what you plan to use it for. Do you plan to use it on calm lakes, for fishing, on the ocean or even on white water?
Having decided what you intend to use the kayak for, there are several further points that you will need to take into account.
1. How Many People?
Kayaks are available for one person, two people or more. You need to decide how many people will usually be using it. If you are usually a solo kayaker, a one-person version is suitable. Remember that one person can use a two-person kayak but two people can’t fit in a one-person model.
2. Sit On Top Or Sit Inside?
The traditional kayak design is the sit inside version. This gives you higher walls, is better for keeping water out and is the best choice for whitewater kayaking. The disadvantage is that it is more trouble to get in and out if the kayak.
If you opt for a sit on top kayak, it is easier to get in and out so is a better option in areas involving lots of portage. You also don’t have to worry about being stuck inside the kayak if it tips over. This is a better option for use on calm lakes and rivers.
Longer hulls are better for gliding whereas shorter hulls make it easier to turn. This means that for white water, a short hull is the better option while for stretches of calm water, a longer kayak is preferable.
Wider hulls give extra stability whereas more narrow hulls are built for speed. Narrow hulls also offer better stability when the kayak is leaning on its side. This means a narrow hull is better for white water conditions but a wider hull is more suited to calm water and is better for fishing.
4. Durability And Material
There are kayaks on the market for almost every budget but it goes without saying that if you are looking for something that will last for a number of years, you are likely to have to pay more as the more rugged and durable materials come at a cost.
Superior quality inflatable kayaks are generally made from PVC, Hypalon®, Pennel Orca or Nitrylon.
High-end kayaks often feature a Hypalon® or Pennel Orca exterior coating over a polyester interior. These materials are strong synthetic rubbers that offer good resistance to wear and tear. However, kayaks incorporating these materials can be expensive.
PVC is the traditional cheaper option and offers medium resistance to damage. Nitrylon is tougher than PVC but is also heavier.
Kayaks designed for white water conditions are self-bailing. On white water, you can expect to take on plenty of water but holes in self-bailing kayaks allow the water to flow out on its own. However, these kayaks are not suitable for ocean kayaking unless you have plugs for the holes.
One of the main advantages of having an inflatable kayak is that when it is deflated it is easy to transport or store. It should be possible to fit a deflated kayak into the trunk of even a small car. It is worth considering how small the kayak is in its deflated state.
The weight of the kayak, affected by the materials it is constructed from, is also a key consideration for ease of transport as well as at times when portage becomes necessary. It is important to take note of how heavy a kayak is.
7. Storage Space And Leg Room
Depending on what you plan to use the kayak for, the amount of space available for storage may be important. There may be room to store equipment behind the seat and the kayak may also include provision for storage like D-rings, mesh, pockets etc. This may be important for activities like fishing.
A further consideration may be how much space you need inside the kayak for yourself. Taller or larger people may need to consider investing in a slightly larger kayak or risk spoiling kayaking trips through lack of comfort and room to move.
Some inflatable kayaks are designed with separated air chambers. This means that in the event of a puncture, the air won’t be able to escape all at once and the kayak will remain afloat, giving you chance to paddle to the shore to repair it.
Removable Skeg (Intex Explorer K2 Kayak) - Via Amazon.com
A skeg is a kind of fin attached to the bottom of the kayak which helps increase stability. Some kayaks have removable skegs.
10. Weight Capacity
Kayaks have an associated weight limit that they can carry. If your kayak is for use by larger people, you will need to make sure it is capable of carrying them.
The light and portable Sea Eagle two-person kayak is 12’6” x 2’10”, has a carrying capacity of up to 650lbs, features two molded skegs for added stability and is designed to be durable. It has a self-bailing drain valve and can be taken into up to class III rapids.
This is one of the most versatile inflatable kayaks available and is suitable for most uses including lakes, rivers, sea and white water conditions. The tough hull is made of polykrylar and is built to withstand rough treatment.
One of the biggest advantages of this craft is that it is super-easy to set up or pack away and you can be on the water in under 10 minutes. Once packed away in its bag, it is small and easy to transport. There is also plenty of space inside to transport your equipment.
The biggest negative for me is the lack of back support offered by the chairs inside. This means you can get a sore back if you spend extended periods paddling. Another minor grumble is that it could do with a few more D-rings.
I think this kayak offers a really good combination of versatility and quality at a reasonable price. This is suitable for people who are looking for a craft that will last a long time and is suitable for most conditions. It is not suitable if you are looking for something more specialized.
This is a convertible kayak which can be used as a solo craft or can accommodate two paddlers. It features built-in aluminum ribs for added rigidity, a three-layer hull for added puncture resistance and adjustable seats. It measures 15ft by 32in and has a carrying capacity of up to 550lbs.
This kayak is relatively quick and easy to set up which means you can be on the water with a minimum of fuss. The kayak looks cool, is fast on the water, offers plenty of legroom and is durable enough to withstand bumps and scratches.
One interesting feature of this craft is that it is convertible, meaning you can use one seat for solo paddling or you can use both if you want to use it for tandem paddling. This means it is an appropriate choice for someone after a versatile kayaking option.
The main negative with this kayak is its price as it is certainly not cheap; however you expect to pay more for quality. A minor gripe is that there is not a huge amount of storage space so this is not the kayak for someone looking to take lots of equipment with them.
This is a good option for someone aiming to invest in a high-end, high-performance kayak with the added mobility of an inflatable model. This kayak is not cheap so it is probably not suitable for someone looking for a casual recreational craft.
This kayak is 10’5” in length, made for a solo paddler and can carry up to 250lbs in weight. It is a sit inside style and features aluminum bow and stern ribs for increased rigidity and performance. It also has four air chambers.
Even though this is a sit inside model, the cockpit is large, making it easy to get in and out. There is also plenty of legroom which makes this a comfortable kayak to paddle. It is a tough, well-made craft and is highly maneuverable.
This kayak is very light and packs away very small making it a great portable option. It is also very quick and easy to set up and with practice; you can be on the water and paddling in less than ten minutes.
This kayak is quite wide in the middle which slows it down a little. The only other negative is that it’s not a boat that was designed with storage in mind so if you require a kayak that can carry lots of equipment, this is probably not the best choice.
All in all, this is a good choice for someone looking for a versatile and reliable solo kayak. This is not a good choice for such activities as fishing or kayak camping as it is not possible to carry much gear.
This is a 12ft two-person kayak designed for use on lakes and in mild to moderate white water conditions. It is made of PVC and has a carrying capacity of up to 500lbs. It features movable seats, four bottom fins for stability, three air chambers and six D-rings.
This kayak represents good value for money. It is a rugged craft that is stable on the water and it also tracks well. It is also a versatile craft as it is designed for use in up to class III rapids as well as on flat water.
This kayak is easy to set up and pack away. It is a little heavy but it is still portable and is a good solution for someone looking for a kayak that is easy to pack into a car.
The main issue with this kayak is that it is not particularly roomy inside and it will be a little cramped for two larger people paddling together. It can also be a little challenging to maneuver. Note that there is no pump or paddles included.
I think this is a good inexpensive option for someone looking for a versatile two-person kayak for calm conditions as well as the possibility for a little bit of fun on moderate white water. It is not suitable for more extreme conditions.
This affordable two-person inflatable kayak from Intex is designed for recreational use on smaller bodies of calm water. It measures 20 x 36 x 123 inches and has a maximum weight capacity of 400lbs. It is supplied with aluminum oars, a high-output air pump and a removable skeg.
What I like about this kayak is that while it is a cheaper option, it’s still made of pretty tough and durable material which means it should last. It gives you a smooth ride and is stable enough to get in and out of while on the water.
It’s easy to set up and you should be able to be paddling within about 15-20 minutes. Once it’s set up, there’s also plenty of room inside.
There are one or two negatives with this kayak. First, the inflatable seats don’t really give much support so you can end up with a backache. There is a problem with the removable skeg which can come off easily and get lost. Finally, it is a little bulky when deflated for storage.
Overall, this is good option for someone looking for a simple and inexpensive craft for recreational use of benign waterways but is not suitable for taking into the rapids.
Overall these kayaks are all good choices in the right conditions. The Intex is a good entry-level affordable all-rounder, the Advanced Elements AE1007-R is a sleek two-person craft but with a high price.
The Airhead is a portable answer to moderate white water and the Advanced Frame is a good solo kayaking solution.
For me, however, the winner of the best inflatable kayak has to be the Sea Eagle for its overall versatility combined with the reasonable price tag. If you want a kayak capable of performing in a wide range of conditions, this could be the smart choice.