Have you seen them? No longer can we think of an inflatable kayak as just some cheap toy. They are advanced pieces of outdoor technology these days.
With a handful of different styles and countless features, many river relaxers, adventure seekers and avid anglers are switching over to “yaks” of the inflatable kind.
But while there is a large selection, every inflatable kayak is not made equally. Luckily, we are here to weed through all the mess and bring you the 7 best inflatable kayaks.
This list will incorporate several different styles as well as giving you the top performers in several categories.
So why go inflatable?
There are a few reasons why so many paddlers are purchasing inflatable kayaks these days, but among the top reason are:
Portability – Inflatable kayaks can be packed and taken virtually anywhere. This includes in small cars, on airplanes or even into a backpack when you need to hike deep into the wilderness to your launch point.
Storage – You live in a small apartment or maybe your garage just doesn’t have room for any more cluttered outdoor gear. We luckily an inflatable kayak can be stored away any space that can fit a backpack. This opens up the possibility of owning several of them.
Weight – Inflatable kayaks are incredibly lightweight. This can be an advantage for children or elderly paddlers. Or possibly someone recovering from injury that can’t carry their heavy boat down to the waters edge.
Stability – It seems counter intuitive to think of an inflatable kayak as being more stable than a hard shell, but in fact, many models are great for those who feel that tradition kayaks feel a bit “wobbly”.
Inflatable Kayak Styles
Sit On Top – This style allows you to sit a bit more elevated o the kayak rather than enclosed in side of it. It can be very easy to get in and out of and it typically wider and more stable.
Sit in – This style is much like a hard shell sit in kayak. It includes and enclosed cockpit and keeps you more protected from the elements. Downside is that sit in kayaks often have less storage space.
Self Bailing – These kayaks include scupper holes that allow water to flow freely in and out of the boat. This is great for whitewater trips.
Open Cockpit – This style is a bit more like a canoe. It’s just one long open cockpit that has you low to the water like a sit in kayak, but offers the openness of a sit on top. It also offers a lot of storage space for long trips or fishing gear.
High Pressure vs Low Pressure
In recent years, the introduction of high pressure inflatables has changed the game for kayaks. Low pressure inflatable kayaks are made to be inflated to 2 PSI or less. They feature PVC material and welded seams.
High Pressure inflatable kayaks are made to hold up to 6 PSI. They use a special stitching technique that allows for more strength.
What this means for you, is that a high pressure kayak feels more like a hard shell kayak on the water. The sides and floor don’t give way under pressure. They can even be stood on top of like a stand up paddle board.
What to Consider When Shopping
There are a few things to consider when you begin shopping for your inflatable kayak.
Water and weather conditions
Will you be in water with waves or rapids? If so then you might want to consider something that is self bailing. Is the water and air temperature going to be very cold? If so, then you might want to consider a sit in kayak to protect your from the cold.
How much gear will you be carrying?
Sit on top and open cockpit design kayaks offer more storage space for dry bags and fishing tackle.
How much time and effort are you willing to put into the inflation process?
While most inflatable kayaks shouldn’t take much longer than a few minutes to inflate, some are more intricate than others.
Some inflatable kayaks have more compartments or attachments which can make the setup process 10-2 minutes if pumping by hand. There is also always the option to use a hand held battery powered air pump to cut the time down.
How much weight can you carry?
This is very important if you plan to pack your kayak up into a backpack or carry it long distances. Pay attention to the weight in the specifications to determine if it is appropriate to take on the long haul.
Straight Edge by ADVANCED ELEMENTS
Best All Around
This is a wonderful overall inflatable kayak. It has a durable aluminum frame system that allows the self bailing feature to be pleasing on a calm lake as much as it is useful in white water rapids. It also features a ton of storage space and leg room.
Weather you use this kayak for a lazy fishing trip or some excitement down the river, it should do the trick.
– Quality parts
– New frame technology allows bailing feature to not ruin calm lake trip
– Quite heavy at 48 pounds which means that carrying this guy on your back it probably out of the question.
Advanced Elements FireFly Inflatable Kayak
Best Lightweight/ Backpacking
This Advanced Elements boat is simple but it gets the job done. If you are looking for something that you can pull out of your pack and put on the water then this is the kayak for you. Also the fact that it is sit, in allows you to use a spray skirt on the cold days.
-Only 16 pounds
-Easy to maneuver
-Very little storage space
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
Best for Budget
You can use this to test the waters for kayaks, or keep as a spare boat.
– Very affordable
– Comfortable design
– Not the best quality materials
Advanced Elements AE1007-R Advanced
Best 2 Person Lake Cruiser
This is a quality kayak made by Advanced Elements. Featuring a defined bow system for better tracking and aluminum framing for better stability, this boat is one of the best on the market.
– Triple layer puncture resistant material
– Quite heavy at 52 pounds
Elkton Outdoors 10′ Inflatable Tear Resistant Fishing Kayak
Best Fishing Kayak
This is a great kayak for fishing. With multiple rod holders, plenty of storage space and potential being a two seater, its a great boat to reel them in.
– 6 Rod holders
– Storage pockets to hold tackle
– Hook resistant
– Rod holders can get in the way of paddling
Coleman Colorado 2-Person
Best Open Cockpit/ Canoe Style
This is a great boat to take out for a day on the water or for a ice fishing trip. It has tons of open space and cool features like fishing rod holders and a mount for a trolling motor.
– Tons of space for a long day out paddling
– Very Upgradable
– Mounts can get in the way of maneuvering
BIC Nomad -2 Hp Inflatable Kayak
Most Similar to a High End Hard Shell Kayak
This kayak is no joke. It may cost quite a bit but it rivals some of the best hardshell kayaks on the market but has the storage advantages of an inflatable kayak.
– High Pressure floor
– Great Tracking
– Holds up to 3 people
– Very heavy at 75 pounds
There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to inflatable kayaks. Hopefully, you no feel more confident about how to chose the right one for you.
Whether it is for a leisurely paddle around the lake, pulling some big fish out of the bay or barrelling down some rapids on the river, inflatable kayaks are rivaling traditional hardshell kayaks at every paddle.