Our today’s guide is focused on helping you select the best inflatable kayak. We’ve overviewed many other kayak types on this blog, including fishing, lake, and camping, but not inflatable. Today, we are finally touching upon inflatable kayaks.
Below, we’ll have a look at 5 great kayaks, overviewing their key features and drawbacks (if any). We’ll also talk a bit about a few important points to consider in an inflatable kayak.
Let’s get started without further ado!
5 Best Inflatable Kayaks To Consider
The number one inflatable kayak on our list is the inexpensive Intex Explorer K2 kayak.
K2 includes a pair of inflatable (and removable) seats with tall and fairly comfy backrests. Aside from the seats, you are also getting a pair of 86-inch paddles and a pump. So you are ready to paddle out of the box!
The weight capacity of K2 is a respectable 400 pounds too, while the hull is made of puncture-resistant vinyl. This kayak has 3 separate air chambers as well, so even if it does get punctured, it will stay afloat thanks to the remaining 2 air chambers.
With a width of 3 feet, K2 should be pretty stable and resistant to tipping too. With the included skeg, the directional stability of this inflatable kayak will also be good.
The Intex Challenger kayak sacrifices a little bit of cockpit space in favor of a bungee storage compartment in the front. So although Explorer K2 also allows you to carry gear thanks to the roomy interior, Challenger does it more safely.
In terms of build, Challenger is similar to K2, but it’s a little less reliable. This is mainly because it has only 2 air chambers, so punctures are going to be more detrimental to its buoyancy. At least, if just one chamber gets blown, you’ll still stay afloat and will be able to reach the shore.
But materials, all in all, are identical, and the weight capacity is the same 400 pounds. What’s also identical is the included accessories – the pair of seats, paddles, the pump, and a skeg.
Do note that Challenger is 11.5 feet long, so it’s bulkier than Explorer K2 (which is 10 feet long).
Intex Excursion Pro is one of the most rugged inflatable kayaks from Intex. It’s really expensive, but for heavy uses, you will struggle to find anything better. It’s particularly suitable for angling thanks to the integrated fishing rod holders.
Sized at 12 feet 7 inches long and 3 feet 1 inch wide, Excursion Pro is far larger than Challenger and Explorer K2. However, it does offer more interior space along with handy features, such as adjustable footrests, a mounting bracket for fishing accessories, and a pair of kegs for directional stability.
The shell of Excursion Pro is very tough as well, boasting a three-layer PVC construction that is abrasion- and UV-resistant. Like K2, this kayak also has three air chambers for added reliability.
The weight capacity in Excursion Pro is again 400 pounds though, which is a bit underwhelming since that’s exactly as much as K2 and Challenger can withstand. But this won’t be an issue for everybody.
Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe is a little cheaper than Excursion Pro, but it’s one of the most durable inflatable kayaks you can find on the market. Not only that, but it’s one of the few inflatable kayaks that can withstand class III whitewater!
The weight capacity of 370 Deluxe is impressive as well – up to 650 pounds. Such a high weight limit is because this kayak is designed to accommodate up to 3 kayakers. However, 370 Deluxe comes with only a pair of seats and paddles out of the box.
Finally, we have Advanced Elements’ Expedition Elite kayak, which is a high-end inflatable touring kayak. With its length of 13 feet, this thing is going to cut through water very quickly, so it’s ideal for covering large distances.
Like many other Advanced Elements inflatable kayaks, Expedition Elite features a sturdy frame with an aluminum rib and a PVC hull material for puncture resistance. Even if your Expedition Elite does get punctured, the whopping 9 chambers will keep you afloat. Expedition Elite needs to get really beaten up to sink.
Thanks to the drop-stitch floor, Expedition Elite has a pronounced chine too, allowing for better durability, as well as improved tracking and speed.
The max supported weight of Expedition Elite is at 450 pounds as well, which is a lot for a single-person kayak.
One thing to note with this kayak – it does not include an air pump, so you’ll have to get it separately.
What To Look For In An Inflatable Kayak
To help you better understand our reviews, we will now cover a few important points that you should pay attention to when shopping for the best inflatable kayak.
Aside from this buyer’s guide, make sure to read our kayak buyer’s guide for more basic information on kayak design and important features.
Most commonly, inflatable kayaks are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). A handful of kayaks are made of Hypalon, while a few newer models may use Nitrylon.
PVC is cheap and rather durable, and it can be easily welded for added durability and leak resistance. PVC shells are easier to patch up too. However, this material isn’t very UV-resistant, and it doesn’t resist chemicals, high temperature, and abrasion well.
Hypalon is very durable and resistant to UVs and mildew, but it’s pricier than PVC. Additionally, Hypalon is typically glued rather than welded, which may imply weaker seams.
As for Nitrylon, it’s a middle ground between PVC and Hypalon in terms of durability. It’s even easier to patch than PVC, and it’s also more resistant to abrasion and puncture. The downside of Nitrylon is that it is rather heavy, due to which its use is often limited to outer surfaces of a kayak.
Number of air chambers
Typically, inflatable kayaks have several air chambers, each with its own valve for inflation.
The point of having more than one air chamber is safety. It’s very unlikely that more than one chamber will puncture at a time, and if your kayak has multiple chambers, then you will stay afloat and will be able to safely get ashore.
The more chambers you have, the better safeguarded you are against sinking even if more than one chamber is damaged.
We’d say that 2-3 chambers are sufficient for most needs. But if you are looking to subject your kayak to heavy use, then the more chambers there are, the better.
Some inflatable kayaks – especially those designed for whitewater use – have draining holes inside. The purpose of draining holes is to let out any water that gets inside the kayak while paddling. Since whitewater is notorious for its aggressive rapids, it really isn’t surprising that whitewater kayaks benefit from drain holes the most.
If you aren’t going to paddle in whitewater, then you don’t really need drain holes. But they are nice in any situation since they allow you to quickly drain water.
Many inflatable kayaks come with D-rings for attaching seats, dry backs, gear, and anything else you may be carrying with you. Given that inflatable kayaks don’t have hatched storage compartments, D-rings can be really useful for storage and arguably are a must-have feature.
Finally, consider what’s included with the kayak. Among nice things to have are:
- Repair kit.
- Inflatable seats.
- Removable skeg or rudder.
That’s it for our inflatable kayak review! Although this guide should be sufficient to help you get started, we also suggest that you read our other kayak buying guides.
Most importantly, go through our general buyer’s guide – it will give you all the necessary info for kayak shopping, and it will also cover important things that we didn’t include in this post.
We also suggest that you have a look at our following posts: