If you are interested in investing in a kayak but do not want to spend a lot of money, an inflatable kayak is a worthy option. The best inflatable kayak is made with multiple layers of puncture-proof material and can fold up into the size of a backpack, so that people of all ages can carry and transport them. With one-person kayaks starting in the sixty-dollar range, there is no reason why you could not purchase an inflatable kayak today and be on the lake by the weekend.
Why buy a traditional hard-shell kayak that must be tied down to the top of your car?
Most inflatable kayaks come with their own high-quality pump and inflate in minutes. You will probably be able to unfold and inflate/deflate your kayak quicker than standing in line at a kayak rental. Plus, with your own personal kayak, you can afford to go kayaking whenever you please.
A blow-up kayak is a great option for families. Even a younger child can paddle a kayak with ease. You will not have to worry about getting tired paddling an inflatable kayak.
Top Related Article: Best Foldable Kayak
Another great option to consider with inflatable kayaks is they often have adjustable seating. With seats and backrests that inflate, you can easily turn a three-person kayak into a two-person or one-person and be just as comfortable. Simply deflate the extra seating and store, very versatile if you kayak with family or take a day trip to kayak alone.
Inflatable kayaks are lightweight compared to their hard-shell counterparts. This allows a wide variety of people the ability to carry the inflatable kayak easily. It takes about the same amount of time to inflate a kayak as it does to unhook a traditional hard-shell kayak from the roof rack on your vehicle.
There are several advantages to owning an inflatable kayak including the little space you need to store the kayak, affordability, and the increased durability for the price. Even experienced kayakers are looking into inflatable kayaks. They are a great option for families, fishing, and for those who travel long distances and do not want to stand in line at a rental counter.
Do you live in a small space? Inflatable kayaks take up very little space once they are deflated. Often inflatable kayaks deflate to the size of a standard size suitcase. They are very easy to store in places such as a closet or basement. They are ideal for people who live in small spaces.
Inflatable kayaks are also perfect for getting into tight fishing spaces or crossing a river while hiking. Since inflatable kayaks deflate to the size of a backpack, you will be able to carry the kayak with you to places that a traditional kayak or boat would not be feasible.
Most inflatable kayaks are built with multiple chambers so even if you do run into a puncture, you will be able to get back to shore to repair the leak.
Inflatable kayaks are affordable. You do not need to purchase a large vehicle to carry your kayak. You also do not need to purchase roof racks or attachments for your car. An inflatable kayak is very compact and will fit in a standard car, or it can be a checked bag when traveling by airplane.
Some inflatable kayaks are small enough to wear as a backpack! You can even ship your kayak to your destination for a nominal cost.
You no longer have to worry about renting a kayak when you get to your destination. Sometimes rentals are not available or are hard to find when traveling. By purchasing an inflatable kayak, you are able to simply pack the kayak (or two or three!) in your trunk and inflate and deflate as needed. It makes transporting easy, and it is less likely that your kayak will be stolen when you are traveling away from home.
Recommended for Beginners
Are you new to kayaking?
An inflatable kayak is great for beginners. The kayak is easy to get in and out of. It also has great shock absorbers allowing you to quickly land in the surf. Inflatable kayaks are easy to control and forgiving when you are new to navigating the water.
Inflatable kayaks are often made with a wider base than traditional hard-shell kayaks. This wider base makes the kayak more stable in the water, providing a safer and more enjoyable ride for the novice kayaker. Inflatable kayaks also have a smaller turning radius, making it easier for a beginner to paddle.
Related: Kayaking for Beginners
A blow-up kayak is perfect for shallow waters. Since it is lightweight, it barely hangs below the surface, reducing the chance of debris or rocks damaging the kayak.
A lot of people who have tried an inflatable kayak liked the experience. They noted that the kayak felt stable and was easy to paddle.
Fishing is also encouraged in inflatable kayaks. Modern kayaks have several layers of nylon or PVC to keep your gear from puncturing the kayak. Inflatable kayaks also have durable chambers to store your gear and even features like adjustable rod holders for hands-free fishing. Need to get in a tight spot where the fish are hiding out? Not a problem with an easy to maneuver inflatable kayak.
Kayaking is also a great way to get your family to exercise. Kayaking builds strength and endurance while paddling. This cardio can improve your cardiovascular system and boost your metabolism. It is also a great way to unplug and provides mental health benefits just being out in nature. Even family members with special needs will be able to join you on a kayaking trip as kayaking is very easy to learn and enjoy.
Most people view inflatable kayaks as a glorified pool toy. However, several inflatable kayak manufacturers produce high-quality kayaks. The surface of the kayaks is durable enough to take the abuse of traveling and even dog paws.
The highest quality inflatable kayaks use what’s called drop-stitch technology. This technology allows the fibers inside the kayak to interlock, creating a highly durable frame with increased longevity.
While traditional hard-shell kayaks are made of plastic and other lightweight materials, inflatable kayaks are made from thick rubber and PVC, the same materials that life boats and whitewater rafts are made from. Therefore, some inflatable kayaks are even more durable than hard-shell ones.
Inflatable kayaks should be used on low wind days when the water is calm to moderate. Too much wind or water resistance can cause the kayak to become unstable. However, inflatable kayaks do not tip over easily. The inflatable sides and bottom allow the kayak to stay upright.
Related: Different Types of Kayaks
Always consult the weather before going kayaking. It is also important to wear and pack all safety gear when using an inflatable kayak to ensure you are safe in the water.
You must be tied to your inflatable kayak when you are out on the water. If the wind or wave catches the kayak, you will be unable to retrieve it if you are not attached.
You will need to consider purchasing waterproof bags that can attach to your kayak. Inflatable kayaks do not have watertight compartments to place your belongings like the traditional hard-shell ones do. If the inflatable kayak capsizes, you will want the reassurance that your belongings such as your cell phone, GPS, or wallet are safely tied to your kayak.
Always inflate your kayak to the recommended pressure given by the manufacturer. Do not inflate more or inflate less to provide yourself with more comfort. The inflation suggestion has been tested to keep you safe on the water and should always be checked and followed.
Inflatable kayaks are built for longevity, but even the most experienced kayakers can run into a rock or branch in the water that can cause a puncture. Luckily, most kayaks come with a patch kit that can get you back on the water in no time.
When you are finished kayaking for the day or season, you will want to let your kayak dry in the sun for as long as you can. Use a towel to soak up any water that gets into the inside of your kayak and wipe down the kayak of any debris. Then place your kayak upright so any leftover water can evaporate before you deflate it. Turn the kayak over to thoroughly clean the bottom.
If you have kayaked in an area with a lot of mud or seaweed, you should bring along a roll of paper towels to clean off the dirt before wiping it down with towels. Once dry, simply roll up the kayak and store. Extended exposure to the sun can weaken the surface of your inflatable kayak, so take care in where you dry and store it.
Best Inflatable Kayak: This Years Top Picks!
The following kayaks have all the features you would want in an inflatable kayak and have positive reviews. From one-person to three-person options, you will be able to find a kayak that is right for you and your family.
Take note of which inflatable kayaks have features such as removable seating, fishing specifications, or added accessories such as a pump and oars. All of the kayaks below will fit in the trunk of a standard size car.
Some of the kayaks are more expensive than others. The increase in price generally comes from the durability of the body of the blow-up kayak.
If you want a kayak that will last more than one season or you are planning to take your kids or the family pet with you, consider investing a little more money in the kayak you choose. There is nothing worse than purchasing a kayak and then having to repair it on the first outing. If you are serious about kayaking, you will be glad you invested in a quality product.
1. Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
The Intex Challenger K1 Kayak is ultra light and quickly inflates and deflates. It is very durable and does not puncture, easy to transport and fits in a standard size car. This inflatable kayak has an aesthetically pleasing blue and green design. Air pump and oars are included. The Intex This inflatable Challenger K1 Kayak is the best budget inflatable kayak of the group.
2. Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is made for mild small lakes and rivers. The aerodynamic design of this kayak makes it easy to paddle. The kayak’s yellow color makes it highly visible in and out of the water. It has adjustable seats that inflate with a backrest for extra comfort. The kayak comfortably fits two adults and is our top pick for the best inflatable tandem kayak. It features an inflatable i-beam floor to keep the kayak rigid and durable for long trips on the water and a removable skeg for increased maneuverability.
Quickly inflate or deflate the kayak with the kayak’s included high-output pump. Also included are two 86-inch aluminum oars, grab line and grab handles, U.S. Coast Guard I.D. and a repair kit for any punctures.
Product Dimensions: 123 x 36 x 20 inches
Maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds
Item Weight 33.1 pounds
The Intex Challenger K2 Kayak is bright green and sporty looking. The kayak is easily visible in the water and has an aerodynamic design for easy paddling. Included are two 86-inch aluminum paddles and Intex’s high-output pump. Outer surface is made of durable vinyl that is puncture and UV damage-resistant. This contender for best inflatable kayak includes anrepair kit in case of puncture.
Product Dimensions: 30 by 15 by 138 inches (W x H x D)
Maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds
The Sevylor Quikpak K1 is a one-person kayak that only takes five minutes to setup. The kayak is stored in a lightweight, padded backpack that turns into the seat and is constructed of 21-gauge PVC, rugged enough for mild lake and river use. A durable tarpaulin bottom prevents punctures from debris from the water and shoreline. Inflates with multiple chambers to ensure you will be able to safely navigate the water in case of puncture. The kayak is guaranteed not to leak and uses double lock valves for faster inflation.
The Sevylor kayak has a multi-position foot rest and inflatable back rest for ultimate comfort on the water. Use the attached bungees to secure valuables. Mesh cargo net holds food and accessories while a cup holder will help keep you hydrated all day long. More features include a foldable, compact paddle and high-pressure manual pump.
Product Dimensions: 103 x 36 x 30 inches; 18 pounds
Maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds
The Sea Eagle Inflatable Sport Kayak is the perfect kayak for speed down the river. It is the best inflatable kayak for whitewater with a Class III rating. This kayak holds up to three people but is also comfortable for one. The kayak package includes paddles, inflatable seats that can be removed and placed as needed, manual pump, and a carry bag with shoulder strap. It has a convenient open and close drain valve and five inflation and deflation valves. The two skegs on the bottom improve tracking and speed. Features inflatable spray skirts, bow and stern grab line, sun and saltwater resistant hull and NMMA certified. It has a super durable exterior; feel comfortable bringing your dog along.
Interior: 10 feet, 8 inches by 1 foot, 1 inch
Exterior: 12 feet, 6 inches by 2 feet, 10inches
Product Weight: 32 pounds
Maximum Weight Capacity: 3 person / 650 pound capacity, Suitable for up to Class III whitewater
The Intex Explorer two-person inflatable kayak has a sporty exterior and is made of three layers of durable vinyl. Includes inflatable seats and backrests for comfort when you are paddling down river. Features I-beam floor, grab lines, grab handles and removable skeg. No need to purchase extra accessories, the Intex Explorer comes with two aluminum oars and high-output air pump for inflating and deflating with ease. This kayak is very portable, lightweight, and easy to assemble and store. This is our top pick for the best 2-person inflatable kayak.
Product Dimensions: 18 x 24.5 x 9.8 inches
The Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Inflatable Kayak is designed in California and a great hybrid option. It features a folding frame and inflatable body with separate air chambers. The kayak has built-in aluminum ribs in the bow and stern and has the maneuverability of a hard-shell kayak. The stern acts as a skeg for better tracking. Three-layer body construction features a polyester fabric sandwiched by vinyl that resists puncture. Increased storage capacity has room for all of your food and gear for extended trips on the river.
Advanced Elements is passionate about customer service and wants to help you have the best kayak experience.
Product Dimensions: 20 x 15 x 15 inches; 36 pounds
Weight 36 Lbs. (16 Kg)
Max. Weight 300 Lbs. (136 Kg)
The Sevylor Coleman Colorado two-person fishing kayak is made with 18-gauge PVC durable enough for lake use. The 1000D tarpaulin bottom and 840D nylon cover are puncture resistant. The kayak features multiple chambers; this will keep you safe because if one of the chambers fails, the kayak will still float. The Sevylor is the best inflatable fishing kayak with sturdy, adjustable rod holders for hands-free fishing. Also features paddle holders, Boston valve for easier inflation/deflation, mesh storage pockets, and attached d-rings. This kayak has the ability to add the coordinating Sevylor trolling motor to move more quickly in the water.
Product Dimensions: 30.1 x 11.6 x 19.2 inches
When using your inflatable kayak, you will want to follow the same safety precautions as you would with a traditional hard-shell kayak. Checking the weather is key to a fun kayaking experience. Even if you have been looking forward to kayaking for a long time, if the weather is unfavorable, you will want to postpone the trip. Using an inflatable kayak on water that is very choppy or in weather that has heavy rain, hail or strong wind can make it difficult to paddle and get back to shore easily.
When you are kayaking out on a body of water, it is very easy to get a sunburn. Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed areas every few hours. You can also reapply sunscreen if you have taken a swim in the water, as water can wash off sunscreen on the surface of your skin. If you forget to bring sunscreen, ask a friend if you can borrow some or consider placing towels or clothing over parts of your body that will burn, like the top of your head and legs.
Taking Care Of Your Skin –
Sunburns can be very uncomfortable. Take care of your skin while you are kayaking to prevent any pain or skin peeling. If you have been out on the water all day, it is also a good idea to coat your skin in aloe at the end of the day. Aloe is a natural skin healer, and it also has a cooling effect that will feel good after a long day of paddling in the heat.
You should also consider bringing along a can of bug spray. Insects tend to multiply near bodies of water, and you might find that you get more bites while kayaking, especially if you are out on the water in the early morning or dusk hours. Apply the bug spray over sunscreen for the best protection.
Bring along a light, waterproof jacket that you can use if it starts to rain or the breeze gets cool. The water generally has a cooler breeze and temperature than on shore, and it’s always a good idea to be prepared for any weather changes. Water shoes are also appropriate for kayaking. Sneakers can get wet easily and they take forever to dry. Water shoes will help you feel confident in your kayak and are great for hiking along the shore.
Try not to bring all of your valuables with you when you kayak. For example, if you have a set of keys, only bring your car key and lock the others in a safe place in your car. That way, if you happen to lose your key in the water, you will only be replacing one and not all of them. Even though kayak compartments are generally a safe place to put all of your gear, a lot of valuables are better left behind. There are not a lot of things you need on the water, so consider consolidating your valuables in your locked car or condensing what you bring on your kayak trip.
Things To Take With –
Everything you bring with you should be housed in a waterproof pouch. In case of any issues with your kayak or increased waves, you will be able to keep all of your personal items free from water damage.
Pack snacks and foods that are safe in hot weather situations. You never know when you might need a boost of energy to paddle back to shore. Great foods to pack include granola bars, trail mix, nuts, and simple sandwiches (sans mayo). Do not forget to pack a lot of water to keep you hydrated. If you do not have a lot of room on your kayak for beverages, consider purchasing a couple of reusable water bottles with filters so you can refill on the go.
Always use a life jacket when you are out on the water even if you are an experienced swimmer. You never know when your kayak could flip. Life jackets are also handy for taking a dip in the water when you need a break from the sun and paddling. Wearing a life jacket will ensure you are not wasting too much energy in the water and that you can get back to your kayak or the shore if the kayak capsizes.
Also consider carrying a whistle with you. A whistle that is worn around your neck can quickly signal other kayakers if you run into a health issue or problems with your kayak.
Especially if you are kayaking alone, be careful that you are always aware of your energy level and distance from the shore. It is very difficult to signal for help if you are by yourself in a remote area of the river or lake. If you have to paddle upstream on the way back, consider the extra energy you will need to get back safely.
Now that you have learned about the advantages of inflatable kayaks and the different kayaks that are available for purchase, you will want to narrow down your choices based on your kayaking needs.
Inflatable kayaks can generally accommodate one to three people. Will you always be using your kayak solo? or will you be sharing the kayak with friends or family? The cost can rise significantly for kayaks that accommodate more than one person. If you are always going to use the kayak only for one person, purchase a kayak that is only rated for one. The kayak will be more comfortable and you will not have to spend time inflating extra seating or compartments.
If you need a kayak for more than one person, you have a couple of options. You can purchase a kayak rated for multiple people, which includes adjustable seating and a greater weight capacity. Adjustable seating positions are a great way to include your kids or a family pet. Adjusting the seats can accommodate family members of varying heights and weights.
You can also consider purchasing multiple one-person kayaks. This is especially great for people who want to be able to paddle at their own speed and like more personal space. Depending on the best inflatable kayak you choose, the cost may be similar whether you purchase a two or three-person kayak or multiple solo kayaks.
Choosing Water Types –
Choose what type of water you will be using your inflatable kayak for. There are different kayaks that are rated for different uses. Some are rated for calm waters while others can be used on whitewater.
Look at the different design styles. Some blow up kayaks are open while others are more enclosed. The elements such as wind, rain or heat can play a part in which kayak you ultimately purchase. Do you have a disability or special needs that make it hard to enter an inflatable kayak? Research kayaks that are easy to get in and out of.
Once you choose the style of kayak, make sure you meet the weight requirements. You will need to do some math if you are purchasing a solo kayak and adding your specialized gear. If you are buying a multi-person kayak, add up the weights of all the people that will be riding together along with any gear you are taking. If you are tall or short, make sure you have enough leg room to comfortably sit and paddle the kayak.
Once you find a kayak that meets the weight requirement, you will want to practice carrying the deflated kayak. Is it too heavy to hike with? Remember that you will need to be able to carry the kayak from the car to the launch point while deflated and while inflated when you are kayaking on the water.
If you have a lot of gear, purchase a kayak that has a lot of compartments to safely store your gear. You can alternatively buy a kayak that has a mesh overlay and clip your waterproof bags to the mesh. If you are constantly running out of room for your gear in a solo kayak, you can buy a tandem kayak and use the extra passenger space to store your gear.
Cold Months –
Paddling in the cooler months? You will want to look into a kayak that has a spray skirt option. The spray skirt attaches to your chest and the kayak cockpit to keep out elements such as excess water and wind.
Most inflatable kayaks can inflate or deflate in under 10 minutes. If you are kayaking in the colder months, inflate your kayak a little bit more. This will help the kayak stay at a good inflation when the air contracts from the cold wind or water. Conversely, if the weather is unseasonably warm, do not put as much air in the kayak as you normally would. The warm sun and water will cause the air in the inflatable kayak to expand.
It is important never to leave your kayak fully inflated in the hot sun. This can cause damage to your kayak and weaken the seams that keep your kayak from leaking. Always let some of the air out, even when you are just propping up your kayak to dry.
Kayaking is a fun sport that has many benefits both physically and emotionally. Getting exercise while also calming your mind is worth the investment of a new kayak and gear. If you have never tried kayaking before, you should consider adding it to your hobby list. It can help you and your family unplug. Kayaking can also be combined with hiking, camping, and swimming for a fun, nature-inspired vacation. Whether you are new to kayaking or a seasoned pro, the best inflatable kayak is an affordable option for all-season adventures. Just choose your kayak, pack it in your car trunk, and go!