The Inflatable Kayak: Can We Trust It? (5 Of The Best)

Newly Designed Airis Inflatable Kayaks by Walker Bay

Abigail ScottByAbigail Scott
Updated on 7/4/2022

The explosion in inflatable kayaks' popularity has undoubtedly caused many people to rethink their affordable, lightweight, and transportable kayak options. They were confronted with a blast of inflatable kayaks on the market when weighing their options. If one had to imagine whether an inflatable kayak is a viable alternative to traditional kayaks, the memory of riding on the back of an inflatable "Shamu the Whale" pool toy would probably not help: My friends and I used to depend on these pool toys as kids.

How does all this come about? How does it work? What is the truth behind all of this? Do they have any stability? Is their safety guaranteed? What is the durability of these products? Will they last for a very long time? This article will find all the answers to your questions about inflatable kayaks.

Answers To Common Inflatable Kayak Questions

Why is it that inflatable kayaks are so popular these days? While we all loved our green alligator floaty pool toy back in the day, you would not want to use the same kind of floaty when swimming in open water or fast-moving waters.

In this article, we will explore some of the most frequently asked questions about inflatable kayaks, and then we will present our recommendations for four of the best ones. Ready? Let’s go!

Inflatable Kayaks: Are They Any Good?

So, in a nutshell: yes! Throughout this article, I have probably done a disservice to you by mentioning pool toys multiple times, so now it's time to banish that negative thought from your mind.

Over the past few decades, the technology for inflatables has come a long way. Historically, military and commercial operations used their construction methods mainly. However, recreative watercraft companies have adapted the same process to build high-quality, durable, professional watercraft that better suit an ever-increasing number of people.

Currently, you will be able to see inflatable severe water toys of all kinds, such as stand-up paddleboards, canoes, wakeboards, fishing pontoons, and more. Watercraft that are inflatable are more and more becoming the preferred vessel of choice in a multitude of sports.

How Stable Are Inflatable Kayaks?

Overall, inflatable kayaks are just as stable as traditional kayaks for the most part. If we believe inflatables have some heft and toughness, then we realize that these things are pretty similar to a stiff whitewater raft.

White water rafting in the Naranjo River Costa Rica

Although they have a tipping point and variable primary and secondary stability, they are essentially the same as a standard kayak. Do some research if you are planning to stand up in your inflatable kayak in your kayak for fishing purposes or any other purpose. Some inflatable kayaks may not be as well suited for that as others due to varying degrees of "hardness" in the floors of the kayaks.

If you want a more challenging floor for your kayak, then you can always buy or build your hard floor inserts to remedy this problem. Typically, if you buy one of these, it will be made of an easy-to-inflate drop-stitched construction material that inflates to a high, strong PSI value.

It is always possible to find tutorials on how to construct your own out of plywood or other materials on YouTube or elsewhere if you wish to build one yourself.

How Durable And Safe Are Inflatable Kayaks?

This is a big question to answer, especially for those doing river kayaking or other shallow-water kayaking where you may run over sticks, rocks, or other obstacles.

There is no doubt that you can expect to get what you pay for in this case. Suppose you are looking for an inexpensive inflatable kayak. In that case, you can find them on Amazon and elsewhere for under $200, and they are fully functional for lazing around a lakeside dock or a pond. However, if you're planning on traveling away from the shores or putting some miles on it, you need to know that it will be reliable when you need it most. It's also unfortunate that some of these cheap inflatables are not made as solidly as their more expensive counterparts.

Several features are available on more expensive kayaks, including double and triple-layered fabrics, separate inflation chambers, and airtight valves. These features all play different roles in keeping the kayak secure and durable.

Factors That Make IKs So Durable

It is worth mentioning that the two or three layers of fabric provide extra protection against tears and punctures. In some cases, a stray stick may penetrate through one layer but would be prevented from penetrating through the other layers.

Because each air chamber is entirely independent, if for some reason a hole or rip does occur in one part of your kayak, it will be contained to that one chamber only. It will be possible to stay afloat for an extended period if you have two or three other sections that have not been damaged, allowing you to get to shore and find help or fix it.

Once the air has entered the valve, it will not leak out because it is airtight. It is not necessary to worry that once the kayak is inflated, it will start losing air on you or deflate. As long as you properly pump up an inflatable kayak and take care of it, you can expect a kayak as tough and durable as a regular kayak.

It would be best to consider the extremely tough military vessels used in military operations, such as Navy SEALs beaching a stealthy inflatable boat and jumping from it to carry out some covert operations. Kayaks made from inflatable materials and constructed using similar methods to those used to manufacture military equipment have been produced in some cases.

When you think of it that way, it should put your mind at ease that what you're purchasing is a safe, reliable, and durable piece of equipment that you'll be able to use for years to come.

What Are The Differences Between Inflatable Kayaks And Traditional Kayaks?

Possibly the most critical question, this is perfectly valid. Inflatable kayaks are more convenient than traditional kayaks, but you'll lose all of that if they paddle like turds in the water.

I believe that rigidity is one of the keys to performance. As well as that, it is essential to have the proper keel and bow shape for the boat to perform well. Inflatable technology has made giant leaps and bounds in this regard over the past few years.

Fairly or unfairly, an excellent inflatable kayak will never beat out a traditional high-performance kayak in terms of performance. These kayaks cannot be built with the precision that traditional kayaks are capable of. However, the average recreational kayaker won't notice much of a difference between the quality of an inflatable kayak and the quality of a traditional kayak.

The Top 5 Inflatable Kayaks

As we have discussed a few of the most common questions people have about inflatable kayaks, the next step is to look at some of the most common answers.

With inflatable kayaks becoming increasingly popular nowadays, it can be straightforward to get overwhelmed with all the options available. Fortunately, we are here to help. Unlike you, we have spent hours researching the best inflatable kayaks available to make sure you don't have to. Here is what we have found to be the best inflatable kayaks suited for your needs.

Best Recreational Inflatable: Sea Eagle 330

Inflatable watercraft have been a Sea Eagle specialty since 1968. An organization that has been around for that long must know what it is

Carol Derer talks about her Sea Eagle 330 kayak

Pros

Although Sea Eagle has a wide array of products for all types of paddlers, they are best known for their versatile, affordable, and beginner-friendly Sea Eagle 330.

This item is a top pick for several people: it is lightweight, rugged, and offers excellent value for the price. With its weight of 26 pounds and compact size, the Sea Eagle 330 is easy to transport, and it can be placed in your vehicle or RV and taken to your launch site.

Although this inflatable kayak is lightweight, the proprietary construction methods and materials that Sea Eagle uses make it an extremely rugged kayak despite being light and thin. Some users love it because they don't have to worry about their furry companions damaging the hull due to their nails.

As a recreational paddler, the Sea Eagle's affordability, portability, durability, ease of use, and durability and ease of storage will all be significant advantages on their checklist.

Cons

A great deal of the valuable features that make the Sea Eagle a standout in some aspects can also work against it in other ways. Mainly, because it is incredibly lightweight, a big pro in many people's eyes, it is likely to get blown around when it is windy. In addition, some users feel the kayak is not as stable as they would like it to be. For example, one user commented,

"The kayak was built from quality materials, but it was very "tippy" and unstable due to its design. Although Sea Eagle advertises the Sea Eagle 330 as being able to accommodate two adults comfortably, we feel that this could, at best, only be described as a stretch."

This kayak receives frequent criticism for getting blown around and not being large enough for two people despite being advertised. Therefore, it is essential to consider these factors when deciding on a kayak purchase.

Specs

Weight: 26 lbs Length: 11 ft. 2 inches Width: 34″ Capacity: 500 lbs

Tandem Inflatable Kayak: Advanced Elements AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

Among the top players in the world of inflatable kayaks is Advanced Element. Inflatable kayaks are available for all skill levels and types of paddling, so they offer a wide range of options.

One of the highest-rated kayaks from AdvancedFrame is their AE1007 AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak. How does this kayak differ from others of its kind? In fact, there are quite a few differences.

AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak Setup Video

Pros

First of all, the kayak has an advanced frame design that allows it to paddle more like a hardshell kayak than one might expect from looking at it. As part of their "advanced frame," they have built-in aluminum ribs in the bow and the stern to increase rigidity and tracking capability.

There is a "convertible" part to the kayak, which comes from its ability to convert from a tandem kayak to a solo kayak with just a few adjustments. A kayak can be converted into a tandem kayak with two seat positions forward and aft for tandem paddling and one seat in the middle for solo paddling.

There is an essential difference between the middle position and many of the other tandem kayaks that can be converted to solo kayaks, particularly if the front seat is removed and a paddle is used from the rear kayak. On a shorter kayak, this might work, but on a 15-foot kayak, being able to paddle from the middle will allow you to have much better control.

Users love the looks of this kayak, even though it might seem trivial. It is one of the sexiest inflatable kayaks I have ever seen (in my best Fat Bastard voice). With a length of 15 feet, you will find plenty of storage and legroom when you travel in this RV! Aside from that, it's equipped with a 550-pound weight capacity, which puts most traditional kayaks to shame.

Cons

There aren't many negative reviews about the kayak, but a few have taken the time to complain about the storage bag being a big issue. It's barely big enough to fit your kayak after using it, and it's more like an oversized tote bag than a convenient and dependable carry-on bag. Carrying straps are not long enough to take over the shoulder, so it is cumbersome to have by hand.

A negative aspect of this inflatable kayak is that it is a bit heavy for a kayak in the inflatable category, weighing in at 56 pounds. There are better inflatable kayaks out there if you're looking for a lightweight alternative to traditional kayaks if you're looking for an inflatable option.

As well as paddles, pumps, and optional backbones and frames, there are a few extras you may have to pay for that make a reasonable-priced kayak into a higher-priced kayak after adding the extras.

Specs

Weight: 56 lbs Length: 15 feet Capacity: 550 lbs Width: 34 inches

Best Hybrid Inflatable Kayak/SUP: BOTE Deus Aero Inflatable Kayak

This bad boy made me scream like a little girl when I saw him for the first time! BOTE continues to impress and be a trendsetter in a cutting-edge kayak and SUP design and technology, and their latest inflatable kayak Deus Aero is no exception.

BOTE Deus Aero, what are my feelings for you? Allow me to count how I love you.

Pros

Let's be honest, where do you even begin with this? Every single detail has been given great thought. It will be difficult to capture every one of them, but I will do my best. At first glance, you might hardly be able to tell that this is an inflatable kayak just by looking at it. In terms of the visual appeal, BOTE is known for its eye-catching teal and orange colors, so this certainly stands out visually and has that BOTE visual appeal.

Deus Aero is far more than just visually pleasing; its construction is something to be marveled at as well. This kayak features four independent chambers, making it unsurpassed in terms of durability and stability in the world of inflatable kayaks. Besides being a hybrid kayak and standup paddleboard, its open stern is another elegant feature. The water does not fill up the kayak by funneling the water out through the back end.

Additionally, it has a non-slip deck pad that makes it easy to stand up and paddle, whether a kayak or a paddleboard.

Cons

The price tag of this kayak will be one of its significant downsides. As a result, you will not be able to obtain Cadillac quality at a Ford price in this case. Indeed, this isn't going to be your "value" kayak. There is no doubt that this is an excellent, high-quality, cutting-edge watercraft and deserves every dollar it is priced at.

Deemed as the Latin word for "god," the DEUS reigns supreme in portability, performance, and versatility.

Specs

Weight: 41 lbs Length: 11 feet Width: 33″ Capacity: 300 lbs

BOTE DEUS Aero Walkthrough

Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak: Elkton Steelhead Fishing Kayak

Elkton kayaks are my favorite kayaks. They're a relatively new player in the kayak world, but as a manufacturer of good quality kayaks and accessories, they have already made a name for themselves. Let's explore a few of the pros and cons of this kayak, shall we?

Pros

There are two primary reasons why the Steelhead fishing kayak is one of the best inflatable kayaks for fishing. They can either be purchased as solo kayaks or tandem kayaks. As a bonus, the Steelhead also includes a rigid drop-stitch floor. Any angler knows how important it is to have a solid platform to stand and cast from when you're out fishing. With the Steelhead, you can release from a sturdy platform that is stable and sturdy.

Furthermore, the Steelhead comes with a self-bailing drain on the floor so that the water won't leak. Having this handy can come in handy if you're fishing in rough waters or hauling in a lot of fish which causes the boat to leak water. It is worth noting that the list of included accessories and features is exhaustive: 5-7 hard mounting points for rod holders, spray shield, locking valves, drop-in adjustable footrests, lightweight paddle, carry bag, pump, and much more.

According to one of our happy users,

“This kayak is solid, sturdy and has all the space I need for carrying supplies for fishing or just for fun (or taking the family pet for a ride!) on the water. To the manufacturer – VERY WELL DONE!!”

Cons

At this point, there isn't much to report on the con side of things. The reason for this is that this brand of kayak is a relatively new product on the market. Because it is not as well known as other kayaks, there is not as much information available about it.

There have been no real negatives so far, but I would say the packaging and the instruction manual are the only things I have noticed that I don't find particularly important. Let's see what happens! If more information becomes available about this kayak, I will update this post as soon as possible.

Specs

Weight: 40-44 lbs Length: 10′ 10″ – 12’6″ Width: 39″

Capacity: 400-600 lbs

Best Whitewater/River Inflatable Kayak: Advanced Elements Attack Pro Whitewater Kayak

I would like to mention the Advanced Elements Attack Pro as a final note. Unlike many other kayaks discussed above, the Attack Pro is not your typical recreational or touring kayak. There would be no point in writing an article about inflatable kayaks for whitewater if we didn't mention one top-class option, and that's what you get with the AE Attack Pro.

Advanced Elements Video

Pros

It has a rock-solid drop stitch floor that makes it exceptionally maneuverable and a 12" rocker that allows it to climb over high waves effortlessly. At just 9'9", it is the perfect kayak for running rapids.

Even though this kayak features high-performance features like the ones mentioned above, its 9.5" tubes provide a comprehensive, stable platform suitable for beginners just getting into whitewater kayaking.

Additionally, the Attack Pro comes with adjustable footpegs and thigh straps for a snug, secure fit. This kayak has also been specifically designed with a self-bailing system which means that it will never be swamped in an emergency.

The Attack Pro was made to be a kayak that provides enough stability to appeal to beginners but also playful and responsive enough to please the more experienced adrenaline junkies.

An excellent aspect of this harmonious interaction between beginner and advanced kayaks is the price tag of the Attack Pro. Considering the price level of this kayak, it'll be a great bargain that will make the lives of everyone who buys it much better.

Cons

Although this kayak certainly looks well-suited for some pretty gnarly whitewater, perhaps adding a little more rocker to the nose would make for a smoother ride. Other inflatable kayaks with a rocker of 18 inches can easily ride over the waves, and I have seen other kayaks with this feature.

Specs

Weight: 26 lbs Length: 9′ 9″ Width: 30″ Capacity: 225 lbs

AE-Attack-Pro-1024x579

Bottom Line

Well, I guess after reading 2,500 words on inflatable kayaks, you all should be on your way to becoming IK Einsteins! I'm kidding, of course. There is no doubt that inflatable kayaks are safe, durable, and reliable. They are just as good as many traditional kayaks, especially considering inflatables continue to improve and innovate.

We've already discussed four of the best inflatable kayak on the market, but many more are out there. Even if these inflatable kayaks did not quite whet your appetite, it would be worth considering other inflatable kayaks available on the market. We are sure you'll be able to find one that meets all your needs to go out there and enjoy the water! I hope that makes sense. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the inflatable kayak worth it?

The inflatable Kayak is worth it. As inflatable technology continues to improve, inflatable kayaks are safe, durable, and reliable. In fact, they are just as good as some traditional kayaks.

What is best inflatable kayak?

Based on our research, the best inflatable kayak is Sea Eagle 330.

Do inflatable kayaks puncture easily?

Inflatable kayaks do not puncture easily. A modern inflatable kayak is constructed from layers of tough, thick-coated materials and topped with a puncture-resistant shell. The probability of leaks and punctures during regular, expected use is extremely low.

Is it OK to leave an inflatable kayak inflated?

No, it is not ok to leave an inflatable kayak inflated. In order to prevent damage, do not leave it inflated while storing away for a long time. Leaving it inflated can lead to stress on the seams and valves, especially if the temperature rises and the air expands.

Can one person use a 2 person inflatable kayak?

Yes, one person can use a 2 person inflatable kayak. A few inflatable kayaks are tandem kayaks, but they can be converted into solo kayaks by moving the seats. For my own use, I chose this option. You can always bring someone with you, but you can also paddle alone and still have the kayak balanced.

Can I use an inflatable kayak in the sea?

Yes, It is generally safe to use inflatable kayaks in the ocean, but only experienced kayakers should feel comfortable doing so. Inflatable kayaks are designed to offer a stable and reliable performance comparable to hard-shell kayaks.