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While the performance of even the best inflatable kayaks is not as good as a hard shell kayak, they more than make up for any drawbacks with their ease of portability.
With modern construction materials, inflatable kayaks can even be used for white water rafting and fishing.
There are however, large differences between the various models.
How do you decide which inflatable kayak is best for you?
This guide will assist you in buying an inflatable kayak for your needs based on our comparisons of the top rated brands. We evaluated them on stability, ease of inflation, portability, value and how easy they were to paddle.
If you are worried about leaks, all of the reviewed kayaks come with quick repair patch kits and a pump. However with modern materials being so tough, leaks are very unlikely.
Best Inflatable Kayaks
Quick Answer: The 7 Best Rated Inflatable Kayaks For 2021
- Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
- Intex Excursion Pro K2 Inflatable Kayak
- Sevylor Big Basin 3 Person Inflatable Kayak
- Intex Challenger 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
- Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Kayak Pro Package
- Coleman Quikpak K5 Solo Kayak
- Driftsun Voyager Tandem Inflatable Kayak
Inflatable Kayak Reviews
- Passengers: 1-2
- Weight Capacity: 550 Pounds
- Kayak Weight: 52 Pounds
- Inflated Size: 15′ x 32″
- Carry Bag: Yes
- Other: Aluminum ribs for rigidity, front and rear storage
If you’re looking for an inflatable kayak that is close to a standard hard shell kayak, the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is for you.
It has built-in, lightweight aluminum ribs that provide exceptional rigidity for excellent speed and tracking.The bottom of the kayak use “drop stitch” construction that when inflated becomes extreamly rigid. The high back seats will have you paddling in comfort for hours on end.
The 15 ft long kayak has low center of gravity for exceptional stability and also helps make paddling easier. The 6 chambers gives you the ultimate in safety on the water.
This kayak is suitable for anything from a day trip, and with the plenty of storage capacity even a week long camping expedition. The Advanced Elements is a good kayak for fishing, with its solid tracking and maneuverability plus bungee tie downs for storage.
The Advanced Elements kayak is constructed of three separate layers that provide the most puncture and leak resistance offered by any inflatable kayak. Like to take your furry 4 legged friend with you?
Well the AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak will resist puncturing from the sharpest of claws! There is plenty of room up front to lash cargo for long camping and fishing trips.
The AdvancedFrameis the only inflatable kayak I am aware of with secure front and rear storage. They have even included a few rod holders if want to try some fishing with it.
The included carry duffle bag holds the kayak in a compact package of 35 inches wide by 21 inches high and 12 inches long and weighs only 52 pounds, small enough to be transported in any car.
The Advanced Elements kayak is a very solid feeling kayak that is as close as it comes to a standard hardshell kayak.
If you’re looking for a smaller, less expensive solo kayak the Advanced Elements FireFly is a good choice.
- Passengers: 1-2
- Weight Capacity: 400 Pounds
- Kayak Weight: 39 Pounds
- Inflated Size: 12’7″ X 37″
- Carry Bag: Yes
- Other: D-Ring attachment points, Adjustable foot rests
When you’re looking for a convenient, portable inflatable kayak for recreation and fishing the Intex Excursion Pro Kayak is definitely a solid option.
Its very stable with an I-Beam construction floor for rigidity. The Excursion Pro has been well thought out and designed with angling in mind.
Both the bow and stern have room for storage for all your fishing tackle. The D-Rings all along the interior provide plenty of attachment points for securing gear.
There is a moveable mounting bracket for GPS, fish finders or additional rod holders. The removable skegs provide good tracking and adjustable foot rests allow for leverage to make paddling fast and easy.
The bucket seats provide all day comfort for those long fishing trips and can be moved to your desired location.
The kayak when inflated measures 12’7″ long and 37” wide and will accommodate two people with a weight capacity of about 400 pounds.
There are 3 air chambers for safety and the hull is made from a 3-ply PVC that resists tears and punctures. Especially important if you fish shallow waters.
Intex includes to 86” paddles and a high output inflation pump you get you on the water fast. You may want to consider an electric pump for fast, easy inflation.
For a budget option, the Excursion Pro is a lot of kayak for the money. With the stability of a regular kayak and all the advantages of being inflatable, in my opinion the Excursion Pro is the best inflatable kayak for fishing and recreational use.
- Passengers: 1-3
- Weight Capacity: 490 Pounds
- Kayak Weight: 35 Pounds
- Inflated Size: 12’3″ x 3’1″
- Carry Bag: Yes
- Other: Adjustable seats
Looking for something a little bigger? The Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak might be exactly what your looking for.
It’s one of the few 3 person inflatable kayaks on the market. Though honestly, you are not going to be able to fit 3 adults in it, more like 2 adults and a child.
The first thing you will notice about the Big Basin is that is surprisingly stable and tracks nearly like a traditional hard shell kayak.
A lot of the tracking stability is because of the 2 directional strakes (essential rudders) that keep you paddling straight, even if your solo.
The Sevylor Big Basin is constructed of some seriously strong, heavy duty PVC plus a tarpaulin bottom to protect against abrasion and punctures from rocks and sticks and other hazards.
If you have a 4 legged furry friend, this is the best kayak for dogs with its thick heavy duty PVC that will resist their claws puncturing the material.
The Sevylor has 3 separate chambers for safety in the unlikely event you do suffer a puncture, it won’t be pretty but you will be able to paddle to shore. Remember you should always carry PFD’s, one for each person.
Even at a bargain price it comes with some nice features like, cup/bottle holders for each seat and has a decent amount of storage in the rear of the kayak for a cooler or fishing gear.
The seats adjust and are surprisingly comfortable and as a nice touch, it has splash guards in the front of the kayak to keep water out.
While I probably wouldn’t take it whitewater rafting, it is capable of doing it. This is a pretty big kayak so I would seriously consider getting an electric pump to inflate it.
Keep in mind it does NOT come with a pump or paddles, so you will need to purchase them separately. Make sure you get a quality high volume pump so you can get it inflated quickly.
In my opinion for the quality you get, the Sevylor Big Basin is the best inflatable kayak for the money.
- Passengers: 1-2
- Weight Capacity: 400 Pounds
- Kayak Weight: 33 Pounds
- Inflated Size: 11’6″ x 30″
- Carry Bag: No
- Other: Two 83″ aluminum paddles, cargo nets for secure storage
Intex Recreation has decades of experience with making all manner of inflatable products so it’s no surprise they created an inflatable kayak; the Challenger K2 Kayak.
It is constructed of their super tough vinyl for extreme durability and resistance to leaks and tears.
The Intek K2 is an ideal kayak for exploring lakes and slower flowing rivers. The cockpit is good sized with an inflatable seat and backrest it will comfortably fit most anyone. The Intex is by far the best cheap inflatable kayak.
The Intex K2 meets all safety standards set by the Coast Guard while undergoing intensive stress testing to ensure safety. The K2 will give you years of enjoyment on the water.
- Passengers: 1-3
- Weight Capacity: 650 Pounds
- Kayak Weight: 26 Pounds
- Inflated Size: 12’6″ x 30″
- Carry Bag: Yes
- Other: Two 84 inch aluminum paddles, covered front and rear storage
Whether you want to go down Class III rapids or a leisurely paddle around a lake, the Sea Eagle is a perfect solution to your kayak needs.
The rugged PolyKrylar hull is incredibly durable, so tough in fact there is no reason to leave your 4 legged best friend home. The 38 mil hull will withstand the sharpest of claws and resist tearing or puncturing.
The Sea Eagle weighs only 26 pounds but will carry up 650 pounds of passenger and cargo!
The I-Beam construction provides a rigidity rivaling solid hull kayaks. It includes 2 skegs so that the Sea Eagle tracks well for maximum speed and efficiency.
Included are 2 inflatable, removable seats (3 person capacity), front and rear self-bailing drain valves plus front and rear rope handles for easy portability.
The Sea Eagle deflates down to a small package of 31 inches high, 19 wide by 8 inches deep and transports easily with the included carry case. The Sea Eagle is the best tandem inflatable kayak on the market.
With the Sea Eagle you can go from the trunk of your car to being on the water in 8 minutes. 100 pumps of the high capacity foot pump and its fully inflated and ready for just about anything!
The Sea Eagle is a great kayak for the money.
Note: If you want near rigid kayak performance, check out the just released Sea Eagle 380X Kayak with drop stitch construction.
Best Solo Inflatable Kayak
- Passengers: 1
- Weight Capacity: 250 Pounds
- Kayak Weight: 26 Pounds
- Inflated Size: 10′ x 2’10”
- Carry Bag: Yes
- Other: One 84 inch aluminum paddle, covered front and rear storage
The Coleman Quickpak is my other choice for a solo kayak. This is a well thought out/designed inflatable kayak.
To start with, is the fact that kayak folds up small enough to fit into the integrated backpack. It has comfortable padded shoulder straps that make it easy to carry from the parking lot to the water.
The kayak will go from backpack to being in the water in 10 minutes, after a few times you can get it down to about 5 minutes.
The double lock valves make inflating and deflating the kayak a breeze (with the included pump). The Coleman Quikpak K5 is an ideal kayak for camping and fishing trips.
There is a rear zippered storage compartment where you can pack food and misc gear plus the front of the kayak has plenty of room to lash down gear with the bungee cords.
The front and back of the kayak have carry handles to portage the kayak or carry from your car to the water.
The kayak is designed to be as close to a hard shell kayak as possible. It has a ridged flat bottom floor and a 3 chamber design for safety and maintaining its shape to aid in tracking.
The kayak measures just over 10 feet long by just under 3 feet wide and holds up to 250 pounds of passenger and cargo.
The only real knock, is the included 2 piece aluminum paddle has been reported to break easily, so purchasing a better quality paddle might be a good idea. The Coleman Quikpak is the best inflatable kayak under $500.
Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak
- Passengers: 1-2
- Weight Capacity: 400 Pounds
- Kayak Weight: 27 Pounds
- Inflated Size: 10’ x 35″
- Carry Bag: Yes
- Other: Two adjustable seats, two paddles, bungee storage
The Driftsun Voyager is perfect for recreational use and for the angler it is a good substitute for a standard rigid kayak.
Having comfortable and adjustable kayak seats, it can be used for all day paddling expeditions.
Just because it is inflatable, don’t get the idea that it can be punctured easily. Being made from 600D polyester fabric it would be difficult to almost impossible for that to happen.
One of the drawbacks of many kayaks is the lack of storage. While the Voyager may not have as much room as some rigid kayaks, it’s close. The front of the kayak has a storage area along with with bungee storage on the top that will hold a lot of gear.
The stern has a pretty good sized area for gear storage as well. I liked the side mounted paddle holders so you can keep them out of the boat while fishing or taking a break.
If you like to kayak in shallow rocky water or near oyster beds, you will appreciate the thick tarpaulin bottom that is tough and durable enough to protect it from abrasion and tears.
The Driftsun Voyager includes 2 aluminum paddles, a high volume inflation pump, removable skeg and of course a carry bag. I would have like to have seen it be able to be used as a backpack however.
If you are looking for a quality inflatable kayak, it would be tough to go wrong with the Driftsun Voyager!
Inflatable Kayak Comparison Table
|Inflatable Kayak||Paddlers||Max Weight||Dimensions||Weight||Rating|
|ADVANCED ELEMENTS||1-2||550 lbs||15'L, 32"W||52 lbs||4.3 / 5.0|
|Sevylor Big Basin||1 - 3||490 lbs||12'3"L x 36"W||35 lbs||4.0 / 5.0|
|Intex Challenger||1 - 2||400 lbs||11'5"L x 30"W||33 lbs||4.1 / 5.0|
|Sea Eagle SE 370||1 - 3||650 lbs||12.5'L x 32"W||26 lbs||4.3 / 5.0|
|Sevylor K5 QuikPak||1||250 lbs||10'L x 34"W||26 lbs||4.0 / 5.0|
|easyazon_link identifier="B072JHDN9M" locale="US" tag="outsidepursuits-20"]Driftsun Voyager Tandem Inflatable Kayak[/easyazon_link]||1-2||400 lbs||10′ L x 35″ W||27 lbs||4.3 / 5.0|
|Intex Excursion Pro K2 Fishing Kayak||2||400 lbs||13'7"L x 37"W||39 lbs||4.2 / 5.0|
How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak
- Why Use an Inflatable Kayak
- Advantages of an Inflatable Kayak
- What are the Types of Inflatable Kayaks?
- Inflatable Kayak Materials
- Considerations For An Inflatable Kayak
Why Use an Inflatable Kayak
Before looking at the types of kayaks lets discuss why you might want to get one in the first place and that’s Portability and Storage. I had the typical hard shell, sit on top kayak and at first I did use it a lot. When started kayaking I used to transport it on top of my car with foam blocks.
This worked but was a terrible solution. The kayak would almost always shift around and it was very difficult for me to lift the kayak on top of the car. They are very heavy, especially trying to lift it by yourself. Then I noticed the top of my car was being all scratched up by the bottom of the kayak rubbing against the paint.
So I bought a trailer to transport the kayak. At first this seemed like a good solution, no more lifting the kayak. The trailer was not cheap however and then the problem of where to keep it.
It took up a lot of room and I don’t have a garage. After a while the trailer started rusting, then there was the cost of a tag and insurance so I decided it wasn’t worth it. I sold it and bought an inflatable kayak.
An inflatable can be stored almost anywhere. No matter how small your house or apt and if you travel by RV, even better. Take it everywhere you go!
You can literally, pull your kayak out of your backpack, inflate it in minutes and be on the water before you can get a kayak off the roof of your car.
Inflatable kayaks can be used for just about any use that a hard shelled kayak can be used for:
- General Recreation
Advantages of an Inflatable Kayak
An inflatable is light enough to be carried by most any one. They can be transported to the launch point win a backpack.
An inflatable kayak can be stored in a closet or shelf. They deflate to the size of a duffel bag making them small enough for to store most anywhere.
Take Them Anywhere
With an inflatable kayak you use one most anywhere. You can paddle in remote locations that taking a rigid kayak almost impossible to get to. Take it with you on a trip, they can be checked when flying, or fit in the trunk of any car. No roof rack or trailer necessary.
Time to Launch
Of course you need to inflate the kayak, but with an electric pump, you can have it inflated and ready to go in minutes. Probably faster than taking it off the roof of your car and finding a parking spot.
An inflatable kayak can be used for most anything, be it fishing, touring or white water rafting.
Maintenance and Upkeep
With an inflatable, dings and scratches are a thing of the past. However they are susceptible to punctures so care must be taken to avoid sharp objects. A rigid kayak can be easy rinsed off and cleaned while an inflatable must be folded up and packed away.
Since an inflatable kayak can be kept in the trunk or back of your SUV you don’t have to worry about it being stolen when you park your car. Keep it with you at all times so you can be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
What are the Types of Inflatable Kayaks?
With inflatable kayaks increasing in popularity, there are more types becoming available with ever more features and more uses.
Self Bailing Kayaks
This type of inflatable kayak has holes or ports on the bottom of the kayak to drain water just like a hardshell kayak has. This style is frequently used for white water rafting. I know, river rapids in an inflatable kayak? They can handle it I assure you.
The ports on the bottom allow the water to drain out as it splashes into the kayak so you don’t fill up with water. Many of these types of kayaks lack a fin for tracking and don’t do well paddling on a lake of river because of this.
Sit on Top Kayaks
Just like a hardshell kayak this type of kayak there is no enclosed cockpit as you basically sit on top of the kayak. This type is best for fishing because you have maximum movement for accessing gear and casting.
Sit Inside Kayak
This is probably what comes to mind when you think of a kayak. With this type of kayak you sit inside the kayak and there is an enclosed cockpit. This model you will tend to stay drier because you are mostly protected from spashing water and the elements. Best for rougher conditions of cold weather and a spray skirt is recommended.
Just like the name implies, it looks like a canoe. This inflatable kayak features a wider design with higher walls and the seats are deeper in the kayak. You have more space to move around with this type and is a popular choice for fishing.
Standup Paddle Board
I listed this style here even though it is not a “true” kayak. This type of kayak has become very popular because of their flexibility. You can use them for a workout, fishing, racing, surfing and even rafting.
Inflatable Kayak Materials
PVC: Polyvinyl Chloride is by far the most common material use in inflatable kayaks. PVC is usually bonded to nylon for extra tear resistance. While it is fairly UV resistant, it will break down if lett in the sun for long periods of time.
Nitrylon: Is a combination of nitrile synthetic rubber which is more eco friendly than PVC and natural rubber bonded to polyester fabric. It is very tough and puncture resistant compared to PVC and also has better abrasion resistant.
Hypalon: Is more UV resistant than PVC but is more expensive because its not as easy to work with. It’s also more abrasion resistant than PVC or Nitrylon. Some inflatable kayaks save money by combining PVC with a Hypalon coating.
Considerations For An Inflatable Kayak
Are You Going to Use it For Fishing?
You can of course use any kayak for fishing but some types are much better for fishing than others. The sit on type model is the best option because you are able to turn and move around easily for casting and accessing your fishing gear.
The canoe style kayak is a good option as well because they are wider and allow you to move around easily and allow you to carry lots of equipment and hopefully your fish.
Where Will You Use It?
Are you going to use it in calm, flat lakes or slow moving rivers? If you live near a bay or the ocean will you use it here? If so you may want a sit inside kayak. What about white water rafting if you live near a river? Kayaks that work for a flat, calm lake is not the best kayak for ocean use.
Your Height and Weight
If you are tall or heavier you are going to need a bigger kayak with more weight capacity and leg room. Make sure you look carefully at the specs for the kayak and see if it will work for you. Don’t forget about gear and equipment you may take with you. Especially important if you plan on using it for camping.
What Are You Going To Use It For?
Are you going to use it for short paddles of an hour or two? Or do you plan on longer excursions of all day or maybe a week. Will you use it for fishing? Or maybe even snorkeling or diving? If you plan on going camping with it, make sure you have enough room and weight capacity for cargo.
How Comfortable Are You Getting In and Out?
If you think you may have trouble getting in and out of a kayak, you may be better served with a sit on top kayak. These are significantly easier to get in and out of. However, they are more prone to tipping because the center of gravity is higher. Be sure to practice getting back into the kayak to be sure you are able to do it quickly.
Inflatable kayaks are kind of notorious for bad seats but that’s not a rule. You’ll find plenty of boats with great seats out of the box but remember that you get what you pay for.
Fortunately you can get around a bad seat in most cases. Many inflatable kayaks have seats that can be easily replaced with aftermarket options!
When buying your kayak, if the seat looks questionable make sure it’s at least removable. If it doesn’t hold up to your needs you can always swap it out later and some aftermarket seats are just downright luxurious so I recommend it!
Note: If you choose a seat with a high back, pair it with a seat-friendly PFD (life jacket). A bulky lifejacket stuck between you and your seat is never comfortable.
What Types of Weather Are You Likely to Encounter?
If you are the type of person to call off a trip because there is a chance of rain, this may not be a concern. However if you are willing to go out in the rain, wind or cold weather be sure the kayak can accommodate a spray skirt.
Do You Need a Self-Bailing Kayak?
A self-bailing kayak as discussed above have holes in the bottom of the kayak for draining water while you are paddling. When you have this type of kayak there will usually be some water in the bottom of the kayak because of this.
Self-bailing kayaks are mostly used for white water or in rougher ocean conditions. Most of them come with plugs when you are in flatter water and don’t need to worry about draining water. If you have no intention of paddling in rougher conditions then you don’t need this option.
Types of Kayaks
Yes, we’re talking about inflatable kayaks in this article. However, I’d like to discuss the different types of kayaks and who they’re ideal for so you can make the best choice.
Recreational kayaks – can be either “sit inside” or “sit on top”. They are typically inexpensive and these kayaks can range in performance from moderate to downright awful. However, they’re usually aimed at occasional paddlers on a budget where performance is not a big issue.
Whitewater kayaks – are purpose-built for tackling whitewater rivers. They’re costly, but extremely high performance for their tasks. There are several good inflatable kayaks that are designed for rafting like the Advanced Elements Attack.
Sea kayaks – are purpose-built for multi-day paddling in open water. These boats can be extremely expensive but they’re outstanding at their job. The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame could be used for this purpose.
Inflatable Kayak Specifications
Solo or Tandem?
Are you planning on kayaking by yourself or with other people? If you are not sure and want the option of having another paddler with you or maybe even your dog, you may be best served by getting one that is designed for at least two people.
When you want to go out solo, the seat can be moved to the center position by means of clips so you can attach the seat. There are kayaks that can fit up to 3 people comfortably. This may be your most important consideration.
Pros and Cons
Tandem kayaks have a few advantages over single kayaks like:
- Cheaper than two single kayaks (usually)
- More efficient than paddling two singles
- Can take a break while your partner paddles
- Opportunities to work together
- Easier to carry with two people
Of course they have a few downfalls you should be aware of:
- You must have a partner all the time
- You must agree and cooperate
- You cannot explore the water on your own – you’re stuck
- They’re quite a bit longer than most single kayaks
These are all things to keep in mind when you’re looking to pick out a tandem kayak. If the advantages of a tandem kayaking sound like what you’re looking for then move forward! If you are on the fence about which to buy, consider a tandem kayak that allow you to reconfigure the seating arrangement so that you can paddle solo like the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame. This gives you the best of both worlds, paddle solo or take a partner!
Any good kayak roundup needs to at least discuss kayak lengths. You can get kayaks in lengths from about 6’ to 14’ or even more.
Short kayaks (8-12 feet) – are more agile but slower and harder to paddle straight.
Long kayaks (12-15 feet) – are more efficient, faster and easier to keep in a straight line.
That’s about as simple as I can make it, however, it’s a gross oversimplification.
Longer kayaks tend to have better stability and more room for gear. They’re often chosen for long days of paddling or kayak anglers who want more room for tackle and stability on open water.
Short kayaks are great for agile river paddling such as whitewater or other nimble application.
Your average inflatable kayak will probably range somewhere between about 9-15’ with 10-12’ probably being the most common off-the-shelf option out there.
While length and materials that make a kayak are important, let’s consider the “rocker” of a kayak.
If you’re a paddle boarder then you have probably heard the term rocker. A boat, or SUP that has rocker is turned like a banana. When set flat on the ground both the bow and stern are lifted off the ground.
Most every kayak will have some rocker. Rocker aids in steering because the bow and stern have less material submerged. So that way when a paddler starts trying to turn the boat, there’s less resistance to the turn.
Having more rocker is desirable in rougher water as it will cut through the water better with water less likely to splash into the cockpit.
With touring kayaks having less of a rocker is preferable. Flatter touring kayaks leave more of the boat underwater at the bow and stern which aids in tracking and keeping the boat in a straight line.
When you are paddling long distances, we want to minimize the amount of zigzag of the kayak.
While all inflatable kayaks come with a paddle, you may want to upgrade to a better paddle. Here is a buyers guide for kayak paddles.
Don’t forget a fish finder if your going to be fishing with your inflatable kayak.
I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best inflatable kayak to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a kayak I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
How We Researched
To come up with the top inflatable kayaks we researched a variety of sources for reviews such as REI, Dicks Sporting Goods, Cabelas and Backcountry along with our own personal experience.
We also consulted online magazines for product research and reviews to get as much unbiased information as we could. To help weed out fake reviews we used Fakespot.com to make sure we only looked at genuine reviews.
With so much quality gear available, we had to narrow it down based on what we felt were the best options for the price. The author, Casey Fiedler has been an avid kayaker and leads kayak camping trips during the summer months in his native state of Michigan.
To help narrow down the selection he used his personal experience along with recommendations from kayak tour guides and rental shops.
After extensive research, we came up with our list to help you choose the right one for you.