Three best inflatable kayaks

Kailey Fralick

Inflatable kayaks provide excellent stability because they have wider bases than traditional hard-shelled kayaks.

Kayaking is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors. But traditional kayaks are bulky and cumbersome, and they can pose problems when it comes to transportation and storage. Fortunately, there are now durable inflatable kayaks that offer you the same experience as a traditional kayak without all the transport and storage issues. But these kayaks pose unique challenges of their own, so it's important to choose yours carefully. Here's a quick look at the most important considerations when purchasing an inflatable kayak.

Considerations when choosing inflatable kayaks

Inflatable kayaks, like hard-shelled kayaks, come in a number of different designs.

Closed: Closed kayaks have an enclosed cockpit that you slip your body into. This helps to keep water from getting in as you kayak.

Open: You sit on top of an open kayak, so it's easier to get in and out of one than a closed kayak, but you're more likely to get splashed, which isn't ideal when you're kayaking in cold water.

Hybrid: Hybrid inflatable kayaks are not completely enclosed like closed kayaks, but they have higher edges, similar to a canoe, that help to keep water from splashing in as easily as in open kayaks.

Inflatable kayak features

Length: Longer kayaks give you more room for storing gear, and they're a good fit for large, open bodies of water. But shorter kayaks will be better for whitewater rafting.

Ease of use: Check how long it takes to inflate the kayak. An electric pump will speed up the process considerably, but this won't work if you're not near an outlet. You should also look at how easy it is to deflate the kayak when you're done and want to pack it away.

Support: It's important to choose an inflatable kayak that offers supportive seats or you could begin to develop back pain on long trips.

Bailing: Sealed kayaks must be bailed out by hand, while self-bailing kayaks have systems that allow any water that gets in to run out of the kayak. Self-bailing kayaks don't glide as smoothly as sealed kayaks, but they're a big help in choppy water.


Q. Will my inflatable kayak leak?

A. It's possible but unlikely. Inflatable kayaks are made from multiple layers of durable PVC to prevent leaks. Many also come with multiple air chambers, so even if one air chamber is punctured, the kayak will still stay inflated.

Q. How do I pack up the inflatable kayak when I'm done?

A. The first step is to let out all of the air. Some will require you to manually push all of the air out, while others may have an electric pump that sucks the air out of the kayak. Leave the kayak out to dry out completely before packing it back into its storage bag.

Inflatable kayaks we recommend

Best of the best: Advanced Elements StraitEdge Inflatable Kayak

Our take: Go with this model if you're looking for a sturdy inflatable kayak that handles almost as well as a traditional kayak.

What we like: Inflates easily and is durable enough to resist puncturing. It also comes with an aluminum frame for extra stability and a self-bailing system so your kayak won't fill with water even in big waves.

What we dislike: It takes a long time to dry out properly. If you don't dry it out completely, the kayak can get moldy and deteriorate.

Best bang for your buck: Intex Explorer K2 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

Our take: This is an affordable two-person kayak that's great for the occasional jaunt across a lake or down a river, but it's not rugged enough for more adventurous activities.

What we like: This roomy kayak comfortably holds two adults. Inflates quickly, so you can be on the water in 15 minutes or less. It's surprisingly stable and comes with adjustable inflatable seats so you can choose your level of support.

What we dislike: Only meant to be used on small, calmer bodies of water. It isn't ideal if you want to go on more adventurous trips.

Choice 3: Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Sport Kayak Deluxe Package

Our take: This large inflatable kayak is easy to use and perfect for group outings and backpacking trips where a regular kayak would be too cumbersome.

What we like: Can hold three people or two people and their gear comfortably. Comes with spray skirts to prevent your kayak from filling with water. Also comes with a pump and convenient carrying bag for easy storage.

What we dislike: Some complaints that the standard seats don't provide very much support. There are seats with more support available, but these cost extra.

Kailey Fralick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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