Kayaking is an increasingly popular water sport that with advances in technology and has become more and more accessible. Originally, Kayaks were bulky to store, expensive to buy and maintain, and inconvenient to travel with. With the advent of inflatable kayaks and the innovations in technology that allowed for sturdy, durable materials to be used, more and more people are becoming interested in kayaking.
If you’re here, then you’re one of those people, and for the rest of this article, you’ll be guided through what you need to know about inflatable kayaks. By the end, you’ll have solid ideas for possible kayaks that you could buy.
Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2018 Summary
Sea eagle 330
This model is an affordable, convertible sit-in kayak backed by a 3-year warranty and 180-day satisfaction guarantee. It comes highly recommended for both beginners, and experienced kayakers alike as its good stability (due to the I-beam support) and versatile nature makes it safe to use in still waters and up to Class III white-water. This versatility is due to is durability and excellent craftsmanship.
Made out of a thick Polykrylar material, this craft is classified as a soft-sided meaning that the air pressure the company tells consumers to use is lower than that of other models. This lower air pressure does not mean that the craft is any more vulnerable than higher pressure crafts, as a matter of fact, the lower pressure makes the craft less likely to be punctured by sharp rocks; rather, its vulnerabilities are just different as the craft can be ripped if it is dragged over sharp rocks. As such the consumer should refrain from pulling the craft over rocky terrain after inflation.
The sea eagle comes with spray skirts, two inflatable seats, two oars, a foot pump and a carrying bag. This carrying bag allows the kayak to take up as little space as possible, and its light weight means kayak enthusiasts can even carry it when they travel on a plane.
The Intex Challenger comes in 2 series, the K1 series which is a solo craft and the K2 series which is a tandem craft. Both crafts are sit-in kayaks that are ideal for beginners as they have excellent stability (due to I-beam support) and are perfect for low-tide environments such as lakes. Made from 30 gauge PVC vinyl, the challenger crafts are not only durable but also puncture resistant and UV damage proof. The challenger models come with 86 in. Aluminium Oars and a Hi-Output Manual Hand Pump
Although the Challengers are overall great crafts for any beginner kayaker, they do have some negatives. One negative is the limited capacity of the Challenger to take on anything rougher than a calm lake or lazy river. These models are incapable of gaining enough traction when faced with any current at all, making them weak at tracking and hazardous if you venture into any other environment while afloat with these boats. The other downside is the quality of the oars that come with the craft. The oars are of low quality with many users reporting they broke after only one use. Finally, the size of the craft, while comfortable for shorter people, isn’t as comfortable for taller people.
Advanced Frame Expedition Kayak
This multi-layered, multi-functional solo sit-in kayak is great for both beginners and experienced paddlers, due to its excellent stability and responsiveness. It is made up of 3 layers of material; namely, the inflatable PVC bladders located in the kayaks outer shell, the upper kayak which is made up of a polyester/PVC laminate in a diamond ripstop material and the puncture-resistant PVC tarpaulin hull that is electronically welded. This model also features a U-shaped aluminium inner-bone in the bow and stern, which comes pre-assembled, that helps give the kayak its sharp figure.
This internal ribbing is also responsible for this model’s excellent tracking abilities, and the attached tracking fin keeps it paddling in a straight line. The cockpit is spacious and the seats are lumbar seats with optional rear stiffening rods, for those who need more back support while paddling. There is a lot of leg room, and the model even has foam covered foot braces to increase paddling power.
However, there are downfalls to this craft. Due to its aluminum ribbing and multiple layers, the expedition is one of the heavier solo kayaks, weighing approximately 42 pounds. Also, it sits low in the water, making it more likely that water will be splashed inside.
How Do I Choose An Inflatable Kayak?
Number of People
The number of people you plan to go kayaking with will help determine the type of kayak you buy. There are tandem kayaks which can accommodate two paddlers, solo Kayaks which are built only to house a single paddler and convertible kayaks which can accommodate one paddler or more than one. Using a tandem kayak by yourself, while possible, would be challenging as your seat would not be in the center of the craft; thus in convertible kayaks, the seats are adjustable.
Are you a beginner or an advanced kayaker? While inflatable kayaks are great for novice kayakers, they also have models that are geared towards more experienced paddlers. This is an aspect you should take into consideration as skill level will determine the amount of stability you need, with beginner kayakers needing greater stability in a craft than experienced Kayakers. Skill level will also determine the amount of responsiveness you need in a boat, more advanced kayakers would need greater responsiveness as they are more likely to venture into rougher waters.
Are you looking for a Kayak that tracks well? Or that can turn quickly? Tracking refers to your kayaks ability to remain upon a course set by you, especially in severe weather; while turning ability refers to you kayaks ability to move off a set path to another one. From their definitions, it’s obvious to see that great tracking does not usually make for great turning ability. The rule of thumb is that longer boats tend to have better tracking ability while shorter boats tend to have better turning ability.
Kayaks are built to accommodate standard weights and heights, which you should pay attention to while buying. Remember your weight considerations should not only take into account your weight but the weight of any gear you would want to take along with you. Also, your height is another factor you should consider, especially the length of your legs, kayaks with deeper hulls allow paddlers more leg room. Finally, pay attention to the size of the cockpit, a snug cockpit offers you a more considerable amount of control which can be advantageous in rough conditions.
Type of Kayak
There are two main types of Kayaks: sit-in kayaks and sit-on-top kayaks. Those looking for a recreational boat, suitable for going around on a lake or gentle river should consider sit-on-top kayaks. While those looking for kayaks ideal for rougher conditions can consider a sit-in kayak which gives the paddler a higher degree of control by allowing them to use their butt, knees, and feet to steer; this is ideal for rougher waters.
Where you plan to Kayak
Are you kayaking at sea? A Lake? In rapids? You need to consider where you want to Kayak when buying your boat as that will help determine what type of kayak you want. Rapids are an environment where avoidance is essential, so the ability to turn is probably a higher priority. Thus a shorter sit-in kayak would be more suitable. On the other hand, a lake is still and peaceful water, with a lot of space so that a longer sit-on-top would be more suitable.
Why an Inflatable Is Better Than A Regular Kayak
Two apparent advantages an inflatable kayak has over a regular one is its ability to be transported and stored with comparative ease. Inflatable kayaks only claim their full size when they’re ready to hit the water. Otherwise, they usually remain in a small compact form that is perfect for travel, around and even out of a country; and for storage, as rolled up it could probably fit under your bed. However, these advantages aren’t the only ones that give inflatable kayaks an edge over hard shell kayaks on the market.
Inflatable Kayaks are more lightweight than their hardshell counterparts, making them easier to maneuver.
Less likely to sink
The materials used to make these crafts are extremely durable; however, if an inflatable does get damaged, they have multiple air chambers, ensuring you will still keep afloat regardless. If a traditional Kayak becomes damaged, that’s it.
Traditional kayaks are made out of either plastic or fiber glass. Fibreglass boats can crack or chip, while plastic boats have a tendency to become distorted in heat and are susceptible to scratches. In comparison, the materials used to make inflatable kayaks are sturdy enough to withstand brutal wear and tear without damage, and if the kayak should become damaged, it can be easily patched.
Traditional kayaks are made out of solid materials that are very unforgiving on the body. In comparison, inflatable kayaks offer a softer more comfortable alternative to kayaking.
A good quality inflatable kayak is much cheaper than a good quality traditional kayak; this could be due to a lot of things such as transport costs, materials costs, overall size, e.t.c.
Materials an Inflatable Kayak Is Made Of
The materials of inflatable kayaks have to be dynamic and versatile as they not only have to be durable and able to withstand the wear and tear they’re subjected to but, they also have to be lightweight and compactable for easy travel and storage. That being said, here are some favorite materials used in inflatable kayaks.
This stands for Polyvinylchloride, and this material will pop up again further in the article. Some of its features include its durability, its inexpensiveness, its ability to be welded and the ease with which it can be patched.
This is a synthetic rubber material that is the longest lasting inflatable kayak material. This is because it has excellent resistance to UV, mildew, and fungus. Its used as an exterior coating for many vessels including those used by the US Coast Guard and Navy.
This a more eco-friendly option that manufacturers use as a substitute for PVC. It is stronger than PVC, easier to patch and performs better in cold weather.
Inflatable boats made out of this material are the most expensive and tend to be the hardest to find as manufacturers have only recently started using them. This material produces the most abrasion resistant and puncture resistant crafts. However, it’s more expensive than PVC and Hypalon, and harder to repair.
Common Myths about Inflatable Kayaks
Although the market for inflatable kayaks keeps growing, there are some myths and misconceptions, still floating around about them.
They cant handle whitewater
As you will see in our Top 3 Summary section, there are reasonable kayaks that can handle up to Class III whitewater and more expensive companies like Aire offer inflatable products that perform very well in class IV waters. As well as some of the advanced elements products.
They puncture easily
From our discussion on the materials that these type of kayaks are made of, you already know that many of them are mostly puncture resistant and very capable of handling the wear and tear associated with kayaking.
They aren’t stable
Inflatable Kayaks tend to be broader in design than traditional hard shell kayaks. The wider a craft is, the more stable it tends to be, thus, as a rule, inflatable kayaks tend to be more stable than traditional kayaks.
They are hard to maneuver
This has more to do with the model and brand of kayak that you buy, than inflatable kayaks versus traditional kayaks. There are models of inflatable kayaks that are hard to maneuver, and there are some conventional kayaks that are hard to maneuver.
They are difficult to care for
Inflatable Kayaks are no more challenging to care for than traditional kayaks. One just needs to make sure the kayak is dry before rolling it up and packing it away. When it is stored, it should not be stored in an extremely hot or extremely cold environment. This is not much different than traditional kayaks that experience distortion caused by heat.
Now that you have been educated on what to look for here is one last piece of advice. If you are going kayaking in cold weather, pump the kayak up slightly more as the cold will cause the air to contract. Do the opposite for hot weather and if you need to leave your inflated kayak in the sun release some of the pressure first.