Want to paddle through remote rivers, go fishing in places that a boat couldn’t reach, or enjoy multiple days exploring a mountainous region filled with rivers and streams? One of the best things to have in your outdoor kit for these and many other situations is an inflatable kayak. While your first thought may be of those cheap toys made for kids, the world of inflatable kayaks has definitely changed thanks to today’s technology.
These days, inflatable kayaks are a top-of-the-line accessory for the outdoor lover, made of extremely durable material that can withstand some pretty exciting activity. But if you have the choice between a standard kayak and an inflatable, why would you choose something that could potentially be punctured?
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Choose an Inflatable Kayak?
- 2 Quick Comparison of the Best Inflatable Kayaks
- 3 Our Review of the Top 10 Inflatable Kayaks
- 4 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
- 5 Driftsun Voyager 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
- 6 Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak
- 7 Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
- 8 Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2 Person Fishing Kayak
- 9 Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Sport Kayak
- 10 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak
- 11 Advanced Elements Strait Edge Inflatable Kayak
- 12 Sevylor Big Basin 3 Person Kayak
- 13 AIRHEAD Watersports Travel Kayak
- 14 What Makes an Inflatable Kayak the Best?
- 15 In Conclusion
Why Choose an Inflatable Kayak?
The biggest benefit of an inflatable kayak is the weight and size. When deflated, these accessories make it drop-dead easy to pack and go, hiking with them, taking them on spelunking excursions, bringing them along on road trips, you name it. You don’t need to worry about having a roof rack or lugging a bulky kayak around with you – this version will fit in your backpack.
Another important benefit of this type of kayak is the fact that you can keep it on you at all times. It can easily be stored in your trunk, so that if you get a chance for an unplanned adventure, you have your kayak along with you, no matter what. This spur-of-the-moment capability makes the inflatable kayak ideal for those who frequently have to make the most of unpredictable schedules.
Quick Comparison of the Best Inflatable Kayaks
In order to help you find the best inflatable kayaks out there, we put together this list of the top 10 currently on the market. Here’s a quick comparison guide to get you started:
|Name||Price Range||Avg. Star Rating||Key Feature|
|Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak||Over $500||4||Removable seating that can be customized|
|Driftsun Voyager 2 Person Inflatable Kayak||Over $300||5||Fastest inflating time|
|Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak||Under $300||4.5||Saltwater and sun resistant|
|Intex Explorer K2 Kayak||Under $100||4.5||Most comfortable model|
|Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2 Person Fishing Kayak||Over $300||4||Guaranteed leak-proof|
|Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Sport Kayak||Over $300||4.5||Most similar to a hard-shell kayak|
|Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak||Over $400||4.5||Most puncture resistant|
|Advanced Elements StraitEdge Inflatable Kayak||Over $500||4||Aluminum frame for more stability|
|Sevylor Big Basin 3 Person Kayak||Over $300||4||Big enough for three|
|AIRHEAD AHTK-1 Montana Performance 1 Person Kayak||Over $300||4.5||Most versatile for different settings|
Our Review of the Top 10 Inflatable Kayaks
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these inflatable kayaks, and why they made the list.
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
Advanced Elements has created an entire line of inflatable kayaks that solves one of the biggest cons of inflatables: punctures. The line is created with aluminum ribs that not only protect the material, but also help to define the shape for better stability. The AdvancedFrame Convertible is called convertible because it allows you to customize how you want the seating inside. It can fit up to two seats, which are both removable and can be moved around. Make the kayak fit two in whatever configuration you like, or give yourself tons of legroom and leave space for equipment as well. These are very comfortable seats with fully supportive backs, so they are ideal for fishing.
This kayak is also great for areas where you want to cut through the water very quickly. The aluminum frame helps you take on mild currents, so you can have some fun in areas where the water is moving just a bit. You won’t want to go white-water rafting, but it’s great for getting a bit of speed during part of your ride.
This kayak is also very focused on safety, with a highly-visible orange and grey pattern that stays bright and noticeable even with heavy use. It makes it easier for you to be spotted, and also helps to prevent other boaters from colliding with your kayak in the water.
There are some negatives with this kayak. It is one of the more expensive options on the list, and for the price, the fact that it won’t hold up to heavy rapids can be disappointing. You are primarily paying for the ability to customize the seating arrangement. If you find that feature extremely useful, you’ll love this kayak.
Driftsun Voyager 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
If you are looking for a very lightweight inflatable kayak that can handle two people, the Voyager is an excellent choice. Not only does it only weigh 27 pounds, it also boasts the fastest inflating time of any of the kayaks we reviewed. With a hand pump, this kayak is ready to go from car to water in just five minutes. That’s incredibly fast, which is important for those who want to take advantage of every moment they have on the water.
The Voyager is made with PVC, which is heavy duty, but not the most high-quality material out there. This sacrifice is made in order to keep the kayak lighter, so consider whether you prefer durability or lightweight construction carefully. You’ll still get plenty of puncture protection with this kayak – it just may not hold up as well against UV rays and high temperatures.
Otherwise, this kayak has great stability, is very easy to use, and includes ergonomic paddles. There is plenty of bungee storage on the sides, handles for carrying, and the oar holders on the side are held in place by super-strong Velcro. You also get a repair kit, an air pump, and a travel bag with your purchase. Overall, this is a great option for someone who wants to hike up to a secluded fishing or rafting spot.
Sea Eagle SE370K_P Inflatable Kayak
If you want to kayak in the sea, the Sea Eagle is the top kayak on our list. This one is made with sun-resistant and salt-resistant material that keeps it durable through tons of use. Across the entire nation, this particular kayak has enough sales to make it the second-most popular inflatable kayak of all time, which makes it an impressive model that we couldn’t leave off our list.
You can choose add-on packages that make this kayak more impressive, with extras such as deluxe seating, oars, a repair kit, and even a sail that will give you some extra speed out there on the waves. The more accessories you want, the more expensive it will be, but this kayak is one of the more reasonably-priced options at its base.
This is also one of the most maneuverable kayaks on this list, with two underside skegs that keep it tracking in straight lines so that you don’t have to work so hard when you paddle. The sail also helps you move, which means less work for you, and it only weighs 27 pounds. The seats are removable, so you can choose to ride alone with gear, or with a partner. (They aren’t movable like the Advanced Elements kayak, but at least you can choose which end of the kayak you prefer to sit at if you are alone.)
This kayak is made with one of the most durable materials on the market, which is ideal for ocean paddling. However, if we had to nitpick, we’d point out that the comfort level on this one is lacking compared to other options, and you don’t have many places to brace while paddling due to the lack of footrests inside. The included oars also aren’t of the best quality, though it’s easy to replace those with your preferred oars.
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
If you want to explore areas with stronger rapids and swiftly moving water, the Intex Explorer is a solid choice. This one is primarily made for using on rivers and lakes, but our research shows that it performs very well in more exciting situations. This is a two-person kayak that offers a seriously comfortable ride. Everything about it is designed to make even a beginner feel comfortable and safe. The seats have adjustable back support, and the kit comes with paddles, a pump, a repair kit, and a carrying bag. You can use this kayak straight out of the box.This kayak also offers plenty of durability as well, plus some serious stability thanks to the removable skegs underneath. And to offer even more stability and safety, it has two air chambers that make up the body – so in the rare event a puncture does occur, the kayak will stay afloat.There are only two real downsides to this kayak overall. The first is that the interior is all black, which can get hot and overinflated under the sun. The second is that the oars aren’t adjustable, which can make them hard to use for a child. But if you can overlook these two features, the rest of the Intex Explorer is perfect for beginner or intermediate rafters who want to immediately get into something more fun than just casual floating.
Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2 Person Fishing Kayak
Sevylor attracts a lot of buyers with its “leak proof” guarantee, but the Coleman Colorado kayak is worth buying for many other reasons. Granted, the extreme durability of this model makes it earn its spot on our list. It’s a great choice for anyone who wants to use an inflatable kayak on a lake full of sticks or to traverse through streams and rivers with a lot of plant matter. But this one also has another big bonus as well: it can be used with a trolling motor. This makes it ideal for the hunter or fisher who wants to get to secluded spots quickly.
This kayak is also able to hold 470 pounds, so you can haul your gear and your catches easily. Because it’s such a long kayak, it does have a tendency to get pushed around by the wind, and it’s not at all fast – but to counteract this, Sevylor has designed the flat bottom to be very stable, so you don’t have to worry about tipping. The sidewalls are a bit bulky, which may make it harder to navigate through tight spots – but this helps add to the stability.
This is not a light kayak by any means, so if you aren’t using it with a motor, you may find it harder to paddle. It doesn’t come with either a pump or oars like most inflatable kayaks, though you can get unique add-ons like fishing rod holders.
Overall, this kayak is made specifically for fishers and hunters, and probably won’t satisfy in any other situation. But if you want a kayak for fishing that you can easily deflate and carry home on your back, this is absolutely the best that the market has to offer.
Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Sport Kayak
This is one of the newer models released by Advanced Elements in the world of inflatable kayaks, and was primarily designed to streamline the original design. If you want to cut through the water in a way that is nearly identical to a hard-shell kayak, this is the best option for you. It is made with aluminum rubs and a PVC-coated polyester, which is durable and light, but more affordable than other stronger materials out there. If what you are looking for is something simple and easy to use for recreational purposes that fits a tighter budget, this kayak is ideal.
It comes with a variety of accessories, including a seat that can be removed and adjusted, a repair kit, a carrying bag, and a tracking fin. It also has plenty of tie-downs for gear, more storage in the kayak itself, and is pretty comfortable compared to other models. It’s not the best kayak out there for super-rough conditions, but it does offer the stability and easy, gliding motion of a traditional hard-shell. It also has a larger cockpit opening, which makes it a bit more comfortable and roomy for your legs.
Some sacrifices were made in order to make this kayak more streamlined. It can only support about 250 pounds, total, so you won’t be able to bring as much gear. However, it weighs nearly 10 pounds less than its predecessor, and is more affordable. If what you want is something that travels well, is good for both kids and adults, and will get you into the water in minutes, this is a fantastic choice. However, if what you want is top-notch performance and more customization, this kayak is likely not going to be the best option for you overall.
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak
This is Advanced Frame’s original inflatable kayak, and is best for things like taking with you on camping trips or day trips, mild river rafting, and even using in the ocean in mild conditions. It is made with an extremely durable material that includes multiple layers of high-density coating, a heavy-duty main chamber, and then an outer fabric for even more protection.
This kayak can hold up to 300 pounds, and weighs 36 pounds itself when deflated. It’s not the lightest kayak on our list, so it may not be the best option for hiking – but if you plan to head into an area where you need something extremely durable, this is a great option. On the water, this kayak is stable, very easy to maneuver, very comfortable, and light enough to be used by children and adults alike. It also comes with a repair kit, a carrying bag, and a folding seat that adds more support to the inside.
This is also one of the more affordable kayaks on our list, when the features are considered. The value for your money is very good and the only real downside is that the extremely durable material can take a while to dry after use. It is fast to inflate, easy to roll up and pack, and even has some pretty good storage space under the deck compared to similarly-sized kayaks.
The speed and tracking on this kayak are great for recreational use, although it may not compete with kayaks meant for more intense situations.
Advanced Elements Strait Edge Inflatable Kayak
If you want a kayak that performs with precision in all currents, the Straight Edge is Advanced Elements’ answer for you. This is one of the few inflatable kayaks that can truly hold its own in currents higher than “mild”, and still come out the other side performing well. It includes adjustable back support, welded seams, rod holders, and self-bailing ports that keep the interior dry when you hit bigger waves. The very hard edge and pointy nose are what give this kayak more maneuverability and stability in choppier water, and the very visible bright coloring makes it easier to see you if anything should go wrong. That is very important if you’ll be putting this kayak to the test.
The high performance of this kayak does come with a heftier price tag, but if you want absolutely superior tracking above any other inflatable out there, it’s hard to beat the Strait Edge. It even has some wind-resistant elements to really keep you moving at faster speeds, as well as aluminum ribs to keep it stable. This kayak shows just how far inflatables have come, and how much farther they can go in the future.
All this precision does make this kayak a little bulkier and heavier to carry, so it may not be ideal for hiking or camping. It is also only made for a single rider. However, the precision and extra features in the kayak itself more than make up for those negatives if what you want is to get your adrenaline pumping on the water.
Sevylor Big Basin 3 Person Kayak
If you want a kayak that is big and comfortable for leisurely rides with friends, look no further. The Big Basin is the extra-large inflatable you’ve been looking for. It holds three adult-sized riders and can support up to 490 pounds, total. Bring your family or your friends, plus a cooler and relax! It is a huge kayak that extends 12 feet in length, which also helps add plenty of stability. And you may think that the extra size would make it too heavy to handle, but it weighs in at just 35 pounds. That’s still light enough to be carried into a campsite if you wanted to have some fun on the water during your campout.
This is a durable PVC-coated material that keeps you riding in shallower waters without worrying about sticks and rocks puncturing the kayak. It also has multiple chambers, so you don’t have to worry about sinking if you do get a leak. The other chambers will keep you afloat while you get back to shore. It’s easy to set up and take down, and the adjustable seats are very comfortable.
There are some downsides to the bigger proportions of this kayak. For one, it is very slow, and not as easy to maneuver as the sleeker models. It can also take a long time to dry, and does not come with a pump or oars.
One great thing about this kayak is that it’s one of the very few inflatables that come with any kind of warranty. The company covers this kayak with a limited warranty for up to a year. If you’re planning on spending the day out on the water, having a fun time but not doing anything too strenuous, this is an excellent option. You’ll be able to stretch out, stay comfortable, feel secure, and enjoy the company.
AIRHEAD Watersports Travel Kayak
The last kayak on our list of the top 10 inflatable kayaks is the AIRHEAD Watersports Travel. This is a kayak designed for fishing, which means it’s very stable, very lightweight, and easy to maneuver. While it is primarily designed for lakes and whitewater, it also has UV-resistant qualities that would make it perfect for other situations as well. If you dabble in a little of this and a little of that in the world of watersports, this kayak offers enough flexibility to let you try just about anything.
This kayak features extremely rugged air chambers to ensure maximum durability, and has four bottom tracking fins to make sure you can get around with ease. It was made to be very visible with the bright orange pattern for safety, and is also very easy to inflate and deflate.
It weighs a scant 27 pounds, making it perfect for hiking or camping, and includes a decent amount of storage features in the kayak itself. The seat has an adjustable backrest, and the kayak is self-bailing. One of the few downsides for this kayak is that it doesn’t include anything else – pump, oars, and other accessories will have to be purchased separately. For the price, this is an ideal kayak for the outdoor sports lover that wants to invest in just a single kayak that can pretty much do it all.
What Makes an Inflatable Kayak the Best?
To help you understand why we rated these 10 kayaks the best, here’s a guide to the features that we looked at when reviewing kayaks.
There are three main types of material used for inflatable kayaks. PVC is the most commonly used, and is typically a coating over something else such as nylon. PVC-coated kayaks are usually the most affordable, and are very easy to patch. They come in a lot of colors and are fairly durable against punctures. The downside to PVC is that it’s not very durable against high temperatures and UV rays. It’s also not the most eco-friendly material.
The next type of material is called hypalon, which is again a coating put over something such as polyester or nylon. This is hands-down the most durable choice on the market, which makes it very popular for extreme sports fans. It is much more durable in the face of UV rays, and generally lasts longer than any other material. However, it is also the most expensive material option.
Finally, a newer material that is striking a balance between PVC and hypalon is nitrylon, which is similar to PVC, but made in a way that is more eco-friendly. It is more resistant to punctures than PVC as well, and can withstand UV rays and temperature better as well. However, because it is not quite as high-performing as hypalon, it is more affordable. This is a great choice for outdoor lovers who want a quality product, but who want to stick with their budget as well.
Type of Kayak
The next thing to consider about kayaks is what type you need. This will largely depend on what activities you are doing with the kayak. There are five main types of inflatable kayaks that you can choose from today.
The first type is called a sit-on-type kayak, which doesn’t require you to sit down in a hole. Instead, you just sit on a seat that is on top of the kayak. This is great for those who don’t want to cramp their legs in a kayak hole, but doesn’t offer a ton of stability. If you like to paddle around on calm water in total comfort, this is a great choice. But for fishing or very active water, you won’t have the stability you need.
The next type is the classic sit-in kayak. This is the type of kayak where your lower body sits in the boat itself, and the fit is very tight. It’s not as comfortable as many other types out there, but it does offer you a lot of stability. This is a very good design for whitewater paddling or rafting through choppier waters. However, if you have issues with your legs or back cramping quickly, this won’t be a great choice.
Another type of inflatable kayak you can choose is a canoe type, which gives you a kayak that is more stable and roomier. You’ll sit down in the kayak, but the boat has more room for you to move. These kayaks fit up to three people usually, as well as coolers and equipment. These kayaks also have higher walls similar to canoes, which makes them better for protecting your equipment or a cooler as well. This is a great choice for those who primarily want to fish or hunt from their kayak.
If you want to try something new, inflatable kayaks are now made in stand-up versions. The “sup kayak” is a rigid inflatable device that allows you to balance on the kayak and paddle while you stand. This is perfect for the beach-lover who also wants to kayak in other settings but only wants one piece of equipment.
Finally, you can try what is called a “self-bailing kayak”. These are entry-level models that are primarily made for kids or those on a tight budget. They are affordable models sold at general stores, that have a hole in the base to prevent flooding. These are only made for paddling around shallow pools or streams; they aren’t durable enough to handle rivers, oceans, or other settings. However, if you just want to try out an inflatable kayak for a fun weekend with the kids, and understand that these are designed with low-quality materials to make them more affordable, this could be a good option. You won’t have to worry about the kids ruining something more expensive.
The weight of the inflatable kayak you choose will be very important if you intend to use this kayak for hiking or camping. Most of the very light models weigh under 20 pounds, but the average models weigh around 30 pounds when deflated. There are some that are designed for hiking specifically that weigh about 17 pounds, but compared to a hard-shell kayak, which can weigh up to 80 pounds or more, these are significantly lighter. Keep in mind that lighter kayaks must sacrifice something in order to reduce weight, so you’ll need to consider what you are willing to give up if you want a super-light model.
Most kayaks that are made for one person are around 14 feet long. Any longer would make them harder to stabilize, which is the main selling point of a kayak. Inflatable kayaks are not as steady as hard-shell kayaks, so it’s even more important that they are shorter to ensure the best balance. However, the inflatable kayaks that are made for two or three people will be longer.
Finally, we look at two things: The first thing is how inflatable kayaks are stored. Because their key selling point is portability, how the kayak is packed or stored will be an important point. Most inflatable kayaks come with a duffel bag or some sort of storage bag to keep in your car or hiking gear. The second thing is how much storage the kayak itself offers. Are there clips on the outside that allow you to store gear around the kayak, or is there room in the kayak for gear? This may be important if you are on a multi-day trip or fishing, for example.
These 10 kayaks are the best inflatable kayaks on the market right now, but you can use the features above to research other options as well. Be sure to keep your budget in mind, and then prioritize the durability and type of kayak above all. Then hit the water and have some fun!