Best Inflatable Kayak (March. 2019) - Top 8 Reviews & Buyer's Guide
Kayaks

What is the Best Inflatable Kayak: Inflatable vs. Hardshell & Class IV Rapids

Top Inflatable Kayak
After careful research and testing of more than 10 inflatable kayaks we've determined the best one.

 

After careful consideration of more than 30 kayaks and plenty of research, our top pick for the best inflatable kayak is the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak.


Our #1 Pick - The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
114 Reviews
Our #1 Pick - The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak
A versatile and durable inflatable kayak suited for beginners or experts

The AdvancedFrame Convertible offers a durable hull that can take a beating in tough waters, along with three different deck configurations to comfortably accommodate up to two riders and an easy set up process.

Don’t forget to check out our other top picks below and learn how you can choose the best inflatable kayak for you!

At a Glance: The Best Inflatable Kayaks

#1 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible – Best Inflatable Kayak

Our #1 Pick is the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible
114 Reviews
Our #1 Pick is the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible
Durable, 3 different deck configurations and includes a repair kit

Pros

  • Three different deck configurations
  • Durable and rigid multi-layer design
  • Includes repair kit

Cons

  • Heavier than other inflatable kayaks
  • Doesn’t include paddles
  • Carrying case is difficult to handle

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak is extra versatile, offering three separate deck configurations: a standard open deck, a single-rider closed deck and a double-rider closed deck. With these different deck configurations, you can choose exactly how you want to use the kayak.

This inflatable kayak also offers an extremely durable build so that even the most adventurous kayakers can use it in both rough and calm waters. Using a unique, 3-layer design, you won’t have to worry about punctures every time you run over a rock or stray branch. It also features a rigid hull with aluminum ribs for increased performance and control that you would typically expect from traditional hard kayaks.

Setup is as simple as unfolding the kayak, pumping it full of air and attaching the foldable seats. When it comes time to put it away, though, you might experience some difficulty getting it back into the bag and hauling it around. The carrying bag could benefit from some extra space and wider handles that you could use to carry on your shoulders.

#2 Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak – Best Value Inflatable Kayak

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Our #2 Pick is the Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak
2,552 Reviews
Our #2 Pick is the Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak
Room for 2, heavy duty vinyl and a great price point

Pros

  • 2 person carrying capacity
  • Air pump and aluminum oars included
  • Made from heavy-duty vinyl

Cons

  • Inflatable seats don’t offer much support
  • The included carrying bag isn’t well made
  • Doesn’t perform well in windy weather

The Intex Explorer K2 kayak is spacious and durable, and it offers a solid option in the inflatable kayak industry, especially when you consider its price point. With a two-person carrying capacity and a good variety of included accessories, you’ll be up and running in no time as soon as you open the box.

Made from heavy-duty vinyl materials, you can expect a long life out of this inflatable tandem kayak, even if you do bump into stray debris while out on the water. The sturdy construction also helps you feel more secure while using this Intex inflatable kayak.

While the included carrying bag isn’t as well made as others on the market, it still provides enough space to fit the deflated kayak along with the other accessories and keeps the boat protected from dust while in storage. Unfortunately, the inflated seats don’t offer as much support or comfort as standard rigid seats, which can get worse during extended periods of use. However, despite these drawbacks, the Intex Explorer K2 offers the best value for the price.

#3 Sevylor Big Basin – Best Family Inflatable Kayak

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Our #3 Pick is the Sevylor Big Basin
67 Reviews
Our #3 Pick is the Sevylor Big Basin
This inflatable kayak is great for a family as it can fit 3 people and it's Tarpaulin bottom makes it extra durable

Pros

  • Three person carrying capacity
  • Heavy-duty PVC construction
  • Tarpaulin bottom prevents punctures

Cons

  • Lacks storage space for gear
  • Heavier than other inflatable kayaks
  • Doesn’t include any accessories

The Sevylor Big Basin inflatable kayak is a beast. Able to seat three people simultaneously and built with plenty of leg room, this kayak is the best option for families who want to let everyone in on the fun. As you might expect from a kayak with such a large carrying capacity, the Big Basin is built from heavy-duty PVC that can take a hit without hesitating, especially on the tarpaulin bottom made specially for preventing punctures.

This three person inflatable kayak suffers when it comes storage space for gear, especially when using it to its full capacity, and its much heavier than other inflatable kayaks, which can make it difficult to carry over long distances. It also doesn’t include any accessories, meaning you’ll have to go out and buy your own or have your family members bring their own.

All in all, this inflatable kayak is a great option for anyone looking for long-lasting family fun that you can keep coming back to.

#4 Driftsun Voyager 2 – Best Two Person Inflatable Kayak

Our #4 Pick is the Driftsun Voyager 2 Kayak
36 Reviews
Our #4 Pick is the Driftsun Voyager 2 Kayak
It's small, versatile and light weight, making it a great kayak for tough to reach spots

Pros

  • Quick inflation
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Overall design made for high performance in any water condition

Cons

  • Compact design means less storage space
  • The included pump isn’t as sturdy as others

The Driftsun Voyager 2 is the best two-person inflatable kayak on the market today because of its compact design and quick setup process. Inflating in under five minutes, this kayak gets you and your companion on the water faster than other kayaks. It’s also designed to weather harsh water conditions due to its rocker profile and pointed nose entry. The Voyager 2 also comes with all the necessary accessories to get you going, including padded seats, paddles, tracking fin, a repair kit and a pump.

The compact design featured on this inflatable tandem kayak means you’ll lose out on some storage space, especially when using it with two people. This can be a problem if you’re looking to use it for an extended venture, but it does include some webbing at the front and back of the kayak for storage. The pump included with this kayak isn’t as sturdy as other pumps, and you may need to get it replaced after extended use.

#5 Sea Eagle 420X Deluxe Package – Best Inflatable Kayak for Whitewater

Our #5 Pick is the Sea Eagle 420X Deluxe Package
5 Reviews
Our #5 Pick is the Sea Eagle 420X Deluxe Package
With room for 3, extra durability and a rating that allow you to take it into class IV rapids, this a great kayak for the extreme adventurer

Pros

  • Can handle whitewater rapids up to Class IV
  • 3 person carrying capacity
  • Comfortable carrying bag
  • Super durable

Cons

  • The paddles aren’t as strong as others
  • Included instructions are sparse and difficult to understand
  • The seats aren’t durable

The Sea Eagle 420X doesn’t hold back when it comes to durability and capacity. Able to fit up to three people simultaneously—albeit snugly—this inflatable whitewater kayak is great for group adventures in up to Class IV whitewater rapids. The Deluxe package includes two high-backed seats that are comfortable for use in rapids. Unfortunately, these seats aren’t as durable as they should be, and you might experience some problems after a few trips.

Setup can get a little difficult with the Sea Eagle 420X, unless you’re already experienced with inflatable kayaks. The included instructions are sparse and frustratingly difficult to read and understand enough to get everything in its right place. Once you are set up, you may also find some difficulty using the included paddles, as they aren’t as strong as others on the market today.

Overall, this inflatable kayak is great on whitewater rapids, but you might need to purchase some better accessories before giving it a whirl.

#6 Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak – Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak

Our #6 Pick is the Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak
13 Reviews
Our #6 Pick is the Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak
If you're going fishing, this is the best inflatable fishing kayak

Pros

  • Includes handy accessory bar
  • Super comfortable seat for long fishing trips with two rod holders on the back
  • Lots of storage space for fishing gear

Cons:

  • The accessory bar sits too far forward
  • Doesn’t include any accessories

If you’re looking for an inflatable fishing kayak, don’t look any further than the Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler. This one person inflatable kayak offers a wide variety of options for fishers, including rod holders on the back of the seat and tons of storage for all your fishing gear. The kayak itself is built from sturdy materials with an aluminum rib frame that provides more stability and rigidity for extended durations on the lake. You’ll also find a handy accessory bar on the Straitedge Angler. While the bar sits too far forward on the kayak for comfort, it still offers a much-needed space for you to mount your rods and fishfinder.

Hopefully you already have some accessories on hand when you buy this Advanced Elements inflatable kayak, because it doesn’t include any when you buy it. This means you’ll at least need to get your own pump and paddle before you can take this inflatable fishing kayak out to snag the catch of the day.

#7 Sea Eagle SE370K_P Pro Package – Best Inflatable Ocean Kayak

Our #7 Pick is the Sea Eagle SE370K_P Pro Package
493 Reviews
Our #7 Pick is the Sea Eagle SE370K_P Pro Package
If your next trip is to the ocean, you'll want this durable, ocean ready kayak

Pros

  • Durable sun- and saltwater-resistant hull
  • Includes paddles, pump, seats, carry bag and repair kit
  • The storage bag is spacious and holds the kayak and all accessories

Cons

  • Only includes two small storage compartments
  • Too heavy to carry the kayak and all the accessories over long distances
  • No paddle storage

The Sea Eagle SE370K_P is a durable and spacious inflatable ocean kayak that can handle both the calm waters of a lake and the more active waters of the ocean. With a sun- and saltwater-resistant build, this kayak is durable and long lasting, even when used in the ocean. It also includes spray skirts that keep you from getting too wet on rougher waters, which is a feature you don’t see on a lot of inflatable kayaks.

Another nice thing about this kayak is the fact that you get all the accessories you need in the Pro Package, including the paddles, seats, carrying bag and repair kit. This means you don’t have to do any additional shopping after getting the kayak.

If you’re looking at carrying your inflatable ocean kayak over long distances, you might want to consider something different than the SE370K_P. The kayak itself isn’t too heavy, but since the carrying bag can fit the boat and all the accessories, it can be incredibly difficult to carry.

#8 13’ Saturn Whitewater – Best Self Bailing Inflatable Kayak

Our #8 Pick is the 13’ Saturn Whitewater Kayak
1 Reviews
Our #8 Pick is the 13’ Saturn Whitewater Kayak
This is an excellent choice for a thrill seeker as it's Class IV rapid rated

Pros

  • Suitable for use on up to Class IV rapids
  • Plenty of self-bailing holes
  • Rigid, drop-stitch floor

Cons

  • Only includes one seat
  • Doesn’t include any accessories
  • No built-in storage compartments

The 13’ Saturn Whitewater is an inflatable whitewater kayak that is rated for use on Class IV rapids. The best feature on this kayak is the multitude of self-bailing holes it offers. When water inevitably splashes into your kayak from the rapids, the self-bailing holes drain the water for you, so you don’t have to worry about getting too water logged. These holes are aided by a rigid, drop-stitch floor that allows the water to get where it need to go fast.

Even though this kayak can be used as a inflatable tandem kayak, it only includes a single seat. If you want to go rafting with a buddy, you’ll need to purchase another seat. It also doesn’t include any other accessories and suffers from a distinct lack of storage options. You can add webbing to store your gear, but you’ll need to rig it yourself.

Top Inflatable Kayaks Compared 2019

 
Advanced Elements
AdvancedFrame
Convertible
Intex Explorer K2Sevylor Big Basin
Passenger Capacity223
Weight Capacity550 lbs.400 lbs.490 lbs.
Weight52 lbs.31 lbs.45 lbs.
Included Accessories2 folding seatsAir pump, 2 paddles,
2 inflatable seats,
3 folding seats,
pressure gauge
Check Price
Check Price
Check Price

Inflatable Kayaks Buying Guide

Purchasing the right inflatable kayak for you depends on a variety of different factors.

First, you should determine how you’re going to use the kayak. This is especially important because inflatable kayaks used for whitewater rafting offer different features than products used for fishing. Of course, if you want to use your inflatable kayak in a variety of different applications, you’ll want to consider purchasing one that offers a comprehensive solution.

Next, you should consider the standard features offered on most inflatable kayaks. No matter what kind of inflatable model you purchase, there are a few features you should always consider:

√ Carrying Capacity – How many people are going to be using the kayak at any given time? Just like traditional hard kayaks, inflatable kayaks offer both solo and tandem (paddling with someone else) options. If you want to paddle with a friend or loved one, consider purchasing an inflatable tandem kayak, which usually seats two. Some companies even manufacture models that can sit up to three people at a time with higher weight limits and more spots for additional seats.

You may also want to consider how much room available for taking your pets along with you. Many kayakers enjoy bringing their dogs on their rafting trips with them. Having enough room for furry friends can be just as important as having enough room for another person.

√ Durability – Whether you are whitewater rafting or paddling around a calm lake, you always have the chance of bumping into shallow water, rocks and other stray debris. Most inflatable kayaks use commercial-grade materials for durability, but some are more durable than others. Consider the type of material used in the hull of the model you purchase. PVC tends to be the most common material used, but you may also see kayaks built with neoprene, polyurethane or hypalon. PVC kayaks are usually the most durable and affordable overall.

√ Weight and Size – One of the best aspects of owning an inflatable kayak is the fact that at the end of the day, you can deflate it, fold it up and throw it in the back of your car without having to worry about it taking up too much room. While the portability of these kayaks is unparalleled, you still need to think about the weight and size of the model you purchase. If you’re planning on driving straight to the water’s edge and launching from there, you’re probably okay purchasing a kayak that’s bigger and heavier. However, if you need to hike to get to the next body of water, you’ll definitely want an inflatable kayak that is compact, lightweight and easy to carry.

√ Storage Space – How much gear are you taking with you on your kayaking trip? Fishers and campers typically pack a lot of gear, and if your main mode of transportation is your inflatable kayak, you’ll want to plan on purchasing a model that gives you plenty of storage space. This storage space can come in the form of extra floor room or dedicated pockets built directly into the kayak’s hull. Some models even include webbing that you can use to store your gear. Often enough, the extra storage space can make or break your purchasing decision, based on the excursions you plan on making with your new inflatable kayak.

√ Included Accessories – An inflatable kayak by itself isn’t going to do much for you in the way of transportation. If you want to get out on the water, you’ll need a pump to get inflated, paddles to get going and more. If you don’t want to have to do more shopping, you might want to consider purchasing a model that includes all the necessary accessories you need to get going. However, be aware that the quality of the included accessories isn’t always the best. This tends to be the case for most paddles and sometimes true for the seats. Many manufacturers include paddles that don’t do well in rough water conditions and many consumers complain that their included paddles didn’t last longer than a few trips to the lake.

 

Inflatable Kayak vs. Hardshell

Inflatable kayaks are relatively new to the world of recreational water sports, and they’re up against a lot of tradition with hardshell kayaks. Take a look at some of the differences between the two:

Weight and Size: Hardshell kayaks are often bigger and heavier than inflatable kayaks. This is mostly due to the fact that hardshell kayaks are made from denser materials. Inflatable kayaks are much easier to carry around and don’t take up nearly as much room in your garage since they can deflate.

DurabilityIf you’ve ever run into something while kayaking in a hardshell kayak, you know just how grating the sound of running into rocks and branches can be. You can’t help but cringe when you just know that your hull is getting all scraped up. While hardshells kayaks are durable in their own right, inflatable kayaks were meant to take a beating and come out the other side without a scratch. Since they’re made from rubber and PVC, most times you just bounce off the hard stuff and continue on your way.

Setup: Inflatable kayaks need more time to get set up than hardshell kayaks. You’ve got to pump them full of air and then fully deflate them when you’re done kayaking for the day. With hardshell kayaks, you can simply put the boat in the water and be on your way. No need for much set up.

Control: Hardshell kayaks tend to control a little better than inflatable kayaks, at least for now. Since inflatable kayaks are lighter, they can struggle a bit in rough waters like rapids and choppy lakes. However, this is becoming less of a problem as technology advances and manufacturers come up with better features to make inflatable kayaks more efficient on any kind of water.

Top Questions About Inflatable Kayaks Answered

When it comes to purchasing a kayak for whitewater rafting, fishing or leisure use, people’s thoughts almost always go straight to traditional hard kayaks. For years, hard kayaks have dominated the market, and for good reason! They are sturdy and extra durable, but they’re also more expensive and harder to store and transport. Inflatable kayaks offer a good alternative over traditional kayaks because of their flexibility, portability and overall versatility.

If you’ve ever wandered into the world of inflatable alternatives, you may have asked yourself if these kayaks are any good. In short, the answer to that question is yes. Inflatable kayaks are a completely viable alternative to hard kayaks. In fact, the market for inflatable options is growing exponentially. Casual beginners find that inflatable models are easier to operate and aren’t quite as big an investment as traditional options.

Inflatable kayaks are much more than silly pool toys. In fact, they are manufactured using the same technology that the military and commercial corporations use for their own operations. This technology has trickled down to the recreation world and is quickly becoming the go-to choice for a beginners and experts alike. As this inflatable technology continues to innovate and improve, kayaks will only benefit and will continue to improve. Two main areas that come to mind when thinking about the quality of inflatable kayaks are stability and durability.

Stability – If you ever feel wobbly and unstable during a kayaking adventure, you’re either in really rough water or in the wrong kind of kayak. Rigid kayaks are made to be stable simply due to their hard hulls. Inflatable kayaks face a challenge in the stability world since they’re only filled with air. However, as inflatable technology has advanced, stability has become less of an issue. Inflatable kayaks are innovating and finding new ways to create a stable kayaking experience for beginners and advanced users alike. This typically comes in the form of rigid, drop-stitch floors, which allow for much higher inflation pressures than standard floors. Stability can also come from aluminum ribs built directly into the kayak’s hull.

Durability – Another consideration that comes to mind when considering how good inflatable kayaks are is their durability. Rigid kayaks can take a beating, especially in rough waters. Since those same durable materials aren’t used in inflatable kayaks, how can they hope to keep up?

Inflatable technology has advanced to the point that materials such as PVC and polyurethane have become about as durable as traditional materials. Since you’ll likely encounter debris while you are kayaking, you’ll want something that can handle getting hit. Most inflatable kayaks are durable enough that you won’t have to worry about punctures while you’re out on the water.

Since inflatable kayaks aren’t built from the same materials as traditional kayaks, many consumers are worried about safety, especially when using the boats in rough waters. This question is especially relevant to customers looking to purchase an inflatable whitewater kayak. Fortunately, these kinds of kayaks are incredibly safe in most kinds of waters. This safety comes from a few different features that most inflatable kayaks offer.

First, many people worry that if they do experience a puncture while out on the water, the whole kayak is compromised. To prevent this, most inflatable kayaks feature two or three different inflation chambers. When one chamber is compromised, the others are still full of air and will keep the kayak afloat.

Next, remember that most inflatable kayaks are built from materials like those used in military and commercial applications. If the Navy can trust their soldiers in inflatable boats, you can trust your recreational kayak to keep you safe, as well. As long as you have properly inflated the kayak to the appropriate pressure, it will be just as safe as a traditional rigid kayak.

Setup for traditional kayaks is as easy as putting the kayak in the water and going. Inflatable kayaks need a little more time to setup before getting started in the water, mainly, they need to be inflated first. So, exactly how do you inflate one of these kayaks?

The overall process is relatively simple. Most kayaks have several different chambers that need to be inflated before the kayak is ready to go. As such, you’ll need to inflate each one of those chambers separately, using the built-in valves. Simply connect the pump to the valves and get pumping. Some pumps are foot pumps that you step on, while others are powered and don’t need any other effort besides flipping a switch.

The deflation process is also just as simple. Open the valves, let the air out and then store the kayak in its carrying bag. Of course, you’ll also need to dry it before storing it so you don’t encourage mold to grow while the kayak is put away.

 


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