Inflatable Kayak vs Hardshell – Discover the Difference

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Updated June 27, 2022

Whether you are looking for the best kayak for beginners or something for experts, we have you covered.

There are plenty of kayaks on the market, and when it comes to an inflatable kayak vs. hardshell, you have some choices to make. There are so many considerations, from a StraitEdge Angler to a Sea Eagle, skegs, and spray skirt effectiveness. This debate exists among even experienced kayakers, so we’ll clarify the ‘bow and stern’ of the matter and get you started on finding the best kayak.


Inflatable kayaks are just as they sound. You inflate them when you want to use them and deflate them to store them away. They are lighter and much easier to carry, but they’re still durable. The same goes for the best kayaks for kids.

You can store them in a duffle bag or a backpack, and you don’t need a roof rack to transport them. Inflatable kayak reviews agree they’re easy to take on vacation or hiking without worrying about where you’re going to put them.

Hardshell kayaks are not light, and they’re cumbersome to transport. They can also have a lower weight capacity so that it would seem, in terms of size, there aren’t many benefits to this variety. The best tandem kayaks, for example, are meant for two so they will be bigger.


Inflatable kayaks may seem less durable, but they’re built to endure bumps in the water. They can withstand hard surfaces like rocks just as well as a hardshell kayak. They make a great fishing kayak or adventure boat. Many feature i-beam construction, which adds to their rigidity, making them nearly as durable, or more so than a rigid kayak.

Hardshell kayaks come in wood, plastic, or fiberglass. Each is fairly durable but may require more maintenance or cost more to get fixed if it breaks. However, fiberglass is the most durable of the three and highly recommended when looking at hardshell kayaks.


An inflatable kayak can cost just as much, if not more than a rigid kayak, especially when considering that you may want to use it for more than just calm waters. The technology that goes into stitching the fabric is complicated and ensures that your inflatable kayak is as durable as it can be. Speaking of cost, check out the best place to buy a kayak.


An inflatable kayak doesn’t require deflating for storage, but it’s certainly one of the benefits. It takes time to deflate and store these types of kayaks, but you also must consider the time it takes to wash and dry it before storing it, or it can be a stinky mess.

Hardshell kayaks won’t change in size or shape, so you need to make sure you have the appropriate storage space beforehand. However, they don’t take as much time to store because, while you should always clean them, you don’t need to spend time deflating it.


Inflatable kayaks are a bit tougher to control, which is generally why rigid kayaks are better for rough waters. The technology continues to improve, and many types of inflatable kayaks perform fine in rapids. Always look for the best kayak.

A hardshell kayak is worth considering if you’re going to be open sea kayaking or doing some extreme kayaking that involves increased maneuverability.

Kayaking is a fun pastime, whether you’re fishing or using a paddle to float around the lake. The type of kayak you get will depend on your budget, the size you need, and your storage situation. You may want to take the best Bluetooth speakers with you for some tunes, as well as the best tents, to make a weekend out of it.

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