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Back to Inflatable Kayak Comparison Last update:

Are Inflatable Kayaks Durable?

Inflatable kayaks are what they seem, boats that can be inflated when we want to use them and deflated when we want to put them away. They are convenient because they easily fit in the back seat of a car or, depending on the size, in a backpack. They have grown in popularity so much so that we see them on rivers, lakes, streams and oceans. So, we know they are popular and convenient, but are they durable?

It's probably true that when we first think about an inflatable kayak we don't see it as being durable. We more than likely imagine getting a fishing hook stuck in it or grazing a sharp rock and boom, our inflatable kayak is no more than a deflated rubber pile. Think again because this is far from the truth.

the better inflatable kayaks are made with small fibers

First off, inflatable water items aren't just our pool or lake floats and tubes any longer. Technology has taken manufacturing watercraft a long ways and recreational businesses designing safe, high quality and durable inflatable kayaks are no exception. It's quite natural to assume that a hard-shell kayak must be more durable but it's not. The durability of an inflatable kayak comes from the design, whether it be to handle whitewater rafting or fishing kayaks that are equipped to deal with fishing hooks. Whatever we choose to use our kayak for, there is a durable design to handle our needs.

For the most part, inflatable kayaks take a beating because they are constructed with material like the skins used on expensive whitewater crafts. And should a puncture occur, which is rare, repairs are simply made by using the repair get that comes with the kayak.

The better inflatable kayaks are made with small fibers (drop-stitch technology) that lock together when the kayak is inflated creating a tougher surface. The outside layer is made of PVC and rubber that is durable.

As far as stability goes, the width of most inflatable kayaks keeps them stable in a variety of water conditions including rapids and calm water. Some feel it's more reliable in waters that are rough than is a hard-shell kayak.

Of course, as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”, and there are some relatively inexpensive inflatable kayaks that are okay for tooling around a pond or calm lake, but for those of us who are adventurous and want to head offshore or challenge white waters, we need to invest in an inflatable that is made to withstand less than perfect conditions. We know that many are drawn to inflatable kayaks because they believe they are much less expensive than hard shells. However, it really depends on the performance we wish to achieve from our inflatable and what brands we are interested in. High-end kayaks offer high performance in rough waters and rapids and will likely cost as much as hard-shell kayaks. The more basic designed for calmer water and beginners will undoubtedly be less expensive. It all depends on what we are looking for.

Paying more for an inflatable kayak will give us separate inflation chambers, triple layers of fabric and valves that are airtight. The separate chambers are designed to protect the kayak should a tear occur in one part of the vessel. If one chamber is affected, there are still two or three that will keep the kayak afloat until we make it back to land to repair it. The valves assure that the air in the kayak won't escape, and we don't have to worry about the kayak deflating. Pumping it properly and regular care will guarantee that our inflatable kayak will perform, be just as tough and as durable as a hard shell. The material used in a high-end inflatable kayak is that used in many military inflatable boats used to carry out covert operations. So, we know the construction is solid and dependable.

Now that we know an inflatable kayak is durable and just might be what we're looking for, it's also wise to know about the different types of inflatables that are available.

wise to know about the different types of inflatable kayaks that are available

Self Bailing

As the name implies, self bailing inflatable kayaks has holes like eyelets on the bottom that release water as it enters the boat. This type of inflatable is especially good for kayaking rapids where water is constantly whirling around and splashing into the boat. Without a self bailing kayak, it would be very easy to fill the interior of the inflatable with water. With self bailing, we will get wet, but we will not sink. It's best for rapids because if we're on flat water, the kayak will still enter through the holes, and we'll still get wet. Also, a self bailing inflatable does not have fins, making it less suitable on flat water.


We are sitting on the surface top in a sit on kayak. Many people with back problems or those having trouble getting out or into an inflatable kayak or don't like feeling closed in prefer to sit on inflatables. However, when we are sitting on the surface, we must accept the fact that we will get splashed.


self bailing inflatable kayaks has holes like eyelets on the bottom that release water as it enters the boat

A sit-in kayak is more conventional in that the kayak more or less wraps around us, and we're not as likely to get wet. The sit-in is good if we like kayaking in colder weather.

Canoe Style

This style is much like a sit-in because we are sitting in the kayak's body, but in canoe style, the kayak's body is totally open, unlike the sit-in where we sit in a small space. The canoe style is having lower walls and a person sits higher.

SUP Kayaks

This relatively new style is popular at beaches because they are rigid and allow riders to paddle while standing. A SUP must be converted to a kayak by purchasing attachments that allow us to sit and paddle. These must be secure and if we are unsure, it's best to go to an outfitter to get the right set up.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.
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