Best Inflatable Kayak 2020 • 9 Inflatable Kayaks Reviews

For anyone who lives on or near the water—or just enjoys the great outdoors—these handy portable boats represent a terrific invention. Though there is a myriad of different types on offer, our team was able to identify several standouts that passed the inflatable kayak review with flying colors. 

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What is an Inflatable Kayak?

Best Inflatable Kayak ReviewsThe best inflatable kayak is a banana-shaped boat, usually constructed of polyethylene, which is piloted with the aid of a double-bladed paddle. The best Inflatable Kayak models, meanwhile, are constructed using PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or Hypalon (a synthetic rubber manufactured by DuPont). The boat achieves its buoyancy through air pumped into its outer shell. These are usually designed for one person, but there are some two-seater options available as well.

Kayaking is also a great form of exercise, and one you won't have to talk yourself into—if anything, you'll find yourself making excuses to get out on the water. There's a lot to be said for the inflatable models in particular: They're more affordable than their sturdier counterparts, are much easier to store, and offer just as many opportunities for fun in the sun.

How Does an Inflatable Kayak Work?

If you already know how to best inflatable kayak, then it's an easy switch to using an inflatable model. The only real difference is obvious—you'll have to inflate the boat before using it. This task can be made easier with an electric air pump (a manual one will also work, but will take much longer) or a shop vac (see below for step-by-step instructions on how to inflate the boat).

Best inflatable kayak paddles differ from canoe paddles in that they're double-bladed. This means both ends of the paddle are used to propel the boat forward, one on either side of the craft. Most people are able to master this skill with just a little bit of practice.

Remember that your dominant arm is the strongest, so be sure not to allow the boat to drift too far to the left if you're right-handed (or vice versa). Fortunately, inflatable kayaks are very light and easy to manipulate.

It's important to think seriously about what type of kayaking you'll be doing before shopping, as the boats are crafted to deal with specific sets of conditions. While the same can be said for polyethylene kayaks, the inflatable models are less forgiving and more easily damaged should you take them out in unfavorable conditions. For more detail on the different types of best inflatable kayak, see Advantages & Applications below.

Advantages & Applications

Here, we'll discuss the decision-making process for the inflatable kayak review 2020 in more detail. We'll let you know what to look for as you browse the different models, and what red flags you should avoid. While the product is easy to use and a lot of fun once you've gotten started, there are always trade-offs when it comes to a major purchase like this one. We want to ensure that you'll get the best possible use out of your new boat—with any luck, for years to come.

Why purchase an inflatable kayak?

Buy Inflatable KayakIf you're fortunate enough to live by a body of water-or several, as the case may be-then it's worth investing in different ways to help you enjoy it. In case you need further convincing, let us outline some of the many reasons why this purchase will be one of the best decisions you'll ever make.

It's a great exercise. There are many forms of exercise, but few of them are as spiritually rewarding as a paddle trip across a beautiful lake on a summer morning. The activity doesn't have to be restricted to the summer months, either-depending on the region and the type of craft you buy, kayaking can be enjoyed for as much as three-quarters of the year.

It's environmentally friendly. Let the thrill-seekers race past with their jet skis and their speedboats. They're the ones who are missing out, no matter how much your teenagers might protest. Kayaking is healthier not only for the operator but for the surrounding ecosystem as well.

It invites you to take the road less traveled. Or the waterless traveled, as it were. There are smaller bodies of water, among them kettle ponds and narrow streams, that can't be accessed by any type of watercraft larger than a canoe. The best inflatable kayak will allow you to explore these little-known gems at a leisurely pace.

The wildlife. While there's no guarantee that you'll be getting up close and personal with turtles and white-tailed deer on every excursion, the low-decibel nature of kayaking makes it far more likely. Dawn and dusk are the best times for wildlife spotting in most areas of the country. Tip: If you head out at either of these times, be sure to load up on the insect repellent beforehand. Mosquitoes are just as active as larger animals in the early morning and evening.

It provides a good opportunity for socializing. Some die-hards might see this as a negative. Fear not; kayaking can also be a fabulous and rewarding solo activity, with or without a fishing pole in hand. However, if you're looking to make new friends and you enjoy water sports, owning a best inflatable kayak is a natural and easy first step. It's much easier to join in on group excursions when you have your own equipment already, and you'll appear adventurous and enterprising right from the start.

Inflatable kayak models are more affordable than polyethylene kayaks. If you're just starting out and unsure of whether the sport is for you, investing in a best inflatable kayak is a great stepping-off point. The best part? The lower cost doesn't translate into a shorter product life. You'll get just as many years of enjoyment out of an inflatable raft as you would from a more traditional model.

You won't have to invest in a boat trailer. Or even a roof rack, which can be cost prohibitive in itself. This is another way that an inflatable boat can save money over a polyethylene model, and it has the added benefit of convenience to go along with the savings. Note that if you're planning on inflating your boat upon arrival at your destination, you'll need to either bring along a hand pump (one that doesn't require electricity, in other words) or make sure that an electrical outlet will be available. See the instructions below for more details on inflating and assembling the boat.

They're among the most versatile boats on the market. You can choose from a host of different styles, many of which are suited for more than one purpose. You can cast a fishing line, shoot the rapids, or simply take a serene tour around the lake on a hot day. The choice is yours, and the only limits are the ones imposed by the water itself.

What types of inflatable kayaks are there?

Different Types of Inflatable kayakWhat type of best inflatable kayak you buy depends largely on where you'll be using it. Models built for lakes and flat-water touring, for example, will have a long, narrow shape that allows the craft to glide smoothly across the surface. They're built to travel efficiently over longer distances, propelled by long, hard strokes. On the other end of the spectrum, whitewater kayaks are shorter, with a blunt curve to the bow that helps the boat maneuver through the chop. Despite their easily maneuverable size, they aren't recommended for lake touring, as the curved bow prohibits a quick forward glide.

There are solo and tandem options available, so if you plan on having company during most of your excursions and are thinking about investing in a pair, consider choosing a tandem instead. This isn't the best choice for everybody, as not all couples are matched in strength and skill level, and some of the bigger boats are clumsy to operate alone, making potential solo journeys problematic. If you and your partner are both comfortable with the idea, though, this option can save money.

Also, it should be noted that some of the larger models can be modified to fit either one or two people. If you think you'd like the flexibility of this choice, then you should narrow your focus to this type of boat.

Understanding the Terms

Terms of Inflatable KayakIf this is your first time in a canoe or best inflatable kayak, it's important to learn some of the broader terms for the sport and its related equipment. Here, we'll give you a crash course in paddling terminology, so you'll know exactly what you're shopping for.

Backrest: The name for the square of padding that sits behind the rider to provide stability and support.

Blade: The broad, flat, “business end” of the paddle, the part that actually makes contact with the water and propels the boat forward.

Bow: The front end of the boat.

Bulkhead: A cross-support structure that connects both sides of the best inflatable kayak, contributing to the overall buoyancy of the craft.

Coaming: Another term for the rim of the best inflatable kayak.

Cockpit: Where the operator sits.

Deck: The portion of the best inflatable kayak that covers the hull, thereby preventing water from getting inside (this is one of the features that helps to differentiate a best inflatable kayak from a canoe).

Foot Braces (see “Useful Accessories,” below): These adjustable pegs provide leg support to the operator.

Hull: The bottom shape of the boat, which determines how the craft will perform in different conditions. Often, the type of best inflatable kayak you're buying is differentiated by the shape of the hull.

A personal flotation device, or PFD: The official term for life jackets that have been officially approved by the Coast Guard. For more information, see “Useful Accessories,” below.

Portage: This term has dual meanings: It refers both to the act of carrying a canoe or best inflatable kayak across a portion of land to either avoid a rapid or to get from one waterway to another; or to the portion of the land itself. Many long river trips require at least one portage; be sure to check the map thoroughly before setting off.

Roll: The act of maneuvering a best inflatable kayak so that it's right-side-up again once it's been capsized. This is usually not a major issue with inflatable kayaks, as the buoyancy helps keep the craft stable.

Shaft: The long, thin handle of the paddle.

Spray skirt: A piece of fabric, usually made of either nylon or neoprene, that can be fitted over the top of a best inflatable kayak to keep water out. These are often used in sea kayaking and similarly choppy or chilly conditions.

Stern: The rear of the craft.

Swamp: When the best inflatable kayak takes on too much water, causing it to capsize (this risk is minimized with self-bailing crafts; see more details on this term below).

Throat: The section of the paddle where the blade meets the shaft.

Trim: The level of the best inflatable kayak from the bow to the stern. Usually, with inflatable models, the trim is level, with the stern sitting only slightly lower in the water.

Other kayak-specific terms

Features of Inflatable KayakNow that we've filled you in on the basics, there are some specific subcategories of best inflatable kayak that you should be made aware of before shopping. While it might seem like a lot to take in at first, the more you learn, the easier your eventual choice will be. Here are a few terms to look for, and their definitions.

Sit-on-top: This type of kayak offers precisely what it advertises: An open cockpit design that allows the greatest degree of movement. Claustrophobic individuals and lake tourers will appreciate this design the most. It isn't recommended for windy or choppy conditions, as there's a strong probability that paddlers will get drenched from the spray.

Sit-inside: An enclosed cockpit that can be blocked off with a spray skirt. The snug design makes this an ideal choice for river paddling—even whitewater—as well as colder weather conditions.

Canoe-style: The higher walls and lengthy design of the canoe-style inflatable kayak is problematic for solo paddlers, but is perfect for couples and small families. If you often take your dog along for the ride, this could be the choice for you. Be aware that you'll probably want to use a more traditional canoe paddle for this type of boat, rather than the double-bladed kayak ones.

Self-bailing: A must for any whitewater model. The term “self-bailing” refers to a series of holes that are built into the floor of the boat, allowing water to escape as it enters the cockpit.

If you're going to be shooting the rapids, this is an important feature to look for. Otherwise, it should certainly be avoided, as the holes also allow water to seep through the floor in calmer conditions, making for a damp and uncomfortable ride.

Child size: These are the best option for children from 5 to 11 years of age, as a child cannot safely operate a larger craft. Many beginners are surprised to learn this, as they assume one size fits all, but this is far from true. When a child attempts to pilot a too-big kayak, they sit too low in the cockpit to allow for a clean stroke, and their arms often brush the sides, which causes discomfort and frustration. Note that many of the child-sized models have a maximum weight load of 130 pounds, so pay more attention to size than age when choosing a boat for a child.

Working of Inflatable KayakLow pressure vs. high pressure: In the main, amateurs need not concern themselves with these specifications; however, it's interesting information nonetheless. Low-pressure models are built to inflate to 2 pounds per square inch (PSI) maximum. This allows for perfectly decent buoyancy, and the low-pressure boats are vastly more affordable than their counterparts.
By contrast, the high-pressure models can inflate to 6 PSI. Enthusiasts praise the smoother ride and ease of maneuverability that this affords. The upgrade doesn't come cheaply, though, so most consumers will be better off sticking to the low-pressure options.

Rudder or tracking fin: This fin, located on the underside of the boat, helps paddlers to move forward in a straight, smooth line.

Fish-tailing: When the bow is moving too far from side to side during paddling. The risk of fish-tailing can be mitigated somewhat by adding extra weight to the front hull. It might also help to take shorter, easier strokes.

What should I pay attention to when buying an inflatable kayak?

As mentioned above, your first consideration should be the types of water you'll be tackling during your journeys. There are other questions you should ask yourself as well:

  1. Do you want to be able to fish from your kayak?
  2. Will you be regularly bringing a dog or small child on board?
  3. Will you be taking the kayak along on backpacking excursions?
  4. Is a self-bailing option necessary?
  5. What weather conditions will you be paddling in?
  6. How much storage space do you need?
  7. What weight are you comfortably able to carry?
  8. Will you be paddling the kayak for short rides only or all-day use?
  9. The answers to these questions will provide you with a concrete idea of what you're looking for.

Reviewing an Inflatable Kayak

When it comes to choosing an inflatable kayak review winner, there are certain criteria we look for. These include—but are not limited to—the following:

  • Weight—it should be lightweight enough to be manageable, while still being of durable quality
  • Portability—how well does it pack, store, carry? Does this work well with the trips you have in mind?
  • Ease of setup—most inflatable models can be set up in five to ten minutes, but some of the more technologically advanced styles may take longer
  • Warranty—does the company offer a guarantee on the product, and if so, for how long?

Narrowing the Field: Seven of the Top Inflatable Kayak Manufacturers

There are a lot of brands to choose from. To help make it simpler, here's a rundown on seven standouts that have repeatedly passed the inflatable kayak review:

  • Sea Eagle
  • Coleman
  • Infinity
  • Northwest River Supplies
  • Aire
  • Advanced Elements
  • Pakboat
The name alone conjures up images of mystery and grandeur, and the product lives up to the connotation. Sea Eagle dealshobies exclusively in the category of inflatable crafts, producing stand-up paddleboards (SUPs), canoes, fishing boats, and wave boards, in addition to kayaks. The company has been in business for half a century, always utilizing the most durable and secure materials available. Sea Eagle earns consistently good reviews from customers after reviewing. Anglers take note: Their fishing kayaks, in particular, stand out from the competition.
As a leader in the outdoor industry since its inception in 1902, the Coleman brand seldom fails to live up to expectations. Their best inflatable kayak are no exception; many reviewer have been skeptical of the crafts' seaworthiness, given the low price point, but they were quickly proven wrong. Anyone of Coleman's offerings would be a great choice for a beginner or anyone who plans to use the boat only occasionally. Note that this isn't because the products are lacking in any way, but only because the lower prices help to justify the investment.
That's how long you'll want to spend in one of these finely built crafts, the majority of which are ideal for taller and/or heavier paddlers due to their oversized cockpit sizes. If you're worried about being “trapped” inside the best inflatable kayak (a mostly unfounded fear exaggerated by many beginners), one look at the smooth, open lines of an Infinity model will set your mind at ease. These boats are American made, durable, and reliable. The majority of Infinity's offerings are best suited for lakes and day touring, or the occasional foray into the bay or estuary.
Like Coleman, NRS manufactures a variety of outdoor equipment (including apparel), which helps to bolster their trustworthy reputation. When you buy from this Moscow, Idaho brand, you'll be able to stock up on all of your supplies in one trip. Everything from paddles to personal flotation devices to safety whistles, to proper footwear, can be found on their easily navigable website. They have a wide selection of offerings, making them a good all-around choice.
If you're looking specifically for a whitewater best inflatable kayak, Aire should be your first stop. Aire—which, like Northwest River Supplies, is based in Idaho—is staffed by kayaking and rafting enthusiasts who happily take their work home with them at the end of the day—literally, in some cases. As such, their product is consistently up to industry standards and exceeds the expectations of many reviewer. Purchasers of Aire products will find a large community of like-minded people who are happy to share their advice and experience with fellow paddlers.
While Coleman and Northwest River Supplies pride themselves on doing many things well, Advanced Elements (like Sea Eagle) focuses solely on the inflatable water-sports experience. Located in San Francisco, the company strives to always be on the cutting edge of inflatable craft technology, keeping its products consistently competitive in a crowded field. Their website makes selection easy by breaking down the offerings by category:

  1. Recreational
  2. Day Touring
  3. Expedition Touring
  4. Crossover
  5. Angling
  6. Whitewater

Customer service is a top priority here; the staff is trained to listen and respond to the buyer's individual needs. Whether you're a beginner with a ton of questions, or an expert with exact specifications, Advanced Elements will have you covered.

Pakboat deviates slightly from the other brands on this list, as their offerings are not fully inflatable, but supported by aluminum frames. The frames add stability and offer more cargo space than the fully inflatable models, while the air tubes make for easy packing and storage. Interestingly, even with the added aluminum construction, a Pakboat weighs in at about 50 percent less than a comparable inflatable kayak. As a bonus, shoppers who visit the New Hampshire store in person are often encouraged to take the boat for a trial spin before committing to a purchase. For more on where and how to buy your best inflatable kayak, see below.

Internet vs. Retail: Where is the best place to buy an inflatable kayak?

Inflatable Kayak FactsThere's no question that online shopping is more convenient, and provides a wider selection than most consumers are likely to find anywhere else. But these aren't the only aspects to consider. Is it better to purchase your best inflatable kayak online, or at a brick-and-mortar store?


As mentioned above, there's no beating the variety and convenience of online shopping. Many retailers offer product guides for your perusal, as well as customer reviews to make your decision that much easier. You shouldn't have any trouble finding a model from any of the leading seven manufacturers, with so many options right at your fingertips. One drawback? It can be difficult to gauge the quality of a product unless you can see and feel it for yourself.

Retail Trade

When choosing a product from a brick-and-mortar store, you know exactly what you're getting. The quality of the material and the level of craft that went into its makeup are both right there for you to see. It's important to understand the precise dimensions of the packaging, as well, especially if you're planning on traveling on the boat—you don't want to invest in three or four of them for the entire family, only to find that they won't all fit in the minivan when it's time to load up. The obvious downside to the retail experience is the limited field you're likely to face, as most stores will only stock one or two brands at most.

The Winner

The benefits offered by the online experience—a broader pool to choose from, convenience, a wealth of consumer information—greatly outweigh the positive aspects of purchasing from a brick-and-mortar outfit. Just be certain to do as much research as possible before making a commitment.

Inflatable Kayaks: A Brief History

History of Inflatable KayakThe invention of the best inflatable kayak is generally attributed to the Native tribes of the Pacific Northwest (the Aleuts and Inuits among them), with the earliest models being crafted of animal hide stretched across a wooden frame. Later on, Europeans would modify this practice somewhat by covering the frames in fabric instead. In the 1950s, best inflatable kayak were made mainly of fiberglass, and the first plastic model dates back to 1984. While these are all pertinent and interesting facts, the history of the inflatable boat has its own tale to tell.

There are graphics dating as far back as the 9th century BC, depicting the practice of using inflated animal skins to cross bodies of water. However, the inflatable kayak as we know it can be traced to a more modern era. In the early 1840s, Charles Good year was granted a patent to vulcanize rubber, thereby making it more sturdy and flexible; around the same time, Thomas Hancock also began production of vulcanized rubber, which led to a long and widely publicized skirmish between the two companies. It was the vulcanizing process that stabilized the rubber effectively enough for its use in inflatable watercraft, as reviewer were to later discover.

During this same time frame, John C. Frémont reported using an inflatable boat during his travels through the Rocky Mountains. A relatively short while later—in 1866—four passengers crossed the Atlantic (from New York to Great Britain) in a three-tube inflatable raft called the Nonpareil.

With the tragedy that befell the Titanic in 1912, the demand for inflatable boats saw a dramatic upswing. Since the inadequate supply of onboard lifeboats was initially justified by the claim that they took up too much deck space, a more compact solution was clearly in order. World Wars I and II naturally exacerbated the demand still further, and the 20th century saw great strides in the rubber industry and, consequently, in inflatable watercraft.

Figures, Data & Facts

Functions of Inflatable KayakHere are some interesting and little-known facts about the product and its history:

  • In 2013, more than 26,000 inflatable boats were sold in the United States alone.
  • The sport's overall popularity is on the rise this decade: The period between 2012 and 2015 saw a marked participation increase in kayaking and kayak fishing. In 2015, a survey showed that 7.4 percent of Americans enjoyed paddle sports.
  • This increase in American enjoyment of the sport has had an unfortunate side effect: As the equipment is less expensive than in years past, many uneducated and inexperienced folks are taking to the water (prompting some in the industry to label them as “Kmart Kayakers”). As a result, the number of paddle-sport related deaths has also increased, peaking in 2015 with 139 fatalities.
  • Men tend to feel less stable than women when paddling best inflatable kayak, owing to their lower center of gravity.
  • Inflatable models are just as stable as traditional kayaks, if not more so. This is due largely to the resiliency and buoyancy of the material, which is much sturdier than it appears.
  • The materials used in their construction—PVC, and Hypalon—are so strong that they're often used by the Coast Guard and Greenpeace.
  • Most inflatable kayaks have three air chambers, which makes them virtually unsinkable. Punctures are rare and easily repaired (see Useful Accessories below for information on patching kits).
  • If you live near an ocean with decent-sized waves, you can use your best inflatable kayak to “surf,” catching the waves and riding them to shore. This is easier with some models than with others; see the section above on the different types of the kayak in order to learn more.
  • Inuits had rigid specifications when it came to the dimensions of their kayaks. The boats had to be three times as long as the width of the operator's outstretched arms; as wide as his hips with one fist on either side; and as deep as his fist with thumb outstretched (much like a hitchhiker's signal).
  • Kayaking has many health-related benefits, including increased cardiovascular health and muscle strength, particularly in the arms, shoulders, and back. Depending on the type of best inflatable kayak and the vigorousness of the workout, the leg muscles are often put through their paces as well.
  • One hour of kayaking can burn up to 350 calories, depending on the height and weight of the operator and the intensity of the paddling.

How to Prepare an Inflatable Kayak in 15 Easy Steps

Where to buy Kayak?The following is a basic template on how to get your boat ready for use. For more specific instructions, refer to the manufacturer's guide that should be provided with your purchase.

  1. Lay the main body of the boat out flat on a level surface, away from any sharp debris or direct heat sources.
  2. Locate the valves. These could be either two-part models (which include an airtight cap to prevent air from escaping) or one-part (which have an air release valve built in, so no cap is necessary). Ensure that the valves are in the “locked” position.
  3. Attach an electric pump, a hand-cranked air pump, or a shop vac to the main valve. Note that some models require you to inflate each tube separately, while others have connecting chambers; refer to the manufacturer's guide for more information. If you use a shop vac, ensure that the vacuum tubes are clean and free of debris beforehand. Also, make sure that the switch has been turned to “blow” mode.
  4. If necessary, turn the valves to the “inflation” position (and be sure they're switched back to “navigation” before heading out on the water).
  5. Inflate the best inflatable kayak to about 70 percent maximum capacity. This will allow enough definition for you to correctly install the floorboards.
  6. Locate the bow. Some models may have decals attached to alert you as to which side is the “sunny side.” As the name suggests, these should be facing up while you install the floorboards. If the boat is used, there may be telltale scuff marks or other signs of wear and tear along the outer tubes; these should be facing down. If there are no markings of any kind and the boat is new, check the guide to ascertain which side is the “sunny side.”
  7. Insert the bow pieces. Depending on the boat size and type, there might be either one, two, or three pieces in all. Make sure the holes in the bow pieces are aligned with the valves. If all the steps have been performed correctly, the valves should already line up next to the corresponding holes.
  8. Locate the floorboard for the stern. This might be made of wood, aluminum, or polyethylene. Follow the directions in the guide to determine proper placement. Often, there will be spaces cut out to allow room for the drain valves, as well as a set of blocks or other stabilizers to indicate where this board should be located.
  9. Install the remaining floorboards (if any) per the manufacturer's instructions.
  10. Install the first stringer by fitting the groove on the flat bottom edge along the edge of the floor sections. (This operation can be performed from either the inside or outside of the boat, whichever seems easiest.) Repeat with the second stringer on the opposite side.
  11. Finish inflating the best inflatable kayak using the pump or vac. If you have a pressure gauge, it's easier to determine whether the tubes have been inflated to the recommended capacity. Don't forget to inflate the keel as well.
  12. If the valves are two-part models, replace all caps.
  13. Ensure that the valves have been switched to “Navigation” mode (if this feature is included).
  14. Install any added features or accessories as desired (see “Useful Accessories” below for ideas). Don't forget the personal flotation devices, especially for beginners.
  15. Once the boat is properly assembled and inflated, you're ready for your maiden voyage.

10 Tips For Care

You've made a sizeable investment in your inflatable kayak. Now you'll want to be sure to keep it in prime repair, so you can enjoy it for many years to come. Here, we'll clue you in on the best ways to care for this unique type of watercraft.

  • Treat the material with a UV protects. This will keep the PVC from deteriorating after long days in the sun. See the corresponding section in “Useful Accessories” below for tips on the best brands on the market.
  • Dry the boat after each use. This will inhibit the growth of mold and mildew, both of which can shorten the life of your best inflatable kayak.
  • Wash off any dirt or debris with a good-quality marine cleaner (3M is a reputable brand). Even seemingly harmless mud streaks (all part of the fun when in use) can degrade the PVC over time.
  • Avoid rocks, strainers and other obstacles whenever possible.
  • Inspect the exterior for leaks on a regular basis. An easy way of doing this is to lather up the exterior with a simple solution of dish soap and water. The telltale bubbles will reveal any slow leaks.
  • Check the valves often to ensure that they remain in good working order.
  • Make sure that the best inflatable kayak stays properly inflated. Remember that this is usually around 3 PSI for low-pressure models. The keel can withstand a mite more pressure at 4 PSI, and if the craft has an inflatable floor (rather than an aluminum or wood construct), the pressure should be between 8 and 9 PSI.
  • After deflating, roll the best inflatable kayak up as tightly as possible before storing.
  • Keep the best inflatable kayak stored in a cool, dry place when not in use. While the material is very durable and can hold up to extreme conditions, it's best to keep it out of the elements when not in use. Drastic changes in temperature can have an adverse effect on the fabric over long periods of time.
  • Invest in a rodent-proof storage container. This is particularly important if your boat will be stored in a garage or barn that's prone to infestations.

Useful Accessories

Inflatable Kayak AccessoriesPatching kit: It's handy to have one of these around before a leak or puncture can put the inflatable kayak out of commission. They're available at many retail outlets, including big-box stores like Walmart, but it's just as easy to pick one up when you're buying the inflatable kayak itself. The ones that are sold through sporting goods retailers are more likely to be suited to the individual brand.

UV Protectant: These will keep the sun's rays from causing undue harm to the PVC. 303 is a brand trusted by many reviewers and is generally an affordable option. Also look for TriNova, an advanced blend offered by Gold Eagle.
Personal flotation devices (PFDs). More commonly referred to as lifejackets, PFDs are more than just a useful accessory—they can save lives. Children under the age of 10 should always wear a PFD when participating in any kind of water activity, including kayaking. Check the local laws to determine whether or not it's required for an adult to have a PFD on board the boat (they often don't need to be worn at all times, as long as they're readily available). Wearing an improperly fitted PFD can often be as dangerous as not wearing one at all, so be sure that the device fits both comfortably and snugly with all buckles fastened.

Dry bags and/or zippered cargo holds: These are a must for long day trips and overnight excursions, as they'll keep your supplies dry even in whitewater conditions. Be sure to purchase the size to match your intentions.

You might need only enough space for your phone or camera and a picnic lunch, or you'll want to invest in a bag big enough to fit all the camping gear for a weekend on the river. Search for a high-quality brand, such as Sea to Summit, or ask a professional for advice.

Foot braces: These improve paddling performance by giving operators something to brace their feet against, thereby providing greater stability and comfort. Most of the leading brands mentioned in the inflatable kayak review results (see above) have brace kits available for installation in any of their models.

Bilge pumps: As the name suggests, these accessories are used to pump excess water out of the floor of the boat. For self-bailing crafts, these aren't usually necessary, but more extreme water-sports enthusiasts might appreciate the extra help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even once you've decided which model you'd like to purchase, there's still a lot to know about the sport, especially for first-timers. Read on for answers to the most commonly asked questions about this increasingly popular type of watercraft.

Are inflatable kayaks more dangerous to use than their sturdier counterparts?

Are inflatable kayaks more dangerous to use than their sturdier counterparts?

While this is a myth that still persists amongst novices to the sport, inflatable models are no more dangerous than any other type of best inflatable kayak. Their design actually makes them more forgiving and resilient in most conditions, and many paddlers feel more stable and secure in an inflatable craft. What makes paddle sports (or any type of outdoor activity in general) dangerous is not necessarily the product or its material, but a lack of knowledge and expertise.

Can you use an inflatable boat in the ocean?

Can you use an inflatable boat in the ocean?

Yes, as mentioned above, there are plenty of seaworthy options. If you intend on using the best inflatable kayak primarily in salt water, be sure to select the right type of boat and to care for it accordingly.

Are inflatable models slower than traditional kayaks?

Are inflatable models slower than traditional kayaks?

Overall, speed depends more upon the strength and skill of the operator than the material used in the craft's construction. However, it is true that a short, stout inflatable model won't win any races against a polyethylene sea best inflatable kayak, some of which are as thin as blades. If speed is a major factor in your purchasing decision, perhaps you should re-think the inflatable option and consider investing in a traditional kayak instead.

Can you fish from an inflatable kayak?

Can you fish from an inflatable kayak?

Yes. In fact, there are many models devoted to this specific purpose.

Are inflatable kayaks stable?

Are inflatable kayaks stable?

Absolutely. Because they're crafted from pliable (yet durable) material, these are actually less prone to tipping than their polyethylene counterparts.

Do kayaks have to be registered?

Do kayaks have to be registered?

Currently, there are seven US states that require registration for kayaks and canoes. These include:

  1. Alaska
  2. Illinois
  3. Iowa
  4. Ohio
  5. Oklahoma
  6. Minnesota
  7. Pennsylvania

Kayaks do not need to be registered in any of the remaining states. However, if you plan to go fishing, a license is usually required for that. These are available at town offices, as well as some general stores and transfer stations.

Does the material used for inflatable watercraft pop easily?

Does the material used for inflatable watercraft pop easily?

No. PVC and Hypalon are exceptionally durable materials, and these boats are built to withstand the elements. That being said, it's important to give them the proper care and treatment; see “10 Tips For Care,” above, for more details.

How long do inflatable kayaks last?

How long do inflatable kayaks last?

This depends on the quality of the brand you choose, as well as other variables such as frequency of use, proper storage, and whether or not the boat is well cared for. In general, a high-quality inflatable craft can last for years if it's well-maintained. Chances are, you'll want to upgrade before the boat has a chance to wear out.

What sort of wear and tear should I be on the lookout for?

What sort of wear and tear should I be on the lookout for?

You'll want to regularly check for leaks (see “10 Tips For Care,” above), and check the valves and pressure while you're at it. Washing the boat as thoroughly as possible after use will keep the material from deteriorating.

What if the boat keeps paddling in a circle?

What if the boat keeps paddling in a circle?

The easy response to this would be inexpert paddling on the part of the operator, but failing that, there is another explanation: A missing rudder or other part of the undercarriage. If the boat keeps pulling to one side, check the underside to make sure that none of the parts have fallen off, and replace any that are missing.

Alternatives to the Inflatable Kayak

Alternatives of KayakIf you've read over all the information and decided that the inflatable kayak aren't what you're looking for, there are alternatives.

Traditional kayak

The polyethylene models have a lot to offer consumers. They're sturdy, generally easy to maneuver, and they don't require a lengthy setup. This makes them a viable choice for those who want to get out on the water as quickly as possible. Just be certain your vehicle can accommodate the size and bulk before you buy.


The canoe is a classic choice for lake touring and lazy trips downstream. They also offer more storage space in general, making popular for trips of four or more nights. The downside? They're not as versatile as kayaks, and often too bulky for one person to manipulate alone.

Stand-Up Paddle Boards

Stand-up paddle boards, or SUPs, are a relatively recent phenomenon, but they've caught on like wildfire. They resemble surfboards, only they're meant for calmer waters. The explanation is right there in the name: Paddlers stand on top of the board and navigate along the shoreline, sometimes venturing out into deeper waters in the case of lakes and ponds. SUPs provide a great workout, as well as a sterling opportunity for wildlife sightings.

Some models can even fit a well-behaved dog or two on board. They require more skill in the balance department than sit-down models, however, so they're better suited to more athletic individuals.

The Bottom Line

Now that we've filled you in on all the pros and cons of the inflatable kayak experience, you're ready to start surfing the Web for the best deals and accessories. Here's to many exhilarating years aboard your new pleasure craft!

Further links and sources

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