The Best Inflatable Kayaks
The freedom of watersports is unmatched in other outdoor sports. You get the chance to roam the open waters, or jump into a river for an adrenaline-packed ride. Not only for recreation, kayaks have been a key form of travel for longer than any of us have been alive. It’s today’s technology that is allowing us to create quality kayaks that are incredibly portable.
The best inflatable kayaks maintain the durability and strength of typical hardshells, but will deflate and fold down in minutes to a size you can travel with. These inflatable boats open up the world of kayaking. It’s incredible, the journeys you can go on and places you can see with the portability of these kayaks. To maximize that experience, this list of the best inflatable kayaks on the market today will help you get everything you want out of the right boat for you.
|Advanced Elements||Advanced Elements - AdvancedFrame Sport Kayak||$399.00|
|Advanced Elements||Advanced Elements - AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak||$699.00|
|Advanced Elements||Advanced Elements - AirFusion EVO Kayak||$1,007.66|
|Sea Eagle||Sea Eagle 300x Inflatable Explorer Kayak Deluxe Package||$799.00|
|Sevylor||Sevylor - Quikpak K5 Inflatable Kayak||$299.99|
|Advanced Elements||Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler PRO Inflatable Kayak||$899.00|
|AIRE||AIRE Tributary Strike 2 Tandem Inflatable Kayak||$1,079.95|
|Sea Eagle||Sea Eagle 385fta Fasttrack Inflatable Kayak||$1,299.00|
|Star||STAR Paragon Inflatable Kayak||$895.00|
Best Inflatable Kayaks Buyers Guide
Before you snag the first boat that catches your eye and head onto the river, it’s important to make sure you end up with the right boat for what you’re using it for. There’s a lot that goes into these inflatable kayaks to make sure they can still be as durable and lightweight as possible. It’s rather impressive what they have done, but just like hardshell kayaks, there’s a different boat for different waters.
You may ask, how safe is an inflatable kayak? What’s harder to believe is the fact that in a way they are safer than hardshells because of the multiple air chambers. If you get a puncture, the kayak will still float with its remaining chambers.
The durable PVC material (measured in denier, “D”) that typically makes up these inflatable kayaks is incredibly resistant to both punctures and abrasions. This is a great base level for a durable boat, but there’s a little bit more to it as well.
Taking after inflatable SUPs, the drop-stitch floor that you will find in a lot of quality kayaks adds to the durability as well as the stability. It makes the boat more rigid, meaning it won’t bend under pressure as much as other boats will, leading to some problems.
That being said, making repairs is a common part of owning an inflatable kayak. You should be ready to put those skills to the test, but hope that you won’t need to.
Another commonly asked question is how do you get in an inflatable kayak? With the drop stitch floors and other options to make these boats almost as rigid as hardshells, using them has become similar. They are just more portable.
Inflatable kayaks were essentially made in order to improve portability. Moving a regular kayak around by yourself can be a task, but once these are deflated you can move them anywhere. An inflatable kayak is a great option for a trip with a lot of portages, as they are incredibly lightweight and easier to carry.
The coolest part is, if it’s a longer portage, you can simply throw your boat into a backpack and turn this into a backpacking trip of sorts. Many of these inflatable kayaks even come with a backpack specifically to carry it over distances.
Another similarity between hardshell kayaks and inflatable ones is the different design methods. Some of these boats will have a high rocker, some with a low rocker. If you’re looking for something that tracks well, you want a high rocker. If you’re hoping to get onto the river, a low rocker design will suit you a bit better.
If you are just learning, it could be a good idea to get a boat with a wide base. This will up your stability and hopefully keep you from being dumped and taking a swim.
Best Inflatable Kayaks or Packrafts
You may have heard of brands like Alpacka or Kokopelli. These two companies are at the absolute top of the game when you look at packrafts. While the main goal is similar for both inflatable kayaks and packrafts, they’re very different products.
Packrafts are made simply to bring down the size and weight to an absolute minimum. In order to do this, the packraft sacrifices a lot of the maneuverability and tracking that kayaks have. There will also be a lot less room for gear and can be harder to make everything fit. These are made for bringing along on a backpacking trip, but not for creating a full-blown paddling trip.
Best Inflatable Kayaks in 2021
1. Advanced Elements - AdvancedFrame Sport
This kayak is fully inflatabale, but boasts an internal aluminum frame that provides a huge amount of rigidity and stability that’s hard to find in other boats on the list. The AdvancedFrame Sport is a great choice for when you want to go out on the lake and have something that handles incredibly well, but doesn’t weight or cost a ton. We believe this is the best inflatable kayak under $500 that you can get today.
The AdvancedFrame Sport is made up of a triple layer of polyester, topped off with a PVC coating to even further protect the boat from punctures and abrasions. The welded seams are going to ensure that you don’t start leaking any time and hold as strong as the rest of the boat. We see this as an incredible option when you’re wanting stability and something to go play around in on calm and flat waters.
- Triple layer polyester with PVC coating
- Aluminum frame reinforcement in bow and stern
- Tracking fin
- Spring valves and Twistlok valves
2. Advanced Elements - AdvancedFrame Convertible
If you’re looking to get out there with a friend or loved one, you’ll need one of the best tandem inflatable kayaks, and this is exactly that. The AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is another high-quality boat coming out of the shops of Advanced Elements. The convertible decks make this go from an open tandem boat, to a protected solo boat, to a protected tandem boat.
This is a great option to help you stay dry while paddling, whether alone or with someone else. To up the game even more, this kayak is compatible with an added-on Backbone accessory or a drop-stitch floor. They offer this for anyone that really wants the stability maximum, but it will come at an extra cost. One of the drawbacks is that there’s no self-bailing feature on this kayak so it can be tough to stay dry. The good side of that is the optional spraydeck to cover yourself up and try to minimize water inside the boat.
- Aluminum ribs built in
- Three seat locations to turn into a tandem kayak
- Triple-layered system for durability
- Adjustable padded seats
- Optional DoubleDeck conversion
3. Advanced Elements - AirFusion EVO
The AirFusion EVO is a combination of aluminum framing and rigid air chambers that make up an incredibly stable and durable boat to get out onto the water with. This is best used for flatwater, and will track well while touring a lake. The D-ring tie downs and rear-access hatch make this easy to take along on a longer or overnight trip.
This one is compatible with a spray skirt, but doesn’t come along with it. Granted, on the flatwater you shouldn’t have much need for one, and we don’t recommend trying anything more difficult in this one. The AirFusion EVO was awarded an OutDoor Industry Award in 2018, because it’s an incredible product. Advanced Elements takes up the first three spots on our list because it has high quality kayaks made for any situation.
- V-shaped hull provides great tracking
- High-pressure drop-stitch air chambers
- Aluminum ribs for added stability
- D-ring gear tie downs
- Rear access hatch
4. INNOVA Kayak - Twist 1
To move on from Advanced Elements, we turn to the INNOVA Kayak Twist 1 (Twist 2 is available and is one of the best tandem inflatable kayaks out there). The Twist is an incredible option for people who are truly limited in space. It is an impressive 16 pounds, and folds up to fit in a small nylon bag that’s included when you buy the boat. It’ll be inflated and ready in under five minutes, so you won’t be waiting forever to get on the water.
The Twist is made for flatwater or moderate rivers that won’t be too demanding on the boat. It’s made up of a PVC-free rubber material that lowers your impact on the environment, making it the most lightweight and most green pick on our list. If you’re itching to go out with a partner, you can buy the Twist 2, which is made in the same fashion, just a bit bigger for another seat. We think this is the perfect option for anyone that wants to take the boat deep into the mountains before finding water and paddling.
- Incredibly lightweight 16 pound build
- Vulcanized rubber on interior
- PVC-free for low impact on environment
- I-beam floor construction boosts rigidity
- 3 main air chambers
5. Sea Eagle - Explorer 300x
Sea Eagle stands out as one of the top brands for inflatable kayaks, and for a good reason. The Explorer 300x is a well-crafted boat that’s made from 1000D reinforced material that stands up to tough waters without any problems. This is one of the best whitewater inflatable kayaks that you can find today at a semi-reasonable price. It’s rated for rapids all the way up to Class IV, so you will feel safe going out on almost anything. The removable skeg will transfer over to improve tracking on flatwater.
Sea Eagle is confident in the build of the Explorer 300x. The quadruple-overlapped seams are made to take a serious beating and they show that by putting it underneath a Jeep. A separate drop-stitch floor improves the responsiveness and rigidity in the boat to give you the best possible performance. If you’re looking for a larger size, check out the Explorer 380x and take a friend along with you.
- 16 self-draining valves
- Removable skeg for tracking
- Front and rear spray skirts
- Drop stitch floor for added rigidity
- 3 one-way air valves
6. Sevylor - Quikpak K5
The prices of the best inflatable kayaks can be a little bit staggering, but there’s always the one pick out there that finds a way to be affordable without getting rid of quality. The Sevylor Quikpak K5 is an incredibly affordable, but durable, option that comes along with some pretty cool features as well. First off, the kayak is converted quickly from a backpack into a boat and the backpack functions as the seat.
This one uses a high riding position and an included spray skirt to help keep you dry while paddling around. The tarpaulin bottom and polyester cover add to the durability and protect the kayak from stray sticks and rocks in the lake. The PVC construction is used to increase the initial durability just like in several other models on our list. You can get away with everything you need to paddle at a low cost by picking the Quickpak K5.
- Included spray skirt
- PVC construction, tarpaulin bottom, polyester cover
- Backpack carrying case
- Double lock valves