11 Best Inflatable Kayaks in 2018 – Buyer’s Guide

Inflatable kayaks have been gaining popularity in recent years, not only because they are much more affordable and portable than their solid counterparts, but also because their technology has progressed enough to create highly resistant kayaks that can offer control and stability at the same time.

Number of models and brands have multiplied to the point where choosing an inflatable kayak can be a problematic task.
  • How many air chambers should it have?
  • Which is the best material?
  • What features should you be looking for?

Although these questions might not look easy to answer, the truth is that picking a high-quality kayak that happens to be ideal for you is not very challenging, that is, as long as you know where to look.

For this reason, we have selected 11 of the best inflatable kayaks you can purchase which all stand out for their superior performance.

Furthermore, with the help of the Buying Guide – How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak, you’ll be able to make the most accurate pick that will address both your requirements and preferences.

Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

This Advanced Elements inflatable kayak is a 15ft model that can be used for solo or tandem trips. Its technology makes it a one of a kind kayak that you’ll want to take to the water as many times as you can.

Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

Features

The kayak is constructed with built-in aluminum ribs that not only give shape to its stern and bow but also enhance its tracking. The deck of the kayak can be set up as an open or a closed one depending on what you like, and the seats’ high support offer plenty of comfort to paddle for a long time.

This kayak also has an integrated pressure relief valve on the floor and its 3-layer material is double-coated to prevent holes and puncture. It is a 6-chamber model with a tracking fin and laces on the deck for easy access to fishing gear and other equipment. It also comes with its own carry bag and repair kit.

Best For

The AdvanceFrame kayak is perfect for those who like paddling at lakes and bays. It’s among the best inflatable kayak choices if you like fishing with a friend every once in a while, as it can be adjusted to fit two seats.

Pros & Cons

  • It can transform from an open-deck kayak to a closed-deck one in a matter of seconds
  • The aluminum ribs allow it to track with excellence
  • Adjustable seats can fit one or two people
  • Very easy to set up and inflate
  • Durable, rip-stop fabric makes it long-lasting
  • The carry bag is slightly too small and although the kayak fits, it might give you a hard time when putting it away
  • It can take some time for it to dry

Intex Challenger K1 Inflatable Kayak

The Challenger K1 is a colorful, 9ft long kayak that fits one person and comes with a couple of extra accessories that will be explored in the sections below.

Intex Challenger K1

Features

This inflatable kayak is made from a nimble but highly resistant material that has been welded and decorated with bright, noticeable designs to add safety to your outdoor trips, no matter where you are; it is made of a heavy-duty vinyl that will resist punctures or perforations. The K1 model fits one person and has a net on the deck where you can store your equipment.

The inflatable I-beam floors add stability to the kayak while the overall design allows for your legs to have a lot of free space around them. It is a 2-chamber kayak that includes a repair patch, one 84-inch aluminum oar, and a manual hand pump to facilitate its use.

Best For

This is a great kayak if you like paddling on your own, either at lakes or slow-moving rivers. Because it brings its own oar and hand pump, it’s also a great option for those who don’t already own them.

Pros & Cons

  • Its colorful design will make you stand out, allowing you to paddle safely
  • The inflatable I-beam floors offer great stability
  • Puncture-resistant vinyl makes the kayak durable
  • It brings it own hand pump AND an aluminum oar
  • The seat and the backrest inflate separately
  • The kayak seems to slightly tilt to the right
  • All the gear you put in the net will get wet
  • The removable skeg doesn’t fit perfectly and might come off every once in a while

Sevylor Quickpak K5 Kayak

The innovative inflatable Sevylor model presents a backpack technology that lets you carry your 10ft kayak on your back comfortably. It fits one person and includes a hand pump and a paddle.

Sevylor Quikpak K5 1-Person Kayak

Features

The best feature of this Sevylor kayak is its “Quickpak” design, which allows it to easily turn into a backpack that will let you both save all your equipment and carry it on your back while hiking. Once put away, the kayak pack will give you enough room for food, tent, clothes, and all you might need on a short trip.

Likewise, it’s as easy to set up as it is to put away, and the backpack system turns into the kayak seat. The construction is a 24-gauge PVC material that offers durability while its tarpaulin floors and polyester cover protect it from holes and other ruptures.

The kayak features multiple chambers that allow you to reach back to the shore if one of them deflates, and it features the Airtight System which guarantees zero leaks. Lastly, it has both net storage areas and D-rings where you can attach and secure your gear while paddling.

Best For

The Quickpak K5 is an excellent option for those who like to venture on both slow and fast currents. Although it might seem too soft for rapids, this inflatable model does actually maintain stability and balance and can be used in whitewater.

Pros & Cons

  • 5-minute, super easy set up turns from a backpack to a kayak in no time
  • It has spray covers on the sides of the deck to prevent water from sneaking in
  • You can save equipment both in the front and back of the kayak
  • Highly responsive maneuvering
  • Again, another inflatable kayak with a wobbly, removable skeg
  • Its measurements stand on the wide side, maybe too wide for those who like slimmer kayaks
  • The paddle that comes with the kayak is not very durable and can break easily which is why it’s important to buy another one beforehand

Sea Eagle 370 Inflatable Kayak

This white, smooth-looking Sea Eagle kayak can hold up to 3 people and fits inside its own storage bag, foot air pump and repair kit included. It’s a high-quality inflatable kayak that offers a lot of leg room, even when packed with a lot of gear.

Sea Eagle 370 Inflatable Kayak

Features

The Sea Eagle 370 is made from a sun and saltwater-resistant hull material that makes the kayak sturdy enough to stand against extreme weather. It has 2 carry handles and a self-bailing drain valve that saves a lot of time when putting it away.

The kayak features five different valves and it can be set up in less than 8 minutes, according to the manufacturer. At the bottom, you can find 2 skegs for better tracking that also contribute to its speed.

The 370 comes with 2, 7’10” paddles that can be broken down into four different parts for easy storage. It also has two inflatable seats. It’s steady and one of the biggest models among similar kayaks on the market.

Best For

Day trips with two people, at least. It’s a big kayak, and if only one person is paddling, it might feel wobbly. It is the ideal choice if you have a lot of equipment as well, as it has enough room for everyone and everything.

Pros & Cons

  • It fits up to three people
  • Comes with two, long paddles, a repair kit, and a foot pump
  • The dual skegs do make it track better
  • Comfortable, inflatable seats
  • The blue designs on the kayak bleed when they get wet thus painting the white parts irregularly
  • The rubber seals of the inflation valves don’t close tightly so a small amount of silicon might be needed to keep them in place
  • Although size is a matter of preferences, the 370 could be a tad too big for solo kayakers

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak

This is a 10’5’’ one-person kayak by Advanced Elements that offers both technology and quality. It is an inflatable kayak that stands out for its great features and performance, allowing kayakers to enjoy their solo time in nature.

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak

Features

The AdvancedFrame kayak is made from 3 layers of PVC tarpaulin hull material that is not only durable but also puncture-resistant, making it a long-lasting item. In addition, the kayak features aluminum rib frames on the stern and bow that allow it track better on the water.

The design of this kayak presents two air chambers that provide extra safety in case one of them gets punctured, and it also has an integrated pressure relief valve in the floor. The seat is adjustable and provides a high back support, making it comfortable to paddle for long periods of time.

A storage compartment and bungee deck lacing secure equipment in place while the skeg tracking fin on the bottom back enhances its tracking performance. The AdvancedFrame comes with a carrying bag and its own repair kit.

Best For

This is a very stable inflatable kayak that manages to make no sound on very still waters; this feature makes it perfect for fishing! It offers a lot of space for gear on the front and the back, too.

Pros & Cons

  • Its tracking is among the best on the market. The skeg is very useful and the kayak maintains its straight course unless commanded differently
  • It’s both fast and stable
  • It’s light enough to be carried around easily
  • It’s difficult to dry
  • While it has D-rings and gear laces, it has no cargo room behind the seat
  • It’s not the biggest kayak model; it might be too small for tall kayakers

Rave Sea Rebel Inflatable Kayak 2011

This colorful Rave inflatable kayak is a one-person 9ft item that comes folded in its own carry bag and includes a long paddle.

Rave Sea Rebel Inflatable Kayak

Features

The bright Sea Rebel is a lightweight and portable inflatable kayak that can be set up in no time. It’s equipped with a water-resistant bag and water bottle holder for when you are paddling. Moreover, it brings three bottom fins for tracking, an adjustable seat and one paddle.

The deck features 4 foam-filled handles and it is constructed of a PVC tarpaulin bottom covered with heavy-duty nylon. The material on the bottom allows it to glide on soft grounds with no problem.

This is a sit-on-top model where your legs rest on the top of the deck. It also brings an air pump to inflate the kayak.

Best For

Relaxing at the lake or at a pond. This is not a kayak designed for white waters or rapids so it’s best to take it to a calm place where you can lay back and paddle slowly for a while.

Pros & Cons

  • It brings a waterproof bag where you can put away the kayak safely or carry it wherever you are going
  • The surface is not PVC but nylon, making it more fabric-like
  • The seat offers little to no backrest. This makes the user almost lay flatly on top of the kayak
  • The hand pump doesn’t fit properly into any of the valves so you might have to hold it while inflating the kayak
  • The coupling of the paddle parts lays exactly where one is supposed to hold it, making it uncomfortable and, sometimes, painful

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

Yet another Intex model, this 10ft inflatable Explorer K2 is worth considering if you are looking for a two-person kayak that can be inexpensive and reliable at the same time.

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

Features

This inflatable kayak is an excellent 2-person option for those who like to paddle in couples. It includes two adjustable inflatable seats and a removable skeg that helps with its directional stability.

The yellow color intends to provide safety in case of emergencies while the package includes two aluminum oars and an output air pump. The material this kayak is constructed from is a heavy-duty vinyl that resists against punctures, and the model has two separate air chambers for more effective inflation.

To provide extra stability and comfort, it features an inflatable I-beam floor, and to simplify its deflation, it brings a Boston valve on each side.

Best For

The Explorer K2 is wonderful for paddling with a family member or a friend. This model is specifically made for smaller bodies of water so it’s best to enjoy it at a lake or a mild river as it cannot stand fast or strong currents.

Pros & Cons

  • This kayak’s adjustable seats can hold one or two people according to your preferences
  • Puncture-resistant material makes it sturdy and enduring. Overall high quality and construction
  • Quite easy to inflate and set up; the pump it comes with works perfectly
  • The tracking skeg falls off frequently
  • Not appropriate for strong winds or currents
  • The oars can be flimsy and/or too short and might require replacement

Innova Sunny Inflatable Kayak

This is a 12ft kayak that fits two people and lots of gear. It’s a weightless model that allows being carried in a backpack everywhere you go.

Innova Sunny Inflatable Kayak

Features

This incredible lightweight inflatable kayak is made to fit two people although it can also be converted to fit just one kayaker. It comes in a dry bag backpack that allows you to put it away and transport it without a problem: portability is not an inconvenience for this Innova Sunny model.

The material it is constructed from is Nitrylon, a rather new one on the inflatable kayak market but just as good, nonetheless. The interior uses Lite-Pack instead. Moreover, this model features a removable tracking fin that adjusts to the bottom back of the kayak.

It’s an open kayak design, enough to be considered a canoe-style. As for the chambers, it brings three different ones that utilize military valves and twist-locks to secure them in place.

Best For

Trips on flat water such as lakes and ponds. This is a perfect kayak for fishing: it has enough room for all the equipment and allows you to move around freely. Because it’s so lightweight, it’s not recommended to go to the ocean or venture in strong currents with it.

Pros & Cons

  • It’s compact enough to fit in a small backpack
  • Comfortable seats offer a great paddling experience
  • Light enough to be lifted by anyone, even when inflated
  • It can gain great speed
  • The surface can scuff with use, weather, and time
  • The spray skirts are not inflatable and offer no rigidity

Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak

The3 Sea Eagle 330 model is slightly over 11ft long and presents several high-tech features that make it stand out among similar kayaks on the market.

Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak

Features

This resistant inflatable kayak is constructed from an extra thick K-80 polykrylar hull material that stands strong against possible holes and punctures. It features nine-inch tubes, I-beam structure, and high-frequency fused seams that make it a sturdy item.

This kayak is rated Class III White Waters, which means you can dare into faster currents and still feel safe. It comes with inflatable spray skirts, two seats, two oars, a carry bag, and a small foot pump that you can take with you wherever you go.

In addition to all of this, it has a self-bailing drain valve and three different valves to inflate it. On the bottom, you can attach two skegs that will provide better tracking and higher speeds, and the bow and stern grab lines give you even more control when paddling.

The kayak has three air chambers and takes less than 6 minutes to set up.

Best For

The Sea Eagle 330 will do well everywhere but because it can easily stand strong currents, we suggest you take it for a ride in whitewater. Its technology and construction provide safety, stability, and speed so you can make the best out of your day on the water.

Pros & Cons

  • It takes no time to inflate and set up
  • Offers incredible stability as it is made for whitewater. Neither wind nor moderate currents make it less steady
  • Maneuverability truly delivers as it lets you change direction rapidly
  • The foot pump it comes with works much better on it than tested electric pumps
  • Although it’s designed to be a two-person kayak, it performs better with just one

Intex Challenger K2 Kayak

This next item is the two-person version of the Intex Challenger described at the beginning of this list. It is an 11ft bright, green kayak that provides the same amount of fun and quality as it’s model sibling but this time, for two instead of one.

Intex Challenger K2 Kayak

Features

The K2 is made of the well-known Intex rugged, Supper-Tough vinyl; this material is not only puncture-resistant but it also offers long-term durability so you can rest assured that you’ll be buying an inflatable kayak that will accompany you for years.

This model comes with two, 86-inch aluminum paddles and a high-output pump that can inflate and deflate the kayak easily. Moreover, the colorful design lets it stand out on the water for safety reasons.

The kayak brings a cargo net at the front, and both seats are adjustable and removable. It also brings a removable skeg that can be attached to the bottom, and grab lines on both ends of the deck.

Lastly, it comes with its own repair kit.

Best For

Those who like to take their time exploring calm waters such as mirror-lakes or easy rivers. A great option for fishing as it provides enough space and a gear net that let you bring along what you need to be on the water for a long time.

Pros & Cons

  • Gives the kayaker great control when paddling
  • It’s a sturdy, durable inflatable kayak
  • It can be folded into a small, portable size
  • It could be slightly tight for two people
  • Neither the air pump nor the carrying bag are high-quality items

NRS Pike Angler IK Fishing Kayak

The last inflatable kayak on our list is this 12.5ft fishing model that fits one person and has a sleek, dark-colored design. A portable and rough kayak, this Pike Angler IK will catch the attention of those who like their kayaks to be specially intended for fishing.

NRS Pike Angler IK Fishing Kayak

Features

This NRS kayak features 3 air chambers and A7 pressure relief valves. The material used is a sturdy, rugged PVC that holds up to harsh weather, and it comes with a removable/adjustable single seat.

At the front, it presents bungee lacing for gear and it also has 32 stainless steel D-rings. On the bottom, you can attach two removable skegs for improved tracking; it also has a stern compartment where you can save your bag.

The whole kayak fits in a nylon bag with shoulder straps that you can carry when hiking. Likewise, it features a high-pressure insert on the floor thus making it flat and rigid. The model is self-bailing and includes a repair kit as well.

Finally, because it’s been designed for fishing, it brings three accessory mounts for fish finders, camera booms, and rod holders.

Best For

Spending a solo day fishing on a lake or any other flat water. It can also perform great at calm rivers and is the best choice if you have a lot of gear you want to take with you to the water

Pros & Cons

  • It’s a very stable and comfortable model
  • The perfect inflatable kayak for fishing: all the necessary equipment has its own, pre-meditated space
  • Provides great maneuverability turning 180 degrees with one single paddle
  • It doesn’t track very well, even with the two removable skegs
  • Not the swiftest model. Similarly, it’s not very fast, either. Nevertheless, this is not a surprise as it is not intended to be

Best Inflatable Kayak Brands

While you can find a couple dozen companies that manufacture and sell different types and sizes of inflatable kayaks, not all of them are as pioneering and trustworthy as these:

1. Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle is a popular, inflatable brand that is characterized by their white-and-blue, high-quality kayaks. They sell both roll-up and foldup boats and have been manufacturing durable but light products since 1968.

Among their inflatable product range, you can find canoes, SUPs, boats, and outstanding fishing kayaks. They also offer “packages” which include extra accessories such as paddles and foot pumps

2. Intex

Intex is well known for their brightly colored and eye-catching inflatable kayak designs. However, they are a big company that manufactures all sorts of water products such as airbeds, pools, and even inflatable toys.

This brand sorts their boats and kayaks into two groups: a sports series recommended for everyone who’s interested in having fun on the water, and a more professional series that is manufactured to deliver supreme performance.

3. Advanced Elements

This is, without a doubt, one of the top inflatable equipment brands. Designed in California, all their kayaks and SUPs are innovative, comfortable, and reliable at the same time.

The quality of the materials they use is outstanding and their kayaks offer performance, speed, and technology, making them an excellent choice for both whitewater adventures and calm, fishing days. Check their website here.

4. Sevylor

Sevylor started out manufacturing rubber rafts back in 1948 and they have slowly become one of the top-rated inflatable kayak brands. Their products are all high-quality and extremely stable, making it a preferred choice for those who have recently entered the kayak world.

From Sevylor, you can purchase both kayaks and canoes, suitable for one, two or even three people.

Buying Guide – How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak

Selecting the one inflatable kayak that’s perfect for you will depend on a series of factors that you should consider before taking the final choice.

Because there are many elements of significance that need to be understood when purchasing a kayak, we have created this concise buying guide that can give you a hand in purchasing the best kayak according to your likes and needs.

Type of Kayak

This is, undoubtedly, the first and most important consideration of all: which kind of kayak are you looking for? On the market, you will easily find the following types to choose from:

  • Whitewater Kayaks: these models are self-bailing, meaning that they feature holes that let out the water when it goes into the cockpit. They normally lack the tracking fin.
  • Fishing Kayaks: these kayaks can vary in size although they are mostly round in the front and back, a feature that gives them stability. They also bring a lot of storage places and D-rings where you can secure your fishing equipment.
  • Sit-on-top Kayaks: these are characterized by their elevated seats and no enclosed cockpit. They’re also frequently used for fishing.
  • Canoe-Kayaks: these are very similar to normal canoes except for the fact that they are inflatable. They are entirely open and can be used in calm waters like lakes and bays.

Size

The size of the kayak is as vital as the design you are looking for. If you are a small person, a big kayak will make you feel insecure and unstable and the same happens with the opposite situation.

It’s important that you pick a kayak that’s neither too small nor too big for your body size and weight which is why you should check these attributes before buying.

Kayak’s Bottom

The bottom of the kayak determines its use. There are two types of inflatable bottoms you’ll have to choose from according to what you’ll be using the kayak for:

  • Flat bottom: these are most efficient in shallow waters and are well-known for their stability.
  • V-bottom: V-bottom these models perform well in fast waters and can gain much more speed. They are commonly whitewater kayaks.

Construction Material

The three main materials used to fabricate inflatable kayaks are:

  • PVC: the most common material used for more affordable kayaks. It is reinforced and very resistant.
  • Hypalon: this synthetic rubber will stand strong against weather, chemicals, and sunrays. Because of its quality, these kayaks are usually more expensive.
  • Nitrylon: a relatively new material, this is the only eco-friendly option among inflatable kayaks. It gets along well with cold weathers.

Equipment

This is an important factor for those who need to take a lot of gear when they go kayaking. If you are planning on fishing with your inflatable kayak, you’ll need to buy a model that can allow you to carry all your equipment with you. Gear laces on the sides of the deck, equipment nets, and D-rings are all options you can opt for when browsing for one.

Portability

You want your inflatable kayak to be both portable and lightweight. Some kayaks are far too heavy to be carried on your back when hiking, although others are high-tech items that turn into backpacks themselves.

If you usually get to the places where you paddle by car, weight is not as important then; however, you still want your inflatable kayak to bring a storage bag that will protect it from dirt, perforations, and sunrays.

Seats

Do you like to paddle or your own or do you prefer having company? How about a kayak that can give you both? Some models are designed for solo adventurers while others come with extra attachable seats in case you feel like inviting someone else to the trip.

Accessories

While the accessories an inflatable kayak comes with don’t foreshadow its quality, they can sometimes be useful if you still don’t own these indispensable items. Some these accessories can be:

  • Paddles
  • Air pump
  • Repair kit

Noteworthy Parts

Lastly, if you ensure that all the small parts that comprise an inflatable kayak are high-quality, you’ll know with certainty that you’re buying a great item. Keep an eye on these:

Air Chambers: the more air chambers it brings, the safer you are if one of them gets punctures as the rest will allow you to paddle back to the shore and repair the holes.

Valves: make sure that these don’t close loosely or important pieces, like your seat, could end up deflating at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type of Inflatable Kayak Should I get?

The ideal kayak for you depends on what you plan to use it for. If you are looking forward to an adventure in rapids or whitewater, it’s mandatory that you get a kayak especially designed for this environment.

Likewise, there are inflatable kayaks exclusively for fishing and touring so it’s a good idea to be clear about what kind of escapades you want your kayak to be able to offer you.

Do I Need a Self-Bailing Kayak?

If your ideal day in nature is to explore and have a break on calm waters, you do NOT need a self-bailing kayak. Nevertheless, if you are into more adventurous plans where you know your cockpit will get flooded, a self-bailing model is a must.

Is an Open-Deck Kayak Better Than a Closed-Deck One?

This is just a matter of preferences. Open-decks inflatable kayaks are usually designed like canoes while closed-deck ones allow you to have more control over how wet you get. Similarly, some models offer the possibility of having both.

Should I Get a Solo or a Tandem Kayak?

This will depend on whether you like to go into the water on your own or in the company of someone else. What’s wonderful is that most tandem inflatable kayaks allow you to remove the extra seat and adjust the remaining one to transform it into a solo model.

Can I Use Inflatable Kayaks for Fishing?

Absolutely! In fact, certain brands manufacture and sell kayaks specifically engineered for fishing.

While some people might think that all the fishing equipment could damage the kayak, the truth is that the technology used for fishing-oriented inflatable kayaks is splendid enough to endure most accidents.

How Can I Dry and Clean My Inflatable Kayak?

Inflatable kayaks need to be cleaned properly before putting them away; otherwise, the material could get damaged irreparably.

To clean your kayak, remove all its features first. After that, using a kayak cleaner and lukewarm water, give it a soft scrub to get rid of saltwater and sand. Lastly, wipe it all out with a clean cloth.

To dry your kayak, turn it upside down and leave it hanging overnight.

Conclusions

While all of the options mentioned on this list are high-quality inflatable kayaks, not all of them are perfect for everybody out there as each kayaker’s needs differ from one another and greatly depend on how they plan to use their newly acquired inflatable boat.

For the solo travelers, we’ve picked the Intex Challenger K1 as it offers excellent maneuverability and is made from a durable, puncture-resistant material that is durable and long-lasting.

However, the AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is a better choice if you like having company; this model can be transformed from a one-seat to a tandem kayak in no time. The aluminum ribs provide great tracking and it features 6 air chambers for extra safety.

If you love your hikes as much as you like paddling, the Sevylor Quickpak K5 will be your best companion: with its Turn-Into-Backpack system, you won’t need much more than your inflatable kayak and savory snacks for a fun time on the water.

Lastly, for those who want to be able to fish on their inflatable kayak, the NRS Pike Angler IK couldn’t be more perfect. It’s not only an incredibly rigid and stable model but its front bungee lacing, 3 attachment mounts, and 32 D-rings also provide enough room for all your fishing gear.

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