The 10 Best Inflatable Kayaks: Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

In recent years, the design and technology of inflatable kayaks has improved tremendously. While inflatable kayaks used to be more like toys, used for fun and flotation, today they offer the improved durability, handling, and speed that make them serious competitors to hardshell kayaks. In fact, today’s inflatables offer several important advantages over traditional hardshell kayaks. Let’s look at some of those advantages and we’ll list what we think are the best inflatable kayaks in 2020.

The Top Inflatable Kayaks In 2020

The Best Rated Inflatable Kayak Reviews

Inflatable kayaks are a fantastic option for someone looking to buy a kayak. There are a number of advantages of inflatables over their hardshell counterparts that we’ll cover at the end of this page, but below we’ve got some brief reviews of some of our favorites.

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak

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Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
  • Built-in aluminum ribs define the bow and stern and improve tracking
  • 3 layers of material for extreme puncture resistance
  • PreAssembled at the factory. Simply unfold, inflate and attach the seat
  • High support, adjustable padded seat provides comfort for hours of paddling
  • Looks and paddles similar to a rigid hard-shell kayak with the portability of an inflatable

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is a truly impressive hybrid kayak, with the best features of a hardshell combined with the convenience of an inflatable. The internal aluminum frame gives excellent rigidity and a streamlined shape that provides a sleek, efficient profile in the water. 

At an impressive 15 feet long and 550-pound weight capacity, it is spacious and comfortable even for tall adults, and the triple-layered hull provides excellent durability. The rip-stop fabric shell, welded seams, 6 air chambers, and pressure relief valve all speak to the high-quality construction, and the versatile seating configurations, back supports, paddle holders, and deck lacing make it useful for almost any purpose. 

The two drawbacks of the AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is that it weighs more than 50 pounds, making it more cumbersome to transport than most inflatables and it doesn’t come with any accessories but it more than makes up for that with incredible comfort, durability, and pleasure to use. 

Intex Explorer K2

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Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
  • COMFORTABLE FOR ANYONE: Kayak includes an adjustable inflatable seat with backrest; Cockpit designed for comfort and space
  • DIMENSIONS: Inflated size 10 feet 3 X 3 feet X 1 feet 8 Inch; Maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds
  • DIRECTIONAL STABILITY: Removable skeg for directional stability
  • INCREASED VISIBILITY: In case of emergency, bright yellow color helps visibility
  • MADE FOR SMALLER BODIES OF WATER: Explorer K2 is made for smaller bodies of water including lakes and mild rivers

The Intex Explorer K2 is rugged, comfortable, and incredibly easy to set up and use. It’s not the biggest kayak coming in at just over 10 foot but has a good 400 pound weight limit. It has 3 high-pressure air chambers along with an inflatable I-beam floor for excellent durability, rigidity, and handling. 

It’s everything you look for in an inflatable kayak, weighing in at just over 30 pounds and ample, comfortable space for 2 adults with some space left over for supplies and safety equipment.

The Intex Explorer K2, like most inflatable kayaks, it does sit a bit high in the water, which can make it a bit more subject to wind, but this incredible inflatable kayak is so durable, versatile, simple to use, and sheer fun for the whole family that it’s only a minor drawback. Sitting higher in the water can also be a positive as it makes it a lot more stable and less likely to sink!

Sea Eagle SE370

Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles
  • 3 person/650 lb capacity, weighs 32 lbs, suitable for up to Class III whitewater
  • 370 Deluxe Kayak Package features two movable, super comfortable Deluxe Kayak Seats for improved back support and 2 paddles, foot pump, and carry bag
  • 2 AB30 7'10"" 4 Part Paddles with asymmetrical blade and aluminum shaft
  • 2 skegs on the bottom for better tracking & speed
  • Open and close drain valve, 5 deluxe 1-way inflation/deflation valves

The Sea Eagle SE370 is an inflatable kayak that can hold 3 people or an incredible 650 pounds, and is even rated for up to Class III rapids. It has deluxe seats, 2 skegs, a drain hole, and everything you need to enjoy a white water excursion, in a comfortable kayak that weighs just 32 pounds. The welded seams, deluxe air valves, saltwater and UV resistant hull, and 3 air chambers make it incredibly durable and ready for any adventure. The fact that the Sea Eagle SE370 sits a bit high in the water is actually an advantage in whitewater conditions, and it’s a joy to handle. 

The Sea Eagle SE370 isn’t quite as versatile as some inflatables. The skegs aren’t removable, and it only has a single hull layer instead of three, but that’s a minor tradeoff since so few inflatables are actually designed and rated for white water. It’s a roomy, comfortable way to explore rivers and rougher waters that many inflatables can’t handle.

Driftsun Rover 220

Driftsun Rover 120/220 Inflatable Tandem White-Water Kayak with High Pressure Floor and EVA Padded...
  • Durable & Lightweight - Fully inflates to a full sized kayak in less than 10 minutes and weighs a manageable 28 Lbs. 1000D Reinforced Layered PVC side tubes, Heavy-duty PVC Tarpaulin bottom provides...
  • Stable & Maneuverable - Rigid High Pressure Drop Stitch Floor, Removable Flat Water Tracking Fin, and ample rocker profile deliver unmatched stability and control in rough and flat water
  • Adventure Ready - Whitewater Rating: Suitable up to class III and IV rapids, 8 Self Bailing Ports, Plentiful Tie Down Points for Gear and Front Action Camera Mount
  • Package Includes - (2) Adjustable EVA Padded Seats with High Back Support, (2) Adjustable Aluminum Kayak Paddles, Deluxe Double Action Hand Pump, Rear Tracking Fin, and Travel Bag
  • Kayak Specifications - Exterior: 12.5’(L) x 38”(W) x 13”(H) / Weight: 28 Lbs. / Capacity: 600 Lbs. 2 Adults + Child, Gear, or a Furry Friend / Inflation Time: 9 Mins. / Inflation Pressure: 3 PSI...

The Driftsun Rover 220 is one of the rare inflatable kayaks specifically designed for white water. It has a spacious cockpit that can hold 2 adults and up to an impressive 600 pounds. It’s rated for Class III and Class IV rapids, with layered PVC construction, a high-pressure drop stitch floor, corrosion-resistant hardware, 8 self-bailing ports, and a built-in front action camera mount. The spray skirts, bungee compartments, and EVA foam seats ensure your comfort, and the rocker profile and hull shape track well in still and in choppy waters. The Driftsun Rover 220 is a tandem inflatable kayak with everything you need to comfortably handle rough water in style and comfort. 

Intex Challenger K1

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
  • Nimble, durable kayak is made of durable welded material with eye catching graphics for added safety on the lake or slow moving river
  • Cockpit is designed for comfort and maximized space, and inflatable I beam floors add stability
  • Cargo net to store extra gear, and grab line on both ends of kayak; inflatable seat with backrest
  • Comes with 84 inch aluminum oar, repair patch and Hi output manual hand pump; Rugged vinyl construction
  • Measures 30 by 15 by 108 inches (W x H x D), with 27.2 pound weight and 220 pound maximum capacity

One of the cheapest inflatable kayaks on the market is the Intex Explorer K1, a great option for an inflatable kayak under $100. The Intex Challenger comes in two models: the K1 for solo kayaking, and the K2 for tandem kayaking. Both versions of the Challenger are made of rugged vinyl, with high quality Boston valves, and have an inflatable I-beam floor, for an inflatable kayak that is surprisingly durable and rugged. The comfortable inflatable seats, removable skeg, and inflatable footrests create a cockpit that is comfortable for hours of fun on the water. 

The Intex Challenger series is an affordable inflatable kayak that is surprisingly comfortable, durable, and a great ride for the price. And it’s also a great value because it comes with the paddles, pump, patch kit, and carrying case that make it a complete set right out of the box.

Sevylor Quikpak K1

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Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
  • 5-minute setup lets you spend more time on the water
  • Easy-to-carry backpack system turns into the seat
  • 21-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use
  • Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures
  • Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured

One of the cheapest inflatable kayaks on the market is the Intex Explorer K1, a great option for an inflatable kayak under $100. The Intex Challenger comes in two models: the K1 for solo kayaking, and the K2 for tandem kayaking. Both versions of the Challenger are made of rugged vinyl, with high quality Boston valves, and have an inflatable I-beam floor, for an inflatable kayak that is surprisingly durable and rugged. The comfortable inflatable seats, removable skeg, and inflatable footrests create a cockpit that is comfortable for hours of fun on the water. 

The Intex Challenger series is an affordable inflatable kayak that is surprisingly comfortable, durable, and a great ride for the price. And it’s also a great value because it comes with the paddles, pump, patch kit, and carrying case that make it a complete set right out of the box.

AIRHEAD Montana Kayak

AIRHEAD MONTANA Kayak, 1 person
  • 9-foot, 1-man inflatable kayak; designed for lakes and moderate white water
  • All 3 air chambers are completely enclosed by rugged 840-denier nylon with
  • Lightweight, compact, and portable
  • UV and water-resistant coatings. Low drag and superior tracking with 4 bottom fins
  • Refer to the PDF attached below for User Manual

Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak

Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak
  • Heavy-duty PVC construction is rugged for lake use
  • Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures
  • Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured
  • Airtight System is guaranteed not to leak
  • Boston Valve is double threaded for easy inflation/deflation

Intex Excursion Pro Inflatable Fishing Kayak

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Intex Excursion Pro Kayak, Professional Series Inflatable Fishing Kayak
  • Super tough laminate PVC with polyester core: light weight and highly resistant to damage from abrasion, impact and sunlight
  • High pressure inflation provides extra rigidity and stability, with high pressure spring loaded valves for easy inflation and fast deflation
  • Includes 2 removable skews for deep and shallow water, 2 floor mounted footrests, 2 integrated recessed fishing rod holders, 2 adjustable bucket seats
  • Removable and adjustable mounting bracket for additional accessories, such as GPS systems, fish finders, swivel fishing rod holders etc. Includes a carry bag and repair patch
  • Storage space in bow and Stern with stainless steel d rings for tying down Dry bags and gear; Kayak total weight capacity: 400 pounds

Advanced Elements Lagoon 1

Advanced Elements Lagoon 1 Person Inflatable Kayak
  • Single-person inflatable kayak for lakes, mild rivers, bays, and more
  • Built-in rigid panels on the bow and stern to improve tracking
  • Quick-inflating Twistlok and high-flow Spring valves for easy setup
  • Padded high-support seat; molded rubber-grip handles; bungee deck lacing
  • 250-pound weight capacity; measures 8 feet 4 inches long; 1-year

Inflatable Kayaks: A Buyer’s guide

When you’re considering buying an inflatable kayak you’ll need to think about a few things before you hit the buy button on Amazon. In this guide to buying an inflatable kayak, we’ll help you answer some of those questions and help you choose the right one for your needs.

Where will you use it?

There are a number of different types of inflatable kayaks, each with different features that make it suitable for different styles of kayaking.

White water kayaking

If you plan on using an inflatable kayak in white water conditions, here are a few things to look for: 

  • Rated for rapids – Inflatable kayaks that are rated for white water will be clearly labeled, and you should look for the rating.
  • Self-bailing – Some inflatable kayaks are self-bailing (they have a built-in water drainage hole), and some aren’t. For rough water, you will want a self-bailing kayak. 
  • Spray skirt – Some inflatable kayaks have a spray skirt that reduces the amount of water that enters the kayak in the form of spray or waves. If you use a kayak in rougher water, look for one with a spray skirt, especially if it doesn’t have self-bailing capabilities.

Ocean and Sea Kayaking

If you plan on using an inflatable kayak out on the open ocean, here are the features to look for:

  • Salt-water resistant – Salt water can damage any kayak over time, but many inflatable kayaks are made of materials that resist saltwater. Look for a durable vinyl that resists saltwater. 
  • Height in the water – It is often true that saltwater means wind. Some inflatable kayaks ride very high in the water and are subject to being blown quite a bit by the wind. If you plan on using your kayak in windy, beachy conditions, look for one that rides lower in the water. 

Lakes and rivers kayaking

Inflatable kayaks are ideal for use on flat water like lakes and calm rivers. They’re one of the most stable types of kayak due to being so buoyant. Some of the features you’ll need to look out for if you plan on using your kayak on rivers and lakes include:

  • Removable skeg – Many inflatable kayaks have a removable skeg that you can take off for use in rivers if the water is too shallow. This gives you better clearance below the hull and prevents losing or damaging the skeg if it impacts a rocky bottom. 
  • Durable hull materials – In shallow water, you have a greater risk of damage from punctures and abrasions from below. Look for a hull that is triple-layered, for extra protection so you don’t get a leak.

Who Will Be Using The Inflatable Kayak? 

Choosing the right inflatable kayak often depends on considering who will be using it and what they need to be comfortable.

Big and tall adults

Inflatable kayaks are designed for portability and fast inflation, which can often mean they are on the small side. Big and tall adults should look for:

  • Width and legroom – Tall people should give themselves plenty of legroom because cramped conditions can get uncomfortable in a short time. Keep in mind that inflatable kayaks usually have much thicker walls than hardshell kayaks, so they are often narrower to sit in, and wide adults may need more width in an inflatable.
  • Overall weight capacity rating – Overloading an inflatable kayak can impair the safety and durability of it. Remember that the overall weight rating doesn’t include just passengers: it’s for passengers and all their gear and cargo. Look for an inflatable kayak with a realistic weight rating for your needs.

Pets and kids

Inflatable kayaks are a great option for kids and to use with pets. They’re super easy to use and very buoyant and safe. That being said there are a few things to keep in mind to best protect kids and pets. 

  • Durable floor – Dog claws, in particular, may damage or abrade the inside of an inflatable kayak. Look for a kayak with rugged materials that can withstand this kind of scratching. 
  • Overall stability – Most inflatables are extremely stable, but kids and pets can sometimes be unpredictable. Look for a kayak that is low in the water and doesn’t tip easily.

Important features for inflatables

These days most inflatable kayaks will be made using quality materials and have all the necessary accessories as standard but we’ll cover some of the features that are key and what to look out for.

Materials

Most inflatable kayaks are made of durable PVC vinyl, and the gauge of vinyl is usually listed. The higher the gauge, the thicker the vinyl. The biggest difference in hull materials is whether the kayak has a single-layer, double-layer, or triple-layered construction. A single layer or double layer is usually simply made of vinyl, while triple layers usually mean that there is some form of polyester or rigid material sandwiched between two layers of vinyl. 

The more layers, the heavier the inflatable kayak is, but, the more it resists punctures and abrasions. If you plan on using your inflatable on rapids and whitewater then you’ll want to get one with mulitple layers. More layers also usually give the kayak more rigidity, for better handling in the water. Finally, many inflatable kayaks also have an outer fabric layer that provides additional protection and may form a spray skirt. 

Weight and capacity

While inflatables are always lighter than hardshell kayaks and easier to handle out of the water, you should always avoid dragging them or letting them rub on the bottom of a river. Particularly if you are a solo kayaker, consider how much weight you are comfortable handling and how far you will need to transport the kayak once it’s inflated. 

Because they’re generally very buoyant you can often carry more weight in an inflatable kayak than in a hardshell kayak. But, even so, if you plan on taking multiple adults and lots of gear on a paddling trip make sure that you check your kayak can support the weight before you set off.

Skegs

Skegs are small rudders that you can attach to the rear of your kayak to help with tracking when you’re in the water. Many inflatable kayaks have removable skegs or interchangeable ones for different types of water. Generally speaking, you always want a skeg because it improves speed and tracking and helps you paddle a kayak more efficiently. A removable skeg is a great option for shallow water, and for convenience in packing and storing your inflatable. However, some removable skegs are easy to lose, if an impact dislodges them from the bottom of the kayak.

Air chambers

Multiple air chambers are incredibly important. Not only do multiple air chambers protect you, by helping an inflatable kayak remain buoyant on the water in the case of a leak or puncture, but they also improve the overall hull shape of an inflatable kayak. 

Over time, improper inflation may cause some air chambers to distort or lose their shape, and multiple air chambers reduce the impact of this distortion and prolong the life of an inflatable. It may seem like more air chambers adds more complexity to the initial setup and inflation of the kayak, but they are an excellent feature to have and don’t really slow down initial inflation very much. 

Overall height in the water

If you are using an inflatable kayak for fun paddling around lakes and ponds, then the overall height isn’t really a problem and may make it more fun. However, the higher the kayak is in the water, the longer your paddles should be for comfort. And height in the water can reduce the streamlined shape, and ability of a kayak to move sleekly through the water rather than bobbing on top of it. High inflatables are more subject to the wind, which can cause paddlers to have to use more effort in steering and controlling an inflatable. 

Conclusion

So to sum up, if you’re looking for the top inflatable kayak for your next trip, we’d highly recommend the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak. The combination of its high-quality materials, great-looking design and handling in the water make it a no brainer.

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