The Top 5 Inflatable Kayaks Reviewed
Inflatable kayaks might not as ubiquitous as their hard-shelled counterparts, but they are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to the fact that they can be easily transported from one location to another. Deflated, most inflatable kayaks will fit into a standard car trunk, negating the need to buy an expensive roof rack or hire a van.
It’s not all good news, of course. Inflatable kayaks don’t have the same performance as hard-shelled alternatives, and they may not be as suitable for extreme conditions. But with improvements in design in recent years, these are becoming less of an issue for many kayak users. In this review, we’re going to take an in-depth look at some of the top inflatable kayaks that are already out there on the market and find out which are the best for your particular situation.
For those of you in a hurry, our choice for the Best Inflatable Kayak is the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak.
Best Inflatable Kayaks
When Advanced Elements were designing their AdvancedFrame kayak, they appear to have had steering and control in mind. The company knows that one of the main barriers that people have to buying inflatable kayaks is the fact that they don’t have great tracking. The company, therefore, set out looking for ways to improve this. They discovered that if you put aluminum ribs in the hull of the kayak, you could enhance stiffness without compromising on portability.
To their credit, the kayak is a roaring success. Not only can it withstand harsh conditions, but unlike many inflatable kayaks, it can hold its shape in the water, reducing the effort required to paddle.
To avoid leaks, Advanced Elements built the Advanced Frame kayak with heavy hulls. And while this prevents leaks overall, it can make the kayak bulky – bulkier than you might want for something that is supposed to be portable and inflatable.
The downsides with this kayak – as with any inflatable (even inflatable paddle boards) – is the fact that it can be prone to leaks. Advanced Element has done a great job of reinforcing the parts of the hull that are most likely to be affected by rock strikes, but despite their efforts, there is a risk that your kayak will still need patching. Although you are unlikely to breach the air chamber in regular use, you may scuff the bottom of the boat and need to make patch repairs yourself.
So who is this kayak for? Advanced Elements is targeting the market of people out there who would like to go kayaking regularly, but are not particularly concerned about the performance of their boat. This is not for competitive kayakers, but it’s by far good enough for everybody else.
- 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
Sea Eagle is targeting the couples market with the SE370. This two or three-person kayak has a striking design and solid seats with backs. But whether it is genuinely a kayak remains a matter of contention. Yes, it might have a similar shape, but the length, seating for two, and the high center of gravity make the SE370 feel more like a canoe. It’s important to note from the outset that this boat doesn’t handle like a typical kayak. Thanks to the inflatable nature of the vessel, it feels very different to practically any kayak you might have taken out in the past. Fast and maneuverable this is not.
Let’s start with some of the positives. Thanks to its length and generous mid-section, there is plenty of storage for cargo. Sea Eagle includes space between the front and back seats either for an extra person or gear (like spincast reels if you happen to be going fishing, for instance).
The boat also comes with two skegs which the company claims improve tracking. It has to be said that the skegs do not add much weight, despite this being an unusually large kayak by the standards of others in this review.
On the downside, though, the SE370 does have a high center of gravity – not something that you want in a boat that is prone to capsizing, and especially something you don’t want if you’re taking the boat out to water with lots of expensive equipment on board. Capsizing is a real possibility with the Sea Eagle, so both you and your partner will need to be careful when shifting your weight from one side of the boat to the other.
Added to this are occasional quality control issues too. Although we didn’t experience this, some customers have had their boats arrive with holes in the inflatable section. Ouch.
- 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
When Sevylor was designing the Quikpak K5, it’s clear that they had convenience in mind. The company wanted people to enjoy the benefits of being able to get out on the water straight away, without having to spend lots of time setting up their inflatable kayak. After all, for inflatable kayaks to work as a concept, they need to be more convenient than traditional, hard-shelled kayaks overall.
So does the Quickpak K5 succeed? Granted, set up is easy. Inflation takes around 5 minutes, and once the kayak is inflated, it’s ready to go.
What’s more, the Quickpak K5 is a true kayak shape and performs like one. No, it’s not quite as responsive in harsh conditions, but for the majority of kayak users, the handling is tolerable.
What about storage space? As a single-person kayak, the Quikpak K5 doesn’t have a tremendous amount of space. However, it does have storage capacity for a tent, cooking equipment, a rucksack for clothes, extra life jackets, and other materials you may need to take with you if you’re planning on camping. So long as you pack sensibly, the kayak should provide enough space for all your needs.
Overall the Sevylor is a good single-person kayak, but it lacks some of the robustness seen on other models. The separate air chambers are a good idea and will keep you afloat if you get a puncture, but if one fails, it will ruin the handling.
- 5-minute setup lets you spend more time on the water
- Easy-to-carry backpack system turns into the seat
- 24-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use
- Tarpaulin bottom and polyester cover provide durable protection from punctures
- Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured
Intex markets the Explorer K2 as an intermediate rig designed for use on freshwater; not rapids, and certainly not open sea. In the kayak world, Intex is the Cadillac of brands, known for the smooth performance and straight line control of its vehicles.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the kayak is the way it looks. If bright yellow is your thing, then you’ll love the Explorer K2. The K2 is also much more affordable than the kayaks that we’ve investigated so far, coming in at around a third of the price.
Like the Sea Eagle, the K2 is designed for more than one occupant. And thanks to its wide berth and removable skeg, Intex’s offering feels much more like a kayak than a canoe in all but name. There’s plenty of space for transporting supplies with enough space for a bilge pump, extra paddles, snacks, full face snorkels, binoculars, cameras and any other equipment you might need while out on a lake.
There is, of course, still a good chance of capsizing with the K2, but it doesn’t feel as temperamental as the Sea Eagle. And thanks to the price, it is undoubtedly an attractive offering.
With all their experience in the kayaking world, you’d also expect products from Intex to be more durable than those elsewhere on the market. And that’s precisely what we’ve found during our testing. The Explorer K2 performs admirably and doesn’t seem to suffer from the same reliability issues as many of the more expensive kayaks in this review. Yes, if you scuff it hard on a sharp rock, you might end up having to make repairs, but the overall strength of the material makes this less likely.
- 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
When Intex was designing the Challenger K1, it’s clear that they wanted to appeal to people just dabbling their toes in the kayak market. The Intex Challenger K1 is a highly affordable, entry-level kayak with enough space for a single occupant and aluminum oars. It’s built around the needs of new kayak users, making it ideal for people making their first foray into the water.
Starting with the positives, the kayak has excellent stability. The rounded berth is forgiving, and the included skegs make this boat one of the most maneuverable in this test. The price tag makes it a heck of a good deal, which helps to distract attention from some of the negatives. Intex provides everything you need with the Challenger K1 to get started, so you can immediately go out on the water and have fun. What’s more, the Kayak folds away small, meaning that you can get two or three of these in the back of a standard car – great for a family adventure.
Are there any downsides? One complaint that we have is that the paddle is surprisingly flimsy. Sure, we’re not paying a premium price here, but a flimsy paddle means more energy expended while rowing. And the second complaint is that once you’ve finished, it can be a hassle to dry it off.
With that said, it’s hard to argue with this product when you consider the price – a great all-rounder for people who are new to the sport.
- 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
How To Get Back Into An Inflatable Kayak
It is pretty hard to flip over an inflatable kayak as they are very stable. In case you do end up flipping one over, here is a video showing how to get back into it:
Given that you may dump your kayak at some point, and will almost definitely get your feet wet when you put it into the water, be sure to pick up the best men’s aqua shoes for your outing. Having the right equipment can make all the difference between a miserable and enjoyable day in your kayak.