Get Paddling: The Best Inflatable Kayaks In 2022


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Some of the best inflatable kayaks incorporate modern technology into their designs, giving traditional hardshell kayaks a run for their money. And while they may not cut through whitewater with the dexterity of a hardshell, their portability, ease of use, versatility, and affordability set them apart from other watercraft. These options are excellent for those with limited storage space who still want to hit the water.

In this guide, we’ve outlined some of the toughest inflatable kayaks. Most feature adjustable seats. We made sure to include only durable and stable kayaks that track well in the water and stay on course in the wind.

Best choice: Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak

  • Two-person designintex explorer k2 inflatable kayak
  • Inflatable I-beam floor
  • Vinyl material
  • Holds up to 400lbs

Pros

  • Tough and stable with a high weight capacity
  • Puncture-resistant material
  • Easy inflation and deflation

Cons

  • Hefty build
  • Warranty doesn’t cover the air pump

The Intex Explorer K2 is a two-person inflatable kayak with a design that prioritizes comfort and security, without compromising control and maneuverability. It features a heavy-duty, puncture-resistant vinyl exterior, and an inflatable I-beam floor that improves stability on the water. With three separate air chambers, one minor puncture isn’t going to sink you. The adjustable seats can accommodate practically anyone, although people with long legs might find this boat a little cramped.

Some customers have complained about the “weak construction” of the boat –- apparently, some people’s kayaks either come with holes that quickly lead to leaks, or their kayaks develop holes in storage or shallow water.

Bear in mind that the maximum capacity of the Intex Explorer K2 is 400lbs, so be careful when loading it up. The product is on the hefty side and won’t be the easiest to transport. However, it does collapse down small enough to fit in practically any truck.

See Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak on Amazon

Most stable: Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak Series

  • Accommodates one personintex challenger inflatable kayak series
  • I-beam floor
  • Cargo net
  • 220lbs maximum capacity

Pros

  • Decent storage capacity
  • Nimble operation
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Holds less weight than some larger boats

The Intex Challenger Kayak Series is the right choice for Intex fans who prefer to kayak solo. The Challenger is incredibly agile, but stable too. Durability is another selling point. Besides the regular puncture-resistant vinyl, sturdy, welded aluminum material is incorporated into the build.

This kayak comes with two air chambers and an inflatable I-beam floor to provide optimal water stability. Its 220lbs weight capacity is much smaller than the Explorer K2, but it makes up for this reduction with a more compact build. It weighs 23.9lbs, so it’s a little easier to carry around than its two-person counterpart.

See Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak Series on Amazon

See Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak Series on Walmart

Best for big outings: Intex Excursion Pro Inflatable Kayak

  • PVC materialintex excursion pro inflatable kayak
  • Two removable skegs
  • High-pressure, spring-loaded valves
  • Comes with an accessory bracket, carry bag, and repair kit
  • Max. weight capacity 400lbs

Pros

  • Very tough, durable kayak that’s stable in water
  • Easy to inflate and deflate
  • Optimal weight capacity

Cons

  • Limited valve interface
  • Small storage space

The Intex Excursion Pro opts for a laminate PVC material with a polyester core. This means a heavier boat, with the kayak clocking in at 39.01lbs. However, it’s much more durable than the previous two Intex boats and has a load-bearing capacity of 400lbs.

Other exciting features include a removable skeg on either side of the boat that improves paddling, depending on the water’s depth. For anglers, the Excursion Pro comes with adjustable mounting brackets for fishing rod holders and GPS systems. The bow and stern include dedicated storage spaces, while stainless steel D-rings help you secure your gear and dry bags. However, customers have pointed out that these storage spaces are very small. So, if you have long fishing rods or heavy gear, you might find it hard to bring them along. Customers have also criticized the valve interface. As they explained, the valve only works with the pump that comes with the set. So, if you lose your pump, it becomes difficult to inflate the kayak.

See Intex Excursion Pro Inflatable Kayak on Amazon

See Intex Excursion Pro Inflatable Kayak on Walmart

Best for fishing: Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak

  • 18-gauge PVC constructionsevylor coleman colorado 2 person fishing inflatable kayak
  • 1000D tarpaulin bottom
  • Airtight system
  • Paddle holders
  • 450lbs weight capacity

Pros

  • Ultra-durable and stable construction
  • Multiple leak-protection features
  • Accessories for fishing
  • Great weight capacity, perfect for family fishing adventures

Cons

  • Heavy, so it can be tricky to transport
  • Minuscule storage space

Buoyancy is Coleman’s primary selling point and they threw in several features to keep you afloat. There is the rugged, 18-gauge PVC material, a 1000D tarpaulin bottom, and an 840D nylon cover. This two-person kayak also comes with an Airtight System designed to prevent leaks. If you run into underwater rocks, it includes multiple air chambers to keep you afloat. The Coleman Colorado weighs a hefty 40.5lbs, which could present storage and transportation issues for some families.

The kayak comes with Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders and trolling motor fittings. The motor fittings are stacked into the kayak for quiet operation without alerting the fish. The kayak uses the famous Boston Valve for quick inflation. Lastly, mesh storage pockets will help you store extra gear.

See Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Inflatable Kayak on Amazon

See Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Inflatable Kayak on Walmart

Best for still water: Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Inflatable Kayak

  • 21-gauge PVC constructionsevylor quikpak k1 1 person inflatable kayak
  • Double-lock valves
  • Multi-position footrest
  • Easy-to-carry backpack
  • 400lbs weight limit

Pros

  • Tough and stable
  • Easy, quick setup
  • Optimal storage

Cons

  • For flat water only
  • We suggest ordering a new paddle because this one is too small

This single-person kayak fits into an easy-to-carry bag for storage and transport. Using a double-lock valve system, you can set it up in less than five minutes. The Quikpak is comfortable too, it comes with a backrest and a multi-position footrest.

It features 21-gauge PVC material, a tarpaulin bottom, and multiple air chambers to protect you from punctures. The Quikpak is only suitable for calm lakes and flatwater paddling.

See Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Inflatable Kayak on Amazon

See Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Inflatable Kayak on Walmart

Most lightweight: ADVANCED ELEMENTS Ultralite Inflatable Kayak

  • Aluminum ribs in bow and sternadvanced elements ultralite inflatable kayak
  • One-person capacity
  • Weighs 17lbs
  • Includes a carry duffel bag and repair kit
  • Max. weight load 225lbs

Pros

  • Very light, super-easy to transport
  • Sturdy and stable
  • Puncture-resistant

Cons

  • Minimal storage space
  • Relatively low weight capacity

The Ultralite Inflatable Kayak is a simple, elegant boat. This one-person folding frame kayak weighs just 17lbs, lighter than any portable kayak we’ve reviewed so far. The compact structure also means you won’t need a roof rack to transport it, it can easily fit into your trunk. Despite its light frame, it is quite durable. There are three layers of material to ensure optimal puncture resistance and aluminum ribs help define the bow and stern for optimal movement on the water.

However, the compact design makes for minimal storage space onboard and relatively little legroom. Designed to perform similarly to hard shell kayaks, this one-person vessel is stable and tracks well in the water.

See ADVANCED ELEMENTS Ultralite Inflatable Kayak on Amazon

Premium choice: Aquaglide McKenzie 105 Inflatable Kayak

  • EvoBeam technologyaquaglide mckenzie 105 inflatable kayak
  • Duratex material
  • Halkey-Roberts type valve
  • One-person capacity
  • 500lbs weight limit

Pros

  • Great weight capacity, safe even when loaded with cargo
  • Stable, with good maneuverability
  • Comfortable Velcro seat

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a pump

The McKenzie 105 focuses on preventing water entry and minimizing damage if it does happen. It is made using a Duratex material that prevents water from getting in, while the EvoBeam technology and four mesh drains help improve water evacuation. It can hold as many as 300lbs and features a Velcro seat that is quite comfortable. Another delightful break from the norm is the Halkey-Roberts type valve, which Aquaglide claim is super-easy to inflate and deflate.

This boat is attractive, custom-made for water sports, and suitable for rapid waters and touring. You’ll have to purchase the paddles and hand pump separately though, which may be a deal-breaker for some, considering it’s already quite pricey.

See Aquaglide McKenzie 105 Inflatable Kayak on Amazon

Why trust us

I’ve spent my fair share of time in a kayak exploring rivers and lakes across Texas and Florida.

Who this is for

This guide is for folks looking for durable top-rated inflatable kayaks. Whether you want an inflatable option for portability and flexibility, or to save space, we’ve got plenty of options whether you’re paddling solo or headed out in a tandem kayak. Most of these are great for novice to intermediate paddlers too.

How we picked

First, we read hundreds of inflatable kayak reviews. Then, we consulted paddlers. We rounded it out by critically assessing technical specifications.

senior male kayaker in the inflatable kayak

Features to look for in inflatable kayaks

Materials

An inflatable kayak should have the right stuff to prevent punctures and tears. The quality of materials can vary greatly. The baseline objective should be to find one that’s strong enough to keep abrasions and leaks at bay, yet svelte enough to manage with ease. The most durable inflatable kayak will have multiple air chambers and an I-beam for support.

Variability

Some inflatable kayaks boast speed. Others offer superior stability, excellent for fishing, long trips, canoeing, and playing in the surf. You want a kayak that can accommodate your objectives on the water. If you’re a fan of recreational paddling while on camping trips, you might want a stable boat but don’t need the fastest inflatable kayak or anything too fancy. You’ll want to opt for something with portability and an easy-to-carry storage bag that doesn’t take up too much room among your camping gear. Alternatively, if you’re looking at day trips for whitewater paddling, you’ll want to prioritize speed and durability.

Portability

While all inflatable kayaks are portable, some are more portable than others. Look for a kayak that you can carry on your own, is easy to fold, fits in the trunk of your car, and takes up minimal storage space. Carry handles on the bag and boat are also a must.

Durability

The perfect inflatable kayak should be sturdy enough to withstand colliding with and scraping against rocks and other abrasive objects. You will run into rocks, trees, stumps, and other debris and your boat should be prepared for it.

Ease of setup

You don’t want to spend hours setting up your kayak.

Weight capacity

When looking at a one-person or inflatable tandem kayak, weight capacity might be a primary consideration. You’ll need to consider the weight of the passengers and your additional stuff like fishing gear, snacks, or safety equipment.

Seat capacity

If you prefer to paddle solo, then a single-person kayak is the way to go. If you think you might want to take a friend, then a tandem is the right choice.

Accessories

Accessories are always handy but don’t get distracted by them. A pump, a bag, and some paddles should be all you need to get going. Don’t forget your dry bag, though.

Handling

If you’re a newer kayaker, a boat that is easy to handle and steer is a must-have.

Waterproofness

Your boat should be 100% waterproof.

Paddle vs. Pedal

Pedaling is great, but that’s very uncommon to find with inflatable kayaks.

girl is kayaking on an inflatable kayak

Inflatable kayak FAQ

Q: Are inflatable kayaks durable?

Inflatable kayaks come with special modifications to ensure durability. Some of them have welded aluminum and PVC materials in their sterns and bows, which give them some protection from rough surfaces.

Q: Are they stable and safe?

Inflatable kayaks are safe and often even more stable than hard-shell kayaks. The kayaks in our list feature reinforced PVC materials that are puncture-resistant and long-lasting. However, keep in mind that you will not get the same protection from the elements as you would in a hardshell and these boats often lack some dexterity and speed. On the plus side, they’re convenient and portable.

Q: Are inflatable kayaks good for fishing?

It depends on the model of kayak, but there are plenty of options that are suitable for fishing. While they don’t offer swivel seats, trolling motor mounts, or other angler-specific attributes, they are an affordable and convenient alternative to expensive fishing boats. Removable skegs and fishing rod holders are often found on a fishing kayak.

Q: How long do inflatable kayaks last?

There’s no simple answer to this. Inflatable kayaks come with varying levels of durability, although, with proper use, the average kayak should last for years. As long as you’re not overloading your kayak and are careful not to constantly bump into sharp rocks, you should be good for a few years.

Q: How do you fold an inflatable kayak?

Each kayak will have an ideal folding method specific to its bag and features, so make sure you consult your manual. It may take a while to learn the quickest and easiest way to fold your kayak, but once you’ve done it a few times, you won’t need instructions.

Q: What is the best way to store an inflatable kayak?

When storing your inflatable kayak, ensure you’ve cleaned most of the dirt, mud, and water off. Some time in the sun is great if you have time too. Once dry and clear of debris, fold your boat to fit inside its bag (according to your kayak’s specific instructions) and store it in a relatively temperature-stable indoor area.

Q: Are inflatable kayaks safe for use on the sea?

Yes, provided you have some paddling skills and experience. Be sure to know your location and have good water navigation skills.

Q: Can I go kayak camping using an air kayak?

Sure! Just make sure your boat has space and weight capacity for all your gear and that you have a plan should something happen to your boat. A repair kit is a must.

Q: What are Inflatable kayaks made of?

Inflatable kayak materials vary but usually, they are a blend of vinyl, aluminum, PVC, and mesh. They’re made from waterproof, tough, and durable materials that can cope with water, cargo, and encounters with snags and rocks.

Sources:

  1. Can You Fish In An Inflatable Kayak? –  Paddling Away
  2. Kayak – Wikipedia

Tuesday Kirby Kahl

Tuesday Kirby Kahl is a native Texan now residing in Portland, OR. In addition to her work as a writer, she’s a competitive climbing coach for youth and adult athletes. When she’s not working, you’ll find her rock climbing, exploring, skiing, and paddle boarding all over the Cascades. When at home, she’s usually tending to her collection or houseplants or painting with a cup of tea in hand.