So you’re looking for a kayak and perhaps you’re on the fence about it. Not sure whether to go solid frame or inflatable kayak, you’re here for more information. Maybe you’re planning on buying a solid kayak, but a pique in curiosity brings your attention to inflatable models. Jump right in to the Definitive Inflatable Kayak Buyer’s Guide. It’ll clear up any questions or doubts you may have. After the guide convinces you of their value, check out 5 of the best inflatable kayak reviews. Chances are 1 of these models will be the inflatable kayak that gets you out and on top of the water.
|Intex Challenger K1||Best Low Cost Inflatable Kayak||$||95|
|Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame||Sturdiest Sit Inside Inflatable Kayak||$$$$||96|
|Airhead AHTK-1 Montana Performance||Best Value Inflatable Kayak||$$$||95|
|NRS Pike Angler IK||Best Inflatable Kayak For Fishing||$$$$$||99|
|Sevylor Quikpak K1||Most Portable Inflatable Kayak||$$||89|
Inflatable Kayak Reviews: 5 Exceptional Models Up Close!
(Click for Price)
An inflatable kayak for those working on a thinner budget but who still have the determination to get on the water. Take a look at the Intex Challenger K1. It has its limitations, but the Challenger K1 is a solid starter inflatable kayak that comes with huge savings. Jump right in and see what value this buoyant vessel holds.
The Intex Challenger K1 is a sit on top, flat bottom inflatable kayak. It uses 30 gauge vinyl for its outside covering, a sturdy material that can handle the scrapes from rocks and boulders. At full inflation the Challenger K1 is 108” x 30” x 13”. It comes with a high output hand pump, two 84” aluminum oars, storage cargo net, and repair kit.
Discover the feel of open water in an inflatable kayak for the first time without making a major investment. The Challenger K1 is perfect for lakes and calm water. Bring a few items for a lunch time break using the cargo net while you sit in comfort on an inflatable seat. Tracking is an issue on such a lightweight kayak, so use the detachable skeg. Altogether the Challenger weighs about 30 pounds in its carry case and fits perfectly in a car or truck bed.
The most disappointing feedback comes from the few unhappy users who experience a breakdown in manufacturing. Most common reports are of the seams not holding together after a single use. Take advantage of the warranty immediately if this happens to you. A max weight capacity of 220 pounds may not be adequate for your needs and it doesn’t have great stability. Keep to lakes and calm running rivers in case you do tip over.
Finally, price reflects the vinyl material that the Challenger K1 inflatable kayak uses. Notice that vinyl isn’t even on the list of materials in the guide. 30 gauge vinyl isn’t weak, but it’s not a preferred material in quality inflatable kayaks. The sacrifice will show in durability.
(Click for Price)
The majority of inflatable kayaks are sit on top models, and with good reason. Designing a quality sit inside kayak that inflates is a tougher task. Advanced Elements takes up the challenge and pulls a 1st place victory in their AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak. They do so with a design that folds after deflation and uses aluminum ribs for support. Take a closer look at the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame sit inside inflatable kayak.
Advanced Elements take the properties of a rigid hard shell kayak and puts them into an inflatable design. There’s no simpler way to describe the AdvancedFrame kayak. Sitting inside this 10’5” long floating wonder, you’ll feel the security to go places you’d never take a typical inflatable kayak. It’s the Tarpaulin bottom and the 3 layers of PVC material that offers such a sense of protection. Not to mention the fact that the AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak uses 7 different air chambers.
Complete contents of the AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak include a carry bag, skeg, repair kit, and owner’s manual. Note that paddle and pump do not come with the deal. The kayak is 10’5” long by 32” wide when fully inflated, and breaks down to 30” x 17” x 13” inside the carry bag. A maximum weight capacity of 300 pounds means you’ll use the bungee storage on the outside of the AdvancedFrame kayak.
Easily transport the AdvancedFrame kayak that weighs only 36 pounds. Setting it up is simple too, as assembly occurs at the factory. Just unfold the kayak, inflate it, and it’s ready for use. Both bow and stern of the inflatable model use aluminum ribs for support, and material strength is top notch. There’s more than a handful of other features that drive the value up. Examples are storage compartments, molded rubber handles, detachable skeg, D-ring tie downs, and much more.
There are reports of sagging in the middle over time which brings more water over the top deck. Water may also leak through the top deck when this happens. It’s not completely waterproof like the sides and bottom. Specifications claim that inflation psi must be spot on, less damage occur to the kayak. This presents problems on particularly hot or cold days that have an effect on the air pressure. Other cons of the AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak are user space and price. It gets a bit snug for anyone over 5’7” tall and the kayak isn’t on the cheap side. Especially considering there’s extra components you’ll have to purchase.
(Click for Price)
Draw your attention to a sit on top model that combines an affordable price with quality craftsmanship, durability, and superior performance. All the qualities that make a top value product. Introducing the Airhead AHTK-1 Montana Performance Inflatable Kayak. Waste no time checking out the particulars of this top value vessel.
The 9′ 9”, 1 man inflatable AHTK-1 kayak takes the concept of a cheaper model like the Intex Challenger and makes some big improvements. It’s a bigger kayak for one thing with a weight capacity of 300 pounds. Offering a more stable platform, the AHTK-1 will handle in moderate white water or light wind chop on a lake. Material makeup uses 840 Denier Nylon, a very durable form of PVC, while 3 air bladders keep you afloat.
Quite possibly the best 1 person inflatable kayak for the price, that alone stands out as the number 1 benefit. The AHTK-1 Montana Performance inflatable kayak has all the elements that define quality, plus a number of other features. These show in examples like its high visibility orange safety color, I-beam floor, and threaded drain hole. Portability is a plus with a total weight of 27.7 pounds and it comes with handles for easy movement.
There’s not much negative feedback on the Airhead AHTK-1 inflatable kayak, though a few concerns do come forth. First and foremost is the tracking and it applies to most inflatable kayaks. User reports say it’s tough to keep the kayak moving in a straight line on still water. Dry time is another complaint some users have with this model along with its lack of a carry bag. Inflation and deflation of the Airhead AHTK-1 inflatable kayak is fast, but you’ll have to purchase the pump and carry bag separately.
(Click for Price)
Fishermen take heed! NRS makes it possible to reach those untouched destinations without the issues of a hard shell kayak. Zone in on the Pike Angler IK, an inflatable kayak that specializes in comfort and capability while fishing. This beauty has the size for all the gear you’ll need, not to mention the mounts and accessories vital to a fishing kayak.
Space is often an issue when it comes to fishing kayaks. Not so with the Pike Angler IK. At 12 foot 8 inches in length, you fish from a long sturdy platform. Length is not the Pike Angler IK’s only size advantage. It has an outside width of 39 inches making it very stable. Inside, there’s 17 inches of space from wall to wall. Leg room is plentiful no matter where you adjust the comfortable inflatable seat, and the aft offers enough space for your tackle crate.
As inflatable kayaks go, the Pike Angler IK is a fisherman’s dream come true. With three different Scotty mounts already in place, you have the option for rod holders, fish finder, or even a downrigger. High quality Leafield C7 valves manage the air in three separate bladders, and durable PVC material protects them from puncture. Two handles make the inflatable kayak easy to carry when inflated. The complete package includes a carry bag, 2 skegs for straighter tracking, and a 3 year warranty. Note that the NRS air pump sells separately.
As far as portability goes in inflatable kayaks, the Pike Angler IK is one of the heaviest to handle. It does give you the carry bag, but it rolls up at a weight of 46 pounds. That’s about it as far as drawbacks go, except for the price tag. Remember you get what you pay for in an inflatable kayak. If money is not a concern and safety is, the Pike Angler IK provides what you need. Even outside the activity of fishing.
(Click for Price)
Two straps hang over your shoulders like a backpack as you hike in and out this 18 pound inflatable kayak. Welcome to the Sevylor Quikpak K1 inflatable kayak, a modern wonder in portability. Fully self contained, the Quikpak K1 includes pump and collapsible paddle. Everything you need to set up and slide above the water.
Though the Quikpak 1 is light, it uses strong PVC for durability. It’s also not terribly small. Fully inflated, you’ll find it stretches 8′ 7” in length and is 3 feet wide. Storage is limited in the back but better up front, making use of bungee tie downs. The seat includes a backrest and the inside design offers rows of foot rests for choice of comfort. Specs claim the Sevylor Quikpak K1 has a max weight capacity of 400 pounds, though reports say otherwise. Even 300 pounds is very good for such a lightweight inflatable kayak.
Portability is the top feature of the Sevylor Quikpak K1 along with ease of use. It takes about 5 minutes to unpack and inflate the Quikpak K1. Another fantastic benefit of Sevylor’s single person inflatable kayak is its price tag. This is the second cheapest of the 5 inflatable kayak reviews. Sit on top of this inflatable kayak without fear. The Sevylor Quikpak K1 has a thick Tarpaulin bottom and uses durable PVC material to protect its multiple air chambers.
Nearly all customer complaints mention defects in manufacturing. Though the vast majority of user feedback is positive, the number of defect reports does reflect the price point. Once again you get what you pay for. A 90 day warranty covers most of these issues, but there are examples of degradation right after the expiration date.
The Advantages Of Using An Inflatable Kayak
Two obvious benefits stand out when you start looking at inflatable kayaks. In fact, they may be reason you’re considering one in the first place. Most prominent is the portability of inflatable kayaks. You’ll get them into places hard frame kayaks won’t go, and you take all concerns out of transportation. There’s no need for a rack or trailer.
Price is the other main reason people choose inflatable kayaks. To be clear, not all models of inflatable kayaks are necessarily cheaper than their hard shell relatives. Quality in design and extra care in manufacturing drives the cost of inflatable models up to a higher price point. It’s the lower price point where you’ll find the biggest difference. Inflatable kayaks cost much less as a whole than hard frame kayaks.
Additional Benefits Of Inflatable Kayaks
Storage – Deflate your kayak and fold it up when not in use. Inflatable kayaks take up much less storage space than traditional kayaks.
Weight – Inflatable kayaks weigh a fraction of their hard frame counterparts. Most models come with a carry bag, making them easy to transport down to the water. They also help with storage.
Ease Of Inflation – You won’t want to use lung power to blow up your inflatable kayaks. Air pumps make the job take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on both pump and kayak. Consider the time it takes to unload a hard shell kayak and there’s not too much difference.
Disadvantages Of Inflatable Kayaks
Unfortunately, there’s a situation of give and take when it comes to inflatable kayaks. Weight is a perfect example. A lightweight inflatable kayak works to your advantage and handles well in the water, until a bit of wind picks up. Wind has an easier time blowing inflatable kayaks around with that missing weight, though some use skegs to counter the effect. Weight capacity is the other diminishing spec that you’ll recognize about inflatable kayaks. They can’t carry as much weight as standard kayaks.
Top Considerations When Seeking The Best Inflatable Kayak
Before getting into the best inflatable kayak reviews, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with their various forms and designs. Having a full picture of the different types of inflatable kayaks will help you narrow down those attributes that are most necessary for your needs.
The Different Types Of Inflatable Kayaks
Like hard shell kayaks, inflatable models come in a myriad of different shapes and designs. Each company seems to have to their own concept. Once you get past the accessories, carry bag, handle placement and other smaller intricacies, you’ll find that there’s two basic types of inflatable kayaks. These are exactly the same as hard frame kayaks.
Sit On Top Inflatable Kayaks – The most common model of inflatable kayak is the sit on top version. Exactly as the name suggests the user sits on top, up and out of the water.
Sit Inside Inflatable Kayaks – Less frequent among inflatable kayaks due to the necessity of stronger material, these models have the paddler sit down inside. You’re much closer to the water in a sit inside inflatable kayak, with your lower half actually submerged.
Hull Shape – Another Important Design Feature Of Inflatable Kayaks
One last priority in the design of inflatable kayaks is their hull shape. Just like standard kayaks, hull shape determines the way an inflatable kayak maneuvers in the water. Hull shape also provides an inflatable kayak with stability, or lack thereof.
Flat Bottom Hulls – Great for shallow areas. Flat bottom hulls also provide the best calm water stability.
Round Bottom Hulls – A bit less stable, but faster through the water than flat bottom hulls.
V-Shape Hulls – These provide the best secondary stability. Secondary stability helps prevent a kayak from tipping all the way over and makes them easier to right if they do tip. They also provide the straightest tracking. A feature that keeps the back end of your kayak from kicking out when you paddle.
Inflatable Kayaks & Their Common Materials
Besides design, material makeup has an enormous influence on the performance of inflatable kayaks. The most rugged materials are exceptional to the point of being tougher than hard shell kayaks. Prices of these models will reflect the advanced material.
On the other end of the spectrum are inflatable kayaks that liken more to floating lawn chairs. Their prices will be substantially lower, but so will their function. Have a look at some of the sturdier and weaker types of materials manufacturers use to build inflatable kayaks.
PVC – Polyvinyl chloride comes in two forms, either rigid or flexible. Inflatable kayaks use a form of the flexible PVC. Many times they’ll coat a tough fabric using the flexible PVC material. PVC is cheap and durable over time, though not as tear resistant as Hypalon. Another drawback of PVC is it tends to warp in extended heat. The thick Tarpaulin bottoms of many inflatable kayaks is another form of PVC.
Hypalon & Neoprene – Dupont is the inventor of Hypalon and hold the patent on this substitute rubber material. Manufacturers use a method of coating Hypalon on the outside of inflatable kayaks, rafts, and other air-filled watercraft. They complete the process by coating the inside with neoprene. Experts in the field of inflatable watercraft consider this combination to be the most effective flotation material available.
Nitrilon – A new material in the field of inflatable watercraft. Nitrilon is both environmentally friendly compared to PVC and offers some performance benefits to inflatable kayaks. It does weigh more than PVC, and often coats only the outside of inflatable kayaks. Its properties stand up to puncture and abrasion better than PVC, and do very well in cold weather.
Inner Tubes & Valves – Additional Vital Materials In Inflatable Kayaks
Last but not least on the list of material priorities are inner tubes and valves. Being the essential base that captures and holds the air keeping you afloat, they are vital indeed. They may use plain rubber or one of the materials on the list above, but it’s just as important that their design is durable. Because of this, the best method to know quality inner tubes and valves is to by brand. Boston valves are the go to for most manufacturers. Leafield and Halkey-Roberts make even higher quality valves. O’brien offers decent prices on replacement Boston valves.
Inner tubes are typically a type of synthetic rubber. The safest inflatable kayaks use several different compartments to keep you afloat. Each compartment uses its own inner tube and valve. If one is to puncture, the entire inflatable kayak won’t go down. The synthetic rubber that makes inner tubes may be somewhat puncture resistant, but it falls more to the outside material to provide that protection.
Best Inflatable Kayak Brands
Brand doesn’t say everything about inflatable kayaks, but it does help to know a few of the more consistent manufacturers. Experience almost always makes a difference in quality and branding brings a certain amount of trust that unknown sellers don’t provide. The drawback of going brand name is no secret to shoppers. Popularity and trust can add money to the price tag. Here’s a few name brands that paddlers trust when it comes to taking out their inflatable kayaks.
- Advanced Elements • Sevylor • Intex • NRS (Northwest River Supply)
- Sea Eagle • Airhead • Innova • AIRE • Aquaglide
How To Choose An Inflatable Kayak
Start by going over the guide above. Feel free to refer back to it as you browse the inflatable kayak reviews. The guide will help you both understand the options available on today’s market, and narrow down your design preference. Note that the 5 inflatable kayak reviews below are all one person models. Check out our guide and reviews for tandem kayaks if those designs better suit your needs. Once you have a solid grasp of the buyer’s guide, follow these step by step actions to choose your inflatable kayak.
- Decide what type of inflatable kayak you want; sit on top or sit inside. This eliminates one or the other type from consideration.
- Next choose your hull shape. Do you prefer a flat bottom for shallow areas or round bottom for better secondary stability. Perhaps the V-shape hull for long distance and straightest tracking works best for your needs. Again, your decision narrows down the selection.
- Consider which materials you prefer within your price budget. Remember that while paying exorbitant prices for a quality inflatable kayak isn’t necessary, you do get what you pay for. At the bare minimum, make sure your investment comes with enough quality to keep you safe on the water.
- Check different brands. This is a good idea if you’re finding it difficult to put all the pieces together. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a feature you desire to stay within a budget. For that purpose, the 5 reviews below provide a range of quality inflatable kayaks at different price points.
Concluding The Best Inflatable Kayak Reviews & Guide
If you can accept the inherent disadvantages of inflatable kayaks, their benefits are plentiful. Lightweight and portable, most models run cheaper than hard shell kayaks. Not only do they save space in your vehicle, they take up less space in storage. Inflatable kayaks, like most products, come with different features and intended uses. Narrowing down the right model may seem like a daunting task at first, but knowledge is power. Use the buyer’s guide and consult the best inflatable kayak reviews. Last but not least, enjoy your time on the water and stay safe!