If you’ve read our guide to fishing, you probably remember we mentioned that there’s no ‘best’ inflatable out there. The same principle applies here, but we get it, you just want to buy the best inflatable kayak for the money.
That’s why we’ve chosen 8 kayaks we think to excel in just about every area, making them as good as possible. They are stable, they have good performance, they track straight, they’re made with high-quality materials, in short, they give you great value for the money.
We haven’t placed them in any particular order as they’re all unique, each kayak has its own advantages and disadvantages but what they share in common is that they are highly versatile and outperform other models in the same price class.
We also recommend you to take a look at our inflatable kayak reviews, there are plenty of more to choose from than what we’ve covered here!
Why Buy An Inflatable Kayak (also known as a blow up kayak)?
There could be a lot of reasons why someone would prefer buying an inflatable kayak over a regular hard shell one, but it usually comes down to three main points:
Generally speaking, inflatable kayaks will be cheaper than regular plastic ones. Sure, there are some that cost several thousands of dollars, but that doesn’t mean all of them are expensive.
Inflatables are a great way to get into kayaking on a budget and unlike hard shells, you can choose which price range suits you the best. You can literally choose how much money you want to spend on a kayak, as there are super cheap models that go for as little as $100 and models that go for well over $1,000. All you have to do is to choose something in between that fits your desired budget. If you’re on a budget, read our full comparison of the best budget 10 inflatable kayaks under $300.
Another common reason why someone purchases a rubber kayak is its easy storage. Deflate it, roll it up and put it in its carry bag. Most of the time it will not take much more space than an average sleeping bag (unless you have a really large one), meaning this is the ultimate choice for anyone living in a home where there’s not a lot of space.
The small size makes it easy to transport them, whether you’re looking to hike several miles through a forest or plan to commute to the nearby lake. If you own a car you can do like the majority of owners and store in the trunk, setting yourself up for some future spontaneous kayak trips (trust us, it will happen).
As you can see, they’re the ideal choice if you live in a tiny home, don’t want to spend a ton of money or if you need to travel long distances before getting to the water.
They are also lower maintenance compared to hard shell kayaks. Fixing a hole, puncture or tear in an inflatable kayak is a lot easier and less expensive. Just grab a patch of fabric, glue it in place and let it dry. The downside with an inflatable kayak is the fact that it’s much more prone to damage compared to a regular plastic one, it will just not withstand the same amount of abuse.
The Difference Between A Cheap Inflatable VS An Expensive One
Before deciding which inflatable kayak you want to buy, it’s good to know the difference between cheap and expensive ones.
If you look at most expensive models, you’ll find that they have a strong and tough exterior fabric. This exterior fabric protects the inflatable chamber inside from getting punctured, so if you were to scrape against any rock or other objects, it will be the fabric that takes the beating and not the inflatable chamber. Cheaper models will not have any exterior fabric protecting them, making the inflatable chamber exposed to all kinds of dangers, sharp objects and UV rays being two of them.
Another notable difference is the number of air chambers they have. Cheaper kayaks will have fewer chambers, making them a lot quicker to inflate, but it comes with a disadvantage. The downside of having just one chamber is that if you were to get a puncture, you do not have an additional air chamber that will keep you floating, meaning you’ll be swimming with the fishes instead of paddling back to shore.
The Best Inflatable Kayaks In 2018
So what is the best inflatable kayak? Down below you will find our top list of inflatable kayaks that will knock your socks off. These are the models we think will give you the most value this summer, meaning you’ll get a kayak that’s durable, versatile and fun to paddle.
|Aire Lynx||$$$$||Solo||32 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
|Sea Eagle Fast Track||$$$$||Tandem & Solo||35 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
|Sea Eagle RazorLite||$$$||Tandem & Solo||28 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
|Innova Helios||$$$||Tandem & Solo||27 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
|Advanced Elements Convertible||$$$||Tandem & Solo||56 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
|Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak||$$$||Solo||41 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
|Northwest River Supply Outlaw||$$$||Tandem & Solo||26 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
|Sevylor Hudson||$$||Tandem||33 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
|Sea Eagle 370||$$||Tandem & Solo||32 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
|Intex Challenger K1||$||Solo||27 lbs||Buy on Amazon|
If you’re the type of person that always breaks something after the one-year warranty is over, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the warranty time on the Lynx. It’s 10 full years, if you don’t break the kayak over the span of 10 years, you can be pretty sure it will last you a lifetime.
It weighs 32 pounds and will handle up to class 4 rapids with ease. This is a great kayak if you’re looking for an adventure rather than cruising around the lake.
Unique about the Lynx is the floor, you can choose between a closed-cell floor for better performance, or go for an air-cell floor to reduce weight. You can choose between solo or tandem versions.
Sea Eagle 385 Fast Track
Released in 2010, it quickly became one of the most popular kayaks from Sea Eagle. It’s very similar in size compared to the Sea Eagle 380X, with the exception is that it’s slightly slimmer. The slim design brings down the weight to a mere 31 pounds, making it much faster and easier to maneuver.
The Fast Track is perfect for calm and flat water, but if you ever feel the need for some adrenaline, it will handle up to class 2 rapids. Just like every other Sea Eagle product, there are several packages available to be purchased. These packages contain everything from solo and tandem seats to sails and electric motors. If you like fishing there’s a nice fishing package as well. The 385 comes with a 3 year warranty.
If you like everything about the 385 but find it’s a tiny bit too small, there’s a 3 seater version available, called the 465.
Sea Eagle Razorlite
Introduced in 2015, this is what some people refer to one of the best flat water kayaks. One thing is for sure, it’s one of the most unique (both in terms of looks and function) inflatable kayaks out on the market today. There are two models available to purchase, a solo version which is 28 inches wide, and a tandem one which his 30 inches wide.
So what makes it’s so unique except the design? It’s the fact that the whole kayak is drop-stitched. Drop-stitching allows an inflatable boat to be inflated to a much higher PSI, meaning you can get a lot more air into your inflatable, making it more rigid and sturdy. Inflatable kayaks normally hold around 6 PSI, while the Razorlite can hold up to 10.
The rigidity, streamlined design, stern and bow molds all make this a super fast paddling machine. It’s not as stable as the Fast Track for example but who needs stability when you got speed?
If you live close to the ocean and are dying to get out there, Helios is the best thing you can buy. There are few, if any, kayaks that can beat the Innova Helios when it comes to paddling in open water like oceans.
Not only that, it’s really lightweight, weighing at 29 pounds. It rolls up into a really small backpack that comes with your purchase. Making it ideal for people that like to bring their kayaks to hard-to-reach locations. Rarely do you find a kayak that’s fit for the ocean but light enough to carry everywhere with you?
It’s possible to choose a solo or tandem version of the Helios. They both come with a 2-year warranty.
Advanced Elements Convertible
A personal favorite, you don’t get any closer to a hard shell than this. You just have to love the AdvancedFrame technology, it makes the whole kayak act a lot more like a hard shell. The most significant difference is the tracking, boy does this track straight! This is not what you would call a true “inflatable”, it’s really a mix between a foldable kayak and an inflatable one.
This Advanced Elements kayak features interchangeable decks, meaning you decide whether to bring your best friend along or go solo. You can also choose to buy additional decks to either paddle zipped or unzipped.
It’s rather heavy with its 56 pounds, but those extra pounds give you a really durable kayak. It’s made from heavy-duty PVC that’s highly abrasion and puncture resistant. We’ve run into plenty of sharp rocks, dragged it across pavement but we’re still waiting for that leak or puncture to happen.
Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak
Designed with only one thing in mind, fishing. Luckily you don’t have to be a fisherman to enjoy this inflatable kayak. Just like the Convertible from Advanced Elements, the Straitedge Angler has the same patented built-in aluminum frame. The frame shapes both the stern and bow, making it slice through the water like a knife does through butter. This helps with tracking and maneuverability.
The outer hull is super durable, with its multi-layered PVC it will withstand any rocks you face in class 3 rapid. Advanced Elements kayaks are known to be super tough, one of the drawbacks of this is the weight and longer drying times.
But the best thing about the Straitedge is its portability. Even though it has a built-in frame, it can be folded down into a package that’s about the same size as a medium-sized suitcase, but about 70% thinner, how’s that for portability?
Northwest River Supply Outlaw
Another inflatable kayak made for adrenaline-filled whitewater adventures. While many people will argue that it’s not the best kayak for whitewater out there, we still think it’s worthy of its place because it gives you a lot for your money.
The Outlaw is one of the most affordable whitewater yaks you can buy. It’s comfortable, stable but most importantly of all, it’s durable! This means you really can push your limits and not worry about puncturing your newly purchased kayak. Back in the day, NRS had a popular model called Bandit, this is its replacement and even though it’s very similar in terms of size and shape, it outperforms the old version by miles.
This is one of those inflatable kayaks that will give you a lot of bang for your buck. With its very affordable price tag (depending on where and when you buy it) it’s really a steal for what you get. It will hold up to 450 pounds of weight, or two adults and one kid. The whole exterior is covered with strong and durable materials, mostly a mix of PVC and nylon, making it one of the better choices for people wanting an inflatable that will last a couple of years.
This is one of the most popular models from Sevylor, and the biggest reason for that is the number of features you get for the low price. Do you get the same features as a high-end kayak for half the price, what’s there not to like about it? We’ve yet to encounter someone that has said something negative about their Hudson if you’re that one rare exception, you’re covered by the 1-year warranty.
Sea Eagle 370
One of the best selling kayaks on Amazon at the moment. With many happy customers, it’s one of Sea Eagles greatest inflatable kayaks. The 370 is a tandem kayak that is both light, portable and has plenty of room for gear.
When we first saw it, we neglected it, mostly due to the material, it just looked like one of those cheap pool toys. Turns out we were wrong, the material might look similar but it’s actually PolyKrylar, it’s a type of PVC which extra strong.
It comes with plenty of handy features, like the inflation gauge for the side tubes, which helps tremendously when inflating your kayak the first few times. Some other handy features are inflatable spray skirts, self-bailing drain valves, 2 skegs for better tracking, inflatable i-beam floor and plenty of more. If you’re looking for features, the 370 will give you more than you can handle.
Intex Challenger K1
This is the timeless classic from Intex. You cannot find an inflatable kayak that is cheaper than this, we can almost guarantee that to you. Most of the time, you can find the Challenger for under $100, which makes this such a great purchase for anyone who’s on a budget or just wants to try inflatable kayaking.
As you’d expect with something this cheap, it doesn’t have a lot of features, but since when did you need to have tons of features to have fun?
You will have the most fun with the Challenger on calm and flat water. While it’s technically possible to take the kayak down a whitewater rapid, it wouldn’t last very long as it’s made from cheap PVC.
Some Last Tips
If you still have a hard time deciding what to go for, go ahead and shoot us an email or write in the comment section. We also recommend you to register on http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/, a really helpful forum where all kinds of kayaking are discussed. If you have any questions, you can be sure they’ll help you out.
If you have a store that sells inflatables nearby, don’t hesitate to go there and ask if you can see some of their models, most likely they’ll have the models we have on our site. Seeing a model before purchasing it can really help you see if the size is something for you, numbers can be deceiving so we always recommend that you actually try to see the real thing before you buy it.