Page Last Updated: 6th June 2016
We recently got an email from one of our visitors telling us that they loved the comparison guide on the homepage, but was it possible to do something similar to help them find the best inflatable kayak of 2016?
Well – it just so happened that the reader who emailed us was in luck. With our extensive research across the fishing kayak brands (which we used when building our best fishing kayak table), we decided that we could quickly build another comparison table for the best inflatable kayaks.
Benefits of Inflatable Kayaks
As mentioned previously, I have the Intex Challenger K2 inflatable kayak and the best thing about it, is that I can have it deflated and stored in the trunk of my car at all times.
Quite often I’ll be driving during the weekend on a road trip and I’ll come across a beautiful lake. If the weather is fine and the mood strikes me, there is nothing stopping me parking up and inflating the kayak in a matter of minutes to get out onto the calm water for a spot of relaxation.
They call this opportunity cost. I’ve paid a small premium up front (under $100) for at least a years worth of spur of the moment lake adventures. That, in my humble opinion is a GREAT deal.
Finding the Best Inflatable Kayak
Essentially it boils down to the best kayak is the one that you have available when you come across the perfect lake for a spot of paddling. You want to make sure that sitting in the trunk of your car is something that is going to be reliable and easy to use.
Granted the inflatable kayaks aren’t as maneuverable as the plastic hull versions, and they tend to be better in much calmer waters – but for a quick paddle around a newly discovered lake, they are perfect.
You can inflate them in under a minute (I have a 12v charger in my kayak pack, like this one) which was about twenty bucks. Plug it in, flick the switch and in literally a minute your kayak is fully inflated.
Deflating is just as easy, pop out the bungs and roll it away.
Inflatable Kayak Comparison Table
Budgets are important, so when I was looking at these, I put each make and model into a price bracket. Roughly, the prices of the models are indicated by:
- $ – Low (under $150)
- $$ – Med ($151-$300)
- $$$ – High ($301+)
Often Amazon will have really good discounts on inflatable kayaks, so sometimes the price will be lower than it was when I checked out the product. Unlike the olden days where the price was relatively stable, with competitive markets like fishing and kayaking, there are good discounts to be had. You just have to click through the links to view the products on Amazon to get the best available price today.
|Model||Price||Rating||Length (ft)||Weight (lbs)|
RAVE Sports Sea Rebel Kayak
Advanced Elements FireFly Inflatable Kayak
Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Kayak
Sevylor Inflatable Sit-On-Top Kayak
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
Sevylor QuikPak K5 Inflatable Kayak
Sevylor QuickPak Coverless Sit-On-Top Kayak
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
Sevylor Tahiti Fishing/Hunting Inflatable Kayak
Sevylor Fiji Travel Pack Kayak
Download my FULL Excel Sheet with over 68 Inflatable Kayaks
As has been requested several times, I’m willing to share my complete Excel spreadsheet with all the inflatable kayaks that Amazon stock. As it’s Excel you can slice and dice the data however you choose.
Pro’s and Con’s of Inflatable Kayaks
When considering the actual construction of an inflatable kayak, you should just picture it as another method of designing a boat. As with other construction types, there are good designs as well as poor ones, exactly as we find with hard hulled kayaks.
The better quality inflatable kayaks will use a rubber over coating on top of low stretch fabrics. I can actually be pretty tough, some even consider it tougher than a rigid construction for tough situations such as bouncing off rocks and the bank of a river.
The cheaper made inflatables are actually pretty flimsy and will tear and puncture given moderate to hard use, so when it comes to inflatable kayaks you certainly get what you pay for.
Just like their rigid cousins, inflatable kayaks come in a huge array of designs, specifically for the type of kayaking you’re looking to do. A well designed touring kayak will be more streamlined for less drag and will sit lower in the water so it doesn’t get caught by side winds.
If you look at the table above, and the full table on the main page, you’ll see that you can purchase a decent inflatable double kayak for less money than a rigid recreational kayak. One of the benefits of inflatables is weight, and if you check the weight column, you can see often that the inflatable will weigh half as much as a rigid hull and has the benefit that it can be carried in your car trunk.
Inflatable Kayaks – Further Information
Since we’ve been reviewing a multitude of inflatable kayaks of late, we’ve taken the decision to try an collate the biggest hitters and best performers into one useful page of information.
Through this page which details every aspect of inflatable kayaks, you can find our recommendations for different types of inflatable kayaks, including inflatables for both one and two people, stand up paddle kayaks and because of the poorly bundles accessory usually shipped with the products, we’ll have some information about replacements you can buy.
In short, this extra section is going to be just as essential as our comprehensive reviews.
One Person Inflatable Kayak.
These kayaks tend to be the ones that dominate the market.
I can’t tell you why, but it seems that everyone wants to get out on the water on their own, rather than with a companion.
The reason inflatables are used for this, as we touch on in our reviews, is that they are simply the cheapest option.
You can pick up a half decent inflatable kayak for just over $100, and in the case of sales, sometimes as cheap as $80.
Combine this with the fact that there are all ultra portable, compressing down into the boot of you car, and in some cases as small as into a handy rucksack, they are ideal for those of us that live in the cities and want to avoid the added expense of a roof rack for the car.
As I’m sure you are aware, inflatables have a lot going for them, but as with all products, some do the job much better than others.
So which of the one’s on the market pack the most bang for you buck, and go above and beyond the call of duty for a cheap kayak.
We’ll, sometimes you get what you pay for, and sometimes you are pleasantly surprised, because of this I’ve included two models here, a cheap option and an expensive option.
Not everyone has the same budget so a little variation is always useful.
Firstly, we have the Intex Challanger K1 Inflatable, currently price at under $100. With a striking green and blue design, you’re guaranteed to stand out from the crowd here. When I first came across this beauty, I was expecting it to be terrible, simply because it was so cheap.
I was really surprised with the quality here, with the kayak inflating quickly, compressing well and tracking reasonably well for an inflatable.
Comfort is good with an inflatable seat included, meaning longer outings aren’t going to be an issue at all.
Lastly, we’ve got the you get what you pay for option, in the form of the Advanced Elements StraightEdge Inflatable.
Coming in at over four times the cost of the Intex Challenger K1, the StraightEdge isn’t cheap. However, if you are looking for solid kayak standard tracking in an inflatable than this is the kayak for you.
Incorporating aluminum ridges into the design to define the bow and stern, this kayak will cut through the water with ease.
With an extremely comfortable seat to boot, if you can afford to splash out on this one then nothing should hold you back.
Two Person Inflatable Kayak
For those that want to get out on the water with a friend, then a tandem kayak is the option for you.
Inflatables are a great choice for tandems, as they are so naturally buoyant.
This natural buoyancy creates a really stable base for transport, meaning you’re going to have a fair bit of difficulty toppling one of these without really trying to.
Once again, I’m going to go with format of both a budget and a luxury option here, both of which would be an excellent choice for anyone looking to get out on the water.
So for our budget option, we’ve got something that may look a little bit familiar, in the form of the Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable.
This model is almost identical to the K1 that we mentioned in the previous section, except that it comes with the additional seat for the lucky person you’re taking out with you.
Amazingly, you can get the extra carrying capacity for no extra cost, with the K2 currently retailing at 99¢ cheaper than the K1.
For your saving, you’ll gain the extra seat, an extra 100b carrying capacity and an extra set of included oars, although they are so bad that Intex should have to pay you to take them.
The added weight of the extra passenger, means that the kayak has a little more traction, which helps you paddle it in a straight line which is a little illusive in the K1 model.
However, thanks to the lightweight exterior, you can easily paddle this kayak with the extra person in on your own, so if your kids get lazy, you aren’t going to be stranded.
For those of you with a bigger budget, there’s the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak.
The jump in price is justified by removable and configurable seating. This means that it can carry two people in three combinations of seating, so you can sit front, middle or back.
As well as the re-arrangeable seating, you also have the added bonus of the aluminium frame found in the Advanced Elements StraightEdge kayak.
This means that you gain all the associated benefits such as lightweight design, and superior tracking.
Tracking straight is even more important in a tandem kayak, because you can easily find yourself with conflicting paddle rhythm as well as different strengths, meaning you kayak is already prone to wiggling.
By having a kayak that cuts through the water with ease lowers the risk of this wiggling becoming exaggerated and a real hinderance.
This makes the AdvancedFrame kayak a really sensible buy if you can justify the price.
Unlike other tandems, this can be reduced to just one seat, so if you do want to get out on the water alone, then it’s more than capable of providing that service.
So to sum up this section, if you can afford the AdvancedFrame kayak, then that is definitely the one to go for.
Next up, is the standout inflatable SUP. For those of you that are kayaking novices, SUP stands for Stand Up Paddle.
These inflatables are more of a surf board and kayak hybrid, being neither one or the other really.
Now, from our extensive research, we’ve found that SUPs do not come cheap, so you’ll be looking at around $500 straight off the bat.
The current number one best seller, which is part of the reason why we’ve chosen it, is the Tower Adventurer 9’10” Inflatable SUP.
Currently going for just under $700, which is markedly cheaper than it’s usual $1200 price tag, this SUP is a cut above the rest. As you’ll come to see, there’s a multitude of reasons for this.
First off, this SUP is extremely rigid. Capable of carrying up to 350lbs out on the water, this kayak is a beast.
In fact, when it’s fully inflated it feels a lot like a hard board, which is always a bonus as it will still have the increased buoyancy of an inflatable.
Secondly, the Tower Adventurer is incredibly durable, which may prove invaluable when surfing, as you can never rule out things going awry and being introduced to my good friend the reef break.
Constructed from military grade PVC, you don’t have any cause for concern when it comes to board cracks and punctures.
Of course, you also have all the other benefits of an inflatable. The SUP will compress down to only 1 foot in diameter and 33″ wide when rolled up, meaning that it is ultra portable.
No need to splash out on a expensive roof rack like you’d have to with a hard board.
Finally, this board does come with some of my favorite things, bundled accessories.
As you’ll come to see, bundled oars are usually terrible. The Tower Adventure however, show’s it’s class buy coming with a good standard paddle. At $700 you’d expect a certain level of quality and once again the Tower Adventurer doesn’t let you down.
If you are looking for a replacement however, it’s worth remembering that the distance between you and the water is going to be greater as you’re standing up, you therefore require a more specific paddle. There’s also no point in buying an oar that has paddles on both ends, because you’ll only by using one.
It’s much better to buy a designated SUP paddle, as they come with comfortable handles on one end of the shaft.
If you’re looking for more a real surf experience than sea kayaks can provide, the SUP is a great middle ground.
Where they are notoriously expensive as they bring the best of both worlds, finding a bargain isn’t impossible.
The Tower Adventurer is a prime example of this, and if it’s in your budget that it’s well worth a purchase. It would make a great addition to you fleet and is stable enough to entice beginners. It’s an all round winner.
Inflatable Kayak Accessories
If you’ve taken the time to read any of the full reviews present on this site, then you’ll know of my hatred for bundled accessories.
Where it’s a nice thought from the manufacturer to include something in the price of their kayak, it actually turns out to be really annoying, as quite frankly they are rubbish.
Where there are some exceptions to this rule, such as packaged bags and pumps, in general, you’re going to be looking at shelling out for some better quality accessories if you want to get the best out of your inflatable kayak.
We will start with the painfully obvious, you’re going to need a decent set of oars or paddles, whatever you want to call them.
These are the most common ‘shipped with’ accessory, and they just so happen to be the worst quality ‘shipped with’ accessory too.
Top of the leader board on two counts, neither of them a good thing.
The ones that the manufacturer give you just aren’t going to cut it, they are flimsy, they break easily and they are just plain unreliable.
Many users report that their bundled oars have actually snapped in half while they are using them, which first of all makes it really hard to get back to sure, and secondly means that they are going to have to buy a new pair anyway.
You may as well buy them before going out on the water.
The current number one best selling kayak paddle on Amazon, and one of my personal favorites, is the Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle Rounded Blade.
Priced at a very reasonable $37, these paddles are leagues apart from the shoddy excuses that will come with your new kayak.
These paddles are actually well thought out, with drip guards to keep you dry, three positions that will compensate for people of different sizes using them, foam grips for comfort and lastly their blades are rounded, which makes them cut through the water easily and generate more movement from your strokes.
Now this is a detachable oar, meaning that it has two parts that should really be put together before use. However, if you’re in a tandem and are happy to use the half like canoe paddles, then you can really get away with just buying the one paddle.
For those looking to get a little more speed, and more of a kayak experience, two paddles are going to be necessary, but at the price these are currently, that shouldn’t be too much of an ask.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this section, the other bundled accessories are actually usable, and so what they advertise.
The foot pumps are designed specifically for the model of kayak you’ve purchased, so there’s no need to go and buy a bigger one of those.
Also, the bags are designed to fit the kayak in comfortably, if you went and purchases a different bag, you always run the risk of buying one that doesn’t quite take the entirety of your kayak.
Shoving it into a bag that it doesn’t fit in is a recipe for punctures, seem splits and general damage.