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Updated Mar 1, 2022 7:06 PM

The best inflatable kayaks offer true versatility on and off the water. These kayaks ensure you have the ability to easily transport your kayak from one location to the next, whether that’s into the back of your car, or over a rocky border between lakes. Built of rugged, airtight vinyls, polyesters, and tightly woven materials, they are sure to keep afloat. Propelled with double-bladed paddles, kayaks offer excellent mobility on the water.

Whether you’re a touring kayaker looking for a lightweight portage kayak that can take you from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to Vancouver Island by water and foot, or you’re a dedicated angler looking to plow the bayous of Louisiana for the biggest catfish a woman can noodle, there’s an inflatable kayak for you. If you’ve got wanderlust for the rivers and waterways of the world, inflatable kayaks are some of the more mobile paddle-driven boats around.

Historically built with animal hide and driftwood, and often waterproofed with seal fat, kayaks have changed quite a lot in their material builds while maintaining an overall similar design of paddle and hull. Today’s kayaks borrow from an ancient lineage of boatbuilding developed by the native peoples of North America and Greenland

Read on for tips on finding the best inflatable kayaks for your water expeditions.

How We Picked The Best Inflatable Kayaks

Methodology

To pick the best inflatable kayaks, we took a look at over twenty kayaks from various makers, looking for a few important factors, and using our experience with outdoors adventuring, and our expertise as tech reviewers to weed out the weak links. 

Weight was of prime importance in our picks. Most folks looking for an inflatable kayak instead of a traditional kayak will be doing so out of concern for weight. The best inflatable kayaks require little carry weight, and can support hundreds of pounds. This can be useful whether you’re carrying your kayak along with you as a pack craft, or simply looking for a boat that’s easy to stow in the back of the family Prius. We prioritized kayaks that weigh under fifty pounds and can support hundreds (sometimes up to 500 pounds).

Seating is an important factor. While kayaks were traditionally designed as single seat water crafts, many of today’s inflatable kayaks offer up to three seats. We made sure to include both traditional single-seat kayaks, and multi-seater group kayaks, which allow you to fit a boat for the whole family in the back of your car.

Material Quality was an important factor in our decision-making. We looked for kayaks that are rugged enough to have good longevity and tough enough to keep up in rough water. For our higher-end picks, we wanted kayaks with enough material strength to be able to go as long as you do, whether you’re angling for bass or touring the coast of Newfoundland. For fishing kayaks we wanted particularly tough builds, as hooks, cleaning knives, and sharp fins can make quick work of cheap inflatables. That’s why we looked for 1000+ denier fabric or its equivalent. 

Feature Set: Inflatable kayaks come in many different builds. Fishing kayaks often come with rod holders and fish rulers. Many of these boats (especially touring models), come with racks to attach a backpack. We also wanted to highlight kayaks that include inflation tools, especially for higher-end kayaks. We also prioritized models with quick inflation, de-inflation, and drains across the board.

The Best Inflatable Kayaks: Reviews And Recommendations

Best Overall Inflatable Kayak: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

Best Overall Inflatable Kayak

A convertible kayak that’s solid enough for touring. Advanced Elements

Why It Made The Cut: With its rugged aluminum frame, configurable seating arrangement that can support solo or tandem, and three layers of puncture-proof support, this is a versatile buy.

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 15 feet by 32 inches across
  • Folded Dimensions: 35 x 21 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 52 pounds
  • Max Carry Weight: 550 pounds
  • Materials: Nylon, plastic, aluminum

Pros:

  • Customizable
  • Rugged
  • Supports one or two paddlers with three configurations

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Doesn’t include paddles or pump with purchase

If you’re after a truly versatile inflatable kayak, look no further than the AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak by Advanced Elements. An internal aluminum skeleton that protects the bow and stern and ensures your kayak keeps its shape is paired with triple-layered fabric and a main air chamber encased in its own layer of protection, making this kayak a truly tough boat. 

Advanced Elements designed this boat for conversion, and that’s easily achievable. You can quickly switch out the deck layout for solo closed deck, open-deck tandem, or closed-deck tandem. With a setup that can be achieved in under ten minutes, you’ll be out on the water in no time.

However, it is important to be mindful of a few issues with this boat before you purchase. It doesn’t come with either paddles or an inflation pump. This is unfortunate in an otherwise excellent boat. Unless you already own an inflatable kayak that you can plunder for the right pump and paddles, you’ll need to budget for the rest of the required accessories before you take this kayak out to the lake. It’s also heavy and doesn’t come with a backpack, so don’t expect to take this kayak with you on long portage expeditions between rivers.

That said, for most users, this is still the best overall inflatable kayak on the market for its tough design that will ensure years of boating, its heavy weight capacity, ease of use, and conversion potential for solo or group expeditions. 

Best Budget: Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

Best Budget

An inexpensive inflatable kayak ready for you and a friend. Intex

Why It Made The Cut: With two seats, an included pump and paddle, and 400 pounds of capacity, this is a kayak for starters.

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 10.25 feet by 3 feet
  • Folded Dimensions: ‎ 13.5 x 23.13 x 16.25 inches
  • Weight: 30.6 pounds (35 pounds with accessories) 
  • Max Carry Weight: 400 pounds
  • Materials: Polypropylene

Pros:

  • Affordable 
  • Everything included
  • Easy assembly and disassembly

Cons:

  • Not well enforced
  • Isn’t suitable for open water, and could prove dangerous in more rigorous performance settings

With the Explorer K2 Kayak, Intex offers a yellow jacket-hued inflatable lake boat that easily fits in the back of your car. Suitable for mild rivers, ponds, and lakes, this boat supports up to 400 pounds, making it an excellent day-trip ready adventure kayak for you and a friend. This isn’t a kayak with which you’ll be riding waves off the coast of Greenland. However, if you’re looking for a decent starter kayak to get your feet wet, then the Intex Explorer is a good option. 

The Explorer offers a pretty straightforward design. It features two wide-mouthed Boston nozzles for inflation and deflation. This is achieved with the included pump. The boat is shorter than many other inflatable kayaks at just a little over ten feet. Longer-bodied people may not find this boat comfortable for extremely long use, but it’s a generally comfortable boat overall.

Made of polypropylene, this boat isn’t as sturdy as some. However, for most users, in mild conditions, it can go and go. With a 90-day warranty, it’s worth taking it out a few times to make sure everything is in working condition before the warranty period is over. In the end, it’s a budget boat, and that low price tag might not account for toughness and longevity, but with a decent build overall and everything included, for those just getting into kayaking or looking for an easily deployed pond kayak to stow in the back of a car, the Intex is a great buy. If you’re looking for an even cheaper version for solo paddling, the Intex K1 is also worth a look.

Best For Fishing: Sea Eagle 385fta Fasttrack Inflatable Kayak Pro Angler

Best For Fishing:

A true angler’s boat that can fit in the back of your car. Sea Eagle

Why It Made The Cut: With thick reinforced material that can stand up to fish hooks, a rod stabilizer, and even a fish scale on the side, this inflatable angler’s kayak can go wherever the fish are found. 

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 12 feet 6 inches by 3 feet
  • Folded Dimensions: ‎36 x 15 x 20 inches
  • Weight: 45 pounds
  • Max Carry Weight: 635 pounds
  • Materials: 1000 denier nylon

Pros:

  • Rugged build with quadruple overlapped seams that won’t puncture with misplaced fish hooks
  • Supports up to 3 people
  • 7-minute inflation time
  • Convenient rod holder built right in

Cons:

  • Expensive

One of the most rugged boats on the market is the Fasttrack Inflatable Kayak Pro Angler by Sea Eagle. This premium inflatable kayak is made out of 1000 denier woven fabric that’s tough enough to withstand fish hooks, fins, and maybe even an alligator bite! A true angler addition to the Sea Eagle line, it comes with built-in rod placements and a fish scale.

The Pro Angler’s 635-pound max load means that it’s ready for three paddlers, or just you and your ice box loaded with fish (or anything else you might put in an icebox). It’s got a Class II whitewater rating that means you can take this puppy into some tight situations. And at just 45 pounds, you don’t need a boat rack to take this to the water; you might not even need a truck.

All in all, the Sea Eagle Pro Angler is a decked-out fisherman’s dream kayak that’s versatile enough for multi-day excursions. Plus, without the toxic smell of gasoline, and the drone of a motor, you’ll catch more fish than ever. If you’re ready to dedicate yourself to the waterways and marshes look no further. 

Best Whitewater: Driftsun Rover Inflatable Tandem Whitewater Kayak

Best Whitewater

A Class III ready tandem kayak that will fit in your trunk. Driftsun

Why It Made The Cut: This exciting, white water, inflatable kayak inflates rapidly and features a camera mount. It ships with its pump and paddles included.

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 12.5 feet by 3 feet 2 inches
  • Folded Dimensions: ‎24.5 x 21 x 10 inches
  • Weight: 28 pounds
  • Max Carry Weight: 600 pounds
  • Materials: 1000-D layered PVC

Pros:

  • Self-bailing drain plugs
  • Rugged floor that’s easy to grip
  • Class III rapid ready
  • Comes with paddle and pump included
  • Very stable

Cons:

  • Drainage could be better for rapids

This is a sports boat. If you love a fast-paced trek down rapids, the Class III-ready Driftsun Rover has you covered. Class III-certification isn’t common in inflatable kayaks, but this isn’t a common inflatable kayak. Made of 1000-D layered PVC, with a high pressure drop stitch floor that creates a rigid bottom that’s easy to grip with your feet, this is a kayak that bounces off rocks, and maintains enough stability for dicey whitewater. It has an easily detachable rear skeg that can quickly be removed for whitewater, yet provides great tracking on the open river.

The boat’s 600-pound carry weight and two seats mean that this boat isn’t just for whitewater. With its thick build, it’s ready for just about any aquatic setting you choose. Be warned, though, that with drainage open, you may be sitting in a bit of water. It doesn’t drain as well as could be desired, especially in whitewater. All in all,  it’s an impressive and versatile whitewater kayak that will take you most places you want to go. If Class III isn’t enough, Driftsun claims that the boat is also ready for Class IV, but we say please be careful. 

Best Touring Kayak: Sea Eagle Razorlite

Best Touring Kayak

A true touring kayak that folds into a backpack. Sea Eagle

Why It Made The Cut: With a higher-than-average psi, drop-stitch material throughout, a rigid bow and stern, and a total weight of 35 pounds in its folded backpack form, this inflatable kayak is ready for the journey.

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 12 feet 10 inches by 28 inches
  • Folded Dimensions: ‎22 x 22 x 12
  • Weight: 35 pounds
  • Max Carry Weight: 500 pounds 
  • Materials: 1000 denier drop stitch PVC

Pros:

  • Rigid bow and stern molds for excellent tracking
  • Folds into a 35-pound backpack
  • Rigid and rugged frame that won’t puncture
  • Adjustable foot braces

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Open deck design means that ocean breakers could be trouble

A true touring kayak, the Sea Eagle Razorlite is ready for the long haul. This performance-speed kayak comes with a high overhead cost, but for anyone serious about long water treks, it’s well worth it. With a 500-pound capacity, this kayak is suitable for hauling provisions for long camping expeditions, and at only 35 pounds when folded into its carrying backpack, it’s suitable for hauling as well. 

Made entirely of semi-rigid, drop stitch material, the Razorlite fills to a higher psi than most inflatables. It also features a rigid bow and stern (for which it’s named) that deliver excellent tracking. Adjustable foot braces set into the inner sides help for long paddling sessions. These features, combined with the boat’s light weight, mean it’s an incredibly fast kayak.

This is a kayak for long, island camping trips on Boundary Waters, for portage through Canada’s lake and river network, for racing your friends, or for camping your way across the Everglades. The one downside of the boat is that its open deck design and lack of solid, self-bailing drains limit its versatility in choppy water. That means that while this boat is certainly sea worthy, it’s not ready for surf, and heavy waves on the ocean could prove dangerous. However, if you’re not an oceanic coast dweller and you’re looking for an incredibly quick and versatile touring watercraft that inflates, look no further than the Razorlite.

Things To Consider Before Buying An Inflatable Kayak

Before you make the decision to buy an inflatable kayak it’s worth fully considering what the investment will mean for you. 

Inflatable Kayak vs. Standard Kayak

Inflatable kayaks offer many benefits over traditional kayaks. Packing down to small sizes when deflated, these kayaks usually fit easily into the back of a car. Some even pack down to backpack size and are easily worn on one’s shoulders. This makes inflatable kayaks far easier to use for most boaters. Rather than having to install a boat rack onto the top of their vehicle, inflatable kayak owners can simply load their kayak into the trunk. However, this versatility does come with a price. Inflatable kayaks generally aren’t as rugged as hard body kayaks. The best inflatable kayaks often offer good longevity over many years of use, however, they still mostly don’t deliver the same longevity and impermeability of a hard plastic pontoon hull. 

Budget

It’s especially important to consider your budget when purchasing an inflatable kayak. As these kayaks are meant to be inflated and deflated and packed into small spaces many times over their lifespan, they come with more opportunities for surface punctures, wear, and damage than some other types of products. When looking for a budget kayak, consider the quality of the material and how likely it is to rip or tear over its lifespan. While some higher end kayaks cost hundreds of dollars more, they may last for years longer than the cheaper models. Some very cheap models are made out of the same types of materials you might find in a pool float and likely can’t be trusted to last for many seasons. In fact, some cheaper inflatable kayaks may not even be legally used in national and state Park waterways. It’s important to do your research before you buy, and make sure you’re purchasing a kayak that can last as long as you expect it to

Versatility Or Dedicated Use

When buying an inflatable kayak it’s often a good idea to consider whether you need a dedicated use boat or something you can use for many different situations. Some kayaks offer inherent versatility, allowing you to rig them as two seaters or one. Some kayaks are dedicated angler’s kayaks, and are particularly capable at this one function, but may prioritize strategies that help fishermen so much that they become preventatively expensive, or less useful to other users. Kayaks with self-bailing drains that are designed for white water might get you significantly wetter while boating than others. Consider the features you need when you’re shopping for an inflatable kayak.

FAQs

Q: What is denier fabric?

Denier measures the fiber thickness in a given weave. As it applies to waterproof material, high-denier fiber uses thicker threads, and when tightly woven creates a tougher fabric that’s puncture-resistant and also more resistant to water and air passing through it. 

Q: Are inflatable kayaks any good?

Many inflatable kayaks are just as good as solid hull kayaks. The best inflatable kayaks offer many benefits over solid body kayaks.

Q: Do inflatable kayaks puncture easily?

High-quality inflatable kayaks are made of tear- and puncture-resistant fabric that will get you out on the water again and again. While the cheapest inflatable kayaks may puncture, the best inflatable kayaks are capable watercraft that are as sturdy as they are versatile.

Q: How long does it take to inflate an inflatable kayak?

Many of the best inflatable kayaks inflate in well under ten minutes. Some inflate in about five.

Final Thoughts

Inflatable kayaks offer versatile boating options. They can easily deflate and pack into small spaces, yet often deliver surprisingly robust performance. The best inflatable kayaks can be performance touring machines, excellent versatile fishing boats, or even white water capable sports craft. The AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak is the best inflatable kayak for most boaters, with its customizable one- or two-seat build and aluminum interior frame that ensures it will keep its tracking on point. Whatever your needs, if you’re a boater there’s an inflatable kayak out there for you.

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