Are inflatable kayaks safe? Is an inflatable kayak right for me? Are inflatable kayaks good for beginners?
Inflatable kayaks are a great way to explore the world from the water. However, many people have reservations about inflatable kayaks because they fear that they are not safe.
Based on the experience of someone with 25 years of water sports experience and over 5 years with inflatable kayaks, I can say that they are safe for the average paddler. They are also very versatile and affordable. However, it would be best to take some safety precautions to ensure you’re safe when using an inflatable kayak.
Inflatable kayaks have been around for quite some time now, and there are plenty of brands you can choose from. They look like pool toys, but there’s a big difference.
This blog post will discuss some of the safety features of inflatable kayaks and why you should consider an inflatable for your next adventure.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe to Paddle?
Yes, they are but provided you are in the right conditions and have the right gear. Inflatable kayaks were initially designed for use in rescues because they are lightweight and portable. You can deflate them very quickly, making them easy to transport from one place to another. Here’s is a little list of pros and cons for inflatable kayaks.
Pros of Inflatable Kayaks
- They are easy to transport because they fit nicely into any car trunk, SUV, or minivan. They do not require a roof rack, which means you won’t have to risk driving with your kayak tied onto the top of your car.
- They take up less storage space than traditional hard shell kayaks.
- Inflatable kayaks offer almost unmatched versatility. You can use them for fishing and diving just as easily as paddling around on flat and white water rapids.
- They are great for beginners because they have great primary stability on the water. Meaning they do not wobble around when getting in like hardshell kayaks do.
- They can fit into small spaces and confined areas that would not otherwise accommodate larger boats, making them ideal for the growing number of casual kayakers who are looking for something more portable than a hard shell.
- It is effortless to get in and out of an inflatable kayak, which is essential when you’re climbing into an 18 or 20-inch deep craft.
- People with limited mobility can use inflatable kayaks.
- They are easy to control in the water, especially when you allow yourself time for some practice runs on calm waters before taking it out on the open water.
- They are less expensive than hard shell kayaks
Cons of Inflatable Kayaks
- Inflatable kayaks are not ideal for long distances or in rough sea waters because they can be challenging to track straight and get that paddling momentum that you get with fiberglass sea kayaks.
- There are no hatches like you find in hardshell kayaks. Everything goes in the bow or stern and chances are anything you bring will get a bit wet.
Inflatable kayaks can be difficult to use by people who have limited experience in boating. Especially if you get a cheaper model that can’t track.
How Durable are Inflatable Kayaks?
The answer is pretty durable! But with all related inflatable items there is always the risk of a puncture. You can think of inflatable kayaks the same way as you think of tires for your car or truck. Yes they are durable and can go over rocks and other objects but years of wear and tear start to disintegrate the material.
The puncture-resistant material will protect sharp objects or rocks, so they are durable in that sense, but they may not be as long-lasting as the hard-shell models. The good news is you can repair your boat quickly if it gets damaged at all.
How Long Can an Inflatable Kayak Last?
Inflatable kayaks are considered some of the most durable inflatable boats. It can last between five to ten years if you take good care of it and store them properly when not in use.
Heck I’ve read instances where people have had their kayaks for over 12 years, sometimes even 20! Thus, an inflatable kayak is an excellent investment since owners do not need to purchase another one soon after buying their first inflatable boat. This also depends on the manufacturer and the kayak’s material.
Can Inflatable Kayaks Puncture Easily?
There is always the risk of your inflatable kayak being punctured by rocks and sticks when they hit these sharp objects. A puncture is just one of the risks of using an inflatable kayak, but they are easy fixes if you know what tools to use.
The above clip is obviously a joke, and I’m going to assume you don’t have people shooting at you. But to ease your mind we’ll tell you what to do.
Most inflatable kayaks consist of a rubber-like material that can easily be patched. If you have a puncture, the first step is to locate the hole and patch it if possible. You should repair as soon as possible because some holes may grow larger during use. A quick fix would involve applying an adhesive patch to the inside of your kayak.
If you find that a patch is impossible, sew your puncture with a strong thread and needle. For holes along seams that are hard to access, apply glue onto the fabric on both sides of the seam to absorb into where the two pieces of material meet. Allow the glue to dry before using your inflatable kayak again, as it will make fixing a hole much easier and less risky for further damage.
Most inflatable kayaks have multiple air chambers, which is an important safety feature that can keep you afloat even if one chamber is punctured. If you find yourself in water with a leak, your inflatable kayak will still be able to float, and you can quickly get back into it.
Inflatable Kayaks Materials and Constructions
Inflatable kayaks often use a rubberized material, Hypalon, which makes the best life jackets. However, they can come in a variety of other materials. Hypalon has many great features, such as being highly resistant to UV rays, chemical damage making it an excellent choice of material for inflatable kayaks.
It is also water-resistant, so it will not absorb water or affect the buoyancy of your boat if it gets wet, which helps prevent any negative impact on the safety of paddlers and boaters.
Some inflatable kayaks are made with heavy-duty PVC material that is thicker and more puncture-resistant.
The construction is essential when determining the safety and durability offered by an inflatable kayak. Some manufacturers may use lower-grade materials or skimp on specific components to keep costs down. To get the most for your money, it is a good idea to buy from a reputable manufacturer that uses high-quality materials. Manufacturers I like are Sea Eagle. Advanced Elements and AquaGlide.
When choosing the best material for inflatable kayaks, one should consider many things, including price, safety features, and personal needs, before deciding which kayak is right for them.
For example, if you live in a hot and humid climate, the best material choice for inflatable kayaks would be PVC material that is more resistant to extreme heat.
On the other hand, if you are looking for an inflatable boat with excellent puncture resistance and high levels of durability against rocks, sharp objects, and seashells on beaches, you may want to consider a kayak made with Hypalon material.
And for anyone looking to buy an inflatable kayak, Hypalon material may not always be the best choice because it does have some downfalls in certain circumstances, such as high levels of humidity and extreme weather.
Inflatable Kayak on Water Performance
Below we go through some myths about inflatable kayaks and their on-water performance.
How Stable are Inflatable Kayaks?
There are a few things you can do to make your inflatable kayak more stable on the water:
- Sit in the center of the boat, with equal weight distribution between both sides.
- Keep an even balance when paddling – don’t lean too far in one direction.
- Adjust your weight while on the go. If you have difficulty staying balanced, sit up or kneel to shift some of your body weight around.
How Easy Can Inflatable Kayaks Capsize?
An inflatable kayak is just like any other kayak in the sense that it can capsize. The stability of an inflatable kayak will depend on several factors such as length, width, weight capacity, and speed. A smaller vessel with a broader beam would naturally have less lateral resistance or drag through the water than a long, narrow kayak. On the other hand, inflatable kayaks are typically more stable than hard-shell kayaks by having wider bottoms and less curvature.
All these factors contribute to an inflated kayak’s stability: size and weight distribution; hull shape or design; outfitting and fittings; how it’s used or handled. However, most inflatable kayaks are built with a hard plastic bottom for extra support and stability compared to their soft sides. This will ensure that your boat is more stable and provide you with the rigidness of having a regular kayak without compromising on weight capacity.
How Easy Is It to Get Back Onto an Inflatable Kayak?
Inflatable kayaks are very easy to get back onto if you should capsize and need to empty the water. They often have a sizable inflatable seat with high backrests, making it easier for the user to reboard while still in the water by simply climbing over one side of the cockpit and turning around to face the seat.
Can an Inflatable Kayak Sink?
Technically no, but whats the use of paddling an inflatable kayak with no air in the bladders? But luckily most good quality inflatable kayaks have multiple bladders. Meaning that you will be able to keep afloat as you head to shore.
There can be rare instances where you can spring multiple holes. In that case go to shore as quickly as possible. Better yet, when paddling an inflatable kayak it’s best to stick closer to shore. Especially if it’s one that is a bit cheaper.
How Do They Perform Compared to Hard-shell Kayaks?
Inflatable kayaks are great because they’re versatile. You can use them for multiple purposes but always remember that inflatable kayaks aren’t as good as hard-shell kayaks in some areas. Specifically tracking, glide and paddling speed. So don’t expect them to behave precisely the same while paddling on the water.
Just because they are inflatable doesn’t mean you can stand up in them either. Like any other kayak, if the conditions are too rough and there’s a risk of capsizing, it is best to stay seated as much as possible.
The shape of inflatable canoes will determine how easy it is to turn and maneuver in different conditions. Some shapes are more suited towards speed, while others offer better tracking or control where wind may be a factor.
Where Can I Paddle an Inflatable Kayak?
Many places are great for paddling an inflatable kayak. You can paddle on rivers, large lakes, and even the ocean in less crowded bays. Many people enjoy taking their inflatable kayak out to a lake or flatwater river where they can relax and take in nature.
While you can take your inflatable kayak to many places, your skill level will determine where is best. Lakes and calm rivers are great for beginners, and you should only paddle on the ocean if your kayak is a model designed to deal with the elements you may encounter. An inflatable kayak can function in white water rapids, but it is best to do courses before trying this.
What to Do Before Going Out on an Inflatable Kayak
If you are going out on an inflatable kayak, then there are a few things that you need to do.
- Check the weather and check with your friends to let them know what you are up to.
- If possible, try to go when the water is calm, you will experience fewer waves and the wind will not push your boat around.
- You will want to make sure that you have a lifejacket, so if anything does happen, this will help keep you afloat until someone can get out there and rescue you or until the tide comes back in.
- You will also want some waterproof light just in case you are out there at night.
- Finally, make sure that you take along your inflatable kayak repair kit because something might pop or get punctured when you are out on it, and then this will help fix things until you are back inshore again.
What We’ve Learned so Far
Inflatable kayaks are safe, very stable, and easy to maneuver. They are excellent for beginners and anyone looking to get out on the water. However, there are safety precautions you should take to ensure your safety when using an inflatable kayak.
You should check for the material used to make the inflatable kayak and ensure it will suit your needs depending on where you will be taking your kayak.
Inflatable kayaks can be prone to punctures by sharp objects like rocks and sticks; thus, you should always carry your repair kit. Or better yet, launch and paddle in environments where you won’t find those items.
An inflatable kayak can serve you for about five to ten years, depending on how well you take care of it.