Best Inflatable Kayaks Complete with Indepth Guide

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The best inflatable kayaks that we have picked for this review are the Sea Eagle 380 X Explorer rated as number 1. And the Advanced Elements Convertible Kayak rated as the Editors Pick. 

After putting in 47 hours of research and testing we decided the Sea Eagle 380X was the top dog. This is due to it’s versatility of being able to tackle a lot of different environments. All the while being one of the most durable kayaks on the list. 

The goal of this article is to help you avoid the same mistakes I’ve made. Buying that cheap big box brand only for it to spring a leak by the third outing. 

After that experience, I decided that I wanted an inflatable kayak that would last and be a pleasure to paddle on the water. So I made this list to be the ultimate inflatable kayak resource for you, the paddler. 

This Article is broken down into 4 sections

Table of Contents

Are these some things you are interested in? If so, read on!

Best Inflatable Kayaks Reviews

While many “Best” lists are subjective I would say the reviews recommend kayaks like Sevylor or Intex as the top picks compared to all other inflatable kayaks brands… Probably have not done their homework.

We realize that what will be “best” for one person will not necessarily be best for the other. So for these inflatable kayak reviews we feature a label next to each pick to show you what their uses and strengths are.

In this list we have tried to include as many inflatable kayaks as possible from different price ranges and uses so that this truly could be a good best case guide. 

1. Sea Eagle 380X Explorer (Top Pick)

Photo from


  • Length: 12’4”
  • Width: 38.9”
  • Weight: 29.6 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 749 Lbs
  • Materials: 1100 Decitex Reinforced With Drop Stitch Floor
  • Number of Paddlers: 3

Who it’s for

The winner of the Best Inflatable Kayaks group was the 380 X Explorer. We choose this kayak because it has been hailed by many experts as the most versatile inflatable kayak out there

It’s suitable for Class IV White Water rapids to lakes and ocean environments.This kayak is great for single paddlers, camping, trips or even families thanks to its 749 Maximum Weight Capacity! It also features 6 different packages to allow you to conquer whatever body of water you choose. 

Set Up and Take Down Time

The 380 Explorer has 3 recessed valves to inflate, 2 on the sides and one on the drop stitch floor. You simply fill them up using the manual pump that comes with the kayak or an electric pump. The inflation time takes about 8 minutes but if you are just figuring it out it takes 10 to 15 mins.

The big pluses when it comes to the 380 X set up is the fact that 16 self bailing drain valves that come with covers, This allows you to keep them open for white water paddling or closed for flat water conditions. 

Another thing that is nice about the 380X Explorer is the fact that deflation and drying is a pretty simple process. Because it is made of durable 1100 Decitex Reinforced material, it’s quick drying. Which means you just need to dry it off with a towel and then you are good to pack it up! No covers to dry and wash!

On Water Performance

The Sea Eagle 380X was originally purposed for white water. But as the years went on they realised that they could make this kayak suitable for flat water and lake conditions with paddlers of any skill level. Sea Eagle themselves classifies them for ocean, white water rivers, fishing, bays, lakes, flat water rivers and camping.

Of course if you are looking for something more specialised in flat water performance you should consider looking at the Sea Eagle Razorlite, or Fastrak series for more serious tracking and touring capabilities. Still the Sea Eagle Explorer 380 X certainly does well to not just be an inflatable pool toy as it can still track about on par with the cheaper lines of the Advanced Elements kayaks. This is thanks to its solid drop stitch floor

Of course where this kayak shines the most is maneuverability and its ability to take on many types of water terrains.  

Kayak Features and Design

This kayak is meant for 1 to 3 people although for best paddling performance probably 2 people would be ideal. It is also great for taking on gear so if you are a multi-day trip camping or fishing enthusiast I would perk your ears up!

The design of the Explorer series kayak is very simplistic, in this case, that’s a good thing. You can go all the way from a starter package that features 1 seat, a paddle, pump and bag or go full on into a motor or even a rowing package. As you get into more expensive packages you get better accessories!!

What Customers Think

The thing that impressed many customers the most was the fact that this kayak handled beautifully in White Water. Others stated that while this kayak is classified as an all around kayak it still has a bit of wobble and it lacks a bit of glide per stroke. 

Still many customers said this was not a big deal as the kayak still performed pretty well for an inflatable kayak in the flat waters. Some stated that it’s open water performance lacked a but because it can get bullied by winds. 

Earlier customers did report that they did receive some seam failures in some of the earlier years of production for this watercraft. A few commented that this kayak is not “puncture resistant”. Some were testing this boat out on white water and it would hit a sharp rock which would spring a small leak. 


  • Great for White Water Conditions
  • Lots of different packages to choose from
  • Great boat for maneuverability
  • Can be loaded with lots of gear
  • Great boat to have for dogs and children
  • Can be used in most conditions
  • Underrated fishing pick
  • Setup is easy
  • Take down is a simple process with minimal dryin


  • Not the Fastest Inflatable Kayak on here
  • Some customers reported that it lacked glide
  • Reports of manufacturing issues in earlier generations
  • Can get bullied by the wind
  • Not the best kayak to have in Open water

2. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak (Editors Pick)

Photo from Advanced Elements


  • Length: 15’
  • Width: 32”
  • Weight: 52 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 550 Lbs
  • Materials: double-coated fabric encasing bladders
  • Number of Paddlers: 2

Who’s it for

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is for people who want a versatile flat water inflatable kayak. The AdvancedFrame is best suited for a person and a small passenger or a passenger with gear. You can use it for two full sized people as well though.

The Advanced Frame Convertible is best used for small to large lakes, ocean bays and slow moving rivers. One of the big reasons why people buy it is for expedition and day touring excursions. 

Set Up and Take Down Time

As much as I and many other review sites like this kayak it does have an “elephant in the room”. Its setup and take down time will be a bit more complicated because you have 6 chambers to fill with this kayak. 

If you added the drop stitch floor then you would have to add to that time. Your first few setups will take a bit of time to get used to but after that you will know what to do.

Probably the biggest con to this inflatable kayak is the fact that it can take a while to take down. Not because it’s overly complicated but more so because of the drying time. Make no bones about it, the drying time for this kayak can be brutal because of its double coated fabric.

This kayak also required more care and maintenance which means regular washing and cleaning of the kayak after using it. This will be especially true for when you use it in the ocean. If you don’t properly care for it, the kayak will start to smell moldy and really.. Who wants to paddle a moldy kayak? 

On Water Performance

This is one of the reasons why this kayak is the editor’s choice. It’s long and it tracks well (if you have the backbone, or drop stitch floor). This makes it one of the better inflatable kayaks to paddle, because well, it feels like you are paddling an actual kayak!

The Tracking and the speed of this kayak are sufficient and it glides well after each stroke. While you probably won’t be winning any races against your sea kayaking friends, you will give the ones with recreational hardshells a run for their money, especially with the drop stitch floor.

The Kayak is also quite stable which makes it a good contender for paddlers with a wide range of paddling skills. The only area where the AdvancedFrame lost points was for maneuverability. At 15 feet long it can be tricky to maneuver around those sharp river bends.

Kayak Features and Design

The AdvancedFrame Convertible is one of the most versatile inflatable kayaks when it comes to cockpit design. You can keep the cockpit as an open space sit inside design, or you can make it a closed cockpit thanks to its 2 conversion decks. One of them is meant for a single paddler while the other can be used for a double configuration setup. 

Another thing that makes the Advanced Elements kayaks unique is their narrow bow and stern that are shaped by its aluminum ribs. This helps the kayak cut through the water instead of plowing into it like many inflatable kayaks. This helps reduce the hydrodynamic load of the kayak cutting through small waves.

AdvancedFrame Convertible

Of course the biggest thing that will make the biggest impact on performance is adding the backbone or the drop stitch floor. The backbone is a long beam that goes below the floor of the kayak to make a keel. 

The backbone is the cheaper route to go if you are a bit budget conscious. The drop stitch floor (similar idea as to what stand up paddle boards use) increases the rigidity as well as the durability to the floor of the kayak allowing it to behave like a hardshell.  

What Customers Think

On Amazon it is one of the most highly rated inflatable kayaks. Lots of customers who bought it were looking for a tandem kayak that wouldn’t take up much room. Lots were impressed by its paddling ability.

One customer who was formerly a white water kayaker loves the primary and secondary stability of the kayak. He went with his wife (who had never kayaked before) and they both felt secure from the moment they sat down. 

Some of the more negative comments are directed at how the bag is awkward to carry and relatively cheaply made. There were also a few customers who complained about how putting the kayak back into the carrying case was a chore.


  • From a Hydrodynamic perspective the kayak is well built
  • Has fantastic stability
  • Great kayak to learn in
  • Can be paddled as a single or double
  • Has 3 different cockpit configurations
  • You can fit a good amount of gear in here
  • This is a good solo camping/ touring kayak
  • Has lots of positive reviews
  • Tracking ability of this kayak is great


  • The double Fabric takes a long time to dry
  • This kayak needs regular cleaning and maintenance
  • The bag is awkward to carry
  • The kayak is pretty heavy to carry
  • It’s hard trying to get the kayak back into the bag
  • Seats can be uncomfortable after an hour of paddling

3. Sea Eagle Razorlite 393rl (Speed Pick)

Photo from Bert’s Adventures Youtube Channel


  • Length: 12’8”
  • Width: 27.9”
  • Weight: 35.2Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 500.4 Lbs
  • Materials: 1100 Decitex Reinforced with Drop Stitch Floor
  • Number of Paddlers: 1 or 1 with gear or dog/child

Who it is for

This is a premium kayak for those who crave fantastic glide and tracking. The Sea Eagle 393rl is perfect for those who want inflatable kayaks that can cut through the water like a hot knife in butter!

This kayak is best for medium to larger lakes, slow moving rivers and calm ocean bays. It does also have some good touring capability thanks to its 500 lb maximum capacity. The ideal weight for this boat would be having 1 passenger and gear or small child/ dog. For those craving a tandem fit , there is the Razorlite 473 rl.

Set Up and Take Down Time

If you are looking for a speedy set up and take down look no further than the 393 rl! The kayak has 3 valves that can be inflated to 10 PSI. For some of the packages it also comes with an electric pump to save your back from that extra pumping that’s required to get to the 10 psi. 

(As an avid inflatable paddle boarder I would highly recommend the electric pump)

This kayak also features foot pegs that you can install. Many people who are used to sea kayaks or white water kayaks like having these foot pegs as it secures their legs into place. Some paddlers would argue footpegs add to performance while others will say it doesn’t make a massive difference. It just depends who you ask!

The deflation process is pretty simple as well. Simply take the seat, and foot pegs and any gear you have with you out of the kayak. Release the air from the 3 valves and fold the kayak up! Between the drain valves and the skeg will be your first fold and follow it up. 

Thankfully the 393 is easy to dry as well so just bring a towel and you are good to go!

On Water Performance

This will be the main reason why you get this kayak for that silky smooth on water performance. As far as glide and tracking goes the 393 rl is the standard for inflatable kayaks. While sea kayaks will still out pace you this kayak will give hardshell recreational kayaks a run for its money.  

If you were looking for more speed and you work well with your friend or partner. The Razorlite 473 rl will be even faster in the water thanks to its tandem paddling power!

If you are a beginner kayaker you may have some problems initially with the stability. Because of its 28” width the initial stability (stability you get being seated or paddling straight) will be lacking. This is definitely the upgrade pick you go to when you want more performance oriented paddling.

Kayak Features and Design

This kayak will not have all the bells and whistles but it does have the features you need for a performance oriented kayak. The kayak itself comes with a skeg, hand pump, tall back seat, skeg as well as a 4 piece 8’ paddle that has a fiberglass reinforced blade. The seat is about as comfortable as you can get for an inflatable kayak package.

The only complaint I’d have is about the kayak paddle. For performance reasons It would make more sense for the kayak to be a 2 piece blade instead of a 4 to maximize performance. If the bag had outer compartments it could accommodate the paddle no problem like some SUP manufactures do. 

Another one of the great things about the razorlite is that it is made to be durable thanks to its narrow 1100 Decitex Reinforced frame. The material is similar to that of inflatable paddle boards so getting a puncture is rather unlikely, if proper care is taken. 

What Customers Think

In terms of durability one user from Florida has stated that he’s run over almost everything from oysters, sunken metal to gators and has never encountered any problems with durability. 

In terms of comfort some customers felt that the seat was good for a few hours but then started getting a bit uncomfortable. Unfortunately this is often the reality for those who have had expensive sea kayaks and switch to inflatable kayaks. 


  • The Fastest Kayak on the list
  • Very durable
  • Well built and designed
  • Sometimes you get free electric pump with package
  • Has good secondary stability, something few inflatable kayaks have
  • Tracks very well
  • Quick Set Up and Take Down


  • Expensive Price Tag
  • Not the most stable inflatable kayak
  • Skeg could be US Fin box instead of slide in
  • Foot pegs could be difficult to figure out at first
  • Not the most maneuverable kayak on the list

4. Intex Excursion Pro (Best Budget Pick)

Photo from


  • Length: 12’7”
  • Width: 37”
  • Weight: 39 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 400 Lbs
  • Materials: Laminate PVC
  • Number of Paddlers: 2

Who it is For

The Intex Excursion Pro is a great introductory kayak to get into the world of inflatable kayaks, or the world of kayaking in general. It’s also a great yak for those who are looking for a budget fishing vessel thanks to its mounting bracket capabilities. 

The Intex Excursion Pro is ideal for those smaller, more calm bodies of water. You can also take it out to bigger lakes and bays. You just have to make sure it’s not super windy outside. 

This inflatable kayak has a 400 lb maximum capacity that is ideal for one paddler and a small child or dog. You can theoretically have 2 paddlers inside but the on water performance starts to go downhill. 

Set Up and Take Down Time

The Set Up is pretty simple with this kayak. There’s 3 chambers that take about 3-5 minutes for each to fill. This package also features a pressure gauge.  After the boat is inflated you just need to inflate the seats, put in the adjustable foot rests and place the fishing rack inside. 

Because this kayak is made of PVC you just need a towel to dry it off. After that release the air valves, fold the kayak in half and ease the air out of the kayak. 

Probably one of the bigger cons about this kayak is the fact that it’s harder to stuff back into its included bag. It seems while Intex did a good job with the kayak itself they kinda skimped out on the bag.

On Water Performance

If you were looking for me to compare this kayak with the top 3 of course it would be no competition. But that’s a bit unfair because this kayak comes at by far the cheapest price point compared to them. On a per value to dollar formula this kayak would score high marks.

This kayak is fantastic for beginners because of its primary stability. When you are paddling in the water you really do feel safe and secure in it.  In terms of tracking it does a respectable job. In Fact in a test it actually performed the best out of the budget inflatable kayaks (including the Sea Eagle 370). 

Kayak Features and Design

This kayak is kind of like a hybrid between your budget inflatable kayaks and your mid tier range. The material has 3 layers. A layer of woven material sandwiched by two layers of PVC. So in terms of quality for price this is a solid find.

This inflatable also features 3 position adjustable foot rests, spray combs for the hull and stern, inflatable seats and a mounting bracket. The mounting bracket can be used for rod holder attachments, GPS, attachments, fish finders, go pro holders and more!

The package also comes with two skegs, one for shallow water and a longer one for those more open water environments. 

What Customers Think

Customers really appreciated the fact that this kayak is more than they bargained for. A lot were really impressed with the quality materials that were put into it. Lots of fisherman in particular really liked the mounting bracket that came with the kayak. Some mounted garmins, fishing rod holders, tackle boxes and more. 

A few customers have complained about small punctures they found after using the kayaks. Some other common complaints were that the seats were uncomfortable after long periods. In my mind the ideal paddling time in this kayak is about 1-3 hours before your back starts hurting.


  • One of the best kayaks per dollar on this list
  • The price is reasonable for the quality
  • Paddles pretty well
  • Good maneuverability
  • Comes with a lot of handy well thought accessories
  • Setup is straight forward


  • Some customers have complained about the durability
  • The seat can get uncomfortable after long periods
  • Can be tough to fit it back into the bag
  • Paddle quality could be a bit better
  • Patch kit has been called into question more than a few times

5. Intex Challenger K2 (Introductory Pick)

Photo From Sagittourist Pintrest


  • Length: 9’
  • Width: 30”
  • Weight: 23.9 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 400 Lbs
  • Materials: Heavy Duty Vinyl
  • Number of Paddlers: 2 (best performance with 1 and a half)

Who it is For

The Intex Challenger is for people who are just getting into the world of kayaking and want a boat that they can paddle close to the shore with. 

The K2 is meant for those who want to paddle in calm waters like small to medium sized lakes and slow moving rivers. You can use this for calm bays as well but if the tide is coming in, you may have problems!

The Intex Challenger K2 is supposed to be for two people but realistically it’s best for 1 person and some gear or a small child/dog. Still if you don’t mind a bit of a drop in paddling performance two people can be achievable. 

Set Up and Take Down Time

The Challenger K2 is relatively easy to put together and take apart. Because of it’s vinyl material the kayak can be compacted much easier than all the other kayaks on this list. When you first pull it out it will be as flat as a pancake! 

The kayak features 2 valves that are ordered by numbers. The first thing you pump up is the floor and then the side walls. You then add an inflatable piece meant to go between your legs to uplift the front of the kayak and then you just gotta decide how many seats you’re going to inflate!

Deflating can be a bit of a challenge! With this kayak you have to wrestle with it a bit to make sure you get as much air as possible. Just be sure you dry the boat off first! 

On Water Performance

The on water performance of this boat won’t blow you out of the water per say. But it is more than sufficient for introductory paddlers to learn their way while feeling secure in the kayak. It’s maneuverability is good as well. Mind you I wouldn’t recommend taking this down fast moving waters but its shorter length makes it a good kayak from those slower, deeper rivers.

It’s tracking ability is actually not bad, and it’s actually better than more expensive kayak makes out there like the Intex Explorer and the Sevylor K5. This is all thanks to its skeg that comes with the kayak. If you forget to put the skeg on though, then you will be correcting the kayak and expending more energy to keep it straight. 

Kayak Features and Design

The Challenger K2 can take on some gear but it is definitely not a camping kayak. Some people have stated it’s a decent fishing kayak, although I would be nervous to accidentally sink a hook in the vinyl material. 

The kayak’s design is interesting because it actually is a sit inside kayak that has a spray skirt to protect you from splashes. A lot of inflatable kayaks at the same price point are just over rated inflatable sit on top pool toys compared to this model.

The kayak comes with two oars, two inflatable seats, a pump, bag, a skeg and cargo deck netting. The deck netting can maybe fit a small backpack while the rest of the gear will have to sit inside the kayak. 

What Customers Think

While the reviews on this kayak are generally pretty favorable there is a large discrepancy of how well made this kayak is. You will have people who complain that it popped after one or two paddles and others who say that they’ve had this kayak for 3 years plus. 

The main thing to remember is the more you take care of the kayak (proper cleaning, drying, keeping it out of the sun) the more the odds of you having it longer will be in your favor. 

A lot of customers liked the fact that the kayak was easy to set up and inflate. They also appreciated how light weight it was to carry. However, many customers complained about the quality of the carrying bag. Others had trouble deflating the kayak and compacting it small enough to get into the bag.


  • Cheapest Kayak on the List
  • Good Value per dollar on this kayak
  • Tracking is decent for the price
  • Set-up is easy 
  • Comes with everything you need to paddle
  • Great entry kayak
  • Overall positive reviews


  • Durability seems to be hit and miss
  • Getting the kayak back into the bag can be challenging
  • The seat is cheap and lacks back support for long periods
  • Some reports of skeg coming off the kayak while paddling
  • Bullied by wind fairly easily
  • Not a good kayak for open waters

Specialty Inflatable Kayaks

The list we made for the above kayaks were for all around purposes, with some having a bit of a performance edge in certain situations. The inflatable kayaks listed below are meant for more specific purposes

Below we review the winners of the specific categories, kind of like best in show. We will be providing a brief summary of each kayak followed by a more specific guide to show how and why they won that group. 

Sea Eagle FastTrack 465ft (Best 3 Person Inflatable Kayak)

Photo from


  • Length: 15.2’
  • Width: 35.8”
  • Weight: 44 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 793 Lbs
  • Materials: 1100 Decitex Reinforced
  • Number of Paddlers:

Winner: Best 3 Person Inflatable Kayaks

The Sea Eagle FastTrack 465ft is the ultimate in family cruising with an edge of performance. The 465ft is meant for calm water conditions in various sized lakes, bays and slow moving rivers. Of course what draws people to this kayak is the fact that it’s a triple tandem that can glide through the water with ease.

While this kayak does take up a bit of room it can still be stored in the back seat of your car or bed of the truck. In the case of the below video by knight views you can also store it in the compartment of your RV.

Some of the things that make this kayak glide and track well are 

  1. It’s long 15’ length 
  2. It’s pronounced inflatable Keel on the bottom of the boat 
  3. The skeg that comes with this kayak. 

For a kayak to track well and have good glide, you usually have to take away a bit of stability but it doesn’t seem so in this boat! 

Another very favorable feature about this kayak is the fact that it only weighs 44lbs. Which is no problem if you have two people carrying it. Despite being a bit longer it is also about 8 lbs lighter than the AdvancedFrame Convertible inflatable kayak. 

Overall looking at customer reviews a lot of people swear by this kayak. I’ve run into a few where they had this kayak for 7+ years and when it started getting leaks they replaced it with the exact same model. Probably the biggest downside to this kayak is the price which is about $200 over the $1000 price range for the starter kit. 


  • Remarkably Stable
  • Tracks well
  • You can get this kayak at a good clip
  • Relatively light weight for its size
  • High praise from kayak owners
  • Can actually carry 3 people
  • Great for Multi Day Trips


  • Price tag is on the expensive side
  • Takes up more storage room than a regular tandem inflatable
  • Seat that come with it may not be the comfiest
  • Assembly and Disassembly take some time

Star Raven 1 Pro (White Water Pick) 


  • Length: 9’10”
  • Width: 38”
  • Weight: 39 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 275 Lbs
  • Materials: 44/1000 PVC, PVC Drop Stitch Floor
  • Number of Paddlers: 1

Winner: Best Inflatable White Water Kayaks

If you are a white water kayaking enthusiast you will probably not be expecting too much out of inflatable kayaks. But I dare those same enthusiasts to take a gander at the Star Raven 1 Pro inflatable kayak. This inflatable boat made for maneuverability and swift decisions when you are on the water!

One common complaint I always come across when white water hardshell enthusiasts talk about inflatable kayaks is that they don’t have foot braces. This is a pretty key aspect to get the most performance out of your strokes to make those quick decisions needed to avoid rocks and other hazards.  You’ll be relieved to hear that the Star 1 Pro has these adjustable foot braces and thigh straps.  

Some other features that make this kayak white water worthy are it’s 38” extra stable width, it’s 18” rocker and it’s 9’10” length that makes precision maneuverability possible.

Now this is a more specialist boat meaning if you take this thing out on flat water lakes you will probably be a bit disappointed. The kayak does not track so unless you are looking for a fishtailing kayak there are other boats more suited to you. 


  • Well thought out accessories for white water rafting
  • Very maneuverable
  • The price is pretty good for a specialist boat
  • Pretty comfortable for shorter periods
  • Well placed handles for carrying
  • Has foot braces and thigh braces
  • Seat is strapped down good so it doesn’t go anywhere
  • Features drop stitch floor
  • Very Stable


  • It’s a pretty heavy boat
  • Does not track well at all
  • Not a good pick for flat water
  • Does not glide well
  • Some White Water paddlers prefer Aire Kayaks for serious White Water

Bote Deus Aero (SUP Kayak Hybrid Pick)


  • Length: 11’
  • Width: 33”
  • Weight: 41 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 300 Lbs
  • Materials: AeroBOTE Drop Stitch Technology
  • Number of Paddlers: 1

Winner: Best SUP Kayak Hybrid

I knew this kayak would grab some eyes. I also knew that what SUP Hybrid really meant was a kayak seat placed on a paddle board. Not in this review!!

This board/ boat definitely changes this definition. The Deus Aero is meant for those paddlers who want to both sit and stand while paddling their craft. This super stable watercraft is ideal for beginners who want some paddling versatility. 

The Bote has a rather unique seat platform that you can take on and off of the board to switch from kayaking to paddle boarding, It also features many useful handles for carrying as well as a foot rest bar that you can easily install. For those who like their beverages you can also clip on the Bote cup holder to the side!

Well this inflatable kayak looks nice and all but how does it paddle? For those who have difficulty with balance throughout their life (like me). 

This is a great stable kayak that will be able to get you on the water. If you are also a paddler who really is not a fan of getting their butt wet I’d say this is about as good of a pick as you can get. 

For pure on water performance the Bote is about inline with how your average Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board would be. Be it a bit heavier in weight. This inflatable kayak tracks well enough in the water. 

You won’t be winning any races against touring stand up paddle boards or the Sea Eagle Razorlite but it does well for an inflatable. It’s hard PVC Drop stiitch material gives it a hard chine along with the rubberized keel on the hull of the boat. 

Overall there were a lot of fans of this boat. Only one person noted how there was a seam failure and that they couldn’t get a hold of customer service. 


  • Great Kayak for keeping high and dry
  • Portable enough to fit into the bag with relative ease
  • Can switch from kayaking to stand up paddle mode
  • Has a lot of good useful accessories you can add
  • Very stable on the water
  • Good tracking for this boat
  • Good maneuverability
  • Made to be very durable
  • Great vessel to have dogs or kids on


  • Is a bit pricey 
  • One or two reports about unresponsive customer service
  • Is on the heavy side compared to many inflatable kayaks and SUP boards
  • Handpump should be a double pump that comes with the package
  • Not the fastest package out there

Advanced Elements Expedition Elite (Single Touring Pick)

Advanced Elements paddling


  • Length: 13’
  • Width: 32”
  • Weight: 42 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 450 Lbs
  • Materials: double-coated fabric encasing bladders w/ Drop Stitch Floor
  • Number of Paddlers: 1

Winner: Best Inflatable Touring Pick

For those single touring fanatics who love to go into the wilderness for days on end I think I have just found your kayak. The Advanced Frame Expedition Elite (AE-1009-XE) is the kayak to take with you in almost any sort of conditions. Expeditioner Geoff Wilson took this kayak out for a giant river expedition in the brooks Range Alaska in the video below. 

The thing that makes this the best touring pick is the fact that it is made of study materials and has a drop stitch floor to help with rigidity. That coupled with the aluminum bow and stern make this a great inflatable kayak that has some performance to it. 

It is also made more sturdy compared to other sister comparables like the AdvancedFrame Convertible in that it has plastic inserts at the nose. At the bottom of the nose there is also plastic PVC covering to ensure its durability for those longer paddles. 

Compared to it’s AdvancedFrame Convertible cousin it features 9 chambers compared to the 6 from the Convertible. These extra chambers help with rigidity of the boat. But, if you are constantly setting it up and deflating after use you may get slightly annoyed with it. 

Out of the AdvancedFrame line up this is certainly one of the more durable and well thought out kayaks in the lineup. Other smaller features you may have missed include a back storage compartment to store gear without it getting wet. Bungee deck lacing at the front and rear of the kayak and neoprene knuckle guards on the sides of the kayak for those long days paddling.

Overall this is a great pick if you want to be enclosed and have all your gear safe, secure and dry. If you don’t have a lot of patience with setup or you are thinking of constantly packing up the kayak you may want to look at PVC style kayaks that are easier to dry and quicker to pack up. 


  • This Kayak is extremely durable
  • Tracks very well
  • Produces good glide
  • Good in almost all conditions (as long as you are trained)
  • Decent storage room available inside
  • One of the best looking inflatable kayaks out there
  • Great for Multi-day trips
  • The kayak is very sturdy
  • Seat is one of the more comfortable ones for inflatable kayaks
  • The design is very well thought out for long distance paddling


  • Set Up and Take Down time will take a while
  • Drying off the fabric is a pain
  • Cannot be used as Tandem
  • Is a lot heavier to carry coming out of the water because of soaked fabric

Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler Pro (Best Fishing Kayak)

Photo by


  • Length: 10’6”
  • Width: 38.5”
  • Weight: 45 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 400 Lbs
  • Materials: PVC Tarpaulin w/ Drop Stitch Floor
  • Number of Paddlers: 1

Winner: Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak

I knew coming into this pick that I would never be able to win. And that’s the great thing about kayak anglers! they are so passionate about what they do, they have no problem voicing their opinion! 

For this particular choice we choose the Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler for a lot of customization reasons. For those who want something a bit simpler The regular StraitEdge Angler is a great pick too!

The Straight Edge Angler Pro is just a super well thought out kayak that is protected by PVC and a drop stitch floor. Its like paddling a customizable fishing dinghy! 

Some of the most important things to look for when you are looking for an inflatable kayak is:

  1. How comfortable the seat is 
  2. Lots of room to fit gear
  3. Fishermen like having attachments. 

These attachments can be anything from rod holders, fish finders, drink holders, go pro holders and more. I can literally go on for 20 minutes. Thankfully the Straight Edge Angler ticks all of these boxes and has the qualities fishermen want.

For those fishermen who crave stability for tasks like fly fishing and other endeavors this kayak is 38.5 inches wide giving it plenty of stability to go round. With such a wide stability you would think that this would massively affect the on water performance of this vessel. Surprisingly not! 

The StraightEdge pro tracks pretty well for a wide kayak and can get some glide when you are in a rhythm. This is thanks to its pronounced keel and the fin which allows the kayak to paddle as you would expect.

Maneuverability is also this kayak’s strength thanks to the shorter length and wider width. This will allow you to sneak into those tighter lake beds silently without disturbing a single fish.


  • Kayak is very stable
  • Glides and Tracks well for such a wide kayak
  • Lots of customization available 
  • Very Maneuverable
  • Features drop stitch floor
  • Rail mounts allow you to add extra accessories
  • Set Up Timeis pretty quick
  • Has abrasion pads for high use areas


  • Can be difficult to fold back up
  • Not the best option for paddlers over 6’2”
  • Some customers have some complaints about the seat
  • Some customers have had issues with the valves

Sea Eagle 300X (Light Weight Pick)

Inflatable kayak surfing


  • Length: 9.8’
  • Width: 39.4”
  • Weight: 30.8 Lbs
  • Maximum Capacity: 394 Lbs
  • Materials:1100 Decitex Reinforced PVC
  • Number of Paddlers: 1

Winner: Best LightWeight Inflatable Kayak

Now before you say anything… I realize there are lighter weight kayaks out there! The problem with being a lightweight kayak is that you often sacrifice some durability to save weight. And that’s just not acceptable to us at Inflatable Kayak Authority. So after scouring the internet for many many hours we decided that the Sea Eagle 300X deserved the crown. And for a few good reasons too!

The Sea Eagle 300X is about as durable as an inflatable kayak can come It’s made for Class IV rapids for peat sake! But it’s an all around kayak meaning it won’t behave like a total dog in the flat water. 

One thing that lightweight kayak users want is something that they can set up quick! The 300x does a great job of that by having a 5 minute set up time which is something I think every inflatable kayak owner can embrace. 

It can also be stored without taking a lot of space. Fit it in a trunk, closet or heck, even under your bed (maybe don’t do that). And because it is lightweight it won’t take a ton of effort to transport

The on water performance of this kayak is jack of all trades. In this case that’s actually a good thing. You have a kayak that can feel just as much at ease in the lake as it is in the ocean, white water rapids or calm bays. 

If you are someone who loves to travel to a variety of different waterways this is a great travel pick that you can eek some on water performance out of. 


  • Very versatile
  • Stable to sit in
  • Relatively fast setup 
  • Compact to fold up
  • Can hold its own on white water rapids
  • Can track well for a boat of its length
  • Different packaged to choose from
  • Good amount of onboard storage
  • Lots of high customer ratings


  • Some problems have been reported with valves in earlier models
  • Some complaints about the kayak being hard to clean
  • Not the best for strictly flat water paddling
  • Not the fastest kayak around

The Step By Step How to Choose an Inflatable Kayak Buyers Guide 

In this Section of the buyers guide we go through the most important questions and concerns to ask yourself when shopping for an inflatable kayak. 

Whats Important to you?


Got an inflatable kayak in mind for a specific activity? We have some guides to help you narrow it down. Some examples include:

  • Best inflatable kayaks for touring
  • Best inflatable fishing kayaks
  • Best camping kayak
  • Best inflatable kayak for white water


When we talk about need we talk about an inflatable kayak that can handle a specific task. This could be anything from:

  • Best Inflatable Stand Up Kayaks
  • Best Inflatable Canoes
  • Best Lightweight Inflatable kayak
  • Best cheap inflatable kayak
  • Best kids inflatable kayak
  • Best tandem inflatable kayaks
  • Best inflatable kayaks for beginners


If you have a specific budget in mind and price is your main concern take a gander to our inflatable kayaks sorted by price tag!

What is Your Experience Level?

The inflatable kayak you choose will come down to what your experience level is. The main factor that comes into this is stability. If you have never paddled a kayak before or are a relative newcomer you want something that you can feel safe and secure in.

We will be going a bit more in depth about stability below but a good way to judge it is by looking at customer reviews and looking at the kayak’s width.

For those who have owned kayaks before and want something more to their skill level you will probably be going higher up in the pricing tier

Inflatable kayaks have come a long ways since their first use in the 1973. Today many inflatable kayaks are almost on par to good hardshell models. Which leads us to our next question..

Where are you Paddling?

Where you live and where you like to paddle will be two determining factors in what inflatable boats you use. Starting out you should just stick to calm waters like lakes

If you are hours away from a lake and all you have is coastal oceans.Then go on a calm day when the tide is the highest. 

advanced elements paddling river

It’s also a good idea to observe the movement of the water. It’s a good idea to see how hard other paddlers have to battle against the movement of the water

If you are wanting to get into white water kayaking, inflatable kayaks are a great medium to learn on because of their super stability. But make sure that you take some white water paddling classes first. There is a lot to learn when it comes to white water kayaking. Some skills you need include:

  • Reading the River
  • Body Position
  • Scouting 
  • Rescues
  • Safety Precautions and more

How Many People are You Paddling With?

While it’s pretty obvious what the differences are between a one, two and three person inflatable kayaks. It’s more difficult to choose between the different types of tandems and which is good for what. 

The best way to make an informed choice is to look at the weight capacity of the kayak and the type of floor it supports. If you get an inflatable 2 person kayak with a vinyl inflatable floor, and you put two full sized adults in it. You will have some difficulties going forward on water performance wise. 

Another thing to consider is the fact that inflatable kayak weight ratings are measured by weight being distributed across the boat. This lacks a bit of practical value because in reality your weight is centered in two specific points

sea eagle tandem

The best material that counters this problem is drop stitch flooring. The same material that inflatable paddle boards are made of. Drop Stitch floors counters sagging which helps 

  1. Maintain the boats on water performance
  2. Give the boat a higher maximum capacity

When choosing a good tandem or camping inflatable kayak, look for one with a high maximum capacity of at least over 450 Lbs

Additional Costs and Accessories to Consider

You got your kayak and now you’re off to the races right?! Well not quite, despite many inflatable kayaks coming with lots of accessories there are some things manufacturers won’t tell you as outlined in the below video 

Additional Costs 

  • Good Quality PFD
  • High quality dry bag (like NRS)
  • A Solid Paddle
  • Some Places you may need a waterways license (like in the UK)

If you are going on more serious trips check our camping kayak guide list. 

Important Factors to Consider for an Inflatable Kayak

Below are some factors to consider when choosing an inflatable kayak. This guide is for if you want to go super in depth in your inflatable kayak research and find precisely what fits for your lifestyle. 

Category of Kayak

We recently did a poll in A Facebook Group called Inflatable Kayaking 2.0 as to what the most important factor is when looking for an inflatable kayak. 

The Overwhelming Majority Agreed that Build Quality (Materials) was the most important factor

Before I go any further into this I highly recommend you watch what Youtuber Jack Baikoff says about inflatable kayaks. It’s a very honest video and his classification system is bang on. 

Below we will explain a bit more in depth on his classification system and relate it to some of our experiences.

Category I Kayaks

Category I Kayak

These are usually kayaks made of vinyl or similar materials. These kayaks are ideal for use in calm waters and are usually paddled for a few hours maximum. 

  • Material: Single Layer Vinyl
  • Inflate to: 1-3 PSI
  • Where to Paddle: In Calm Lakes and Bays
  • Price Range: $80 – $250
  • Brand Examples: Intex, Sevylor,Bestway Sea Eagle (Lower Price Range)

These are the kayaks that you have to be most careful of as their material is the most delicate. If proper care is taken and you don’t run into any issues these kayaks can last about 2-5 years. 

The accessories that come with these kayaks, while complete, are usually pretty flimsy.

Category II Kayaks

Category II Kayaks are usually the 2 layer kayaks where the bladder is made of some type of vinyl and it is enclosed in some kind of fabric. These kayaks can endure heavy recreational use and some can even be used on Class II water ways. 

  • Material: Vinyl in a Fabric Layer
  • Inflate to: 1-3 PSI
  • Where to Paddle: Medium- Large Lakes, Bays, Rivers and Calmer Coastal Waters
  • Price Range: $250 – $750 
  • Brand Examples: Advanced Elements, Aquaglide, Sevylor, Itiwit

The quality of these kayaks differ from manufacturer to manufacturer but the standard in this class is Advanced Elements and Aqua Glide. The upper tier of these kayaks paddle well and can be used for touring trips while the lower level kayaks are more glorified Category I Kayaks with a vinyl cover. 

The main downside to these kayaks is setting up and drying. These kayaks usually have between 3 to 6 (sometimes even 9 like the Advanced Elements Expedition) bladders that can be inflated with a hand pump. 

Special care and extra maintenance needs to be done with these kayaks as you will need to wash the fabric and bladders after a few uses. If you don’t the materials start to get moldy and smelly. 

Category III Kayaks

These are your Heavy duty kayaks that can face almost anything that is thrown at them. Category III kayaks are often made of Thick PVC and some of them even feature drop stitch floors (like the paddle boards). These kayaks are often made for more specialist purposes but will last you the longest.

  • Material: PVC with or Drop Stitch
  • Inflate to: 8-10 PSI
  • Where to Paddle: White Water, Lakes, Oceans
  • Price Range: $800 and Beyond
  • Brand Examples: Sea Eagle(higher end), AquaGlide, Star, Aire, Driftsun, Elkton

These kayaks can be used for a variety of activities like white water travel, fishing, touring or even as stand up hybrids. The life span of these kayaks, when taken care of properly can be 10 to 25 years! You can also load these kayaks up with a ton of gear for those multi day touring excursions. 

Inflatable Kayak Sizing

To explain this more in depth we have an inflatable kayak sizing guide that allows you to correctly size the type of kayak you need for your uses and needs.  But we will briefly explain each criteria needed to consider your sizing needs.


The length of the kayak is a big determining factor in terms of how much weight it can hold, it’s speed and tracking. 

Inflatable Kayak Lengths

Length will be the main determining factor as to how many paddlers you will be bringing with you as well. As a general rule of thumb

  • 8’ – 12’ is good for a solo paddler
  • 12’ – 16’ is a good 2 or 3 person kayak

Of course this rule changes as you get into more specialty kayak activities.


Width is one of the best indicators to how stable a kayak is. It is also a major indicator to determine how maneuverable a kayak is. 

  • 28” to 33” = Less Stability more speed
  • 33” to 40 = More Stability Less Speed

Real life examples of this would be. White water kayakers usually prefer inflatable kayaks with wider hulls because they can respond and menever better in and around obstacles. 

People who own touring kayaks usually like narrower kayaks because they can move quickly in the water and can track in a straighter line.

If you are a beginner it’s usually best to look for a wider kayak to ensure primary stability that makes you feel safe on the water. 


The main factors where weight comes into play is carrying and storing the inflatable kayak package. 

Weight is also often a big determining factor is what materials are used in the kayak. Vinyl Category I kayaks will typically be the most lightweight while inflatable Category II and III kayaks will be heavier due to the more heavy duty fabric and PVC involved. 

In the water lighter weight kayaks also have more of a tendency to be bullied by wind, currents and tides. But this is a problem most inflatable kayaks face compared to hardshells

Maximum Capacity

Maximum Capacity is an indicator that lets you know how much weight an inflatable kayak can take before it is overloaded. Unfortunately the way many manufacturers measure maximum capacity is that it’s the weight that is spread evenly throughout the kayak. This is not entirely accurate because most of the weight will be where you and your partner will be sitting.

  • Good Maximum Capacity for 1 Passenger: 275 Lbs and Up
  • Good Maximum Capacity for 2 Passengers: 450 Lbs and Up
  • Good Maximum Capacity for 3 Passengers: 650 Lbs and Up

It’s hard to know exactly what the maximum capacity for performance drop off is for each watercraft. But usually the higher the maximum capacity the more likely you can fit more people or things onto the kayak

On Water Performance

Performance has a big part to play as you go further up the price chart of these inflatable kayaks. As the saying goes ”The more you pay the better you will play”

Below are some on water inflatable kayaks performance metrics to use.


On a whole, a good majority of inflatable kayaks that are 33” and up in width will be more stable on the water. Factors that make an inflatable kayaks stable are:

  • Floor construction
  • PVC or Drop Stitch Materials
  • Wider Width
  • High Maximum Capacity
  • Multiple Air Bladders

This is by far the most important factor to any beginner kayak owner. Keep an eye out on the above factors to make sure that the kayak you are looking for meets them. 

Another thing I will state is that, while you will feel more stable in a more expensive PVC inflatable kayak. The budget Category I kayaks have done a really good job in the past few years to ensure they give their users that primary stability to fit their needs. 


This is something more veteran inflatable kayak users look for, especially in touring kayaks. This is a factor that you usually have to pay to play for. Category III kayaks like the Sea Eagle Razorlite kayaks achieve a high speed thanks to their narrow width and pointy frame. 

Characteristics of Speedy Inflatable Kayaks

  • Have good Tracking
  • Have a Narrow Width
  • Feature a Longer Length
  • Have a Pointy Nose
  • Has a noticeable “chine” on the bottom

Instances where paddlers look for speed are touring excursions, multi day trips, ocean or big lake paddling trips. 


As stated above the tracking of a kayak is correlated directly to speed. Tracking refers to how well a kayak goes in a straight line while paddling. If you are paddling and you often find that the kayak is “wiggling” side to side, that’s not considered good tracking.

Inflatable kayaks that have good tracking ability are:

  • Made of Firmer Materials
  • Have a Narrow Width
  • Have a Tracking Fin installed
  • Have some sort of Chine
  • Feature a Pointy Hull
  • Have a Longer Length

When you need a kayak to track you typically are in more open water environments like larger lakes or oceans. One of the prerequisite to having a good touring kayak is it’s tracking ability. The better tracking will allow you to go greater distances with less effort.


Good maneuverability refers to how well a kayak turns per each stroke. Usually if you have good maneuverability you will be sacrificing tracking and vice versa

Characteristics of Inflatable kayaks with good maneuverability

  • Shorter Length
  • Wider Width
  • Flat bottom 
  • Wider Nose

Kayakers who seek good maneuverability typically paddle in environments that are more narrow. Like white water and river kayaking. They like this maneuverability because the kayak is more responsive to avoiding objects that are ahead or in the way. 


Durability for inflatable kayaks is also a bit of a pay to play game. But there are a few tricks you can do to make your kayak last a while

  • Keep your inflatable kayak out of the sun for long periods when not in use
  • Protect the Valves at all cost by keeping the valve covers on (protects the seal from sand and dirt) 
  • Clean it and dry it after each use (This helps get rid of mold)

Category I kayaks will last the shortest amount of time at about 2-5 years. Category II inflatable kayaks can last 10 + years while Category III kayaks can last well over 20 years. This is all down to the quality of materials used. 

The category I kayaks are made of vinyl like material which when exposed will last a shorter time period to to wear and tear. Category II kayaks have a longer shelf life because the vinyl is protected with fabric material which absorbs most of the bumps and bruises. 

While the Category III kayaks are made of strang PVC material (similar to Zodiac boats). PVC can take a lot of abuse over the years due to its thicker material. 

Transportation and Storage

Portability is a big reason why people buy inflatable kayaks, but not all inflatable kayaks are created equal in this category

As a rule of thumb the longer the inflatable kayak the more material there is which will increase its weight. Inflatable kayaks can weigh anywhere from 4 to 60 lbs. 

When you get into the inflatable kayaks that weigh from the 4-15 Lbs range, you are usually in the packrafts category. These are essentially small boats that help you get across the river. While handy in weight there is very little performance advantage to them at all.

As a rule of thumb the Category I kayaks will usually be lighter than the Category II and Category III kayaks. 

A few things to look for relating to transportation and storage:

  • Look at the Quality of the bag, not all bags are created equal
  • Check the Full Package Weight
  • Is the Package Bulky to carry?
  • Have You got room to store it? 
  • Keep it in a temperate area

For shorter periods between paddling you can technically keep the kayak inflated. Although it’s best to thoroughly clean and dry it before winter storage. 

Set-Up Time and Disassembly

Set-Up time and disassembly differ from kayak to kayak. Typically the Category I and II kayaks are quicker to set-up and disassemble compared to the Category II kayaks

This is because there are usually less bladders involved and there are no coverings to fix. In the case of Advanced Elements there are the coverings as well as the aluminum ribs and or the backbone to install. 

Just like what J Baikoff reiterated in the video Category II kayaks like Advanced Elements and some of the Aqua Glide models are tricky and time consuming to dry. Even though the Advanced Elements Convertible is the Editors pick (my pick) it is a major con that you have to realize with Category II kayaks. 

Below is a good video on what is involved in the disassembly of one of these kayaks.

For Category I and III kayaks you simply have to wash it off with some soapy water and dry it off with a towel. Drying time on vinyl or PVC is much quicker when you remove fabric from the equation. 

What We’ve Learned

Whew you made it to the end! Congrats to you for sticking till the very end. In this article we found that the top 3 best inflatable kayaks are the Sea Eagle 380X, Advanced Elements Convertible and the Sea Eagle Razorlite 393RL

The Budget Picks went to the more durable Intex Excursion Pro and the beginner friendly Intex Challenger K2

Common questions to ask yourself before getting a kayak are:

  1. Whats Important to you?
  2. What is Your Experience Level?
  3. Where are you Paddling?
  4. How Many People are You Paddling With?
  5. What Are the Additional Costs

On Top of these criteria you also look at the Category of inflatable kayak, the sizing,on water performance metrics, the transportation and storage as well as the setup and disassembly. 
All of those coupled with the budget you want to spend will allow you to wind the choices down and find what you are looking for. 

Photo of author
Hey, there! My name is Derek and I have been around kayaks and canoes all my life. The last 5 years I recently turned my attention to inflatable kayaks and my world has been a lot more portable since! When I'm not kayaking I like to watch motorsports, play hockey and work on this site!