what are Inflatable Kayaks Pros and Cons?

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There are several advantages to using inflatable kayaks. Some of them include their durability and their ease of transport. They are also surprisingly easy to maneuver to tight spaces.

 A BIG plus is that you do not need to store it in the garage. You can keep it in your closet during the winter or your trunk during the summer time. Talk about convenience! 

However, there are some disadvantages to using an inflatable kayak, including the preparation time and wind resistance. But you have the power to limit this!

How do we know this? Because we have invested our resources to research (and test when we can) every common type of inflatable kayak out there. 

In our reviews we have assessed each of them based on several criteria: storage, capacity, on-water performance, durability and a few others. We are a reliable authority on kayaks and are committed to delivering HONEST reviews based on our findings.

This article will analyze several advantages that you have when you use an inflatable kayak. It will also mention the demerits of this crucial piece of outdoor equipment. 

Although there are some major benefits, it is necessary to consider the whole picture to determine whether an inflatable kayak is for you or not. Let’s find out! Below is a little pros and cons chart for those who want to skim!

  • Easy to store
  • Very durable
  • Many mainstream models are inexpensive
  • Maneuver very well
  • Lots of different models for different activities
  • Easy to transport
  • Feels more stable to a beginner
  • Can be used for fishing
  • A few models can track well
  • Ususally comes with accessories
  • They can get bullied by the wind easier
  • Requires more preparation
  • Needs more cleaning
  • Possibility of a puncture does exist
  • Not as fast as hardshell kayaks

What Are the Pros of Inflatable Kayaks?

The concept behind inflatable kayaks is one of convenience. Not only does it offer more space and affordability than a hardshell kayak, but it is also portable. Some benefits I have noticed owning several inflatable kayaks include:

Easy to Store

A hardshell kayak is not foldable. If they were there would be a lot more kayakers out there! You need ample space to put it, a space you might not always have. However, this is not so with an inflatable kayak. It is straightforward to fold and store. Just set up, Pump and you are off!

You can even keep it in your closet if you feel like it (Who needs clothes anyway?). Though the weight of an inflatable kayak differs in size and materials, by manufacturer. You can store them in your vehicle and carry them around to the water.

After my kayak is scrubbed clean I like to keep it in my trunk. That way everything I need is there and I can just take it out on a wim! Hardshell kayaks require more planning, which usually means more planning and less spontaneous adventures.

Actually Very Durable

An inflatable kayak can handle rough waters, as they are almost puncture-proof. They are tough and durable. Manufacturers use PVC, a tear-resistant and durable material, to produce inflatable kayaks. They also use Hypalon, a more durable and lightweight material than PVC, for its production. 

However, users must always carry about a repair kit should any issue come upon the water. You have to always prepare for those what if scenarios!

How durable are they, you ask? Take a look at the video below and see for yourself!

Many Models are Inexpensive

Many models of inflatable kayaks are cheap and easy to purchase. Although as you move up in price the combination of PVC, Hypalon, and Nitrilon can make a kayak very expensive. A lot of the time you are paying more for inflatable kayaks that have on performance. More on this below 

On most sites, the price range is likely to be less than $1000. Generally, inflatable kayaks are far less expensive than their hardshell counterparts.

Just take a look on Amazon if you don’t believe me! 

Very Maneuverable

Many find the inflatable kayak to be easier to maneuver on waters than its hardshell counterparts. Because of their comparable flexibility. Another reason is the fact that they sit ON TOP of the water. Meaning there’s less water resistance for maneuverability.

Sitting On Top of the water does not improve tracking though. In Fact most of the times it hinder it. We placed this as a con below. 

Lots of Different Selections from Different Manufacturers

There is a THRIVING market for inflatable kayaks. Several companies try to outsmart themselves to produce the most quality, durable, and affordable inflatable kayaks. 

A good way in finding out which is best for you is to think forwards. 

  1. Where will you be paddling?
  2. What are You using the kayak for?
  3. What’s your Budget?

After you answer what I call the BIG 3, you will have an easier time looking for it. We go through this in depth in our Buying Guide

What’s more, you can get an inflatable kayak suitable for just about any kind of activity these days. From whitewater to fishing.

Easier to Transport

The compact size of an inflatable kayak makes storage easy, but it also makes transport comfortable. You do not require a trailer or a big truck to transport it to wherever you want to go. 

You can get storage bags with straps to carry it from inside your home to your vehicle and then to your final destination. Its compact size also makes it easy to carry around in your car. 

The good thing is most of these inflatable kayaks usually come with transport backpacks/ bags!

Feels More Stable in Water

Beginners always prefer an inflatable kayak to its hardshell counterpart because of its stability. In many cases they have the same, if not better stability than a hardshell kayak. 

However, you must ensure that all of the air chambers are fully inflated to provide balance. Obvious statement sounds obvious but I’ve seen a lot of people paddling under inflated kayaks out there!

Most inflatable kayaks have pumps and gauges that you can use to pump and gauge the air into them. 

Just make sure that you keep to the manufacturer’s recommendations and that you do not over-pump them. Doing that can damage the internal septum of the kayak.

You don’t want a pop goes to the Kayak situation! 🙁

Certain Models Have Good Tracking

Some models of the inflatable kayak come with superb tracking features. Advanced Elements and Sea Eagle Razorlite series are some of the top brands in the business. They are happy to yell it from the rooftops!

Tracking is usually one of the hindrances of inflatable kayaks. But certain manufacturers like the ones mentioned can give hardshells a run for their money!

The only downside to this is that on water performance aint cheap! These kayaks usually start at around the $450 range and can go into the +1000 range. 

Usually Comes with Accessories

In almost every instance inflatable kayaks come with more accessories than hardshell kayaks. Some accessories they can come with include comfy seats, paddles, pumps, bags. 

They can also accommodate more than one person, depending on the model. Apart from the different designs and shapes, inflatable kayaks also have cargo nets, repair kits, and personalized paddles.

Although the paddles that come with manu budget inflatable kayaks are usually flimsy. 

Some Models Can Be Used For Fishing

The versatility that inflatable kayaks offer their owners makes them excellent choices for fishing. They are almost puncture-resistant and can bounce off obstacles. 

They also are excellent fish stalkers! Imagine seeing a nice 3 foot long pike, sneaking up towards it only to scare it off when you make a THUNK noise placing the paddle down. 

The above scenario does not normally happen with inflatable kayaks. 

There are also kayaks such as the Sevylor Coleman Colorado that come with fishing accessories like rod/ paddle holders, motor mounts and much more!

What Are the Cons of Inflatable Kayaks?

There is a saying that, ‘for every advantage, there is a disadvantage.’. There are some demerits to having an inflatable kayak, and they include:

Many Models Can Get Bullied By the Wind and Harsh Elements

Inflatable kayaks are more lightweight than hardshell kayaks. And even hardshell kayaks have a hard time withstanding severe wind and harsh elements. 

Since inflatable kayaks are lightweight materials with shapes that are not as sleek as their hardshell counterparts, they get tossed by the wind.

Therefore, you should avoid going out in your kayak in harsh conditions. 

A real life example I see time and time again is people trying to paddle against the tide. In a sea kayak you can do it but with inflatables it’s pretty darn hard unless you are a strong paddler!

When you do go out, always make sure to wear protective gear to keep you safe. Some models, however, have technology that makes it easy to track the water in rough weather. 

Good models to choose for more challenging water conditions include Advanced Elements, Sea Eagle and Aqua Glide. 

Requires More Preparation

The preparation time for inflatable kayaks is also longer than hardshell kayaks since it requires pumping. You have to pump and gauge it to the proper levels, check for leaks, and ensure that all the air chambers are full. You must perform this preparation ritual to ensure optimal performance from your kayak on the water.

Needs More Cleaning

Like a hardshell kayak, you need to clean your inflatable kayak before you use it and after use. However, it is more challenging to clean an inflatable kayak

This is because of the nature of the materials used in making it. Inflatable kayaks have a lot of creases and folds, where if left unchecked, can start the growing of mold and mildew

Also, after use, it takes a long time to dry out. You will need to spread it out in the sun before packing it. If not, you will have a smelly kayak in your hands when you use it next. Especially if you just came back from paddling in the ocean! It’s not as bad as it sounds though.

We teach you how to clean your inflatable kayak here.

Possibility of Puncture Does Exist

Although manufacturers build inflatable kayaks to be durable and nigh-indestructible, there is still a possibility of puncture. Some models can manage because they have more than one air chamber. Cheaper models do not have that luxury though.

Ultimately, this possibility rests on the manufacturer. You must carry along a repair kit anytime you go out with your inflatable kayak. Doing this will help you make any fast repairs you need.

As a Whole, Not as Fast as Hardshell Kayaks

Certain inflatable kayak models can be fast, but most of them are a bit sluggish for speed and tracking. Inflatable kayak technology has come a long way in improving this speed. However, they are not as fast as hardshell kayaks on a whole. 

They are efficient, effective, and have a lot of accessories to back them up. As mentioned above this is because of the flex of designs and the fact they sit on top of the water like ducks. To accommodate this flex, they lose the on water performance edge.

So, Is An Inflatable Kayak For You?

So, what have we learned? Inflatable kayaks have come a long way in the past 30 years. They are suitable for relaxation and fishing, and easy to store. It is also effortless to transport if you are going on a vacation. 

However, its speed does not compare to a hardshell kayak, and it requires a lot of preparation and cleaning. There is also the possibility of a puncture. 

If you are a recreational user, you will have no problems using this kayak. However, If you need a kayak for sports or some other competitive activity that needs tracking. You should go for a hardshell kayak and others in that category.

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!

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