Inflatable kayaks are perfect for summer adventures where portability, storage and ease of use are essential.
There are, however, many different options available and they vary in quality so it is important to understand what to look for before buying.
To help you find a safe, durable and fun inflatable kayak, we have analysed the most popular options on the market and assessed them against a range of important criteria including size, capacity and durability.
Kayaks can be designed for different uses such as sea, whitewater or fishing so use the reviews and comparison to find the best one for your summer adventures.
Best Entry Level: Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak
Weight Capacity: 180kg
Pros: Available in 1 or 2 person models, great value, removable skeg
Cons: Single skin only, less durable than high-end alternatives
The Intex range of inflatable kayaks is ideal for beginners and anyone on a budget. The Challenger series is an entry-level kayak and comes in a 1-person and a 2-person version.
It’s constructed from heavy-duty puncture-resistant vinyl and has an inflatable I-beam floor for extra comfort and rigidity. This kayak has a capacity of 180kg, which is one of the higher limits on our list, making it ideal for two people.
One thing to note about the Intex Challenger is that it includes many of the features that are found on more high-end kayaks such as grab lines on the bow and stern, a storage cargo net, and a removable skeg for directional stability.
This kayak also comes with everything you need to get started including a carry bag, repair kit, aluminium oars and a high-output hand pump.
Best Value: Bestway Hydro-Force Ventura Double Kayak
Weight Capacity: 200kg
Pros: Great value, suitable for one or two paddlers, includes carry handles, pump and paddles
Cons: Not suitable for rough conditions
The Hydro-Force Ventura is a popular kayak for people looking for a high-quality, wallet-friendly option. Like the Intex Challenger, it’s suitable for one or two users and comes with comfortable adjustable seats that provide great support, even over long distances.
A premium coated nylon hull protects the outer shell and means the kayak will stand the test of time, while a heavy-gauge PVC floor adds further durability and stiffness. This kayak can hold up to 200kg so it can hold a couple of people with ease. The pack includes carry handles, pump and aluminum paddles.
Overall, this is a great quality, no-fuss kayak, perfect for summer adventures.
Best For Stability: Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak
Weight Capacity: 180kg
Pros: Easy inflation and deflation, stable design
Cons: Bulky compared to others
The Explorer K2 is a two-person touring kayak that offers comfort and stability without compromising manoeuvrability. This kayak is slightly wider than other models making it more stable and less likely to wobble and flip. This doesn’t mean it can handle choppy water conditions though, go for the Advanced Elements Attack Whitewater for rougher conditions.
The seats in the challenger are adjustable and removable but when both seats are in position the person at the back has limited leg room so it’s best for the taller person to sit in front. As there is limited legroom taller people may find this kayak uncomfortable if used for long tours, in this case, a larger option such as the Sea Eagle may be better suited.
Compared to the Intex Challenger, the Explorer is wider making it better suited to recreational trips rather than speed. The Explorer doesn’t feature the front storage cargo net seen on the Challenger but there should be enough space in front/ behind the seats to place any bags.
Easiest To Store And Carry: Itiwit X100+ 2 Person High-Pressure Inflatable Kayak
Weight Capacity: 150kg
Material: PVC Tarpaulin
Pros: Spacious, robust, storage backpack
Cons: Low load limit compared to others
The X100+ is a well designed inflatable kayak that is a great fit for short recreational paddles. This kayak offers good stability and several user-friendly features. There are 4 carry handles, a luggage net and a spray cover for additional storage too.
To help this kayak turn and track it has 3 small skegs that are suitable for shallow waters. This is a well-thought-out kayak that offers great performance for the price. The X100+ is best suited to shorter adventures of a few hours at a time as it offers stability over speed.
This inflatable kayak comes in a storage backpack which is easy to carry and far more convenient than a standard carry bag. The backpack is good quality and has additional storage pockets too. The kayak weighs 16kg so you still won’t want to spend too long carrying it but the backpack design is appreciated.
Upgrade Pick: Advanced Elements Advancedframe Sport Inflatable Kayak
Weight Capacity: 113kg
Material: Ripstop fabric
Pros: Handles well, stable, durable
Cons: Expensive, small carry bag
This is one of the best inflatable kayak models for solo summer trips. The Advancedframe Sport is a lightweight version of the popular Advancedframe inflatable kayak. Aside from the weight difference, the sport version is almost identical but does have a slightly larger cockpit.
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Sport has an aluminium-reinforced keel that provides stability and cuts through water well. This inflatable kayak handles well and glides faster than many standard options but it does also have one of the lowest capacity ratings of 113kg so it’s best for solo use. Despite being just 11kg, the lightest of the listed kayaks, the AdvancedFrame Sport doesn’t catch the wind easily so still feels stable.
This is a single-seat option and the seat is adjustable and there is plenty of space for extra gear in the cockpit too. This isn’t the easiest boat to put away as it doesn’t have a drainage port at the bottom like most other kayaks.
The storage bag is also quite small so it is difficult to fit everything in on the first go. With that said, once you are used to it putting the kayak away is straightforward but a bit of patience may be needed initially.
Best 2 Person Kayak: Sea Eagle 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
Weight Capacity: 295kg
Material: K80 PVC
Pros: Affordable, suitable for class III rapids, stable design, large load capacity
Cons: High profile means it may catch the wind easier
From one of the most popular inflatable kayak brands in the USA comes this great value, very reliable 2 person inflatable kayak.
Aside from the price tag, major advantages of the Sea Eagle include it being very lightweight, and its open design making entry and exit a breeze. This kayak is very durable and is manufactured with a sun & saltwater resistant hull material.
The Sea Eagle is a very solid kayak, with a load capacity of 3 people or 295kg. It provides a very stable paddle and is suitable in up to Class III whitewater. It can also be used by one person in calm waters making it a versatile option. If you are looking for a kayak for the family or for longer trips, the large load limit and stability makes this an ideal choice.
Budget Family Option: Bestway Hydro Force Lite Rapid
Weight Capacity: 160kg
Pros: Low cost, lightweight, grab ropes
Cons: Not as stable or fast as other options
The Bestway Hydro Force Lite Rapid is an affordable double kayak with a weight capacity of 160kg. This is the lightest double kayak on this list weighing only 13.8kg, this makes it easier to carry to and from the water.
The kayak is quick and easy to inflate and deflate, it also has an integrated drain valve so you won’t need to worry about water getting in while you’re paddling. The adjustable seats are inflatable with comfy backrests. There is also a removable middle keel tracking fin to help provide directional stability.
One of the features we like on this kayak is the grab ropes with built-in grommets. These ropes make it is easy to get back into the kayak from the water. This is a low-cost option that offers some family fun for first-time kayakers. It’s a good choice on lakes but won’t stand up against white water.
Best For Whitewater: Advanced Elements Attack Whitewater Inflatable Kayak
Weight Capacity: 102kg
Pros: Suitable for any water conditions, self-bailing ports, manoeuvrable
Cons: Open design so more exposed to the elements
The Attack Whitewater model is a heavy-duty kayak that you can rely on. It is suitable for the most extreme conditions, Advanced Elements rate this kayak for full whitewater, with river class determined by the paddler’s experience/skill level.
The increased width provides advanced stability for rough conditions, while a raised rocker improves manoeuvrability. As this kayak is designed for the thrill of whitewater it is going to be a bumpy ride so we like that it has a cushioned floor and a lumbar support backrest.
Self-bailing ports mean any water that makes its way into the kayak can drain out, and a durable PVC hull and independent air bladders provide superior durability. If you need an inflatable kayak that will handle all conditions, this is the one to get.
Best For Fishing: Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler Pro Kayak
Weight Capacity: 181kg
Material: PVC Tarpaulin
Pros: Stable, drop-stitch floor, removable deep fin, high-backed chair with ventilation
The StraitEdge Angler Pro offers all the usual fishing-specific features and more, making it the ultimate inflatable fishing kayak.
Stability is paramount with any fishing vessel, and Advanced Elements have held no punches in this area. Their drop-stitch floor construction (which comes as an optional add-on for their other kayaks) comes standard on the Angler Pro. This provides extreme rigidity, giving you the freedom and confidence to move around the vessel as you need to while out on the water.
A removable deep tracking fin helps the kayak hold its course, while a high-backed “AirFrame PRO” seat with mesh panelling offers superior support for extended sessions.
It is also very durable, made with high-quality materials and extra abrasion pads in high use areas. Other features include a front and rear bungee deck, paddle holders, 2 accessory frames, a duffel bag with shoulder straps and a repair kit.
Inflatable Kayak Comparison Table
|Inflatable Kayak||Our Verdict||Single/ Double||Capacity||Weight||Size||Material||Whitewater Rating||Paddles|
|Intex Challenger||Best Entry Level||Either||180kg||15.2kg||3.51m x 76cm||Vinyl||Not listed||2 x aluminium|
|Bestway Hydro-Force Ventura||Best Value||Either||200kg||16kg||3.30m x 86cm||Nylon||Not listed||2 x aluminium|
|Intex Explorer K2||Best For Stability||Double||180kg||16.7kg||2.12m x 91cm||Vinyl||Not listed||2 x aluminium|
|Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Sport||Upgrade Pick||Single||113kg||11kg||3.18m x 81cm||Ripstop fabric||Class I and II||N/A|
|Sea Eagle||Best 2 Person Kayak||Up to 3 People||295kg||14.5kg||3.81m x 86cm||K80 PVC||Class I, II and III||2 x aluminium|
|Itiwit X100+||Easiest To Store And Carry||Either||150kg||16kg||3.65m x 103cm||PVC Tarpaulin||Not listed||N/A|
|Bestway Hydro-Force Lite Rapid||Budget Family Option||Double||160kg||13.8kg||3.21m x 88cm||PVC||Not listed||2 x aluminium|
|Advanced Elements Attack Whitewater||Best For Whitewater||Single||102kg||15kg||2.9m x 89cm||PVC||Full whitewater||N/A|
|Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler Pro||Best For Fishing||Single||181kg||20.5kg||3.2m x 98cm||PVC Tarpaulin||Class I and II||N/A|
Inflatable Kayak Buying Guide
There are several factors to consider when searching for the best inflatable kayak for you. As you can see, there are many different kayaks available and each design is suited for a certain use. This buying guide will help you find a kayak that suits your needs.
There are 3 main types of inflatable kayak available:
- Sit On Top – this kayak looks a bit like a raft as you are sitting on a seat that is level with the sides. One of the good things about this type is the water mostly washes over rather than accumulating in the kayak.
- Sit In – a sit-in kayak has higher sides that offer more protection against the elements. Unlike hard-shell kayaks which are more enclosed, a sit-in inflatable kayak usually doesn’t have a covered cockpit so it is easy to get in and out. This is a good choice for keeping dry in rougher conditions.
- Canoe Style – fishing kayaks are often more of a canoe style as they are wider and deeper. They are a great option when you need additional space.
When choosing an inflatable kayak, consider what you want to use the kayak for. Do you want your new kayak to be able to go fast or would you prefer it to be more stable? Should it be good for long trips or short trips? Is it for playing in waves? Do you need storage space?
The list goes on but the point is the shape, size and features of the kayak will help to accommodate certain uses. Keep your planned use in mind during your search, here are the 3 most common uses:
1. Surf or Whitewater
Be sure to choose a kayak designed for these activities and check with the manufacturer what rapid class (1-5) the kayak is suitable for. Personal preference will dictate whether you want an open or closed kayak. You will also need to decide whether you want a self-bailing kayak, that comes with drain holes built into the floor.
2. General family use
If people of all ages and abilities are going to be using the kayak, you will want to ensure you get something that suits everyone. Many people prefer the open, sit-on-top variety of kayak for ease of use, however, they are slightly less stable. You’ll also want to check the max weight capacity of the kayak to make sure it will be suitable for the people using it.
There’s a host of extra features available to anglers. Most important is stability, and inflatable fishing kayaks are usually designed with this at front of mind. Other things to keep an eye out for are rod holders, additional storage, and a comfortable seat.
Number of Kayakers
- 1-seater: if you are planning some solo kayak adventures or you want to play around in the surf, take your kayak on hikes etc. then a shorter, lighter 1-seater kayak is ideal.
- 2-seater: a tandem kayak is the most popular inflatable kayak thanks to its versatility and convenience. These kayaks are often suitable for just one person to use as well thanks to customisable seating arrangements. This is a great choice for larger paddlers, longer trips or 2 people (up to the listed capacity).
- 3-seater: these larger inflatable kayaks are great for families or for longer trips where there is lots of equipment so the kayak needs plenty of room and storage space. 3 seater kayaks have high capacity ratings and are often designed for stability rather than speed.
The most common materials used in inflatable kayaks are PVC, Hypalon, and nitrylon, each coming with its own benefits and drawbacks.
- PVC construction is the most affordable option, and provides a good level of durability, but is not very eco-friendly.
- Hypalon is the most durable and long-lasting option, but also the most expensive. It fairs best over time against sunlight, mildew and fungus. It is usually used as a coating over polyester or nylon.
- Nitrylon is made from a combination of synthetic and natural rubber. It provides superior performance and durability over PVC and sits in between PVC and Hypalon for price.
Whatever you choose, the material needs to be high-quality and resistant to punctures and tears. The quality of the material that is used for inflatable kayaks varies greatly.
Some kayaks are triple-layer, some have a tarpaulin bottom, some have built-in aluminum ribs. Each manufacturer uses different ways to help strengthen the kayak and make sure it will stay afloat use after use. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for so paying a bit more for quality is worth it with an inflatable kayak.
It is likely the kayak will scrape against rocks or other objects at times so it’s vital to choose one that can withstand standard wear and tear. Looking at inflatable kayak reviews can be invaluable for finding more information on how the products withstand real-life use.
Many inflatable kayaks also come with a repair patch kit so you can fix any smaller issues yourself.
While on the topic of materials and durability, it is worth looking for an inflatable kayak that uses multiple air chambers. Most have a left, right and floor air chamber as standard but if the kayak also has an inner and an outer chamber it can provide extra protection and peace of mind if the kayak gets a puncture.
A kayak with multiple air chambers will be easier to get back to shore if there are any issues while on the water.
The portable nature of an inflatable kayak is one of their key selling points. The size and weight of the kayak when it is deflated and packed away should be noted as this will vary between models. The kayaks we’ve reviewed weigh from 11kg to over 20kg.
When choosing the best option for you, it’s best to make sure it’s light enough that you can carry it to and from the water and that when packed away you have enough space to store it in your car.
Ease of Use
While easier to transport than a hard-shell kayak, it takes some time to get the inflatable kayak set up and ready for launch. Some kits come with a pump included, it generally takes 5 – 10 minutes to get a kayak fully inflated with a hand pump.
Once on the water, the kayak should be easy to control. Some of the high-end inflatable kayaks are nearly as responsive as a hardshell kayak while others are more difficult to paddle and direct. A skeg can help with tracking and keeping the kayak on course and the size and shape of the kayak is often a good indication of its manoeuvrability.
One helpful feature is drainage holes along the bottom of the kayak. Something else we look out for is a quick-release valve as this is the simplest way to deflate the kayak after use. Most inflatable kayaks come with a carry bag and it should be relatively easy to pack it away after use.
How comfortable the kayak is to sit in and paddle is important too. Having padded seats help to keep paddlers comfortable during longer adventures. The amount of space in the cockpit also impacts comfort, especially if you are taller so need more leg space.
Value For Money
Compared to a hardshell kayak, an inflatable kayak offers excellent value for money. You can buy everything from a lightweight 1 person inflatable kayak on its own to a tandem inflatable tandem kayak kit that comes with aluminium paddles and a hand pump ready for use. While the price is often a good guide for the quality and features of the inflatable kayak it is not always the case so don’t choose one based on price alone.
Inflatable Kayak FAQs
Yes, good quality inflatable kayaks offer great value for money. They are safe, durable, reliable and low cost.
No, despite what people think, inflatable kayaks are very difficult to flip. They are extremely buoyant and designed to be stable. If the kayak does flip it is very easy to flip it back over and get back on.
Most inflatable kayaks are designed with durable material that is strong and puncture-resistant. They also use multiple chambers to keep you safe and a repair kit can be used for small punctures.