With the number of inflatable kayaks on the rise, it’s about time we’ve updated our top picks for 2018. We try to stick to the most tried and true manufacturers that have been around for some time, as there seems to me many fly by night generics in the market now.
To make things more complicated, there are several types of inflatable kayaks, each best suited for its own specialty purpose. Which makes choosing the best inflatable kayak a bit of a challenge.
Which is why we included what each kayak is best used for in case you are looking for a specific activity. Now let’s get right to it with our top 3 picks and a best seller:
We prefer to work with the best brands as their roots in the paddling community is pretty set, and the last thing they want to do is jeopardize their name and reputation for a quick profit. Each one of the kayaks above come highly rated, just make sure it’s in your budget and is suitable for your type of kayaking and you’ll be set for years.
The popularity of inflatables cannot be overstated, and for good reason. They have come a far way from their beginnings and are made quite different from way back then.
Inflatable ‘yaks are made out of different materials, either PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride), haypalon, or nitrylon. PVC gives a kayak maximum durability and portability and gives the kayak a decent lifespan while being cheaper than Haypalon. Hayplon is a long lasting material that extends the life of a kayak and resists against mildew and fungus.
Since nitrylon can be heavy in weight, it’s mainly only used on the outer chambers of the kayak to support against wear and tear due to its puncture and abrasion resistant durability.
Even though there are other types of kayaks we recommend, purchasing an inflatable comes with the extra advantage of avoiding the maintenance and upkeep that comes from having a hard sided or rigid kayak.
These kayaks are also lighter than plastic kayaks and aren’t as costly to repair if they happen to get damaged. Inflatables are also less expensive than fishing kayaks and other recreational kayaks made out of fiberglass.
When determining what is the best inflatable kayak for you, paying attention to the specifications of each kayak is very important. Being knowledgeable in what it all means plays a key role is finding the right kayak. So make sure to check out the above inflatable kayak reviews for proper specs and fit to your kind of water sport.
The types of valves, the hull structure, weight, size, capacity, material, all of it came be a deciding factor when comparing two kayaks that are alike or performance equally good.
Lastly, stick to well known brands. The last thing you want is to end up with a defective kayak because the company went belly up.
You won’t be wrong picking any one of our top kayak recommendations. That beings said, we know we all have our preferences and budgets to keep in mind. So let’s dig deeper into what makes each pick our top choice.
Sea Eagle is the #1 brand when it comes to inflatable boats of all kind. All their kayaks are lightweight and affordable and can match their rigid hard-shell counterpart, any day.
They live and breath inflatables, and every year they figure out ways to make them better, or add specialty models and custom packs to tailor to their customer’s need. But if you want the one that can cover all your basis, the 380x is it.
The 380x kayak is one of the most versatile inflatable kayaks out there, and the best bang for your money, with the following highlights:
At this level, its difficult to find much of any negatives to call on it but it does have a few cons:
This kayak is the 2nd most expensive one in our recommendation. It can run from $900 to $1200 depending on which configuration you choose. But for what you get, you can’t beat it.
Since Advanced Elements production move to indonesia, the new AdvancedFrame kayaks they are churning out of that factory have been markedly improved. They took many of their paddler’s complaints to heart and implemented the changes in their new batch of inflatables.
Some of the changes in the newer model AdvancedFrame kayaks are:
All this was done while keeping the kayak weight about 50 lbs yet it still can handle weights of up to 550 lbs. My wife and I weigh about 120 lbs and 180 lbs respectively, which allowed us to bring plenty of additional gear and supplies to our weekend river kayaking trip, without the need for a second kayak.
This kayak is also priced the lowest of the bunch at round $600-$800 depending on if you get the solo, tandem, or any upgrades at the time of purchase.
One thing to keep in mind, you should always have these kayaks inflatable to the manufacturer’s PSI. Never under inflated. Even if it means using an electric pump at first and then topping it of with a hand pump. This will help it track well and travel fast. Just like we like it.
If you want a kayak to last you a lifetime get the AIRE. I kid you not. We have ours for over 20+ years. You read that right, 20 plus years. They are that good.
They are great for advanced paddlers in Class IV whitewater rafting and paddlers that just want to enjoy a weekend in the lake.
Now, would I spend $1,600 on my first kayak? No, absolutely not. Get a Sea Eagle for $300 and learn to paddle first. But if you already passed your beginner’s phase using someone else’s kayak and are looking to get your own inflatable, or you want to level-up from your previous one. This one is it.
Not much has changed since its introduction, nor does it need to. AIRE was never known for using cheap parts in their inflatables, they have been premium made right from the start.
And did I mentioned it’s a head turner? Everytime we take this beauty out to the water we get looks and complements without fail.
Its comfortable, easy to use, and performs great. Highly recommended. In fact, the only reason its #3 on our list, is because of the price. But if you have the budget this would be out top pick.
Not everyone can or want to spend $1,000 on a kayak. Especially when your a beginner and just starting to get into this sport. My first kayak was right about $200-300.
For that reason we rounded up our top choice inflatable kayaks under $300 that would not only be a good starting kayak but also one to keep for future use when you have extra members joining you on your water trips.
With a price tag right under $300 for the Start Up package, the SE 370 is perfect for both beginners and experienced kayakers on a budget.
This affordable kayak is rated class 3 for whitewater use. Personally, I would stick to flatwater and cam ocean paddling when choosing the SE 370.
It can handle rough waters, there is no question about it, but I would get the 300x or 380x if that’s your high wind waters, and whitewater rafting is your main sport.
Lastly, the price, in my opinion, is something that should be taken into account any time you make a major purchase. I noticed that when I spend $1k+ on a kayak I am more careful and maybe even a bit too concerned when taking it out on the water as to not damage it.
The beauty of spending $300-$350 on a good kayak is that you get to enjoy it without worrying how much it cost you. I highly recommend spending an extra $50 and upgrade to the Pro package, as the upgraded seats will make a huge difference on your long multi-hours kayaking sessions.
This Sevylor inflatable is a two person kayak that’s made of heavy duty 26-gauge PVC with two air chambers for enhanced security and a tubular I-beam floor which gives stability.
It’s equipped with specially designed inflatable seats that have comfortable back support with two spray covers for protection with an optional directional skeg. This kayak can hold up to 400 pounds and measures 10’7″ by 2’7″.
This is the very same kayak that had traversed the entire length of the Mississippi river, and is ready to be taken on any adventure you can throw at it regardless of where you travel. However, I would recommend a sea kayak if long expedition style sea adventures is your thing.
It’s also guaranteed not to leak with Tahiti’s exclusive Airtight system that you can feel rest assured punctures is one thing you don’t have to stress about.
The Sea Eagle 330 is designed to hold up to two adults, which is why its our best inflatable tandem kayak pick in 2018. Their accompanying gear of up to 500 pounds of total weight. It’s made out of 33 mm Polykrylar hull I-beam construction with high frequency welded seams.
This kayak is safe for fishing, flatwater recreational use, and class 3 whitewater rafting. Equipped with inflatable spray skirts and two tandem seats, a foot pump, and an included carry bag for easy storage. This kayak in particular measures 134 inches long and 34 inches wide. Weighing only 26 pounds, it can easily be carried out to water by one person inflation and assembly takes only approximately six minutes.
It comes with three chambers, in the port, starboard, and the floor and has three air valves and a deluxe one-way; you won’t have to worry about any air accidentally leaking out of a Sea Eagle kayak.
The Stearns Spree has a patented three-chamber air system that provides extra safety; the two main chambers are fully enclosed so that they provide a rigid body when the kayak is inflated. The spray deck aids in keeping the paddler dry over an extended time and can be pulled back for convenience when it’s not in use.
It’s easy to inflate within minutes and just as easy to deflate in a lesser amount of time. This kayak features a mesh zippered pocket that’s great for storing the needed gear, any valuables, and things of that sort. Padding and elastic cord with D-rings are supplied in order to tie gear down while out kayaking. The size of this kayak is 11’7″ by 35″ and weighs 31 pounds while being able to hold up to two people.
This Coleman inflatable kayak is a single person boat with a grab and go backpack storage unit while being made out of 1000D Polyester bottom laminated with 24-gauge PVC. This kayak is equipped with a double lock and mini double lock valves which prevent accidental air loss and keep the inflation.
There’s a large storage area with multiple D-rings and bungee lacing. It can hold up to 250 pounds in weight and measures 10 feet by 3 feet, just unpack from it’s backpack and inflate and you’re ready to go. Comes equipped with a spray skirt that provides protection and tracking fins that make the kayak easier to steer. It’s guaranteed not to leak and comes in the color of orange.
If you find a cheap inflatable kayak on a sale, just get it. I have one. They are great for backup and kids that are just starting. Most inflatables are made out of durable PVC material, so don’t worry too much about whether the material is strong enough (enjoy the savings!).
Here is a video comparing expensive kayaks to cheaper ones:
There are a few $100 inflatable in the market today, but you might as well go with the one that has the most mileage and is well tested in the waters, like the Intex K1 and K2.
Both the Intex Challenger K1 and K2 are regularly topping the best seller list of any inflatable out there. What makes them so popular? Price.
They run anywhere from $60 to $100 depending on the sale or deals going on. hey are also a good choice to start your kids on if you just want to get them used to paddling without spending a too much on a fleeting interest.
Our daughter was an avid kayaker and loved taking any opportunity to take her inflatable to the water. Now, she switched to stand-up paddle boards as her favorite paddling sport (an inflatable SUP of course). So long story short, if you are shopping for your kids, then maybe getting a cheap inflatable kayak is a better choice for now.
Hobie Inflatables are one of the most well known brands in the world, with the Mirage line being one of the best product lines they have.
What makes them so unique is their patented paddle drive system that allows you to paddle the kayak through the water with your feet instead of your arms. This is especially useful for fishing when you want to move slowly while having your line in the water.
This Hobie inflatable kayak was created specifically for kayakers who my be shy about spare acreage but seek the enjoyment of angling, fishing, and or sailing. For those who like to sail, this kayak comes with an optional sail kit.
This kayak in particular is great for a one person paddler with enough durability to hold up to 325 pounds of weight while only weighing 48 pounds itself when fitted and 66 pounds when fully rigged. Made out of 1000 Denier PVC, it fits in a storage bag that’s 30″ by 25″ by 12″ and is 9′ in length and 36′ in width.
This is our selection in the best inflatable kayak for fishing category. It comes with a drop stitch floor that refers to the method of construction used; it allows a much higher inflation pressure that results in remarkable structural rigidity in addition to an increase in performance all without sacrificing portability with the thousands of tiny threads that are used to connect the top and bottom layers of the kayak floor to counterbalance the air pressure of this ‘yak.
Our top pick is the 380x, it’s a great kayak and at a reasonable price when matched against others that are twice as expensive.
Kayaking is fun to be fun. Regardless of the choice you make from the picks above, you are going to love it when you hit the water.
That being said, if you need just a little more clarity based on your needs to help you with making a decision. We made this handy quiz to swiftly go through the different options and find a the right inflatable fit for you, quick:Start The Quiz