Inflatable kayaks are pumped with air to inflate them for use and later deflated for carrying and storing after use.
So, you can easily transport your kayak from one place to another by just carrying it in your trunk, and it doesn’t take much space in your home when storing your kayak.
Check out our ten best inflatable kayak reviews below.
Our rankings are based on the brand reputation, warranty, customer service, product quality, buyers’ review, specifications, and features.
Most inflatable kayaks made by Sea Eagle are ranked on the top of the list because they are well-known and reliable brand with inflatable products. They have been making kayaks, boats, canoes, and SUPs using inflatable technology since 1968, and they are the only brand who offers 180-days risk free period with 3 years of warranty. According to the customers’ review, Sea Eagle provides great customer service as well.
If you don’t know what types of kayak you want to buy at this moment, then read Kayak Buying Guide section below.
Quick Answer: Best Inflatable Kayaks
Whitewater Kayaking: 1. 300x Explorer™
Fishing & Whitewater Kayaking: 2. 350fx Fishing Explorer™
Fishing (Option: Electric Motor): 3. 385fta FastTrack™
Fishing (Option: Gas or Electric Motor): 5. 435ps Paddleski™
Racing (Speed): 4. 393rl RazorLite™
Under $500: 6. Sport Kayak SE370
Top 10 Inflatable Kayak Reviews
If you want an inflatable kayak that can handle literally ANYTHING you throw at it – including Class IV whitewater rapids – you need look no further than this one.
Sea Eagle designed 300x Explorer™ to tackle whitewater as well as open-water and surf. It has 16 super-fast self-bailing drain valves that can be left open for wet whitewater and ocean kayaking or closed for high and dry flat-water paddling. And it only weighs 31 pounds, so you can transport to the water from your car without using a cart.
This model is 1 person inflatable kayak. There are other Explorer™ series models for 2 persons (380x Explorer™), and for 3 persons (420x Explorer™). If you are looking for cheaper 2 person inflatable kayak for whitewater, I recommend #7. Driftsun – Rover 220.
As I mentioned earlier, Sea Eagle offers great warranty and return policy that other brands don’t offer.
You get 3 years warranty and 180 days risk-free period. So if you are not satisfied with your product, just return it in good condition and get a full refund within 180 days. Sea Eagle is the only inflatable kayak brand offers risk-free period policy, so I highly recommend 300x Explorer™ as your first kayak.
Kayak Activity Type: Whitewater, Flat water, Ocean, Surfing
Average Review Score: (4.9 / 5) Total 35 Reviews
350fx Fishing Explorer™ model is one of the Explorer™ series, so you can use this kayak from any type of water like #1. 300x Explorer™ model. Same as 300x Explorer™, this model has 16 drain valves which is a good feature to have when kayaking from whitewater.
When it is compared to 300x Explorer™ above, this is longer, but heavier. Sea Eagle designed this model with comfort features for fishing activity.
It has six built-in rod holders, 2000 reinforced protective layers, both forward and aft spray skirts, and a whole lot more make this the kind of inflatable kayak you can feel comfortable using in almost any type of water imaginable.
Kayak Activity Type: Whitewater, Fishing, Flat water, Ocean, Surfing
Average Review Score: (5 / 5) Total 2 Reviews
Essentially the “big brother” to the inflatable kayak and the folks at Sea Eagle we highlighted above, this 385fta model is a tandem setup that can accommodate up to three people with a maximum capacity of 635 pounds.
It’s a little bit longer at 12’6” but has a lower weight rating at just 45 pounds. Inflation and deflation time are identical to the model we highlighted above (seven minutes and three minutes, respectively), the extra recessed one-way air valve helps manage things quite a bit.
If you are planning to use your kayak for both whitewater kayaking and kayak fishing, I recommend #2. 350fx.
For fishing only, 385fta would be your best choice.
Kayak Activity Type: Fishing, Flat Water, Calm Ocean
Average Review Score: (4.9 / 5) Total 15 Reviews
393rl RazorLite™ is very light, narrow, and fast. So if you want to enjoy the speed, I highly recommend this model. It goes up to 6 mph.
It is fully constructed using Drop Stitch Technology. Drop Stitch material uses thousands of high tensile strength threads connecting the top and bottom fabric layers. This enables the RazorLite™ to be inflated to a much higher pressure (10 psi) than other kayaks (3-4 psi) which increases overall rigidity. If you do some research, you may know that an inflatable kayak with 10 psi is rare.
It is also easy to paddle and maneuver through the pounding rain and wind. RazorLite™ is not as stable as the FastTrack™, but it’s faster. Also it tracks and handles similar to a long hard shell kayak and best suited for flat water.
If you are looking for tandem kayak with this model, you can see #5. 473rl RazorLite™ from Top 10 Tandem Kayaks (2019 Review).
Kayak Activity Type: Flat water, Racing
Average Review Score: (4.7 / 5) Total 61 Reviews
Kayak Activity Type: Touring, Fishing, Sailing, Flat water, Calm ocean
Average Review Score: (4.4 / 5) Total 35 Reviews
Sea Eagle 370 model has very good price. So if your budget is under 500 dollars, this model is highly recommended. There are very inexpensive models you can find on Amazon such as Intex Challenger K1 (single kayak) and Intex Explorer K2 (tandem kayak). If you aren’t buying a kayak to use it just for few times, investing little bit more would be better for long run.
With a lightweight design and efficient hull shape, it is swift paddling kayak and easy to handle for young or old alike. However, this kayak is not recommended for fishing and whitewater kayaking because it doesn’t have enough stability and enough self-bailing drain valves.
Sea Eagle says that the person capacity for SE370 is 3 persons and it has about 1.3 ft longer length than 2 person model, SE330. However, SE370 model is recommended for two adults. You probably won’t be able to find a better inflatable kayak under $500 than this one.
Kayak Activity Type: Flat water, Touring
Average Review Score: (4.9 / 5) Total 170 Reviews
Kayak Activity Type: Whitewater, Flat water
Average Review Score: (4.6 / 5) Total 25 Reviews
Rover 120 is just single kayak model of Rover 220 and all the features are exactly same. The whole setup inflates inside of six minutes, and because it measures in at just 8’5” long you will be able to pilot it in water that longer kayaks simply wouldn’t have been able to approach.
This model is comparable to the Sea Eagle 300x Explorer model. When Rover 120 is compared to the 1. Sea Eagle 300x Explorer model, Rover 120 is $250 cheaper and its weight is 9 lb lighter. However, Sea Eagle 380x has 95 lb higher weight capacity and 9 more Self-bailing Drain Valves. Number of self-bailing drain valves will make big difference especially when you are on rough whitewater. Rover 120 has 1.3 ft shorter length.
Kayak Activity Type: Whitewater, Flat water
Average Review Score: (4.7 / 5) Total 12 Reviews
Voyager is a 2 person inflatable kayak, and you can also choose to paddle solo. This lightweight design makes it easy to handle by one person and it inflates less than 5 minutes with the hand pump. The hand pump is included with the kayak.
Lightweight, compact, and a real screamer over flat water, this kayak does take advantage of thinner and lighter weight inflatable materials which means you aren’t going to want to bring it on rough waters. It certainly doesn’t belong on white-water, that’s for sure.
Kayak Activity Type: Flat water, Touring
Average Review Score: (4.4 / 5) Total 33 Reviews
Kayak Activity Type: Flat water, Touring
Average Review Score: (4.3 / 5) Total 102 Reviews
Kayak Buying Guide
There are different types of kayak meant for varying versions of kayaking.
The basic version of kayaking is essentially for recreation. The recreational kayak is also its simplest form.
Fishing kayaks are different. Whitewater kayaking and other adventure sports require different kayaks.
In this guide we shall talk about kayaking for beginners, the differences among fishing kayaks and inflatable kayaks among others.
Types of Kayaking
Recreational kayaking is the most basic form and is usually indulged in on lakes and other water bodies that do not pose any great threat. The lakes are well protected. Recreational kayaking on rivers is confined to the safer and steadier parts, not where the stream is rapid or the depths are too great. A recreational kayak is wider and more stable.
The second most popular form is touring. A touring kayak is longer than a recreational kayak. It also needs more paddling. Some touring kayaks look exactly like sea kayaks but they have just one sealed bulkhead. Touring kayaks are not suitable for seas as the unsealed bow area can get filled up with water. Touring kayaks are mostly used on lakes and other protected or safer areas.
Sea kayak is larger and have both bulkheads sealed. There is more space in the hatch for a kayaker to carry the required gear. You can actually carry camping gear in a sea kayak. This is not an inflatable kayak. Sea kayaking is fun but not recommended for beginners. Sea kayaks can be up to fifteen feet long and they can be quite heavy.
Whitewater kayaks are designed for rapids in streams, rivers or creeks. This is an adventure sport. The extreme sport is not recommended even for intermediate kayakers. There are some designated places where whitewater kayaking is deemed as safe. There is a classification system that implies the risks involved in kayaking at a particular part of a river or stream.
Surf kayaking is another form. It is a version of surfing and one uses a kayak instead of a surfboard. Surf kayaking requires practice. Sit on top kayaking is either recreational or for a specific purpose. Fishing kayaks are sit on top designs. Apart from kayak fishing, such designs are also suitable for surfing and diving.
Types of Kayak
Are you planning to buy a kayak?
To choose the best kayak that meets your needs, you first have to know what types of kayaks are out there in the market.
Inflatable vs Hard Shell Kayak
First thing you need to decide when buying a kayak is whether you buy an inflatable kayak or a hard shell kayak. Both of them have pros and cons.
However, we highly recommend inflatable kayaks if you do not have:
- Roof rail installed on your car or sports trailer
- Enough space to store at your place (apartment, condo)
If roof rail is already installed on your car, then you need to buy crossbar racks and j-shape racks. It will cost you around $250.
There are cheap racks at Walmart and Amazon, but it is not a good idea to go with cheap ones especially when it can possibly take away someone’s life while you are driving with kayaks on your roof. Here are racks you can have a look: Roof Rack and J-shape Rack
If roof rail is not installed on your car, you first need to install the roof rail. It costs around $300 to install the roof rail for 2018 Honda CR-V. There are some crossbar rack products which do not require the roof rail. However, it is very difficult to load your kayak by yourself without the roof rail. It can damage your car and you don’t want that especially when you recently bought your car or when it is on lease.
The following video shows how to load your kayak on the car and the importance of the roof rail.
For sports trailer, the price range is around $1000-$3600.
If you do not have trailer, roof rails, or other carrier tools yet, we recommend you buying inflatable kayak and spend more money onto the kayak itself. Because you get better quality of kayaks based on what you pay for.
If you have no problem with carrying hard shell kayak, I recommend you to go to nearest kayak shop and see actual size of the kayak you want to buy, especially when it’s your first time buying kayak. Walmart and Costco have kayaks as well. Because kayaks are way bigger than you probably thought. Hard shell kayak with length of 8.8 ft can just fit inside the car (2017-18 Honda CR-V) with no other passengers seated.
Before buying a hard shell kayak, make sure you have a place to store your kayak. It is better to store inside of your house than outside or garage.
The following table summarizes pros and cons for inflatable kayak and hard shell kayak.
Hard Shell Kayak
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Easy to carry Takes 7-10 minutes to inflate or deflate kayak Ready to use right away Hard to carry
Easy to store Need air pump Many brands, models, colors are available Takes up too much storage spaces
Easy to purchase & return (low shipping cost) Limited color selection Difficult to purchase & return (high shipping cost)
Easy to repair Costs a lot on kayak carrier tools
Bounce off when hits hard surfaces Expensive to repair
Sensitive to bumps, knocks
Single vs Tandem Kayak
Single kayak is 1 person kayak and tandem kayak is 2 persons kayak.
If you are thinking to buy tandem kayak just in case you may go out to the water with your friend or family once a while, do not buy tandem kayak.
Even though there are some tandem kayaks that you can adjust seat when riding alone, single kayak performs best for 1 person and tandem kayak performs best for 2 people.
If you are planning to go kayaking with your child or dog, tandem kayak would be great choice. If that is not the case, single kayak is highly recommended. When you go out to the water, you will see many couples kayaking separately with single kayaks.
Sit-on-top vs Sit-in Kayak
There are two different seat styles for kayak: sit-on-top and sit-in.
If you are using kayak for fishing or diving, stability is the important thing to consider. Some sit-on-top kayaks are stable enough to stand up on the kayak. Also it is easy to load your gears for other activities.
If you are not going to fish on kayak, want to enjoy the speed, and paddle for long distance, sit-in kayak is good choice for you.
Sit-on Top Kayak
Pros Cons Pros Cons
Stability Slower speed Faster Speed Uncomfortable for long hours due to limited movement
Easy to get in & out Exposed to sun and cold (lower body) Easy to paddle Difficult to get in & out
Large storage areas and cockpit Small cockpit
Easy to access to deck hatch Require spray skirt and bilge pump to prevent from sinking
Many people buy kayaks for fishing activity because shore fishing is very limited and it gets bored at some point.
If you are looking to buy a kayak for fishing, fishing kayak would be good choice for you even though it costs more than regular kayak. Fishing kayaks have better seat options, fishing rod holder installed, and lots of large storage areas for your fishing gears and tools.
There are few people buying regular kayak and install fishing rod holder, mounts for action camera by themselves after watching videos from Youtube. It is not easy as you see on the video, so it can waste your money and it is very likely that you will not be satisfied with your work.
If you are thinking to buy a kayak for fishing, inflatable fishing boats can be a better option to meet your needs. Compare to inflatable fishing kayaks, it has spacious room which allows you to cast easily while having friends and family on the boat.
Specifications and Warranty
Once you decide the type of kayak, you also have to pay attention to the specification and warranty when choosing a model.
- Load Capacity : Every kayak has its maximum load capacity. Think about your weight and gears you want to carry on the kayak. To be safe, you should not be close to the maximum.
- Seats : Adjustable and padded seats are highly recommended. It definitely cost more, but it is worth it. You don’t want to be uncomfortable when you are on the water to relax and have fun. Don’t try to save money on the seats by buying cheap ones. You will end up with paying more money on getting treatment for your back-pain.
- Storage area : It is good to have larger storage area but because of the load capacity sometimes you won’t be using all storage spaces. And as more you go out to the water, you become minimalist. So you will only take things that you must need. Deck hatch is useful to store your cell phone, ID card, or any valuable items you want to carry with you on kayak.
- Stability : Wider kayak has better stability, so fishing kayaks are wider than other regular kayaks. If you want to enjoy the speed with kayak, narrower and longer kayak is recommended.
- Durability : Most inflatable kayaks are made from PVC of 1100 denier. Denier is a measurement of thickness of the fibers. There are inflatable kayaks made from other materials than PVC, but it is more expensive and there are pros and cons.
- Inflation time: For inflatable kayaks, it takes about 7-10 minutes to inflate the kayak. It may take longer for 2-3 people size kayaks.
- Warranty: When you buy an inflatable kayak, warranty is the most important thing you need to consider. Sea Eagle is a well known brand for inflatable products and they have very good warranty and return policy. They offers 3 years warranty and 6 months risk free period. You’ll get to try it for 6 months and if you are not happy with your product, just return it in good condition for a full refund of your purchase price. There are other brands such as Innova, NRS and Advanced Elements, and they allow you to return it when products are unused and offers 1-3 years warranty. AIRE kayak has 10 years warranty, but their kayaks are way more expensive.
Is Inflatable Kayak Sturdy and Durable?
Thanks to science and the fast technology growth, recreational companies today harness similar construction to build long-lasting, sturdy and durable kayaks.
With proper marketing and reasonable costs, inflatable kayaks have become all the rage in recent years. Their sturdiness places them in the same league as hard-shell kayaks in terms of stability, durability, and sturdiness.
Users that have had the chance to try out inflatable kayaks on the oceans, rapids, and rivers attest that inflatable kayaks are stable and give them a similar stability score as traditional (hard-shell) kayaks.
By considering that when it gets inflated, it becomes more like a stiff whitewater raft, the inflatable watercraft gains some heft and ruggedness. As far as sturdiness is concerned, it varies between primary and secondary points.
Inflatable kayaks are not necessarily built for carrying out fishing, standing up in, and other water-related activities.
Varying floor-hardness degrees determine how sturdy these kayaks are in the ocean and other bodies of water and which activities they can handle.
Just like hard-shell kayaks, inflatable kayaks are built to take in knocks and bumps without disintegrating. They are designed to bounce off hard surfaces and rocks when they collide.
Most manufacturers use military grade materials to design kayaks. They incorporate drop-stitch technology where small fibers inside the boat interlock. The kayak’s board gets inflated thus creating a hardened surface.
On its exterior, the kayak is composed of durable PVC and rubber the same materials used in whitewater rafts and lifeboats. Their construction makes them more robust, safer and more durable than hard-shell kayaks.
Their design includes 2-3 fabric layers that guarantee additional protection against a puncture or tear.
During the bumpy rides on the water, a sharp rock might put a hole in the outer layer; however, the kayak will remain sturdy as thanks to the other non-penetrated layers.
For safety, the design incorporates separate inflation chambers that help contain tears are rips in the affected chamber. The remaining two layers will hold on steady, hauling users to the safety of the shore and repairs can commence afterward.
Inflatable kayaks are fitted with airtight valves that hold in the air without letting none escape. By using the correct PSI unit to inflate the kayak, it will not deflate unless on command.
The air pumped into it, the design and materials used to build it makes inflatable kayaks tough, durable and sturdy to use on the open waters just like a hard-shell kayak.
To be on the safer side, and get their money’s worth, users should carry out thorough research to invest in military-grade inflatable kayaks.
Their ruggedness, inflating using the correct PSI units makes them safe, sturdy and perfect for rapids and the open seas. They might fetch a higher price, but the service rendered, and their durability will more than compensate!
Tips for Beginners – Safety and Rules
Beginners to kayak should always wear a life jacket, regardless of how great a swimmer one may be.
Every kayaker should dress appropriately and for the local conditions. The weather and the immediate landscape should influence the choice of dress. Those who intend to kayak through the day or into the evening must prepare for a substantial change in temperature.
One of the most important safety tips pertaining to kayaking for beginners is to follow the rules. Every designated area has some rules. Adhere to these.
Kayakers should wear a helmet if the water gets rougher in some parts.
The kayaking course should be chosen after assessing the difficulty level. Beginners should not embark on courses rated as class two or higher.
Drinking and paddling or kayaking is dangerous.
Beginners should practice how to get into a kayak when they are in the water. If the kayak flips over and the kayaker falls, one must be able to get back in.
If you want to learn about kayak fishing, go to Kayak Fishing Tips for Beginners.
Return to the top of the page: Top 10 Inflatable Kayaks in 2019.