Get Paddling: The Best Inflatable Kayaks In 2022
In our humble opinion, inflatable kayaks don’t receive the attention they deserve. Some of the best inflatable kayaks incorporate modern technology into their designs, giving traditional hardshell kayaks a run for their money. And while they may not cut through white water with the dexterity of a hardshell, their portability, ease of use, versatility, and affordability set them apart from other watercraft. These options are excellent for those with limited storage space who still want to hit the water.
In this guide, we’ve outlined some of the toughest inflatable kayaks, most of them with adjustable seats. No longer will your water adventures depend on a costly roof rack; a little cargo room is all that these packable vessels require.
We made sure to include only durable and stable kayaks that track well in the water and stay on course in wind. Granted, inflatable kayaks are lightweight so they can never be as durable or stable as hard shells, but this is also one of their biggest selling points – flexible, portable, and easy to transport and store, inflatable kayaks are ideal for city folks, those without a car, as well as adventurers on a budget. You may not be winning any races in an inflatable kayak, but you’re guaranteed to have tons of fun! So, dive in and get carried away by these remarkable little yaks.
- Best Choice: Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak
- Most Stable: Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak Series
- Best for Big Outings: Intex Excursion Pro Inflatable Kayak
- Best for Fishing: Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Inflatable Kayak
- Best for Still Water: Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Inflatable Kayak
- Most Lightweight: ADVANCED ELEMENTS Ultralite Inflatable Kayak
- Premium Choice: Aquaglide McKenzie 105 Inflatable Kayak
The Best Inflatable Kayak
The Intex Explorer K2 is a two-person inflatable kayak and our best choice. Its design prioritizes comfort and security without compromising on control and maneuverability. The Explorer features a heavy-duty, puncture-resistant vinyl exterior. The kayak also includes an inflatable I-beam floor that improves stability on the water. With three separate air chambers, one minor puncture isn’t going to sink you should you run into shallow waters. Another notable feature of this kayak is the adjustable seats. The seats can accommodate practically anyone, although people with long legs might find this boat a little cramped.
The kayak features a bright yellow color for maximum visibility even at night. While this is our favorite inflatable kayak overall, we’d like to point out that some customers have complained about the “weak construction” of the boat – apparently, some people’s kayaks either come with holes that quickly lead to leaks, or their kayaks develop holes quickly on their own in storage or out in the shallow water. Bear in mind that the maximum capacity of the Intex Explorer K2 is 400 pounds total, so be careful when loading it up. The product is also on the heftier side and won’t be the easiest to transport. However, it does collapse down small enough to fit in practically any truck, no matter how small. Overall, this is a great little kayak – it’s got tough construction, comfy inflatable seats, and a budget-friendly price.
If you want a larger vessel, here are some quality inflatable boats you might also like.
Inflatable I-beam floor
Holds up to 400 lbs
- Weight35 Pounds
Tough and stable with high weight capacity
Easy inflation and deflation
Warranty doesn’t cover air pump
The Intex Challenger Kayak Series is the right choice for Intex fans who prefer to kayak solo. Unlike the Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, this kayak accommodates a singular person. The Challenger is also incredibly agile on water, but stable too. Durability is another selling point for this boat. Besides the regular puncture-resistant vinyl, Intex also incorporated a sturdy, welded aluminum material into its build.
This kayak comes with two air chambers and an inflatable I-beam floor to provide optimal water stability. Its 220-pound weight capacity is much smaller than the Explorer K2, but it makes up for this reduction with a more compact build. It weighs 23.9 pounds, so it’s a little easier to carry around than its two-person counterpart. In other words, if you’re looking for tough paddling inflatable kayaks for one, the Challenger is a perfect choice! Here are some top-quality stand up paddleboards you may be interested in. Check them out.
Accommodates one person
220-pound maximum capacity
- Weight25 Pounds
Decent storage capacity
Holds less weight than some larger boats
The Intex Excursion Pro takes us back to two-person kayaks. Instead of using the usual vinyl, Intex opts for a laminate PVC material with a polyester core for the Excursion Pro. This change results in a heavier boat, with the kayak clocking 39.01 pounds. However, it’s much more durable than the previous two Intex boats and has a load-bearing capacity of 400 pounds.
Other exciting features that make the Excursion an attractive option are a removable skeg on either side of the boat that improves paddling, depending on the water’s depth. For anglers, the Excursion Pro comes with adjustable mounting brackets that can accommodate the likes of fishing rod holders and GPS systems. The bow and stern include dedicated storage spaces, while stainless steel D-rings help you secure your gear and dry bags in the tandem kayak. However, customers have pointed out that these storage spaces hold minimal accessories. So, if you have long fishing rods or some other heavy gear, you might find it hard to bring them along. Customers have also criticized the valve interface for its limitations. As they explained, the valve only accommodates the pump that came with the set. So, if you lose your pump, it becomes rather difficult to inflate the kayak.
Two removable skegs
High-pressure, spring-loaded valves
Comes with an accessory bracket, carry bag, and repair kit
Max. weight capacity 400 pounds
- Weight43.6 Pounds
Very tough, durable kayak that’s stable in water
Easy to inflate and deflate
Optimal weight capacity
Limited valve interface
Small storage space
Next on our list of the best inflatable kayaks is the Sevylor Coleman Colorado Kayak. Buoyancy is Coleman’s primary selling point. Sevylor threw in several features to keep you afloat, including a rugged, 18-gauge PVC material, a 1000D tarpaulin bottom, and an 840D nylon cover. This two-person kayak inflatable fishing kayak also comes with an Airtight System designed to prevent leaks. In cases where you run into underwater rocks, the raft includes multiple air chambers to keep you afloat long enough until help arrives.
The Coleman Colorado weighs a hefty 40.5 pounds, which could present storage and transportation issues for some families. On the other hand, the kayak comes with Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders and trolling motor fittings. The motor fittings are stacked into the kayak for quiet operation through the water without alerting the fish. This two-person inflatable kayak has the famous Boston Valve, which speeds up the inflation process. Lastly, mesh storage pockets will help you store extra gear as you kayak along the river.
18-gauge PVC construction
1000D tarpaulin bottom
450 pounds weight capacity
- Weight37 Pounds
Ultra-durable and stable construction
Multiple leak-protection features
Accessories for easier fishing
Great weight capacity, perfect for family fishing adventures
Heavy, so it can be tricky to transport
Minuscule storage space
Sevylor makes another entry on our list with their Quikpak Kayak. This single-person kayak effortlessly glides over the water. The entire boat fits into an easy-to-carry bag, making it easy to store and transport. Using a double-lock valve system, you can set it up in less than five minutes. Sevylor has also put some thought into the paddler’s comfort – the Quikpak comes with a backrest on the seat and a multi-position footrest.
This raft also features a 21-gauge PVC material, a tarpaulin bottom, and multiple air chambers to protect you from punctures. The Quikpak is only suitable for still and calm lakes, and flatwater paddling; no whitewater kayaking to be had here. If you want to try some other exciting water sports, here are some awesome wakesurf boards you might also like.
21-gauge PVC construction
400 pounds weight limit
- Weight18 Pounds
Tough and stable
Easy and quick setup
For flat water only
We suggest ordering a new paddle because this one is too small
The Ultralite Inflatable Kayak from ADVANCED ELEMENTS is a simple and elegant boat. This one-person folding frame kayak weighs just 17 pounds, which is a lot lighter than any portable kayak we’ve reviewed in our guide so far. The compact structure also means you won’t need a roof rack to transport this model like you would with a traditional kayak. This inflatable boat can easily fit into your trunk. Despite its light frame, the Ultralite Inflatable Kayak is quite durable. ADVANCED ELEMENTS incorporated three layers of material to ensure optimal puncture resistance. Aluminum ribs help define the bow and stern for optimal movement on the water.
Fair warning, the compact design makes for minimal storage space onboard, and relatively little leg-room. But this quality inflatable kayak will pack easily back into its carry bag. Designed to perform similar to hard shell kayaks, this one-person vessel is stable and tracks well in the water. If you are up for something a bit more challenging, make sure to check out our reviews of the top kneeboards.
Aluminum ribs in bow and stern
Weighs 17 pounds
Includes a carry duffel bag and repair kit
Max. weight load 225 pounds
- BrandADVANCED ELEMENTS
- Weight17.5 Pounds
Very light, super-easy to transport
Sturdy and stable
Minimal storage space
Relatively low weight capacity
The McKenzie 105 focuses on preventing water entry, and minimizing damage if it still happens. This inflatable kayak comes with a Duratex material that prevents water from getting in while ensuring great performance. Aquaglide also threw in EvoBeam technology and four mesh drains to help improve water evacuation. The Aquaglide McKenzie 105 Inflatable Kayak holds as much as 300 pounds with a velcro seat that is quite comfortable.
Another delightful break from the norm is the Halkey-Roberts type valve, which Aquaglide has claimed will be super-easy to inflate and deflate. This boat is attractive, custom-made for water sports, and suitable for rapid waters and touring. You’ll have to purchase the paddles and hand pump separately though, which may be a deal-breaker for some, considering it’s already quite pricey. Still, if you’re looking for a stable and tough boat for safe inflatable kayaking, this is a fantastic option. Be sure to also invest in a pair of top-quality water shoes to keep you protected.
Halkey-Roberts type valve
500 pounds weight limit
- Weight36.9 Pounds
Great weight capacity, safe even when loaded with cargo
Stable, with good maneuverability
Comfortable Velcro seat
Doesn’t come with a pump
Why Trust Us
Even though my paddle craft of choice is a paddleboard, I've still spent my fair share of time in a kayak exploring rivers and lakes across Texas and Florida. Now, I mostly paddleboard all over the PNW but still love watching kayakers on the White Salmon River and regularly paddle next to kayakers on the Wilamette and Klickitat rivers.
Who This Is For
This guide is for folks looking for durable top rated inflatable kayaks. Whether you want an inflatable option for portability and flexibility, or for space reasons, we've got plenty of options for you whether you're paddling solo or headed out to tandem kayak with your boo while you pretend you're in a gondola in Italy on a canal. Most of these are great for the novice to intermediate paddlers too.
How We Picked
To curate a guide for the best inflatable kayak options, we first had to read hundreds of inflatable kayak reviews and then speak with our fellow gear lovers who kayak and get their thoughts on the matter. We rounded it out by critically assessing tech specs.
Features To Look For In Inflatable Kayaks
Materials - An inflatable kayak should have the right stuff to prevent punctures and tears. The quality of materials used in their construction can vary greatly, so be vigilant when choosing your yak. The baseline objective should be to find one that's strong enough to keep abrasions and leaks at bay, yet svelt enough to manage with ease. The most durable inflatable kayak will have multiple air chambers and material that's ready for anything while providing stability with an I beam for support.
Variability - Some inflatable kayaks boast speed. Others offer superior stability, excellent for fishing, long trips, canoeing, and playing in the surf. You want a kayak that can accommodate your objectives on the water. If you're a fan of recreational paddling while on camping trips, you might want a stable boat but don't need the fastest inflatable kayak or anything too fancy. You'll want to opt for something with portability and an easy-to-carry storage bag that doesn't take up too much room among your camping gear. Alternatively, if you're looking at day trips for whitewater paddline, you'll want to prioritize speed and durability.
Portability - While all inflatable kayaks are portable, some are more portable than others. Look for a kayak that you can carry on your own, is easy to fold, fits in the trunk of your car comfortably, and takes up minimal storage space. Carry handles on the bag and boat are also a must.
Durability - There's no overstating the significance of durability when searching for an inflatable kayak. The perfect inflatable kayak should be sturdy enough to withstand colliding with and scraping against rocks and other abrasive objects. You will run into rocks, trees, stumps and other debris and your boat should be prepared for it.
Ease of setup - You don't want to spend hours setting up your kayak. A kayak that is easy to inflate and deflate would save you time and get you on the water in short order. You won't be as motivated to use your yak for flat water or whitewater paddling or even to go fishing if it's too complicated to set up.
Weight capacity - When looking at a one person or inflatable tandem kayak, weight capacity might be a primary consideration. You'll need to consider the weight of the passengers and your additional stuff like fishing gear, snacks, or safety equipment.
Seat capacity - If you prefer to paddle solo always then a single-person yak is the way to go. If you think you might want to take out a date or your friends, then a 2 person inflatable kayak, otherwise known as a tandem kayak is going to be the right choice.
Accessories - Accessories are always handy but don't get distracted by them. A pump, a bag and some paddles should be all you need to get going. Don't forget your dry bag though!
Handling - If you're a newer kayaker, a boat that is easy to handle and steer is a must have. If you are more advanced in the world of paddlecraft, you likely already know what you are looking for.
Waterproofness - Well, you're on the water and you're likely to get wet at some point, that much is inevitable. However, your boat should be 100% waterproof, as boats tend to be.
Paddle vs. Pedal - Pedaling is great, but it's very uncommon to find with inflatable yaks, so paddling is the answer for the boats on this guide.
Inflatable Kayak FAQ
Q: Are inflatable kayaks durable?
A: Inflatable kayaks come with special modifications to ensure durability. Some of them have welded aluminum and PVC materials in their sterns and bows, which give them some protection from rough surfaces.
Q: Are they stable and safe?
A: Inflatable kayaks are safe and often even more stable than hard shell kayaks. The kayaks in our list feature reinforced PVC materials that are puncture-resistant and long-lasting. However, keep in mind that you will not get the same protection from the elements as you would in a hardshell and these boats often lack some dexterity and speed. On the plus side, they're convenient and more portable and provide another option to get on the water with ease.
Q: Are inflatable kayaks good for fishing?
A: It depends on the model of kayak, but there are plenty of options that are quite suitable for fishing. While they can't offer swivel seats, trolling motor mounts, or other angler-specific attributes, they are an affordable and convenient alternative to expensive fishing boats. Removable skegs and fishing rod holders are often found on a fishing kayak, even inflatable ones.
Q: How long do inflatable kayaks last?
A: There's no generic answer to this. Inflatable kayaks come with varying levels of durability, although, with proper use, the average kayak should last for years. As long as you're not overloading your kayak and are careful not to constantly bump into sharp rocks, you should be good for a few years.
Q: How do you fold an inflatable kayak?
A: Each kayak will have an ideal folding method specific to it's bag and features, so make sure you consult your manual. It may take a while to learn the quickest and easiest way to fold your yak, but once you've done it a few times, you won't even need instructions.
Q: What is the best way to store an inflatable kayak?
A: When storing your inflatable kayak, ensure you've cleaned most of the dirt, mud and water off of it before storing. Some time in the sun is great if you have the time too. I keep a camping towel in my bag to clean off my paddleboard. Once dry and clear of debris, fold your boat to fit inside its bag (according to your yak's specific instructions) and store in a relatively temperature stable, indoor area.
Q: Are inflatable kayaks safe for use on the sea?
A: Yes, they should be fine for use on bodies of water but seas also have currents and larger ships that can cause waves and other hazards for the novice paddler. Ensure your paddling skills and experience are there before you venture out on the sea or open ocean. Be sure to know your location and have good water navigation skills.
Q: Can I go kayak camping using an air kayak?
A: Sure! Just make sure your boat has space and weight capacity for all your gear and that you have a plan should something happen to your boat. A repair kit is a must-have should your take suffer any unexpected tears.
Q: What are Inflatable kayaks made of?
A: Inflatable kayak materials vary but usually they are a blend of vinyl, aluminum, PVC and mesh. In essence, they're made from waterproof, tough and durable materials that can cope with not only water and cargo but constant encounters with riberbands and rocks.