Buying the Best Inflatable Kayak 2020 – Reviews & Guide

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by Kristin Young | Updated On: July 21, 2020 | Gear

BEST INFLATABLE KAYAKS OF 202 GUIDE

If you want to learn which are the top inflatable kayaks, you’ve come to the right place! 

In this guide I’ll walk you through my favorite inflatable kayaks on the market, from the best budget inflatable kayak through to top of the range models, with reviews of all the best options. 

You might be wondering, is an inflatable kayak a good idea? Won’t it pop the first time it encounters something sharp in the water? 

Fortunately, you can forget any ideas of a cheap inflatable kayak that’ll deflate at first sight, as these days the quality of fabric and technology mean there are some really great inflatable kayaks out there that can even rival the traditional hard structure kayaks and canoes for performance and versatility. 

aerial view of inflatable kayak in river with text overlay
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Inflatable kayaks can be used for a wide range of activities – from ocean exploring, to lake paddling, to river and white water paddling and there are also inflatable fishing kayak options too, although you need to know what to look for depending on how you plan to use your kayak!

Last year, on my trip to the Caribbean, I took my inflatable kayak with me and loved having the freedom to head out on the water without needing to rent equipment on the spot. We spent many happy afternoons heading out in the kayak to snorkel, swim and just gaze at the beautifully clear waters below. 

There’s no doubt that an inflatable kayak is still a chunky piece of kit, but with the ability to take it on vacation as a checked bag to places that may not have kayaks available, you won’t look back! 

In this guide I’ll share my inflatable kayak best buying tips and advice for criteria to look at and consider before choosing the kayak that’s right for you. From a one person inflatable kayak through to family and tandem inflatable kayak options I’ve got you covered. Carry on reading for my favourite picks! 


BEST RATED INFLATABLE KAYAK-
OUR TO PICKS

In a hurry and just want to know my top recommended inflatable kayaks? Regardless of what size of inflatable kayak you’re looking for, here are some of my go – to’s when I review inflatable kayak options. 

If you have a little more time on your hands, I do recommend skimming down the page, too,  and reading about some of the different types of kayak, as this will help you pick out the best option for your needs and price point when browsing inflatable kayak sales. 

Best 1 person inflatable kayak

If you’re looking for a sturdy, high quality sea inflatable kayak that’s suitable for use on the ocean and for touring, I highly recommend the Advanced Elements AirFusion Evo

This is a super unique kayak for its semi-rigid folding frame and drop-stitch chamber design, which is not found on many inflatable kayaks, and delivers great rigidity. So if you’re looking for speed, agility and performance in the water that you can take on vacation with you, this is the best single person inflatable kayak to go for! 

Click here for more reviews and prices


Best 2 person inflatable kayak

There are plenty of two person inflatable kayak options out there, but the reason I love the Intex K2 Inflatable Kayak is the strength, high quality build and host of features that are included in this kayak for a great entry level price. 

It’s also highly versatile for different situations such as fishing (there are mounting brackets for fishing accessories included) to lake or ocean paddling. There’s plenty of space, too, and the kayak can accommodate a very generous 400lb in capacity, meaning there’s probably room for a pet or kid along with you and a friend/partner in this one!

Click here for more reviews and prices


Best 3 person inflatable kayak

My vote for the best 3 person inflatable kayak goes to this best Sevylor kayak – the Big Basin. With the increased weight in the kayak from 3 people, you want to make sure you’ll be safe from any puncture accidents. This kayak comes with several air chambers built in to avoid deflation, as well as tarpaulin covers to help deflect any scratches or sharp bumps. There’s also an airtight system that’s guaranteed not to leak. 

There is plenty of space for the whole family in this large and open canoe-style kayak, and it’s suitable for use on multiple water surfaces from lakes and ocean to mild white water on rivers. Just pump up, climb in and enjoy! 

Click here for more reviews and prices


BEST KAYAK (INFLATABLE) COMPARISON CHART

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ARE INFLATABLE KAYAKS WORTH IT?

One of the most frequently asked questions in any inflatable kayak review is are inflatable kayaks any good? Are they going to be stable and sturdy enough to keep me safe on the water and last for a good period of time or are they going to get damaged and burst easily? 

There’s a huge range in quality of inflatable kayaks – from the very best inflatable canoes through to a much cheaper backpack inflatable kayak. The good news is that technology has come a long way – and although you do generally still get what you pay for – many of the medium and high end inflatable kayaks offer reliable, sturdy structure and great performance that’s comparable to a wood or fiberglass canoe. So you can forget any ideas of an inflatable kayak popping like an inflatable pool toy. 

The main advantage of an inflatable kayak of course is being able to take it with you on vacation, on a camping trip, or just out and about close to home. Which hopefully means you’ll be much more likely to use your kayak than if it was a non-inflatable one. 


FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING THE BEST INFLATABLE KAYAK

When searching for the best inflatable kayak there are many things you’ll want to consider, as I know myself from my many hours spent online searching for my own! Are you looking for the fastest inflatable kayak? Are you looking for a very rigid inflatable kayak? Do you need plenty of space to bring your pet along, or wondering what the most durable inflatable kayak is? 

I’ll go through how to weigh up all the different factors and what you should look out for when choosing which inflatable kayak is perfect for you. 


Inflatable Kayak Safety

Safety should be top of everyones’ priorities when choosing an inflatable kayak, and all of the inflatable kayaks reviewed in this guide are from well-known brands with good reputations and reviews. Most importantly, inflatable kayaks are just as safe as any other type of kayak to use. 

Inflatable kayaks are made in such a way (see the next sub header) to avoid punctures and usually come with multiple air chambers that help the kayak to stay afloat should a rip or puncture occur. 

In order to keep your kayaking safe, it’s also important to make sure you buy an inflatable kayak that’s well suited to your needs. If you’re new to kayaking, then you’re going to want the best inflatable kayak for beginners, and something with good stability. It’s also important to double check the maximum weight capacity of the kayak and if it looks a little low for your needs, choose a kayak with higher capacity. 

Last but not least, I always recommend wearing a life jacket while out paddling, especially for children and less-strong swimmers.


Materials Used

The main materials used in the construction of inflatable kayaks are PVC and Hypalon. Almost all of the best value inflatable kayak options are made with PVC given that it is much cheaper than Hypalon. There is also a new fabric called Nitrylon which is an alternative to PVC although it’s much less commonly found at the moment and more expensive. 

Drop stitch technology is also much less commonly used in inflatable kayaks compared to inflatable stand up paddle boards, although some of the best high quality inflatable kayak models are starting to use it. 

Some of the main advantages of PVC include it being lightweight, cheap, easy to patch and relatively durable, but on the flipside there are concerns about adverse health effects from over-exposure to PVC and it can deteriorate from exposure to sun, too. Hypalon is much stronger, resistant to UV light, and resistant to environmental factors such as mould. Hypalon is used by the US Coast Guard and many boat companies to line their boats, but comes with a higher price tag. 


Weight of the Kayak

One of the first things you’ll want to consider, especially if you’re in search of a light inflatable kayak. 

Most inflatable kayaks are able to be checked in as hold luggage on your flight, but there are only limited types of inflatable kayaks that’ll be small enough to hike with or carry with you by hand – such as a backpacking inflatable kayak. 

Size, fabric used and of course the capacity of the kayak can dramatically alter the weight. Backpack inflatable kayaks can generally only fit one person, and for an inflatable tandem kayak you’ll be looking at a larger, heavier piece of kit. 

Don’t forget to factor in the weight of the pump, paddles and seats when looking at weight – throughout the guide I’ve used ‘shipping weight’ as a metric to give a more realistic expectation of the minimum level of gear you’ll need to carry around. On top of this think about things such as life jackets which will add more bulk. 


Seating Capacity

Inflatable kayaks are available in a range of sizes – from 3 man inflatable kayak models, down to a small 1 man inflatable kayak. Probably the most common kayak size is an inflatable double kayak (a tandem). The larger the capacity the more weighty the inflatable kayak generally will be to carry around, and it’ll take longer to inflate, too. 

Most tandem and 3 person kayaks allow you to remove the seats, so even if you want to go out on a solo trip, you can still take the kayak. On the other hand, if you know you usually like to paddle alone, then it could be better to get a single person inflatable kayak to save on carrying around extra weight. 


Pricing

When it comes to inflatable kayak price, the cheapest options you’ll find will be around the $200-$500 mark, with some of the most affordable brands including Intex and Sea Eagle. The best inflatable kayak under 500 options are often solo inflatable kayak models, but you can also find some inflatable kayak tandem models around that price point, too. 

On the cheaper end, don’t expect a long warranty, and depending on the model, kayaks can be less well made. If you’re just starting out, or looking for something for occasional use, though, that may be just fine for your needs. 

Investing more in your inflatable kayak (around $500-$1000) can see more durability, better accessories, higher quality valves, a better guarantee and often a more light-weight option, too. 

If you want something non-PVC with drop stitch technology or with semi rigid sides, then you’ll likely be looking at $1000+ which can be well worth it if you’re paddling regularly or looking for the top rated inflatable kayak that’s going to last for many years.


Kayak Shape

The kayaks listed in this guide vary in shape, from multi-person canoe style kayaks, to sit on top inflatable kayak options, to kayak-dinghy shaped fishing inflatable kayaks. 

The shape of your inflatable kayak will determine things such as its speed, stability, what type of water it is suitable for use on (calm, flat lake or ocean water or white water on rivers and ocean) as well as (of course) it’s capacity. 

Traditional canoe style or long, narrow kayaks are best for paddling on calm open water, make for the best inflatable ocean kayak models, and with a pointed bow, you will move faster and more easily through the water. These ocean kayaks are best for touring longer distances and often come with a closed cockpit to keep out choppy water. 

Dinghy style fishing kayak-boats often come with a rounded or boat-shaped rear and are wider than ocean kayaks, leaving more space for storage for your gear and creating better stability. 

The best whitewater inflatable kayak will be one that’s shorter than an inflatable sea kayak, allowing you to turn more in the water and have better control. 


Self-Bailing

The best inflatable kayaks for whitewater often come with a “self-bailing” feature, which means that there are small holes for the water to escape from the kayak without you having to bail out as you go. This avoids the kayak from becoming submerged by rough water entering the kayak in whitewater conditions or big waves. 


Portability 

Another of the most important considerations when buying an inflatable kayak, is how easy it’s going to be to travel around with or carry. Make sure to compare weights when comparing the best blow up kayak models as a starting point. 

Many of the inflatable kayak bundles include a carry bag, which is super handy for packing up your kayak and accessories. If your kayak doesn’t come with one, it’s well worth purchasing one separately. Most accessories such as paddles break down into multiple parts for ease of transportation, too. 


Sit on Top vs Sit Inside Kayaks

You’ll find there are a few different seating configurations for inflatable kayaks, and you’ll definitely want to consider for what is the best inflatable kayak for you.  

An inflatable sit on top kayak is something like a SUP board, in that it’s completely flat and allows you to sit on it, with your legs outstretched, paddling from a sitting position. In some models, the carry back-pack doubles as a light backrest. The advantage of this style of kayak is it’s super light and small, making it easy to carry around and is a cheaper entry point to inflatable kayaks. 

The downsides of this style of kayak are that it’s less stable given you are only sitting on top of it, and it’s only really suitable for use on calm water or there’s a large risk of turning over. 

An inflatable sit in kayak comes in a couple of different styles. There are the best inflatable canoe style kayaks which are sit-in and open – which are easy to climb in and out of and have more storage space for your things. Inflatable canoes are often slightly wider than the closed kayaks and are more stable. The disadvantage to an inflatable canoe kayak is you are more likely to get wet. 

Closed top inflatable kayaks are slightly narrower and therefore less stable but are faster and a great option if you’re looking for the best inflatable kayak for ocean paddling. Especially if you’re a more experienced paddler, single or double closed-top inflatable kayaks make for the best explorer inflatable kayak option. 


Taking Care of your Inflatable Kayak

Make sure to take care of whichever inflatable kayak you buy to prolong its life and performance. Some of the most important things to do include cleaning your inflatable kayak properly after each use with fresh water, allowing it to dry properly before rolling it away, and making sure you keep it out of direct sunlight, especially if it’s made out of PVC. 


TOP 10 INFLATABLE KAYAKS & REVIEWS

If you’re looking for a cheap, entry level 1person inflatable kayak, you’ll definitely want to consider the K1. 

The K1 inflatable kayak gets great reviews and is highly versatile for its price point. Features include a removable or adjustable seat, a cargo net for storing your things at the front, removable skeg (underwater fin), and a grab line at both ends of the kayak. Performance enhancements include 2 air chambers, I-beam floors for stability and valves for quick inflation. 

It comes complete with a carry bag, manual pump and paddle. Weighing 26 lbs fully packed, this Intex K1 inflatable kayak is one of the lighter options in this guide and a great solution for those who love to paddle solo and are looking for a decent quality starting point. The maximum weight capacity is 220 lbs. 

Check prices & read more reviews here


If you’re looking for a 2 person inflatable kayak, Intex has the explorer option which also gets great reviews. 

Created from super lightweight PVC with a polyester core, this Intex inflatable kayak is tough and resistant to damage from collisions or sunlight, thanks to its 3-ply material. It’s suitable for general cruising, or can be used as a ready made fishing inflatable kayak: It comes with 2 fishing rod holders installed. 

The Intex 2 person inflatable kayak also features I-beam floor, directional and shallow water skegs, adjustable foot rests and adjustable seat rests and an integrated drain plug. It has a maximum capacity of 400 lbs. 

If you’re looking for a sturdy, great quality 2 seater kayak that can be used for fishing and general paddling, definitely consider this Intex inflatable kayak review.

Check prices & read more reviews here


If you’re looking for a reliable inflatable kayak brand, then consider Sea Eagle, who’ve been making kayak’s since the ‘60’s! 

This Sea Eagle inflatable kayak is a spacious 2 man inflatable kayak that’s suitable for general paddling as well as up to grade III white water/rapids. It’s not going to win prizes for being the most beautiful option, but this model has plenty of fans for its features. The kayak features 2 skegs on the bottom for better tracking, movable seats and an open/close drain valve for self-draining. There’s a 5 tube i-beam floor for better stability, meaning this highly versatile kayak can be used for fishing too. 

If you’re looking for the best inflatable kayak for whitewater that can also be used for fishing and general paddling, you’ll definitely want to have a look at the Sea Eagle 370. With a max weight capacity of 500lbs, you’ll have plenty of space for the whole family! 

Check prices & read more reviews here


Solstice by Swimline

I love the look of this Solstice inflatable kayak which is suitable for 1-2 people. The triple layer bottom and 600 denier nylon cover make it super tough and durable, perfect for handling a range of conditions. 

There’s a detachable skeg for performance and tracking, several D-rings for attaching your kit, detachable seats, easy-carry handles, boston valves and elastic netting for storage at the front and back. This kayak is best suited for calm water and lake or gentle ocean paddling either by yourself, with a pet or with another person. Maximum weight capacity: 300 lbs. 

The Solstice is definitely a contender for best inflatable 2 person kayak on a small budget. 

Check prices & read more reviews here. 


This Advanced Elements inflatable kayak gets rave reviews, and it’s not difficult to see why. This kayak is a combination of folding and inflatable kayak that offers amazing tracking and speed.

What makes this kayak unique is its hybrid aluminum frame and drop stitch air chamber design which make it super rigid, strong, reliable and one of the best inflatable sea kayaks out there. This is also one of the best drop stitch kayak options on the market and is one of the few inflatable kayak options that looks like a hard frame kayak. With its closed in design, it’s a great inflatable 1 man kayak for touring. In addition to the Advanced Elements advancedframe, features include roll-top rear storage to keep your things dry, a carry duffel bag and manual pump. Max capacity is 235 lbs. 

If you’re looking for a great touring inflatable kayak at a mid range price, you won’t want to miss out on the AirFusion Evo. 

Check prices & read more reviews here. 


For a super simple and super quick inflatable single kayak, the Sevylor Quickpak K1 is one of my favorite options. 

This Sevylor inflatable kayak is a sit on top model kayak that can be packed up into a small backpack, and weighing just 19 lbs fully packed, you really can take it anywhere – it’s the lightest inflatable kayak in this guide. It features multiple air chambers, 21 gauge PVC construction, a tarpaulin bottom for superior puncture protection in shallow water, and double lock airtight valves for no leaking. There’s even a fun drinks holder! 

Best of all this kayak directly unfolds from the backpack, which then forms part of the seat. Perfect for casual paddling on the go, if you’re looking for something simple and fun to dip your toes into the inflatable kayak world (!) then this Sevylor sit on top inflatable kayak is well worth a look. Max capacity is an impressive 400 lbs. 

Check prices & read more reviews here. 


If you need something bigger and are searching for an inflatable 3 man kayak, then the Big Basin has plenty of space. 

Made from heavy duty PVC with tarpaulin covers to protect the hull from any bumps and scrapes, this best family inflatable kayak is suitable for use on rugged lake water, including small waves. It features spray covers to block splashes and help keep you dry as well as multiple air chambers for safety and airtight / anti-leak boston valves. Seats are fully adjustable and this kayak can handle up to 490lbs of weight capacity. 

For an affordable 3 seater inflatable kayak that’s sturdy enough to accommodate the whole family, the Big Basin kayak is well worth considering. 

Check prices & read more reviews here. 


Hobie Mirage i12s

Have you been dreaming of a kayak without the hard work of paddling? Then you’re going to love the Hobie range. This Hobie inflatable kayak is powered by pedal instead of paddle, and is the only inflatable pedal kayak in these reviews. 

Made from 1000 denier PVC with a drop stitch hull, the Hobie is sturdy and super strong, and can be used for fishing, pedalling around, or even sailing, with the built in sail mount. The i12s is designed to be a single inflatable kayak, but there’s plenty of room to bring a pet, your significant other, or even your kids along. There’s a “twist and stow” rudder for better maneuverability when sailing. 

This inflatable Hobie kayak rolls up small and comes with a wheeled duffel bag, which is super handy for transportation. It’s been designed for use on oceans or lakes and has a max capacity weight of 500lbs. 

Read any Hobie inflatable kayak review and you’ll see that this kayak gets rave reviews and is well worth the price tag if you’re looking for something highly versatile, sturdy and top of the range. 

Check prices & read more reviews here. 


This Hydroforce inflatable kayak is another option that’s ideal for those who are looking for some relaxed solo paddle time on a sit on inflatable kayak. 

As well as use on calm ocean or lake water, the Koracle is also suitable for use for angling – so if you’re looking for the best inflatable kayak for fishing but also want something small and lightweight, then the Koracle may be an option worth considering. 

Made from PVC, there’s a directional fin/skeg for stability which can be removed, rear storage compartment, foot rests for both longer and shorter legs, a quick release valve and aluminum oars. 

If you’re looking for an entry level versatile sit-on inflatable kayak, this is another worthwhile option to consider, that’ll allow you to have fun on the water with minimum fuss. This could also be a good option if you’re looking for a small kids inflatable kayak. 

Check prices & read more reviews here. 


Advanced Elements Lagoon 1

Last but not least in my roundup of best inflatable kayaks 2020 is this small but perfectly formed single man inflatable kayak by Advanced Elements. 

Suitable for calm water (bays, mild rivers and lakes), this is a one person sit in inflatable kayak which weighs in at 23lbs, so perfect for those looking for a lightweight inflatable kayak. The weight is partly thanks to its shorter length of 8’4”, making it perfect for a more petite paddler. 

The kayak features plenty of D-rings, zippered mesh storage, rubber carry handles, a rigid bow and stern, 4 air chambers and advanced inflation valves. Its maximum weight capacity is 250 lbs.  

If you’re looking for a small, light and very sturdy inflatable kayak that you can take with you for paddling on calm waters, look no further than this small package of the Lagoon 1 that’s packed full of features. 

Check prices & read more reviews here

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Hi!  We’re Kristin & Andrew, lovers of everything tropical.  We spend as much time as possible searching for the best beaches, snorkeling, hiking, and fun in the sun!