17 Best Inflatable Kayaks That Are Durable and Portable

Reviewed by Jodelle Marx
Last updated:

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Short on time? Our pick for the best inflatable kayak is the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame.

For a summer of hassle-free fun, check out one of these best inflatable kayaks.

Are you cringing at the idea of awkwardly strapping a giant kayak to your car and sweating while you scream down the highway, praying the wind doesn’t catch your new car sail? You’re not alone. 

I have driven many precariously-packed vehicles all over the country, and I know nothing is worse than a loose kayak jiggling its way free in traffic.

Or perhaps, you live in a studio apartment and will be darned if that cramps your outdoor adventure style. 

Or maybe you’re neither of those people, but you simply aren’t super strong and don’t like lifting heavy things. Yes, I include myself in this last category. 

No matter how you slice it, an inflatable kayak solves all these problems. And before I go any further, no, we aren’t talking about pool floaties here. 

Inflatable kayaks are becoming increasingly popular because they’re incredibly durable and reliable on the water without the hassle of a roof rack and lost garage space. 

I have several inflatable kayaks at home, and I’ve used my tried and true experience to pick through numerous inflatable kayak brands. 

These are the best inflatable kayaks on the market right now!

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

Inflatable Best Kayaks

Here’s a Quick Look at Our Recommendations

#1 Intex Excursion Pro Kayak

Best Two-Person Inflatable Kayak

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak-Best Two - Person Inflatable Kayak

Our rating: 4.7/5
Solo or tandem: Tandem
Weight: 39.01 lbs
Length: 12.7’
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

The Intex Excursion Pro is my choice for the best two-person inflatable kayak because it’s a quality boat at a reasonable price. 

The Excursion Pro is the higher end of Intex’s inflatable models–it’s even National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) certified–but it’s still inexpensive. 

This inflatable tandem kayak uses multiple air chambers (three in total), all of which have three layers of high-impact PVC material. 

Inflatable seats and an inflatable booster seat provide comfort for smaller people or people with bony butts.

Seriously–this is a nice feature! We keep an inflatable sleeping pad at the bottom of our inflatable kayak for added comfort, so it’s nice that this model has its own.

This Intex inflatable kayak has a removable tracking fin (i.e., skeg) for deep and shallow water, which is a significant plus. You’ll notice a big difference in steering with the skeg on. 

Last but not least, this kayak has a mounting bracket for fishing accessories, such as a fishing rod holder, if that’s your jam. 

As for cons, remember that this is a budget-friendly kayak. 

Other users have mentioned minor issues like the zipper breaking on the carry bag or the inflatable seat valves being easy to knock open on accident.


  • NMMA-certified
  • Deep and shallow water skegs included
  • Aluminum paddles and pump included
  • Compatible for fishing
  • Reasonably priced


  • Low-quality zippers and valves

#2 Airhead Montana TK-1

Best One-Person Inflatable Kayak

Best One-Person Inflatable Kayak - Airhead Montana TK-1

Our rating: 4.8/5
Solo or tandem: Solo
Weight: 27 lbs
Length: 9’
Weight capacity: 300 lbs

The Airhead Montana TK-1 is a lightweight inflatable kayak with excellent tracking due to the four skegs on the bottom. 

The Airhead Montana kayak was designed for use on lakes but can also handle moderate whitewater paddling. 

The boat’s skin is 840-denier nylon, a very sturdy material (usually the higher the denier rating, the more durable the fabric). 

Additionally, this versatile inflatable kayak has three air chambers, is UV-resistant, and comes in “safety orange” for improved visibility in choppy whitewater. 

The seat on this boat is inflatable, adjustable, and removable. There’s a mesh storage compartment on the front of the kayak, plus 6 D-rings on the bow and stern to hook dry bags

The kayak’s sides have neoprene elbow guards to rest your arms on, which can be especially lovely in hot weather. 

One thing to note–the inflation on the Airhead Montana can be tricky. When first unboxed, the PVC is quite rigid, and you might have to leave the kayak in the sun to warm up. 

Be mindful of the order you inflate the chambers as the valves may be hard to access if you first inflate the sides. 

Finally, the skegs aren’t removable, which means you may drag them against the river bottom in shallow water.


  • Lightweight
  • 840-denier nylon material is very durable
  • Adjustable seat
  • Neoprene elbow guards
  • Good tracking with four skegs


  • Skegs are not removable
  • It can be tricky to inflate the first time

#3 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

Toughest Inflatable Kayak

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak - Toughest Inflatable Kayak

Our rating: 4.9/5
Solo or tandem: Solo
Weight: 36 lbs
Length: 10’ 5’’
Weight capacity: 300 lbs

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable kayak is my choice for the toughest inflatable kayak because of its triple layers of vinyl tarpaulin-covered PVC. 

In addition to the thick outer skin, this boat has aluminum ribs that reinforce the main hull and provide the classic v-shaped bow of traditional hardshell kayaks. 

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame also includes a skeg that removes and has multiple air chambers. 

Unlike most inflatable kayaks, the AdvancedFrame is a sit-inside kayak, making it a good choice for cold water kayaking. 

Due to the more narrow shape of this kayak, beginners *may* find it a bit more challenging to balance. 

The shape makes handling it feel more like a hard-shell touring kayak, which is excellent for experienced boaters. 

One of the downsides of this little beaute is that it doesn’t include paddles and an air pump.

Advanced Elements emphasizes the need to make sure the kayak isn’t under-inflated and recommends an electric 12V pump plus a hand pump to finish inflating.


  • Durable, high-quality material
  • Removable skeg
  • Handles like a touring kayak


  • No paddle included
  • Air pump not included
  • You’ll need to monitor the air pressure carefully

#4 Intex Challenger

Best Budget Inflatable Kayak

Best Budget Inflatable Kayak - Intex Challenger

Our rating: 4.5/5
Solo or tandem: Solo
Weight: 28.4 lbs
Length: 9’
Weight capacity: 220

The Intex Challenger is my choice for the best affordable kayak for beginners (and it’s consistently on my list of best kayaks) because it’s an inflatable kayak under $500.

Heck, this kayak is just under $100–that’s good enough to get you on the water even with a tight budget. 

We own this kayak in the tandem version, and it’s done just fine on the flat river near our house. 

This one-person inflatable kayak has all the basics you need to get started. It includes paddles, an air pump, a repair kit, and even a skeg that’s removable, which is always a plus in my book.

The boat’s bow also has a big mesh cargo net to stow gear, but you should note that the max weight limit is 220 lbs. 

This kayak probably isn’t suited to bigger humans (over ~6 ft tall) or if you plan to take a big, heavy cooler with you. 

Note that this is the budgetiest of budget kayaks, so don’t expect miracles from this thing. You shouldn’t use it on rough water, and if you go out frequently, you may want to opt for a higher-quality product.


  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Removable skeg
  • Fast setup
  • Includes paddles and air pump


  • Flimsy carry bag
  • Not designed for rough water
  • Not suitable for big paddlers

#5 Solstice Durango

Best Camping Inflatable Kayak

Solstice Durango - Best Camping Inflatable Kayak

Our rating: 4.7/5
Solo or tandem: Convertible solo or tandem
Weight: 40 lbs
Length: 11’
Weight capacity: 440 lbs

When you’re thinking about a camping kayak, look for a bigger kayak with lots of storage, a high weight limit, and a wide, flat-bottom design for stability. Behold: the Solstice Durango

The Durango is a tandem kayak per the factory settings, but you can convert it into a solo kayak with extra space for camping gear

This inflatable boat comes with covered cargo space, bungee lacing on both the bow and stern, 22 D-rings to clip dry bags or water bottles onto, *and* velcro paddle holders. 

Most inflatable kayaks come with carry handles, and this one is no exception. 

The fabric on this kayak is 1000-denier reinforced nylon, so you shouldn’t have too many problems with rocks. And with a weight limit of 440 lbs, you should have plenty of room for camping equipment. 

One issue with this kayak is that some people find it uncomfortably narrow (in the seating area) or too small for two people.


  • Lots of gear storage
  • High weight limit
  • Convertible solo or two-person kayak


  • It doesn’t fit two big people well

#6 Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Inflatable Fishing Kayak

Best Fishing Inflatable  Kayak

Best Fishing Inflatable Kayak - Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Inflatable Fishing Kayak

Our rating: 4.8/5
Solo or tandem: Solo
Weight: 40 lbs
Length: 10.8’
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

The Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Inflatable Fishing Kayak offers many of the features you expect from hard-shell kayaks but with all the convenience of an inflatable boat.

The most impressive feature of this boat is the drop stitch floor. 

Drop stitch floors provide a rigid platform upon which you can stand or kneel. If you’ve ever used a stand-up paddle board, you’ve experienced the rigidity that drop-stitching can create. 

This durable fishing kayak uses 1000-denier reinforced and layered PVC and features five hard attachment points for rod holders, fish finders, or Go Pros. 

Another fishing-centric feature is the self-bailing water ports that you can open to drain the floor in case your catch splashes in a ton of water. 

The Steelhead fishing kayak also has a carry bag, paddles, an air pump, and a detachable skeg. 

If this boat has anything negative, it would be the price. That said, the price is reasonable for higher-end kayaks.


  • Drop stitch floor provides a standing platform
  • Five hardpoints for fishing rod holders
  • Paddles and air pump included


  • Expensive

#7 Driftsun Voyager 2-Person Inflatable Kayak

Best Dog-Friendly Inflatable Kayak

Driftsun Voyager 2-Person Inflatable Kayak - Best Dog-Friendly Inflatable Kayak

Our rating: 4.5/5
Solo or tandem: Tandem
Weight: 27 lbs
Length: 11’
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

If you’re looking for a double inflatable kayak to share with your pupper, you’ll want a stable boat with durable fabric. 

The Driftsun Voyager Inflatable Kayak should do just the trick. The skin of this boat is heavy-duty PVC and covered with 840-denier nylon, making it rip-resistant. 

This boat is lightweight at just 27 pounds, which is ideal because I doubt your dog will help you portage. 

This kayak also comes with an air pump, a storage bag, carry handles, and a skeg that’s removable. 

And the seats are adjustable, which is a nice feature. If your doggo turns out to be nervous on the kayak, you can rearrange the seats to calm them down. 

Additionally, there’s a splash guard at both the bow and stern and bungee lacing on the splash guard. 

Like most other inflatable kayaks, this one packs to about the size of a duffel bag, which means you’ll still have space in your car to haul your dog accouterments. 

One problematic issue with this kayak is that the stitching may not hold up well. 

A few users have reported that the bottom panel ribs “popped.” It didn’t leak air out of the kayak, but two previously separate chambers popped and became one chamber.


  • Durable fabric
  • Lightweight
  • Fast setup
  • Adjustable seats


  • Low-quality stitching

#8 Driftsun Rover 220

Best Whitewater Inflatable Kayak

Driftsun Rover 120-22 - Best Whitewater Inflatable Kayak

Our rating: 4.8/5
Solo or tandem: Tandem
Weight: 28 lbs
Length: 12.6’
Weight capacity: 600 lbs

If whitewater rapids are your happy place and you’re looking for a lighter alternative to traditional kayaks, check out the Driftsun Rover 220.  

The Driftsun Rover is similar in shape to hard-shell whitewater kayaks and features a drop-stitch floor, providing the rigid protection you need from bouncing over rocks. 

This kayak is suitable for Class III and IV rapids and has an “action camera” mount on the front to catch epic runs. 

The seats and footrests are adjustable and there’s a removable skeg, which is helpful if you use this little baddie on flat water. 

There are also seven self-bailing drain plugs to help keep you dry, plus a double-layered, reinforced PVC skin to prevent rock punctures. 

Finally, the Driftsun Rover comes with a carry bag that doubles as a backpack, aluminum paddles, and a double-action hand pump (meaning it pumps air in on both the up and down stroke).

I had to look deep in the inflatable kayak reviews for this model to find some “cons,” and I couldn’t find anything consistent. 

There seems to be some general low-quality manufacturing issues (air pump not working, self-bailing valves don’t close), but most people still really liked this kayak even with those problems.


  • High weight limit
  • Durable materials
  • Drop stitch floor provides stability
  • Seven self-bailing ports
  • Suitable for Class III and IV rapids


  • Expensive (but would you want a bargain boat on whitewater rapids??)
  • Potential low-quality accessory issues

#9 Aquaglide Deschutes 110 Inflatable Kayak

Best Flat Water Inflatable Kayak for Lakes and Easy Rivers

Aquaglide Deschutes 110 Inflatable Kayak

Our rating: 4.8/5
Solo or tandem: Solo
Weight: 19 lbs
Length: 11’
Weight capacity: 300 lbs

The Aquaglide Deschutes 110 has several features that make it an excellent choice for flat water. 

This kayak’s V-shaped hull, flat bottom (aka a flat rocker), and long waterline help the boat move efficiently in one direction. 

The “waterline” refers to the kayak’s length at the waterline, and the longer this is, the faster the boat can move (in theory). 

This durable kayak uses Duratex-reinforced PVC. It’s UV-resistant and includes a splash guard at the bow, plus a broad mesh of bungee lacing for extra storage space on top of the boat. 

And the rigid flat floor makes it easier to get into.

The seat is adjustable, but bigger dudes may find it insufficiently small. This inflatable kayak also folds into a backpack (love that) and has a detachable skeg. 

One con about this kayak is that it doesn’t come with a pump. I hate that!


  • Efficient design specifically for flat water
  • Durable materials
  • Lots of storage space


  • Pump sold separately
  • The seat may be on the small side for bigger humans


#10 Driftsun Almanor 130 Inflatable Recreational Touring Kayak

Best Inflatable Kayak for the Ocean

Driftsun Almanor Inflatable Recreational Touring Kayak - Best Inflatable Kayak for the Ocean

Our rating: 4.9/5
Solo or tandem: Tandem
Weight: 36 lbs
Length: 13’
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

Touring kayaks are generally best for ocean travel because they’re long and slender and cover long distances efficiently. 

Recreational paddling tends to include shorter distances, and these boats prioritize maneuverability over distance. 

The Driftsun Almanor 130 Inflatable Recreational Touring Kayak blends the best of both worlds. 

This 13-foot boat has a long waterline, which makes it excellent for long-distance paddling. 

It’s also the first kayak I’ve reviewed that talks up its seat comfiness. The seats are padded and high-backed, which is excellent because, realistically, an ocean kayak trip *does* involve a lot of sitting. 

And thank goodness for the storage at the bow and stern. You’ll need snacks on that long voyage! There’s also a removable skeg, paddle holder straps, and reinforced carry handles on the ends. 

Lastly, the Driftsun Almanor packs into a backpack with padded shoulder straps, which is no small thing if you’ve got a long way to walk to the surf. 

In terms of the cons, this kayak is more expensive and it may be too narrow for those with wide hips. However, Driftsun is known for its excellent customer service.


  • Designed for efficient long-distance travel
  • Comfy seats
  • Packs into a backpack with padded shoulder straps


  • Expensive
  • Uncomfortably narrow if you have wide hips

#11 Advanced Elements Lagoon 1

Best Inflatable Kayak for Beginners

Best Inflatable Kayak for Beginners - Advanced Elements Lagoon 1

Our rating: 4.6/5
Solo or tandem: Solo
Weight: 23 lbs
Length: 8’ 4’’
Weight capacity: 250 lbs

The Advanced Elements Lagoon 1 is the best blow-up kayak for beginners because it’s a reasonable price yet still high-quality enough that you won’t want to bail on it after your first trip. 

This kayak is almost like a hybrid kayak because the bow and stern are rigid, which helps improve the tracking, but the body itself is still inflatable. 

The setup on this little guy is swift–under 15 minutes–and it’s lightweight at just 23 lbs. 

The Lagoon 1 is a sit-inside kayak. While I usually recommend sit-on-top for your first inflatable kayak, the cockpit on the Advanced Elements Lagoon is quite open, so you won’t have a hard time bailing if needed. 

The seat is also inflatable and very comfortable. However, this kayak is likely not a good choice if you’re over six feet tall since it might feel too cramped. 

While Advanced Elements gives you a carry bag and a repair kit, it doesn’t come with paddles or an air pump, which is a significant ding for me.


  • Good bang for your buck
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable seat


  • Paddles and air pump sold separately

#12 Sea Eagle SE330

Best Inflatable Kayak for Big Guys (and Gals)

Sea Eagle SE330 - Best Inflatable Kayak for Big Guys (and Gals)

Our rating: 4.5/5
Solo or tandem: Solo or tandem
Weight: 26.46 lbs
Length: 11’2’’
Weight capacity: 500 lbs

The Sea Eagle SE330 is my pick for the best inflatable kayak for bigger humans because it’s a solo kayak with a very high weight limit (500 lbs). 

I’ve also mentioned the Sea Eagle in my article about budget kayaks–this item won’t break the bank! Plus, the Sea Eagle SE330 has several handy features. 

You can convert it to a two-person kayak by adding an adjustable padded seat, which you can place anywhere in the boat. Additionally, the Sea Eagle is very lightweight at just over 26 pounds. 

This kayak also comes with a foot pump, which is a breeze to use, and overall setup time is very fast–around 10 minutes. 

One downside of the Sea Eagle is that the skegs aren’t removable. Another thing to remember is that as a cheaper kayak, the handling won’t be as smooth as a higher-end kayak or a hard-shell kayak. 

In particular, the Sea Eagle rides high in the water, which can make it feel unstable to new paddlers, and quickly catches in the wind. That said, this is still a solid choice for calm waters.


  • High weight limit
  • Lightweight
  • Reasonably priced
  • Easy-to-use foot pump included


  • Skegs are not removable
  • It rides high in the water, making it feel a bit unstable

#13 Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak

Best Inflatable Kayak for Families

Best Inflatable Kayak for Families

Our rating: 4.6/5
Solo or tandem: 3-person
Weight: 44.31 lbs
Length: 12’3’’
Weight capacity: 490 lbs

Most of us can think back to a family vacation where one sibling was left out (*even if just for a moment*), resulting in tears. Reduce the tear-shedding on your next vacay and simply get a bigger kayak!

The Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person Kayak is an NMMA-certified three-person inflatable kayak with a heavy-duty PVC tarpaulin along the bottom to prevent punctures. 

Like most inflatable kayaks, this one has multiple air chambers for safety, and the padded seats are adjustable. 

As a large kayak, there’s a decent amount of onboard storage space, but this model doesn’t have the bungee lacing at the bow and stern that I find so handy.

One big positive is that the Sevylor Big Basin 3-Person is reasonably-priced, which I understand is essential to most families. 

Finally, this tandem inflatable kayak is only suitable for calm water, which is unsurprising for the price point. Additionally, the air pump and paddles come separately.


  • Seats three people
  • PVC tarpaulin on the bottom for protection from rocks
  • Adjustable seats
  • Reasonably priced


  • Calm water only
  • The air pump and paddles come separately 
  • Little extra onboard storage

#14 Advanced Elements Island Voyage

Best Lightweight Inflatable Kayak

Best Lightweight Inflatable Kayak - Advanced Elements Island Voyage

Our rating: 4.9/5
Solo or tandem: Tandem
Weight: 31.5 lbs
Length: 11’2’’
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

One of the main benefits of inflatable kayaking over rigid kayaking is the vessel’s reduced weight. 

So while most inflatable kayaks are already lighter than your average rigid kayak, sometimes a super lightweight option is in order. 

The Advanced Elements Island Voyage 2 is a 31.5-pound 2-person inflatable kayak that’s well-suited for calm water and slow rivers. 

This tandem inflatable kayak has three seat location options, padded seats, folds up into a duffel bag, and comes with a repair kit. 

Another unique feature about the Advanced Elements Island Voyage 2 is that it has pockets on the backrest and bottle holders (*gasp*). If you’ve read any of my tent or backpack reviews, you know how much I love pockets. 

Additionally, the boat has three air chambers covered by a PVC tarpaulin material to keep punctures at bay. It also has a skeg that’s removable. 

One thing to note is that the manufacturer doesn’t recommend anyone over 6’2’’ to use this kayak.

If you’re interested in more recommendations for two-person kayaks, check out my article on the best tandem kayaks.


  • Lightweight
  • You can convert it to a solo or two-person kayak 
  • Pockets on backrests and bottle holders on sides
  • Removable skeg


  • Not suitable for those over 6’2’’

#15 Sevylor Quikpak K1

Best Inflatable Sit-On-Top Kayak

Sevylor Quikpak K1 - Best Inflatable Sit-On-Top Kayak

Our rating: 4.7/5
Solo or tandem: Solo
Weight: 20.28 lbs
Length: 8’7’’
Weight capacity: 400 lbs

When it comes to inflatable kayaks, it seems like most models are sit-inside, perhaps because inflatable vessels that ride high in the water are a bit more prone to tipping. 

But if you’re too claustrophobic for a sit-inside kayak, you should check out the Sevylor Quikpak K1

The Sevylor Quikpak is about as simple as they come, but sometimes simplicity is a virtue. This very lightweight kayak packs up into a backpack for extreme convenience. 

The backpack’s back panel then folds out to become the kayak’s seat, an ingenious design feature. With that said, I’ve seen mixed reviews on this seat’s comfort–some loved it, and some didn’t. 

There are three lengths of footrest built into the body of the kayak and bungee mesh on the bow for storage. 

Keep in mind that the Sevylor Quikpak will have you riding high on the water since you are on top of your kayak rather than in it, which may make the boat prone to tipping.


  • Air pump and paddles included
  • It folds up into a duffel bag with straps
  • Several footrest options
  • Fast setup


  • The backrest can be lacking
  • May present stability issues to new paddlers

#16 Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak

Best Inflatable Pack Raft

Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak - Best Inflatable Pack Raft

Our rating: 4.8/5
Solo or tandem: Solo
Weight: 4 lbs
Length: 7’10’’
Weight capacity: 250 lbs

If you’re into backpacking or overnight trips and want to find a way to float *at any time* check out pack rafts. Pack rafts are uber lightweight and packable floatation devices designed to go anywhere. 

The Advanced Elements Packlite Kayak is the best portable kayak I’ve seen. It weighs a whopping four pounds and compresses to about the size of a Happy Meal box. 

With that said, it’s probably the shortest boat I’ve seen for adults. And with a weight limit of 250 lbs, it won’t be suitable for big guys with gear. However, at 35’’ wide, it’s pretty stable to ride in. 

The Advanced Elements Inflatable Kayak doesn’t come with the paddle or pump (boo), but the price is already low, so you probably won’t bust your budget either way. 

This kayak is undoubtedly a simple vessel without much of a backrest or even an inflatable seat.


  • Tiny
  • Packs teeny tiny
  • Good stability
  • Reasonably priced


  • Not large enough for bigger people
  • Paddle and pump not included

#17 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite Kayak

Best Touring Inflatable Kayak

Best Touring Inflatable Kayak - Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite Kayak

Our rating: 4.9/5
Solo or tandem: Solo
Weight: 42 lbs
Length: 13’
Weight capacity: 450 lbs

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite is one of the best touring inflatable kayaks. 

Touring kayaks are typically long, slender, and designed for experienced paddlers because their long slim design helps them move efficiently over long distances. 

This high-quality inflatable kayak has aluminum ribs that form a frame around the bow and stern. This design gives it the performance of a hardshell kayak with less storage hassle. 

The kayak’s body is durable PVC layered with vinyl, and the drop stitch floor creates a perfectly rigid hull. 

Like most inflatable kayaks, this one has multiple air chambers. Thanks to bungee lacing and a rear storage hatch, there’s also quite a bit of storage. 

The seat is quite comfy on this boat, which is essential for longer rides. The back is raised high and has adjustable lumbar support. 

Finally, as with most touring kayaks, the Advanced Elements model is a bit expensive. While it does come with a repair kit and a storage bag, it doesn’t come with the paddles and pump.


  • Excellent design rivals hardshell versions
  • Durable hull material
  • Lots of storage space
  • Comfortable seat


  • Expensive
  • Paddles and pump not included

Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak

How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak

What to Look for in Inflatable Kayaks

Intended Use

One of the first questions you should answer when buying an inflatable kayak is what type of adventure you want to take it on. 

In most cases, recreational kayaks are great for paddling on calm waters. If you’re looking for a white water vessel, look for a kayak rated for Class III rapids or higher.

Touring kayaks will be your best bet on the ocean and fishing kayaks are great for both fishing and camping.

Packed Size

You’re probably looking into inflatable kayaks because you want something that packs small. 

While most inflatable kayaks pack down much smaller than their hardshell counterparts, inspecting the packed size specs is still worthwhile. 

Additionally, some inflatable kayaks pack down into a backpack-style carrier rather than a duffel bag, which I personally find very helpful.


The wider your boat, the more stable it will feel and the harder it will be to tip over. Experienced paddlers may feel more comfortable in narrower boats, while beginners often benefit from wider vessels.


A boat that tracks well stays in a straight line easily. 

Longer boats have better tracking than shorter boats, and hard-shell kayaks tend to have better tracking than inflatable kayaks (the extra weight helps maintain a straight line). 

Many inflatable kayaks come with a skeg, or fin, on the bottom to help improve tracking.

Drop Stitch Floor

You’ll only see this feature on the best inflatable kayaks. You can inflate a drop stitched floor to be totally rigid, which is a significant benefit for a whitewater or motorized fishing kayak.

Storage Space

Bringing creature comforts with me on kayak camping trips is the best part of a kayak camping trip, IMO.

Make sure your boat has the storage space you need, whether in bungee cargo lacing, a separate compartment, D-rings, or a platform to latch a cooler onto.

NMMA Certification

The National Marine Manufacturers Association gives a safety certification to watercraft makers in the US. 

It’s not that non-NMMA products are particularly unsafe, but NMMA certification is definitely icing on the cake.

Types of Inflatable Kayaks

Types of inflatable kayaks

Solo vs Tandem

A tandem kayak has seating for two (or sometimes three) people, while a solo kayak is just for one person.


The sit-on-top kayak design is precisely what it sounds like. 

Rather than sit in an enclosed cockpit like the sit-inside kayaks, sit-on-tops allow you to perch on an open platform. 

This design tends to be easier for beginners to use and is ideal in warm weather where splashing won’t freeze you out.

Sit Inside

Sit-inside inflatable kayaks have an enclosed cockpit, sometimes with a spray skirt that snugs directly against your torso. 

This design is typical in touring kayaks and is beneficial for traveling over cold water (think ocean travel) because you’re more protected from splashing.

Touring vs Recreational

Touring kayaks have designs for efficient travel over long distances. They have long water lines (aka long boats) with v-shaped hulls, which help the kayak stay in a straight line with minimal effort.  

Recreational kayaks are perhaps the broadest kayak category and encapsulate shorter kayaks designed for lakes and rivers. 

These can have flat or slightly curved hulls and may include removable fins on the bottom.

White Water vs Ocean Kayaks

Whitewater (river) kayaks and ocean kayaks (often lumped in as touring kayaks) can be summarized similarly to touring vs. recreational kayaks. 

Whitewater kayaks tend to be shorter with flatter hulls (bottoms), making them great for turning quickly. 

Ocean kayaks, or touring kayaks, are long with v-shaped hulls that help you move through the water quickly and efficiently. 

Since you won’t have the assistance of the river current to move your boat, you’ll rely solely on your own body strength. So, a long and efficient kayak is best for ocean travel.

Folding Kayaks

A folding frame kayak is a kayak that folds together like a giant origami. 

I didn’t include any folding frame kayaks in this review, but they do exist and can be a great alternative to traditional hard-shell kayaks.

FAQs About Inflatable Kayaks

FAQs about inflatable kayaks

What is the best type of inflatable kayak you can buy?

The top four inflatable kayaks right now are the following:

Are inflatable kayaks worth buying?

Yes, there are several benefits of buying an inflatable kayak. 

Inflatable kayaks tend to be lighter than hard-shell kayaks, don’t take up much space, and don’t require a roof rack. They also tend to be less expensive than traditional kayaks. 

Lastly, they tend to be wide and stable on the water, making inflatable kayaks safe for beginners.

What are the cons of inflatable kayaks?

While there are many perks to buying an inflatable kayak, there are some cons. 

Inflatable kayaks aren’t as fast as hard-shell kayaks. Additionally, you’ll need a place to lay the kayak out to dry after use so it doesn’t get moldy.

What should I look for in an inflatable kayak?

Look for a kayak that works for your intended use, whether it’s lakes, rivers, whitewater, or oceans.

Second, look for a kayak that fits your budget. There are lots of inflatable kayaks on the market at different price points. 

Finally, make sure the weight capacity can handle you and your gear and that you won’t exceed the maximum intended weight limit.

Do inflatable kayaks flip easily?

No, inflatable kayaks do not flip easily.

Can you leave inflatable kayaks inflated?

You should not leave inflatable kayaks inflated for long periods. Leaving them inflated can stress the material, especially the seams, as the air temperature fluctuates, expands, and shrinks.

What size inflatable kayak should I get?

Get a kayak that seats the number of paddlers in your group and fits the amount of gear you plan to bring. 

You may consider using a tandem kayak alone to have extra room if you’re a bigger person. It’s also a good idea to look at the kayak length to ensure you won’t be too cramped.

Are inflatable kayaks harder to paddle?

Some inflatable kayaks can be trickier to maneuver than hard-shell kayaks, especially ones that sit high in the water. 

Kayaks that sit high may feel unstable on the water and tend to catch the wind easily. 

That said, several inflatable kayak brands have rigid aluminum ribs in the frame that improve tracking and maneuverability.

Where can you use inflatable kayaks?

You can use inflatable kayaks anywhere you would use a traditional kayak.

How long does it take to inflate an inflatable kayak?

The time it takes to inflate an inflatable kayak depends on the size, the number of air chambers, and the type of pump you’re using. You can inflate most kayaks in under 15 minutes.

Conclusion: Our Pick for the Best Inflatable Kayak

Our Pick for the Best Inflatable Kayak

I love spending time on the water, and I’m excited by all the new inflatable kayak models on the market these days. 

Inflatable kayaks are easier to use and store than their hardshell cousins, making them more accessible to those who live in small homes, apartments, or who rely on public transportation. 

While I stand by all the inflatable kayaks in this article, my favorite one would be the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame solo inflatable kayak. 

An incredibly durable boat, the AdvancedFrame’s design rivals traditional kayaks in handling. Plus, its price is mid-level, which means it will keep its resale value if you don’t like it.


author bio - Meredith Dennis

Meredith Dennis

Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in 6 states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is chef’s kiss next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.


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