When looking for a kayak, some of the factors you are probably considering are the performance characteristics of the kayak, your budget and the kayak’s portability (amongst other things of course – but these factors tend to be most important to most prospective paddlers). And whilst inflatable kayaks may fall a little short on the performance aspect as compared to their hard-shell kayak cousins, they are definitely miles ahead when it comes to price and portability (in fact an inflatable kayak can be considered to be the best kayak for beginners).
And with advancements in technology and construction materials, kayak manufacturers are making some durable and solid inflatable kayaks that are easy to carry and to store. But with so many kayak brands and different inflatable kayak models out there, how do you choose the best inflatable kayak for your money and for your needs?
Before you dive into purchasing your inflatable kayak we suggest you take a look at the following buying considerations in our mini inflatable kayak buying guide:
Weight – the weight of the inflatable kayak is obviously crucial and obviously the lighter the better, especially for younger kids
Length – for most single seat inflatable kayaks, lengths range from 8 feet to 12 feet and unless you are looking at 2 person or 3 person inflatable kayaks you would not normally get an inflatable kayak over 14 foot. All you’re really looking for is the perfect balance between length and stability.
Portability and packing size – the main reason most paddlers opt for inflatable kayaks is due to their weight and packing size. They want to be able to deflate the kayak and fit it into the back of the trunk or car and not have to worry about roof racks or carrying heavy yaks. In fact some inflatable kayaks are so small that they can literally fit inside a backpack which is great when hiking!
Budget – we are all looking for the best inflatable kayak at the best price, and setting your budget and aligning your expectations is critical as price is one of the most important factors when it comes to buying the RIGHT inflatable kayak. With this in mind, we have created a list of the top inflatable kayaks across a broad spectrum of price points.
So once you’ve set your budget, let’s take a look at some of the best inflatable kayaks in the market today, all reviewed by our expert kayak review team!
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
Best affordable 1 person inflatable kayak
Weighing in at around 24.6 pounds, the Intex Challenger K1 Kayak is a lightweight one person inflatable kayak that truly deserves to make the list of best inflatable kayaks. For paddlers that prefer easy entry and exits, this kayak has a really big and comfortable cockpit. To allow for added safety when in use on a slow moving river or water, the Challenger K1 was manufactured out of durable welded material. When you factor in the fantastic price of this inflatable kayak, and how useful it is for both water sports or for fishing, there is no doubt that the Intex Challanger kayak provides some serious fun as well as practicality. For inexperienced paddlers, one of the greatest benefits of the kayak is its inflatable I-beam floor which allows for rigidity and stability during use.
If you have considered taking some of the your camping gear along with you on the kayak, then the Intex Challenger is well-suited for that as well, with the Intex Challenger K1 offering you a large cargo net in the front of the kayak where you can store away all of your camping gear. What we also like about the kayak is that the 84-inch aluminum oar comes standard as an included accessory, without prospective paddlers having to go out and buy the oar separately. When taking the Intex Challenger K1 out on the water, the immediate paddling impression is that the kayak is quite rugged and sturdy, but at the same time it is super comfortable to sit in, and quite easy to maneuver. Whilst paddling, the K1 always felt in complete control over its movement and speed. From a comfort perspective, the seat is adjustable and the inflatable backrest makes your experience a pretty comfortable one on extended kayaking trips. Also included in the box is a Hi-output manual hand air pump (with the kayak being super easy to both inflate and deflate as well), and of course the obligatory repair patch.
[pullquote_right]No further costs as the oar comes standard as an included accessory[/pullquote_right]
[pullquote_right]Super lightweight even the kids can take it down to the water[/pullquote_right]
Low profile single seater kayak designed for use by adults and kids alike
Extra gear is storable in the cargo net
Two separate air chambers
Fitted Boston valves allow for quick inflation and deflation
Inflatable floor for comfort and rigidity
Kayak Dimensions: 30 x 15 x 108 inches (W x H x D)
Maximum carrying capacity: 220lbs
Accessories Included: 86″ Aluminum Oars & High-Output Air Pump
Available in the following Colors: Green
Easy to inflate and easy to transport to the water
Their is no doubt that the Intex Challenger K1 inflatable kayak remains one of the best inflatable kayaks on the market today. It simply is a great product at a great price, and from a comfort perspective you really cannot go wrong with this 1 seater kayak. Definitely a great buy for the money.
Easy to inflate and to deflate
So light it can be easily carried down to the water and so easy to pack and store and transport
Easy to maneuver whilst on the water and stable too!
Vinyl material can become hot when exposed to long period in the sun – although this is beneficial when you want to quickly dry the kayak for transporting
Sevylor Quikpak K1 Inflatable Kayak
Best inflatable kayak for travel
When travelling about, you really want to be able to have your inflatable kayak handy, and the Sevylor Quikpak K1 Inflatable kayak is definitely one of those kayaks designed with travellers in mind. With the Sevylor Quikpak K1, you can quickly inflate your kayak (takes less than 5 minutes) and be on the water in no time). But the main reason its such a hit with travellers, is that the kayak is as easy as “backpack, unpack, kayak.” Sevylor have designed an innovative backpack system that can carry everything that you need to get onto the water (all items contained within the backpack), and to top things off, the backpack actually folds out and becomes your kayak seat. How cool is that! Not only is the Quikpak K1 super portable, it is also pretty durable as well and is made from 21-gauge PVC construction, whilst the rugged taurpaulin botton allows the kayak to handle some choppy water as well. The K1 also comes with some nice features for the paddler as well, so you can really enjoy those longer kayaking trips. There’s a drinks holder and ample storage (including obligatory bungees) to keep plenty of gear, whilst paddling comfort is provided by the inflatable back rest and multi-position foot rests.
Obviously you may be anxious about taking an inflatable kayak out onto the water – but Sevylor have produced a rugged kayak that is reinforced to help avoid punctures and tears. If you do indeed manage to hit a snag and manage to puncture the kayak, the Sevylor K1’s multiple air chamber system allows for second chamber to remain inflated in the likelihood of the other being punctured. The kayak is obviously quite light, certainly lighter than many other hard shell kayaks, and taking it in and out of the water is made easier with the included carry handles. Overall the Sevylor Quikpak K1 is an inflatable kayak that is made for convenience. Carry it around with you as a backpack, reach a lake, unpack and inflate within 5 minutes and you’re on the water! No other kayak can offer such convenience and portability, and that’s why the K1 really is the best inflatable kayak for travel.
[pullquote_right]Inflates within 5 minutes to get you onto the water quickly[/pullquote_right]
[pullquote_right]Ingenious design allows the kayak to fit into the backpack when folder up[/pullquote_right]
21-gauge PVC construction is perfect for many types of lakes and rivers
Airtight® System is guaranteed not to leak
The backpack system allows for easy portability and also converts into the kayak seat
Fitted with Double Lock™ valves sporting two locking points and allowing for easy inflation/deflation
Hand pump and paddle included
Kayak Dimensions: 8 ft. 7 in. x 3 ft. (when inflated)
Maximum carrying capacity: NMMA® certified to hold up to 400 lbs
Accessories Included: Hand Pump an paddle
Super easy to carry and inflates within 5 minutes
If you are looking for an easily transportable kayak, look no further than the Sevylor Quikpak K1 – so easy to carry it actually fits inside a backpack that you can carry on your back from car to lake or river and back again. Getting onto the water is also so quick, as the yak inflates within 5 minutes so this is definitely a kayak that should be on any travellers go-to gear list. Portability, convenience and added features make the Sevylor Quikpak K1 inflatable kayak one of the best kayaks for travel and it truly is one of those yaks you can carry around with you on your next travelling adventure.
Relatively easy to inflate and to deflate
Can easily be folded, and fits back into the backpack for enhanced portability
Backpack converts into the kayak seat – such a clever design!
Paddle blades are fairly small and speed is compromised accordingly
Advanced Elements AE1012 Inflatable Kayak
Best sit-inside inflatable kayak
If you’re searching for an inflatable kayak that can rival some of the top hard-shell kayaks, then the Advanced Elements AE1012 inflatable kayak is an exceptional choice. A single seat inflatable kayak, the AE1012 is not exactly a true-blue inflatable kayak as we know them, rather it is a bit of a hybrid between an inflatable kayak and a folding frame kayak. It is designed with these built-in aluminum ribs within the bow and the stern of the kayak that allow the kayak to swiftly move through the water and the tracking of this kayak can thus match those of its hard-shell cousins. Another great feature of the AE1012 is that the stern acts like a skeg and further improves tracking performance. It’s no wonder that the Advanced Elements AE1012 is one of the best selling solo inflatable kayaks on the market today. From a performance perspective, paddling with the AE1012 is a breeze, and with the stern-cum-skeg the kayak is able to cut through the chop easily on the open ocean, but can also glide beautifully on calmer waters like lakes and rivers. The AE1012-R comes with plenty of storage space and also has an impressive weight capacity of 136kg (for inflatable kayaks of course)!
The major reason most paddlers look at inflatable kayaks is due to their weight and exceptional portability, and the AE1012-R doesn’t disappoint. Weighing in at a paltry 16kg, this kayak is super lightweight and so easy to handle if taking it either from or to the water. And no messing about when it comes to assembly either, as the kayak is pre-assembled – so just inflate and go. The AE1012 is also made from durable materials and with its durable triple layer PVC tarpaulin hull you needn’t concern yourself with damaging the bottom of the kayak. What we really liked about this particular inflatable kayak is the core design against the risk of punctures. Basically the kayak has a multi-layer material design that protects the inner tubes from damage, so even if the top layers get damaged the inner tubes will still be inflated and are thus protected from rips and tears and try as we might, we just could not puncture it even when paddling over some rough river bed rocks. Another design pro is the use of dual main air chambers, so if one of the air chambers does in fact get punctured for whatever reason, the other chamber can still function and give you enough time to get back to shore. So if you are in the market for a top inflatable kayak that looks and paddles similar to a rigid hard-shell kayak, but you want the portability of an inflatable kayak, then you really can’t go past the Advanced Elements AE1012 inflatable kayak – we have no hesitation in recommending this kayak as the best sit-inside inflatable kayak on the market today!
[pullquote_right]Super tracking ability – with stern acting as a skeg[/pullquote_right]
[pullquote_right]Super lightweight and portable[/pullquote_right]
Easy To Set Up: PreAssembled at the factory. Simply unfold, inflate and attach the seat
Durable: 3 layers of material for extreme puncture resistance
Comfortable: High support, adjustable padded seat provides comfort for hours of paddling
Low centre of gravity and a flat hull for effortless stability – this saves your strength and allows you to relax and enjoy the ride
Enormous Onboard storage space for gear – the AdvancedFrame can handle 136kg if you are going on an expedition
Kayak Dimensions (length): 10’5″
Kayak Dimensions (width): 32″
Kayak Dimensions (length): 10’5″
Weight: 36lbs / 16kg
Maximum carrying capacity: MAX. WEIGHT 300 LBS. (136 KG)
Super fast and great tracking ability
The Advanced Elements AE1012 is an extremely light weight inflatable kayak that really performs admirably both on the ocean as well as on calmer lakes and rivers. It is a straight gliding kayak that really is nice and comfortable to paddle, and is so easy to handle, there is no wonder this is one of the best selling solo inflatable kayaks on the market today. Highly recommended – and although slightly more expensive than your usual inflatable kayaks – the paddling experience coupled with the ease of inflation and deflating the kayak make this a super buy!
Super lightweight and easy to inflate and deflate
Superb tracking and so easy to paddle
Comfortable and easy to adjust kayak seat
Not much really..
Blue Wave Sports Nomad Kayak
Best inflatable kayak for dogs
Sometimes we want to take our dogs out on the lake with us whilst we are out on our kayak, and the Blue Wave Sports Nomad kayak is one of those kayaks that allows both you and your small pooch to paddle together. Featuring a max capacity of 230lbs, the Blue Wave is an exceptional inflatable kayak, and what we really liked about the package is that it pretty much includes everything you need to get going without forking over any more cash. The Nomad comes standard with the included Foot pump, an Aluminum oar and even a polyethylene carry bag for easy transport and storage. The kayak is so easy to inflate and deflate that it really is one of those kayaks that you will just pop into the trunk of the car and with portability obviously something that many prospective paddlers look for in a kayak, the Blue Wave does not disappoint. The kayak is also quite sturdy, with its 24 gauge PVC reinforced construction and anti-leak welding, you won’t have any issues with deflation whilst out paddling. We have reviewed the single seat Blue Wave Nomad inflatable kayak, but its bigger brother (the 2 seater version) is also an exceptional 2 seat inflatable kayak – so if you are looking for a larger inflatable kayak that can take 2 people – then take a look at that particular model.
From a comfort perspective, the adjustable and removable fabric seat and footrest make for a customisable trip, whilst tracking on the kayak is aided by two directional bottom fins. During our tests, it was evident that the Nomad was pretty stable out on the water. It certainly tracked well for an inflatable kayak, and it really did not feel like it was prone to rolling. The construction and design of the kayak consists of 3 Multi air chambers, 2 in the hull and 1 in the floor, and inflation of the air chambers is super quick due to the oversized pressure valve with its double locking air-tight seal as well. Overall – the Nomad is an affordable inflatable kayak that really is suitable for both you and your pooch to enjoy your next kayaking trip.
[pullquote_right]Super easy to inflate with it double locking air tight seals[/pullquote_right]
[pullquote_right]Super lightweight and portable[/pullquote_right]
Removable fabric seat
Added stability and control is assured by two directional bottom fins
Super strong 4-section 87-in long oar with aluminium tubes and reinforced enlarged polypropylene blades
Comes with an easy to use repair kit if you ever needed it
Oar, foot pump, and carrying bag are all included
Kayak Dimensions (length): 118″
Kayak Dimensions (width): 30.5″
Kayak Dimensions (height): 13.5″
Maximum carrying capacity: 231lbs
Affordable inflatable kayak with everything included
The Blue Wave Nomad is really one of those kayaks that you buy as a package set, as it comes with everything included including an oar, the foot pump and a carrying case. Its a durable kayak, fairly stable on the water and its tracking is great. One of those light and ultra portable inflatable kayaks that we would not hesitate in recommending to anybody after a top inflatable kayak at a budget price.
Lightweight and portable
Comfortable inflatable seat that can also be removed
Easy inflation and deflation in minutes
No secure storage area on the kayak
The carry bag is not too resistant and after a few uses can tear
I have been kayaking since I was 10 years old and am now the Editor-in-Chief of ModernKayaking magazine. My role allows me to spend time out on the water whilst requiring me to review the latest kayaks and kayaking gear, and when I'm not working you will usually find me doing some fishing from my kayak out on some lake somewhere!