“Inflatable kayak” may bring to mind a glorified pool toy. But thanks to advances in technology, today’s inflatable boats are durable and dependable enough to take on the lake, river, even ocean. And they’re a good option to consider if kayak transportation is an issue for you. After all, hardshell kayaks may be sleek and easy to maneuver in the water, but they can be clunky and heavy to cart around on land. If you’re ready to consider an easier-to-haul kayak option, we’ve scouted out the best inflatable kayaks for you.
What’s the difference between a hardshell and inflatable kayak? A hardshell (or solid) kayak is made from wood, plastic, fiberglass, or a composite. An inflatable kayak is a nylon, neoprene, or rubber shell that’s filled with air. (To transport or store it, you simply deflate and pack it up.)
There are few different styles of inflatable kayak: sit-in, sit-on-top, and folding hybrid. The latter is the higher end (in price and quality) of inflatable kayaks. This style is constructed with a frame of aluminum ribs that helps it behave more like a hardshell kayak.
(Also, not quite into kayaks but looking for an easy way to get on the water? Check out our post on the best inflatable SUP boards.)
Here are the 10 best inflatable kayaks:
This is by far one of the best inflatable kayaks for under $500. It’s a hybrid inflatable meaning it has a frame that’s paired with its inflatable core.
- Built-in aluminum ribs define the bow and stern and improve tracking
- 3 layers of material for extreme puncture resistance
- PreAssembled at the factory. Simply unfold, inflate and attach the seat
- High support, adjustable padded seat provides comfort for hours of paddling
- Looks and paddles similar to a rigid hard-shell kayak with the portability of an inflatable
On the other end of the price spectrum is the Intex Challenger K1. For under $100, you may doubt its dependability but its consistently high rating should give you some peace of mind.
- Lightweight, compact and easy to assemble
This model from Sevylor lives up to its name: The whole kayak folds up into the seat which becomes the easy-to-carry backpack.
- 5-minute setup lets you spend more time on the water
- Easy-to-carry backpack system turns into the seat
- 24-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use
- Tarpaulin bottom and polyester cover provide durable protection from punctures
- Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured
Driftsun’s Whitewater Kayak is amazingly rated to run up to class III and class IV rapids. Just call it The Little Kayak That Could.
- 1 PERSON KAYAK: The Driftsun Rover 120 single rider kayak features a front & rear rocker profile, so you can maneuver & navigate through calm or rough water with less tracking. The foldable kayak inflates fully in 9 mins & seats 1 adult (300lbs max)
- WHAT’S IN THE BAG: Rover 120 inflatable kayak, adjustable EVA padded seat, adjustable aluminum kayak paddle, double action inflation hand pump, removable tracking fin & a spacious travel backpack for all included kayaking equipment
- ULTIMATE COMFORT: Constructed with reinforced double layered PVC, this enables the 1person kayak to handle obsticles in rough waterways without puncturing. The high-pressure dropstitch floor boosts stability & extremely sturdy
- ADVENTURE READY: Driftsun folding kayak will deliver unmatched stability in rough water compaired to low-pressure foldable kayaks for adults. It can handle class III & IV rapids with speed & control. Features 8 self-bailing ports, ample tie-down points & front action camera mount
- SIT IN TANDEM KAYAK SPECS: Exterior: 8.5’(L) x 36”(W) x 13”(H) / Weight: 22 Lbs. / Capacity: 300 Lbs. / Inflation Pressure: 3 PSI (side tubes) & 6 PSI (floor)
This model from Advanced Elements is a step or two above their AdvancedFrame model. It’s also a hybrid inflatable and at 13 feet long offers plenty of storage space for long day trips.
- Aluminium rib-frame design - This inflatable kayak features a combination of aluminum frame, rigid panels, and inflation chambers for incredible tracking and maneuverability.
- PVC tarpaulin hull material - Our PVC tarpaulin hull material features a polyester fabric sandwiched by layers of vinyl which creates a durable and strong outer cover.
- Drop-stitch floor - The drop-stitch floor in this kayak creates a hull with chine, which enhances the tracking and hull speed and adds unparalleled rigidity in an inflatable kayak.
- Multiple air chambers - Our unique design divides the main inflation chamber into two separate air chambers that encompass the entire kayak. This provides optimum safety when out on the water.
- Easy setup - Twistlok valves and high flow Spring valves allow for quick setup time.
If backcountry paddling is in your future, you might want to check out the PackLite model from Advanced Elements. Its small size and weight make it a good option for backpackers who think they might meet a lake or two.
- Ultra compact - Lightweight and eco-friendly PVC-free materials provide compressibility and compactibility. The folded boat is 11" x 11" x 5" and weighs only 4 pounds, making it our lightest kayak.
- Durable and light - Unique reinforced material provides durability in a lightweight design.
- Stable and reliable - 35″ width and three-chamber design provide maximum on-water stability and reliability.
- Easy setup - Twistlok valves and high flow military style valves allow for quick setup time.
- Comfortable integrated seat - This inflatable kayak comes with a built-in seat for maximum comfort and performance.
Sea Eagle gives you (and a friend!) everything you need in this package: a tandem kayak, paddles, foot pump, and carrying case.
- 3 person/650 lb capacity, weighs 32 lbs, suitable for up to Class III whitewater
- 370 Deluxe Kayak Package features two movable, super comfortable Deluxe Kayak Seats for improved back support and 2 paddles, foot pump, and carry bag
- 2 AB30 7'10"" 4 Part Paddles with asymmetrical blade and aluminum shaft
- 2 skegs on the bottom for better tracking & speed
- Open and close drain valve, 5 deluxe 1-way inflation/deflation valves
This is the two-person version of Advanced Elements’ AdvancedFrame model. Perfect for you and a friend, or kayak with your dog!
- Built-in aluminum ribs define the bow and stern and improves tracking
- Three layers of material for extreme puncture resistance.Folded size 35 X 21 X 12 inches. Max Weight-550 pounds. Weight-52 pounds
- Pre-assembled at the factory; simply unfold, inflate, and attach the seats
- High support, adjustable padded seats provide comfort for hours of paddling
- Three seat locations allow for paddling solo or tandem
Driftsun’s Rover Whitewater kayak also comes in a two-person version—if you don’t feel like facing the rapids alone. Suitable for up to class III and class IV rapids.
- 2 PERSON KAYAK: The Driftsun Rover 220 tandem kayak features a front & rear rocker profile, so you can maneuver & navigate through calm or rough water with less tracking. The foldable kayak inflates fully in 9 mins & seats 2 adults (600lbs max)
- WHAT’S IN THE BAG: Rover 220 inflatable kayak, 2 adjustable EVA padded seats, 2 adjustable aluminum kayak paddles, double action inflation hand pump, removable tracking fin & spacious travel backpack for all included kayaking equipment
- ULTIMATE COMFORT: Constructed with reinforced double layered PVC, this enables the 2person kayak to handle obsticles in rough waterways without puncturing. The high-pressure dropstitch floor boosts stability & extremely sturdy
- ADVENTURE READY: Diftsun folding kayak will deliver unmatched stability in rough water compared to low-pressure foldable kayaks for adults. It can handle class III & IV rapids with speed & control. Features 8 self-bailing ports, ample tie-down points & front action camera mount
- SIT IN TANDEM KAYAK SPECS: Exterior 12.6’(L) x 38”(W) x 13”(H) / Weight: 28 Lbs. / Capacity: 600 Lbs. 2 Adults + child, gear or a furry friend / Inflation Pressure: 3 PSI (side tubes) & 6 PSI (floor)
It’s not easy to make a boat “family-sized” and have it still be considered a kayak. But Sevylor’s Big Basin model manages to do just that. Comfortably fits three people.
- Heavy-duty PVC construction is rugged for lake use
- Tarpaulin bottom provides durable protection from punctures
- Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured
- Boston Valve is double threaded for easy inflation/deflation
- Adjustable seats move to fit you; Carry handles make it easy to carry in and out of the water