Inflatable kayaks are a great option for anyone that doesn’t have the storage space required for a hard-shell kayak. If you travel a lot, it’s really convenient to deflate your kayak and stow it in a compact bag until you’re ready to go for a paddle. Many full-time RVers love having the best inflatable kayaks on hand because they easily store underneath their rig when not in use.

Aside from packing and storage, there are a number of other compelling reasons why so many people prefer inflatable kayaks to their hard-shell counterparts. In this article, we’re going to review the best inflatable kayaks and give you some helpful tips on selecting the kayak that suits your needs.

For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out the Best Sea Kayaks

kayaker
Kayaking Gift Guide

 

Quick Answer - The Best Inflatable Kayaks

  1. Advanced Elements Sport
  2. Aquaglide Chinook XP One
  3. Advanced Elements Ultralite
  4. Aire Tributary Spud
  5. Advanced Elements Expedition Elite
  6. Aquaglide Blackfoot Angler
  7. Aire Lynx II Tandem
  8. Advanced Elements Convertible Tandem
  9. Aquaglide Chinook XP Tandem XL
  10. Advanced Elements AirFusion EVO

 

Comparison Table - Best Inflatable Kayaks

PictureNameWeight CapacityLengthWeightPaddlersPriceRating
Advanced Elements Sport250 lbs10' 5"26 lbs1$4.6
Aquaglide Chinook XP One250 lbs8' 10"22 lbs1$4.5
Advanced Elements Ultralite225 lbs10' 5"17 lbs 8 oz1$$4.5
Aire Tributary Spud220 lbs7' 2"21.5 lbs1$4.0
Advanced Elements Expedition Elite450 lbs13'42 lbs1$$4.6
Aquaglide Blackfoot Angler600 lbs12' 8"38 lbs 1.6 oz1$$$4.8
Aire Lynx II Tandem475 lbs12' 6"39 lbs2$$$4.6
Advanced Elements Convertible Tandem550 lbs15'52 lbs2$$4.5
Aquaglide Chinook XP Tandem XL550 lbs12' 10"38 lbs2-3$$4.2
Advanced Elements AirFusion EVO235 lbs13'32 lbs1$$$4.6
PictureNameWeight CapacityLengthWeightPaddlersPriceRating

 

Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - The Best Inflatable Kayaks

Advanced Elements Sport

Specs
  • Length: 10' 5"
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Weight: 26 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 250 lbs
Features
  • Quick Setup
  • Compact for Storage
  • Rigid Bow and Stern (for better structure)
  • Rubber Handles (for easy transportation)

BEST FOR: SPONTANEOUS ADVENTURES

This kayak is the perfect size to store in a car, underneath an RV, or in the corner of your garage. It won’t take up much room when you don’t need it, but it’s really quick and easy to setup and inflate when adventure comes calling. When deflated, this kayak packs down to dimensions of just 30.75 x 18 x 10.75 inches.

This inflatable kayak includes a rigid bow and stern. These front and rear areas of the kayak are reinforced with an aluminum frame, which helps the boat track through the water and makes paddling easier. When you need to lift this kayak out of the water for any reason, you’ll find that the low-profile rubber handles make transporting this kayak a breeze.

Aquaglide Chinook XP One

Specs
  • Length: 8' 10"
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Weight: 22 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 250 lbs
Features
  • Stiff, Durable Floor
  • Excellent UV Protection
  • Comfortable Seats
  • Easy Storage

BEST FOR: SOLO PADDLERS COVERING DISTANCE

The Aquaglide Chinook XP One is a great inflatable for solo travelers that don’t have the space to carry a hard-bottom kayak everywhere they go. The floor of this kayak is reinforced with PVC material to make it more rigid and improve the boat’s performance by helping it slice more cleanly through the water.

The kayak’s hull material is specifically designed to withstand prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight (UV rays) and the seats are designed to help you ride in comfort. The seats feature adjustable air cushions, high backrests, and are highly adjustable for comfort. Lastly, this kayak folds down to packed dimensions of 23.25 x 19.75 x 9.5 inches so that it can easily be stored out of the way when not in use.

Advanced Elements Ultralite

Specs
  • Length: 10' 5"
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Weight: 17 lbs 8 oz
  • Weight Capacity: 225 lbs
Features
  • Extra Puncture Resistance
  • Bungee Deck Lacing and D-Ring Tie-Downs (for storage)
  • Reinforced Bow and Stern (for durability)
  • Adjustable Back Support (for comfort)

BEST FOR: ULTRALIGHT EXPEDITIONS

This is the lightest of the inflatable kayaks on our list and a definite consideration for anyone interested in extended kayak expeditions. With an inflated weight of less than 20 pounds and rubber handles, it’s really easy to portage this kayak around any obstacles, whether you’re primarily paddling on rivers or lakes.

The AdvancedFrame Ultralite offers bungee deck lacing on the front and rear of the kayak, as well as D-rings that help you tie down all of your gear. The front and back of this kayak are both reinforced with built-in aluminum ribs to give it added durability against the conditions you might encounter on a longer trip. It also offers adjustable back support so that you can get and stay comfortable throughout your journey.

Aire Tributary Spud

Specs
  • Length: 7' 2"
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Weight: 21.5 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 220 lbs
Features
  • Easy Handling For Smaller Paddlers
  • Extremely Stable Design
  • Self-Bailing Floor
  • Sturdy Handles (for easy lifting and carrying)

BEST FOR: INTRODUCING KIDS TO WHITEWATER

If you want to share your love for whitewater with your kids, but want to introduce them in the safest manner possible, it’s hard to overlook the Aire Tributary Spud inflatable kayak. It offers a downsized design that makes it easy for kids and young adults to learn the basics of maneuvering before they graduate to a larger model.

It also features an extremely stable design so that they can learn the basics without going for a swim every couple minutes. The self-bailing floor removes water from the cockpit even if the kayak flips or excess water splashes over the sides. And the Spud also comes with sturdy handles to make carrying it back up to practice on a specific section of rapids super easy.

Advanced Elements Expedition Elite

Specs
  • Length: 13'
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Weight: 42 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 450 lbs
Features
  • Rear Storage Access Hatch
  • Enclosed Design (keeps you drier)
  • Ample Leg Room (great for taller paddlers)
  • Bungee Deck Lacing and D-Rings (for attaching gear)

BEST FOR: TALLER PADDLERS, LONGER EXPEDITIONS

This inflatable kayak is designed to mimic the performance of a hard-shell, sit-inside kayak. It’s an excellent choice for longer expeditions because of the ample amount of storage space it offers. The rear storage access hatch can be accessed from the cockpit and includes a roll-top closure to keep water out.

This kayak is also designed with paddler comfort in mind. The enclosed deck keeps more water from coming inside the cockpit and it’s also compatible with a number of paddle skirts, if you want to keep water out entirely. The interior of the kayak offers ample legroom for tall paddlers (even those over 6’2”) and the added bungee lacing and d-rings on the deck gives you plenty of space to attach all of your gear for a longer trip.

Aquaglide Blackfoot Angler

Specs
  • Length: 12' 8"
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Weight: 38 lbs 1.6 oz
  • Weight Capacity: 600 lbs
Features
  • Seven Mounts (for attaching fishing rods and accessories)
  • Included Fishing Cooler
  • Extra Width (for added stability)
  • Self-Draining Floor (so water doesn’t pool in the cockpit)

BEST FOR: THE TECHNICAL ANGLER

This inflatable kayak is designed for solo anglers that want all the performance of a hard-bottom kayak without any of the bulk. It offers seven mounts that give you plenty of opportunity to attach different rod setups and various fishing accessories. It also includes a fishing cooler that has four more rod holders built into it.

Aquaglide designed this inflatable kayak to be extra wide (39 inches total) so that the kayak remains stable even when you hook into a large catch. The self-draining floor allows any water that does enter the cockpit to drain adequately and it’s also rigid enough to support standing when you’re trying to cast into the perfect spot.

Aire Lynx II Tandem

Specs
  • Length: 12' 6"
  • Paddlers: 2
  • Weight: 39 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 475 lbs
Features
  • Abrasion-Resistant Outer Material
  • Hydrodynamic Design (moves efficiently through the water)
  • 17 Cargo Loops (for gear attachment)
  • Self-Bailing Drain Holes (removes water from cockpit)

BEST FOR: MELLOW RIVER PADDLING WITH A PARTNER

If you live near a wide stretch of river and love to get out paddling with a partner, this inflatable kayak is a great choice. The exterior of the kayak is made with tough materials that’s resistant to scratches and punctures, even if you do happen to run aground. It also features a sleek design that makes it effortless to paddle through the water.

The Aire Lynx II Tandem also prepares you for a longer river trip with a partner. With a grand total of 17 cargo loops, it offers plenty of places for you to secure gear and accessories so that you’re comfortable and prepared throughout your trip. Finally, even if a little water splashes over the sides of your kayak and into the cockpit, it will naturally self-drain through the specifically-designed holes in the bottom.

Advanced Elements Convertible Tandem

Specs
  • Length: 15'
  • Paddlers: 2
  • Weight: 52 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 550 lbs
Features
  • Easy-To-Use Inflation and Deflation Valves
  • Adjustable From Tandem to Solo Paddling
  • Generous On-Board Storage Space
  • Paddle Holders (for storing paddles when not in use)

BEST FOR: TANDEM KAYAKING ON FLATWATER

Advanced Elements recently updated the design of the valves on this inflatable kayak to be easier to operate. They’re also compatible with most pumps and allow you to inflate and deflate your kayak more quickly. This kayak can also be adjusted from a tandem setup to a solo setup and offers various, adjustable seat positions.

It also features a generous amount of on-board storage space so that you can store the items you’ll need to be comfortable on a day-long outing. Fortunately, the designers added this storage space without significantly decreasing the amount of legroom inside the cockpit. Finally, this kayak features paddle holders that allow you to keep your paddles resting, but handy, while you take pictures or simply relax in the sun.

Aquaglide Chinook XP Tandem XL

Specs
  • Length: 12' 10"
  • Paddlers: 2-3
  • Weight: 38 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 550 lbs
Features
  • Included Storage Bag
  • Excellent UV Protection
  • Stable Design
  • Adjustable Seating Options

BEST FOR: FAMILY USE

This inflatable kayak is perfect for a family with a small child. While the kayak offers two seats for the primary paddlers, it also features a third seat in the middle for a child to ride comfortably in between parents. The seats are all adjustable so that the family can find a comfortable ride even before you set out.

The exterior material of this kayak is specifically made to withstand prolonged sun exposure and hold up for a long life. It’s designed to be stable even with three passengers and the included storage bag makes it easy to pack this kayak up when not in use. When deflated, this tandem inflatable kayak has packed dimensions of 26 x 16 x 17 inches.

Advanced Elements AirFusion EVO

Specs
  • Length: 13'
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Weight: 32 lbs
  • Weight Capacity: 235 lbs
Features
  • Streamlined Design
  • Ergonomic Hull Shape (for slicing through the water)
  • Rear Access Storage Hatch
  • Rubber Molded Handles

BEST FOR: SPEED OVER DISTANCE

The AirFusion EVO from Advanced Elements is a solo kayak built for speed. The streamlined design features a V-shaped hull that cuts effortlessly through the water and makes paddling so much easier and more efficient. The exterior of the kayak is designed with an enclosed skin that makes it glide smoothly through the water.

This inflatable kayak also includes a rear access storage hatch for your gear. This hatch seals with a roll-top closure that’s designed to keep water out and your gear dry. The rubber molded handles also make it easy to portage this kayak without deflating it entirely and, when it is deflated, this kayak offers packed dimensions of 35 x 21 x 9 inches.

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING AN INFLATABLE KAYAK

PRIMARY PADDLING LOCATION

When considering which kayak is right for you, the first question to ask yourself is where you plan to use your new kayak. Ocean kayaking, for example, tends to require more stability and splash protection than paddling on flatwater. You’ll also want to prioritize a kayak that self-drains in the event you do capsize.

Fast-moving water necessitates a kayak that can maneuver very quickly to help you avoid objects. Especially when we’re talking about inflatable kayaks, be aware that fast moving water also means more likelihood to encounter sharp rocks, tree limbs, and other things that have the potential to puncture your boat.

Paddling on gentle rivers and/or flatwater generally carries much less risk to the integrity of your inflatable kayak. But in addition to location, you’ll also want to consider the type of paddling you’ll most likely be doing.

 

PRIMARY USE

The next question to ask yourself is how you plan to use your kayak. For example, if you primarily want a new inflatable kayak so that you can fish in locations that are now inaccessible to you, you’re going to want to look for a model that’s specifically designed for fishing. If you find a model that isn’t necessarily built for fishing, you’ll probably want to opt for a tandem version, even if you plan to paddle solo. You’ll like the added stability and storage space that comes with a larger kayak.

Conversely, if you have no interest in fishing but really want to introduce your kids to whitewater kayaking, a shorter kayak that’s easy to transport becomes a higher priority. You should also look for a model that’s going to be relatively easy for your kids to help in transportation and setup, so that they learn those skills as well.

These are just a couple practical examples of how your primary use will dictate the specifications and features that you’re looking for. Always remember to ask yourself whether a certain kayak fits your desired HOW before you make a final decision.

 

SIZE AND WEIGHT

The main consideration when it comes to the size of your kayak is whether you’re going to fit comfortably and be able to maneuver the kayak you choose. Taller paddlers, for example, should make sure that the kayak they choose offers sufficient legroom in the cockpit so that they can stay comfortable throughout a full day of paddling. Conversely, smaller paddlers don’t want to choose an extra-large kayak that’s going to be difficult to transport and handle on the water.

Weight is mostly going to come into play when you’re transporting the kayak to and from wherever you like to paddle. Keep in mind that most of the damage that kayaks sustain actually happens when they aren’t in the water, so it’s important to choose a kayak that you can handle safely when it’s not in the water.

Fortunately, inflatable kayaks are much lighter than their hard-shell counterparts. Still, make sure you check the base weight of the kayak you’re looking at to make sure you’ll be comfortable carrying it to and from your vehicle.

 

DURABILITY

While inflatable kayaks are the most compact and easy-to-transport option out there, they generally don’t offer the longevity and durability of kayaks made with polyethylene. However, more and more inflatable kayak manufacturers are supplementing their designs with things like aluminum ribs and exterior material coatings. These additions make the kayaks more resistant to punctures and scrapes, as well as to long-term damage from sun exposure. When sorting through inflatable kayaks, make sure to look for these added features if you want you the kayak you choose to last.

 

FEATURES EXPLAINED

HULL

The hull of a kayak is its bottom. This is the part of the kayak that sits underwater once you sit inside (or on top) of it. The design of a kayak’s hull plays a large role in how it tracks (stays straight) and how easy (or hard) it is to maneuver.

BOW/STERN

The bow of your kayak is the front and the stern is the back. An easy trick to remember these terms is that we BOW forward and a STERN face is the one our mom gives us when we might want to go back and do something differently.

COCKPIT

The cockpit of a kayak is the area where the paddlers sit to maneuver the boat. Some cockpits also include storage area around the paddlers feet, or cup holders so that you can enjoy a cool beverage out on the lake.

SKEGS/TRACKING FINS

Not all kayaks have a skeg or tracking fin. But those that do are typically longer models that can have a more difficult time tracking straight in the water. Because they tend to be wider and sit flatter in the water, many inflatable kayak models also include a skeg or fins for the same reason. Skegs or tracking fins attach to the hull (bottom) of a kayak to help it stay straight, at least until the paddlers get in rhythm and are able to correct the kayak’s course on their own.

STORAGE HATCHES

Kayak storage hatches give you a place to store extra gear for day-long or multi-day paddling trips. While they can seem like the perfect place to store dry goods, almost all experienced paddlers have a horror story about being let down by storage hatches that they really needed to keep their gear dry.

While storage hatches give you a great place to take more gear with you, we always recommend purchasing dry bags or boxes to store sensitive gear in before placing it in your kayak storage hatches.

SELF-DRAINING FLOOR

Some hard-shell kayaks have holes in the hull that allow water to drain. Increasingly, inflatable kayak manufacturers have included a similar feature in the design of their boats. They call this feature the self-draining (or self-bailing) floor. When water comes over the sides of your kayak and into the cockpit, this design allows it to drain back out without you having to worry about sitting in a puddle all day long.

 

 

READ MORE

For more of our top kayaking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles:

Sea Kayaks | Kayaks for Kids

2-Person Inflatable Kayaks | Kayaks for Beginners

Kayak Coolers | The Complete Kayaking Gear List for Day Touring

Sit On Top Kayaks

About The Author

Writer/Guide/Adventurer

Tucker grew up in the mountains of Northern California. An avid traveler, he has since lived in San Diego, Fort Collins, Colorado, Maui, Austin, Texas, and Costa Rica. But he always circles back to his hometown of Truckee and will soon be based out of Santa Cruz, CA. He works as an outdoor guide during the summers, leading kayaking trips on Lake Tahoe and hiking/mountain biking excursions in the surrounding mountains. His favorite John Muir quote is, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

Related Posts

207 Shares
Tweet4
Pin87
Share116
Email
Flip