As inflatable kayaks have continued to improve in quality and performance, they’ve continued to gain popularity over time due to their portability, ease of storage and versatility. Whether you’re an experienced paddler looking for a convenient alternative to traditional hard-shell kayaks or a beginner, eager to explore the world of kayaking, there are a range of different inflatable kayaks available to suit your needs.
We’ve put together this guide to share what we believe is the best inflatable kayak and to discuss in detail other inflatable kayaks in the market. We’ll also answer frequently asked questions about inflatable kayaks such as; whether they’re good for beginners, whether they pop easily, whether pets can ride in them, the full pros and cons of inflatable kayaks and more. We hope to equip you with the knowledge and insights you need to decide whether an inflatable kayak is suitable for you and if they are, to help you choose the perfect inflatable kayak for your adventures.
Note: I’ve included affiliate links to the products discussed within this post. If you make a purchase using these links we gain a small commission, which helps support our blog.
The Best Inflatable Kayak: Sea Eagle Kayaks (Our Recommendation)
The best inflatable kayak, in our opinion, is a Sea Eagle Kayak. Sea Eagle have a huge range of high quality inflatable kayaks. With a kayak to suit every application, from fishing and whitewater rafting to fast ocean kayaking or leisurely paddles along flatwater rivers, they really do have something for everyone. They also have different capacities with single kayaks, two person kayaks and three person kayaks on offer.
We have the 420x Explorer Inflatable Kayak and it’s one of the best purchases we have ever made. The kayak fits both of us with a lot of extra room in case we want to pack camping gear and is suitable for the ocean, whitewater rafting, bays, lakes, flatwater rivers and camping. As van lifers we knew we definitely wanted a kayak on our lap of Australia but would struggle with finding the space for two hard-shell kayaks (or a tandem kayak), the Sea Eagle inflatable kayak was perfect for us as it is compact and can easily fit in the back of our van.
Negative reviews on Sea Eagle Kayaks are around the inflatable seats that are included with the ‘basic package’, as many find them uncomfortable. We have the slightly more expensive package with the two tall back seats so don’t have any experience with the inflatable seats but have found the ones that we have very comfortable. Other negative reviews have highlighted that the carry bag included with the larger models (such as the 420x Explorer) is awkward to carry and we agree with this. Some of their smaller models come with a convenient carry bag and are easy to transport. When packed away our 420x Explorer is a rectangular shape that is awkward to carry.
Negative reviews also refer to the higher price point however we personally think the price is fair based on the quality and durability of the kayaks, we have had our Sea Eagle kayak for almost 2 years now and have used it in multiple different scenarios (rough ocean kayaking, white water rafting and flat water paddling) with no issues.
Cost: $199-$1,499 USD (depending on which kayak you buy). We bought one of the more expensive kayaks they offer from an Australian reseller and it cost us $1899.95 AUD.
Length: 300cm-465cm (depending on which kayak you buy).
Load Capacity: 179kg-388kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Weight: 12kg-20kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Material: PVC fabric – majority of Sea Eagle kayaks have rugged and high-pressure 1100 Decitex Reinforced fabric, their Sports kayak series have 33 mil Polykrylar (K80 PVC) fabric.
Inflation Time: 5-9 minutes (depending on which kayak you buy).
Colours: White/Blue/Green (depending on which kayak you buy, the design is a set colour for each specific model).
Uses: Fishing, camping, whitewater rafting, lakes, flatwater rivers and the ocean (depending on which kayak you buy, our 420x Explorer kayak is suitable for all of these).
Where to Buy: You can buy one of their inflatable kayaks from the Sea Eagle Kayak website. If you’re located in Australia, it’s cheaper to purchase one of their inflatable kayaks from the Wild Earth website due to the high postage costs from the US.
Other Inflatable Kayaks
While the Sea Eagle Kayak is our recommendation as the best inflatable kayak, there are a lot of other inflatable kayaks on the market. We’ve put together a list of these other inflatable kayaks and important information on them below.
Intex Inflatable Challenger Kayaks
Intex have a few models of lightweight, compact and affordable kayaks on offer. Intex is especially popular for relaxed, recreational paddling and those new to kayaking, as their kayak range is a cheap introduction to the world of kayaking. Their range includes single person and two person kayaks, suitable for paddling gentle waters such as flatwater rivers and lakes.
We personally haven’t used the Intex kayak so can’t speak for it’s performance however it is popular as a cheap inflatable kayak with the Challenger model having 4.3 stars out of 5 on Amazon. Negative reviews seem to highlight the kayak as unreliable and having a short life expectancy, with many having it break and start leaking air after a few weeks of use. The Intex kayak is well-known as a low performance kayak, suitable just for leisurely paddling, as it is quite flimsy and hard to track and maintain a decent speed.
Cost: $133-$548 AUD (depending on which kayak you buy).
Length: 274cm-383cm (depending on which kayak you buy).
Load Capacity: 100kg-180kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Weight: 1.1kg-19.77kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Material: 30ga vinyl.
Inflation Time: 3-10 minutes (depending on which kayak you buy). Intex doesn’t list the exact inflation time so this estimate was taken from customer feedback.
Colours: Green/Blue/Red (depending on which kayak you buy, the design is a set colour for each specific model).
Uses: Lakes, flatwater rivers, fishing and the ocean (depending on which kayak you buy, only the Excursion Pro model is suitable for the ocean and fishing).
Where to Buy: You can buy one of their inflatable kayaks here on their Amazon store.
BOTE Inflatable Kayaks
Another high-end inflatable kayak brand, Bote Board offer sturdy, durable and high-quality inflatable kayaks. Lightweight and easy to transport, their entire inflatable kayak range has the portability and convenience that many want out of their inflatable kayak. What really sets Bote Board apart is the modern and unique style of their inflatable kayaks and the huge range of additional features their inflatable kayaks are compatible with; such as pedal drive, magnetic drink holders, rod holders, bucket coolers, cup holders and more. Their range is focused on single kayaks but one of the models is tandem compatible.
We personally haven’t used a Bote kayak so can’t give our thoughts on it, however they have an abundance of 4 and 5 star reviews on their website. Looking off their website and on their Amazon store, the Zeppelin Aero inflatable kayak has the most reviews and averages 4.1 out of 5 stars. Negative reviews seem to mention the seat being uncomfortable and the drain holes in the bottom of the kayak being unnecessary (as the kayaks aren’t suitable for white water rafting where draining would be required), instead being a nuisance and letting water in resulting in paddlers unnecessarily getting wet. There were also some negative comments on the product pricing as alongside having a relatively high price point the paddle has to be bought separately and kayaks that are ‘tandem compatible’ only have one seat and require extra seats to be purchased.
Cost: $1649-$2599 AUD (depending on which kayak you buy).
Length: 304cm-384cm (depending on which kayak you buy).
Load Capacity: 136kg-181kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Weight: 17kg-23kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Material: PVC fabric – Bote say the PVC fabric they use is military-grade and is ‘virtually indestructible’.
Inflation Time: 12-15 minutes (depending on which kayak you buy).
Colours: Grey/Turquoise/Blue (depending on which kayak you buy, each model has a few different colour options available).
Uses: Flat water and slow running rivers, lakes, the ocean, camping and fishing.
Advanced Elements Inflatable Kayaks
Another higher end inflatable kayak brand, Advanced Elements are renowned for having high performance inflatable kayaks that are quick and easy to setup. If you’re somewhat familiar with inflatable kayaks you would have heard of Advanced Elements who often take up one (or multiple) of the top spots in rankings of the best inflatable kayaks in the market. Advanced Elements have a relatively large kayak range with both single and tandem kayaks and different models for a range of different applications; from fishing and recreational paddling on flat waters to multi-day long distance trips and whitewater rafting.
Advanced Elements have 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon for the AdvancedFrame inflatable kayak. Negative comments highlight that the kayak is hard to dry due to it having multiple layers and small ‘nooks and crannies’ that are hard to get fully dry (or clean), making the drying and cleaning process time consuming and resulting in some users having mould issues. For most of the kayak models some users also noted sagging, particularly with users on the higher end of the load capacity. A few reviews also noted tracking issues, the kayaks do include a skeg but supposedly the skeg is too small to improve tracking. Similarly to the other higher end inflatable kayak brands, there are some negative reviews on the higher price point also.
Cost: $349.99-$1,699.99 USD (depending on which kayak you buy).
Length: 238cm-457cm (depending on which kayak you buy).
Load Capacity: 102kg-249kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Weight: 1.8kg-23.5kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Material: PVC fabric – the hull is made of a PVC tarpaulin and the topside is a high-denier polyester with a PVC laminate.
Inflation Time: 4-15 minutes (depending on which kayak you buy).
Colours: Yellow/Orange/Red/Blue/Green (depending on which kayak you buy, the design is a set colour for each specific model).
Uses: Lakes, flatwater rivers, the ocean, camping, fishing and whitewater rafting (depending on which kayak you buy).
Aqua Marina Inflatable Kayaks
Aqua Marina is a very well-known inflatable kayak brand that is popular across Australia due to some of their models being stocked in popular Australian outdoor equipment store, Anaconda. Being readily available and relatively cheap, Aqua Marina is particularly popular with beginners for relaxed, recreational paddling on calm waters. Their range includes single person, two person and three person inflatable kayaks, each model is suitable for different applications depending on what you’re after but most models are best suited for flat water paddling.
On Amazon the Aqua Marina Memba kayak has 73 reviews with an average 4.3 stars out of 5. Negative reviews across all Aqua Marina inflatable kayaks seem to highlight their inflatable kayaks as ‘low performance’ with slow speeds and poor tracking. Due to this, most said they would only use the kayaks recreationally and would not take them on long or strenuous trips. Negative reviews also frequently mentioned the provided pump which is supposedly poor quality and has broken for a lot of people after only a couple of uses.
Cost: $459.00-$1,449.00 AUD (depending on which kayak you buy).
Length: 285cm-478cm (depending on which kayak you buy).
Load Capacity: 110kg-260kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Weight: 8.5kg-24.7kg (depending on which kayak you buy).
Material: PVC Fabric – most models are made with durable reinforced PVC, some also use polyester.
Inflation Time: 5-8 minutes (depending on which kayak you buy).
Colours: Green/Blue/Orange/Yellow (depending on which kayak you buy, the design is a set colour for each specific model).
Uses: Lakes, flatwater rivers, the ocean, camping, fishing and whitewater rafting (depending on which kayak you buy).
Now that you’re up to date on which inflatable are in the market, we’ve answered everything you need to know about inflatable kayaks below.
Which is the Best Inflatable Kayak?
In our opinion the best inflatable kayak brand is Sea Eagle. Their inflatable kayaks have unmatched quality and versatility with the perfect inflatable kayak for everyone, no matter your needs.
What Makes an Inflatable Kayak Good?
There are a range of factors that make an inflatable kayak good, these are:
- Durability – A good inflatable kayak should be made from high quality materials that are durable and resistant to punctures, abrasions and UV damage.
- Stability – A good inflatable kayak should be stable, you shouldn’t be worried about it tipping over.
- Comfort – A good inflatable kayak should be comfortable to use.
- Manoeuvrability – A good inflatable kayak should be easy to control and navigate on the water.
- Ease of set up and pack up – A good inflatable kayak should be relatively quick and easy to set up and pack away.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Just as Good?
Inflatable kayaks can be just as good as traditional hard-shell kayaks however this depends on exactly what you’re after and what conditions you’ll be paddling in. It also depends on the quality of the inflatable kayak you buy.
Inflatable kayaks have a range of advantages over traditional hard-shell kayaks but also have a range of limitations, each of which we’ll discuss further below.
What are the Pros of Inflatable Kayaks?
Some pros of inflatable kayaks are:
- Portability – Inflatable kayaks can be deflated and packed into a compact carrying bag/case, making them significantly easier to transport than traditional hard-shell kayaks. Inflatable kayaks are more portable than a hard-shell kayak when driving and when travelling on foot. Some inflatable kayaks are so compact that they can be packed in camping bags. This ease of portability can save money as the portability prevents users from needing expensive accessories such as roof racks and kayak carriers.
- Store in small spaces – The compact size and shape of inflatable kayaks (when deflated) makes them convenient for storage also, especially for those who lack dedicated storage space or need to travel with their kayak. We really wanted a kayak on our lap of Australia but as van lifers with limited storage space we knew there’s no way we’d have room to travel with hard-shell kayaks. Inflatable kayaks have bridged that gap for us and we love ours.
- Application variety – A lot of high quality inflatable kayaks are suitable for most water conditions giving you the ability to take your kayak on a range of different applications without needing multiple different kayaks. For example, our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak is suitable for them all; whitewater rafting, flatwater rivers, lakes, bays, camping and oceans.
- Stability – Inflatable kayaks typically have a wider hull design and buoyancy, offering more stability than a traditional hard-shell kayak. This stability makes them an excellent choice for beginners or those who prefer a more stable paddling experience. Inflatable kayaks specifically designed for white water rafting (like our Sea Eagle kayak) will have a harder time tipping and more stability than traditional hard-shell white water rafting kayaks.
What are the Cons of Inflatable Kayaks?
Some cons of inflatable kayaks are:
- Set-up and pack-up time – Inflatable kayaks require time and effort to set up and inflate before use and deflate and pack away after use. This process can be more time-consuming than a traditional kayak which typically just involves lifting the hard-shell kayak off a roof rack and placing it in the water.
- Additional maintenance – Inflatable kayaks require regular maintenance and care to ensure their longevity and performance. Proper cleaning, drying and storage are essential to prevent mould, mildew and damage. In contrast, hard-shell kayaks generally require less maintenance, with simple rinsing and occasional waxing being sufficient.
- Less durable – While high-quality inflatable kayaks are very durable they can still have a higher risk of leaks or damage than a hard shell kayak which are usually more durable.
- Worse performance – Again, while high-quality inflatable kayaks are similar to hard-shell kayaks in performance, overall, hard-shell kayaks are typically stronger performers and are capable of going faster than inflatable kayaks.
- There are lots of bad inflatable kayaks in the market – There are a lot of really bad inflatable kayaks in the market that give the whole market a bad reputation. Typically, the cheap and lower quality kayaks have a more ‘pool toy’ feel with terrible performance, making them almost unusable. You will need to go with a higher end inflatable kayak for it to be worth buying.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Good for Beginners?
Yes, a lot of professionals actually recommend inflatable kayaks over traditional kayaks for beginners because inflatable kayaks are significantly more stable than traditional hard-shell kayaks. This stability gives beginners more confidence and a sense of security while paddling so they can focus on learning basic techniques and gaining confidence without fear of tipping over or falling off.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Worthwhile?
Yes, inflatable kayaks are absolutely worthwhile for someone who would benefit from their portability, compact size and stability. Of course they have their own set of cons which we’ve discussed but if you value portability, easy storage and additional stability, an inflatable kayak can be a worthwhile investment.
Whether an inflatable kayak is worthwhile for you will depend on your needs and the types of water you’ll be paddling.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Uncomfortable?
Similarly to traditional hard-shell kayaks some inflatable kayaks can be uncomfortable, it varies amongst different brands and really depends on the design and ergonomics of the inflatable kayak.
We have no issues with comfort in our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak and have the the tall back seats which we can adjust to suit us.
Do Inflatable Kayaks Pop Easily?
No, a high-quality inflatable kayak does not pop easily. The durability of inflatable kayaks can vary depending on the quality of the material used and how well the kayak is maintained. Some brands of inflatable kayaks can be durable and long-lasting while others may be more prone to punctures and leaks. As a whole, if you’re buying a high-quality inflatable kayak it will not pop easily and should be very durable.
If the worst were to happen some high-quality inflatable kayak brands include repair kits for a permanent fix that will get you back on the water. Our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak included an easy to use repair kit that we (thankfully) haven’t needed to use yet.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Easy to Flip?
Inflatable kayaks are typically harder to flip than traditional hard-shell kayaks as they are often wider and filled with air that makes them more stable and buoyant. The stability of your inflatable kayak will depend on it’s design however and what conditions you’re paddling.
Our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak is extremely stable, so much so that we are able to stand up and move about on the kayak without fear of it flipping. We have also taken it on rough ocean waters and white water rafting. It would take a lot of effort to flip our kayak.
Do Inflatable Kayaks get Mouldy?
Inflatable kayaks can get mouldy if you don’t care for them properly. They need to be cleaned, dried and stored in a suitable location after use. If an inflatable kayak is stored when it’s still wet or is stored in a damp location mould can grow on the surface of the kayak.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Hard to Steer?
Some inflatable kayaks are harder to steer than hard-shell kayaks, a high-quality and well designed inflatable kayak however should be easy to steer. Different inflatable kayaks will have varying levels of manoeuvrability depending on their design so it’s hard to give a general answer for inflatable kayaks as a whole.
Our Sea Eagle kayak is high-quality and well designed so we have had no issues with manoeuvrability and can steer it just fine. We’ve actually found it easier to paddle our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak than we found previous experiences with hard-shell kayaks.
Can an Inflatable Kayak be Left Inflated?
Whether you should leave your inflatable kayak inflated depends on which kayak you buy and the manufacturers recommendations. Most inflatable kayaks are ok to store partially inflated for short periods but should be fully deflated and properly stored when not in use for extended periods of time. Leaving them fully inflated for extended periods can put strain on the materials and seams.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Hard to Paddle?
A high quality and well designed inflatable kayak should not be hard to paddle. Often people find them more comfortable and easier to manoeuvre and propel than a traditional kayak as they’re more stable and less likely to tip over.
As mentioned previously, we actually find our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak easier to paddle than previous experiences with hard-shell kayaks and superior in manoeuvrability and speed.
Can I Take an Inflatable Kayak in a River?
Yes, most high quality inflatable kayaks can be taken on a calm river. For rivers with stronger waters and obstacles you will need to confirm your inflatable kayak is durable enough with the manufacturer of the kayak you purchase.
Our Sea Eagle inflatable kayak is suitable for calm rivers and whitewater rafting (suitable up to Class IV).
Can I Take an Inflatable Kayak White Water Rafting?
Most inflatable kayaks cannot be taken white water rafting as they are not designed to handle rough water conditions and obstacles like rocks and branches. You will need to buy a white water specific kayak that can handle fast-moving, turbulent water and obstacles.
We wanted an inflatable kayak that could handle white water rafting conditions which is why we purchased the Sea Eagle 420X Explorer kayak. The Sea Eagle Explorer kayaks are designed to withstand class IV whitewater and have fast self-bailing with floor drains.
Can I Use an Inflatable Kayak in the Ocean?
This will vary depending on the brand of inflatable kayak and it’s quality and sturdiness. Sea Eagle have a few different kayak models that are suitable for using in the ocean as they are sturdy enough to manage the ocean and waves. They are also made of a material that will not degrade in salt water. We own the Sea Eagle 420X Explorer kayak which we have taken on the ocean many times and it has been fantastic.
For example, we took our kayak from Rockingham to Seal Island to have an amazing up close interaction with the seals. The kayak was able to remain sturdy even when the waves got choppier on the way back. We’ve had some amazing animal encounters out on our kayak.
Can you Fish in an Inflatable Kayak?
Yes, you can fish in an inflatable kayak. Just make sure the inflatable kayak you have is stable so you are able to cast, reel and move about without worrying about tipping over. Some inflatable kayaks are designed specifically for fishing and have additional features like built in rod, tool, hook and lure holders. There are also inflatable kayaks that are not designed specifically for fishing but can have these features with compatible accessories that make them suitable for fishing.
Can I Use an Inflatable Kayak in the Winter and Cold Temperatures?
Yes, if you have a durable and high quality inflatable kayak you should be able to use it in winter and cold temperatures. You will need to confirm this with the manufacturer of the kayak you purchase however. The Sea Eagle kayak is made of reinforced PVC which makes it fine to use in low temperatures.
Can Dogs Ride in an Inflatable Kayak?
Yes, if you have a durable and high quality inflatable kayak, dogs (and other pets) should be fine riding in it. Just make sure their nails are trimmed and aren’t sharp. Again, you will need to confirm this with the manufacturer of the kayak you purchase.
You will also need to make sure the additional weight of your furry friend doesn’t exceed the load capacity of your kayak.
How do I Clean my Inflatable Kayak?
The best way to clean your inflatable kayak is to rinse it with clean freshwater immediately after paddling. For debris that isn’t coming off you can use a sponge to gently wash the kayak’s exterior. If you need a deeper clean for stubborn dirt or debris, use a mild detergent or kayak-specific cleaner, after using make sure to fully rinse off any remaining detergent residue.
Make sure to confirm this aligns with the inflatable kayak manufacturers recommendations as the best way to clean your inflatable kayak.
How do I Dry my Inflatable Kayak?
After rinsing your inflatable kayak flip it over to remove any water from the inside. Then use a towel to wipe the kayak dry and leave it out to air dry. When you leave your inflatable kayak out to air dry try and place it in a shaded area and avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight to prevent any damage.
Once dry you can then deflate and pack away your inflatable kayak.
Make sure to confirm this aligns with the inflatable kayak manufacturers recommendations as the best way to dry your inflatable kayak.
How do I Store my Inflatable Kayak?
The best way to store your inflatable kayak is dry, deflated, folded and packed away into it’s original bag or carry case. It should be stored somewhere that is out of direct sunlight. If rodents are an issue where you’re storing it you should keep it in a container with a tight lid to protect it from rodents.
Make sure to confirm this aligns with the inflatable kayak manufacturers recommendations as the best way to store your inflatable kayak.
How Long do Inflatable Kayaks Last?
The lifespan of an inflatable kayak depends on many factors; it’s quality, how often it’s used, how well it’s maintained and the conditions in which it’s used, so it’s hard to give an exact life expectancy.
There are varying responses online to how long a kayak should last; some sites say 2-3 years, some say 5-10 years, some say 10-15 years and some say 20 years or more. I think it’s unreasonable for us to give an exact figure because like we said previously it depends on the quality of the inflatable kayak you choose and how you use and maintain it. Instead I will speak from our own experience and share that we’ve had our Sea Eagle kayak for almost 2 years now and it still seems to be in perfect condition.
When researching our Sea Eagle kayak prior to purchase we found that a lot of reviews referenced having the kayak for over 10 years.
That’s everything, we hope this post has helped you pick the best inflatable kayak for you. Enjoy your time on the water!