Inflatable kayaks provide a practical, portable kayak option for beginner, advanced or intermediate paddlers wanting to take up this popular sport without having to find the storage space needed for a hardshell kayak.
But, with so many options available in today’s market, choosing the best inflatable kayak for one person can be a daunting task.
That’s why we’ve compiled and compared the most helpful hands-on reviews of the best solo inflatable kayaks on the market right now.
We’ve done this to bring you only the most useful information, cutting right to the chase, filtering out any fluff, and including only the top quality information from top quality reviewers that you can trust.
Kayak Scout’s extensive directory compares reviews from top kayaking experts and testers. So read on and you’re sure to find out which single person inflatable kayak is right for you – without having to scour hundreds of websites to do your research. We’ve already done that for you!
ALSO READ: Our roundup of all the best inflatable kayaks of 2023
Highest Rated 1 Person Inflatable Kayaks Compared
Weight: 42 lbs
Weight: 35 lbs
Weight: 28 lbs
Weight: 31 lbs
Weight: 39 lbs
Weight: 28 lbs
Weight: 25.5 lbs
Reviews of the Best Inflatable Kayaks for 1 Person
Ready to dive into the nitty-gritty? Let’s take a closer look at the specs of our favorite kayaks and whether or not they might be a good fit for you.
1. Advanced Elements Expedition Elite
This is a tough, robust kayak that goes beyond the inflatable kayak norm, with great tracking thanks to dual skegs, and tons of stability on flat water and also when edging.
There’s impressive storage on board, and the carry bag is customizable with lots of room. The major issue here appears to be a lack of kit, but the kayak system itself is great value. Experts love the lumbar support and how easy it is to paddle.
2. Sea Eagle RazorLite 393rl
The Sea Eagle Razorlite is an inflatable kayak that’s built like a hardshell kayak – its narrow build does allow for some instability, but this helps make it a high-performer on a variety of waters.
Its drop-stitch build will take some beating, and, while a little bulky for some users, is reasonably easy to pack down and carry when needed. It’s ideal for kayakers with some experience and is comfortable for both children and adults.
3. Aquaglide Chelan 120
As far as recreational kayaks go, experts agree that the Aquaglide Chelan 120 performs impressively well. It’s easy to move and keep on the straight compared to its contemporaries, with the type of handling that’s typical of touring kayaks- and all experts agree that it’s easy to glide in a straight line. It’s also one of the comfier models out there, with the inflatable seat cushion providing a nice touch.
Kayakers will likely find this boat fares well in some rough water conditions, though the general consensus is this; do so at your own risk! If you’re sticking to calm conditions, though, expect worry free effortless paddling (as long as you’re wearing your personal flotation device, of course).
The Chelan 120 is incredibly stable and arrives with high-quality fittings and features, and a sturdy and stiff construction thanks to the drop stitch floor.
4. Star Rival
The Star Rival is an angler’s kayak – experts agree that this is one of the most stable and portable inflatable kayaks out there for recreational fun on the water. It’s great value for money, too!
However, reviewers warn that you probably shouldn’t depend on this boat too much for speed or straight paddling. However, with a removable fin, it tracks reasonably all the same.
5. Advanced Elements AirVolution
The Advanced Elements AirVolution provides a fully portable, near-hardshell kayaking experience in an inflatable package. Impressive durability and reasonable tracking compound in a boat that will give confidence to novice kayakers, and prove a fun ride for advanced paddlers.
It’s smooth, fast, easy to turn, and likely to support you long-term if you care for it well.
6. Intex Challenger K1
Experts agree that the Intex Challenger K1 is a great value inflatable kayak that, while unlikely to fare well on choppy waters, will help beginners find their sea legs.
7. Sevylor Quikpak K5
Experts agree – the Sevylor Quikpak K5 is one of the most portable recreational inflatable kayaks out there! Unlike other inflatable kayaks, the K5 itself actually transforms into an easy-to-carry backpack!
This integrated backpack storage system is one of the key selling points; providing an easy way for paddlers to pack down the boat for easy transport in just a few minutes. Reviewers all agree that it’s also impressively stable, with a rugged construction that will withstand rocky rides for most people.
However, it’s not the best boat for long rides and is best suited for beginners. Waterproofing problems, too, make the K5 tricky to dry out fully, and the kayak’s seat – while adjustable – isn’t the most comfortable.
However, if you’re looking for a sturdy inflatable kayak that offers a stable ride for recreational paddling on your next trek, the Sevylor Quikpak K5 could be the right kayak for you.
How to Find the Best One Person Inflatable Kayak for Your Needs
There’s more to picking the best inflatable solo kayak than simply checking out the price and the availability. You need to take a look at what features the kayak offers, but you also need to consider the type of paddling you’ll be doing.
For example, experienced paddlers who want to take on class iii rapids would need a durable boat, and may consider a whitewater kayak with a drop stitch floor and multiple air chambers.
However, a beginner who is more interested in recreational paddling and the odd kayak camping trip is not going to need something with this level of performance and durability.
Rather, this type of paddler would be better off looking at a lightweight kayak with enough onboard storage to accommodate camping gear, and that packs down easily into a carry bag.
You need to decide on the type of kayaking that interests you the most, and then let that guide your decision as to the best inflatable kayak for your needs.
Inflatable vs Hardshell
You also need to be certain that an inflatable kayak is the best option for you. Hardshell kayaks are still a popular choice among many people. When choosing a kayak, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to go with a hard shell or an inflatable model.
Hard Shells are Popular With Experienced Paddlers
Hard shell kayaks are made from tough materials like polyethylene and fiberglass, which makes them very durable and long-lasting. They’re excellent for maneuverability and speed, making them a popular choice with more experienced paddlers.
Many inflatable kayaks are still durable, though, standing up to bumps and scrapes without any damage (though if you opt for a suspiciously cheap kayak then this may not be the case).
Hardshell kayaks are better designed for touring and whitewater conditions, but some recreational inflatable kayaks have been known to handle class iii rapids competently.
However, if you want to tackle serious conditions like class iv whitewater rapids, then you’ll either need a hard shell, or an inflatable that has been specifically designed to be up to the task.
Hard Shell Kayaks Are Harder to Store
While hard shell kayaks are more performance-oriented, the fact that they are solid means they’re more difficult to transport due to their size and weight, and they require more storage space than inflatable kayaks.
Inflatable kayaks, on the other hand, are lightweight and compact, making them a great choice for those with limited space – in most cases, you can fit the entire kayak in a carry case and then stash it under your bed or in a closet.
Inflatable Kayaks are More Affordable
Inflatable kayaks are also generally more affordable than hard shell kayaks, and they’re easier to transport – you can travel with an inflatable kayak in the trunk of your car, for instance.
Inflatable kayaks also do not suffer in terms of performance – they’re still good enough for most paddlers, even if they’re not as finely-tuned as hard shells (they can pretty much hold their own against their solid counterparts). Most decent models feature drop stitch floor for extra rigidity, making them just as stable.
Generally, a hardshell kayak is going to be more suited to touring and whitewater conditions. The choice between a hard shell kayak or an inflatable kayak ultimately depends on your particular needs: portability vs performance.
There Are Different Types of Inflatable Kayaks (According to Capacity)
There are different types of inflatable kayak, and while most of them can be paddled by a single person, they aren’t always marketed as such. Most traditional kayaks (whether inflatable or hardshell) can comfortably hold one person.
However, if you’re dealing with a larger kayak with ample on board storage space, then this could conceivably hold more than one person.
It’s safe to assume, though, that most inflatable kayaks (or kayaks in general) are single person kayaks, unless they are expressly described as otherwise.
Solo Inflatable Kayaks
While a quality inflatable kayak of a large enough size may be able to accommodate more than one passenger, this isn’t really recommended. As stated, it’s safe to assume that the standard for kayaks is a single person vessel.
If the kayak is suitable for anything other than solo paddlers, then this will usually be expressly mentioned in the kayak name, category or and description.
So, while you may not see the moniker ‘solo kayak’ being thrown around all that often, don’t assume that means a given kayak is not suitable for solo paddlers.
A multi person kayak will likely have a name to indicate this; other inflatable kayaks may have names like ‘family kayak’, ‘tandem kayak,’ or even ‘multi person kayak’.
For the sake of simplicity, it might be best to assume that every inflatable kayak is a one person inflatable kayak, unless told otherwise.
Tandem Inflatable Kayaks
A tandem inflatable kayak is exactly what it sounds like – a kayak that you can ride in tandem with someone else (i.e. a two person inflatable kayak), so they tend to be larger than single person kayaks.
Tandem inflatable kayaks are popular among smaller families, couples, or friends who want to enjoy kayaking together in lakes, slow-moving rivers, or calm ocean waters (as such, they are most often suited to recreational paddling and flatwater touring, rather than rougher conditions).
So when would you choose a tandem inflatable kayak over a solo inflatable kayak? The answer comes down, once again, to the type of paddling you intend to do. If you’re perfectly happy being a solo passenger, then a one person inflatable kayak is fine.
If you want to have the option of taking an extra person out with you, then a tandem inflatable kayak could be the better option. It’s easier to paddle a tandem inflatable kayak alone than it is to add an extra passenger to a solo inflatable kayak.
Family Inflatable Kayaks
Most inflatable kayaks are designed to hold one or two people, but there are larger options if you want to take multiple passengers out on the water. A family kayak is one such vessel – it’s a type of kayak that is designed to accommodate several people, usually two adults and one or two children.
These kayaks feature multiple seats or seating spaces, often with features to help with configuration (to assist with accommodating multiple passengers). These could be anything from a removable or adjustable seat to adjustable foot braces, backrests and footrests for comfort during longer paddling trips.
Family kayaks are often wider and more stable than traditional kayaks to provide a safe and comfortable experience for children who may be new to kayaking. They are typically wider than single or tandem kayaks, and they often have ample storage space for gear and snacks.
Family kayaks are perfect for parents who want to share their love of kayaking with their children or for families and groups of friends who want to enjoy a fun and exciting outdoor activity together.
Sit Inside Vs Sit On Top: Which is A Better Choice for a Solo Inflatable Kayak?
So, now that you’re sure that a single person inflatable kayak (rather than other types of inflatable kayaks) is right for you, you need to consider whether you want a sit inside, or a sit on top (SOT).
SOT Inflatable Kayaks
Sit-on-top kayaks are exactly what they sound like. A kayak that you sit on top of (rather than inside). They are designed with an ‘open’ deck and are equipped with seats that are set flush with the kayak’s top.
Sit on top kayaks are easier to get in and out of than other types of kayak, making them a great choice for beginners or those who want to get out to swim or snorkel. Add a couple of rod holders and they make a great fishing vessel too!
Sit-Inside Inflatable Kayaks
Sit-inside kayaks feature a cockpit that the paddler sits in, with their legs and lower body enclosed within the kayak’s body. This design provides additional protection from the cold and water splashes, making them a popular choice for use in colder or rougher waters.
With the addition of a spray skirt, they can offer quite a lot of protection from getting too wet or cold during your kayaking ventures – so if you live somewhere with inclement weather, a sit-inside might be the better choice when looking for the best inflatable kayak for your needs.
Other Things to Consider When Shopping for in a Single Inflatable Kayak
The best inflatable kayaks will have common features to watch out for (such as a drop stitch floor and a paddle holder), which should help to narrow down your search for one that best suits your needs.
All of the kayaks we’ve included in this list are worthy of consideration, but you should still pay attention to how each kayak fairs according to certain criteria:
Consider the size of the kayak- length, width, and weight. Longer, slimmer kayaks are typically faster and more efficient, while wider kayaks provide more stability.
If you’re a beginner, you may want to choose a wider kayak to help ensure a stable ride, whereas intermediate or advanced paddlers might favor better performance over enhanced stability.
Choosing the right kayak size for your weight is crucial if you want a comfortable ride. The appropriate size will differ depending on whether it’s an inflatable or not, so be sure to check the specifications of the kayak before purchasing.
Material and Build
Inflatable kayaks should be built from sturdy material, with particular attention given to ensuring that the kayak is both rigid and hard wearing. This means features like a drop stitch floor and a decent max inflation PSI for rigidity are good to look out for.
Having multiple air chambers is also a plus, because it means you don’t have to worry about sinking if you get a puncture.
Other things to look out for can include extra features in accordance with the type of kayak (such as a spray skirt for a sit inside) or optional extras such as rod holders, or bungee storage at the bow and stern.
If you plan on kayaking for an extended period, storage space is crucial. Look for kayaks that have plenty of space for your gear or snacks. Kayaks may also have different rigging, such as bungees or straps at the bow and stern to secure your gear or paddle.
You obviously won’t know how comfortable a kayak is until you take it out on the water, but checking out what other paddlers have to say can give a good indication. Plus, certain features and accessories can indicate how comfortable the kayak might be.
Comfort features might include things like an adjustable seat, footrests, and backrest; these should be comfortable enough for longer kayaking trips.
Handling and Maneuverability
This seems like an obvious thing to check, but you need to pay attention to how the kayak actually performs on the water. Is it stable or tippy? How easy is it to make quick, sharp turns? Is it easy for one person to paddle or not?
Check the kayak’s maneuverability, especially if you plan to navigate through a more challenging waterway.
Type of Kayak
And finally, there are different types of kayaks to consider, such as recreational kayaks, touring kayaks, and sea kayaks.
Choose a type of kayak that best suits the type of water you’ll be kayaking in – though be aware that inflatable kayaks generally do not compare to hard shells when it comes to serious touring or whitewater kayaking.
These kayaks are designed for calm and flat water conditions, such as a lake or pond. They are typically a happy medium – wide and stable enough, and ideal for beginners.
These kayaks are designed for longer distances and open water conditions, such as a river or calm ocean. They are longer and narrower, designed for greater speed and efficiency.
These kayaks are designed for navigating through rapids and fast-moving water. They have short hulls and a rounded rocker profile, allowing for greater maneuverability and quick turns.
These kayaks are designed for use in the ocean and other open water conditions. They have a long, narrow hull, similar to touring kayaks, with features that allow for better handling in surf and currents.
These kayaks are specifically designed for fishing, with features such as rod holders, storage compartments, and stability. Often SOT kayaks, they can be used in a variety of water conditions, from calm to open ocean.
Best Inflatable Kayaks for a Single Person: FAQ
What’s the difference between an inflatable kayak and a single person inflatable kayak?
Generally speaking, an inflatable kayak and a single person inflatable kayak are the same thing. Most kayaks are designed to carry a single passenger (unless stated otherwise, such as with a tandem kayak).
Are single or two person inflatable kayaks better?
This depends on a number of factors. Even the best solo inflatable kayaks may be inferior to a tandem for someone who wants to take another passenger on board, or for someone who needs onboard storage for camping gear or other kit and accessories.
However, for those who are merely interested in solo paddling, a two person inflatable kayak is not necessary. It all depends on the individual’s needs.
What is single vs double kayaking?
Single kayaking refers to kayaking solo in a kayak designed for one person. The paddler sits in the kayak’s cockpit and uses a single paddle to steer and propel themselves forward. Single kayaks are smaller than tandems, and are lighter and easier for a single paddler to maneuver.
Double kayaking, on the other hand, involves two people sitting one behind the other in a kayak built for two. Depending on the specific model, some double kayaks may be designed to convert into a single kayak if only one person is paddling, providing additional flexibility (and more legroom for tall paddlers too).
Is paddling a single inflatable kayak hard?
Single kayaking can be challenging, but kayaking in and of itself is an accessible sport without a steep learning curve. Paddling a single inflatable kayak alone is not especially hard – it’s what they’re designed for!
It’s actually more difficult to paddle a multi-person kayak alone, especially for beginners who are unfamiliar with the equipment or may not have the upper body strength and paddling technique necessary to maneuver the kayak effectively.
What size single person inflatable kayak is right for my height and weight?
General guidelines for inflatable kayak sizes based on the paddlers height and weight are as follows:
- Paddlers under 5 feet: Choose an 8 foot kayak
- Paddlers between 5 feet and 5’6: Choose an 8 – 10 foot kayak
- Paddlers between 5’7 and 6 feet: Choose a 10 – 12 foot kayak
- Paddlers over 6 feet: Choose a 12 foot kayak or larger