Whether you’re shopping for your first inflatable kayak or looking to upgrade, the process can be overwhelming. Researching, comparing and analyzing all the different kayaks in the inflatables space is pretty time-consuming, even if you’re an expert!
That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you, and gone above and beyond simply rounding up a list of the best inflatable kayaks on the market.
We’ve collated the expert opinions and hands-on reviews of some of the leading kayaking professionals and reviewers out there, and compared what they all have to say about the most popular inflatable kayaks. We’ve summarized and compared these findings; from how the kayaks handle, to how comfortable they are to paddle, to how easy they are to transport – and everything in between!
The purpose of this list is to bring you the most genuinely useful information, from sources you can trust, by scouring the internet to piece together the most useful reviews and opinions out there.
We’ve done this by reading countless articles and watching multiple tests and reviews to present these findings together, here, in an exhaustive directory. This means you can easily find out not only which kayaks are worth your consideration – but what experts are saying about them too.
Below, you’ll see the top inflatable kayak models, according to experts, based on our collected summaries for each boat. If you’re in the market for an inflatable kayak and wondering which one to choose, you’ve definitely come to the right place!
If you’re looking for a solo kayak, read our roundup of the best inflatable kayaks for 1 person in 2023
Top 15 Highest Rated Inflatable Kayaks
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Best Inflatable Kayak Reviews
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. Advanced Elements Island Voyage 2
The Advanced Elements Island Voyage 2 rates well with experts on durability, stability, and overall comfort. Reviewers state it’s a tough customer that, while not the best at tracking, should offer lots of fun on the water.
This kayak’s also notable for its ease of packing and storage, and it’s reasonably fast on calm waters for an inflatable. It may struggle a little in rough weather.
3. 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.
4. Sea Eagle 380x Explorer
The Sea Eagle 380x Explorer inflatable kayak lives up to its promises as a one-size-fits-all kayak for flat water paddling, up to class IV whitewater river trips! It’s an amazingly stable kayak, takes a beating, and has ample storage space and leg space too.
Reviewers love the huge capacity of the Sea Eagle 380X; there’s enough room for a single person or even two paddlers to sit comfortably for either solo adventures or tandem paddling.
For anyone looking for a versatile kayak that’s equally comfortable on rough waters as well as slow-moving rivers, the 380X Explorer is a good option.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Sea Eagle 370
The Sea Eagle 370 is an easy-to-carry, robust, and affordable inflatable sport kayak that ticks all the right boxes, and fits within most budgets! It’s an impressively versatile tandem kayak; great for solo paddling or for two adults on a recreational trip, and it’s comfy too!
As far as recreational kayaks go, the 370 provides a versatile option; there’s plenty of storage space when you remove one of the two seats. Load it up with camping gear for a camping trip, or pack your fishing gear and add a couple of fishing rod holders to convert it into a fishing kayak!
While reviewers agree that the 370 isn’t the best for high winds or poor weather (it rides high on the water), it’s proven rated to handle class iii rapids and will provide ample support on simple recreational trips, thanks to the adjustable seats.
A fantastic inflatable kayak for both tandem use and solo kayaking too.
9. Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame AE1012
A solid entry-level, recreational kayak that can stand up to regular use as beginners become more advanced. It’s also great value for money!
Good for beginners and also able to stand up to hard paddling – the AdvancedFrame AE1012 inflatable kayak is great for leisurely days out as well as longer expeditions. It’s better suited to people under six feet tall.
10. Aquaglide Chinook 120
The Aquaglide Chinook 120 scores big points from reviewers as a stable, comfortable leisure boat that tracks impressively for an inflatable kayak. It’s got reasonable storage and space onboard, and offers confident support and durability.
It loses marks, however, when it comes to its lack of accessories, its awkward bag, and on the basis of it being slightly uncomfortable to ride solo. As a picnicking boat for two, it’s a great mid-range choice.
11. 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.
12. Sea Eagle 330
The Sea Eagle 330 scores well as an entry-level inflatable kayak at a great price. It seems to track well on mild waters and should offer some comfort (particularly for solo riders). Stability varies depending on how you stack up the boat, but it will get most riders on the water and back without issue.
Sea Eagle’s warranty tells us this boat is good to last for some time, and it tests well on durability up to Class 2.
13. 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.
14. Intex Explorer K2
When it comes to inflatable kayaks, having a durable, lightweight boat that packs down easily is a must. The Intex Explorer K2 inflatable kayak ticks these boxes, and all testers we reviewed agree that it’s a reasonably priced leisure craft that will handle calm waters well. However, this isn’t one of the best inflatable kayaks for rougher conditions.
The Intex K2 can accommodate two paddlers, but can also be used as a solo boat, and it arrives with enough accessories to get you started! However, it doesn’t score as highly as some of our other inflatable kayak reviews; its thin material and relatively poor tracking don’t rate highly with experienced paddlers compared with other inflatable kayaks in the same category.
However, as far as Intex inflatable kayaks go, the K2 is one of the brands best-selling models. This is one of the lightest tandem inflatable kayaks on the market, with its portability being a notable selling point, as well as its low cost. While it isn’t the most durable boat when compared to other inflatable kayaks, this isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker.
15. Intex Challenger K2
Experts agree that the Intex Challenger K2 inflatable is great for relaxing on the water in, but not so much for bigger adventures. Its major benefits include ease of access storage, quick inflation, and reasonable ease of portability.
However, you get what you pay for in the ‘budget’ build of this inflatable kayak – the vinyl is very thin so caution is advised. You need to be gentle with the Intex Challenger K2; if you treat it right you likely won’t have any problems, but be aware that the thin material might not stand up too well to punctures if you’re paddling in rough or rocky areas. On the plus side, however, reviews show this tandem boat handles reasonably, provided you don’t paddle it too fast!
Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak
Let’s take a look at some of the most important things you should consider when shopping for an inflatable kayak. While many inflatable kayaks worth investing in will have quality features like a drop stitch floor to aid rigidity, and accessories, some people do prefer a rigid kayak over an inflatable.
However, this is often down to the misconception that an inflatable kayak isn’t as durable as a solid kayak, or that they are only suitable for recreational paddling on flat water. The truth is, however, that inflatable kayaks tend to be just as durable as hard shell kayaks, if not more so.
The main advantage an inflatable kayak has over a hardshell is clearly the portability. Inflatables are extremely portable kayaks because they deflate, pack nicely, and fit snugly in the trunk of your car.
Even the best inflatable can sustain a puncture, but with traditional kayaks, you’ll probably only ever have to deal with minor scratches. Even so, a quality inflatable kayak will always come with a repair kit, so you can fix up any punctures.
Consider How You’ll be Using The Kayak
The first step in the process of looking for a great inflatable is considering how you want to use it. Kayakers who enjoy white water rafting will want to look for a very durable kayak that has multiple levels of protection on the hull.
If you’re someone who enjoys recreational kayaking or touring, then you’ll likely want a versatile kayak that scores high in the comfort department, and that comes with enough storage space for accessories or camping gear.
Most inflatable kayaks come with standard accessories like carry bag, foot pump and repair kit, but you’ll want to pay attention to any extras too. If you’re planning on doing a spot of fishing, you could consider a fishing kayak, or a kayak with attachments like rod holders, cooler straps, and extra storage.
Intermediate paddlers or those who are more advanced may be looking for a less leisurely ride, and opt for a touring kayak.
Kayaks designed for touring and speed will often be longer and feature a narrow nose or keel guard. This will allow the boat to cut right through the water.
Paying attention to features like this will allow you to make the best choice for your needs. Knowing which features you should avoid will also help you save in terms of price point too.
Types of Inflatable Kayaks
Once you’ve considered how you’ll be using the kayak, whether you’re more drawn to leisurely paddling and fishing, the excitement of whitewater paddling or the speed of touring, you’ll need to pick the type of kayak that facilitates this.
Inflatable kayaks are built differently depending on the purpose they serve.
What is a Hybrid Kayak?
Some kayaks are what are considered hybrid designs. Hybrid designs simply mean that your boat can transform from a traditional inflatable kayak to a stand up paddle board. Some hybrids can even feature specific uses like kayak fishing.
If you’re someone who likes doing different types of activities like fishing, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding, then you might want to look into a hybrid design.
Hybrid designs will typically run a little higher in terms of price point, but you’ll find the versatility you want. Some of the best hybrid designs will also give you the option to include different attachments. This will allow you to custom tailor your boat to your specific needs.
Recreational Inflatable Kayaks
Recreational kayaks are comfortable, inflatable boats. They are great if you just want to get out on the water for some light touring. Recreational kayaks work best in slow moving water and light rapids, so better to avoid class III rapids and above, and stick to gentler conditions.
If you’re just getting started on the water, then a recreational kayak can be a good entry-level boat to start with. Inflatable recreational kayaks tend to be on the shorter side, usually under 12 foot. They also tend to be wider with higher pontoon chambers for added support and stability.
Other Inflatable Kayaks
There are some inflatables that don’t fit into this list. While inflatable, foldable kayaks are popular among solo paddlers due to their ease of use and portability, a tandem inflatable kayak could also be a good choice for couples. A two person kayak makes for a fun day out on the water, and is a great option for an adult and child to spend time on the water with safety and supervision in mind.
Kayakers who enjoy getting on the water for sport might be more interested in looking at sport specific inflatable kayaks. Some of the most popular sports kayaks include fishing kayaks and inflatable kayaks designed for white water rafting.
Kayaks designed for white rapids will typically have a short yet wide design. Because they’re meant to go with the flow of the water, they usually won’t have a tracking fin either.
These types of kayaks are also built to be tough and durable – some enough to rival traditional hardshell kayaks (although these still remain the preferred choice for sporting kayaks).
Some inflatable sport kayaks feature a drop stitch floor, making use of innovative drop stitch technology, where the upper and lower layers of the floor are stitched together inside the inflatable chamber for greater rigidity. This makes them sturdy and stiff, though perhaps not quite as solid as a hardshell kayak.
Consider Your Portability and Storage Needs
One of the main reasons people opt for inflatable kayaks is their ease of use, and how easy they are to store and transport. Inflatable kayaks pack down into a storage bag that can be stowed away until you need to use it, or carried to the destination where you want to use it.
You don’t get this level of portability with other types of inflatable or folding kayak (not even with a folding frame kayak), so if portability and easy transport is important to you, pick an inflatable.
Unlike a hard shell kayak that requires a roof rack or a truck to tow, an inflatable is an extremely portable kayak that requires no special equipment to take it from pont A to point B. Other than drying and packing them, inflatables offer virtually no fuss when you transport them from your home to the water. All the inflatable kayaks featured in this list include a bag for easy stowage and storage.
Most inflatable kayaks will come with some sort of carry bag. Some of the best lightweight inflatable kayak offerings feature a backpack style carry bag so you can easily get your kayak to your destination.
Just because you have an inflatable kayak doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the perks of a hard shell kayak either. For example, inflatable kayaks offer plenty of storage solutions. In fact, many inflatables offer more storage capacity than your traditional hard shell.
You also need to consider the onboard storage of the kayak, and whether that matches your own needs. If you’re going fishing, aim for a kayak that will allow you to transport your gear comfortably. Recreational riders might look for a boat like the Bote Aero that allows you to tack on a cooler for leisurely rafting too.
Consider Your Inflatable Kayak Length
The length of your inflatable kayak is another important feature to consider.
Kayaks designed for sport will often be shorter and narrower, reaching lengths of about 11 to 12 feet. Recreational and touring kayaks can vary in length but will typically be anywhere from 12 feet to 14 feet.
The passenger capacity will also determine the length of the kayak.Typically, if you have a two seater, it will be longer than your average inflatable kayak. Some inflatable models like the Intex Explorer K2 do a good job of maintaining an average length while providing ample space for two passengers.
As a general rule, the longer and narrower the kayak, the faster it will go. If speed is something that is important to you, consider the length of your inflatable and what type of use it was designed for.
Why Tracking, Speed, and Handling are Important
Whether you want to go out fishing, enjoy the water, or do some intense white water rafting, it’s important to understand tracking, speed, and handling.
The way a kayak tracks refers to how straight the kayak moves when you paddle. The better tracking a kayak has, the more you stay the course in the direction you paddle.
Longer kayaks like the Sea Eagle Razorlite will typically have better tracking. This is because they have a narrow bow, move faster, and glide further with every stroke you take.
The fins, or skegs, on the bottom rear of your kayak play a role in your kayak’s tracking too. A large center fin helps to keep your kayak straight, especially in windy conditions. Some boats will also include side fins that help with the stability of the boat too.
When it comes to speed, you really want to consider how you use your kayak. Recreational and touring kayaks are meant to go fast, so you’ll want a boat that is narrower and able to reach high speeds. Depending on the size of your boat, this might mean several skegs in the rear.
Skegs and speed will also play a role in your boat’s handling. If your boat can cut through the water easily, paddling will be more streamlined, requiring less effort. However, speed and skegs are not features you want to pay attention to if you are white water rafting. Rough rapids will move your boat along, and a skeg might throw your boat off course.
Consider Self-Bailing Kayaks
A feature that you have to have on a whitewater kayak is drainage holes. Drainage holes, or self bailing holes, allow water that enters your boat to easily drain out. When you’re white water rafting and your boat takes on a lot of water, you need these holes there to keep your boat from capsizing.
You might also want to consider a self bailing kayak if you plan to take your boat out onto the ocean. You might encounter waves that crash into your cockpit and self bailing holes will help get rid of this collected water.
If your kayak does have self-bailing holes, consider the seat configuration. If you have a sit in kayak, then you’re probably going to be sitting wet throughout the duration of your kayaking.
What makes the BOTE Deus Aero a great self-bailing kayak is that you sit high and the water trickles through the back of the boat instead of holes in the cockpit.
Personalize with Kayak Accessories
The mark of a great inflatable kayak is accessories. When you can accessorize your kayak to meet your specific needs, you can really create an inflatable designed for you.
Brands like Sea Eagle and Bote do a phenomenal job offering a variety of accessories for you to choose from. Some popular accessories to consider include fishing racks, kayak coolers, and drinkware attachments.
Even if your boat does not come with a lot of accessory options, look for ways to incorporate accessories. For example, if your boat has several D-ring attachments or adjustable straps, this can be a way for you to personalize your boat.
How Much Should You Spend on an Inflatable Kayak?
The price point is an important factor to consider when you’re looking at an inflatable kayak. However, as with all purchases, you want to shop for what you need – not necessarily for what’s the most expensive.
When considering what a good price point is for you, you first need to consider your needs. Decide whether you need a recreational, touring, or sports gear kayak. Also consider your capacity requirements. Do you need a one seater, or will you be bringing along a furry friend?
Included accessories are another component to consider. If your inflatable kayak comes with a rod rack for fishing gear, but you’re not a fisherman, then that might not be the best kayak for you.
Also consider the type of water you’ll be rafting on. Flatwater can handle a simply constructed hull. But, if you’ll be rafting on light rapids, then you may need a haul with a removable skeg or an I-beam construction.
Knowing your needs will allow you to understand what you are paying for when you’re shopping around for a kayak. When you understand this, you’ll be able to gauge how much a kayak should cost. Just because a kayak is expensive does not mean it is the right kayak for you.
FAQ: How to Find the Best Inflatable Kayak
How long should an inflatable kayak stay inflated?
Your inflatable kayak should stay inflated the entire time you are out on the water. If you are noticing that your boat is losing air, you may have a puncture in one of the chambers. If you launch your boat out in cold water, you might notice that half an hour in, your boat has softened a bit. This is completely normal.
Are inflatable kayaks safe?
Yes. Inflatable kayaks are very safe, and the more durable they are the safer they will be. Many inflatables come with multiple air chambers. These multiple air chambers work as a safety net for you. If one chamber experiences a puncture, then you will still have enough additional inflated chambers to help get you back to shore.
Will my inflatable kayak pop?
Well built inflatable kayaks can be extremely resistant to punctures. Even if you scrape against rocks or rough surfaces, your inflatable will likely not pop. When setting up your inflatable it’s important to follow PSI inflation recommendations. Over inflating your kayak is the main reason why your inflatable kayak would pop, if it ever does.
Are inflatable kayaks better than hardshell kayaks?
Inflatable kayaks can be great alternatives for hard shell kayaks. Inflatable kayaks are easy to transport and do not require a roof rack or truck bed. Inflatable kayaks are also really easy to set up too.
You won’t miss out on traditional features found on a hard shell either. More advanced inflatable kayaks come with great accessories including foot pedals, rudders, and waterproof storage compartments.
Are inflatable kayaks good for white water rafting?
Inflatable kayaks are very good for white water rafting. The inflated chambers will give you a nice bounce while you are rafting, decreasing the possibility of injury.
It’s important to consider what type of rapids your inflatable is designed for too. Some inflatable kayaks are meant for low class rapids like I or II while others are specifically built for class IV rapids.
Can I use my inflatable kayak in the ocean?
Some inflatable kayaks are specifically designed for ocean and sea use. Typically, you will find that these kayaks have self bailing holes to help you get rid of any water that crashes into your cockpit. Having a really stable kayak will also help you on the rough waves.
Can I bring my dog with me on an inflatable kayak?
Yes. Some of the best inflatable kayaks offer enough cockpit room to bring along a furry friend. Recreational inflatable kayaks will typically be wider offering more space for your dog. Kayak and paddleboard hybrids can be great inflatable kayaks to look at if you are shopping around for a kayak for you and your pet.
Read more about whether you can bring your dog in an inflatable kayak.
What can I use to clean my inflatable kayak?
Whenever you finish using your kayak on the water, you always want to clean it before you store it away. Clean your inflatable kayak with freshwater then dry it off with a towel. Allow it to completely air dry before you fold it back up and pack it away. If you have tough mud stains on your kayak, you can use soap and water to remove them.
Is it bad to leave an inflatable kayak inflated?
When you are finished using your inflatable, it’s important to always clean it off using freshwater and then deflate it. You should never store an inflatable boat fully inflated. This could increase the risk of your boat accidentally getting punctured by surrounding items.
How long do inflatable kayaks last?
A well built, well cared for inflatable should last you several years. Some inflatables are specifically designed to last you season after season because of their careful construction. By cleaning off your inflatable and storing it properly, you can help elongate the life of your kayak.
Read more about how durable inflatable kayaks are.
Can one person use a two person inflatable kayak?
Inflatable kayaks can be designed for one or two people. If there is a kayak model that you like but is designed for one person, chances are, a tandem kayak exists for that model too. Oftentimes, an inflatable tandem kayak has enough space in the cockpit that you can even bring along a furry friend too.
If you read any of the online round-ups of the best inflatable kayaks out there, all agree that common features such as good stability, durability and handling are key things to consider. But what they fail to illustrate is how the kayak actually fairs when actually paddled.
This comparison features the expert opinions of trusted reviewers, compared and condensed in such a way to make it even easier for you to see the core features of each boat, how it handles, and whether it will be right for you.
While comparing these expert reviews can be extremely helpful ultimately, it’s important to consider your own needs and preferences before you choose an inflatable kayak. Whether you’re a beginner looking for an easy-to-use boat or a pro angler searching for maximum performance, there is an inflatable kayak that’s perfect for you.