Are Inflatable Kayaks any good?

Are inflatable kayaks any good

Here we go… Are Inflatable Kayaks any Good?

Having spent the last seven years Kayaking in all types of Kayaks, it makes us want to cringe every time we hear this question.

Mostly so because we know that it stems from a barrage of misinformation and myths floating around on the internet about inflatable kayaks.

Here are some of them that take the cake.

‘An inflatable Kayak in Florida? You’d be swimming with gators the moment your kayak springs a leak. Which will be like a minute after you are in the water’

‘Inflatable Kayaks and pointed objects don’t mix.’

‘You’d end up snagging it with your fishing hook’

‘I’d stick with a hard shell yak unless I am sure that the water is calmer than a Hindu cow’

Sorry if we sound blasphemous. But an inflatable kayak is as good, perhaps better than a hard shell one.

And we will pit the two against each other in terms of cost, comfort, durability, reliability and portability to give you some perspective on why we feel so.


The biggest draw of an inflatable kayak is the price tag. And it makes complete sense to not want to spend an arm and a leg on something that will be used occasionally, that too for recreational purposes.

Professional or competitive kayaking is a different ball game altogether. So we won’t venture into that turf.

But for recreational use, you can get a good quality inflatable kayak for $500 or less.

We are talking about a mid-level model that can be used in calm waters and even in the sea with mild chopping or strong winds.

Go upwards of $1000 and you can get highly durable ones that can even be used in Whitewater rapids. There are inflatable kayaks that can even be used in class iv rapids by the way. Take the NRS Maverick II for example.

A similar hard shell kayak would be priced at least at $2500 or more. So, inflatables are always cheaper than hard shell ones.

The argument that often follows is about the durability.

Hard Shell kayaks are supposedly more durable. Or are they?


This is the conundrum faced by newbie kayakers.

Do you spend less and buy an inflatable that can supposedly get torn easily or do you spend a lot more and buy a hard shell kayak that can easily withstand a few bumps?

The fact is that irrespective of which one you choose, there’s a huge variation in the quality.

Typically, you get what you pay for.

There are $100 inflatables that are best kept a mile away from anything sharp. And there are $1000 ones with multiple layers of durable fabric that can withstand sharp rocks, knives, fishing hooks and even the occasional croc like a boss!

As long as you don’t cut corners, you can buy an inflatable that is as durable as a hard shell one.

In hard shell kayaks, you can choose from wood, plastic, composite materials like aramid or graphite or Polyethylene Rotomolded ones. Graphite is the best of the lot in terms of durability. But is pricier than the rest.

Similarly, inflatable kayaks can either be made of PVC, Hypalon or Nitrylon. Recreational kayaks are generally made of PVC because they are cheaper. But if you intend to take your Kayak to whitewater rapids, you need Hypalon.  But hypalon kayaks are the most expensive of them all.


This one is a no-brainer. An inflatable kayak can be deflated in minutes and stowed away until your next kayaking trip.

You don’t need a trailer to haul it around, no roof rack, no additional cost of baggage when carrying overseas.

Most inflatables can be folded down to a duffel bag size.

It keeps you covered for impromptu trips to the beach when you feel like hopping on a boat and paddling for a while.

Fishing trips become a lot easier. And you can easily find inflatables with enough room for the whole family.


Ever heard of a kayak butt?

If you have ever sat in a hard shell kayak for a couple of hours, you will definitely know that it’s not the least bit comfortable.

Your butt will be sore and numb & the hard, short back rest doesn’t help either.

Most new kayakers yearn for a break within the first hour.

What if you have family in tow? Will the kids be able to sit through an uncomfortable three-hour ride?

Inflatable kayaks on the other hand are like a soft cushion of air. There are no pressure points and your glutes will thank you even if you are on the water all day. They have inflatable seats with a high backrest that can be deflated if you need more cargo space.

If you are tired of paddling, you can recline and take a break on the water itself. Children love it too.

Getting in and out of the Kayak

Another lopsided argument says that its more difficult to get in and out of an inflatable kayak.

Let’s say that midway through your fishing trip, you feel like taking a plunge in the warm, inviting waters.

You can jump out of either one easily.

But when you are trying to get in, the edges of a hard shell kayak can be painful on your shin, the elbow and anything else that comes into contact with it.

It might give you a better, heavier surface to grab on to. But it won’t be comfortable, we’ll give you that.

An inflatable on the other hand might bob around a lot more. But most manufacturers these days throw in a grab rope allowing you to easily get in. Also, there are no hard edges to bother you.

The same holds true when you are trying to get into your kayak from a pier or from the shore. Just use your oars or your partner for support and get into the kayak. You will be greeted by a soft, comforting seat.

Reliability and Performance

Once again, YGWYPF.

There are good quality hard shells that are easy to track, maneuver and spin even in the toughest of waters.

But they cost a bomb. Cheaper hard shells are terrible to row and control even in calm waters.

Likewise, there are reliable inflatable kayaks that can perform well in different types of waters. But there are also cheap gimcracks that are impossible to track.


If you are short of storage space, a hard shell kayak is ruled out.

Inflatables will disappear into a bag or into a corner of your home when not in use. You can even store in the car.

This makes them a great choice for apartment dwellers or for homes with limited storage space.

Set Up

We don’t know about others but personally, we love to be on the water as soon as we can, once we have decided to go kayaking. Also, a lot of times, we make impromptu trips.

There is nothing more annoying than having to manually haul a hard shell kayak onto a roof rack, tie it, carefully getting it down at the lake, dragging it into the water and then repeating the whole process after the trip, when you are dog tired after rowing a heavy boat for hours.

That’s cumbersome and time-intensive.

An inflatable kayak on the other hand needs just 10 minutes to set up if you have a manual blower. With an electronic one, you will be ready in under 2 minutes. The only time that you will spend will be packing your snacks and your fishing gear.

Once you are done with your trip, you can deflate it and toss it into the boot. You don’t have to worry about lugging a heavy boat back to the car.

To sum it up

Having considered all the key variables, inflatable kayaks easily hold their own when pitted against their meatier and pricier siblings, the hard shells.

If you were on the fence about which variety to choose, then we recommend that you rent an inflatable.

It should give you a good idea of what to expect from it. That’s how we started off by the way.

True, you should always be aware of the limitations of the kayak that you eventually choose. Some require you to be more vigilant about potential puncture hazards. But it’s not a deal breaker.

Most inflatables have multiple chambers that will keep you afloat. They might take in more water than a hard shell but they also self-bail.

So, in our opinion, anyone who tells you that hard shells are better than inflatables have never used one themselves or are misinformed.

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