The Best Inflatable Kayak to Buy Today

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is One of the Best Inflatable Kayak Models

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Kayaks are some of the most fun you can have out on the water, but if you're a water sport enthusiast, you might be wondering how well inflatable kayaks really work. It's a reasonable thing to worry about, and we decided the only way to answer this question for ourselves was to get out there and give some a try. We think we've rounded up the best inflatable kayaks for various purposes, and we hope you agree.

Best Inflatable Kayak FAQ

two-person inflatable kayak

image source: Pexels

1. What's An Inflatable Kayak?

These are designed to move through the water just like kayaks made of hard materials, but you can inflate them when you want to use them and deflate them for storage or transport. Convenience is the name of the game.

2. Are They Safe?

When you think about inflatable watercraft, you probably have an image of inner tubes and those pool inflatables that lost their air halfway through the day. The best inflatable kayaks are nothing like this.

These are actually more stable than a hardshell kayak in most cases because they have a wider base. Whether you're a beginner to kayaking or you've been doing it a while, you'll be able to enjoy safe fun in an inflatable.

3. Can You Fish From One?

Absolutely. Some of the best inflatable kayaks are made especially for fishing. In fact, many kayak fisherman prefer them because they're so much easier to transport to those remote fishing grounds.

4. Won't An Inflatable Kayak Pop?

Today's best inflatable kayaks are made from military-grade materials and are not going to pop easily. They are made from the same type of stuff that the US Navy and Coast Guard use in their inflatable watercraft.

5. What About The Dog?

Some of us love to kayak with our dogs; but is an inflatable kayak actually safe with all those claws and teeth jumping joyously about? Considering that dog toy makers have yet to construct a toy that at least some dog somewhere can't eventually tear apart, we wouldn't feel safe saying there's no chance even the best inflatable kayaks couldn't get a tear when Fido flops in. Even the US Navy doesn't plan for doggie claws when they make their inflatables.

However, in most cases the best inflatable kayaks are practically indestructible. If your dog already knows what to do out on the water, it's highly unlikely that there will be any problem.

How We Reviewed

We looked at a range of kayaks. Some are for one person, others are for two. Some are designed for special situations. We considered the pros and cons of each, what each offers in terms of specs, and what each kayak is best for. In addition to our own experience, we paid attention to what other kayak enthusiasts, and beginners, thought about each.

Overall Price Range

At the low end, you can get a one-person inflatable kayak, and even the occasional two-person kayak, for under $100. The most extreme high-end kayaks can run $2,000+. Most inflatable kayaks, however, hover somewhere between $100 and $400.

The more expensive kayaks often come with their own pumps, are made from higher durability materials, or are especially suited to unique situations like fishing.

What We Reviewed

  • Advanced Elements
  • Sea Eagle Two-Person Kayak
  • Intex Challenger
  • Intex Explorer
  • Ztotop Two-Person Kayak
  • Intex Excursion
  • Airhead Montana Kayak
  • Coleman Colorado Fishing Kayak
  • Sevylor Quikpak K1
  • Hobie Mirage I12S

Advanced Elements

Sale
Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
  • Built-in aluminum ribs define the bow and stern and improve tracking
  • 3 layers of material for extreme puncture resistance
  • PreAssembled at the factory. Simply unfold, inflate and attach the seat

Features

Advanced Elements has been making good inflatable kayaks for a while now. Their kayak has aluminum ribs pre-installed at the factory so all you have to do is inflate it and attach the seat. Speaking of seats, this one has an actual kayak seat, which many inflatables do not. On the plus side, that makes this kayak really comfortable. The downside is this makes it a bit heavier and more awkward to transport.

There are multiple layers of material in the construction, so this is about the most durable inflatable kayak available. The pump and paddle are sold separately, but you will get a convenient duffle for carrying this around in.

PROS

  • Very durable
  • Looks and feels like a hardside kayak
  • Easy to transport for size and durability

CONS

  • May be too short for very tall people
  • Not suitable for riders over 225 pounds
  • Easy to cause damage by over-inflating

Best Suited For

This is the right choice for someone under six feet tall who is a serious kayaker and wants to be certain of using their inflatable kayak for years to come.

Sea Eagle Two Person Kayak

Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat...
  • 3 person/650 lb capacity, weighs 32 lbs, suitable for up to Class III whitewater
  • 370 Deluxe Kayak Package features two movable, super comfortable Deluxe Kayak Seats for improved back support and 2...
  • 2 AB30 7'10"" 4 Part Paddles with asymmetrical blade and aluminum shaft

Features

The Sea Eagle is very popular because of its combination of price and durability. Unlike the Advanced Elements kayak, when you look at the Sea Eagle, you can tell it is inflatable. Ironically, that means it's easier to accept its limitations. This can hold up to three people or 650 pounds, and you can take it on whitewater excursions at Class III. The package comes with removable seats, which make it very comfortable, a foot pump, two paddles, and a carry bag.

Expect it to take about a half hour to set up and a lot less to tear down. We loved the high center of gravity in this kayak; and while it wasn't the easiest inflatable kayak to transport, it was easy to fit even into our smallest cars.

PROS

  • Durable
  • Carries lots of weight
  • High center of gravity
  • Comfortable
  • Comes with everything

CONS

  • Takes a while to set up
  • Slow
  • Bulky to carry far by hand

Best Suited For

This kayak is great for the couple or small family that want to have fun out on the water.

Intex Challenger

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum...
  • Nimble, durable kayak is made of durable welded material with eye catching graphics for added safety on the lake or slow...
  • Cockpit is designed for comfort and maximized space, and inflatable I beam floors add stability
  • Cargo net to store extra gear, and grab line on both ends of kayak; inflatable seat with backrest

Features

Intex dominates the budget area of inflatable kayak offerings. The Challenger is their one-seat kayak, and it comes with a pump and oars. It has an inflatable I-beam floor that makes it surprisingly stable, and the cargo net on the front really does hold your stuff pretty well.

This one can't take any more than 220 pounds, so that's something to bear in mind. For the price you might think it would be easily punctured; but it's durable. We ran it into some rocks and sticks just for fun and couldn't damage it. However, this is definitely not a fast kayak.

PROS

  • Very fast to inflate
  • Reasonably comfortable
  • Amazingly sturdy for price

CONS

  • Paddle isn't great
  • Requires a lot of work to keep it moving

Best Suited For

This is a great choice for the casual kayaker on a budget.

Intex Explorer

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum...
  • COMFORTABLE FOR ANYONE: Kayak includes an adjustable inflatable seat with backrest;Cockpit designed for comfort and...
  • DIMENSIONS: Inflated size 10 feet 3 X 3 feet X 1 feet 8 Inch . Maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds
  • DIRECTIONAL STABILITY: Removable skeg for directional stability

Features

The Intex Explorer is essentially the two-person version of the Challenger. It can hold 400 pounds and comes with two sets of oars and a foot pump. It's perfect for small lakes or slow-moving rivers, but it's not the kind of thing you want to take whitewater rafting or out into choppy seas.

The center of gravity is lower on this kayak, but at the same time, the tall nose keeps water out. It's a different feel, but we did like not getting so wet. Our concern was that we could get some backaches from using it for too long; and, indeed, we found other users experienced that very thing.

PROS

  • Very inexpensive
  • Convenient and easy to set up
  • Simple to transport

CONS

  • Very hard to move through the water
  • Low center of gravity can be hard on the back
  • Paddles aren't great

Best Suited For

This is a good choice for couples on a budget who want to go out on the water together just for fun.

Ztotop Two-Person Kayak

Ztotop 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Inflatable Boat,Two Aluminum...
  • Please Note: Overall Length:138 in(3.5m). Overall Width:42 inch(1.06m). Maximum weight capacity: 400 pounds
  • Durable Material:Heavy duty puncture resistant vinyl is durable enough to provide durable protection from punctures.
  • Comfortable Design:Inflatable seats are adjustable.A storage bag is behind one of seats.Two paddles are long enough to...

Features

This two-person kayak can handle up to 400 pounds of rider and comes with an air pump and two oars. While the seats are inflatable, they are adjustable, so we found this just a bit more comfortable than the Intex model.

The net bag can't really hold all that much, if we're honest, but the stability and durability were pretty impressive, especially considering the price. What's really cool about it is how small it packs. This thing, when deflated, is smaller than a lot of our suitcases.

PROS

  • Very compact
  • Durable and sturdy
  • Can hold two people easily
  • Easy to transport and set up
  • Easier to paddle than some other inflatables

CONS

  • Not wide enough for some people
  • Net doesn't hold much

Best Suited For

Couples or small families that need a sturdy, fun kayak that will shove into the back of an already-full vehicle and then inflate quickly.

Intex Excursion

Sale
Intex Excursion Pro Kayak, Professional Series Inflatable Fishing...
  • Super tough laminate PVC with polyester core: light weight and highly resistant to damage from abrasion, impact and...
  • High pressure inflation provides extra rigidity and stability, with high pressure spring loaded valves for easy...
  • Includes 2 removable skews for deep and shallow water, 2 floor mounted footrests, 2 integrated recessed fishing rod...

Features

The Excursion is Intex' professional model of inflatable kayak. This one is pricier than the Challenger, but for that extra price you get some nifty features. For one thing, it's tougher: you can feel that just by putting it together. It's also more rigid, so it feels a bit more like a hardshell kayak when you're in it.

It also has skews you can remove for moving between deep and shallow water, mounted footrests, and a recess for holding your fishing rods. The seats are adjustable, and there's one seat booster in case you're taking someone rather short on your excursion. Our favorite part was the pressure gauge. That let us see at a glance that we were ok throughout the trip.

PROS

  • Inexpensive for the quality
  • Foot rests and skews are a great touch
  • Good quality construction
  • Air pressure gauge

CONS

  • Not much legroom
  • Paddles are too short for some people

Best Suited For

This is a good choice for more serious kayakers who want to take on some slightly rougher waters but need the portability of an inflatable kayak.

Airhead Montana

AIRHEAD MONTANA Kayak, 1 person
  • 9-foot, 1-man inflatable kayak; designed for lakes and moderate white water
  • All 3 air chambers are completely enclosed by rugged 840-denier nylon with
  • Lightweight, compact, and portable

Features

The Airhead Montana is made for one thing: whitewater rafting. This stable inflatable kayak is nine feet long and has three separate air chambers; yet somehow they've made it remarkably compact. It has very low drag, which we loved, and even includes elbow guards and spray covers. It's also rated up to 300 pounds, which most one-person kayaks aren't.

PROS

  • Lots of fun in whitewater
  • Thoughtful whitewater-friendly features
  • Durable
  • Can carry heavier people
  • Low drag

CONS

  • Not easy to maneuver in still water
  • Some issues with durability of the valves

Best Suited For

Someone who loves easy to medium-difficulty whitewater rafting and wants to be able to take their kayak with them anywhere.

Coleman Colorado 

Sale
Sevylor Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak
  • 18-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use , NMMA certified
  • 1000D tarpaulin bottom and 840D nylon cover provide durable protection from punctures
  • Multiple air chambers allow another chamber to stay inflated if one is punctured

Features

This fishing kayak is made to take a beating; but on the lake, not in the sea. Their Airtight System seems to work wonderfully well. There are several air chambers to keep you afloat even if you get a leak somewhere.

This kayak comes equipped with rod holders, paddle holders, and trolling motor fittings in case you want to be out for days. It can hold two people and is quite durable: especially considering the price.

PROS

  • Durable
  • Looks great
  • Thoughtfully designed for fishing
  • Can take a trolling motor

CONS

  • Seat may need to be replaced early
  • Seat doesn't offer much support.

Best Suited For

This is the right choice for the serious fisherman who wants inflatable portability.

Sevylor Quikpak

Sale
Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
  • 5-minute setup lets you spend more time on the water
  • Easy-to-carry backpack system turns into the seat
  • 21-gauge PVC construction is rugged for lake use

Features

This is a single person kayak that features a very easy setup and multiple air chambers to ensure you always stay afloat. This also comes with the Airtight system, which guarantees you won't experience air leaks from the valves. The thing that makes this kayak stand out is how much weight it can hold. 400 pounds for a single-person kayak is awesome.

PROS

  • Great for larger people
  • Easy to set up and take down

CONS

  • Not much support in the seat back
  • Paddle is very flimsy

Best Suited For

This is a great choice for larger people who want to enjoy a quick spell out on the lake.

Hobie Mirage

Features

This Hobie is an outlier in our review of the best inflatable kayaks. It's incredibly expensive: almost four times pricier than the Advanced Elements kayak. However, there's a reason for that. This is meant to function exactly like a hardshell kayak in terms of speed and cargo capacity, while still being portable.

The reason you can go so quickly is the turbo fins, the foot-powered pedals, and the drop stich floor that lets you inflate it to much higher pressures than most inflatable kayaks can stand. The seat is amazingly comfortable and keeps you dry all day. It's simple to adjust the height or the recline in the seat. And our favorite feature? Attach a sail to it if you want.

PROS

  • Very durable
  • Fast and sleek
  • Pedal, wind, or paddle powered
  • Convenient and portable
  • Very comfortable

CONS

  • Very expensive

Best Suited For

This is perfect for someone with money to burn who always wants to be on the water. If you spend a lot of time on a bigger boat, use this to go to shore for provisions or to paddle around exploring.

The Verdict

The best inflatable kayaks are durable, comfortable, and fun. Here's what we decided:

Best Overall

The best combination of value, fun, and money is the Sea Eagle. While it might not be the most beautiful watercraft cruising the lake, it's comfortable, fun, durable, and comes with everything you need. There's a reason that families love Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks.

Best For A Budget

The Intex Explorer was our favorite in the budget category. It's very inexpensive but still has what you need. It can hold two people in reasonable comfort, and it's easy to set up.

There's something to love about all these kayaks. The real question is: why aren't you on the way to the lake yet?

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