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Best Inflatable Kayaks

Updated June 2023
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
NRS Star Raven II Tandem Inflatable Kayak
NRS
Star Raven II Tandem Inflatable Kayak
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Expert Recommended
Bottom Line

This premium inflatable kayak has a high-quality build reinforced with state-of-the-art welding technology.

Pros

This kayak offers excellent abrasion resistance and is advanced-engineered for superior air retention. It has bow and stern handles, a drop-stitch floor insert for a rigid structure and two removable padded seats.

Cons

Some reports of water getting in around the seats.

Best Bang for the Buck
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
Intex
Explorer K2 Kayak
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Bargain Pick
Bottom Line

An inflatable kayak for two people that comes with a pump and oars.

Pros

This lightweight option is made of polypropylene and supports up to 400 pounds. It has a bright yellow color to make you more visible to other boaters. The two seats are both adjustable and removable. A removable skeg increase this kayak’s stability in the water.

Cons

Legroom is very limited in this kayak.

Sea Eagle Inflatable Sport Kayak Pro Package
Sea Eagle
Inflatable Sport Kayak Pro Package
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Great for Everyday Use
Bottom Line

A durable, comfortable 3-person kayak made by a trusted brand.

Pros

This durable model can fit up to 3 people and has a 650-ib capacity. It contains generous storage space for paddles, gear, and life jackets. The kayak is very forgiving around rocks, limbs, and other hazards.

Cons

Susceptible to strong wind and upstream currents.

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak
Intex
Excursion Pro Kayak
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Best for Fishing
Bottom Line

A feature-packed kayak for two fishing explorers made of tough and durable material.

Pros

Versatile kayak with inflatable seats that are removable and adjustable. Two fishing rod holders are built into the craft, which is tricked out with a mounting bracket to support fish finders and other accessories. There's also plenty of storage in the bow and stern. Includes a carrying bag and a patch kit.

Cons

Users say the supplied paddles are hard to assemble and not very sturdy.

HO Sports Ranger 1 Inflatable Kayak
HO Sports
Ranger 1 Inflatable Kayak
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Feature-packed
Bottom Line

This kayak offers plenty of room for gear and glides effortlessly over water.

Pros

This kayak has three inflation chambers and a rigid drop-stitch floor that doesn't bend. It has two bungee storage areas on top and storage space underneath the cover. It comes with an adjustable two-piece paddle, an ergonomic high-back seat, built-in fishing rod holders and a hand air pump.

Cons

Although the build quality is undoubtedly superb, there are models with similar features at a lower price.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best inflatable kayaks

An inflatable kayak is compact when folded and can be stored in a car trunk, making it convenient to have handy when you go on any outdoor adventure. All you need to do is use a manual or electric air pump, and they’re ready to go, often within seconds.

Most inflatable kayaks are made with high-quality materials and are built to withstand punctures and damage from other hazards. You’ll feel safe and secure when riding in an inflatable kayak, and most can accommodate two or three people, meaning you don’t have to be alone.

The best inflatable kayaks offer high-quality construction, plenty of storage space for equipment and other belongings, adjustable seats and paddles. Our favorite is the NRS Star Raven II Tandem Inflatable Kayak. Its rigid build and feel give riders a greater sense of security, and there’s lots of room for storing gear.

Best inflatable kayaks

NRS Star Raven II Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Our top pick is expensive, as it retails for $1,095, but if you can afford it, this kayak won’t disappoint as it offers quick maneuvering for one or two paddlers and is built to last. It’s made with an advanced-formula PVC material and is reinforced with high-end seam welding technology for superior durability and air retention.

It has bow and stern handles and a drop-stitch floor insert that is rigid when inflated, providing a stable paddling position. The two folding seats are removable and adjustable, have hook-and-loop fasteners that attach to the floor and keep them secure, and easily connect to the D-rings in the boat for quick installation and storage. Plus, it comes with a carry bag, air pump and repair kit.

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak

The Intex Explorer K2 Kayak is an excellent two-seat kayak for anyone who wants to traverse small bodies of water such as lakes and mild rivers, and it’s an absolute steal considering you can get one for under $200. It has an adjustable inflatable seat with a comfortable backrest and a spacious cockpit with plenty of extra legroom.

It has a weight capacity of 400 pounds, and the removable skeg allows for directional stability. You’ll feel secure and be highly visible to other boaters thanks to the kayak’s bright yellow exterior that’s easy to see from a distance. The Explorer K2 comes with everything you need to set out on your adventure, including two 86-inch paddles, a high-output air pump, a carry bag and a patch repair kit.

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series

This inflatable kayak is suitable for beginners as well as those with kayaking experience. It’s lightweight but has a rugged build that makes it resistant to abrasion, shock impact and sunlight. It’s also unaffected by oil, salt water and gasoline, and because it allows for high air pressure, it has a rigid exterior when inflated.

The total weight capacity is 400 pounds, and the high-pressure spring-loaded valves make it easy to inflate and deflate quickly. It comes with two skegs, one for shallow areas and one for deep water. It also features two built-in fishing rod holders, two adjustable bucket seats and a removable mounting bracket for other accessories. There’s plenty of storage space in the bow and stern for your bags and equipment.

HO Sports Ranger 1 Inflatable Kayak

If you’re looking for a high-quality inflatable for less than $1,000, we highly recommend checking out the HO Sports Ranger 1. It has a rigid construction made from high-quality nylon for superior durability and a drop-stitch floor that doesn’t bend.

It’s a terrific kayak for those who like to take lots of stuff with them when kayaking, as it offers dual bungee storage zones on top and underneath the cover, so you’ll have plenty of space to keep all of your gear. The high-back seat has an ergonomic design for improved comfort, built-in pockets for storing valuables and a fishing rod holder on each side. Plus, it comes with a carry backpack with two shoulder straps for convenient transportation and storage.

Sea Eagle 3-Person Inflatable Sport Kayak

A good mid-tier inflatable kayak can be hard to find, but we think this Sea Eagle inflatable kayak fits the bill. It costs less than $300, but it has a solid build and packs many features that might make you think it should be more expensive. Although it’s designed for two people for optimal comfort and performance, it can support up to 650 pounds, unlike many other kayaks that can only support up to 400 pounds.

It has high-quality seats with excellent back support for a comfortable riding experience, and the floor has a rigid structure for increased security, stability and faster paddling. The molded skegs are terrific for tracking and durable enough to withstand going over rocks without damage. Also, it comes with a foot air pump.

Sevylor Coleman Colorado Fishing Kayak

Those looking to hit the waters and catch fish will love this two-person fishing kayak. Its rugged construction makes it suitable for lakes, and a tarpaulin bottom and nylon cover provide excellent protection against punctures and other hazards. It also boasts multiple air chambers, a neat feature you might find on some other kayaks that ensures your kayak remains in working condition even if one of the chambers is punctured.

The adjustable seats will keep you comfortable for extended riding periods, and two quick-set rod holders let you adjust the fishing rod pole angle for hands-free fishing. Plus, there are several pockets for storing gear and valuables, and the kayak only weighs 40 pounds when folded for storage.

Airhead Montana Inflatable Kayak

This is one of the more spacious inflatable kayaks, making it an excellent choice for those who want extra legroom and storage space for gear. It measures 12 feet long, as opposed to most other inflatable kayaks, which are 10 feet long and is optimized for elite performance on lakes and moderate white water.

When inflated, the floor has a rigid construction that provides excellent buoyancy, and the four bottom skegs facilitate superior tracking. The heavy-gauge exterior makes it resistant to punctures, direct sunlight damage and other hazards, and the orange material makes it visible from several hundred yards away. It has handles that make it easy to put in the water and take it out, and six D-rings at the bow and stern for securing gear.

What to consider before buying an inflatable kayak

Inflatable kayak length 

Inflatable kayaks are available in many lengths and measured from front to back. Think about how you plan to use the kayak and you’ll have better success picking the correct length for your needs.

  • Long inflatable kayaks glide easily through the water and are best for large bodies of water, such as lakes. A longer kayak easily accommodates two or even three people and lets you carry gear for overnight trips.
  •  Short inflatable kayaks are suitable for rivers and whitewater. A shorter kayak may only offer one seat, but you don’t have to work as hard to propel a short kayak as you would a longer one.

Portability, transportation and storage

The primary benefit of an inflatable kayak over a traditional hard-shell kayak is that it can be folded down and squeezed into a carrying bag or backpack. You can place an inflatable soft-shell kayak in a car trunk or carry it while riding a bicycle or motorcycle. By that same token, since an inflatable kayak folds down to fit in a bag after use, you can store it in a closet or a small space. Hard-shell kayaks occupy significant storage space in a garage or basement.

Repairs

Although a hard-shell kayak might be more durable, repairing a damaged inflatable kayak is much easier. There may be a stigma surrounding the build quality of inflatable kayaks, but they’ve come a long way in recent years, and most are exceptionally durable. They can bounce off rocks and are less likely to damage than a hard-shell kayak. If your kayak cover is punctured, you only need to use a patch repair kit included with most inflatable kayaks. Repairs for traditional kayaks can be more costly and may require professional services.

Weight capacity and riders

You should consider the weight capacity of a kayak as it’ll determine how many riders it can accommodate and how much gear you can take with you. Most inflatable kayaks have a weight capacity of 400 pounds and can accommodate two riders, but some larger kayaks have a 650-pound weight capacity and can accommodate up to three riders. However, it’s worth noting that three riders might feel crowded, and there will be much less legroom and possibly less storage space for gear.

Inflatable kayak features

Closed vs. open design

A closed-design kayak has an enclosed cockpit where you slide your feet and legs inside the kayak’s body. This design works great when paddling during cold weather to keep water off your legs, but it’s not as spacious as open-design kayaks.

An open inflatable kayak design means your entire body fits on the top part of the kayak. People can easily climb in and out of an open-design kayak, but splashing will soak your legs. Some open kayaks include a skin you can use to cover your legs.

Adjustable seats

If you’re planning on being out on the water for extended periods, ensure your kayak has comfortable, ergonomic seats. Also, you want to ensure that the seats are adjustable to accommodate your sitting preference, and if you want a footrest, you can find them on some kayaks.

Drop-stitch technology

Drop-stitch technology attaches an air chamber’s inner and outer walls with textile threads. This allows for higher air pressure without expanding the air chamber, which creates a more rigid structure. A kayak with drop-stitch technology will feel more secure, paddle more efficiently across the water and withstand hazards better than a kayak that doesn’t. 

Skegs

A skeg is a fin that is attached underneath some inflatable kayaks. A skeg helps stabilize a kayak’s direction and keeps it from veering off course. The skeg and the kayak’s shape will determine how efficiently it glides over water and how consistent the directional stability is when paddling through choppy water.

Equipment

You’ll need some equipment before heading out on a kayaking adventure. Some kayaks come with a complete set of starter equipment, but most only come with an air pump and paddles. An electric air pump can inflate a kayak much faster than a manual unit, and do so effortlessly. You’ll also need a lifejacket for safety. Also, if you want to use your inflatable kayak for fishing, some models have fishing rod holders.

FAQ

Q. How much does an inflatable kayak cost?

A. There are many terrific options for casual kayaking in the $100-$300 range, while mid-tier models with a more rugged build usually cost $300-$600. However, if you want something with superior construction and design, plenty of storage space and high-quality equipment, you can expect to spend anywhere from $600 to $1,500.

Q. Do I have to worry about punctures with my inflatable kayak?

A. Inflatable kayaks are made from strong PVC fabric and sometimes have military-grade materials incorporated into their construction. They’re designed to be flexible but extremely tough and usually have multiple layers, meaning you’d have to puncture more than one layer to create a hole. Consequently, piercing the kayak during normal usage doesn’t occur easily, but it could happen if you’re not careful.

Q. How difficult is it to fold up the kayak for transportation?

A. As long as you remove all the air from the kayak, it will fold easily. Some people manually squeeze all the air out using the valves, but you can also use an electric air pump with a deflate function.

Q. Which parts of an inflatable kayak tend to show wear first?

A. Closely watch the areas around the kayak’s valves for leaks. You might also see leaks near seams in the material. Avoid dragging the kayak on the ground, whether inflated or deflated, as it can cause wear on the materials, which could lead to a leak.

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