Why should I use an inflatable kayak?

An inflatable kayak is preferred over a hard shell kayak for two reasons: they are much easier to transport & store and they also can be really affordable. So overall, they might be the most accessible way to get on the water. They’re generally very stable compared to hardshell kayaks. Some of them would be hard to capsize on calm water even intentionally. Stability in kayaks correlates with width and inflatable kayaks are usually quite wide. There are disadvantages as well, most importantly, they are slower than hardshell kayaks. They can’t reach the same speeds nor are they usually as good at being able to go straight as hardshell kayaks. A smaller but still an existing concern is that they can get punctured and therefore have some inherent safety concerns.

Here are the general inflatable kayak types:

Category I Inflatable Kayak

The first category are the kayaks made of a single layer of thin vinyl. Think of a cheap inflatable mattress which is the same material that these ones are made of. This material is cheap and easy to manufacture therefore these kayaks will bethe cheapest ones by far. These are great kayaks to have relaxed shorter paddles in good weather. They are really cheap and you might score a used one for close to nothing. However, getting a good big manual pump and a good pedal is recommended as well. Usually the pump that they come with them is not very good. Many people assume that electric pumps are faster and easier than manual ones but that’s usually not the case because you need a electric source nearby. Another advantage of these kayaks is that they are really small when folded.

Category II Inflatable Kayak

The second category are kayaks that are made of the same cheap vinyl but are encased in protective fabric. This makes them much more protected from puncturing and UV light exposure. The major disadvantage of these kayaks is associated with vinyl chambers inside the zippers, which makes them less stable. They’re significantly more durable and they do just fine on multiday kayaking trips. If you don’t mind the drying issue, they are quite a good choice.

Category III Inflatable Kayak

These are the kayaks made of thick single-layer materials like PVC and other rubbers. They are the most durable materials and can withstand quite a bit of abuse. These kayaks would be hard to puncture and would be more likely to have leaks around seams. They are also more likely to last significantly longer than the other two category of inflatable kayaks. Drop stitch technology allows boat makers to make inflatable chambers that are flat instead of round. The way they do it is that they have thousands of strings inside connecting the two sides. What this translates to are inflatable kayaks that have chambers of about the same shape as a hard shell and also have high pressure so they are rigid and behave more like a hardshell kayak. They have only one potential area of improvement left which are the seams between the floor and the sides. These are highly recommended and are better than the other two mentioned types.