Inflatable Kayaks – Good or Bad?

 Although general opinion might compare inflatable kayaks more to pool toys than to high-end sports equipment, the truth of the matter is that those days are long gone.

 But before you decide to embrace an inflatable as your primary kayak, there are certain things we should discuss and clarify.

 Types of Inflatable Kayaks

 The main difference most people will point out if asked about types of kayaks will probably be the Sit-In. Those where you ride with your legs enclosed inside its cockpit (these being the most common image that comes to mind when we think about kayaks of any kind). And the Sit-On-Top, which has a broader open deck instead.

 But these two are far from being the only type of inflatable kayaks that companies have to offer. So let’s try to list a few of the most popular, its recommended use and characteristic features.

  • Inflatable Recreational Kayaks: these are designed for casual paddlers, from the relax-seeking (more interested in day kayaking trips on calmer waters such as lakes and slow-moving rivers). To the more adventurous ones (those who enjoy braving up to Class II rapids).

 Also worth mentioning is the fact that while shorter in length (under 12 ft.), recreational kayaks are ampler than others for added stability. This, joined with their comfort and versatility, make these boats the perfect choice for entry-level kayakers.

  • Inflatable Touring Kayaks: also known as Flatwater Kayaks, these boats are specifically designed for long-distance paddling through tranquil waters.

 Touring kayaks are usually long and narrow to favor ease of gliding through the waters. And among their most distinctive design features are the adding of rudders or tracking fins for maximising control and tracking.

  • Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks: whitewater-rapids cruising demands a highly specialised and strong-built kayak. That’s why these boats have been designed and crafted to do one thing above all else. That is to run, endure and conquer the nastiest, most forceful whitewater rapids you can find. As well as survive being pounded by massive waves, waterfalls over ledges, or devastating impacts against rocks and trees.

The whitewater kayak’s most noticeable design features are its shorter and broader shapes. They allow for easy manoeuvrability in rapids (Classes I – IV) and the absence of tracking fins.

  • Inflatable Fishing Kayaks: a fishing kayak differ from the other blow-up kayaks listed here in many ways, ranging from its accessorising (rod holders and D-rings to help secure fishing equipment as well as others), the presence of chiselled floors for added stability when anglers need to stand up while fishing, and its self-bailing capabilities, this is, the addition of mesh drain holes that avoid the possibility that your kayak might end up getting swamped with water.

 Among the extensive offer of fishing kayaks available, we could agree that sit-on-tops (or Canoe Style) are the best bet. They let you move around comfortably inside the vessel while checking out the waters or just trying to change or access any gear item.

  • Inflatable Canoe Style Kayaks: these are pretty much the inflatable version of a hard-shell canoe. Their main difference is that they have higher walls than other sit-on-top watercraft. As well as the use of a single blade paddle rather than the more standard double-bladed kayak paddles.

 Whether it’s recreational, touring, fishing or whitewater, keep in mind that kayaks are offered in various seating options. Designed for one, two, or three paddlers, some of them even come with adjustable seat locations that allow for solo or tandem paddling trips.

Pros / Cons

 When deciding what kind of kayak you should invest in, inflatable kayaks have many points in their favour. But also a few characteristics that make you wonder if a blow-up vessel is a suitable choice for you to make. Here we will point out some common doubts regarding this particular dilemma.

  • Price: when compared against hard-shells, an inflatable kayak is generally a most affordable option, as some of them go for even less than $200, thus making inflatables even more fitting for beginners or casual kayakers who are happy just paddling around in a peaceful lake or pond.

 However, if what you are looking for is to put some miles on your kayak, then your principal concern would be its reliability. And sadly, most of the cheaper options are not built as solidly as their most expensive counterparts. And by “more expensive” we are talking around $700 here, so choose wisely.

  • Storage: when deflated and packed inside its storage bag, an inflatable kayak will not take up a huge amount of storage space, so it will fit inside any closet or even under your bed, it makes inflatables the perfect choice for those enthusiasts that live in small apartments but still enjoy paddling from time to time.

 Just make sure to let it dry directly in the sun for as long as possible. And wipe up the water that gets into every nook and cranny with an absorbent towel before folding and packing it away. 

Remember that any residues of mud, seaweed, and water will make your kayak scruffy with a foul smell and it will also deteriorate the material. Besides, it might even cause you some health issues.

  • Transportation: same as with storage, a blow-up kayak’s foldability makes carrying it from place to place an easier task. They don’t require any rigging and can fit perfectly into a car trunk or even take it with you on an aeroplane trip to be enjoyed while on vacation.

Unfortunately, this very characteristic can also make inflating our kayak a daunting task. It takes quite a bit of time, either done manually or by using an electric pump.

  • Durability: recreational watercraft-making companies have figured out ways to harness construction processes previously reserved almost exclusively to military and commercial operators. This has allowed them to build professional, high-quality products whose durability levels make them perfect for the needs of an increasing number of paddle enthusiasts.

There are inflatable kayaks nowadays that are almost as sturdy as a regular hard-shell indeed. However, it is also true that these levels of resistance come with an elevated price tag.

Safety and Difficulties

 One of the main concerns expressed by people has to do with how safe embarking on an inflatable kayak would be. And you could say that blow-up kayaks are just as safe as rigid ones, but keep in mind that there is always the possibility of suffering a mishap.

Most problems are often associated either with poorly constructed kayaks by cheap manufacturers or design issues that may affect a generally well-built kayak. Some of the most common complications include:

  • Sometimes an inflatable kayak is made of materials that are very difficult to reinforce. This means that whenever it suffers a puncture, it gets difficult to fix due to the recommended patch material not being compatible with that of your kayak. And this may give us a real headache.
  • Sure, there are different kinds of inflatable kayaks, each with their own qualities and functionalities. But at the end of the day, all are prone to damage inflicted by rocks and other sharp objects. So, we recommend you avoid kayaking in shallow waters as it exponentially increases the risk of damaging your kayak (especially if you are a beginner)
  • Due to their lightweight nature, manoeuvrability is one of the main positive characteristics of inflatable kayaks. But also because of this, it demands more energy from the paddler to regain control and steer the boat in the right direction during heavy winds and waves. Otherwise, it will be easily blown away by the wind.
  • Watch out for air leakage, because this is probably the worst problem you may have while on a paddling trip. Usually caused by a damaged air valve or overheating from the sun, air leakage causes sagging, which in turn will make your kayak extremely difficult to paddle. So, pay special attention to this.

 In conclusion, kayaking does not have to be an over-expensive hobby, and inflatable kayaks, due to its functionality, portability, ease of use, and transport go to prove just that. We sincerely hope you find this guide resourceful and helpful when making your decision whether inflatable kayaks are good or not for you! So while keeping in mind your own needs, budget and preferences, make sure you have fun and Happy Kayaking!.

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