When it comes to exploring the sights of a beautiful destination on water, it doesn’t get much better than kayaking. It can be a serene, blissful experience and can also be a heart-pumping and muscle-flexing adventure.
No matter what your preferred kayaking style is, you’re on the lookout for an inflatable kayak that you can add to your list of travel equipment. If kayaking is on your list of top activities, it makes sense to invest in an inflatable kayak that you can pack up and use wherever and whenever you want.
So if you’re looking for a handy guide to the best inflatable kayaks on the market right now – you’ve arrived at the right place! Below, I’ll cover all of the need to know kayak models to get you out on the water as quickly as possible.
No matter what your experience level and budget are, I’m sure will point you to your perfect vessel.
Let’s get right to it…
Table of Contents
- Quick Answer: The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2020
- Best Inflatable Kayak Overall
- Best 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
- Best 2 Person Inflatable Kayak for Beginners
- Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak
- Best Sit-on-Top Inflatable Fishing Kayak
- Best Inflatable Kayak for Weekenders
- Best Inflatable Sea Kayak
- Best Ultralight Packraft for Travel
- Best Inflatable Packraft for Multi-day Expeditions
- How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak for You
- Final Thoughts on the Best Inflatable Kayak
Quick Answer: The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2020
- Best Inflatable Kayak Overall – Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Inflatable Kayak
- Best 2 Person Inflatable Kayak – STAR Raven 2 Tandem Inflatable Kayak
- Best 2 Person Inflatable Kayak for Beginners – STAR Paragon Tandem Inflatable Kayak
- Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak – Aquaglide Blackfoot Angler 125 HB Inflatable Kayak
- Best Sit-on-Top Inflatable Fishing Kayak – STAR Rival Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayak
- Best Inflatable Kayak for Weekenders – Aquaglide Deschutes 130 Inflatable Kayak
- Best Inflatable Sea Kayak – Advanced Elements Expedition Elite Inflatable Kayak
- Best Ultralight Packraft for Travel – Advanced Elements PackLite Inflatable Kayak
- Best Inflatable Packraft for Multi-day Expeditions – Kokopelli Nirvana Packraft with Spray Deck
|Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Inflatable Kayak||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
|STAR Raven 2 Tandem Inflatable Kayak||Check on REICheck on NRS|
|STAR Paragon Tandem Inflatable Kayak||Check on NRS|
|Aquaglide Blackfoot Angler 125 HB Inflatable Kayak||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
|STAR Rival Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayak||Check on REICheck on NRS|
|Aquaglide Deschutes 130 Inflatable Kayak||Check on REI|
|Advanced Elements Expedition Elite Inflatable Kayak||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
|Advanced Elements PackLite Inflatable Kayak||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
|Kokopelli Nirvana Packraft with Spray Deck||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
|Aquaglide Noyo 90 Inflatable Kayak||Check on REICheck on Amazon|
Best Inflatable Kayak Overall
If you want a kayak that has everything a solid kayak should have – performance, portability, easy set-up and cutting edge design – this is your winner!
It’s made of PVC-coated polyester with aluminum rims for maximum durability with a length of 10 feet 5 inches, 34-inch width and 11.5-inch depth. It weighs 36 pounds and offers plenty of onboard space without sacrificing legroom for a comfortable ride. Long trips feel even comfier with its high-support, adjustable padded seat.
It’s tracking is exceptional – right up there with the tracking you’d find in a hard-shell day-touring kayak – thanks to its rigid aluminum frame reinforced bow. The stern, also with aluminum frame reinforcement, functions as a skeg, further increasing the tracking performance.
One of the best things about the Advanced Frame inflatable kayak is there’s nothing complicated about this bad boy’s setup. Simply unfold, inflate and you’re good to go!
Best 2 Person Inflatable Kayak
Kayaking can be a great solo sport, but it’s also fun to bring someone along to enjoy the ride. It’s nice to have the option! With the STAR Raven II Tandem, you can easily switch between solo and tandem touring with its adjustable seat positions.
This versatile 2 person kayak is 12 ft. 2 in. and weighs 38 pounds, making it roomy enough for 2 to paddle in comfort while being compact enough (and crucially, light enough) to take with you on any adventure.
Like most STAR kayaks, the PVC material they are constructed from is tough and can survive bumps with sharp boulders, sticks, etc.
Again, the setup is super quick and easy. No assembly required whatsoever – unfold, inflate, attach seats, go! Pump and repair kit included.
Best 2 Person Inflatable Kayak for Beginners
If you’re new to kayaking and are looking for a compact and reliable recreational kayak that makes for awesome flatwater exploration, we recommend this Voyage 2 tandem inflatable kayak by Advanced Elements.
It has everything you need for some awesome flatwater exploration while being easy to set up and transport. It’s polyester/PVC tarpaulin construction gives it a durable, compact design – measuring 11 feet and 2 inches long and weighing just 32 pounds – that allows you to just fold it up and pack it away anywhere!
This beginner’s 2 person kayak has removable highback seats with 3 available seating positions for your choice of a tandem or solo paddling. Bring along some snacks and cold drinks that you can tuck away in the convenient seat pockets and bottle holders and enjoy the ride!
Check out the 1 person STAR Paragon Kayak on REI.
Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak
For kayakers searching for an kayak that can be used for flatwater paddling and for fishing, look no further than the Aquaglide Blackfoot Angler.
It’s lightweight at just over 38 pounds and 12 feet 8 inches in length, giving it plenty of space for one paddler but also has the capacity for 2. This inflatable fishing kayak has a width with an extra 39 inches and hard-bottom floor that give it extra overall and standing stability for a smoother, more secure feel.
The Blackfoot inflatable kayak doesn’t miss a detail when it comes to accommodating fishing needs with 7 Scotty amounts available that can be customized with rod holders and any other accessories an angler’s heart desires. No need to worry about a fishing cooler; the Blackfoot includes one with 4 built-in rod holders that secures easily to the kayak.
There’s even a removable platform for the Rugged Core seat that allows for a higher seating position – perfect for fishing. This kayak has it all – hook, line and sinker!
Best Sit-on-Top Inflatable Fishing Kayak
The STAR Rival is the ideal vessel for the kayaker that wants the option to stand, sit, paddle and cast during their kayaking excursion. It has a 6 inch-thick deck that inflates to a firm 8-10 psi for maximum versatility.
As a solo adventurer, you’ll get plenty of leeway with 12 ½ feet of space for all the fishing gear, tackle and any ride-along accessories you want. The removable suspended-mesh, aluminum-framed seats provide the ideal position for casting, fish sighting and paddling.
As far as having sufficient attachment points for your favorite fishing accessories – like rod holders and anchor locks – the Rival’s 5 Scotty Mount Bases will have you covered. It’s the best blow up kayak choice for any adventurous solo angler!
Best Inflatable Kayak for Weekenders
The Aquaglide Deschutes 130 is the perfect all-purpose kayak for weekend warriors looking for fun-filled, recreational days out on the water. Whether you’re paddling solo, with a friend or partner – or even want to bring a child or dog onboard – this trusty vessel will meet all your needs!
Weighing only 29 pounds but with 13 feet in length, the Deschutes 130 offers 400 lb. capacity to accommodate not only the companions you’d like to bring along but also any fishing gear, food, drinks and accessories you need to make your excursion complete. As for every weekend mission – your time is valuable – so why spend more time with the set up? Not very interesting. In line with other Aquaglide kayaks, the setup for this boat is straightforward and easy. Sorted.
For added ease and convenience, this kayak for weekenders rolls up into its own bag that can be easily stored in the trunk of a car or closet. When you’re ready to hit the water, just take it out of the bag, inflate, arrange the seat and get to paddling!
Best Inflatable Sea Kayak
Yes, it’s technically not an inflatable kayak, but it is extremely portable. The thing about an inflatable kayak for sea journeys, is that you really shouldn’t be using an inflatbale kayak. The Oru Beach LT instead gives you an option with awesome packability and ease of disassembly with durability much, much closer to that of a hardshell.
Measuring at 12-feet, a raised keel and the angular bottom makes this kayak able to cut through the water with ease. With a large cockpit and ample storage space (with a carrying capacity up to 300 lb) you’re able to bring plenty of extra gear on your water-borne trip. Unfortunately, this added breadth to the cockpit means that you’re more likely to gather water as you paddle.
If it wasn’t for the incredible ease to assemble, we wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending this over an inflatable sea kayak. However the stability and durability of this kayak combined with it’s supreme portablity makes it an easy recommendation.
Best Ultralight Packraft for Travel
All savvy adventure travelers know that the key to traveling is packing light. So when you want to abide by this rule and have the luxury of bringing your kayak along with you, and have more water type options to choose from than with an inflatable canoe, the Kokopelli Packraft Rogue-Lite is your answer!
Weighing in at only 5 lbs. 8 oz. and boasting a compact size of
12 x 9 x 6 inches when compressed, there’s nowhere you can’t take this little guy. It’s perfect for transporting to off-the-beaten-track spots that you’re itching to explore on water. Its
thermoplastic polyurethane-coated nylon construction makes this travel blow up kayak both durable and simple to pack into its small carry bag with inflatable seat.
I love the freedom that the Kokopelli Rogue-Lite packraft gives you. Never miss the perfect paddling opportunity again by traveling with your own kayak – when you see the spot, just unpack, inflate and go!
Best Inflatable Packraft for Multi-day Expeditions
If hitting the whitewater of backcountry rivers is more your style, the Kokopelli Nirvana packraft is definitely the way to go. Equipped with a spray deck and watertight TiZip storage system, this kayak is perfect for multi-day whitewater rafting expeditions.
Don’t worry about being able to hike it into your favorite rafting spot either; it weighs only 10 pounds and can be packed down to a 24x9x6 compact size. To make things even easier, the Nirvana inflatable packraft includes an inflation bag system that inflates the vessel in under 3 minutes; no pump needed.
This raft is built with durable thermoplastic polyurethane-coated nylon material and all the watertight details needed for some serious rafting fun. Enjoy the ride!
How to Choose the Best Inflatable Kayak for You
Above you’ve seen my top picks for different types of kayaks – there are a lot of choices! But if you’re looking to shop around to make sure you’re ultimately choosing the best kayak that’s right for YOU, I wanted to provide this quick guide to help you out.
It’s important to take your time when choosing the best kayak because it’s not an item that you can exactly try on and return, like a pair of shoes. To avoid disappointment, be thorough in your research criteria. There are a variety of key factors you want to consider while going through the shopping process, so let’s take a closer look…
1. Size and Weight
Obviously, a kayak isn’t a “one size fits all” piece of equipment – no less so than a bike or a surfboard. So being aware of the size and weight of your vessel is important. It has to “fit” you in order to best serve you for the ways and locations you wish to enjoy
If you’re more of a beginner paddler, you’ll probably feel more comfortable with a kayak that provides more stability. In this case, a wider, heavier kayak is probably a better choice. On the flip side, heavier boats are more difficult to turn and maneuver; which is fine if you’re new to the sport and will be opting for a more mellow ride.
For more advanced paddlers who want more speed and agility, a lighter model makes sense. Just be sure that you’re confident about your balancing skills on the water because a light vessel will feel much less stable!
Also, you need to consider your own size and weight. The same size kayak will feel quite different to a 125-pound adult versus a 200-pound adult. Or if you’re over 6 feet tall, a small kayak won’t make for a very comfortable ride!
Be sure to pay attention to the length and width – and also the packing measurements if you plan on traveling or trekking long distances with your kayak in tow. Make a note of the kayak’s total weight capacity too, especially with a 2 person kayak if you plan on paddling with a partner or friend.
2. Materials Used
The price of a kayak usually has a lot to do with the materials that are used for its construction. The cheapest is tough vinyl but the most common is PVC-coated fabric. On the more expensive end of the spectrum are Hypalon and Nitrilon.
PVC is affordable and easy to patch, which is why it’s the most popular choice of kayak material. It waterproofs the vessel and provides ample stability. The more expensive brand-name options, Hypalon and Nitrilon, are made of synthetic materials and fabrics like neoprene. They are lighter and allow for more compact packaging and are also UV resistant, unlike PVC.
So depending on the conditions you plan to take your kayak into, and your budget, you’ll want to take these different materials into consideration when choosing the best kayak for you.
Whether you’re using your kayak for leisurely rides on a lazy river or bumpier rides on whitewater, you must always keep safety top of mind.
First, in order to be approved as safe for open water, the kayak model must be NMMA certified. All major brands will have this certification, but if you’re researching more obscure manufacturers, make sure this step is covered.
Make sure that the kayak you choose is appropriate for the types of conditions you intend to use it for. A vessel that isn’t wide or heavy enough may not be safe for certain elements.
Next, you’ll want to choose a watercraft that has the space and/or necessary accessories needed to accommodate safety equipment. An absolute must is wearing a lifejacket, or PFD (personal floating device) that’s securely fastened at all times. Make sure they’re appropriately sized for the paddler onboard. For more rugged conditions, wear a helmet for added head protection should you get bumped out near rocks or debris.
Last, but certainly not least, consider the purpose of your kayak. Will the kayak be used for fishing or rafting? Lakes and rivers or the open sea? Where and how you plan to use your boat will dictate the type of kayak that’s best for you.
For paddling on flat water, you’ll want a longer kayak with skegs for better tracking. For quick-moving water, like in rocky-bottomed rivers, a more maneuverable and stable boat will be necessary.
If you plan on spending hours out on the water – like for fishing or longer excursions – you’ll want to prioritize comfort. The seat options – padded, adjustable, high back – and legroom will make a difference on how enjoyable a day-long journey will be. Extra storage space and added accessories also matter; having cup holders and space for a small cooler becomes more than an optional luxury if you plan on enjoying a drink and having some lunch onboard!
Also, how much you intend to use your kayak – weekly, seasonally or just occasionally while you travel – it will make a difference on how much money you want to spend and how compact/travel friendly you need it to be. You may want to prioritize the type of material and will be worst investing a bit more if it will be used frequently and undergo lots of wear. If your kayak is just meant to be used while you travel, choosing a lightweight model that’s easily transported will be a top consideration.
Final Thoughts on the Best Inflatable Kayak
Choosing the best kayak for your own needs is not an easy task. You really need to know what you want to use it for, the types of conditions you expect to use it in, how much you’re willing to spend and how much you intend to use it. In many cases, choosing the right vessel with the proper features is a safety issue, so please choose according to your specific needs.
Most importantly, kayaking is a beautiful activity and such an amazing way to connect with nature. So I hope you’ve found my list of best inflatable kayak reviews helpful and that you’re inspired to hit the water! But do your extensive research first. Even with the most budget-friendly models, a kayak is still an investment decision and one you want to be happy with for a long time to come.
Having said all that, let me encourage you to go for it! I know firsthand the pleasure kayaking brings and the unmatched moments you can experience paddling out on the water. Grand adventures await…enjoy!
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Chris Lininger is a writer, photographer, and guide from California. He is an advocate for off-beat responsible travel and the preservation of the world’s wild places and spaces. Chris is also a founding member of Epic Backpacker Tours and leads expeditions to Pakistan throughout the year. He is currently riding out the pandemic in Bali. Follow his adventures on Instagram.