Buying a quality kayak is an investment of both time and money. You are going to want a boat that fits your style of kayaking and budget. One of the first questions you will need to answer is “hardshell or inflatable kayak?”
So, why buy an inflatable kayak you ask? It is a fair question. Years ago, inflatable kayaks were little more than glorified inner tubes. There were a limited number of manufacturers and models, and the boats were often difficult to maneuver on the water. But those days are long past! Today, there are several top manufacturers like Aquaglide , NRS, AIRE, Sea Eagle, Star and Advanced Elements.
Each of these vendors produce responsive, nimble boats for a variety of uses including whitewater, flatwater, touring and fishing.
Here are a few reasons why you may want to consider an inflatable kayak for your next kayak purchase.
Pack It And Go
Sea Eagle inflatable kayaks include a traveling bag for easy transport and storage, like you see with the Sea Eagle FastTrack 385FT Inflatable Kayak Pro Tandem Package below.
Let’s face it, dragging a hardshell kayak to and from the water can be difficult. For smaller paddlers, the kayaks can be cumbersome to lift and maneuver. A typical trip involves hoisting the boat on top of your vehicle, strapping it down, driving to your destination, pulling the boat off your vehicle and carrying it to the water.
Inflatable Kayaks, by contrast, are easy to transport! Usually packed in their own traveling bag, they can be tossed in the back seat of your vehicle, or carried as a duffle or backpack. This is particularly handy if the water is more than just a few feet from the car.
Once unpacked, inflatables will need to be inflated, but this sounds worse than it is. Set up is largely self-explanatory and, with the assistance of a manual or motorized air pump, you should be ready to paddle in 10-20 minutes.
Performance & Handling
AIRE’s Force inflatable kayak is as responsive as any hardshell on the market.
Over the last decade or so, vendors have made dramatic improvements in inflatable kayak boat design. Many inflatables today are as fast, stable, and responsive as their hardshell cousins. A good example is AIRE’s Force IK which is designed to be quick and nimble in whitewater. Equipped with built-in float bags, the Force stays manageable when surfing waves, punching through holes and darting in and out of eddies.
If you are looking for a reliable flatwater boat, the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Convertible Elite kayak is just what you’re looking for! This versatile inflatable kayak can be paddled solo or with a friend, and features a rigid drop-stitch floor to provide paddling performance that rivals hardshell kayaks.
Optional conversion skirts create a closed deck kayak, giving you the additional warmth or protection from the elements (Conversion Decks and Spray Skirts sold separately).
While some more experienced kayakers prefer the stiffness of a hardshell boat, inflatable kayaks of today provide solid performance and handling making them perfect, and convenient, for most recreational boaters.
If the fact inflatable kayaks are filled with air makes you nervous, there is little need to worry. The fabric used to construct inflatables is extremely durable and puncture-resistant. You will have to work hard to put a hole in today’s inflatables. With reinforced seams and air valves, and multiple air chambers, they will stay reliably inflated. If you do experience a puncture, most come with repair kits that will allow you to get back out of the water quickly. Note too, that many inflatable kayak models include a multi- year manufacturer warranty, depending on the brand. Check the fine print for details.
Hardshell boats can take up a lot of space. Storing a hardshell kayak will often require a dedicated storage area, including storage racks or an overhead pulley system. Inflatable kayaks, by contrast, do not require a great deal of space. Each boat stores in its own bag that will fit easily in the garage, basement or on the shelf in most closets. One important maintenance reminder: prevent mold build up by thoroughly drying off your inflatable before storing it.
Years ago inflatables were generally less expensive than hardshells. But as inflatable kayak designs, durability and functionality have improved, prices have increased as well. Today, a quality hardshell will cost about the same as quality inflatable kayak — anywhere from several hundred dollars up to several thousand, depending on the model and its features.
As with any purchase, buying a kayak means balancing priorities, purpose, and passion. And if ease of transport and a little storage profile are your top considerations then, an Inflatable Kayak would be a perfect choice no matter what type of paddling you prefer!