The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2018: Leap Forward not Behind

Best Inflatable Kayaks, best kayaks

The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2018

The times are a changing these days, the best inflatable kayaks are starting to outsell many hardshell kayaks! This is a tell tale sign of the way perceptions are being shifting these days. Have you ever found yourself wanting a kayak or canoe but you simply do not have the room nor the space for it?

Think of all the fun paddling memories that you and your family could be embarking on but can’t because you don’t have the space. Insert the inflatable kayak into your life and these challenges are gone.

best inflatable kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are the best option for those who do not have any space, room nor way of transportation to lug giant canoes and kayaks to the Lake/ River/ Ocean. Chances are if you are on this page you are considering an inflatable kayak but are still relatively unsure. I don’t blame you really. As soon as anyone hears the word “inflatable” they think of something you blow up for a few uses only for it to pop dramatically or start a slow undramatic leak.

Instead I want you to liken your thinking to that of a tire. Think about it. You drive thousands of miles on an inflatable piece of rubber that can travel speeds of over 100 miles per hour. Rarely do they pop and often times they can last years. Now it’s time to apply that kind of thinking to an inflatable kayak.

Why an Inflatable Kayak?

  • They are Durable (often more so than hardshell)
  • They can fit in most closets
  • Transportation is easy, just throw it in the trunk or carry it with you!
  • You can easily travel with them to almost any destination
  • They are lighter than hardshell kayaks
  • They are Cost effective
  • More Expensive ones give similar performance to hardshell kayaks but are less expensive
  • The are Safer for families and dogs alike, no hard hull to wack your head on

These are a few of the major reasons why to own an inflatable kayak. I could go on, but then I would probably risk losing you! So here’s a video!

The Best Inflatable Kayaks:

advanced frame inflatable kayak

#1 Advanced Elements Advancedframe

Expedition Kayak

9.0/10 Rating
  • Great for Longer Trips
  • Made of High Quality Materials
  • Handles like a Sea Kayak

#2 Sea Eagle Razorlite

393rl

9.0/10 Rating
  • Supremly Fast on the water
  • Tracks Well
  • Comes with lots of accessories

#3 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame

Convertable Kayak

8.5/10 Rating
  • Very Versatile
  • Can handle lots of different conditions
  • Great Customer Rating

It is easy to get lost in all the criteria available for inflatable kayaks so let me just say this. It depends on you and what you want to use it for. Even though the Advancedframe Expedition Kayak is listed as the best inflatable kayak, doesn’t mean it’s the best for your needs. Choose a kayak that suits what are are looking for,  for example if you were looking for an inexpensive family kayak to have fun in you would turn to the Sea Eagle 370. If you were looking for a high quality inflatable fishing kayak to go RVing with you,  you would get a Hobie Mirage i12s.

With that in mind there are a few constants that we sticked by for picking the best inflatable kayak and best inflatable kayak under $500. We factored in Durability, Speed, Stability, Features and Value as Criteria.

The Best Inflatable Kayak Buyers Guide: What to Look for

  • A Respectable Brand
  • A Kayak with High Customer Satisfaction Ratings
  • The Material is Durable
  • Features Great Value
  • Is Simple enough to Pack and Unpack

Best Inflatable Kayaks Full Reviews

Tap (or Click) below to see Full Reviews)

Specs: L: 13’ W: 32” Weight: 42lbs Max Capaciy: 450 Lbs

Purpose: An Expedition Kayak that you can take in a variety of different conditions

Best For: Expeditions and Touring Purposes

Not the Best for: A Budget “Float and Dive” Kayak

Recommended Bodies of Water: Ocean’s, Bays , Larger Lakes

Materials: Drop Stitch, Aluminum Rib Frame, Welded Seams

Features:

  • Spring Valve
  • Adjustable Seat with inflatable Lumbar Support
  • Drop- Stitch Floor
  • Rudder Mount for Advanced Trek Kayak Rudder
  • Inflatable Combing to attach a Spray Skirt
  • Rubber Handles
  • Welded Seams
  • Bungee Deck Lacing
  • Skeg
  • D Ring Tie Down
  • Adjustable Foot Brace
  • Neoprene Knuckle Guard
  • Duffel Bag
  • Repair Kit

The best kayak on this list in terms of expedition purposes the Advanced Elements Advancedframe Expedition Kayak is a great touring kayak that can accompany you along multi day trips.

The Advancedframe Expedition Kayak is the king of inflatable kayaks in terms of on water performance. It can tackle a wide variety of conditions and sits low in the water. This is optimal because unlike many other inflatable kayaks that sit higher, the Advancedframe Expedition will not be pushed around too much by the wind. It’s pointy bow and stern shape is supported with an aluminum rib that allows the kayak to cut through water instead of float on top of it. This allows the kayak to handle very similarly to a hardshell kayak matching it’s tracking ability and speed on the water.

The Advancedframe can tackle a wide variety of conditions including calm lakes to choppier ocean waves. The Advanceframe is incredibly stable with a few customers citing that it is one of the most stable kayaks they have ever paddled. It can even  paddle next to ocean giants such as whales! See the video below.

There are two bundles you can get for this kayak. The Advancedframe Inflatable package and the Advancedframe Elite Package. The main difference between the two is that the Elite package comes with the drop stitch floor. The Drop Stitch Floor creates a stable hard base to the kayak that allows it to keep shape better which improves its tracking ability and on water performance. If you did not want to opt in to the elite bundle you can always just choose the regular Advanced Frame Inflatable package and add a backbone to it to improve tracking. There have been more than a few customers that have recommended the backbone or the drop stitch floor for tracking although you should only choose one or the other.

best inflatable kayak
Photo By force_fitness_norway Instagram

The AdvancedFrame Expedition kayak elite package includes the drop stitch floor, high back lumbar seat, repair kit, duffel bag as well as the rubber mount for the optional rudder accessory. Unfortunately, this kayak does not come with a paddle nor a pump which is this bundle’s major downfall. To be fair though a lot of other inflatable kayak bundles that come with these accessories usually cheap out on the materials and provide less than stellar paddles and air pumps.

I will also say that even though the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition kayak is rated the best inflatable kayak there are some thing that other kayaks do better such as storage options. There is some storage at the stern of the boat although after hearing multiple reports , many customers thought it could do with a bit more room. It is especially challenging for paddlers over 6’0 as their legs take up most of the room in the cockpit.

Overall the AdvancedFrame Expedition Kayak is the best inflatable kayak because if it’s on water performance, it is also one of the few on this list that would be able to handle multi day treks.

See The Full Review of the Advancedframe Expedition

What We Liked

  • Can Handle many different waterways and conditions admirably
  • Relatively easy to set up
  • Fast for an inflatable Kayak
  • Customisable with back bone,drop stitch floor or rudder system
  • Looks like a hardshell kayak
  • Drop Stitch material is extremely durable
  • Seat back has lumbar support
  • Handles more like a hardshell kayak than your traditional inflatable kayak
  • Foot Braces are adjustable

What We Didn’t Like

  • Not a lot of room for storage
  • Does not come with Paddle or Pump
  • Not the Best Kayak for folks over 6’1”

Specs: L: 12’ 12” W: 28” Weight: 33.5 Lbs Maximum Capacity: 500 Lbs

Purpose: A great Day Touring Kayak that is quick

Best For: Paddling fast, Good Tracking and On Water Performance

Not the Best for: Being used as a Budget Kayak

Recommended Bodies of Water: Oceans, Bays ,Lakes, Rivers

Materials: Drop Stitch, 1100 Decitex Reinforced Material

Features:

  • NMMA Certified
  • Front and Rear Spray Skirts
  • 2 Open and close drain valves
  • Large Removable Skeg
  • Adjustable Footrest
  • Wrap Around Sides
  • Pressure Pump with Gauge
  • AB40 Performance Paddle
  • Six D Rings
  • Seat
  • 3 Year Manufacturer’s defect Warranty
  • 7 Minute Inflation Time

The Sea Eagle Razorite 393rl is like the Ferrari or Mclaren of inflatable kayaks. This is because It features the same width as other sea kayaks and has a very trimmed shape. As far as on water performance this kayak is great in almost everything. It can take a wide array of different swells and does not get pushed around by the wind. One of the biggest compliments reported by customers is the way this kayak tracks and handles in the water. Some even clocked this kayak and said it went a full mile per hour faster than other inflatable kayaks. To make things even better the Razorlite 393rl is actually pretty stable as well. No it’s not the most stable inflatable kayak out there but considering it’s 28” Width it does a good job in this respect.

Sea Eagle have always been kind when it comes to including a good amount of accessories and the Razorlite is no different. This particular bundle comes with a removable rear skeg, AB40 Four Part Paddle, Tall Seat Back chair, contoured seat pad, adjustable foot rest, backpack,high pressure pump with inline pressure gauge, a repair kit as well as front and rear spray skirts. This gives you a package that you can easily plop into the water upon inflating without having to worry about ordering more accessories.

Speaking of inflating, the Razorlite 393rl has a speedy set up time of about 7 minutes, quicker if you use an electric pump. The Razorlite is also relatively lightweight because it does not have a fabric cover that gets waterlogged. As a result it actually weighs less than the AdvancedFrame kayaks. This makes it an ideal kayak to own if you are a smaller person who does not want to lug around a heavy kayak bundle to the lake. It’s backpack is particularly handy with that ;).

The Sea Eagle Razorlite also allows you to carry a wide array of accessories with you while paddling. It’s 500 lb maximum Capacity allows you to bring almost 250 plus pounds of gear with you while its open cockpit gives you plenty of room to store those things. I have heard anything from coolers to border collies going into this boat!

>>What Customers Say<<

Overall there were a few qualms about this kayak and a few of them were directed at the foot rest and the seat. There have been a few people who disliked the foot rest because of its position is situated a little bit closer to the chair than some people liked. Others did not like the seat too much as one customer stated that after about an hour the seat started to feel hard and uncomfortable.

There were also some customer concerns about the ease of packing the sea eagle back up into its backpack. It appears it is one of those inflatable kayaks where you have to follow the instructions to the tee the first few times packing it up.

See The Full Review of the Sea Eagle 393rl

 

What We Liked

  • Fast on the Water
  • Handled a wide variety of different swells
  • Tracks well
  • Lots of room to put gear
  • High maximum Capacity Rating
  • Light Weight
  • Durable
  • High Customer Satisfaction Rating
  • Maneuvers Well
  • Quick Inflation Time
  • Comes with a lot of accessories

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • A bit Tippier than other inflatable Kayaks
  • Foot rest could be placed better
  • Seat gets a bit uncomfortable after a while
  • Hard to stow back in backpack
  • No Pump or Paddle

Specs: L: 15’ W: 32” Weight: 52 Lbs Maximum Capacity: 550 Lbs

Purpose: A Day Touring Tandem/Solo Kayak

Best For: Couples, Single Use for Taller people, day touring

Not the Best For: People Looking for a light Kayak

Recommended Bodies of Water: Oceans, Bays ,Lakes, Rivers

Materials: 600 Denier Polyester Laminate with Ripstop Material,  Aluminum Rib Frame, Welded Seams

Features

  • Built in Aluminum Ribs in bow and stern
  • Three layers of puncture resistant material
  • Three Seat Locations for single or tandem open or closed off use
  • Spring Valve
  • Two Adjustable Back Supports
  • D Ring Tie Downs
  • Double Coated Fabric
  • Paddle Holders
  • Customizable with Drop stitch floor or back bone (sold separately)
  • Bungee Deck Lacing
  • Skeg
  • Duffel Bag
  • Repair Kit

The AdvancedFrame Convertible, not to be confudes with the AE1012 is a great all in one kayak that gives you some good on water performance to boot! Most importantly it is very versatile and allows you the option to paddle solo or tandem. Not just that, it allows you to run the kayak in three different configurations. Double Deck Conversion, Single Dec Conversion and Open Deck. These Deck conversions allow you to turn this open deck kayak into a “sea kayak style” closed off deck that allows for you to tackle rougher waters and not having to worry about too much water getting in. Unfortunately though, these Deck conversions are sold separately. You can still choose to paddle solo or tandem with the open deck as this package does come with two seats.

best inflatable kayaks

Being a tandem/ solo kayak means that should you paddle solo you will have a lot of room in this kayak. While it’s quality is not as impressive as the AdvancedFrame Expedition it can still be used for multi day paddling excursions. In Fact if you are a bit of a heavier packer this may be the preferred vessel for you to paddle.

In terms of on water performance the AdvancedFrame Convertible does a good job. While it may not get as high marks as the Advance Frame Expedition or the Sea Eagle Razorlite 393rl it is not far behind. Especially if you added either the backbone or the Drop Stitch floor. Thanks to its length the tracking ability on this kayak is quite good. Add it’s skeg and it’s almost as good as any recreational hardshell kayak. Infact some customers have even boldly stated that they “blew past” 14’ hardshell kayaks. This is all dependant on how much you inflate this kayak though. If it is under inflated it will not provide the same results.

This kayak takes about 20 minutes to set up first time and about a 15 minute set up time once you get the hang of it. This pales in comparison to the Razorlite which takes roughly 7 minutes, but this is because it is about 3 feet longer, has more seats and needs to be properly fitted with the cover as well as aluminum stern and bow rib installation. This seemed to be the main problem with the Advanced Frame Convertible, as a few people complained about it being hard to put together.  There were also a few complaints directed at the seats being uncomfortable, although the majority of the people seemed satisfied with the seats provided. Once customer even went on to state that they put Sea Eagle Seats into their Advancedframe Convertible.  

>>What Customers Say<<

Overall this is a great Jack of all trades inflatable kayak. It does everything well but nothing exceptionally well. Still though, many customers have sworn by it and say it is an ample replacement for a hard shell recreational kayak. It should also be stated that you should follow the instructions for inflation for this and other inflatable kayaks. I say this because some of the customers who took pictures of their kayaks did not look to be properly inflated.

What We Liked

  • Great Versatility
  • A good amount of storage room
  • Great for taller solo travellers
  • Can handle a variety of different water conditions
  • Can be used as a Solo or Tandem Kayak
  • Can be used for Expeditions or Day Touring
  • Can have optional Advanced Elements Accessories added
  • Relatively Quick on the water
  • Mostly Positive Customer Reviews
  • Many People have had this kayak for over 5 years with no big issues
  • Very Durable due to high quality materials used

What We Didn’t Like

  • Very Heavy for an Inflatable kayak at 52 lbs
  • Longer Set up time
  • A few complaints about the seats provided
  • No Included Pump or Paddle

Specs: L: 12’ W: 36” Weight: 53 Lbs Fitted, Fully Rigged: 82.4 Lbs Maximum Capacity: 500 Lbs

Purpose: A Multi Purpose Pedaling Kayak

Best For: Day Touring, Fishing, with the option of pedaling or paddling

Not the Best for: People Looking for a Cheap Kayak

Recommended Bodies of Water: Oceans, Bays ,Lakes, Rivers

Materials: 1000 Denier PVC

Features

  • Vantage CTi Seat
  • Integrated Rudder
  • Hobie Mirage Drive
  • Twist and Stow Rudder
  • Sail Mount
  • Four Piece Paddle
  • Large Cargo Bungee Tie Downs

 

By far the most expensive inflatable kayak on our list, the Hobie Mirage i12s is a great multipurpose technical kayak that allows to you to either pedal or paddle your way to your destination. The concept is simple really, our strongest muscles in our bodies comes from our legs not our arms, as a result Hobie constructed the Mirage Drive. The Mirage Drive is a pedal drive that you push back and forward with your feet that makes the fins do a criss crossing movement. When in shallow water you can simply pedal in short movements to let the fins rest against the bottom of the kayak. It is similar to it’s hard shelled cousins the Pro Angler 12 and the Mirage Outback  See Video below

If you still have your mouth dropped in awe after looking at the expensive price tag I’m sure you are not alone. Your next question might be but what am I paying for? Besides the Mirage Drive the i12s also features the Vantage CTi Seating and an integrated rudder. We will talk about the seat in the next paragraph. There are few inflatable kayak models that are rudder compatible and and even fewer that include it in a package. The Hobie Twist and Stow Rudder allows you to deploy and fasten the rudder with a pull of a hande. The rudder is controlled with a knob at the left side of your seat that allows you to steer right or left.

best inflatable kayaks
Photo by Fogh Marine Instagram

The Vantage CTi seat is probably the most comfortable seat you can put on an inflatable kayak. Think about it for a second though, oftentimes you will have to cut your paddling adventure short because our back starts to get uncomfortable.  This happens to me constantly when I use one of my kayaks so as a result I can only get maybe two hour max in terms of paddling. If you had a comfortable seat you can maximize your time on the water for up to 8 hours if you pack appropriately. That’s more time spent on the water per session which gives you more use out of something that you enjoy doing.

best fishing kayak, hobie pro angler 12, best inflatable kayaks

We’ve spent all this time explaining the features now let’s get into it’s on water performance. For Comparison purposes we will use the Hobie Hardshell kayaks. It’s on water performance is one of it’s real strong suits, it tracks just as well as a hardshell Hobie thanks to its pronounced bow and rudder. It’s speed is also not too far off from the Pro Angler and Mirage Outback which is a tad bit surprising. Other customers really liked the fact that they can spend endless hours fishing and paddling on the river, one of the caught 29 trout in 3 days! This is also a great kayak for bird watching, because it is silent in the water and there is no clunking that would happen at the side of a plastic kayak.

What We Liked

  • Is faster than most kayaks due to pedal power
  • Stable in the water
  • Great for Fishing
  • Great full Body Workout (Pedal and Paddle)
  • Tracks well
  • Comes with Rudder system
  • Comfortable seat that you can sit in for hours at a time
  • Lots of Space available
  • Very Durable exterior

What We Didn’t Like

  • Very Expensive Price Tag
  • Some reports of seam failures after a few years in the sun
  • Needs to be properly maintained

Specs: L: 14’6” W: 38” Weight: 40 Lbs Maximum Capacity: 600 Lbs

Purpose: A Day Touring Tandem Kayak

Best For: Couples, Single Use for Taller people, day touring,

Not the Best for: People Looking for a Fast Kayak

Recommended Bodies of Water: Oceans, Bays ,Lakes, Rivers

Materials: 600 Denier Polyester , Duratex heavy duty polyester fabric reinforced hull,X Beam Technology, Durable PVC beam Floor

Features

  • Splash Guard
  • Adjustable Elastic Straps
  • Heavy Duty Velcro Straps
  • Rod Holders
  • Paddle Keepers
  • UV Resistant
  • Floor Draining
  • Two PRO-Formance Seats
  • One Saddle Seat
  • Travel Bag
  • Quick Release Fin
  • Two Adjustable Foot Rests
  • Repair Kit

 

The Columbia XP Tandem is a feature rich inflatable kayak that has the highest maximum capacity on this list at 600 lbs. It is also advertised to hold up to 3 people although to be realistic I would not sit three grown people in this kayak. Maybe two adults and a small child or dog at most. Perhaps the most compelling thing about this kayak is the fact that it has a lot of different accessories included with it. Some of which include fishing rod holders, mesh pockets, Fin and Three different kinds of seats. These features coupled with the fact that it is 38” wide makes it an excellent inflatable fishing kayak.

The Columbia XP Tandem’s on water performance is great for leisure paddles or day trips along the coast. When the fin is on,  this kayak actually paddles quite well and it’s tracking is on point. I would not use this kayak to travel great distances though because it’s 38” frame will create a good amount of drag. Put it to you this way, this is the slowest kayak on our best kayaks list. If you do not put much stock in paddling speed and want a kayak that can store a lot of gear this is a good pick though.

One thing you will notice about this kayak is the fact that it’s nose points upwards and does not actually touch the water at all. This is a good feature to have when you are in more wavy conditions that allows the kayak to ride over waves instead of cutting them and ultimately having water splash into the kayak. It’s front and rear splash guards also help deflect water from getting into the kayak.   

In terms of set up it’s best to remember how this kayak was originally folded in the bag when taking it out. Otherwise without instructions you will be relatively clueless on how to put it back in when finished your paddling destination. It’s set up time is roughly about 15 minutes.

What We Liked

  • High Maximum Capacity
  • Lots of room for storage
  • Great Boat for Fishing
  • Great for a solo paddle for a taller paddler
  • Relatively Light Weight for its size
  • Nose Rocker allows this kayak to ride over waves
  • Comes with Three Seats
  • Very Stable on the water

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • Difficult an Bulky to Carry when inflated (especially in windy conditions)
  • Not a Particularly fast Kayak to paddle
  • Complaints about XP Soft Floor from Heavier people
  • Catches the wind very easily when paddling making it difficult to maneuver

Best Inflatable Kayaks Under $500 Criteria

#1 Sea Eagle 370

Deluxe Kayak Package

8.4/10 Rating
  • Great Durability
  • Made of High Quality Materials
  • Includes lots of accessories
best inflatable kayaks

#2 Advanced Elements

Advanced frame Sport

8.0/10 Rating
  • Good maneuverability
  • Tracks Well
  • Great for Day Paddling
best fishing kayaks

#3 Sevylor Colorado

Two Person Kayak

7.8/10 Rating
  • Great Fishing Kayak
  • Has a lot of add ons
  • High Maximum Capacity

If you still want good value and a well made kayak but don’t want to blow open the bank account, $500 and under is a good range to look. You can get good kayaks that are $200 and under but you will be sacrificing a lot of on water performance and isn’t that part of the enjoyment of owning a kayak? There is no point paddling a kayak that behaves like an air mattress in the water because then you will spend a lot more effort correcting it and your paddling journey will be cut short,

The kayaks selected in this list have some degree of on water performance and although they may not perform as well as the best inflatable kayaks they can still get the job done and provide a ton of value to the paddler.

Best Inflatable Kayaks Under $500 Full Reviews

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Specs: L: 12’6” W: 34” Weight: 32 Lbs Maximum Capacity: 650 Lbs

Purpose: Fun Recreational Kayak

Best For: Couples, Single Use for Taller people, and recreational/ day use

Not the Best for: People Looking for a performance kayak

Recommended Bodies of Water:, Bays ,Lakes, Rivers

Materials: 38 mil PolyKrylar (K80 PVC)

Features

  • NMMA Certified
  • Open and Close Drain Valve
  • Five Deluxe One Way Valves
  • Sun and Saltwater resistant Hull
  • Spray Skirts
  • Self Bailing Drain Valve
  • 2 Skegs
  • I-  Beam Construction Floor
  • Two Deluxe Seats
  • Foot Pump
  • Repair Kit
  • Pressure Gauge
  • Foot Pump
  • Oar Set

If you are looking for an inflatable kayak that provides a ton of value this is the one for you. The Sea Eagle 370 Pro offers everything you need to start getting out there and paddling almost instantly upon receiving it. Many Inflatable Kayak Brands expect you to buy the paddles, pumps and certain accessories separately which drives up the price that you want to pay for an inflatable kayak. Sea Eagle has always been an exception to this rule and regularly try to deliver a ton of value to their customer base by adding everything you need to get into the water, even in their more expensive models like the Sea Eagle Razorlite 393rl.

best inflatable kayaks

In terms of on water performance the Sea Eagle 370 Deluxe won’t be winning any races against any of the kayaks in the best kayaks list. It does however paddle better than most inflatable kayak models in its price range. One of the things that the 370 prides itself in is being very stable. It’s actually a very good kayak for fishing as some people even like to stand and cast when fly fishing.

It’s I- beam floor allow you to be well above the water while paddling so that you can have more defined strokes. There is a disadvantage to this however, seeing as the kayak sits higher up on the water it is susceptible to being bullied by the wind because of the fact that A) it’s inflatable and B) it sits higher up. In simple terms, don’t use this kayak on a windy day.

>>What Customers Say<<

The Sea Eagle 370 can take on a lot of weight. At 650 lbs maximum weight capacity it can transport a man, wife and even a small child, dog or gear as well without the middle sinking in. The I-Beam Floor insured that the sea eagle 370 is properly set up to not have the middle of the kayak sink in while paddling. It is als quite durable, The Sea Eagle SE 370 is one of the few inflatable kayaks that can actually take on class III rapids, making it an ideal kayak for rivers. It is also highly maneuverable because it sits above the water.

The biggest pro that many customers brought up was the price point that they got the kayak at, many of them stated that it was great value for what came with the package and thought it was a great package for what they payed for. Many of them also liked the weight capacity as it seemed to be a favorite for many taller or bigger people. Many people praised its durability as they have stated that they have ran over logs, rocks with no sign of wear at all.  A few of them stated that the seats that came with the deluxe package were too big and bulky and increased the centre of gravity of the boat making it more tippy.

What We Liked

  • Lots of Extras included in this package
  • Can take on Class III Rapids
  • High Customer Satisfaction Rating
  • Relatively inexpensively priced
  • Is extremely durable and can take a beating
  • Can be used for many different purposes
  • I- Beam Helps the boat keep shape
  • It is relatively light weight
  • Good Maneuverability

What We Didn’t Like

  • Not a particularly fast kayak
  • Tracking is compromised because of I-Beam Floor
  • Not a great kayak to have out in Windy conditions
  • Some complaints about the seat

Specs: L: 10; 5” W: 32” Weight: 26 Lbs Maximum Capacity: 250 Lbs

Purpose: Fun One Person Recreational Kayak

Best For: Single Use for  Recreational/ day use

Not the Best for: A kayak for touring

Recommended Bodies of Water:, Bays ,Lakes, Rivers

Materials: Ripstop Fabric, Welded Seams

Features

  • Aluminum Bow and Stern Ribs
  • Large Cockpit area
  • Can be customisable with back bone or drop stitch floor
  • Spring Valve
  • Integrated pressure relief valve in floor
  • Double coated fabric
  • Bungee Deck Lacing
  • Welded Seams
  • Neoprene Paddle Guard
  • D Ring Tie Downs
  • Tracking Fin

The Advanced Elements Sport Kayak is ideal for the recreational paddler who wants something cost effective, but with a hint of added performance for on water paddling. We already know that Advanced Elements take pride in their kayaks so what does this mean for their budget style kayak?

If you have done a bit of research on this kayak chances are you would’ve noticed that this kayak has high customer reviews. This is because it will give you the performance factor that most inflatable kayaks in this price range lack. Buying the kayak as is , is already a boost of performance compared to most $500 and under inflatable kayaks,  but if you wanted to really make this kayak track well you can add the advanced Elements Backbone to it. The Backbone gives the kayak floor more keel, as it is pressed down by your weight it creates a V shaped Hull which greatly improves the kayak in a straight line.

The Advanced Frame Sport is also very light weight compared to other Advanced Elements kayaks and other inflatable kayaks in general. This makes it an ideal boat for folks who have trouble lifting heavier hard shelled kayaks but still want the performance aspect on the water. In fact one of the reviewers had rheumatoid arthritis but was still able to unpack, carry and pack the kayak back up with relative ease. The Large cockpit is also much easier to get into than many other recreational styles kayaks.

>>What Customers Say<<

best inflatable kayaks

When comparing the Advanced Frame Sport and the Sea Eagle 370 its performance is far better on the water, especially for a boat of its size, but when it comes to storage the 370 and the Solo version of the Advanced Frame (AE 1012)  is far more adequate. Having said that there us room to put gear such as a backpack or tackle box in the back due to the wider cockpit area. This does ultimately come down to how tall the paddler is though. The maximum capacity of this kayak is 250 lbs which means that it is more ideally suited for smaller individuals.

I go more in depth into the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Sport Review.

What We Liked

  • Great Tracking (Especially with the Backbone)
  • Very Light Weight, only weighs 26 lbs
  • Good Maneuverability
  • Great All Around Kayak for Paddlers of different experience levels
  • Does not take up very much storage space
  • Easy to put together and take apart
  • Great for Day paddling in calm bays and lakes
  • Has the Best on water performance for a kayak of it’s price range.
  • More room to move around in the cockpit

What We Didn’t Like

  • Cannot take as much weight
  • Cannot use a spray skirt with this kayak
  • Harder to paddle it against currents/ upstream
  • Big and Tall people may have to look elsewhere

Specs: L: 10’ 9” W: 39” Weight: 41 Lbs Maximum Capacity: 470 Lbs

Purpose: Solo or Tandem Fishing Kayak

Best For: Fishing

Not the Best for: Tracking, Paddling Fast

Recommended Bodies of Water: Oceans,Lakes, Rivers

Materials: 18 Gauge PVC Rugged Construction, 1000 D Tarpaulin Bottom and 840 D Nylon Cover

Features

  • Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders
  • Paddle Holders
  • Boston Air Valves
  • Sevylor Trolling motor fittings
  • D- Ring Tie Downs
  • Mesh Side pockets
  • Carry Bag and Pressure Gauge
  • One Year Limited Warranty
  • Multi Air Chambers

Simply put, the Sevylor Colorado is the kayak for you if you are big into your fishing. Many people have tried it and have refused to go back to canoes or plastic kayaks. One of the big reasons is because this kayak is a silent fish stalker which therefore increases your probability of catching a fish. It is a silent fish stalker because it does not make any noise at all due to it being an inflatable! Often times Plastic kayaks or wooden canoes will make loud thunking noises when putting your rod down or even accidentally tapping the side with your paddle. You are practically announcing your presence to all the fish within that radius, which is less than ideal.

The Sevylor Colorado has a lot of included accessories that fisherman crave such as Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders, paddle mounts, side mesh pockets as well as a trolling motor fitting gives you everything you could look for in a fishing kayak. Better yet it can fit in the closet of your apartment. The Colorado gives you a lot of room to store gear with ample space in the back and front of the boat along with mesh pockets for things like tackle, pliers, hooks, bobbers and other fishing accessories needed.

>>What Customers Say<<

While this inflatable is super stable in the water it is pretty bulky and is a slower paddler on the water. It also does not have the best tracking as it will nose wobble a bit. This may be fixed with more weight in the kayak though. It’s sidewalls are also particularly bulky, especially since you are sitting lower in this kayak then say the Sea Eagle 370. Sure it is less tippy because of this but those bulky sidewalls can get in the way of paddling especially if you are a shorter individual. The rod holders also get in the way of paddling movements.

Click to read my full review on the Sevylor Colorado

What We Liked

  • Lots of Accessories Fisherman would love
  • Can hold a lot of gear
  • This kayak is very tough and durable
  • You can mount a trolling motor thanks to the mounts that comes with this kayak
  • Can be used as a single seater or tandem
  • Very easy to transport
  • Easy installation and deflation
  • Can be used in Coastal Waters

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • No Pump or paddle included
  • Sidewalls are bulky
  • Can easily be pushed around by wind
  • Rod Holders get in the way of paddling
  • Slow moving
  • Not the greatest tracking compared to other kayaks on this list

Specs: L: 11’ 2” W: 37” Weight: 31.5 Lbs Maximum Capacity: 400 Lbs

Purpose: Fun Solo or Tandem Recreational Kayak

Best For: Single/ Tandem Use for  Recreational Paddling

Not the Best for: A kayak for touring or going long distances with

Recommended Bodies of Water:, Bays ,Lakes, Rivers

Materials: 600 D Polyester cover, Heavy Duty PVC, Ripstop Fabric, Welded Seams

Features

Removable tracking fin
Two high back seats with pockets
Rear Drain Plug
Pointed Bow and Stern with rocker
Bungee Deck Lacing
D Rings
Includes Three different seating positions
Repair Kit
Carrying Bag
The Island Voyage 2 is in a way like Advanced Elements response to the Sea Eagle 370. The main difference between the two is their behaviour on different types of water conditions. Strictly Speaking the Island Voyage 2 is much better suited for calm conditions such as lakes, bays and slow moving rivers. The Sea Eagle 370 is best suited to more rough conditions and can handle class III rivers much better. This is because it’s floor is better reinforced and you sit higher giving you more manoeuvrability. The island Voyage tracks better when there are two people in it. This is due to the fact that the weight of the two people plants the kayak into the water instead of simply floating on top. The Sea Eagle 370 does the opposite as it sits mostly above the water thanks to it’s I beam floor.

The Island Voyager has high reviews from people who use it as it should be used which is in calmer water conditions, as mentioned above. Unlike other Advanced Elements kayaks we have reviewed, this one does not have the aluminium support for the bow and stern. It is also not compatible with the Advanced Elements Backbone nor the drop stitch floor, meaning there is little combustibility, making this one of Advanced Elements lower end kayaks.

The Island Voyage has a good amount of room if there are two smaller people paddling or it is being paddled solo. It’s weight capacity is about 250 lbs less than the Sea Eagle 370 making it less than ideal when it comes to loading it with gear. Still you can at least fit a backpack, or tackle box quite easily even if there are two people paddling.

>>What Customers Say<<
In terms of accessories, the Island Voyage 2 is somewhat limited. It comes with the standard Duffel Bag, Seats with pockets,tracking fin,  repair kit and the owners manual but definitely does not include nearly as much value as the Sea Eagle 370.  Advanced Elements rarely have a lot of accessories included with their kayaks, so if on water performance is not really a big priority for you The Sea Eagle 370 would be the better choice.

See our Full Review on the Island Voyager 2

 

What We Liked

  • Tracks well with two people
  • Is relatively light weight
  • Solid Customer rating
  • Quick Set up Time
  • Easy to Fold back into the bag
  • Ideal as a recreational kayak
  • Very Stable in the water

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • Does not come with a lot of accessories
  • In the Lower End of the Spectrum of Advanced Elements Products
  • Does not have the Aluminium bow and Stern ribs
  • Cannot be customised with backbone nor Drop Stitch Floor
  • Maximum Capacity is 250 lbs lighter than the Sea Eagle 370

Specs: L: 12’ W: ?” Weight: 36.3 Lbs Maximum Capacity: 500 Lbs

Purpose: Fun Solo or Tandem kayak that can handle some white water

Best For: Single/ Tandem Use Paddling

Not the Best for: Long Distance Paddling

Recommended Bodies of Water:, Bays ,Lakes, Rivers

Materials: Semi Rigid Heavy Gauge Construction

Features

  • Tubular I- Beam Floor
  • Spray Covers
  • Inflatable Seats
  • 2 Boston Valves
  • Threaded drain Hole and plug
  • 3 Air Chambers enclosed by 840 denier nylon with UV protected coating
  • Neoprene Elbow Guards
  • 6 D Rings located at bow and stern

The Airhead Ahtk-2 is great for a variety of different water conditions but can be used effectively in semi white water conditions. While it is similar in shape to the Sea Eagle 370 , you sit lower in the Airhead. As a result it is more stable in trickier conditions where the Sea Eagle would capsize. It’s flat bottom makes it highly manoeuvrable but compromises tracking. In fact most of the inflatable kayaks on this list are better at tracking so I would use this as an all conditions type of kayak that specialises in white water. I would not use this as a long distance touring kayak though because you will be spending a lot more energy paddling a shorter amount of distance thanks to it’s nose wobble.

Having said the above it can hold a lot of gear with a maximum capacity of 500 lbs and D ring Tie Downs at the Stern of the boat for backpack, bags and other accessories. The Airhead Ahtk-2 is extremely durable with it’s semi rigid PVC Construction material which allows it to tackle up to class III rapids. In fact one of the users keeps it in his appartment during the day and lets his cat sharpen his nails on it ! It’s Bright Orange exterior also allows it to be visible to for extra safety on the water should something happen.

>>What Customers Say<<

One of the bonuses of this inflatable kayak is that it has a relatively short set up time. It takes only a couple of minutes to fully inflate one of these bad boys with a hand pump. While the Airhead Ahtk-2 does have your standard features they do not go above and beyond like the Sea Eagle 370. This package does not include a Pump, paddles or even any extra accessories like the Sevylor Colorado. All in all this is a great kayak if you wants something that can take a beating and endure class III rapids.

What We Liked

  • Extremely Durable
  • Can Handle Class III Rapids
  • Has a high maximum capacity
  • Short Set Up Time
  • Easy to inflate and Deflate

 

What We Didn’t Like

  • Not the best at tracking
  • Slower paddling speeds
  • There are better inflatables to get on calmer waters

So Many Kayak Reviews, but Who Do I Trust??

Okay I have to get something off of my chest. I would say about 90% of the kayak reviewers on the internet just look at what sells and slaps together a paragraph stating the features that you can already read on the manufacturers website. There I said it!

Have I tried all of these kayaks? No I don’t have the disposable income for that but a good reviewer looks for what Customers that own the kayak have to say about it. I also do have is over 20 years of kayaking and canoeing experience that I can draw from, and I have tried a good amount of different kayaks to know what the on water behaviour is like.

All of these kayaks selected are well made, have at least some aspect of performance on the water and most importantly have a high customer satisfaction rating. I just would not feel right if I were to recommend a budget kayak like an Intex, only for you to try and cross the Atlantic Ocean in it. Ok maybe not that extreme, but I get annoyed when the internet is cluttered with half- done reviews that always recommend Intex as the best inflatable kayak. Sure the Intex K1 Challenger and Explorer are made of decent materials and are great for their price, but they will not last as long nor will they give you the same enjoyment that the above list will provide you with. For really in depth criteria check out these guys 

Now that I have finished my rant let’s talk about some common Inflatable Kayak Questions

What's the Difference Between a kayak that is under $500 vs over $500?

best inflatable kayaks

The main difference is On Water Performance. As soon as you start going to about the $600 range inflatable kayaks like the Sea Eagle Razorlite and Advanced Frame Expedition start having more pronounced hulls to add to on water performance. Often times these $600 and up inflatable kayaks actually perform better than many recreational style kayaks and are sometimes much cheaper as well.

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

best inflatable kayaks

Very, in fact I would trust them over many hard shelled recreational models for several reasons.

  • Inflatable kayaks have Multiple Air Bladders
  • Inflatable Kayaks are some of the most stable kayaks in the industry
  • Inflatable Kayaks often times just bounce off obstacles while hardshell kayaks can crack
  • Brands like the above mentioned are some of the safest in the industry

Are Inflatable Kayaks Hard to Care For?

how to store a kayak, best inflatable kayaks

Not at all, although some care should be done to insure that your inflatable kayak can last for a long time. Most of the time all you need to do is hose them off with water after paddling, dry them off and then deflate and fold them. I would also recommend using 303 UV Protection Spray every year or so just to protect the materials exposure to the elements. It is also a good idea not to leave them out in the hot sun too long.

What is the Best Inflatable Kayak size to get?

best inflatable kayaks

This one is ultimately up to you and your lifestyle but I will give you some insights.

  • Longer and Thinner Kayaks Track better and give you better straightline making them ideal for Lake and Ocean Touring Use
  • Shorter Kayaks are more maneuverable and are better suited for tighter waterways like winding rivers or even white water (if the manufacturer recommends it) .
  • Wider Kayaks are more stable and are best for day paddling or even fishing
  • Many Tandem Kayaks can be used as a two in one for solo and tandem paddlers
  • Keep in mind how much gear you will be bringing with you before paddling

What If My Inflatable Kayak has a Hole?

While inflatable kayaks are very durable they can be susceptible to a bit of wear and tear the odd time. To successfully find out where it is located simply inflate your kayak, spray soapy mixture all over the kayak and watch for areas where bubbles or even a slight hissing noise would occur, if you see either then that is your leak.

The next step is to repair it. Oftentimes manufacturers will include a repair kit should something happen. If this is insufficient simply contact the manufacturer (the ones I have listed all have good customer service). You can also use water proof glue if the hole is small enough.

What Kind of Pump Should I Use?

I always like having a pump that comes with a pressure gauge so that I can see what PSI the kayak is inflated to. These gauges are usually on manual hand pumps but they are rough on your back. A good alternative to this is getting a proper foot pump or an electric pump if you do not want to do any of the work.

How Long do Inflatable Kayaks Last?

best inflatable kayaks

If properly Maintained the models I have mentioned above should last for years and years. The life in inflatable kayaks decrease based on

  • How often you use the kayak
  • How and Where you Store your inflatable kayak
  • How it is cared for After Paddling
  • How much abuse it takes from obstacles

If you do not take some necessary steps such as Cleaning/ drying it after each use and occasionally Spraying UV Protector on it then it’s life will decrease. The same can be said if there is a degree of carelessness while paddling. Proper Kayak storage entails storing it away from direct sunlight, hot and cold conditions. The best place you can store your kayak is in a garage or even a closet away from harmful outside elements. This alone will help add years to your inflatable kayak.

Recommended Accessories That You Need

best inflatable kayaks

  1. A Good Quality Paddle
  2. A Reliable PFD
  3. Water
  4. Food
  5. Repair Kit Handy
  6. A reliable pump
  7. Bilge Pump
  8. A Whistle

Before Jumping in head first take a look at the Coast Guards/ Your Countries governing body for Saftey Gear recommendations for your Area. 

Conclusion

best inflatable kayaks

Inflatable Kayaks Open up a whole new world of potential that are left behind by hardshell kayaks. They give you the potential to be able to get out and explore the water no matter where you live and require less room then needed before. As time has gone on they have become more advanced in both materials and on water performance and continue to be the more popular pick as time has gone on.

Why not leap forward and give yourself that jump into the water than staying behind and continually saying that you don’t have room for a kayak? Affordable models are everywhere and you will be every bit as glad that you finally purchased one instead of letting another summer go by admiring other paddlers having fun.

5 thoughts on “The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2018: Leap Forward not Behind”

  1. This blog about The Best Inflatable Kayaks is a really interesting post. You shear very impotent and informative information in your blog. T hanks for shearing this article.

  2. Many thanks for this article!

    What do you think about the kayak:

    Allroundmarin Force?

    Zray Drift?

    Aqua Marina Tomahawk 465?

    Many thanks

    Regards

    1. I don’t know too much about the Allroundmarin Force as it’s a German company but looking at all the designs they all seem like they would have great tracking. A good way to choose which kayak you want is dependant on your budget, your location and customer feedback about both the boat and the manufacturer. The Zray Drift is a manufacturer which specifically deals with paddle boards, kayaks while Aqua Marina is more of a “bargain brand” type of manufacturer. Based off of this Zray may be your best bet if you live outside of Europe.

  3. I’m about to pull the trigger on an IK. I am an experienced kayaker but will be kayaking in lakes and rivers in our area. Weight is an issue and I want a sit-in style. I have narrowed my search down to the AE DS-XL, AE Sport DS, and the Innova Swing 1 LN. I lean toward the Innova because of the weight and the construction.

    Do you have any thoughts on the matter? I would appreciate it. Really enjoyed your video.

    1. I typically prefer the AE Kayaks and would pick the DS-XL but if weight is a big issue then the Innova Swing 1 LN may be the one to choose. I personally prefer the Advanced Elements kayaks though and the Sport is only 3 lbs heavier and about $125 cheaper on airkayaks.com.

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