How to choose an inflatable kayak?

So you’ve been toying around with the idea of buying a kayak and after researching traditional kayaks, you may be thinking it’s a bigger commitment than you want. There are often a lot of questions from people about which kayak to buy. That’s why I write this article, and share some tips on what I’ve learned along the way.

Why to choose an inflatable kayak?

First of all, if you’re looking into buying an inflatable, as opposed to harsh Al kayak, it’s probably for two reasons that they have much easier to transport and store, and they also can be really cheap. They have another advantage that might be appreciated by novice paddlers that inflatable kayaks are generally very stable compared to hardshell kayaks.

However, some of them would be hard to capsize on calm water, even intentionally. Stability in kayaks correlates with width. Inflatable kayaks are usually quite wide, and that makes them stable.

Of course, 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. But still, in existing concern is that they can get punctured, and therefore have some inherited safety concerns. Honestly in all the years that I’ve dealt with them, I’ve witnessed a serious air leak just once, which was because of a misuse of the kayak. I should also clarify most of my experiences on the cold water, lakes and slow rivers, not on white water.

OK, so you’re thinking of buying one and trying to cut through all the marketing nonsense? Many people usually would be lost in all the information when they were looking at their first one kayak. Now, I have a much simpler and effective system of categorizing them.

Three Types Inflatable Kayaks

It generally can be divided all the inflatable kayaks into three categories based on what they are made of.

Ⅰ. Single Layer Vinyl Light Recreation

First type is the kayaks made of single layer of thin vinyl. Think of cheap inflatable mattresses. This material is cheap and easy to manufacture. Therefore these kayaks will be by far the cheapest one.

Many of them cost less than 100 dollars with a pump and a crappy paddle. And you might find a used one for 60 or even fewer dollars higher end, once in this category might be 200 or a little more.

Ⅱ. Vinyl in Fabric Heavy Recreation

The second category are the kayaks that are made of the same cheap final but now it’s encased in protective fabric.

This makes them much more protected from the puncturing and UV light exposure. This category is quite a populace, but has one major disadvantage that first time buyers usually don’t think about.

If the kayak looks like it has some fabric on the outside and has zippers, that’s a sure sign you’re looking at that second category kayak. If you open that zipper, you’ll find the same cheap final chambers inside.

These Kayaks are generally quite a bit more expensive than the first type kayaks, ranging probably between $350 and $800.

Ⅲ. Thick PVC Anything

The third type is the kayaks made of thick, single layer materials like PVC and rubbers. These 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.

If anything, I’ve taken boats of this type on white water, and after rubbing against the rocks quite hard, I could barely see any scratches on the bottom. They are also more likely to last significantly longer than the other two types boats. I’d say that 20 years for this would be easy. Of course, these boats come at a premium. Prices for most of these vary from $800 to well over one thousand.

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