Disclosure: I am compensated for purchases made through some links on this site. Click for details.
Inflatable kayaks make for great boats. It only takes a little knowledge of the different kayak types, design features, and product materials, to pick out the right inflatable kayak for your adventures.
But why should you consider purchasing an inflatable kayak over a hardshell kayak? Let’s look over the top 10 reasons for purchasing an inflatable kayak.
By the way, a lower price isn’t a reason for picking an inflatable kayak. A quality inflatable kayak isn’t any less expensive than its hardshell counterpart. A quick comparison of kayaks at Backcountry will verify my point.
Inflatable kayaks are lightweight and easy to handle. The average weight of a solo inflatable kayak is only 32 lbs. About half the weight of a solo hardshell kayak.
The low weight makes inflatable kayaks easy to transport, store, and get from your car to your put-in whether you’re carrying it from your car after inflation or hiking to a remote location and inflating there.
Maximum Load Capacity
Though they are built for the same use the hulls of inflatable and hardshell kayaks differ greatly. This made me wonder about the maximum load capacity of inflatable kayaks vs hardshell kayaks. Is there a significant difference between the capabilities of these boats? My findings…
When comparing inflatable and hardshell kayaks, little difference exists in the average maximum load capacity of similar boat types. For instance, there isn’t a significant difference when comparing the average maximum load capacity of 1 person kayaks.
Though having equal load capacities isn’t a specific reason to buy an inflatable kayak over that of a hardshell kayak, it’s a performance factor to be aware of and a quality indicator to consider.
The lighter weight materials of inflatable kayaks might arguably be viewed as more efficient when considering maximum load capacity.
The ease of transporting an inflatable kayak is one of its most advantageous features.
The light weight of inflatable kayaks and the small amount of space it takes when packed down make these kayaks highly portable and travel friendly.
No Roof Rack Needed
You won’t have to be out the expense of a roof rack if you have a blow-up kayak you won’t have to struggle to get a heavy kayak on top of your car and there will be no worrying over losing an inflatable kayak off a roof rack due to theft or improperly securing it either.
Inflatable kayaks fold up to fit easily in your car. A huge advantage over hardshell kayaks.
Many adventures await when you have a blow-up kayak. There’s a great advantage in being able to fold your kayak up in a bag and take off on the open road or on your next flight you could check it at the baggage counter.
Backcountry Hiking, Backpacking, and Camping Advantages
Have you ever wanted to combine backcountry hiking, backpacking, or camping with kayaking? Combining these into one grand adventure is attainable when you have an inflatable kayak. It’s virtually impossible to hike into many areas with a hardshell kayak, but you can with a blow-up kayak.
Imagine the possibilities!
Maybe there’s a remote put-in you’re itching to get to or an out of the way fishing spot. Inflatable kayaks make for the perfect boat for backcountry hiking-kayaking, backpacking-kayaking, and kayaking-camping trips.
Paddling and Fishing Remote Waters
Paddling and fishing remote waters with the use of an inflatable kayak tie in with the last point about backcountry hiking, backpacking, or camping but I really wanted to point out the possibilities. It’s extremely exciting to paddle and/or fish unexplored remote waters that other kayakers with hardshell kayaks cannot.
There aren’t many opportunities in our world to go where no one has gone before yet inflatable kayaks offer the opportunity to explore waters other kayakers can only dream of paddling.
I had a hardshell kayak while living in a 5th-floor condo. Talking about a bad situation! I loved my Dagger Axis 10.5! But what a pain to get in and out of the building and I had no place to keep it other than in my dining room… Yes, I was a bachelor at that time… After getting married and moving, I kept it in a small storage shed. It took up a lot of room there too but at least I had an appropriate place for it.
Are you someone with limited space?
Inflatable kayaks are perfect for anyone but even more so people with limited space. Hardshell kayaks take up a lot of space where blow-up kayaks are easily deflated, folded up, and stored in small spaces. Throw it in a closet, store it under your bed, or on a shelf in the garage or shed.
When you’re ready to take your inflatable kayak out on the water, you can easily stow it in your vehicle, camper, or RV. They don’t take up much space.
P.S. Had I not bought that Daggar I probably wouldn’t have met my wife on a hiking group paddle outing and certainly wouldn’t have had our daughter. I’m eternally thankful that I bought that kayak and joined up for a paddle that day.
Product Quality, Durability, and Safety
Product quality, durability, and safety go hand-in-hand. There are the cheap inflatable kayaks that are a waste of money and then there are the quality inflatable kayaks. You get what you pay for and need to know the right design features to look for in an inflatable kayak before purchasing.
Extremely durable materials like Pennel Orca®, HD40 gum, AIREcell urethane, denier ripstop polyester, and aluminum frame reinforcement are all quality materials that protect inflatable kayaks from punctures and abrasion.
The integrity of an inflatable kayak is not only improved upon by the quality of materials but through design. Inflatable kayaks with three inflation chambers are virtually impossible to sink where one chamber kayaks impose a safety risk if punctured.
Structural integrity is further increased through construction techniques like PVC welded seams and poly-based fabric with drop-stitch construction. These techniques allow for higher inflation pressures and air retention for improved kayak performance.
Performance and Stability
Many inflatable kayaks have flat bottoms and they are often wider than hardshell kayaks making them surprisingly stable but just like hardshell kayaks, inflatable kayaks have their tipping point.
The performance of inflatable kayaks rival hardshell kayaks on most bodies of water but can lag in performance on other water that requires high-level skillsets. For instance, you aren’t likely to see much of a difference in recreational and fishing kayaks but are likely to find a difference when performing certain advanced maneuvers requiring higher level skillsets on whitewater or when using an inflatable touring kayak.
Many Styles of Inflatable Kayaks Available
No matter what style of kayaking you’re into. There’s an inflatable kayak available for you.
There are different types of inflatable kayaks for different waters with a large range of sizes and seating options. There are…
- Inflatable Recreational Kayaks
- Inflatable Touring Kayaks
- Inflatable Whitewater Kayaks
- Inflatable Self-Bailing Kayaks
- Inflatable Fishing Kayaks
- Inflatable Sit-On-Top Kayaks
- Inflatable Sit-In Kayaks
- Inflatable Canoe-Style Kayaks
- Inflatable Kayak Types by Seating
- Inflatable 1-Person Kayak (Solo Kayak)
- Inflatable 2-Person Kayak (Tandem Kayak)
- Inflatable 3-Person Kayak
- Inflatable Adjustable Seat Kayak
Seat Positioning Adjustability and Comfort
Many inflatable kayaks have adjustable seating. Some 2 and 3-person kayaks even have removable seats for storing additional gear.
Standard issue seats in many inflatable kayaks aren’t all that comfortable. My advice is to buy a kayak that has removable seating. If you find the seat uncomfortable you can replace it with a very comfortable aftermarket seat like the Aire Deluxe Cheetah Chair.
Ease of Use
Blow-up kayaks are easy to inflate and paddle as long as you get the right style kayak. For example, you don’t want to take a touring kayak on a whitewater paddle adventure.
Inflatable kayaks are easy to deflate and store away as well.
I love hardshell kayaks. It’s what I started out on but hardshell kayaks aren’t always convenient.
In the beginning, I had reservations about inflatable kayaks but I found the convenience, quality, and fun-factor of inflatable kayaks make them well worth the investment.
If you have limited storage space or live in an apartment or condo, inflatable kayaks make an excellent choice.