Are inflatable kayaks worthwhile?

I'm looking to buy and I'm looking at molded plastic, sit-on-top. Are any inflatables worthwhile (i.e., what are the pros & cons in terms of cost-effectiveness, durability, usage, etc.)


Thanks to all for the answers so far. More details: I intend to use it primarily on small lakes and streams. I'm a fisherman, so I'd like to use it for that purpose, but the main purpose is for family use (me, wife, 2nd grader and toddler). I'm thinking about getting both a canoe and a two-person kayak (for versatility and ease of use by 4 people). Right now I'm looking at the Crescent Splash II. My wife and I are slim and tall. I've got a fair amount of canoeing experience, but little kayaking. My wife has no experience with either. I'm looking at new and used. The inflatables may be good for storage and the relatively limited and light usage we'll put a kayak through. Economy is a high priority, too. The good inflatables appear to cost about the same as a decent rigid kayak. If the main benefits are weight and storage and you sacrifice ease of setup, durability, speed and manueverability, inflatables may be a poor choice.

4 Answers

  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    There are high end inflatables that are definitely worthwhile but they will cost as much or more than a rotomold plastic. Forget about the cheap "pool toy" inflatables like Sevylor and Coleman -- they are worthless, very slow and awkward to try to paddle and not at all safe for rough waters or windy conditions. But inflatable boats like those made by Innova and Aire will perform on a variety of waters nearly as well as rigid boats. Some cheaper inflatables like the longer models of Advanced Elements are OK, too, though a bit wide and slow. At the top end, the Feathercraft Java will cost you thousands of dollars but is tough as nails and can be used in the open ocean.

    Storage and lightness are the main plusses of inflatables -- few of them will perform anywhere near as well as a "hard" boat, though some of the better ones are good for whitewater. It would be easier to answer your question if you added more information about what type of waters you intend to paddle and what type of kayaking you intend to do (ocean? lakes? slow rivers? fast white water streams? are you fishing? kayak camping?) and your body size (height and weight are very important in selecting a kayak model) and your budget. What is most important to you? Speed? Ease of storage? Load capacity? Stability? Low price? Many factors to consider.

    You can also find out a lot about both inflatable and folding kayaks (these have a collapsible frame with a rubberized fabric outer skin and are as light as inflatables but as fast and manueverable as a hard boat) at the website . Look under the "forums" for "inflatables" for discussions of some models

    One nice line is the Pakboats which are a combination of inflatable and folding, with a partial frame. We have one of their XT15 kayaks. Again, they are priced around the same as a good hard boat but have the advantage of folding down into a duffel bag for storage and travel. They are very tough and can even be used in moderate whitewater. They also perform as well as most hard boats in being fast and easy to paddle.

    .I own folding, hybrid folding inflatable and "hard" kayaks as well as a tradional Inuit style "skin on frame" boat. Post some more details about yourself and your intended use of the kayak you want and I can give you more detailed advice.

    ADDED RESPONSE: Thanks for the update. Yes, it does not sound like budget inflatables would really suit your purposes. I think, based on what you've described, you might want to look for a 12' plastic fishing "sit on top" kayak. I would not recommend a double/tandem kayak. They are quite heavy and the cockpits are really too large to safely carry a small child, plus since the child is not paddling, it is quite a burden for the sole adult paddler to move the boat. With a canoe and a sit on top, one child could ride with each adult and be in the same open boat area for safety and ease of interaction. I'm thinking you and the older child in the canoe and your wife and the toddler in the sit on top.

    New kayaks in that configuration can usually be had for around $700 to $800 and a used one for half that -- check the Craigslist ads in your area for what might be available. You can check the kayak specs and user reviews over at for comparitive information on the models. Common models are by Perception, Old Town, Wilderness Systems, Elie and Emotion. Here is the link to's listing of Fishing kayaks on the market:

    If you don't find any specific fishing models available in your area, some of the better "recreational" style kayaks with the oversized cockpits could be used for an adult and child and can be fitted out with fishing accessories.

    You might also want to still take a look at some of the smaller Pakboats, both canoes and kayaks. There are several under $1000 and one advantage of some of the models is that their decks come off so they can be used as an open boat (like a canoe) for carrying the kids, but then you can put the deck on and convert it to a solo kayak if you want to go out alone. The inflatable seats in them are very comfortable and the boats are quite light and forgiving (for a kid tumbling around inside) due to the inflatable sides. There is at least one model you can convert from a single kayak to a double also.

    PS: The West Marine kayak the third answerer recommends is a piece of junk. In fact it is dangerous since it has no bulkheads and can easily swamp and sink with that gaping cockpit. Plus at 9' long and almost 30" wide it would paddle like a washtub and the seats in those are miserable. Avoid such boats and anything made by Pelican. All these Chinese made discount store boats are flimsy and will oilcan if left on your car or in the sun. For the $300 you pay for such pool toys you could buy a nice well-made used boat.

    Source(s): kayaking fanatic
  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    Depends how experienced you are. If you are iinexperienced, an inflatable kayak could get a puncture if u paddle into a rock or something. Ur call and look at some reviews: If you are viewing a product on for exmaple, you can see other buyer's review of the product

    Source(s): me, myself and i
  • 3 years ago

    nicely i could pass with a plastic one. I even have never used an inflatable one yet i could pass with plastic. Or timber .. or get loopy and purchase him the single you may construct your self from a equipment :) I did that - its relaxing

  • 9 years ago

    dont even invest in one.....

    i am on a white water sports team and ithis is what i use

    i absolutly love this kayak its good for everything..and its really light...

    mostly rotomolded kayaks are more costly but i think there well worth it...there are many good sit on tops too...just think when you get snagged on a rock your infaltable kayak would be screwed

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.