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Pros & Cons of Inflatable Kayaks (Should You Get One?)

Kayaking is becoming more popular worldwide than ever before, and along with increased kayaking interest has come to an increase in kayak varieties. Among the newer versions of the kayak are inflatable kayaks. Inflatable kayaks have become widely popular, but you may be wondering if inflatable kayaks are any good or are it better to buy a more conventional vessel?

Inflatable kayaks are good. Modern inflatables have almost the same performance as hard-shell kayaks, but they are slower, less durable, and more expensive. These kayaks can be deflated, packed away, transported, and stored very easily, and this is the main purpose of owning a kayak like this. 

Inflatable kayaks are a relatively modern version of the vessel, but kayaks are meant to be hardy, rugged, and able to handle very rough waters, which leads many to wonder if inflatable kayaks are worthwhile. What are the pros and cons of using inflatable kayaks? Are these vessels safe? How well do they function? Let’s find out!

inflatable kayak

Are inflatable Kayaks Good?

Kayaks are an ancient form of water transport that has been used by people all over the world. There are few better paddle-powered water vessels, regardless of the required use, and kayaks remain a favorite among paddlers of all kinds to this day. 

However, kayaks are very large, they can be heavy, and they can be very difficult to store. In the modern world, not everyone has access to an area large enough to store a kayak, nor do they have the vehicle to transport one, and thus the inflatable kayak was invented. 

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The first few iterations of the inflatable kayak were terrible. No serious paddler would have even considered owning one, but the truth is that in modern years inflatable kayaks have come a very long way and have become surprisingly good for what they are. 

two inflatable kayaks river

Everyone expects an inflatable water vessel to be more of a toy than a serious watercraft, but modern inflatable kayaks are very good, depending on the model. 

No inflatable kayak can compare to a true high-performance hard-shell kayak, but the best inflatable kayaks are far better than you may expect them to be. There are many features that are built into modern inflatable kayaks that make them very capable on the water and far superior to the original iterations of the vessel. 

If you take the time to find a good one, and if you have the budget for it, premium inflatable kayaks are excellent, and they can be the perfect solution for serious paddlers who do not have the space to store a hard-shell kayak or those who do not have the ability to transport one. 

Are Inflatable Kayaks Worth Buying?

inflatable kayak trio

Anyone who finds themselves wondering if an inflatable kayak is worthwhile probably does not need one. The truth is that inflatable kayaks have only two significant advantages over hard-shell kayaks: storability and portability. 

These two main features of inflatable kayaks are what make these vessels worthwhile. If easy portability and easy storage are no import to you, or if they are simply not a factor, then a hard-shell kayak is probably a better choice. 

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However, if you reside in a modern apartment or a small house, if you do not have a vehicle or trailer to transport a hard-shell kayak, or if you do not paddle often enough to warrant investing in these requirements for a hard-shell kayak, then an inflatable kayak is well worthwhile buying. 

Hard-shell kayaks are generally considered to be the best overall kayaks, but high-end inflatable kayaks are not far behind. The impressive quality and performance of modern inflatable kayaks mean that anyone who needs to use a kayak like this does not have to compromise much on performance, comfort, reliability, or durability. 

However, it must be said that this is only true for high-end inflatable kayaks. Lower-quality inflatables are not as good as the high-end versions, as they do not possess the features or quality of the better versions. This means that someone who is looking for a high-performing inflatable kayak must be ready to spend even more than they would on a hard-shell vessel. 

All of this means that inflatable kayaks are worth buying for those who need something portable and easy to store but not worth buying for those who want a kayak and have the space to store a hard-shell, as well as the ability to transport it. 

Do Inflatable Kayaks Pop Easily?

Pumping a boat

An important question that many paddlers ask about inflatable kayaks is how durable these vessels are? Will an inflatable kayak pop easily? Do these kayaks require a lot of maintenance and repairs? If damage does occur, how difficult is it to repair an inflatable?

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Most inflatable kayaks are made from polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC. This is a type of plastic polymer that is exceptionally durable and very easy to repair, but it is not flawless, and it does not last forever. 

High-end inflatable kayaks are made from very rugged PVC that can handle inflated pressures of up to 15PSI in some instances, but this means that there is a lot of pressure held within these vessels, and the material that they are made from is pushed to its limits. 

This does expose the kayak to certain types of damage, but if you are careful and remain mindful and aware of the fact that you are in an inflatable vessel, you are unlikely to experience any issues with durability and damage when using an inflatable kayak. 

These vessels can be damaged and torn, and they are less durable than hard-shell kayaks, but good-quality inflatables are far more durable than you may imagine. 

These vessels are also very easy to repair due to the fact that they are made from PVC, which is a well-understood material with multiple methods of repair. 

However, the PVC that inflatable kayaks are made from is not indestructible, and it will tarnish and become brittle over time. This is mainly due to ultraviolet rays from the sun, as UV light breaks down PVC. 

This means that the more often you use your kayak, the more likely it is to sustain damage or problems due to sunlight, slowly making the craft less durable. 

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This means that while modern versions of inflatable kayaks are very durable and highly reliable, they will still not last as long as hard-shell kayaks, and they will eventually need to be replaced with a new vessel. 

Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?

inflatable kayaks

Another important question that is asked by many paddlers surrounding these inflatable watercraft is whether or not inflatable kayaks are safe?

Inflatable kayaks are as safe as other kayak varieties, so long as they are well-maintained and not damaged. 

A damaged inflatable kayak may be dangerous to use if there is an air leak that may cause the vessel to sink, but other than this potential issue, there are no other safety concerns that are unique to this kind of kayak. 

Inflatable kayaks are as safe as other kayaks, so long as the paddler takes the necessary safety precautions and is careful when on the water. All kayaking can be dangerous when done recklessly, so be sure to be safe, and you will be safe, even in an inflatable kayak. 

What To Know Before Buying An Inflatable Kayak

choosing kayaks online

When buying an inflatable kayak, there are some important considerations that you should be aware of before making the purchase. These are critical for determining the type of kayak you should buy and how much you should spend on the boat. 

The first important consideration is to understand what you will use the kayak for. It is important to know that the kayak you use will only be as good as the money you spend on it, so if you will be using the kayak long-term, for multi-0day trips, or for very regular kayaking, it is important to get the best vessel you can find, regardless of price. 

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Buying an inexpensive inflatable kayak is only suitable for occasional use, for gentle waters, and for short trips. These kayaks are not good enough for serious paddling. 

Inflatable kayaks are expensive. This is something that you need to know before buying one. Even the least expensive of all inflatable kayaks are expensive, so be ready to pay for your new boat. 

There are several different varieties, models, brands, and styles of inflatable kayaks to choose from. There are inflatable kayaks designed for fishing, hunting, open water, lakes, damns, rivers, streams, open ocean, and even for extreme rapids. 

Be sure that you buy not only the best kayak you can find but the kayak that is best for the type of paddling that you like to do. This will ensure that your kayak performs as you want it to, without having to compromise or make any modifications.

So long as you keep these critical factors in mind, you are likely to find the best kayak for you and your paddling purposes, 

The Pros And Cons Of Inflatable Kayaks

Now that we have explored some of the main talking surrounding inflatable kayaks, it is time to get into the crucial facts. All kayak types have their own pros and cons, and inflatable kayaks are not exempt from this. 

Let’s take the time to fully examine the important pros and cons of inflatable kayaks to help you determine if this type of vessel is ideal for you or if you should rather look for something more conventional. 

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The Pros Of Inflatable Kayaks

inflatable kayaks shore

The pros of inflatable kayaks include:

  • Portable – these kayaks fold away into a very small size and are very lightweight.
  • Easy to store – the small size of these kayaks, when deflated, makes them easy to store in any home.
  • Very easy to transport – these kayaks do not require heavy vehicles, trailers, or trucks to transport.
  • Durable – the PVC material these kayaks are made from is tough and reliable. 
  • Readily available – there are many of this kayak variety easily available on the market right now, plenty to suit every kayaking requirement.
  • Easy to maintain – maintaining PVC kayaks requires very little work and effort.
  • Simple to repair – simple patches and sewn repairs are easily possible if an inflatable kayak is damaged.
  • Very capable of all types of water – high-end inflatables can be used for any water conditions, even rough rapids, and ocean waves.

The Cons Of Inflatable Kayaks

The cons of inflatable kayaks include:

  • Expensive – these kayaks are even more expensive than hard-shell versions.
  • Susceptible to damage from the sun – ultraviolet rays from the sun break down PVC over time, making the kayak brittle and fragile.
  • Can be ripped, torn, and punctured – regardless of how durable they are, all inflatables are susceptible to this type of damage.
  • Very bad if they are not high-end models – only the best-quality inflatables are worthwhile buying for serious paddlers. Anything that is not high-end is only suitable for occasional paddling.
  • Not as fast as hard-shell kayaks – these kayaks are inherently slower than the more streamlined and rigid hard-shell vessels.
  • Not as tough as hard-shell kayaks – even the toughest inflatables are not as hardy as hard-shell kayaks.
  • Not as comfortable as hard-shell kayaks – these kayaks are not as well-equipped as hard-shell kayaks, especially regarding seats, feet supports, and space within the vessel.
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Should You Buy An Inflatable Kayak?

At the end of it, there is really only one reason to buy an inflatable kayak rather than a hard shell, and that reason is portability. If you live in a situation where you cannot easily store or move a hard-shell kayak, your best option is an inflatable version. 

Foldable kayaks are also an option, but no folding kayak is as good as a high-end inflatable. If you want to own your own kayak, but you do not have the space for it or the capacity to transport it, an inflatable kayak is barely a compromise, so long as you get a good one. 

Conclusion

Inflatable kayaks are useful, perfectly functional, and have almost the same performance and useability as hard-shell kayaks in the right situations. There are many inflatable kayaks available right now, so there is an option to suit every paddler out there. 

If you need to move a kayak easily or if you lack the space to store one, an inflatable kayak is a way to go. Take the time to research inflatables before you buy one, and be sure to get the best one that you can afford for your intended paddling purposes, and you will never be dissatisfied with your inflatable vessel!