Inflatable kayaks are popular with watersports enthusiasts, and there’s no shortage of reasons why: They’re easy to transport and store, they come in a wide variety of prices and models, and they’re durable, versatile, and comfortable. And that’s not counting the fact that inflatable canoes and kayaks offer a practical alternative to traditional hardshell kayaks.
In contrast to hardshell kayaks, an inflatable kayak can be easily transported in the trunk of your car or even on foot. You can simply deflate it and store it in a compact bag. What’s more, inflatable kayaks are often more comfortable than hard shell kayaks, since they feature an inflatable, adjustable seat and adjustable backrest.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the best inflatable kayaks in 2023 to help you choose the best option for your vacation. From novices to experienced paddlers, we’ve got something for you. Explore our picks for the best inflatable kayak before summer is gone!
TYPES OF INFLATABLE KAYAKS
An inflatable kayak is a type of kayak made from lightweight, durable materials such as PVC, nylon, or rubber. Unlike rigid fiberglass or plastic boats, or a wooden canoe, inflatable kayaks can be easily deflated and stored in a compact carry bag, making them convenient for both transport and storage.
Most inflatable kayaks require that you inflate it using a manual or electric air pump, typically included alongside a repair kit. Once inflated, the kayak can be used for freshwater or saltwater navigation, depending on the model and characteristics of the kayak you choose.
A high quality Inflatable kayak is often used for touring, camping, fishing, and leisure activities with family or friends. Each model boasts its own set of unique features that makes it more suitable for one activity or another and not all kayaks are built equally.
Because there are so many different models of inflatable kayaks—from top-of-the-line to very affordable—let’s start by looking at the most common types of inflatable kayaks.
Recreational inflatable kayak:
This model of kayak is ideal for beginners, intermediate paddlers, or people just looking for a leisurely cruise across flat water lakes. Simply put, it’s a stable and lightweight craft that’s easy to maneuver.
- Easy to transport, store, and deploy;
- Stable shape and easy to maneuver;
- Affordable model.
- Less suitable for whitewater or long distances.
Inflatable touring kayaks:
These kayaks are designed for long rides over flat water or at sea. These products are longer and narrower than recreational kayaks, offering increased speed and on-water performance.
- Fast, high-performance model;
- Similar functionality to a sea kayak;
- More comfortable than hard shell kayaks.
- More expensive than recreational kayaks;
- Less suited to white-water use.
Inflatable river kayaks:
These kayaks are designed for whitewater and rapids. They are shorter and wider than touring kayaks, with raised edges to prevent water from seeping into the boat.
- Ideal for whitewater and rapids,
- Safe, stable kayak shape.
- Not as fast as touring kayaks,
- Less comfortable than recreational kayaks.
2-person inflatable kayak:
Equipped with two seats, a two-person kayak can comfortably accommodate two adults, making it an excellent choice for outings with family or friends. Your tandem kayak can be used for fishing, flat water touring, or out at sea.
- One kayak for two adults;
- Ideal for lovers.
- More cumbersome to transport.
Buying an inflatable kayak
You’re looking for thrills this summer, and part of that depends on your next kayak. But when it comes to choosing a new watercraft, there are many aspects to consider: Cost-benefit ratio, intended use cases, unique features, and, yes—even its visual design.
Below is our guide to some of the most important factors to consider when choosing the best inflatable kayak for your needs.
Your intended use case/activities is arguably the most important factor to consider when shopping for the best inflatable kayak. For example, if you enjoy paddling on calm waters, a recreational kayak will probably be more suitable. If you plan to kayak whitewater, a river kayak is the better option.
The kayak’s carrying capacity refers to the maximum weight it can hold in terms of both people and equipment you take aboard. Opt for an inflatable kayak that not only supports your weight, but that of your passengers and gear, as well.
Specifically, check the weight capacity and the seating capacity of your desired craft.
Size and weight:
Kayak size and weight are important for transport and storage. Lighter, more compact kayaks will be easier to transport and store, but may be less stable in open water.
Some inflatable kayaks come with additional features, such as cup holders, fishing rod holders, inflatable seats, and extra storage compartments. Be sure to consider these features for your specific needs.
Bang for your buck is another important factor to consider when shopping for your next inflatable kayak. Inflatable kayaks can vary considerably in price depending on their quality, features, use cases, and size.
Whatever option you choose, prioritize quality construction. This includes things like the kayak’s material, its weight capacity, its seating capacity, and even the kayak’s portability.
THE BEST INFLATABLE KAYAKS IN 2023
Whether you’re a first-time boater or looking to upgrade, here are our picks for the best inflatable kayak available in Canada in 2023. Read on to discover which one will best suit your needs.
Best overall inflatable kayak:
Onata's Raptor 11 is hands-down the best inflatable kayak of 2023. It's affordable, super easy to transport, and deploys easily.
Built of sturdy nylon, it combines durability with portability. It’s also exceptionally comfortable thanks to its foam bench. In addition to the bench, it comes with a paddle, pump, repair kit and carry bag.
- Easy to use;
- Rigid and durable;
- Straps to secure your essentials.
- Not the most affordable.
Fastest inflatable kayak:
AQUAMARINA's Tomahawk is our speed champion this season. It's a high-pressure kayak designed to cover great distances at high speeds in complete stability.
It's still maneuverable and comfortable, with impeccable build quality and ultra-rigid construction. It will inspire you to choose the best trajectory and push your limits.
- Very fast;
- Outstanding stability;
- Impeccable quality.
- Little storage space;
- No oar included.
The most versatile inflatable kayak:
If you're looking for an inflatable kayak capable of adapting to different environments—or if you're simply not sure where and in what conditions you'll be paddling in—bet on the Steam from AQUAMARINA.
This inflatable kayak has been designed with versatility in mind, so you can go paddling on flat waters or take part in a race on a fast flowing river.
- Highly versatile;
- Stiff and fast;
- Limited interior space.
Best recreational inflatable kayak:
Available in different lengths to accommodate from one to three paddlers, AQUAMARINA's Laxo inflatable kayak is perfect for enjoying summer on open water.
Versatile, easy to use and steer in different conditions, the LAXO series is designed to easily carry what you need to sunbathe in comfort and gently explore the waterways around you.
- Large capacity;
- Backpack option;
- Excellent storage.
- Expensive for a non-competitive kayak.
Best inflatable touring kayak:
Designed for long distances, and to carry everything you need to get to your next destination, AQUAMARINA's Memba is ideal for spending lots of time on calm waters.
Highly durable, it's made to promote excellent glide and optimize your paddling efforts. It's easy to transport with its front, rear and, center carry handles, and in its compact carrying backpack.
- Quick inflation and deflation;
- Functional backpack;
- Dual fins for excellent straight-line handling.
- Less agile.
Best 2-seater inflatable kayak:
The Paragon Tandem from NRS is a two-person inflatable kayak with high-back seats and adjustable footrests for both paddlers.
There's nothing better than gliding gently down a majestic river on a beautiful summer's day, if not sharing the experience with someone else!
Featuring ample storage space, removable fin, and splash protection, the Star Paragon inflatable kayak from NRS takes first-place when it comes to tandem kayak paddling.
- Easy to steer;
- Good storage space.
- A little heavy, which can cause transportation problems.
Best river kayak:
The Star Viper inflatable kayak from NRS offers the performance of a rigid kayak with the convenience of an inflatable kayak. Its responsive, high-performance design lets you surf, turn and sail with ease, offering a unique inflatable kayaking experience. Thigh straps included with the kayak let you take tight turns, ride waves, lean, and even roll.
- Thigh straps;
- Stable despite its high maneuverability.
- Limited space for equipment.
Best river kayak:
Perfect for calm, gentle waters, the Betta 10’3” offers excellent stability and reliable steering. Specially designed to provide an enjoyable boating experience in a variety of water conditions, it requires little maintenance and gets you out on the water quickly, at a less prohibitive price than its competitors.
- Robust despite its reasonable weight;
- Requires very little maintenance.
- High seat height affects stability.
Inflatable kayaks offer a multitude of advantages that make them extremely popular among water and outdoor enthusiasts. Their ease of transport and storage, versatility, durability, and comfort make them an attractive option for adventurers of all levels.
The different types of inflatable kayaks—such as leisure, touring, river, and the good old tandem inflatable kayak—empower users to choose the one that best suits their preferences and activities.
Features such as load capacity, size, weight and additional functionality should be taken into account when selecting an inflatable kayak.
Regardless of the model chosen, inflatable kayaks continue to gain in popularity, offering performance comparable to that of traditional hardshell kayaks, while being more practical in terms of transport and storage.
With an increasingly diverse range of inflatable kayaks on the market, you’re sure to find something that is built for you! Happy paddling!