Best Inflatable Kayak: Getting on the Water Is Easier Than Ever

Person using an Inflatable Kayak


Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes, but they are generally separated into rigid and inflatable models. The best inflatable kayak models offer the kind of portability and ease of storage that make them ideal for many new kayakers.

Kayaking is one of the best sports for enjoying time on the water and for a great upper body workout. If you do it right, you'll be getting great work for your shoulders, lats, back, and core muscles, but you'll need the right kayak to do so.

If you live lakeside, storing a rigid kayak on your dock or beach is the obvious and easiest solution. If not, inflatable kayaks fit in the back of any vehicle and can be deflated and easily stored in your home closet.

This eliminates lugging a heavy kayak up stairs or investing in security straps if you're forced to leave your kayak stored on your vehicle. For your benefit, the ACTIVE Reviews Team has tested and reviewed the best inflatable kayaks currently on the market!

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The Best Inflatable Kayaks - Our Top Picks

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Best Overall Inflatable Kayak - Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxWxH): 10'5" x 34" x 11.5"
  • Weight: 36 lbs.

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Advanced Elements makes some of the best inflatable kayaks on the planet, which is why you'll see several models from them on this list. The AdvancedFrame design is highly adaptable to many paddling environments.

It offers the convenience of a lightweight kayak with the extra weather protection you'll generally only find on sit-inside kayaks. Plus, it boasts an aluminum-reinforced frame that acts as a skeg to improve tracking and durability.

What We Like

  • Comes with a tracking fin for even easier maneuverability
  • Packs down to 30" x 17" x 10"
  • Bungee lacing and tie-downs for securing dry bags and gear

What We Don't Like

  • Max weight capacity is 300 lbs., which may exclude some kayakers
  • Kayak paddle and inflation pump not included

BUY: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

Best Budget Inflatable Kayak - Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak

Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxWxH): 9' x 30" x 13"
  • Weight: 23.9 lbs.

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If you're on a budget, the Intex Challenger will get you on the water without dipping too far into your bank account. It's a pretty basic kayak, but it'll do fine for the occasional 1 to 2-hour paddling trip or those afternoons you just want to head out and float around.

The biggest benefit of this kayak is that it comes with pretty much everything you need to get started, minus a personal flotation device (PFD). That includes a collapsible paddle, hand pump, and carrying case.

What We Like

  • Affordable
  • Cargo net on the bow deck
  • Removable tracking fin for easier steering
  • Included paddle, pump, and case

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't steer as well as higher-end models.
  • Compact cockpit with weight capacity of only 220 lbs.

BUY: Intex Challenger Inflatable Kayak

Best Whitewater Inflatable Kayak - Kokopelli Packraft Nirvana Spraydeck

Kokopelli Packraft Nirvana Spraydeck

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxW): 7'6" x 37"
  • Weight: 10.8 lbs.

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Kokopelli's kayaks address a need of a unique segment of the kayaking population—those of you who need an ultralight kayak to carry into remote lakes or, in this case, utilize on remote rivers with excellent whitewater rapids.

The small, compact design makes it easily one of the lightest kayaks out there, but it's also designed with durability in mind. That includes a Kevlar-reinforced floor that can handle the rigors of hitting sharp objects in a river.

What We Like

  • Compact and lightweight for getting to waters that other kayaks simply won't be able to access
  • Comes with a lot of the kayaking accessories that whitewater paddlers might need
  • Suitable for Class I-III rivers

What We Don't Like

  • Not designed for flatwater paddling—won't track well in waters without current
  • Doesn't come with its own paddle

BUY: Kokopelli Packraft Nirvana Spraydeck

Best Inflatable Kayak for Fishing - Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler PRO Inflatable Kayak

Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler PRO Inflatable Kayak

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxW): 10'6" x 38.5"
  • Weight: 45 lbs.

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Kayaks can simply get to places that anglers won't be able to reach from shore or with a motorized boat. But regular fishing kayaks tend to be super heavy. Fortunately, this isn't the case with the StraitEdge Angler Pro.

This unique design includes a durable frame that supports an elevated seat, just like you'd find on a rigid fishing kayak. That frame system also allows you to customize your fishing setup by adding rod holders, a fish finder, or other preferred gear.

What We Like

  • Boasts a spring valve that provides reliable inflation and air retention
  • Distinct bow and stern provide improved tracking ability
  • The high-back seat provides lumbar support and breathability on hot days

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't come with its own paddle
  • May not be as comfortable for longer paddling trips

BUY: Advanced Elements StraitEdge Angler PRO Inflatable Kayak

Best Ocean Inflatable Kayak - Driftsun Rover Inflatable White-Water Kayak

Driftsun Rover Inflatable White-Water Kayak

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxWxH): 12'7.2" x 38" x 13"
  • Weight: 28 lbs.

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If you live near the coast and you're looking for something you can take out on protected bays or intercoastal waterways, the Driftsun Rover is a nice choice. It's not, however, suited to open ocean paddling.

Nevertheless, it's available in two separate designs for a single paddler or multiple paddlers. So you'll have a choice if you and your partner are looking for a kayak or you're simply looking for a larger inflatable kayak that can store more camping or fishing gear.

What We Like

  • 2-person design offers a maximum weight capacity of 600 lbs.
  • Comes with 8 self-bailing ports to keep water from accumulating in the cockpit
  • Has a front mount for an action camera to capture footage of your ocean adventures

What We Don't Like

  • Must be inflated to higher pressures (PSI) to retain rigidity and durability, which means you'll spend more time pumping it up before each adventure
  • Doesn't come with an electric air pump

BUY: Driftsun Rover Inflatable White-Water Kayak

Best Inflatable 2-Person Kayak - Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Inflatable Kayak

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxW): 15' x 32"
  • Weight: 52 lbs.

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If you need a two-person inflatable kayak, turning again to the fine folks at Advanced Elements is a smart decision. Their convertible design easily accommodates two paddlers, but can also be adapted for a single paddler looking to enjoy longer expeditions.

It's the longest kayak on our list while still being fairly skinny, which means it should be the most efficient over long distances. It's also built with multiple air chambers so you don't have to worry about it deflating completely if one chamber somehow becomes compromised.

What We Like

  • Boasts spring and twist-locking valves that are compatible with most manual and electric pumps
  • Can be equipped with a conversion spray skirt (sold separately) for touring or cold-weather paddling
  • Inflatable back supports can be adjusted for personal comfort

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't come with paddles or any type of pump
  • Max weight capacity of 550 lbs. may limit tandem partners

BUY: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Best Inflatable Kayak for Beginners - Aquaglide Chinook 100 Inflatable Kayak

Aquaglide Chinook 100 Inflatable Kayak

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxW): 10' x 36" x 13.5"
  • Weight: 23 lbs.

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The Aquaglide Chinook 100 is a great place to start if you're new to the sport of kayaking because it offers a great balance of length and width that allows it to be extra stable. It also includes a second seat if you want to paddle with a small child or your furry companion.

The Chinook is designed for calm lakes and gentle rivers and it packs down to dimensions of 24.5 by 22.5 by 13.5 inches when not in use. Plus, it comes with two rod holders and a gear storage pocket if you eventually decide to give kayak fishing a shot!

What We Like

  • Has an open cockpit for easy entry and exit
  • Quick to inflate and set up when you're itching to get on the water
  • Can last longer than other “budget-friendly" kayaks for beginners

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't come with a kayak paddle or any sort of pump

BUY: Aquaglide Chinook 100 Inflatable Kayak

Best Inflatable Kayak for Camping - Bote Lono Aero Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayak

Bote Lono Aero Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayak

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxW): 12'6" x 35.5"
  • Weight: 48 lbs.

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If you're looking for something you can easily use for car camping or even short backpacking trips, Bote's Lono Aero is a leading candidate. That's because the kayak, seats, and everything else pack into a backpack-style storage case.

The kayak itself is also extremely durable and offers a maximum weight capacity of 400 pounds. Plus, it's compatible with many of Bote's additional accessories and can even be equipped with their Apex pedal drive (sold separately) for hands-free locomotion.

What We Like

  • Has a dedicated space behind the seat for securing a cooler or 5-gallon bucket
  • Multi-textured deck pad sheds water and provides grip if you want to stand up inside the kayak
  • Seat adjusts easily and even detaches for easy storage

What We Don't Like

  • On the higher end when it comes to price
  • Doesn't come with a paddle

BUY: Bote Lono Aero Sit-On-Top Inflatable Kayak

Best Inflatable Kayak for Multiple People - Aquaglide Deschutes 145 Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Aquaglide Deschutes 145 Tandem Inflatable Kayak

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxW): 14'6" x 40"
  • Weight: 27 lbs.

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This long tandem kayak will easily fit you and your favorite paddling partner, furry companion or child. One of the seats can also be removed (and the other repositioned) if you want to paddle it by yourself.

The kayak's longer waterline provides smoother, more efficient paddling over long distances and it offers enough storage space for camping gear. You'll also love the FeatherFrame crosspiece that adds extra structural support without increasing the kayak's weight.

What We Like

  • Offers splash guards over the fore and aft cockpit areas to keep you drier
  • Thickly padded seats stay comfortable on longer journeys
  • Front and rear bungees as well as D-rings throughout provide plenty of ability to secure all your paddling gear
  • 600-lb. weight capacity

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't come with kayak paddles
  • Doesn't come with any sort of inflation pump

BUY: Aquaglide Deschutes 145 Tandem Inflatable Kayak

Most Lightweight Inflatable Kayak - Aquaglide Deschutes 130 Inflatable Kayak

Aquaglide Deschutes 130 Inflatable Kayak

SPECS

  • Inflated dimensions (LxWxH): 13' x 37.5" x 10.5"
  • Weight: 21 lbs.

CHECK PRICE

If you're looking for a lightweight kayak for a single paddler that can handle a variety of paddling conditions, the Deschutes 130 can go almost anywhere you'd dare to venture. Its length allows it to be efficient on long-distance expeditions, but it's also supremely comfortable for day trips.

It comes with a quick-release fin that allows it to track straight without constant paddle corrections and the solid floor provides a lower center of gravity for improved stability. It also boasts single-layer tubes constructed with stiffer, more durable material that eliminate the need for internal bladders and further decrease the kayak's weight.

What We Like

  • Cushioned seats offer breathable backrests to keep you cooler on hot days
  • 3 chambers can be quickly and easily inflated so you can get on the water in minutes
  • Open cockpit makes it easy for paddlers to get in and out
  • 400-lb. weight limit should be high enough for most kayakers plus their gear

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't come with a paddle or an air pump
  • Seat tends to get uncomfortable after a couple of hours

BUY: Aquaglide Deschutes 130 Inflatable Kayak

What To Look For in an Inflatable Kayak

Some of your buying criteria will come down to personal preference. But these two factors are critical to consider when selecting an inflatable kayak:

Dimensions

In general, a longer kayak will be more efficient over long distances and a shorter, wider kayak will be more stable. But you'll also need to consider a kayak's cockpit dimensions to make sure you'll have enough room to stay comfortable once you're seated inside.

Most beginners will want a kayak that's between 10 and 12 feet long with a width somewhere between 32 and 38 inches. But as you gain experience and want to cover more ground, you'll want a longer and skinnier kayak that's more efficient and has space for all your paddling safety gear and, potentially, camping equipment.

Weight

Honestly, you won't notice a huge difference between a 25- and a 30-pound kayak once you're on the water. In fact, most people struggle with kayak weight on land much more than they do once they're floating around.

The whole point of an inflatable kayak is the ability to carry them with much less effort than most rigid kayaks. But there's still a big difference between hauling an inflatable that weighs 50 pounds and one that only weighs 20.

Of course, you can always invest in a kayak cart if the model you really want is a little on the heavier side. That's also a good idea if you have to park a long way from your launch point, as the cart allows you to roll your kayak down to the water instead of carrying all that weight and tiring yourself out before you even get on the water.

FAQs About Inflatable Kayaks

Let's cover some of the most commonly asked questions about inflatable kayaks to give you a little more information before you select the perfect kayak for your next adventure.


Are inflatable kayaks worth it?

Many inflatable kayaks are cheaper than their rigid counterparts, but not all. Inflatable kayaks are worth it because they are lightweight and can be packed up to fit inside the back of any vehicle, eliminating the need for transporting a kayak on roof racks.

Do inflatable kayaks tip over easily?

The answer here is that it really depends on the kayak and the person paddling it. As a general rule, try to keep your nose aligned directly over your belly button when you're sitting in a kayak, as this will keep your body's center of gravity aligned with the kayak's center point and increase stability.

How long do inflatable kayaks last?

Your inflatable kayak should last years if you take good care of it. Ultimately, any kayak's lifespan will depend on its frequency of use, whether it is used in appropriate conditions, and how well the owner cares for and maintains it.

About the Author

Tucker Ballister

Tucker is a full-time writer for Camping World and his own blog, The Backpack Guide. He grew up hiking, kayaking, backpacking, paddle boarding, and gallivanting in the woods in the Sierra Nevada Mountains located north of Lake Tahoe.

See More from Tucker

Tucker is a full-time writer for Camping World and his own blog, The Backpack Guide. He grew up hiking, kayaking, backpacking, paddle boarding, and gallivanting in the woods in the Sierra Nevada Mountains located north of Lake Tahoe.

See More from Tucker

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