Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are a reasonably new product in the overall scheme of kayak development. Their portability and the fact that they take up less storage space have made them a competitive option to traditional, hard shell, kayaks. According to Wikipedia, the kayak, itself, is believed to be at least 4,000 years old. The oldest existing kayaks are exhibited in the North America department of the State Museum of Ethnology in Munich, with the oldest dating from 1577. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that fiberglass molded and rubberized boats were introduced in Europe. The plasticized versions that we know today were introduced in the 1970’s.

In comparison, inflatable kayaks evolved from government surplus rafts.  The versions that we know were first developed in the 1960’s. They are, surely, the new kids on the block.

Inflatable Kayaks: Not “pool toys” anymore …

Innova Inflatable Kayak in ActionFor many years, what we know as hard shell kayaks, made of plastic, fiberglass and some other materials, dominated the paddling market. When inflatable kayaks came along, they were often considered to be “pool toys”, not very tough and ready to spring a leak at any time. Various manufacturers, like Sea Eagle and Advanced Elements have successfully changed that perception by making inflatable kayaks that blow the “pool toys” out of the water (pun intended). Many of these major advances have occurred in a relatively short time (since 2006).

New and Better Materials

Advancements in materials have made newer inflatable kayaks and boats extremely hard to puncture. For example … Sea Eagle uses a 1000 denier PVC weaved material that has held up to a variety of puncture tests. Click here to watch the video. Advanced Elements uses a multi-layer process featuring a Polyester fabric sandwiched by layers of vinyl which creates a durable and strong outer cover. Innova Kayaks developed a rubberized, yet lightweight material that has served them well for many years. Invariably, you will continue to see a variety of innovations introduced every year from the companies mentioned above, as well as newer inflatable boat manufacturers like Bote and Aquaglide.

  • Personal Note: We sold inflatable watercraft to over 3,000 customers since 2006. Less than a tenth of 1% reported punctures  to us.

Much Improved Tracking …

Another problem with older inflatable kayaks was that they didn’t track as well as hard shell kayaks. Tracking is the term used for how well a kayak holds it’s path in the water. Since inflatable kayaks ride higher in the water, they tend to be affected by the wind and since not as much of their hull is down below the surface of the water, they may drift off the path more than a fiberglass, hard shell kayak. In some cases, that’s still true, but the firmness achieved by better materials being able to hold higher pressure air combined with sleeker designs have created inflatable kayaks that can now be mentioned in the same breath as many hard shell kayaks when talking about “tracking“. The gap has narrowed considerably.

Drop-Stitch Technology …

One of the most significant innovations that improved inflatable kayak tracking is “drop stitch technology” which enables pliable material to maintain it’s shape when inflated to high pressure. Sea Eagle was the first to adapt drop stitch technology into their inflatable kayaks. At the 2008 Outdoor Retail Show, the nation’s largest, inflatable stand up paddle boards were the talk of the show. Inflatable SUP’s were now hard enough to compete with fiberglass paddle boards. Sea Eagle’s Cecil Hoge decided to add drop stitch floors to their higher end inflatable kayaks. The result was a game changer. Tracking improved exponentially. A few years later, their RazorLite kayaks were introduced, with not only a floor, but a drop stitch hull, as well. Sea Eagle also offers a 3 year warranty compared to 1 year for most other manufacturers.

Why Buy an Inflatable Kayak?

Light Weight – Most inflatable kayaks are in the 20 to 30 lb. range! Some are as light as 16 pounds!
High Quality – The latest high tech fabrics and materials make these rigid inflatable kayaks very difficult to puncture or tear!
Easy Storage – Large crafts that fold down to duffel bag size!
Easy Transport – No car carrier needed. They fit in your trunk!
Fast Assembly – Nearly all of our inflatable kayaks can be water ready in less that 25 minutes — Max!
Excellent Value – Compared to solid, hard shell kayaks .. Inflatable Kayaks offer more boat for less money!

What’s the Best Inflatable Kayak for Me?

Good question! We have tried to provide an answer for you by listing some of the key features and photos of our most recommended inflatable kayaks. Most of these kayaks are best used in flat water situations. Those that handle whitewater well are noted below the photos. Sea Eagle kayaks are packaged to include a foot pump, paddles and a carry bag. Sea Eagle also offers a 3 year warranty compared to 1 year for most other manufacturers. Advanced Elements inflatable kayak accessories must be purchased separately. After checking out the options, if you have any questions, please contact us.

Sea Eagle 330 Pro SoloSea Eagle-330-Pro-Solo
Capacity: One Person
Sea Eagle 330 ProSea Eagle-330-Pro
Capacity: One or Two Person
Sea Eagle 370 ProSea Eagle-370-Pro
Capacity: One or Two Person
Sea Eagle 300x ExplorerSea Eagle-Explorer-300x
Capacity: One Person
** Can Handle Whitewater

Sea Eagle 380x ExplorerSea Eagle-Explorer-380x
Capacity: One or Two Person
** Can Handle Whitewater
Sea Eagle 420x Explorer Sea Eagle-Explorer-420x
Capacity: Two or Three Person
** Can Handle Whitewater
Sea Eagle 385 Fast TrackSea Eagle-Fast Track-385
Capacity: One or Two Person
Sea Eagle Fast Track 465Sea Eagle-Fast Track-465
Capacity: Two or Three Person

Sea Eagle’s patented RazorLite™ kayaks are made entirely of Drop Stitch material. They cut thru waves clean and straight at paddling speeds up to 6 mph.
Important NOTE: Because of its high-performance design and capabilities, the RazorLite™ kayaks are best recommended for intermediate and above paddlers.
Sea Eagle 393 RazorLiteSea Eagle-RazorLite-393
Capacity: One Two Person
** Can Handle Whitewater
Sea Eagle 473 RazorLiteSea Eagle-RazorLite-473
Capacity: One or Two Person
** Can Handle Whitewater

NEW from Sea Eagle: EZLite10™ Inflatable Kayak
Carrying the Sea Eagle EZLite10 This NEW Ultralight, High Performance 10’ kayak features sturdy drop-stitch construction along with a new lighter weight, stronger DS material and a V-bottom floor for superior handling, paddling and performance! At 26 lbs, the EZLite10™ is all about EASY … easy to set up, easy to carry, easy to paddle, easy to pack up, easy to store. The EZLite10™ is just about the lightest and most packable solo kayak out there. The light weight does not compromise quality, durability or performance. The EZLite10™ inflates in under 3 minutes and paddles easily up to 5 mph and can reach 6 mph. Click here to watch a video about the EZLite10™!

Click the photo below to check out the full line of 18 styles of high quality, innovative BOTE kayak packages.BOTE-Zeppelin Aero 10′ Classic Seafoam Inflatable Kayak
REI carries several models of Advanced Elements kayaks, 7 models of Aquaglide inflatable kayaks (photo below), as well as other brands like STAR, TAHE and select BOTE inflatables.Aquaglide-Chelan120 Inflatable KayakClick Here to see the complete REI selection of high quality inflatable kayaks. also carries a large selection of inflatable kayaks, including AIRE, Star, NRS, BOTE, AquaGlide and Kokopelli (image below). These are all competitively priced and Backcountry is one of the leading online retailers of all sorts of outdoor products!Kokopelli Inflatable Kayak
If you prefer to shop, here is a link to their selection of inflatable kayaks. You can also shop Innova Kayak’s exclusive Amazon store where they have a nice selection of inflatable kayaks that fit a variety of paddling styles.
Portable Kayak’s recommendations are based on a variety of factors, including actually paddling many of these kayaks at various trade shows over the past 15 years. You may find that these manufacturers have additional selections that are not included in our ‘guide’. Some may work well for you. We are simply showing you our best recommendations from the online stores that we trust. (NOTE: One major factor to take into consideration … when you purchase directly from, instead of one of their dealers, such as Amazon, you have 180 days to try out your boat. Other dealers only offer a 30 day return policy.)

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