What is the Best Inflatable Kayak: Inflatable vs. Hardshell & Class IV Rapids


After careful consideration of more than 30 kayaks and plenty of research, our top pick for the best inflatable kayak is the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak.

The AdvancedFrame Convertible offers a durable hull that can take a beating in tough waters, along with three different deck configurations to comfortably accommodate up to two riders and an easy set up process.

Don’t forget to check out our other top picks below and learn how you can choose the best inflatable kayak for you!

At a Glance: The Best Inflatable Kayaks

#1 Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible – Best Inflatable Kayak


  • Three different deck configurations
  • Durable and rigid multi-layer design
  • Includes repair kit


  • Heavier than other inflatable kayaks
  • Doesn’t include paddles
  • Carrying case is difficult to handle

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible kayak is extra versatile, offering three separate deck configurations: a standard open deck, a single-rider closed deck and a double-rider closed deck. With these different deck configurations, you can choose exactly how you want to use the kayak.

This inflatable kayak also offers an extremely durable build so that even the most adventurous kayakers can use it in both rough and calm waters. Using a unique, 3-layer design, you won’t have to worry about punctures every time you run over a rock or stray branch. It also features a rigid hull with aluminum ribs for increased performance and control that you would typically expect from traditional hard kayaks.

Setup is as simple as unfolding the kayak, pumping it full of air and attaching the foldable seats. When it comes time to put it away, though, you might experience some difficulty getting it back into the bag and hauling it around. The carrying bag could benefit from some extra space and wider handles that you could use to carry on your shoulders.

#2 Intex Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak – Best Value Inflatable Kayak


  • 2 person carrying capacity
  • Air pump and aluminum oars included
  • Made from heavy-duty vinyl


  • Inflatable seats don’t offer much support
  • The included carrying bag isn’t well made
  • Doesn’t perform well in windy weather

The Intex Explorer K2 kayak is spacious and durable, and it offers a solid option in the inflatable kayak industry, especially when you consider its price point. With a two-person carrying capacity and a good variety of included accessories, you’ll be up and running in no time as soon as you open the box.

Made from heavy-duty vinyl materials, you can expect a long life out of this inflatable tandem kayak, even if you do bump into stray debris while out on the water. The sturdy construction also helps you feel more secure while using this Intex inflatable kayak.

While the included carrying bag isn’t as well made as others on the market, it still provides enough space to fit the deflated kayak along with the other accessories and keeps the boat protected from dust while in storage. Unfortunately, the inflated seats don’t offer as much support or comfort as standard rigid seats, which can get worse during extended periods of use. However, despite these drawbacks, the Intex Explorer K2 offers the best value for the price.

#3 Sevylor Big Basin – Best Family Inflatable Kayak


  • Three person carrying capacity
  • Heavy-duty PVC construction
  • Tarpaulin bottom prevents punctures


  • Lacks storage space for gear
  • Heavier than other inflatable kayaks
  • Doesn’t include any accessories

The Sevylor Big Basin inflatable kayak is a beast. Able to seat three people simultaneously and built with plenty of leg room, this kayak is the best option for families who want to let everyone in on the fun. As you might expect from a kayak with such a large carrying capacity, the Big Basin is built from heavy-duty PVC that can take a hit without hesitating, especially on the tarpaulin bottom made specially for preventing punctures.

This three person inflatable kayak suffers when it comes storage space for gear, especially when using it to its full capacity, and its much heavier than other inflatable kayaks, which can make it difficult to carry over long distances. It also doesn’t include any accessories, meaning you’ll have to go out and buy your own or have your family members bring their own.

All in all, this inflatable kayak is a great option for anyone looking for long-lasting family fun that you can keep coming back to.

#4 Driftsun Voyager 2 – Best Two Person Inflatable Kayak


  • Quick inflation
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Overall design made for high performance in any water condition


  • Compact design means less storage space
  • The included pump isn’t as sturdy as others

The Driftsun Voyager 2 is the best two-person inflatable kayak on the market today because of its compact design and quick setup process. Inflating in under five minutes, this kayak gets you and your companion on the water faster than other kayaks. It’s also designed to weather harsh water conditions due to its rocker profile and pointed nose entry. The Voyager 2 also comes with all the necessary accessories to get you going, including padded seats, paddles, tracking fin, a repair kit and a pump.

The compact design featured on this inflatable tandem kayak means you’ll lose out on some storage space, especially when using it with two people. This can be a problem if you’re looking to use it for an extended venture, but it does include some webbing at the front and back of the kayak for storage. The pump included with this kayak isn’t as sturdy as other pumps, and you may need to get it replaced after extended use.

#5 Sea Eagle 420X Deluxe Package – Best Inflatable Kayak for Whitewater


  • Can handle whitewater rapids up to Class IV
  • 3 person carrying capacity
  • Comfortable carrying bag
  • Super durable


  • The paddles aren’t as strong as others
  • Included instructions are sparse and difficult to understand
  • The seats aren’t durable

The Sea Eagle 420X doesn’t hold back when it comes to durability and capacity. Able to fit up to three people simultaneously—albeit snugly—this inflatable whitewater kayak is great for group adventures in up to Class IV whitewater rapids. The Deluxe package includes two high-backed seats that are comfortable for use in rapids. Unfortunately, these seats aren’t as durable as they should be, and you might experience some problems after a few trips.

Setup can get a little difficult with the Sea Eagle 420X, unless you’re already experienced with inflatable kayaks. The included instructions are sparse and frustratingly difficult to read and understand enough to get everything in its right place. Once you are set up, you may also find some difficulty using the included paddles, as they aren’t as strong as others on the market today.

Overall, this inflatable kayak is great on whitewater rapids, but you might need to purchase some better accessories before giving it a whirl.

#6 Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler Kayak – Best Inflatable Fishing Kayak


  • Includes handy accessory bar
  • Super comfortable seat for long fishing trips with two rod holders on the back
  • Lots of storage space for fishing gear


  • The accessory bar sits too far forward
  • Doesn’t include any accessories

If you’re looking for an inflatable fishing kayak, don’t look any further than the Advanced Elements Straitedge Angler. This one person inflatable kayak offers a wide variety of options for fishers, including rod holders on the back of the seat and tons of storage for all your fishing gear. The kayak itself is built from sturdy materials with an aluminum rib frame that provides more stability and rigidity for extended durations on the lake. You’ll also find a handy accessory bar on the Straitedge Angler. While the bar sits too far forward on the kayak for comfort, it still offers a much-needed space for you to mount your rods and fishfinder.

Hopefully you already have some accessories on hand when you buy this Advanced Elements inflatable kayak, because it doesn’t include any when you buy it. This means you’ll at least need to get your own pump and paddle before you can take this inflatable fishing kayak out to snag the catch of the day.

#7 Sea Eagle SE370K_P Pro Package – Best Inflatable Ocean Kayak


  • Durable sun- and saltwater-resistant hull
  • Includes paddles, pump, seats, carry bag and repair kit
  • The storage bag is spacious and holds the kayak and all accessories


  • Only includes two small storage compartments
  • Too heavy to carry the kayak and all the accessories over long distances
  • No paddle storage

The Sea Eagle SE370K_P is a durable and spacious inflatable ocean kayak that can handle both the calm waters of a lake and the more active waters of the ocean. With a sun- and saltwater-resistant build, this kayak is durable and long lasting, even when used in the ocean. It also includes spray skirts that keep you from getting too wet on rougher waters, which is a feature you don’t see on a lot of inflatable kayaks.

Another nice thing about this kayak is the fact that you get all the accessories you need in the Pro Package, including the paddles, seats, carrying bag and repair kit. This means you don’t have to do any additional shopping after getting the kayak.

If you’re looking at carrying your inflatable ocean kayak over long distances, you might want to consider something different than the SE370K_P. The kayak itself isn’t too heavy, but since the carrying bag can fit the boat and all the accessories, it can be incredibly difficult to carry.

#8 13’ Saturn Whitewater – Best Self Bailing Inflatable Kayak


  • Suitable for use on up to Class IV rapids
  • Plenty of self-bailing holes
  • Rigid, drop-stitch floor


  • Only includes one seat
  • Doesn’t include any accessories
  • No built-in storage compartments

The 13’ Saturn Whitewater is an inflatable whitewater kayak that is rated for use on Class IV rapids. The best feature on this kayak is the multitude of self-bailing holes it offers. When water inevitably splashes into your kayak from the rapids, the self-bailing holes drain the water for you, so you don’t have to worry about getting too water logged. These holes are aided by a rigid, drop-stitch floor that allows the water to get where it need to go fast.

Even though this kayak can be used as a inflatable tandem kayak, it only includes a single seat. If you want to go rafting with a buddy, you’ll need to purchase another seat. It also doesn’t include any other accessories and suffers from a distinct lack of storage options. You can add webbing to store your gear, but you’ll need to rig it yourself.

Top Inflatable Kayaks Compared 2018

Inflatable Kayak vs. Hardshell

Inflatable kayaks are relatively new to the world of recreational water sports, and they’re up against a lot of tradition with hardshell kayaks. Take a look at some of the differences between the two:

Weight and Size: Hardshell kayaks are often bigger and heavier than inflatable kayaks. This is mostly due to the fact that hardshell kayaks are made from denser materials. Inflatable kayaks are much easier to carry around and don’t take up nearly as much room in your garage since they can deflate.

DurabilityIf you’ve ever run into something while kayaking in a hardshell kayak, you know just how grating the sound of running into rocks and branches can be. You can’t help but cringe when you just know that your hull is getting all scraped up. While hardshells kayaks are durable in their own right, inflatable kayaks were meant to take a beating and come out the other side without a scratch. Since they’re made from rubber and PVC, most times you just bounce off the hard stuff and continue on your way.

Setup: Inflatable kayaks need more time to get set up than hardshell kayaks. You’ve got to pump them full of air and then fully deflate them when you’re done kayaking for the day. With hardshell kayaks, you can simply put the boat in the water and be on your way. No need for much set up.

Control: Hardshell kayaks tend to control a little better than inflatable kayaks, at least for now. Since inflatable kayaks are lighter, they can struggle a bit in rough waters like rapids and choppy lakes. However, this is becoming less of a problem as technology advances and manufacturers come up with better features to make inflatable kayaks more efficient on any kind of water.

Top Questions About Inflatable Kayaks Answered


What is the Best Inflatable Kayak: Inflatable vs. Hardshell & Class IV Rapids is courtesy of GadgetReviews

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