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Things to Consider When Choosing an Inflatable Kayak

Guide to choosing an inflatable kayak with various factors listed

Things to Consider When Choosing an Inflatable Kayak

Inflatable kayaks make owning a kayak a reality even for those with even the smallest storage area. Choosing an inflatable kayak requires understanding a few key features and differences.

Kayaks represent one of the most versatile fishing watercraft available. The kayak’s ability to cross shallow water with great stealth makes them an excellent option for fishing in shallow water. The ability to quickly maneuver while fighting a fish makes the kayak an excellent platform for larger fish in open water conditions too. Fishing from a kayak isn’t new, Just about every major company is now making models geared towards fishermen. What is new is the growth of inflatable kayaks. This article will cover the things to consider when choosing an inflatable kayak and a few examples of kayaks that may fit the descriptions.

Inflatable boats have been available almost as long as there has been vinyl material to make them with. With the increasingly urbanized population, the idea of having a 10-14 foot hard plastic boat in your apartment or on the side of your house is not feasible. To meet the demand for portable, storable watercraft, both inflatable and traditional boat companies have released better and better versions of inflatable kayaks. Regarding portability, the average inflatable kayak weighs between 30-50 pounds and compresses down to the size of a duffle bag. This level of portability allows anyone with a sedan to carry a kayak without having to strap it to their roof, hoping the straps hold and the whistling sound stops when they get off the highway.


Inflatable kayaks can be grouped based on their materials—these range from the simplest and thus budget-friendly to multilayered near bulletproof composites of the higher-end kayaks.

Single Layer Vinyl:

Single-layer vinyl is the most cost-effective material for kayaks. It is lightweight and compresses very well. The trade-offs for vinyl are reduced rigidity and lack of puncture resistance. Kayaks made from vinyl are easy to repair, and from a cost perspective, an excellent option for testing out or just having a seasonal use kayak.

Fabric Covered Vinyl:

Many companies offer a fabric-covered option to add abrasion resistance to vinyl kayaks. These multi-ply materials look and feel similar to an inflatable mattress, giving added protection from not just rocks but also UV damage that can come from prolonged exposure to the sun. One crucial piece of advice for care with fabric-covered kayaks is that you need to make sure they are dry before they are stored. Fabric will hold water and mold if not dried adequately beforehand.

Rubberized PVC:

Rubberized PVC kayaks are the most rugged of the three building materials. They offer excellent rigidity while providing puncture and abrasion resistance suitable for whitewater rafting. PVC is a bit heavier than vinyl, but the overall life expectancy of PVC kayaks is usually worth the extra few pounds.

Inflation Type:

Since inflatable kayaks are, by their nature, inflatable, they require some method of filling them with air. Most kayaks will come with a hand pump and the hoses required to inflate them. If using an aftermarket electric pump, I advise getting a unit with a PSI setting. Pumps with PSI settings will shut off when reaching a certain pressure, reducing the chance of overfilling and damaging your new kayak. Max PSI ratings for your kayak can be found in the instruction manual. Outdoor Master makes an awesome pump that features multiple stages


Most inflatable kayaks hover around 12 feet; this length gives a manageable size while still providing a suitable weight capacity. Should you opt for a shorter kayak, you will sacrifice capacity buoyancy to gain maneuverability. Conversely, the larger tandem kayaks measure in at around 14 feet or more, making them a little less manageable for a single paddler.

If you do expect to take a dog or fishing buddy opt for tandem or even three person kayak like Sea Eagle FastTrack.

Weight Capacity:

The weight capacity or maximum weight that a kayak can hold is one of the most important qualifiers when selecting a kayak. The maximum capacity is the most weight the boat will take in calm water, not moving water or chop. Furthermore, just because you don’t weigh the amount stated doesn’t mean you plus a cooler, paddle, rods, tackle box, and dry bag won’t surpass the weight. For best results, factor all those items in and give yourself a margin of error for another 10%. That extra few “grace” pounds will keep you much happier should you be negotiating choppy conditions.

Additional Accessories:

Rod holders, seats, and splash guards are just a few of the accessories included with some kayak purchases. For example, the Elkton Outdoors Cormorant comes fully loaded with all the above.


Inflatable kayaks are more stable than their hardshell counterparts due to their broad base. For fishing, this translates to less concern when grabbing a fish or even casting, both of which have resulted in a fair number of hardshell kayak anglers taking a swim.

Some models have taken this increased stability to the next level and combined their designs with stand-up paddleboard features such as the Lono Aero by BOTE.

Choosing an inflatable kayak requires some thought. How much do I want to spend? How many people will I be taking? Even how long will this take to dry? While we can’t answer those questions for you, we can give you the right questions to ask yourself when looking for a kayak. Take your time and research the different options and how they stack up for your needs as a kayak angler. Before long, you will be out and paddling in the kayak meant for you.

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