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The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2023

Jan 04, 2024Jan 04, 2024

Inflatable kayaks bring the versatility of a true watercraft without the need to transport a heavy fiberglass shell. Photo: Steve Andrews.

Owning a watercraft opens up a whole new world of adventure. Being able to move across bodies of water helps to access places that others can't, or would take much longer to get to otherwise. But most of us don't have the capacity to take on a rigid and full-sized boat, which is costly and cumbersome, and not exactly mobile when not in the water.

Enter the inflatable kayak. Up until a few years ago kayaks were cumbersome and awkward to carry, thus negating the convenience factor if you don't live right next to water. Nowadays, you can carry a kayak in a backpack and get it to places that one simply couldn't go while trying to lug a 12 foot piece of plastic or fiberglass. With great innovations in materials and design, not only do today's inflatable kayaks get you to the water easily, but they get you around on the water with efficiency, too. They are also built to last and fully capable of withstanding the rigors of outdoor adventures.

That said, with so many options out there, it can be tough to decide. That's why we went through the process of testing some of the best inflatable kayaks out there to see which ones are worth the investment. If you’d like more info on how to choose, check out our comparison table and buyer's guide. For more inflatable reviews, check out our guide to the best inflatable paddle boards, and don't forget to bring a life jacket.

Best All-Around Inflatable Kayak: Aquaglide Deschutes 110Best Lightweight Inflatable Kayak: Aquaglide Cirrus Ultralite 110Fastest Inflatable Kayak:Decathalon Itiwit X500Best Folding Kayak: Oru Kayak Beach LT SportBest Inflatable Kayak for Cruising: Bote Zeppelin

Versions: 11′ (solo), 14’6″ (Tandem)Pros: Low profile, easy setup, moves well on the water.Cons: Any storage needs to be lightweight.Overall Score: 4.2

The greatest difference between a kayak and a SUP is the ability to be close to the water. It's a connection that I love and really enjoy, and the Aquaglide Deschutes puts you right next to the surface. This kayak was a breeze to set up – The main chambers inflate in seconds, literally – and the attached seat connects just as fast. All in all, you can have the unit ready to go in less than a minute once you’ve got the hang of it, which doesn't take too long.

On the water, this paddles really well – I could easily move around and didn't feel like it was taking me in any direction other than the direction I paddled. Once you get a bit of a glide going, the boat cruises with ease and efficiency.

This is a boat that checks all the boxes for summertime fun. It's by no means a high-performance boat, but it still moves well on the water, meaning the adventure factor compared to not having it is significantly higher. With a reasonable price, it's hard to find many faults with this kayak. It was enough for us to give it the title for Best All-Around Inflatable Kayak.

Length: 11 FeetWeight: 19 lbsWeight Capacity: 300 lbsPacked Dimensions: 30 x 18 x 15 inchesStorage Space: Bungees in front and back, D- Rings for tie towns, small floor space in back

Check Price on REI

Versions: 11′ (solo), 15′ (tandem)Pros: Low profile, easy setup, moves well on the waterCons: Pricey. Thin walls had me scared of rocks.Overall Score: 4.2

Even more than being lightweight, the Aquaglide Cirrus Ultralight kayak packs up so small you could include it on a bigger pack to take to some pretty incredible places off the beaten path. Whether it's a majestic alpine lake or an empty point break on the Lost Coast, this kayak can pack small and not cramp your style too much. When unpacked, it sets up easily and effortlessly, and holds well out on the water. In fact, it's quite similar to the Deschutes 110 we gave the "Best All Around" rating, but definitely is the good choice when wanting to hike the boat in. It loses out to the Deschutes with the seat, which is air-filled instead of a comfortable padded cushion. But otherwise the two are similar and if you like paddling one of them, you’ll like the other one.

Length: 11′Weight: 14 lbs 12 oz.Weight Capacity: 300 lbsPacked Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 16 inchesStorage Space: Front and back deck bungees

Check Price on REI

Pros: Sturdy, shaped hull, fast on the water.Cons: Hard to pack up and dry out. Easy to tip compared to others we tested.Overall Score: 3.9Versions: 10′ 12’6″

If you are looking for an inflatable kayak that looks and feels most like a traditional kayak, then allow me to introduce you to the Itiwit 500 by Decathalon. This kayak features a V-shaped hull, and combined with their high-pressure chambers make for a seriously noticeable difference on the water. That speed comes with a catch, though, and the kayak was the most prone to tipping compared to the others. Decathalon doesn't hide this fact, and considers it to be an intermediate-level boat. But if you have paddling experience and want something to mimic the way a traditional kayak glides though the water but are short on space, this might be the one for you.

Setting up was super easy, and the boat went from packed up to ready to go in under 5 minutes. With a large rear storage compartment I was able to stash the carry bag and pump, as well as some personal items, in the back and seal it back up without much notice.

The main issue was that because it's so rigid and durable, packing it back up was not as easy as other models tested. So for that reason I’d recommend this more if you aren't planning on packing it up at the end of each session. Also of note is that with the unibody design it doesn't dry out as fast as other models, so packing a quick-drying towel to speed that up would be a wise move. But otherwise, this kayak was far ahead of the rest for its ability to cut through the water with speed and efficiency.

Length: 12’6″Weight: 39.7 lbsWeight Capacity: 275 lbsPacked Dimensions: 35 × 20 × 11 inchesStorage Space: Rear compartment is well sealed off and expandable.

Check Price on Decathalon

Pros: No pump needed, shaped hull, Moves well on the water, take down is fast and simple.Cons: Large square shape is awkward to carry with shoulder strapOverall Score: 3.9

While this kayak isn't inflatable, we felt it's worth mentioning because it's pretty awesome. Using the ancient principles of Origami, the Beach LT Sport feels the most "kayak-like" of all the models we tested. It's shape and feel is similar to a hard kayak, yet it weighs less than 30 lbs and folds up to move and store with incredible ease. Altogether it only has a couple extra spare parts: The oh-so-comfy seat, the rear bulkhead, and zipper units for the front and back. Everything else is all in the one folding unit.

Setup admittedly took longer than expected, but that's more my preferred learning style of trial-and-error over watching, pausing, and restarting a youtube demonstration. But once I had it figured out, it's remarkably easy to turn from a box into a kayak in minutes. Taking it apart, or rather folding it together, is even easier and gets lots of commentary from passers-by who are think it's either genius or crazy. But I can assure you that it's more on the genius side and once paddling, the remarkable engineering really shows what it's made of.

The hardest part of this was that, unlike inflatable models, the large 33″ wide box shape felt a bit awkward to carry—especially with only a shoulder strap. So if you have to do a big trek to get to the water it might seem frustrating. But if you want something that looks and performs great, this is a fantastic option, and will last for years if you treat it well.

Length: 12’1″Weight: 28 lbsWeight Capacity: 300 lbsPacked Dimensions: 33″x 13″x 29″Storage Space: 140 L

Check Price on Oru

Pros: Low profile, easy setup, moves well on the waterCons: Any storage needs to be lightweightOverall Score: 3.9Versions: 10′ 12’6″

If you’re the type who enjoys their time on the water more than wherever they are headed, then the Bote Zeppelin Aero might be the best inflatable kayak for you. While it still gets around with ease, where it really stands out in how solid of a build it is. With their thick-walled proprietary AeroBote construction, this kayak feels like it will last for years. Pumping it up was easy enough with three main chambers and an inflatable seat all topped up in about 2 minutes.

Out on the water, it stayed stable even in rough wind chop. And even though water was splashing over, I stayed high and dry thanks to the elevated seat and the kayak's ability to self-bail water through the stern (as long as you are moving). The unit is great – the only downside is that because it's so sturdy, it isn't the lightest of the lot, and weighing in close to 50 pounds does catch up to you. Although the backpack storage makes that a bit easier, it's still on the heavier side of the single-person boats we tested.

The Zeppelin Aero is loaded with extra features such as a paddle strap for easy carrying/storage, tie down loops, and removable inserts for Bote's Rac system that allows you to easily customize the unit with a bucket, extra storage, and more.

Length: 10′Weight: 46 lbsWeight Capacity: 300 lbsPacked Dimensions: 39 × 18 × 11 inchesStorage Space: Front Webbing, back deck with optional attachments

Check Price on Bote

Check Price on Amazon

It's no easy feat to compare kayaks of all shapes and sizes, different features, etc. So we focused on a few standards to keep it a bit easier to make comparisons. We only went for single-person kayaks between 10 and 12 feet. That seems to be the sweet spot for control and speed. The rest of the criteria, we looked for what would make a great day on the water, as well as getting there and packing it up.

Setup Time: Is setting up easy-breezy or is it a chore that makes you anxious?Durability: Will this last if it runs aground into rocks or will it leave you stranded?Portablity: How easy is it to move around when not set up?Speed: Can it move on the water and get you where you need to go in a reasonable amount of time?Control: Can it go where you intend or are you adrift with the currents?

It sure is nice to get away from the crowds. The Bote Zeppelin makes that task a comfortable breeze. Photo: Steve Andrews

Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a beginner, this guide will help you find the best inflatable kayak that fits your needs.

Durability and Material: The construction material of your inflatable kayak directly affects its durability and longevity. High-quality PVC, Hypalon, and Nitrylon are common materials used in the industry, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. PVC is typically more affordable, while Hypalon and Nitrylon offer greater resistance to punctures, abrasions, and UV damage. Make sure to pick a kayak made from a material that suits your intended use and environment.

Stability and Tracking: Inflatable kayaks should provide good stability to keep you balanced and comfortable on the water. A wider kayak will generally be more stable, while a narrower one will be faster. Tracking, or the ability to maintain a straight course, is also important for efficient paddling. Kayaks with skegs or tracking fins will typically have better tracking than those without. Shaped hulls also play a factor, so if the kayak has a shaped hull it will track better and often not require a skeg to do so.

Weight Capacity and Size: Consider the intended use of your inflatable kayak and how many people and gear it needs to accommodate. Inflatable kayaks come in various sizes and weight capacities, from single-person kayaks to tandem or even three-person models. Ensure the kayak you choose can safely hold the weight of all passengers and gear without compromising performance.

It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. Luckily I had some help. Photo: Steve Andrews.

Portability and Storage: One of the key advantages of inflatable kayaks is their portability. Look for kayaks that are lightweight and easy to carry, especially if you plan on transporting them frequently. Storage should also be a consideration. A kayak that's easy to deflate, fold, and store in a compact carrying case is ideal for those with limited space.

Comfort: As with any outdoor gear, comfort is essential. Choose an inflatable kayak with comfortable, adjustable seating that provides proper support and cushioning for extended paddling sessions. Some kayaks offer additional features like adjustable footrests, which can further enhance your comfort on the water.

Price: Finally, consider your budget. Inflatable kayaks are available in a wide range of prices, from budget-friendly options to high-end models with advanced features. Determine how much you’re willing to invest in your kayak and make sure to balance cost with the features and performance that are most important to you.

Inflatable Kayaks aren't cheap, so it's important to protect your investment to have many great days and fond memories of the vessel. Here are a few tips to help ensure your inflatable kayak lasts.

Proper Inflation and Deflation: Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when inflating and deflating your kayak. Overinflation can cause the material to stretch and weaken, while underinflation can lead to poor performance and potential damage.

Cleaning: After each use, especially in saltwater, rinse your inflatable kayak with fresh water. Salt, sand, and other debris can degrade the material over time. It's also a good idea to occasionally clean it with mild soap and a soft sponge to remove any dirt or stains.

Avoid Prolonged Sun Exposure: While most inflatable and folding kayaks are designed to withstand sunlight, prolonged exposure to UV rays over time will still lead to degradation of the material. When not in use, store your kayak out of direct sunlight and/or use a UV protectant spray.

Inspect for Damage: Regularly inspect your kayak for any signs of wear and tear, such as small punctures or leaks. Minor damages can often be repaired with a patch kit, but major issues may require professional repair or replacement.

Proper Storage: Make sure your kayak is fully dry before storing to prevent mold and mildew growth. Deflate your kayak and store it in a cool, dry place, preferably in a storage bag to protect it from dust and pests.

Avoid Dragging: Although inflatable and folding kayaks are generally durable, dragging them on rough surfaces can cause scratches and punctures, especially if you make a habit of it. Always carry your kayak to and from the water to avoid unnecessary damage.

Use an Appropriate Pump: Always use the recommended pump to inflate your kayak. Some pumps can cause overinflation and potentially damage the kayak. Gauges can break, too, so make sure you double check the reading from time to time with another gauge to make sure it's telling you the right stats on air pressure. Blowouts happen if not careful!

We hope you have many incredible days out there exploring the open seas, lakes, rivers, and any other bodies of water that your inflatable/foldable kayak may take you. Remember that above all else, it's about fun out on the water, so get out there and enjoy it, and always be safe!

Sunsets sure look nice from the water's surface. The Aquaglide Deschutes 110 makes views like this possible. Photo: Steve Andrews.

Editor's Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

Owning a watercraft opens up a whole new world of adventure. The Best Inflatable Kayaks Best All-Around Inflatable Kayak: Best Lightweight Inflatable Kayak: Fastest Inflatable Kayak: Best Folding Kayak: Best Inflatable Kayak for Cruising: Versions: 11′ (solo), 14’6″ (Tandem)Pros: Cons: Overall Score: 4.2 Length: Weight: Weight Capacity: Packed Dimensions: Storage Space: Versions: 11′ (solo), 15′ (tandem)Pros: Cons: Overall Score: 4.2 Length: Weight: Weight Capacity: Packed Dimensions: Storage Space: Pros: Cons: Overall Score: 3.9Versions: 10′ 12’6″ Length: Weight: Weight Capacity: Packed Dimensions: Storage Space: Pros: Cons: Overall Score: 3.9 Length: Weight: Weight Capacity: Packed Dimensions: Storage Space: Pros: Cons: Overall Score: 3.9Versions: 10′ 12’6″ Length: Weight: Weight Capacity: Packed Dimensions: Storage Space: Setup Time: Durability: Portablity: Speed: Control: Durability and Material: Stability and Tracking: Weight Capacity and Size: Portability and Storage: Comfort: Price: Proper Inflation and Deflation Cleaning Avoid Prolonged Sun Exposure Inspect for Damage Proper Storage Avoid Dragging Use an Appropriate Pump Editor's Note: