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Inflatable kayaks provide versatility on and off the water. These kayaks ensure you can easily transport your kayak from one location to the next, whether in the back of your car or over a rocky border between lakes. Designed with rugged, airtight vinyl, polyesters, and tightly woven materials, they are sure to keep afloat. Propelled with double-bladed paddles, kayaks offer excellent mobility on the water. Whether you’re a touring kayaker looking for a lightweight portage kayak that can take you from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to Vancouver Island by water and foot, or you’re a dedicated angler looking to plow the bayous of Louisiana for the biggest catfish you can noodle, there’s a watercraft that will fit your budget and bearings. Read on for tips on finding the best inflatable kayaks for your water expeditions.

How we chose the best inflatable kayaks

To pick the best inflatable kayaks, we looked at over 20 kayaks from various makers, looking for a few important factors and filtering our choices through our experience with outdoor adventuring and our expertise as tech reviewers.

Weight: Most folks looking for an inflatable kayak instead of a traditional kayak will be doing so out of weight concern. The best inflatable kayaks require little carry weight and can support hundreds of pounds. This can be useful whether you’re carrying your kayak as a pack craft or simply looking for a boat that’s easy to stow in the back of the family Prius. We prioritized kayaks that weigh under 50 pounds and can support hundreds (sometimes up to 500 pounds).

Seating: While kayaks were traditionally designed as single-seat water crafts, many of today’s inflatable kayaks offer up to three seats. We made sure to include both traditional single-seat kayaks and multi-seater group kayaks, which allow you to fit a boat for the whole family in the back of your car.

Material: We looked for kayaks that are rugged enough to have good longevity and tough enough to keep up in rough water. For our higher-end picks, we wanted kayaks with enough material strength to go as long as you do, whether you’re angling for bass or touring the coast of Newfoundland. For fishing kayaks, we wanted particularly tough builds, as hooks, cleaning knives, and sharp fins can make quick work of cheap inflatables. That’s why we looked for 1000+ denier fabric or its equivalent.

Extra features: Inflatable kayaks come in many different builds. Fishing kayaks often come with rod holders and fish rulers. Many of these boats (especially touring models) have racks to attach a backpack (or to strap a waterproof speaker for those stretches of river that demand a soundtrack). We highlighted kayaks that include inflation tools, especially for higher-end kayaks. We also prioritized models with quick inflation, de-inflation, and drains.

The best inflatable kayaks: Reviews & Recommendations

If you’ve got wanderlust for the rivers and waterways of the world, inflatable kayaks are some of the more mobile paddle-driven boats around. Historically built with animal hide and driftwood, and often waterproofed with seal fat, kayaks have changed quite a lot in their material builds while maintaining an overall similar design of paddle and hull. Today’s kayaks borrow from an ancient lineage of boatbuilding developed by the native peoples of North America and Greenland. Here are our favorites for a range of uses.

Best overall: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

Advanced Elements


Why it made the cut: With its rugged aluminum frame, configurable seating arrangement that can support solo or tandem, and three layers of puncture-proof support, this is a versatile buy.


  • Dimensions: 15 feet x 32 inches
  • Folded Dimensions: 35 x 21 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 52 pounds
  • Capacity: 550 pounds
  • Materials: Nylon, plastic, aluminum


  • Customizable
  • Rugged
  • Supports one or two paddlers with three configurations


  • Heavy
  • Doesn’t include paddles or pump with purchase

If you’re after a truly versatile inflatable kayak, look no further than the AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak by Advanced Elements. An internal aluminum skeleton protects the bow and stern and ensures your kayak keeps its shape. It’s paired with triple-layered fabric and a main air chamber encased in its own layer of protection, making this kayak a durable option.

Advanced Elements designed this boat for conversion, and that’s easily achievable. You can quickly switch out the deck layout for solo closed deck, open-deck tandem, or closed-deck tandem. With a setup that takes under 10 minutes, you’ll be out on the water in no time.

However, this boat has a few issues to consider before you purchase. It doesn’t come with either paddles or an inflation pump. Unless you already own an inflatable kayak that you can plunder for the right pump and paddles, you’ll need to budget for the rest of the required accessories before you take this kayak out to the lake. It’s also heavy and doesn’t come with a backpack, so don’t expect to take this kayak with you on long portage expeditions between rivers.

That said, for most users, this is still the best overall inflatable kayak on the market for its tough design that will ensure years of boating, its heavy weight capacity, ease of use, and conversion potential for solo or group expeditions.

Best for fishing: Sea Eagle 385fta Fasttrack Inflatable Kayak Pro Angler

Sea Eagle


Why it made the cut: With thick reinforced material that can stand up to fish hooks, a rod stabilizer, and even a fish scale on the side, this inflatable angler’s kayak can go wherever the fish are found.


  • Dimensions: 12 feet 6 inches x 3 feet
  • Folded Dimensions: ‎36 x 15 x 20 inches
  • Weight: 45 pounds
  • Capacity: 635 pounds
  • Materials: Nylon


  • Rugged build with quadruple overlapped seams that won’t puncture with misplaced fish hooks
  • Supports up to 3 people
  • Seven-minute inflation time
  • Convenient rod holder built right in


  • Expensive

One of the most rugged boats on the market is the Fasttrack Inflatable Kayak Pro Angler by Sea Eagle. This premium inflatable kayak is made of 1000 denier woven nylon tough enough to withstand fish hooks, fins, and maybe even an alligator bite! An angler addition to the Sea Eagle line, it comes with built-in rod placements and a fish scale.

The Pro Angler’s 635-pound max load means it’s ready for three paddlers, so you can take friends or the kids on their first adventure or just you and your icebox loaded with fish (or anything else you might put in an icebox). It’s got a Class II whitewater rating, which means you can take this kayak into some tight situations. And at just 45 pounds, you don’t need a boat rack to take this to the water; you might not even need a truck.

All in all, the Sea Eagle Pro Angler is a decked-out fisherman’s dream kayak that’s versatile enough for multi-day excursions. Plus, without the toxic smell of gasoline and the drone of a motor, you’ll catch more fish than ever.

Best for whitewater: Driftsun Rover Inflatable Tandem Whitewater Kayak



Why it made the cut: This whitewater kayak inflates rapidly, features a camera mount, and ships with its pump and paddles included.


  • Dimensions: 12.5 feet x 3 feet 2 inches
  • Folded Dimensions: ‎24.5 x 21 x 10 inches
  • Weight: 28 pounds
  • Capacity: 600 pounds
  • Materials: PVC


  • Self-bailing drain plugs
  • Rugged floor that’s easy to grip
  • Class III rapid ready
  • Comes with paddle and pump included
  • Very stable


  • Drainage could be better for rapids

If you love a thrilling trek down rapids, the Class III-ready Driftsun Rover is primed for adventure. Class III certification isn’t common in inflatable kayaks, but this isn’t a common inflatable kayak. Made of 1000-D layered PVC, this kayak is designed with a high-pressure drop stitch floor that creates a rigid bottom that’s easy to grip with your feet. It also enables this kayak to bounce off rocks and maintain enough stability for dicey whitewater. The Driftsun Rover also features a detachable rear skeg that can quickly be removed for whitewater yet provides great tracking on the open river.

The boat’s 600-pound carry weight and two seats mean that this boat isn’t just for whitewater. With its thick build, it’s ready for just about any aquatic setting you choose. Be warned, though, that with drainage open, you may be sitting in a bit of water. It doesn’t drain as well as could be desired, especially in whitewater. But overall, the Driftsun Rover is an impressive and versatile whitewater kayak that will take you most places you want to go. If Class III isn’t enough, Driftsun claims that the boat is also ready for Class IV, but we say, please be careful.

Best for touring: Sea Eagle Razorlite

Sea Eagle


Why it made the cut: With a higher-than-average psi, a rigid bow and stern, and a weight of 35 pounds in its folded backpack form, this inflatable kayak is ready for the journey.


  • Dimensions: 12 feet 10 inches x 28 inches
  • Folded Dimensions: ‎22 x 22 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 35 pounds
  • Capacity: 500 pounds
  • Materials: PVC


  • Rigid bow and stern molds for excellent tracking
  • Folds into a 35-pound backpack
  • Rugged frame
  • Adjustable foot braces


  • Expensive
  • Open deck design means that ocean breakers could be trouble

A true touring kayak, the Sea Eagle Razorlite is ready for the long haul. This performance-speed kayak comes with a high overhead cost, but for anyone serious about long water treks, it’s well worth it. With a 500-pound capacity, this kayak is suitable for hauling provisions for long camping expeditions, and at only 35 pounds when folded into its carrying backpack, it’s suitable for hauling as well.

Made entirely of semi-rigid, drop stitch material, the Razorlite fills to a higher psi than most inflatables. It also features a rigid bow and stern (for which it’s named) that deliver excellent tracking. Adjustable foot braces set into the inner sides help for long paddling sessions. These features, combined with the boat’s light weight, make for an incredibly fast kayak.

This is a kayak for long island camping trips on boundary waters, portage through Canada’s lake and river network, racing your friends, or camping across the Everglades. The one downside of the boat is its open deck design and lack of solid, self-bailing drains limit its versatility in choppy water. That means that while this boat is certainly seaworthy, it’s not ready for surf, and heavy waves on the ocean could prove dangerous. However, if you’re not an oceanic coast dweller and you’re looking for an incredibly quick and versatile touring watercraft that inflates, look no further than the Razorlite.

Best budget: Intex Explorer K2 Kayak



Why it made the cut: With two seats, an included pump and paddle, and 400 pounds of capacity, this is a kayak for starters.


  • Dimensions: 10.25 feet x 3 feet
  • Folded Dimensions: 13.5 x 23.13 x 16.25 inches
  • Weight: 30.6 pounds (35 pounds with accessories)
  • Capacity: 400 pounds
  • Materials: Polypropylene


  • Affordable
  • Everything included
  • Easy assembly and disassembly


  • Not reinforced
  • Isn’t suitable for open water, and could prove dangerous in more rigorous performance settings

With the Explorer K2 Kayak, Intex offers a yellow jacket-hued inflatable lake boat that easily fits in the back of your car. Suitable for calm rivers, ponds, and lakes, this boat supports up to 400 pounds, making it an excellent day-trip-ready adventure kayak for you and a friend. This isn’t a kayak with which you’ll be riding waves off the coast of Greenland. However, if you’re looking for a decent starter kayak to get your feet wet, then the Intex Explorer is a good option.

The Explorer offers a pretty straightforward design. It features two wide-mouthed Boston nozzles for inflation and deflation. This is achieved with the included pump. The boat is shorter than many other inflatable kayaks at just a little over 10 feet. Tall people may not find this boat comfortable for extremely long use, but it’s a generally comfortable boat overall.

Made of polypropylene, this boat isn’t as sturdy as some. However, for most users, in mild conditions, it can go and go. With a 90-day warranty, it’s worth taking it out a few times to make sure everything is in working condition before the warranty period is over. In the end, it’s a budget boat, and that low price tag might not account for toughness and longevity, but with a decent build overall and everything included, for those just getting into kayaking or looking for an easily deployed pond kayak to stow in the back of a car, the Intex is a great buy. If you’re looking for an even cheaper version for solo paddling, the Intex K1 is also worth a look.

Things to consider before buying an inflatable kayak

Before you buy an inflatable kayak, it’s worth fully considering what the investment will mean for you.

Inflatable vs. standard

Inflatable kayaks offer many benefits over traditional kayaks. Packing down to small sizes when deflated, these kayaks usually fit easily into the back of a car. Some even pack down to backpack size and are easily worn on one’s shoulders. This makes inflatable kayaks far easier to use for most boaters. Rather than having to install a boat rack onto the top of their vehicle, inflatable kayak owners can simply load their kayak into the trunk. However, this versatility does come with a price. Inflatable kayaks generally aren’t as rugged as hard-body kayaks. The best inflatable kayaks often offer good longevity over many years of use; however, they still mostly don’t deliver the same longevity and impermeability of a hard plastic pontoon hull.


It’s especially important to consider your budget when purchasing an inflatable kayak. As these kayaks are meant to be inflated and deflated and packed into small spaces many times over their lifespan, they come with more opportunities for surface punctures, wear, and damage than some other types of products. When looking for a budget kayak, consider the quality of the material and how likely it is to rip or tear over its lifespan. While some higher-end kayaks cost hundreds of dollars more, they may last for years longer than the less expensive models. Some very cheap models are made out of the same types of materials you might find in a pool float and likely can’t be trusted to last for many seasons. In fact, some cheaper inflatable kayaks may not even be legally used in national and state park waterways. It’s important to do your research before you buy, and make sure you’re purchasing a kayak that can last as long as you expect it to.

Versatility vs. dedicated use

When buying an inflatable kayak, it’s often a good idea to consider whether you need a dedicated use boat or something you can use for many different situations. Some kayaks offer inherent versatility, allowing you to rig them as two-seaters or one. Some kayaks are dedicated angler’s kayaks and are particularly good for that function, but may have features that make them expensive or less useful to other users. Kayaks with self-bailing drains designed for whitewater might get you significantly wetter while boating than others. Consider the features you need when you’re shopping for an inflatable kayak.


Q: How much does an inflatable kayak cost?

The cost of an inflatable kayak depends on its features. A high-end touring model, such as the Sea Eagle Razorlite, which features a rigid bow and stern for long-distance touring, costs about $1,000. At the other end of the price scale, the budget-friendly but less durable Intex Explorer K2 Kayak costs just over $150.

Q: Are inflatable kayaks any good?

Many inflatable kayaks are just as good as solid hull kayaks. The best inflatable kayaks offer many benefits over solid body kayaks, and they’re much easier to transport.

Q: Do inflatable kayaks puncture easily?

High-quality inflatable kayaks are made of tear- and puncture-resistant fabric that will get you out on the water repeatedly. While the cheapest inflatable kayaks may puncture, the best inflatable kayaks are capable watercraft that are as sturdy as they are versatile.

Q: How long does it take to inflate an inflatable kayak?

Many of the best inflatable kayaks inflate in well under 10 minutes. Some inflate in about five. It’s worth checking how a kayak is inflated and whether the tools to do so are included with your purchase.

Q: What is denier fabric?

Denier measures the fiber thickness in a given weave. As it applies to waterproof material, high-denier fiber uses thicker threads and, when tightly woven, creates a tougher fabric that’s puncture-resistant and more resistant to water and air passing through it.

Final thoughts on the best inflatable kayaks

Inflatable kayaks offer versatile boating options. They can easily deflate and pack into small spaces yet often deliver surprisingly robust performance. The best inflatable kayaks can be performance touring machines, excellent versatile fishing boats, or even white water-capable sports craft. The AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak is the best inflatable kayak for most boaters, and its customizable one- or two-seat build and aluminum interior frame ensure it will keep its tracking on point. Whatever your needs, if you’re a boater, there’s an inflatable kayak out there for you.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.