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Inflatable Kayaks: What to Know

From stand up paddle boards to canoes to rafts, there are all kinds of inflatable floating options available today. So, of course, you may ask yourself, what about inflatable kayaks? Well, yes, there are inflatable kayaks. And they are becoming more and more popular as a rugged, portable, lightweight option for paddlers.

Let’s answer a few questions about these inflatables and whether they are the right fit for you, like the Brooklyn Kayak Company BKC IN13 Pedal Kayak, 13-foot Single Inflatable Kayak which is an inflatable kayak with a pedal drive!

What is an inflatable kayak?

Inflatable kayaks are really just what they sound like. A kayak that is made with flexible materials that allow it to be inflated for kayaking and deflated for storage.

Most inflatable kayaks are made with multi-layered PVC, drop-stitch technology, and air chambers designed to give prime buoyancy. This creates a lightweight, rugged, less expensive kayak option. Their cousin iSUPs (inflatable stand up paddle boards) might be more known, but the same technology makes these boats work as well.

Most inflatable kayaks are targeted for paddlers who are on lakes, calm rivers, or sheltered bays. However, higher-end inflatables can reach “expeditionary levels”. 

Who uses an inflatable kayak?

Inflatable yaks are excellent for recreational paddlers, day-trippers, newbies, anglers, and even kids.

If you are just spending a day on the lake floating and fishing, an inflatable kayak is a great option. They are also easy enough for kids to handle so they are a great way to introduce kayaking to kids or first-timers.

If you are planning on a multiple day camping adventure, you might want to pump the brakes. The risk of popping a leak or tearing a seam is not worth it when you are miles from repair or rescue. That being said, do your homework and know what your kayak can take. So, inflatables are rated for much rougher use than others.

Inflatable kayaks are also great for kids and fishing because they are so stable. Stability comes from the kayak’s width and inflatables tend to have wider bases (more surface area on the water) and so are very stable and nearly impossible to capsize.

When and where do you use an inflatable kayak?

If you are looking to shoot Class III rapids, you probably don’t want an inflatable kayak. (Even though there are some really hardy options on the market that can withstand serious whitewater). These kayaks work best on calmer water like bays, lakes, and lazy rivers.

Inflatables like these are best served when temperatures are above freezing. However, that still gives you plenty of weather when you can use your kayak. (Who wants to be out in icy weather any way.) If you do risk below freezing temperatures, you could compromise the integrity of your boat and you don’t want to spring a leak in those conditions.

Why use an inflatable kayak

Inflatable kayaks are becoming more and more popular because they solve the problems for more traditional kayaks.

  • Price - Generally inflatable kayaks have been found to be cheaper than hard-shell ones. This means that more people can get a start at the sport without quite the same outlay of cash. (However, do note that some inflatable kayaks, especially the expeditionary level, come with quite a price tag too.)
  • Weight - Because of the lightweight material used to create them, inflatable kayaks are usually much lighter weight than traditional plastic, aluminum, or carbon fiber. This makes them easier for kids to handle (inflated or deflated they are easier to maneuver).
  • Portability and Storage - This might just be the biggest selling point of an inflatable kayak. Instead of searching for storage space, buying a roof rack, or lugging a yak as you portage, an inflatable can be carried easily, deflated and folded to fit in a trunk, and stored in a closet or garage without fear of warping.

Why NOT to use an inflatable kayak

There are times where an inflatable kayak might not be the best option.

  • Weather - You do need to watch the weather with inflatables. As mentioned above, inflatables do not do well in extreme temperatures, particularly cold. ON THE OTHER HAND, if you aren’t going to do winter launching, these kayaks generally store well with a small footprint during the off season.
  • Leaks or Punctures - Depending on how well made and cared for your inflatable is, you might suffer from leaks or punctures. Over inflating the kayak (which tends to happen when you try to get it completely rigid) or under inflating (which happens when you don’t get it up to the proper PSI), can cause problems. And rough use can also lead to poorly timed strandings.
  • Rough water - While some inflatables may be rated for whitewater, most recreational kayaks are not. If you are looking to shoot the rapids, you probably want a more traditional yak and leave the inflatable for the more sedate paddle.
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