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The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024

An inflatable kayak is so much more than a pool toy these days, and with pump-up vessels to get you in the salt, on the fish, and out of sight for the weekend, we found the best for any paddle trip you're after.
(Photo/Erika Courtney)
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Everyone enjoys a meditative paddle in a kayak — few enjoy wrangling the boats to get there. An inflatable kayak can be a novel answer to the problem, and for many who either don’t have the storage space, or the ability to transport a kayak, an inflatable option opens up possibilities to get out on the water.

Of the masses available, we researched, inflated, and paddled a broad selection to narrow in on the eight best inflatable kayaks today. Our paddling experts come from varied backgrounds as kayak guides and product designers, and our testing didn’t let these kayaks off easy. For months we paddled across the West, plunking down rivers and traversing across bays to form a solid opinion on what makes these vessels worthy.

And while it’s easy to dismiss inflatable kayaks as lesser watercraft, we found the following to be anything but. Improved hull design, novel materials, and undeniable low weights have brought some IKs within spitting distance of hardshell kayaks — which is no small feat. The following are our suggestions to anyone looking to get into one.

Our detailed Buyer’s Guide breaks down the finer points of inflatable kayaks into easy-to-digest sections, with little left out. If you’re deciding between a few different models, do your nitty gritty scale weighing and consult our Comparison Chart. And for everything left unanswered, our FAQ is there to help.

The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024

Best Overall Inflatable Kayak

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak


  • Length 10'5"
  • Width 32"
  • Weight 36 lbs.
  • Construction PVC-coated polyester, aluminum support ribs
  • Weight Capacity 250 lbs.
  • Storage Decked cockpit bow and stern storage zones
Product Badge The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024


  • Aluminum ribs in bow and stern provide a sharp V-hull
  • Excellent tracking and speed
  • Two-chamber main hull is rigid, and won't sink if punctured
  • Deck fabric is water-resistant
  • Packs down compactly


  • Difficult to drain and fully dry before storage
  • Multiple inflation chambers require two types of pump nozzles
Best Budget Inflatable Kayak

Intex Excursion Pro K2


  • Length 12'6"
  • Width 32"
  • Weight 47 lbs.
  • Construction 3-ply PVC laminate
  • Weight Capacity Tandem, 400 lbs.
  • Storage Covered bow and stern areas and D-rings for lashing gear
The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024


  • Relatively budget-friendly
  • PVC material doesn't become waterlogged
  • Comes with paddles and accessories
  • Long length provides solid tracking when used with skeg


  • Seats are fully inflatable, and not the most comfortable
  • Storage bag is very thin and uses cheap zippers
Best Folding Kayak

Oru Kayak Beach LT Sport


  • Style Sit-Inside
  • Length 12'1"
  • Width 29"
  • Weight 28 lbs.
  • Construction Double-layered polypropylene sheeting
  • Cockpit Size 69" x 24"
  • Weight Capacity 300 lbs.
  • Storage Bow and stern wet storage holds, storage area behind seat
The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024


  • Origami design unfolds and is ready to paddle in minutes, stores down compactly
  • Solid tracking and glide
  • 28 lbs. weight is quite light compared to other like-kayaks
  • Sport version gains updated seat, deck closure design, and accessory rails on deck


  • No dry storage available
  • Not the most comfortable seat for extended paddling
Best Fishing Inflatable Kayak

NRS Pike 12.6


  • Length 12'8"
  • Width 38"
  • Weight 48 lbs.
  • Construction 1,000-denier PVC
  • Weight Capacity 375 lbs.
  • Storage 17" open deck width, 20 D-rings for lashing
The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024


  • Hard keel in the bow makes for excellent tracking
  • Pontoon design and drop stitch floor are very stable, perfect for standing to fish
  • High-quality aluminum frame and suspended mesh seat
  • Five YakAttack mounts for rod holders, fish finders, or cupholders


  • Design requires floor to be inflated first, then tubes — otherwise there's binding
  • No integrated dry storage
  • No ability to anchor the kayak while fishing
Best Pedal-Drive Inflatable Kayak

BOTE Lono Aero


  • Length 12'6"
  • Width 35.5"
  • Weight 51 lbs.
  • Construction Drop stitch PVC and BVA foam pad
  • Weight Capacity 400 lbs.
  • Storage Bow and stern bungee cordage, stern deck supports a BOTE cooler
The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024


  • Integrates with a pedal drive system for easy cruising
  • Highly customizable with a boatload of accessories
  • SUP-like construction makes standing to paddle possible
  • Stern is open for water self-bailing
  • Seat to adjustable in two ways


  • Tall sides make this kayak tough to paddle in much wind
  • Quite hefty when packed, and can be tough to wrestle around
Best of the Rest

Aquaglide Deschutes 145


  • Length 14'7"
  • Width 38"
  • Weight 25 lbs., 5 oz.
  • Construction Duratex PVC
  • Weight Capacity 600 lbs.
  • Storage Decked bow and stern areas, with bungee cordage
The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024


  • Tandem design that can be paddled single-handed
  • Non-inflatable floor provides a low center of gravity and great stability
  • 600 lbs. capacity is generous and can fit two paddlers plus gear


  • Width is a bit wide, will require a longer paddle
  • A drop stitch floor would stiffen this kayak up well

Kokopelli Platte Inflatable Kayak


  • Length 10'3"
  • Width 34"
  • Weight 24 lbs.
  • Construction 1000D reinforced PVC
  • Weight Capacity 330 lbs.
  • Storage Bow and stern wells + bungee cord deck systems
The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024


  • Lightweight
  • High-quality and tough 1,000D outer material
  • Good tracking with 9" and 5" fins attached
  • Easy to set up and pack down


  • Not a lot of cargo space
  • Lower rails lets water splash in

Aquaglide Cirrus Ultralight 110


  • Length 11'
  • Width 33"
  • Weight 14 lbs., 12 oz.
  • Construction Drop stitch TPU and nylon
  • Weight Capacity 300 lbs.
  • Storage Bungee on bow and stern, behind-seat D-ring attachments, MOLLE plates
The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2024


  • Plenty of room for cargo (or a dog)
  • Stable under load
  • Extremely light and packable
  • Great for travel
  • Tracks well compared to other inflatables


  • Can handle person plus cargo, but only up to 300-lb. weight limit
  • Not suitable for all waters
  • Pricey
  • Paddle not included

Inflatable Kayak Comparison Chart

Inflatable KayakPriceLength/WidthWeightCapacityStorage
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Kayak
$67010’5″ / 32″36 lbs.250 lbs.Decked cockpit bow and stern storage zones
Intex Excursion Pro K2$39812’6″ / 32″47 lbs.Tandem, 400 lbs.Covered bow and stern areas and D-rings for lashing gear
Oru Kayak Beach LT Sport$1,49912’1″ / 29″28 lbs.300 lbs.Bow and stern wet storage holds, storage area behind seat
NRS Pike 12.6$99512’8″ / 38″48 lbs.375 lbs.17″ open deck width, 20 D-rings for lashing
BOTE Lono Aero$1,54912’6″ / 35.5″51 lbs.400 lbs.Bow and stern bungee cordage, stern deck supports a BOTE cooler
Aquaglide Deschutes 145$70014’7″ / 38″25 lbs., 5 oz.600 lbs.Decked bow and stern areas, with bungee cordage
Kokopelli Platte Inflatable Kayak
$89910’3″ / 34″24 lbs.1000D reinforced PVCBow and stern wells + bungee cord deck systems
Aquaglide Cirrus Ultralight 110
$1,30011′ / 33″14 lbs., 12 oz.Drop stitch TPU and nylonBungee on bow and stern, behind-seat D-ring attachments, MOLLE plates

How We Tested Inflatable Kayaks

Tested head-to-head, after a few months of paddling these kayaks, we got a pretty good understanding of their strengths and weaknesses; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

GearJunkie plays host to a flotilla of paddlers, and from sea kayak and whitewater guides to casual paddle-dippers, something we all know almost universally is a lack of gear storage space.

Some of us are van life aficionados, where space is tight, and carrying a kayak is often not feasible unless it’s inflatable, while others simply have hit the ceiling in their gear closets, or live out of apartments lacking a spare 12 feet of uninterrupted space. Inflatable kayaks provide an answer for these scenarios, and we tested them as they were intended to be used: paddled hard and put away wet.

Collectively, we’ve paddled to some far-flung locales, and even to places few have been before. Lead reviewer and Editor Nick Belcaster directed efforts for this review, and as mainly a packrafter, Nick knows the importance of a portable watercraft. His testing for this review mainly saw him making runs between the San Juan Islands of Washington State, crossing high alpine lakes in the North Cascades, and navigating coastal rivers on the Olympic Peninsula.

Tester Wil Henkel is no stranger to a paddle. As a sea kayak and whitewater guide, he has logged hundreds of miles in conditions ranging from mild to daring. His most recent foray saw him scouting and completing the first descent of a new river in Ecuador, where a lightweight boat was essential. For this review, his paddle craft got even lighter, and his testing is informed by a deep understanding of the finer points of kayak design.

Our inflatable kayak testing occurred over months of paddling, where we crowded the beaches and docks of our local lakes and shorelines with kayaks for both head-to-head testing, as well as more recreational pursuits. We aimed to test all facets of a kayak’s paddling: speed, maneuverability, stability, and comfort. Employing our friends and families in the quest, we gathered feedback from complete novices to near-pros, and from various body types.

Because inflatable kayaks also require some set-up, we spent a good amount of time familiarizing ourselves with inflation pumps, pressures, and, yes, even repair. Our testing also included the all-important ‘small apartment’ and ‘sedan’ tests, where the true portability and packability of these kayaks were weighed on the most accurate scales we could devise.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose an Inflatable Kayak

Inflatable kayaks, or ‘IKs’, can be an excellent way to get out on the water without the hassle of transporting a full-size kayak; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Inflatable kayaks are all about balance or compromise, depending on how you look at things. While inflatables rarely perform as well as hard-sided kayaks, they make up for it in their compact and lightweight designs, which is an asset all on its own. 

Because of this, there’s an entire spectrum of inflatable kayaks for nearly anything you’d want to get into, and many designs lean further into a certain niche to provide the paddle you’re after. Consider the following before you jump into your next inflatable kayak. 

Hardshell vs. Inflatable Kayaks

Different strokes for different folks — inflatable kayaks make sense for many to get out in; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Hardshell Kayaks

A typical hardshell kayak will differ most greatly from an inflatable in overall performance. Its solid construction better translates paddling power and responds to weight shifting related to maneuverability. Its hull can be more aggressively shaped and edged harder, and it most typically rides lower in the water.

Hardshell kayaks are also more durable, as they can withstand repeated bonks and bumps on rocks and logs without worry. Seating can be more adjustable, and storage can often be within the kayak rather than on top.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayak designs are made to be lightweight and portable, and this is their greatest advantage over hardshell kayaks. Compressing down into large duffels, inflatables can be carried almost anywhere, and inflated once you get to the water. 

Because they float high on the water, inflatable kayaks are often more maneuverable than hardshell kayaks, which must contend with drag beneath the surface. Because of this, they won’t track as well, but a good tracking fin can remedy this.

Types of Inflatable Kayaks

An all-around kayak like the Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame will do quite a bit, but won’t be specialized for things like fishing or whitewater; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Like regular kayaks, inflatable kayaks can also be specialized for a certain style of paddling or water, and identifying your needs is the first step in narrowing down the perfect boat for you.


Due to the lower-stakes paddling you’re likely to do in them, most inflatable kayaks are recreational boats, meaning they’re primed for an afternoon at the lake, a day cruising a lazy river, or poking around into the next bay on a calm ocean. These boats lean into the do-it-all ethos, offering enough ability to handle a surprise swell, and enough storage to pack away a shore lunch.

The BOTE Lono Aero might be the king of recreation, and with a laundry list of fun accessories (including a magnetic coffee mug), this kayak is a hoot to take out for the day. The Aquaglide Deschutes 145, Cirrus Ultralight, and Kokopelli Platte are similarly up for most anything and inflate quickly, paddle well, and store minimally.


Touring kayaks are meant for further afield paddling, and while this doesn’t have to mean turning out to sea for a month, a good number of inflatable kayaks are primed for whole day or weekend touring. These kayaks are very often longer to support a greater weight of equipment, as well as elongate their water lines to make paddling long distances easier.

The Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame is an excellent all-day tourer, and we even used it for a three-day overnight paddle (by spreading the group gear across a few boats). The V-shaped hull made for quick paddling, and the enclosed deck design kept things dry across 5-hour sessions in the saddle.

Our new favorite fishing craft, the NRS Pike got us on the fish in our testing; (photo/Erika Courtney)


Inflatable kayaks and angling may not seem like they go hand-in-hand, but blow-up fishing kayaks are certainly a thing and to great success. With burly materials, accidental hook strikes simply bounce off, and the inherent stability involved makes for easy fishing while standing.

The wide profile and broad pontoons of the NRS Pike made it the fishing kayak to be in during our testing, and with a shallow draft and easy maneuvering, we were able to tuck this kayak into tight weed beds. The Intex Excursion Pro K2 isn’t half-bad at fishing, either, and even comes with a number of optional rod holders.

Hull Shape

The profile of your kayak beneath the water-line affects quite a bit, including stability and tracking; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

The hull is the profile of the kayak itself, and the shape of the hull greatly affects the paddling performance and stability of your craft. There are four basic kayak hull shapes, with two commonly used in inflatable kayaks.

  • Pontoon Hulls: This hull design supports the kayak on two points in the water, with an elevated bottom between the two — similar to the designs of catamaran sailboats. This gives them a great deal of stability, but also a degree of speed, as they cut through the water with less drag than a flat hull. The NRS Pike uses such a hull.
  • Flat Hulls: Flat hulls are similar to pontoon hulls, but lack some tracking ability, as they pivot easily as they sit on top of the water. These hulls are popular in beginner boats, but they aren’t built for speed, but rather stability. The flat hull of the BOTE Lono Aero makes it quite stable, but also a bit unwieldy to keep on track.
  • Rounded Hulls: Made for tracking ability, rounded hulls position themselves with a single point lowest in the water, but retain some stability by rounding out their edges, meaning less-confident paddlers can lean in them without feeling like they will tip. The Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame Kayak has a slightly rounded shape beneath the paddler and can be leaned over on edge.
  • V-Shape Hulls: Similar to rounded designs, V-shaped hulls take the idea to the extreme, and cut through the water like a knife. This makes them very good at tracking and speed, but these hulls often feel more tippy to novice paddlers. The Oru Kayak Beach LT Sport has a prominent V-shaped hull in the bow and stern, which made it the fastest in our review.


The wide beam and flat bottom on the BOTE Lono Aero made it exceptionally stable; (photo/Erika Courtney)

While inflatable kayaks won’t win awards for speed or tracking, they make up for it in stability and maneuverability. We wanted to challenge the balance of these kayaks and did so by rocking the boat, so to speak. In both flat water and rivers, we leaned these kayaks over until they flipped, noting how much we could get away with.

Most inflatable kayaks will have excellent primary stability — the balance felt when floating on still water. Because of their pontoon or flat hull designs, wide surface contact with the water keeps them from leaning too far over, and most inflatable kayaks will feel very stable to paddle around on flat water. 

When water gets a bit rough, however, a different type of stability is needed, and that’s secondary stability. This is the balance a kayak has when put on its edge, and this can be a very effective tool for paddling in heavy seas, or in Class II or above whitewater. 

The hard chines on the Beach LT Sport give it a distinct edge over the softer hull shapes of most inflatable kayaks; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

An important component of this secondary stability is design lines known as chines, which run from bow to stern and separate the side from the bottom of the kayak. Because most inflatable kayaks use a pontoon design, these chines are soft, meaning they provide little edgability when leaned over. Lean too far, and you’ll dunk the thing.

The exceptions to the rule here are boats that pretend to be inflatable, and the Oru Kayak Beach LT Sport does have a defined separation between side and bottom, and a surprising amount of secondary stability. This stability allows it to shoulder waves better than most inflatables.

Of the inflatables, however, the Aquaglide Deschutes 145 was notable for being confidence-inspiring for even our most green paddlers, and the non-inflatable and low floor is to praise here. This kept paddlers solidly placed, and the wider beam prevented errant tipping.

Tracking and Glide

While the AdvanceFrame tracked the best of any true inflatable, none could match the on-the-rails quality of the Oru Beach LT Sport; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Staying on a straight course is important for paddling efficiency, and an untamed kayak can be frustrating to get where you’re going. We challenged these inflatables side-by-side with hardshell kayaks to see just how straight they could track, as well as how far they could glide once we stopped paddling.

While most inflatables have rather clunky or bulbous bow shapes, the internal aluminum ribs in the Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame kayak form a sharp V-shape hull, which cuts through the water in the same way that many hardshell kayaks do. This helped the AdvanceFrame outpace any of our other tested inflatable kayaks.

The NRS Pike similarly has a rigid keel insert in the bow to form a V-shape hull, and combined with the long pontoon-shaped bottom and tracking fin, kept this kayak on the straight and narrow while paddling. The slick exterior PVC finish on this boat also undoubtedly decreased drag in the water, and kept it moving for a while after we stopped paddling.

The NRS Pike kept a straight line after we let off the gas, thanks the the sharp bow profile; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Tracking fins make a significant difference in the tracking that a kayak does, and most often are affixed to the boat by a rail mount, making the fins removable for storage. Some smaller stability fins will be molded right into the bottom, and these little bite fins, such as seen on the BOTE Lono Aero or Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame, add some tracking ability but can’t be swapped out for different shapes and sizes. 

Notably, the Kokopelli Platte has two tracking fins — one larger and one smaller — which we found aids in keeping the bow from waggling too much during paddling. We found this to be an issue on shorter boats such as the Aquaglide Cirrus Ultralight 110, which does sport a nice-sized fin but otherwise has a short waterline and pivots while paddling.

Because they require larger hulls to pack on enough buoyancy to stay afloat, inflatable kayaks often have taller sides than hardshell kayaks, and combined with their light weights and low water lines, mean these craft are susceptible to the effects of windage. We noticed this most significantly on the BOTE Lono Aero, which has tall sides, floats like a cork, and can be unruly to paddle in a stiff breeze.


Inflatable kayaks float high on the water compared to hardshell kayaks, making them highly maneuverable; (photo/Scott Wilson)

The trade-off for less-than-stellar tracking is excellent maneuverability, which we can say every kayak in our lineup has. We tested this by spinning circles in these kayaks, noting how many paddle strokes were required to turn 360 degrees, and running them through a slalom course of buoys in our local lake.

Here, floating like a cork actually helps these kayaks, and with little drag beneath the water line, they skim across the surface with little to slow them down during a turn. While the V-shaped bow of the Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame aided it in tracking, it hindered it in our maneuverability testing, taking more paddle strokes to spin than other vessels.

The Oru Kayak Beach LT Sport suffered similarly, however, the additional secondary stability this boat has allowed it to edge into turns a bit better. The NRS Pike was also a little slower to come around, but did benefit from only having a V-shaped hull in the bow, while the stern was able to skid around with little drag.

Flat-bottomed boats with rising bows were the quickest to spin, and the Kokopelli Platte and Aquaglide Cirrus Ultralight 110 both whip around like a top. Longer boats like the tandem Aquaglide Deschutes 145 or BOTE Lono Aero took a bit more effort.

Construction and Quality

PVC is the most commonly used material for inflatable kayaks, typically laid out in a multi-chamber design; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

There’s a broad span between a pool toy and the $1,500+ investments at the far end of the inflatable kayak spectrum, and a good bit of that comes down to construction and build quality. With multiple seasons on some of these kayaks now, we’ve taken the kid gloves off and used these kayaks as they were meant to be used, and then some.

Punctures, obviously, are going to be your biggest concern, but thankfully inflatable kayaks today employ some rugged materials in their construction. Most typically, polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is the material of choice for most inflatable kayaks, as it is a rugged and affordable material to produce, and can be patched easily.

Thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU, is undoubtedly the future of performance inflatable kayaks. Much more often used in packrafts today, this material can be less durable than thick PVC but makes up for it by being much lighter and packable, significantly decreasing the stored size of watercraft built from it. Only the Aquaglide Cirrus Ultralight 110 in our testing is made from this material, and is one of the only ones on the market, in fact.

In certain boats, textile coverings are added to the hull designs to protect the tubes or add a drag-free finish below the water line. The Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame has both and is a very durable and quick kayak for it.

Air Chambers

Simpler inflatable kayaks will be built with an air chamber design, typically joining two separate pontoons on the sides with an inflatable floor to form a 3-chamber boat. This accomplishes two things: When pressures increase in one chamber (say, from leaning on it), this isn’t transferred to the others, making for a more stable craft. And should the worst occur and one chamber punctures, you won’t have to go down with the ship.

The Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame is noteworthy for its dual bladder design in the hull, which combines an internal and external chamber to form the kayak. Not only does this help add rigidity to the hull, but it also hedges your bets against an accidental deflation causing a full-on sinking. With even one bladder entirely deflated, we could paddle around with ease.

The drop stitch floor in the NRS Pike makes it possible to stand while fishing, or even paddling the kayak like a SUP; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Drop Stitch Construction

A marvel of manufacturing, drop stitch construction allows for flat inflated surfaces with very high pressures, and it’s all thanks to a couple thousand strands of polyester. These strands connect the two sides of the air chamber and prevent it from bowing out from the pressure. Commonly used in iSUPs, this design style creates an almost hardshell-like surface and rigidity.

Hybrid designs that use a drop stitch floor and air-chamber hulls were some of the quickest in our testing, with better rigidity and power transfer being the cause. The NRS Pike is one such boat, and with a full-length drop stitch floor, it’s easy to walk along the entire length while fishing.


Rigging takes a minute on inflatable kayaks, but the performance can often be impressive from something you pulled from your trunk; (photo/Scott Wilson)

Inflatable watercraft manufacturers haven’t settled on a universal inflation valve yet; however, some are more prevalent than others. The Leafield C7 valves used on the NRS Pike are standard on whitewater rafts, and are even reparable to ensure a quality seal. Halkey-Roberts style valves are widely used on inflatable kayaks and standup paddleboards and feature a quarter-turn pin to switch from inflation to deflation mode.

More obscure valves include the proprietary spring valve found on the Advanced Elements boats. This valve operates similarly to other two-way valves but requires a special adapter to use on most pumps. These kayaks also feature common twist valves, which are used in low-pressure applications such as deck supports or seats.

Inflation pressures will vary depending on a number of factors, but the best rule is to follow the manufacturer’s specifications and don’t exceed them. Pumps with built-in pressure gauges are invaluable for measuring this, though some kayaks use an external screw-on gauge, like the Intex Excursion K2.

(Photos/Nick Belcaster)

Because both sides of the structure are bound together, drop stitch construction inflatables can be pressurized to much higher pressures. The hull of the BOTE Lono Aero calls for an ideal pressure of 10-15 PSI, which makes it incredibly sturdy. 

Finally, be mindful of changing conditions while paddling. When you first set your kayak in the water, it may become softer after a few minutes as the air in the boat contracts on contact with the cold water. A good way to get around this is by tempering your boat, which involves leaving it in the water (secured!) for a few minutes while you prep the rest of your kit, then topping off whatever pressure you may have lost.

It’s also important to remember that the inverse of this effect also occurs, and leaving your inflatable kayak on shore in the sun can increase pressures inside to damaging levels. If you’re going to leave your kayak for any extended period of time, dump some air to provide a cushion for expansion.

Seating and Comfort

The seat on the BOTE Lono Aero had us sitting high above the water, which was great for visibility; (photo/Erika Courtney)

An inflatable kayak ain’t much if it isn’t comfortable, and we put in the hours in the saddle to find where each landed on the spectrum. Enlisting our friends and family, we had paddlers from ages 6 to 62 jump into each of these boats and provide feedback on seating and fitment comfort, as well as how adjustable they were.

The most comfortable seats in our testing were on the Aquaglide Deschutes and Kokopelli Platte, both of which are plush foam slings set into the cockpit and fastened with straps. We particularly appreciated that the seat in the Platte is fastened both fore and aft, which allowed for more fine-tuning to get the fit just right.

Seating in inflatable kayaks isn’t typically the most complicated or adjustable compared to hardshell kayaks, which have the luxury of hard-fastened mounting points and permanent seats. Some designs are fully inflatable themselves, though we didn’t find these the most supportive for long paddles. The Intex Excursion Pro K2 uses these types of seats, and while the added booster pad was a nice touch, they lacked the all-day support we were after.

Aquaglide Cirrus Ultralight 110 - seat and footrest
Fully inflatable seats like those found in the Aquaglide Cirrus UL aren’t our favorite, but get the job done and are lightweight; (photo/Berne Broudy)

Styled like many fishing kayaks, the aluminum frame and mesh seat on the NRS Pike is quite supportive and can be moved within the kayak to balance your weight out before being strapped down. The seat back itself folds forward for easier storage and carry, though it lacks much recline angle — something that can be nice to dial back for long transits.

The seat on the BOTE Lono Aero had us sitting higher than any other set-up, and is a full drop-stitch construction, just like the rest of the kayak. While this was an adjustable and stable seat, the pressure needed to inflate it made it fairly stiff for extended paddling. We found that you could underinflate it a bit to get a bit more cushion out of it.

Weight and Packed Size

Even a tandem kayak like the Aquaglide Deschutes 145 can be carried on your back; (photo/Kyle Nossaman)

Thankfully, inflatable kayaks are typically pretty light, meaning they can be carried easily either deflated or inflated. Commonly around 25-40 pounds, it’s simple enough for most people to single-hand carry these kayaks, and all come with some type of storage case or pack. In order to test these kayaks in this regard, we toted them dang near everywhere, from short beach approaches to a couple mile portage into an alpine lake.

Weighing in at under 15 pounds, the Aquaglide Cirrus Ultralight 110 is the lightest full-featured inflatable kayak we’ve paddled to date, and its TPU construction makes it far lighter and more packable than other PVC boats. This is the kayak we’d snag to pack into those hard-to-reach bodies of water.

Most of the inflatable kayaks we paddled otherwise were between 25 and 45 pounds, which is a weight off our shoulders, considering that most plastic kayaks start at 50 pounds and head north from there. The foldable polypropylene sheet construction of the Oru Kayak Beach LT Sport keeps it lighter than average at 28 pounds, and it’s easy to carry this kayak with the included shoulder strap. Oru also offers a backpack case for this kayak, which makes toting it around even easier.

The BOTE Lono Aero is certainly the heavyweight in our review, and at 51 pounds for the vessel, plus the added weight of the optional pedal drive and rudder assembles, it’s best to offload this kayak somewhere near where you want to launch. The storage duffel for the Lono is wheeled, thankfully, and we found it even navigated packed dirt trails well.

Packed Size

The BOTE Lono Aero is no lightweight, but is manageable to port around in the wheeled case it comes in; (photo/Erika Courtney)

A compact packed size is one of the best reasons for jumping into an inflatable kayak, and our roof racks gathered dust while we tested these kayaks, shuttling them around in the beds of our pickups, the trunks of our SUVs, and during one ill-advised bike carry. While you’d be hard-pressed to get a hardshell kayak into your apartment, all of these kayaks tuck away into a gear closet. 

As a single-seater, the Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame packs down to about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, and while almost universally it’s tough to get an inflatable kayak back in the bag, this kayak made it easy on us and slipped back in every time. The Aquaglide Cirrus UL is similarly compact, and the compression storage bag used to carry it can also double as a dry bag while paddling. Smart.

The BOTE Lono Aero takes up the most space in our gear closets, and at 73 pounds packed in a 41” x 19” x 13” carrying case, there’s little chance you could get this boat aboard an airplane without paying the oversized baggage fee. The Lono was the only kayak in our tests that we weren’t able to carry on our backs, though the wheeled case was rugged enough to maneuver across paved lots.

On-Board Storage and Weight Capacity

As a touring-oriented kayak, the AdvanceFrame sports through-deck zips to access storage for your kit; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Due to their frequently open-top designs, storage space on inflatable kayaks is often limited to what you can store atop these boats, either beneath bungee cords or behind seats. 

As a touring-styled inflatable, the Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame kayak is the exception to the rule and tucks away storage space in both the bow and stern beneath the decks. These storage areas are minimal but are easily accessed through zippers in the decks. This kayak also offers some on-deck storage as well, in the form of a bungee system on the bow.

The covered bow and stern deck design is a common one, and the Aquaglide Deschutes, Kokopelli Platte, and Aquaglide Cirrus all sport them. Like the AdvanceFrame these aren’t very waterproof areas, but are pretty secure for tossing a daypack or a dry bag. The deck covers on the Intex Excursion K2 are more for looks, and there isn’t too much space beneath them.

While not a waterproof hatch, the bow and stern areas on the Oru Kayak Beach LT Sport could accept some bulky items — if you don’t mind if they get a little wet; (photo/Erika Courtney)

The large cockpit of the Oru Kayak Beach LT Sport will accept a good bit of kit behind the seat, and we could fit all of our fishing kit or lunch back here. The enclosed areas behind the bow and stern bulkheads is also surprisingly spacious, and during an overnight paddle we used these spaces to store bulky items such as foam sleeping pads. Know that these bulkheads aren’t waterproof, but also don’t accumulate much water.

Dedicated storage space on the BOTE Lono Aero comes in the form of a few bungee corded areas in the bow and stern deck, along with an opening for slotting in one of the brand’s Kula 5 coolers — a great option but an eye-popping $270. These cords work well to wrangle stuff sacks, and for smaller kits, the Lono has a couple of stash pockets for your sunscreen or sunnies.

Weight Capacity

Weight capacity is another important factor to consider, and there is more variability here. Notably, the AdvanceFrame can only carry 250 pounds, meaning there isn’t much wiggle room for additional gear for some paddlers. The Cirrus UL can tackle an extra 50 pounds on top of that, which gives a better buffer to be able to load on some heavier kit. Know that weight capacity includes yourself as the paddler, and plan accordingly.


Budget but not too budget, the Intex Excursion Pro K2 is a joy to paddle, and won’t require liquidating assets to snag it; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Inflatable kayaks can command the same range of prices that hardshell kayaks do (up to a point), but there’s a distinct difference between a budget inflatable and a high-dollar craft. Consider how often you’ll be using your kayak, as well as what your future needs may be when choosing which one to go with.

Budget inflatable kayaks typically range from $250-400 and will most often be single-seaters — though some, like the Intex Excursion Pro K2 ($398), are offered as tandems for not much more out the door. These boats will be constructed of PVC laid up in multiple layers to add durability, though they often won’t sport the water-resistant or slick fabrics that more mid-range kayaks will. Be wary of inflatable kayaks offered for less than this, as our experiences have shown them to be less than reliable, and have lifespans that end before the year is up.

Mid-range inflatable kayaks like the Advanced Elements AdvanceFrame ($670) will go for around $600-1,000, and be better equipped to face a wider variety of water and paddling uses. The multiple air chamber design on the AdvanceFrame is undoubtedly more expensive to produce, but it yields a much more rigid and stable kayak. At $700, the Aquaglide Deschutes 145 nets you the ability to paddle with a partner, or single-hand if you like.

A drop stitch floor can be a worthy expense to bump up to; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Bumping up the price a bit more allows you to have drop stitch construction in your kayak, which can greatly improve performance. The Kokopelli Platte ($899) and NRS Pike ($995) both have drop stitch floors, and the paddle is much more responsive and faster for it. It’s good to note that some kayaks will even offer a drop stitch floor as an upgrade, which can allow you to get into a kayak for cheaper, and then add on the floor when you’re after more technical ability.

Anything above $1,000 should be considered high-end or specialized, and the Aquaglide Cirrus UL ($1,300) is certainly specialized. Using a more expensive TPU construction, this kayak is full-sized while weighing almost half of similar kayaks. The Oru Kayak Beach LT Sport ($1,499) flips the script and does everything an inflatable can while unfolding to form a hardshell kayak. And the full drop stitch construction of the BOTE Lono Aero ($1,549) and optional pedal drive make this a premium option for paddlers who want the full experience, no options spared.


Is it worth it to get an inflatable kayak?

For those short on storage space or an effective way to transport hardshell kayaks, the answer is an emphatic yes! Even those with the space to store traditional kayaks will also find certain inflatable kayaks to be enjoyable for leisurely paddling where ultimate performance isn’t needed.

There are certainly things that inflatable kayaks do better than a full-on hardshell kayak, including packed size and weight. They also often float higher in the water, which can be an asset for paddling in shallow water. This also allows them to be turned quickly, and across the board, these kayaks turn faster than their hardshell cousins.

If you’re after absolute performance, inflatable kayaks may not be the best option, as they do give up some speed and tracking in their designs. But if portability is the primary concern, it’s tough to go wrong with one.

(Photo/Kyle Nossaman)
Are inflatable kayaks tippy?

Generally, inflatable kayaks are not tippy, due to their pontoon hull designs and inherent high buoyancy. This is called primary stability, which is the even-keeled feeling of sitting atop the water, and all of the inflatable kayaks we tested had excellent stability.

Of the kayaks we’ve paddled, those with wider profiles and flat bottoms were the most stable, with the BOTE Lono Aero and Aquaglide Deschutes both being notable, but for different reasons. The Lono is pretty much an iSUP with a kayak profile above the water, making it supremely stable even to walk around on. The Deschutes, on the other hand, uses a non-inflatable floor, which drops the paddlers low and keeps the center of gravity where you want it.

Do inflatable kayaks tear easily?

While it’s easy to imagine dashing your inflatable kayak to bits on the rocks, most models these days are fairly durable — so long as you treat them correctly. During testing, we had no issues beaching these kayaks but were cognizant of what we were landing on.

Use care to avoid obstacles such as submerged limbs or rocks, as these could potentially tear your kayak if you hit them with enough force. And if you do develop a tear, most inflatable kayaks today come with a repair kit that will allow you to get back on the water.

Watch for hazards lurking just below the surface, like this stump; (photo/Nick Belcaster)
How do you dry the inside of an inflatable kayak?

Drying the inside of your inflatable kayak is an essential step in putting it away in storage, and should be done every time to ensure no funky smells or mildew has a chance to take hold. While some kayaks like the Aquaglide Deschutes and Cirrus UL sport integral drain plugs in the floor, these aren’t universal

The best practices we’ve come up with through our testing are as follows: Begin by dumping any standing water out of your kayak and really give it the business with a good shake or three. Any water left you’ll have to go after, so save yourself the hassle. Then, open up any deck closures and remove any internal floors. Run a dry microfiber towel along the inside and be diligent about mopping up any liquid you find.

Once you’re satisfied with your work, it’s time to let the sun do its magic — or, in the absence, a well-ventilated room. Leave your kayak unrolled until it is entirely dry before putting it away, and it’ll be ready to go the next time you want to paddle.

Can inflatable kayaks be left inflated?

While it isn’t the best practice, many inflatable kayaks can be left inflated for quick use, but there are some considerations. For one, know that air is constantly changing pressure based on the ambient temperature, and if left in the sun, your kayak may overpressurize and spontaneously blow a seam. If leaving your kayak inflated in the sun, let out a good amount of air so there’s room for expansion.

Another consideration is the damage caused by the UV from the sun, which will deteriorate your kayak, given enough exposure. Because of this, we recommend storing your kayak away from the sun if you choose to keep it inflated.

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