Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are a reasonably new product in the overall scheme of kayak development. Their portability and the fact that they take up less storage space have made them a competitive option to traditional, hard shell, kayaks.

According to Wikipedia, the kayak, itself, is believed to be at least 4,000 years old. The oldest existing kayaks are exhibited in the North America department of the State Museum of Ethnology in Munich, with the oldest dating from 1577. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that fiberglass molded and rubberized boats were introduced in Europe. The plasticized versions that we know today were introduced in the 1970’s.

In comparison, inflatable kayaks evolved from government surplus rafts.  The versions that we know were first developed in the 1960’s. They are, surely, the new kids on the block.

Inflatable Kayaks: Not “pool toys” anymore …

Innova Inflatable Kayak in ActionFor many years, what we know as hard shell kayaks, made of plastic, fiberglass and some other materials, dominated the paddling market. When inflatable kayaks came along, they were often considered to be “pool toys”, not very tough and ready to spring a leak at any time. Various manufacturers, like Sea Eagle, Innova and Advanced Elements, the current market leaders, have successfully changed that perception by making inflatable kayaks that blow the “pool toys” out of the water (pun intended). Many of these major advances have occurred in a relatively short time (since 2006).

New and Better Materials

Advancements in materials have made newer inflatable kayaks and boats extremely hard to puncture. These are a few examples from the market leaders …

  • Advanced Elements uses a multi-layer process featuring a Polyester fabric sandwiched by layers of vinyl which creates a durable and strong outer cover.
  • Innova Kayaks also uses a multi-layer process that features a rubberized, rip stop Nitrilon® material.
  • Sea Eagle uses a 1000 denier PVC weaved material that has held up to a variety of puncture tests. Click here to watch the video.
  • Personal Note: We sold inflatable watercraft to over 3,000 customers since 2006. Less than a tenth of 1% reported punctures  to us.

Much Improved Tracking …

Another problem with older inflatable kayaks was that they didn’t track as well as hard shell kayaks. Tracking is the term used for how well a kayak holds it’s path in the water. Since inflatable kayaks ride higher in the water, they tend to be affected by the wind and since not as much of their hull is down below the surface of the water, they may drift off the path more than a fiberglass, hard shell kayak. In some cases, that’s still true, but the firmness achieved by better materials being able to hold higher pressure air combined with sleeker designs have created inflatable kayaks that can now be mentioned in the same breath as many hard shell kayaks when talking about “tracking“. The gap has narrowed considerably.

  • Sea Eagle was the first to adapt drop stitch technology into their inflatable kayaks. At the 2008 Outdoor Retail Show, the nation’s largest, inflatable stand up paddle boards were the talk of the show. Drop stitch technology is what enables material to maintain it’s shape when inflated to high pressure. Inflatable SUP’s were now hard enough to compete with fiberglass paddle boards. Sea Eagle’s Cecil Hoge decided to add drop stitch floors to their higher end inflatable kayaks. The result was a game changer. Tracking improved exponentially. A few years later, their RazorLite kayaks were introduced, with not only a floor, but a drop stitch hull, as well. Sea Eagle also offers a 3 year warranty compared to 1 year for most other manufacturers.
  • Advanced Elements has incorporated a patented aluminum rib frame technology (in the bow and stern) into many of their inflatable kayaks. This enables the bow to cut through the water as the stern works similar to a skeg. This combination results in better paddling and tracking performance. They also use a patented BackBone® accessory, along with drop-stitch floors on some of their kayaks.
  • Innova Kayaks do not use any framing support or outer shell material. They have relied on a unique contoured hull design with inflation chambers that are shaped to enhance paddling performance, reduce assembly time and shorten drying time. Prior to drop stitch floors and rib frame tech, Innova was considered to be the best tracking inflatable kayak. Their design still holds up well when kayakers discuss inflatable kayak tracking.

Why Buy an Inflatable Kayak?

Light Weight – Most inflatable kayaks are in the 20 to 30 lb. range! Some are as light as 16 pounds!
High Quality – The latest high tech fabrics and materials make these rigid inflatable kayaks very difficult to puncture or tear!
Easy Storage – Large crafts that fold down to duffel bag size!
Easy Transport – No car carrier needed. They fit in your trunk!
Fast Assembly – Nearly all of our inflatable kayaks can be water ready in less that 25 minutes — Max!
Excellent Value – Compared to solid, hard shell kayaks .. Inflatable Kayaks offer more boat for less money!

What’s the Best Inflatable Kayak for Me?

Good question! We have tried to provide an answer for you by listing some of the key features and photos of our most recommended inflatable kayaks. Most of these kayaks are best used in flat water situations. Those that handle whitewater well are noted below the photos. Sea Eagle kayaks are packaged to include a foot pump, paddles and a carry bag. Advanced Elements and Innova inflatable kayak accessories must be purchased separately. After checking out the options, if you have any questions, please contact us.

Sea Eagle 330 Pro SoloSea Eagle-330-Pro-Solo
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $300
Sea Eagle 330 ProSea Eagle-330-Pro
Capacity: One or Two Person
Price: Under $300
Sea Eagle 370 ProSea Eagle-370-Pro
Capacity: One or Two Person
Price: Under $350
Sea Eagle Explorer 300Sea Eagle-Explorer-300x
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $750
** Can Handle Whitewater

Sea Eagle Explorer 380Sea Eagle-Explorer-380x
Capacity: One or Two Person
Price: Under $1,000
** Can Handle Whitewater
Sea Eagle Explorer 420 Sea Eagle-Explorer-420x
Capacity: Two or Three Person
Price: Under $1,100
** Can Handle Whitewater
Sea Eagle Fast Track 385Sea Eagle-Fast Track-385
Capacity: One or Two Person
Price: Under $900
Sea Eagle Fast Track 465Sea Eagle-Fast Track-465
Capacity: Two or Three Person
Price: Under $1,200

Sea Eagle’s patented RazorLite™ kayaks are made entirely of Drop Stitch material. They cut thru waves clean and straight at paddling speeds up to 6 mph.
Important NOTE: Because of its high-performance design and capabilities, the RazorLite™ kayaks are best recommended for intermediate and above paddlers.
Sea Eagle RazorLite 393Sea Eagle-RazorLite-393
Capacity: One Two Person
Price: Under $1,000
** Can Handle Whitewater
Sea Eagle RazorLite 473Sea Eagle-RazorLite-473
Capacity: One or Two Person
Price: Under $1,400
** Can Handle Whitewater

Innova Rush 1Innova-Rush-1
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $900
Innova Rush 2Innova-Rush-2
Capacity: Two Person
Price: Under $1,500
Innova SafariInnova-Safari
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $700
Innova ThayaInnova-Thaya
Capacity: Two Person
Price: Under $1,100

Innova Twist 1Innova-Twist-1
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $450
Innova Twist 2Innova-Twist-2
Capacity: Two Person
Price: Under $600
Innova Swing 1Innova-Swing-1
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $700
Innova Swing 2Innova-Swing-2
Capacity: Two Person
Price: Under $900

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable KayakAdvanced Elements-AdvancedFrame
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $500
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem Inflatable KayakAdvanced Elements-AdvancedFrame Convertible Tandem
Capacity: One or Two Person
Price: Under $700
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite Tandem Inflatable KayakAdvanced Elements-AdvancedFrame Convertible Elite Tandem
Capacity: One or Two Person
Price: Under $950
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite Inflatable KayakAdvanced Elements-AdvancedFrame Expedition Elite
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $800

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Sport Inflatable KayakAdvanced Elements-AdvancedFrame Sport
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $400
Advanced Elements AirFusion EVO Inflatable KayakAdvanced Elements-Air Fusion EVO
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $1,100
Advanced Elements Attack Pro Whitewater Inflatable KayakAdvanced Elements-Attack Pro Whitewater
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $700
** Can Handle Whitewater
Advanced Elements PackLite Inflatable KayakAdvanced Elements-PackLite
Capacity: One Person
Price: Under $300
Portable Kayak’s recommendations are based on a variety of factors, including actually paddling many of these kayaks at various trade shows over the past 15 years. You may find that these manufacturers have additional selections that are not included in our ‘guide’. Some may work well for you. We are simply showing you our best recommendations from the online stores that we trust. (NOTE: One major factor to take into consideration … when you purchase directly from SeaEagle.com, instead of one of their dealers, such as Amazon, you have 180 days to try out your boat. Other dealers only offer a 30 day return policy.)
If you prefer to shop Amazon.com, you can use this search box to compare their prices and selection with those from our recommended sites.

Disclosure: Some of the links on PortableKayaks.com are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase we will earn a commission. For example: As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Keep in mind that we link to these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you. Should you have any questions, comments or concerns or wish to ask a question prior to purchasing and product or service mentioned on this web site, you can contact us directly by e-mail at hillstores@aol.com.