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How to choose an inflatable kayak

Inflatable or rigid kayak?

The inflatable kayaks are easier to transport and to store. They are lighter than rigid kayaks and most of them fit in a bag, so you can put it in your trunk or a small compartment. In 10 minutes, you can inflate your kayak and it's ready to go on water.

The advantage of a rigid kayak is that it's more stable and goes through the water with more ease. But with the Dropstitch technology, some of the inflatable kayaks are close to the rigid ones.

kayak gonflable ou rigide kayak gonflable ou rigide

As you probably won't use your kayak the whole year. An inflatable one is a good option. It's easy to store, even if you live in a small appartment and it's easy to use.

It is now time to answer to an important question:

How to choose your inflatable kayak?

Before reading on the caracteristics of the different kayaks, you need to know how to use your kayak and different personal questions:

  • • What is your budget?
  • • What do you want as an inflatable kayak?
  • • What is your programm on the water?

Then, you can take into account those criteria:

  • • The constructuion type
  • • The number of seats
  • • The brand
  • • The weight of the kayak
  • • Its length

Materials & Construction

Before, inflatable kayaks were not very resistant and looked more like a toy than a real kayak. They were manufactured in plastic and only for children. Today, the materials used are far more resistant and are less likely to have a leak. They can have small chocs against rocs without bursting or leaking. When you choose, don't forget to lookt at the material used, because they are different if you want to go into white waters, if you are going to use your kayak often or not, it depends also of the climate where you are going to use it, etc.

 In general, you have the sit on top kayaks and the sit-in kayaks. 
The sit on top inflatable kayaks: easy to manoeuvre, it is the best type to make a long tour at the sea or in calm waters. There are many advantages for this type of familial kayak. It is very stable and won't turn over easily. That is because they are larger than the other types, which gives them stability. 
The sit-in kayaks: for longer trips. It has better gliding performances. You can use it the whole year in very different weather conditions. 

100% PVC inflatable kayaks are the closest to "beach gear". They have no protection for the air chambers. Then, it will be necessary to book them for short excursions and close to the coast. They are good boats but they are not very durable. Important exception: Gumotex inflatable kayaks. The brand builds the material itself and each boat is individually inspected at the factory's exit. This is one of the most resistant inflatable kayaks for the general public. The Nitrilon designed by Gumotex is safe for river crossings up to class 3. And it's sustainable!

Inflatable kayaks with nylon or poyester layer are very common. The most famous of these boats is the Colorado from Sevylor, which has made many changes, such as the Rockside Vulcain, which is very well received by the public this year. The fabric envelope protects the air chambers inside from abrasion and friction. There is "nothing" to fear even if the boat encounters some obstacles. To ensure passenger safety, this type of kayak has 3 independent compartments (chambers). 

Dropstitch kayaks are the best evolution in the world of inflatable kayaking. Full-HP kayaks are built entirely in the same way as inflatable stand up paddle boards. These boats offer a high rigidity (very pleasant in the waves to avoid deformations) while remaining less heavy than a rigid kayak. The disadvantage? Those are not the most affordable inflatable kayaks. 

Fortunately, engineers are smart! To take advantage of these advantages and lower the price, a new "race" of kayak has been on the rise for 3 years now. The inflatable kayak built with a Drop Stitch floor. The rigid floor combined with a profiled shape offers good glide when the PVC walls provide a unique stability to the kayak. Thousands of polyester yarns connect the two layers of reinforced PVC on the floor. Inflated under high pressure, the floor filaments stretch and provide increased rigidity to the canoe kayak.

The number of people on board

As with a rigid kayak, one of the first criteria is the number of people to board. In inflatable kayaks there are also kayaks for 1, 2, 3 or even 4 people! Keep in mind that while it is technically possible to navigate alone in a duo inflatable kayak, the opposite is more difficult. Inflatable kayaks are lighter, so you can manage them on your own with a paddle.

kayak 1 place The 1-seater inflatable kayak is the ideal tool to surf the waves like the Gumotex Twist 1 inflatable kayak, to escape alone along the shores like the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame inflatable kayak, to have fun during sporty or long trips.
kayak 2 places The 2-seater inflatable kayak is the most popular type of sea kayak. Particularly popular with families, it allows them to share the pleasure of touring and riding with two people. The 3 most popular models are the Hydro Force Ventura inflatable kayak, the Sevylor Yukon and the Gumotex Solar inflatable kayak.
kayak 3 places The 3-seater inflatable kayak is the ideal kayak for families (with a child). Particularly stable, it also allows a lot of equipment to be loaded. Ideal for day trips, the Rockside Grand Voyager Supercharged inflatable kayak will be the best ally. The 3-seater Gulotex Solar Kayak will be a much more durable and resistant boat.
kayak 4 place The 4-seater inflatable kayak is more massive, it allows you to take 2 adults and 2 children on board for outings at sea or lake.

The brand of the inflatable kayak

Contrary to what one might think, the brand is no longer a guarantee of quality. Indeed, the best innovations are often at the origin of new brands. Well-established brands tend to favour savings (thickness of materials, no new products, etc.) rather than innovation.

So don't say to yourself, "At least with... I know it's quality! ".

Today, you can find everything from high-end inflatable kayaks for whitewater at Gumotex or Grabner, to more accessible boats like Bestway's affordable inflatable kayaks. The main manufacturers now occupy 90% of the market. For the rest, Sevylor or Rockside builders are very well represented in lakes, rivers and seashores.

The weight

The main advantage of an inflatable kayak is that it is lightweight. Compared to a rigid kayak, you will gain about half, or 15 kilos less! In general, this type of boat weighs about 13-15 kilos, which makes it easier to transport and prevents you from getting tired before launching. The lighter ones can weigh only 7 kg like the Advanced Elements Packlite inflatable kayak, so they are very easy to transport, but it all depends on the number of people who will board and the equipment to take with them. 
Storage is also a major aspect to consider when buying an inflatable kayak. Do not hesitate to be demanding in your choice since it is possible to find models sold with a carrying bag or a backpack.

The size

Generally speaking, the longer an inflatable kayak is, the faster it will move and the less it will turn. So it all depends on what you want to focus on. For long distances, long excursions, it is better to use a tapered sea kayak or a canoe style such as the Advanced Elements AF Expedition Elite Inflatable Kayak.

On the contrary, if you are looking for a kayak for river trips or just to play on the beach, choose a shorter model.

For a single person it must be quite short, between 2.40m and 3.90m. For family use, for example, parents and children, the model to choose is a three- or four-seater kayak. For the fastest kayaks they will be between 4 and 5 meters long. Nevertheless, there are some disadvantages such as the lack of transport facilities for launching.

What equipment should I have with an inflatable kayak?

To have fun in kayaking, the inflatable boat is not the only equipment to acquire:

  • • It will of course be necessary to provide a kayak PFD that ensures buoyancy adapted to your size (50 Newtons)
  • • On board, take a pump to readjust the pressure in case of a longer ride (use an electric inflator with pressure gauge for inflation before departure).
  • • If it is not provided with the kayak (which is rare), we also recommend that you get a storage bag suitable for your canoe kayak.
  • • The leash will allow you to attach your paddle to your wrist. This will prevent it from disappearing into the water if you accidentally release it
  • • Equip yourself with a waterproof bag accompanied by a waterproof phone bag to load accessories, dry clothes and a picnic, they will allow you to live the walks of your dreams.

Finally, always remember to check the weather before leaving and make sure you comply with the regulations in force.

In conclusion, as far as the price of inflatable kayak canoes is concerned, we will find fairly accessible products as long as we know how to save money. If we want to afford a high quality model, we will have to make some savings. The first prices will be between 100€ and 200€, they are good boats but they are not so durable. After the 200€ mark and more, there are boats that will last much longer if we know how to maintain them well. 

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