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The Best Inflatable Kayaks of 2023

Cruise your local waters in style with the help of these best inflatable kayaks of 2023

Best Overall
Bestway Hydro-Force 2-Person Ventura Elite Inflatable Kayak Set | Includes Kayak, 2 Aluminum Paddles, Hand Pump, 2 Fins and Carry Bag
Best Features
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak with Pump
Best Budget
INTEX 68307EP Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak Set: includes Deluxe 86in Kayak Paddles and High-Output Pump – Adjustable Seats with Backrest – Removable Skeg – 2-Person – 400lb Weight Capacity
Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak
Explorer K2
This affordable and well-rounded kayak is the perfect recreational kayak.
Multiple deck options. Aluminum ribs for improved tracking.
This inexpensive kayak is an amazing value for the money.
Best Overall
Bestway Hydro-Force 2-Person Ventura Elite Inflatable Kayak Set | Includes Kayak, 2 Aluminum Paddles, Hand Pump, 2 Fins and Carry Bag
Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1
This affordable and well-rounded kayak is the perfect recreational kayak.
Best Features
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak with Pump
Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak
Multiple deck options. Aluminum ribs for improved tracking.
Best Budget
INTEX 68307EP Explorer K2 Inflatable Kayak Set: includes Deluxe 86in Kayak Paddles and High-Output Pump – Adjustable Seats with Backrest – Removable Skeg – 2-Person – 400lb Weight Capacity
Explorer K2
This inexpensive kayak is an amazing value for the money.

Kayaking is a great way to get out on the water and explore nature from a unique perspective. It’s great exercise, good for your mental health, and it’s full of adventure.  Our friends over at Outward Spaces have recently written about why kayaking is so much fun, but if you’ve spent much time in a kayak – you already know how much of a blast it can be.

Hard shell kayaks take up a lot of space, are heavy, and require special vehicle considerations to get them out to your local waters.  Inflatable Kayaks, on the other hand, pack away into a carrying bag, can be easily stored in a small space, and fit into just about any vehicle on the road.  Once you arrive at your water of choice, you inflate your kayak and hit the water. When you’re done paddling, the kayak is deflated, folded up, slipped back into the bag, and thrown back into the trunk. Inflatable kayaks offer convenience that get you out on the water more often and they can be just as much fun as a hard-shell kayak.

In our search for the best inflatable kayak of 2023, we looked at a number of models currently available and put together our list of the best of the best. Whether you are a beginning kayaker or an experienced pro, there is an inflatable kayak that will help you get paddling more quickly and with less hassle than a traditional kayak.

The Best Inflatable Kayaks: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1

Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1 Inflatable Kayak

Due to its balance of quality construction, included accessories, and affordable price, the Hydro-Force Ventura Elite X1 is our best overall inflatable kayak of 2023. The Ventura Elite X1 is a great-looking kayak built for 2 paddlers. It features a premium coated nylon cover that is oil-proof, waterproof, Uv resistant, and puncture resistant. The Ventura Elite X1 comes with everything you need to get out on the water right out of the box and includes 2 aluminum paddles, and hand pump, 2 removable skegs, a gear bag, a carrying bag, and a patch kit. It features a drop-stitch I-beam inflatable floor for stability and the 2 skegs are interchangeable to customize the ride to your tastes.

What we love: The 2 storage compartments – the front gear bag + storage behind each seat allow you to bring your gear along and ensure it stays put.  We also think the teal color looks pretty sharp.

Length: 10′ 10″
Width: 34″
Weight: 35lb
Seating Capacity: 2
Weight Capacity: 440 lbs

Best For Touring: AQUAGLIDE Navarro 130 Convertible Inflatable Kayak

AQUAGLIDE Navarro Convertible Inflatable Kayak

The AQUAGLIDE Navarro 130 is a single inflatable kayak that’s built for touring but can also handle the rapids.  The Navarro 130’s unique zip-on deck cover makes this kayak look for like a traditional kayak than others on our list and keeps water out while keeping you dry. At 13 feet and 3 inches long, the Navarro is longer than most kayaks on our list – especially considering it’s only a single kayak.  This extra length adds speed and makes paddling easier, earning the Navarro 130 our “best pick for touring” distinction. At only 35 lbs, the Navarro 130 is easily handled by 1 person. This kayak also has a hex shell covering its pontoons making it more durable and quicker in the water – both great features in a touring kayak. Unlike other inflatable kayaks on our list, the Navarro comes only with a seat and storage bag, so you’ll have to pick up a paddle and pump separately.

What we love: The extra length adds some speed that makes this kayak more fun and easier to paddle for long periods of time. The extended deck on the front and rear help to keep water out.

Length: 13′ 3″
Width: 37″
Weight: 35 lbs
Seating Capacity: 1
Weight Capacity: 300 lbs

Best Features: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak

Advanced Elements AE1007-R AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

The full-featured Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak is a 2-person touring kayak that takes flexibility to new levels.  Its “AdvancedFrame” name comes from its built-in aluminum ribs that help define the hull shape to improve tracking and durability.  This aluminum frame helps it perform more like a traditional kayak while also protecting it against bumps and scrapes.  Optional deck covers can be purchased to change the look and function of the kayak. Choose between single or double “closed” decks to help keep you drier when paddling in rougher conditions or stick with the included standard “open” deck for easier maneuverability and access in the kayak.  No matter what you choose, the decks can be easily swapped – making this a “convertible” kayak and giving you options. The AvancedFrame Convertible also has three seat attachment points – one in the front and one in the back for double paddlers or attach a single seat in the middle for a single paddler only.  At 15 feet long and boasting a weight capacity of 550 lbs, this kayak is especially helpful for taller paddlers or those who have a lot of gear to bring along.  Included with the AdvancedFrame kayak is a duffle bag for storage, hand pump, and 2 folding seats.  The various seat arrangements, aluminum frame, and options to purchase additional deck configurations earn the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak our “best features” designation.

What we love: The 3 seat attachment points give you options. With the built-in aluminum frame ribs, this kayak tracks really well and is comfortable for long trips – even if you’re on the taller side of things.

Length: 15′
Width: 32″
Weight: 52 lbs
Seating Capacity: 2
Weight Capacity: 550 lbs

Best for Fishing: Elkton Outdoors Steelhead 130

Elkton Outdoors Steelhead Inflatable Fishing Kayak

Fishing kayaks give anglers the ability to get out where the fish are. An inflatable fishing kayak adds the ease of packing away the kayak when you’re done for the day.  The Elkton Outdoors Steelhead 130 is a fishing kayak that’s well-equipped to land the big catch – again and again. Its padded high-back seat and included footrest will keep you comfortable all day long.  What makes this fishing kayak stand out is the placement of 5 modular equipment mounts to equip your kayak for some serious fishing.  Attach commonly available rod holders, bait trays, downriggers, and more to customize your fishing setup using the 5 mounting points.  The Steelhead 130’s 10-foot, 10-inch length won’t win you any races, but its 39.5 inches of width provides more stability when fishing and gives you a bit more room for your gear. Its width combined with its drop-stitch inflatable floor gives you a stable fishing platform. The Steelhead also includes a paddle, removable skeg, travel bag, padded seat, footrest, and dual action hand pump. It can be used in both salt and fresh water and is rated for up to class III rapids.

What we love: The module equipment mounts allow you to trick out your kayak with all of your gear to build the ultimate kayak fishing setup.

Length: 10′ 10″
Width: 39.5″
Weight: 40 lbs
Seating Capacity: 1
Weight Capacity: 550 lbs

Best Budget: Explorer K2

Explorer K2 Kayak Inflatable Kayak

Our best budget pick is the 2-person Explorer K2 by Intex.  While not as durable or as featured as other kayaks on our list, the Explorer K2 offers a great value kayak for those on a tight budget.  Made for smaller bodies of water including lakes and mild rivers, the Explorer K2 includes everything you need to get out of the water including a hand pump, 2 paddles, a carry bag, 2 removable seats, a removable skeg, and a repair patch. Its inflatable seats aren’t as comfortable or durable as padded seats found on more expensive kayaks, but they do the job and are comfortable enough for short trips.  With only a 300 lb capacity, the Explorer K2 is best for kids, smaller adults, or a single paddler. The Explorer K2 doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles in the feature department, it gets the job done as a simple and inexpensive way to get out on the water.  Want to kayak without spending a small fortune? The Explorer K2 may be the right choice for you.

What we love: The Explorer K2 is an amazing value for the money. It’s a great choice for those who don’t kayak often but want a kayak when the opportunity arises.

Length: 10′ 3″
Width: 36″
Weight: 30.6 lbs
Seating Capacity: 2
Weight Capacity: 400 lbs


The Pros and Cons of Inflatable Kayaks

The biggest pro of inflatable kayaks is their portability.  When deflated, inflatable kayaks need less space to store, don’t need expensive roof racks to transport, and can be carried to the water’s edge by one person.

The biggest con of inflatable kayaks is how they handle on the water.  They typically are slower, don’t track as well, and can be more easily blown around by the wind compared to traditional hard-shell kayaks.

For a full rundown of the various pros and cons of inflatable kayaks, visit Outward Spaces.

What type of inflatable kayak is right for me?

It depends on how you like to paddle and what types of water you want to kayak on.  If you’re looking for a kayak to leisurely paddle on flat water (a lake or mild river) a recreational kayak like the Ventura Elite X1 or the Explorer X2 are good options.  Recreational kayaks like these will give you the most bang for your buck and will provide enjoyable experiences on the water at more affordable prices.

If you want to paddle for a cardio workout or want to kayak long distances, a touring kayak is the best choice.  These kayaks are built to be more comfortable (allowing for longer trips) and longer (allowing for more speed and efficiency when paddling). Touring kayaks are best suited for large lakes or calm ocean conditions, but can also be used in small whitewater (typically up to class III rapids).

If you are looking to kayak in rapids and whitewater, it’s best to stick with a traditional hard-shell kayak built for this purpose.  Whitewater kayaks are designed to be waterproof in case of a roll in rapids.  Inflatable kayaks aren’t designed to roll or recover easily from being overturned like whitewater kayaks are.  While many inflatable kayaks can be enjoyed on rapids up to class III, it’s best to stay away from rapids above class II when paddling one.

Finally, if you want to fish from your inflatable kayak, it’s best to look for kayaks that are designed with fishing in mind.  Look for inflatable kayaks that have good width (at least 36″) and have the ability to properly mount fishing gear on the kayak.  Inflatable kayaks with built-in rod holders and adequate space for fishing gear are the best options for fishing.  We also recommend a single kayak if fishing is the priority.  Space can get tight with two fishermen on a double kayak.

What’s the best way to inflate an inflatable kayak?

A lot of inflatable kayaks come with a hand pump.  Inflatable kayaks are typically inflated to low pressures and a hand pump is perfectly adequate to use. However, if you use your inflatable kayak often, we highly recommend purchasing a 12V electric pump, such as the OutdoorMaster Shark, to quickly and easily inflate your kayak at your car before carrying it down to the water’s edge.  The hand pumps that inflatable kayaks include are often unreliable with gauges that aren’t accurate. 12V pumps typically have digital gauges and shut off automatically at your desired pressure – making them hands-free once you start them up.

What kind of inflation valves do inflatable kayaks use?

Unfortunately, inflatable kayak manufacturers choose to use various inflation valves in their products.  Many inflatable kayaks have a combination of Boston valves and Halkey Roberts valves.  If your inflatable kayak comes with a pump, the manufacturers should also include any adaptors needed.  If you choose to purchase an electric pump as recommended above, make sure to choose one that includes a variety of adaptors.  having adaptors for various types of valves will allow you to inflate all sorts of items around the house with your electric pump – adding value to your investment.


The Bottom Line

Kayaking is a ton of fun and offers a unique way to enjoy nature.  Traditional kayaks are heavy, bulky, and hard to transport.  Inflatable kayaks are lighter weight, pack up into a small carrying bag, and can be transported easily in the back of any car.  Inflatable kayaks offer a more convenient way to tap into the adventure that kayaking offers – resulting in your getting out on the water more often.

Inflatable kayaks are available in many different types, sizes, and styles.  When purchasing an inflatable kayak, be sure to consider your budget, how you’ll use it, and what types of water you want to paddle on. No matter your paddling preferences, purchasing an inflatable kayak will have you out on the water in no time and with less hassle.

Happy Paddling!


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