Last Updated September 2019
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Inflatable Kayaks Buying Guide
If you have a keen passion for kayaking and rafting, you’d find an inflatable kayak simply essential. Inflatable kayaks come in extremely handy for rafting comfortably in calm waters or turbulent whitewater, rapids, seas, oceans, etc. Unlike, rigid shelled kayaks, inflated kayaks are lighter, making these easier to carry and paddle. On the other hand, the feature of deflating renders these convenient to pack, transport, and store.
In this shopping guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about an inflatable kayak. For instance, what is the structure of this type of kayak? Its basic design aspects, the different parts of inflatable kayaks, the different kinds and so on. Finally, we will walk you through the points to keep in mind before choosing a it. It also includes the advantages and disadvantages of using inflatable kayaks.
What is an inflatable kayak?
Kayaks which are somewhat similar to the lightweight, narrow and elongated watercrafts called canoes. These were originally used by Eskimos, Inuits, Yupiks, and Aleuts basically for hunting in inland water have come a long way. The design and structure of the traditional kayak have evolved rapidly over time. Modern-day versions of the kayak are designed based on the specific purpose of the watercraft is intended to serve.
You’ll come across whitewater kayaks, recreational kayaks, racing kayaks, fishing kayaks, and surfing kayaks to name a few. One particular kayak type is the inflatable kayak that is grouped under the category of ‘hybrids and specialty kayaks.’ Inflatable kayaks used in the present day originated from toy kayaks that were used in swimming pools and puddles.
The present day inflatable kayak is an extremely portable and compact one. Hence used for an extensive range of water-based activities. Variously referred to as ‘IK’ in short or ‘ducky,’ this inflatable watercraft is usually crafted out of PVC. They are also made of Hypalon, polyurethane layered fabric, or ‘Nitrilon’ which is a kind of rubberized fabric. Majority of them have a tapering on both the ends, making them suitable for rafting in calm waters, rivers, and lakes.
The expensive models have a hardy construction with a greater degree of rigidness and are apt for canoeing.
Why go for inflatable kayaks?
Most seasoned kayakers prefer inflatable model over the hard-shelled variety as the former has some clear-cut advantages over the latter one. An inflatable kayak is not only easier to lug and raft over long distances but is convenient to store as well. It can be fully deflated and shrink its size. At the same time, it has an extended shelf life as there is no question of it getting dented, rusted or broken.
Inflatable kayaks, owing to the materials used for construction, happen to rebound or spring back instead of suffering a dent. Moreover, kayaks which can be inflated with pressurized air using an electric or manually operated pump are remarkably stable. However, some notable exceptions do due to their smaller turning radii. Such kayaks also are less costly than other types of kayak-styled rafts made from wood, canvas, fiberglass, and aluminum.
Things to consider to buy a quality inflatable kayak
Are you searching to purchase an inflatable kayak for your next adventure trip? Obviously you should choose one that lets you perform the most water-based activities. If you are a first-time buyer, you’ll get perplexed for choice as you’ll find inflatable kayaks for recreational paddling, day touring, crossovers, angling, expedition rafting, whitewater competition, and so on.
Before you make a final call for purchase make up your mind for which you wish to buy the kayak. Now consider the following points to narrow down your list to 4-5 models.
Will you be paddling solo or in tandem or do both?
If you’ll be plunging into the water mostly solo, then opting for an inflatable kayak designed for a single individual would be the right choice. However, if you wish to keep the option of paddling or kayaking with another person open, then choosing a kayak with variable seating positions would be the way to go. A kayak meant for two paddlers usually comes with clips for positioning the seat in the front, middle and rear.
When you are rafting alone, you’ll simply need to shift one seat to the middle or front if you position yourself at the rear. Two paddlers kayaks also allow you to take your kids or pet along.
Your weight and height will have a bearing on what you choose
The kind of kayak you’ll ultimately go for will also depend upon your height and weight. You’ll have to check out the legroom, width, and length of the vessel. Ensure that you can position or stretch out your legs inside the hull of the kayak in a manner that allows you to paddle comfortably. You’ll have to go for a sturdy and roomier model if at least two kayakers would be using the watercraft.
In what kind of water bodies will you use the inflatable kayak?
You can do with a simple and low-cost model if you are kayaking in the placid waters of a river or lake. But rafting in whitewater surfs or in the high waters of oceans and seas is a different ballgame altogether. It calls for using sturdier (and hence costlier) models.
The paddling gear you’ll be using
For cases when buying a kayak for personal use but ferrying sufficient paddling gear, select one that permits storing kit in different sections. Also, it should come with clips for hanging bags and other supplies. Otherway, if you settle for a two paddlers raft and use it as a solo, then you naturally get enough storage space.
A kayak with drain plugs or a self-bailer
Self-bailing inflatable kayaks serve best when tackling rapids or whitewater. It is because the water automatically flows inside easily drains out through the openings. But when you are moving in a gently flowing river, water again seeps in. There are self-bailing rafts that let you plug and unplug the holes as and when required. Kayaks having drain plugs enable you to drive out the water that seeps in gradually.
Are you more comfortable paddling high up from the water or closer?
You’ll find kayaks whose structure is such that you can row keeping your torso close to the hull or water. On the other hand, some kayaks let you scull in/ from a more upright position.
Essential design features of inflatable kayaks
Its design determines the versatility of an inflatable kayak to a considerable extent. The kayak’s design has to do with its shape and size, to be specific, its hull size. Go for a watercraft that is at least 13 feet long if you wish to glide and raft with ease.
Shorter kayaks have smaller turning radius allowing you to twist or circle easily. Kayaks that wide offer more steadiness while the narrower versions furnish better secondary stability.
Introduction to different types of inflatable kayaks
- Open-type: Equipped with features of both canoe-styled and sit-in models. Their hulls are spacious and open out more like the canoe-type kayaks. They have walls that are closer to the water letting you sit in a more erect position while sculling. Stepping in hardly requires any effort and the low walls prevent water from spraying.
- Canoe-styled: The body of a canoed kayak is completely open giving you full elbow room to move your paddles. The seating style is similar to that of a sit-in where you lie close to the water.
- Sit-in: Sit-ins greatly resemble the traditional kayaks where your seating stance is more like that of an airplane’s cockpit. Sit-ins are ideal for use during cold weather.
- Sit-on: With a sit-on, you sit almost in a ramrod position. This is perfect for those who find it difficult to step in or step out of a kayak.
- Self-bailing: Best used in turbulent waters like in rapids and whitewater. But not suitable for using in tranquil waters as water seeps in easily via the openings.
Description of different parts of an inflatable kayak
- Air Chambers: Kayaks are constructed using multiple air chambers. The chambers ensure that the kayak doesn’t pop but only leak slowly if there is a problem.
- Valves: Each air chamber comprises of valves used for filling the kayak with air. It also allows the air to flow out. The best among the available options is the Boston valve.
- D-Rings: Commonly installed in every inflatable kayak comes with multiple D-rings that are used for securing the seats. They also allow you to secure the backrests, dry bags, gear or the knee straps.
- Drain Holes: The inclusion of self-bailing drain holes is highly useful in rough waters. It facilitates the collected water to drain out from the seating area and hence lightening the boat.
- Seats & Footrests: It is a mandatory inclusion which is always present in case of different types of inflatable kayaks.
- Skegs & Rudders: Skegs are effective in keeping the kayak on track. On the other, most kayaks offer at least a single rudder. Both of them together help the skidding of the stern against the high waves or winds.
Pros and Cons of inflatable kayaks
- Lightweight (hence easily portable and storable)
- Easily inflated & deflated
- Used for various water-based activities like fishing, whitewater rafting, recreational rafting, etc.
- Perfect for using in cold climes and chilly weather
- Sufficient storage room
- Ideal for kayaking long distances
- If it capsizes, it can be difficult to turn it over
- Not as speedy as hard-shelled rafts
- Since these are inflatable, there is always the risk of suffering leaks
- Squeezing into a constricted space or section might be somewhat difficult
There are several types and model of kayaks available in the market. Enough is said to help you choose the best inflatable kayak. Like with any watercraft, an inflatable kayak has its benefits and drawbacks. What ultimately matters is to select a model that suits your personal preferences and requirements.