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Buyers Guide to Inflatable Kayaks

Note : This is the second page of our Inflatable Kayak Buyers Guide. Additional information is located on the first page of this section.

Features and Benefits of Inflatable Kayaks

Now that we've explored some of the things an inflatable kayak can do, let's move on and talk about the features and benefits found in inflatable kayaks.

Portability - Inflatable kayaks are probably, second only to float tubes, the most portable fly fishing boat a person can buy. Inflatable kayaks deflate and roll up into their own carrying case. This carrying case, which will weigh anywhere from 20-45 lbs (depending on the type of kayak you have), can easily be lugged around and fit in the back of any trunk. The lighter kayaks can even be backpacked in to remote locations.

Simple Set Up - Inflatable kayaks are incredibly simple to set up. Just take them out of the bag, lay them out flat, and inflate them to the proper pressure. Inflation can be done either with an electric pump or by using a standard bellows pump. Either method works just as well as the other to inflate the kayaks, although the electric pump does save a couple of minutes. All in all, most inflatable kayaks can be fully inflated and ready to go in about 10 minutes using a foot pump, 5-7 minutes using an electric pump.

Durability - Inflatable kayaks, as they are designed for heavy duty river running, are extremely durable. An inflatable kayak rated for Class IV whitewater will withstand even the meanest encounters with rocks, logs and other obstructions. Inflatable kayaks rated for Class III whitewater are almost nearly as durable, as the softer fabric literally bounces the kayak off of obstructions. And, should you happen to develop a puncture or tear in the kayak, it is easily fixed. Use either the supplied repair kit - which sets up quickly and allows the kayak to be back on the water in less than 30 minutes. A piece of duct tape even works for short term and emergency repairs.

Ease of Use - Inflatable kayaks are extremely simple to use, even for beginner paddlers. Paddling and maneuver of inflatable kayaks is so simple, in fact, that beginner paddlers will quickly figure out all the basics. This is much different than a traditional hard shell kayak, which requires some skill in paddling.

Safety and Stability - Inflatable kayaks are very safe boats. Unlike canoes and traditional hard shell kayaks, inflatable kayaks are very difficult to tip over. While you can do it, you really have to work at it. The reason for this is because inflatable kayaks have a flat bottom, making them very stable.

Capacity - For inflatable boats, inflatable kayaks have an excellent capacity. Whether you want to use it for day trips or multi-day floats, these kayaks can take all the gear you can throw at them.

Affordability - Inflatable kayaks are extremely affordable. A good quality inflatable kayak rated for Class III whitewater from Sea Eagle costs around $300. A Sea Eagle Class IV inflatable kayak will run around $700-800. Thus, in comparison to hard shell kayaks and canoes, inflatable kayaks are very easy and light on the pocketbook.

Quality Concerns

There are many inflatable kayaks on the market today. Many local discount stores now carry cheap inflatable kayaks that sell for less than $100. While at first blush this seems great, beware, as you get what you pay for. The problem with these kayaks is that they are only rated for Class II whitewater and are made of very inexpensive and not very durable PVC vinyl. This vinyl punctures extremely easily, requiring constant upkeep. Worse yet, the seams on the kayak are poorly put together. And, once a hole develops in the seam, the kayak is essentially lost as repairs on seams rarely last long. And finally, these inflatable kayaks can not be used in colder weather. Using these kayaks in conditions below 40 degrees or so will cause the fabric to become hard and brittle, meaning the kayak can literally fall apart when on the water.

Overall, these cheap inflatable kayaks are find for the kids to use on your local ponds or just off your favorite beach. However, if you plan on doing any type of river floating, never use these kayaks - especially if you will be floating through remote terrain.


Generally, if an angler wants a boat of many uses (they will be wanting a boat for both fly fishing as well as river running and general float trips), an inflatable kayak is a tough boat to beat. In my own opinion, if an angler can only afford one type of boat for fly fishing and wants that boat to be very versatile, an inflatable kayak is the best boat to get. With an inflatable kayak, you get the most bang for your dollar, and the durability of the kayak will provide many, many years of floating and fly fishing pleasure.

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Read our Reviews of Recommended Inflatable Kayaks

  • Sea Eagle 340 Inflatable Kayak
  • Sea Eagle 380 Inflatable Kayak
  • Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak

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