Are Inflatable Kayaks Any Good?

If you have been using hardshell kayaks your whole life, you may notice that more people are switching to inflatable ones. And if so, you’re probably wondering if inflatable kayaks are any good.

There are plenty of reasons to choose inflatable kayaks over hardshell ones. However, that doesn’t mean inflatable kayaks are objectively better for everyone who is into the hobby.

In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive to answer the ultimate question among kayaking enthusiasts: Are inflatable kayaks any good?

inflatable kayak on sea

Inflatable vs. Hardshell Kayak: The Basics

Both inflatable and hardshell kayak have their own strengths and weaknesses, so it’s probably best to compare them from various aspects. But before we get to that, let’s go over the basics of both inflatable and hardshell kayaks.

Inflatable Kayak 101

An inflatable kayak is a kayak made from PVC and other similar softer materials. The plastic-based construction allows inflatable kayaks to hold air and maintain their shape when used.

If you’re thinking how it sounds like an inflatable pool toy, you’re in for a surprise. Today’s inflatable kayaks have robust material and sturdy build quality that allows you to use them on virtually any type of water.

Inflatable kayaks maintain their shape and rigidity by using air pressure. Once deflated, inflatable kayaks are just a large roll of plastic that you can carry around in a bag.

If it’s not obvious yet, inflatable kayaks are remarkably lighter than their hardshell siblings. While hardshell kayaks weigh around 55 pounds on average, inflatable models weigh only approximately 30 pounds.

Hardshell Kayak 101

If you close your eye and think about what a kayak looks like, it’s more than likely that you’ll picture a hardshell kayak.

As the name implies, hardshell kayaks have rigid outer shell materials made from plastic, fiberglass, and wood – which have been the three golden standards for making water vehicles.

Unlike inflatable kayaks, the materials required to make hardshell kayaks are somewhat more difficult to come by and mold into shape. That’s why hardshell kayaks typically cost much more than inflatable ones.

As mentioned earlier, hardshell kayaks are much heavier and therefore less portable than inflatable kayaks. But this compromise in weight results in higher durability, better control, and performance in even extreme conditions.

hard shell kayaks

Are Inflatable Kayaks Any Good?

While inflatable kayaks and hardshell kayaks have their value, the former often spark more debate among the community because they don’t fit the traditional definition of a kayak. 

Before we conclude whether inflatable kayaks are any good, let’s look objectively into the pros and cons of having an inflatable kayak.

Pros of Inflatable Kayaks

Better portability

Inflatable kayaks are generally more portable since they weigh so much less than hardshell kayaks. They’re also relatively easy to store when deflated, resulting in less storage space required when not in use.


Since inflatable kayaks can be very affordable, it helps people who are trying to get into the hobby to test the water without breaking the bank. Their softer material and higher buoyancy also help beginners to get familiar with kayaking.

More comfortable

While there are many models of inflatable kayaks, they are normally more comfortable to sit on than hardshell kayaks. Unlike hardshell kayaks, there are blow-up kayak models that come with seats, backrests, and even paddle holders.

Cons of Inflatable Kayaks

Lower durability compared to hardshell kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are made of PVC plastics or other soft materials to allow for inflation and deflation. While inflatable kayaks are lighter, they are exposed to risks of punctures and leaks. But hardshell kayaks are made of solid materials, which makes them more durable in the long run.

Prone to environmental damages

The plastic materials used in inflatable kayaks are more likely to suffer permanent damages from environmental factors like saltwater, UV exposure, and mildew. Hardshell kayaks are still not immune to these damages, but they are mainly more resistant.

So, the short answer to the question is: yes, inflatable kayaks are an overall excellent choice that combines value, portability, and comfort. For those looking to get into the kayaking hobby, inflatable kayaks could be a great starting point.

kayak water adventure

In Conclusion

Both inflatable kayaks and hardshell kayaks are an excellent choice for anyone who’s into kayaking. But for people who are still getting started, inflatable kayaks offer better value for the experience you’ll get. Even if you’re not entirely into the kayaking hobby, inflatable kayaks still make a good investment for occasional paddling during the summer holidays or weekend trips to the lake.

So if the question “are inflatable kayaks any good?” is still on your mind, we hope that this article provides the answer you want.