As people are looking for affordable, transportable and/or lightweight kayaks, they are no doubt confronted by the boom in popularity of inflatable kayaks. In this blog post we will be teaching you everything you need to know about inflatable kayaks, if they are safe, how to use them, and everything else you need to know about inflatable kayaks.
What Are Inflatable Kayaks?
Inflatable kayaks are affordable and lightweight kayaks that are great for beginners or those who are interested in transporting their kayaks. Since inflatable kayaks are made out of durable material and filled with air, compared to hard plastic, they are easy to transport and typically are more affordable compared to traditional kayaks.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe?
This is an important consideration for people who do kayaking in shallow water where you’re prone to run over sticks, rocks, or other obstacles. If you are looking to kayak in harsher water then it is important to understand if inflatable kayaks are safe for the water your are in.
When looking for an inflatable kayak, keep in mind you’re going to get what you pay for. More expensive kayaks are more durable and reliable than cheaper versions. It is possible to buy cheap inflatable kayaks on Amazon, and these kayaks are typically fine for beginners but if you are a more experienced kayaker who plans on going into strong water then we recommend investing in premium inflatable kayaks instead.
How Durable Are Inflatable Kayaks?
Inflatable kayaks are designed to be puncture and abrasion resistant. While the degree of durability will vary depending on your price range, inflatable kayaks can hold up against anything from smaller fishing hooks to larger rocks in the water.
Some inflatable kayaks are burdened with a reputation for not being very durable, but inflatable kayaks from reputable brands will deliver the durability you need.
When discussing just how durable an inflatable kayak is, it is important to remember that the construction matters. Some factors related to construction are essential to understand and other external factors like the age or care of the kayak also make a big difference. When it comes to buying a used inflatable kayak, it can be important which type of plastic the kayaker is made with. PVC will break down quicker than more expensive materials such as Hypalon.
What Makes Inflatable Kayaks So Durable
The multiple layers of fabric provide extra protection against piercing or tearing and also provide more durability for inflatable kayaks. Separate inflation chambers mean that if you are unlucky enough to experience a puncture or rip in your kayak, the damage is limited to just one of these chambers. This will leave you with 2 or 3 other chambers which have not been compromised, meaning that you can stay afloat for long enough to find help and fix it or get another one.
Airtight valves mean that once air is added to the kayak, it will not escape. You do not need to worry about your inflatable kayak deflating after inflation. If inflated to the recommended PSI and cared for properly, an inflatable kayak should be every bit as durable as a traditional boat.
Once again, you should think of the precarious military grade vessels that are used in special operations. For instance, Navy SEALs may use a stealthy inflatable boat to beach and then jump off to participate in some covert operation. Some inflatable kayaks are made using the same materials and processes as those were made for military equipment.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Stable In Strong Water?
Some inflatable kayaks are just as stable as their more traditional counterparts, but they may not feel quite the same and offer varying levels of comfort.
However, inflatable kayaks like these also have a tipping point depending on their primary and secondary stability. Investigate which models allow for standing up prior to purchase, because some models might not be equipped with additional measures that make them suitable for this fishing purpose.
If you want a hard floor for your kayak, you may choose to either buy or build one yourself. If you go the route of buying one, they are constructed out of an easy-to-inflate drop stitch material and ultimately inflate to around 100 PSI or higher.
What Are Inflatable Kayaks Made Of?
Here are some of the most common materials used when making inflatable kayaks:
- PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
- Hypalon Material
- Nitrylon Material
- Polyethylene Combination Material
So if you were to glance at this list and think it was gibberish, wait a second before we make sense of the terms. Generally, inflatable kayaks share a similar construction: they are made from fabric and synthetic rubber that maintains the shape and provides airtightness, protection against abrasion, chemical resistance (if applicable) etc. Differences in how companies implement this construct mostly affect its price, performance and maintenance.
The most common type of synthetic rubber used in inflatable kayaks is PVC. Because it is less expensive, it makes up the majority of entry-level inflatables that can not afford to use higher end materials.
For those interested in purchasing a PVC inflatable kayak, be aware that there is an increased chance of degradation from chemicals or UV rays. Consider not leaving your inflatable kayak out in the sun and minimizing exposure to chemicals as extra ways to protect your investment.
Inflatable kayaks made out of PVC and synthetic rubber are an excellent option for beginners who might not want to spend a lot on their first kayak purchase or experienced kayakers who might be wary of paying substantially more for their boat.
For those looking for the best of both worlds, Hypalon and Nitrylon are typically considered to be high-end materials. However, their higher cost produces a superior product that will perform better than PVC at all levels.
Inflatable kayaks made from Hypalon would be an excellent option for someone who’s looking for top performance and doesn’t mind paying the extra cost.
In comparison to PVC, inflatable kayaks manufactured from Hypalon are much more resistant to chemical and UV ray degradation. Therefore they can handle long days in the sun much
Should I Get An Inflatable Kayak or A Traditional Kayak?
Everyone is intrigued by the ease and convenience of an inflatable vs. a traditional kayak, but all that convenience will amount to nothing if you get in the water and it doesn’t paddle well.
One of the keys to performance is rigidity. Not just that, but having the proper keel and bow shape affect performance as well. That’s where inflatable technology has made leaps and bounds over the years.
To be fair, a good inflatable kayak will never outperform a high performance traditional kayak. They just can’t be made with that degree of precision. But the average recreational kayaker will hardly notice the difference between a good quality inflatable kayak and an average traditional kayak.
Do Inflatable Kayaks Pop?
Most inflatable kayaks by reputable manufacturers are able to withstand expected use. I wouldn’t advise you take out your fillet knife while fishing in your inflatable kayak, but these kayaks can handle all kinds of pokes and abrasions without popping.
Don’t let the thought of popping an inflatable kayak on your next trip stop you from packing one. They’re more puncture resistant than an inflatable pool toy that you got at a dollar store. Given the inflatable nature of your kayak, you should avoid contact with sharp rocks or submerged logs to prevent puncture wounds.
How Long Do Inflatable Kayaks Last?
Depending on usage and care, most inflatable kayaks can last 5-10 years. They will usually last longer if they are made of higher quality materials such as Hypalon.
To make your kayak last, it is recommended that you wash and dry it after use as gently as possible. Storing the kayak in a place that isn’t subject to drastic changes in temperatures will also help extend its lifespan. You can’t completely prevent the deterioration of materials, but following these steps may lengthen its life considerably.
If the seams on your inflatable kayak are held together only by glue, you can expect that the adhesive may begin to weaken after 10 years of use.