Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing ones. (You can learn more about our rating system and how we pick each item here.)
And while we’ve written about lots of outdoor gear before — including camping hammocks, camping chairs, and camping tents — here, we’ve rounded up the best inflatable kayaks, as praised by the most enthusiastic reviewers on Amazon.
Best-rated inflatable kayak
With nearly 2,000 five-star reviews, this inflatable kayak is often described as durable and easy to use. One customer is “so amazed at how durable these are” that they ended up buying another. “Myself, my fiancé and a couple of our friends have used these a few times now, and we have really stress-tested them. I have no coordination and have crashed it into rocks, hit tree limbs and stumps, had my dog in it, and on one occasion definitely pushed the weight limit to the max messing around.” And despite all that, “they’re still going strong.” Another reviewer camps a lot with his friends and appreciates that he “can throw it in the back of my truck bed, inflate it in five minutes, have fun all day, then throw it right back in the truck.” He also thinks that “these are pretty comfortable because you can add more or take out air for the seats.” He currently owns two but plans to buy two more for his friends. A few mention that paddles it comes with are very short, so most reviewers recommend just buying new ones. But at least one customer says it’s the right size for his kids: “Paddles are a bit short for an adult but it’s easier for an adult to paddle with a short paddle than a child to use a long paddle, so they did well considering.”
Best-rated (less expensive) inflatable kayak
People recommend this kayak for complete beginners or nonserious enthusiasts. One reviewer took this kayak out for the first time ever, and she calls her experience “fantastic.” She explains, “This was easy to air, easy to carry, and easy to board and maneuver. I am a short, fat chick and this kayak was very stable for me; I felt safe. I highly recommend it for beginners.” Another customer calls this kayak the “best $70 I have EVER spent” and even “received a ton of compliments as well while out on the lake.” She further explains that while she’s “strong,” she “can’t carry a hard plastic kayak,” and this one “is ultralight.” She can also put her dog in the kayak with her, and notes, “I’m never worried that his nails may puncture the kayak.” Another more experienced kayaking enthusiast enjoys this model because it has “the fun and flexibility of a kayak without the typical hassles of transportation and storage.” He admits that “they move well, but you won’t be able to race a hard-shell kayak” because it doesn’t cut water quite as well. But if you’re looking for a simple, easy-to-store option, he recommends it.
And now for some micro-picks for every type of inflatable kayak you might be looking for.
Best durable inflatable kayak
Nearly 10 percent of five-star reviewers use the word durable to describe this two-person kayak. One Hawaii-resident “spends hours on the beach and in the water every weekend” with this kayak. “The rubber is thick and durable and I even run it in to the beach with the waves. We have taken it to all the popular kayak spots out here with no issues.” Another confidently calls it “durable after five outings.” He adds, “I feel like I’ve already got my money’s worth.” He also notes that it “takes ten minutes to set up or break down” and it’s super light. “We are planning to take it with us to Hawaii as a checked bag, which will cost $0 because it is way below 50 pounds,” he adds. A third reviewer also says it “tracks pretty dang well for a floatie.” “It’s a great value for the price.” Plus, because it’s so sturdy, lots of people take their dogs out on the water in this inflatable kayak: “There was plenty of room for my dog and she was comfy as well. I imagine she felt like she was spending her days on an air mattress.”
Best inflatable kayak with footrests
Reviewers say the footrests on this inflatable kayak are a treat, especially because they’re not included with most models. One reviewer considers this kayak “stiffer, more comfortable, and tracks better” than other Intex models. “The footrest helps. I take this out for all-day fishing trips paddling solo and I love it.” Another says the footrests are “very useful and provide genuine support for strong paddling.” She also thinks they make the kayak more comfortable, writing that she “had no problem paddling for around three hours without discomfort.” A third reviewer bought this to go kayaking with his 6-year-old. While he admits they are “novice paddlers,” the footrests made them “just as stable and efficient” as their $500 sit-in Pelicans. Another perk for him is the air pump that comes with a gauge to “eliminate the ‘is that enough air’ question.” Plus, he says it “inflates quickly with the hand pump, really no need for a battery inflator.”
Best inflatable kayak with built-in structure
Because some inflatable kayaks are so light, it’s difficult to cut through water and stay balanced. However one-third of five-star reviewers say that this inflatable kayak actually tracks well. “It has all the benefits of a hard-shell kayak, like tracking, speed, durability, without the hassle of transporting it and storage,” writes one reviewer. The brand designed this with aluminum skegs underneath and ribs within the kayak to keep the structure and help with tracking, and the same reviewer thinks it works, adding, “And the weight also gives it more durability. I pick up about as much speed as I did with a hard shell, and it handles currents well.” Another was tired of taking their hard-shell kayak camping because it’s so heavy and inconvenient, so he bought this. “It was very easy to inflate/deflate. Slower than a hard shell but we’re there for the beauty, right? Tracks well if inflated to the max.” A few beginner kayakers worried that an inflatable kayak would easily tip over in harsher winds, but as this reviewer notes, “You don’t need to worry about tipping over; it is very stable and holds pretty well even in winds.”
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