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Inflatable kayaks

kayak-hinchable

In origin, the kayak is a type of canoe that, unlike the canoe, has a closed deck, except for the place where the canoeist sits

Kayaks and canoes are types of canoes: boats powered by paddles and where the crew members are seated towards the bow of the boat. This distinguishes them from boats or boats, powered by oars and with the crew sitting on their backs to row.

However, inflatable kayaks are open, so they would really fall into the category of canoes

But the term kayak had already become popular because in other European countries and in America the kayak can also be an open boat, or they are even called a canoe-kayak. That is why we are talking about inflatable kayaks and not inflatable canoes, although that would also be correct.

Why buy an inflatable kayak

When deciding to buy a kayak you have to be honest and realistic, and inflatable kayaks have a number of drawbacks compared to rigid ones. Even the best quality ones require care, such as being washed with fresh water after use and completely dried before being stored.

They also do not have the same benefits as their rigid relatives. In general, they cannot have the same hydrodynamic profile, they offer more resistance and it is difficult to keep them in a straight line, although there are more and more inflatable kayaks with similar performance to rigid ones. Being open, it is inevitable that water enters, and it is not easy to climb back up if we fall.

But in return they also have notable advantages. The first is the cost: although there is a wide range of prices, they are usually cheaper than rigid kayaks. The next obvious advantage is space. An inflatable kayak can be stored at home, unlike a rigid one, which will either take up a lot of space, or we will have to rent a place to store it.

Another great advantage of the inflatable kayak is the ease of transporting it in a normal vehicle, or even in public transport, which is impossible with a rigid kayak. We can even take it with us to our vacation spot, thus saving the cost of renting a kayak if we want to practice our sport.

They are also more appreciated by beginners as they are comparatively very wide and stable, and almost impossible to tip over. And with less weight they offer more buoyancy than a rigid kayak, making it easy to find models for two, three or even four canoeists.

The best inflatable kayaks

Getting started: Intex Challenger K2

Intex is one of the leading manufacturers of inflatable kayaks, and this Challenger K2 model is an excellent gateway to this world

Given its low profile, it is suitable for calm waters, where it surprises with the good performance it offers. It incorporates Boston valves, to facilitate inflation and deflation.

It has two inflatable and adjustable seats (although the backrest is somewhat low), removable keel and storage net in the bow. It also includes two aluminum paddles and a carrying bag (only with handles, which makes it somewhat uncomfortable).

It is a model suitable for beginners due to its price and performance, but its durability is limited given the quality of the material. But at this price it is impossible to find anything better, and still the value for money is excellent.

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  • Measurements (length x width x height): 351x76x38
  • Weight: 16 kg
  • Capacity: 2 people / 180 kg
  • Material: PVC
  • Accessories: two aluminum paddles, removable keel, two safety ropes, manual inflator, repair kit

Pros: complete kit at an unbeatable price.

Cons: limited durability but according to the material; small and uncomfortable inflator; carry bag with hand handles only.

For walking and fishing: Intex Explorer K2

From the same manufacturer we have the Explorer series, with a somewhat more robust construction and with shapes and sizes (shorter and wider) that make it ideal for fishing

Its performance is not very good, and the height of the gunwale can make it uncomfortable for a not very tall paddler. It is also somewhat small for two people, so its ideal use is for short trips and longer stays waiting for the fishing to pay off.

The two seats are inflatable, removable and adjustable. Also includes a pair of aluminum paddles, manual inflator (small, somewhat cumbersome), repair kit and simple carry bag.

The design is quite solid and the material is resistant. Incorporates Boston valves for better inflation and deflation. It has a handle on the bow to facilitate transport. The stability compensates for its complicated navigability, if we use it for short trips and long stays in the water.

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  • Measurements (length x width x height): 312x91x51
  • Weight: 16 kg
  • Capacity: 2 people / 180 kg
  • Material: PVC
  • Accessories: two aluminum paddles, removable keel, two safety ropes, manual inflator, repair kit

Pros: good durability, excellent value for money.

Cons: cumbersome pump and carry bag; minor construction defects in some units.

Versatile: Sevylor Colorado

Sevylor is another of the great manufacturers of inflatable kayaks, with many decades of experience

This kayak is a mid-range model perfect for inland waters, or for the sea on a very calm day. It does not have great benefits, due to its flat bottom, but in return it is very stable. Kit includes removable keel.

It is made of PVC, with three air chambers and Boston valves, for better inflation and deflation. It also includes a pressure gauge to inflate to the correct pressure and a drainage system to facilitate water drainage. It includes two inflatable, removable and adjustable seats and can easily be converted into a one or two seater kayak. It only includes a shovel, made of aluminum, and a simple carry bag.

Thanks to its extraordinary stability, it is perfect for carrying children or even pets. It incorporates four carrying handles to facilitate its transfer once inflated.

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  • Measurements (length x width x height): 331 x 88 x 47
  • Weight: 14.70 kg
  • Capacity: 2 people / 200 kg
  • Material: PVC
  • Accessories: one shovel, removable keel, foot inflator, pressure gauge, repair kit

Pros: excellent durability; very good stability.

Cons: higher price than other kayaks of similar quality.

Rigid Kayak Performance: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame

If we already have experience with kayaking and are looking for a model with good performance, but with the advantages of inflatable kayaks, this Advanced Elements model is one of the best options to consider

The body of the kayak consists of six reinforced PVC air chambers mounted on aluminum frames, which gives it extraordinary rigidity.

As an option, you can buy an aluminum cap, a bar that goes from bow to stern and gives the kayak even more rigidity. Alternatively, an inflatable floor built with the drop stitch system can be purchased, such as paddle surf boards, which further improves the characteristics of this model. The manufacturer also sells covers to make it an enclosed kayak almost identical to its rigid relatives.

This is a kayak for expert canoeists who want to greatly personalize their experience. For this reason, it only includes a pair of folding seats that can be fastened in three different points, depending on whether one or two people are going to use it. Does not include paddles or inflator.

Despite being inflatable, the aluminum frames add a lot of weight, making it noticeably heavier than other kayaks of similar size, but its behavior in the water will not be the same either.

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  • Measurements (length x width x height): 457 x 81 x 30
  • Weight: 25 kg
  • Capacity: 2 people / 250 kg
  • Material: reinforced PVC with aluminum frame
  • Accessories: repair kit

Pros: excellent benefits; quality of materials and construction.

Cons: price; weight; lack of accessories.

High pressure: Advanced Elements AirFusion EVO Kayak

Drop-stitch technology, so well known in the world of paddle surfing, came to the world of inflatable kayaks a few years ago

This construction technique consists of sewing two PVC tarpaulins with nylon thread and sealing the edges with another glued or heat-sealed PVC sheet. The denser the stitching, the more rigidity the resulting piece adopts. If inflatable kayaks are normally inflated to 1.5 psi, typical pressures for high pressure kayaks are 15 or 16. Thus, hulls with stiffnesses close to those of traditional kayaks, but with the advantages of inflatables, are achieved.

The V hull, tapered towards the stern, and an aluminum frame, give this inflatable kayak magnificent sailing qualities, with a speed comparable to that of rigid kayaks

The drop-stitch technique also allows the volume of the air chambers to be lower, achieving that with the same external measurements the interior space is wider, allowing some load and greater comfort for the paddler.

This Advanced Elements model is single-seater, and includes an inflatable and adjustable seat. It is closed, which allows it to be used even at somewhat low temperatures. As it is a high-end kayak, the only accessories it includes are the transport bag and the repair kit. We will have to buy the inflator, the blade, and optionally a keel can also be attached.

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  • Measurements (length x width x height): 396 x 61 x 33
  • Weight: 14.5 kg
  • Capacity: 1 person / 106 kg
  • Material: PVC
  • Accessories: repair kit

Pros: excellent benefits.

Cons: price, lack of accessories.

Tips for choosing

  • As in so many things there are no universal rules when choosing an inflatable kayak, but it will depend a lot on our mastery of it, the use that we are going to give it, where we will sail with it, and even for how many people we need it.
  • If our intention is to make crossings of several kilometers in the open sea, a crossing kayak, wider and that will provide greater stability, and height, will be recommended, to minimize the entry of water.
  • In calm waters we can choose an inflatable kayak more similar to the rigid ones, long and narrow, and with a low profile. These kayaks can also be used in coastal areas with very calm waters, such as coves very well protected from the wind and waves.
  • If we are going to use it for fishing we will look for a model specially designed for this activity, with rounded bow and stern to facilitate fishing, and preferably with anchors to hold the rod.
  • For whitewater there are specific wide and short models, which improve stability and maneuverability.
  • Whatever the type, we must pay attention to the maximum weight that the kayak can carry. Many models are suitable for one or two people, and there are also up to four. We must pay attention to whether the seats are also inflatable or not, and to what extent they are adjustable.
  • The type of inflator is also a point to take into account. Many kits include simple inflators, but one with a pressure gauge is recommended to ensure that we inflate the kayak to the optimal pressure.
  • Another very useful accessory is a polypropylene tarpaulin on which to put the kayak while we inflate it. It is a cheap accessory but it can help us to greatly extend the life of our inflatable kayak by avoiding punctures.
  • To facilitate inflation, it will be very useful if the valves are of the twist lock or Boston type, which also facilitate the deflation of the kayak.

Types

Depending on the type of use that will be given to the inflatable kayak, we will find some basic types.

Hike or walk

They are similar to rigid, long and thin, and are designed for calm waters.

Wildwater

Wider for greater stability, and shorter to improve maneuverability and avoid hitting rocks and other obstacles. They usually include drainage holes and hooks to hold the shovels and other accessories and prevent them from falling and being lost by the force of the water.

Sea

In shape they are similar to those for touring, but they tend to have a higher profile to reduce the entry of water by the waves, and they have drainage holes to evacuate the water that will end up entering. Some have part of the cockpit covered in the stern to reduce water ingress.

Fishing

Similar to those of the sea, but with the bow and stern more rounded for greater stability and comfort when fishing. In return they have worse benefits when shoveling. They usually have a raised seat above the gun line, and rod holders.

Materials

An inflatable kayak basically consists of two sides of a plastic material joined on a bottom that is also inflatable. The concrete material and how it is assembled will determine the performance and durability of the kayak.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride)

It is the most basic material with which they are built. It is reasonably strong and very inexpensive, which is why it has long been the favorite material for building inflatable kayaks.

CSM (Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene), commonly known by the brand Hypalon

It is a synthetic rubber that is physically more resistant than PVC, which makes it more durable against physical wear, exposure to the sun and temperature differences, and it also better resists exposure to chemical agents such as seawater itself. However it is more expensive than PVC.

Nitrylon

Another synthetic rubber, this time a type of nitrile, which also has good physical and chemical resistance, and whose production is more environmentally friendly than CSM. It is also the material that best resists the cold, but it has only recently been incorporated into the manufacture of inflatable kayaks.

The drop-stitch manufacturing technique is beginning to become popular in mid-high-end models.

Coming from paddle surfing, where each pair of plastic layers is sewn with thousands of nylon threads, allowing very high inflation pressures (hence these kayaks are also called high pressure). Very rigid structures are achieved, approaching that of traditional kayaks, but with straight lines, so the kayak loses a bit of traditional lines.

Accessories

Keel

In conventional inflatable kayaks the lower stiffness makes it difficult to maintain a straight course. The keel, the fin located near the stern, helps reduce this problem. In high pressure kayaks its own stiffness reduces deflection, making the keel an optional accessory.

Inflator

To inflate our inflatable kayak it will be essential to have an inflator. Most include it, although they are usually simple hand pumps. Conventional inflatable kayaks inflate at low pressures, about 1.5 psi, and almost any inflator will do. For convenience, a standing one with a pressure gauge will be convenient.

Paddles

Essential for powering our kayak, most media and entry models include one or two paddles. In the high-end ones, for expert canoeists, they are not usually included.

Hold (strap, leash)

A good safety complement can be a tether, which keeps us subject to the kayak in case of capsizing. As an alternative, a lifeline can be used that makes it easier for us to get back into the kayak in case we fall.

Watertight covers or bags

Both for the luggage that we can carry and for the mobile phone or a VHF radio it will be convenient to have a waterproof bag. Most inflatable kayaks are open, and especially in the sea it will be almost inevitable that water enters.

Lifejacket

Although it is not mandatory, it is more than recommended. Both in inland waters and near the coast, it is usual to navigate in somewhat deep waters, and the vest gives us great safety in the event of a capsize or accident.

Helmet

Another highly recommended safety accessory, and practically mandatory in certain circumstances. In case of navigating on the coast near rocks, or through rivers with white water, a good helmet can save us annoyance in case of capsizing or colliding with the kayak against an obstacle.

Hydration bags

Especially for crossings or fishing days we will spend many hours sailing, and although conventional water bottles fit in the kayak, hydration bags can be more comfortable and practical.

Neoprene clothing

If we are very fond of canoeing, we will spend many hours in the water, and it will almost certainly end up entering the kayak. To avoid problems from sitting too long on a damp surface, it will be convenient to wear neoprene clothing. The exact type will depend on the type of navigation we do and in what waters.

More models of inflatable kayaks

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Enjoy the beach!!

Calas in Mallorca where you can launch your inflatable kayak