Albany to NYC in an inflatable kayak

-- Last Updated: May-26-16 4:58 PM EST --

Hi there! This is my first post here.

Experienced river paddlers, please tell me if I am an idiot for thinking about doing this:

I am considering getting this inflatable kayak or raft, and launching at Albany, NY, and riding down to my home in Manhattan, NY. My intention is to camp/sleep wild along the way, and take however long it takes.

Now I know that the Hudson has some pretty strong currents, but I've never seen any seriously rough water or rapids on there, although in very bad weather there are occasionally whitecaps. I am a very strong swimmer and have little worry that I could make it to shore if I had to, especially if wearing a life jacket. I have gone swimming off of Manhattan many times.

My main concerns are these:
1) Getting sucked into the Indian Point reactor, or other similar hazards that I might not know about.
2) My kayak getting punctured by floating trees, or when I am landing/launching from random rocky places by the river.
3) Getting caught in a current and stuck out in the middle of the river, needing to call for help, and being terribly embarrassed.

So, are there any dangers I am not thinking of, and am I fool for contemplating such an expedition as an inexperienced kayaker in an inexpensive inflatable boat?

Boats I am considering:

why inflatable?
With an inflatable in open/unprotected waters, I’d be worried as much about wind currents.

Inflatable is all I have room for
I live in a Manhattan apartment and don’t have a car. An inflatable boat is the only thing that is feasible for me to store and transport. I am considering inflatable rafts/rowboats as well as kayaks.

Not raft
inflatable kayak. See REI and Packrafting.Org

Tons of advice on traveling down the Hudson. Search online. Uneeda primer of Hudson history stops n sights.

A trip from one recreation area to state park to campground is possible.

Google Maps spatially answers where izzit questions, as where’s the grocery store from AAA Camping, Google Images tell us what the Old Mill looks like or ‘under the Tappan Zee’ ‘Tappan Zee shoreline’

Try lining up the trip with outgoing tides and northern winds:

I can’t comment on the conditions on the Hudson, just your choice of equipment. Frankly, those boats are little more than pool toys. For anything other than very benign conditions, I would not trust my life to them or as you put it, risk an embarrassing rescue, as well as wasting emergency services resources. There are quality inflatables on the market, but there is a reason they carry a higher price tag.

Folding kayak?
Instead of an inflatable how about a folding kayak? They are very capable and seaworthy, and take up about as much storage space as a suitcase.

Willowleaf will be along soon to give you a full education. ;->

Inflatable not really a good choice
Inflatables have issues you have already noted, like how they can be punctured. But a bigger issue is that they are much more impacted by wind than other kayaks.

There was an article in California Kayaker Magazine on kayaking and small living places that you may want to read. Can be read online at Issue #9 - Summer 2012.

If you must do inflatable kayak, get one that is more than a pool toy (I agree with the prior poster’s sentiment on the ones you are looking at). For example, Advanced Elements makes some with rigid frames that improve performance. Expect to pay between $500-1000 for boat, plus more for PFD, paddle, dry storage gear, etc.

And you shouldn’t have to worry about getting sucked into Indian Point’s cooling ducts - the water around there is closed to boating so if you go anywhere near, the police will come over and pick you up.

Awesome idea
Wow, I had no idea such a thing existed. This one looks nice, but I was really hoping to keep it under $300.

But if I’d have to pay $500 or more for a river-worthy inflatable, I might as well just suck it up and spend the extra money.

Thanks for the article
That article is very helpful. I don’t care at all about speed, my plan is to just float with the current (or tides once I get downriver). I was thinking to take a repair kit in case of punctures, and if I have to call of the trip and hitchhike home, that’s not the end of the world.

They have good reviews
I don’t know how much I should trust Amazon reviews, but it seems that people of taken them ocean kayaking successfully. I certainly don’t want to waste emergency resources, but I am confident that I can swim to shore safely unless there are some really extreme conditions. I will stay off the river if the weather is at all inclement. One of my other dreams is to circumnavigate Manhattan on an inflatable pool chair, so the glorified pool toy thing isn’t a problem for me, unless I get into some unusually dangerous situation that my swimming skills are insufficient to get me out of.

Skip the Oru

– Last Updated: May-26-16 7:14 PM EST –

Search "Oru" here and you'll find some discussions. There was a recent article in Outside about some guys who tried paddling to Catalina Island in supposedly seaworthy Oru kayaks. Their problem was wind.

Others will chime in with seaworthy folding kayak suggestions. It's also possible to store a kayak at a store or paddling dock. Look into local clubs. It might make more sense to rent a decent kayak for the trip. Your $300 budget is not realistic. You could buy a decent used kayak for $300 if you knew what to look for but you don't have the experience to know what would work and what would be junk.

These boats are very seaworthy ( and pricey):

Also I would suggest you get some experience on flat water then paddling on rivers on shorter trips before you try this. There are some paddlers who post here who have paddled quite a bit on the Hudson, hopefully they will give you some advice.

A circumnavigation of Manhattan takes careful planning and timing in a properly equipped sea kayak, nevermind a pool toy. The currents are fast and strong and there is lot of commercial traffic on the river. A tug pulling a barge won’t even see you and if you can’t get out of the way you’ll be chum.

Look up circumnavigation of Manhattan by kayak and you’ll get lots of hits.; there are organized events for groups who want to do it run by various paddling clubs.

Oh, and also Google “Hell’s Gate” and imagine tackling it on a pool toy.

Folding kayaks

– Last Updated: May-26-16 9:54 PM EST –

The boats you are considering are barely a step above a pool toy and would be impossible to propel and control on a large waterway. They are intended for lily-dipping in small ponds.

A quality folding kayak would be the best option for your living situation. I currently own 3, which weigh 24lbs, 27 lbs and 39 lbs and each folds down into a duffel bag that can be stored in a closet, carried in the trunk of a car or checked as luggage on a plane. The best of the folding brands (Feathercraft and Trak) cost $3000 to $5000 for most models, but Pakboat, out of New Hampshire, makes very good folders for under $1500. In fact they still have at least one of their Quest 135 folders (a demo) on sale for $965 (you would also need to buy the adjustable foot peg assembly for $80). I recently bought one of these and it's an extremely nice boat, but would only fit you if you were under 5' 10" and 180 lbs.

Of less concern to me than what boat you would buy is your own aptitude. You really have not said much about your kayaking experience, and to be honest, you seem to be more than a little naive about the potential challenges of the Hudson, particularly as it approaches Manhattan. I don't like to squelch anyone's dreams, but I think it is important to be realistic about them. You can't just plunk anything that floats into a major river like that and expect to float downstream to your destination, randomly camping along the way. Such a trip requires a considerable amount of research and planning. Furthermore, cheap inflatables and recreational kayaks have no place in the rivers around New York City. The Coast Guard and river patrols would force you out of the river. Only a capable touring or sea kayak, paddled by someone with some training and experience with strong currents and challenging conditions as well as familiarity with maritime regulations and the tidal surges that affect the river, are appropriate for the busy industrial and commercial waters there.

IMHO, what you are proposing is similar to saying "gee, I've ridden a bicycle around the block a few times and now I'm going to enter the Tour de France."

Don't give up your enthusiasm, but postpone this adventure until you've got a good boat, some instruction and some seat time so you have a realistic grasp of what would be involved. and are properly prepared. You may want to start by visiting Marshall Seddon at the River Connection in Hyde Park:

And a good resource for information on folding and inflatable kayaks is the free forums at

What willowleaf said
If you think the Hudson is rarely bumpy you must be looking at it from several floors up. We see the tide changes 120 plus miles up the river in the Capital District, and while it is hardly Deception Pass it spends a decent amount of time being white capped. Enough to be a problem for a newbie.

More though, if you think $300 is an apt budget for a boat to do that trip, you do not understand what you are getting into. That is likely to bleed into a lot of other aspects of the trip, like managing areas of difficult navigation and knowing how to pick landing spots.

Get advice, wait and put together company, skills and a decent budget for this trip.

Folders might be your ticket
You are not a fool for contemplating the journey. It was not foolish to ask questions, as you are. I agree with the others that the inflatable is a bad idea.

I have an Innova inflatable kayak, which you can get used for around $500. It is one of the more capable boats, and I would not worry about puncturing it on a stick, because the material is very tough. But for a trip such as you are contemplating, I think inflatables are a poor choice. A big reason is that all the air tubes of your inflatable take up space in the boat. Even with a minimal kit, you may end up with several bags of gear, and it can be a challenge to fit gear into your inflatable and find a way to keep it in.

Is your boat covered? My and many other inflatables are just open boats. I’ve seen AE boats that have a zip-on deck/skirt. A covered boat is nice because once your gear is in the boat it is secured from going over the side and out of the weather. Speaking of out of the weather, a covered boat is nice because it keeps you out of the weather, too. And, covered boats are less affected by wind.

For your situation, I like the recommendations in several earlier posts to consider folding boats. They can be very capable and I’ve seen people pack tons of gear into them. Hard kayaks, you have to be able to fit gear through the hatches. Some of the folders have a zipper on the top side that runs the length of the boat, so you can open up the boat and stuff it with gear, including things I can’t fit through the hatches of my sea kayak.

I think you can make this trip. The degree of comfort and ease, as opposed to wet, cold, miserable and embarassed, will depend on your preparation and skills. So, the thing to do is get ready.


two you mention are pure crap and after a hour of paddling frustration, reality will hit you hard…waste of money.

I’ve owned/paddled quite a few inflatables and here are my 2 favorites, buy a long shot as they are high quality, paddle very well, and very reasonably priced:

At $399. for the demo ($499. new) it’s a steal…

This one is the one that I love for ocean, rivers, whitewater Class I/II, and paddles very well…

My hands down favorite that paddles like a hard shell, but $899. It’s the fastest, best paddling, and highest quality kayak style kayak made IMO, it’s 28lbs of fun and at 13’10", it moves.

Good luck, have fun, but don’t use either of those two you mention.

I’m With You! Go For It
From the pictures, I like that $100 boat, for it looks comfortable with lots of room to take a nap.

My only concern is catching Blue Crabs for meals: I’m afraid their pincers could damage the inflatable.

No worries though, there’s always the River Dog to hail, when hunger hits.

Those pool toys are ridiculous. This guy is crazy!

that Sea Eagle doesn’t look bad
I admit I’m impressed. But how is it affected by wind, much difference from a hardshell kayak?

You can’t outswim a barge
They won’t even see you. The Hudson is a serious commercial traffic corrider all the way up to Albany, hence the guidance on our local paddles up here to stay OUT of the channel. That takes a real boat and at times some real skills.

As below, this is not a just do it kind of trip…