Best Inflatable Kayak


I’m just starting down the kayak path (or should I say stream) and could really use some solid advice on which type/brand of inflatable kayak to purchase. I’m looking for a single seat model and plan on slow moving river use mostly. I’m average height and weight and have basic paddling experience.

I’ve done some research and learned a lot about tracking, drying issues, manufacturing & materials, etc. I even discovered there are foldable models (who knew!) I’d greatly appreciate advice from more experienced paddlers.

AIRE Boise, Idaho.

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@michelepaddles Describe your rivers, or give examples that hopefully someone would recognize so could chip in on the type of river.

Some people say rivers and mean slow moving creeks where they drift along and enjoy quietly watching wildlife. Others mean white water rivers where they are hooping and hollering as they rides waves over rocks. The best boat for each of the applications is very different.


Of course! Thanks Peter. Can I still be hooping and hollering while I meander :wink:

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This guy’s YouTube clip shares some useful information on different models. He has owned 40 versions. Sorry about the ads but you can skip them in a few seconds:

He has a Part 2 video that you should also watch:

If you are a smaller person, you want to note the width of the boats you consider. Some models have fat tubular sides that can make reaching your paddle into the water difficult if you have a short upper body and arms. Typically the higher pressure floor and side models, though more costly, are going to perform best because they are more streamlined and have less surface area to catch the wind and currents.

Folding kayaks often take longer to set up (I have owned 8 different models of folders) but they perform more closely to conventional hardshell kayaks and you don’t have the wet storage hassles of them afterwards. And they are more costly – at least $1000 for most models. The PakBoat Puffin Saco is one example of a lightweight basic folding solo kayak – I have had one of those for about 9 years and it sets up fast (about 20 minutes with practice and is compact and light enough (24 pounds) that I have taken it on international airline flights as normally packed luggage.

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The funny thing is, that was the first video I watched! I’m torn between buying a cheaper one (you get for you pay for I think :thinking:) or dropping more money and investing straight out of the gate. Thanks for the info!

I have bought products over the years from these folks and have found their sales staff helpful. You might want to call them and get some suggestions that would help you choose what will suit your needs (this is not the same company as the manufacturer, Aire Kayaks):

This is very helpful, thank you!

I know I’m a few days late, but thought I’d give my few cents.

I would recommend looking into an inflatable SUP instead of the inflatable kayak. The SUP comes with attachments for a “kayak” setup plus allows you to stand, kneel, lay, and sit. I bought my SUP from iRocker (below) 2 years ago and have loved every second with it! The link below sends you to the kayak conversion kit.

I know they are a little on the pricy side compared to what you can get SUP wise on Amazon, but iRocker really produces a great product. I wish I had the money to upgrade my current board to the newer model.

Happy paddling!

As a newbie kayak owner, I researched and purchased a Aquaglide Chelan 120.

I love it. Lightweight, great accessories including storage bag with ample room, and good cargo space for weekend kayak camping. The best selling point for me was the fabulous inflatable seat. No more sore back. In the water within 10 minutes. Good luck and happy paddling!

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There is also the option of TuckTec folding kayak. They are only about $375 + paddle (get a better seat). They fold to 4’ by about 1 1/2’ by 6". They have a skeg, and paddle nicely on smooth, non-choppy water. I have paddled it on the slough, and it handled fairly nicely. It weighs about 28 lbs. and has a carrying strap. They set up (by memory from a year before) in about 10 minutes, would be quicker with practice.

Just here to second willowleaf’s advice on watching that Youtube video. I watched that video about a year ago, and it was REALLY helpful. (If only all YT vids could be that good…)

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Wife and I bought two, I have paddled for 50 yrs, still do, we could not, with both of us trying, assemble the things, sent them back! We have Advanced Elements, I have the 10’ with the extra backbone, it is great, as fast as a hard shell, and half the weight. Am 5. 9’+, 175#, fits perfectly I got mine at Amazon, could be a prime day deal??

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Thought my contribution?? would appear under the TuvTec comment, we had to send our TucTecs back. almost bought Oru, but bad reviews, love the AEs.

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She mentioned slow moving rivers.

I’ve used Sea Eagle Fasttracks and Razorlites for years. Both are good for flat waters. The RL is fast but can be tippy, while the FT are not as fast they are faster than most other inflatables but a lot more stable. Both have lower sides than traditional inflatables.

SE has a 180 day return policy, a 3 year warranty with an additional 3 years for purchase and is known for their customer service, though it suffered during COVID.

I’ve also just purchased a Pakayak for a sit inside type kayak that is also portable. Like it a lot but its a lot heavier and bulkier than my inflatablesP

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Hi Michele, I just got a Sea Eagle SE 330 for my wife. My preference is always hard shell, but she needs something easy to put together, light, and that fits in the trunk. This kayak will fit in the trunk of an SLK convertible even when the top is down! Pros: light, easy setup, stable, ok in flat or mild white water, durable. Cons: very difficult to get dry (all inflatables have this problem), no carry handle midships, not a performance or straight-line boat, seat cannot be secured in one place (get the deluxe seat), wind can blow this around (high freeboard and light). However, there is a deal at Sea Eagle through the end of July 2022 ($249 with all the trimmings and free shipping!) that might outweigh the cons. Best of luck.


My 2 cents, if you are not mechanically inclined and/or don’t have a good memory for procedures, don’t get a TucTec. Too many connections and strapping for me.


Also consider a folding kayak with aluminum frame (similar to backpacking tent poles) and fabric skin. Lighter than many inflatables and performs more like a hardshell. For your intended purpose a PakBoat Puffin Saco (12’ long and 20 pounds) can be used open or with the optional deck as a sit inside kayak. The deck only adds 4 pounds. Durable and easy to set up, very comfortable and can even be used in mild whitewater open rapids. Lower profile so not as affected by wind. Easier to dry and store, price comparable to that of the higher end dropstitch construction inflatables. I’ve used folding kayaks for over 20 years.