inflatable kayak choice advice needed

I have recently found that I love the sport of kayaking…but have also found that I am physically not able to transport and secure a hard shell onto my truck by myself. I actually had to leave the kayak at the lake parking lot and drive home to get my husband to load the yak in the truck for me. This is when I started to investigate and research the inflatables. I plan to use the boat on lakes and fairly easy rivers at first, but would like to eventually advance to some low grade whitewater.

I appreciate any thoughts, advice, and recommendations before I take the plunge and buy one.

AIRE has a great reputation
for inflatable boats, including kayaks. Although they mostly make serious whitewater kayaks, they have some that would be better on flat water or both flat and white.

In the Tributary group, under Touring, see the Sawtooth. Also, see the Strike.

Another good website is:

Some folks here will likely suggest folding kayaks – which I know nothing about, but which may work for you.

I have a Helios II by Innova

– Last Updated: Sep-15-12 2:04 AM EST –

its about 15 years old and I like it as a double, not as much as a solo but Innova makes other boats designed a singles. There are ome great folding boats but they will not set up or break down as fast but they are easy to rooftop and do not have to be taken apart after every use.

if it quacks like a duck…

– Last Updated: Sep-15-12 8:46 AM EST –

then it really is a duck. Dgrizz, I really like your choice of boats- wanting to do some floats and mild whitewater in and around wv. I own three: a riken cherokee: old, heavy, super reliable, easy to patch, easy to paddle. You might be able to get something like it used from a rafting outfitter. A sevylor sk 1oo ds- my favorite boat although its currently not available from the manufacturer- the floor is superstiff and its highly manuevable. Also have an aire tomcat. My least favorite of the three. It paddles fine but it is a bladder boat and I'm not impressed with the quality of vinyl thAT aire uses for the bladders. They are easy to repair or replace but I like a boat I don't have to repair to begin with and aire boats are not cheap. The reality is that you would be happy with most of ducks available in todays market.
The key with ducks is current. You can wear yourself out on the flats. Think Greenbrier in the Spring, or upper New in the Summer.
Saturn also recently entered the duck market.
I Have duckies, will loan for you to try ut. Live in WV. Contact me via the message board. Doing a ducky trip next weekend.

AIRE bladders are urethane and bomber
though the Tomcat bladders ARE vinyl (just for clarification). Even the Strike in the Tributary series uses urethane. AIRE boats, including their rafts are among the most respected inflatables out where I live – people trust them for 14 day Grand Canyon trips, for example. Just trying to give correct info about a company that makes great gear for the river community.

appreciate the advice…what about sea e
I have looked at several of the kayaks mentioned. One I also have looked at quite abit, but have not seen mentioned so far is the Sea Eagle Fast Track. Any thoughts on this one?

folding kayaks??
Can you tell I am new to this?! Thanks for mentioning the folding kayaks…I had not heard of them! Am researching them now as well. Are they suitable for lakes, rivers, and mild whitewater? I’m intrigued by the incredible warranty offered by Folbot too. Any thoughts?

folders may be one option

– Last Updated: Sep-15-12 7:58 PM EST –

I am a huge fan of folding kayaks, though it would depend what sort of Class II you were going to do. Really shallow and twisty might not be the best match, but if the rivers around you are moderately straight with open whitewater some folders would be OK.

For intro folders it is hard to beat PakBoat. Their Puffin Saco single runs around $1000 and weighs under 25 pounds. I can lift mine with one hand. Takes about 20 minutes to assemble though you can leave it set up all season. You can paddle it with the deck as a sit inside kayak or remove the deck and paddle it open like a pack canoe(without the deck it is only 21 lbs.) Nice boats. Tougher than they look, too. We bought our first Pakboat from a guy who uses them on fishing guide trips in whitewater rivers in Patagonia and in the Northern reaches of Canada and Alaska.

One advantage folders have over inflatables is that they tend to paddle more like a hard shell -- i.e., they track straighter and a bit faster.

Biggest drawback is that it is nearly impossible to find them in dealerships to try out. Where in WV are you? I'm in Pittsburgh and would be happy to let you check out my Puffin if you are ever up in this area. I just broke my arm (on the second day of our vacation 2 weeks ago, no less) so I won't be paddling it any time soon, but it is still set up if you'd like to use it. I'm 10 minutes from a river put-in. Send me a private email if you'd like to get in touch.

Sea Eagle 385FT
I have the Sea Eagle 385FT and like it a lot. It takes about 10 mins to pump up with the supplied foot pump and is also easy to fold up back into the trunk. It cleans up and dries quickly once I get home. It tracks straight with the fin in the back. The skin is pretty tough as long as you don’t drag it. I have used it over 20 times without any visible wear. It is also very stable for kids and family, but I mainly use it on lakes and bays. It has a 36" beam, so it’s not the fastest kayak, but comparable to other SOTs with the same dimension. The other kayaks suggested are also pretty good. The folders will feel more like a hard shell than the inflatables.

If you decide to get it, the deluxe seat is a better deal. It sits higher and so easier for the paddle to clear the side tubes.

Look here and if you are on Facebook join the folding kayak Klepper and Co site. Can’t give you the link because can’t get on Facebook. I really like Feathercrafts but have owned Folbots. They will replace parts free even on prowned boats.

I have a feathercraft…great kayak…but I don’t like the trouble of setting it up/tearing it down every time I paddle (so it has become a perpetually set-up part of my kayak inventory).

The issue may be more the weight of your kayak and how high you are having to lift it, etc. I would try to load some of the lightest ones that still fit your needs before going with flexible/collapsables.

take apart? Article reference.
There is an article in the most recent issue of California Kayaker Magazine (Summer 2012) on kayaks for people living in small spaces. Many of the options for small places are also useful for lighter weight transport. Specifically, the take apart boats but the weight of each piece in half or thirds.

Can be read online for free at

skin on frame

– Last Updated: Sep-18-12 12:31 PM EST –

You may want to consider a skin on frame kayak. These are all handbuilt and there are numerous small makers as well as often home-built ones for sale by folks who have made their own. I have an 18' SOF that weghs a mere 31 lbs so a more modest size SOF is often under 25 lbs.

A good intro to SOFs is builder Brian Schulz's blog:

Ypu can build your own through instructional classes or free design bt Tom Yost:

Get a trailer…

– Last Updated: Oct-09-12 10:32 PM EST –

I am female too. 5'2" and my back isn't what it used to be so I feel your pain. A dolly is a big help but how to get it on TOP of the car? There are racks like the Thule Hullivator that come down from the roof to the side of the car but you still have to lift up the kayak a bit to get it on there.

Keep in mind that even an inflatable weighs something. My inflatable weighs about 35lbs (it's a lot cheaper than a 35lb kevlar boat!) and I can lift it to carry it when it's inflated without a problem but I don't think I'd be able to get it above my that's where deflating it would come in.

It's an Advanced Elements Advanced Frame 10.5" kayak. I highly recommend it because it's a GREAT rec kayak as well as an inflatable. It's a tough boat that I've had in Class 1/2 whitewater and it tracks and steers great. I use it for river boating in the Pine Barrens and on the Delaware River. It's a tough boat that I've dragged over rocks, tree trunks, etc..without a problem.

Advanced Elements sell a lot of different types of inflatables, from smaller rec boats to whitwater kayaks as well as a nice folding/frame up. Check them out because their boats are not only well made and well designed but very affordable.

You can find reviews of the AE boats and the other boats mentioned right here on the Reviews section of

My problem is that my car is a Jeep Wrangler with a soft top and it's very high up so car topping a boat isn't an option. So I went for the inflatable and used to carry it on a cargo rack that attached to the rear bumper hitch. Worked well enough.

But then I really wanted a longer, faster boat so I succumbed and bought a sea kayak and a Trailex kayak trailer.

BEST thing I did! MUCH easier to load/unload even a 16' sea kayak on and off the trailer than it is to inflate/deflate the 10' inflatable. Inflating the boat always took longer than I liked and after paddling I had to deal with a wet boat to deflate, fold and clean and dry out!

Plus, the kayaks live on the trailer in my garage! No unloading/loading from the car! I just pop 'em on the trailer and they are ready for the next time! The Trailex aluminum trailer is so light that you can move it around without a problem so if parking is a problem I just detach it from the hitch and put it next to the Jeep.

Look into this option because IMO it's much better than being relegated to just having an inflatable. I haven't deflated my Advanced Element inflatable in 4 years. I'd probably buy another one though because it's a really nice rec kayak so if you are wedded to the idea of an inflatable than look into the Advanced Elements line of boats. They have tons of options at great prices.

AE doesn't sell direct but is the best place to get their boats and they have other brands as well with free shipping and lots of accessories. They have great customer service too.

However, armed with a dolly and a trailer you can buy whatever kayak you want/need and never need a man to help you again to load or unload your boat. Just another option that works for me.

trailer – great idea!
I do like this solution (assuming the OP has a place to keep the trailer, doesn’t mind driving it and doesn’t mind spending the money).

cheap deal on a light folder

– Last Updated: Sep-27-12 1:29 PM EST –

I had mentioned Pakboats and if you are still considering what to get, there is a guy just posted a Pakboat Puffin 12 (predecessor of the Saco and the model I own) for sale on Ebay for $400 "buy now" plus $60 shipping. I doubt you would find a cheaper deal on such a light and good quality folder under 25 lbs. It is bid now at $92 but has not met minimum. Looks to be in excellent shape (though the owner must be dislexic as he has it listed as a "Backpack Puffin" though it is clearly a Pakboat.) The "buy now" price is quite reasonable and the cheapest I have seen a used one listed for. If I did not already own one I would jump on this.

EDIT: He actually has TWO for sale and the other is only $325 plus shipping.

I like the trailer recommendation that another poster made. That way you can get a real kayak, which will work better and ultimately weigh less than an inflatable. And be a LOT less work, in terms of inflating and deflating.

Years ago, I bought one of those cheap Sevylor inflatables. A girlfriend at the time and I went out to Tahoe to try it out. Man what a joke. Despite our best efforts, that thing would only go in circles. And by that I mean it just sat there and spun, it didn’t really ever go straight, no matter how hard we tried to coordinated our efforts. I sold it the following week on Craigslist.

The Skin-On-Frame idea is also a great idea. The place I’ve been eyeing those at is This guy teaches a workshop where you build your own SOF kayak that you get to keep. It weighs only 29 lbs. I have an email in to find out when his classes are for next year… I really want to go!


another SOF class
Brian does classes, too. For $1200 you can spend a week in one of his workshops in Oregon building your own boat.

He also leads on-site classes in various places around the country.

385FT? Isn’t that a little long for a kayak? How do you turn the thing?

I recently tutored a newbie who had
purchased a 12’ SeaEagle inflatible kayak, with no foot pegs for bracing.

This person weighed at lease 250# and when she got into the boat, the ends both were out of the water and as the paddler tried to move, it became clear that the boat would definately be able to rotate on a dime. It was tatamount to one sitting on an inflatible air mattress. She finally got the hang of how to take a stroke, but there was no place to brace her feet. All in all, it was very tiring for her, so if one has weight issues, it may be more reasonable to go with a hard kayak as opposed to an inflatible.

Just my thoughts.