Inflatable kayak in IL


My wife and I have been interested in paddling for a few years now, but we have never really invested on anything due to storage and transport problem. Can anyone advise if there is regulation/restriction on the use of inflatable kayaks? Our paddling destinations will be mainly in IL (WI, MI, and maybe IN + IA).

not around here
I don’t know about your neighborhood, but FWIW, around here the rules for IKs are the same as for canoes, touring kayaks, and whitwater kayaks; and those rules are mostly about needing a permit in certain locations. Around here, restrictions are self-imposed: for example, I’m restricting my 16 foot kayak to the lakes and slow rivers and not taking it in class III whitewater. (I guess what I’m saying obliquely is that, being new to this, you need to have some understanding of your boat and where it is safe for you to be, regardless of any regulations – and perhaps you already have that understanding.)


– Last Updated: Dec-19-11 4:43 PM EST –

There are various rules. Many localities place their own rules on areas, so you would have to check with each place you are considering paddling at.

In general, though, inflatables are considered boats, and as such must meet the basic requirements for boaters set out by the Coast Guard. Here is a site for Texas, but I think most of the rules shown are actually national: The PFD requirement, whistle requirement, and lighting requirement are all ones I have seen for other areas.

One thing to also keep in mind - many bodies of water do not allow swimming (often the case for drinking reservoirs). Some very low end inflatables are basically pool toys, so may get disallowed.

different everywhere
Each state has different restrictions and permitting (or not) rules for human-powered watercraft. You will have to look into that for each state you plan to paddle in. Most are not reciprocal across state lines so you have to assure you are meeting the requirements of where you are and paying for the necessary usage or boat stamp fees.

I lived in Michigan for a while and recall that, though there may have not been an “official” ban, the Coast Guard frowned upon people taking inflatables out in coastal Lake Michigan – I think they were tired of retrieving people who had been swept off shore by winds and currents in cheap inflatables. The low end and even mid range inflatables tend to be unsafe in that respect.

Depending on your budget, you might want to take a look at folding kayaks, which solve the transport and storage problems while generally offering more versatility and performance than inflatables, at least for flatwater and open water. These range from the midrange hybrids (inflatables with an additional rigid metal skeleton) like Advanced Elements and Pakboat, to the full fledged folders from Feathercraft, Folbot and Klepper. They tend to be pricey when new, but hold their value for resale. Used folders come up for sale sometimes and can be comparably priced to a good quality inflatable.

It will be tougher to cover any mileage in an inflatable

when used on flatwater without current to help.

Then there is the whole drying it out thoroughly before

packing it away and re-blowing it up before use.

Depending on your mental fortitude for this process

they can quickly become a pain in the rear.

If you’re leaving the inflated kayak somewhere to

dry out anyways, use that space for a hardshell kayak

and eliminate the hassle altogether.

I’ve paddled inflatable “duckies” on the Gauley River

and had a blast in them being swept along by current.

Cook County FP

– Last Updated: Dec-20-11 5:45 PM EST –

In Illinois, most localities will allow the use of inflatables, but unless something has changed recently, they are prohibited from being used on any Cook County Forest Preserve location. That includes Skokie Lagoons, one of the more popular inland paddling locations in the Chicago area.

With inflatables, you should exercise greater awareness of the prevailing conditions, particularly as it pertains to wind. A 10mph headwind in a hardshell kayak is a challenge, in an inflatable, it can be a real problem.

Thank you
Appreciate all the feedback - it looks like we do have to consider buying a hardshell.

Tons of used kayaks on market
People swap kayaks all the time, for a variety of reasons.

Try to demo some kayaks, take a kayak pool class

and then check out the used market for hard kayak.

Canoecopia/ Madison in March

These will be there;

Like all paddle craft inflatables have their advantages and disadvantages too. Just make sure it’s of quality construction, not something you can buy at Walmart.

In Illinois you’ll have to title and register it. You’ll get a sticker that lasts three years. If you buy it from out of state make sure you get paperwork and if it’s new, a certificate of origin. You’ll also be forced to pay Illinois sales tax on it.


Inflatables are not illegal in Cook

– Last Updated: Dec-27-11 10:52 PM EST –

county. Forest preserves in Cook County used to post signs indicating inflatables were not allowed, however they revised that rule over a couple years ago to say that inflatables having more than one chamber were okay. Inflatables with only a single chamber are not allowed, and are the true "ducky" pool tool as another poster mentioned.

As for other comments regarding the inadequacy of inflatables, sure they're not as efficient as most hardshells, but then again they have a load of advantages that hardshells don't have. I've owned three separate brands of inflatables. Two Sevylor boats and an Advanced Elements. The nicest boats were the Advanced Elements Expedition and the Sevylor K1. The other boat, a Sevylor Tahiti K79-HF was a POS however.

Anyway, you can do some research and find a lot of info on quality inflatables. A few good brands are Advanced Elements, Innova, Aire, Sea Eagle, and Saturn. I myself will be buying this particular inflatable this coming Spring:

Anyway, the best argument for inflatables is ease of transport and storage. I live in an apartment in Chicago and I simply can't store a hardshell kayak or canoe. There are plenty of forums and reviews out there on inflatables as well, and most of them take into account the limitations of inflatables over hardshell boats. It's really apples and oranges when you get right down to it. Keep that in mind and do your research and you can find a nice inflatable - just don't buy into all the disparaging comments by most people who've never even paddled any kind of serious inflatable.

IMO, if you really want to get into kayaking, you would probably be better off taking lessons and renting through local businesses. If you are in Chicagoland, check out the Lincoln Park Boat Club, Kayak Chicago, and Geneva Kayak.

again, look into folders
With your storage and transport challenges, you can still get the performance of a hard shell by getting a folding kayak. There’s one for sale (a vintage tandem Klepper) used on the Chicago Craigslist this week. They are asking too much for it but if the shell is in as good shape as they say, I would offer them $800 to $1000 for it. You can see from the photos how compactly it folds down:

Another option
Point 65 makes the Tequila, a sectional boat. Can be a solo or tandem by inserting a section in the middle. Fits in the back of a mini-van. Pretty cool. They’ll be at Canoecopia (first year vendors).