Inflatable Kayaks/Interior Width

-- Last Updated: Jan-22-15 12:09 PM EST --

I need some advice on inflatable kayaks. I am trying to buy one for my mom and dad. They would be using the kayak in bays, calm oceans, rivers and lakes--nothing rough and no whitewater. My mom is thin but she is well-endowed in the hips and my dad is a little larger than her.

Every inflatable I have found has an interior width of 11-15 inches. When sitting, my mom is 17 inches across and my dad is around 19.

Are the interior widths set in stone? Do these kayaks stretch when you sit in them? Are there any kayaks that cater to larger hips? Am I too concerned with interior widths matching their hip widths?


keep looking lots of boats are wider
but also slower. For example, my star inflatable is 39" across but would be slow on a lake.

Not sure what type of paddling they are looking at doing but Aire and NRS should work fine for them. I have put some pretty big guys in Aire boats without a problem. Myself included.

whitewater? flat?
maybe say a bit more for more fine-tuned advice.

I meant to say this… sorry I forgot. They would be using the kayak in bays, calm oceans, rivers and lakes–nothing rough and no whitewater.

Bays and “calm oceans” can turn choppy and stormy in seconds, and even calm coastal waters will have tides and undercurrents, and nearly all have offshore winds.

I used to live on one of the great lakes and the Coast Guard had lots of trouble having to rescue people in cheap inflatable kayaks and rafts getting pulled by currents, waves and wind out past where they had the energy to paddle back to shore. At one point they started banning people using them from paddling beyond the harbors and breakwaters.

Inexpensive inflatable are not a good choice for open waters. They tend to be slow and don’t track well, also tend to get blown around by wind. And low end tandem inflatables with no rigid backbone can get really hard to handle with the weight of two people deflecting the hull.

Just because an inflatable is called a “kayak” does not mean it actually has the characteristics of one. Many are really more just rafts with pointy ends. They can be OK for a static fishing platform or for splashing around in a pond or small stream, but can lead to unfortunate circumstances on large water.

It might be easier to make suggestions if you would clarify a few things. What is your budget? What is the fitness level and paddling experience of your parents? By “calm ocean and bays” which exact areas are you talking about? What sort of outings would your parents be doing? Will they want to cover some distance and explore or mostly stay near shore, perhaps to fish or take photos? Is there a reason why you are considering inflatables rather than rigid boats or folding kayaks? Folding kayaks, having rigid frames and inflatable flotation chambers have the portability and lightness factor of 100% inflatable but better performance. They are not as familiar to most people.

As to your question about inside hull width, yes the sides and sponsons of most inflatables will give a little. Since good contact with the sides of the boat makes it easier to control being slightly “wedged” in the boat is an OK thing.

Re: hmm
My parents are fit but they are used to canoes. The bay/ocean usage would be minimal and close to shore. They vacation, once a year, in Duck, NC and would like to go out on the Bay side. Other than that, they might use it a couple times a year, on lakes and maybe on our local meandering river. They would be taking short trips, not long expeditions.

I would prefer to stay as far under $1000 as possible. My parents want to have a tandem instead of single kayaks and the price of hardshells deterred me a bit. Also, my parents prefer the openness of canoes and the “safe” feeling from higher sidewalls. Inflatables seemed to be a good combination to meet their comfort levels.


– Last Updated: Jan-23-15 11:04 PM EST –

Based on the information I'd suggest any one of these:

All have frame stiffeners that will make them easier to paddle. The Aquaglide is the lightest. It seems like a pretty good deal for the money. I've never used or seen one but it seems to have nice features and reviews have commented on comfort and handling. It is 36" wide and per the overhead view on the listing it looks pretty spacious. The seat look quite comfortable and adjustable.

REI sells it also:

Per their policy, you would get a $70 back in member refund at year end on it.

Look here
Dear Beckadawn,

My suggestion to you is to look at something from Saturn Boats.

Yes they are Chinese made and yes they have no appeal to true kayakers, but all you need is something for your folks to putz around in.

Stick to the task at hand and don’t worry about how other people consider your choice or your parent’s mode of transportation.


Tim Murphy

I have the ww version
of that boat. A good value for the money. If it has a thwart option (mine did) get the extra thwarts to help support the seats. The drawback is that the boat itself is heavy for what it is. I can live with that tradeoff. I know a number of folks who paddle Saturn rafts and one other Saturn duck owner. The seams are glued rather than welded but I haven’t had any seam or valve issues in the year and a half I’ve owned mine. I did have to patch the boat after it got snagged on the trunk latch. So you have to treat the pvc with at least some care.

Duckies are great because they store easy and you have easy access to a boat if you just want to get out and paddle a little bit with minimal storage/transportation hassle. Keep the paddling distances short, little or no wind, and think about beefing up the seat support, and don’t expect to speed along in one. I haven’t had mine out on a large open body of water but if I did I would stay close to shore and monitor conditions closely. I tend to use mine where there is current to do the work.


– Last Updated: Jan-24-15 11:12 AM EST –

Some comments on the Saturns vs the brands I suggested: both Advanced Elements and Aquaglide have wider dealer networks. The Saturns don't have hull stiffeners. and the prices are all pretty close. Read carefully - the Saturn does not come with seats, they cost an extra $80 to $140. Yes they throw in paddles but they are junky aluminum, maybe worth $30 each. And I would take a welded seam over a glued one any day. Plus the tubes are so fat that the interior width is narrower than on the other two brands ( which is one of your prime concerns). That's why the Saturn has much higher weight capacity. But you won't need 900 lbs of capacity. Just saying.

For roughly the same cost I guarantee the AE or Aquaglides will feel more like the canoes they are used to and are a better all around value.

read carefully
Goobs, You seem to think I was criticizing the choice of an inflatable. Not true. When folks ask on here they have a right to expect good feedback. To people not that familiar with kayaks the inexpensve inflatables can be very tempting. I think its important to lay out both the pros and cons from our personal experience.

Notice that once she gave more detail on her parents usage and parameters I recommended 3 models of inflatables within her budget.

I have nothing against inflatables as long as people know what to look for and understand how their features affect performance.

actually know folks who dealt
with customer service from Saturn direct. A buddy of mine wanted some changes made to a raft and found them quite agreeable.

If it comes with paddles, I’m sure they’re junk even by my very low standards.

Repairability is lower, folks that work on commercial inflatables would shy away from glued seams, and pvc, but for us more casual users it gets the job done at a nice price.

I have a Maravia raft that uses screw in AD-2 valves which is a simple fix. Unfortunately one or more of the valves need to be replaced. The parts are simply unavailable by Maravia so I’m faced with the prospect of having the valves boots replaced as well which might cost more than the raft is worth. Right now Maravia isn’t my favorite company, they simply don’t stock parts for their older rafts.

For one bladder replacement (bad seam) on my Aire tomcat (ducky)I shelled out $90.00 and did the work myself. Right now I’d much rather deal with Saturn than either Maravia or Aire.

Have yet to find any ducky seat I’ve actually liked and I own 5.

I think there are probably better designed inflatables for flatwater than the Saturn boats but overall I don’t have any major concerns about their durability. They’re basically a whitewater manufacturer and they build their product to withstand abuse.

A couple of my buddies out with their Saturn raft:

I think if you had stuck with what you
actually paddled or owned we wouldn’t be having this dialog. There’s plenty to not like about Saturn boats (basic and limited designs, heavy, pvc, cheap paddles, cheap pump, harder to fix, imported from china) but customer service has been good. Durability has been good despite their cheaper construction methods with glued seams. We’ll see how good it is 5 or 10 years from now at holding together. Time will tell but they are made to withstand abuse. Saturn is filling a niche for the ww “the weekend warrior” crowd that is looking for an inflatable at about half the cost of the more established manufacturers.

I’ve got no issue with the boats you suggested (I know nothing about them)and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they were much more efficient on the flats but I think you were bolstering your choices by slamming Saturn for two flaws that didn’t jive with my own personal experience- poor customer service and durability. Given that I own and paddle a ducky made by them and know 4 or 5 other individuals who paddle Saturn boats I thought I’d correct your perceptions about the company.

Don’t feel bad, I just bought another sevylor duck and everyone seems to sure that it must be absolute junk if its made by that particular manufacturer, even if they haven’t paddled the boat for themselves.


– Last Updated: Jan-24-15 1:29 PM EST –

Based on the statement of what your parents prefer, you might consider the Pakboat Puffin Saranac, a hybrid framed-inflatable tandem. It's a bit north of your price range, but many people like this boat.

It's basically a deckless kayak, looks like a canoe, and a tandem spray deck is available as an option if it is to be used on rough water.

benefit of the doubt
I have used (and owned) inflatables and have paddled with people that use them, both on flatwater and whitewater. The fact remains that both Aquaglide and Advanced Elements were designed primarily for recreational paddlers. Saturn is first and foremost a company that is in the whitewater market and their “recreational kayak” designs are clearly modifications of those designs, with the fat tubes and rigidity dependent on inflatable floors. Note that even their illustration on the dealer website for their “touring” tandem shows a guy solo surfing it in large waves. Probably a great boat for that or as a stable fishing or diving platform, but that is not what the proposed use is that the OP outlined.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Saturns look to be exposed tube boats (polyester reinforced PVC) whereas the AE and AG boats have bladders inside a protective polyester and duratex shell. While exposed tubes are easier to patch they are also more vulnerable to puncture and scuffing.

And the Saturn tandem is not exactly cheap: $600 base price, actually over $700 with a pair of the cheapest seats plus shipping. It is more comparable to an Innova Sunny or an Aire Sawtooth. All wide and fat tube “bouncy” boats good for rougher water but with limited internal width and raft-like outfitting.

Useful discussion though. Hope it has helped the OP be aware of various features of the models.

yeah I was surprised Saturn was even

– Last Updated: Jan-24-15 7:42 PM EST –

making an all purpose boat. I did know Star was making both ww and general purpose boats. Like you I think there are better designed boats for the op but that has nothing to do with durability or reliability (because of glued seams) of the saturn products, or their customer service, issued you raised previously.

Bladder boats are as good as the bladders inside the protective coating. Because your paying for two layers I'm afraid they chintz on what you can't readily see when you go low ball. My Aire tomcat tributary with its vinyl bladders is a good example of that. There's a reason why Aire doesn't offer its standard warranty on it- they know its prone to failure. If you want a durable cheap ducky, your money will go further with a good external tube boat rather than a cheap bladder system.

The original op may not need a "durable" boat for their intended use and environment, but I'm not posting for the benefit of the OP but rather you and Teton John. You both seem to believe that bladder boats are inherently stronger and quite frankly from personal experience the reverse is true.
What does AE and Aquaglide make their bladders out of?

Re: Pakboat
Thank you for the suggestion. I had never heard of this company before. They are incredibly light, considering!

I can’t find a lot of information on their “folding” feature. How does that work but still allow for watertight construction?

RE: suggestions
As of now, I am really drawn to the AdvancedFrame Convertible. After researching into it, do you suggest the drop stitch floor or backbone, or both?

They also have upgraded seats available. Do you think those are worth the cost?

More info
Basically they are fabric boats that fold up. To make them rigid, there is a minimal frame, plus inflatable tubes along each side to give structure and floatation. There are multiple threads here at p-net:

A google search will give a lot of info, including videos of how to set it up.