Inflatable Kayaks?

Hey everyone

I am interested in buying my wife a 2 person kayak for Christmas but the last few months have been a bit crazy with a number of unforeseen expenses (doctor bills, new furnace, car stuff, etc.).

My original plan was to buy some type of hard shell kayak because that is what we have used and enjoyed in the past. With the recent money issues I don’t think I can justify the cost and I have been recently looking into inflatable kayaks.

I have never used an inflatable kayak so I’m a little worried about what might go wrong. We would mostly be using the Kayak to paddle around some of the local lakes. We’re not the most intense kayakers but I also want something that can move fairly well in the water. I’m a bit concerned that an inflatable kayak would be much slower than the ones we are used to.

I’m also worried that an inflatable kayak could be easily damaged (I have no idea if this is true or not).

So any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

I’m also interested in inflatables, but
mainly because they can be stored IN the car so they don’t cost gasoline on long trips.

My concern about your situation is that you can’t get much inflatable kayak for low bucks. You would be better off searching the used hard boat market for something like you’ve used in the past.

If you wanted an inflatable that could approach your previous hardshells in speed and performance, I think you’d have to spend so much that you would not save money at all. Innova has some fairly fast, capable inflatables. Aire has better stuff for whitewater, but I don’t recall whether any of their boats are particularly fast. There are some cheaper lake kayaks, but think about the resale price issue.

It may not be for everyone but here’s one I’ve often considered building. I know the designer and he really likes these boats.

Bill H.

My first kayak was an inflatable (a Sevylor something-or-other). An inflatable is usually cheap, no transport problems, and it gets you on the water. Though those attributes are attractive, it was a pleasure to get rid of it. You sit quite low, even with an inflatable seat, making effective paddling very difficult, and tracking is a notorious problem. One thing I also discovered with inflatables (at least mine) that you don’t often hear about is that the PVC gets incredibly hot in the sun.

If you can swing it, get a cheap, plastic boat and figure out some way to transport it. I think you’ll be happier

new ?

I think I have beentalked out of the inflatable thing.

I watched a few videos and I hate how low some of them sit in the water like you were saying.


next question

Where can I find a decent used hard kayak? I tried craigslist but there was not a lot there.

thanks for the help everyone

Hope you’re not gonna fish!
Those patches on the kid’s inflatable rafts never seemed to hold up.

How about hybrid inflatable/folder?

– Last Updated: Nov-15-10 11:13 AM EST –

Keep checking Craigslist daily -- kayaks tend to go fast. Also check the classified ads on this site. You might want to consider a folding kayak like an older Folbot or Klepper-- since they can be shipped in a carton knocked down it gives you a wider geographic range to buy a use one. In fact, somebody just posted a Folbot double on my local Craigslist (Pittsburgh) for $150. If I didn't already own 5 yaks (including two folders) I'd buy it myself. The site has classifieds for used folding and inflatable boats.

Don't know what your budget is, but you can get some of the Pakboat hybrid folding/inflatable kayak models for under $1000. I've noticed they've started selling them on Ebay (just search "Pakboats" on Ebay, look at the Puffin and Saco models.)

I forget the exact models but i know they have at least one that can be set up as a solo or tandem by moving the seats and changing decks. Some can be used with or without the deck (like a C-1 open boat.) Very versatile.

There are a few videos of them on YouTube too if you want to see how they perform. We bought one last summer and have been very pleased with it -- gives you the lightness and convenience of an inflatable, but with the addition of a rigid frame so the boats paddle like a hard-shell boat. We've been pleased with the ruggedness and performance of the XT-15 we got, comparable to our hard boats and my high-end Feathercraft folder. Very comfortable seats and quite easy to set up too. And about 25% to 50% lighter than equal volume plastic kayaks. If you are buying this for your wife, the weight is a big plus with these boats -- she will be able to handle it herself. I think the Saco is only around 20 to 25 lbs.

(I don't have any professional connection to Pakboat, I just like the products and think they can be a good alternative for some people who may not know that option exists.)

inflatable vs folder
I think if you’re going to spend the money on a folding kayak you might want to reconsider a higher end inflatable. They are not all made the same.

In the beginning I bought an inflatable just to get on the water, and I had a lot of fun with it. Tried several other models and thought I would move up to a hardshell. But then I got an Innova Sunny and never looked back. Excellent boat that does everything from calm water lakes to ocean swells. Can’t see myself going back a hardshell now.

Consider looking into the advanced elements boats. They are pretty solid. But if you’re looking at the AE double, consider spending a bit more on an Innova Sunny. Not much more money but a lot more capable, and a lot easier to dry, clean and store.

Question on the Sunny
I’m curious about the Innovas, since I have never known anybody that owned one. I see the Sunny 2 is similar length, configuration, weight and capacity to the Pakboat Saranac (15’, single or double, 28/29 lbs and 400# capcity.) List $ for the Sunny is $900, Saranac $1075 (plus $195 to $265 for a spray deck). Major differences seem to be that the Sunny is an open boat with no spray deck option, (which would limit its use in certain climates) and the Saranac has the aluminum frame in addition to the inflatable flotation tubes.

I also notice the Sunny spec lists 3 tubes. Does that mean each of those large inflatable sides is one single tube? That would concern me – what happens if one blows out? Or do they mean 3 chambered tubes per side? The Saranac (like our XT-15) has 3 parallel tubes per side (total of 6). We had one problem with a leaker (our mistake assembling the frame which caused a small puncture) but were still able to paddle it comfortably just by deflating the same tube on the other side so both sides were balanced until we could repair it the next day.

Innova Sunny
Have had one for years. Great boat. Durable. Stable. Rugged. Never a leak. Easy to inflate. Tracks very well with a skeg in place. Almost as fast as hardshell sit on top.

Classified Ads Right Here On PNET
Check the classified ads here on PNET

I bought a Aire Sawtooth inflatable, paddled it once, and sold it. I blogged on it.

Innova seems best to me.

research here: and

Hi willowleaf,

I have had two Sunnys now for several years. Comparing the Sunny with the Saranac, the Sunny is actually almost 3 feet shorter (12’-6"). I think it gets a similar capacity from having more inflated volume that the Saranac. I have not padded the pakboat, but I imagine it would be much faster, since the length in the water is much greater (length in the water for the Sunny is about 10’). The advantage of the Sunny is that it can be set up and taken down/dried out much faster than most folders.

In my experience, the open deck is not really an issue in chop less that 2’. Because of all the inflated buoyancy, the boat tends to pop up over waves. At the most, some occasional splash and drop will get in the boat. Waves 3’ and larger than that, however, will start to dump in the boat, especially when punching through the surf zone (my experience with this is on the Great Lakes). The biggest issue with this for me is that the Sunny is not self-bailing, and becomes a real pig when there is 4-6" of water sitting in the boat. I would add that the optimal weight for the Sunny is probably between 200 and 250. We have had it filled to capacity, but I would not want to paddle in in anything more than a ripple.

The three chambers refers to the two side tubes and the floor, which are inflated individually.