Inflatable Kayaks

-- Last Updated: Jul-02-12 12:34 PM EST --

So I am fairly new to kayaking. I have a solo, sit inside hardshell kayak.
I would like an inflatable kayak because of portability, but also want something I can run rivers(class 3) with.

Advanced Elements
A.E. makes some good quality inflatables. For class 3 action I’d look at something like the Straitedge because its open. The aluminum frame pieces in the bow and stern will help with tracking on the flats.

I have heard good things about Innova’s whitewater boats.

You might get more feedback on this if you pose the question over at where all the forum folks use folding and inflatable kayaks.

I don’t believe any of Advanced Elements boats are recommended for Class III waters.

Sea Eagle

Try the Sea Eagle Explorer or FastTrack. Both are very durable and have drain holes for white water use. They also come with a removable skeg which allows you to track straight in flat water.

Aire Brand plus
I have Lynx I and the “new” Force. The older Force is not the same boat. I paddle the Ocoee in Tennessee regulary in both of these as well as a hard boat. I would highly recommend the Aire brand. The warranty for the top of the line boat can’t be beat. On the Ocoee the Aires are by far the most popular of the inflatables and they are for a reason. Of course you will pay a little more for them but there is a reason for that also.

Between the two I like the Force better unless I need to carry gear. It comes close to being as manuverable as my hard boat, it surfs and it is close to as stable as the Lynx. The float bags help it surface quick and keep you from having to wait for water to drain.

If you paddle an inflatable in big water please consider a high float jacket. Something with at least 17 pounds of float. When hardboating you aren’t expecting to swim so you get the floatation of the boat. But in an inflatable you swim every time you flip. In aerated water 14 pounds isn’t enough for most people unless they are in a boat. Some may disagree but it works for me.

You will also need a longer paddle. The standard WW paddle won’t be long enough for the inflatable.

Tube diameter is a big deal also. A larger tube diameter is great for stability but it makes it tough to get back in the boat. Don’t think a large tube is always best.

Make sure you have righting staps on it. You will not be able to flip the boat back over in heavy water without them. There are several ways of rigging this but it must be done.

In hot weather and cool water you need to monitor the pressures of the boat. Keep it in the shade and keep it wet.

Lastly, if you are in the Ocoee area contact me and you can try one out.

ditto AIRE

– Last Updated: Jul-02-12 3:34 PM EST –

if you want bomber quality and class III (and above). They are mainly designed for that kind of water though they do also have some more flatwater and crossover oriented IKs. I love my Lynx (never tried the Force -- old OR new -- so can't speak to that -- I'm still pretty new at it and in pretty big water so don't want to trade off on stability). AIRE also has a less expensive line called Tributary -- not as bomber, but may suit your needs. Outfitters out here take beginners in Hyside IKs -- ultra stable, confidence inspiring (also bomber!) -- getting more expensive all the time.
Here is a good site.

PS gibsonra's post is right on. (I used my flip strap on Saturday in "Lunch Counter" rapid on the Snake River -- could have flipped it back over w/o the strap but it sure made it easy -- one less thing to deal with while in the midst of self rescue.)


Everything is a tradeoff in whitewater boats.

An inflateable requires the least skill to get into Class III just because they are very forgiving in big water. They also have a lot of surface area, so they aren’t easy to maneuver in more technical water. It takes a lot of effort to paddle upriver, make ferries, and hitting lines can be difficult at times.

A hard shell SOT is less forgiving, but still easy to self rescue (delf bailing) and a little more responsive. The Torrent is a great whitewater SOT to consider. Still not as responsive as a real whitewater kayak, but a great starter boat.


how much Class III?
It is worth thinking if you want the option to perhaps sometimes run class III or if you want to use the boat primarily for class III. If primarily class III, AIRE makes the Lynx (I and II), Force (just a solo boat) and Outfitter (I and II); the Tributary Tomcat I and II are also primarily whitewater IKs. These would also be okay in class II, but generally you would want something that tracks a bit better (unless you’re talking narrow class II that requires quick moves). I’ve heard that the Strike I and II (in the Tributary line) are a bit more “crossover.” (The basic trade off is tracking vs. maneuverability – hey, just like the hardshell boats discussed on this forum all the time!) I suspect that their more flat water oriented boats really are not appropriate for class III WW. Have a good look at the AIRE site – even if you don’t buy an AIRE product, it should be helpful for you to see the range of their IKs.

RE: Inflatable kayak
This is one awesome kayak. The MOST versatile of all the touring kayaks you’ll find. Superb quality. And very affordable. I usually prefer it to use while fishing. I love to catch fishing while boating on it.